The Pixies played five nights at the Aragon last fall, Gang of Four played two at Metro last week . . . and this weekend the PAGANS play one show in the cozy confines of the Empty Bottle. The last time they reunited, in the late 80s, these Cleveland punk pioneers drew bigger crowds than they ever had during their original run, but so far only the garage-rock subculture has enshrined them alongside fellow Clevelanders like Pere Ubu, the Dead Boys, and the Electric Eels. Early tracks like "Dead End America," "Street Where Nobody Lives," and "What's This Shit Called Love?" combine desperate ferocity and bargain-basement production, but the songs are never too brutal or austere--you can always hear the joyful abandon of old-fashioned rock 'n' roll under the grime. Mike Hudson was a classic ranter, singing with a croak as soulful as it was ungainly; his brother Brian pummeled his drums like John Bonham trying to break down a door; at their grottiest, Mike Metoff's huge, guitar riffs sounded like a beater driving on four blown-out tires. The Pagans weren't as likely to pick a fight with the crowd as the Dead Boys, and they didn't seem to be trying nearly so hard to kill themselves, but they went through several lineups and their fair share of controlled substances before calling it quits in 1983, after the release of a lone self-titled LP usually called the "Pink Album." (Crypt Records reissued it in 2001, and has also put out a couple collections of the band's singles and compilation tracks.) Brian Hudson wasn't in the band by then, and in 1991 he died in a car accident; the Pagans are touring with the Pink Album lineup of Hudson, Metoff, drummer Bob Richey, and bassist Robert Conn. --Peter Margasak
The FATALS formed last summer, after guitarist Vince P of Quebec City's Les Viperes went to a garage-punk show in Toulouse, France, saw some guys playing Drags and Oblivians covers for free booze, and talked them into starting a band with him. Now the four-piece is touring the U.S. for the first time, and its handful of seven-inches--high-speed, black-hole-dense blues punk--have been hailed by garage fiends as the next best thing to a Teengenerate reunion. I know, that and a bottle of Ricard will get you drunk, but the tracks I've heard justify the hype. The guitars buzz and shriek like a swarm of robot bees, the drummer sounds like he's firing a machine gun into his snare, the two singers scream like banshees--I mean, if banshees weren't all female--and underneath it all are catchy, trashy songs, with lyrics in English. I think. --Ann Sterzinger
The Pagans headline the final night of Horizontal Action's annual Blackout festival; the Bad Times play fourth, the Fatals are third, and the River City Tan Lines and Vee Dee open. Sat 5/21, 8 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499, $15. Advance tickets are sold out, but a limited number will be available at the door starting at 7 PM.