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TRIP DADDYS 7/28, HOUSE OF BLUES There isn't much to say about rockabilly anymore except "good" or "bad." Hot Chicks and Fast Kicks, this Saint Louis trio's forthcoming self-released CD, is the former, a fierce little dragster of a record--it's tight and clean and tricked-out for sure, but also manages to sound absolutely fearless. Brian Setzer headlines this sold-out show. IMAGINARY POSSE 7/30, EMPTY BOTTLE The debut EP by this Champaign quartet was a promising nugget of lo-fi trance pop, my main beef with which was a certain militant humility. But on their latest, the as yet unreleased Previously Unreleased, they show some confidence and a playful pop side, including some instrumental flourishes that could come from your better trippier McCartney B sides and the not-overly-cute oh-oh-ohs on "Orangefinger." There'd be a lot more buzz about this band if they weren't hiding out downstate. BETA BAND 8/1, HUTCHINSON FIELD IN GRANT PARK Hyped backhandedly in High Fidelity (as one of the few records John Cusack and his neurotic clerks actually let out the door of their shop) and now on tour with Radiohead, who're as much a phenomenon as a band, this Scottish outfit seems poised for flight. As if to rise to the occasion, their second full-length, Hot Shots II (Astralwerks), is a heroic improvement over their pleasant but unremarkable early releases--it's, uh, a remarkably pleasant collection of suave and textured electropop. A melody or two could actually be mistaken for Nirvana from the next room, but that probably won't hurt them much. HAMELL ON TRIAL 8/1, SCHUBAS Ed Hamell, whose one-man band is called Hamell on Trial, doesn't make a great first impression. His latest release, Ed's Not Dead--Hamell Comes Alive! (on his own Such-a-Punch Media), immediately set me thinking how little the world really needs another abrasive, speed-strumming punk folkie. But just a few tunes into the live album--recorded on a short tour last year opening for Ani DiFranco and released while he was recovering from a car crash that happened on the way home--I found myself warming up to him just like you do the funny drunk on the stool next to you, once you get used to his breath. I think it was round about "I Hate Your Kid" (about the beeper-toting 14-year-old drug dealer next door: "The single parent blues / This is the news / All across the land / Let's join hands...and kill that kid") that I really started to like him. WARREN COMMISSION 8/2, FIRESIDE BOWL The letter that came with this Massachusetts outfit's press kit pleads, "We are an independent rock band and can use all the help we can get." Yeah, take a number...but jeez, look at this, their Rendezvous With You (Espo) is one of the most elaborately packaged CDs I've seen in a long time, tucked inside a 14-page spiral-bound booklet full of glossy, dreamy photos, so obviously they don't need my two cents. But I'll give it anyway: the music is a beautiful mess of anthemic guitars, with two singers, one a Juliana Hatfield type and the other a boy who bursts into near operatic stadium voice from time to time. You might like it if you've still got a sweet tooth or are under 17--but there's no justification for the name, unless the "warren" in question is full of bunnies.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Corrine Day.

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