CHESTNUT STATION 8/28, EMPTY BOTTLE This mostly local aggregation, named for the movie theater at Clark and Chestnut and fronted by Plush drummer and sometime Royal Trux sideman Rian Murphy, is determinedly ragged, lurching through evocative sketches of ballads and rockers that are resolutely uncinematic, even when Eleventh Dream Day guitarist Rick Rizzo can't hold himself to friendly mundanity anymore, as on the relatively flaming "101 Dalmations [sic]." (All the song titles on the group's debut EP are taken from what appears to be a 1991 photo of the Chestnut Station marquee.) If these guys--who also include MOTO's Paul Caporino and Murphy's old Mantis compatriot Dave Marr--play it any more modest, they may well earn the distinction of being the most low-key supergroup ever.
ROD PIAZZA & THE MIGHTY FLYERS 8/28, BUDDY GUY'S LEGENDS Piazza is an exponent of the west-coast blues, which is to say there's a bit of Hollywood in his theatrical, flashy boogie 'n' wail. After a display of the harmonica pyrotechnics on his latest, Tough and Tender (Tone-Cool), an audience is just as likely to gasp how does he do that? as to appreciate its perfect appropriateness to the tune at hand. In this case, the special effects do serve the story, although it's hard to get as excited about the "character development" of his competent but unremarkable singing.
PATTY GRIFFIN 8/29, SCHUBAS Flaming Red (A&M), Patty Griffin's second album, is a genuine departure from her debut, Living With Ghosts, which with its solo guitar-and-vocal format could easily be mistaken for just another dollop of oh-my-God-the-girl-next-door-has-an-inner-life balladry. Flaming Red is uneven but electric; it's big, loud, and inspired. Not all the cuts are as good as the opening shit kicker "Flaming Red," which rewrites Hans Christian Andersen's "The Red Shoes" as a defiant take-back-the-night snarl, "Tony," a logical modern-rock radio single about the suicide of a gay teenager, or "Wiggley Fingers," a cheerful ditty about masturbation and the Catholic church--there's some cloying sap about Christina Onassis, for example--but at her best Griffin can make you listen through sheer force of will.
TRAILER HITCH 8/29, FIRESIDE BOWl & quaker goes deaf While it's awfully nice to have all my fifth-grade sing-alongs to "Convoy" vindicated at last by a revival of the trucker aesthetic, it's probably just as well that most real truckers actually listen to country music. Because the notion of somebody who's been cranked up for four days on over-the-counter speed and the grunty, punk-ass rock 'n' roll on Trailer Hitch's debut, The Long Tall Tales and Highway Adventures of... (Man's Ruin), actually trying to use "Gas, grass, or ass" as a pick-up line is terrifying beyond belief. This show is being billed as a showdown with local redneck rockers Mustache.
ACTION-SLACKS 8/30, FIRESIDE BOWL This aggressive Berkeley indie-rock trio is as much about spit and bite as it is about rock and roll: over well-studied chiming interludes, droning cello, and tightly choreographed chords and drop-offs, vocalist Tim Scanlin slips in sly deconstructions of former lovers and paeans to punk, sometimes in the same breath. "And when you said you didn't like X / I knew you'd be my ex," he sings on the group's second album, One Word (Arena Rock)--well, you know, those mixed marriages never work. Cool to listen to, but probably bad to get involved with.
PETER GREEN & the SPLINTER GROUP 8/30, PARK WEST The title of Martin Celmins's 1995 biography--just issued in a second, updated edition--of this near forgotten British white-blues guitar great is Peter Green: Founder of Fleetwood Mac. Jeez, is that really what he ought to be remembered for? Still, I'm a big fan of records set straight, and it does us all some good to remember that the avatar of the glossy and powdery 70s (and Bill Clinton's idea of cutting-edge inaugural entertainment) began as a ragtag band of John Mayall's Bluesbreakers veterans, led by a Jewish tailor's son from the cockney end of London. At the time Green was considered Eric Clapton's closest rival--and made no bones about his contempt for what he considered Clapton's vulgarization of the blues. The book goes into very little detail about the relationship between what the band later became and what Green later became: a voices-hearing, shotgun-waving, money-giving-away acid casualty of the Syd Barrett school of lost souls--but the story of his rehabilitation and return to music with his new electric blues-rock Splinter Group is a good uplifting tearjerker.
LESLIE NUSS 9/1, ELBO ROOM With lines like "I'm a fragile flower / Can you make me whole," this Park Forest-bred singer-songwriter--now an accessories designer in New York--proves that you can take the girl out of the frilly pink bedroom, but you can't take the frilly pink bedroom out of the girl. But if you're the type that weeps at Charlene's "I've Never Been to Me," well, be my guest.
BRETT LARNER 9/3, XOINX TEA ROOM Brett Larner became obsessed with the koto (a 13-stringed Japanese zither) while studying neuroscience and biology at Wesleyan University in the early 90s, and took the opportunity to study with visiting masters Miki Maruta and Masayo Ishigure as a member of the school's koto ensemble. Later he fell under the mentorship of professor Anthony Braxton, who was delighted to make room for the dry, airy, grassy sound of the instrument in the Wesleyan Creative Music Orchestra. Larner and Braxton have since made several recordings of Braxton's compositions, with various ensembles and as a duo on 11 Compositions (Duo) 1995, released by Leo in 1997. Currently living in Tokyo, Larner's found the time to record with accordionist Ted Reichman as well, and releases with Seth Misterka, Loren MazzaCane Connors, and Jim O'Rourke are forthcoming--all in all a pretty productive use of his relatively brief time with the instrument. Here he'll play his own piece for koto and 13 gyroscopes, Telemetry Transmission, and an improvised set with oboist Robbie Hunsinger and
guitarist Ben Vida. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Patty Griffin photo by Ken Schles.