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The Big Pop Barbecue

Oh power-pop, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. At Valentine’s on Saturday, there will be roughly 12 ways—in the form of bands from near and far.

John Brodeur, of the Suggestions, has put together this show, hailed as the Big Pop Barbecue. It’ll be six sweet hours of poppy performances by the likes of Oklahoma City’s the Stellas (pictured), the gal-fronted duo and keyboard lover’s delight, touring to promote their debut, Music for Umbrellas; from straight outta Maine (Portland for you detail mongers), Rocktopus, led by former Rustic Overtones member Spencer Albee, a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist serving up pop à la Harry Nilsson and Joe Jackson; Former Caulfields frontman John Faye’s new project out of Philadelphia, IKE, with members from the touring lineup of the John Faye Power Trip; also from Philly, April Disaster, an eclectic quartet with airy female lead vocals who claim influences such as Galaxie 500, Smokey Robinson and the Pixies.

Boston-based Bleu (named for their frontman) round out the not-from-Brooklyn out-of-towners. They have won that city’s Outstanding Rock Band slot and they’ve been nominated for various others. Bleu’s recent major-label debut, Redhead, has been mentioned in just about every music mag you can think of. “For the first time since Evan Dando, it looks like Boston has a genuine pop star on its hands,” says Billboard. And the Boston Phoenix discusses the release: “The front of the disc is heavy with big Cheap Trick moments, toward the end he dabbles in loops and synth, with a few hints of grandiose, Phil Spector pop along the way.”

Now for the Brooklyn bands, of which there are many (there must be some pop revolution happening under the Williamsburg Bridge). The Trouble Dolls, three guys and two girls, will provide the evening’s “bubble garage indie rock gum.” Their debut, Sticky, will be out this summer on the Australian label Half a Cow. Guitar-and-drum duo the Malarkies have been through a few times and have had area audiences buzzing. They make up for their now-gone bassist with one of them baritone guitars, and Splendid E-zine has called their most recent release, 10,000 Backdoors, “an amazing record of what two people can do with love and care and a complete disregard for commercialism.” Also from Brooklyn, the Damnwells have been creating a murmur, having recently toured with Rhett Miller, Cheap Trick and Josh Rouse, and their drummer, Steven Terry, used to play with Whiskeytown (sorry, we had to do it). They like to call their sound “rock with a lot of problems.”

As for our own pop stars involved in the show, “pop-rock for the people” will be provided by Kitty Little. Jason Martin will unveil his new pop project, Magic Recording Eye, with Martin on guitar and tape decks, Seth Cluett performing bass and Al Kash on drums. Martin may or may not have others providing clarinet, keyboards, sound affects and vocals. You’ll just have to catch it to know. Garage-indie-rockers Blackcat Elliot will be on board, providing melodic rock in the vein of the Meat Puppets, Social Distortion and Cheap Trick. And last, but not least, John Brodeur’s own Suggestions will perform.

The Big Pop Barbecue takes place at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany) on Saturday (July 12), starting promptly at 7 PM (it has to with all these bands—so be on time), with performances on both the upstairs and downstairs stages. There also will be games, vendors, and, of course, yummy barbecued meats. Tickets are a mere $8 (for 12 bands on two stages—do some math), and the show is 18-and-up. Call the club, 432-6572, for further information.

Susannah

Lake George Opera continues its eclectic and adventurous offerings at the Spa Little Theater this weekend with Carlisle Floyd’s modern American classic Susannah. (It’s that rare bird, a 20th-century American opera that has managed to nose its way into the standard opera repertory.) Based on the apocryphal Biblical Book of Susannah, and utilizing the themes and settings of traditional American folk music, the opera tells the story of a young woman from rural Tennessee who becomes of the victim of lies, betrayal and small-town hypocrisy.

In the ironically named “New Hope Valley,” Susannah lives on a farm with her brother. The trouble begins when a hellfire-and-damnation preacher rolls into town for a revival; soon enough, the innocent teenager is branded a harlot. Widely interpreted as a response to McCarthyism when it premiered in 1955, Susannah has been described by its composer as “a plea for tolerance for the outsider”—a theme that is timely, universal and enduring.

Susannah will presented by Lake George Opera at the Spa Little Theater (Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs) tomorrow (Friday, July 11) at 7:30 PM and Sunday (July 13) at 2 PM. Tickets are $62-$32. For reservations and information, please call 584-6018.

Phaedra’s Love

As the theater season kicks into high gear, a casual reader of the schedules would be forgiven for thinking that the choice is “this or that musical, or this or that Neil Simon.” The immediately recognizable names are recognizable primarily by dint of being too frequently produced. But a more thorough investigation would reveal that many regional theater companies are embracing risk, and tackling difficult subject matter boldly. A dramatic case in point, Phaedra’s Love, will be presented by the Objective at Caffe Lena beginning Sunday.

Of Phaedra’s Love, which is based loosely on an ancient Greek play by Seneca, The London Observer has said: “Pure theatre. Or rather impure theatre: dirty, alarming, dangerous.” British playwright Sarah Kane’s work is perhaps most often described as “brutal,” and her stark examinations of the pain of living were both vivid and convincing. Apparently, they were also wrought out of Kane’s personal experience of that pain: In 1999, the 28-year-old Kane committed suicide.

Though Phaedra’s Love is the least extreme of Kane’s plays, it is not intended for every audience: It contains graphic violence and language, explicit sexual content and male and female nudity. Accordingly, it is being staged at 11 PM, and no one under age 17 will be admitted to the play without adult supervision. The Objective is pulling out all stops to the “examination of catastrophe within contemporary culture.”

And that is why, according to Jonathan Whitton, the general manager of the Objective (a Skidmore College-based ensemble), “You’ll be lucky to get a seat.”

Phaedra’s Love receives its East Coast debut at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) on Sunday (July 13), and runs through July 22. Shows are Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at 11 PM. All tickets are $10. No one under 17 will be admitted without adult supervision. For more information, call 583-0022.


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