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EQUAL FOOTING/EARING 1/26 & 27, HOTHOUSE This interdisciplinary festival, which pairs Chicago underground musicians with prominent local choreographers and dancers, makes the natural connection between music and dance seem a little more natural than usual--for as boldly as local musicians leap over musical boundaries to collaborate with each other, this sort of cross-pollination is oddly rare. On this program, the second of two two-night segments, Nathaniel Braddock's experimental rock band the Ancient Greeks is matched up with choreographer Asimina Chremos, the artistic director of Link's Hall and an instructor at the Lou Conte Dance Studio. Braddock describes the material she'll dance to as having "lopsided time signatures, compelling rhythmic figures, and slowly developing harmonic arcs...and a strong Steve Reich flavor." Joan Pangilinan-Taylor, a member of the Hedwig Dances company whose work combines modern dance with martial arts and Asian ritual movement, will dance to music by TV Pow, and choreographer Ann Boyd will perform dances focusing on small, delicate movements in close space while Rebecca Gates plays guitar. DAN HICKS & THE HOT LICKS 1/26 & 27, ABBEY PUB; 1/27, borders on state The artists I find most interesting in pop music are almost never the stars of the moment or even the historical greats. They're those who move in and out of the corner of the public eye like shadows, whose careers don't follow the obvious rags-to-riches or riches-to-rags trajectories. Not usually the subjects of legends, they are often the sources of real music. Take Dan Hicks--a slightly cracked front-porch storyteller somewhere between R. Crumb and Jimmy Buffett. Hicks was poised to claim some sort of rightful place among the singer-songwriters who were rakin' it in circa 1973, but instead he broke up the band and bowed out of the race, telling Rolling Stone he reckoned he'd make a "slow comeback." Well, he's finally done it--and Beatin' the Heat (Surfdog) has that never-been-away quality. Admittedly it's loaded with cameos (by famous fringe wanderers Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits, and Bette Midler, among others)--just to make sure you know this is an event--but it doesn't sound like the Hall of Fame jam session the guest list would imply. It's a rollicking, laid-back party record with bloozy roadhouse meditations on everything from love to impotence ("How come my cello won't play for you? / It needs to play or it gets blue") to the utter detachment of the chronic pot smoker. It's not grandiose in its sound or ambitions, but it's a lively hour in a damn good day in the life of music. TINY HAIRS 1/26, EMPTY BOTTLE The introductory letter this local sextet sent me with their self-released full-length album Tonics, Tinctures, Extracts says, "Tiny Hairs perform improvisational instrumental compositions informed by noise, electronic music, free jazz, rock, and 20th-century classical music." Yeah, well, who doesn't these days? Some bands have an uncanny knack for reducing this exhilarating sea of possibilities to a dried-up, carefully footnoted puddle, and Tiny Hairs don't exactly blend their influences in unusual proportions. But the long, graceful unfolding of the three dark, moody pieces on the disc admits presence of groove, compulsion, and epiphany--these guys are willing to ramble about until the larger structure reveals itself, in a moment they seem to share with the listener. BEHOLD! THE LIVING CORPSE 1/31, DOUBLE DOOR Thick as molasses but able to move terrifyingly fast, this local metal quartet was clearly born under the gory auspices of death metal, but can thrash when they wanna and then go straight into a riff-heavy, downright classically tuneful tune. That's no small matter in a genre that makes battles between subsets into fanzine jihads. Tasty and promising. TOM DAILY 2/1, EMPTY BOTTLE The sort of soaring populist power pop Tom Daily plays--and played, in his old band Not Rebecca and for a time in the Smoking Popes--is oddly nostalgic in its desire to reconcile underground sounds with the classic rock of American teenhood. With its gleaming guitars and sing-along choruses, his second solo album, The Burlington Northern (Thick), is giddy yet solid, slick yet ragged, with enough rage to catch fire and enough resolution to tug manipulatively at the heartstrings. I hereby add Daily to the list of musicians who are making the records Bob Mould should have. MASCOTT 2/1, Chicago Cultural Center, SCHUBAS Mascott is the solo project of Kendall Meade, former front woman of the New York pop band Juicy and sometime keyboardist for Helium and the Spinanes. Juicy fans won't find much of that band's energy--or its triteness--on Mascott's first full-length, Follow the Sound (Le Grand Magistry), a collection of sweet, sophisticated art-pop songs recorded in hi-fi with a raft of indie-rock notables (the cast of thousands seems to be a theme this week). Assembled from sessions in three cities, the record has a cosmopolitan quality that isn't easily pegged to any of the scenes Meade cruised through. For the Chicago portion, Meade and drummer Jerry Busher--drummer for D.C.'s All Scars and also a sometime Spinane--joined forces with producer Jim O'Rourke (who also contributes guitar and keyboards), Brokeback's Noel Kupersmith, and Sally Timms; in Brooklyn, where she lives, Meade worked with Ladybug Transistor's Jeffrey Baron and Gary Olson, ex-Air Miami bassist Lauren Feldsher, ex-Dambuilders violinist Joan Wasser, and Tower Recordings drummer Tim Barnes, among others; and in her native Detroit she jammed with Mario Suao on a cover of Steve Tilston's heartbreaking "I Really Wanted You." Meade's mature girly pop is not challenging, but it's definitely smart. No word on who'll be accompanying her for these shows.

--Monica Kendrick

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Jensen.

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