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Arts and Entertainment

La Rocca, Dios Malos, & Phoenix @ The Wiltern 9/21

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We jumped at the chance to see French rockers Phoenix (pictured, right) play The Wiltern last week, with opening acts La Rocca (pictured, left) and Dios Malos in tow. We saw Phoenix do a lively and energetic gig last year at the smaller venue Avalon, and knew they could deliver a solid show. Having last seen Beck at The Wiltern during the summer we knew that there'd be plenty of chances to get a great spot on the SRO main floor, and since we made it in just moments before the first band took the stage, we were happy with getting a place at the very front of a section close to the center.

La Rocca kicked things off with an inviting flourish with "Sketches (20 Something Life)." We're knew to their music, but took an instant like to their polished rock sound. Hailing originally from Ireland, but now calling LA neighborhood Silverlake home, bandmember Bjorn Baillie remarked during the performance that this was the biggest venue they've played yet. But they seemed right at home, and their sound fit the space like a glove, boding well for them to be successful as headliners or in bigger venues to come. Other songs on their set list were "Goodnight,"Non-believer," "This Life," and they closed with "Cambodia." We could easily imagine their songs finding a home on a top-selling and well-assembled alterna-rock soundtrack, and we'd much rather hear one of their tunes backing any one of the endless tv series promos that are so frequently matched with over-produced pop-rock junk.

Next up was Hawthore-based Dios Malos. And we needed a second drink to get through their set.

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Unfortunately we weren't as impressed with Dios Malos as we'd been with La Rocca. They channeled their limited energies into cliched rock star moves like tossing their guitars, and they never engaged the audience or gave more than a perfunctory and mumbled "Hi, we're Dios Malos from Hawthorne." Snore. One pocket of fans jabbed their fists in the air for a tune or two they recognized, but they seemed to be the only ones in the theatre who were enjoying the set.

And then came Phoenix, full of boisterous energy and providing a lively sampling of tracks from their current album, It's Never Been Like That. We fell in love with their multi-dimensional sound with their previous album Alphabetical and noticed that the bulk of their current offering is situated in the kind bouncy pop beats that once upon a time had kids in gymnasiums hand jivin' until the chaperones sent them home, peppered with vocal twists and clever repetitions of sounds and words. They opened with "Napoleon Says" and included "Consolation Prizes," their infectious single "Long Distance Call," "Rally, and "Sometimes in the Fall," all from the latest record. We were thrilled that they worked in "Run Run Run" and "Everything is Everything" from Alphabetical, as well as brought a delightful touch of irony to the LA crowd with their satirical "I'm an Actor." Huge crowd pleasers were "Too Young" and "If I Ever Feel Better," (our personal favorite and show highlight) which are from their first album, United. They finished where they started, with a reprise of "Napoleon Says," ending the show on a high and with a flourish. Another great show from a really great band.

You can sample tracks from all three bands on their MySpace pages, which also happens to be where we sourced the photos of La Rocca and Phoenix.

La Rocca || Dios Malos || Phoenix

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