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Blueprint / Dianogah / June of 44, Zelda's, Houston, 7/25/97

Blueprint - "We're only a local band, but you can stand up and listen to us if you want." These guys were masters of unemotion, and looked like they really just couldn't care if they were on stage or not. I think the message they were hoping to get from the audience was - "OK, guys, you don't have to play if you don't want." By the end of their set, their vibe was so bad that the drummer had fully packed up his drum kit and left the stage before the lead singer / guitarist had finished choking the audience with a completely unnecessary wall of feedback and distortion. Some people argue whether the best part of a box of Cheerios is that funky dust at the bottom, but I think no one could argue that the best part of this set was when they shut off the noise.

Dianogah - In a list of bands that epitomize the current Chicago independent rock sound - they would be close to the top of the list. Crisp, strong bass with simple, repetitive guitar and an aversion to a 4:4 beat. Basically stuff which probably won't get picked up by pop radio stations, but which is a heck of a lot more interesting listening than the latest Bush tune. Most of their material is also apparently instrumental (only one of their songs tonight had lyrics), which I give them points for. I'd never heard of them, but they were well worth seeing.

June of 44 - One of the big names of the Chicago independent scene at the moment, June of 44 gets its name from a series of letters exchanged between author Henry Miller and his wife June during that time period. I don't imagine that anyone out there is familiar with the progressive art rock movement of the 1970s, are you? I'd love to make a comparison to bands like Gentle Giant, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Magma, Camel, or Ange, but I suppose that most normal people would find that as helpful as if I started yammering about some obscure chemical engineering goody. To elaborate, though, the connection I'm trying to make is to the structure of their music, which is significantly non-formulaic with respect to today's popular "verse - chorus - verse - chorus." format. However, June of 44's songs are orchestrated works for guitar, bass, and drums, unlike most of the pretentious 70s silliness performed on fruity keyboards (which admittedly does have certain redeeming qualities).

When their songs have lyrics, they are closer to spoken word than to the catch phrase fare of the verse - phrase genre. And the subject matter is usually obscure at best, although more often than not, the scenarios they paint are nautically-oriented (with album titles like "Engine Takes to Water", "Tropics and Meridians", and "Sharks and Sailors", you get the idea). The one problem with trying to push the envelope on content and structure as they do is that the potential for disaster is great if the concept fails, and unfortunately, only on their first ("Engine") do the concepts really gel.

With that background, tonight's concert managed to be outstanding despite the fact that they touched on none of the material from the first album. Instead, they played a wealth of new material which was predominantly instrumental, and quite repetitive, but in the sense that Gorecki's third symphony is repetitive. Melodies or tonal phrases were repeated, with additional layers built on one another such that the middle of the piece contained elements of the beginning but had grown organically from the original structure. Maybe I'm over-analyzing this - they are "just another rock band", after all, but what they're doing seems to be more than just rock whether they're really aware of it or not. While not always easy listening, if you're looking for something completely new to listen to, this is where it's at.

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