Rock Picks: Tangerine Dream, Spindrift, Robyn Hitchcock
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6
When Linda Ronstadt expanded her musical range in the ’80s to include jazz standards and mariachi styles, many of her old fans, as well as her former peers in the ’70s country-rock aristocracy, must have thought she was out of her mind. The truth is, by reinventing herself in a variety of musical disguises (big band, Cajun folk, Broadway show tunes, rancheras, new wave, jazz), she’s remained more relevant (and exciting) than most singers of her generation. At tonight’s “Romantic Evening in Old Mexico,” she’s paired with Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano (as well as El Paso dance troupe Ballet Folklorico Paso del Norte!) to highlight songs from her Spanish-language albums Canciones de Mi Padre and Más Canciones. Whether she’s quivering with passion on a dreamy acoustic-guitar ballad like “Por un Amor” or letting her melodies sail over a bed of merry mariachi horns and trumpets on the festive romp “Los Laureles,” Ronstadt can be counted on to belt it with that famously powerful voice, which is even stronger today than in her so-called heyday. She remains both a literal force of nature and a national treasure. (Falling James)
Madonna at Dodger Stadium
Did she cheat on her hubby with A-Rod? Is she a crazy control freak with an exercise addiction and anti-aging obsession? Does she insist no even one look at her behind the scenes of her current Sticky and Sweet tour? Gossip galore has come out since the launch of Madonna’s latest stage spectacle, but, for those lucky enough to attend her live show, it’s all irrelevant. Madge is hands down one of the most multifaceted and magnanimous (onstage anyway) performers in the world, and her slick and vigorous music and dance-filled extravaganzas are always nothing short of breathtaking. Even at 50, girlfriend doesn’t know how to phone it in. Expect a few cuts off this year’s groove-glazed electro-feast Hard Candy, and, of course, thematic costume changes adapted to her hump-pop faves and riffed-up grinds (“Borderline” and “Ray of Light” go rawk courtesy of Mz. M’s ax). And speaking of axes and grinding, giant monitors projecting everything from Big Brother–like visuals to anti-McCain imagery are sure to add to the extrasensory experience and confirm that, personally and politically, the lady’s far from done expressing herself. (Lina Lecaro)
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 7
Flying Lotus, Kode9 at the Echoplex
At first listen, Steven Ellison’s homage to his hometown seems slightly off. The man best known as Flying Lotus has delivered a new album titled Los Angeles (Warp) that’s just too sticky; it’s closer to the dense humidity of East Coast summers or the slushy murk of their endless winters. But this long-playing fantasia of fluorescent glyphs and crackling vinyl is actually a gem of Western polyglot psychedelia. Melted by the Southland sun and flurried by the Santa Anas, Ellison’s manifold samples melt together into a gurgling drench of tactile sounds: malformed voices, alien frequencies, laser whinnies, acid-rinsed synths, stammering fretwork and elastic bass. His engines of rhythm — held together by chewing gum and Scotch tape — hiccup in warped orbits. Years back, Fly-Lo may have been called trip-hop, but his woozy luxuriance and microbial design put him eons away from any coffee table. A kindred spirit, England’s Kode9 offers the pressurized, doom-fogged mirror image to Flying Lotus’ immersive grooves. In the oily writhing, radioactive wobble and haunting sparseness of Kode9’s lumbering dubstep, a different concrete jungle gets its score. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Electric Six at the Key Club
Ask anyone from Echo Park to Williamsburg, they’ll tell you irony is a dead scene — which is why Electric Six is only partially insincere. Bouncing between Tom Jones–y suaveness to a preening falsetto, singer Dick Valentine works himself into a perpetual lather as he croons about sundry oddball shit. The Detroit sextet’s latest tunes are mostly some form of love song, like the Sir Walter Raleigh–esque gallantry of “Transatlantic Flight” or, in the case of “Graphic Designer,” a fixation with the girl who spends her days in a cubicle playing with PhotoShop. Valentine is the kind of self-aware ham who would grow tiresome if his band weren’t such smart interpreters of Top 40 tropes. Their new disc, Flashy, is a power-pop-laden set as indebted to ’80s new-wave synths as it is crunchy punk guitars, spritzed with robo-vocals, spaghetti Western horns, and sax solos that would make Kenny G a hater. And if he really likes the crowd, ol’ Dick might drop to the floor and give you 20 pushups. (Andrew Lentz)
Tangerine Dream at Royce Hall
It was in a bit I’d read by fine old John Peel in the late, great Melody Maker back in the early ’70s [tamps pipe, settles back in easy chair], where I first got cued into the ripping glories of Tangerine Dream. The Berlin-based electronic trio — then comprising founder Edgar Froese, Peter Baumann and Chris Franke, but also boasting heavyweight graduates such as the legendary Klaus Schulze — had come out with this bubbling, coiling, steamily serpentine stew called Phaedra, on the then-progressive/art-rock-oriented Virgin Records. Well, Peel “rated” the Tangs and put them in rotation on his radio show, and Phaedra went on to become a semi-massive smash ’round the globe; even the pinheads at Rolling Stone approved. The group had already been quite prolific, having issued several albums, such as the excellent Atem and Alpha Centauri, long-form works dominated by Froese’s abiding interest in dramatically dark electronic tone-clusterings à la Ligeti and Xenakis. They went on to score several films, including Firestarter, and evolved in various ways that strayed far from their earlier, more overtly experimental shades but have consistently retained a superhigh level of sheer sonic spectacularity. This is their 40th anniversary concert, highly recommended for the undoubtedly first-class video and light shows that will accompany the music but largely for the chance to pay tribute to these hugely influential innovators in the art of electronic music. (John Payne)
Heartless Bastards at Spaceland
For the recording of Heartless Bastards’ third album, The Mountain (to be released on Fat Possum Records in January), Erika Wennerstrom had to go to Texas to find her dream Ohio band. The singer-guitarist left her previous lineups behind when she set up camp in Austin to work with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin). By chance, she found a new/old rhythm section from Dayton, Ohio — drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh — who had worked on one of her early demos. The Bastards’ trademark sound is still based on majestic blues-rock riffs over Wennerstrom’s lost-&-lonesome yowling, but there are new folk and country shadings with the occasional use of banjo, mandolin and pedal-steel guitar. “I don’t want to fall into the wicked sun,” she confides as reverb waves of roots-rock guitar ripple through an austere landscape. Even with the newfound siren wail of slide guitar, the upcoming album’s title track still rests on the mighty shoulders of Wennerstrom’s sludgy-fuzzy guitar and powerfully assured singing. What’s new is the epic, almost psychedelic way the guitars fuse together as the song marches grandly and slowly off into a Western sunset. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
VAN MORRISON at Hollywood Bowl (see Music feature); JEDI MIND TRICKS at Henry Fonda Theater; COHEED & CAMBRIA at Avalon; DAVY JONES at the Canyon; BOOGALOO ASSASSINS at the Mint; THE BLIND SHAKE, WOUNDED LION, THE JINXES at Redwood Bar & Grill; THE MELODIANS at Saint Rocke; ATOMIC SHERPAS, GHIDORAH at Taix; FLYING TOURBILLON ORCHESTRA, XU XU FANG, CASTELDOOR at Fisher Gallery courtyard, USC, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 8
Scissors for Lefty, Killola at the Knitting Factory
A Rickenbacker bass bouncing over a back beat evokes the British Invasion while producing weak knees in nubile girls and shaky floors in old dance halls. But we’re not talking about the Fab Four, more like the Foxy Five, after Scissors for Lefty added another family member, Steven Garza, to the band. Singer-guitarist Bryan Garza told us the update has ushered them from “radical to tubular,” now that the front man is free to prance and croon like an American-born Babyshamble. Their Britpop-meets-Williamsburg disco was perfectly captured on 2007’s Underhanded Romance, issued first by Rough Trade, then by Eenie Meenie Records, but their upcoming 2009 effort will be self-released (get the teaser EP, Consumption Junction, on iTunes now). Make sure not to miss L.A.’s own Killola, because this DIY band is going places. Their new album, I Am the Messer, is totally free (www.killola.com/free) and was among the first to be released on a USB bracelet. You’ll need to brace yourself for the drool-able Lisa Rieffel, who blazes over Sparks-like tracks like she just gave Gwen Stefani a bloody nose. (Daniel Siwek)
Dave Alvin & Greg Leisz at Largo at the Coronet Theater
“I was born by a river/It was paved with cement/But I’d stand on that dry river/And dream that I was soaking wet.” So sings Dave Alvin in “Dry River,” one of the dozens of flat-out classics the founding Blaster and American song master has penned. We hear a lot about authenticity and the American dream these days, precisely because the rivers of our imagination, as well as literal ones, have been paved over by the greedy, the dumb and the governor of Alaska. Like Steve Earle, I See Hawks in L.A. and other singing poet warriors of m-m-my generation, Alvin has perfected the ability to diagnose what ails us in the language of our homegrown folk music. For strong medicine, dig The Best of the HighTone Years, the new compilation of highlights from his solo career. The Downey, California, hometown boy plays, in his words, both “quiet folk music and loud folk music,” meaning he has Woody Guthrie on one shoulder and Keith Richards on t’other. Pared down tonight — just him, string whiz Greg Leisz and surprise guests — he’ll lean toward troubadour. But that don’t mean he won’t kick ass. He always does. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Saturday:
VAN MORRISON at Hollywood Bowl (see Music feature); COHEED & CAMBRIA at Avalon; BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA at Cerritos Center; THE WHO at Nokia Theatre; UMOVERDE, BOOGALOO ASSASSINS at the Bordello; THE CHERRY BLUESTORMS at Molly Malone’s; HUMAN HANDS, THE CRYSTELLES at Mr. T’s Bowl; SEAN WHEELER, ZANDER SCHLOSS at Redwood Bar & Grill; LETTERS TO CLEO at the Roxy; DEAD MEADOW, THE MOON UPSTAIRS at the Troubadour.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 9
Natacha Atlas at El Rey Theatre
Belgian singer Natacha Atlas describes herself as a “human Gaza Strip,” and her latest album, Ana Hina, is a wondrous blend of influences, rhythms and languages. She insinuates herself breathily through the soft acoustic chords of the title track, as Louai Alhenawi’s ney melody weaves around her. Atlas duets in Spanish with Clara Sanabras amid the icily eerie acoustic-guitar plucking and ukulele strumming of “La Vida Callada,” which is based on a poem by Frida Kahlo. Elsewhere, she and her pianist-producer Harvey Brough transform the Scottish folk song “Black Is the Color” into a cool blue, jazzy ballad as watery strings well up behind her. Accordions and violins dance mischievously on swirling Arabic romps like “La Teetab Alayi” and “La Shou El Haki.” With its sideways-bending strings and solemn, funereal chanting, the closing song, “El Nowm,” is strange and haunting. Whether she’s slowing the beat down to linger delicately over a single romantic word or stirring up her full Mazeeka Ensemble to launch an epic journey like “Lammebada,” Atlas is perpetually enchanting. (Falling James)
Terry Reid at McCabe’s
British rock & roll kingpin Terry Reid has both an extraordinarily powerful set of pipes and one of the most impressive track records in the business. Famed as the bloke who, with longtime cohort Jimmy Page, put together Led Zeppelin (after his spot as lead singer evaporated due to contractual binds with notorious hustler Mickie Most, Reid personally drafted Robert Plant), his fans include Aretha Franklin (who once ranked him as the greatest white soul singer of all), the Rolling Stones (who used him as opener on their 1966 and 1970 tours) and Cheap Trick (who cut a memorable cover of Reid’s “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace”). While Reid’s own impressive recorded output (get a load of his stomping 1968 debut platter, Bang Bang You’re Terry Reid) never quite set the world ablaze, his soulfully expressive, R&B-informed vocals have always stood as a model for aspiring shouters on both sides of the Atlantic. He’s currently working on a new album (a Robert Plant–enabled deal with Rounder), and this low-key session will afford an ideal opportunity to soak up Reid’s superlative combination of tough instinct and tender interpretation. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday:
THE WHO at Nokia Theatre; THE B-52’s at Fred Kavli Theatre; BECK, JENNY LEWIS at Club Nokia; LITTLE FEAT at House of Blues; THE BLACK WATCH at Mr. T’s Bowl; JESSE DAYTON, MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill, noon.
BECK, JAY REATARD at Club Nokia; LINDA RONSTADT at Arlington Theatre, Santa Barbara; KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW, DUKE & DUCHESS, FLASH EXPRESS at the Echo; VIC CHESNUTT, ELF POWER at the Echoplex; JOHN HIATT at House of Blues; THE MONOLATORS, THE HEALTH CLUB at Pehrspace; MIKE STINSON at Redwood Bar & Grill; LISTING SHIP at Tangier.
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 11
Spindrift at the Roxy
Spindrift are, of course, L.A.’s leading practitioners of exotic soundscapes, conjuring up dreamy spells that alternately evoke spaghetti Westerns, psychedelia, dusty blues and Old World klezmer. The cinematic sweep of the band’s music begs to be put to use in a real movie, and their new CD, The West, is considered a companion piece to the soundtrack they composed for the recent film The Legend of God’s Gun. New frontiers, both real and imaginary, inspire much of the sounds on The West, where band leader Kipatrick Thomas seeks to re-examine that era in American history, between 1850 and 1930, when “the romanticism of the power of railroads dominated the landscape . . . [and] times were ripe for discovery.” Spindrift’s discoveries on The West include the stomping yet ethereal electric blues of “The Wind,” the Morricone-isms of “Ace Coletrane,” the purple art-rock haze of “Excrete From the Collective Subconscious” and the waltzy sea chantey “Frozen Memories.” Julie Patterson’s somber vocals soften the trippy groove “La Noche Mas Oscura,” while the group borrows lyrics by Howlin’ Wolf and places them in a noir-ish new context to great effect on “Colt’s Crime” (although nothing’s scarier than Chester Burnett’s own nightmarish blues). (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
KAISER CHIEFS at Henry Fonda Theater; TRINI LOPEZ at Orpheum Theatre; EARLIMART at the Echoplex; METHOD MAN, EVIDENCE at House of Blues; RICKIE LEE JONES at Largo; DEACON JONES BLUES BAND at Redwood Bar & Grill; PIT ER PAT, HECUBA at the Smell.
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 12
Grace Potter & the Nocturnals at the Roxy
Whether she’s running a slide down the strings of her brown Flying V guitar to stir up some bluesy atmospherics or stretching out her arms as if to corral her big, bad Hammond B-3 organ before it floats away, Grace Potter is a mesmerizing performer onstage. Even she seems amazed by the soulful, churchy swells of warm sound she casually hammers out of her keyboards as she closes her eyes and sinks back deeply into a song. She belies her innocently youthful appearance and model-like good looks with a bluesy molasses voice that sounds as old as the hills on her third album, 2007’s This Is Somewhere (Hollywood Records). While the Nocturnals’ blend of ’70s classic rock and retro blues seems to be more about faithfully duplicating an earlier era’s style rather than acknowledging the modern world in any meaningful way, Potter’s songs are nonetheless infused with vibrancy and immediacy, thanks to Scott Tournet’s tastefully wild guitar solos, Matthew Burr’s solidly propulsive drumming and Bryan Dondero’s muscular, SVT-cranked bass. For all of the fire and passion in Potter’s singing, at this stage her lyrics are still fairly erratic, ranging from the intriguing allure of “Ah Mary” to the unintentional campiness of “Stop the Bus” and the painfully inarticulate (albeit feverishly moody) new heavy-blues workout “Sugar.” (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
LUPE FIASCO at Club Nokia; LOVE GRENADES, MISS DERRINGER at the Bordello; THE HEALTH CLUB at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE ENTRANCE BAND, THE GROWLERS at Spceland; THE (INTERNATIONAL) NOISE CONSPIRACY at El Cid.
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 13
Robyn Hitchcock at Largo at the Coronet
One of the big trends in the rock-concert world nowadays is the “perform the classic album” show. Legends (Van Morrison and Brian Wilson) and cultists (Mission of Burma and Slint) alike have all taken a ride on this artistic wayback machine. And now the psychedelic-dipped folk-rocker Robyn Hitchcock is jumping aboard the nostalgia bandwagon too. He’ll perform his “director’s cut” of his memorable 1983 record, I Often Dream of Trains, which gleefully runs the gamut from the weird (“Sometimes I Wish I Was a Pretty Girl”) and wacky (“Uncorrected Personality Traits”) to the downright wistful (“Trams of Old London”). So why join Hitchcock on this back-catalog flashback? Because, besides being a talented albeit eccentric singer-songwriter, the loquacious Englishman indulges in trippy, often-hilarious stage banter that makes each show a sublimely unique experience. His last time through L.A., while touring with Nick Lowe, the 50-something Hitchcock proved he was still an irrepressible showman, so expect that he’ll keep playing long after his Train has reached its final track. (Michael Berick)
Also playing Thursday:
KATHLEEN EDWARDS & JOHN DOE at El Rey Theatre; ALANIS MORISSETTE at Orpheum Theatre; JOE SATRIANI, MOUNTAIN at the Wiltern; AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD at the Echo; JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; GYM CLASS HEROES at Key Club; LEGENDARY PINK DOTS, NORA KEYES at Knitting Factory.
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