DIANE IZZO 1/22, METRO; 1/30, Museum of contemporary art When I was called to help judge a local Lilith Fair talent competition at Metro last year, I gratefully threw points at those few performers out of the 21 female-dominated acoustic acts who didn't make me feel like I'd been sentenced to community service. First-runner-up Izzo stood out for her solid songcraft and that urgent something in her husky voice that hinted she'd rock out in an instant if only the format allowed. Her new CD, the Brad Wood-produced One (Sugar Free), is a polished, snaky document of eccentricity and passion that's human first and female second, like a switchblade fight between Polly Jean Harvey and Will Oldham. SOUTHSIDE MUSICFEST 1/23, ARCHVIEW BANQUET HALL All the acts in this aptly named showcase are south-siders--if you accept that Indiana, home to journeyman metal band Killjoy, is part of the south side. The star of the evening will most likely be its MC, the rapper Hemp, who's carved out a niche for himself by fronting live bands. Here he'll perform a few numbers with Floor 13, which features veterans of the defunct metal outfit Joker. Also on the bill are Black Pirate Militia, a hip-hop act whose "Insane Asylum" is the most-requested local video on the Box network; Huge; the Mooncandles; the Rebel Peasants; My Mother Jesus; Adrenaline; and the jazz band Mozart Street. Tattooing and body piercing by Rite of Passage studios will be available on-site. According to co-organizer Denis Xenos, "several A and R reps will be flying in from the East Coast to sniff out acts at this show. With the success of the Chicago House Sound and huge bands like Smashing Pumpkins and Veruska's Salt, who knows, maybe music from the south side will be the next big thing." TAKE 6 1/23, COLLEGE OF DuPAGE ARTS CENTER This ten-year-old all-male Grammy-hogging gospel sextet kicks off its latest album, So Cool (Reprise), by violating one of the first rules of writing: don't tell us "A Cappella Is Cool," show us. But eventually they do show as well as tell, on several numbers where the songwriting is worthy of their creamy, seamless singing. In particular the doo-wopish "Wings of Your Prayer" and "Fly Away," which draws on the same South African harmony style popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, are as gorgeous as anything I've heard recently. JOSEPH JARMAN 1/26, ARTEMISIA Joseph Jarman, a cofounder and leader of both the AACM and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, has recorded only sporadically in recent years, as he's devoted more and more energy to poetry, theater, and his Buddhist faith and martial arts training--he was ordained a Jodoshinshu priest in 1990 and now runs an aikido center in Brooklyn. But when he does turn his attention to music the results are still engaging, if no longer seminal: his 1997 collaboration with violinist Leroy Jenkins, Out of the Mist (Ocean), is a blend of the meditative and the fiery that reaches high and scrapes low--and should never, ever be filed in the New Age section. Jarman has also participated in Kahil El'Zabar's AACM reunion project Bright Moments and appeared on its Return of the Lost Tribe (Delmark) last year. Here he'll perform solo, on woodwinds and a vast array of percussion instruments from all over the world. He'll also join Jenkins and keyboardist Myra Melford on Monday at the Cultural Center; see Neil Tesser's Critic's Choice for details. DAS SPORTEN 1/28, LOUNGE AX Die-hard fans of indie pop seem willing to tolerate an awful lot of heartfelt mediocrity; perhaps it's the price one pays for the comfort of knowing that one will never be made to feel like one doesn't "get it." There are certainly no rude shocks on this local quartet's demo: of the six cuddly tunes here, the best is "Just a Dog." It's not much more than a good song, but its sentiments are far more passionate and convincing than most of the love songs in this squeamish adolescent subgenre.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Liz Izzo.