Eddie Blazonczyk & the Versatones 3/8, FitzGerald's The king of Polish polka, Eddie Blazonczyk, has been a Chicago institution for more than three decades. This clever booking gambit finds him opening for gonzo revisionists Brave Combo (who play the next night at Lounge Ax). As the recent "best of" collection Polkatime (Cleveland International) shows, his music throbs with his rousing accordion playing and spirited singing supported by consistently dynamic backing. Whether breezing through traditionally oriented originals or country nuggets, the music always kicks. Tart, Goblins, Drag King & Others 3/8, Empty Bottle A CD-release party for 100 Watts, a compilation of material recorded on WHPK's live music program Pure Hype. As with most such collections, the album is inconsistent, mixing names you can trust (Eleventh Dream Day, Scissor Girls, Ashtray Boy, Coctails) with a sprawling array of newcomers (Ting, Dingle, Sput). Six of the CD's participants perform tonight. Man Size Action 3/8, Double Door Reunion fever is contagious as this legendary Minneapolis quintet reunites to open for the recently reformed Effigies (Pegboy, who've never split up, headline). The band's 1984 Five Story Garage may not seem revelatory today, but back then it was a crucial part of the burgeoning midwest scene that eventually encompassed everything from Naked Raygun to Big Black to Soul Asylum. AC/DC 3/9, United Center On the Rick Rubin-produced Ballbreaker (East-West), AC/DC's first album in five years, the Aussie quintet effortlessly renews its unique stranglehold on hard-rock basics. With the return of drummer Phil Rudd, the instantly recognizable weave of fat guitar riffs of Malcolm and Angus Young reconnects with the band's old swing to deliver such an organic sense of rock 'n' roll rightness that all other pretenders should step down. Of course, the inanity spouted by vocalist Brian Johnson remains of the snickering boys' school ilk (the new record opens with the one-two punch of "Hard as a Rock" and "Cover You in Oil"), but if there was ever a band to reinforce the essential, glorious stupidity of the best rock, it was AC/DC. The Poor open this sold-out show. Blue Rodeo 3/9, Martyrs On Nowhere to Here (Discovery), the fifth album from Blue Rodeo, the Toronto sextet further dissolves the sharp boundaries of its country rock into a stew of lethargic plodding--all in the dubious name of atmosphere. The band evokes some nicely foggy moods, but its lack of energy and melancholy tunefulness recall the wrist-slitting lows of Big Star's Sister Lovers without its poignancy or stark craft. At The Gates 3/10, Thirsty Whale Part of the increasingly popular Scandinavian death-metal scene, At the Gates spew out a rhythmic assault, applying manic thrash pounding to a weird, semimersh guitar attack. The band's recent domestic debut (and fifth album overall), Slaughter of the Soul (Earache), offers snatches of antiseptic goth--noodly, quasiclassical acoustic guitar and melodramatic synth washes--and guitar solos sopped with a delightfully incongruous syrupy lyricism recalling the toothache-inducing excesses of Boston. This Swedish combo sings typical subsatanic drivel, but its precise musical assault makes it easier to ignore. Morbid Angel headline. Super Friendz 3/10, Fireside Bowl In the last few years Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been the source of a surprising profusion of clever pop bands, such as Sloan, Jale, Hardship Post, Thrush Hermit, and now Super Friendz. On its recent debut, Mock Up, Scale Down (Murder), the foursome delivers wry, Beatle-esque melodicism laced with a careful lattice of guitars and sweet vocal harmonies. The clunky rhythm section is all that prevents the band from taking off. Damon & Naomi, Joel R.L. Phelps 3/13, Lounge Ax The Wondrous World of Damon & Naomi (Sub Pop), the second album from Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang--the previous rhythm section of Galaxie 500 and the current team in Magic Hour--offers more languid trance-out pop held in suspension by strum grooves. The Kramer-produced album reveals a huge debt to the atmospheric craft of psychedelic-era Beatles, but Damon & Naomi lack the melodic acumen and vocal ability to match their sumptuous instrumental bed. On his recent solo debut--the impressive Warm Springs Night (El Recordo)--the former singer-guitarist for Silkworm offers nine striking slices of distended, emotion-laden rock inspired by the more meditative work of Neil Young. Joel R.L. Phelps sings with an expressive quaver that's almost unlistenable, but his skill at navigating quirky melodic contours keeps you from jumping ship. His band shadows him with precision, subtly accenting his every cry. Superdrag 3/13, Double Door On its forthcoming major label debut, Regretfully Yours (Elektra), this foursome from Knoxville falls away from the blustery pop charm delivered on last year's ragged The Fabulous 8-Track Sound of Superdrag (Darla). The same old twin-guitar pop-rock attack swallows largely forgettable head waggers with plenty of spirit, and there's a sniffling intimation of Beach Boys-like grandeur, but when it's all over there's little to remember. Echobelly headline. --Peter Margasak
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cati Gonzales.