Lovers Lane
Copernicus Center

Sugar: Honey, honey

| June 27, 2012

The Hives were scrappy young punk revivalists when they debuted stateside, so what could they possibly be up to now? They’re in town as the days start getting shorter, as are Earthen Grave, Paul Thorn (and American Music Fest), Country Throwdown, and Santana.

What’s great about The Hives is they know how disposable music is. They don’t always connect that stance with their own work, but then that’s the punk attitude for you. Lex Hives, however, seems to pine for longevity even as it mocks materialism. Opener “Come On!” ends as soon as it starts, but “Go RIght Ahead” aims right for nostalgia with cues drawn from both Slade and ELO. Recognizing that the Swedes can’t just Veni Vidi Vici as they had in the past, Lex Hives makes guitars decidedly less prominent, but that doesn’t lessen their spirit for anti-commercialism and materialism, hoping to drop an everlasting nugget (“I have a thousand answers/one of them must be right”) into the endless void. (Saturday@Vic with Fidlar and Fresh Lights.)

To our knowledge, Scott Davidson has never uttered a negative feeling about any band he’s played on “Rebel Radio,” but now he faces critics himself as the drummer behind Earthen Grave‘s debut. Drawing the heat away from Davidson, frontman Mark Weiner boasts a Chris Cornell howl that’s a little less look-at-me than the Soundgarden frontman, while violinist Racheal Barton Pine throws solos in that’ll make you think guitarists Tony Spillman and Jason Muxlow are MIDI specialists until you check the liners. Their self-titled debut’s aftertaste is assuredly Sabbathian, no difference if you lean toward Ozzy or Ronnie. Pine’s violin puts a burr under some of the more Eastern melodies, though the direct, unfussy solos keep the band’s ambitions rooted firmly in hard rock. (Saturday@Reggies Rock with Black Cobra and Gaza.)

If, at the off chance you pull yourself out of a stupor at FitzGerald’s American Music Fest long enough to feel the music you’re hearing isn’t American enough, it won’t be during Paul Thorn‘s set. His new What The Hell Is Going On? (Perpetual Obscurity) flits through straight folk, drawn-out slide-blues, and gospel touches like blood through a vein. Unafraid of covers, Thorn’s just as likely to lift Fleetwood Mac as longtime companion Billy Maddox. (Sunday@FitzGerald’s American Music Fest in Berwyn.)

The insatiability that provided Santana some chart dominance with Supernatural had fermented into a weary disinterest when its anniversary reissue arrived recently, as if saying we were happy he received overdue Grammy recognition, but enough’s enough. If Santana picked up on those witchy vibes, they fed directly linto Shape Shifter, a mostly instrumental guitar album that couldn’t care less about the needs of a pop audience. In fact, though this set has been dedicated to aboriginal and native peoples worldwide, it’s a decidedly solo rock outing, where barebones bass and keyboard accompaniment underpin Santana’s fearless solos. Of course, such a unilateral step naturally renders some of the songs as undercooked, skeletal configurements with a single conclusion, but it’s been a long time since Santana was so respectful of his fingers’ talent. (July 9th@Ravinia Festival in Highland Park.)

The fightin’ side: Chicago has already withstood an opening blow from Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert, and before Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw sweep up Soldier Field Country Throwdown will storm into town. Gary Allan, Rodney Atkins, Josh Thompson, Sunny Sweeney, and Eric Paslay will temporarily turn Bridgeview’s albatross from a soccerfield into a hybrid honky tonk and NASCAR race (tailgating starts at 11 a.m.!). There will also be a Bluebird Cafe Stage, which highlights the sort of artists who are frequently chosen for stardom from the vaunted Nashville club. (Saturday@Toyota Park in Bridgeview.)

— Steve Forstneger

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