For those who preferred music as both an escape and a commentary on the week's events, there were plenty of chances for both. "Alien-jazz improv" artists Sun City Girls performed at the Triple Door in various disguises, from masks, cowboy hats, and Osama bin Laden shirts to a "laptop" set comprising a box with "laptop show" scribbled on its side. The box was later kicked into the audience, as were a number of plush balls--which were golfed into the crowd by one masked Sun City member as his accomplice provided garbled commentary. It was impossible to predict what this theatrical/musical performance troupe would do next, from frying hiphop tracks to offering a comedic duet between Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens and Velvet Underground chanteuse Nico--whose audience interaction involved flicking syringes into the crowd. Later that night, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead offered no needles, but they did display a different sort of wreckage at their Neumo's show. Notorious for their gig-ending instrument destruction, Trail of Dead only broke a single guitar over the course of their set. Not that they have to worry about preserving gear--more than a dozen guitars lined the side stage, a safeguard in case any of those axes ended up shattered or, even worse, out of tune. At least if the new album tanks they have half a pawnshop's worth of collateral on hand. Not that Trail of Dead have much to worry about--their two-drummer, instrument-swapping show was as intense as any they've ever done, with the band effortlessly spanning material from 1999's Madonna through their more recent, thrashy orchestral post-hardcore offerings.
Oddest trademark compromise ever: From the Charlatans through Death From Above and on, plenty of bands have had to alter their names due to trademark law. In the case of the Postal Service--named in part because they created their record by corresponding through the mail--the entity with first dibs is the government agency, which was haggling with the band and their label, Sub Pop, over the use of the trademarked "postal service" tag. The strangest music gossip of last week was that the Ben Gibbard/Jimmy Tamborello project and the heads of the mail carriers had come to an agreement. The band can keep their name and the U.S. Postal Service can use their music to help promote mail. That includes the federal agency selling Postal Service CDs and the band possibly appearing in marketing campaigns for the mail-carrying industry as well as performing at a national postmasters general convention November 17. Good thing the duo didn't call themselves Depends.