at Vault 350, March 4 No one knew what to expect from this Long Beach show, since a member of the Game’s camp was shot by 50 Cent’s security outside a New York radio station last week. But that didn’t deter the huge crowd, including a bunch of Bloods. After midnight, the Game walked on with a pair of black high-top Chuck Taylors hanging around his neck and ripped into the killer “Westside Story.” He changed a line to “Ain’t fuckin’ with G-Unit,” and it was on and poppin’: “I represent the B’s, the C’s and the Eses, I represent the West. Fuck G-Unit!” “I got lost in New York, had a little bit of drama,” he observed, then spewed out, “I took five [gunshots], fuck them niggas.” He then introduced “My homeboy DJ Quik from the Hub City” — yes, he had the Compton rapper/producer at the turntables. They switched positions; DJ Quik got on the mic for his pop-your-cherry song “Tonite,” and the crowd went wild, singing “Tonite is the nite!” The Game rolled out on a low-rider bike as the Kanye West–produced bass line of “Dreams” kicked in; this time he changed a line to “Fuck Curtis Jackson” (50 Cent’s birth name). “I’m tired of bullshittin’,” the Game spat and proceeded to strip down, taking off his hooded sweatshirt and revealing a bulletproof vest; he then removed that to reveal a gang of tats, including “N.W.A” on his right chest. “Tony Yayo — can suck my dick! Lloyd Banks — can suck my dick! 50 Cent — can suck my dick! G-Unit — can suck my dick!” he proclaimed as the bass bumped on “How We Do,” and the dancers rode low-rider bikes behind. “There’s about 100 cops outside,” he told the crowd and attacked his last song, “Start From Scratch,” only to get emotional and cover his face: “Rest in peace, Billboard.” Before leaving, he had the crowd chanting, “Fuck 50 Cent!” As we exited onto Pine Avenue, the Long Beach PD stood in full riot gear, with a ghetto bird above flashing its searchlight. So you thought the Biggie Smalls–Tupac beef was big?
at Avalon, March 3 Exactly who benefited from Michael Mayer deejaying Avalon’s enormo-room Thursday night? It couldn’t have been the promoters — the scant turnout assured their shirts got misplaced. It couldn’t have been the bartenders, pouring themselves generous portions to escape boredom. And it certainly wasn’t the L.A. techno faithful, who came out to support Mayer, co-founder of Cologne’s massively influential Kompakt Records, but were left trying to imagine a party vibe in a soulless cave. No blame on them — or on Mayer. He spent three hours massaging the room’s bowel-gyrating sound system (sole positive attribute) with a booming set that was by turns brash, trancentric and maxi-minimalist, the kind of brainy yet populist mix that’s made him among the most respected big-room techno jocks this side of Richie Hawtin. Mayer and the current Kompakt roster favor a big, bold (dare I say it) rave sound, equally reliant on mass strategies (major-chord changes familiar to symphony buffs, classic rockers and pop-ambient fans alike) and on underground innovation (rolling waves of crackling micro-rhythms, hopped-up avant-garde sound programs). His set surfed through a tireless procession of Who-like riffs, post–T. Rex shuffles (reconceived by Berlin and Cologne as the schaffel riddim), titanic pop-trance epics (Superpitcher’s drop-dead-gorgeous remix of MFA’s “The Difference It Makes”) and assorted Teutonic bangers, with enough energy to wake the dead. But somewhere between the five-foot-high stage and the few dozen faithful on the floor, the energy dissipated. This would have been less likely if Mayer played the Avalon’s more intimate Spider Club room, which has the sweatbox atmosphere beat gourmets crave (the kind that’s been getting more common around L.A. of late). The way it went down, though, Mayer’s set did no one any favors. —Piotr Orlov
at the Hotel Café, February 24, and Tangier, February 25 “This is why I always whisper,” France’s Keren Ann Zeidel confided during the time-suspended idyll “Not Going Anywhere” in a barely-there voice over her effectively sparse flecks of guitar, lingering on each word so that each breathy syllable and faintly hopeful upward lilt floated cloudlike above the Hotel Café’s bar. One fan was so enraptured, leaning forward and literally hanging on to her every inflection, that he almost keeled over at the soft burr of her first harmonica note. Belying the somber moods of “By the Cathedral” and the bewitching Chelsea Hotel evocation “Chelsea Burns,” Keren Ann grinned conspiratorially throughout, accompanied only by keyboardist Jason Hart, whose xylophone chimed like a slowly unwinding music box. At Tangier, she strummed more of her early French chansons and joked, “You don’t have to understand French to understand this song, because it’s . . . one of those songs.” England’s A Girl Called Eddy (formerly New Jersey’s Erin Moran) also lets her late-night-conversation lyrics do most of her talking, although at Tangier she confessed, “This is a song about some guy. It’s amazing what two co-dependent people can create together,” before launching into the cathartically romantic “Somebody Hurt You,” kneading her keyboard with comfort-food warmth. She contrasted downbeat pop ballads such as “Tears All Over Town” and the inspirational “People Used To Dream About the Future” with the jaunty shuffle “Life Thru the Same Lens,” imbuing everything with that low, languid voice. On last year’s debut album, A Girl Called Eddy generally sang with more volume than Keren Ann, but, given the intimate venues and without her full band, she stripped down the arrangement of “The Long Goodbye” until all that was left was its heartbroken, unforgettable melody. —Falling James

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