Rock Picks: Tegan & Sara, Patti Smith, Stereolab
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16
Petra Haden & Woody Jackson at Largo at the Coronet
Judging by the gently heart-stabbing, utterly captivating charms of their upcoming disc, Ten Years (released digitally on DashGo Records), Petra Haden and Woody Jackson have invented their own new sort of music, whose total magic would be substantially squashed by a hamfisted rock critic trying give it a proper context and “rate” its relative worth. But it’s like that. Triple-double-threat Haden is the side player par excellence of soaring violin skills and equally formidable singing chops; she’s plied her trade with musicians as varied as Beck, Cibo Matto, Sean Lennon, Foo Fighters, Spain, Victoria Williams and Rickie Lee Jones, not to mention her own wondrously strange duo with Miss Murgatroid and her recent work with her famous bass-playing legend dad, Charlie, on their new Charlie Haden Family and Friends disc, Ocean of Diamonds. On Ten Years, she braids an especially hypnotic vocalese and violin around acoustic guitarist Woody Jackson in a dozen interludes of subtly shaded, quietly devastating and very, very pure beauty. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
TINA TURNER at Staples Center; RUBEN GUEVARA at Eastside Luv; THE ORIGINAL WAILERS at the Key Club; HAYES CARLL at the Mint; JAGUAR LOVE at Silverlake Lounge; BAD DUDES at the Smell; MATT HALES at Paul Gleason Theater; PILAR DIAZ at SiteLA.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17
Tegan & Sara, Girl in a Coma at the Henry Fonda Theater
Canadian twin sisters Tegan & Sara continue their sold-out run of nights at this venue tonight, building on the momentum of their 2007 CD, The Con. Their songs of romantic attraction/repulsion — such as “Nineteen,” with its surging riffs and yearningly endearing lyrics (“I felt you in my legs before I ever met you”) — are carefully arranged with soothingly sweet harmonies. As diverting as Tegan & Sara can be, you shouldn’t miss openers Girl in a Coma, a San Antonio trio who are even more ambitious, taking their punk and riot-grrl influences into genuinely new and dramatically exhilarating territory on their Blackhearts Records debut, Both Before I’m Gone. The album opens with “Clumsy Sky,” as elegant chimes of guitar unfold under Nina Diaz’s positively lulling, maternally comforting vocals. Then her drummer-sister, Phanie Diaz, and bassist Jenn Alva knock down the door with an unexpected explosion of rhythm, and the song breaks free from its leash and rockets madly around the neighborhood. And yet, through all of the storms that follow, Diaz belts out her poetically probing lyrics with a deep and full, instantly recognizable voice that remains serenely searing. Moods range from the gauzy intimacy of “Road to Home” (with one of the year’s grandest hooks) and the Cure-like throb of “In the Background” to the punky incisions of “Mr. Chivalry.” Also Sat.-Sun. Girl in a Coma also at Amoeba Music, Mon., 7 p.m.; and Alex’s Bar, Wed. (Falling James)
The Roots, Gym Class Heroes, Estelle at the Hollywood Palladium
Earlier this year, I started to worry that the Roots had lost some of their against-the-grain mojo when word began to circulate that the Philly-based rap crew had removed “Birthday Girl,” a cutesy pop-rap collabo with Fall Out Boy front man Patrick Stump, from April’s Rising Down after killjoy Internet fans cried foul. Yet, six months later, here they are on tour with FOB pals Gym Class Heroes, whose new The Quilt contains no shortage of Stump-produced pop-rap jams. My bad, fellas — your iconoclastic spirit obviously still burns bright. In addition to Stump’s tracks, The Quilt also features shiny-happy hookups with hip-hop heavyweights Cool & Dre and The-Dream, clearly reflecting the band’s desire to transcend the emo-rap tag they otherwise live up to. English soul-hop siren Estelle is responsible for one of the year’s best singles, “American Boy,” in which she tells Kanye West how much she’d love to see L.A. Welcome! (Mikael Wood)
The Kris Special at Blackwatch Pub
There really is something special about the Kris Special. The semi-obscure local band’s 2007 debut CD, Alone Feels Like a Hotel Room, opens with a gently spacy ballad, “April Loved John,” which pairs dusty guitar chords with Anne Pointer’s plaintive cooing to create a lovely Mazzy Star–style idyll. The ballad “I Sleep Alone Sometimes,” with Nick Schutz’s low-key drumming and Andrew Dorsett’s weary lap-steel guitar plunges, is even more windswept and minimal. But just as you’re starting to label the Kris Special a sleepy alt-country band, they surprise you with tracks like “Untitled Z” and “Papers and Such,” which rumble with an early Gun Club drive. “Little Red Song” is a flat-out punk rock barnburner, as Pointer belies her churning fuzz chords with a cool, calm and collected vocal delivery. Still, she’s at her most affecting when she slows things down on such austere, melancholic songs as “Wet Payphone” and the subdued sarcasm of “Smile a Little Louder So They Can Hear You,” where she confides in a glassy, childlike voice, “What do they know about this place anyway? Fuck ’em . . . I’m sure God has reconsidered things.” 497 N. Central Ave. B, Upland. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; LEO NOCENTELLI at the Mint; EXIT MUSIC, THE BLACK PINE, VOICES VOICES at Pehrspace; KEVIN K, THE BLACK WIDOWS at Redwood Bar & Grill; SUPERSUCKERS at the Roxy; HEROINE SHEIKS, QUI at Spaceland; YAEL NAIM at the Troubadour; FIREBALL MINISTRY, THE KNIVES at the Viper Room; LAIKA & THE COSMONAUTS at the Purple Orchid, El Segundo; VERY BE CAREFUL at El Cid; POPRAVINAS, NEIGHHBORHOOD BULLIES at O’Brien’s Pub; LADYKILLERS, PRIMA DONNA at VU Ultra Bar, Newhall; THE BLOOD ARM at Silver Factory Studios.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18
Patti Smith at the Orpheum Theatre
With Patti Smith, it all began with the word. Her early-’70s poetry and rock criticism were infused with so much spirit and palpable fire, it wasn’t difficult for her musical partner Lenny Kaye to tap into the inherent melodies and rhythms pulsing in her stanzas and invent something that would later be called punk rock. Smith took a break from her own wordplay with her 2007 all-covers CD, Twelve, where she reinterpreted songs by Hendrix, Rolling Stones, the Doors and (yikes) Tears for Fears to wildly varying effect. She returned to poetry with a vengeance on her recent double live CD, The Coral Sea, a collaboration with My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields that’s based on her 1996 book of the same title, a suite of poems dealing with the loss of her old pal Robert Mapplethorpe. “The arm of the sea curves and cradles, subduing all passion, and is a comfort and a lure,” she declaims during the prologue. Shields stirs up some chillingly beautiful sounds with his volume-knob manipulations — making guitars sound like shimmering violins, and shimmering keyboards sound like outer space — while Smith intones her abstract imagery with perhaps a bit too much funereal seriousness. She’s the subject of a new documentary, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, but let’s hope that the inevitable creep of nostalgia won’t stop the free flow of her musical words. (Falling James)
Polysics at the Roxy
I know what you may be thinking: “Can someone please wake me up when the ’90s revival finally kicks in? Will the ’80s ever end? I love Ghostbusters and Weird Science as much as anybody, but this is ridiculous!” And you’re totally right, but if there’s room for just one more jump-suit-, asymmetrical-haircut- and Polymoog-sporting band in your fanny pack, then I would nominate Japan’s Polysics, whose founder Hiroyuki Hayashi (vocals, programming and guitar) was so mad for Devo that he started this awesome foursome. But this isn’t just karaoke; they’re six albums deep, and their MySpace Records release, We Ate the Machine, takes our herky-jerky Americana and introduces it to Black Rain and Dance Dance Revolution on a taurine drip. With a Sigue Sigue Sputnik–like predilection for mixing techno-logy and punk, they’re a post–Daft Punk band (dance-rock Vocodors) who can sound like ZZ Top’s Eliminator and Loudness at the same time. Just listen to “Moog Is Love” (www.myspace.com/polysicsna) for proof. (Daniel Siwek)
The Quarrymen, Laurence Juber at the Writers Boot Camp Auditorium
In July, 1957, a band called the Quarrymen played a church social in Liverpool. Led by 16-year-old John Lennon, they played skiffle — raucous folk songs then popular in Britain — as well as rock & roll. In the crowd was another budding guitarist named McCartney. John met Paul that day, and you know the rest. No single musical act has inspired more kids to pick up guitars than the Fabs. Young people were also encouraged to study music in U.S. schools until Republican budget cutters deemed this wasteful. In an effort to ensure that no child is truly left behind, the nonprofit Guitars in the Classroom prepares teachers to instruct young ’uns in 25 states. Three of the original Quarrymen, singer-guitarists Len Garry and Rod Davis and drummer Colin Hanton, joined by guest bassist J B Fonfrias, perform tonight to benefit this magnificent program. Laurence Juber, former Wings guitarist and fingerstyle champ, opens, and Chris Carter (Breakfast With the Beatles) hosts. Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2519 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; 7:30 p.m. (310) 998-1199. Tickets are available at Westwood Music and www.guitarsintheclassroom.org. (Michael Simmons)
Also playing Saturday:
TEGAN & SARA, GIRL IN A COMA at Henry Fonda Theater; LAIKA & THE COSMONAUTS, BIG SANDY at the Bordello; RANDOM PATTERNS, BBVV at Echo Curio; THE MUSLIMS, AM at Pehrspace; BRIAN LONBECK, THE DAVE & DEKE COMBO at Safari Sam’s; JAIL WEDDINGS, WOUNDED LION at the Smell; KINGSIZEMAYBE, PAT TODD & THE RANKOUTSIDERS at Taix; BABYSTONE at Cafe Z, Skirball Center; noon; FATSO JETSON, JOE BAIZA at American Legion Post 206, Highland Park.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 19
Amy Kuney at the Hard Rock Café
It’s hard not to like the young singer-songwriter Amy Kuney. She doesn’t put on a lot of airs or stomp around the stage with a diva’s self-importance. Instead, she sings her straightforward pop songs with a lot of charm and a minimum of coffeehouse narcissism. “We take pleasure in the simple things,” she announces at the outset of her new CD, Bird’s Eye View. “It’s a beautiful morning, dressed up in summer and tied with a bow.” And yet her love of simplicity doesn’t make her a simpleton. Even within the album’s mainstream style, Kuney flashes more wit and intelligence than most pop starlets of her generation. “There’s life beyond the razor wire that you’ve strung around your mind,” as she softly reminds her lover. She finds herself swimming dreamily through the air, looking fancifully for that imaginary nexus where city rooftops end and true love begins on “Angel Tangled in the Telephone Lines,” which is made more elegant by its weaving violins and honeyed piano accents. She’s simultaneously sad and funny on “Love Is Trippy” when complaining about a treacherous (and creatively bankrupt) former lover: “All the love songs you wrote for me/Stuck her name where mine used to be/But my name in them fit the rhythm better.” Just back from a tour of Iceland with Damien Rice, she performs a noontime set as part of the Pinktober campaign against breast cancer. 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., No. 99, Universal City. (Falling James)
Kris Kristofferson at Haugh Performing Arts Center
Ah, Kris. The stuff of legend: the Rhodes scholar who chucked it all and took a job as a janitor in Columbia’s Nashville office just so he could pitch his songs to Johnny Cash (and, after Cash fought the label to include the “wishin’, Lord, that I was stoned” line when he’d cut Kris’ “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” the damn thing hit No. 1). The guy who gave Billy Joe Shaver his earliest break when he covered Billy Joe’s “Good Christian Soldier.” The guy who went to Hollywood, guzzled tequila with Sam Peckinpah and memorably told pissed-off A Star Is Born producer Jon Peters — in front of Barbra Streisand and a huge crowd of extras — “If I need any shit from you, I’ll squeeze your head.” Then, of course, there are all those songs: “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Beat the Devil,” “The Taker” and, at this just-him-and-his-guitar session, you’ll get a rich snootful of ’em, thrown down under the most intimate of circumstances. Citrus College, 1000 W. Foothill Blvd., Glendora; 2 p.m. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday:
TEGAN & SARA, GIRL IN A COMA at Henry Fonda Theater; CARRIE RODRIGUEZ at Joshua Tree Lake Campground, 4 p.m.; MARY J. BLIGE, ROBIN THICKE at Gibson Amphitheatre; TONY CLIFTON & HIS KATRINA KISS-MY-ASS ORCHESTRA at House of Blues; THE SKATALITES at the Key Club; DICK DALE, BRIAN WILSON, AL JARDINE at the Roxy; AMY FARRIS, DEAD ROCK WEST at Safari Sam’s, noon.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 20
Pinback at the Echoplex
Nothing else sounds like Pinback, and for that alone the San Diego duo deserve a fucking medal. Their wistfully propulsive weaves of articulate bass, understated guitar, beatbox (or beatbox-inspired) grooves and conversing voices come from a place of both contentment and disquiet, at once transmitting optimism’s comforting glow and the clanking chill of solitude. Rob Crow and Zac Smith are staring into space the morning after, yet their view is pristine. Last year’s Autumn of the Seraphs is a more consistent if less spectacular continuation of Pinback’s breakthrough third album, 2004’s Summer in Abaddon, and (despite the respective titles) actually finds them somewhat merrier. There’s something almost around-the-campfire communal about the pair’s vocal interplay, yet the math-y musicality and Rolex rhythms still evoke first-generation video games and, occasionally, possessed cash registers. Don’t be misled by their multipiece, instrument-swapping live incarnation (or prog-worthy album titles): Pinback’s songs are painstakingly choreographed, precision-guided expressions, not meandering jam-band gumbos. This is intelligent, gorgeously muted music for functioning stoners and oversensitive boys and girls everywhere. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Monday:
GIRL IN A COMA at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; RADEMACHER, LE SWITCH, THE HENRY CLAY PEOPLE at the Echo; RUPA & THE APRIL FISHES, FISHTANK ENSEMBLE at the Roxy; DISTORTION FELIX, NOT IN THE HOUSE at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21
ALISON MOYET at Grove of Anaheim; CONOR OBERST & THE MYSTIC VALLEY BAND at Henry Fonda Theater; WHISPERTOWN 2000 at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 22
CONOR OBERST & THE MYSTIC VALLEY BAND at Henry Fonda Theater; VNV NATION at El Rey Theatre; GIRL IN A COMA, VON IVA, JESSIE DELUXE at Alex’s Bar; TIPPA IRIE at the Echoplex; MARTIN SEXTON at House of Blues; SUBURBAN LEGENDS at the Knitting Factory; JOHN C. REILLY at Largo at the Coronet; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; FELICE BROTHERS at the Troubadour.
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23
Sunburned Hand of the Man at the Smell
Los Angeles doesn’t always get the attention of the Eastern Seaboard’s weirdoes and schizoids. Thankfully, tonight we’ll be visited by indefatigable New England mesmerists Sunburned Hand of the Man. Not so much a planet but an entire constellation intersecting Sonic Youth’s Ecstatic Peace galaxy, Sunburned spew out as many CD-Rs and vinyl sides a year as most so-called “normal” bands do their entire careers. Seems they’ve taken S.Y.’s decree from the late ’90s to release a thousand records literally. Touring this time as a sextet, this amorphous assembly of instrumentalists — crumbled drums, lithe bass, wild woodwinds, bubbling oscillators, hives of distortion and astral trails emitted from a battery of guitars — mold impromptu monoliths doused in phosphorescent liquids and gelatinous smoke. Hardly sticking to a single mode, style or even tonal palette, the Sunburned collective’s holistic experimentelia applies skill and savagery into its pursuit of all-in psych montages. This August, the group lost bass/synth man Adam Nodelman to a sudden and still-unresolved death. But if there’s one thing Sunburned is capable of, it’s always moving on. They’re absolutely regenerative. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Stereolab, Monade, Richard Swift at the Henry Fonda Theater
The “intelligent niceness” substrata in contemporary music offers bands like Stereolab, Monade and High Llamas, groups that have decided to take back the sweet & sentimental we all secretly crave to consciously exploit it for hypermodern dividends of emotional complexity and brain-tickling potential, even. Stereolab have — rejoice — come back really, really strong with their new Chemical Chords album (4AD), wherein founder Tim Gane and revolving crew zero in again on the very best space-age sounds of the ’50s and ’60s. Bossa nova, nouvelle chansons, classic Britpop, Motown and Philly soul are favorite stew parts, and the group find incredibly resonant ways to chop them all up and serve them heartbreakingly anew. While the favored constituent parts won’t seem surprising to longtime fans, the renewed invention and vigor will. Monade, meanwhile, is Stereolab singer-guitarist Laeticia Sadier’s own side project, roughly within the same brainy-romantic grounds as Stereolab, and heard to devastating effect on the newish album Monstre Cosmic (Too Pure). Singer/multi-instrumentalist Richard Swift mines a sweetly harmonized mixed bag of ’70s pop, early blues, ragtime, Bacharach and DeBarge. (John Payne)
Dar Williams at El Rey Theatre
For a songwriter who’s supported liberal causes and explored themes of gender identity and religious freedom, Dar Williams tends to make some fairly conservative music. The songs on her latest CD, Promised Land (Razor & Tie), are certainly tuneful in a pleasant, mainstream way, but the often-bland musical settings belie the ambition of much of her lyrics. “Buzzer” is a fascinating tale involving a researcher’s ambivalence about administering electroshock treatments to a hapless patient; while the semi-circusy keyboards are meant to be an ironic contrast to the lyrics’ heavy subject matter, the music ultimately comes across as slick and shallow. Williams takes the trouble in her liner notes to thank her old college pal Stephen Trask for introducing to her such wildly arty musicians as Nina Hagen and Yoko Ono, but her version of “Midnight Radio” (from Trask’s Hedwig & the Angry Inch) is a very hollow facsimile of such adventurous risk-takers, despite her solemnly worshipful shout-outs to “Patti and Tina and . . . Aretha and Nona.” Guest star Suzanne Vega’s true-blue vocals help to elevate the breezy “Go to the Woods,” but the rest of Williams’ words here deserve richer, darker accompaniment than the all-too-easy easy-listening backing producer Brad Wood has given her. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
CHIODOS, SILVERSTEIN, ESCAPE THE FATE at the Wiltern; THE POLYAMOROUS AFFAIR at the Bordello; THE SKATALITES at Brixton South Bay; SONNY LANDRETH at the Canyon; HELEN STELLAR at the Echo; TINA DICO at the Hotel Café; TAJ MAHAL & THE PHANTOM BLUES BAND at House of Blues; JILL SOBULE, JULIA SWEENEY at Largo at the Coronet; THE STARLITE DESPERATION at Silverlake Lounge; THE BLACK WIDOWS at Taix; PILAR DIAZ at SiteLA; UGLY DUCKLING at Little Temple.
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