Bad Livers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Bad Livers 

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It's easy to be of two minds about the Bad Livers. On the one hand, this Austin-based trio's brand of nuclear-strength bluegrass is really funny; the three essay fiddle-, banjo-, and tuba-driven runs at everything from Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life" and Motorhead's "Ace of Spades" to more traditional bluegrass numbers to some respectable efforts by singer Danny Barnes himself. The band revels in the conceptual chaos of their back-porch speed metal--their name is an homage to the Bad Brains, another genre-busting group--and takes pride in being able to open for a traditional bluegrass outfit one night, the Butthole Surfers the next. But there's a downside, too: the band's first album, Delusions of Banjer, is a little languid. They're into, and strive for, "Hollis Brown"-level dramatics, but these are sometimes dampened by the sameness of Barnes's flat, nasal drawl and some perfunctory playing. After a while you wonder if the band begins to sound a bit arch, undermining the integrity of their musical base. Live, though, the outfit's a blast: you've never seen anyone play banjo so fast. Saturday, 3 PM, Reckless Records, 3157 N. Broadway; 404-5080. Saturday night, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln (Tex Edwards and the Swingin' Cornflake Killers open); 525-6620.

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