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MISTREATERS 2/23, HIDEOUT On their first official full-length, Grab Them Cakes (Big Neck), which reprises one song from their 1999 full-length cassette, The Mistreaters Don't Do Drugs and Stay in School, these Milwaukee boys demonstrate how it's done--it in this case being greasy, raw, and ruthlessly paced garage punk. Controlled sloppiness within dazzling tightness, a big thick swampy sound with a distinct swing, basket-weaving riffs, and garbage-can drums evoke a smoky little dive so packed and steamy that guys sweat beer and girls disrobe. They open for the Dishes and the Nerves. HEARTSFIELD 2/24, FITZGERALD'S I love the synchronicities that pop up in this job sometimes--like the way the unsung midwestern proto-jam band Heartsfield returns to action just as some genius in a discussion group I belong to coins the phrase "beard rock." If you were a midwestern hippie in the 70s, you probably saw this band play live, either alone or opening for mainstream beard-rock bands ranging from the Doobie Brothers to .38 Special to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Most of its catalog, originally on Mercury, was reissued in the late 90s by the Saint Louis-based label Bedrock, and actually its sweet-toned, unpretentious bong-hit blues holds up better than some of the better-known stuff: you get all the comforting sounds of jammy intimacy without the grating familiarity. That said, the only original band member in this lineup, which is reportedly recording a new album, is songwriter Perry Jordan. The absence of cofounding guitarist, mandolinist, banjoist, and fiddler J.C. Hartsfield is particularly notable--seeing as how it's his name and all--so all caveats apply. PERSONS 2/24, REYNOLDS CLUB, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO This totally wired Philadelphia band, formerly known as the Lainmeyers, echoes the great weird new-wave pop of the early 80s--back when stuffing stupefying medication down the throats of hyperactive kids was a lot less prevalent than it is now. The Lainmeyers Are Persons (Black Bean Placenta) sounds superficially like the playful early Cure, with pinches of Talking Heads and Devo, but flashes of dance music and jazz are also sucked into the dizzying pop vortex, and underneath the influences is a warped 90s sense of structure. Past live shows have reportedly featured Pearl Harbor "reenactments" and the ensnaring of audiences in fishing net. BUCKY HALKER & THE COMPLETE UNKNOWNS 2/25, HOTHOUSE A decade ago, sometime Chicagoan Bucky Halker--once a member of the local roots act the Remainders--wrote a book on left-wing labor songs, For Democracy, Workers, and God: Labor Song-Poems and Labor Protest, 1865-1895 (University of Illinois Press). He's come back to that source material for his latest album, Don't Want Your Millions, which features electrified, boogiefied, and honky-tonked versions of tunes by Leadbelly, Joe Hill, and Woody Guthrie as well as that most prolific protest writer, Anonymous. The title track features backing vocals by Robbie Fulks, but the most prominent guest star is Studs Terkel, who delivers a dramatic reading of T-Bone Slim's "The Lumberjack's Prayer." Although there have been a number of good-to-excellent releases documenting such material in the past decade--enough, in fact, that Wobbly kitsch is almost an alt-country subgenre--direct hits on capitalism can still be a hard sell in the U.S.: Don't Want Your Millions has been out in Europe for two years, but Halker has only just released it here, on his own Revolting Records. NU 2/25, SCHUBAS On their mind-bogglingly professional "demo," EP-01, local musicians Leif Olsen and John Hiler (an engineer who's worked on records by Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, and Madonna) have Pro Tooled a nifty fusion of pulsing trance and big rock. Unfortunately, the swoop and wail of electronics and guitars that introduces and punctuates most of the tunes is much more compelling than the roundly generic song parts and vocals. Since recording the demo, the duo has expanded to include drummer Mike Tsoulos of the experimental rock trio Frontier, the other members of which will provide "auditory ambience" for this show--which is promising, I guess. PUERTO MUERTO 3/1, SCHUBAS Less sinister than Dirty Old Man River (but not for lack of trying) and less polished than Low, local guitarist-singer Tim Kelley and drummer-singer Christa Meyer do brittle, eerie back-alley balladry with a downright sociopathic lack of affect: Meyer's overlapping vocal rounds on "Grinding Bones," from the self-released ...Your Bloated Corpse Has Washed Ashore, strip the murder-ballad form down to a sort of countrified Gregorian chant. Though the album would benefit from a greater dynamic range, the potential's there--Meyer's drumming sometimes suggests repressed frenzy, and Kelley spits out fragments of almost Zoot Horn Rollo-ish guitar on the closer, "So Long." Jon Langford headlines. SIERRA MAESTRA 3/1, HOTHOUSE Formed at the University of Havana in 1976 and dedicated to reviving son, the form of Cuban dance music popular in the 20s and 30s, this band begs comparison to some American neoswing units--the difference being that they not only created a retro trend but then stuck around long enough to be considered pioneers themselves. Winners of numerous awards and the stars of a recent French feature film called Salsa, they've played everywhere from Nicaragua to Finland, earning raves for their instrumental fluidity. This gig is part of a fairly rare North American tour.

--Monica Kendrick

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