Rock Picks: The Kooks, Super Furry Animals, Willie Nelson and more
THURSDAY, FEB. 7
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Complicated rhymer Jennifer O'Connor
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The Kooks' rolling-thunder revue
Wild Don Lewis
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Damion Romero tries to defuse the bomb.
The Gourds at Safari Sam's
With one foot in the frat house and the other in the barn house, the Gourds have carved out a name for themselves over the past decade with their comic cosmic Americana. Think NRBQ cross-pollinated with the Sir Douglas Quintet. These scruffy Austinites, led by dual front men Jimmy Smith and Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell, have charmed audiences from Bonnaroo to Bumbershoot with such irreverent originals as "I Ate the Haggis" and "Hooky Junk", but they probably are best known for their wonderful hick-hop jam of Snoop Dog's "Gin and Juice". Last year's terrific Noble Creatures, however, shows them nicely polishing up their sound. The opening cut, "How Will You Shine?," for example, boasts soulful horns. While they still deliver their wild, gonzo tales (witness the album closer, "Spivey"), they also dig deeper emotionally on "Steeple Full of Swallows" and "Promenade" — two gorgeous (or maybe "Gourd-geous") ballads that rival the best of the Band. (Michael Berick)
HoneyHoney at the Roxy
HoneyHoney are a duo from Venice who used to go by the name Zanzibar Lewis. Suzanne Santo sings with an old-timey, rootsy affectation as partner Ben Jaffe lazily plucks an acoustic guitar behind her. "Glory Box" is an intriguing slice of folk-rock as she pines longingly for love. "Give me a reason to be a woman," she wails invitingly, stretching out her lonely pleas with jazzy phrasing. In attempting to evoke classic Americana on the woe-is-me ballad "Homeless Heart," Santo risks coming off as jivey with her mannered down-home delivery when she coos, "The slow morning crawl is making Mama's head spin," but she's rescued by Jaffe's rich slide-guitar wallowing and, ultimately, her own passion. She's more affecting on the spare, languid tune "Bouncing Ball," blending her winsome crooning into Jaffe's nonflashy chord changes. HoneyHoney are scheduled to open for Rocco DeLuca at this showcase for bands on Ironworks Music, the label run by actor Kiefer Sutherland. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
CECI BASTIDA, FREE MORAL AGENTS at the Bordello; THE LILYS at the Echo; COLBIE CAILLAT at House of Blues; YAKBALLZ at the Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; ENTRANCE BAND, TWEAK BIRD at Silverlake Lounge; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; THE KOOKS at the Troubadour.
FRIDAY, FEB. 8
Jennifer O'Connor at the Troubadour
If you're headed to the Troubadour tonight to see Old 97's singer Rhett Miller, make sure to catch the opening set by Brooklyn singer-guitarist Jennifer O'Connor. Her 2006 CD, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars (Matador), is a well-crafted assortment of folk-pop songs centered on love and romantic disappointment. Acoustic-guitar-driven tunes such as "Tonight We Ride" and "I'll Bring You Home" evoke the uplifting rush of true love, while the spare setting of the ballad "I Was So Wrong" and the poignantly aching simple melody of "Today" coolly echo the emptiness of heartbreak and loneliness. Although she was backed by just a drummer when she played the Silverlake Lounge in April, she rocks it up a little on Over the Mountain with full-band arrangements on "Perfect Match" and "Complicated Rhyme." Best of all is the fuzzed-out travelogue "Exeter, Rhode Island," which is brightened by backing vocals by Spoon's Britt Daniel and powered by an insidiously catchy marching guitar riff that jauntily accompanies her as she drives "through every end of the state today" on her way home to rejoin her lover. She could be describing her own music when she sings, "The radio plays a power pop song/it keeps me company like a friend." (Falling James)
The Kooks at the Echo
Konk, the sophomore album from England's Kooks, won't be in stores until the middle of April, but they're touching down in the States for a string of small-venue shows in New York and L.A. in an attempt to build some coastal-capital buzz ahead of the CD's release (and perhaps in recognition of the irrelevance of release dates in the Internet age). Inside In/Inside Out, the band's 2006 debut, actually sounds better now than it did two years ago, when it arrived on a wave of new-Britpop hype; beneath the vintage shades and scenester sneers, these guys are big-hearted boys from the same planet as the early Beatles. Proof that maturity needn't kill a thrill, Konk has tunes galore, plus jumpy skiffle-band beats tightened by several seasons spent on the road. Preview its considerable charms tonight. (Mikael Wood)
The Brand New Heavies at Crash Mansion
British acid-funk combo the Brand New Heavies may no longer be brand new, but they are still pretty heavy. They started as an instrumental acid-jazz band in Ealing in the mid-'80s before incorporating hip-hop rhythms into their sound. The Heavies have featured different singers over the years, including Siedah Garrett, but founding members Jan Kincaid (drums), Andrew Levy (bass) and Simon Bartholomew (guitar) are back with their quintessential front woman, N'Dea Davenport. Their lively 2006 comeback CD, Get Used to It (Delicious Vinyl), is a sleekly funky set of danceable tunes such as the spacy hip-hop propulsion of "We Won't Stop" and the knotty, horny grooves of "We've Got." Davenport's shimmering vocals insinuate themselves appealingly within the sly beats of "Sex God," while "Right On" is a slice of pure old-school funk. Even better is their remake of Stevie Wonder's classic "I Don't Know Why (I Love You)," which has also been covered by the Rolling Stones. Davenport wails soulfully over a percolating mess of keyboards and percussion while soaring horns chase after her. Welcome back. (Falling James)
Super Furry Animals, Holy Fuck at the Echoplex
Once more we have Welsh wizards Super Furry Animals coming 'round with a new album of multicolored rock/pop head-scratchers that in essence make all other music sound needlessly harsh and tedious. Hey Venus! (Rough Trade) is their eighth record, again replete with their odd blend of muscularly sunshine-y pop and, uh, kind of Welsh Motown sounds, occasionally electronicized toward the dance end and splicing all manner of pop mood and mannerism together in head-tiltingly unpredictable ways. While Hey Venus! slightly reins in the band's meanderings into musical madness, in its cunningly cheerful fashion it is every bit as advanced and progressive as, say, Radiohead, and with a far higher standard of inventive harmony and melody to boot. And dig the swooping, life-affirming string arrangements by Sean O'Hagan of High Llamas, which pick these warped Welsh-pop wonders up and hurl them toward the sky. Holy Fuck open with their aggressive take on a futuristic dance noise. (John Payne)
Also playing Friday:
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Song whistler Alela Diane
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Forever and a day: Willie Nelson
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Dead Moon rising: Pierced Arrows' Fred Cole
BOYS II MEN at the Canyon; WYCLEF JEAN, LYFE JENNINGS at House of Blues; NELLIE McKAY at Largo (see Music feature); PETER CASE, JIM LAUDERDALE, DOYLE BRAMHALL at the Mint; COLIN GILMORE at Pig 'N Whistle; THE STUDIOFIX at the Scene; RUMSPRINGA, BAD DUDES at the Smell; OLLIN at the Barn Burner, Pasadena.
SATURDAY, FEB. 9
Zbigniew Karkowski, Damion Romero, Daniel Menche at Beyond Baroque
Beyond music returns to Beyond Baroque with a night of noise that will sodomize your ears like a 12-inch dildo attached to a stunt kite. Polish composer and feedback sculptor "Biggie" (word!) Karkowski worked the fringes of the '80s avant community in Sweden, is at UC Santa Barbara on a residency, and tonight collaborates with bass-frequency merchant Damion Romero, celebrating the release of their 9 Before 9 CD (Blossoming Noise). You might remember Romero from such bands as Slug and Telium Group, but recently he's been working as Speculum Fight and with Japanese noise outfit Astro (ex-C.C.C.C.) to form Astromero. Daniel Menche, Portland noise artist, has for the past 15 years explored the swallowing of contact microphones, battering his body to see what comes out on tape and, lately, "organ and trumpet destruction," as heard on his Bleeding Heavens CD on Blossoming Noise. Also: Joe & Joe, Ulrich Krieger, Monsturo. 681 Venice Blvd.; 7:30 p.m. (310) 822-3006. (David Cotner)
Editors, Hot Hot Heat, Louis XIV at the Wiltern
This unusually consistent bill gathers a trio of bands more admirable for execution than originality, but they're darn good listens nonetheless. Editors are the Brit Interpol, and that's no slight on either act. Each simultaneously tore Joy Division apart then reconstructed their only-way-out, numbingly claustrophobic post-punk with a cinematic, radio-ready sense of scale. Editors' sophomore effort, last year's Every End Has a Start, initially appeared to be that critic's fave: an inadvertent self-caricature of their previous release (in this case 2006's Back Room). Not so. It's simply a more sedated, less hi-hatty take on the same: evocative, mood-changing ditties dependant on Tom Smith's late-night, borderline-gothic pleading/preaching and his bandmates' lean dynamics. Hot Hot Heat's energy and XTC pop has proved surprisingly durable, but they've yet to upstage '03's breakthrough single "Bandages." With all the fuss (around here anyway) about San Diego's Louis XIV a couple of years back, you'd have thought they'd be headlining the Wiltern by now. Their primally saucy yet consciously crafted material might still take 'em there. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Saturday:
PERCY SLEDGE, ROSE ROYCE, JOHNNY FARINA at L.A. Sports Arena; BUCK, KEPI GHOULIE at Alex's Bar; BASTARD SONS OF JOHNNY CASH at Cozy's Bar & Grill; T-PAIN at House of Blues; BEAT JUNKIES at Knitting Factory; STAN RIDGWAY at McCabe's; THE DAZES, CHUPACOBRA, CHOPSTICKS, BLACK WIDOWS at Mr. T's Bowl; MANIC HISPANIC, DEATH BY STEREO at Safari Sam's.
SUNDAY, FEB. 10
Michael Hurley, Matteah Baim, Alela Diane at McCabe's
Another installment of Arthur mag's "Sunday Evenings at McCabe's" series finds three somewhat like-minded exponents of a darker and far rougher American folk tradition that has generally been swept under the rug. In the cartoon accompanying his recent album Ancestral Swamp (Gnomonsong), veteran singer/guitarist/banjo player (and cartoonist) Michael Hurley says, "There never was a mutant who didn't long for the open road. I guess it sorta relaxes me." What'd he mean by that? See the feature story on Hurley in the music section. Former Metallic Falcons singer-songwriter Matteah Baim performs material from her eloquently melancholy Death of the Sun record and other choice selections. You might've heard her singing on Devendra Banhart's Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon album; she is an extraordinarily expressive singer and electric guitar player. Nevada City-born singer-songwriter Alela Diane offers brutally unadorned heart songs that conjure the parched, empty (or terrifying full) vistas of her birthplace. (John Payne)
George Clinton & P-Funk at the Vault 350
With his ceaseless SRO road work, signature extraterrestrial outfits, freak-tone dreadlocks and that luxuriously fractured manner of speech, it's hard to believe that funk overlord George Clinton is pushing 70, yet there's clearly no stopping the unhinged old geezer. Tirelessly serving as visionary musical director (or, perhaps more accurately, ringmaster) of the 20-piece P-Funk orchestra, the mad rhythm-wrangler has insinuated himself so thoroughly into American music culture that he's become a figure as instantly recognizable as he is unrivaled. Clinton is a crusader, one irreversibly committed to pumping out those distinctively cataclysmic P-Funk grooves, and along the way he's bequeathed unto us an immortal catalog — "One Nation Under a Groove," "Atomic Dog" and, yes, "Maggot Brain." Forget Hillary — this is the Clinton we need as leader of the free world. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Sunday:
KID CONGO POWERS at the Echo; OLIVER FUTURE, ANGIE MATTSON at the Hotel Cafe; KILLSONIC, VINNY GOLIA QUINTET at Mr. T's Bowl; ELECTROCUTE, LADY TIGRA at Spaceland.
MONDAY, FEB. 11
MIKA at the Wiltern; SMASH FASHION at Crash Mansion; HENRY CLAY PEOPLE, RADARS TO THE SKY, THE MONOLATORS at the Echo; METAL SKOOL at Key Club; RHETT MILLER, WATSON TWINS at Largo; COLIN GILMORE at the Mint; PITY PARTY, KARIN TATOYAN at Spaceland.
TUESDAY, FEB. 12
A Slow, Sad Dance Party at La Cita
Love. Puh. Only leads to misery, the proof being the tightly wound faces of the so-called "lovebirds" who inhabit restaurants this week. They sit in pairs donning their finest threads and spend way too much money on flowers, dinner and wine, and when it's all over, they return home to have guilt sex. Lovers: Fuck 'em. For the past four years, the remarkable Dublab crew has been throwing their Give Up party as a remedy to all the googly-eyed and bonered citizens of L.A., dropping teary-eyed weepers and slow-dance classics for the unlovable, ornery and pathetic. For this installment, they team up with the estimable Part Time Punks posse and their Sad, Slow Dance Party to present a special Valentine's Day tag team. Expect some Nina Simone weepers, Horace Andy's heartbreaking falsetto, maybe some Cat Power or Brigitte Fontaine spun by a mix of Dublabbers and Punkers, including Ale, BennyShambles, Frosty, J. Mendez, Michael Stock and Jimmy Tamborello. Give Up meets a Sad, Slow Dance Party, 336 S. Hill St., dwntwn.; 9 p.m.; no cover. (Randall Roberts)
Also playing Tuesday:
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT at the Wiltern; DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS, NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS, FELICE BROTHERS at Avalon; COMMON at House of Blues; MOISTBOYZ at the Troubadour.
WEDNESDAY, FEB. 13
Willie Nelson at Nokia Theatre
Maybe it's the ongoing result of Willie Nelson having to pay the IRS for back taxes, but the Austin singer-guitarist has been seemingly more prolific than ever, releasing at least eight full-length albums since 2004. His new CD, Moment of Forever (Lost Highway), is an assortment of country and folk tunes largely written by other people, including Bob Dylan's "Gotta Serve Somebody." He duets with Kenny Chesney on the amiable drinking tune "Worry B Gone" and turns somber and contemplative on Kris Kristofferson's title track. Nelson confronts his mortality with the chilling rock song "Gravedigger," crooning with that warm, weather-beaten voice, "Gravedigger, when you dig my grave/Could you make it shallow/So I can feel the rain?" He was just as appealing on 2006's You Don't Know Me, where he covered songs by the late Cindy Walker, and the appropriately titled Last of the Breed, a double-CD set where he duetted with Merle Haggard and Ray Price. His 2005 album Countryman was a surprisingly successful experiment with reggae, and the legendary songwriter showed that he still knows how to write an affecting ballad with "Back to Earth," from Songbird,his 2006 collaboration with Ryan Adams. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
UMPHREY'S McGEE, DUB TRIO at Crash Mansion; FINLAND STATION at 14 Below; STYX at House of Blues; THE DUHKS at Knitting Factory; ANDRE WILLIAMS & THE FLASH EXPRESS at Spaceland.
THURSDAY, FEB. 14
The Black Lips, Pierced Arrows at El Rey Theatre
Atlanta's stage-shredding terrors the Black Lips have perfected an imperfectly raw, shambling garage-rock sound that's often just as primally driving as their '60s influences the Seeds and the 13th Floor Elevators. "O Katrina," from their 2007 CD, Good Bad Not Evil (Vice), is certainly the crudest, hardest-rocking and least-contemplative song yet about the disaster in New Orleans, and it's pretty damn catchy too. Another cool thing about the Lips is the way they've championed the Oregon trio Pierced Arrows, gazing worshipfully by the side of the stage when the latter made their local debut last October. Pierced Arrows have a direct connection to the '60s: Fred Cole, who howled the garage-rock nugget "You Must Be a Witch" in 1968 with the Lollipop Shoppe and later fronted the beloved '80s underground band Dead Moon with his bassist-wife, Toody Cole. The Coles' new project, Pierced Arrows, has much of Dead Moon's snarling savagery on their debut 7-inch single, contrasting the scabrous wailing and dirty AC/DC riffs of Fred's "In My Brain" with the fuzz-pop charms of "Caroline," which burns with a "Jolene"-style restlessness under Fred's jangle-mangling guitar as Toody sings about a long-lost mystic teenage muse. Classic stuff. (Falling James)
Aretha Franklin at Nokia Theatre
There are divas, and then there's Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul rarely performs in Los Angeles these days, making this little gig in the barnlike Nokia Theatre a virtual command performance. The Detroit singer-pianist has been lying low for much of this decade, issuing a collection of mostly previously released duets, Jewels in the Crown: All-Star Duets With the Queen, in 2007. Her most recent album of new material, So Damn Happy, came out in 2003, although she plans to release A Woman Falling Out of Love sometime this year. In an era with so many R&B singers indulging in gratuitous vocal acrobatics, Franklin still stands supreme, belting it out with full force and plenty of fiery charisma. Raised by her late, legendary Baptist-minister father Rev. C.L. Franklin, she draws upon the power and spirit of gospel music while incorporating elements of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco and even opera throughout her 50-year career. She's also a mighty pianist, anchoring her most dazzling vocal flights on such vintage hits as "Respect" and "Chain of Fools" with emphatically earthy and percussively bluesy keyboard accents. All hail the queen. (Falling James)
Was (Not Was) at the Orpheum Theatre
This long-running Detroit art-funk combo — led by brothers (not brothers) Don and David Was — is scheduled to release its first studio album since 1992 later this spring; it's called Boo!, and according to the Internet it'll feature new material alongside reworked stuff from the band's extensive catalog. Fans fearing a half-assed reunion show can rest easy: For one thing, the Wases are promising to preview stuff from Boo! tonight; for another, they've still got a good bit of what once propelled them to an odd brand of semifame. When I caught Was (Not Was) at B.B. King's in New York in 2005, they grooved harder (and funnier) than their time away might've suggested. At the Orpheum, Don and David will be flanked by a cast of players including old-timers Sweet Pea Atkinson and Sir Harry Bowens, as well as Brian Wilson and Kris Kristofferson, each of whom are set to play three songs with the band. Wackiness will ensue. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Thursday:
JILL SCOTT, RAHEEM DEVAUGHN at Gibson Amphitheatre; BARRY MANILOW, BRIAN CULBERTSON at Staples Center; FASTER PUSSYCAT, BEAUTIFUL CREATURES at Crash Mansion; VERY BE CAREFUL at the Echoplex; CHARLIE & THE VALENTINE KILLERS, KARLING ABBEYGATE, CHEATIN' KIND at Safari Sam's; ENTRANCE BAND at Silverlake Lounge; PENELOPE & DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix; ALO at the Troubadour.
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