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Mark Sandman passes, Brave Combo lives on

Rock bands are notorious fakers. They tell the audience how it rocks harder than the one from the night before and will surely rock harder than the one the night after. At the end of the show, they feign exhaustion and pretend the choreographed encore is a spontaneous reward for the crowd's enthusiasm.

Sometimes, though, the appreciation is genuine.

Three or four years ago I saw Morphine at the Newport Music Hall in Columbus. Even though it was a weeknight, and summer had virtually emptied the nearby Ohio State campus, the club, which holds about 1,500, was packed. Mark Sandman, Morphine's singer and two-string slide-bass player, seemed surprised by the turnout. He told the crowd the band wasn't expecting much, because it was Morphine's first Columbus visit. I thought it was so crowded just for that reason: Morphine fans had waited to see the band live — and they didn't want to risk missing what might be their only chance.

Even from the balcony, it was easy to tell Morphine wasn't sticking to the set list that night. In between warm ovations, Sandman, baritone saxophonist Dana Colley, and drummer Billy Conway called out unscripted songs to each other. It was a long show, certainly much longer than Morphine intended on playing when the tour bus rolled into a nondescript town in the Midwest.

Near the end of the performance, the band did one of the coolest things I've ever see a band do live. Instead of dash behind the curtains, smoke half a cigarette, and then emerge with looks of phony delight on their faces, they took the encore onstage. Under dimmed stage lights, Sandman and Colley simply stepped to the back of the stage, even with Conway's drum riser, and stood with their heads bowed, as if at a solemn occasion. They didn't milk it. They stood silent for just the right amount of time before coming forward and playing the encore.

On July 4, 46-year-old Mark Sandman collapsed and died of a heart attack during a Morphine performance in Rome.

He will be missed.

If Petula Clark in Sunset Boulevard doesn't do it for you, how about Rosavelt or the sweet polka grooves of Brave Combo? The Playhouse Square is offering Summer at the State, a concert series designed to lure music fans to the theater district. On Friday and Saturday evenings, local and national bands play the lobby of the State Theatre. The series debuted last weekend. The schedule the rest of the way is as follows: Rosavelt, July 15; the Simpletons, July 16; the Menus, July 22; Blue Lunch, July 29; Anne E. DeChant, July 30; Brave Combo, August 5; Lynn Marie, August 6; Conspiracy, August 7.

"The goal for the Playhouse is to bring a younger audience into the theater without them thinking, "Oh, no, I'm in a theater,'" says Playhouse Square's Hallie Yavitch.

The $8 tickets include admission, parking, and one drink. Happy hour, with a DJ, begins at 5:30 p.m; bands perform from 7-8:30 p.m.

Clevelander-in-exile David Thomas of Pere Ubu has surfaced with a suitably arty project. June 22, Thomas and his collective the Pale Orchestra released Mirror Man, the first act of a two-act piece of musical theater first performed last year in London. The Pale Orchestra is a collection of American and British poets, singers, and musicians, including Linda Thompson. Thomas is the writer/producer/conductor/singer/melodeon player.

What is Mirror Man? A press release issued by Thirsty Ear, the record label, says that it "tries to show how sounds and the sounds of spaces that have meaning are absorbed, like the languages we speak, out of our concrete environments; that different places underwrite different sensibilities, different expectations, and different sonic concepts of "home.'"

Whatever.

Thirsty Ear has also reissued two late-'70s Pere Ubu records, Dub Housing and New Picnic Time.

The first in a continuing series of avant-garde shows at Speak in Tongues should prove to be eclectic. Sunday, July 18, Evidence '99: An Avant-Garde Uprising will feature the German performance artist Poul (should a German performance artist go by any other name?), a short film by Matthew T, the music of Flux Up 10%, a monologue by April Hancy, and the art of Andrew Kaletta. Says Speak in Tongues's Brian Straw, who is also a member of Flux Up 10%, of Kaletta's work: "All I know about this piece is that it's based on a chandelier and the kinetics of hanging things."

Corporate rockers Everclear play a free show at Akron's Highland Theatre Friday, July 16. What's the catch? You need a Coke Card to get a ticket. Cards are available at the Highland Theatre box office, where they can be immediately redeemed for a ticket to the show. The box office will be open at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 15, and at noon on Friday. Showoff and Citizen King open the 7:30 p.m. show.

The 16th Rock & Reggae Festival, benefiting the Free Clinic of Greater Cleveland, is Sunday, July 18, at Meadow Ridge Farm in Huntsburg. The TwistOffs, the JiMiller Band, Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band, the Tom Shaper Band, Dream Circuit, and the Prayer Warriors play . . . Cleveland has been a little slower than most cities to embrace the Americana movement, but it's coming around. Thursday evenings, there's an Americana show on WERE-AM/1300, followed by a concert at the Blind Pig. This weekend offers another chance to sample the twangy delights of Americana. Cain Park is the site of an Americana showcase Saturday, July 17, with Hillbilly Idol, Jen Maurer, and Denny Jones . . . Shouting Mountain is holding another benefit for the families of Big Mountain, an area in the American Southwest between the Hopi and Navajo nations. The residents are being relocated to the site of a uranium spill. Blackfire of Mesa, Arizona, will also perform at the Saturday, July 17 show at the Red Star Cafe . . . It will be nothing but Bono and the boys for eighteen straight hours on the Sting, Baldwin-Wallace's radio station, Thursday, July 15. From 7 a.m. to 1 a.m., WBWC-FM/88.3 will have a U2 marathon that traces the band's career from "I Will Follow" to "Discotheque," with imports and rarities in between . . . Sunset Blvd. is reverting back to the name 1988, and Alan Paris has replaced Bobby Eros as lead vocalist.

In order to inspire the appropriate level of menace, metal bands opt for harsh-sounding names and Dungeons & Dragons-looking logos. A new CD from Relapse Records caught Soundbites's eye this week. The first reader to decipher the name of the band from the logo below will receive one crisp dollar bill from the Scene music dept. Hint: Though the band is Swedish, its name is in English and it's four syllables long. — David Martin

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