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WOLF PACK: While they might try to purport themselves as Just Another Band From East L.A. (the title of their 1993 greatest hits and rarities double disc compilation on Slash), the gentlemen of Los Lobos are anything but. With their debut full-length, 1984's How Will the Wolf Survive (Slash), the band established itself as a fine addition to the trad roots-rockers of the day, albeit with a decidedly Latino edge. And though mainstream audiences might remember them best as the band who faithfully covered Richie Valens' "La Bamba" for the bio-pic of the same name, the band has dealt in so many styles over the years that they've become virtually unclassifiable.

La Pistola Y El Corazon (Slash), released in 1988, saw them revisit their roots for an album of traditional Mexican music, while 1990's The Neighborhood (Slash) went back to the basics for their most straightforward rock album yet. But the real revelation -- and seemingly, the band's spiritual rebirth -- took place in 1992 when the band released Kiko (Slash). An experimental departure, the band put studio tinkery to fine use, creating a new, texturally rich album that was still based in killer rock/folk/Mexican/country tunes. That experimental edge has remained, and is fully evident on the group's new release, This Time (Hollywood Records), which picks up where the last couple albums left off, with the Cuban rhythms of "Corazon," the bluesy "Some Say, Some Do" and the pop stunner "Turn Around." On top of it all, the band puts on one of the best damn live shows you'll ever witness.

Get your tickets early for Los Lobos' all-ages appearance at 8 p.m. Saturday, October 16, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Openers Teddy Morgan and The Pistolas kick things off. Advance tickets are available for $23 at CD Depot, Guitars, Etc., Strictly CDs, Zip's University and the Congress Street Store. Call 740-0126 for more info.


QUASI MODE: One of the best underground pop bands that you've probably never heard of pops into town this week. Quasi, a duo made up of former married couple Sam Coomes and Janet Weiss (they divorced in 1995), made waves last year for a number of reasons. First off, there's drummer Weiss' role as one-third of Sleater-Kinney, a band many critics tout as having virtually single-handedly made punk rock vital again. Then there's the fact that the duo served as backing band for Elliot Smith's most recent tour. Not to mention that their own release, Featuring "Birds" (Up Records), made many a critic's Top 10 Albums of 1998 lists.

With a less stark sound than one might expect based on its minimalist instrumentation (Coomes switches on and off between guitar and Roxichord, a vintage electronic keyboard which approximates the sound of a harpsichord, while Weiss stays behind her drum kit), the disc was chock full of noisy and beautiful pop tunes that owed as much to The Beatles as to any pomo rock outfit. The band has just released its follow-up, Field Studies (Up), which, in addition to featuring a song called "Birds" like its predecessor, also expands on the instrumentation by adding strings, church organ, theremin, and various electronic gadgets. Accordingly, the new record, while still keeping with the original Quasi concept, sounds a little fuller, more fleshed out than Birds, without sacrificing a drop of the downcast yet inspiring songcraft that is the band's calling card.

Don't miss the fabulous Quasi as they hit the Club Congress stage, 311 E. Congress St., at 9 p.m. Tuesday, October 19. The show begins with an opening set by Twine. Cover is $5; call 622-8848 with any questions.


CASH UP FRONT: The whole world loves Johnny Cash. Period. But just in case you're wondering how much some of your favorite local bands love Johnny Cash, how undying their love for The Man in Black actually is, the answer comes this weekend in the form of a benefit show for environmental group the Center for Biological Diversity (formerly the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity). A serious lack of diversity marks the First Annual Johnny Cash Festival, an all-day affair dedicated to nothing but the music of the man.

Nimbus Brewing Company, 3850 E. 44th St., will fence in its entire parking area to accommodate two stages showcasing somewhere between 10 and 15 local bands. The only rule: every song played must be a Johnny Cash song. As of press time, confirmed acts include Bluescrusher, Tim Gallagher and Topless Opry, Al Perry, the Moneyshot, Greyhound Soul, Kiko, The Hillbilly Hurricanes and Caliche Con Carne. The brewery will have burgers and hot dogs for sale, as well as their cheap and tasty pints, natch. So grab a lawn chair and head out to Nimbus from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, October 17. Advance tickets, available at the brewery, are $4; you'll pay $6 at the door. For more information call 745-9175.


BLACK GOLD: Adventurous music fans will want to check out a performance this week by local newcomers Rumbas in Black. While the lineup fluctuates, it usually includes drums, cello, bass and guitar (courtesy of Miranda Muskier, who moonlights in Wasabi on cello). The avant-garde improvisational jazz band's sound has drawn comparisons to the likes of John Zorn. Check 'em out at around 9 p.m. Sunday, October 17, when they play the lovely Velvet Tea Garden, 450 N. Sixth Ave. Call 388-9922 with any questions.


JACINTO JAMBOREE: Surely in 1987 when Rich Hopkins started a record label to put out his band The Sidewinders' debut LP, !Cuacha!, he had no idea that 12 years later, under the San Jacinto imprint, he would still be releasing material (on CD, even!) by both his "other" band, desert guitar screamers The Luminarios, and a host of other national acts. This week Club Congress hosts a showcase for artists that fly the San Jacinto banner, headlined by the Luminarios.

New Mexico's The Sun Kings sound like The Black Crowes doing a Faces tune (not too hard to envision so far, right?) with one foot firmly planted in the Gin Blossoms' Tempe and the other rooted in the '70s SoCal wash of The Eagles. And, um, another foot stuck in whatever town it was that spawned 38 Special. They've just released the follow-up to last year's Adios, a four song CD EP comprised of one original tune and three covers, one of which is the title track, a take on Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl."

More successful is labelmate Scott Sutherland's new release, Noon Blue Apples, a lovely little pop record that hooks you in on first listen. Strummy guitars, hummy harmonies, witty but not too-twee lyrics ("He's a guy without a plan/She's a girl without a man/There within the pages of this book I read/But the plot is not as simple as it seems") make this Minnesota native's album one of the nicest little surprises I've encountered in a while. It's killer pop music -- why hasn't someone invented a radio format to play this kind of stuff? This one'll be doing some serious time in my CD player in the upcoming weeks.

The San Jacinto showcase gets under way at 8 p.m. Friday, October 15, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., with an acoustic opening set by Jason Larson (of The Denizens) and Jim Parks. Cover is $4, and again that number is 622-8848.

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