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Spot Check

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MICHAEL HURLEY, 11/6 & 11/7, QUICKSILVER Michael Hurley is a crotchety old folkie who's refused to let straightforward narrative or topical muckraking taint his gorgeous, often hilarious songs. With a career that began with an album for Folkways back in the 60s, Hurley remains the quintessential outsider. His reclusive life-style (he currently holes up in remotest Vermont), his earthy humor, and his grumbling persona have kept him far from even marginal popularity. It's a damn shame, too. Hurley confounds expectations by coloring his music with an affecting melodicism, ragged guitar and fiddle accompaniment, poignantly honest lyrics, and an emotion-rich voice that can turn a cracked yodel into the profoundest of sounds. His gigs in Chicago are sporadic at best, so this two-night stand is plenty cause for celebration. MOBY, 11/6, Metro In the wave of English techno washing up on American shores, Moby may be the cream of the crop, with an MOR variation on the form that rises from relentlessly pulsating drum-machine rhythms and rubbery synth bleeps and burps. In performance Moby (a single guy calling himself, uh, Moby) stands in the center of a stark stage behind a single synthesizer fervently exhorting the audience to lose themselves in electronic bliss. That's entertainment. This mega-techno bill also includes Aphex Twin, Orbital, and Vapour Space. SHORTY, 11/6, LOUNGE AX Against a seemingly endless barrage of in-your-face ugly rock slop (the "Chicago Sound" of the Jesus Lizard, copied by millions), Chicago's Shorty stands out. Their fake-hick cutup of a singer sounds like he gargles with hydrochloric acid, and onstage he looks like he's got a colostomy sack stuffed into his baggy jeans; but on top of all that, their relentlessly loud and harsh music displays blistering clarity and sharp, grinding drive. EPIC SOUNDTRACKS, 11/11, QUICKSILVER The idiosyncratic drummer behind such semilegendary English bands as Swell Maps, Crime & the City Solution, and These Immortal Souls, Mr. Soundtracks has now taken a shine to the role of piano-playing singer-songwriter. This solo gig will surely include music from his recent Rise Above album, which, despite the help of heavies like Lee Ranaldo, J Mascis, and Rowland S. Howard, sounds mysteriously like early Todd Rundgren. Let's just hope he refrains from adopting a brandy snifter as an affectation like his eccentric brother guitarist Nikki Sudden did. VANDERMARK QUARTET, 11/9, HOTHOUSE The Vandermark Quartet has resumed its ongoing Tuesday stint with guitarist-violinist-trumpeter Daniel Scanlan in place of former guitarist Todd Colburn. Thanks to Scanlan's restrained, more varied attack (and his multiinstrumental abilities), the group's stylistic breadth and depth has already expanded dramatically. WOLVERTON, 11/5, AVALON Formerly known as the Wolverton Brothers, this Cincinnati combo makes a fine racket with twangy, interlocked contrapuntal guitars and chopped-up southern boogie rhythms. I'm sure the name change will make a big difference.

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