Variety on Arthur Nights, Oct 19

Variety
Arthur Nights
(Palace Theater; 1,967 capacity; $24, one night; $80, four night pass) Presented by Spaceland and Arthur Magazine.

Performers: Devendra Banhart, Bert Jansch, Espers, Buffalo Killers, Jackie Beat, Axolotl, Grouper, Yellow Swans, Belong, Numero Uno DJs. Reviewed Oct. 19, 2006. Also (with different line ups) Oct 20-22.

By STEVEN MIRKIN
You have to hand it to the publishers of Arthur Magazine. The (more or less) monthly [solidly bimonthly, actually-Ed.] is not only one of the most interesting reads out there — a consistently surprising mix of truly underground music, politics and art — but in a little over a year (with an assist from local club Spaceland) they’ve become a force on the Los Angeles concert scene, staging three multi-stage festivals that impress with their almost impossibly broad and well-chosen line-ups.

Arthur Nights is their latest offering, and the four-day event (held on two stages in the somewhat decrepit grandeur of downtown’s Palace Theater) once again covers a wildly eclectic range of music, with Thursday’s opening night line-up focusing on the “freak folk” movement the magazine has championed. As Noah Georgeson, producer and guitarist for headliner Devendra Banhart told the young and rapt aud, “We’re seriously laid back.” The evening’s three most intriguing main stage acts — Philadelphia psychedelic folkies Espers, guitar legend Bert Jansch and Banhart — rarely raised their voices or pushed the tempo, but each managed to make a distinct and satisfying impression.

With Meg Baird and Helena Espvall’s wispy, ethereal harmonies, Espers often has an eerie, otherworldly beauty. Their songs (from their most recent album “II” on Drag City) build slowly, almost imperceptibly, turning freer and more psychedelic as they go on; stretched out, they reach for a raga-like transcendence. At other times, when Greg Weeks adds his voice and plays the recorder, the songs sound like a stranger Jefferson Airplane crossed with touches of Fairport Convention and the Stooges.

They were followed by Jansch, who played the most satisfying set of the evening. His captivating mix of traditional folk and modern styles hasn’t changed much — the songs on his latest, “Black Swan” (Drag City) sound timeless. His playing looks almost effortless, but lattice-like interplay between his finger-picking and the movement of his left hand on the fret-board creates a cascade of notes is so sweeping, the counterpoint of melody and accompaniment so intricate, it’s hard to believe that the sounds are coming from one man.

Jansch was warmly received — members of the aud even whooped and applauded when he changed tunings on this guitar. A good deal of the credit for Jansch’s revival can be laid at the feet of Banhart. Jansch repaid the compliment and joined Banhart for two songs during the latter’s set, and “My Pocket’s Empty” had a focus and energy that was missing from most of the headliner’s set.

Banhart is an intriguing figure: with his long hair and beard he could have stepped from a late ’60s Laurel Canyon photo, and the early portion of the show, with three guitars and four-part harmonies, didn’t stray too far from folk cliches. But his music has a much broader reach, although the often feckless presentation blunts his ambition.

With his quivery, high-pitched vocals and Georgeson’s squirrelly guitar, the music often feels like a less jazzy version of Tim Buckley’s “Happy/Sad” (or, in the case of “Heard Somebody Say,” John Lennon’s “Oh My Love”), with Banhart presenting himself as a shamanistic seducer. In “At the Hop,” he wants his lover to “pack me your suitcase/cook me in your breakfast/light me with your candle/wrap me with your bones.”

The latter part of the set, when he stands up and straps on an electric guitar, starts to move further afield, as the music takes on touches of reggae, rock and, in a cover of Caetano Veloso’s “Lost in the Paradise,” bossa nova. But the entire set feels too meandering and laden with ideas that are too coy for their own good, including bringing up a member of the aud onstage to perform and an impromptu imitation of Al Jolson.

As might be expected from an Arthur evening, there were other styles of music to explore. Buffalo Killers opened the main stage perfs with a set of well worn, if well-played sludgy blues rock; an update of ’70s dinosaurs Mountain or Cactus. But they could surprise with a cover of Neil Young’s “Homegrown.” In the upstairs loft (accessible by an ancient manually operated elevator or a twisty staircase right out of a ’40s film noir mystery) Axolotl played an intriguing mix of tribal sounds with treated guitars and Grouper — a man [Actually, Grouper is a woman-Ed.], a guitar and a fuzz box — initially sounded like a noisy blare but his layers of feedback slowly built to something quiescently lovely.

LATimes on Arthur Nights Oct 19

Fringe-minded Arthur fest enlivens Broadway with a focus on folk.

By Richard Cromelin
Times Staff Writer

October 21, 2006

“I’d like to thank the cockroach who joined me for that one,” Greg Weeks said Thursday after his band Espers finished a song during the opening concert of the Arthur Nights festival. Weeks had been visited by the insect as he crouched on the stage floor with his electronic keyboard, adding some spacey trills to a folk ballad by the Philadelphia-based group.

Such are the perils of commandeering a faded downtown movie and vaudeville emporium on short notice. But despite this and other small drawbacks, the Palace Theatre on South Broadway proved to be a harmoniously funky setting for the most ambitious yet of Arthur magazine’s extravaganzas of esoterica.

Of the nearly 50 performers scheduled to play over four days through Sunday, only Devendra Banhart, who brought Thursday’s show to a joyous peak, and the Fiery Furnaces, on deck to play Sunday, have what would be considered substantial drawing power beyond the cult level.

So it’s remarkable that in the city where England’s similarly designed All Tomorrow’s Parties failed to establish an outpost after a couple of tries, Arthur has now mounted three significant showcases of fringe music in little more than a year.

Jarring juxtaposition is usually the operating principle, and it’s in force over much of the weekend, but the heart of Thursday’s concert amounted to a themed program spotlighting various facets of the underground folk movement.

Los Angeles-based Banhart is the standard-bearer for this thriving scene, but his hour-plus performance Thursday took him far beyond the acoustic roots and the image of the eccentric sprite that won his initial following.

His set progressed from light, lilting shuffles buoyed by four- and five-voice harmonies by his band members through classic folk-rock (David Crosby’s “Traction in the Rain,” Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere”) to some hard-driving, rhythm-heavy versions of favorites from the Banhart songbook.

At the end, with the crowd finally on its feet, the strikingly dark-suited, dark-bearded singer was shaking maracas à la Jagger on “I Feel Like a Child,” and looking like a rock-star-to-be.

But the most Arthurian moment came earlier in the set, when Scottish folk-music icon Bert Jansch joined Banhart and his band for two songs.

Though it was a bit of a no-brainer (Banhart sang on Jansch’s new album, “The Black Swan,” and his guitarist Noah Georgeson produced the record), it was the kind of special mix you hope for at a festival such as this.

And the pairing conveyed a sweet sense of community and continuity as the generations met for “My Pocket’s Empty,” from the new album, and a song from Jansch’s influential ’60s-’70s folk-rock band Pentangle.

Jansch, who has been hailed as a hero by an army of rock guitarists, preceded Banhart with the kind of solo performance he’s been doing for decades. But he usually plays tiny rooms such as McCabe’s on his infrequent visits to the area, so this larger setting was a welcome showcase for his restrained virtuosity and modest personality.

Always aiming for harmonic invention and emotional statement rather than empty flashiness, Jansch, 62, moved from traditional folk songs to blues to originals, adding some political weight with “Let Me Sing,” about Chilean martyr Victor Jara, and “The Old Triangle,” about capital punishment in Ireland.

Espers are inheritors of Jansch’s pioneering work, and the sextet preceded him with a chamber-folk performance whose female vocals suggested both Pentangle and the Incredible String Band.

And what about the famous Arthur eclecticism? Well, drag performer Jackie Beat followed Banhart with a short set, and the main showroom opened with the heavy, power-trio riffing of Cincinnati’s Buffalo Killers.

Arthur Nights was originally planned for the Echo and its new sister club the EchoPlex, but when the latter encountered construction delays, it was moved to the 1,050-capacity Palace, which was colorfully thronged Thursday by a coalition of scenemakers and serious-music geeks.

They discovered that the theater’s second stage is on the fifth floor, requiring a ride in an antique elevator or a walk up many steps.

But the room, with its art-space feel, large windows and bean-bag chairs, was a perfect setting to bask in the experiments of such noise manipulators as Axolotl and Grouper.

And things figure to get much more eclectic these final two days, with Beastie Boys associate Money Mark and the Sun Ra Arkestra sharing the bill tonight with folkies White Magic and Six Organs of Admittance. Sunday’s highlight looks to be the rare solo performance by Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio.

Just watch your step.

ARTHUR NIGHTS (2006)

Poster by Maya Hayuk.

(Late booking, not on poster: KYP MALONE (TV on the Radio) solo set)


INS & OUTS ALL NIGHT * ALSO CHECK OUT CLIFTON’S CAFETERIA FOR AFFORDABLE AMERICAN FOOD FARE AND A DECOR THAT WILL GIVE YOU A CONTACT HIGH — OPEN ONLY TIL 9PM *

GOOD AFFORDABLE FOOD TOO, RECORDS AND BEAUTIFUL HANDMADE CLOTHES PLUS MORE ON THE FOURTH FLOOR


THURSDAY, OCT. 19, 2006 [stage/schedule is lost, sorry!]

DEVENDRA BANHART
a special performance to close the current cycle

BERT JANSCH
first US visit in 8 years from the ex-Pentangle musician–a guitar hero to Neil Young, Jimmy Page, Johnny Marr and countless others–his new album just got 5 stars from Mojo magazine

ESPERS
gorgeous psychedelic folk-rock from Philly co-ed ensemble

JACKIE BEAT
singing spirit guide to Silver Lake scene queens

BELONG
ambient post-My Bloody Valentine fog-throb duo from New Orleans, spotlit in Arthur 23

BUFFALO KILLERS
lumbering, melodic rock ‘n’ roll from Cincinnati bros featuring former members of Thee Shams

YELLOW SWANS
psychedelic Bay Area agitnoise peacegrunt duo

GROUPER
Bay Area neo-ambient noiselady — ‘some of the most ethereal and powerfully heavy-lidden sounds this side of Brian Eno and Arvo Part’ says Mojo

AXOLOTL
San Francisco drone/noisefella

PLUS:
DJ sets by Dublab rats, Brian Turner (WFMU) and The Numero Group


FRIDAY, OCT. 20

7:20 MAIN HALL

AWESOME COLOR

awesome garage-mantra rock in a Stooges/Spacemen 3 ancestor worship mode

7:30 FIFTH FLOOR

SEAN SMITH

Berkeley-based fingerpicking acoustic guitarist in the great John Fahey-Robbie Basho tradition, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour 

8:05 MAIN HALL

THE HOWLING HEX

He was a prime mover in Pussy Galore and Royal Trux… a brilliant solo career and now his latest project, The Howling Hex… guitarist/genius Neil Hagerty in harmolodic prog-jazz-rock-whatsit flight 

8:15 FIFTH FLOOR

CHRISTINA CARTER

Texan matriarch of the current avant-folk-psych scene, and member of Charlambides, in solo guitar and voice set, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour

8:55 MAIN HALL

HEARTLESS BASTARDS

walloping Ohio rock trio led by wailer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom–second album just out on Fat Possum

9:05 FIFTH FLOOR

FORTUNE’S FLESH

features ex-Starvations members; “Cockroach’s larvae stage of death doo-wop”

9:45 FIFTH FLOOR

TALL FIRS

mellowside trio on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace record label

9:55 MAIN HALL

BE YOUR OWN PET

Nashville teenage action-punk quartet led by firecracker vocalist Jemina Pearl

10:30 FIFTH FLOOR

SHAWN DAVID MCMILLEN

“Soporific, glazed” (sez ‘The Wire’) Texas psych, part of the Imaginational Anthem tour

10:50 MAIN HALL

TAV FALCO & THE UNAPPROACHABLE PANTHER BURNS

Charlie Feathers, Alex Chilton, Rural Burnside and more…The truly legendary ‘Dorian Gray of Rock ‘n’ Roll’ from Memphis–admired by rock n roll luminaries like Spiritualized’s Jason Pierce, The Cramps and The Black Keys–in his first L.A. appearance in a decade!

11:15 FIFTH FLOOR

CHARALAMBIDES

beyond-rare L.A. perf by co-ed twin-guitar psych/dream duo on the brilliant Kranky label

12midnight MAIN HALL

BORIS

Japanese doom/rock/blissout superpower trio in performance ahead of the Halloween release of their devastating new album-length collaboration with dronekings Sunn0))) 


Saturday October 21

4:00-on FOURTH FLOOR

SCHOOLHOUSE DROP-INS: “Visit the geodesic tent as the 9 Sundown Schoolhouse residents present projects to partake in, forums for engagement, acts of interaction, thoughts for collective inquiry and general happenings.”

4:20 MAIN HALL

RESIDUAL ECHOES

Stomping West Coast high-energy rock attack unit who blew us away at loast year’s ArthurFest.

5:10 MAIN HALL

FUTURE PIGEON

galactic dance-dub heroism from local ensemble 

5:30 FIFTH FLOOR

WOODEN WAND

mercurial, provocative, prolific folk-rock dude in a solo turn 

6:10 MAIN HALL

WATTS PROPHETS

righteous word jazz elders 

6:25 FIFTH FLOOR

NVH/BEN CHASNY

noize proj from Comets on Fire’s echoplexist/drummer Noel Von Harmonson and guitarist Ben Chasny

7:10 MAIN HALL

MONEY MARK

always imaginative keyboardist/music man–best known for co-writing work with Beastie Boys 

7:10 FIFTH FLOOR

MIA DOI TODD

L.A. singer/instrumentalist on guitar, vocals and harmonium

8:05 FIFTH FLOOR

RUTHANN FRIEDMAN

Folk singer-songwriter, a real child of the ‘60s canyon scene, introduced at Big Sur Folk Festival in 1967 by Joni Mitchell –She wrote “Windy” and so much more–now returning to live performance at age 62!–she lived the ’60s and she remembers it 

8:10 MAIN HALL

SIX ORGANS OF ADMITTANCE

apocalyptic free-mind guitar & voice from Ben Chasny 

8:55 FIFTH FLOOR

MICHAEL HURLEY & JOSEPHINE FOSTER

Hurley is a legendary mellow bard with a hint of wry 

Josephine – you gotta hear this woman sing! “She’s a genius” – Joanna Newsom

9:10 MAIN HALL

WHITE MAGIC

long-awaited return of Mira Bilotte’s NYC-based unclassifiable folk band, new album out next month; this perf will feature Dirty Three drummer Jim White!

10:10 MAIN HALL

OM

return of Bay Area metal trance/mind expander duo who laid peacewaste at this spring’s ArthurBall

11:00 FIFTH FLOOR

LIVING SISTERS

joyous acoustic trio featuring Inara George, Eleni Mandell & Becky Stark (Lavender Diamond), with special guest VAN DYKE PARKS 

11:20 MAIN HALL

SUN RA ARKESTRA

11-piece Arkestra still going deep, now led by the great Marshall Allen 

~12:30am MAIN HALL

NUMERO GROUP DANCE PARTY

“Misplaced soul/funk hits” dance party DJed by the 20th-century pop archaelogists of THE NUMERO GROUP label from Chicago… They’ll be spinning throughout the day, with special sets before and following the Sun Ra Arkestra….


Sunday, Oct 22 

4:40pm in the Main Hall

SSM

John Szymanski, David Shettler and Marty Morris –rawk n roll from Deeetroit on the Alive label

5:30pm on the Fifth Floor

C.B. BRAND

local cosmic California country rock

5:30pm in the Main Hall

THE NICE BOYS

grade-AAA glam rock from Birdman recording artists

6:15pm on the Fifth Floor

THE COLOSSAL YES

Comets on Fire’s Utrillo’s brilliant piano pop proj 

6:20pm in the Main Hall

THE SHARP EASE

Paloma Parfrey-led liberation rockers featured in current issue of Arthur 

7:05pm on the Fifth Floor

CHUCK DUKOWSKI SEXTET

L.A.’s own… featuring Ms. Lora Norton – Vocals, Mr. Chuck Dukowski – Bass (Black Flag), Mr. Lynn Johnston on Horns, Mr. Milo Gonzalez – Guitar, Mr. Tony Tornay – Drums (Fatso Jetson)

7:10pm in the Main Hall

ARCHIE BRONSON OUTFIT

sharply shaped rock music from new English four-piece

7:55pm on the Fifth Floor

EFFI BRIEST

all-female experimental/noise combo

8:05pm in the Main Hall

KYP MALONE

extremely rare solo set from the TV on the Radio singer-guitarist–he’s flying in from the Darfur benefit show in Philadelphia

8:55pm on the Fifth Floor

OCRILIM

solo electric guitar hotwork set from prog-metal-avant maestro Mick Barr 

9:15pm in the Main Hall

THE FIERY FURNACES

justly acclaimed thrill-a-minute brother-and-sister-led clever combo, gifted with pop sense, improvisational chops and conceptual ambition

10:45pm in the Main Hall

COMETS ON FIRE

Quite possibly Earth’s greatest living rock ‘n’ roll band–see present issue of Arthur for more details

DJ sets by Dublab rats and Brian Turner (WFMU)

Devendra talks about his festival…

L.A. Alternative Press

Freak Fest
Five fitful days in the head, heart and record collection of avant-folkist Devendra Banhart.
by Lesley Bargar

The term “festival” is an incredibly loose one. In Los Angeles, it can signify everything from a breakfast special at IHOP, to a jump castle free-for-all, to a soy-celebrating street fair, to 100-ish musicians declaring Fuck Yeah!!! on the streets of Echo Park. Most recently, the word “festival” has been pinned onto what L.A.-based eccentric freak-folk overlord/event curator Devendra Banhart has termed Hypnorituals and Mesmemusical Miracles Hanging in the Sky. “It was all about putting words together that all link together and can flow like honey,” he explains.

…Well, despite that—for the sake of clarity, let’s say—we’re calling the five day event taking place this week arguably one of the most unique, diverse and noteworthy convergences of unconventional musicians and artists to take place in Los Angeles in the last five years. Honey indeed.

The event, curated by Banhart, features musical acts ranging from ’60s psychedelic legends to Vermont multi-instrumental collectives to local nouveaux hip-hop pioneers to first-time performers. “The curating thing is something that’s always interested me,” says Banhart. “Me playing a show is exciting and I love it, but it’s not as thrilling as choosing a show and hearing the music that you love live.”

The inspiration for the festival, as he tells it, was watching his friend Jonathan Wilson—who had previously only played in bands—get up at Tangiers and play his solo debut. “It was the first time I was seeing him play alone on this stage with these beautiful songs. I started thinking that I’d love to do a sort of mellow fest, a mini fest. That’s the idea of putting together this festival: It’s a lot of these people’s first shows ever—and that doesn’t mean that they haven’t been playing for years and years.”

To clarify, we asked Banhart to point out some of the Hypnoritual Mesmemusical highlights, and explain how and why these particular artists nestled their way into the heart of Devendra and onto the tiny, appropriately flamenco-frequented stage of the El Cid.

Entrance: For Entrance, the new record that just came out is like a new start. It feels like something so new. The only band I can compare Entrance to at this moment is Brightblack [Morning Light]. The way that Brightblack sounds is like how Entrance sounds, except Brightblack is on downers and Entrance is on uppers. (Tuesday, July 18)

Ruthann Friedman: She had a hit song [“Windy” by the Association]. She used to live with David Crosby. She can tell these stories! She has this recording of her jamming with Bukowski on the drums. I heard it at her house; it’s amazing. Ruthann lives about 10 blocks from me, so I went over and I said, “Do you want to play a show?” and she said, “Sure!” But she has some really big issues with the joints in her hands. She’s had to have some therapy and re-learn the guitar. So in some ways it is like a first show after that. (Wednesday, July 19)

Adam Tullie and Friends: This is Adam’s first show ever. I’ve known him for a long time. He runs a clothing company called Cavern. His music is just his recordings at home, and I’m the only person who has heard them. And I like it. So I’m like, “Adam, please, play a couple tunes!” I had to convince him. (Wednesday, July 19)

Nobody and the Mystic Chords of Memory: When I first moved to California when I was 13, my favorite band was Strictly Ballroom. I hadn’t heard music like that. Then I was hip to the Beachwood Sparks stuff, and All Night Radio, and all these little branches. It’s amazing. So Mystic Chords of Memory with Nobody is so good, and for me, being a super fan of their first band, to have them play was amazing. But in no way is it selfish, though. I mean, every song is pure pop pleasure. (Playing Thursday, July 20)

Subtitle: I found out about Subtitle from a bootleg tape, and I totally fell in love with it years and years ago. And I know Gino from Aron’s Records, and he instantly treated me fucking amazingly—with love, with respect. I fell in love with him. He’s just such an incredible human being. Being around him is so inspiring, it really is, you know? Gino is an amazing, amazing, amazing performer and lyricist and songwriter. He’s an amazing songwriter. Stuff like bubbles out, flows out. (Thursday, July 20)

Hecuba: No one has heard Hecuba, and they make the weirdest music I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s not weird in that it’s un-listenable or conceptual or cerebral. It’s weird in the way that it’s like jazz meets Beyonce meets Iggy Pop. It’s all these pop things thrown in the weirdest way together, and just barely joined together. Actually, another way to describe it is very Iggy Pop and Annie, the musical. I was like, “Please, would you play?” And they were like, “We’ve never played before, so this is the first show for us.” It worked perfectly for the festival. (Friday, July 21)

Michael Hurley: His history is legendary. The first album he ever made was made on the same machine that Leadbelly made his last album. From then on he’s been making records and records and records, but he’s always stayed way under the radar. Those who know him have all his records, and those that don’t, don’t. He’s someone to me that needs to play more and more and more and that people need to get hip to. He’s a legend, and a very special example of American uniqueness. An example of paving your own way, your own road, your own world. Incredible. And he’s so funny too, I love that. (Saturday, July 22)

Sir Richard Bishop: Sir Richard Bishop is legendary for Sun City Girls. On his own he’s done a lot of touring and done a lot of stuff, and made a couple records on Vanguard and all that, but he is someone who watching him live is a fucking mind-blowing experience. So good. So good! People need to see more of him, I want to see more of him. (Saturday, July 22)

Stuart and Caan: This is their first show in America ever. These cats are from the UK, but lived in India for a long time, and now they live in a bus in Spain, studying flamenco. And this is their first show ever in America. (Saturday, July 22)

Hypnorituals and Mesmemusical Miracles Hanging in the Sky takes place July 18-21 at El Cid. 4212 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. $10 per night. http://www.foldsilverlake.com