KROQ INLAND INVASION
at Hyundai Pavilion, Devore, September 17
I have seen the future of rock & roll, and it’s equipped with two violins and
an accordion, and they’re dressed like exchange students who’ve lost their way
to the private school.
At this year’s KROQ Inland Invasion festival, the Arcade Fire rocked the house
in a major way, filling the stage and our hearts with what can only be described
as music from a dream we have yet to dream. As the band shredded through material
from their fantastic debut, Funeral, one of the percussionists just couldn’t
take it any more; he ran into the crowd and whipped his drumstick toward the
stage, squarely nailing one of the big video screens. To prove it wasn’t a mistake,
he did it again a second later, tearing back onstage to beat the crap out of
a motorcycle helmet, then a keyboard, then himself.
The frenzy didn’t stop there: Whoever slipped something into Rivers’ juice box
should be commended, because the show that he put on, nearly single-handedly,
was also furious and intense, quite unlike Weezer’s gentle Coachella set earlier
this year. Wielding his dark red Gibson SG like a nerdy Angus Young, running
around the stage and leaning back during every major melodic crescendo, Cuomo
was feeling it from the opening strains of “My Name is Jonas” through current
hits “Beverly Hills” and “We Are All On Drugs,” slowing down only for the show’s
sole encore, “Island In the Sun,” which he performed from the back row of seats
to the thousands in the lawn.
The surprise of the day came from Madness, whose infectious spirit had the entire
crowd on its feet — but what do you expect when you open with the giddy “House
of Fun” and keep it light while showing the kids what ska was like in the ’80s?
Beck teased the crowd with two bars of “Debra”; then covered “Do You Realize”
from the Flaming Lips — which was as beautiful as the harvest moon that had
crept up behind the cheap seats. His percussionist nearly stole the show, though,
as he breakdanced, pop-locked and goofed off, providing comic relief to Beck’s
more serious vibe of late.
I’ve always wanted to ask KROQ why they play so much 311. Sadly, their performance
at the all-day/all-night affair didn’t answer that question. Kudos to them for
busting with the drum solo, but their 50-minute set seemed to last all day.
Also no love to Oasis, who just stood there (as always), reeling off hits with
the apparent attitude that we should feel lucky they crawled out from under
the rock of obscurity for our benefit. At least Live knew they didn’t belong
Also noteworthy: Garbage, Bloc Party, Fishbone. Not noteworthy: The Bravery,
DJ AM, Jet. The latter proved that if you steal your sound from the Beatles
and the Stones, you’d better have a live act to back it up.
The Arcade Fire are the future, Jet are already has-beens.
at the Wiltern, September 16
The last couple of L.A. visits from Paul “Modfather” Weller — erstwhile leader
of mod-punk masters the Jam and soul pastichers the Style Council, and working-class
hero to Brits of a certain age — have been low-key acoustic affairs. So there’s
palpable anticipation for this full-band appearance, and the Wiltern’s teeming
with burly blokes and Anglo accents.
In shoulder-length, highlighted locks and boho scarf, the still-skinny Weller
is straight outta Stewart-era Faces and, at 47, oozes rock-star aura. With a
beat behind him, Weller’s roosterlike head bob, stomping strut and who-wants-some
posturing are almost involuntary as he works his way among his laddish four-piece
band. The instant-retro of Hammond organ and loose-yet-determined beats recalls
Charlatans U.K. (whose Tim Burgess guests during the encore), but Weller’s soulful
down-the-pub timbre, rueful nostalgia and grainy romanticism are his alone.
Liberally dipping into the upcoming As Is Now, for all its eclectic charms,
leaves an already subdued crowd mumbling; then the Jam’s “In the Crowd,” the
obscure (and tonight overarranged) “Tales From the Riverbank,” and a shockingly
tasty take on Rose Royce’s “Wishing on a Star” get cups aloft. Midcrescendo,
Weller and co. sit themselves down for an ill-timed acoustic section, muffling
the room’s energy until the Jam hit “That’s Entertainment” and the Style Council’s
“Shout to the Top” — replete with very un-Jamlike jamming — ensure an encore.
A generic swathes-of-color light show lends the impression of watching a giant-screen
TV. But everything that made this man a bona fide legend, in his homeland at
least, is here: timeless song-savvy; an intriguing mélange of soul, pop and
British Invasion stimuli; and an absolute authenticity that doesn’t dim with
DKT/MC5, SUN RA ARKESTRA, BARBEZ
at Royce Hall, September 17.
Retro-rock fun for old and older alike, DKT/MC5’s set turned out to be quite
the ex-rebel party. Didn’t begin that way, though, with original MC-Fivesters
Michael Davis, Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson unable to conceal their avuncular
geekitude. Kramer personified impotence behind the microbone, while guest barfer
Handsome Dick Manitoba’s used-car comedy fell flat. It took BellRays vox cyclone
Lisa Kekaula to pump some gas, and lawd, “I Believe to My Soul” indeed, that
woman poured it on. Then Greg Dulli’s expert rhythm & bellering, augmented by
Gilby Clarke’s git-tar and the blasting horns of local ex-Detroiters Phil Ranelin,
Charles Moore and Buzzy Jones, kept the energy injeculated, and an extended
gang-bang with the Sun Ra Arkestra, launched via the Ra/5 noise nugget “Starship,”
took the event extragalactic.
But lo, the evening had peaked two hours earlier with the Arkestra’s voyage.
I beheld the unit’s majesty four times prior to Mr. Ra’s 1993 repatriation to
Saturn, and this was better. Blowing through older charts plus compositions
by current director and 40-year apostle Marshall Allen, the 15 masterful explorers
nailed the essence of Ra’s transcendent weirdness, seizing tight swing riffology,
Ellingtonian tapestries and blustery downtown blues, and pushing the forms to
the limit of chaos. Dense, crazy harmonies and multipulse rhythms like these
can be found nowhere else, and the cheering audience could feel the impact.
“It’s all about vibrations,” said veteran Ark trombonist Tyrone Hill, waylaid
after the performance. “You’ve heard about the trumpets and the walls of Jericho,
right? Music can change the world.”
Brooklyn’s Barbez, a midtempo Balkan-rock ensemble featuring colorful malletwork
and virtuoso theremin, opened with their doleful, chilly tribute to Europe Deceased.
Music good, motivation elusive.
SIX DEGREES FESTIVAL
at Six Degrees Warehouse, downtown L.A., September 17
Strange things happen when you mash up art, fashion, politics and downtown Los
Angeles. For one, you get scammers, like the shipping company that arranged
parking across the street from the Six Degrees Fest’s five interconnected warehouses.
After grifting $5 per car, they changed their minds, causing partygoers to race
madly to beat a phalanx of tow trucks sent to impound everything in sight. The
dissonance was also evident inside the event — a downtown art/music/shopping
extravaganza marking its second year. In the Zone 5 fashion area (the event
was divided among several warehouse “zones”) they were blasting Motorhead at
deafening levels. (It was so loud, in fact, I almost forgot how bad Lemmy would
want to kill himself if he knew he were being used for a sales soundtrack.)
J. Boogie’s rousing set limped to a finale when songbird Gina Renee called for
more nonviolent rallies and fewer antiwar protests — which would’ve been fine,
except that she was sporting both a camo hat and a Che Guevara tee. The Ninja
Tune label fronted some quality musical acts, including Ammon Contact, Dwight
Trible and Blockhead, who played his Apple laptop to an audience that mostly
stood and watched, waiting for who knows what to happen. (Things got better
when some b-boys started breakdancing and fake-fighting.) But it was the funk
collective Breakestra, armed with real instruments (!), that supplied Six Degrees
with its highest temperatures, jamming without pause through everything from
James Brown to Jurassic 5 without a water break. Watching Do the Right Thing
actor/activist Roger Guenveur Smith lug around a huge cardboard box soliciting
dollars for Katrina relief was a blast, but I wasn’t surprised when some jackass
reached in and took a handful of cash for himself. We’re just that kind of country
sometimes, especially when politics get arty, baby.