HASIL ADKINS 5/17, BEAT KITCHEN In a world where "authentic" has come to mean "museum-quality," the only way to shake off those quotes is to be a genuine one-of-a-kind specialty item--a brother from another planet, as it were. West Virginia legend Hasil Adkins is a prime example: the raw, unpredictable rockabilly this one-man Magic Band's been honing since the 50s has influenced legions of would-be wild men (and women, including the Cramps' Poison Ivy), but it's yet to be topped by any of them. He shares the bill with Chicago's Tijuana Hercules and Seattle's Boss Martians, whose workmanlike Making the Rounds (Musick) reminds me of that Eddie & the Cruisers hit "On the Dark Side" (which to be fair was way better than it had any right to be). CHEETAH CHROME 5/18, BEAT KITCHEN Rocket From the Tombs and Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome came from Cleveland, forged his legend at CBGB, and just put out an album called Alive in Detroit--but in fact he's been living the quiet life in Nashville for years. He was occasionally playing out with a band he maintained for fun down in Opryland when the tiny indie label DUI (Detroit Underground Inc.) wheedled him into coming north and playing the 1999 career-retrospective gig captured on the CD; now he's apparently got a studio album in the can (recorded with Genya Ravan, who also produced the Dead Boys' debut) and plans to track another in Detroit shortly. MANSION 5/18, HIDEOUT This local quintet has just released its debut, an untitled three-song CD intended as an appetizer for a full-length due in August on Overcoat. The PR describes Mansion as "a collection of displaced Canadians mixed with the same troubled youth from south of the border, brought together through circumstances and alcohol," and though there's definitely a drunken quality to their delicately rootsy piano-laced art rock, it's not a jolly or maudlin one--it's more cosmically stunned. This is the sort of stuff that might run through your head while you're lying in bed watching the room spin and wondering how you got there: whoa, this was supposed to be a low-key evening. MEDESKI MARTIN & WOOD 5/18, RIVIERA Now that all that puffy prose about acid jazz as the future of music has gone the way of the dodo, folks who are really good at it can go about playing it simply because it's what they like to play. For their tenth album, Uninvisible (Blue Note), Medeski Martin & Wood took favorite scraps from improvisational sessions and worked them into songs, for a sound that brings them closer to jazz per se than they've been in a while--even with all the techno-derived flourishes. Though it could pass at times for a pomo porn sound track, it's sophisticated, attention-grabbing and -holding music. WEAKERTHANS 5/18, EMPTY BOTTLE; 5/19, FIRESIDE BOWL Canada's Weakerthans are capable of turning up the bluster, but it's not their strong point. Token softies on a label populated by the likes of Thrice and Against All Authority, they've filled their new Left and Leaving (Sub City) with words, and they really want you to hear them. Everything they do musically, from gentle chamber pop to mild pop punk, seems subservient to ex-Propagandhi bassist John Samson's wonderful poetry of banality: "Terrified of telephones and of shopping malls and knives / And drowning in the pools of other lives / Rely a bit too heavily on alcohol and irony / Got clobbered on by courtesy, in love with love, and lousy poetry / And I'm leaning on a broken fence between past and present tense." JOHN VANDERSLICE, CONSTANTINES 5/19, ABBEY PUB John Vanderslice's third album, Life and Death of an American Fourtracker (Barsuk), is a loosely organized concept album about...well, duh. The conceit is precious, to be sure--it's nowhere near as ambitious as the odyssey of the postmodern-Shackleton character on his second album, Time Travel Is Lonely--but the Bay Area songwriter is good enough to float lightly over it. An admitted fan of Neutral Milk Hotel, Vanderslice stuffs his songs with every trick in the pop book and yet still escapes with his bittersweet tunes intact, as much like XTC as NMH. He gets by with a little help from his friends, too: John Darnielle (the Mountain Goats) contributes lyrics to two songs. The Constantines, from Guelph, Ontario, have released a three-song CD called The Modern Sinner Nervous Man EP on Seattle's Suicide Squeeze label...hmmm, we used to call that a "single." Not to disparage the format--if you're only throwing three songs out there, it's that much easier to present all wheat and no chaff. They do: this is snarling mighty rock, sophisticated postpunk with a smidgen of garage grease, dirty and crisp all at once. L'ALTRA 5/23, SCHUBAS I love that L'Altra have a spot on their Web site where they relate the weather conditions for each of their three recordings. The emphasis on atmosphere makes sense: someone oblivious to "background" as pervasive as cold, warm, damp, dry, windy, or calm might also be likely to miss out on some of the touches that can make such subtle and gentle music interesting. The local quartet's second full-length, In the Afternoon (on member Ken Dyber's Aesthetics label), is more decentralized than their first: the structures that support the layers of guitars and vocals seem illusory, like a sunbeam holding together dust motes--but singers Lindsay Anderson and Joseph Costa conjure sensuality and sparkle that's unusual in the usual post-rock muddling. Dyber, who's planning to move to Portland in the fall--for the weather, maybe?--is no longer in the band; for this show he'll be replaced by Bosco & Jorge's Bill Lowman.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Travis Keller.