|Photo by Wild Don Lewis|
at the Whisky, December 23
Dumb, dumb fucks. Blinkered, ’70s-dwelling, laminate-waving, trend-tracking sycophants. When will the major record labels wake from their after-party, plus-one paralysis, escape their herding instinct, shed their clone-crammed rosters and smell the likes of Abloom, an L.A. quintet who may coax hard rock from its corporate slumber?
Abloom’s pedigree, as members of slam-dive staples Soulfly and OneSideZero, is drawing crowds for these early shows (tonight was only their eighth), but their previous acts only hint at what they’ve currently concocted. Equal parts System of a Down, Journey and Led Zeppelin, Abloom are accessible yet ambitious, of-the-people yet arcane, commercially viable but artistically pure. Abloom’s engine of adventure is ex–Ozzy Osbourne/Dave Navarro drummer Roy Mayorga, who explores his expansive kit with both seasoned expertise and youthful wonder, visiting global tattoos of such variety that, when he returns to trusty rock grooves, they too sound exotic. Guitarist Levon Sultanian peels off tasteful trails of ethnic evocation, arpeggiating the upper registers to mimic traditional instruments of the Caucasus and indulging in Thin Lizzy–esque twin-ax Celtic harmonizing with partner Mike Doling. All these worldly references might amount to but prog-rock pud-pulling without the epic incantations and hunching anguish of vocalist Jason Radford, whose rich roar and hearty vibrato resonate on multiple levels, at once sensitive, wounded, empowered and enraged. Radford and Doling break the spell with incongruous cliché-cluttered banter, but it’s this collision of familiar and far-fetched, grounded and grandiose, that makes Abloom so enticing.
Abloom are the future of high-street heaviness: intriguing enough for the critics, yet dangling sufficient hooks to reel in even casual listeners; multifaceted, cultured and diverse arrangements never compromise passion, muscle and melody. Tonight the Whisky was only reasonably full, but for every soul who witnessed this there’ll be plenty who’ll pretend they were here two years from now.
CHARLES LLOYD QUARTET
at Catalina Bar & Grill, January 9 and 11
Reasons you should connect with Charles Lloyd whenever he visits: He embodies all the best of jazz — the conception, the technique, the communication, the spirit. He always ignites a world-class band, here pianist Geri Allen, drummer Eric Harland and five-string bassist Robert Hurst, together a year and playing like one human. And he taps vast resources of material, never photocopying, and giving everything every time.
Like Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” Lloyd’s tribute to Nina Simone. On Friday it was a Spanish funeral march — but proud, lance held high. On Sunday, after he’d labored in the recording studio all day, he did it as a first-set encore, breathing out the heart-torn melody with infinite feeling and simplicity before staggering under the weight of mortality, allowing musical sobs to escape his tenor till he simply could not go on. Lloyd’s expression on alto flute is especially thrilling right now; its penetrating/soothing wholeness wove like a silver rope through the funkback “Little Peace,” wherein Harland (sloshy New Orleans ease), Allen (jabbing between) and Hurst (if he’s too quiet, why do I keep picking up his variations?) put on a master clinic in suggestible interlocution. And Friday’s moody, sexy take on “Cape to Cairo Suite” exuded black magic, with Allen’s elf boots riding the sustain pedal on a water-flow solo as Lloyd, cradling his sax, squinted and waved occult gestures in the air.
This edition of Catalina, though in occasional sound-quirk transition, is a much more comfortable bunker where you can stretch out and listen. And that’s what the audience did. L.A. jazz fans may not be proportionally numerous, but their attendance, their attention and their rave-on enthusiasm show they damn well have ears. (Greg Burk)
at the Echo, January 9
Los Angeles must be a world-class city, because everyone is fashionably late. This being the Echo, however, everything is superduper late, and Ladytronic beatmeister Daniel Hunt must have been on Liverpool time. That’s not a bad thing when you’ve got in-house turntable talent like Steve Pross — the Emperor Norton honcho doing takes from the upcoming Felix Da Housecat release — and Plastique’s Dave Sleaze, whose no-school punk/alt-/new-wave selections were the perfect mood builders for the imminent arrival of electroclash royalty.
Trouble with this much-maligned scene is that if a DJ gets too adventurous it’s wasted on Saturday-night thrill seekers. That’s where Hunt — low-pro in trucker hat, sipping a Corona — and his business acumen come into play. By releasing Softcore Jukebox (a comp of the band’s favorites) ahead of his tour, he gave the left-field eclecticism a context. Give ’em a blueprint and they’ll dance, or so goes the logic, even when the tracks are as unclubby as My Bloody Valentine, the Shocking
Lee Hazlewood. Nevertheless, Hunt’s set was disappointingly straight-ahead, playing nostalgia-card numbers like “Seventeen,” verbatim selections from Softcore and — in that cheapest of cheap shots — Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It was about as spontaneous as hooking up an iPod to the PA and letting ’er rip.
But aside from straight men in fur coats, you knew this was a successful party because a) at least a third of the crowd spilled over into the back patio, blissfully ignorant in their nicotine haze; b) attention-craving lonely hearts were shaking it solo on the dais under the kliegs; and, most important, c) the energy was peaking even as the lights went up and peeps had to be thrown out. (Andrew Lentz)
SUICIDE GIRLS BURLESQUE, KENNEDY, BLOOM
at the Echo, January 10
Rather than yet another burlesque troupe, it’d be nice to see more lewd and tattooed nubiles like those on Suicidegirls.com forming rock bands. That said, despite its curious name, the Web site seems to have its booty — and brain — in the right place: celebrating unconventional forms of beauty, pushing boundaries of sexuality, viewing ink and piercings as artful forms of expression.
Unfortunately, the vibe at the Echo wasn’t much different from that of a strip club, and the lascivious spectacle lacked the coy sensuality that made the burlesque revival, in its infancy anyway, so refreshing. Two (all-male) trios opened up: Bloom, a tight and punchy outfit meshing T-Rexish melodies with Billy Squier–chunky guitar licks, followed by Kennedy, who didn’t fare as well as on record due to broken bass strings and a crowd of dudes growing impatient for the punky poontang to follow. By the time the glam-popsters got to their final number, even Ken’s nauseating chug-a-lug of an entire bottle of Jack Daniel’s (or was he faking us out with Lipton’s?) couldn’t generate much excitement.
Not so for the main event. Horny hipster boys hooted while spike-belted groupies, computer-nerd types and a noticeable butch contingent stood on chairs to glimpse their favorite cyber-tarts in the flesh. Titillating skits included a beer-swigging session turned wet-T-shirt jig to Joan Jett, and a kitchen-themed three-way scramble to “Chocolate Salty Balls” from the South Park soundtrack. There were lots of pasties and panties, and of course posing, prancing, grinding and girl-on-girl kissing — nothing you wouldn’t see most Hollywood go-go dancers do on any given night. Still, the Suicide Girls have obviously marketed themselves so well, it’s not really about what they do or don’t do at this point, but who they are and what they stand for. Too bad this brash tit-à-tête didn’t explore what that is. (Lina Lecaro)
THE PENFIFTEEN CLUB, CHEVY METAL
at the Malibu Inn, January 9
The Malibu Inn ain’t what it used to be. With recent renovations doubling its capacity and aggressive new management planning to bring the likes of KRS-One, the Dead Kennedys and General Public to its stage, the old roadhouse is starting to look like House of Blues West. The first-generation surfer dudes still haunting the place on Friday didn’t seem to mind, though. Judging from the stunning assortment of Malibu Stacies packing the floor to see Foo Fighters’ gifted drummer, Taylor Hawkins, crank up some moldy oldies with his weekend cover band, Chevy Metal, the term “Sunset Strip” has even more draw as an activity than a place.
It was unfortunate, however, that most of the beautiful people arrived too late to catch the early highlight of the evening, a set of the Penfifteen Club’s patented “ZZ/DC” funk-rock boogie. Aside from the botched ending that threatened to turn their otherwise spot-on cover of “Don’t Bring Me Down” into an Electric Light Or-castration, it was a triumphant evening for the phallic focus group. Their “Ms. Hilton” has been getting serious airtime as the rock & roll raspberry that socks it to Paris Hee Haw–style every time she milks a bull or steps in pig shit on her “reality” show, The Simple Life, so there was real electricity in the air when the Penfifteen Club whipped it out for their loyal fans.
You have to credit P15 front man Luke Tierney for having the foresight — and foreskin — to record an affectionate tribute to the ditzy dame a solid year and a half before she endeared herself to millions in the most downloaded sex romp in history. The affiliation has certainly proved productive: With “Ms. Hilton” the second most requested song on Santa Barbara’s KJEE, Penfifteen’s four horsemen of cock-rock have the distinction of being the only unsigned rock band in regular rotation on a Clear Channel–owned station. Viva la revolución, boys. (Liam Gowing)
(Photo by Wild Don Lewis)
THE DOLLYROTS, TRIPOD, XO
at the Smell, January 10
Feeding on the Aether in precise, propulsive frenzy, Tripod’s dynamic, sexual tyrannosaurus of sound is absorbed into the audience and atmosphere with the speed of hepatitis-laced sputum. The temperature of the punk (a sawdust stick used for igniting fireworks, burning slowly in this case) stays constant. The guitar works as a percussive, wavering beacon passing over the nail-gun bass lines, summoning a discofied soul at various points with the essence that is the high hat, as the defiant rumble of rock music pulsates.
The Dollyrots (a trio who surprisingly appear in Hewlett-Packard advertisements, extolling the virtues of doing it oneself) bodysurf inadvertent feedback waves, strumming in precision with shouty fury, their jagged static pop shooting out at odd angles.
XO are one guitar/voice with one drummer, laboring behind two orange blinky traffic lights that cast a golden haze across the ceiling. Heavy-metal hooks come on like a storm, battered by percussion and whipped by a voice changing from bovine croon to harpy’s shriek and back again, a circus act on a runaway train doused with multiple stimulants. (David Cotner)