Rock Picks: The Duke Spirit, New York Dolls, Lil Wayne
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 19
The Duke Spirit at the Roxy
The Duke Spirit swing low through town one last time on their way back to Europe for their Red Treasure Tour. The London quintet have performed locally several times this year, including at the poorly organized Download festival at Gibson Amphitheatre in the summer. Better to catch them loud and live in a smaller venue, where their subtler elements can be revealed. Guitarists Luke Ford and Daniel Higgins churn up heavy chords that mix My Bloody Valentine with the Pixies, abetted by the controlled thunder of Olly Betts’ drums and Toby Butler’s throbbing bass lines, while singer Liela Moss coos ethereal melodies with a vaguely Germanic phrasing that evokes the Shocking Blue’s late, great Mariska Veres (R.I.P.). The Dukies seem to love Southern California: They recorded their 2008 CD, Neptune (Shangri-La), in the Mojave Desert with Masters of Reality’s Chris Goss, and they claim a spiritual affinity with classic Los Angeles bands like the Gun Club and Love (although they don’t sound anything like them). Butler’s fuzz-bomb bass launches the coolly groovy slinkiness of their best-known tune, “The Step and the Walk,” while the melody for “This Ship Was Built to Last” was nicked from Abba, of all places. “Lassoo” whips back and forth with the snap of an alligator’s tail, shot up with an unexpected surge of brassy horns. The fuzz and the fury subside briefly for the fragile blue idyll “Wooden Heart,” showing that the Duke Spirit can be just as mesmerizing at a lower volume and slower tempo. Also at the Hotel Café, Sun. (Falling James)
Legal Weapon at American Legion Post 206
Of all the early L.A. punk divas — Exene Cervenka, Alice Bag, Bobbi Brat, Belinda Carlisle, Dianne Chai, Dinah Cancer, Su Tissue et al. — Legal Weapon’s Kat Arthur was the best overall singer, howling with a raw, bluesy passion that long predated such simpatico soul shredders as the BellRays’ Lisa Kekaula. Most of Legal Weapon’s early classics, such as the fast-&-frantic “Daddy’s Gone Mad” (from the compilation Hell Comes to Your House, Volume 1) and the thrilling revenge anthem “Equalizer,” are long out of print, but they’re precious traces of what real, gutty punk rock used to sound like, before charlatans like Green Day and Punk Rock Karaoke dumbed everything down with their insipid imitations. In the early ’80s, Arthur’s versatile vocals and guitarist Brian Hansen’s savage riffs led to a major-label deal, although the group’s early fire was toned down considerably. Legal Weapon then submerged for much of the next two decades, resurfacing briefly in 2002 with their best album — a great self-titled CD on Sewer Line Records — which was fully stocked with such cranking new anthems as “Totally Knocked Up,” “I’m Gone” and “Key to My Chain.” They promptly dropped out of sight again, only to return tonight (with original drummer Charlie Vartanian!) for their first live gig in way too many years. You want excitement? You came to the right place, especially since they’re co-billed with similarly authentic early combos like the fun-lovin’ surf-rockabilly punks the Gears and the proto-hardcore sizzlers Stains. Legal Weapon also Sat. 227 N. Avenue 55, Highland Park. (Falling James)
Darker My Love at the Echoplex
It’s easy to see why local lads Darker My Love are rapidly outgrowing their in-the-know Eastside following. The quintet convincingly checks indie-idol boxes: swirling, swim-ear pyschedelia; blissfully saturated Kevin Shields guitars; summery, shoegazer melodies; delightfully non-quantized, couldn’t-give-a-fuck drums; and decent scenester cred (boasting two members of former John Peel faves the Fall and, somewhat incongruously, a former Distillers drummer). DML’s sophomore album, the cunningly titled 2 (on the trend-shaping Dangerbird label), displays more sculpted songwriting than their debut and, with some Jesus & the Mary Chain patience, the tunes almost subliminally make camp in and between the ears. Guitarist Tim Presley and bassist Rob Barbato trading airy, distracted vocals keeps things interesting, as do paisley Beatles brush strokes and sepia-tinted organ/clavinet subplots. Like labelmates Silversun Pickups, Darker My Love aren’t reinventing the wheel and don’t shy away from shameless mimicry (the verses of “Two Ways Out” being all but cut-&-pasted from Supergrass’ “Alright”), yet their overall aura is sufficiently seductive to become a hit-repeat guilty treasure. (Paul Rogers)
Yahowa 13 at Spaceland
The Source Family were an idealistic hippie cult who ran the health-food restaurant the Source in Hollywood in the early ’70s before moving their commune to Hawaii, where they ultimately disbanded after their leader, Father Yod, died in a vainglorious hang-gliding accident. (The group’s bizarre history was recounted by former member Isis Aquarian in her fascinating memoir, The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13 and the Source Family, which was the focus of a cover story in this paper in the August 31, 2007, issue.) Yod fronted the improvisational band Yahowa 13 as a means of spreading his vaguely Judeo-Christian mysticism, but even non-believers might be impressed by the musicians’ psychedelic expansiveness and trancelike incantations (you can hear some of their early music on a bonus CD that comes with Isis’ book, as well as on Children of the Sixth Root Race: Songs From the Source, a collection of lost recordings from 1974, which was released earlier this year on Drag City). Three surviving members — Djin, Octavius and Sunflower — recently reunited to record their first album in 30 years, Sonic Portation (Prophase Music). Regardless of how much you buy into their simple-minded Hebraic wordplay and half-baked numerology, Yahowa 13’s mostly instrumental passages build a powerful momentum with soul-scouring bass tones, stormy cymbal washes and febrile flurries of spiky, sitarlike guitar. The 11-minute ramble “E Ah O Shin” makes the Doors’ “The End” sound like the Monkees, while the mind-stretching “Raga Nova” surges with a punky prog-rock drive. Seldom has “religious” music sounded so simultaneously earthy, spacy, guttural and evil. This sure ain’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, UGLY DUCKLING at El Rey Theatre; LOS MYSTERIOSOS at Alex’s Bar; MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, UNDERGROUND ROAD TO CANDYLAND at Echo Curio; OZOMATLI, CECI BASTIDA at House of Blues; PIGEON JOHN, DAEDELUS at the Knitting Factory; JON BRION at Largo; PAUL ROESSLER, THE SNOWFLAKE ORCHESTRA at the Scene; VOICES VOICES at the Smell.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20
X, New York Dolls, Cracker at Club Nokia
If there’s any band who can smack the smug feeling of saccharine superficiality from this year’s dispiriting saturation of bland holiday music, it’s the longtime locals X, who plan on ripping through some seasonal tunes at this final show celebrating their 31st year in the entertainment industry. (Why 31? It’s the reversal of the superstitious group’s favorite lucky number, 13.) No matter how corny the song, the Cheshire Cat–grinning guitarist Billy Zoom and the reliably forceful percussionist Don Bonebrake will make everything sound fulsome and ominous, with a nonstop Ramones power. (While we’re on the subject of Xmess, here are a couple of thoughts for those holy-roller K-EARTH DJs: 1) There are actually some non-Christians in this city; and 2) If Barry Manilow’s, Ray Parker’s and Madonna’s muzak-y songs aren’t good enough to be aired the rest of the year on the oldies station’s incredibly shrinking play lists, then they aren’t any more tolerable during this “festive” season.) Where were we? Oh yes, you also get the sarcastic Camper Van Beethoven spinoff Cracker and, even better, the revitalized New York Dolls, who defied all expectations by releasing a stomping comeback album, 2006’s One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This, even though four of its early members stubbornly remain dead. You’d think that surviving founders David Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain would have more pride in their great new songs, but the Dolls’ otherwise enjoyable 2008 concert CD, Live at the Fillmore East (Sony BMG), features just two of the lesser selections from One Day in lieu of yet another roundup of their often-documented early classics. Perhaps 20 years from now, K-EARTH will finally get around to playing “Trash,” “Personality Crisis,” “We’re All in Love,” “Gimme Luv and Turn on the Light” and other lost hits from the blacklisted punk generation. Now that would be a miracle. (Falling James)
The Sway Machinery, DeLeon at the Troubadour
JDub Records and the social-justice group Brooklyn Jews launched “Jewltide: A Hanukkah Celebration” last year on Christmas Eve so that hipster New Yorkers (the ones not waiting for Santa Claus) might have something else to do besides the terribly routine Chinese dinner and a movie. The celebration was such a success that this year they’re taking their heaping helping of Hanukkah on the road, and loads of gelt and pontshkes to go with it — that’s chocolate coins and doughnuts to you, goyim. Expect a bouncing, chanting frenzy of Jewmongous proportions with the Sway Machinery — all dudes from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Antibalas and Balkan Beat Box — whose smart, Slavic folk meets klezmer blues and then kicks it out with the energy of a hopped-up marching band. Singer Jeremiah Lockwood’s cantorial blending of Yiddish, Aramaic and Hebrew — passed down through generations — adds a mystical shimmer to the mix. Stay for DeLeon, the 15th-century-style crooner who brings on the hypnotic Mediterranean grooves and makes all the ladies, Jew or Gentile, swoon. (Wendy Gilmartin)
Also playing Saturday:
WILL SHEFF, THE TALLEST MAN ON EARTH at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 8 p.m.; HEPCAT at El Rey Theatre; KEITH SWEAT at Gibson Amphitheatre; CHEETAH GIRLS at Honda Center; WAYNE HANCOCK, RUSSELL SCOTT at Alex’s Bar; LEGAL WEAPON, FATSO JETSON, CARNAGE ASADA, FERDINAND, BIBLICAL PROOF OF UFOs at American Legion, Post 206, Highland Park; EEK-A-MOUSE at Brixton South Bay; OZOMATLI, UPGROUND at House of Blues; THE WHISPERTOWN 2000 at Relax Bar; UGLY DUCKLING at the Roxy; KINGSIZEMAYBE at Taix; VERY BE CAREFUL at El Gallo Plaza Theater.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21
Lil Wayne, Keyshia Cole, T-Pain, Gym Class Heroes, Keri Hilson at Gibson Amphitheatre
He’s already got the year’s biggest-selling album (not to mention one of its best), and earlier this month Lil Wayne scored more Grammy nominations than any other artist, including one for Album of the Year. Of course, as his endless stream of online mixtapes has shown, Wayne is not a man easily satisfied, so now he’s out on the road headlining a star-stacked bill even a hard-hit recessionista could love. Oakland-bred R&B singer Keyshia Cole has a strong (and aptly titled) new album out called A Different Me on which she trades her trademark heartache for a lighter shade of soul. T-Pain’s pop-cultural ubiquity is matched by a quality-control impulse rare among his Top 40 cohort; that said, Pain is unlikely ever to improve upon “Can’t Believe It,” his mesmerizing Weezy collabo. (Perhaps tonight the two will offer a preview of their long-promised T-Wayne album.) With emo-rap dudes Gym Class Heroes and Timbaland protégée Keri Hilson. Also Mon. (Mikael Wood)
The Buddyhead Holiday Party at the Hotel Café
The local indie label Buddyhead presents this “casual and intimate evening” with so many noteworthy musicians that listing them all would fill up my word limit. Potential highlights include the shambling psychedelic indie-rockers Dead Meadow, the relatively subtler psychedelia of Xu Xu Fang, the Entrance Band, Alain Johannes, former Marilyn Manson guitarist Jeordie White, the Duke Spirit (see Friday pick), former Black Rebel Motorcycle Club drummer Nick Jago and a whole slew of musicians loosely affiliated with the sprawling desert-rock scene (Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, Sweethead and Birthday Twin, for starters). The intriguing lure is that most of these hard-&-heavy musicians will tone it town and reveal their softer, more reflective personas in low-key acoustic settings. (The serious drawback is that there’s likely to be a surfeit of sentimental, sappy/crappy holiday songs.) Since many of these performers are friends who’ve worked in an eclectic variety of past musical projects, it’s likely that there will be some unusual collaborations and combinations tonight, as well as some even bigger-name guest stars. The whole shebang starts early, at 7 p.m. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
DAEDELUS, BUSDRIVER, ENTRANCE BAND at the Echo, 4 p.m.; THE VAQUETONES, B-STARS, DAVE GLEASON at the Redwood Bar & Grill, noon; AWOL ONE, DADDY KEV at Sam’s, 7 p.m.; ALL OR NOTHING HC, THE OUTSKIRTS, ANUS KINGS at the Smell, 6 p.m.; SUMMER DARLING, CORREATOWN at Spaceland.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 22
The Polyamorous Affair, Vaginals, Halloween Swim Team at the Echo
For some strange reason, right now, as of this very moment, Manimal Vinyl appears to have absconded with the scene, i.e., they just plain own it. All of a sudden they popped up, all these way forward-looking, aesthetically challenging and sort of weird-but-rocking bands making the rounds, all having at the very least some kind of connection with Manimal, such as the conceptually brilliant Hecuba, the twangily polyrhythmic Rainbow Arabia, the wickedly exotic Gangi, plus the Chapin Sisters, Winter Flowers and a lotta others. The label also did that excellent tribute to Madonna compilation album called Through the Wilderness in 2007, and just out is this great tribute to the Cure called Perfect as Cats, which features many of the above-named up-&-comers and, needless to say, loads of others. I could go on, and on, but the point is that in Manimal’s ongoing residency at the Echo you have just about a 100-percent guarantee of witnessing something very special and nascent and just-about-to-be, which sensations the Polyamorous Affair, Vaginals and Halloween Swim Team will tonight ladle on with relish. Most likely, it’ll be very, very good, in other words. (John Payne)
Also playing Monday:
LIL WAYNE, T-PAIN, KEYSHIA COLE, GYM CLASS HEROES at Gibson Amphitheatre; TIN DRUM at Pershing Square, noon; JAKE LA BOTZ at the Redwood Bar & Grill; THE MOVIES, VOXHAUL BROADCAST at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23
Mike Stinson at Redwood Bar & Grill
The Virginia-born, Los Angeles–based honky-tonk man Mike Stinson has not one, but two tremendous advantages: He doesn’t sound like anyone but himself, and he writes songs with an economical yet communicative style worthy of a Harlan Howard or a Hank Sr. With his slightly cracked tone and tattered-at-the-edges phrasing, Stinson has an intensely expressive style — a mixture of offbeat perspective and heart-on-the-sleeve vulnerability — that’s singular to the point of being weird, but it serves as the perfect instrument to put across his frequently despondent ballads. He doesn’t jump in with the clownish zeal so frequently employed by his, er, colleagues, nor does he rely on recognized precedent. Instead, he seems to approach country with an almost jazz-type head, all instinct and emotion, and that allows him an unusually wide-open creative freedom. He has two first-rate albums (Last Fool at the Bar and Jack of All Heartaches) under his belt (and, mystifyingly, under the commercial radar) and a new one, cut down in Texas, on the way. Stinson’s no-bullshit, slow-and-steady legitimacy remains as refreshing and impressive as ever. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Tuesday:
JON LOVITZ at the Canyon, 7 p.m.; CAMP FREDDY, DRIVE A, THE LEO PROJECT at the Roxy.
DENGUE FEVER, MARIACHI SOL DE MEXICO, LOUIE CRUZ BELTRAN, GAY MEN’S CHORUS OF LOS ANGELES, LOS PINGUOS, LISA HALEY & THE ZYDEKATS, KLEZMER JUICE at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 3-9 p.m.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 25
Good for the Jews at the Echoplex
There’s a debate going on today, and it’s not just about why we are celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas (the baby was a freaky Gemini). And it’s not even about the hypothetical question of whether he would come back as a Jew or a Christian. No, today the Jews have enough to argue about (and re-argue over a second helping of Chinese food): Like, is it the second, the fourth or fifth day of Hanukkah? Who knows if the music/comedy duo Good for the Jews will address those issues, but Rob Tannenbaum has another question to deal with: “Do Jews travel all the way from the Westside to Echo Park?” He and his partner, David Fagin, are hoping that hipster Heebs will come out since the price of gas is down; after all, they went down to Florida to get their grandparents to vote for Obama. Despite that win, GFTJ’s “Never Again” also means never forget, and their latest single, “Boca,” offers up the line “This is where the GOP stole an election, and half the population can’t get an erection.” Yes, it’s gonna be that kind of holiday! (Daniel Siwek)
Also playing Thursday:
CARL SAUNDERS & THE ALL-GRINCH BAND at Charlie O’s.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.