Rock Picks: Willie Nelson, Maude Maggart, Two Tears
The Airborne Toxic Event with Calder Quartet at Walt Disney Concert Hall
In what seems like no time at all, Los Feliz’s the Airborne Toxic Event has gone from being a locally touted indie rock troupe to a bona fide international phenomenon. Singer and songwriter Mikel Jollett (a former editor of Filter) started the band after a series of personal tragedies, and quickly saw his luck improve. With the kind of trajectory usually reserved for acts with far less soul, ATE landed a Spaceland residency, then an appearance on Carlson Daly, followed by a record deal with a Shout! Factory subsidiary that morphed into a contract with Island Records. All on the strength of an album’s worth of songs (found on ATE’s eponymous 2008 debut), a string-laden batch of romantic and anthemic rock tunes that first turned this city’s collective ear a couple of years ago. The Disney Hall event is more than a homecoming show — it’s set to be a celebratory extravaganza involving multiple guests (including frequent collaborators Calder Quartet) and various unexpected asides, promising to honor “the music and culture of East Los Angeles.” (Chris Martins)
Maude Maggart at the Gardenia Room
Fiona Apple’s sister Maude Maggart is a captivating singer in her own right, although stylistically she’s more of a cabaret performer who revels in classics from the Great American Songbook. And while the concept of a modern singer digging into the merry wordplay and bright melodies of such old standards has indeed become increasingly standard, Maggart manages to breathe new life into these well-traveled tunes. Her version of “My Funny Valentine” is icily beautiful instead of predictably mawkish, as she trills with a delicately birdlike quiver that soars airily over a restrained tinkling of piano keys. She’s just as absorbing when she’s swimming around in a sea of stars on romantic ballads like “Deep Purple” as she is weaving through a thicket of violins and piano on a playful remake of Irving Berlin’s “Pack Up Your Sins.” Maggart infuses her 2007 CD, Dreamland, a collaboration with actor Brent Spiner, with clever production touches, including scraps of evocative dialogue and sound effects, which transform tracks like “I Remember You” from straightforward reinterpretations into something much grander and, yes, dreamier. Also Sat. (Falling James)
Also playing Friday:
CHARLIE HUNTER, ERIC KALB, ALAN FERBER at the Mint; KRS-ONE at the Roxy; THE CRANBERRIES, GRIFFIN HOUSE at Club Nokia; COLD CAVE, FORMER GHOST, ABE VIGODA at Eagle Rock Center for the Arts; PETER CASE at McCabe’s; LITTLE DRAGON at El Rey Theatre; BOBB BRUNO, SUBTLE SELVES, LOS FANTASMAS CARMESI, SLUMBER BEAST at the Smell; NOFX, MAD CADDIES, DEAD TO ME at Fox Theater Pomona; TODD RUNDGREN at the Orpheum; THE SHYS, CASTLEDOOR, BLACK HOLLIES at the Echo; BIG WHUP, WATERCOLOR PAINTINGS, SO MANY WIZARDS, COBRA LILIES at the Echo Curio; LESS THAN JAKE, FISHBONE, THE SWELLERS, SAGE at the House of Blues; JON BRION at Largo at the Coronet; DIRTY MERCY, THE SPECTACLES, DAN KRIKORIAN, KAY HANLEY at Molly Malone’s.
Girls at the Troubador
Since the last time Girls played L.A. (in September opening for Cass McCombs at the Bootleg Theater), they’ve jet-propelled to atmospheric levels of popularity that border on overexposure. Critics dig them, writers are creaming over Christopher Owens’ culty background story, radio loves them — Jason Bentley plays them practically daily on his morning show — and their first album, Album, is guaranteed to be at the tippy top of many best-of, year-end lists. So what’s a smitten fan to do? Judging from the show at the Bootleg, we know Owens, Chet “JR” White and company are capable of a ferocious, audience-wowing output, but the debate continues as the press and play get hotter and hotter — can Girls sustain the hype? For now, it might not matter. Girls’ songs and sound seem to be a bottomless grab bag of tricks everybody adores — Owens’ Buddy Holly voice, the weepy, I’ll-always-be-fucked-in-the-head sentiments with such melodic ease, and the mountains of reverb and nostalgic pop stanzas that never get old. Enjoy the buzz now, before the possible hangover tomorrow. (Wendy Gilmartin)
KIIS-FM Jingle Ball at Nokia Theatre
Pointing my browser to KIIS-FM’s Web site to check for any late-breaking additions to this year’s Jingle Ball lineup, I landed on a page promising appearances by both Chris Brown and Rihanna. A callous instance of stunt-booking gone wrong? Fortunately, no — ’twas only a leftover ad for the annual holiday show’s 2008 edition. Jingle Ball’s latest bill features no such discord, though it is as bracingly eclectic as always: new-Nashville superstar Taylor Swift, capping a year in which she’s won just about everything there is to win; R&B jobber-turned-starlet Keri Hilson; hip-hop veteran Fabolous, a man seemingly unable to turn down any gig he’s offered; and the Ting Tings, riding high on a recent endorsement from Jay-Z. They’ll be joined by electro-emo brats 3OH!3 and club-rap clowns LMFAO, as well as Jay Sean and Jason DeRulo, a pair of young one-hit wonders who’ll spend 2010 struggling against obsolescence. Consider this stocking stuffed. (Mikael Wood)
Sara Watkins & Tom Brosseau at Largo at the Coronet
On Tom Brosseau’s latest album, Posthumous Success (FatCat), it’s his voice that’s going to get you. A backwoodsy, vibrato-dripping thing, it’s not a big sound. It’s even a little rickety, and while you never doubt his sincerity, Brosseau has a beautiful way of not tripping and falling into a big vat of maple syrup. Posthumous Success is — on the surface — a plainspoken affair of ruminations on the ups and downs of life, painted from an acoustic folkie-blues palette dappled with a tone drawn from his early life on the pensive plains of North Dakota; nimble flickerings of electronic lacery gifts his songs’ unadorned sentimentality with a terrain of far deeper dimension. Nickel Creek’s singer-fiddler Sara Watkins performs selections from her tasty solo debut on Nonesuch, which was produced by Led Zep’s John Paul Jones. (John Payne)
Also playing Saturday:
CHARLIE HUNTER, ERIC KALB, ALAN FERBER at the Mint; EXPOSE, SHANNON, DEBBIE DEB, SA-FIRE, ANGEL, STACY Q at Gibson Amphitheatre; PROTECT ME, DAVID SCOTT STONE, COMMON EIDER KING EIDER, TEARIST, MIKE VIDA at the Smell; THE CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET, SPOT at the Echo Curio; IMAGINATION MOVERS at Club Nokia; TREVOR HALL, THE NICK RALLIS BAND at the Dakota Music Lounge; TOM RUSSELL at McCabe’s; AMPS FOR CHRIST, AVI BUFFALO, FOOT FOOT, BIG DEATH at Pehrspace; SPEEDBUGGY, LOS DUGGANS, LOS CREEPERS at the Redwood Bar; NEBULA at the Nomad Collective Art Compound.
Cold Cave, Nite Jewel, DJ Tim Burgess at The Echo
Though Cold Cave mastermind Wesley Eisold has moonlit in all kinds of bands (most notably, as the singer of hardcore punkers Some Girls), this new project marks his first attempt to write the songs he’s performing. It’s also Eisold’s debut stab at synth-pop, but neither of those factors diminish the man’s ability to turn out nigh-perfect three-minute amalgams of upbeat electronic beats, experimental noise, and coolly subdued vocals (think Matthew Dear run through a fuzz filter). It’s no wonder Matador just signed the Philly-based band and reissued its debut LP, Love Comes Close, what with endlessly catchy tracks such as “Life Magazine” contained therein. The group’s lineup also helps to explain its awesomeness: Eisold is joined by former Xiu Xiu member Caralee McElroy and Dominick Fernow, also known as cult noisemaker Prurient. Opening the evening is L.A.’s own Nite Jewel, whose dulcet and rhythm-heavy keyboard jams should do their part to float listeners into the rafters before Cold Cave takes them subterranean. (Chris Martins)
Also playing Sunday:
BRIAN WILSON, DAVE ALVIN, THE LIVING SISTERS, HARPER SIMON at Walt Disney Concert Hall; PETER HIMMELMAN at the Air Conditioned Lounge (11 a.m.); JO KRASEVICH, ALASKAN SUMMER, SKYLER STONESTREET, LYNHURST at the Hotel Cafe; MACK WINSTON & THE REFLECTIONS, VEIL VEIL VANISH, TAMARYN at the Bootleg Theater; LUKE RATHBORNE at Largo at the Coronet.
Manimal Records Residency feat. Polyamourous Affair, Zaza, Tearist, Laco$te at the Echo
There are many Southern California sounds, and they range from trippy psychedelia to Topanga folk to funky rock and soul and beyond. Hot L.A. label Manimal Vinyl puts the emphasis on the latter — beyond — and infuses it with much of the former. Which is to say that like all forward-thinking labels, it’s hard to draw a circle around what a label does, other than that it offers surprise after surprise. Tonight begins Manimal’s risque residency at the Echo, and those looking to understand where L.A. music (and a few East Coast refugees) is headed in the next decade would be wise to clear their Monday schedule. Over the course of the month Manimal will showcase most of its roster, starting with this evening’s rhythm heavy set from a flock of Manimals. Expect a little bit of pop-thump-lounge (Polyamourous Affair), some guitar-wash introspection (Brooklyn’s Zaza), hot freakazoid dance music (the buzzing Tearist) and the recently signed synth/punk/noise troupe Laco$te. (Randall Roberts)
Morrissey at the Fox Theater in Pomona
He takes his shirt off for you and — doink! — you pelt him with a beer bottle? Morrissey has had his share of problems on his current world tour: he’s collapsed on stage; walked off after being hit in the head; and had a heckling fan thrown out. He was probably singing “If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look at Me” or some other witty, sharp-tongued track off his latest Swords, a collection of B-sides and rarities from his last three albums. And during his last SoCal stop at this year’s Coachella, Morrissey also left mid-performance because the stench of barbeque proved to be too much. Coincidentally, the flared nostrils on Swords’ cover make him look like he’s standing in a pile of Big Macs. The only problem he’ll have performing here in L.A. are all the bodies flinging on stage, trying to hug him; his 2007 Hollywood Bowl appearance included a record 10, count ‘em, 10. But he’s older and softer now, and can bruise like a peach. So be careful. We’re going to want him back. Also at the Gibson Amphitheater, Thurs., Dec. 10. (Siran Babayan)
Also playing Monday:
RACHEL CANTU at the Bootleg Theater; MATTHEW BANKS, AIYANA CADWELL, EDWARD “TEX” MILLER at Home; THE BLIND BOY PAXTON & FRANK FAIRFIELD VARIETY SHOW at the Redwood Bar; GIANT STATE, LINKS, REPEATER, MATA LEON at the Silverlake Lounge; MERE MORTALS, GRAND DUCHY (WITH BLACK FRANCIS AND VIOLET CLARK) at Spaceland.
Willie Nelson at Club Nokia
There’s something so classic and familiar about Willie Nelson’s songs and his voice, which are as comforting and weathered as his famously beat-up old acoustic guitar, Trigger. When he was in Lake Elsinore for an afternoon set back in August, he was dressed completely in black, seemingly undeterred by a temperature that soared well over 100 degrees. After tossing his black cowboy hat into the crowd, he quickly donned a giant tan sombrero and kept right on going without missing a beat. While Nelson is righteously celebrated as a songwriter, he’s also an underrated guitarist, stirring up fluidly groovy bluesy-jazzy lead-guitar runs, which he flips quickly within the chords or spins out into longer jams as his band ramps up throbbing boogies behind him. (Keeping it all in the family, his smokin’ group features his sister Bobbie Nelson on piano and his son Lukas Nelson on lead guitar.) While cynics grouse that Willie’s rather-prolific output over the past decade — seemingly touring nonstop while releasing at least one new album every year — is merely the result of his ongoing attempts to pay back the IRS, the truth is that he’s still making vital, interesting music instead of just coasting on his old hits. In the past few years, Nelson has tried his hand at reggae (Countryman), paid homage to songwriter Cindy Walker (You Don’t Know Me) and released another album of pop standards, whose title is a fitting description of the man himself: American Classic. (Falling James)
Also playing Tuesday:
JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; YELLOW RED SPARKS, THE STEELWELLS, HORSE STORIES, SON OF THE VELVET RAT at the Bootleg Theater; THE FRENCH SEMESTER, THE SPIRES, THE MONTHLIES at the Echo; BLACK FRANCIS & FLEA, WEIRD AL YANKOVIC, MICHAEL PENN, DAVID J., GRAND DUCHY, THE 88, OK GO’S TIM & DAMIAN at the Echoplex; BRYAN & THE MODERN CONSPIRACY, XDAO, STILL CHAOS, IMPULSIVE LUST at Good Hurt; AUTOMATIC LOVELETTER, AM, SARA LOV at the Hotel Cafe; BRUCE HORNSBY & THE NOISEMAKERS, BOB SCHNEIDER at House of Blues; BLACK MATH HORSEMAN, JESUS MAKES THE SHOTGUN SOUND, NATIONAL SUNDAY LAW at the Silverlake Lounge.
Califone at the Hammer Museum
These well-connected Chicagoans have been making a consistently compelling avant-roots racket for more than a decade now, and they’ve been doing it for longer than that if you count the work they did in a slightly different arrangement as Red Red Meat, whose killer 1995 disc Bunny Gets Paid received the deluxe-reissue treatment from Sub Pop earlier this year. Califone’s latest effort is the typically textural All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, released in October by Indiana’s Dead Oceans label; it serves as the soundtrack to a feature film directed by frontman Tim Rutili about a psychic woman who lives in a haunted house in the middle of the woods. At tonight’s show — entrance to which is free for those who arrive before the venue fills up — the band will perform the album as live accompaniment to the movie, then play an additional set comprising tunes from Califone’s ample catalog. (Mikael Wood)
Also playing Wednesday:
BEBEL GILBERTO at the Henry Fonda Theater; JOHNNY CLARKE & ROOTS COVENANT at the Echoplex; JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; METALLICA, VOLBEAT, MACHINE HEAD at the Honda Center; ZAZA at Spaceland; THE GOOD LISTENERS, BUDDY, CAVE COUNTRY, GRAND HALLWAY at the Bootleg Theater; ROCKET CHIRAC, SEEING THINGZ, FIRE AT PLAY, MUR MUR at the Good Hurt; SEAN PAUL at the House of Blues; BREATHE CAROLINA, CASH CASH, STEPHEN JERZAK, KILL PARADISE, FIGHT FAIR at the Roxy.
Two Tears at the Prospector
The rise and fall of the ’90s band the Red Aunts is almost a Tinseltown cliché. When the Red Aunts first got together, they had an organic, uncontrived charm and lo-fi enthusiasm that made up for the fact that none of them could really play their instruments. If nothing else, they seemed to be in on their own joke. But, as so often happens, once they got coverage in Flipside and attracted the attention of major labels, they became just as serious and pretentious as the groups they used to lampoon. By the time the Red Aunts broke up, they still couldn’t play their instruments, but they’d nonetheless developed outsized rock-star egos, and the joke was now on them. The band’s best musician and songwriter, Kerry Davis, dropped out of sight before moving to New York, where she eventually reinvented herself in the raw, primitive garage-punk combo Two Tears. Their debut CD, Little Tea, is far more tuneful and catchy than anything the Red Aunts ever released, as Davis strums and sings sly, stripped-down anthems like “2nd Worst Girlfriend in the World” and “Up in My Tree.” Two Tears play garage rock, sure, but not in the literal, slavishly derivative style of retro groups like the Hives and the Fuzztones. Instead, Davis’ dark-&-fuzzy rambles are closer in spirit to such art-garage sonic reducers as the Cheater Slicks, the Oblivians, and the Bassholes. Also at the Redwood Bar & Grill, Fri., Dec. 11. (Falling James)
Ceci Bastida at Eastside Luv
The Mexican singer Ceci Bastida has come a long way since getting her start at the age of 15 as one of the three singers with the great ’90s ska-punk band Tijuana No. Back then, she was a shy performer who was hidden behind her keyboards, and she was often overshadowed (and sometimes literally drowned out) by the band’s other two singers, but Bastida also sang some of the band’s most memorable tunes, including “Pobre de Ti,” “Nadie Dijo Nada” and a wonderful cover of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs.” After Tijuana No broke up earlier this decade, she stepped back into the shadows, seemingly content to play keyboards in a supporting role for the celebrated Latin-pop singer Julieta Venegas. In recent years, though, Bastida has finally taken control of her own career, releasing an enchanting debut solo EP, Front BC, in 2006, and exploring an impressive variety of musical styles in collaborations with Soulico, Pigeon John, Legion of Doom, Volumen Cero and Mexican Institute of Sound. While her new songs aren’t as fiery or confrontational as Tijuana No’s revolutionary punk blasts, tracks like “Controlar” and “Muevete” are multilayered, elaborately arranged forays into art-pop, rock and hip-hop that bode well for Bastida’s upcoming full-length CD, Veo la Marea. (Falling James)
Also playing Thursday:
SKINNY PUPPY, VVEREVVOLF GREHV at Club Nokia; JONATHAN RICHMAN at the Mint; MORRISSEY, DOLL & THE KICKS at the Gibson Amphitheatre; DEADBOLT, THROW RAG, MOTOCHRIST at the Echo; KENNETH PATTENGALE, JIM BIANCO, THE RESCUES & NINA STOREY at the Hotel Cafe; MONTE NEGRO, RUIDE DE FONDO, TASSO, THE ALTERNATES at the Roxy; ALANIS MORISSETTE, GREG LASWELL, MISS WILLIE BROWN, ANDREW WK at the Troubadour.
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