GET THE DEVIL HORNS READY
A year or so ago, some locals started rumbling about a new band called Brohammer. Based on its membership, the prospect was interesting: The band includes Jim Vancza, who is one of the owners of Che's Lounge and a beast of a guitarist in Spacefish; former Hellride and Whiskey Bitch singer Tony Pickup; drummer Mike McLaughlin, who once smacked the skins for Manifold; bassist Danny Scalzo, former bass-plucker for Hellride and scratchingthesurface; and six-string wielder Mike Lars.
The band's totally goofy name really didn't leave much doubt as to what these guys would sound like: They were going to fucking rock. The band's self-titled debut album is finally being unveiled this week, and rock, it does.
This is big, dumb (not a pejorative) rawk, the primal stuff teenagers crank in their Camaros as they pass around a fattie, sharing space on the same sonic food chain as AC/DC and Judas Priest, both of which are obvious touchstones here. We're talking big-ass riffs, pounding drums and chant-along choruses. "Rose Colored" is almost five minutes of all that, but feels about half as long. "Crush" is even better, a gritty call-and-response that's designed for drunken fist-pumping. "Echo" opens with a blood-curdling scream from Pickup and stays sinister for its duration.
Put it this way: For any kid who grew up in the '70s studying the sleeves of his Kiss records (you know who you are), this stuff is absolutely irresistible.
I, for one, can't wait to see these songs played live, which is really how they're meant to be heard—Budweiser in one hand, the other throwing devil's horns. Join me, won't you, at the band's CD-release party at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., on Saturday, Sept. 12. They're playing third on a four-band bill headlined by My Science, the band formerly known as Blues. The mighty Love Mound will be there, too, as will 7000 Strong. Five bucks gets you in. Call 798-1298 if you need to know more.
GET INTIMATE WITH SEN DOG
Not to sell them short, but Cypress Hill is notable mainly for two reasons: They were the first mega-superstar Latin rap act, and they love their weed. And they rap about it. A lot. It seems almost quaint now, but in 1991, when the group's debut album was released, this was groundbreaking stuff.
Their longevity—in a genre not known for it—is remarkable. They can still pack a house the size of the Rialto, but this week brings the opportunity to get a lot more personal with one of the group's founding members: Sen Dog will hit the stage at Vaudeville, 110 E. Congress St., on Saturday, Sept. 12. Also on the bill: the Literates, TAMMIES-winning rapper Sean Harris, who will be backed by a live band; and DJ Bonus. Showtime is 9 p.m., and admission is $10; call 622-3535 for more info.
SPEARHEAD A HIT
Michael Franti has been putting out great, thought-provoking music for two decades.
His first foray, in his experimental, industrial-ish band the Beatnigs, led to an album released in 1988 on Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label. Next was the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, a proudly politically correct rap act in a time when such a thing barely existed. Given rap's fondness for misogyny, Franti's penchant for astute, left-wing cultural criticism took serious balls. Listen to that group's best-known song, "Television: The Drug of the Nation," from their 1992 album Hypocrisy Is the Greatest Luxury, and marvel at not only how on-target the message is, but how well it has aged in the ensuing years.
In 1994, he debuted his current project, Spearhead, which continued his message in a more universally palatable, musically organic setting. Call it funk-folk, or some similarly silly-sounding hybrid. This time, he was less of a social critic (though that's still in the mix) and more about putting a positive, feel-good spin on the world's social and political injustices.
And here's the good news: Not only are Franti and Spearhead still cranking out great music, but this year, he scored his first Top 10 hit, the undeniably infectious "Say Hey (I Love You)," an instant classic. Chalk up an unlikely victory for one of the good guys.
Michael Franti and Spearhead perform at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Wednesday, Sept. 16. Trevor Hall opens the all-ages show at 8 p.m. Tix are $30 in advance, or $32 to $34 on the day of the show. For more deets, head to rialtotheatre.com, or call 740-1000.
KICKASS SONGWRITER ALERT X3
These United States trade in a similarly uplifting, if musically different vibe. Fronted by Jesse Elliott, the band has an indie-pop sound, but Elliott is a prolific and excellent songwriter—their latest album, Everything Touches Everything (great title!), is the group's third in 18 months. Elliott's voice sounds a bit like J. Mascis, if he could actually sing, and there's a slight twang in the band's sound. But it's his songs that really elevate these guys to a higher level than most groups who tread similar waters. And how about this: You can satisfy your curiosity without financial risk when they play a free show in the lounge at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., at 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 15. Call 798-1298 with questions.
If there were any justice in this world, rootsy Cali popsters the Mother Hips, who have been releasing music since 1992, would be far bigger than they are. Tim Bluhm is another great songwriter, and his tunes lend themselves well to the harmony-rich setting in which the band trades. Do yourself a favor, and check them out when they perform at Plush, 340 E. Sixth St., next Thursday, Sept. 17. Golden Boots and Erik the Red are along for the ride, too, starting at 8:30 p.m. $8 gets you in the doors. That number again is 798-1298.
Just two days after the release of his new album, Blood of Man, singer-songwriter Mason Jennings returns to the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Of his last appearance at the same venue almost a year ago, the Weekly's Mel Mason wrote that he "held the crowd, both solo and with his band, primarily with his voice—a highly personal instrument with analogs in both Bob Dylan and Richard Buckner. ... Jennings has a lyrical gift for the vérité aspects of loving." Get in on the goodness at 8 p.m., next Thursday, Sept. 17. Tickets for the all-ages show are $18 in advance, or $20 on the day of the show. Questions will be answered by calling 740-1000.
IT'S GETTING DEEP
Purveyors of self-described "deep ritual ambient music," New Mexico-based Voice of Eye are classically trained musicians who build their own instruments, and come highly recommended by those in the know. They'll be at Solar Culture Gallery, 31 E. Toole Ave., on Saturday, Sept. 12, along with the similarly highly regarded Not Breathing. The all-ages show starts at 9 p.m., and admission is $8; call 884-0874 for more info.
ON THE BANDWAGON
Brownout at Club Congress on Wednesday, Sept. 16; Umphrey's McGee at the Rialto Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 15; Fourkiller Flats, Greyhound Soul and the Silver Thread Trio at Plush on Friday, Sept. 11; Mr. Capone-E and Krayzie Bone at the Rialto on Friday, Sept. 11; A Skylit Drive at The Rock on Tuesday, Sept. 15; the SABHF Blues Challenge at Club Congress on Sunday, Sept. 13.