BIG BAD VOODOO DADDY 4/10, HOUSE OF BLUES If you can get past the racist shtick of the name–though why should you?–you’re rewarded with stale fashion-model swing pop that makes the truckload of new ska bands sound downright innovative. These spats-sporting beach boys from Ventura, last heard on the Swingers sound track, claim to be equally influenced by Count Basie and Black Flag, but their shameless lifestyle hucksterism approaches the integrity of neither. We all know that if the public really gave a damn, it’d be snapping up Louis Jordan collections and throwing parties at home–that’s the difference between a real revival and one invented by liquor companies.
FACE TO FACE 4/11, riviera The quality of youthfulness–coveted by jeans companies and pop-culture critics everywhere–actually has nothing to do with age and everything to do with a renewable ability to surprise. This is why this kind of 90s radio-friendly punk pop pales quickly: When you’re 16, power chords in the basement while the folks are out of town can summarize the essence of life. But by the time you get into your late 20s and start negotiating major-label politics, profit margins, and publicity, listeners can hear arrested development oozing out of the grooves, no matter how catchy the tunes–though Face to Face’s tunes are plenty catchy.
LEGENDARY STARDUST COWBOY 4/11, LOUNGE AX Less frightening than Wesley Willis and more sociable than Hasil Adkins, 50-year-old Norman Carl Odam of Lubbock, Texas, has been poised for a long time to become the poster child for outsider rock. Still best known for his cacophonous 1968 hit, “Paralyzed,” which earned him a spot on Laugh-In, became a Dr. Demento staple, and reportedly inspired David Bowie to name his doomed-rocker persona “Ziggy Stardust” (did that man have any original ideas?), this undeniably passionate eccentric has the hipsters in his pocket already: since 1979 he’s played with the Leroi Brothers and the Gun Club and guested on a record by Eugene Chadbourne. And his 1988 comeback single, “Standing in a Trashcan (Thinking About You)” b/w “My Underwear Froze to the Clothesline,” sparked label interest on both sides of the Atlantic. This performance, which features ex-Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Flouride, will be recorded for a live album. The New Duncan Imperials open. r12 RODS 4/11, METRO Everything sunken rises to the top this decade; on its debut, Gay? (V2), this Minneapolis trio delightedly recasts early-80s prog lite and late-80s underground guitar grind with synthpop twitch and pretty Prince-like filigree. It’s a heady synthesis, capped by vocalist Ryan Olcott’s tales of nerd angst and sexual confusion, delivered in a voice like Ozzy gone digital. Passionate geeks win my heart every time.
DAMON & NAOMI, batoh & kurihara 4/14, EMPTY BOTTLE There were so many damn good shows last year it’s hard to pick standouts, but one of my favorite mindboggles was the performance at Empty Bottle by Japanese mystic jammers Ghost, which came hot on the heels of the Drag City reissues of their first three albums. Their fourth, Lamarabirabi, doesn’t compromise the lovely trance-folk of their earlier records, but it brings to the fore those hints of throb ‘n’ drone that had always lurked in the background; the long blowout “Marrakech” is a leaner and meaner neighbor of Led Zep’s “Kashmir.” And last August, armed with guitars, bongos, bells, gongs, hurdy-gurdy, and sitar, they blew a packed Monday-night house into happy oblivion. De facto leader Masaki Batoh’s two hard-to-find solo albums, Kikaokubeshi and A Ghost From the Darkened Sea, have been reissued by the Now Sound as Collected Works 1995-1996; I might be rude to say this of die-hard communalists, but it’s he who’s responsible for Ghost’s elaborate, deeply textured eerieness, and it’s largely Michio Kurihara who brings the noise. Likewise, Batoh’s longtime friends and sometime tour mates Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang were the heart and soul of Galaxie 500–if it wasn’t obvious before, it has been since Dean Wareham formed the much more successful and correspondingly tedious Luna. The duo was also half of the underrated psychedelic band Magic Hour, with Kate Biggar and guitar antilegend Wayne Rogers. Its new Playback Singers (Sub Pop), recorded at their home in Boston, features more of their sophisticated melancholy balladry–with inspired covers of Ghost’s “Awake in a Muddle” and Tom Rapp’s “Translucent Carriages.” At this performance, the Ghost guys will play, then Damon and Naomi will play, and then all four will get beautiful together.
RAMBLIN’ JACK ELLIOTT 4/16, FITZGERALD’S Elliott is the man: He hit the dirt with Woody Guthrie in the late 40s, then moved back to New York, where he showed young Bobby Zimmerman how it was done. His 1962 collection of Guthrie covers arguably showed off his friend’s songwriting genius better than Guthrie ever could himself. Elliott’s own genius isn’t exactly undercelebrated, either–his latest, Friends of Mine (Hightone), features guest appearances by Arlo Guthrie, Tom Waits, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, Bob Weir, and Jerry Jeff Walker. Rosalie Sorrels appears on “Last Letter,” which she helped make famous, and the album is dedicated to the late Townes Van Zandt. But Elliott comes off less like a superstar than a character from Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, still roaming the earth in holey shoes and spewing tales about events you’d swear he was too young to remember. He shares the bill with Tom Russell and (relatively) new traditionalist Dave Alvin. –Monica Kendrick
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): 12 Rods photo by Daniel Corrigan.