Get ready to get rowdy with Trans Am
Like a lot of highly personal music, Liberation, the new disc by Washington, D.C., post-rockers Trans Am, reflects the atmosphere of the band's hometown. But since this trio lives in the same 'hood as George W. Bush, local flavor has a whole new meaning. "In the past four years D.C. has turned into a police state," says Trans Am multi-instrumentalist Phil Manley. On claustrophobic, blatantly political songs with titles like "Uninvited Guest," Manley and fellow Trans Am-ers Nathan Means and Sebastian Thompson employ manipulated sound bites to effectively turn the chief executive into their unwitting lead singer, his heavily treated voice rising above the band's signature electronics-laden din. Trans Am's newfound zeal for twisted protest bodes well for fans of the group's already ferocious live performances, which now include a backdrop of footage documenting contemporary life in our nation's capital. "We just spent seven weeks in Europe," says Manley, "and it was amazing the contrast in information available about the war, just through normal, mainstream media channels. Not only the tone but even the basic facts are different. It's quite an eye-opener." 9 p.m. Thursday, May 20. Fat Cat's, 4215 Washington Avenue. For information, call 713-869-5263 or visit www.clubfatcat.com. $9. -- Scott Faingold
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The Two Faces of Romeo and Juliet might be your best chance all weekend for a free outdoor dose of quasi-Shakespearean teen tragedy. Everyone's favorite romantically doomed duo is portrayed from multiple angles, as selections from Gounod's gorgeous 1867 Roméo et Juliette opera rub up against corresponding parts of West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's syncopated late-'50s urban update. Several scenes are also spliced in from the original play, and the proceedings are interrupted at several points by William Shakespeare himself (played by actor David Rainey), who barges on stage from amongst the groundlings, outraged that his work has been put to music at all. By the time soprano Laquita Mitchell as Maria/Juliet and tenor Norman Reinhardt as Tony/Romeo meet their bloody ends, every musical appetite on the lawn should be satiated. 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 21 and 22. Miller Outdoor Theatre at Hermann Park, 100 Concert Drive. For information, call 713-228-6737 or visit www.houstongrandopera.org. Free. -- Scott Faingold
Listen and Look
Many music purists will argue that it doesn't matter what a musician looks like on stage. It's all about the melody, they say. Many music purists are full of crap. Everyone loves a good performer, and perhaps no one appreciates the visual appeal of live music more than choreographer Michele Brangwen. "For a long time, I've been really intrigued by the way musicians move, by the way they look when they're playing," she says. In her two latest works, "Madrid" and "Talk to Me," the musicians will be on stage with the dancers, taking part in the action. 8 p.m. Friday, May 21. Alice Pratt Brown Hall, Rice University, entrance no. 12 (off Rice Boulevard). For information, call 713-533-9515. $10 to $15. -- Keith Plocek