Rock Picks: Warped Tour, Pop Levi, Valient Thorr
THURSDAY, AUGUST 14
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Hammer of the gods: Valient Thorr
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Kentucky fried: Dead Child
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The thinker: Raphael Saadiq
Juana Molina, Carmen Consoli, Samantha Crain at the Santa Monica Pier
This is a curiously great and relevant all-progressive-women-musicians lineup for Santa Monica’s annual Twilight Dance Series. Juana Molina is the Argentine singer-composer (also a former TV comedian) whose hybrid of mesmerizing acoustic folk-pop with beautifully quirky electronic strains has won her rightful acclaim. Her newly rhythm-heavy album, Un Día, recorded at her home in Buenos Aires, is set for October release. The Italian vocalist-songwriter Carmen Consoli brings both heavily rocking and Mediterranean-airy pop songs that boast heady lyrical concerns — AIDS, the suppression of women, Greek mythology and a controversially anti-religious tone — while conveying them in a rich, sensual contralto often wrapped in folkloric musical settings. Much of her award-winning new album, Eva Contro Eva, is graced with traditional instruments of southern Italy, such as fiddle, accordion and Sicilian shepherd’s flute. Choctaw storyteller Samantha Crain also appears; see separate pick for her Hotel Café show on Tuesday. (John Payne)
Also playing Thursday:
XIU XIU, CARLA BOZULICH at the Echo (see Music feature); PHENOMENAUTS, VIC RUGGIERO, KEPI GHOULIE at the Knitting Factory; LIZ PAPPADEMAS at Tangier.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15
Valient Thorr at the Troubadour
All we need is another ironic metal band — another outfit patently enamored of all things heavy and histrionic yet hedging their credibility bets by keeping tongues deep in cheeks. At least North Carolina’s Valient Thorr — despite their GWAR-ish faux bio, stint on the Warped Tour, stupid stage names, adolescent artwork and (admittedly genius) song titles like “Tackle the Walrus” and “Nomadic Sacrifice” — have the face-scrunching chops and sheer adrenalized velocity to transcend their copout shtick. Valient Thorr’s new album, Immortalizer — their fourth full-length in five years — fizzes with smart, organic pre-punk hard rock transparently indebted to AC/DC’s blue-collar boogie and flab-free arrangements, Thin Lizzy’s embroidered twin-lead-guitar odysseys, the proto-blast beats and scruff-of-the-neck street smarts of Motorhead (who will tour with V.T. next month); and Corrosion of Conformity’s backward-looking, backwoods escapism and high-plains yelp. Valient Thorr, my friends, are a bloody good, serious heavy rock band — now they just need the (big) balls to admit it. (Paul Rogers)
Pop Levi at the Echo
Pop Levi is a superstar from Liverpool, used to play bass in Ladytron, signed a solo deal with Ninja Tune, moved to L.A. and set up shop. In the last couple of years, he’s done two albums’ worth of sheer electric-rock genius, the likes of which you most likely have never heard, even remotely. Poppy’s newest is called Never Never Love, which was recorded at Quincy Jones’ old stomping grounds, Westlake Audio, where Thriller and Off the Wall were recorded. One would love to imagine Michael Jackson’s ghost casting long shadows over Levi as he assembled his awesome batch of high-gloss/lo-fi pop and rock ditties, which are futuristic and electro and retro and very glam and sexy. His songs are always way danceable, mind-bendingly freshly plotted (loads of expectation-dashing) and far more intelligent than about 99 percent of other roots-disco product. I’ve run out of space. Check out Pop’s plethora of absurdly inspired videos on YouTube, which will link you to faraway, mysterious, painterly, funny places where creativity has not died. (John Payne)
Dead Child at Relax Bar
Would anyone be paying attention to Dead Child if the Louisville-based throwback-metal band didn’t feature three guys who have done time in the seminal math-rock outfit Slint (including David Pajo, who’s also played in Tortoise and Zwan)? Probably not. Sorry, dudes: Though there’s a million solid reasons to leave behind the land of skinny jeans for the land of ripped jeans, the promise of a wide-open playing field is not one of them, since the Internet has created a metal scene every bit as oversaturated as the indie-rock scene. That said, I, for one, am stoked that Dead Child have a reason to stand out from the crowd, because their recent debut, Attack, is an unabashedly retro-minded pleasure I’d have regretted missing otherwise. These guys remember everything satisfying about early-’80s metal — crunchy riffs, lean grooves, vocals that ascend to womanly heights — without making a big deal about being defenders of a forgotten faith or anything. They rock, and that’s it. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Friday:
IDINA MENZEL at the Wiltern; FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS at the Canyon; KEVIN SECONDS at the Knitting Factory; LAUREL CANYON RAMBLERS at McCabe’s; THE MORMONS, NINJA ACADEMY, MIDWAY at Mr. T’s Bowl; LITTLE CAESAR at Paladino’s; STARLITE DESPERATION at the Redwood Bar & Grill; SPINDRIFT at Spaceland; MY RUIN, TARANTIST at the Whisky.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16
Natasha Shneider benefit at the Henry Fonda Theater
On July 2, Queens of the Stone Age friend and colleague Natasha Shneider died after a battle with cancer. She was a founding member of the Los Angeles hard-psych band Eleven, so it’s somewhat poetic that she died at 11:11. That this benefit lineup is as varied as it is merely speaks to the great spectrum of lives she touched: PJ Harvey and the aforementioned Queens, Jack Black & Kyle Gass (a.k.a. Tenacious D), Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, ex-Distiller Brody Dalle, Eagles of Death Metal singer Jesse Hughes, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, seer and sage of the desert-rock scene Chris Goss, and Shneider’s partner and Eleven bandmate, Alain Johannes, who was with her until the very end. Tonight, her friends gather to remember her life and play some songs that remind them of her, and better times than right now. Ultimately, it’s a night of music that stops you in your tracks — if only to remind you that you still have to keep going. For more info, go to www.natashashneider.org. (David Cotner)
Also playing Saturday:
ANTHONY HAMILTON, JODY WATLEY at Par 3 Golf Course, Compton, noon; RAY CAMPI at Blue Cafe; JARBOE, EVA O at the Good Hurt; TERRA NAOMI at the Hotel Café; SACCHARINE TRUST at McCabe’s; KLEVELAND at Molly Malone’s; KIM FOWLEY, STEVEN T., CRAZY WHITE MAN at the Redwood Bar & Grill; KINGSIZEMAYBE, ATOMIC SHERPAS at Taix; SHIELDS, CHROME U.K., GIRL & THE SEA at Roberto’s.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 17
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Lost boys: Previously on Lost
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Allá perfect the art of waiting.
Raphael Saadiq, Janelle Monáe at the Roxy
Though he tasted commercial success with his early-’90s R&B trio Tony! Toni! Toné!, Raphael Saadiq hasn’t quite managed to carve out a space in the mainstream as a solo artist. Soul-music aficionados know how talented this dude is, but his name is far less recognizable than those of the stars for whom he’s produced or written (including John Legend, Joss Stone and D’Angelo). Thanks to Amy Winehouse’s success last year (and Duffy’s success this year), though, the record industry is betting that old-school R&B has a better-than-usual chance in the marketplace, which explains Columbia’s recent signing of Saadiq. Next month, the label will release The Way I See It, an excellent new studio disc, and tonight he’ll preview it at the Roxy. Do what you can to see that he feels loved. Wild-haired opener Janelle Monáe is Diddy’s latest protégée; she should appeal to fans of OutKast and Gnarls Barkley. (Mikael Wood)
Liz Pappademas at Saint Rocke
Did the recent earthquake shake you up? Blame it on Liz Pappademas. “I was the epicenter,” the singer-pianist confesses on her 2007 CD of thoughtfully moody ballads, Eleven Songs. Actually, she’s singing about a different temblor in “Loma Prieta,” but she has such a gift for palpably poetic lyrics and evocative, soul-swept melodies, perhaps the mayor can appoint her as this city’s Official Post-Earthquake Consoler to help us recover when the Big One inevitably lays us low. “I am not that rabid dog,” she attempts to reassure a lover as a storm envelops them. She calls on helicopters, paratroopers and “the mouth of a bear” to tell her tales, turning the paintings of Robert Rauschenberg and Jackson Pollack inside out (“Desaturate It”) before making a Houdini-like escape (“Open”). She’s a bit of a romantic escapist on “Vacation Romance” and “Keep Going West,” but she can’t avoid seeing warning signs (“Birds . tilt their wings on the wind . the low sky hangs in God’s own noose”) and ultimately asks her lover to strangle her during the austerely lovely and somber “Go On, Kill Me.” With HoneyHoney. (Falling James)
Warped Tour '08 at the Home Depot Center
If you can get past the sound-alike corporate punk bands and the horde of emo-tinged pop-rock whiners, there are actually some pretty decent performers smuggled onto the bill for this local stop on the annual Warped Tour. For one thing, there’s a pleasing assortment of early punks, such as the supreme black-humored satirists the Dickies, sinister Orange County vets T.S.O.L., the reunited M.I.A. (who, ironically, have been missing in action for many years), pop-punks Big Drill Car, the slobberingly fierce Brit hardcore rowdies G.B.H., and even that new Frankenstein-monster cobbling of the Germs (in which overmatched understudy Shane West stands in for the still-dead Darby Crash). For another, the historically testosterone-heavy festival this year spotlights at least a few token female acts, including the erratic-but-promising Randies, the always lively Danish ska-punks HorrorPops, and former Christian-pop thrush Katy Perry, whose “UR So Gay” is — for better or worse — the modern, politically incorrect equivalent to Josie Cotton’s “Johnny, Are You Queer?” The more adventurous-minded should track down Barcelona’s Pinker Tones, whose new CD, Wild Animals (Nacional), is a typically merry mélange of kicky electronica (“S.E.X.Y.R.O.B.O.T.”), slinky dance pop (“Electrotumbao”) and circusy reveries (“Biorganised”). (Falling James)
Also playing Sunday:
JETHRO TULL, YOUNG DUBLINERS at Greek Theatre; THE THINGZ at Alex’s Bar; TELESCOPES, FUXA, SUKI EWERS at the Echo; DIKTA at Mr. T’s Bowl; J.F.A., THE STITCHES, PLAIN WRAP at Safari Sam’s; URINALS, RAW POWER RANGERS, BACKBITER at Liquid Kitty, 2:30 p.m.
MONDAY, AUGUST 18
GIL MANTERA’S PARTY DREAM, ANAVAN at the Echo; JOE BERARDI at Safari Sam’s; WARPAINT, THE DRONES, DIE PRINCESS DIE, HECUBA at Spaceland; HUMAN VALUE, DIKTA at Viper Room.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 19
Previously on Lost at Spaceland
Tribute groups are nothing new. From ABBA to ZZ Top, it seems like anyone with a couple of CDs now has their own tribute band. With the cover-band field so thoroughly covered, tribute-minded musicians are looking to other mediums. Last month, Harry & the Potters apparated in town with their rock & Rowling show. And now comes Previously on Lost, a New York City band whose tunes pay homage, in case you haven’t guessed, to the television program Lost. Two Lost fanboys, Adam Schatz and Jeff Curtin, spent the past TV season summarizing the murky mystery’s weekly episodes in songs. They call their music “Recapulation Rock,” and their cheeky, giddily detailed tunes (referencing, for example, Ben’s secret stash, a palm-tree massacre and Sayid’s spy games) bear some Flaming Lips traces, as do their live show’s lo-fi theatrics (like re-creating the Oceanic plane crash). But you don’t have to know that Claire is Jack’s half-sister to enjoy POL’s Instant Dharma revelry. Also at the Silverlake Lounge, Wed.; and at the Knitting Factory, Thurs. (Michael Berick)
Glen Campbell at the Troubadour
While Glen Campbell ranks among the top tier of the world's finest guitarists (he's accompanied Elvis, Sinatra, Nat Cole), the Arkansas-born performer is eternally associated with his run of high-gloss, spun-sugar country-pop hits. Starting with his 1967 recording of "Gentle on My Mind," followed by the Jimmy Webb–composed "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Wichita Lineman," Campbell's easy-does-it, contemplative presentation resonated with the embattled Silent Majority, sold records by the bale and made him one of the biggest stars in America. As later exercises like "Southern Nights" and "Rhinestone Cowboy" emphatically demonstrated, Campbell's bubblegum and corn confections were gold, but the man is no softie. He's contributed one of our finer recent celebrity DUI mug shots and, per a $3 million 1985 lawsuit filed by ex Tanya Tucker, is a man capable of battery, mayhem, assault with a deadly weapon and fraud (it never even got to court). Now that he's back on Capitol Records with his new Meet Glen Campbell disc, expect the G.C. saga to roll on in typically fascinating style.
Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon, Doveman at the Hotel Café
Recent aesthetic realignments and depth-of-field improvements in music have made possible the phenomenon of composer/visionary types such as Nico Muhly. The Juilliard graduate is the creator of an impressive number of classical/new-music hybrid pieces that have been commissioned by or premiered at the biggies — the Boston Pops, the BBC, American Ballet Theater, Whitney Museum and Carnegie Hall among them. He’s also worked with Philip Glass as editor, keyboardist, and conductor for film and stage projects, and played and arranged projects by a plethora of wide-ranging pop people like Rufus Wainwright, Antony, Björk and Will Oldham. Muhly’s recent Mothertongue album collages Nordic folk strains with minimalist, repetitive figures, traditional English plainsong, resonant audio-verite samples and a plethora of voices deftly interwoven. Among the vocalists on Mothertongue is folk singer Sam Amidon, who joins Muhly onstage tonight along with Doveman, another Muhly collaborator who has under his belt a rather, uh, remarkable version of the soundtrack to the Kevin Bacon masterpiece Footloose. You don’t ask why . . . (John Payne)
Also playing Tuesday:
XU XU FANG at Boardner’s; LE SWITCH, NICO STAI, LES BLANKS at the Echo; DAR WILLIAMS at Largo; JANELLE MONAE at the Viper Room.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20
Quetzal, The Salvador Santana Band, Allá, ZocaloZüe at the Knitting Factory
These performers may have little in common stylistically except that they’re lumped together tonight on a bill titled “Verano Alternativo,” which should, if nothing else, expand the boundaries of what’s considered “Latin rock.” The Chicago band Allá make their local debut with the breezy songs from their new CD, Es Tiempo (Crammed Discs), where producer-guitarist Jorge Ledezma and his drummer-brother Angel surround singer Lupe Martinez with an enchanting array of mellow pop orchestrations, such as the gentle confection “Sigue Tú Corazon” and the broodingly lovely idyll “La Montaña Sagrada.” The Salvador Santana Band’s recent album, SBB, journeys through funky pop, brassy Afrobeat grooves, hip-hop cadences and back to soul, with Salvador’s father, Carlos Santana, juicing up the insistent love song “Me & U” with his trademark piercing guitar licks. East L.A. heroes Quetzal put the lie to the myth of Manifest Destiny with their playfully subversive opus Die Cowboy Die, which mashes together folk, pop, fandango, punk and traditional Mexican styles to magical effect. The festivities start with the local son jarocho wizards ZocaloZüe. (Falling James)
Also playing Wednesday:
AMERICA at Cerritos Center; CASXIO at Boadner’s; EDWIN McCAIN at the Canyon; THE MAE SHI at Echo Curio; KITTIE at the Key Club; GIN BLOSSOMS at Pershing Square, 8 p.m.; PREVIOUSLY ON LOST at Silverlake Lounge; BLACK FRANCIS, THE BLOOD ARM at Spaceland; PATRIA JACOBS at Taix.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 21
PETER & GORDON, GERRY & THE PACEMAKERS at Santa Monica Pier, 7 p.m.; GZA at El Rey Theatre; KILLA PRIEST at Blue Cafe; BOB LOG III, SCOTT H. BIRAM at the Echo; G.B.H. at the Key Club; PREVIOUSLY ON LOST at Knitting Factory; WATKINS FAMILY HOUR at Largo; IO ECHO, THE OOHLAS at Silverlake Lounge; JOHN DOE at Levitt Pavilion, Pasadena.
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