Upcoming concerts with Robbie Fulks and The Silos

More Concerts of Note

Sep 15, 2004 at 2:06 pm
Robbie Fulks

Robbie Fulks with Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys

Thursday · Southgate House

Robbie Fulks' roller coaster music career runs the gamut of musical expression and professional mood spikes. After dropping out of Columbia University, Fulks moved to Chicago in 1983 and scored a 12-year position as guitar teacher with the Old Town School of Folk Music. He subsequently joined Special Consensus, a local Bluegrass band that earned a Grammy nomination for its lone album, and then formed his own rootsy Trailer Trash Revue. A stab at staff songwriting in Nashville left him disenchanted with the business; the resulting songs about the experience formed his Steve Albini-produced solo debut, Country Love Songs, released by Bloodshot in 1996 (he had already contributed tracks to the label's pair of Insurgent Country compilations). Continuing in the lyrical and musical vein of his Bakersfield Honky Tonk direction, Fulks followed up with South Mouth in 1997, and the attendant buzz eventually led to a contract with Geffen. His major label debut, Let's Kill Saturday Night, was a rootsier Rock record than its predecessors and although it was critically well-received, its slow sales performance coupled with the Geffen/Interscope/A&M merger earned Fulks his walking papers. He then self-released a pair of return-to-form Country albums, 2000's 13 Hillbilly Giants (a collection of obscure Country covers) and 2001's Couples in Trouble, both of which were then licensed by Bloodshot. In the past four years, Fulks has continued to ply his unique Country trade on the road, but has yet to get back to the studio for another set of his patented hillbilly-on-wry musical observations. His most recent project was acting as producer, performer and vocalist on the recently released tribute to the late, great Johnny Paycheck, Touch My Heart. In an industry that mass produces originals on a daily basis, Robbie Fulks is the one they made after they broke the mold.

And that's the best kind. (Brian Baker)

The Toasters with New Blood Revival

Thursday · Radio Down

It's kind of a shame that Ska "died" like it did. The Jamaican-rooted Reggae precursor was embraced by young "Third Wave" bands, who usually sought to mix the joyous musical style with their Punk and Pop influences. Today, music snobs look at the rise of Ska in the '90s as a fly-by-night trend, a joke genre that was destined for only a quick gleam from the mainstream spotlight. And there is some validity to that argument, if only because most of the bands that drew attention had little dedication to the original forms. A Punk guitarist can mimic a Ska rhythm mindlessly, but mixed with some hambonedness, gnarly power-chords and rabid screams, the music became something else entirely — and often not in a good way.

Though perhaps it's because the style is artistically limiting (Second Wave greats like the English Beat, The Specials and Madness all but abandoned the genre after a few initial albums), the fleeting respect for true Ska was blatant; bands seemed more concerned with making it on the radio after the "boom" and less with staying true to their original intentions. Which is fine, but don't make the switch to Swing music 20 seconds after you see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on MTV. There were excellent bands from that scene, ones that didn't deserve to now be lumped in with some of the more questionable bands that are now plugging their latest Emo album on the Warped Tour.

The crowds might have thinned out and the number of Ska bands seriously diminished, but the style still has a strong underground following. The best of the Third Wave bunch, The Toasters, are kind of like the Skatalites of their time, wise, fantastic musicians who carried on the soul and spirit of Ska music in their own way, without ever bastardizing anything. Their current, full-fledged return to the touring, circuit is sure to entice exhilarated happy feet from the bands rock-solid fanbase, not to mention appreciative newcomers who never got to see them back in the day. The band, nearing the quarter century mark of plying quality, Two-Tone influenced Ska, has never officially stopped playing, morphing with different lineups but staying true to their original sound and mission. As the flagship band for the cornerstone Moon Ska label, The Toasters were always the respected elders of the Ska scene. Regardless of how the mainstream reacts to it, Ska is a timeless musical style that will still be around in some form when most of today's popular music is a distant memory. The Toasters are the epitome of that. (Mike Breen)

The Silos with Shock-N-Awful

Tuesday · Southgate House

Considering the AltCountry cottage industry that has arisen around the marriage of Rock, Country, Punk and Pop over the past 15 years, The Silos seem like prescient geniuses as Walter Salas-Humara and Bob Rupe jangled and strummed with abandon while Mary Rowell's violin shrieked over the din and John Galway's drums provide the bedrock. Clearly, The Silos understood the triangulation connecting Johnny Cash, The Stooges and The Clash. The Silos began when Salas-Humara and Rupe both moved to New York within months of each other from Florida in the mid-'80s. The first Silos album, About Her Steps, was a collection of minimalist tapes that Salas-Humara had assembled and pressed up as a lark. Two weeks after sending promos out, he was astounded to learn his album was named "Pop Album of the Week" by The New York Times, necessitating an actual working band. As Salas-Humara and Rupe conceived the follow-up, it was clear there would be little in common with their debut. Cuba established The Silos as an important band and set the stage for their major label debut three years later. Although the eponymous album was critically well received, it tanked commercially and the band dissolved. At that point, Salas-Humara retained the name and subsequently recorded a number of albums under The Silos banner with a fluctuating musical membership, including 2002's tremendous Laser Beam Next Door and his latest and most impressive release to date, When the Telephone Rings. The latest Silos album finds Salas-Humara hosting a number of potent guests, including former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, vocalists Amy Allison and Mary Lee Kortes and original Silos violinist Mary Rowell. Of course, the stage is where Salas-Humara gives the best accounting of himself and his latest bandmates (bassist Drew Glackin, drummer Konrad Meissner) are among the finest accompanists he's invited into the Silos' inner circle since their inception. (BB)