Monday, May 24, 2010

Go See Hear: May 24-June 6

The last week of May looks to be a rather quiet one, so I thought I’d also cover the first week of June and make it a special holiday double issue.
I will mention that Tippy Canoe is making her way down from the Bay Area from a couple of local shows. She’ll be at the Echo Park Film Center on Saturday May 29 and doing the grand Grand Ole Echo on Sunday (Dead Rock West also is on the bill). The Oakland-based ukulele artist creates lively music (what else would you expect from someone who goes by the name “Tippy Canoe”) that draws upon old-timey traditions as well as modern rootsy music.
The Bootleg has a cool bill on the June 1 featuring the First Aid Kit and Samantha Crain. I don’t know much about the former besides that they are a Swedish group fronted by two sisters, Johanna & Klara Söderberg, who make beguiling Neko Case-like music. Samantha Crain hails from Oklahoma and her music also exudes a mystery, haunting quality. She has an alluring new disc, You (Understood) on Ramseur Records, the Avett Brothers’ old label.
The Crooked Still play Largo on June 2, the day after their fine new disc, Some Strange Country (which includes a version of the Jagger/Richards’ tune “You Got The Silver”) comes out on Signature Sounds. They take a youthful, spirited approach to bluegrass/acoustic-based music that feels both tradition-bound and unbound.
Continuing in the acoustic vein is an appearance by the London-based outfit, Mumford and Sons. They have generated a lot of buzz for their spirited updating of British folk music (I believe they have sold out one of their two shows at the Music Box). Their sound has been compared to Pogues and The Men They Couldn’t Hang (which just reminds of the late Deirdre O’Donoghue’s beloved radio show SNAP, where I first heard TMTCH along with a number of cool bands).
Hope everyone has a memorable Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Go See Hear: May 17-21

This week offers a mix of cult heroes and up & comers

The legendary Jonathan Richman swings through town for a couple of shows, which will undoubtedly be as idiosyncratic as ever. I got into his music way back during his vinyl days on Berserkley Records (“Hey, Ice Cream Man!”) but he still keeps cranking out his quirky stuff. Apparently his last disc is a Spanish import only where he sings in a variety of languages. He plays the Smell on the 18th and di Piazza’s in Long Beach from the 20-22.

Also, on the 18th, Roky Erickson has a show at the Mayan. Another legendary cult figure, Erickson’s life has sadly been plagued by mental illness and drug arrests. He is best known as the man behind the 13th Floor Elevators, whose hit “We’re Gonna Miss Me” is on the great garage rock nuggets. Happily he returns now on an up note with a great new disc, True Love Cast Out All Evil, on Anti-, that he did with the guys in Okkervil River. Even without Erickson’s backstory, the disc is powerful, memorable effort. Opening the show is a terrific local outfit, Leslie and the Badgers, who sound a bit like Emmylou Harris crossed with Neko Case. Their disc, Roomful of Smoke has been a favorite of mine for the past several month. The strong double bill, mixing the old and the new, stands as my “show of the week.”

On Thursday night, the Grammy Museum hosts an intimate event with Chris Hillman. Founding member of both the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, Hillman has helped make country-rock what it is today. I was at the Grammy Museum recently for their night with the Court Yard Hounds, it is a great little room to hear a musician talk and play a few tunes, so this night provides a unique opportunity to hear a Hall-of-Famer.

The Shout Out Louds and the Freelance Whales have a pair of shows at the El Rey May 20-21, although the show on the 21st is sold out, I believe. The Swedish Shout Out Loud continue to create melodic rock on their new disc, Work. Freelance Whales are a hip young band from the hip Brooklyn scene, but I have been liking the off-kilter Americana/indie rock sound of their debut, Weathervane.

Dan Mangan hails from the inventive Vancouver pop scene. His album, Nice, Nice, Nice, Very Nice not only reference Kurt Vonnegut but also attracted a bunch of acclaim in his homeland. He’s not as elaborate a Vancouver pop-ster as say A.C. Newman but his music holds intriguing qualities.

If you are looking for a show on Saturday night the 20th, the place to be is McCabe’s as the two of the more popular local Americana acts, The Chapin Sisters and I See Hawks In LA, hold court there. You can go wrong seeing either in a night and here you get both.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Go See Hear: May 11-16

Kate Miller-Heidke is opening up for Ben Folds at the Music Box Wednesday and Thursday. I actually wrote about her in the LA Weekly this week (, so I won’t get too long-winded now. But I will say that the up and coming Australian singer has a quirky New Wave dance pop style to her. At times, she reminds me of Lene Lovich, which I make as a compliment. While she’s an opener now, look for her to return to town with her own show before the year is out.

Jakob Dylan has gotten some good notices for his new disc, Women And Country. And he’s touring with two terrific women singers: Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. They are enough to recommend a show on their own. This 5/13 Wiltern show also features two other good-to-check-out groups, the Felice Brothers and honeyhoney. Strength in numbers for this bill.

The UK group, the Turin Brakes play the Echo 5/14. I have been enjoying listening to their new album, Outbursts. Despite its title, the disc isn’t filled with loud “outbursts” but well-crafted music that attractively blends folk, pop and rock.

The eccentric violin ace Andrew Bird has a pair of solo shows at Largo, May 14-15. I have only kept up with his work periodically but he always seems to be seeking out new musical territory.

Freedy Johnston has a show at the Mint on Saturday the 15th. He garnered many accolades in the early/mid-90s with his expertly penned tunes; he is probably best known for the 1994 gem, “Bad Reputation.” Earlier this year, Johnston put out his first album in around a decade; however, Rain On The City has no signs of rust. It’s a disc of terrifically crafted tunes that etch haunting tales of love and loss. At times suggesting a pensive Matthew Sweet, Johnston makes this disc a mostly quiet affair but he does turn up the energy on tracks like “Don’t Fall In Love With A Lonely Girl.” An album well-worth checking out as is this show.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Go See Hear: May 3-9

The first week of May features several notable shows.

The wonderful Hold Steady return to town with a show at the El Rey on Wednesday 5/5. Their just released Heaven Is Whenever is their first without longtime keyboardist Franz Nicolay, so it will be interesting to see how that affects the live shows. What does hold steady is Craig Finn’s knack for ramshackle yet epic story-songs and Tad Kubler’s big guitar playing.

Thursday finds Georgia-based troubadour Ken Will Morton in town at Harvelle’s for a BMI showcase. I have always enjoyed Morton’s music – it’s gritty and witty Americana and he shifts between rockier and quieter numbers with ease. Check him out (and his new record True Grit) and see if you find yourself saying “he should be better known.”

The Hold Steady’s one-time tourmates, the Drive-By Truckers roll into the Avalon on Friday to support their big new album, The Big To-Do. DBT have established themselves over the past few years as not just one of the predominant Southern Rock bands around, but as one of the best American Rock bands around, and these road warriors certainly know how to put on a show.

Friday the legendary Peter Gabriel has a show at the Hollywood Bowl; however, I want to talk about his opening act, Ane Brun. This Norwegian songtress captured my attention a couple years back with her alluring album, A Temporary Dive. She crafts quiet but beguiling music that’s chilled but not frozen, and she is one reason that Scandinavia is such a musical hot spot these days. She has her own show at Largo on May 8.

Marcia Ball will be bringing the boogie woogie to the Mint on Saturday the 8th. The acclaimed piano player is an institution in the roots music world for her ability to dish out good-timin’ music spiced with the rollicking sounds of New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and points inbetween.

Saturday night is also went Martin Sexton headlines a shows at the House of Blues. His new disc Sugarcoating came out last month and it is a tasty showcase of his music. His very much American music draws from blues, folk, country, jazz, rock and R&B. While there’s a laidback quality to this music, it also holds an undeniable power (often forged by his smooth singing and nimble guitar picking).

Wrapping up the week on Sunday is Reckless Kelly, whose show is at the Roxy. The Texas-based band’s latest effort Somewhere In Time is something of a tribute album as it spotlights the work of “outlaw country” songwriter Pinto Bennett. However, the music still plays to the band’s strengths: hard-charging country rock.