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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Calling the Doctor: Sleater-Kinney turned it on Friday at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco.

Beyond 'Time':
Sleater-Kinney outstrips its critical raves

THE LATEST press barrage over Sleater-Kinney amazes me. The band's 1996 breakthrough album, Call the Doctor, commanded four-star accolades while praise for 1997's Dig Me Out continues to pour in, including a misinformed review in Time. So is all the attention warranted? Judging from last Saturday's performance at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, it's almost disturbing to realize how good the group will be five years from now. With each show, it reaches the emotional abyss, dances around the rim, plunges right over, then does it again.

Guitarist/vocalist Carrie Brownstein, drummer Janet Weiss and guitarist/vocalist Corin Tucker gingerly set up their own equipment--no roadies yet. The new-wave call-to-action, "Little Babies," opened the show in an upbeat fashion. A grainy mix tape of hits--"Dig Me Out," "Call the Doctor," "Turn It On," "One More Hour," "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone"--followed. The format--two guitars and no bass--emphasizes a tsunami of foamy white noise. Tucker's piercing, operatic fire-alarm vocals duel with Brownstein's more sing-songy delivery while Weiss adds crunchy accents with taiko-like rat-a-tat-tat fills. The plucky "Buy Her Candy" showed off vocal melodies and gave the audience some breathing room. Brownstein's droll "Heart Factory" came with a dig at Time. "You're manufacturing hearts; we got the perfect thing," Brownstein sing-snarled. "You can read all about it in Time magazine."

Most memorable was the free-wheeling intensity of the finale: a one-two punch of Call the Doctor's fireball "Little Mouth" and Dig Me Out's joyous ode to music's power, "Words and Guitar." Sleater-Kinney then returned to honor a request for "Good Thing" and "Be Yr Momma."

San Jose Jazz Festival

Admission is free, but the available seating goes in a hurry, so it's not too soon to start planning how to get a spot on the grass at Plaza de Cesar Chavez for the eighth annual San Jose Jazz Festival, Aug. 6­10.

The schedule for the festival--which also fills eight other stages in downtown San Jose--was released this week. The mainstage performers for Saturday (Aug. 9) are the Lifespan Diversity Choir, B-Sharp Quartet, Nueva Manteca Latin Jazz Band, Charles Brown and Spyro Gyra. Sunday's mainstage draws are the San Jose Community Gospel Choir, Brad Mehldau, the Art Farmer Quintet, Nestor Torres and Dianne Reeves. These shows start at noon and run all the way to 8pm.

Some of the most interesting music at the festival often takes place on the smaller subsidiary stages scattered around downtown San Jose. Among the prize possibilities this year are vocalists Kitty Margolis and Joyce Cooling, Indigo Swing, the Nighthawks Quintet and a variety of youth jazz ensembles. Also worth a trip is the jazz mass, which will take place Aug. 10 at St. Joseph Cathedral.

The festival gets underway on Aug. 6 with a performance by Tomo at the San Jose Museum of Art, followed on Aug. 7 with Chris Botti in the park and Signal Fire at the Pavilion. Mingus Amungus and Pele Juju anchor Friday's festivities. With a few, modest exceptions, all the events are free. Call 408/288-7557 for details.

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From the June 5-11, 1997 issue of Metro

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