IN THE BAG: The history of bagpipes in rock and roll--according to me, anyway--reads like this: In 1983, the band Big Country released its debut LP, The Crossing, which included the smash hit "In a Big Country," whose instrumental hook had new-wave kids everywhere exclaiming, "Have you heard that song by that band Big Country? How cool is it that they're using bagpipes?" And then a few weeks later, after a Saturday Night Live performance, those same kids were moping around dejectedly, muttering, "I coulda sworn those were bagpipes. How do they make a guitar sound like bagpipes?" Conspiracy theories were bandied about ("They have special guitar pedals that can only be found in Scotland ..."), but when all was said and done, the bagpipes had yet to find their way into the rock vernacular.

But then, just last week, someone informed me that there's this band called Korn--maybe you've heard of 'em; I guess they've sold a few records--whose name I recognized from the T-shirts of kids at the mall, and apparently their biggest hit--a little ditty called "Shoots and Ladders"--opens with singer Jonathan Davis' pipes blowing the pipes. Who knew? But the truth is this: Bathurst, Australia's Brother has been playing bagpipe-infused rock and roll for so long--its debut release, BROTHER Black & White, was released in '92, trumping Korn by a couple years--it's actually legally trademarked the term "Bagpipes & Rock 'N Roll." (I wonder if they could sue me for even typing those words.)

In fact, Brother--which is actually fronted by two brothers, Angus and Hamish Richardson--has a lot more in common with Big Country than with Korn. Or at least, that one Big Country song. For one thing, both bands are not from America (Korn is), and therefore, both have accents. Also, Korn plays that new hard rock/rap stuff that's glutting the airwaves these days, while radio hasn't seen the likes of a pleasant-sounding band like Brother or Big Country in a while. Actually, Brother would have sounded right at home on the radio back in the early '80s, alongside Big Country, Simple Minds and Dream Academy.

Oh, yeah, it's also the only band I know of in popular music, save Jamiroquai, that uses a didgeridoo.

Catch Brother, touring to promote its seventh album, This Way Up (Rhubarb Records), at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, August 26, at Bob's, 6350 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tickets are $10 in advance, available at Hear's Music, Zip's University, CD Depot, Guitars, Etc., and Bob's. You can also buy online at ticketweb.com or by phone at 1-800-965-4827. Call 733-6262 for more information.

THE GLAND SCHEME: What the hell is in the water of Athens, Georgia? Sure, the burg's gonna shoot some bands into the periphery of pop culture, just as any self-respecting college town will, but check out a brief roll call: Pylon, The B-52s and R.E.M., on through Vic Chesnutt, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Olivia Tremor Control. Let's face it: The town's got a modern rock pedigree unlike any other. So it should be no surprise that the recently released, self-titled second album, The Glands, on Capricorn Records --the first one was called Double Thriller because it was supposedly recorded using the same mixing board as the (cough, cough) King of Pop's Thriller--is one of the best records I've heard so far this year, and that the band hails from that sacred Southland.

Combining the indie songcraft/magnetism that makes Creeper Lagoon so appealing with cocksure swagger and Beach Boys harmonies, The Glands have concocted one of those records--like Creeper and Neutral Milk Hotel, not to mention Mercury Rev and the Flaming Lips--that tosses immaculate production, unforced songcraft, fabulously inventive lyrics, and that certain je ne sais quoi into an antipasto way bigger than the sum of its singular elements. Now if only someone would start bottling that Athens water --

Witness The Glands when they play Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Tuesday, August 29. Things get underway with the most excellent How To Build A Rocketship at roughly 9 p.m. Cover for this all-ages show will be cheap--probably about five bucks--and you can call 884-0874 for additional info.

BLESSED BLUEGRASS: OK, I can't pretend that there isn't any competition. On the very same night as The Glands show, one of my very favorite live bands in the world is playing across the way.

This will be the fourth appearance of Split Lip Rayfield at 7 Black Cats in the last two years; I've seen every one of 'em and these Kansasites just get better every time. For the uninitiated, SLR is a four-piece bluegrass band (no drummer, but the bassist plays a one-string converted Ford gas tank--ask to see his calluses) that plays with the speed of Slayer and the fury of the Pistols.

It gets compared to the Bad Livers all the time, but trust me: These guys do it way better. I can't describe a Split Lip show without reverting to church references: It's sorta like a holy communion of folks who are too hung-over on the devil's juice to actually make it to church on Sunday morning. Yes, the shows are that transcendent; yes, Split Lip Rayfield is that good.

You simply can't go wrong by seeing Split Lip Rayfield at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, August 29, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. For info on openers and cover charge call the club at 670-9202.

HOMECOMING: A lot of you might remember Tucson-based jam band Wrecking Ball #9 from a few years back. Said band included the multi-instrumentalists Dan Ornduff and Satish (that's it--like Cher and Madonna), who have re-formed in San Diego along with new drummer Brendan Concannon under the moniker Ping Pong Mafia.

The new band embraces original, focused blues-rock songs. Highlights from the band's just-out, self-released disc, California Seaman, include the coulda-been-on-Ween's-country-album-esque "Flush." The piano-dominated "Clock Strikes the End of Time" lets on why Satish has the audacity to remain strictly given-named (hint: his vocals are dead-on heartbreakingly purty). There's also "Santa Cruz Bound," which is almost well-written enough to get away with its heart-on-sleeve tendencies. "Without Strings" is nifty too, with its found bowling alley noise intro, which leads into an exercise in jangle pop the likes of which I haven't heard in a coon's age.

The album isn't without its faults. Many of the songs--notably "Waited on This Day," "Something She Knows" (which is stretched to a painful five-and-a-half minutes), and album-closer "Jasmine"--invoke generic "bluesy alterna-rock" à la the best-forgotten Spin Doctors.

You've got two chances this weekend to check out what these former homeboys are up to these days when Ping Pong Mafia hits 7 Black Cats, 260 E Congress St., on Thursday, August 24, and Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St., on Friday, August 25. To find out who they're playing with check out our Club Listings. To find out how much each show will set you back call 7 Black Cats at 670-9202 and Double Zero at 670-9332.

GREEN FOR GREEN: So you've seen both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, and it's time to decide: Is it gonna be the power-inherited guy from Texas or the power-inherited guy from Tennessee? Well, if you're convinced that "campaign finance reform" is nothing but hyperbole from a couple of guys lining their pockets with record amounts of cash--from the same companies simultaneously, natch--in order to catch up with the carrot dangling in front of them, maybe it's time you look to the Ralph Nader-spearheaded Green Party.

What's that? You haven't heard of the Green Party? Suffice to say, no matter on what side of the fence you sit, we can all agree that Ralph Nader is one of the most righteous men on Earth, can we not? So here's the deal: There's a couple gigs masquerading as Green Party benefits/information-dissemination events this weekend. If you're curious, or if you just want to see some excellent bands, turn out for one of the following:

Phoenix folk-blues royalty Hans Olson headlines a bill that also includes The Blue Prairie Dogs and Fish Karma at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 24, at Nimbus Brewery, 3850 E. 44th St. Admission is $5 and you can call 745-9175 for details.

Then on Sunday, August 27, it's Gobbin' For The Greens as a sturdy punk lineup consisting of The Weird Lovemakers, Los Federales, Teen Suicide and Swing Ding Amigos takes the stage of 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. at 8 p.m. Cover is $5 and questions will be answered at 670-9202.

Proceeds for both will be dispersed among local Green candidates and the Nader campaign.

HEAPS OF RAWK: I come from the mighty Midwest, the heartland of this here country of ours, and in the Midwest we take a lot of things seriously. Cigarettes, sweet corn, Budweiser beer, Camaros, bitter sarcasm--all find their way into our day-to-day lives, no matter where we might have ended up residing.

The one thing we're really serious about, though, is our rock music. In fact, we love our rock music so much that, in the Midwest, we pronounce it rawk, though I've never been able to ascertain whether that's a regional dialect thing or if I should attribute it to another Midwest ubiquitor: that sleepy tone that comes from smoking truckloads of marijuana.

The local band Love Mound takes me back to those carefree Illinois days when a cooler full of beer, a pack of friends and a few tents meant freedom--at least for the weekend. Maybe some canoes and a tape case full of Uncle Tupelo, Foghat, The Replacements, Husker Du and Blue Oyster Cult, and the beer would go to your head, which would start bobbing up and down and everything was OK in the world after all --

It's playing a gig, Love Mound is, to celebrate the release of its second full-length, Down, Righteous and Mean (Hover Tank), at 9 p.m. on Saturday, August 26, at Double Zero, 121 E. Congress St. dg3 and Tim Kelly open the show. Call 670-9332 for further 411.


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