~WORTH THE DRIVE~

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

The Coup

Boots Riley, leader of Oakland-based agit-hip-hop muckrakers the Coup, is not a “political rapper.” He’s a rap politico, an Afro-sporting Marxist who’d probably be publishing dissertations on U.S. economic policy if he thought it would help his ideas reach the widest possible audience. Hip-hop is simply his communicative medium of choice. Coming together in 1992, Riley, DJ Pam the Funkstress and the since-departed E-Roc emerged in the era of the gangsta, swaggering with a similar streetwise confidence (and the same affection for thick, ’70s-style funk) but speaking with a deeper social conscience and toting a way bigger bookshelf. Picking up more from where Jello Biafra left off than Chuck D, Riley’s narrative, often satirical lyrics obsessed over the everyday conspiracies of capitalism, from bogus wage structures to asshole repo men. Too intelligent for mass consumption, the Coup has remained an underground phenomenon, a status counterproductive to their goals. But with each passing album — Pick a Bigger Weapon being the latest — they move ever closer to penetrating the mainstream. Pam and Riley storm into SLO Brew in San Luis Obispo on July 29.

SLO Brew, 1119 Garden St., San Luis Obispo, 543-1843

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

Flaming Lips, Os Mutantes, Thievery Corporation

It’s not just that the Flaming Lips (pictured) are performing at the Hollywood Bowl — which would certainly be Worth the Drive enough by itself. The Oklahoma acid-rock vets, with their over-the-top stage show that features bright lights, confetti, fake blood, giant dancing animal mascots, nun hand puppets and singer Wayne Coyne floating over the crowd in a huge plastic bubble, is best experienced in a venue as big and wide-open as the Bowl. But what makes this show so worthy of the drive is the presence of one of the greatest international bands ever, Brazil’s Os Mutantes. Back in the mid-’60s, the band was at the forefront of the tropicalismo scene, expanding the boundaries of psychedelic rock by incorporating elements of musique concrete and their home country’s unique pop music. Nirvana tried to get them to reunite for a tour in the early ’90s, but it never panned out. Now, however, something has convinced these pioneering mavericks to take the stage together once again for the first time in America in decades. On top of all that, downbeat maestros Thievery Corporation are the opening act! It’s all part of KCRW’s ongoing summer World Festival at the Bowl, and it’s going down on July 23.

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

Greg Graffin

When Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin announced he was going to be putting out an old time-y folk album, fans had reason to be a bit skeptical. After all, the guy has spent the last decade fronting one of L.A.’s premiere punk bands, who often don’t slow down long enough to deal with plaintive acoustic ballads. And Graffin’s lyrics couldn’t exactly be considered part of the folk tradition — more like in the tradition of academic sociological dissertations. But, surprise surprise, the recently released Cold as the Clay is a remarkably competent and genuinely affectionate tribute to the music of a bygone era. Backed by alt-country combo the Weakerthans, Graffin makes a convincing Woody Guthrie turn (or at least Bruce Springsteen), crooning in a throaty rasp over mandolin, banjo and fiddle. And he doesn’t sound as if he wants to leap up and start ranting, either. He remains subdued throughout, but still just as powerful as on any Bad Religion record. He doesn’t need any ten-syllable words to get his point across, either. Graffin, with the Weakerthans at his side, headlines the Troubadour on July 16.

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

~WORTH THE DRIVE~

Dios (Malos)

Something is in the weed in Hawthorne, Calif. First, the small South Bay city produces the Beach Boys; now, four decades later, it gives us Dios (Malos), a group of Mexican-Americans whose outstanding second album feels like the kind of record Brian Wilson would make if he was broke and living in his mom’s basement. Advancing past the melancholy Topanga Canyon rock of their debut, the band — who were forced to add the second half of their name after Ronnie James Dio threatened to sue — has become a delightfully stoned, pocket-sized version of their hometown predecessors, weaving tremendous harmonies deep into lush arrangements. Although their references are mostly grounded in the ’60s, the group only visits the era rather than try to live inside it. “No Dance Now” sounds like a Syd Barrett bedroom tape, and that’s confirmed right before the fadeout when singer Joel Morales confesses, “I wish I was on acid/I am right now.” The brightest highlight is “I Want It All,” a sparkling pop gem with a T. Rex stomp and a magnificent, extra-glammy guitar riff. All of it comes across as being so effortlessly ambitious it’s almost as if they made one of the best albums of 2005 by accident. Take that, Dio! Dios (Malos) performs at the Echo on July 7.

The Echo 1822 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles

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