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Spot Check 

DEL THA FUNKy HOMOSAPIEN 3/10, B SIDE CAFE A linchpin of the Bay Area Hieroglyphics crew (Souls of Mischief, Casual, Extra Prolific, Pep-Love & Jay Biz), Del tha Funkee Homosapien is one of hip hop's most fluid and most humorous freestyle rappers. Since he's preparing to record a follow-up to 1993's fine No Need for Alarm (Elektra), he'll probably preview much of his new stuff. The B Side Cafe replaces the old Avalon (good riddance) and pledges to program hip hop, soul, and acid jazz exclusively. This show marks the venue's first performance. BLACK CROWES 3/10 & 11, ARAGON Black Crowes don't just sound like they belong in a 70s time capsule, they dress and behave (booze, drugs, and women, natch) that way too, earning praise for acting like a "real" rock 'n' roll band. On their third album, Amorica (American), they stretch nicely beyond their Faces evocations, resulting in a pleasantly soulful, groovy, and sophisticatedly accurate recollection of a previous decade. A guiding 70s-esque stupidity needs to accompany any healthy enjoyment of their music. Mirroring the Grateful Dead (always a specious pursuit), the band is encouraging concert attendees to tape these shows, which are both opened by New Orleans funeral dirge revisionists Dirty Dozen Brass Band. SMACKMELON 3/11, DOUBLE DOOR Fronted by former Bullet LaVolta guitarist Duke Roth, Boston's Smackmelon rehash the work of countless noisy and melodic guitar-rock bands from the 80s. Their eponymous debut EP sounds like HŸsker DŸ, Mission of Burma, and a touch of Dinosaur Jr tempered with the emotional sincerity of Michael Bolton. An unfortunate upshot of the alternative rock explosion finds every minor member of every two-bit band seeking to extend a career that lasted too long the first time around. There's nothing inherently wrong with Smackmelon; it's just impossible to give two hoots about them. They open for Love Cup and Menthol. WEAPON OF CHOICE 3/11, VIC Predominantly white, overripe Funkadelic eaters from LA--right down to the faux Pedro Bell artwork on the CD. On their debut, Nut Meg Sez "Bozo the Town" (Loosegroove/ Sony 550), Weapon of Choice proffer a tedious George Clinton-derived weltanschauung that suggests multiracial parties and funk music can solve the world's problems. Fishbone headline. VARTTINA 3/12, PARK WEST In a follow-up to last year's immensely successful U.S. tour, Finnish folk revisionists Varttina return, performing with the Irish folk ensemble Arcady. The newest Varttina album, Aitara (Xenophile), delivers a rock-pop jolt without smothering their bright harmonies or the unpredictable rhythmic alacrity of their breathtaking unison vocals: their rock rhythm section provides a kick in the ass but stays out of the way. Most of the new material is original stuff, rendered as beautifully as Varttina has treated its traditional oeuvre. CHUCK BRODSKY 3/13, KAFEIN, 3/14, MAMA JAVA'S, 3/16, LUNAR CABARET, 3/17, TWO WAY STREET COFFEEHOUSE On his debut, A Fingerpainter's Mural (Waterbug), singer-songwriter Chuck Brodsky delivers engaging, keenly detailed narratives with a tunefulness and an affecting, plaintive voice that transcend the formal pragmatism of a typical folk artist. Currently based in the San Francisco Bay area, Brodsky's in town for an extended set of performances at coffeehouses in Chicago and a few suburbs. COP SHOOT COP 3/14, DOUBLE DOOR These veteran New York grime-rock thugs undergird their pose of misery with wry humor. Release (Interscope), which seems like their hundredth release (actually it's their sixth), is the band's first foray with a real guitarist; the band's foundation has previously rested upon a pair of rough-hewn bassists, a sampler/keyboard guy, and a modified drum kit. With Tod Ashley fine-tuning the uncanny melodicism beneath the raspy angst of his post-Foetus vocal sneer, CSC sound more like a normal but solid hard-rock band all the time. But even though they've supplanted their earlier numb-noise experimenting with hard-edged convention, one thing has remained fairly constant: their marginality, both creative and commercial.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Carl Posey.

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