HIDEOUT BLOCK PARTY 9/5 & 9/6, HIDEOUT The Hideout started cutting back on live bookings in late 2002, and the schedule's gotten even slimmer since the twin nightclub disasters of early 2003. But Tim and Katie Tuten appear to have funneled a year's worth of pent-up enthusiasm into the club's seventh annual block party. Nearly every act on the bills for this two-day festival, held mostly outdoors on the stubby little block of Wabansia where the Hideout hides out, could fill the bar on their own. Friday's highlights include the Handsome Family, in from Albuquerque to give a taste of their forthcoming sixth album (they'll be back in October on a headlining tour), and Poi Dog side project Disciples of the Seventh Samurai. Saturday afternoon's got (among others) Frisbie, the Struts (featuring Kelly Hogan), and the Pernice Brothers (whose recent Yours, Mine & Ours is rapturous). (There'll also be acts and activities for kids in a separate area.) After Tortoise plays at five, the show spills into rawk madness with the Dirtbombs and the Demolition Doll Rods (both offshoots of Detroit's legendary Gories), veers into inspired art damage with Numbers, Erase Errata (see Critic's Choice), and Bobby Conn's new band, the Glass Gypsies, and then moves indoors for the Dishes and the Drapes. THE NATIONAL 9/5, Nevin's Live; 9/6, SCHUBAS The first album from these Cincinnati-to-New York transplants sounded just a little too dour for the sake of dourness; the second one, Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers (Brassland), was given some gloss by, among others, Interpol producer Peter Katis and is probably better for it: the songs have a romantic sweep that drives the plaintive melodies home. Front man Matt Berninger's dolorous intonations, like Leonard Cohen's or Lloyd Cole's, still suggest he's been ridden hard and put away wet, but in the shrieking climaxes he sounds like he's being forced to rock against his will and he likes it. TWO COW GARAGE 9/6, BOTTOM LOUNGE Scruffy-ass roots rockers somewhere between Uncle Tupelo and the Drive-By Truckers (who took them around on a leg of what seems to be a single endless tour), Two Cow Garage can't match either of those bands song for indelible song, but on their debut, Please Turn the Gas Back On (Shelterhouse), civilized veneers peel like paint off the clapboard houses of the band's native Columbus. My concern here is that guest musicians (on fiddle and pedal steel) contribute so much to the record that the core trio might sound naked live--but lead singer Micah Schnabel plays banjo and mandolin as well as guitar, which usually helps. SAMAEL, STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, CATHEDRAL 9/7, METRO Working at their own pace, the Swiss black-metal band Samael have gone from a crude medieval roar to a decidedly 21st-century roar (complete with keyboards and drum machine). They're celebrating the journey with the release of Black Trip (Century Media Germany), a generous double DVD that includes footage of three concerts (from 1994, 1996, and 2002) and the sessions for 1996's Passage. This is their first headlining American tour. Canada's Strapping Young Lad are the odd men in on this bill, playing an abrasive industrial-flavored skree marked by an unexpectedly waggish sensibility (their live album's called No Sleep Till Bed Time). Rounding it out are veteran British doom metallers Cathedral, who've made a crossover connection with the heavier end of the stoner-rock scene (a few shows with Electric Wizard didn't hurt). TOM TOM CLUB 9/9, ABBEY PUB Conceived originally as a break from Talking Heads, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz's side project has arguably proved as influential--if you've listened to any R & B or hip-hop or TV commercials in the last 20-odd years, you've heard a sample from "Genius of Love." And no need to ask what they've done for us lately: their discography isn't deep but it's solid, and space doesn't permit me to list all the big names they've worked with. These days they're rebounding from tragedy--singer Charles Pettigrew, who joined up to help make The Good the Bad and the Funky (2000), died of cancer at age 37 in 2001, and the Club have filled in the time since playing an astounding array of benefits and plugging the double CD Live at the Clubhouse (available at shows and from their Web site), a document of a smart-folks' party band doing what they do best. CHEAP TRICK 9/10, RIVIERA Cheap Trick's hard-edged power pop has never gone completely out of fashion in the midwest--it's too basic, like blue jeans--and as recently as 1998 they could still pack the Metro four nights straight. Special One (Cheap Trick Unlimited/Big3), their first new album in six years, is varied in a way mainstream rock hardly ever is anymore, ranging from "Scent of a Woman," a damn good late-Who imitation paired with an oddly worshipful sentiment, to "Pop Drone," in which Robin Zander's wrenching vocal performance reconfirms him as one of very few singers from which I want to hear anything resembling a power ballad at this late date. EVAN DANDO 9/10, METRO What the hell has Evan Dando been doing for seven years? Certainly not polishing the songs that appear on his new Baby I'm Bored (Bar/None). Sure, the half-assedness was always part of his charm, but this has the unsatisfying aftertaste of talent gone lazy. RAINER MARIA, DENALI 9/11, METRO Rainer Maria, three former Madisonians gone east-coast, honed their thing to perfection on last winter's Long Knives Drawn (Polyvinyl): pyramidal guitar burble, a fermentation of chiming under Caithlin De Marrais' clear, declamatory voice. (She projects as if she's expecting to lead a sing-along, but the audience has realized, for once, "Hey--nobody paid 15 bucks to hear me.") Virginia's Denali have just released their second album, The Instinct (Jade Tree), on which guitars jut out at spiky angles and vocalist Maura Davis's air-strike trill sneaks in over and under, creating some arresting harmonies at least. Overall, though, the record seems to be a step away from their post-Portishead origins and toward less-interesting rock bluster.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Crump.