In the Black

Everyone wins at an all-day, live-music marathon like Fall Jam IV. The radio station (in this case, KLOL/101.1 FM) gets plenty of publicity, and listeners get to see a lot of acts -- perhaps even a few of their heroes -- at a reasonable cost. Even better, this year's Fall Jam lineup is the most satisfying in years.

The most anticipated act of the day ought to be the headliners, the Black Crowes, who will undoubtedly preview tunes from their upcoming release -- tentatively titled By Your Side -- most likely alongside the Stonesy favorites "Hard to Handle," "Sting Me" and "She Talks to Angels." Given the low-key commercial performance of the band's last few releases, it's almost as if the Crowes have been away awhile. But longtime fans know plenty about their Southern-boogie-soaked live sets; the group's loud and tight performances continue to be anchored by vocalist Chris Robinson and his guitarist brother Rich. Helping the Crowes' chances for a full-scale "revival" in '98 is the recent release of the Sho' Nuff box set, which features remastered versions of the band's four studio albums (with bonus tracks) and a live EP.

Initially, the Black Crowes were the victims of (sometimes deserved) critical barbs for their blatantly retro leanings. But as the years have gone by, the band has evolved into something more than a glorified oldies act. The Crowes' Fall Jam appearance will mark the first time a Houston audience will witness their tighter, five-piece lineup (guitarist Marc Ford and bassist Jonny Colt have flown the coop).

Also worth the price of admission: an opening set from Alice In Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell. Cantrell's first solo album, Boggy Depot, proves that if he were a generation younger, Jim Dandy would have recruited him for Black Oak Arkansas.

-- Bob Ruggiero

KLOL Fall Jam IV, featuring the Black Crowes, Jerry Cantrell, Dishwalla, Kenny Wayne Shepherd and more, is scheduled for Saturday, October 17, at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, The Woodlands. Doors open at noon. Tickets are $17.50 and $27.50. For info, call 629-3700.

Garbage -- Before the band's mind-blowing 1995 debut, the advance feeling about Garbage was more skeptical anticipation than anything else. Sure, founder Butch Vig had helped jettison the Smashing Pumpkins to the next level -- but as a producer, not as a player and a songwriter. Singer Shirley Manson was essentially unknown outside of her native Scotland; in fact, Vig and band mates Duke Erikson and Steve Marker had "discovered" her on late-night TV. But then Garbage hit the stores, and a few monster singles later, the real pressure was on: Could they do it all over again? With Version 2.0, it would seem that Garbage has done exactly that -- refined its layered, electronica-tinged rock sound into another batch of catchy modern tunes that take their inspiration from all over the pop music landscape. On its last tour, Garbage was a powerful, often unpredictable live experience. Expect a return to form in that area, as well. On Saturday, October 17, at the Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas. Showtime 8 p.m. Tickets $20. Girls Against Boys opens. 629-3700. (Seth Hurwitz)

The Mysteries of Life -- The Mysteries of Life could be Bloomington, Indiana's best hope for indie-pop stardom. That might not seem like much, but keep in mind, the venerable Billboard magazine once named the Midwest college town as a contender for "next Seattle" honors. Featuring former Blake Babies drummer Freda Love and her singer/guitarist husband, Jake Smith -- the only members still around since the band's first release -- the new Come Clean CD builds on a foundation of shuffling beats, winsome acoustic guitars and majestic cello lines. Neither wistful nor overtly happy, the Mysteries are a warm-hearted bunch with a modest ambition to present their songs in a flattering light. To that effect, piano, harmonica and vibes add depth and texture to their latest material without over-sweetening the mix. And when they pick up the tempo and let loose on occasion, it's almost enough to make the hype believable. Opening for Juliana Hatfield on Saturday, October 17, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors 8:30 p.m. Tickets $10. Secret Sunday also opens. 362-7580. (David Simutis)

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Seth Hurwitz
Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero
David Simutis