Junior Brown at the Key Club

Honky-tonk renegade Junior Brown is the consummate misfit. Beating the hell out of his one-of-a-kind guit-steel ax (the custom ax that he had built after it appeared to him in a dream), roaring lyrics with coarse, chain-saw toned vocals and always displaying the sort of nimble fingered facility that makes guitar geeks around the world go limp and twitchy, the Arizona-born, Texas-informed, Oklahoma-based musician works a drastic mixture of hard-country philosophy and heavy-gauge rock & roll. It’s a combination so wildly disparate that only a certified genius could make it work, and Brown has deftly exploited it: Winning an award from the incestuous, highly politicized Country Music Association is a small feat, but he took its Video of the Year honor for 1996’s “My Wife Thinks You’re Dead,” conferring a degree of legitimacy that Brown has subsequently (and wisely) done little to further. The man strictly goes his own way, and every jaunt is like a Tilt-A-Whirl ride to a gaudy, absurdist and perfectly realized country-music realm. (Jonny Whiteside)

Also playing Thursday:

RADIOHEAD at Santa Barbara Bowl; Matthew Sweet, Greg Laswell at the Echo; Nortec Collective, Bostich, Fussible at the Knitting Factory; CARLOS GUITARLOS at Eastside Luv; Toots & the Maytals at Santa Monica Pier.



Southern Culture on the Skids at Malibu Inn

The fun-loving North Carolina trio Southern Culture on the Skids expanded the boundaries of their goofily mythical version of rural America a bit on their 2007 CD, the all-covers collection Countrypolitan Favorites (Yep Roc). Singer-guitarist Rick Miller tore it up on versions of such country tunes as Don Gibson’s “Oh Lonesome Me” and the Kinks’ “Muswell Hillbilly,” but he also turned the Who’s “Happy Jack” into a banjo-spiked hoedown, which was smartly driven along by stolid drummer Dave Hartman, whereas his duet with singer-bassist Mary Huff on Marc Bolan’s “Life’s a Gas” was unexpectedly spectral instead of cornpone and rootsy. Underneath her gravity-defying, seemingly sentient wigs, Huff packs a powerhouse voice that she put to good use on remakes of “Rose Garden” and Wanda Jackson’s feverishly enchanting classic “Funnel of Love,” as well as two songs by John Fogerty (“Tombstone Shadow” and “Fight Fire”). Meanwhile, Miller’s unpretentious garage-surf originals are generally about the pleasures of drinking, eating and making love, sometimes all at once. Dig in. Also at the Echo, Sun. (Falling James)

Also playing Friday:

HOT WATER MUSIC at El Rey; MELISSA ETHERIDGE at the Greek Theatre; THE BONEDADDYS at the Mint; LITTLE BROTHER at the Key Club.



The Knitters, Tex & the Horseheads at Safari Sam’s

Dedicated to the late Chris Gaffney, the inaugural Dog & Pony Show is intended to raise funds for ailing, financially struggling musicians by rounding up some of this town’s key roots-rock, country and rockabilly performers over the course of three days. The longtime folk revisionists the Knitters (with three members of X joined by Dave Alvin and the Red Devils’ Jonny Ray Bartel) headline tonight with their rattling-train rhythms and wayward harmonies, followed on Sunday afternoon/evening by Dave Alvin & the Guilty Men, the Plimsouls’ Peter Case, and two of Gaffney’s bands, the Hacienda Brothers and the Cold Hard Facts. Monday’s bill includes the Blasters, Big Sandy, Mike Stinson and rockabilly cat Levi Dexter. Don’t miss this evening’s reunion of Tex & the Horseheads, the most expansively weird and unclassifiable group among these variously traditional rebels. Originally spun off from the Gun Club and lumped with the early-’80s cowpunk scene, the Horseheads have a dusty, tumbling-tumbleweeds sound that frequently rambles into trippier territory, thanks to the onstage interplay of gruff-voiced, no-nonsense guitar wrangler Mike Martt and charmingly daft singer Texacala Jones. They’re the real Burns & Allen. The show starts at 6 p.m. (Falling James)

Chuck Berry, Pinetop Perkins at the Long Beach Blues Festival

Maybe we should cut Chuck Berry some slack. After all, he invented most of what we now call rock & roll, and even though countless acolytes like the Rolling Stones have goosed and juiced up his licks, no one has ever really duplicated the suave way his lyrics pop with melody, wit and rhythm while succinctly painting memorable characters and telling perfect little stories. He has a reputation for dogging it live with randomly assembled backup bands (which have included Keith Richards and a pre-fame Bruce Springsteen), but perhaps the fault is ours, dear brutes. If only we had higher expectations than needing to hear “Johnny B. Goode” for the gadzillionth time. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if he did all new songs tonight or, considering the occasion, a full set of his beloved slow blues ballads. It would certainly blow some minds if he had room to explore obscurities like “Pass Away,” the mystically wise psychedelic/art-funk/pre-rap experiment that closes Berry’s excellent, if overlooked 1979 album Rock It. Brit blues-rock veteran John Mayall and the certifiably legendary Mississippi pianist Pinetop Perkins are also spotlighted tonight, followed Sunday by folk-blues shaman Taj Mahal, the terminally groovy instrumentals (“Green Onions,” “Time Is Tight”) of keyboardist Booker T. Jones and stacked further with Stax Records’ Eddie Floyd (“Knock on Wood”). Rainbow Lagoon Park, Long Beach. (Falling James)


The Melvins, Big Business at the Troubadour

There’s no doubting that the Melvins have done enough to secure their legacy in both the alt-rock and heavy-metal record books; that these dudes somehow turned Kurt Cobain’s admiration into an improbable mid-’90s deal with Atlantic is reason alone to bestow them with lifelong props in my estimation. Regardless, the band — currently including old-timers Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, as well as bassist Jared Warren and second drummer Coady Willis — keep releasing excellent records as if they still have something to prove. Nude With Boots, their latest for Mike Patton’s Ipecac label, is noisy, funny and surprisingly catchy; it’s even got a few numbers the Atlantic suits might not have regretted releasing. Warren and Willis open the show under the guise of their avant-boogie duo Big Business. Also Sun. (Mikael Wood)

Also playing Saturday:



F Yeah Fest Scavenger Hunt at Echo Park Lake

This weekend’s F Yeah Fest is so chock-full of goodies that we couldn’t fit it all in one space, and want to honor Sunday’s nutty and insanely great lineup with its own recommendation. The day begins at Echo Park Lake with a scavenger hunt that will stretch across Los Angeles and feature teams of between two and five people chasing clues and oddball items for points. Last year, points were accrued through accomplishment of such astounding feats as teams getting cornrows and extendo-nails; finding a pre-1987 gay porno magazine and a life-size cutout of Eazy E; getting your picture taken kissing a stranger on the lips (50 extra points if he/she is a senior citizen). Teams are encouraged to don costumes and come up with a good team moniker. Prizes include cash, a radio slot on KXLU, free CDs and a jumbo bottle of whiskey (or a keg of Crystal Clear Pepsi for the underagers). The day is capped with performances by Dan Deacon, Trans Am and Polvo (see below). (Randall Roberts) 

Trans Am and Polvo at the Echo

The first time I saw Trans Am was at CMJ 1998, just before the release of the band’s fourth album. A kind of Tron rock ruled the stage, with frantic drums, man-machine vocals and propulsive synth lines combining to create the soundtrack for a dystopian Futureworld. In the decade that has followed, Trans Am never stopped to repeat itself. With 2002’s TA, the band nodded toward Daft Punk, or at least to similar influences, before it was fashionable. Two years later, they released the stark, politically charged Liberation. Most recently, Trans Am dropped the vocoders for Sex Change. Through it all, though, the trio have remained a live force not to be missed. (Liz Ohanesian) 

Although they have veered from math to experimental rock and bravely beyond, Polvo have repped Chapel Hill’s continually underrated scene for nearly 20 years. Through a series of hypnotic efforts that merged Eastern drone and crunchy Western arpeggios, the guitar band bubbled under the radar like lava waiting to blow. And though they never did, classics like Cor-Crane Secret, Exploded Drawing and Shapes mark Polvo as that rare secret pleasure that drives deep-cut collectors into sonic nirvana. A blessing, in sum, not a curse. (Scott Thill)

Also playing Sunday:




Ice Cube at House of Blues

By his own admission, Ice Cube was “the nigga ya love to hate.” In all fairness, he said that before he became the star of Are We There Yet? Many people dump on the rapper and label him a sellout for some of his more recent Hollywood roles, but the man’s gotta earn a living, right? Besides, his new record, Raw Footage, is as ferocious as one could expect from a guy with boatloads of money. Cube tackles the perils of the Iraq war and selling drugs on “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” and gives a voice to victims of senseless violence on “Why Me?” The idea might contradict “taking a life or two/that’s what the hell I do/you don’t like how I’m living/well fuck you” from N.W.A’s “Gangsta Gangsta,” but rhyming about the same shit he did in his teens would be a much larger letdown than starring in the action film xXx: State of the Union. (Ryan Ritchie)


C.W. Stoneking at the Redwood Bar & Grill

Cliché though it might be, nevertheless, it must be said that when old-time delta blues man C.W. Stoneking sings, you can hear the crackles on the ancient vinyl 78 you’re spinning. The only thing is, C.W. Stoneking didn’t make this recording, King Hokum (Level Two Music), 80 years ago. Why, this music is brand spanking new. In fact, turns out C.W. hails from the delta region of northwest Australia, where the mannish boy honed and polished then roughed up his singular brew of 1920s whorehouse piano stylings, plank-plank hillbilly acoustic guitar and sandpapery vocal delivery. It’s almost shocking to hear this guy pull off this hybrid of revered American roots musics with such authenticity; you could even say it’s some real scholarly stuff, except that’d make it sound stiff and cold. Nope — while C.W.’s artful approach is not the “real deal,” it’s way far from any jive-ass white-boy blues corn, and in its sly-toned, humorous way is quite respectful of its sources, but not too respectful. Stoneking performs a residency at the Redwood from September 1 through September 8. (John Payne)

Also playing Monday:




Sons and Daughters and Birdmonster at the Troubadour

Sons and Daughters were once a glaring example of the transatlantic pop shuffle between Britain and America you only saw in the late ’50s (think Pete Best–era Beatles). At a Spaceland performance a few years ago, the Glasgow band’s unironic homage to early rock & roll was lost on the hipster masses, and yet a grudging respect was palpable, no doubt because front woman Adele Bethel — she of the penetrating coal-black eyes — dared Silver Lakians to find something quaint in her band’s Scots-a-billy. Thanks (no thanks?) to producer Bernard Butler, This Gift has fewer echoes of the road house, but the ex-Suede man can’t smooth over Bethel’s voice, which tends to stretch single vowels into triphthongs while toggling between clotted-cream purr and piercing keen. Even at their hookiest, a fatalistic melancholy hounds S&D like the firth-borne fog of their native city. Best taken with a Dewar’s on the rocks. Tonight is also the record release party for San Francisco’s Birdmonster. (Andrew Lentz)

Paul Weller at the Wiltern

It’s a little bit strange to hear ex-Jam man Paul Weller broaden his musical palette so much on his new 22 Dreams (Yep Roc). But that’s just the old perception — that Weller’s a punk, man, or a nu-Mod, an angry young man who hates hippies and plays clean-lined, foursquare music that splashes you in the face with its cold, unambiguous reality. Never the most good-humored person to walk the planet, Weller — albeit incorporating an increasing mix of stylistic gambits including soul, jazz and folk strains — has produced sporadically great moments in song that have been stifled by a hovering lecturing tone. I’m happy to say, however, that all of my above reservations about Weller have been assuaged with this new album, where his sternness has been revealed as earnestness in his forays through a very wide-ranging and generously numbered set of tunes that revel in his fascination for rock’s links with classical strains, R&B, English folk, free jazz, electronic dance and progressive-rock textural ambitions, even. He’s just grown up, I guess. Or maybe I have. (John Payne)

Also playing Tuesday:

THE WOMBATS at the Echoplex; CENTROMATIC at Spaceland.



Bob Dylan at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium

Most performers from his generation are currently out on the links playing golf or hawking their precious Summer of Love memories on infomercials, but Bob Dylan has been thriving creatively in recent years. With a wide-ranging satellite radio show (Theme Time Radio Hour) and a personable, myth-debunking autobiography (Chronicles, Volume 1), the notoriously erratic and reclusive singer seems engaged with the world again. It just goes to show that Dylan is human, the kind of emotional ballplayer who has taken his lumps yet still manages to get up for the big games. On his most recent CD, 2006’s widely (and justifiably) praised Modern Times, he contrasts his apocalyptic foreboding with lustful shout-outs to Alicia Keys, buttressed by an intuitively flexible country-blues band. Their sinuous beats and shadowy atmospherics instill a sense of genuine mystery in songs like “Ain’t Talkin’” and “Thunder on the Mountain.” Dylan’s not likely to coddle the crowd tonight with between-song pleasantries, and his radical rearrangements of prized classics don’t always work, but his constant risk-taking fends off the paralysis of nostalgia. (Falling James)

Loudon Wainwright III at Largo

Loudon Wainwright III’s name has gotten the most play lately in connection with his kids Rufus and Martha, both of whom joined the family songwriting business and command the devoted followings to prove it. (Rufus and Martha’s mom — and Loudon’s ex-wife — is Canadian folkie Kate McGarrigle.) But this month, the L.A.-based artist has a fine new album out that should remind listeners of where his offspring got their genes — literally: On Recovery, the follow-up to last year’s Knocked Up soundtrack album Strange Weirdos, Wainwright revisits material from the early portion of his career, leading a band that includes keyboardist Patrick Warren, guitarist Greg Leisz and producer Joe Henry through fleshed-out arrangements of alternately tender and acerbic ditties like “Saw Your Name in the Paper,” “School Days” and “Motel Blues.” (Alas, no “Dead Skunk.”) Expect the VH1 Storytellers treatment tonight. (Mikael Wood)


Also playing Wednesday:

LEE “SCRATCH” PERRY at the El Rey; THE NIGHT MARCHERS at the Echo; THREE 6 MAFIA at House of Blues.



Why? at the Echoplex

It’s hard to imagine a better cross-section of this city’s young and restless than a Why? gig. They all turn out in droves: the lovelorn Romeos and diary Don Juans, the scenester kids in American Apparel monochromes, the hip-hop fans with bouncing hands, the vegan folksters, the slick rockers, the mixtape traders and the occasional goth too — and it’s no wonder. When the Oakland crew’s third LP, Alopecia, dropped this March to rave reviews, it was plenty clear that Why? are the sole owners of their sound, a kaleidoscopic fruit roll-up of Pavement shambolics, Dylanesque imagery, Lil Wayne-y warped rap and Arthur Russell experimentalism (and then some). But this ain’t no po-mo car crash. Experienced in person, the winsome Yoni Wolf and his multi-instrumentalist ’mates become modern art-pop masters — as likely to inspire a sing-along as an impromptu poem scribbled on a ticket stub. (Chris Martins)

Also playing Thursday:

THE BAD PLUS at the Catalina Bar & Grill; TOM BROSSEAU at the Smell.

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