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The Short List

Dave Ballou

By Jess Harvell | Posted 5/17/2006

WEDNESDAY: Kind of a slow night—maybe a good book?

THURSDAY: Punk rock requires energy, which is probably why it’s littered with shout outs to sugar, coffee, Coke, and stimulants not on the FDA’s approved list. Neither Death Set nor Ecstatic Sunshine have yet penned a song devoted to the pleasures of caffeine consumption, but that might be because every song they write is a tribute to being totally wired. Tonight, the two two-man local bands are joined by touring kindred spirits Raccoo-oo-oon and Woods at the Copycat Building.

FRIDAY: An die Musik has brought together five formidable jazz talents for a one-off grouping. Saxophonist Marty Ehrlich has performed with titanic avant-jazz legends like Anthony Braxton, as well as leading his own groups through a rose hedge of post-Ornette Coleman free-bop. Trumpeter Dave Ballou adds spiky twists to standards by Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans. Double bassist Michael Formanek plays swaggering figures that bend at free-jazz angles. Gerald Cleaver’s subtle and powerful drumming has found him playing with the cream of new jazz, like Matthew Shipp and Mat Maneri. And Baltimore’s own beloved pianist Lafayette Gilchrist hot-rods his 88 tuned drums across jazz, funk, and hip-hop, adding the percussive ribbon of melody that will bind the evening together.

SATURDAY: Latter-day free jazz and improvised music can be almost aggressively, obsessively chatty, like a gang of crows that has invaded a fruit tree. Young Philadelphia quartet Shot X Shot can certainly make a racket, but often on its self-titled debut on Philly’s High Two, the twin saxophones of Bryan Rogers and Dan Scofield opt instead to play carefully paced, lyrical, and not unbeautiful notes. Tonight Shot X Shot brings its mix of Ornette Coleman’s woody, resonant rhythms and Lee Konitz’s menthol-sharp melodies to the Red Room at Normals Books and Records.

SUNDAY: What some might call eclecticism others might say is stylistic incontinence. Michigan’s Warren Defever and his band His Name Is Alive have been uneasily walking the line between the two for 16 years. The band’s close relationship with 4AD has meant HNIA has often hewed to the British label’s writ—guitars that play more with textures than notes and voices that sing at a library’s noise level. But Defever has also indulged a love for Hendrix, country rock, dub, and even modern radio soul. It doesn’t always work, but when it does Defever’s songwriting is affecting enough to transcend pastiche. Tonight, the band plays Washington’s Black Cat.

MONDAY: Lee “Scratch” Perry has blurred the line between music and madness for more than 40 years. As a producer, Perry is responsible for the best recordings by Jamaican legends like the Wailers, the Congos, Max Romeo, and more. Though he’ll have to take it up with Toots Hibbert and King Tubby, he claims to have invented both reggae and dub. He also covers himself with mirrors, burned down his original studio, married a white woman while advocating black supremacy, and claimed Island Records’ Chris Blackwell was a vampire. Though the genius part has been less in evidence over the last few decades, Perry brings his endless performance-art road show to Sonar tonight.

TUESDAY: Baltimore’s hip-hop scene is as much about live performance as mixtapes and hot singles these days, with freestyle battles and showcases cropping up all over the city. Every Tuesday, Strength in Numbers and present I Want to Rock Right Now/Big Bad Beat Brigade at 5 Seasons, a mix-up of local producers, MCs, and DJs. Tonight features the gully ladies of G.E.M. (formerly Tha Plague), comedy rappers Mr. White Folks and MC Liquorbox, and producer LB of Street Legal Entertainment, in what will no doubt be an, um, interesting mix of hip-hop styles.

WEDNESDAY: Only Japan could produce a band name like Green Milk From the Planet Orange, and perhaps only Japan could produce the type of music that it makes. For several decades now, Japanese bands have pushed prog rock into punk rock by turning the knobs marked volume, repetition, and intricacy hard right. It is the kind of music that is nearly all solos, and if you enjoy the kind of insane concentration and instrumental interdependence such music requires, Green Milk is at the Talking Head tonight.

IN THE WINGS: Of all the punk bands that have reunited since the turn of the millennium, Mission of Burma is the one that did it with the most style, humility, and grace, neatly avoiding self-parody by simply getting onstage, plugging in, and attacking its material like 20 years had been 20 minutes. It helps that its new music rings with the same vicious conviction as the stuff the members made when they were in their 20s. The new The Obliterati may be the fiercest, most life-affirming record of the band’s career. Burma comes to the Black Cat July 15. (For more info call [202] 667-7960 or visit

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The Unseen (11/5/2008)
Catherine Pancake and Jai Brooks Capture a Slice of Black Baltimore Lesbian Life in Jay Dreams

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