Previews of D.R.I., Incubus and Buckethead

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Cowboy Junkies



D.R.I. with Strong Intentions

Friday · Top Cat's

The idea of blending two musical styles to create a distinctive third is nothing new today, but it was less pervasive when vocalist Kurt Brecht and guitarist Spike Cassidy formed the core of the Punk/Metal fusion outfit D.R.I. in 1982. The quartet (then including original bassist Dennis Johnson and drummer Eric Brecht, Kurt's brother), christened Dirty Rotten Imbeciles in honor of an insult hurled at the band by the Brechts' father, began as straight Punk but they soon incorporated more Metal elements into their sound, ultimately creating a hybrid that appealed to their sizable Hardcore fan base while drawing in the Metal community. Within a year, D.R.I. had self-released their incredible Punk debut, Dirty Rotten LP, and shifted operations to San Francisco. A series of lineup changes over the years (with Kurt Brecht and Spike Cassidy remaining the heart of the band) assured that D.R.I.'s sound would continue to evolve with the influx of new blood. The band's mid-'80s period was their most influential and successful, starting with the aptly titled Crossover, and continuing through 4 of a Kind and Thrash Zone, the only two D.R.I. albums to crack the national sales charts. As with any Punk band, D.R.I.'s success over the years has always come through relentless touring, although their profile was recently raised with Brecht's appearance as a guest vocalist on Dave Grohl's Metal recording project, Probot. Over the course of a 22-year career, the one quality that has remained throughout is D.R.I.'s intensity and commitment to their rabidly loyal audience. Define the music any way you care to; D.R.I. just wants to move you. (Brian Baker)

Sparta with incubus

Friday · U.S. Bank Arena

A certain publication recently remarked that Sparta got the short end of the stick when the El Paso band At The Drive-In broke up, suggesting that the long end went to the more critically-acclaimed Mars Volta, which was formed by Afroed ATDI bandmates Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez. Indeed, Sparta's relatively unspectacular debut, Wiretap Scars, was no match for MV's bold Punk/Prog Rock, specifically for pasty music critics looking for the next big weird thing.

But Sparta's sophomore release, Porcelain, while perhaps still not quite as progressive and unusual as MV, is a huge leap from the debut, enhanced by more expansive arrangements and a filtered intensity that is more thoughtful and open-ended than the clinched-fist concentration of Scars (the near lack of blunt scream tactics in the vocal output is also refreshing). Perhaps more than 75 percent of the bands on the current "Hooray for the Cure!" tour, Sparta shows how the legacy of Robert Smith and Co. can be reconstructed to create something invigoratingly rousing. With heavier guitars, Porcelain's songs have the mystique and cavernous passion of The Cure's best tunes ("Lines in the Sand" and the amazing "Tensioning" are probably the most representative of this trait). Porcelain is a broadly ambitious album that successfully mingles atmospheric lushness with heart-on-sleeve intensity without the overly earnest aftertaste. Wiretap Scars hinted that Sparta might just be another Screamo band ready to inspire a legion of cry-in-their-cereal fans. But, even then, Sparta seemed too smart and mature for that destiny, and Porcelain's big-picture vision (this feels like an album, not a collection of unrelated songs) and broad musical scope seals the deal. If you simply have to go see Incubus (the Journey of the new millennium ... but that singer guy is so dreamy), be sure to get to the arena by 7:30 p.m. so you don't miss their eminently more creative and talented openers. (Mike Breen)

Buckethead

Saturday · Bogart's

It almost sounds like the set-up to a bad shaggy dog story: So there's this guitarist who wears a plastic mask to obscure his identity, but he also sports a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket for a hat (maybe he's making a statement about the fast food nation or maybe he's just too cheap to buy a real hat) and this is how he presents himself to an audience that turns out to hear him play a shredding hybrid of Avant Jazz experimentalism, Prog Rock and blistering Hard Rock. Until recently, playing his own material is just something he does in his off hours. A good deal of his time was spent trying to motivate Axl Rose to actually do something more than theorize about the existence of the new Guns 'N Roses album and actually playing live dates as GNR's guitarist ... until he officially left the group a few months ago. One listen to his astonishing solo guitar work will have you wondering out loud why he wasted a single moment waiting for Axl Rose to come to what's left of his senses when he can work the frets with the fury of Steve Vai, the subtlety of Al DiMeola, the howling Funk passion of Eddie Hazel and the abandon of Eddie Van Halen. In addition to the San Francisco native's work with Bill Laswell in Praxis and recordings with the likes of Bootsy Collins, Jonas Hellborg and Cincinnati's Freekbass, Buckethead has contributed score work to a number of films and dabbled in Electronica and Hip Hop. Buckethead is a fearless player of enormous range and broad stylistic variation, a student of guitar's rich past and an innovator toward its experimental future. (BB)

Cowboy Junkies

Saturday · 20th Century Theater

It's been a decade and a half since American audiences were first captivated by the hushed narcosonic Folk/Rock of Canada's Cowboy Junkies. Launched in Toronto in the early '80s by the Timmins siblings (brothers Michael on guitar and Peter on drums, sister Margo on lead vocals) and their friend, bassist Alan Anton, the Junkies self-released their debut album, Whites Off Earth Now!, in 1986. Although the album was almost exclusively comprised of covers, the resultant buzz surrounding the band's languid, Velvet Underground-flecked Country/Blues sound and Margo Timmins' sultry, sanguine vocals attracted the labels; the Junkies were signed to RCA within a year. In 1988, the Junkies recorded a set of covers and originals in one 14-hour session using a single microphone in Toronto's Holy Trinity Church. The recording was released as The Trinity Sessions, the Junkies' incredibly well-received sophomore album, and the band's choice of covers clearly pointed to their diverse influences, from VU's "Sweet Jane" to an eerie reading of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." The underground success of the album resulted in widespread American touring and led the band to rely more on Michael Timmins' original material. After a pair of albums for Geffen, the band revivee their own Latent imprint. The Junkies have since released three albums on their own and they continue to astonish their fans with a sound that often veers from a reverent quiet to a defiant squall but delivers equal intensity between the two extremes. (BB)

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