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Mud, blood, and soul

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The Mars Volta is punk-rock Rush. Swimming at Water Street Music Hall last week in atmospheric dissonance, the San Antonio prog outfit played a long, six-song set (one tune clocking in at a mere 45 minutes). They accurately portrayed the comatose limbo of their latest album. I'm actually surprised that the young crowd got it. In fact, I'm surprised I got it. Interesting to say the least, but understand, I'm coming from a 1-4-5 point of view.

          Third Estate, who has lost some weight, rocked the packed Club at Water Street. These now leaner, meaner, keener homeboys played frenetically, tight, and enthusiastically despite the rather placid audience. The boys warmed up for boring --- I mean, Story Of The Year.

          Japanese Afros! Flying Vs! E-mail! With breakneck, banzai,crunch abandon, Tokyo's Electric Eel Shock wired their feet to the pedals and played their heads off last Tuesday at The Bug Jar. Moving with deft speed and metal weight, the trio has developed a solid fan base of hungry, wild-eyed Rochesterians. Because they rock harder and deliver a more intense live set than most American bands, EES is one of the best hard acts out there. Yes, rock 'n' roll is our number one export, but with contemporary mainstream rock circling the drain in a perpetual state of suck, once again we gotta count on the outsiders to remind us.

          Arlo opened up the show, reminding me a lot of The Hoodoo Gurus. Now, ordinarily I try not to lazily use bands to describe other bands, but I don't think too many kids remember The Hoodoo Gurus. If I'm wrong, I'll give you a T-shirt (limit one winner, please).

          Monday night I hit The Little Theatre Café for The White Hots sans The Green Monster. Consequently, a little more six-string duty was heaped on Aleks Disljenkovic, a hep cat who says he hasn't fingered a bar chord in 15 years.

          Wednesday, and Green was back at The Café with his new Steve Green Quartet, starring Uncle Phil Marshall on the electric guitar. That's right, Green's done gone and plugged himself in. This is an interesting marriage whose immediate sonic offspring bounced off the café bricks all warm, sweet, and cool, mixing well with my coffee buzz.

          It was then a quick sashay --- or meander if you wanna avoid the guy who just ran out of gas and his wife is in labor and he only needs a dollar and he's not a crack head or anything --- down East Avenue to Milestones for NYC singer-songwriter Marly Hornik. This young lady has a beautiful voice and a simple, straightforward sound, lookin' all cute with a powder-blue powder puff on her head.

          Lizz Wright sold both Friday night shows right the hell out at The Montage. Man, this woman sings mesmerizingly deep from a place that belies her young years.

          Steve Earle is a first-rate writer of songs that embrace patriotic antagonism, love, loss, abuse, revolution, and the irony that lashes them all together. Minus his beard and gut, Earle played cuts from virtually every record. Who would've thought he had this many fans in the area? Close to 600 souls piled into Water Street Music Hall to sing along. Earle is rooted in country, but live he comes off a little more rock. Having heard the countrified versions on record, I could still hear the mud and blood and soul. His song of a lesson learned too late, "The Devil's Right Hand," was outstanding. I found myself still singing it two days later.

          Playing all their hits and a pile of favorites, The Fertility Rite Brothers came together right now over me at The Bug Jar last Saturday. Singer Thing strutted and paced the stage as if daring the audience to do something... anything. An engaging and menacing front man, Thing has been missed. We need more.

          It was when Thing referred to a song as being by Alice "fucking" Cooper that something occurred to me: You know you've made it when your name gets hyphenated by "fucking." That or when you get your own bobble-head doll like Jeff "fucking" Tyzik. Happy anniversary, Daddy-o.

          Speaking of the Coop, I blasted through the I-90 construction (your tolls hardly working) to dig his show at Turning Stone Casino Sunday night. Though it was a sit-down show with the majority of the audience casually sipping cocktails, the band was, to quote my pal Rodney Henry, "fan-tas-tic."

          Cooper introduced material from his new The Eyes Of Alice Cooper amidst a sea of rarities and hits. A smaller stage show meant one less semi in the Cooper caravan, but Cooper still proved to be a timeless showman with his classic rock 'n' roll. Maybe we still have a long way to go.

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