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Jazz Mandolin Project 9/20, Schubas Vermont acoustic and electric mandolinist Jamie Masefield also plays in Bad Hat with two guys from Phish, but there’s no call to knock this Flecktones-ish trio, which also includes Keith Jarrett’s son Gabe on drums. Neither a casual jamming affair nor just a showcase for Masefield’s budding virtuosity, the group emphasizes thematic development through improvised three-way conversations rather than long-winded solos. Those who have seen the group say its brainy self-titled CD (Accurate) fails to capture the power of its visceral live show. Arranca 9/21, blue demon room, DePaul Alumni Hall Cuban native Victor Garcia-Rivera mixes punked-up Spanish folk tunes with disarmingly naive bilingual three-chord anthems on this Cincinnati trio’s Exile on Pain Street (Roquero). “Himno Racional,” a raucous take on the Cuban national anthem, has been banned by a Miami radio station and the Cuban government; you can’t get much punker nowadays. Chrome Cranks 9/21, Empty Bottle Continuing an art rock tradition set by forefathers and -mothers Pussy Galore and Sonic Youth, New York’s Chrome Cranks mess with blues ostensibly to feed off its raw urgency. But in the process they also drag in enough of that genre’s inherent orderliness and spirit to brighten their nihilistic inheritance. Soloman Grundy’s 9/21, Phyllis’ Musical Inn This grammatically inept Milwaukee foursome passes muster instrumentally, balancing jangly, melodic guitars with tough rhythms, but the vocals reek of self-pity, whether from wiseass talker Adam Gillette (“I am old, gettin’ fat / and I am facin’ the facts / that there are things I’ll never be”) or shy crooner Mark Grauberger (“If I got caught in the pourin’ rain / would you come to me in my shame / and cover me / would you help me at all?”). C’mon guys, real rock ‘n’ rollers hide behind arrogance. Styx 9/21, Rosemont Horizon Dennis DeYoung and the boys are back and sounding like warmed-over Bad Company on “Little Suzie,” a new song that pads Greatest Hits Part 2 (A&M). The up-to-the-minute lyrics mention the Psychic Friends Network, which is a lot like Styx was back in the 70s–laughably insipid, yet astonishingly successful. Vertical Horizon, Stir, Nineteen Wheels, Farmer 9/21, Cubby Bear Gregg Latterman, proprietor of Evanston’s Aware Records, likes to testify that he used to be a short-haired, suit-clad CPA who wore “those tight things on my feet,” then dropped out, moved to Colorado, grew his hair, and discovered the joys of men’s sandals. If that’s salvation to you, maybe you’ll hear a message in the frightfully conventional rock his bands perform. They all sound like Blow Phish to me. Red Aunts 9/24, Fireside Bowl Just five years ago Red Aunts barely knew how to play their instruments, yet on the new Saltbox (Epitaph) they adroitly navigate numerous change-ups in off-kilter time signatures. But that’s just a technical feat. The music rarely flows; some songs (“Suerte,” “Eldritch Sauce”) seem to be merely four or five unrelated ideas strung together. Their publicist would have you think they’re Exene partyin’ with the J.B.s, but I hear the Go-Go’s imitating Frank Zappa.

–Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Red Aunts photo by Danny Hole.