FOURTH WALTZ 3/22, METRO For the fourth year running, local musician Nicholas Tremulis has dedicated his energy and his band to raising money for the Heartland Alliance’s Neon Street programs for homeless teens. The star-studded roster always has an air of the celebrity gala about it, but many of the performers use the opportunity to try out unlikely collaborations (Billy Corgan with Marianne Faithfull was a favorite last year) or raw material with a talent-show playfulness. This year’s heavy hitters are longtime cult hero Graham Parker, the legendary Ronnie Spector, Ivan Neville, Steve Earle, Alejandro Escovedo, swamp rocker Sonny Landreth, and composer David Amram; local stars include Jon Langford, Kelly Hogan, Word Jazz’s Ken Nordine, former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and Wilco bassist John Stirratt. MATES OF STATE 3/22, SCHUBAS Making music together as a couple is a risky proposition–for every Paul and Linda, John and Yoko, Thurston and Kim, or Ira and Georgia, there are a dozen pairs who couldn’t bear the intensity of a creative relationship. But Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, the organ-and-drums duo Mates of State, aren’t afraid to jump in holding hands: they’re a band, they’re husband and wife, they picked up and moved from Lawrence, Kansas, to San Francisco together, and now both have quit their day jobs. Their second album, Our Constant Concern (Polyvinyl), recorded by Dave Trumfio, confirms that anything worth doing is worth doing full-time; their minimal instrumentation is layered skillfully and cleverly. Sometimes they sound a bit like an indie-pop Human League, sometimes like the Yellow Magic Orchestra backing a country singer. Silkworm headlines. POTOMAC ACCORD 3/22, HIDEOUT This Saint Louis duo is working on a second full-length, as yet untitled, and the demos they sent me sound rough in some very good ways. This sort of toodly and textured piano-based dream rock isn’t usually sung with such urgency: Andrew Benn makes the band’s travels through the ether sound less like a vacation from reality than an all-too-vivid reality in their own right. Nice to see there’s still a little brown acid out there. RHot snakes 3/25, Empty Bottle; 3/26, Fireside Bowl Former Drive Like Jehu guitarist John Reis, aka Speedo of Rocket From the Crypt, likes to stay busy–he’s now back up to three bands (RFTC, the Sultans, and this one) and running his own label, Swami. The Hot Snakes (it’s the term reptile aficionados use for poisonous snakes kept as pets) is a new band with an old pal–screamer Rick Froberg of Jehu–along with Delta 72 drummer Jason Kourkounis, but their debut effort, Automatic Midnight (Swami/Sympathy For the Record Industry), is as close to Rocket’s extra-intense garage shimmy as Jehu’s atonal rhythmic frenzy. KNIEVEL 3/25, SCHUBAS Bands just pick their names out of a hat these days–I mean, wouldn’t you expect a band called Knievel to sound suggestive of motorcycle stunts? Though they’re not exactly newbies (singer Wayne Connolly’s a recording engineer who’s worked with Silverchair), these Australians have just released their U.S. debut, The Name Rings a Bell That Drowns Out Your Voice (In Music We Trust). Rather than drowning out anything, it appeals to be heard sweetly, with a sparkly richness and a humble romanticism. Keyboards and guitars interlace so gracefully the effect is narcotic, and there’s just enough skew to the melody and crackle to Connolly’s voice to suggest that these pretty sounds might mask a little danger. JUMP LITTLE CHILDREN 3/26, SCHUBAS This band, formed in 1994 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and now based in Charleston, South Carolina, put out their fourth album, Vertigo, on their own EZChief label. But I suspect if their previous home, a subsidiary of Atlantic, hadn’t been downsized down the plumbing, they’d be fairly big. There’s a long-standing connection between southern and Irish music, of course, so I suppose it makes sense that the atmospheric note they hit most often seems to be an echo off U2’s misty Irish cliffs–a full-bodied, many-mooded sound polished to a blinding sheen by producer Brad Wood and hung on the framework of songs that are surprisingly challenging and sophisticated. STREETWALKIN’ CHEETAHS 3/26, ABBEY PUB I’m not sure what I dislike so much about this LA band. I have no inherent problem with heavy Stooges worship, and MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer himself thinks these guys are good enough to back him at his own game (though considering the Epitaph trash he’s allied himself with recently, that may not mean much). But to my ears even the oddities and rarities collected on the Cheetahs’ latest, Guitars, Guns & Gold (Triple X), sound so slickly referential as to be joyless. The exceptions are “Generator,” an uncharacteristic bit of buzzy repetitive new-wave grit with the odd glammy Sunset Boulevard guitar sololet thrown in, and a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Sanctuary.”

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bob Jones.