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The Brunettes, Mad River Glenn

Solar Culture Gallery, Tuesday, June 3

Tuesday, June 3

It's bitterly ironic that some of the most consistently vocal opponents during the run-up to the Iraq War are now directly suffering as a result of the war's crippling cost and the weakened U.S. dollar: I'm talking about musicians and gas. As cited in a recent Chicago Tribune article, indie bands are reconsidering the breadth of upcoming tours as gas prices soar.

Consider this regional example: For a van full of musicians plus gear, a Tucson detour between Phoenix and Los Angeles now costs about $125 in fuel, not including food and lodging. To that end, we should appreciate this summer of previously booked events, like last week's show at Solar Culture featuring New Zealand's The Brunettes.

Opener Mad River Glenn is actually an ongoing solo project of Anthony Cutrone. At Solar Culture, the act featured members of local prog-pranksters Mr. Free and the Satellite Freakout on bass, drums and analog synth. With the hesitant, nerdy stage presence of a young Rivers Cuomo (or a My Aim is True-era Costello), Cutrone presented Velvet Underground-esque songs in a '70s power-pop package, à la The Nerves or 20/20.

Probably based on their positive experience of playing a near-capacity Solar Culture in 2006 while supporting Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Brunettes chose to end their '08 four-month world tour here. Core members Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield were assisted by four additional players shifting positions between keyboards, xylophones, glockenspiels and horns, commendably reproducing the expansive Phil Spector-influenced chamber pop of the Brunettes' latest masterpiece, Structure and Cosmetics.

What the crowd lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm, prompting a dance contest; also, during Cosmetics' "B-A-B-Y" and "Obligatory Road Song," the audience took YMCA-like choreography and clapping leads from the band.

So true to the bubblegum pop vibe they exude, the Brunettes even injected fun into band intros, employing the '60s (and schoolyard) hit "The Name Game" ("Chelsea, Chelsea bo-belsea / Banana-fana fo-felsea ... "). This segued into the precious "Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks," my new go-to MP3 recommendation for you sensitive Zach Braff-types out there trying to woo doe-eyed Midwestern girls.

So stop taking these shows for granted, and remember: This November, when you go to the polls, you could be also be voting for your favorite band.

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