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The Quitters, Thee UMMmm . . . , the Lawn Sausages

Fans of garage rock, no doubt, can recite a long list of reasons to love the genre—and subtlety is almost certainly absent from that list. If you want subtlety, point your eyes and ears in the direction of, hell, serialism or something. But, honestly, who wants to drink a 12-pack to 12-tone? Garage rock is loud and simple and crass and goofy and sloppy and, well, just check out the flyer for the Garage Explosion taking place at Artie’s Lansingburgh Station on Saturday: The word “fun” is right there, featured prominently in one of those cartoon stars that usually have words like “ka-bomp!” or “fa-tang!” in them. And “shock” is there too. Oh, and “beer” is there, twice. See? Fun.

This particular explosion boasts the talents of Rochester’s the Quitters, who do a little boasting themselves at their Web site: “The Quitters are the greatest band in the world. Ask anybody. They invented Rock & Roll. Ask them, they’ll tell you.” Which isn’t to say that the band—who claim to sound like a cross between the “Everly Brothers and a moldy caramel cream”—are totally self-involved and egotistical. Far from it. In fact, the gentlemanly quartet report that “at a recent show the band pretended to ‘suck,’ just to make other bands in the audience feel better about their own performances.”

Assisting in the exploding, are Albany’s own mysteriously monikered Thee UMMmm . . . , comprising members of both rockabilly revivalists Rocky Velvet and the departed 1313 Mockingbird Lane, who—some youngsters may not know—were for years virtually uncontested as masters of Albany’s garageland.

And what blowout would be complete without the region’s favorite developmentally impaired rock & roll superstars, the Lawn Sausages? If you have not experienced the Lawn Sausages (pictured), you are likely leading a complacent life, feeling safe in the incorrect assumption that people like that only exist as villains in Nickelodeon “Up All Night” movies. Come to think of it, with the Sausages on the bill, we wonder why beer was only listed twice.

The Garage Explosion explodes at Artie’s Lansingburgh Station (606 Second Ave., Troy) on Saturday (May 18). Tickets for the 9 PM show are $3. For more information, 238-2788.

Spalding Gray

‘Lemme just, lemme just put on a shirt,” mumbles Spalding Gray in his signature stammer, even though it’s a phone interview, and he’s clear across the country in a Los Angeles hotel room. (It sounds like I woke him up.) He’s there performing Swimming to Cambodia, his 1982 autobiographical monologue about his experiences in Cambodia while shooting a bit part in the film The Killing Fields. The piece helped put him on the map as the nation’s premiere monologist, and Friday he’s bringing it to the Egg, as part of a double bill with Interviewing the Audience the next night. (He’s performed often at the Egg over the years and says he enjoys coming back to the area; back in the ’60s he cut his acting teeth at Caffe Lena in Saratoga, and his wife Kathie, of monologues It’s a Slippery Slope and Morning, Noon and Night fame, is from Scotia.)

Gray hasn’t been thrilled with the monologue’s reprise after 20 years and complains that he’s “not connecting that strongly with the material” because “it’s too old,” but it’s hard not to take that with a grain of salt. Gray routinely displays a level of neuroticism begging comparisons with Woody Allen (except that he’s a Rhode Island WASP and therefore much less frenetic). And much of his work is marked by an exceptional gift for evoking dry humor from tragedy, fear and pain—his mother’s suicide, his battle with hypochondriasis, his long-term relationship, ephemeral marriage and subsequent break-up with Renee Shafransky, and most recently, a near-fatal car accident while vacationing in Ireland last summer (keep your fingers crossed—on some legs of the tour, he’s been trying out some of this latest material before Swimming to Cambodia).

Saturday night, Gray returns to the Egg, with Interviewing the Audience, a piece he started doing in 1980 at the famous downtown New York City experimental performance space, the Kitchen. “I realized I had just been telling my story, and I wanted to hear other people’s stories,” he recalls. “It’s a terrific break for me.” So here’s how it works: Before the show, Gray wanders around the lobby, chatting up people who seem like promising conversationalists. “I get very humble and very human and talk about my own issues a lot,” he explains. He settles on three or four audience members and for the next two hours talks with them, one at a time, onstage. “The title is a misnomer,” he says, “It really is a conversation with the audience.”

Like Gray’s monologues, the results often skew toward the comical and the absurd, but it’s a chance piece; once, in Pittsburgh, after talking with a woman onstage for several minutes, it emerged that her daughter had been murdered in one of the area’s most notorious homicides. “So I just acted as a conduit and just guided her through the story—which got a standing ovation,” remembers Gray.

If it sounds like a slightly nerve-wracking concept for the theater-going public, the tables, he promises, are there for the turning: “I’m open to any question.”

Spalding Gray will perform Swimming to Cambodia on Friday and Interviewing the Audience on Saturday; both shows are at the Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany), and both shows begin at 8 PM. Tickets are $24, $40 for both nights. Call 473-1845 for information.

—Alicia Zuckerman

Saturday Night Liv

Local pop singer/songwriter Liv Cummins is about to debut her newest undertaking, Saturday Night Liv. The live variety show coproduced and hosted by Cummins, will run through the summer, one weekend a month. Saturday Night Liv opens Saturday night at the Pleshakov Music Center in Hudson and features the type of acts Ed Sullivan would have booked for his “really big shew.”

With an attempt to mimic The Carol Burnett Show via sketch comedy and musical-theater moments, Saturday Night Liv features a cast of many, including Christine Abitabile, Anthony Bolton, Dianne Hobden, Peggy Kalamaras, Frank Lauria, Sal Maneri, Dan Region and Prudence Theriault. Variety acts include Dave the Juggler, singer-songwriters Vinny Velez and Sandy McKnight, comic impressionist Wally Hughes, comic monologist Pat Naggiar and Turkish dancer Zahara. Cummins will also sing some of her original songs and perform in some of the sketches.

“We see it as a cross between the great variety shows of the ’60s and ’70s, and the edginess and adventurousness of the original Saturday Night Live,” Cummins has said. “The main idea is to create a series the audience will want to come to month after month. We want to combine familiar elements and reoccurring characters with ambitious theatrical moments and sketch comedy.” The producers also promise more than a few surprises.

Saturday Night Liv debuts Saturday (May 18), 8 PM and Sunday (May 19), 3 PM at the Pleshakov Music Center (544 Warren St., Hudson). There will be a “schmooze” hour before each performance in celebration of the opening. Tickets are $20, $15 seniors and $10 students. For more information, call 671-7171.

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