Where the Action Is

Hollering blues man Screamin' Jay Hawkins once said that every great musician can perform, it's what you do when you're on the stage that makes you stand out. That mantra is the idea behind Live Wire, a new column dedicated to casting an even wider net around live music, and giving the under-noticed a little more ink. Although this column won't be weekly, space allowing, events breaking ground around town will get more press (although not on this exact page... It's My Party is just on break for a week).

I've heard great things about local band Shoplifting (featuring ex-members of Chromatics) and their push to make live shows interactive events by providing people with noisemakers and select members of the audience with flashlights [Underage, March 13]. Although my experience seeing this talented new no wave act live has been limited to venues where the focus was more about the music than group theater, it sounds like the band has a lot more in store for its crowds in the future to encourage movement, participation, and thought. On Friday, though, cramped into the basement of a Beacon Hill home among boxes of Left Bank books and bingo balls, the band was an energizing jolt from a new wave of Seattle punk energy--one that combines taut dance rhythms with call-and-response vocals. Also taking to the basement floor that night was Scream Club, a hiphop act that fused cheap recorded beats with raps about both the personal and the political. With two young red-and-white-styled women decked out in matching faux 'hawks, the duo flexed their rhyme skills with lyrics that were silly/sharply witty social critiques.

On Thursday, I saw the semi-newly reinvented Chromatics take the stage at the Crocodile (guitarist Adam and a new bassist, with a drum machine backing them), realizing that from the ashes of one band we now have two equally interesting acts--them and Shoplifting. The Croc show was supposed to be the headlining gig for Ann Arbor noise addicts Wolf Eyes, but that band got stuck in a Denver snowstorm and had to reschedule. The small faithful crowd still got a heavy dose of feedback assault from Climax Golden Twins though, a local version of getting your ears drilled with electronic appliances. The experimental act comes together differently almost every time, from what I've heard. On the night I saw them, the trio and their piles of electronic knob-twiddling equipment reminded me a lot of Black Dice, taking our listening threshold to the limit by erupting into what was essentially noise diarrhea--sputtering burps and splashes of insane feedback, mixed with a ghost costume and mini flashlights. As much as their frequencies caused odd pains in my teeth (?!?!), their performance was less about being offensive and more about reconfiguring safe sound into new, unlikely constructions. They're playing again coming up soon: Check out www.climaxgoldentwins.com for more info.

And since vacation season is upon us, here are two out-of-town events that might be worth the road trip: the Athens, OH, Blackout April 24-26 featuring Viva L'American Death Ray Music (a band that sounds like a dirtier Velvet Underground--I can't say enough great things about them), Bad Wizard, Mr. Airplane Man, and more; and Horizontal Action's Chicago Blackout May 8-10, featuring the Clone Defects (who just released an excellent new record on In the Red), the Spits, A-Frames, FM Knives, and many others.


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