IGGY POP 5/18, THE VIC I had something like a near-death experience (well, a thrillingly dramatic blackout, at least) in a crowd crush at an Iggy Pop concert in 1986, and subsequently I remembered the show as being astounding. But years later, I acquired a bootleg of it, and was dismayed to learn it really wasn't very good after all: Blah Blah Blah was a relatively weak record, and Iggy's band at the time was even weaker. What had stuck with me, it turns out, wasn't the music so much as the vision of that aging but flexible rock 'n' roll godling playing crack-the-whip with his body like it was still 1969. For those who prefer the rabid, rambunctious Iggy to the reflective and remorseful one of 1999's Avenue B, his forthcoming Beat 'Em Up (out in July on Virgin) sounds like a possible sop: song titles include "Death Is Certain," "Go for the Throat," "Drink New Blood," "All Is Shit," and "Ugliness," and the band he recorded it with featured the late Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts of Body Count on bass. (Roberts was killed in a drive-by shooting last winter.) This show is sold-out, but Iggy and his boys will most likely be back later this summer. TERMINAL 4 5/18, EMPTY BOTTLE You know, Chicago desperately needs another supergroup involving some configuration of the crowd that includes Fred Lonberg-Holm, Jeb Bishop, Josh Abrams, and Ben Vidaakjlskbvjwhjhjhbvzxs...oh, slap me with a fish, I've fallen asleep at the keyboard again. Terminal 4's eponymously titled debut on Truckstop isn't quite the thing to keep a tired mind awake--it's neither as subtly intriguing as Vida and Abrams's band Town & Country nor as thorny and amelodic as some of the work the two Vandermark associates have done. "N. Heptane" has a slinky "Harlem Nocturne" vibe about it, and Teria Gartelos, a sometime backup singer with Bobby Conn, turns in a performance on "She Caught Herself" that suggests a dozen tough 'n' tragic sequin-plated torch singers from as many noir movies. Not particularly profound, but certainly enchanting. JOHNNY DOWD 5/19, SCHUBAS You could call Johnny Dowd the Henry Miller of rock 'n' roll: he's not that verbose or that sexually explicit most of the time, but like Miller, the Texas-born, Oklahoma-raised Dowd didn't jump feetfirst into his calling until he was in his late 40s. In fact, he's told interviewers that he picked up his first guitar at 30, in the hopes of finding something that--unlike drugs or chasing girls--he would still enjoy in his old age. Like Miller and also like the elderly bluesmen who inspired him in the first place, Dowd brings to his work the sensibility of someone who seems to have already lived enough material that the rest of his life could never be long enough to tell it all. His latest album, Temporary Shelter (Koch), continues to refine a dark and sensual worldview that packs the conviction of a very fully imagined reality. Tom Waits and Nick Cave are commonly used reference points for Dowd's restless American Gothic, but Cormac McCarthy would be just as accurate, and second vocalist Kim Sherwood-Caso sounds like a ghost in a Joyce Carol Oates mansion. Koch will also reissue Dowd's out-of-print debut, Wrong Side of Memphis, this week. HAMICKS 5/19, BEAT KITCHEN Formed in Austin in the early 90s by guitarist and singer Bob Taylor, the Hamicks have wandered a winding road. In '98, Taylor and bassist Arman Mabry, who joined in '94, moved to Chicago to seek their fortunes. They haven't found them yet, but they did pick up drummer Chris Matranga (formerly of Houston's Sugar Shack) and release a handful of singles and EPs, all of them steadily building toward better things. Their forthcoming second album, Knee Walking, gets better and better with each listening. It's clever, slashing but greasy postpunk with an appealing garagey quality--more social studies than math. Also on the bill are the Denver-based fuzzy and frenetic garage band the Down-n-Outs (whose eponymously titled debut LP is coming out on the Hamicks' in-house imprint, Creepy Drifter) and Chicago's nimble Puta-Pons. WANDA JACKSON 5/19, FITZGERALD'S Petite and curvy and crowned with the sort of hairdo only a rockabilly legend could get away with, at retirement age Wanda Jackson still has charisma to spare. I can't even begin to imagine what she was like in 1956, a foxy young thing belting out bawdy tunes on bills with fellow up-and-comer Elvis Presley--and by some accounts often besting him at his game--but it's entirely possible her powers have increased with age. In the 60s her popularity in the rock realm waned, so she turned for a time to traditional country; in the 70s she found Jesus, and after Capitol pooh-poohed a gospel album she retired from the secular music biz until 1996, when Rosie Flores coaxed her into a collaboration. When I last saw Jackson, a couple years ago at FitzGerald's, I watched this sweet-natured Oklahoma church lady transform herself into a force of nature, wild as a windstorm but far more musical: she homed in on the party as if she'd never left it in the first place, interrupting herself only for a mini-set of gospel standards that sanctified the energy but didn't lower it. For this show she'll be backed by the California rockabilly combo the Cadillac Angels, who will also play an opening set. MOTHER HIPS 5/22, DOUBLE DOOR This San Francisco band's been lumped into categories ranging from "jam band" to "alt-country." But their fifth and latest LP, Green Hills of Earth (Future Farmer), is neither of the above. It's a small masterpiece with a very sophisticated sense of psychedelia that occasionally seems to marry Gram Parsons and David Bowie, featuring luscious orchestrations, Kinksy harmonies, and guitars that can bring to mind anyone from the young David Gilmour to the Allmans. Apparently some relatively lackluster records, problems with drugs, and an unsuccessful stint on Rick Rubin's American label have taught these guys a lot about what not to do. STABBING WESTWARD 5/22, METRO, Tower records on clark Since parting ways with Columbia Records three years ago, this Chicago-based outfit has signed to the mega-indie Koch--and, determined to wiggle out of the "industrial" bin, recorded the new Stabbing Westward with Suede producer Ed Buller. It's your standard VH1 post-post-goth "modern rock"--anthemic emotions spelled out in capital letters amid ham-handed melodies, being to its numerous predecessors as Foreigner was to Bad Company. The Metro show is sold-out.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.