Rock Picks: Rupa & the April Fishes, Gnarls Barkley, Emmylou Harris
THURSDAY, JULY 24
The Rescues at the Hotel Café
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Something fishy: Rupa & the April Fishes
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Wanda Jackson: Lets have a party.
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At the Gates dazzle with the wonders of backlighting.
Singer-songwriters Kyler England, Gabriel Mann and Adrianne became familiar with one another in the Hotel Café scene, where each achieved some individual, if limited, success (all made Music Connection’s 2007 Hot 100 Unsigned list). Last year, a fan hired the three to play at his wedding, and they struck such a musical spark that they decided to band together as the Rescues. Each brings a different quality — Adrianne has a feisty, punkish energy, Kyler projects a more angelic presence, and keyboardist Gabriel holds down the middle — but they blend marvelously. Listening to their harmonizing on their upcoming disc, Crazy Ever After, it’s hard to believe they’ve only been playing together for about a year. Their voices take flight on the soaring opener, “Lost Along the Way,” and rarely land again. Their music, however, isn’t all soft edges. The gorgeously crafted rocker “Break Me Out” has already found music-supervisor love (getting showcased on Army Wives) and seems destined to break out big. (Michael Berick)
Baka Beyond at Skirball Cultural Center
Not all musical hybrids are as organic as those in the botanical realm, but Baka Beyond’s Afro-Celtic graftings have flourished better than most. Maybe it’s the forest connection. Martin Cradick and Su Hart first lived with the Baka people in the Cameroonian deep green in the early 1990s, developing lasting friendships, as well as an abiding love of the bird-song hocketing of yelli music, which first bloomed with Baka Beyond’s debut, Spirit of the Forest. The band have garnered a global fan base since then, but their friends back in the emerald canopy have never been far from Cradick’s and Hart’s thoughts. They have visited as often as possible, recording there and starting the Global Music Exchange to funnel royalties back to the Baka, culminating in the construction of a traditional-style music house. The current Baka Beyond — pan-African and pan-Celtic in membership and songcraft — strikes chords celebratory and mystic, jaunty and melancholy, a testament to the planetary potential for vibrational positivity. (Tom Cheyney)
Dizzee Rascal at the Echoplex
“Let’s take it back to that old-school storytelling shit,” Dizzee Rascal raps in “Sirens,” from last year’s Maths + English, the third record by the U.K.’s premier grime export. Rascal’s story (raised in a contemporary nonfiction version of Oliver Twist; sorting out a new direction for hip-hop on his 2003 debut, Boy in da Corner; winning Britan’s coveted Mercury Prize at 19 years old) has been told over Corner, 2004’s half-hearted Showtime and the excellent, charged Maths + English. Grime, an aggressive pastiche that includes Jamaican dancehall, British garage rock and American rap, only took hold in the U.S. insofar as Dizzee’s moderate, if emblematic stateside success. His pained squawk delivers stories worth the telling, mostly through heightened and artful literalism and a less-cartoonish version of the gangsta-rap tradition, backed by awkward, often grinding, DIY beats that render the music as a bottom-up social broadcast rather than headphone entertainment. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Thursday:
TOKYO POLICE CLUB, AFTERNOONS at the Hammer Museum; YAZ, PSYCHEDELIC FURS at Pacific Amphitheatre; THE HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; BURNING BRIDES, NEBULA at Safari Sam’s; ANAVAN at the Smell; RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS
FRIDAY, JULY 25
Rupa & the April Fishes at California Plaza
Don’t confuse Rupa & the April Fishes with Hootie & the Blowfish. Instead of Blowfish bar pop, Rupa delivers a world-café musical blend that suggests something you’d hear on a Parisian side street. In actuality, the band hails from the San Francisco area; however; Rupa Marya comes by her global sound naturally. Born in the Bay Area to Indian immigrants, she spent her childhood in India and teenage years in a highly Arab area of southern France. Returning to the States, she got a medical degree but couldn’t ignore her love of music. Rupa assembled an eclectic acoustic ensemble, which includes cello, accordion and trumpet, to create genre-melding, Gypsy-spirited tunes that reflect her multicultural upbringing. Singing in French, English, Spanish and Hindi, Rupa and her Fish-mates populate their invigorating debut, Extraordinary Rendition, with enchanting chansons that exude a boho joie de vivre that’s tempered with a soupçon of melancholia. 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; noon. Also at Skirball Cultural Center, Sat. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Friday:
DIANA ROSS at Hollywood Bowl; LOS LONELY BOYS, LOS LOBOS at Greek Theatre; PASTILLA at Safari Sam’s.
SATURDAY, JULY 26
Wanda Jackson at the Knitting Factory
Someone should put up a fancy brass plaque at the former site of Michelangelo, the Italian restaurant that recently relocated elsewhere in Silver Lake. It would say “WANDA JACKSON ATE HERE” (something I happened to notice one evening while walking down Silver Lake Boulevard a few years ago). It’s becoming increasing obvious that the ethically conflicted and terminally sexist (or perhaps merely clueless?) sloths running the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame can’t be counted on to properly commemorate the music of the vastly influential rockabilly icon Wanda Jackson, so the good people of America will have to craft their own historical markers and mini-Gracelands instead. And honor her we should: Ms. Jackson was not only one of the earliest rockabilly (and rock & roll) singers, she played guitar and wrote many of her own classics (including “Mean Mean Man”), belting it all out with a charismatic voice that ranged from fiery passion (“Let’s Have a Party”) to a kittenish country purr (“I Gotta Know”). We’re lucky that, not only is she alive and still kickin’ (to paraphrase the title of her rollicking 2003 live CD), she’s still making great records like 2006’s I Remember Elvis and 2003’s star-studded Heart Trouble. (Falling James)
Gary War, The Super Vacations, Teeth Mountain at the Smell
Baltimore’s new SHDWPLY imprint touches down in Los Angeles with a triple-header of delectable weirdness. Top slot goes to Gary War, a one-man phantasmagoria of swooshing spectral pop. Somewhere over the Black Moth Super Rainbow, he spins gaseous cobwebs of eldritch bubblegum. While the hauntology’s ghost hunters in the U.K. look to library music and vintage soundtracks, he pinches from the “dense, ponderous soporific mass” of ’70s FM sound, to borrow Howard Hampton’s description. Like Ariel Pink, War drenches exaggerated melodies in a glutinous bath of effects, melting them to crumbs afloat in the balmy breeze. He also plays in the Super Vacations, whose slimmed-down, straight-cut jingle-jangle shimmies where his tunes waft. Teeth Mountain round out the bill with radiant, rumbling jams built from manifold drums clacking and cracking in communal contemplation. Cellos whine, live-wire guitars bristle and fuming smokestacks of shrapnel-flecked organ panic over the crazy rhythms palpitating from the group’s three drummers. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Saturday:
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Chromeo head back into the future.
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Alejandro Escovedo: Animal boy
DIANA ROSS at Hollywood Bowl; DORIAN WOOD, RUTHANN FRIEDMAN at Echo Curio; THE PROBE, PAT TODD, BACKITER, MOTORCYCLE BLACK MADONNAS, JON WAHL at Mr. T’s Bowl; HOWLIN’ RAIN at Spaceland; THE BLACK WIDOWS at Taix; URINALS, BIBLICAL PROOF OF UFOs, KIDS OF WIDNEY HIGH at Zen.
SUNDAY, JULY 27
At the Gates at Henry Fonda Theater
With their wonderful welfare state, photogenic compatriots and, well, ABBA, you’d think Swedes would be lounging in their saunas singing thankful folk or celebratory show tunes. Yet, despite (or perhaps in reaction to) its placid rep, Sweden has spawned angrily articulate metal muthas like In Flames, Meshuggah and At the Gates. ATG are rock without the roll: a dementedly regimented machine of pump-action twin-ax riffing, all-as-one rhythmic bonding, tempo-change ambushes and occasional glacial (geddit?) interludes. Oh, and front grunter Tomas Lindberg sounds like some veins-bulging neighbor yelling “Turn it down!” for the hundredth time during your loudest party ever. At the Gates pioneered the (relatively) melodic death metal Gothenburg sound and even enjoyed some incongruous MTV rotation in the mid-’90s before an appallingly timed split. By last fall, they’d seen sense and, having been cited as influences by other crunching acts for a decade, are rightfully cashing in some credibility chips. (Paul Rogers)
Gnarls Barkley, Deerhoof at the Hollywood Bowl
In a development that probably hasn’t surprised a soul, The Odd Couple — the recently released sophomore set by Cee-Lo Green and Danger Mouse’s art-pop duo, Gnarls Barkley — has so far failed to produce a hit on the order of “Crazy,” their all-format smash from 2006. But, as someone who gave the album a lukewarm review upon its release, I must admit: With its spooky R&B licks and narcoleptic go-go beats, The Odd Couple has a way of growing on you — a way that can’t be measured in the quick-draw currency of record sales or radio spins. Peep these freaks at the Bowl tonight, and you’ll likely get a more immediate demonstration of their still-potent vibe. Providing extra bang for your buck, San Francisco’s Deerhoof open the show. They’ve got a new one out in October called Offend Maggie that so far hasn’t convinced me to take back my assertion in these pages last year that they’re the most creative band in indie rock. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Sunday:
BIG ELF, THE BINGES at Alex’s Bar; HOWLIN’ RAIN, MARK FOSSON at McCabe’s.
MONDAY, JULY 28
JAIL WEDDINGS, DEVON WILLIAMS, STARLITE DESPERATION at the Echo; THE DANBURY SHAKES at Mr. T’s Bowl; FINLAND STATION, DIE ROCKERS DIE at the Scene; HEALTH at the Smell; THE DUKE SPIRIT at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.
TUESDAY, JULY 29
Emmylou Harris at Pacific Amphitheatre
Emmylou Harris? You might’ve heard of her. She was once Gram Parsons’ muse, collaborator, duet partner — there weren’t too many of those. A fair enough singer that Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton had to be in a trio with her. Such a sturdy songwriter and supple guitarist that her ghostly songs will still be ricocheting around these and many other lonesome hills long after we’re all gone. She’d say that she’s just been extremely lucky to get to play with folks like James Burton, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Neil Young, Rodney Crowell, Albert Lee, Chrissie Hynde, Willie Nelson and Ryan Adams — you might have detected a trend by now. Just last year, she released the lovingly assembled quadruple-CD (plus DVD) box set, Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems — a magnificent collection of crumbs that any other singer would kill for. But what has she done lately? Harris’ voice is typically graceful throughout All I Intended to Be (Nonesuch), her new album with longtime producer Brian Ahern. She’s achingly somber on such contemplative originals as “Gold” (frosted with Dolly Parton’s divine high harmonies) and “Broken Man’s Lament,” and she’s backed by a subtly bewitching blur of guitars, accordion and mandolin on an eerie cover of Merle Haggard’s “Kern River.” (Falling James)
Black Kids at El Rey Theatre
From my Corona-plus-surf-and-turf-fogged-and-bloated perspective, the unlikeliness of this mid-July vacation I’m taking in Ft. Meyers, Florida, is about on par with the unlikeliness of the newest indie-pop go-getters coming from up the way in Jacksonville. Black Kids (a hipster handful of whiteys plus two actual black kids, they’re young enough to legitimize the over-it-ness of the band name) are a whip-smart and overconfident outfit who are exemplary of the new norms of both “youth” and “industry success.” An on-purpose amalgam of simultaneous-orgasm bands like Arcade Fire (obvs) and romantically inclined ’80s drag-pop, Black Kids have been owning festivals and demanding critical attention worldwide. As they rerelease the celebrated four songs from last year’s spunky EP Wizard of Ahhhs on this month’s full-length Partie Traumatic, it’s probable that Black Kids will hold on to it. (Kate Carraway)
Also playing Tuesday:
BLOC PARTY, FRIENDLY FIRES at the Mayan; JAMES TAYLOR at Greek Theatre; WATSON TWINS, TIM FITE at the Echo.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 30
Chromeo at Henry Fonda Theater
We may just be suckers for a boomtastically boffo audio recording, but just you check out the “Intro” to Chromeo’s re-release of their Fancy Footwork album, which ought to be enough to float your little mind to electro-crunch nirvana. Montreal jokers P-Thugg on talk-box vocals and Dave 1 on squinky synth sounds are two smart guys, a mountain of vintage electronic gear and a keenly retro-savvy mindset that wraps itself around an irony-rich but richly musical and righteously riffmongering electro-R&B mishmash. It’s a glossily funky blast of new-wave bullshit that, like a lot of previously reviled music, has ironically come to sound pretty damn good in 2008 — you’ve just gotta run it through the blender the right way. Chromeo do it the right way, making their slick, superficial sounds shine by placing the emphasis on concise construction and healthy doses of catchy melodies and happy harmonies that take inspiration from the early days of hip-hop. There’s a totally intelligent retro-vibe interwoven in the Chromeo sound, evoking the best strands of electro-disco-funk-soul cheese from back in the day, when it was about having fun and messing around. (John Payne)
Tapper Zukie at the Echoplex
Hard-edged reggae toaster-vocalist Tapper Zukie was one of the true, fine lions of that music’s mid-1970s breakout. His spare, intense debut album, Man Ah Warrior — cut when Zukie was barely out of his teens and boasting a slew of classic numbers like “Black Cinderella” and “Simpleton Badness” — stands as one the era’s most arresting platters. Zukie’s rough-cut, earnest delivery really drove his messagery straight into your skull, and that immediacy won him more than a few fans on the punk rock side of the hill (hell, Patti Smith used him as opening act on a ’77 U.K. tour and wrote the liner notes for his Man of Bosrah album). He’s always throwing down a mixture of hyper-tough sufferin’-in-the-ghetto subjects and devout Rastafarian mysticism, and Zukie’s unbeatable, declarative realism on songs like “Green Bay Murder” and “Don’t Shoot the Youth” consistently sets him in a league of his own. Now, he’s wiser and wilder, and tonight’s session is certain to thrill. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Wednesday:
JAMES TAYLOR at Greek Theatre; THE HOLD STEADY at Avalon; KILLAH PRIEST at El Rey Theatre; JAMES WILSEY at Blue Cafe; JAY REATARD at the Echo; DIE ROCKERS DIE at Echo Curio; WAZ, THE BOWMANS at the Hotel Cafe.
THURSDAY, JULY 31
Alejandro Escovedo at the Troubadour
Alejandro Escovedo is a real wild child, going back to the Nuns in the late ’70s, when he was literally one of the first troublemakers to arrive on the San Francisco punk scene. He helped cobble together the cowpunk and No Depression genres in the early ’80s with Rank & File and, after moving to Austin, the True Believers, but he’s really excelled during the past two decades with his solo albums, which range from darkly literate Velvet Underground rock stomp to glassily momentous balladry riven with Susan Voelz’s masterful and woozy violin. The big time seems to be finally catching up to him now that he’s represented by Bruce Springsteen manager Jon Landau, but Escovedo is as wonderfully unsettling as ever on his new album, Real Animal, crisply helmed by David Bowie producer Tony Visconti. There are some lovely and certainly commercial pop songs, such as “Swallows of San Juan” — where Voelz’s violins rush in dreamily like the namesake birds — but Escovedo also sends his not-necessarily-fuzzy punk nostalgia into stranger places. He ends up putting a bag on his head and punching himself in the mouth on “Nuns Song” (“mix in some Bowie trash,” he sings), while “Chelsea Hotel ’78” is utterly riveting — a palpably foreboding and urgently seedy rocker that doesn’t make it quite clear if Sid Vicious was set up or not. (Falling James)
Eddie & the Hot Rods, The Joneses at the Knitting Factory
This is one of those superhero match-ups that could only occur in a parallel comic-book universe, like Spider-Man joining forces with Batman or Howard the Duck battling Godzilla. I mean, what are the chances that the ’80s Hollywood punk & rollers the Joneses would ever play on the same bill as the ’70s English pub/punk rockers Eddie & the Hot Rods? Both bands broke up long ago and had their heydays in different decades, in underground scenes that occurred thousands of miles apart. And yet the pairing makes some sense. The Hot Rods were linked with the early British punks because of singles like 1976’s “Teenage Depression,” which was more of an Eddie Cochran update than anything nihilistic. They were really a power-pop band at heart on such nearly perfect tunes as “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” With their slower, more classically rocking Johnny Thunders style, the Joneses were nearly trampled in the conformist macho panic of the early-’80s hardcore scene/stampede, but their sexy, sassy form of trash-punk aligned them with Hollywood’s hair-metal bands later in the decade. Unlike so many N.Y. Dolls clones, though, singer/former bank robber Jeff Drake writes his own sneeringly wonderful anthems. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
JOHN MELLENCAMP, LUCINDA WILLIAMS at Greek Theatre; MOBY at Malibu Performing Arts Center; THE HEALTH CLUB at Echo Curio.
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