AGED TO '80S PERFECTIONAs a music geek growing up in a relatively small Midwestern town--population 100,000--the musical pleasures were few. The town's saving grace was a record store well-stocked with just about anything you could want on vinyl that doubled as a gathering spot for dorks from all corners of town, who would congregate to argue the virtues of White Light/White Heat versus Loaded--not unlike the one immortalized in High Fidelity. But live music was another story altogether.
Sure, there was the Illinois State Fair, where for a week each summer, you could take in anything from Willie Nelson to the Thompson Twins. But other than that, it was up to the booking folks at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center to provide our musical entertainment. To be fair, bands weren't exactly begging to play in Springfield, Ill.; still, surprisingly enough, we got our share of decent shows over the years. It's just that they didn't happen with any frequency, so any time any band decided to grace us with a performance, it became an event. Due to that fact, and the fact that my father worked for a radio station that granted me access to occasional free tickets, I attended just about every show that came to town in those days, even bands I didn't really care for. One of those bands was Loverboy.
Loverboy was one of those bands that everybody seemed to listen to, but nobody really seemed to like. Even at the time of its release, their music sounded dated. And you just knew that a few years on, singer Mike Reno was gonna really regret that ridiculous ever-present headband he wore. It was either a horrendous fashion statement, or the guy was just one sweaty mofo. Either way, you had to feel bad for him.
But, as everyone knows, we Americans love our nostalgia in 20-year cycles, and now it's the '80s-Loverboy's turn. Still, you gotta wonder: As the hipsters are adding synths and danceable rhythms to punk in homage to the '80s, are the rockers actually cranking Get Lucky in their Camaros? Probably not.
But here's the remarkable thing: 20 years later, Loverboy's music actually doesn't sound as bad as it did when it came out. Sure, it's throwaway pop songs with cheese-guitars that celebrate such heady topics as scoring chicks in bars and toiling through a 9-to-5 in order to party hearty on the weekend, but it's just stupid and catchy (and kitchy) enough to be enjoyable. Like a fine bordeaux--as opposed to the bottle of Boone's Farm my friends and I undoubtedly swigged in the parking lot before we saw 'em back in the day--Loverboy's music has aged rather well. Whoda thunk it?
Loverboy performs on Wednesday, June 7, at City Limits, 6350 E Tanque Verde Road. The Jane Crowe Band opens at 8 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $25 at the venue, all Ticketmaster outlets, ticketmaster.com or by phone at 321-1000. They'll be $27 on the day of the show. For more information, call 733-6262.
RIGHT-SIDE-UPAs I'm sure everyone knows by now, this summer's Lollapalooza Tour has been cancelled, throwing dozens of bands' touring schedules into a state of limbo. Some of the tour's scheduled bands have already begun rescheduling their own tours (Modest Mouse will perform at Phoenix's Celebrity Theater on July 23, for example), while others are scrambling to decide what the hell to do about the situation. Sadly, the triple-bill of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Von Bondies and The Datsuns, scheduled for Plush on the very same day, has been cancelled.
But fans of BRMC's brand of darkly melodic pop are given a consolation prize this week in the form of an appearance from Portland, Ore.'s The Upsidedown. Yeah, I know: I hadn't heard of them, either, but after listening to their latest album, Trust Electricity (2004, Reverb), I've decided it's pretty darn good stuff. It reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen and Love and Rockets' heyday, but adds the drone of The Dandy Warhols and BRMC, and is about as good as any of this type of thing being released these days. The album's only real misstep is a faithful cover of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky," which has been covered to death already, rendering The Upsidedown's version completely superfluous.
The Upsidedown perform at Club La Nuit, 310 E Congress St., on Saturday, July 3. The show begins at 9 p.m.
BLACK-OUTFans of contemporary, radio-friendly country music have likely have their plans for the Fourth of July penciled in on the calendar for months, as Cal Productions and KIIM FM are teaming up to bring us the KIIM Freedom Fest.
The all-ages event will be headlined by Clint Black, one of several megaplatinum superstars who helped to reinvigorate country radio listenership in the late '80s and '90s by basically turning traditional country into pop music with a Southern accent. Also on the bill are Chely Wright, Shannon Lawson, and Tucson favorite Troy Olsen, whose new self-titled album (Old Pueblo Sounds) features a somewhat unlikely duet with Kid Rock.
The KIIM Freedom Fest goes down on Sunday, July 4, at Rillito Raceway Park, 4502 N. First Ave. Gates open at 2:30 p.m. Advance tickets are available for $15 (limited number available), $20 and $50 (Red Zone) at all Chuy's restaurants, calproductions.com, and etix.com. For further details, visit kiimfm.com.
CONGRESS CELEBRATIONIf radio country ain't yer thang, consider the pair of shows going down at Club Congress this weekend as a fine alternative.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, July 2, with a performance from everyone's favorite Lotsaslavians (check your atlas), The Zsa Zsas, who are billing the show as the Fourth of July Jihad--Zsa Zsas vs. the Terrorists. Why would you want to celebrate our nation's birth by watching a bunch of faux Europeans mangling hit songs and patriotic anthems? If you have to ask, you'll never know. Opening the show is Al Perry and the Camels.
The show begins at 9 p.m. on Friday, July 2, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Tickets are $6.
Then, on the Fourth of July proper, the very same club brings you a celebration that features four local bands for $4. The Jons headline, with Mankind, The Croutons and Bombs for the Bored warming the stage. That show begins at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 4. Questions regarding both shows will be answered by dialing 622-8848.
ON THE BANDWAGONOther shows worth consideration this week:
Occupying the Fourth Avenue space that formerly housed Guido's, the Surly Wench is the newest addition to the growing list of live music venues in town. The bar seeks to fill the void left by the closing of the Double Zero a few years ago; in other words, expect to see lots of loud rock and punk bands there in the future. This week brings a performance from Phoenix trio Pistols at Dawn, who cop to being influenced by Weezer, Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters. These ears have a tough time picking out the Weezerisms, but Foo Fighters? Mos def.
Pistols at Dawn perform on Wednesday, July 7, at the Surly Wench, 424 N. Fourth Ave.
Among the droves of garage rock revivalists that the kids just can't seem to get enough of these days, San Francisco's Vue, while adored by critics, have been sorta lost in the shuffle. Perhaps signing to RCA for their new album, Down For Whatever (2004), following stints on Sub Pop and GSL, will help change that.
Vue takes the stage of Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Wednesday, July 7. Two other S.F. bands--Evening and Black Cat Music--begin the show at 9:45 p.m. Cover is $6. Call 798-1298 for more info.