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ANI DI FRANCO 6/3, OLD TOWN SCHOOL While musically Ani DiFranco is most certainly in the same league as postfolkies like Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, and the Indigo Girls, the effectively uncut vinegar and acid of her lyrics sets her apart. "Just the thought of our bed / Makes me crumble like the plaster / Where you punched the wall / Beside my head," goes the title track of her new album Out of Range (Righteous Babe). DiFranco's been lobbed with the useless "alternative" tag because she puts out her own records, has a nose ring and a funny haircut, and exhibits sharply frank lyrics. But there's no good reason to view her as a musical outsider. CATHY BRAATEN, BLUE IN THE FACE 6/3, QUICKSILVER A double-bill record-release party that perfectly illustrates the pervasive phenomenon of mediocre "talent" jumping on the DIY wagon in hopes of getting signed by a major. Cathy Braaten is a Chicago singer-songwriter type striving for a harder edge, but her new Ride the Fader (Channel 83) proves that she's merely a 70s child who's listened to too many Bonnie Raitt albums and has nothing to say. Blue in the Face are from Milwaukee and exemplify the most egregious traits of the white R & B band. Their just-released Curtains (Don't) reeks of an anesthetized gloss and completely lacks grit, funk, and emotion, the bedrock triumvirate of this kind of music. MATERIAL ISSUE 6/4, METRO The quavering croon of Jim Ellison has always sounded preening and self-satisfied and his songs deliberately fluffy, which is kind of why his band's third album, Freak City Soundtrack (Mercury), arrives as such a surprise. It doesn't portray the band as suddenly weighty per se, but producer Mike Chapman, the knob twirler behind Sweet and Blondie, has given Material Issue a chunkier, more substantial sound, and while Ellison's juvenile lyrics about love and girl chasing remain dopey, they're now extremely catchy, set to a broad swath of textures and attacks. Tripping Daisy open. VAGINAL DAVIS 6/4, CZAR BAR Regular readers of this column are surely aware of my propensity for promoting seven-foot drag queens, so it should come as no surprise that I'd champion LA's Vaginal Davis. As with her performance last year under the auspices of Homocore, Davis will be backed by Robespierre (formerly known as Chia Pet). That woolly extravaganza featured plenty of perspiration, salacious gestures, feel copping, and graphically celebratory lyrics; this one shouldn't be too different. Last year Davis went head to head with crossover drag queen RuPaul; this year she competes with Grace Jones, who's always been of dubious gender, performing at the Congress. My brief analysis: Jones may have the glitz and glamour, but Davis has the gams and grinds. GODSPEED 6/5, RIVIERA These northern New Jersey muscleheads bridge that piddling gap between metal and hardcore, singer David Blanche offering wisdom like "You can't fight it / Cannot deny it / It's not pretty, but it sure / Beats self pity" (that's from "Hate" on their recent debut Ride, on Atlantic). While their revved-up, post-Black Sabbath crunch with its thick twin-bass grinding conveys some power, Godspeed have to be a result of the commingling of the dregs in the gene pool. They open for the oxygen-deficient Dio and Love/Hate. SUPERSUCKERS 6/9, AVALON Grunt-fluent punk rockers transplanted to Seattle from Tucson, Supersuckers proudly cram their sound full of three-chord slop and embrace all possible stripes of anti-PC behavior. Their recent La Mano Cornuda (Sub Pop) has them scoffing at intelligence and swallowing lots of beer. I'm sure these bohunks would be the first to tell feminist doubters that "She's My Bitch"--their answer to "The Lady Is a Tramp"--is tongue-in-cheek as they fiddle with their crotches.

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