FA LA LA LA ZZZZZ ...'Tis the season ... for not a hell of a lot going on musically around town. There's a touring band or two, a handful of holiday shows and, well, not much else.
Here are a few of your scant options for the week.
STICKITIN, JUST BEFORE THE HOLIDAYS!Earlier this week, we received an e-mail from Steven Eye, who wrote from his Solar Culture Gallery headquarters to let us know that he booked a late-breaking show. It seems two women from Portland, Ore., had contacted him to ask if they could play at the gallery this Friday, Dec. 21. They had a gig in Los Angeles on the 20th and one in El Paso, Texas, on the 22nd, and as the legendary Mike Watt has reminded bands for decades now, "If you ain't playin', you're payin'"--meaning, of course, that if you have a night off while you're touring, you're spending money when you could be making it.
So, Eye did his homework, checked them out and decided to book 'em based on their merits (and probably because he's too darn nice to say no--unless they really suck).
Which, we're happy to report, they don't--although they do have a rather horrible name: stickitin. That's what they're going with, these two women from Portland--drummer Lauren K. Newman and guitarist Terrica Kleinknecht. They've got another band together, LKN, but as stickitin, here's what they do: improv, proggy stoner rock.
Now, as anyone who attended the RRIICCEE show at Solar Culture earlier this month knows, performing purely improvised music in a live setting is not as easy as it may seem. RRIICCEE traded on their celebrity (Vincent Gallo and Hole's Eric Erlandson are both members) to sell pretentious snake oil to a decent-sized crowd willing to risk their hard-earned money to see them. But nobody knew that going in, of course. At its peak, RRIICCEE's performance never rose above amateur hour. (I learned that Vince Gallo and I have more in common than I could have imagined; for one thing, we both play a lot of instruments really poorly.) Or, as one audience member put it halfway through the first awful song of many throughout the night: "Fifteen bucks?! For this?!"
If the members of RRIICCEE want to experiment with playing improvised music together, fine. More power to them. Just keep it in the home studio where it belongs; it's a travesty to charge $15 for it to an unsuspecting crowd.
But I digress. Don't let the improv tag scare you away in this case: The women of stickitin actually know how to play their instruments. Newman's drumming is front and center, while Kleinknecht locks into her groove with thick riffs, discordant angularity and the seeming ability to read her partner's mind when it comes to changes. To paraphrase what one writer once wrote: If you didn't know stickitin was an improv duo going into a show, you still might not know it when you leave. That's how tight they are.
Oh, and I should probably mention that most of their "songs" are instrumentals. Once in a while, they'll chant something or other, but that's about it as far as lyrics go. (Bonus points for naming one of their jams "Peabo Bryson" after the '70s/'80s lite-soul crooner, even if doesn't seem to have anything to do with him: Its primary, spoken lyrics are: "I'll never stick a dirty hand in your cunt.")
The similarly twisted local trio Flagrante Delicto opens for stickitin at 9 p.m. on Friday. Solar Culture Gallery is located at 31 E. Toole Ave. Admission is $6, and all ages are welcome. For more information, call 884-0874.
YOUR HOLIDAY-SHOW ROUNDUPAnd now, on to those local holiday shows.
At the tail end of a year that saw them release The Whiskey Years, by far their best album to date, Chango Malo is closing 2007 out in style by getting in on the Christmas action this week. Billed as "Chango Malo's XXX-mas Show," the night will also include sets by The American Black Lung (who also had a big year, having released the excellent Sudden Departure of Vultures and appearing on the Warped Tour) and relative newcomers Fort Worth. Things get rolling at 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 21, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Admission is a mere five ducats. Call 622-8848 for more details.
The following night, Club Congress hosts a holiday show for those of you who just can't bring yourselves to attend an event having anything to do with Christmas. Festivus is, of course, a catch-all holiday for secular folks, a way to get in on the fun without all that, you know, God and Jesus stuff. In addition to music from Serpe, Traffic Violator, Leila Lopez and Tryst, there will also be a Festivus pole, a "reluctant gift exchange" (re-gifts and dollar-store purchases are encouraged), feats of strength (like, say, thumb wrestling) and an airing of grievances. Sounds fun, yes? Doors open at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 22, and admission is free. Further info can be found at hotelcongress.com.
A bit later on the same night, Saturday, Dec. 22, you can continue your holiday fun at the Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Ave., where Al Foul and the Bongo Billy Band will take to the stage for their own Christmas shindig. Things should get cookin' around 9 p.m. For more information, call 882-0009.
And, on Sunday, Dec. 23, The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Ave., hosts its own Christmas party: "It's a Very Dusty Christmas" will feature the Dusty Buskers (who, as rumor on the street has it, will dress like elves for the event) plus the ubiquitous "special musical guests." 5 p.m. is showtime, and admission is free. 623-3200 is the number to call with questions.
Here's wishing all of you a very safe and happy holiday.