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FRESH CATCH: Along with Jane's Addiction, one of the most important and eclectic bands to emerge from Los Angeles in the 1980s was Fishbone. Prescient enough to be playing ska years before it exploded once again to mainstream success, Fishbone was much more than just another ska band.

Combining ska with pure punk rock energy, funking it up with gritty urban soul, and establishing itself as politically edgy while still retaining its sense of humor, Fishbone was one of the best live bands around in its heyday. They were a blast of boundless frenetic energy, sometimes literally bouncing off the walls of the stage, enough so that it was remarkable they could even play their instruments, let alone catch their collective breath long enough to actually sing.

Along the way, they produced four classic albums for Columbia Records: 1985's self-titled debut EP, In Your Face (1986), Truth & Soul (1988) and The Reality of My Surroundings (1991), all of which hold up under scrutiny today. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Fishbone is that, even with the ska resurgence a few years back, they never really got their due. To their fans, they were one of the greatest bands on the planet (actor John Cusack has called Fishbone "my Sex Pistols" -- in other words, the band that most changed his life), but they simply never quite caught the train to mainstream success.

Now the band is back with its first release since 1996, the cumbersomely titled Fishbone & The Familyhood Nexperience Presents The Psychotic Friends Nuttwerx, just released Tuesday, March 21, on Hollywood Records. The album features an epic list of guest appearances from the likes of Blowfly, George Clinton, Rick James, H.R., Charles and Ivan Neville, Perry Farrell, Flea, John Frusciante, Gwen Stefani, and oddest of all, Donny Osmond.

If you're one of the many who's heard of Fishbone but never had the chance to see them live, here's your chance to educate yourself. Fishbone appears at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 26, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., along with Slightly Stoopid, Too Rude and M.C. Rev. Fun Yung Moon. Advance tickets are available for $18 at CD Depot, Zip's University, Strictly CDs, Guitars, Etc. and Congress Street Store, or online at www.ticketweb.com. They'll cost $20 at the door. Call 798-3333 for details.


CHICK IT OUT: Tucson's own chick punk-pop trio Clovenhoof kick off their first tour, The B.J. Outlet Run, this weekend along with openers GiftHorse, a quirky alt-rock quartet with Bowie-esque vocals; local pummelers James Dead; and Phoenix's Haggis. Come celebrate with the luscious Clovenhoof at 9 p.m. Friday, March 24, at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is $6. Call 622-8848 with any questions.


TAKING A STROLL DOWN LOIS LANE: Over the years, Olympia, Wash.'s Lois Maffeo has achieved indie-rock-goddess status, first as one-half of the confusingly named duo Courtney Love, then as a solo performer under the simple moniker Lois. Moonlighting along the way as an insightful music journalist (she's a frequent contributor to CMJ), she's also guested on numerous albums by the likes of Dub Narcotic Sound System and Bis.

She's a wonderful songwriter, focusing on personal politics as a general rule, and her voice is lovely enough to sound achingly sincere. Though in large doses her material can begin to sound the same after a while, it could also be argued that she's simply found her niche and stuck with it. She's just released a new album with Fugazi drummer Brendon Canty called Union Themes on the Kill Rock Stars label, which she'll be in town promoting this week.

Lois takes the stage at 9 p.m. Monday, March 27, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole. Local surf punk trio Zero To Sixty opens the all-ages show, which will set you back five bucks at the door. Questions? Call 884-0874.


METAL ALLOY: In 1985, two members of metal outfit Anthrax, guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Charlie Benante, got together with their former bassist, Danny Lilker, and a roadie friend, Billy Milano, and recorded an album in three days. Dubbing themselves Stormtroopers of Death (a.k.a. S.O.D.), they released the album, Speak English or Die, on Megaforce. The album pissed a lot of people off and garnered charges of racism from the title track, but the band claimed it was just good old tasteless humor, and that everyone should just lighten up, dammit. Apparently, a good number of people got the joke; to date, the album is climbing towards the one million sales mark worldwide.

Perhaps the reason the band became so legendary with only one studio album to its credit is that S.O.D. represented what was likely the first time the worlds of hardcore punk and heavy metal collided head-on. The album was released at a time when metal dudes had long hair that flew freely as they banged their heads, and punks had short hair so as not to get in the way in the mosh pit. There was much disdain, indeed, between the two camps. In today's climate, bands like Korn and The Deftones dominate the charts with a metal/punk/rap hybrid, but in those days punks were punks, metal dudes were metal dudes, and never the twain shall meet. Blame it all on S.O.D. that the two are now often indistinguishable.

Last year the band regrouped to record their second studio album in 14 years, Bigger Than The Devil, on German label Nuclear Blast, and they're now touring extensively for the first time ever to promote it. Catch S.O.D. along with openers Skinlab, Hateplow and December at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at The Rock, 136 N. Park Ave. Advance tickets are available for $15 at Toxic Ranch, Zip's University and Strictly CDs. For more info, call 629-9211.


WILD RIDE: On the verge of their 28th year performing together, Maryland's legendary barroom rockabilly/blues band The Nighthawks make a rare trek to our neck of the woods to promote their newest album, Still Wild (Ruf), as well as the solo debut of founder/frontman Mark Wenner's Runs Good; Needs Paint (Right on Rhythm), which features guest contributions from Bob Margolin, The Bel Airs, and others.

The Nighthawks appear at 9 p.m. Thursday, March 23, at Boondocks Lounge, 3306 N. First Ave. Tickets are available for $10 in advance at the club and Hear's Music. They'll cost $12 at the door. Call the club at 690-0991 for details.


MYSHKIN ACCOMPLISHED: Touring in support of her just-released third solo album, Why Do All The Country Girls Leave? (Binky), Myshkin comes to town this week to showcase unique songwriting sensibilities that are based in country folk, but span blugrass, jazz and even punk. Lyrically she spins adventurous yarns both mysterious and familiar.

Check out Myshkin at 9 p.m. Friday, March 24, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For details, call 670-9202.


FAIR'S FARE: And finally, it's time once again for the spring incarnation of the Fourth Avenue Street Fair, which features two main stages of free music this year: the South Stage, at North Fourth Avenue and East Ninth Street; and the North Stage, at East Fifth Street and North Hoff Avenue. Here's the lineup:

Performing on the South Stage: on Friday, March 24, Tricky Luz (10 a.m.), Tommy Tucker (noon), The Cobras (12:30 p.m.), Gabrielle Pietrangelo (2:30 p.m.) and Primo Latin Rock (3 p.m.); on Saturday, March 25, Big Bottom (10 a.m.), Donna Magee (noon), Al Foul and The Shakes (12:30 p.m.), Agave (2:30 p.m.) and Stuck in a Groove (3 p.m.); on Sunday, March 26, Jim Tilden (10 a.m.), The Rant (noon), Marshal Jones (12:30 p.m.), Paul Elia (2:30 p.m.) and Jupiter Dave (3 p.m.).

Peforming on the North Stage: on Friday, March 24, Wander the Earth (1 p.m.) and Inda Eaton (3 p.m.); on Saturday, March 25, Kristy Kruger (1 p.m.) and Christian Anthony (3 p.m.); on Sunday, March 26, Hector on Stilts (1 p.m.) and Ricky Ray (3 p.m.).

See ya there!

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