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Rock Picks: Sunset Junction Street Festival, El Vez, Café Tacuba

El Vez: Taking care of business

THURSDAY, AUGUST 21

 
Playing Thursday:

PETER & GORDON, GERRY & THE PACEMAKERS at Santa Monica Pier, 7 p.m.; GZA at El Rey Theatre; KILLA PRIEST at Blue Cafe; BOB LOG III, SCOTT H. BIRAM at the Echo; G.B.H. at the Key Club; PREVIOUSLY ON LOST at Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; IO ECHO, THE OOHLAS at Silverlake Lounge; JOHN DOE at Levitt Pavilion, Pasadena.

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 22 

 
Veruca Salt at the Viper Room

Veruca Salt are less a band than an alternative-rock creation myth. Featuring a rare kind of reconfiguration, the band are the same in name now as they were when Louise Post and Nina Gordon ruled their Chicago-bred indie-pop outfit, gamine queens who made alt hits out of endearing, screechy, palatable versions of what their peers in the Breeders and the Pixies were up to. “Seether,” “Volcano Girls” and a few other marginal successes hinged on the rebel-lite best-friends-forever stuff that defined the Post and Gordon dynamic. Gordon went one way, to AM radio workday pop, releasing a solo record with all the pink and blue of her former band. Post went another, and recast Veruca Salt as an archetype of edgy leather bar band, with slow-burn hard rock and vaguely goth influences. This version has been aggressively pursued, and the original’s influence, so familiar within the ’90s alt-rock paradigm, has been long abandoned. (Kate Carraway)

Café Tacuba, Ima Robot at the Greek Theatre

One of Mexico’s most relentlessly inventive rock bands, Café Tacuba went a little more traditional than usual on their latest, last year’s excellent Sino. The classic-rock tradition, that is: Sino contains no shortage of busy Keith Moon drum rolls, frilly Rick Wakeman keyboard licks and groovy Doobie Brothers guitar riffs. Of course, with its bold cut-and-paste aesthetic — check out the stylistic twists and turns in the eight-minute “Volver a Comenzar” — the album is still proof that these guys aren’t content simply to admire the object of their affection; taking things apart to see how they work is still Café Tacuba’s preferred method of homage. Local synth-rock openers Ima Robot never managed the mainstream breakthrough their two major-label discs seemed designed for, but they’ve kept on trucking anyway; head to their MySpace for a listen to some unreleased new material. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Friday:

DONNA SUMMER at Hollywood Bowl; The Humpers, Zeke, Lords of Altamont, Blockage at Alex’s Bar; Magnuson, Siberian Summer Camp at the Scene.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 23

 
El Vez at the Key Club

The mainstream media want us to believe that there are just two legitimate candidates for president, but those fools are forgetting an important outsider with a strong chance to shake up the election. No, not Ron Paul — we’re talking about El Vez. The man born Robert Lopez would be a much better commander in chief than those other guys. Luckily, he agrees, which explains his current “El Vez for Prez” tour. For starters, he’s paid homage to Elvis Presley for more than a decade, and this country could use more of the King in the Oval Office. El Vez’s shows feature numerous costume changes, which is important in a capitalist society. He’s also a unifier, a man who can perform portions of up to 200 songs in one setting by diverse acts such as Presley, James Brown, the Who, R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, Rod Stewart and Santana. And, to top it off, he can sing in español, which will come in handy when Lou Dobbs’ biggest fear comes true. (Ryan Ritchie)

Mike Einziger at Royce Hall

When Incubus first emerged as part of the nü-metal movement in the mid-’90s, nobody would’ve had any reason to suspect that a member of the L.A.-based band would someday go on to write an original orchestral composition: That they once named an album Fungus Amongus is these dudes’ eternal cross to bear. Yet, starting with 1999’s Make Yourself (which included their breakout acoustic hit, “Drive”), Incubus have slowly transformed into one of the most thoughtful bands in modern rock; they don’t get anywhere near the respect Pearl Jam do, but Incubus’ tunefully cerebral anthems aren’t a world removed from Eddie Vedder’s. Thanks to a bout of carpal-tunnel syndrome he suffered following the tour for 2006’s Light Grenades, guitarist Mike Einziger found himself unable to play guitar for a stretch, which led him to compose End.>vacuum, his 40-minute debut as an orchestral composer. Tonight the Gravitron Modern Ensemble will perform the piece for the first time. It’s called vindication. (Mikael Wood)

Sunset Junction Street Festival in Silver Lake

The annual Sunset Junction Street Festival in Silver Lake has expanded so much in recent years that it’s grown far beyond its original roots as a neighborhood fair that booked primarily underground local bands. As the prices have risen sharply at this formerly donation-only event, the consolation prize has been that the promoters have sometimes landed big-name headliners such as the New York Dolls, the Cramps and Sleater-Kinney. This year’s lineup doesn’t boast such major surprises, and it didn’t help that one of the original headliners, soul legend Isaac Hayes, recently died. But, hold on — Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) is coming to save the day with a tribute to the late, great Black Moses. You also get: the primal, heavily ripping Akron blues-rock duo the Black Keys; the soulful indie-punk hammering and droning, choppy riff entanglements of Long Beach’s ambitious town criers, Cold War Kids; Monterrey, Mexico’s sleek dance-rock assassins Kinky; the maxi-beat-fortified funk and horny horns of Brooklyn’s Antibalas; reunited, hazily low-key country-rock stylists Beachwood Sparks; Broken Social Scene, the sprawling Toronto collective that’s launched simpatico performers like Metric and Feist; and several SoCal bands with varying degrees of populist potential, including new-wavey Joshua Tree art-rockers Gram Rabbit, ecstatic harmonizers Bodies of Water and smart-pop rockers Oliver Future. 3700-4300 blocks of Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. Also Sun. (Falling James)

Also playing Saturday:

DONNA SUMMER at Hollywood Bowl; The Germs, The Mae Shi, Spider Problem at the Echo; Sondre Lerche, Sylvie Lewis at the Troubadour; THE BLUE HAWAIIANS at the Farmers Market; COW BOP at Boulevard Music; daKAH Hip Hop Orchestra at California Plaza; CASXIO at El Cid.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 24

 
Bob Bellerue at the Smell

“Some say noise is the future of music,” reads the jacket of Bob Bellerue’s new documentary film, People Who Do Noise, offering the logical conclusion “Others claim it is the end.” The answer, of course, is somewhere in between. Bellerue, formerly of the performance space known as Il Corral, ground zero of the L.A. punk-noise scene, returns Ulysses-like from his many voyages. He’s visiting tonight from Brooklyn, where he’s decamped with aide-de-camp and longtime companion the choreographer and fellow noisemaker Wanda Gala. Promised: a giant shard of metal, caressed and cajoled and made to do terrible things to you, your hearing and your rectum, though not necessarily in that order. Rectum? He destroyed ’em! Miss the cacophony (can you really comprehend the potential of abused metal?), and you might just die inside, like that guy at the end of The Postman Always Knocks Twice or Hillary Clinton. Also: Emaciator, Monsturo, Persimmons Pomegranate, Work/Death. (David Cotner)

Also playing Sunday:

RADIOHEAD at Hollywood Bowl; SUNSET JUNCTION STREET FAIR in Silver Lake; Rocky Dawuni at Malibu Inn.

MONDAY, AUGUST 25
 

Nicole Atkins at Largo

Growing up in a seaside town in New Jersey, Nicole Atkins was seduced so much by the song of the sirens that she turned into one of them. But she doesn’t always romanticize living by the ocean on her bewitching new album, Neptune City. “A cemetery song for summer,” she intones solemnly on the glassy title track, taking one final bittersweet look back at her decaying hometown. It’s the Jersey Shore equivalent to the Pretenders’ “My City Was Gone.” “I used to love it/it used to be pretty,” Atkins declares over a weepy crumble of shimmering guitar and a funereal, icy murmur of low strings. With a peach of a voice that’s a little like Cass Elliot’s, she belts it out with a ’60s girl-group passion (and a hint of Broadway melodramatics) but, unlike Amy Winehouse and the Detroit Cobras’ Rachel Nagy, she’s not a strict revivalist. The songs come layered in waves of grandly swooning orchestration, like the fluttering, flickering colorful small fishes darting in and out of the instrumental reef at the coda of “Cool Enough” or the spiral-seaweed tones at the outset of “War Torn.” In her hands, Neptune City is transformed into a metaphorical, mythical, magic-filled paradise by the sea. (Falling James)

Love Grenades, Lysa Flores, Casxio, The Pacific at the Silverlake Lounge

Talk about sex bombs. The soulful electro-popish ditties of Love Grenades, who are led by the sultry raven-haired singer Liz Wight, are as scorching as they are seductive — a collective soundtrack for making out one-on-one or maxing out with a hundred sweaty strangers on the dance floor. With a backing band that includes local luminaries such as ex–Mojo Filter/funkster DJ Clifton Weaver on bass, not to mention two hotsie-totsie backup singers, the Grenades’ live show takes their slinky, un-ironic soul-dance groove (think Lisa Stansfield meets Duffy smoothness with a little Sam Sparro–style sass — they do a song, “Young Lovers,” with him) to new heights. At this last show of their August Silverlake Lounge residency, Love Grenades are sure to pull the pin all the way and detonate too. Also with chuggin’ chica Lysa Flores, falsetto-lovin’ funk freaks Casxio and the easy, breezy Brit-meets-Cali-cool rock of the Pacific. (Lina Lecaro)

Also playing Monday:

RADIOHEAD at Hollywood Bowl; Lykke Li, Emily Wells, Jesca Hoop, Ida at the Hotel Café; Black Bird Cafe at Safari Sam’s.

 
TUESDAY, AUGUST 26

 
Kings X at House of Blues

When they swaggered out of Houston two decades back, Kings X challenged both ears and preconceptions with rippling, progressive rock riffs and hints of then-hip “funk-metal,” sure, but also with almost-gospel vocal harmonies, soulful sentiments and pop sensibilities borrowed from the British Invasion. Their guitarist and drummer looked like Rush-lovin’ comic-book collectors, and they had a wiry, triathlete-type bloke up front. With a Mohawk. Sadly, Kings X have always been marketed as a hard-rock act, getting booed by blinkered AC/DC fans during a 1991 opening stint, and even tonight sharing a stage with the numbingly chummy Extreme. Since departing the major-label mill in the mid-’90s, they’ve become perhaps the ultimate veteran cult act, and there’s still no one who sounds quite like ’em: Front man Dug Pinnick’s plaintive, rubbery inflections and monstrous (often 12-string) bass tones lend the trio an oddly lean-yet-orchestral quality. This year’s XV revisited Kings X’s spirited (and spiritual) strengths — and the Top 200. (Paul Rogers)

Hecuba at the Smell

The mighty Hecuba are two interesting people, Isabelle Albuquerque and Jon Beasley, who began their fertile creative partnership in a steamy bog in the deep, deep South. After a move to New York City, where both were involved in various visual-art endeavors, the pair decided to pool their inspirations into musical form and eventually to get the hell out of the city. Their arrival in California brought new inspiration, which has seen the duo’s flair for exceptionally non-clichéd musical hybrids blossom in Sir, the first of a planned series of “concept” EPs, this one including a reinterpretation of “Sir” by Lucky Dragons. Their concepts get fleshed out in strange and eclectic live shows, visually arresting affairs that showcase their rapidly deepening stew pot of punky prog rock with doo-woppy electro-dub-gospel-hip-hop overtones, if you know what I mean. Devendra Banhart has called them “the best band in L.A.,” meanwhile, because he just can’t put his finger precisely on where they’re coming from. And that is where it’s at. (John Payne)

Also playing Tuesday:

EDDY GRANT at El Rey Theatre; MATTHEW SWEET at Amoeba Music


WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 27


Shearwater at the Echo

Shearwater are a youngish band out of Austin, Texas, who’ve been getting a lot of jaw based on their powerful opening sets on the recent Coldplay tour. Formed by two members of Okkervil River, singer-guitarist Will Sheff and accordion/keyboard player Jonathan Meiburg, in order to focus on largely acoustic, folk-oriented sounds, Shearwater have released five discs, the latest of which brings us more of a caressingly melodic middle rock that on the surface is nothing too radically different. Yet the arrangements on the songs prick the ears, and draw one back in with their surprising little tonal twists and artfully nuanced performances. In recent times, Meiburg, an advance-degreed ornithologist, has taken the reins and written most of the material; the band’s Palo Santo album was partially written at the Galápagos Islands. Their latest, Rook, taps into a lovely and subtly dramatic world that really does sound as if it’s evolving with nature, as the wind swirls around, the waves break on the rocks, and lightning flares on the horizon. (John Payne)

Also playing Wednesday:

MAD JUANA at Alex’s Bar; JANEANE GAROFALO, BOB ODENKIRK at Largo; Ollin, The Happy Casualties, Hard Goodbyeat Mr. T's Bowl.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 28
 

Junior Brown at the Key Club

Honky-tonk renegade Junior Brown is the consummate misfit. Beating the hell out of his one-of-a-kind guit-steel ax (the custom ax that he had built after it appeared to him in a dream), roaring lyrics with coarse, chain-saw toned vocals and always displaying the sort of nimble fingered facility that makes guitar geeks around the world go limp and twitchy, the Arizona-born, Texas-informed, Oklahoma-based musician works a drastic mixture of hard-country philosophy and heavy-gauge rock & roll. It’s a combination so wildly disparate that only a certified genius could make it work, and Brown has deftly exploited it: Winning an award from the incestuous, highly politicized Country Music Association is a small feat, but he took its Video of the Year honor for 1996’s “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” conferring a degree of legitimacy that Brown has subsequently (and wisely) done little to further. The man strictly goes his own way, and every jaunt is like a Tilt-A-Whirl ride to a gaudy, absurdist and perfectly realized country-music realm. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

RADIOHEAD at Santa Barbara Bowl; Matthew Sweet, Greg Laswell at the Echo; Nortec Collective, Bostich, Fussible at the Knitting Factory; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Eastside Luv; Toots & the Maytals at Santa Monica Pier.


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