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GADJITS 2/1, FIRESIDE BOWL Hard to believe this Kansas City outfit was once a third-rate ska-revival band. Signed to Hellcat by Rancid's Tim Armstrong while still in their teens and dropped after their tastes changed, they've evolved into a sweet-sounding, clean-toned unit playing somewhat garagey rock 'n' soul: in the best moments on their new Today Is My Day (on Chicago's Thick label), uplifted by organist Hilary Allen, they sound like formerly wholesome kids going wild under the influence of really hairy sounds. BEARS 2/2, MARTYRS' When guitarist Rob Fetters, bassist Bob Nyswonger, and drummer Chris Arduser play on their own they're an obscure Cincinnati pop band called the Psychodots; but when they back former King Crimson guitarist and instructional-video star Adrian Belew, as they have on and off since the mid-80s, they're the Bears. Their third and latest release as such, Car Caught Fire, is good-natured, poppy wank rock of the sort that middle-aged geniuses play for each other in their home studios, not really caring that much whether audiences find it entertaining or not--yet a surprising number of people seem to. Belew's playing, which rests uneasily under the vocals, is angular, alert, and versatile as always. It's the reason most of those people are there, but it's sometimes wasted on dated tones. SONS OF THE NEVER WRONG 2/2, SCHUBAS The lovely local acoustic trio Sons of the Never Wrong releases albums regularly but rarely: its most recent, One if by Hand, issued by the Vermont-based Gadfly label in 2000, replaces original member Nancy Walker with singer and multi-instrumentalist Deb Lader, who plays spoons as well as the usual array of strings. Texturally it falls somewhere between the acou-stically pure 1995 debut and 1997's beautiful but smoothly produced Consequence of Speech--but the difference between those two isn't that dramatic. Either way, you get something like the Roches channeling Peter, Paul & Mary on songs by Richard Thompson. SYLVAIN SYLVAIN 2/2, BEAT KITCHEN In a 1998 interview for NY Rock, former New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain tells this story about meeting Michael Stipe: "The first thing out of his mouth was, 'Man, I saw you in 1978 with David Johansen! That was so great, but I'm sure you're sick and tired of hearing that.' And I said to him, 'Are you kidding? I have no money. If it wasn't for the occasional autograph, or somebody coming up to me, and saying that, what else would I have?'" Of course you hear that sort of thing all the time too. But then I think about somebody like Mick Jagger--a creative has-been still raking in obscene amounts of dough and with the blessing of established professional suck-ups like Jann Wenner--and my blood boils. Sylvain, who records very infrequently (just four studio albums in the decades since the Dolls) has regained some visibility with two releases on Fishhead Records in the past five years, and this is his second full U.S. tour since learning that there is still an audience, however modest, waiting to hear what he's still got. He now lives in Atlanta; this is his first Chicago appearance since 1999. Expect a range of tunes from Sylvain's entire career, and perhaps more nods than usual to his old bandmate Johnny Thunders--Sylvain's latest work in progress is a tribute to him. JONNY POLONSKY 2/6, SCHUBAS This show is part of the Onion's ongoing "Justify Your Existence" series, and I don't envy Polonsky his turn on the hot seat. One can safely assume the entity making the demand isn't very generous, and I'm not sure "I produce crunchy, hooky Midwestern power pop" or "Frank Black helped me get signed and Jeff Buckley said something nice about me in 1996" are adequate answers. But at least some of the Onion's readers, upon looking at Polonsky's latest EP, There Is Something Wrong With You (Eggbert), might agree that putting a nice pair of tits in the CD booklet is of some small service to humanity. ANTHRAX 2/7, RIVIERA After--well, enjoying might not be the right word--some accidental publicity this fall, these rap-metal pioneers have joined Judas Priest's Operation Enduring Metal tour (rhythm guitarist Scott Ian on receiving a compliment from Priest guitarist K.K. Downing: "I was so jaw-droppingly excited I thought my beard was my pubic hair") and are promoting the reissues of their early-90s albums Sound of White Noise and Stomp 442 (both include bonus tracks, mostly covers ranging from Thin Lizzy and Kiss to the Smiths and Husker Du). Reports from the road have it that they're debuting a song or two from a new disc, their first since 1998, but the real bonus for Chicago metalheads is that they're planning to record this show for a live album.

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

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