San Francisco Seals leader Barbara Manning has been one of independent rock 'n' roll's most interesting figures for nearly a decade, but the wayward manner in which she's pursued her career hasn't exactly made her a household word. She's spent a lot of time in bands that break up as soon as they release an album (28th Day, World of Pooh), and almost as much releasing singles on different labels: she's told at least one writer that she wants to put out 100 singles on 100 labels. This summer she's taking time out from that pursuit to do her first cross-country U.S. tour with a band. The first full-length release by the San Francisco Seals (named for a long-defunct minor league baseball team), entitled No Where or Now Here (depending on where you look on the CD case), features the constants that have made all of Manning's projects worth hearing: her cool, lovely singing; an understated delivery that emphasizes the emotional extremities of her obsessive songs; her eclectic taste in cover tunes, from the well known (Badfinger's "Baby Blue") to the obscure (Goblin Mix's "Winter Song"); and her driving rhythm guitar. What's new is a spirit of experimentation that warps her songs like a fun-house mirror. In performance lead guitarist Brently Pusser will undoubtedly provide some wicked distortion, but Manning's songs are strong enough to withstand rough treatment. She's previously played several excellent solo concerts here, but this is her first Chicago date with a band. Don't miss it. The San Francisco Seals open for Pale Horse Riders, Plush, and the Palace Brothers (see separate Critic's Choice). Friday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Amy Davis.