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By Michael Henningsen


Monday, June 16; Dingo Bar: At this year's South By Southwest Music Festival, Yo La Tengo--particularly guitarist/vocalist/mad organist Ira Kaplan--were a brightly shining star. In fact, Yo La Tengo have shined brightly every time I've been lucky enough to see them. And while they have without a doubt made some of the most compelling indie rock ever--records like Fakebook, Painful and the brand new I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One--there's no substitute for one of their live shows.

Alternately animated and subdued, Kaplan, drummer Georgia Hubley and bassist James McNew, build their ambient rock into frenzy and chaos, reacting appropriately as if acting to a soundtrack they're creating as they go.

Anyone who has ever asked the question (or a reasonable facsimile), "What is alternative music?" can finally put their minds at ease. There is perhaps no band that defines the enigmatic genre and lives by its code better than Yo La Tengo. See for yourself. No, really.

--Michael Henningsen


Sunday, June 15; Midnight Rodeo: Quiet Riot, Loverboy, KISS, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Ronnie James Dio and now Ratt. What do these bands have in common? Plenty. Hair, makeup and Spandex bicycle shorts for starters. Skyrocketing success and eventual excommunication from the rock scene for another. And now, the tie that binds them all together is the "Reunion Tour."

Yes, Ratt has come out of the cellar once again with three original members--Stephen Pearcy (vocals, rhythm guitar and former Playgirl ... Playmate?), Warren DiMartini (guitar) and Bobby Blotzer (drums)--and hopes of cashing in on '80s cheese metal nostalgia. Robin Crosby and Juan Craucier have taken to the winds, but there's still enough of the original Ratt pack left to pique my interest. Unlike most of the bands giving in to the unfortunate (in most cases) urge to reform years after they made their final unsuccessful record and last stab at success, Ratt are making a new record (the new Motley Crue record, incidentally and with Vince Neil in tow, is due out next month). So for them, at least, there's more to all of this than midlife crisis.

Of course, back in the day (and my day, I have to admit) Ratt were unstoppable and arguably reigning cock rock kings to an entire generation of misguided former Marillion fans. Could it happen again? Anything's possible.

--Michael Henningsen

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