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"the View From Nowhere"

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Most long-time Ann Arborites get a sick feeling in the pit of their stomachs this time of year when the new hoard of students, hanger-ons, and general virgins to the local scène start to multiply like rodents in a cheese factory with their invasión of our cultural mecca. Others - like AGENDA - celébrate this opportunity to edúcate, inform and babble on endlessly on just how lucky we and YOU, the newcomer, are to be witness to one of the best local music scènes on the planet. The most fun way is to figure it out on your own, i.e. picking out random band names, popping into any one of a string of barscafes (Cava Java, The Blind Pig, Rick's to name a few in A2; The Green Room, Cross Street Station and Theos f you want to include our low-rent rendezvous neighbor to the east, Ypsilanti) and LISTENING. But, because we like you, we're going to make it way easierto get to the good stuff more quickly. Before you hit the club scène, be aware that most of the best has been capturad on tape or CD. Two bands, Big Chief (with a hard core punkfunk masterpiece "Platinum Jive" on Capitol) and WIG (" Deliverance" on Island- sheer heil on earth with doomsday guitars that bleed real blood) have major record label deals. Big Chief is "between deals" as they say in the biz but are rumored to be near another contract and WIG is finishing up their second CD for Island. Both play rare local dates these days, but when they do, don't miss 'em. On a more pop and roll level keep your ears open for Kiss Me Screaming (self-titled debut on Schoolkids' Records that mixes John Lennon with Seattle in the '90s). Leader Khalid Hanifi is one of the best singersongwriters in the country and is on everyone's short list to be the next A2 rocker to be signed to a major label deal. Local legend Frank Allison and his boys, the Odd Sox, have just released the latest in a string of classic goofy rock and roll colleetions. "Russia" was recorded for the Soviet Union government-run record label awhile back and is just now seeing its American release. Allison is the only rocker in town who inspires fans to write "Frank is god" in restrooms all over the city and if you catch a live gig, you'll understand why. Ever more examples of cool two-guitarbass drum rock include The Holy Cows re-release on Big Pop, "Get Along," which is the Replacements meets Torn Petty meets the Midwest Scores of commercial radio stations (including local WIQBFM) have picked up on the H-cowsandthings are starting to snowball. "How's My Driving," a 1 5track classic on Skidmark captures another fine band, The Deterants. Hard to putyourfingeron, but The DTs pull from the classic Beatle-inspired rock and roll well of inspiration like a lot of 1 995 American music units, but know how to make their tunes fresh and unique. The list goes on: Moreel and "Noise Floor" (more angst and noise and soaring musical riffs); The Restroom Poets' self-produced and titled debut is a complex, intense song-oriented classic (the highlight of my summen sitting in Ann Arbor Muffler on a Saturday afernoon waiting for my carto be fixed and hearing the Poets' "Sensible Woman" blasting from a boombox in the work area, thanks to WIQ B agai n); and - the list is endless. With dozens of world-class bands for every twisted musical taste just waiting for you, I would hope that f you leam nothing else from today's Ann Arbor Rock Scène 101 lecture, it would be that the key is not to be READI NG about the scène but to CHECK IT OUT. When I got the preview three-song sample of "Waking Up In Traffic" from the new Brian Lillie CD a couple months back, I was impressed by his folky, emotional unplugged tunes that appeared to be inspired by modem rock and roll as much as by eariy Bob Dylan. But the real-üfe, full-length CD is now out on Thursday Records. If nothing else is tossed into the mix before the end of '95, "Waking Up In Traffic" could very well be the best locally released collection of the year by a landslide. This is perfect folk music. Lillie opens up his soul for the wortd to see and what you see is a melancholy sadness, one long sigh and a sense of realness that can't be faked. It doesn't matter if he's writing about growing up (in "Kalamazoo" where he lays all his cards on the table and tips his hat to Dylan and Springsteen) or falling in love and having it just out of reach ("Just A Mile Away") or thinking of the ghost of an old lover ("Alone"). Brian üllie is so damn wonderful at catching the ache and sadness, that it's amazing. But this isn't depressing music either. It's the realness of his songs that connects with the listeneraudience. And even when this happens, Lillie has just a touch of hope to his voice that makes you think the singer still thinks that MAYBE next time, things will work out. With this mature and strong songwriting voice comes a grainy and bar-roomsmoky singing voice to boot Lillie is a straight-ahead singer with a slightly intentional offkey ri ng, but when you mix the songwriting with the voice, it's all over. John Prine is the closest comparison I can come up with, but that's not it either. The combo of the songs and voice are breathtaking. What else is left to say? The next time Brian üllie has a gig (Cava Java would be just the ticket) l'm going to sneak in a tape recorder and make a bootleg of the show. Too much stuff in TVFN mailbox this month and not enough room. Be around next month for a pile of new release reviews and other stuff. Don't forget to e-mail andor send things to: The View From Nowhere, AGENDA, 220 S. Main Street, Ann Arbor, Ml. 48104


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