Motor City Mayhem

Von Bondies At The Grog Shop On Friday, February 20, Lead This Week's Concert Picks

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Maybe it's synchronicity at its most ironic, but it seems like a weird coincidence that the Stooges' Ron Asheton should shuffle off the mortal coil the same month as the release of the Von Bondies' third album of stripped-down Detroit rock and stroll, Love, Hate and Then There's You. After all, the parallel rise of rock and soul in Detroit in the '60s has been a tough act to follow for subsequent Motor City scenesters. The best acts to emerge from the city have understood that their purpose isn't to emulate the sound of what has gone before them, but to channel the groundbreaking vibe that spawned it. The Von Bondies are certainly evidence of that musical mission statement. Singer-guitarist Jason Stollsteimer launched the band a decade ago with a Stooges-like swagger equally informed by a garage-steered sophistication and a playful pop melodicism. That dedication to blending respect for tradition with a need for individual expression has resulted in a trio of ripping rock albums that crackle with classic intensity while pushing Motown's music parameters to include elements of swinging Britpop and uptown pop-punk. Stollsteimer's debt to forefathers like the Stooges and MC5 ripples through Love, Hate, particularly on the relentless anthems "Shut Your Mouth" and "She's Dead to Me," where Stollsteimer and company simultaneously churn like Iggy's boys and soar like the Cult. Just as often, Stollsteimer melds his broad Detroit rock city stance with the subtler minor-key melodicism of the Smiths' peppier work, like the slightly more nuanced "Pale Bride" and "Accidents Will Happen," which come off sounding like the Detroit version of the Strokes' downtown finger-popping power-punk. There's no disputing that the Von Bondies are a long way from the Stooges' brand of furnace-forged and anvil-hammered jazz/soul-inflected rock-mongering. But there's also no denying that, as far as the next generation taking those vaunted influences and carrying the flag a little further up the hill, the kids are most definitely alright. Nico Vega and Other Girls open at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $7 advance, $10 of show. - Brian Baker


Obi Best

Once known merely as Inara George's backup singing pal in the Bird and the Bee, Alex Lilly decided to hatch her own quirky retro-pop band last year, dubbing the outfit Obi Best. Released digitally last fall, the group's debut album, Capades, arrives in physical form this month. It's a pretty eclectic affair, but it also reveals that Lilly's nut doesn't fall too far from the Bird and the Bird tree. Obi Best dabbles in the same keyboard-heavy conglomeration of '60s lounge and '80s arcade, and Lilly's voice has the Ÿber-cool, matter-of-fact delivery one would expect of a George disciple. Still, these songs have an immediacy and flair that's hard to resist. Lead single "It's Because of People Like You" is a golden pop nugget, complete with a Stereolab groove, Zero 7 sound effects and Regina Spektor attitude. Expect a fun, colorful show when Lilly brings her new band to the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124) at 9 p.m. with Posh Army and Muttering Retreats opening at 9 p.m. Tickets: $7. - Andrew Clayman


Soilwork's position on the Swedish melodic death-metal totem pole is pretty secure; they sit maybe one spot below In Flames. Their 2007 release Sworn to a Great Divide, their seventh since forming in the mid '90s, maintained the headbanging yet catchy style. Some argue that Soilwork's been on somewhat of a downward slide since 2002's Natural Born Chaos, but they still draw a crowd. Opening act Darkane, on the other hand, seems to be on the rise. New singer Jens Broman invigorates the band's mix of thrash and melodic Swedish death metal on Demonic Art, the brand-new follow-up to 2005's Layers of Lies. Finland's Swallow the Sun is the odd band out on this bill, offering a mournful, somewhat baroque style of doom that may sap the crowd's energy before the show even gets started. Still, it's only their second U.S. tour, so check 'em out. The show starts at 7 p.m. at Peabody's (2045 E. 21st St., 216.776.9999). Tickets: $15 advance, $18 day of show. - Phil Freeman


Commander Cody Band

Few musicians have a more colorful history than George Frayne, the frontman known as Commander Cody. You can trace the band's beginnings to the mid '60s, when he and a motley group of musicians left their native Michigan and relocated to San Francisco, where the group, then named Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen, got a record deal and released their first album, Lost in the Ozone, in 1971, which yielded their best-known song, "Hot Rod Lincoln." By 1974, Cody and his group had relocated to Texas, where they remained until the original lineup disbanded two years later. Now based in Saratoga Springs, Cody continues to record and tour on a semi-regular basis while also juggling a career as a fine artist (he has a master's degree from the University of Michigan). The music they make these days includes country ("Seeds and Stems"), straight rock and even a humorous take on punk rock (the hilarious "Joints Chiefs of Staff."). The band's current line-up includes Cody (keyboards, vocals), Steve Barbuto (drums, vocals), Mark Emerick (lead guitar, vocals), Jimmy Thunder (bass guitar, vocals) and Chris Olsen (pedal steel). They no longer play marathon gigs, but they stretch their songs in a live format, so prepare for a long, enjoyable night. The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Winchester (12112 Madison Ave., 216.226.5681). Tickets: $12. - Ernest Barteldes

Flogging Molly

With yet another Valentine's Day lying in a smoldering heap of chocolate wrappers, holiday hounds can begin anticipating the annual hoopla that is the highlight of late winter/early spring. Increasingly, St. Patrick's Day is less about celebrating Irish heritage - or even drinking oneself to an impressive shade of green - and more about basking in the warm glow of brotherhood, whatever one's sex or lineage. So, even as counterpart Celtic punks Dropkick Murphys gear up for their annual Boston throwdown, stalwarts Flogging Molly folk the system with their fifth annual countdown to St. Patrick's Day: the Green 17 Tour. Over four albums, they've remained impossibly high energy, eternally defiant and unapologetically soft-hearted when it comes to both love and the passage of time. But vocalist/lyricist Dave King and company are best experienced live and lilting. Boot-stompers and teary-eyed slur-alongs, bloodied eyes and broken hearts are all hallmarks, as is an underlying darkness kept at bay by vibrant fiddle, accordion, mandolin and tin whistle. In fact, why bother with the excuse of a holiday when each evening's stage show is uplifting, visceral and celebratory?ÊThe Aggrolites and the Mighty Stef open at 7 tonight and tomorrow at House of Blues (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583). It's sold out. - Julie Seabough


Brett Dennen

Mop-topped folkie Brett Dennen stepped deservedly center stage in 2006 with So Much More. It was a lyrically and melodically poised sophomore set of understated gems that paid as much respect to Dylan's poetic grace as it did to Jack Johnson's new island aesthetic. Dennen's emotive voice, an androgynous blend of Nina Simone and Paul Simon with a folksy backwoods twist, made those songs - and several others off his little-heard eponymous debut - shimmer with the hopeful spirit of utopian dreams. A few years back, before a crammed Grog Shop audience, his voice, high-riding guitar and confident delivery were even more powerfully portentous, like watching a rocket set to launch. Ascension was sure to follow and it did, of course. With early fan John Mayer inviting Dennen on tour stateside and abroad, Dennen's been tossed into a pool of pop-rocks, expanding his fan base and critical recognition, but also apparently skewing his better judgment. With the release of last year's Hope for the Hopeless, Dennen's swing through the commercial marketplace was at least slightly detrimental to the purity and power of his sound. Still, "So Far From Me" is a folk lament that shows Dennen's poetic powers ("If your heart wasn't such an ocean, I wouldn't sink like a stone") and "Ain't Gonna Lose You" is a dusty ballad that would move even the coarsest lover. The Little Ones open at 9 p.m. at the Beachland Ballroom (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $15. - Dan Harkins


Tim Fite

Timothy Sullivan began his career as half of the rap duo Little-T & One Track Mike - one-hit wonders known for their 2001 single, "Shaniqua." While the duo was short-lived, it was clear that Sullivan had potential - the New Jersey native oozed with wit and confidence. When the group disbanded, Sullivan became Tim Fite and pursued a solo career that blended folk, rock and country with hip-hop. His free musical spirit allows him to not only explore any genre, but pushes him to take risks, whether it's making an album almost entirely out of samples from bargain-bin records (2005's Gone Ain't Gone) or releasing online-only albums for free. It's this type of carefree approach that's earned Fite a loyal and growing fan base. Like his music, Fite's lyrics are all over the map - think Beck with more social commentary. Last year he released Fight Ain't Fair, a record on which his musical schizophrenia came together more cohesively than ever before. You could say he came into his own on the disc, but fans know better - Tim Fite always evolves. Benjy Ferree and Elephant Bones open at 8 p.m. at the Beachland Tavern (15711 Waterloo Rd., 216.383.1124). Tickets: $8. - Eddie Fleisher


Beyoncé's little sister will always be known as Beyoncé's little sister. That's unfortunate, because Solange Knowles isn't just a mini version of Mrs. Put a Ring on It. Last year's Sol-Angel & the Hadley St. Dreams packed enough Motown and sweet '70s R&B into its grooves to fuel its own neo-soul revival. She even collaborated with famed Motown songwriter Lamont Dozier on one cut. I Am … Sasha Fierce doesn't even come close to that kinda scope. Solange's 2003 debut, Solo Star, was a dud, but she sounds like a girl with a mission on Sol-Angel, flipping through beats (provided by Mark Ronson and other top-shelf names) with a style that falls somewhere between self-assured diva and backpacking hipster. She occasionally gets in over her head - the six-minute "Cosmic Journey" is celestial slop, "This Bird" never takes flight - but tracks like "I Decided" and "Sandcastle Disco" bounce with retro delight. Solange plays House of Blues' Cambridge Room (308 Euclid Ave., 216.523.2583) at 9 p.m. Tickets: $15. - Michael Gallucci


A Wilhelm Scream

The guys in A Wilhelm Scream are obvious products of the '90s skate-punk scene, but that's not a bad thing. The band's five albums nod to groups like Lagwagon, Strung Out and No Use for a Name by deftly combining technical, high-speed riffing with a fantastic sense of melody. It's the sort of dynamic, detailed sound that will have you playing air guitar and singing along. While plenty of the group's idols have gone stale, a hefty touring schedule and some jaw-dropping musical precision have helped A Wilhelm Scream breath new life into a once vibrant and high-energy genre. Cleveland will be the band's final date on its winter tour. Heads Held High, Iron Minds and Friends Back East open at 8 p.m. at Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave., 216.221.8576). Tickets: $8. - Matt Whelihan

Juana Molina

Folk-pop experimentalist Juana Molina has a sound that takes you by surprise. She draws you in with looped rhythms and offbeat melodies, and before you know it, you're nodding with the groove. Molina was born in Argentina to a tango-singing father and actress mother. Fleeing the military coup in 1976, the family lived in Paris for six years. Back in Argentina, she started her performing career in a sketch-comedy show but returned to her first love, music, after the birth of her daughter. Though she usually performs solo - playing guitar and keyboards, and looping pedal and other knob-twisty stuff, this tour is her first with a full band. Critics have put her in a league with Bjšrk and M.I.A., but she has the earthy, daring sensibility of Lila Downs and the bravado of Andrew Bird. Her light, unassuming voice wafts over restless rhythms and subtly shifting textures and timbres. The sound gets into your psyche and stays there like a half-remembered dream. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588) with Ken Rei and Shitslicer. Tickets are $10. - Peggy Latkovich



While an army of metal bands churn out endless Iommi progressions and Malmsteen sweeps, a few groups are infusing more variety into the genre. One of the quirkier bands in that category is Montpellier, France's Hypno5e, a four-piece hodgepodge of brutality, melody and atmospherics. Between slabs of death-by-math insanity, Hypno5e flesh out dulcet melodies and even venture into spacey Hawkwind territory. While occasionally bipolar, their song arrangements are ambitious yet logical. The singing ranges from high-pitched barks to somber bellows, and are largely interspersed between predominately French vocal samples. While their 2007 debut Des Deux l'Une Est l'Autre (Of the Two, the First Is the Other) is a testament to the range and musicianship of the band, their live show is the selling point. Like many arty bands, Hypno5e show film and visual effects on a screen while the band is illuminated by a flurry of timed lights. Cleveland's prog- metallers Forged in Flame and grime traffickers DeathCrawl start sluicing out the tunes at 9 p.m. at Now That's Class (11213 Detroit Ave., 216.221.8576). Tickets: $5. - Nick DeMarino


Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. is back with his third album, Never Better, a dark effort that speaks to many frustrations Americans are currently facing. On the jarring first track, "Let It Rattle," the M.C. confronts the idea of faith in a leader by asking "Do you really think a president can represent you?" At a time when many people are overflowing with hope, P.O.S. is honest with his apprehension. "I'm really excited for Barack Obama to be president, but we're yet to see whose side he's really on," he says. "If he hops into his role and he gives everybody universal health care but continues to let corporate loopholes rape America, then he's not necessarily on my team. I really hope it's more than talk and really cool Shepard Fairey posters." He also exercises the same caution when asked if he thinks mainstream audiences are ready to embrace hip-hop that isn't centered on guns, drugs and sex. "People thrive on ignorant shit," he says. "A lot of people don't like thinking." Of course, that doesn't apply to the legions of underground fans who come to P.O.S. for his unfettered honesty: Whether it's in his lyrics or interviews, the rhymer doesn't sugarcoat anything. While America has seen better days, P.O.S. is at his absolute best on Never Better. Hand Over Fist, Vice Verses, Sean Mic And Dj Plain Ole Bill open at 9 p.m. at the Grog Shop (2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., 216.321.5588). Tickets: $10. - Fleisher

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