By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
Burgeoning rock star youths the Mooney Suzuki (Saturday at Mercury Lounge) put on a searingly stompable and clappable set, deeply spazzing out all over the stage and spilling into the hysterical audience, lighting the drums on fire, and smashing the kit before stalking off the stage. Even their parents (in the audience) were getting down. And Jersey's Rye Coalition (Friday at Wetlands) presented acrobatic feats: Frontman Ralph Cuseglio (heckled good-naturedly by Allison Wolfe's screams of "manimal!") climbed up and hooked his lower limbs into the seriously-high-up rafters, singing an entire song hanging upside down (although he came down to deliver a foxy, bitchy "Dazed and Confused"). Classic-rock touches resurfaced with Boston pop-punk three-piece Vic Firecracker (Saturday at Acme), who encored with a hard, edgy rendition of "Cinnamon Girl." Less hopping but noteworthy was singer-songwriter Mirah, who seemed to care little about stroking the audience (she apologized for not being friendlier), playing gorgeous neo-folk at the packed K showcase (Thursday at Luna Lounge).
Boston's new-not-nü-metal Cave-In (Sunday at Brownies) nearly brought the house down with staggering buildups out of otherworldly echoed-note asteroid showers. "Dazed and Confused" (yup) was drenched in moody purples and blues laced with lemon juicealmost as sweet as the intertwined falsetto and six-string tendrils on "Stream of Commerce." Post-hardcore Red Scare (Sunday at Continental) would never let Zep streams run down their legs. Rigid rhythmic mazes, etched by sometimes two-note basslines and a minimalist, flaming (yup) drum set, checked torrential bursts of guitar and dragon-fire vocals. And trust 'em or not, sensitive ones addressed interpersonal relations, often with a gendered bent and shake-it beats: Shy Bostonians Karate(Friday at Brownies) shuffled on the sly, never disturbing the hush; the Dismemberment Plan(Friday at Thompson Center) pulled out and tore up the rug under their own uncertain feet. Cursive(Saturday at Westbeth) rubbed raw just right live. At the Drive-In (Friday at Irving Plaza) screamed, settled down, got up and down. Take that and spread it on your bagel. Nick Catucci & Hillary Chute
Those seeking respite from the legions of wishy-washy indie rock could find a few shows with wishy-washy techno, and one that left an impression. Leave it to ghetto techthe bastard stepchild of Detroit technoto provide CMJ's most un-p.c. content; not coincidentally, the "Comin' From Tha D" showcase (Thursday at Frying Pan) was also the techno highlight, with booty man Assaultspinning a track (his own) that went: "Ho, take off your clothes, ho, get naked," over and over again. Paris the Black Fu played the straight man, spinning blinding techno at a pace that would've challenged Jeff Mills for intensity and speed.
Ian Pooley(Saturday at Irving Plaza)who usually plays good records, but doesn't always play them wellcouldn't compensate for his less-than-exciting programming because his wax was so run-of-the-mill. Openers Rinôçérôseare a proper postmodern rock band, with samplers, numerous guitars, and a "light show" required of any respectable live techno band; they resembled Gus Gus minus a singer, which they really could've used.
If Armand Van Helden (Sunday at Centro-fly) hates house music so much, maybe he should do everyone a favor and stay home. For lessons on how to clear a dance floor, take a page from his set, which found the bearded one banging out hard house with the finesse of a robot and the soul of a machine. Opening act Artful Dodger managed to be fun and silly (and, unlike AVH, they bothered to mix well), playing their one big hit, "Re-rewind," before their set slowly skidded to the depths of bad Hot 97 mix shows. And, really, someone should place a ban on U.K. MCs who shout "AAAARE YOUUUUU REEEEADDDY!" more than once. Detroit techno legend Juan Atkins(he showed!) had the unlucky fate of spinning to 30 people at three in the morning; I couldn't blame him for his uninspired set, which slid from hi-tech jazz into watered-down, salsa-flavored house.