Photos by Ted Soqui

at the Park Plaza, December 11

The L.A. Weekly celebrated 25 years as the country’s biggest and best alternative newsweekly with a party for longtime friends, family and foes at the grand old Park Plaza Hotel. The event was, as they say, a rousing success, with more than 1,500 people gathering in the hotel’s lobby and ballrooms to catch up with old cohorts and cronies, slap some backs, scam a lot of free food & drink, ogle the luminaries (and belly dancers), have a tarot-card reading, get a henna tattoo, and dance, dance, dance to Brendan Mullen’s freaky, funky DJ set. In the Plaza’s small concert area, several bands comprising members of the Weekly’s editorial and production staff performed, including a tenacious set by Gary Eaton and his Kingsizemaybe, Weekly creative director John Curry’s reconvened pop punks the Flyboys, and Dean Chamberlain’s timelessly suave Code Blue. The live-music segment of the evening’s entertainment was brought to a climax by the Kinksian jump of the 88 and the mosh-pit-inspiring energy and heart of Weekly-approved punk vets Bad Religion. The vibe was nice, everyone seemed really into it, and our gracious guests made the charity raffle benefiting Hollygrove Children and Family Services another huge success. That’s 25 years of free thinking and award-winning journalism, folks, something we can all be proud of. (John Payne)

at the Troubadour, December 11
Amen prioritize attitude and adrenaline over artistry, epitomizing the current metal malaise: a slew of bands who present intriguing lyrical imagery and perform with endearing abandon, but when the smoke clears offer little in terms of tunes. Front man Casey Chaos and his long-black-bangs brigade assault the stage with confrontational, strobe-light energy, gouging through passages of fizzing guitars, Rotten vocals and structured bombast with impassioned punk irreverence. A few weeks back, Amen relished pissing off Killing Joke’s 30-something crowd at El Rey, but Mondo Generator fans are not easily offended, and, robbed of their shock factor, Amen’s redundant rage makes little impression beyond the first three rows. Rich Jones’ chiming guitar layers and drummer Luke Johnson’s barbarian battering leave dents, but overall, with a hollow mix and frigid crowd, Amen’s flailing around only brings an overly tattered edge to already indistinct material.

Mondo Generator at first appear to be a predictably eccentric side project: the emaciated, bearded hooker (Kyuss/ Dwarves/QOTSA veteran Nick Oliveri) on vocals, the naughty-nurse-stripogram bassist, a Starsky and Hutch street-hustler drummer (ex–Kyuss/Fu Manchu man Brant Bjork) and, apparently, Drew Carey on guitar. It doesn’t bode well, but there’s an immediate and welcome contrast with Amen: Mondo groove, understanding how to let a riff breathe and bloom, and, however putrid Oliveri’s beyond-the-grave squawking becomes, there’s no hiding his musicality and, at times, downright melodiousness. It’s tempting to think that this lot wouldn’t get arrested without Oliveri’s résumé, but, after a set of stoner beats, fuzzy ‘n’ flexible bass lines and effected guitar, they’ve established their own tasteless yet tuneful space. Much of Mondo’s material channels Oliveri’s love of controlled substances — if this sonic and visual apparition is indeed drug-induced, consider yourself warned. (Paul Rogers)

at the Key Club, December 13

The Mysterious Rhinestone Cowboy hadn’t appeared on a Los Angeles stage for many years (reportedly awaiting a statute of limitations to run its course), but once he got there, the 64-year-old David Allan Coe made clear that he remains as threatening a performer as ever. Brandishing his trademark stars-and-bars Flying V, beard and hair entwined into multicolored ethnocentric hillbilly dreads, clad in a bright white antebellum pimp topcoat and hat, Coe launched into “Son of the South” with sweet, subdued menace; suddenly casting off the coat and hat, Coe lunged at the writhing, weed-burning crowd with naked musical aggression that he easily sustained for 90 minutes.

Burdened with decades of bizarre, self-aggrandizing stunts, Coe complained during one of many reflective between-song dissertations that the press rarely if ever writes about his music. It’s a valid beef; he’s a songwriter of considerable accomplishment and great metaphoric beauty (“Would You Lay With Me in a Field of Stone”); he’s a master of hard-country balladry (“This Bottle in My Hand”) and hardcore rabble-rousing (“If That Ain’t Country” had everyone screaming along, “You can kiss my ass!”). Coe threw down an orgiastic version of Steve Goodman’s backhills apocalypse “You Never Even Called Me by Name” and an eerie turn on his ghost-of-Hank number “The Last Ride.”

Coe’s five-piece band mostly worked a heavy-gauge Southern rock sound, he tossed out more “motherfucker”s than you’d find at a gangsta-rap festival, and at one point the proceedings nearly erupted into a riot. With a swaggering defiance tempered by an elegiac sense of his own mortality, Coe demonstrated not only his vaunted rebel pride but also a degree of crafty artistry that few others come close to approaching. (Jonny Whiteside)

at the Echo, December 12

An odd neo-goth-metal crossover ensemble, openers Jesus for Vegas were part hard rock, part glam rock, with a little Evanescence thrown in. While the band didn’t lack charisma, they did seem more suited for the Sunset Strip than Echo Park.

Next up were current buzz band the Fever. There are plenty of new bands returning to that old hard-hitting rock sound, but while most of them focus on the energy, they lack the Fever’s solid songwriting prowess. With ingenious chord progressions, triumvirate singing and copious amounts of dynamism (singer Geremy Jasper bobbed around onstage like a nouveau Iggy Pop), this group of ex–high school chums treated the moderately sized Echo like a rock arena. If more people in L.A. weren’t so afraid to dance at a rock show, the place would have been one big, sweaty pit. Whether cranking out high-voltage originals or a new take on Sheila E.’s ’80s jam “Glamorous Life,” the Fever were clearly the stars of the night. And yes, that was Quentin Tarantino checking them out . . .

Last to take the stage were the Vue. It’s obvious this quintet are from San Francisco — not many male lead singers can pull off wearing a peasant shirt these days. Rex Shelverton did just that, sort of, and the band entertained the crowd with their ’60s-ish, Stones-tinged rock. While they were certainly tight, something about the band’s appearance served as a time warp; it felt odd that the room wasn’t filled with the smell of pot and/or fluorescent psychedelic posters. Nonetheless, the Vue were a lively and pleasurable bunch. (Tatiana Simonian)

at Spaceland, December 13

If indie rock is dead — like the novel, and irony — why did this show feel so lively? Mac McCaughan’s first West Coast appearance under his solo pseudonym Portastatic drew a been-waiting-for-this-for-years crowd that behaved suspiciously as though it actually cared about his music. He’s sometimes used the name to explore byways the louder-faster-harder Superchunk can’t barrel down: a collaborative EP with Ken Vandermark, another of Tropicalia translations. But full-lengths like last year’s Summer of the Shark are modest yet inventive vehicles for his economical songcraft.

Tonight, McCaughan gussied up two songs with prerecorded backing tracks: a rumbling, low-tech loop for “Paratrooper” (“I just dropped in”) and his own drumming on “Noisy Night.” The show of effort was hardly needed, as a solo acoustic “Hey Salty,” with its lilting major sevenths and nautical puns (“We may be washed up, but we beat this boat to hell”) proved. On the decade-old “Naked Pilsners” and the brand-new “Autumn Got Dark,” McCaughan rocked out as much as the setting allowed, vibrating in place like a bobble-head doll while leaping to the upper-octave bray he uses to bore through Superchunk’s barrage. Punk’s not dead either, just older, and traveling lighter.

If Elephant 6 holdovers the Minders are underrated, it’s their own fault: The recent The Future’s Always Perfect barely hints at their live energy. Many of their songs could have issued from Robert Pollard’s pen — and mouth, though Portland-based but Portsmouth-born front man Martyn Leaper comes by his accent honestly. Drummer Joel Burrows drove the band straight past the candy store into the garage, while psychedelic codas tagged onto every third song or so kept them there. And Rebecca Cole, ably handling the bassless trio’s low end, Ray Manzarek style, was the most impressive keyboardist I’ve seen in a rock band this year — indie or otherwise. (Franklin Bruno)

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