Plenty of rock bands are bicoastal, but Ashtray Boy is the only one I know of that's bihemispheric. In Sydney singer-guitarist Randall Lee lives and plays with one rhythm section, and in Chicago, the home of his record company, Ajax, he plays with another. Lee's songwriting traits--a broad stylistic range and an even broader streak of ridiculousness--are both evident in Nice, his other Sydney-based trio, which played at Lounge Ax three weeks ago. But where Nice is a collaborative effort, in Ashtray Boy Lee calls the shots. So there's no one to stop him from doing a mournful C and W ode to chicken stew ("Oh Chicken"), a Velvet Underground-styled protest against new-age vapidity ("Shirley MacLaine"), a swinging R & B celebration of aquatic life-styles ("I Am Sponge"), or a loungey portrayal of fundamentalist lust ("Amy Grant Super Number"). But Ashtray Boy is no joke; Lee has the chops to make his tunes coherent and memorable, while bassist Dave Trumfio and drummer J. Niimi play with rare precision and empathy. This show will be Ashtray Boy's last northern hemisphere performance for a while: Lee returns to Sydney next week. Duotron open and the Frogs headline. Saturday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Marty Perez.