DONNAS 7/30, METRO I don't envy teenagers today--of course people my age had our every vice and rebellious impulse scrutinized too, to a certain degree, but it was nothing like what 90s kids have to put up with, especially since recent tragedies have made it harder than ever to dress funny or engage in the perfectly natural fantasy of blowing up one's high school. Remember "School's Out"? Remember Rock 'n' Roll High School? You'd think nobody did. Being a whiskey-sluggin', slutty-clothes-wearin', ass-kickin' rock 'n' roll star is another popular fantasy, and anyone who actually makes a move toward realizing it at a tender age gets the fish eye left and right. Early on, the teenage Donnas recorded some songs by an adult man, which led some cynics to dismiss them as hapless would-be Runaways. But last time I saw them, in March, I left the club convinced that blissfully simple rock 'n' roll was in their young blood. Their third album, Get Skintight (Lookout), is chock-full of Ramonesy power chords, breakup fuck-offs, odes to smoking pot, and crude lust ("I'm on you like a shark on meat"), and they wrote it all themselves--except for Motley Crue's "Too Fast for Love," which they appropriate as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Which it is. SKULL KONTROL 7/30, EMPTY BOTTLE This D.C. quartet claims its mission is "to remove the layers of bullshit that surround today's music"--then thanks world-class bullshitters the Make-Up in the liner notes to its debut CD, Deviate Beyond All Means of Capture (Touch and Go). Regardless, it's a good little no-nonsense record--loud and pointy, full of elbows and attitude (the first song opens, "What this town needs's a new rock critic"), and vocalist Chris Thompson yelps and spits eloquently even when noise pushes actual language into the backseat. But the only member who really lives up to the mandate of the album title is guitarist Andy Coronado, former bassist for the Monorchid, who torques the moves of heavy metal and art punk with enervating grace. JOHN DIGWEED 7/31, KARMA Trance-house DJ Digweed is probably best known for his collaboration with Sasha, his partner in a long-standing residency at the New York club Twilo, for which they get paid enough to fly in from England once a month. The two have also put out a series of mix CDs called "Northern Exposure," the second volume of which is actually two releases: West Coast Edition, Digweed claims, is more Sasha, and East Coast Edition is more him. This gig, however, is all Digweed, and though the tracks may not overlap with the contents of his enjoyable 1998 solo outing, a two-CD set that kicked off the Thrive label's "Global Underground" series, his aesthetic choice to "tell a story" with his lush, trippy, lengthy sets is what counts anyway. OLD PIKE 7/31, OZ FESTIVAL You've probably had this experience: You're walking somewhere at night with three or four friends. It's kind of cold and windy and your leather coats are blowing open and you have grim expressions on your faces. Then you glimpse your collective reflection in a store window and you realize: eeew, we look like a rock band. Well, this Indiana quintet--which just released a collection of bad Springsteen imitations as its major-label debut--is the band you looked like. TRAILER BRIDE 7/31, EMPTY BOTTLE The genuine fear of God that only a Bible Belt upbringing can deliver gives this North Carolina trio an edge over its determinedly secular Yankee counterparts--northerners always seem to have trouble grasping just how big Jesus still is in the south. The forthcoming Whine de Lune (Bloodshot), which has more than a little hellfire and sweet salvation in its grooves, is Trailer Bride's second LP for the Chicago Bloodshot label, and Melissa Swingle's gifts--she writes the songs, sings them, and plays guitar, mandolin, and harmonica--just keep maturing. Her guitar playing follows the country-blues line that runs from Scotty Moore through Roger McGuinn and takes a weird left turn somewhere around Sterling Morrison, and her singing is sultrier than ever, her longing only emphasized by that penitent catch in her throat. Lamenting a love gone wrong or an empty bottle is too easy--in real country, your soul has to be at stake. FOUR SHILLINGS SHORT 8/2, KOPI CAFE One of the drawbacks of modern technology is that recorded versions of traditional songs tend to become "definitive" in a listener's mind: I couldn't hear Four Shillings Short's version of "Gypsy Davey" without holding it up to Sandy Denny's chilling reading. Yet as inescapable as Sinead O'Connor's dancey take on "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" was all those years ago, this Bay Area ensemble has restored its funereal pitch--and also its last verse, in which the bereaved lover curses his departed girl's entire family up and down. Multi-instrumentalists Aodh Og O Tuama, a native of Cork, and Christy Martin (the core of this group and the only members touring) stay true to other Irish folk traditions too, like celebrating Robin Hood-esque labor heroes and insulting the British at every opportunity. --Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Julie Ornellas.