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DWARVES GROW UP

Big Black may have once released an album called Songs About Fucking, but it's hard to think of a band that has actually written as many songs about fucking as the Dwarves, who for 20 years have been in the running for the GG Allin Award for Pure Punk Filth. Album covers featuring naked, blood-drenched women and/or a crucified dwarf that carry titles such as Blood Guts and Pussy and Thank Heaven for Little Girls? Check. Songs such as "Let's Fuck," "Fuck 'Em All," "Fuck You Up and Get High" and the album-closing-back-to-back tandem of "Motherfucker" and "Fuckhead"--not a single one of which is more than a minute-and-a-half long? Got ya covered. Combustible, violence-inducing shows of brutal slop-punk that often lasted only 15 minutes? You bet. Getting kicked off their onetime label (Sub Pop) because they convinced everyone outside the band--fans, friends and family, in addition to said label--that their guitarist, who answers to the name He Who Cannot be Named, had died, even though he had not? Come to papa.

That last stunt also led to the band's breakup, though they would return not too long after as a far better band. Although the Dwarves never completely lost the sense of danger that made their name, by 1997's The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking (Theologian), they had matured into a band capable of churning out potent punk songs that widened their scope of subject matter and occasionally lasted upwards of two minutes. Since then, they've only continued to clean up their act, with 2000's Come Clean (Epitaph) and last year's The Dwarves Must Die (Sympathy for the Record Industry) incorporating downright poppy elements into the fray. The latter, which features appearances from Nick Oliveri (ex-Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss), Nash Kato (Urge Overkill), Dexter Holland (the Offspring) and the guy who used to supply the cartoon voice of Space Ghost, is their most accessible offering yet. Apparently, even Dwarves have to grow up sometime.

The Dwarves perform at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St., on Saturday, July 16. Things should kick off somewhere around 9 p.m. with openers Cell Block 5, False Promise and G.A.T. For more information, call 622-3535.


HIATT FOR A PRICE

While it's maybe not quite as cool as his recent acoustic tour with fellow singer-songwriters Lyle Lovett, Guy Clark and Joe Ely (who coincidentally appears in town this week as well--see Linda Ray's feature article), John Hiatt's current tour sees him paired up with a pretty tasty opening/backing band in the North Mississippi Allstars, two-thirds of which back him on his latest album, Master of Disaster (2005, New West).

Hiatt traveled to Memphis to work on the album with legendary producer Jim Dickinson (Big Star, the Replacements), whose sons--guitarist Luther and drummer Cody--represent those two-thirds. Equally-legendary Muscle Shoals session bassist (and the father of Drive by Truckers' Shannon Hood) David Hood rounds out the list of principles backing Hiatt. In the press kit that accompanied the album, Hiatt is quoted as saying, "I see this almost like a Fathers and Sons type of project, similar to what those guys did in Chicago with the Chess legends and the young rockers," referring to the 1969 Muddy Waters album that paired him with a younger generation of players.

Whether he's churning out unhinged rockers or more measured singer-songwriter fare, Hiatt has always been a songwriter's songwriter. Why else would fellow amazing songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell and Bruce Springsteen bother to cover his songs? It's no surprise, then, that following the raucous bluesy rock of 2003's Beneath This Gruff Exterior (New West), which paired him with a band that included hired gunslinger Sonny Landreth, Master of Disaster falls more on the singer-songwriter side of things (which, in Hiatt's case, I far prefer). You've likely made up your mind already whether you're a fan of Hiatt's gruff voice and witty songcraft, and Master probably won't change your mind. But it's a collection of songs on par with Hiatt's best work, from the title track's infectious tale of drug-addicted bluesmen to his nostalgic ode to his ride ("Thunderbird"). Master of Disaster is yet another winning platter from a man who's been churning them out for more than 30 years.

John Hiatt performs with the North Mississippi Allstars on Monday, July 18, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. The show begins at 8 p.m. with an opening set from the Allstars. Reserved seats for the show run $50 for the floor and $45 for the balcony, and may be purchased in advance at the Rialto Box Office, all Bookman's locations or online at www.rialtotheatre.com. (While we're at it, what's up with the pricey tickets? Last time Hiatt was in town, just more than a year ago at City Limits, tickets were about half the price--$26 in advance--as those for this week's show. Just asking.) For further details, call 740-1000.


SAND IN YOUR BIKINI

While Club Congress' Web site (www.hotelcongress.com) claims that it's the first in a series of monthly events, then turns around and proclaims it "a once a year extravaganza," there should be no confusion that the show billed as Al Perry Presents Super Saturday Surfin' Safari should be hella fun. (The site also boasts that there will be "real sand," but you'll have to show up to find out for sure, woncha?) In addition to Perry, locals Shrimp Chaperone and Big Galoot will be on the bill, with DJ Hot Ron Ron spinning surf tunes between bands. Those looking to save a few bucks can get in free by showing up in a bikini or wet suit.

Super Saturday Surfin' Safari kicks off at 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 16 at Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St. Cover is a paltry three bucks. Questions? Pester 'em at 622-8848.


SPOOKS FROM UP NORTH

Comprising singer/keyboardist Kara Keith, drummer Dave Alcock and bassist Steve Elaschuk, Calgary's Falconhawk make Tucson a stop on their first tour south of the border this week. Earlier this year, the band released their second album, Here's Your Ghost (Saved by Radio), which has been collecting rave reviews in Canada. With all due respect to the Canucks, I must say it's nothing worth raving about. (They seem to have that national health-care thing down, but their synth-pop? Not so much.) Here's Your Ghost isn't bad--Keith's vocals, which have been accurately described as a cross between Kim Deal and Debbie Harry, are rather charming at times, and the minimalism here is kinda cool--but it's just rather unremarkable. There's nothing here that really grabs you and makes you hit "play" again once its eight songs are over.

Falconhawk opens for Lagoon and the George Squier Orchestra at 9:45 p.m. on Friday, July 15 at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St. Cover is $3. For more info, call 798-1298.

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