HORIZONTAL ACTION ROCK 'N ROLL BLACKOUT 4/25-27, BEAT KITCHEN Horizontal Action is a proudly skanky local zine that reviews porn and strip clubs almost as intensively as garage records. Their second annual Blackout festival, roughly celebrating the new "Killed by Breast" issue, features the New Bomb Turks (on Thursday the 25th); the Baseball Furies, who recently migrated from Buffalo; Detroit's Clone Defects; and Greg and Jack Oblivian's band the Compulsive Gamblers; visit www.horizontalaction.com or see the Beat Kitchen listing for more details. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS 4/26, CHICAGO THEATRE Their latest album, No More Shall We Part, came out about a year ago (on Reprise, from whose roster they've since departed), but the Bad Seeds proper haven't toured since 1998. When Cave came through last year, it was with an ad hoc band, and he played the role of suave piano man to the hilt, lacking only a chanteuse aswoon across the instrument with a rose in her teeth to complete the tableau. I for one am looking forward to hearing those ballads run ragged by one of the creepiest and most startling backup bands in the world. And it should be interesting to observe the hey-who's-the-front-man-here dynamic among Cave, guitarist Blixa Bargeld, and violinist Warren Ellis. DAVID WILCOX 4/26 & 27, SCHUBAS David Wilcox's solo albums lack a certain heft of presence--he's frequently compared to James Taylor, and that's a big ugly shadow to get out from under. Yet the man can write a song, and he's got things to say, and he does play guitar beautifully. That's why his new Live Songs & Stories (W.A.R.?) really hits the mark: in person he's all warm wit and quicksand stories. Of course, it may work for me simply because Wilcox lives in the North Carolina mountains, not too far from the Virginia mountains where I grew up, or maybe because, as he told Performing Songwriter magazine, he wrote his first song about Antioch College's off-campus co-op program screwing up his love life--a situation that triggered some of my very worst poetry back in the day. But isn't a personal connection the sword singer-songwriters live and die by? MARC/DC 4/27, THE HIDEOUT Bon Scott is one of those rock 'n' roll innovators who's been imitated so often and so badly it's easy to forget how great he truly was. Most of AC/DC's so-called spiritual descendants merely turn up the treble and ape the band's more macho moments, as though Scott's lazy blues pacing in the middle of a frenetic bit or his cheerful confrontation of his own inadequate masculinity weren't every bit as crucial to the package. So it may be that the best man for the job is a woman--there's at least one all-female AC/DC cover band, Hell's Belles, on tour as I write. This mostly male Columbus AC/DC tribute outfit, formed for a one-off charity show, recruited Marcy Mays of the scrappy indie-rock trio Scrawl to play both Bon and genius rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young. Chicago's Dishes in turn recruited them to play at this release party for their second CD, 1-2. Hardly anything after Highway to Hell will make the set list here; the likes of "Girl's Got Rhythm," "Dog Eat Dog," and "Sin City" will. The Nerves also play. TENKI 4/27, SCHUBAS Getting to watch bands find their groove (if and when they actually do) is one of the perks of this job. When Tenki put out their debut EP a couple years ago, the local pop quintet was a puppy that hadn't yet grown into its paws, but the new self-released full-length, Red Baby, is a mature work: rich orchestrations make songs like the psych-pop "Desirous" more than the sum of their parts, trumpeter Jeff Wichmann seems to fully trust his ability to use his instrument like it belongs there, and good pacing creates mild suspense. DICTATORS 4/28, EMPTY BOTTLE With three out of four original members and a perfectly decent new album out in the past year (D.F.F.D., on their own label), the Dictators are looking a lot livelier than many of their contemporaries. As ever, they combine raging Noo Yawk egotism with a smart humility ("Our generation / Is not the salvation / So who will save rock and roll?") and the distinct tunefulness you can hear in every New York band from their era, from the Ramones to Television to Blue Oyster Cult. Plus the evil riff 'n' roll of "It's Alright" does AC/DC better than AC/DC has in years. PEDRO THE LION 4/29, METRO I can completely understand why Pedro the Lion main man David Bazan has chosen the indie circuit over the Christian-rock alternative: he's dour and cynical, and his dark-toned pop doesn't offer much in the way of an easy uplift. Though he's more overtly religious than most, he fits into the same broad category as, say, Grant Hart or Nick Cave, songwriters who make studies of their passionate but conflicted relationships with faith. Pedro's new album, Control (Jade Tree), covers the grim turf of troubled relationships, sordid motel encounters, bitter divorces, hateful betrayals, and half-assed commitments with the bitter glee of one who knows he's not quite as righteous as he'd like to be either: "Wouldn't it be so wonderful if everything were meaningless / But everything is so meaningful / And most everything turns to shit / Rejoice." Bazan shares this bill with sometime collaborators Damien Jurado and T.W. Walsh. LOST GOAT 5/2, EMPTY BOTTLE This San Francisco power trio has forged a patchy alliance with stoner-rock mainstays like Nebula and High on Fire, whom they've opened for, but musically they're closer kin to L7, Seven Year Bitch, or even the swampy, fiery Dead Moon. Their third album, The Dirty Ones (Tee Pee), is an inspired-sounding contribution to their vaguely defined genre, incorporating Sabbath-oid riffery, metallic prog interludes, and a devilish flair for the blues that displays itself most prominently on an eerie cover of Leadbelly's "Line 'Em." Bassist and singer Erica Stoltz sounds like a cross between Polly Jean Harvey and Geddy Lee; guitarist Eric Peterson plays part-time with an Iron Maiden tribute band and it shows.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Chris Anderson.