Yeah, we know the Beastie Boys cancelled, and at this point, you feel like you're just showing up to see if Fergie wets herself again. Buck up, little Street Scenester. There are plenty of bands that, while you may have never heard of them, are worth your attention. And, no, they're not Jack White's new band.
Calexico: Yet another great act left without a label after the folding of Touch and Go / Quarterstick Records earlier this year, Tucson's dustbowl soundtrackers Calexico are a distinctly Southwestern proposition. By avoiding Tex-Mex blues clichés and the usual alt-country urge to pretend to be cowboys, they've hit a fruitful niche somewhere between indie-rock and the authentic roots music of Ry Cooder and Los Lobos, with helpings of Mariachi, country and folk thrown in for good measure. An elegant live presentation, including vibraphone, horns and stand-up bass, suggests that Calexico is perfect for a late-afternoon set, preferably one with a dramatic sunset, best experienced slightly toasted after spending your first few hours sipping microbrews in the beer garden.Deerhunter: Similar to Joey Ramone, another singer affected by Marfan Syndrome—a condition making one appear emaciated due to a genetic defect in connective tissue—Deerhunter's Bradford Cox has become increasingly confident during his band's rise in profile. But whereas Cox used to intentionally provoke audiences by appearing onstage in drag, makeup and / or covered in fake blood, those instances are fewer and farther between as he becomes more comfortable with his status as a young indie icon. This is a good thing. The transition from their difficult breakthrough album, Cryptograms, to last year's gentler Microcastle / Weird Era, Cont. showed a band with impeccable taste producing refined, yet skewed, pop music that's a vaguely sinister throwback to 4AD's heyday. And while Cox's stage presence isn't as outlandish as it was in the past, Deerhunter re-create the ambiance of their records so well that you'll forget about the perverse desire to witness a gangly, 6-foot-4 singer donning a summer dress onstage.Extra Golden: Perhaps the least-hyped band to perform at this year's festival is Kenyan / American group Extra Golden. As the story goes, guitarist Ian Eagleson was studying benga music in Nairobi for his doctoral thesis in ethnomusicology and discovered more than a few commonalities between benga musicians and American rock artists. A 2004 visit from friend and former Golden bandmate Ian Minoff proved to be serendipitous, as the two began impromptu jam sessions with benga artist Otieno Jagwasi, the fruits of which were revealed on their debut album, Ok-Oyot System. Unfortunately, Jagwasi died of liver failure in 2005, but Eagleson and Minoff continued with drummer Onyago Wuod Omari and guitarist Opiyo Bilongo. This year's Thank You Very Quickly is an overlooked gem, its extraordinary optimism and bright, punchy guitar tones conquering even the most jaded of cynics. If you're looking to crack a few smiles at this year's show (aside from laughing at Black Eyed Peas), Extra Golden is the band to see.
Public Enemy: Let's face it: If Public Enemy had split in the early '90s and, maybe if Flava Flav hadn't done all those reality shows, they would have already been inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. No other rap group, save for Run-DMC, had a greater impact on bringing hip-hop to the masses while also being equally inspiring to rock bands. But what most people forget is that they were a group that generated buzz in the '80s by playing raucous live shows that influenced everyone from Anthrax to Rage Against the Machine. And nearly a quarter-century later, they still bring the noise. A few years ago at Music Midtown (Atlanta's equivalent to Street Scene), they were the highlight of the weekend. And DJ Terminator X notwithstanding, almost all the original lineup remains intact, including Chuck, Flav, Professor Griff and, possibly most awesome of all, the S1W dancers, who, while no longer brandishing Uzis onstage, are still scarily cool. No Age: In the modern world of popular rock duos, most people either reference The White Stripes or The Black Keys, but No Age certainly deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as those bands. Former L.A. hardcore kids, their mix of garage, noise and indie-pop sounds like what we wished Crocodiles had ended up sounding like—that is, a natural transition from teenage angst to modern adult life without dumbing it down or completely letting go of their roots. They might never write a song as catchy as “Seven Nation Army” or have the technical prowess of Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach, but their relative lack of success only means they'll play every show like they mean it. Go see what we mean.Of Montreal: When our intern returned home from the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago a few weeks ago, she could barely remember much of the weekend. However, she did mention that Of Montreal certainly stood out. Why? Because whether you dig their music or not, these Athens, Ga., freaks put on one hell of a live show, complete with props, costume changes and, in the case of one infamous show in Vegas, full-frontal male nudity. Although it's unlikely that frontman Kevin Barnes will wield his sword again, the guy's certainly as close as you'll get to a modern-day glam superstar. He dresses like Ziggy-era Bowie and sings Prince-inspired sexcapades that get half the crowd making out and the rest shaking their asses in unison.Street Scene takes place Friday, Aug. 28, and Saturday, Aug. 29. www.street-scene.com.
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