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Spot Check

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HEAVY VEGETABLE 9/30, EMPTY BOTTLE Heavy Vegetable are from Encinitas, just down the road from San Diego, which is where many of their label mates on Headhunter--Rocket From the Crypt, Drive Like Jehu, Fluf--live. But Heavy Vegetable's fine debut album, The Amazing Undersea Adventures of Aqua Kitty and Friends, dispels any notions of more than slight geographic and label links; traversing a remarkably broad sonic landscape, Heavy Vegetable skitter from hook-laden pop to introspective noodling to high-precision bombast to, yes, even flat-out rock now and again. They open for happy, brawny, and stupid San Diego rockers Uncle Joe's Big Old Driver and the intriguing, melodic, and angularly complex aMiniature. CANDY MACHINE 9/30, HUB THEATER On their A Modest Proposal (Skene!), this Baltimore foursome purvey a frantic, numbed-out postpunk that fits well into the Washington, D.C., lineage of disaffected rockers. Exploiting the gray region of the sonic spectrum, Candy Machine--especially Peter Quinn's squirming, transistor-quality vocals and enigmatic words--loosely recall late sideways mopesters Circus Lupus. Trenchmouth and Scissor Girls also perform. AIR MIAMI, TUSCADERO 9/30, DOUBLE DOOR Air Miami is the new band featuring Mark Robinson and Bridget Cross, best known for the shimmering, hydroplaning pop they created as Unrest. Their brand-new debut single "Airplane Rider" finds them exploring similar territory: hyperstrummed guitar, simple rhythms, infectious melodicism, and sublime wordless vocalizing that evokes Stereolab. Mike Fellows of Royal Trux and Lauren Feldsher of Viva Satellite round out the quartet. Tuscadero, named after Fonzie's longtime tough-but-sweet interest d'amour, are a young D.C. combo fronted by two endearingly off-key women who play quirky, unadorned pop music. Their most recent single is "Angel in a Half Shirt," a loving paean to exposed midriffs: "I like you best when your stomach's bare." Air Miami and Tuscadero perform as part of TeenBeat Records' Circus Tour, which also features New York's Versus, who are the subject of a Critic's Choice, and Blast Off Country Style. As if that's not enough, Air Miami and local TeenBeat artist Cath Carroll perform earlier in the day (3 PM) at Ajax Records, 2156 W. Chicago. AMY KNOLES 9/30 & 10/1, N.A.M.E. LA percussionist Amy Knoles uses high-tech sampling ware to turn a traditionally rhythmic pursuit into an orchestral one. Triggering samples with drum pads, Knoles exploits a surprisingly full range of sound, from Zappa-esque prog-rock to Henry Kaiser's MIDI experiments; she even punctures tabla music with erratic interjections by what sound like jackhammers. BUCKWHEAT ZYDECO 10/1, CUBBY BEAR With the notable exception of zydeco patriarch Clifton Chenier, no one has done more to popularize the bayou genre than Stanley Dural Jr. (aka Buckwheat Zydeco). On his new Five Card Stud (Island), produced by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, he continues to modernize the squeezebox-soaked music with loads of nontraditional material, including duets with Willie Nelson and Mavis Staples. Dural has no qualms about skipping from zydeco to hard R & B to country to gospel to pop, and he accomplishes it all with undeniable aplomb and a snappy soulfulness that pervades everything he plays. His music has made lots of converts, and if you're not concerned with purity he can be plenty fun. WOOL 10/1, VIC Wool is led by brothers Peter and Franz Stahl, who for many years headed up Scream, the longtime pop-reggae-hardcore fusion band out of Washington, D.C., that supplied Nirvana with drummer Dave Grohl. On Wool's facetiously titled debut Box Set (London), they strip down their attack, settling on a melodic, occasionally instrospective hard rock ("B-350" has parts that sound painfully similar to early U2). Traces of the old punk-rock spirit drift in and out, but like their former band, they seem destined never to rise above marginal status. They open for L7 and the Melvins. CONJUNTO CESPEDES 10/1, PARK WEST Formed in 1981 around the core of the Cuban-born Cespedes family, Conjunto Cespedes practice a fiery music called son cubano that is the folkloric root of both mambo and salsa. A lush percussive bed is layered with slinking acoustic guitar, sensual violin, pungent horn charts, and--most important--passionate, soulful, and plainly sexual vocals. On last year's excellent Una Sola Casa (Green Linnet), their rural-flavored dance music comes off as an interesting musical link between past and present that's managed to thrive on its own. Also performing at the Old Town School of Folk Music's 11th annual Festival of Latin Music are Quetzalcoatl, Raices del Andes, and Guardabarranco. HOUSE OF PAIN, GRAVEDIGGAZ 10/2, RIVIERA House of Pain have run into a brick wall with their second album, Same as It Ever Was (Tommy Boy), a title that reveals far more than the self-proclaimed "Gaelocentric" hip-hoppers would like to cop to. While their generally slipshod eponymous debut had its fine moments, thanks largely to the inventive R & B crate digging of DJ Muggs, the strained vocals of Everlast on their follow-up, which apparently seeks to express more rage, just sound like someone trying too hard to be mean. Far more effective at spooking are Gravediggaz. On their recent debut album 6 Feet Deep (Gee Street) these horror-core rappers take up the torture-chamber imagery of Wu-Tang Clan and improve on it, with an impressive musical fluidity and a sample-drenched sonic density. Taking their over-the-top narratives of blood-and-gore excess as an expression of the pathology of social decay seems absurd to say the least, but they assemble it all with enough aplomb to get over easily. Also on the bill are Biohazard and Korn. BLUE DOG 10/6, EMPTY BOTTLE Comparisons to John Zorn's Naked City are pretty much unavoidable for this Detroit quintet. On their debut, What Is Anything (Knitting Factory Works), Blue Dog's instrumentation (saxophone, electric guitar, keyboards, bass, drums), goofy humor ("E=MC5"), and rapid jumps from rock to jazz to country to various ethnic musics with little in the way of logic clearly mirror Zorn's stylistic attack. But Blue Dog are less restless than Zorn and treat the actual music with greater appreciation, and while their technical skills aren't jaw dropping, each member has more than enough individual style to repel copycat accusations. Also on the bill are the always-idea-crammed NRG Ensemble and the Zug Island Quartet.

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