The Church with Rob Dickinson
Wednesday · 20th Century Theater
In the pantheon of Australian Rock, The Church is one of the brightest and perhaps quirkiest lights. Founders Steve Kilbey and Peter Koppes had been playing together since the early '70s before assembling The Church in 1980, first as a trio with drummer Nick Ward, then quickly adding third long-time member Marty Willson-Piper. The band's 1980 debut, Of Skins and Heart, didn't make an impression until its second single, "The Unguarded Moment," reached the Top 25. After that, the band became a sensation at home. By then, Richard Ploog replaced Ward and The Church's long, strange trip began.
The band signed overseas deals and moved away from their Byrds-ian psychedelia into a more lush and abstract sonic structure, as evidenced by an early EP featuring "Tear It All Away," which hints at sounds to come, and 1982's full album The Blurred Crusade, featuring their follow-up hit, "Almost With You." In America, Capitol Records refused to release the album, further delaying the band's wider exposure here. Into the '80s, The Church became even more lushly atmospheric on a number of albums and EPs (Seance, Remote Luxury, Persia) that were less commercially successful. Warner Brothers released the EPs as the full-length Remote Luxury here, and interest picked up with college radio's help, resulting in The Church's first U.S. tour, a relative financial disaster.
1986's Heyday sported the sound of a rejuvenated Church, and fans and critics loved it, but sales were off and the band was dropped.
They signed with Arista, and then relocated to Los Angeles to record what would become their biggest album, Starfish, featuring The Church's worldwide hit, "Under the Milky Way." The triumph was short-lived — the next album, Gold Afternoon Fix, precipitated Ploog's ouster (he was replaced by Patti Smith stalwart Jay Dee Daugherty), and sold poorly even with the band's subsequent two year tour. 1992's Priest=Aura was well received by fans but opened to mixed reviews, which led to Koppes' departure.
Kilbey and Willson-Piper did solo projects, then reconvened with new drummer Tim Powles (and occasional help from Koppes) for 1994's Sometime Anywhere and Magician Among the Spirits, both Electronic/Ambient experimental departures. Distributor problems in the U.S. nearly killed the band after Magician, but against all odds, they persevered. After more solo/side projects, Kilbey intended to dissolve the band with a final home tour in 1997, but the shows' success made him back off that position. In 1998, the restored Church returned to the Koppes/Willson-Piper interwoven guitar structure of old on Hologram of Baal, which was followed by the wildly entertaining cover collection, Box of Birds.
Since 2002, the band has been amazingly active, releasing seven albums, including a collection of outtakes, a jam session Web-only album, an acoustic reworking of classic Church songs and the band's latest studio effort, Uninvited, Like the Clouds. For the past 26 years, The Church has battled the industry, the label system, trend marketing and themselves to become one of the most daring and uncompromising bands of the Modern Rock era. (Brian Baker)
Will Hoge with Dead Flowers
Friday · The Mad Hatter
Slice it any way you like, Will Hoge is one amazing sumbitch. His music fits comfortably in the Rock category, but the ingredients he uses to get there run the genre gamut: Blues, Country, Jazz and Soul bubble to the surface while Hoge turns up the heat underneath it all.
Hoge, a native of Franklin, Tenn., started his musical education early, soaking up the sounds of his father's enormous record collection. While attending Western Kentucky University, Hoge caught the songwriting bug, eventually forming a band called Spoonful in the mid-'90s. Although a self-released EP was a local success, the band broke up in the absence of wider interest. By the late '90s, Hoge had attracted the attention of former Georgia Satellites guitarist Dan Baird, who joined Hoge's band and toured extensively with them. In the process, Hoge built a slavishly loyal bar following throughout the South, which led him to make his first album, the 1999 self-released live affair, All Night Long: Live at the Exit/In.
Two years later, Hoge released his blistering studio debut, Carousel, a set that sounded like a boozy after-hours jam between Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen, Adam Duritz, John Hiatt and The Black Crowes. The following year, Hoge put out yet another live album, this time taking the acoustic route on Almost Alone (Live at Smith's Old Bar). By this time, the major labels were finally sniffing around and Hoge signed with Atlantic for his second studio album, Blackbird on a Lonely Wire, produced by John Shanks. The label gave the album no support and a disillusioned Hoge asked for his release from his contract and returned to releasing albums himself, starting with The America EP in 2004 and followed by his third live album, During the Before and After, in 2005.
Earlier this year, Hoge released his third studio album, The Man Who Killed Love, which has become a huge independent success thanks to his fervent fan base and his numerous Internet access points. Get your ticket and prepare to be amazed; Will Hoge is coming to steal your Rock & Roll heart. (BB)
The Meteors with The Slanderin, Rumble Club and Straw Boss
Monday · Top Cat's
Over a quarter century ago, London guitarist P. Paul Fenech was more than a little disturbed at the proliferation of watered-down Rockabilly that seemed to be flooding the market in the late '70s. In response, Fenech and upright bassist Nigel Lewis, his bandmate in a Rockabilly band called Raw Deal, concocted a visceral brand of the genre and formed the Meteors in 1980 with drummer Mark Robertson. In their hands, the Meteors began exploring Punk-tinged Rockabilly distinguished by strange horror movie/science fiction-inspired lyrics in a genre branch referred to as Psychobilly.
The Meteors became an immediate underground sensation, playing London Rockabilly and Punk clubs to a cult of followers who dubbed themselves "The Crazies" and who developed a dance/mosh move that came to be known as "wrecking." Later that year, The Meteors' incredible success led to the filming of Meteor Madness, a faux documentary of sorts that ran as a double feature with the Two-Tone Ska film Dance Craze in 1981. After the film's release, The Meteors signed with Island Records and released their debut full-length, In Heaven.
In the past 25 years, Fenech has shuffled The Meteors' lineup countless times (as near as we can tell, the band is currently comprised of Fenech, bassist Mark Burnett and drummer Wolfgang Hordemann) and recorded at least 17 albums along with numerous singles and compilation tracks. As the self-proclaimed Original Kings of Psychobilly (what might The Cramps say about that?), The Meteors have released genre classics like Monkey Breath, Don't Touch the Bang Bang Fruit, Sewertime Blues, Live Styles of the Sick and Shameless, Undead Unfriendly Unstoppable and their latest, 2004's These Evil Things, sporting songs such as "Do The Demolition Rock," "Shakey Snakey," " I Bury The Living," "Teenagers From Outer Space" and "Rockabilly Psychosis," the band's anthem and philosophy rolled into one.
Although Fenech has released a handful of solo albums and plays in a side project called the Legendary Raw Deal (in honor of his first band), The Meteors remain his primary focus. With so much disposable Pop cluttering the musical landscape, it's comforting to have something as consistent and as durable as the howling hellhound shriek-and-twang of The Meteors. (BB)