Saturday Night in LA: Phosporescent, Von Bondies, Dan Auerbach, Lyrics Born,
Saturday night in LA and you're looking for music? Here are four good ideas:
Phosphorescent, Viva Voce at the Regent Theatre
Chris Martins writes: Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck may be a city slicker by day, but once the sun sinks under the prairie, the cowboy comes out. Houck was raised in Alabama, cut his teeth playing guitar in Georgia, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he and his band recently cut an album-full of Willie Nelson covers. That collection, affectionately dubbed To Willie (the disc reads "from Phossy"), pays tribute to both the outlaw country icon and Houck's ear for artful understatement. Classics like "Reasons to Quit" and "Walkin'" sound sweet as ever coming from the man who penned 2007's late-blooming folkie hit, Pride, and a set comprising songs from both albums should be nothing short of stunning. It could be quite rowdy as well, as the Phosphorescent boys are known to get proper roostered before, during and after a good performance. Viva Voce's smooth psychedelia may calm things a bit, but surely not by much.
Dan Auerbach at El Rey Theatre
Falling James on Dan Auerbach: Singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach's recent solo debut, Keep It Hid (Nonesuch), has some of the same electric crunch and blues-rock roar of his band the Black Keys, but he also reveals other, subtler musical personas that he had, indeed, previously kept hidden. "Whispered Words" has a spare and lonely guitar sound as he croons over a garage-soul groove, while the lo-fi, organ-pumped "Real Desire" relies on a low-key drum machine. "When the Night Comes" is an unexpectedly gentle acoustic ballad that's closer in spirit to James Taylor than Robert Johnson. Thankfully, Auerbach does kick out the jams somewhat amid the tumbling blues riffs of "I Want Some More" and "Heartbroken, In Disrepair," where he keens through shimmering waves of buzzing tremolo guitar. His guitar freaks out further with psychedelic licks on "Mean Monsoon" and the aptly titled blues-rock scuzz of "The Prowl," but there's also a John Fogerty-style sunny pop on tracks like "My Last Mistake."
Lyrics Born at the Mint
Falling James writes: There were some amazing performers at last year's inaugural Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, ranging from Radiohead's contemplative electric haze to Manu Chao's hopped-up rebel ska-punk to Howlin Rain's classic-rock shtick, but no one had a sharper, tighter band than Lyrics Born. While the Berkeley native explored the contradictions of being a Japanese-American rapper, his group sliced and diced his imagery with exacting precision. Steve Wyreman is a wickedly dazzling guitarist, especially when he's given room to stretch out a little in concert. Lyrics Born's 2008 CD, Everywhere at Once (Quannum Projects/Anti-) is thoroughly enjoyable and bubbles with shiny funk beats and slick wordplay from this self-declared "syllable killer," but it doesn't fully capture the forceful energy of his band's onstage delivery. As neatly boxy and fully produced as the album sounds, the songs have a lot more funky menace when they're kicked out with live drums. Apart from the goofy-serious skit "Homeland Security" and the tragic memorial "Whispers" (with guest C-Holiday), Mr. Born's lyrics are generally about having a good time and bear little in common with more-fashionable strains of gangsta rap.
The Von Bondies at the Roxy
Again, Falling James: Von Bondies singer Jason Stollsteimer might be best known, at least to some casual observers, for his notorious dustup with the White Stripes' Jack White at a Detroit nightclub in 2003. (Interestingly, the Bondies' ironically titled first album, 2001's Lack of Communication, was originally purported to have been produced by White; following the fistfight, the band now claims that it was really helmed by ubiquitous Motor City producer Jim Diamond.) None of that tabloid-fueled hysteria matters; what's important is that the Bondies' latest CD, Love, Hate and Then There's You (Major Domo), is a strong set of anthemic power-pop tunes, especially "Pale Bride," with its surging guitars and rousing hook. Perhaps not surprisingly, Stollsteimer doesn't seem to have much use for gossips on songs like "She's Dead to Me," where he rails, "You've been talking all this shit/I think it's time for you to quit." When he wonders, "Can you say a good word about us?" on the curtly titled "Shut Your Mouth," it's not clear if he's addressing a lover or his various critics (music or otherwise). Here are a few good words, then: Stollsteimer's anger and frustration make for some damn catchy rock & roll.