Cemented in the '60s
They sound like something out of a boxed set of overlooked '60s rarities: a Stockholm octet that idolizes the Velvet Underground and the Supremes. Not every Swedish band these days is tough and rigid like the Hives. Consider the Concretes, who perform Friday at the Troubadour: The stylish group's obsession with heavenly harmonies and Motown lushness suggests glucose shock. But the group cuts the sugar with melancholic acid to come up with something strange and new -- sweeping '60s hooks with delayed and distorted guitars, bright horns and backup singers with minor-chord melodies.
"Everyone in the band loves to dance, and old soul music," singer Victoria Bergsman says. "We met going out dancing" and discovered the Velvet Underground through the advocacy of Jonathan Richman.
The band's first U.S. album, "The Concretes" (Astralwerks), follows a rocky stretch. Originally a reclusive all-female trio, the group suffered a setback when "Boy, You Better Run Now" (2000) foundered in the downturn of Seattle-based indie Up Records after the death of its owner. Follow-up efforts were also rebuffed because of problems at another label.
"The Concretes" includes the sublime number "Diana Ross," inspired by a cassette Bergsman found in a thrift store years ago. "It sounded so modern, even though it was from the 1970s," she says of the song "Love Hangover." "Someone could do a house remix of it."
You don't have to hear much of the Briggs' "Leaving the Ways" EP to identify the L.A. foursome as throwbacks -- the chords come fast and riffage sharp, the dire vocals bark about disillusionment or take aim at soulless pop, and the choruses invite shout-alongs. It's no surprise that guitarist-vocalist Joey Larocca, 23, identifies the Clash and Pogues as heroes, or that the Briggs are touring (including Friday at the Wiltern LG) with L.A.-bred Irish punks Flogging Molly, or that they hit their stride playing 24 shows in four weeks on this summer's Warped Tour.
"It's a month of very little sleep, very little showering and lots of sweating," Larocca says, calling the tour "a good test of whether a band is gonna stick together." Such festivals can also be intimidating -- was Larocca worried the Briggs might get lost in a sea of punk bands?
"It's probably more like a pond of punk bands on Warped these days. There are a lot of emo and poppy bands," says Larocca, who with brother Jason (guitars-vocals), drummer Chris X and bassist Charlie Curtis will tour Europe in November. "But in that way it was good, because the kids that go to see punk rock see you.... It's exposure, and there's not too much exposure these days for independent music."
Kevn Kinney, former frontman of Drivin' n' Cryin' and purveyor of memorable roughhewn blues and folk rock, has a new project with a new album of the same name -- Kevn Kinney's Sun Tangled Angel Revival. He performs at King King in Hollywood on Wednesday, a show that follows a Century City Film Festival screening of "Lightning Bug," a movie Kinney scored.