JULIE DOIRON & THE WOODEN STARS 6/2, SCHUBAS & borders on michigan Canadian singer-songwriter Julie Doiron played bass in Eric's Trip, a band that never quite lived up to its potential--though it spent six years trying. Her third full-length, a collaboration with a Canadian pop band called the Wooden Stars, was released last year by the Chicago label Tree. It's a hungry, fidgety late-night record: the understatement of her singing (about compulsive longings, missed connections, bad timing, and unhealthy attitudes toward alcohol) is beautifully undercut by the passion she and Michael Feuerstack bring to their guitar work. In March this record somehow wound up winning a Juno--the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy--for Best Alternative Album. ARLO LEACH 6/2, UNCOMMON GROUND Inspired by Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music and the Onion's Our Dumb Century, local coffeehouse staple Arlo Leach has written Music of My Ancestors, an "anthology" of old-timey 78s supposedly discovered in his grandparents' attic. Digitally aged with crackle and hiss and EQ spikes, they range in style from bluegrass to Delta blues, and the liner notes even provide biographical notes about the alleged players ("The Poughskeepie Ramblers enjoyed a promising recording career until its leader got into an argument with R.L. Spencer, Columbian's owner, about an unflattering photograph on a record sleeve"). Some of the songs are more on target than others (particularly "The World Is Changing Every Day," which sounds like a Dock Boggs parody, and "Poisson Heureux," which casts Leach's stepmother, Dorothy, as a mysterious Cajun accordionist), and the execution isn't flawless--why would an itinerant bluesman and a German-Swiss immigrant novelty singer have such similar-sounding voices? But Leach establishes himself as someone who might have some interesting things to say about identity, narcissism, and authenticity. ROSCOE MITCHELL's concerto grosso 6/2 & 6/3, HOTHOUSE Founding Art Ensemble of Chicago saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell doesn't play here all that often anymore, but when he does it's always a grand-scale event. For this performance he leads an ambitious large ensemble that includes violinist Samuel Williams, bassist Harrison Bankhead, percussionist Chad Taylor, oboist Robbie Hunsinger, choreographer and dancer Atala-Nicole Loud, dancer Maia McKinney, poet Martha Stahl, violinist Julie Pomerleau, flutist and performance artist Janice Misurell-Mitchell, bassist Jason Lee Roebke, violist Jen Clare Paulson, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm, drummer Vincent Davis, and bassoonist Willy Walter. JULIANA HATFIELD 6/3, METRO Juliana Hatfield demonstrates the sweeping breadth of her creativity by releasing two records at once! They're like two different sides of her personality, see? Beautiful Creature (both are on Zoe) is the gentle, longing, vulnerable Juliana, and Total System Failure, with drummer Zephan Courtney and bassist Mikey Welsh, is the mean, nasty rocker Juliana, who vents about everything from prefab teen stars ("My Protegee") to dates with bad fashion sense ("Leather Pants") to people with children ("Breeders"). Anyone who's read this column more than twice can probably guess which of the two I prefer. Although the songwriting is a tad stronger on Beautiful Creature, I like Hatfield a lot better as a guitarist than as a singer: her hot, fuzzy, acidic cascades are what justifies the existence of Total System Failure. But I still think it would have been better to release one really good record that forced people to deal with both Julianas. HERC. 6/3, FIRESIDE BOWL These local smart-asses have released their first CD, The Post-Accidental Holiday Affair, on which they sound something like Suicide and Frank Zappa trying to turn "96 Tears" into a rock opera. Happily their "evil twins" Metal Porpoise--a metal duo who take over the stage and yell about "kicking Herc.'s ass because they suck"--also made it onto the disc. TWANG BANG 6/3, THE HIDEOUT & RECKLESS ON BROADWAY Redd Klaats (vocals, percussion, harmonica, Optigan) and Itzi Rothowski (vocals, guitars, ukulele) are from Chicago, but they're allegedly more popular in Japan, where parts of their second album, Kicking the Toybox, were recorded. Like the Dr. Demento fave "I'd Love My Baby if She Had Two Heads," (on Dr. Demento's Basement Tapes No. 5), new tunes like "Tough as Snails" and "Cappuccino Daddy" are self-consciously clever and hyperactive enough to make They Might Be Giants sound goth. SHADOWS FALL, KRISIUN 6/4, RILEY'S ROCK HOUSE The Century Media label is promoting the International Extreme Music Festival--a package tour with Boston's Shadows Fall, Brazil's Krisiun, Sweden's Dismember, and Canada's Kataklysm--as an alternative to the "wimpy little lolla-pa-oz-warp" that will "drag the misled limp-korn-knot fans into the pits of real power." I sympathize with the sentiment, but do they really want those jerks at their apocalypse, knocking over ATMs and raping 14-year-olds in the Port-a-Johns? Anyhoo, on their new Of One Blood, Shadows Fall regularly break out of growl and into song, even coming up with something like a power ballad ("To Ashes") and echoing Iron Maiden more than once, particularly in the guitars. No such indulgences from Krisiun: their Conquerors of Armageddon is a pure malevolent blunt object pounding guitar licks into pulp while "tortured slaves crawl beneath their impaled idols." Should be the most intense thing to hit Aurora since the 1990 tornado.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Martha Williams.