Arts & Culture » Theater Critic's Choice

Supersystem, French Toast, Call Me Lightning

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White hipster ass has been a hot commodity for the past couple years--just think of all the dance-oriented rock bands competing to get it moving. Last year D.C. avant-rock group El Guapo rebooted itself in the funkier form of SUPERSYSTEM, just as the market for guitar-and-drum-machine dance punk reached its saturation point, and Always Never Again (Touch and Go) got lost in the crush when it came out in April. Retro-styled PiL-heads still pull more heat in the press, but Supersystem fucks with dancehall, electro, and Ethiopiques funk in ways that are more compelling to both the brain and the booty. D.C.'s punk and go-go scenes measure success by the amount of sweat in the air, and Supersystem steps to the game with tempos cranked, beats set to polyrhythm, and songs dosed with call-and-response vocals that beg for crowd participation. Given the hunger for globe-trotting dance jams that followed M.I.A.'s breakout, they should finally start attracting a crowd to participate.

James Canty and Jerry Busher, the two core members of FRENCH TOAST, spent a few years touring behind a single and a six-song EP before recording a full-length, last year's In a Cave (Dischord), and it was time well spent. They're airtight onstage and confidently push their own limits--three tracks into the album they abandon postpunk entirely and let fly with a dub reggae instrumental. Canty played drums in the Nation of Ulysses and guitar in the Make-Up, while Busher held down auxiliary percussion for Fugazi before it went on hiatus, and that D.C. punk background provides a solid jumping-off point for their rhythmic, atmospheric pop. But their sound owes at least as much to Factory Records as to Dischord. --Miles Raymer

The first time I heard CALL ME LIGHTNING, I had flashbacks to the Fireside Bowl circa 1998. Back then bands still in their baby formations were awash in Albini idolatry; it hadn't yet become unfashionable to imitate Duane Denison's guitar sound in the Jesus Lizard, and the sound of young Chicago was just the sound of old Chicago--an amalgam of Touch and Go's top sellers. Most of those kids have moved on to more adult pursuits like disco-clap choruses and noodly beard rock, but The Trouble We're In (Revelation), Call Me Lightning's debut album, suggests that Milwaukee's been serving as a time capsule. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, all three members used to play in top-shelf support bands from the Fireside postcore scene, including Akarso, Hero of a Hundred Fights, and Haymarket Riot.) Nathan Lilley's voice, a high-pitched hillbilly growl that twists and arcs just slightly out of his control, makes for easy comparisons to David Yow's, but when he gets excited--screaming about heresy, secrets, parties, and such--he can just as easily remind you of a siren or a baby. The band is all sinewy postpunk licks all the time, given to urgent processionals with spastic drums and stuttering guitars pushed into the red. If any band was going to keep the dream alive, we're lucky it's this one. --Jessica Hopper

Supersystem headlines, French Toast plays second, and Call Me Lightning opens; Disc Jockey CB spins throughout the evening. Thu 1/12, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

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