TECHNICAL JED 2/3, EMPTY BOTTLE This Richmond foursome bob and weave through guitar-drenched pop and melody-flecked guitar noise. Partially produced by Cracker's David Lowery, their eponymous debut was recorded over the course of two years, which might explain its scattershot quality but doesn't reveal whether the Technical Jed embraced their noisier attack after giving up on pop hooks or vice versa. Apart from a few songs that flare up, their musical schizophrenia is pretty darn innocuous. They open for Polara (see Critic's Choice) and the Frogs. DENISON/KIMBALL TRIO 2/3, LOUNGE AX On their debut, a sound track to underground filmmaker Jim Sikora's Walls in the City, the Denison/Kimball Trio set a series of motifs within a brittle amalgam of slinky tiptoed rhythms, generous allowances of space, and a jazzlike sonic purity. An instrumental duo despite their moniker, the DKT consist of guitarist Duane Denison of the Jesus Lizard and drummer Jim Kimball, formerly of Laughing Hyenas and Mule, but this concern possesses very little of the over-the-top skree those other affiliations are known for. Kimball sticks to a noirish brushes-only tack, while Denison walks a line between an oversimplified Charlie Christian and a punch-drunk Bill Frisell, hacking along the way. They open for the Sea and Cake and Tortoise. SLAYER, MACHINE HEAD 2/3, ARAGON Confounded by the Rush Limbaugh cheerleading of "Dittohead," a confusing right-wing call to arms in the war on crime, Slayer's new album Divine Intervention (American) provides another vicious dose of violence, mayhem, and insanity--both musical and lyrical. The prototypical speed-metal outfit, Slayer maintain a relentless sonic attack that renders recent metal stars like Pantera impotent. The vocals of bassist Tom Araya seethe with rage without crossing over into comic monster-man growling. Led by new drummer Paul Bostaph and the twin guitars of Jeff Hanneman and Kerry King, these ruffians can stop on a dime or rev to the speed of light in seconds. Of course Slayer's tales of blood lust--disguised as an incisive examination of society's unsavory social underbelly--are as predictable as they are dumb, but they keep the kids in such a frenzy that some fans willingly carve the band's name in their flesh (as pictured inside the CD). The members of Oakland's Machine Head--like any 90s metal musicians worth their salt--sport goatees and dare to confront life's ugly side rather than focus only on flowers and sunny days. On their debut, Burn My Eyes (Roadrunner), they sound like a tightly controlled groove-riding quartet in line with new breeders like Helmet or the above-mentioned Pantera, although they favor more lumbering trad-metal tempos and occasionally employ outright melodies. Biohazard play second on this sold-out bill. JIMMY JOHNSON 2/3 & 4, KINGSTON MINES The just-released I'm a Jockey (Verve), the first album in nine years for Chicago blues scene mainstay Jimmy Johnson, is a well-rounded affair combining emotional grit with a slick, soul-informed sense of modernity. Whether on seamless funk romps or updated strolls through the Mississippi Delta, where Johnson was born, his fluid, restrained guitar playing and quavery but knowing vocals give his broad oeuvre a trademark sound. 35TH ANNUAL UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO FOLK FESTIVAL 2/3-5, MANDEL HALL As usual a wide variety of folk forms are showcased--from the blues of Mose Vinson and Dave Myers to the traditional Cajun music of Canray Fontenot and Bois Sec Ardoin to English and Celtic folk by the Broken Pledge Ceili Band and Louis Killen. Of special note is Sarajevo-born Flory Jagoda, who performs music of the Sephardic Jews on Saturday. Acoustic guitar and accordion frame her lovely, penetrating vocals. On Friday one gets a rare opportunity to hear vallenato music courtesy of Mario Zuleta y los Vallenatos de Colombia. This invigorating Colombian style pairs the intoxicating rhythmic complexity of salsa with infectious accordion playing and soulful vocals. HONCHO OVERLOAD, GEM 2/4, EMPTY BOTTLE The agua downstate must course with essence of Poster Children, for just about every Champaign-Urbana combo to come along since the P. Kids (Hum, Love Cup, Steakdaddy Six) has borne an uncanny, if inferior, resemblance to the spunky rockers, Honcho Overload included. On their second full-length, Pour Another Drink (Mud), they spit out a passel of blustery, high-energy pop rock dripping with gusty volume shifts and patches of thunderous noise; unfortunately their tunes too often fall flat, and their radical exercises in dynamics have little function. Fronted by Cobra Verde's wunderkind guitarist Doug Gillard, Cleveland's Gem are his glam-pop diversion. Backed by various members of Prisonshake and My Dad Is Dead, on their terrific debut single they demonstrate a learned appreciation for 70s rock, filtering it through fat-ass guitar and topping it with some irresistible hooks. LEGENDARY JIM RUIZ GROUP 2/4, LOUNGE AX Pragmatic members of the Cocktail Nation, these Minneapolitans set gently toe-tapping melodies amid even gentler musical scapes, which is simply another way of saying they sound like a rickety version of early Aztec Camera or Prefab Sprout crooning their way through frail bossa nova tunes. Yum Yum and Number One Cup also perform. MAVERICKS 2/4, WHISKEY RIVER, 2/5, FITZGERALD'S What a Crying Shame (MCA), the second album by Miami's Mavericks, was arguably the finest country record of 1994. A reverent but forward-looking combo fronted by Cuban American Raul Malo's sublime singing, the Mavericks spin a brilliant fabric of honky-tonk, countrypolitan, pop, and country rock that runs the gamut from Buck Owens to Roy Orbison. As good as the album is, they're even hotter live. This crack band shifts moods in a blink, and the cherubic Malo holds court with a downright infectious enthusiasm.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Benjamin Boyd.