Rock Picks: The Little Ones, Eagle and Talon, Elliott Murphy
THURSDAY, JANUARY 8
Sabrosa Purr at the Roxy
Yes, there are still amateur Angeleno bands building robust reps through self-financed recordings and compelling club shows (and without monkeying themselves out to reality TV). Sabrosa Purr are an odd collision of loner, stoner introversion and crotch-thrusting fuzz-box rawk. They lurch from the ultra-ethereal, flotation-tank vocals and slithery, succulent guitars of “Suckerpunch Kiss” to the open-shirted glam strut of “Fashion Kills” without so much as an explanation or apology. Though probably more convincing at the former than the latter, they seldom sound contrived. Yet for every moment of earnest Pink Floyd–ish psychedelia, each hint of enigmatic early Cure b-sides or sexy T-Rex flexes, Sabrosa Purr are really all about the original Jane’s Addiction — they’re eclectic because Jane’s were. The heavily delayed yelps of “Killing the Aries” and “Sabrosa Purr, Pt. 1”’s druggy whimper are downright Jane’s addicted, but they’re lost in enough love to forget and forgive. Few bands traverse heel-stomping, classic-rock crunch and eyes-clenched, headphone bliss like this. (Paul Rogers)
North Hollywood’s Nacional Records has been doing a bang-up job over the last couple of years, releasing a diverse string of terrific Latin-pop records by acts including Manu Chao, Aterciopelados and the Pinker Tones. One of 2008’s most likable was Tijuana Sound Machine, a border-busting mash-up of hip-swiveling electro beats and traditional instrumentation by Bostich + Fussible, two members of Mexico’s acclaimed Nortec Collective. If your affection for Beck’s work took a serious dive following Odelay, these might be the guys for you: In tasty tracks like “Shake It Up” and “Akai 47,” Bostich + Fussible set about making unlikely connections in a way that never once makes you think about any intellectual heavy lifting (even as it’s occurring). Expect cuts from Tijuana tonight, but also expect the unexpected; part of Nortec’s deal is making the live techno experience seem, y’know, live. (Mikael Wood)
Elvis Presley Birthday Concert at Avalon
Ceremonial veneration of Elvis Presley has assumed a strange, semi-theological role in American society — a public examination of the King and his ongoing relation to the world, through the analysis of his rock & roll teachings and humble hillbilly origins. This year’s lineup seems especially suited to meet such a standard, with an expanded psychedelic edge brought by Strawberry Alarm Clock, I See Hawks in L.A. and ’60s-era psych spearhead Simon Stokes, and, with Ronnee Blakely, Lisa Finnie and Michelle Shocked, even more of the contemplative feminine intellect coming into play than is usually seen at these pilgrimages. Of course, it’s not just a case of purely cerebral approbation — you also get the roaring rockabilly of E.P. contemporary Ray Campi; the perpetually electrifying teen-idol war cry of Jimmy Angel; the Groovy Rednecks’ boozy, knock-down honky-tonk; Carlos Guitarlos’ rocked-blues bite; and the tender country soul of tavern troubadour Mike Stinson. With a couple of dozen additional worshippers, the inevitable too-big-to-announce participants and the fact that all proceeds go to benefit fallen firefighters, baby, it’s a don’t-be-no-square, mandatory-type affair. (Jonny Whiteside)
Also playing Thursday:
THE METEORS at Brixton South Bay; CAVA at Eastside Luv; JESCA HOOP at the Hotel Café; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo at the Coronet; MIGHTY REGIS, MEGASOUL CONNECTOR at Molly Malone’s; CODY BRYANT at Viva Cantina.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 9
2009 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his revolutionary work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. The “First Fridays” series at the Natural History Museum celebrates the event with a trek into the world of Darwin and the colossal impact of his discoveries on our daily lives. On the first Friday of every month through June 5, the museum stays open late, with live music and interactive science programming, curator-guided gallery tours and discussions about evolutionary science. Opening night features classic West Coast pop from L.A.’s Little Ones; the luxuriant, eclectic indie rock of Montreal’s Plants & Animals; and the ever-evolutionary beats & blasts of the Phatal DJ and the awesome J. Rocc. Next up comes the Bird & the Bee, Jukebox the Ghost, the Phatal DJ and DJ Michael Stock of Dublab.com on Friday, February 6. (John Payne)
“Due to the confused state of the industry,” as they put it on their Web site, Joshua Tree’s electro-twang outfit Gram Rabbit are funding the recording of their new album themselves and with help from their fans: Go to gramrabbit.com, and you can donate enough dough to earn T-shirts, DVDs and/or autographed copies of the record they eventually complete. (While you’re there, check out the mildly amusing video for their holiday single, “California Christmas,” in which singer Jesika von Rabbit accessorizes her sexy Mrs. Claus outfit with a pair of hot-pink Ray-Bans.) Local oddball Pop Levi recently released a strong folk-funk disc called Never Never Love, which impressively minimizes the distance between Prince and Marc Bolan; according to his MySpace, Levi’s got a new one due out this spring called Micro Sex Tapes. (Mikael Wood)
Zomby at the Echoplex
The latest anonym to surface from England’s rich and murky electronic periphery, Zomby forgoes dread for DayGlo wonder on his debut album and, like his namesake, feeds on the animate to sustain the living dead. Where Were U in 92? is a shock of phosphorescent early techno cheez from a member of its seemingly opposite scene (dubstep), where sullen tones and sluggish rhythms dominate. Drippy piano stabs gurgle around the impossibly propulsive clutter of overstuffed beats (skitter-atop-stutter-amid-throb-and-shimmer) on nigglingly short loops. Bits bob in and out of the mix: divas whipped up into trebly sprites, sirens smeared like lysergic neon trails, and spurts of gelatinous bass. Historically speaking, rave’s star burst of mechanized ecstatics led to the metallic flux of jungle and drums-&-bass, which was then compartmentalized into the bustling soul-pop of garage and later melted down into lesions of radioactive gunk for MCs to sling hoarse rhymes over (grime). Dubstep, grime’s antisocial twin, eschews the communal pass-the-mic ruckus for downcast headphone excursions in dank atmospherics. Born from the junkyard of rave dreams, Zomby’s pastiche is beyond convincing; it’s an uncanny reanimation. (Bernardo Rondeau)
Also playing Friday:
ART GARFUNKEL at James Armstrong Theatre, Torrance Cultural Arts Center; TOWER OF POWER at the Canyon; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; INSECT SURFERS, DEL REYS at the Redwood Bar & Grill; GORT at Relax Bar; AFTERNOONS, XU XU FANG at Spaceland; DANNY B. HARVEY at Taix.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 10
Here’s a pretty rare chance to check out a legendary folk-rocking singer-songwriter in the confines of an intimate club, an up-close-and-personal look at one of the greats. In his first U.S. tour in eight years, Elliott Murphy, long based in Paris, brings songs from his very fine new Notes From the Underground album, his 30th (!) in a 35-year career. Most likely, he’ll include selections from his hugely regarded debut album, Aquashow, and its even better follow-up, Generation, and a performance of his even-weightier 1966 meisterwerk, “Selling the Gold,” on which he originally dueted with Bruce Springsteen. Opening is “multicultural” singer-songwriter Jann Klose, who was born in Germany and raised in Kenya, South Africa and Hamburg, and who first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in Cleveland. His recent album Reverie is something of a minor hit on more than 90 radio stations in North America. (John Payne)
Sure, Saccharine Trust made a major dent in early-’80s rock history with songs that have been covered by Sonic Youth and praised by Kurt Cobain, but these longtime Wizards of Wilmington are a still a major creative force in the here and now. If anything, society still hasn’t caught up to the wicked insights of recent tunes like “Water on the Dance Floor,” much less the incantational power of such oldies as “We Became Snakes,” where word-besotted/-enraptured poet-singer Jack Brewer probes/prods/p(rov)okes various gods amid the relentless slings-&-arrows of Joe Baiza’s barbed jazz-funk guitar. Intense drummer Brian Christopherson and the fantastically propulsive bassist Chris Stein anchor things firmly to some version of reality, no matter how fanciful and philosophical Brewer’s Olympian wordplay and Baiza’s galaxy-scouring explorations get. Saccharine Trust’s “transcendental riots” are heavier than jazz, freer and more rambling than rock, and louder and ruder than fusion. (Check out Brewer’s comparatively hard-rocking/punk Reunion Band, who are playing Thursday at Harold’s Place.) Meanwhile, the local trio Backbiter are simply one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets. Not only is Jonathan Hall one of this city’s most tastefully wild punk/hard-rock guitar heroes, but he, bassist Heath Seifert and drummer Bob Lee write seedily stomping glitter-rock anthems (“Looking in the Mirror,” “Nova,” “Blood and Broken Glass Blues,” “Dr. Robot”) that seriously approach the level of their collective inspirations (the Stooges, Roky, Velvet Underground, the Who, Dylan). That’s no small feat. It’s ironic that bands like Howlin’ Rain are currently getting more attention with less-interesting approximations of Backbiter’s punk-meets-the-classic-rock-godfather sound. 227 N. Avenue 55, Highland Park. (Falling James)
Also playing Saturday:
THE DICKIES, THE BILLYBONES, CHELSEA SMILES at Alex’s Bar; DAVID LINDLEY at Brixton South Bay, 7 p.m.; SHITN-A, KEVIN LITROW, HALLOWEEN SWIM TEAM at Echo Curio; SCHOOL OF ROCK HOLLYWOOD at Fais Do-Do, 5:30 p.m.; GORT at Relax Bar; RUFUS at the Roxy; B-SIDE PLAYERS at Saint Rocke; AFTERNOONS, FLYING TOURBILLON ORCHESTRA at Spaceland.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 11
Eagle and Talon at Que Sera
Eagle and Talon are a local duo who assemble some fascinating combinations of noise and melody on their upcoming CD, Thracian. They start with post-punk disco beats and expansive Sonic Youth guitars, or maybe a little new-wave keyboards. Then they throw in some nicely impressionistic lyrics, sung with deceptively simple pop melodies, which inevitably dig deeper the more you hear them. The way guitarist Kim Talon’s and drummer Alice Talon’s harmonies and sparkling riffs spiral together and culminate with intertwined momentum on such songs as the circusy “The All Best” and “Georgia” is positively entrancing. Lyrics like “They’ll trade a finger for a fur coat” and “You can’t operate on me” make for great hooks, with a riot-grrl sarcasm that transforms itself into a lulling pop mantra as the harmonies cycle and twist like a kaleidoscope. Moods range from the gray glow of “Coast That’s Closest” and the woozy jangle “We Were Figs” to the darker physical mysteries of “It’s a Fortress,” all of it ringed by those spectrally childlike harmonies. (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
THEE MIGHTY ANGELS, GOLDEN YEARS, DJ TIM BURGESS at the Echo; PAUL GREEN SCHOOL OF ROCK HOLLYWOOD at the Knitting Factory; AL KOOPER at McCabe’s; HAWNAY TROOF at the Smell; MICHTO PELO at Liquid Kitty.
MONDAY, JANUARY 12
Armed with such attention-getting singles as “Oh My God” and “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” Norway’s Ida Maria is poised to follow Robyn, Annie and Lykke Li as 2009’s Hot Hipster Scandinavian Import. Unlike those other ladies, though, Maria isn’t a blip-loving synth fetishist; her debut album, Fortress Round My Heart (out since last summer in Europe; due here later this year), is packed with bare-bones garage-punk jams longer on attitude than ornamentation. Breathless blog buzz has earned Maria a larger-than-life reputation for onstage antics, which means the pressure’s on to deliver tonight. Locals HoneyHoney play an appealingly uptempo brand of melodic folk-rock; it’s hard to imagine them doing many of the songs on their Jude Cole–produced debut while sitting on stools. Ida Maria also at the Viper Room, Tues.; HoneyHoney also at the Hotel Café, Fri., Jan. 9. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Monday:
KATY PERRY at the Hotel Café (sold out); WADDY WACHTEL at the Joint; JAKE LA BOTZ at the Redwood Bar & Grill; OLIN & THE MOON, LESLIE & THE BADGERS at Silverlake Lounge.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 13
Sara Lov at Spaceland
When Sara Lov sang with the local band Devics in the late ’90s, her ethereal vocals were supported by the masterful pianist Dustin O’Halloran, who gave their dream-infused ballads a stateliness and romantic grandeur that attracted the support of the Cocteau Twins’ Simon Raymonde (who signed them to his label, Bella Union). After Devics broke up a few years ago, O’Halloran stayed behind in Italy, where the band was fairly popular, to work on his solo compositions (he was most recently seen in Los Angeles this fall, when he toured with k.d. lang). Lov returned to L.A. and began work on two CDs, the Young Eyes EP (which will be released on Nettwerk later this month) and a full-length album, Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming (due in March). Devics fans will appreciate the EP, which features two collaborations with O’Halloran, as well as a relatively sunny version of Beck’s “Timebomb” and a spare, mournful remake of the Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage.” Lov’s “Why Can’t I Be?” has a glassy beauty, with its rueful melody and Aniela Perry’s quivering cello accompaniment. The upcoming album expands on Lov’s pop potential with momentous ballads like “A Thousand Bees” and the lush haziness of “Just Beneath the Chords.” Her lyrics are sometimes awkward, such as the clunky imagery of “Seasoned Eyes Were Beaming,” but her charming vocals and producer Zac Rae’s gauzy embellishments generally compensate for such shortcomings. Also Jan. 20 & 27. (Falling James)
A former church choirmaster who broke into the secular-music industry doing session work for Kanye West and Lauryn Hill, John Legend makes grown-and-sexy R&B for folks who wanna feel young and with-it. (That’s a project in contrast with that of Ne-Yo, who makes young-and-with-it R&B for kids who wanna feel grown and sexy.) On each of his three records — including the latest, last year’s Evolver — Legend sings about making relationships last and how much cooler peace is than war, over relentlessly crafty arrangements that swirl live-band warmth with sleek sample science. Tonight at the Gibson, expect him to flex those live-band bona fides. Opener Estelle translated her stardom at home in England into a stateside breakthrough last year thanks to “American Boy,” her delightful Top 40 smash about fancying a ride on the subway instead of the Tube. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Tuesday:
KEPI GHOULIE, DAN JANISCH at Echo Curio; MIKE STINSON, DAVE GLEASON at the Redwood Bar & Grill; IDA MARIA at the Viper Room; SCARCITY OF TANKS, BOBB BRUNO at the Mountain Bar.
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 14
The Coles at Largo at the Coronet
To these English punk rock ears, country music has all the emotional resonance of a stranger’s journal. Yet rootsy local duo the Coles (who bonded at the now-defunct downtown L.A. dive bar of the same name) hit home like a surprise declaration of undying love, lyrically and harmonically exploring loss and longing with nakedly organic, genre-transcending candor. Quite why a 20-something suburban New Yorker (Jason Mandell) and an O.C. surfer kid (Sutter Zachman) were chosen to channel these essentially Southern, musty parchments of melody remains mysterious, yet they do so with the patient focus and satiated gaze of toking artisans. Zachman breathes entire eras of sentiment into “Ain’t No More Love”’s gorgeously rural pangs with his equally aged and angelic buckskin timbre, while Mandell’s creakier, blues-rinsed cadence lends the ostensibly jaunty hobo heartache of “No One Loves You” the sobering mortality of an open wound. The Coles’ guest-speckled sets undulate according to their mood (and bar tab), so savor all three of these Largo shows without fear of repetition. Also Wed., Jan. 21 & 28. (Paul Rogers)
Also playing Wednesday:
MEAT PUPPETS, STAB CITY at Alex’s Bar; BEAUTIFUL CREATURES, LITTLE CAESAR at Brixton South Bay; GUNS ’N BOMBS at the Echo; GILLI MOON at Genghis Cohen; NELS CLINE SINGERS at Largo at the Coronet; MADAME PAMITA, BOLL WEEVIL at Taix.
THURSDAY, JANUARY 15
BRIAN WILSON at the Grammy Museum; ALAN PARSONS LIVE PROJECT at Grove of Anaheim; THE CRYSTELLES at the Airliner; SEAN WHEELER & ZANDER SCHLOSS at Alex’s Bar; ERIC JOHNSON at Brixton South Bay; STANLEY CLARKE at the Canyon; LEILA BROUSSARD at the Hotel Café; THREE INCHES OF BLOOD at the Key Club; LA MATATENA ROYAL CLUB, LA BANDA SKALAVERA at the Knitting Factory; FIONA APPLE, NIKKA COSTA, BEN LEE at Largo; THE STUDIOFIX at Silverlake Lounge; ENTRANCE BAND, INDIAN JEWELRY at the Troubadour; JACK BREWER REUNION BAND, SCARCITY OF TANKS at Harold’s Place, San Pedro.
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