Friday, October 15, 2010

The Gaslamp Killer, plus a Portland standoff, jams, jazz, classics and a few benefits

The Gaslamp Killer, plus a Portland standoff, jams, jazz, classics and a few benefits


(Oct. 14, 2010) When William Benjamin Bensussen plays music, he calls himself The Gaslamp Killer. He has a slightly crazed steam punk look with wild hair and a mustache and chops from some forgotten era, but his name comes from his home turf, the Gaslamp District in San Diego, and he’s a modern DJ/producer in the electro/dubstep/mixmaster school. He left San Diego for L.A. a few years back and started making a name for himself at Low End Theory, a hipster hangout known in part for its weekly podcasts. Mix CDs followed, mostly with foreboding titles (I Spit on Your Grave, Hell and the Lake of Fire Are Waiting for You!, All Killer) although I’m sure he’s a nice fellow when you get to know him. I’ve been listening to his latest, an EP called Death Gate out on the Flying Lotus imprint Brainfeeder. It’s shot through with dark melody lines and insistent whip crack beats. Highlights include “When I’m In Awe,” with a Mulatu/Ethiopique sound and distorted vocals by Gonjasufi (who is part Ethiopian), and “Shattering Inner Journeys” (featuring Computer Jay), with a stuttering drum sample and what sounds like a Theremin working the old school sci-fi soundtrack tip.

A national tour finds GK sharing stages with Alfred Darlington, aka Daedelus from Dublab, another inventive star in the remix/DJ/producer firmament. He’s a smooth operator with a neo-Dandy look (more lambchop burns) and mad skills on the monome, a real-time step sequencer that looks something like a backlit Go game. Filling out the bill Saturday night at the Arcata Theatre Lounge for the World Famous show are a couple more L.A. dubsteppers, 12th Planet and Teebs.

The Gaslamp Killer
On the hip hop front you have Cameron Jibril Thomaz, aka Wiz Khalifa, playing an AS Presents show Sunday in the Kate Buchanan Room. He’s an indie rapper out of Pittsburg, a dude on the rise: already did the Rock the Bells tour and signed with one major after another. Believe it or not, he’s a stickler for grammar, at least that’s what he implied on a recent tweet (@realwizkhalifa): “if a chicks grammar sucks, then by default, she also sucks.” Of course he left out an apostrophe, but I suppose that’s OK on Twitter, where he has 409,507 followers (and counting).

The Portland band-o-the-week slot is a battle between two PDX bands that probably should be playing together instead of in different towns. In Arcata, the indie folk combo Blind Pilot plays a Saturday night set at the Jambalaya. As they note in their Facebook bio, “There’s no shortage of angles to Blind Pilot’s story.” They’ve done a full tour on bicycles and released an album on iTunes that was downloaded in mass quantities. They’re a new band but are already heading home after headlining a national tour that included a set at the prestigious Austin City Limits Music Festival (The Eagles were the headliners). Principal songwriter Israel Nebeker is out front strumming his guitar on songs with a gentle, friendly feel and sweet harmonies. They sound good.

Meanwhile in Eureka it’s The Winebirds, a PDX indie folk/pop quintet with a male/female vocal sound vaguely reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian and hints of Fleetwood Mac. They stop off Saturday at the Li’l Red Lion on their way south for shows at the Elbo Room in S.F. and the Caspar Inn in Mendo (Blind Pilot plays the Caspar the night before).

In the mood for jam? Garaj Mahal is back in town for a Friday show at Humboldt Brews. They have a new album just about in the can — More Mr. Nice Guy — more jazzy East meets West jammyness with their latest drummer Sean Rickman contributing songwriting and vocals. Sample it in advance at

More jammin’ at HumBrews Tuesday: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is on their Fall Stay Gold tour (Stay Gold being their latest release). For those who have not seen The Fred for a while, the band is now in the post-Reed Mathis era with founder Brian Haas still on piano, claiming the split was amicable with “no drama.” Chris Combs‘ lap steel slides the sound to new places, somehow reminding me that they come from Oklahoma. Extra bonus: Organist Joe Doria‘s band McTuff opens the show doing the Jimmy Smith/Jack McDuff old school Hammond B-3 thing.

For straight-ahead jazz hit the Westhaven Center for the Arts Friday where pianist Darius Brotman and sax man Francis Vanek lay down cool tunes.

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