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Rock Picks: Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro, Elvis Costello, Rock & Roll Summer Circus

Babyland: subverting expectations since 1989

FRIDAY, AUGUST 14

Rock & Roll Summer Circus featuring Henry Clay People, Fol Chen, Flying Tourbillon Orchestra, others at the Echoplex
The fact that Highland Park’s Fol Chen made this record called Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made (Asthmatic Kitty), a nauseatingly unholy admixture of disparate stuff that really shouldn’t go together and still taste good but does, shouldn’t be all that mind-blowing. But it is — their joyfully strange couplings of slinky punk-funk and hardcore thrashy sludgehammer rifferini and plastique-pop ditty and Krautrock arcaneness/angular art-rock pointy-headedness and pumping electro-dance are one thing, but when you add it all up, you get, sheesh, you get Led Zep. ... You’ve gotta hear their version of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” on Spin’s Purplish Rain compilation; it’s kinda sick, but that’s a good sick. Glendale’s power-pop/punk upstarts Henry Clay People, who have organized this night at the Echoplex, keep it way loose, classic-rock rootsy and just super-super unpretench. They’ll be returning from their debut Lollapalooza performance. Also on the bill are solo acoustic sets from the Damselles, Les Blanks, Eli Monolator and others. (John Payne)

 

Babyland at the Smell
“Let’s ignore every sound that we made before,” Dan chants on Babyland’s ninth CD, Cavecraft (Metropolis), as his “good cop” partner, Smith, fires up his banks of noise machines. “This was the plan/It was always meant to hurt.” And it hurts so good, as the local electronic junk-punk duo rattle up a fearsome racket of synthesizers, programming, percussion, “flint axes, animal skins and fire.” They apply a punk-rock attack to electronic tracks like “Rimer Drive Tiger” and “Search and Rescue,” whereas such soundscapes as “Low Relics” and the harrowing noise-fest “The End of All Summers” trip out into heavier, weirder territory. Babyland have been subverting expectations since 1989, when they were one of the stranger, less-doctrinaire bands on the punk label Flipside. As they declare on their MySpace page, “We utilize machinery twisted through misuse and human error to aggressively address our audience with empathy and concern.” And what’s next for the ever-changing pair? Cavecraft closes with a typically forward-thinking lyric: “Possibility and evolution remain.” Babyland perform a benefit tonight for the Cancer Wellness Center, joined by BARR and This Song Is a Mess But So Am I. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Friday:

DOES IT OFFEND YOU, YEAH? (DJ SET) at Avalon; STACY EARLE & MARK STUART at McCabe’s; IMMORTAL TECHNIQUE, CHINO XL, DIABOLIC, MYSTIC at the Knitting Factory; THE DAN BAND at Club Nokia; LIL WAYNE, YOUNG JEEZY, SOULJA BOY, PLEASURE P, DRAKE at the Honda Center; LAKESIDE, MIKI HOWARD, MICHAEL COLYAR at the Ford Amphitheater; JOE BAIZA’S CONGRESS OF, KAT ARTHUR & THE HELLCATS at Taix; BANCO DE GAIA at Social Hollywood; DICKEY BETTS & GREAT SOUTHERN at Brixton South Bay; GREAT WHITE, NINTH CIRCLE, 2 CENTS at the Canyon; TRANSIT STUDIO, THREE DATE THEORY, JACK LEFT TOWN at the Dakota Music Lounge; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet.

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 15

Quantic and his Combo Bárbaro, J.Rocc, Nu-Mark, Sake One, Ganas at the Echoplex
Prolific British native William Holland, a.k.a. Quantic, has long dwelled (creatively speaking) in a land far more funky than Merry Old England, so it comes as no surprise that he’s carved out a home for himself in Cali, Columbia, so-called “Capital de la Salsa.” Since relocating there in 2007, the multi-instrumentalist has established his own analog studio and released three albums under three of his various pseudonyms/band permutations. Quantic and His Combo Bárbaro have just released their debut LP, Tradition In Transition, on Tru Thoughts, the label that has hosted the majority of Holland’s forays into soulful Latin-influenced jazz-funk. Malcolm Cotto himself (he of Stones Throw outfit Heliocentrics) plays drums in this group of barbarians (which is what the band name translates to), and this night promises some “very special guests.” The DJ lineup alone is enough to fulfill that claim: Beat Junkie extraordinaire J.Rocc and Jurassic 5 grad Nu-Mark accompanied by San Francisco’s Sake One and Poo-Bah Records associate Ganas. (Chris Martins)

 

Abney Park at the Knitting Factory
They aren’t from the future, nor are they from the past, but the crew of the HMS Ophelia, otherwise known as the electronic-rock band Abney Park, are ready to touch down on L.A. once again. Conceived as a band of wanderers sailing the skies in search of adventure, the Seattle-based outfit combines steampunk-styled imagery and storytelling with postapocalyptic, perhaps Burning Man–inspired elements. Musically, Abney Park draws liberally from the goth-industrial school of rock. Big, dark synthesizers meet with Captain Robert Brown’s dramatic vocal deliveries and Middle Eastern percussion for a sound that is as theatrical as the band’s performance style. Onstage, Abney Park leaves no detail unattended. Gothic belly-dancing routines (and, occasionally, aerial routines) will captivate the crowd as the band jams away on gear modified to look as though it had been designed by Jules Verne. Expect a spectacle. (Liz Ohanesian)

 

 

The Muffs at Alex’s Bar
Somewhat lost in the excitement surrounding that rare reunion gig by the Zeros at the Troubadour a few weeks ago was the abbreviated preceding set by the Muffs, who also don’t perform all that often these days. But the Muffs are back again this weekend with their own headlining show, which should provide a better opportunity to revel in singer-guitarist Kim Shattuck’s riotous collision of winsome pop melodies and slam-tastic power chords. With a malicious Ray Davies–like wit and one of the best howls in rock & roll, Shattuck specializes in such acidic, thinly disguised character studies of local scenesters and musical rivals as “Red-Eyed Troll,” “Big Mouth” and “Right in the Eye,” which are some of the rudest putdown songs this side of Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street.” Although she and her band mates — bassist Ronnie Barnett and former Redd Kross drummer Roy McDonald — have occasionally lent their distinctive twists to classics by said Zeros (“Beat Your Heart Out”), the Saints (“Do the Robot”), the Small Faces (“My Mind’s Eye”) and Kim Wilde (“Kids of America”), they’re even better when they’re bashing through Shattuck’s catchy originals. It’s been a really really long time since the Muffs released Really Really Happy in 2004, but they’re reportedly working on a new album. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Saturday:

PISSED JEANS, LAMPS at the Troubadour; WHODINI, NAUGHTY BY NATURE, 2 LIVE CREW, DOUG E. FRESH, BIG DADDY KANE, SLICK RICK at the Nokia Theatre; DOWN, MELVINS, DANAVA, WEEDEATER at the Wiltern; THE MUFFS, KEPI ELECTRIC, THE DOLLYROTS, LITTLE MEDUSAS at Alex’s Bar; THE MOTELS at Pershing Square; BLOODY BRAINS, THE LIVING SICKNESS, DICK & JANE at American Legion Post 206; HOP FROG KOLLECTIV, AIN SOPH AUR, BLIPVERT, MOTHER OF FIRE at the Echo Curio; GHOSTFACE KILLAH, METHODMAN, REDMAN, DUO LIVE at House of Blues; C.W. STONEKING, FRANK FAIRFIELD, THE BONEBRAKE SYNCOPATORS at the Redwood Bar.

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 16

Silk Flowers, Nite Jewel at the Echo
Occidental philosophy student and performance artist Ramona Gonzalez, a.k.a. Nite Jewel, may be better known in L.A. art gallery circles than on the venue scene, but her connection to L.A.’s Human Ear Music Collective — where the messy strands of electronic music, visual art and multimedia coalesce — has given her (and others) the opportunity to expand the emerging field of art/pop performance in the city. Gonzalez blends occasionally disorienting but equally laid-back ’80s dance pop within layers of sonic ephemera (cobbled together from keyboards, samples and found sound), and she’s cited influences as diametrically opposed on the high-to-low cultural meter as Julianne Swartz and El DeBarge. Brooklyn’s Silk Flowers play raw, minimal pop on an assortment of machines and instruments, but unlike other groups of guys who stand around tables of computers and racks of gear, Silk Flowers shuffle along with a joyfully textured and beat-filled flair, thanks to Peter Schuette’s nimble, melodic riffs, Ethan Swan’s timing and Avi Cohen’s guttural delivery and bouncing dance contortions. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

Also playing Sunday:

MONOLATORS, SCARLET SYMPHONY, TANDEMORO, ALASKAN SUMMER at Spaceland; DEPECHE MODE, PETER, BJORN & JOHN at the Hollywood Bowl; LOS LONELY BOYS, LOS LOBOS at the Greek Theatre; THE HEREAFTER, BASKERY at the Hotel Café.

 

MONDAY, AUGUST 17

Flaming Lips at the Greek
Without a doubt the highest-profile art-rock outfit ever to come hurtling out of Oklahoma City, the Flaming Lips, it seems fair to say, have been treading water for the past decade or so. Ever since The Soft Bulletin blew minds in 1999 with its bighearted (and big-beated) nü-wave psychedelia, all we’ve really gotten from frontman Wayne Coyne and his band mates have been variations on a once-novel theme; their last album, 2006’s At War With the Mystics, smelled as much like desperation as it did like Vicks VapoRub. So it gives me no small pleasure to report that Embryonic, the Lips’ upcoming double-disc set (due out this fall), is a genuinely out-there slab of future-pop freakiness, with liberal amounts of lonely-robot vocal melodies, in-the-red free-jazz drums and minimal-metal guitar lines. No word, alas, on how much of Embryonic they’ll play at the Greek; bet on at least the three tracks featured on the slyly titled Songs From the Future Album Embryonic EP, out now on iTunes. With Ghostland Observatory and Stardeath & White Dwarfs, the latter of which features Coyne’s nephew Dennis. (Mikael Wood)

 

Clipse, the Cool Kids at House of Blues Sunset Strip
The House of Blues leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s hard to imagine a more fitting locale (the Sunset Strip) to host this bill, nor a pair of performers better equipped to make us believe in the glorious excess that the Strip purports to represent. Virginia siblings Malice and Pusha T, collectively Clipse, have made their name spinning darkly detailed rhymes about cooking crack and dodging the consequences, often accompanied (as on 2006’s incredibly good Hell Hath No Fury) by some of the sparest beats the Neptunes have ever created. Clipse’s winning mix of creepiness and glitz is well-complemented by the guileless commercialism of Chicago’s The Cool Kids’ oft–fashion obsessed raps. But with this duo, Chuck Inglish and Mickey Rocks, it’s more than style over substance — on tracks like those gathered for a recent mixtape, Gone Fishing, style runs right over substance with fabulous aplomb. Bullies of L.A. take note: Expect hundreds of bespectacled kids to show, all wearing incredible sneakers. (Chris Martins)

 

 

Also playing Monday:

DEPECHE MODE, PETER, BJORN & JOHN at the Hollywood Bowl; TSUSHIMAMIRE, RED BACTERIA VACUUM, OMODKA, 6% DOKIDOKI GIRLS, OTHERS at the Roxy; LOWER HEAVEN, NIC JAGO, MIRANDA LEE RICHARDS at Silverlake Lounge; HATEBREED at the Ventura Theatre; THE GROWLERS, XU XU FANG, MATT ISRAELI COOL & HIS EXPERIMENTAL RUGS, DOGWEED at the Echo; LOVERS, THE BLACK KITES, THE CARTOGRAPHERS at Echo Curio; THE KEVIN KANNER QUINTET, J-LOGIC, FELICE HERNANDEZ, THIA SEXTON at the Mint; LOCAL NATIVES, VOXHAUL BROADCAST, SOKO, THE LONELY H at Spaceland.

 

TUESDAY, AUGUST 18

Elvis Costello & the Sugarcanes, Lucinda Williams at the Greek
Has Elvis Costello ever met a genre he didn’t feel compelled to put his own spin on? (Dude was pulling Kanye moves before Kanye was born.) On Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, his speedy follow-up to last year’s garage-rocking Momofuku, Costello teams up with a roots-music A-team headed by producer T Bone Burnett for a set of old-timey string-band fare perfect for folks still spinning their worn-out copies of the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. Those players (minus Burnett, but including Dobro maestro Jerry Douglas and guitarist Jim Lauderdale) are out on the road with Costello as the Sugarcanes; hopefully they’re rocking a little harder onstage than they did in the studio. Just in case, be sure to arrive early for an opening set by Lucinda Williams, whose excellent Little Honey, from last year, closes with a shit-kicking cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.” (Mikael Wood)

 

Also playing Tuesday:

JAY REATARD at Amoeba Music; T.D. LIND, LEFTOVER CUTIES at the Bordello.

 

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19

Emiliana Torrini at El Rey Theatre
Fresh from a tour of festivals hosted at various European castles, Emiliana Torrini brings her Icelandic castle magic to town. The songs from her recent CD, Me and Armini, may seem simple and delicate at first, but they’re imbued with a radiant glow and artful arrangements, which give them a cumulatively engrossing power. Torrini coos sweetly like the namesake title through the first half of the delicate ballad “Birds,” before gentle strokes of acoustic-guitar paddling downshift into a funky Pink Floyd space jam, which comes out of nowhere and somehow makes perfect sense. She rocks it up on the European hit “Jungle Drum,” buoyed by new love and a kicky Bo Diddley beat. Things grow ominous on the shadowy “Gun,” as Torrini icily intones a tale of revenge over a simmering guitar riff that never quite boils over: “Maybe you’ve been living lonely ... Your kids keep telling jokes that ain’t that funny/and you’ve failed in everything that comes to mind.” She’s equally persuasive whether she’s walking on sunshine or swimming into darkness. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Wednesday:

GREAT NORTHERN at Pershing Square; MAX TUNDRA at Spaceland; ATMOSPHERE at the Hollywood Palladium; DAWES, MISSISSIPPI MAN, THE ROMANY RYE at the Echo; HARPER SIMON at Largo at the Coronet; DAUGHTRY, DAVID HODGES at the Henry Fonda Theater; PATTI LABELLE, MIKE FARRIS & THE ROSELAND RHYTHM REVUE at the Hollywood Bowl; DEPECHE MODE, PETER, BJORN & JOHN at the Honda Center; TRACY CHAPMAN, GABY MORENO at the Wiltern; AGENT ORANGE at the Key Club.

 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 20

J. Tillman at the Echo
J. (Joshua) Tillman is probably best known for being one of the Fleet Foxes, despite his local solo success in the Seattle area, and having toured extensively with the likes of Damien Jurado and Jesse Sykes. Hired as an arranger and drummer for live performances just before the release of 2008’s Fleet Foxes, Tillman somehow escaped implication of the juggernaut success of the album (I recently heard “White Winter Hymnal” piped in as background music in the airport), and retained his identity on his new LP, Year in the Kingdom, out next month. The ghostly, goose bump–inducing harmonies and windswept acoustical resonance of Fleet Foxes are slightly muted in Tillman’s work, but the breathy struggle of Tillman’s voice and glimmers of baroque mysticism in his delivery are prominent, and exactly what one would expect from a cat associated with the band. An author of short stories in his own right, Tillman can weave a sad, earthy yarn like some world-weary granddad on a rickety old rocking chair, then whip up the banjo, handclaps and piano into a jangling, ecstatic frenzy. (Wendy Gilmartin)

 

 

Jedi Mind Tricks at El Rey Theatre
Philly indie-rap unit Jedi Mind Tricks stars prolific bigmouth Vinnie Paz, who’s been fronting this emphatically hahdcoah set with DJ Stoupe for lo these past 13 or so years, and earning much prop-age for their violent-by-design words and beats along the way. Lately, though, Paz’s had an itch to stretch out, so alongside his underground rap supergroup side project, Army of the Pharaohs, he has just done a solo thing, titled The Assassin’s Creed, and quite a shocker it is, with guest raps from Beanie Sigel, Clipse, Freeway and Paul Wall, and two tons of ingenious production badassery by the likes of Madlib, MoSS from Ghostface Killah, and 4th Disciple and Bronze Nazareth of Wu-Tang. Real tasty, wicked stuff, but come down tonight for JMT’s “Hell Awaits” summer tour, where you’ll get a heavy slam of thee original sound that only Paz & Stoupe can conjure. Also: MC Esoteric and Reef the Lost Cauze. (John Payne)

 

Sylvain Sylvain at the Knitting Factory
The recent reincarnation of the New York Dolls really emphasizes just how important rhythm guitarist Sylvain Sylvain is to the band. The late Johnny Thunders was often considered the true soul of the influential glitter-rock group, but Sylvain Sylvain (you can say that again) co-wrote several of the Dolls’ best songs, including their purest pop moment, the psychedelic-bubblegum masterpiece “Trash.” He composed the bulk of the surprisingly varied and sometimes even exotic music on the Dolls’ two generally excellent comeback albums, and he’s a major reason why the current lineup stands on its own and is on more than just a nostalgia trip. About the only drawback to the Dolls’ successful return is that it’s been too many years since Sylvain has toured here on his own, doing stylish power-pop songs from underrated solo albums like (Sleep) Baby Doll. Onstage with the Dolls, the chatty Sylvain serves as a willing fool and foil to singer David Johansen, but, without Davey Boy around to say “Hush!,” there’ll be no stopping him tonight. (Falling James)

 

Also playing Thursday:

CARNEY, CAITLIN CROSBY, END ROULETTE at the Roxy; VENICE, LUKAS NELSON & THE PROMISE OF THE REAL at Santa Monica Pier; SMOGTOWN, KILLING CALIFORNIA, SUPERBUICK, BLOODHOOK at Alex’s Bar; AL QAEDA at the Echo Curio; CHRISTOPHER HAWLEY & PETER GOETZ, ELI GOLDSMITH, AMY WALLACE, TREVOR HALL at the Hotel Café; CHRIS PIERCE at Levitt Pavillion.

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