HISSYFITS 8/17, CONGRESS THEATER This playful New York trio once backed Ronnie Spector at Joey Ramone's birthday party--they're a girl group with guts, sorta like the Bangles when they were still just the Bangs. Their new full-length, Letters From Frank (Top Quality Rock and Roll), will rot your teeth before it kicks them in--wee girl voices trill sugary harmonies over distorted power chords even in tunes with titles like "Lock and Load." The Hissyfits are second to last on this Ladyfest Midwest bill, which also features Teresa Vasquez, Nicole Mitchell & Women of Black Earth, Barbara Manning & the Go-Luckys, Mary Timony with James Iha, and Loraxx; the Need headlines. For a complete Ladyfest schedule, see the sidebar in this section. FRUITBATS 8/18, EMPTY BOTTLE The Fruitbats are yet another low-key Perishable-Truckstop-whatever supergroup, featuring Brian Deck (Red Red Meat, Califone) on percussion, "fuzzfactory guitar," and "crickets," Eric Johnson (Califone) and Dan Strack (the Smoking Popes spin-off the Mens's Group) on more instruments between them than many bands have altogether, Charles Kim (Pinetop Seven, Sinister Luck Ensemble) on rending pedal steel, and Jim Becker (Tallulah) on fiddle, mandolin, and something called Cajun triangle. Their debut, Echolocation, due out August 31, is a dreamy, entrancing sleeper of a record that takes scratchy lo-fi bootgazer country to new and elegant heights, where the building sway of "The Old Black Hole" and the merry eeriness of "Strange Little Neck of the Woods" move over the surface like a long-legged waterbug. Varnaline, who have a dark, rootsy new album, Songs in a Northern Key (on Steve Earle's E-Squared imprint), and a new lineup (front man Anders Parker with former members of Salem 66, Motocaster, and Vanilla Trainwreck), headline. MUDHONEY 8/22 & 23, EMPTY BOTTLE It must qualify as some sort of miracle: not only have Mudhoney somehow survived the biggest hype blitz of the late 20th century and a major-label contract, but they've managed never to make that one truly awful record, the one that lets you know your fave band really is dead. Since the release of the best-of and rarities collection March to Fuzz last year, bassist Matt Lukin has retired, drummer Dan Peters has devoted himself to raising his offspring, and the band's played a handful of shows, mostly on the west coast. But in the past year, the front half of the band--singer Mark Arm and guitarist Steve Turner--has been tearing it up with Tim Kerr in the Monkeywrench, and this spring Mudhoney released a new tune, "Inside Job," with the MC5's Wayne Kramer on bass (available on the CD comp Wayne Kramer Presents Beyond Cyberpunk or as a free download from Musicblitz.com). It sounds more like the Monkeywrench than any Monkeywrench tune has ever sounded like Mudhoney, which is by no means a bad thing. Guy Maddison, who's played with Arm and other members of the Monkeywrench in Bloodloss and Lubricated Goat, will sub on bass for these shows. NEPTUNE 8/22, FIRESIDE BOWL The big deal about this quartet from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, is supposed to be their unconventional gear--front man Jason Sanford makes the guitars and percussion instruments from scrap metal and spare vehicle parts. But listening to their 1999 release, Studio Recordings / May, MCMXVII (Archenemy), without accompanying visuals, that's not the creativity that dominates: very little of their lean, clanking, pulsing postindustrial postpunk couldn't also be made on ordinary instruments in extraordinary hands. But I bet they're more fun to watch than the average band. PLEA FOR PEACE-TAKE ACTION TOUR 8/23, METRO This annual tour, organized by Hopeless Records and Asian Man (whose owner, Mike Park, also put together the Ska Against Racism tour), tries to raise awareness and funds for youth crisis causes. The beneficiaries of this year's version are the Kristin Brooks Hope Center, which runs a national suicide-prevention hot line, and various regional charities. The lineup shifts a bit over the course of the tour; for this show it's local heroes the Alkaline Trio, Hot Water Music, Cave-In, the Selby Tigers, the Eyeliners, and Thrice (who are signed to Hopeless Records subsidiary Sub City, which gives 5 percent of all proceeds to charity). WATERDOWN 8/23, FIRESIDE BOWL Hey, I'm willing to be charmed by a band whose slogan is "Death to False Emo." These six young Germans--the liner notes credit "singing" and "screaming" to two separate guys--take a tight, surprisingly dynamic approach to a style that tends to drown in its own noisy self-effacement. On their Victory debut, Never Kill the Boy on the First Date, only the occasional sweet blinking line like "Would you call me at midnight / Just to let me know you're there" prevents them from sounding downright macho.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Will Taylor.