BARDO POND 7/4, EMPTY BOTTLE This show's the place to be on Independence Day for those who pledge allegiance to the outer limits of inner space. Bardo Pond's wildly popular performances at both Terrastock festivals place them firmly within the new wave of psychedelia, but their tasty swoops of deep noise are as much Sabbath as Floyd, and vocalist-flutist Isobel Sollenberger sometimes snarls and declaims like a blissed-out Lydia Lunch and sometimes beats Hope Sandoval at her own game by drifting away altogether. Their most recent full-length, Lapsed (Matador), is their clearest statement yet--even when it sounds like the band members are playing several different songs at once--and the cumulative effect is chilling bad-trip beauty.
HACKBERRY RAMBLERS 7/4, FITZGERALD'S American Music Festival The "American music" FitzGerald's celebrates every year around I-Day generally refers to the underappreciated ethnic traditions that rock 'n' roll either absorbed or shunted aside. The Hackberry Ramblers know a thing or two about tradition, having been around since 1933. Founded by fiddler Luderin Darbone and accordionist-guitarist Edwin Duhon, they're still touring and still playing the dance music of the bayou with plenty of piss and vinegar, even though only one of the six members is under 60. The guest stars on last year's Deep Water (Hot Biscuits)--Marcia Ball, Michael Doucet, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Rodney Crowell--realized that this stuff is hot liquid gold and genuflected accordingly; so should you.
TERRANCE SIMIEN 7/4, FITZGERALD'S American music festival Terrance Simien, a zydeco/R & B crossover artist from New Orleans, is determined to bring the bayou sound to the Yankee asphalt masses by any means necessary. In this case that includes putting out a CD in homage to the New Orleans jazz festival, which annually draws hordes of sunburned tourists, A and R hunters, beer company hustlers, and record vendors as aggressive as coked-up Jehovah's Witnesses to see scads of stunning music. Simien's Jam the JazzFest (Tone-Cool) manages to rescue the chestnut "Iko Iko" from its beer-garden purgatory, offers a soulful take on a less-abused Dylan tune ("Baby Stop Crying"), and unleashes the original instrumental "Macque Choux" with blazing accordion and African-inflected drums. The liner notes on the last one pander heavily, promising that the song's "bound to make anyone's tedious commute...a little bit more tolerable!" but it's a lot more likely to cause a music-loving office drone of any sensitivity to say "fuck the job" and turn the car south.
FLESHTONES 7/6, EMPTY BOTTLE New York's Fleshtones have survived an astonishingly long career. They were there for the heyday of New York punk in the 70s, where they were introduced to their first producer, New York Dolls manager Marty Thau, by Suicide's Alan Vega; they reemerged in the midst of the heady, obsessive garage revival of the mid-80s; and the record Thau produced finally came out in 1992, sounding fresh as the day it was made. And the Fleshtones' newest album, More Than Skin Deep (Ichiban International), could have been released at almost any point during that career, including the brief time when bandleader Peter Zaremba hosted MTV's The Cutting Edge, the first of many late-night ghettos for new music, or when guitarist Keith Streng's side project the Full Time Men included Peter Buck. Consistency was hardly a hallmark of the 60s garage-pop and trash-rock bands that the Fleshtones idolize, but they prove it doesn't have to be that way: reports from the road indicate that live they're still the good-natured powerhouse they've always been.
PRISSTEENS 7/7, METRO Not for New York's Prissteens the tight little pastel baby tees of the Donnas, no way. The Prissteens are bad to the bone in a womanly, Ronnie Spector kind of way, boy drummer and all. The music on their Almo debut, Scandal, Controversy & Romance, is pretty much your standard-issue girl-group-by-way-of-the-Ramones New York punk pop, but this stuff has always lived and died by attitude anyway.
REO SPEEDEALER 7/8, LOUNGE AX Nobody's happier than I am about the current trend away from sophisticated, sensitive indie rock and toward furniture-gnawing id crunch--it warms the cockles of my heart to see bands with no hope of commercial airplay feeling free to name songs "Double Clutchin' Finger Fuckin'" and "Pig Fucker." On its eponymously titled new album (on Royalty), this quartet of sweaty, hairy, beefy Texas boys does the new old tradition no dishonor--but about halfway through I found myself thinking of a friend of mine who confesses that he briefly felt macho when the muffler fell out of his Festiva.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): REO Speedealer photo by Bob Gruen.