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Rock Picks: The Humpers, Secretary Bird, Cut Chemist & DJ Shadow

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THURSDAY, JUNE 21

Nikki Corvette & the Stingrays at the Echo

Summer’s here, and the time is right for some “Summertime Fun” with punk-pop princess Nikki Corvette. Tonight the Detroit native — whose fizzy late-’70s hits rivaled the Go-Go’s and Blondie for sheer exuberance and later inspired the Donnas and the Bobbyteens — makes an all-too-rare appearance in her former adopted hometown. Since returning to rock action in the past decade after a long hiatus, she’s released two volumes of her Wild Record Party series, where she romps through Pinups-like covers of her favorite songs by the Saints, Alice Cooper, the Damned, and her old pals the Ramones and the New York Dolls. Darling Nikki’s latest CD, Back to Detroit (Dollar Record Records), is her first album of all-new original material in 25 years, with lovelorn tunes like the hooky sugar fix “I’ve Got a Heartbreak,” the Chuck Berry–style title track, and the pent-up lust of “Lipstick Letters” and “Thinkin’ ’Bout You.” With backing by the Stingrays — gnarly guitarist Travis Ramin, drummer Johnny O’Halloran and fiery Short Fuses bassist-singer Georgia Peach — songs like “So Kiss Me” rock much harder than Corvette’s early singles. (Falling James)

Tortoise at El Rey Theatre

Chicago’s revered veteran “post-rock” combo Tortoise keep re-earning their cred claim with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ways to thaw the hard ice between progressive electric jazz, Reichian minimalism and other contemporary-classical concepts by mashing it down in a heavy, thick pool of post-hip-hop, electronic dance and tiny bits of the old rock & roll. It’s All Around You (Thrill Jockey) in 2005 is their most recent recording, another intriguing set characterized by the band’s shrewd balance of improvisation and tasteful fusions of complexly structured (but hummable, even) melody, texture and rhythm. Like Tortoise’s authoritative live performances, the record displays but doesn’t exactly explain how these gifted multi-instrumentalists mutate their varied source materials (which recently include romantic French film scores and the shimmery suaveness of Braziliana) into something entirely unlike any of the above-referenced musical “styles” — but you’ll tap your toe and thank them for it. (John Payne)

Also playing Thursday:

THE POLICE at the Honda Center; IAN WHITCOMB & THE MUSICAL MURRAYS at Huntington Library; NORAH JONES, M. WARD at the Greek Theatre; BANG SUGAR BANG, VIRGINIA CITY REVIVAL at Alex’s Bar; SECRETARY BIRD at Boardner’s; GREAT LAKE SWIMMERS, ELENI MANDELL, FERRABY LIONHEART, BUDDY at Hotel Café; PRS HLTN MTHRFCKRS, EX OBLIVIONE at Il Corral.

{mosimage}FRIDAY, JUNE 22

Gwen Stefani at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

The most overtly charming front person of her generation, Anaheim’s Gwen Stefani channels of-the-moment pop culture like prime-time Madonna while wisely entrusting her fragile vocals to robust co-writers and producers (including the Neptunes and her No Doubt bandmate Tony Kanal on last year’s The Sweet Escape). Stefani’s live shows are as consistent as her ringtone-pop solo albums are patchy: Her oddly sweat-free energy and parade of moves and fashion statements are amplified by cartoonish Harajuku girls and hip-again breakdancers into something clearly choreographed yet oddly absorbing. Stefani’s mass appeal lies in her being at once otherworldly (even the pore-close big screens reveal nothing but a living doll) and almost nerdy (fantasizing about “selling makeup at the mall” and “making out to Purple Rain”). Shame she seems to be in a song-share scheme with the similarly ubiquitous Fergie. Also Sat. (Paul Rogers)
 

{mosimage}Ojos de Brujo at California Plaza

The members of Ojos de Brujo (Eyes of the Wizard) may be fiercely antiglobalist in the economic sense, but their passionate embrace of minority peoples’ rights and cultural diversity shows a disdain for life’s borders — geopolitical, physical and spiritual. With their provocative blend of roots flamenco, rumba, hip-hop, turntablism, and Afro, Asiatic and Carib sounds, the Barcelona-based collective careens headlong into the void, dispelling nihilist tendencies with a booty-shaking, foot-stomping fervor. Acknowledging the chaos is one thing, but ODB celebrate it, using music’s special dispensation to peel back a few layers of the profound mystery. “I surrender my dignity to the random and unpredictable,” rap-sings Marina “la Canillas” Abad on “No Somos Máquinas” (“We Are Not Machines”), at once giving in to the inevitable and shouting defiantly in the face of relentless uncertainty and soul-sapping homogeneity. 350 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn. (Tom Cheyney)

Also playing Friday:

TEENA MARIE, WHISPERS at Greek Theatre; JOHN BUTLER TRIO, KAKI KING at the Wiltern; SKINNY PUPPY, SILVER DAGGERS at Henry Fonda Theater; HUMPERS, PAT TODD & THE RANK OUTSIDERS at Alex’s Bar; CARINA ROUND at Amoeba Music, 7 p.m.; AGENT ORANGE, BANG SUGAR BANG at Anarchy Library; JOHNNY WINTER at the Canyon; AM at Hotel Café; ANGRY SAMOANS, CHANNEL 3 at Key Club; JUDITH OWEN at McCabe’s; THE SPANKS, THE THINGZ, SADIST V at Mr. T’s Bowl; THE CONTROLLERS, THEE UNDERTAKERS at the Scene; PEACHFUZZ at Taix; JESSICA FICHOT, PITY PARTY at El Cid.


{mosimage}SATURDAY, JUNE 23

The Humpers, Throw Rag, The Hangmen at Safari Sam’s

The big draw here is a reunion by ’90s Long Beach punk & rollers the Humpers, playing locally for the first time in six years, but the rest of tonight’s bill is arguably just as strong. The Humpers first crashed into public consciousness during the bloated, neo-rock grunge era with “Fast, Fucked & Furious” tunes that had the surging power of the MC5 mixed with the laconic wit of Iggy Pop. Their boozy blue-collar anthems celebrated the not-so-beautiful losers (“Loser’s Club,” “Wake Up and Lose”), stylishly embellished with guitarist Billy Burks’ whip-cracking solos. Humpers protégés Throw Rag have expanded from a rootsy trash outfit into the full-fledged hard-rock force that cranked out their 2005 CD, 13 Ft. and Rising, which juxtaposed such slam-bang ravers as “Radio Romantica” and “Swingset Superman” with an ominous metallic remake of Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” (featuring surly guest vocals from Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister). The Hangmen predate both of the headliners with a more melodically fuzzy sound that splits the difference between the Gun Club’s dusty cowpunk and Johnny Thunders’ raw power. Look for their new Mike Ness–produced CD, In the City, later this month. Humpers also at Alex’s Bar, Fri. (Falling James)

Pacha Massive at Temple Bar

“I’ll speak softly and slow,” Patricia Lynn promises on the title track of Pacha Massive’s new debut CD, All Good Things (Nacional Records), keeping everything mellow under the shimmering waves of producer Ramón Nova’s guitar and reggae beats. Nova and bassist-partner Maya Martínez layer their dub and cumbia grooves with funky electronics as bilingual guest vocalists and rappers provide tonal variety. “Your Love” chips along with reggae upstrokes under a lulling hush of dreamy vocals, while the Colombian folk song “La Verdolaga” swims in a sea of spacy electronics and dub echoes that’s spiced by Flex Nug’s rap. The sensual vibe of “Get It On” is framed by electronic cello strokes, and the romantic plea “Don’t Let Go” has a persuasively catchy chorus and a sunny, summery feel. There’s a little bit of everywhere in their music. Nova was born in the Dominican Republic, while Martínez was raised in Colombia (and later studied bass in Cuba), before they formed Pacha Massive in the Bronx in 2005. Tonight’s their first show in the Los Angeles area. (Falling James)

The Mario Escovedo Experience at Relax Bar

Are you mexperienced? Not necessarily stoned (or even beautiful), but . . . gloriously drunken. Here’s how Mario Escovedo recently described to me his transformation from lead singer of the hard-rocking Dragons to fronting his latest combo, M.E.X.: “I traded in my leather pants for a beer gut and Jack Daniel’s for cerveza.” The Dragons used to whip out in concert souped-up versions of songs by the Texas Tornados as well as their own heavy-punkin’ original tunes like “Loaded” (there’s that drinking thing again), but Escovedo digs much deeper into his tejano roots now with M.E.X. The San Diego group started as a party band at a gig last year on Cinco de Mayo, with Escovedo joined by Dragons bassist Steve Rodriguez, Deadbolt guitarist Stoney Von Stone, guitarist Jimmy Seville, drummer Charlie McRee, and M.E.X.’s “secret pistolita,” accordionist Adam Cavazos. It should be a real kick to hear their accordion-fueled versions of classics by the Ramones, Iggy Pop and Freddy Fender, and they’ll likely give a rootsy twist to some of the old Dragons favorites. 5511 Hollywood Blvd. (323) 460-6705. (Falling James)

The 18th Annual Mariachi USA Festival at the Hollywood Bowl

With all due respect to strolling “feed the kitty” combos everywhere, mariachi performances are best experienced on a grand scale, with many thousands of your new best friends, under the stars. It doesn’t get any grander than this giant bowl of mari-ment. That unmistakable combination of violins, trumpets, a Spanish guitar, vilhuela and guitarron can be jump-to-your-feet joyful or achingly sorrowful. This year’s lineup features some of the best in the biz: Mariachi Internacional Guadalajara from Guadalajara, Jalisco; Mariachi Cielo de Mexico from Arizona; Mariachi Estrella de Jalisco from Los Angeles; and Mariachi USA Ballet from Los Angeles. The concert should last about four and a half hours, climaxing with fireworks synchronized to the sounds of the complete cast of 100 performers. The only question is: What picnic foods go best with blazing trumpets? (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Saturday:

SKINNY PUPPY, SILVER DAGGERS at Henry Fonda Theater; GWEN STEFANI, AKON, LADY SOVEREIGN at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; MEXICAN DUBWISER at Museum of Contemporary Art; POLICE, FOO FIGHTERS at Dodger Stadium; THE GAME, T.I., LUDACRIS, BOW WOW, BONE THUGS-N-HARMONY at Honda Center; FALL OUT BOY, +44, COBRA STARSHIP at the Forum; FINLAND STATION at the Airliner; RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS at Alex’s Bar; KOMMUNITY FK at Boardner’s; TOO SHORT at House of Blues; FU MANCHU, FIREBALL MINISTRY, WILLOWZ at Malibu Inn; RICHARD PINHAS at Rhino Records, Claremont, 2 p.m.

SUNDAY, JUNE 24

{mosimage}Richard Pinhas at Highways Performance Space

For his founding in France of the brusquely “proto-industrial” group Heldon back in the late ’70s, Richard Pinhas reigns as one of the premier conceptualizers and earliest proponents on the French electronic scene. His primary instrument is a heavily processed guitar whose deeply emotional terrain in his time-warping extended pieces ranges from the harshly cataclysmic to quietly menacing to Zen-like tranquillity. Metatron and Transition, Pinhas’ latest albums on the great progressive-music label Cuneiform, are both inspired works that put his undiminished and versatile powers on fine display. His backing band tonight includes Jerome Schmidt on laptop and drummer Antoine Paganotti (the son of Magma/Weidorje bassist Bernard Paganotti, and who also now serves as a singer-percussionist in the re-formed Magma). The bill begins with a set by L.A.’s own avantish guitar deity G.E. Stinson, joined by Steuart Liebig on bass and digital tootlebug; Emily Hay on flute, vocal and electronics; Carey Fosse on guitar and Brad Dutz on percussion. Pinhas also at Rhino Records, 255 Yale Ave., Claremont; Sat., 2 p.m. (909) 626-7774. (John Payne)

Cut Chemist & DJ Shadow, Carlinhos Brown at the Hollywood Bowl

Finally answering the question “How many explosives does it take to blow up the world?,” Timbalada founder and pioneer of samba-reggae Carlinhos Brown premieres his latest album, A Gente Ainda Não Sonhouand (Sony/BMG), a blast of electronica and Brazilian percussion. Alternately, a moderately skilled DJ on 12-inches should, by all rights, be an invincible DJ god with 7-inch records — the 45 spider is like krypton, and every dance floor is a ripe, soft Earth with a yellow sun. Cut Chemist (Lucas McFadden from Los Angeles) and DJ Shadow (Josh Davis from Davis) perform their Double Dee & Steinski–inspired lessons in hip-hop, using only 7-inches. Now that Star Shoes is closing down, your chances to see Cut Chemist in action on a regular basis are down to three: slim, fat and none. Also: the West African reggae of Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars. (David Cotner)

Also playing Sunday:

BLUE HAWAIIANS at the Bordello; JONNEINE ZAPATA at Hotel Café; A SUNNY DAY IN GLASGOW, MY TEENAGE STRIDE at Pehrspace; INSECT SURFERS at Safari Sam’s, 5 p.m.; BLACK MILK at Temple Bar; RIVERBOAT GAMBLERS, RESTAURANT at Little Radio, noon-6 p.m.

MONDAY, JUNE 25

{mosimage}Bill Bateman and friends at the King King

Drummer Bill Bateman, a hard-slamming demon on the riser but an affable charmer off it, has always exuded a low-key yet arresting brand of cool (perhaps best captured as the axle-grease-slathered model on the Blasters’ third album cover), and this combination of ferocious talent and engaging personality has led him through an extraordinary course of bandstand ventures. While best known as the original Blasters traps man, he’s done it all — pounding the skins for Chris D’s arch art rockers the Flesheaters, scouring the depth of the blues jungle as half of the Phil & Bill Show, reigning supreme with the Blue Shadows, even a stint with the Cramps — and this shebang is a celebration of all things Bateman. Expect old-school surprises, reunions and plenty of heart-stopping backbeat. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Monday:

XAVIER RUDD, SERENA RYDER at El Rey Theatre; SECTION QUARTET at the Bordello; BURNING BRIDES, QUI at the Echo; AMY LAVERE at Hotel Café; BAD MANNERS at Safari Sam’s; THAILAND, RADARS TO THE SKY at Silverlake Lounge; CONNIE PRICE & THE KEYSTONES at Temple Bar.

TUESDAY, JUNE 26

{mosimage}Rodrigo y Gabriela at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre

Dueling guitarists Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero met in Mexico City, but their first big break came on the streets of Dublin, where their impromptu live performances attracted the attention of singer Damien Rice, who invited them on tour with him. Although they strum and pluck their instrumental songs on acoustic guitars, there is nothing mellow about their music. Rodrigo y Gabriela used to play in the Mexican metal band Tierra Acida, and their 2006 self-titled CD (co-produced by John Leckie) sparkles with a fierce version of Metallica’s “Orion” and a digressive ramble up Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” Quintero shuffles chord changes with blurry-quick hands and beats on her guitar’s body for percussive emphasis, setting up Sanchez’s spiraling solos on such frenetic originals as “Satori” and “Diablo Rojo.” The album’s bonus DVD features several of the duo’s breathtaking live performances — as well as a fascinating behind-the-curtain tutorial where they reveal some of their techniques. Now they’re riding even higher after their little gig at Coachella back in April. (Falling James)

The National at El Rey Theatre

New York quintet the National have got that moodily morose thing down cold, and not just because one of their early albums was titled Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers. Their latest CD, Boxer (Beggars Banquet), revels in that restless ol’ alienation, albeit gussied up with orchestral touches for an even grander effect. Matt Berninger is yet another of those recent singers whose mannered, world-weary baritone vocals draw too obviously from Ian Curtis and other British post-punk visionaries, but there is something enchanting in the way that the guitar harmonics light up a song like “Mistaken for Strangers.” Despite the retro settings and an often ponderous vibe, the National are lyrically ambitious. “We expected something more,” Berninger croons on the delicate acoustic idyll “Start a War,” and decries those in power who would create a “Fake Empire.” “Your mind is racing like a pronoun,” he confides cryptically on “Racing Like a Pro,” as he tries to decide whether to bake a cake or get out of bed. Not since “MacArthur Park” has a cake been the center of so much mystery. (Falling James)

Also playing Tuesday:

BEDROOM WALLS at Boardner’s; AUDREYE SESSIONS, IO PERRY at the Echo; T-PAIN at House of Blues; PURPLE GANG at Safari Sam’s; THE KEY PARTY at Silverlake Lounge.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27

Playing Wednesday:

SOUL OF JOHN BLACK at the Edison; SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE & JOSEPH MATTSON, RUTHANN FRIEDMAN, ENTRANCE at Silent Movie Theatre; LES CLAYPOOL, TWO GALLANTS at Henry Fonda Theater; MAYTONES, ETHIOPIANS at the Echo; EVIDENCE, OH NO at Knitting Factory; RAY WYLIE HUBBARD at the Mint; MANDY MOORE at the Roxy; DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND at the Troubadour; JETBOY at Viper Room.

THURSDAY, JUNE 28

{mosimage}Secretary Bird at the Echo

Secretary Bird is the alter ego of singer-guitarist Mike Semple, who’s played with Friends of Dean Martinez, Campfire Girls and Giant Sand. He and FODM’s Bill Elm collaborated on the soundtrack to Fast Food Nation, but the Tucson native (who has been living in L.A. for a while now) reveals the full extent of his powers on Secretary Bird’s new self-titled CD (In De Goot Recordings). “Somewhere Girls” moves from a Jesus & Mary Chain darkness into a warm Neil Young & Crazy Horse haze, while “Imaginary You” recalls the art-folkie explorations of the Clean’s David Kilgour. You can hear the Arizona desert in such slowly unwinding, sprawling songs as “Seaward” and “Morning Horses,” which erupt like a summer squall with feedback and spacy guitar distortion. Semple’s slack-jawed vocals sometimes lapse into that colorlessly bland style popularized by Thurston Moore, but his majestic guitars are the real focus on Secretary Bird, which includes guest-star contributions from Jane’s Addiction bassist Eric Avery and Marjorie Fair’s Evan Slamka. (Falling James)

The Mooney Suzuki at Spaceland

Can you still call yourself a garage-rock band when your songs are heard in Coors commercials? (Not to mention such hit movies as School of Rock and, duh, Suzuki ads.) After tons of good fortune, label-wise, the Mooney Suzuki hit a bad patch last year, which delayed the release of Have Mercy, the follow-up to 2004’s Alive and Amplified. The new stuff will please fans of gritty, fuzzy and wild rock. Lead singer Sammy James Jr. sounds appropriately pissy, like a “Mystery Dance”–era Elvis Costello in need of a good nose-blowing. Pick hit “99 Percent” has just replaced the Pipettes’ “Pull Shapes” as the air-tambourine shimmy-shaker of the summer. (Libby Molyneaux)

Also playing Thursday:

DEFTONES, DIR EN GREY at Gibson Amphitheatre; WIDESPREAD PANIC at Orpheum Theatre; NEW CARS at the Canyon; BIZ MARKIE at Key Club; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; GIL BERNAL at Lighthouse Cafe, 5 p.m.; MONSTERS ARE WAITING, MELLOWDRONE, GLISS, DAVID LOVERING at the Roxy; FORTUNE’S FLESH, GEISHA GIRLS at the Scene; THE LOCUST, MAE SHI at the Troubadour.


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