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By Andy Argyrakis
Robert Randolph Weekend Report: Randolph revels in live blues, Fishbone fun
Friday, April 20, 2007
The resume for Robert Randolph & the Family Band includes opening slots for Santana, Eric Clapton, Aerosmith, Dave Matthews Band and countless others, though the guys are taking their own show on the road this season. The latest leg in support of Colorblind (Warner Bros.) kicks off Saturday at Madison's Orpheum Theatre, continuing Sunday at Boston's Avalon and running with barely any breaks through September. Additional dates on the eclectic band's calendar include the blues focused Crossroads Festival (curated by Clapton) in Chicago July 28, three DMB dates just outside of Seattle (August 31-September 2) and a B.B. King Blues Festival appearance in Hollywood come September 5.

The last few years have been a constant whirlwind for the Arctic Monkeys, from a quiet rage amongst underground hipsters to briskly popping the mainstream bubble. While listeners are still trying to shake the infectious single "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor" from their heads, the band is already presenting new material on the road. Though the next record doesn't bow until Tuesday,Fishbone UK concertgoers score a sneak preview across this entire weekend, but American appreciators will have to wait until next Friday, April 27 when the Monkeys' Stateside dates launch in Indio, California (at Coachella).

Though the band is best known for influencing the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction (amongst many others from that late 80s/early 90s alternative era), Fishbone continues to attract a dedicated following to this day. The band gears up for Still Stuck in Your Throat (Sound In Color) this Tuesday and is currently in the midst of an expansive American tour that weaves its way through Texas, Louisiana and Georgia throughout this coming week. Aside from still being a solid draw on the live circuit, the group has also backed the diverse likes of OutKast and Christina Aguilera as of late, along with covering Sublime's "Date Rape" with its own ingenious spin.
The Fratellis Fratellis' fast track to fame,
America again

Thursday, April 19, 2007
After an initial warm-up via Austin's SxSW Festival (during which Pete Townshend sat in on the band's set), The Fratellis launch its first full-fledged America tour at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza on April 26. Aside from a string of solo shows, the Scottish rock n' rollers team up with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, along with three stadium shows with The Police. But the action doesn't end there, continuing onto Chicago's Lollapalooza and then returning to a Stateside headlining run throughout July. All the attention surrounds the recent release of Costello Music (Cherry Tree) under the direction of producer Tony Hoffer (Beck), which has thus far earned the band a Brit Award for "Best British Breakthrough Act."

Though The Almost was destined for a certain degree of success considering it's a side project for Underoath drummer/vocalist Aaron Gillespie, the fever is almost spreading faster than his full time band. The group debuted at #39 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Chart for its new Southern Weather (Tooth & Nail/Virgin) moving 29,136 units. The project's lead single "Say This Sooner"The Almost is also in heavy rotation on alternative rock radio, MTV2 and Fuse. The gang just wrapped up a run with Say Anything and Saves the Day, is currently with Paramore and This Providence through early May, then moves into the Vans Warped Tour.

Classic rockers Chicago always bring another act along for its annual summer jaunt and this year is no exception. Following tag teams with Earth, Wind & Fire, plus Huey Lewis & the News, the Windy City boys team with acoustic duo America. For those who haven't heard that name in ages, the pair has actually been up to some incredibly fruitful sessions for the recent release Here & Now (Burgundy). Though one disc is merely a rehashing of its greatest hits in concert, the other takes a much more adventurous approach, featuring an all star list of alternative rock collaborators. The illustrious (and unexpected) guests include Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha, Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, Ryan Adams and Nada Surf to name a few.
Veruca Salt California's mini-Coachella alternative, Koko's comeback
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
All ears on the California coast (and the rest of the nation for that matter) always salivate with excitement over the annual Coachella experience, but there's also a budget conscious alternative with a handful of yesterday and today's top indie acts. The 2007 installment of the Topanga Days Music Festival was just unveiled at its spacious Santa Monica Mountains setting, which can also double as a scenic Memorial Day getaway. Thus far acts include Chevy Metal (featuring an appearance by Foo Fighters' Taylor Hawkins), Veruca Salt, The Tender Box, John Doe (of X fame), Young Dubliners, Sin City City All Stars and Pamela Des Barres, amongst many others.

After a seven year hiatus from the recording studio, "Queen of the Blues" Koko Taylor recently returned with Old School (Alligator). The veteran is staging a limited spring tour to support the disc, which is a mixture of five original songs and choice covers. Willie Dixon, Lefty Dizz and Magic Sam are amongst those she pays tribute to, though being part of the genre's royalty pool, the interpretations lie in a class all by themselves.Koko Taylor The comeback is not only monumental because of her lengthy hiatus, but also incredibly inspiring given the fact she had emergency surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding in 2003, followed by breathing problems and dependence on a ventilator. But she's clearly back and better than ever on album, while her concerts never disappoint.

It exists for houses, medical issues, cars, floods and now hurricanes, so why not insurance when it comes to concert tickets? As initially strange as that sounds, prices these days can tip towards the $500 mark (especially when checking out the Rolling Stones or Barbra Streisand) so a lost stub would certainly be a hefty penny to replace. However, travel insurance company World Access is indeed offering this very service with a unique (though still somewhat skeptical) program called the "Event Ticket Protector." Long story short, the company charges patrons 5% of face value to score coverage, and in the event that ticket is lost, stolen or the concertgoer is unable to attend because of an unforeseen event (such as sudden illness or a car accident), it will be fully refunded. However, before scam artists start plotting an outrageous premise, all extenuating circumstances must be traced and documented just like any other formal claim in the insurance market.
Trent Reznor Street Date: New Nine Inch, Cowboys continue
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
After significant build-up that included a live concert DVD project from the last tour and a series of singles, Nine Inch Nails turn in the full-length Year Zero (Nothing). The disc comes on the somewhat recent heels of With Teeth, which propelled the Trent Reznor-led band back into the mainstream stratosphere. Sessions for today's release actually began in Reznor's laptop studio in the back of the tour bus and has since developed into a concept record about a daydream envisioning the end of the world. It may seem like a weighty topic, but the sounds are said to capture NIN's signature blend of searing instrumentation and industrialized electronics.

Though the Cowboy Junkies may have always flown a bit under the radar in America, the band is one of Canada's most respected exports, who believe it or not, have endured over twenty years. Not many bands can boast that type of longevity, let alone with all the original members,Joseph Arthur though that pattern continues on today's At the End of Paths Taken (Zoe). The project blends psychedelic references, Beatles tipped harmonies and roots rock sounds that have become weaved into the band's enduring fabric.

Tasteful troubadour Michael Penn may not have had a ton of charting singles, but he's generally been a critically accepted artist with a rich catalogue of reflections. He finally scores a career compilation thanks to Palms and Runes: Best of Michael Penn (Sony Legacy), which also has a series of fan friendly rarities and unreleased versions. Speaking of singer/songwriters, Joseph Arthur also returns with Let's Just Be (Lonely Astronaut) continuing in a relatively prolific tradition that's found him churning out new tunes every year or two. The tunesmith first found fame with props from Peter Gabriel (and a subsequent signing on his Real World label), though he's since developed a dedicated cult following thanks to an impressive version of ethereal but muscular alternative pop.
Julian Lennon Julian Lennon loaded, Lollapalooza line-up
Monday, April 16, 2007
Move over Michael Jackson because Julian Lennon is also in the money when it comes to songwriting income for Beatles' compositions. The oldest son of John Lennon sold a portion of his dad's tunes for the band to Primary Wave Music Publishing. Though specifics were kept private, chances are the famous offspring scored a serious chuck of change. For a point of reference, Courtney Love sold half her share of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain's publishing rights and earned approximately $50 million. Not bad for a simple contract signing and a few legal wranglings!

After much speculation and anticipation, the line-up for Lollapalooza has finally been announced, hitting Chicago's Grant Park August 3-5. Though there's a significant quantity of artists as always, the quality is some cases is a bit questionable, especially compared to past years that included The Arcade Fire, The Pixies and Weezer. While it might not be the best in history, the roster's still nothing to sneeze at, including Iggy & The Stooges, Patti Smith, Muse, Modest Mouse, Patti SmithInterpol and Snow Patrol (amongst many others). Pearl Jam and Daft Punk, and Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals are also being billed towards the top of the list, though it remains to be seen who will be placed as official headliners. Perhaps the biggest props for Lollapalooza promoters comes in relation to ticket prices, which do not include any handling fees whatsoever, allowing early birds to purchase a three day pass for $165. Score them before the show sells out at

On a somewhat random corporate note, the Island Def Jam Music Group just announced Mercury Records will be re-launched. The long defunct imprint previously released records by Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Elton John, along with the New York Dolls, Van Morrison and countless others. Though specific artists have yet to be named, the Island Def Jam Music Group currently houses everyone from The Killers to Kanye West to Jay-Z and Melissa Etheridge.

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