Spot Check 

TAMI HART 8/2, FIRESIDE BOWL What Passed Between Us (Mr. Lady) is the second album from Portland-based artist Tami Hart, who blew out some ears last year with her performance at Ladyfest Midwest. She comes out of a queer indie scene that's in some ways a logical successor to the "womyn's music" movement of the 70s, but with some important differences: queer men and transgendered people aren't shunned, and neither are big, loud amplifiers. Hart, to her credit, wants to hold on to the expressiveness of singer-songwriter music as well as the energy of full-bore rock, but on the CD she struggles with harnessing both to the same wagon. The prettiest songs, like "From Chapel Hill," and the hardest ones, like "Trapped in Your Blood," have force, but the transitions back and forth are bumpy. Live, however, she's all raw power. Fellow Portlander Robino Robinovich and the local Ripley Caine share the bill at this all-ages show. ARTHUR LEE & LOVE 8/2, DOUBLE DOOR Yes, that Arthur Lee. Released from prison last winter after serving six years for an unfortunate gun-brandishing incident, the Love mastermind, backed by LA-based Baby Lemonade, has just completed a tour of the UK and mainland Europe that by all accounts was a huge success, with Lee in fine form--charismatic and funny and grateful to be onstage again. His set list can be expected to lean heavily on Forever Changes (would anyone really want it otherwise?), though the mercurial musician says he plans to record an album of new material this fall. The dark downside to the Summer of Love was that many of the free spirits who fell through the cracks shone every bit as bright as--if not brighter than--the ones now raking in boomer bucks with a backhoe. Here's a good chance to welcome back one we were afraid we might not see again. STRATFORD 4 8/2, SCHUBAS This San Francisco quartet's debut on Jetset is called The Revolt Against Tired Noises, but I'm not sure these folks are willing to lead it. I wouldn't call the clanging and shimmering noises on the album tired, but they've worked awfully hard for Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine in the not-too-distant past, and I was all set to be jaded and dismissive until one of the two guitarists cut loose with a lovely Sterling Morrison bit on "All Mistakes Are Mine." Then I relaxed and enjoyed it on its own hardly original but always likable trippy terms. This show is part of the massive Summer on Southport festival, which also includes appearances by the Shins, the Fruit Bats, Archer Prewitt, Brendan Benson, Robbie Fulks, Josh Rouse, Box-o-Car, Crooked Fingers (see Critic's Choice), Califone, Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire, and many others; check listings for full schedule. DRILLCHOP 9 8/3, PRODIGAL SON Little known over here and little hyped, at a club with a low (though climbing) profile, this gifted mutant-electronica group from Osaka could provide a dark-horse big event this summer. Founded in 2000 by bassist Takumi Moriya of the Boredoms and guitarist John Harte, they added vocalist and performer Yoko Higashino (of something called the Baby-Q Dance Company) and have played with Sugar from Buffalo Daughter, Yamatsuka Eye, DJ Spooky, and many other notables. Deadly serious in their musicianship, the band members are equally focused on being irreverent--the great demo they sent me skirts the edges of "intelligent dance music" (a phrase that should never be used without scare quotes), but all but the very flexible and the very creative would find it hard to dance to. RADIO VAGO 8/3, EMPTY BOTTLE High-energy retrofitted bands on a postpunk jag are a dime a dozen these days--not that I'm complaining. But truly gifted female-driven ones shopping around a demo that sounds sort of like early Siouxsie & the Banshees in the garage certainly aren't. Radio Vago, from LA, mix a little of goth's graceful antiglitz and a little synth cool into their version of the rhythm-and-riff buzz. Lyrics count for quite a bit here ("Mail Order Bride" is especially chilling) and atmosphere does too--but it's the keyboards and guitar warp drive that count the most. CHICAGO'S FINEST HOUR BBQ 8/7, HIDEOUT This third annual great big show actually celebrates the fourth year Matt Suhar has been organizing his massive Whitman's-sampler jamathons, in which Chicago's up-and-comers take the stage for one song each. Participants tend to pull out the fun stuff: odd covers, untried new material, elaborate member-swapping games. This year's lineup includes the Drapes, Kevin Tihista's Red Terror, Dante's Voodoo Cabaret, Land of the El Caminos, Light FM, Chris Holmes, Eric Roth & the Silver Schmateez, Ruth Buzzy, the Honeybees, and many more. The grills will be fired up at 7; BYO brats and Boca Burgers. GOLDEN 8/8, EMPTY BOTTLE The four far-flung members of Golden don't play in the same band all that often, having gone their respective ways since hooking up at Oberlin in the early 90s: you've heard them in Trans Am, Royal Trux, Six Finger Satellite, and the Make-Up, among others. Their fourth full-length, Apollo Stars (NRL/Thrill Jockey), was recorded at Trans Am's National Recording Studio. It's a hard, precisely cut gem of piercing indie funk, enamored of futuristic R & B, and almost sure what to do with it. Compared to, for example, King Kong's loving, fumbly homages, the very cockiness of Golden can be off-putting--no studio Lysol is going to get rid of that stink of appropriation completely. But it's a smart, sophisticated party record for smart, sophisticated partyers, and suggestive hints of something heartfelt and original lurk under the glass: consider "Henry Earl Ansell," which starts off like a dreadful ballad but then hovers around happily, riding lightly on a single guitar lick, coquettishly refusing to pretend to urgency when there is none.


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