This has already been a pretty spectacular month for gigs of a particular vintage – I deeply regret missing the re-ignited Swans, Mission of Burma, COC and Stiff Little Fingers in the last few weeks alone (Yet I somehow found time to see Peter Frampton? I hereby surrender all credibility.) But the coming weeks have several more favorite acts on the way. Here are a handful of retro-revolutionary events worth knowing about in the days ahead.
The vibe at NMH bandleader Jeff Mangum’s first solo shows a few years ago, as well as a round by the band itself following soon after, was described by some who attended as nearly religious in nature, with tickets hard to come by and people travelling great distances for the experience, probably not far from what Kate Bush fans are experiencing in London right now. For this LA show, finally playing a hall so big they haven’t yet sold it out, there’s a chance for casual fans to check them out too. And we should do it, because NMH is a genuinely unique and pleasurable band, something most of the world didn’t realize until long after they’d split up. Also appearing are the Breeders, who have always been superb live, and celebrated songwriter Daniel Johnston.
X, Buzzcocks, Los Lobos, Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin, Wanda Jackson, The Knitters, Junior Brown, Lee Rocker, The Paladins, Los Straitjackets, Guana Batz, Ray Campi, The Avengers, James Intveld, Jamie James & The Kingbees, Kid Ramos, Victoria Williams, The Farmers, The Hula Girls, The Crowd, Sean and Zander, Candye Kane, The Rhythm Shakers, Delta Bombers, Moonsville Collective, Vinnie & The Hooligans, Omar & The Stringpoppers, Small Wigs, The Abigails, Hi-Strungramblers, Evil Hearted You, Mary Simich, Robert Francis, The Heroes, & many more!
This is one of the most impressive all-in-one-place lineups I’ve ever seen, for that intersection of punk, rockabilly, country and blues that fueled LA’s music scene at the beginning of the 1980s. That top-line of X, Los Lobos and the Alvin brothers really tells you all you need to know about the fest – if you like those three, you’re gonna like a good chunk of the undercard. Punk purists can busy themselves with sets by the Crowd, the Avengers (one of my most-anticipated acts), and the Buzzcocks, who showed themselves to be in top fighting form earlier this year at Ink N Iron. For old-school rockabilly fans, there’s 50s legend Wanda Jackson, and double-bass pounding “rockabilly rebel” Ray Campi. On the wilder side are British psychobilly veterans the Guana Batz and them surfing wrestlers Los Straitjackets. Denizens of the old King King and Palomino clubs will be looking forward to seeing long-familiar faces like Candye Kane, James Intveld and the Paladins doing their urban takes on country and blues. There’s beloved singer-songwriter Victoria Williams and swinging blues guitarist Kid Ramos. There’s a rare appearance from the Knitters. Given the consistent high quality of the music on offer, expect a few scheduling dilemmas, where the beginning of one show may necessitate leaving another one early, but know that any choice you make is probably a good one.
Bob is a national treasure, it’s official, and he’s got a very good new album, Beauty & Ruin, stuffed with tunes that sound like the ones of his that people like the most, which make it as good a time to see him live as any. If the Roxy setlists follow his recent pattern, expect some Sugar and Husker Du songs he hasn’t played in a while. Get there early for Cymbals Eat Guitars, touring their new album Lose, who seem to have learned a thing or two from Mould about burying melodies beneath layers of harmonic distortion.
We don’t get very many visits from the Descendents these days, so each one should be counted as a rare treat. They sounded just fine when we last encountered them at the GoldenVoice 30th Anniversary shows a few years ago, and the material – much like that of the Buzzcocks – never gets old. It’s never not fun to feel that bratty, defiant emotion so beautifully captured in “Hope” and “I’m Not A Loser”, never not funny to answer the Wienerschnitzel counterman’s question “Do you want bull sperm with that?” with an insistent “NO!”. For this show they’re joined by OFF! in a special incarnation – Dale Crover from the Melvins is sitting in for Mario Rubalcaba on drums. Now this should be interesting – Mario is a beast and replacing him with anyone is eyebrow-raising, but with Crover on board, they’ve certainly found a guy who can be trusted to play it fast, hard, and fluid.
A stretch, I know. No one calls King Crimson a punk band, but their headsplitting brand of progressive rock remains a favorite of your more math-conscious punk bands; the guys in Refused probably have Larks Tongues In Aspic suns and Discipline mandalas tattooed on their asses. They possess so much control, they’re capable of making the sound of total chaos, should they decide to do that. They can also get a little too into their ability to do math, but, every one of its multiple lineups has had its own character and flavor, and this latest should be no exception. Guitarist and vocalist Adrian Belew, the only constant member over the last three decades apart from founding guitarist Robert Fripp, is no longer present; somewhere an elephant, a rhinoceros and a broken-down Chevy coupe sing their cries of lament in silence. In his place is Jakko Jaksyzk, who proved his ability to perform King Crimson songs vigorously as a member of the 21st Century Schizoid Band, and has recently been a frequent collaborator with Fripp. There’s sax player Mel Collins from the Islands lineup, bassist Tony Levin from the Discipline and Vroom eras, and three drummers to replace the sadly retired Bill Bruford. Now, even if it’s a fact that Bruford could beat ANY three drummers with one fucking hand tied behind his back, you gotta give them credit for thinking out of the box. This lineup has been described as “favoring power over precision”, which sounds just dandy to me. I’m never worried they won’t be precise enough.