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SCOTT FREE 6/30, BORDERS ON CLARK Borders's PrideTunes 2000 series, a monthlong run of performances by gay and lesbian artists, closes with a bang this year: Chicagoan Scott Free dazzled me a couple years ago with his debut, Getting Off, a potent one-man eruption of fiercely articulate lust and rage hot enough to fry the family-friendly veneer off any middlebrow assimilationist troubadour in a ten-mile radius. The follow-up, The Living Dead, isn't as pure an emotional blitz, despite raw outbursts like the title track and "Our Sensitivity" ("This is why they kill us / This is why they cut a slur into our backs / Drag us by the throat / Pistol-whip us / Stuff us into the trunk of a car / Stab us with a pitchfork..."), but it's still impressive, and Free's songwriting is wickedly efficient even when he gets tender. In "Meet You at the Church" he rasps, "Will you marry me, Morrissey?" over a convincing bubble of 80s pretty-boy pop, complete with children's choir; "Leather Ghosts" is a bittersweet, romantic Angels in America-style fantasy. Free sometimes fronts a trio live, but this is a solo performance. MAGNOLIA SISTERS 6/30, FITZGERALD'S Now almost as much of a Fourth of July tradition in Chicago as the extended barrage of amateur fireworks, FitzGerald's American Music Festival brings together roots music's best and brightest for a weekend-long marathon fueled by beer and barbecue. One of the highlights of the opening-night lineup is the Magnolia Sisters, an all-woman quintet of Cajun revivalists who take their cues from old-timers in their native Louisiana as well as from Alan Lomax and write original lyrics based on historical research as well as their own sense of "archetypal" experience. Accordionist Ann Savoy, a member of the world-class Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band and author of Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People, is joined on the Sisters' new Chers Amis (Rounder) by crack fiddlers Tina Pilione and Jane Vidrine, bassist Lisa Trahan Reed, and multi-instrumentalist Christine Balfa, who is the youngest daughter of famous Cajun fiddler Dewey Balfa and fronts the band Balfa Toujours. WHITE STRIPES 6/30, EMPTY BOTTLE This Detroit garage duo's second album for Sympathy for the Record Industry, De Stijl, will probably be the only record ever dedicated to Gerrit Rietveld (an architect and designer associated with the Dutch de Stijl movement) and Blind Willie McTell (whose "Your Southern Can Is Mine" gets covered here). Not surprisingly guitarist and singer Jack White is also an artist and designer--and his Peppermint Triple Tremolo, a cabinet involving three Leslie speakers and a giant revolving peppermint candy, is more likely to inspire dramatic responses than the music itself. The secondhand guitar sounds and white-blues wails are very familiar; except for the production values, this record could have been made by British kids in 1966. It would have sounded pretty good then too, but the Yardbirds would still have been bigger. IDA 7/2, SCHUBAS; 7/3, RECKLESS ON BROADWAY Formed in New York in 1992 by singer-songwriters Dan Littleton and Liz Mitchell, who married last year, this quartet has over the years welcomed in a host of drummers, bassists, and string players and even an accordionist; Ida has also intermingled in one way or another with Tsunami, Low, Retsin, Beekeeper, the Secret Stars, Portastatic, His Name Is Alive, and Ui. The result of all this tangling is startling, elegant clarity--the band's forthcoming Will You Find Me (Tiger Style) is built from sweet, subtle, ringing and rising guitars and harmonies, giving a little bit of country soul to distinctly urban restlessness and desire. Also available at this show is a limited edition live album from Insound's "Tour Support" series, on which the covers range from Eno to Dolly Parton to Prince--onstage this deceptively low-key band can be delightfully unpredictable. GURF MORLIX 7/2, FITZGERALD'S Guitarist Gurf Morlix is best known for his 11 years of excellent work with Lucinda Williams, who fired him during the long and exacting sessions for her acclaimed Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. But Morlix has other connections: over the years he's produced records for Robert Earl Keen, Butch Hancock, and Slaid Cleaves and played on sessions for Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. Miller returns the favor by singing one tune on Morlix's stripped-down solo debut, Toad of Titicaca, on the local Catamount label; for the most part the only other players are drummer Rick Richards and organist Ian McLagan. Though Morlix's songwriting is quite a ways from Williams's compositional and expressive genius, he's a completely enjoyable roots-rock talent in his own right, dipping into Appalachianisms, country blues, and down-home boogie with a laid-back fluidity. SISTER HAZEL 7/2, ROCK 'N' ROAR FESTIVAL Having a radio hit under your belt isn't the ticket it used to be. The most interesting thing about the package I got from this million-selling Universal band is not the new album, Fortress (which includes a "six-minute saga" about the dark side of fame--ooooo--and pretty much sounds like any ten minutes of Q101 programming on repeat), but the tour itinerary, which has the Florida five-piece playing Myrtle Beach on July 1, Saint Louis on the afternoon of July 2, this festival at the Lincoln Park Zoo the evening of July 2, a state park in Orlando on July 3, and Milwaukee's Summerfest on July 4. Did Survivor have to put up with this kind of routing? SPACEHEADS 7/6, EMPTY BOTTLE Spaceheads--Richard Harrison and Andy Diagram on drums and electronically transmogrified trumpet, respectively--have over the course of several recordings on Dark Beloved Cloud and Merge developed a free-floating funky aesthetic, a sort of loopy art-punk version of electric Miles. While no one would ever mistake their frothy fantasia for genre "psychedelia," it's often a great trip, and while you'd never file it under "dance music," you might find your booty shaking. You'd think it would be hard to pull off onstage, but the new Live 1999, another Insound "Tour Support" release, documents how easy they make it seem. --Monica Kendrick

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