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The Pop Crush Festival, hi-NRG mechanical violence, and the return of astro-rock band Zolar X

Have you worn out your copy of the Wedding Present's Bizarro? Do you still wonder why R.E.M. doesn't write songs like "Gardening at Night" anymore? Do you covet your Sarah Records samplers? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then get thee to the Pop Crush Festival this Thursday through Saturday, July 7-9, at the Rickshaw Stop. There, you'll find a whole slew of bands still sipping from that same wellspring of fuzzy (as in both "distorted" and "soft to the touch"), fun, beat-happening pop-rock that years ago gave birth to the college radio DJ, black-rimmed glasses, and the widespread acceptance of sweater vests. Unfortunately, U.K. cult fave and marquee act Television Personalities had to cancel its appearance this year (founding member Dan Treacy is a schizophrenic who's in and out of jail -- how's that for edge), but the fest is still offering a solid lineup over its three days: Human Television, My Favorite, Bunnygrunt, Baskervilles, Math & Physics Club, Voxtrot, the Music Lovers, the Autocollants, Gregory Webster, California Oranges, the Consultants, Remedy'n'Wren, Lil' Hospital, and Red Pony Clock. Thirty bones'll get you a three-day pass; call 861-2011 or visit www.rickshawstop.com for more info. -- Jon Pruett


Guitar-and-drums duo Afrirampo is two young Japanese gals — who are far removed from the safe J-pop of Puffy Amiyumi. The Osaka pair offer raucously catchy, primal spazz-clamor that veers from unhinged improv to poppier surf/psych tendencies; envision early Boredoms trying to play free jazz and garage rock simultaneously. With goofy song titles that sometimes loosely translate to stuff like “Sassy Rabbit” and “Crybaby Caterpillar,” the band’s recordings are creative and make for an interesting listen; there’s a brand-new CD on John Zorn’s Tzadik label called koregamayakuda (meaning “This Is the Drug”). But the forte of co-vocalists Oni (on guitar) and Pika (on drums) is the wild abandon of their live performances, as illustrated by the current import-only disc Urusa in Japan (Urusa = “noisy”). With their outrageous costumes and boundless energy, these two routinely work audiences worldwide into frenzied glee. Catch them on Thursday, July 7, at the Stork Club in Oakland (510-444-6174 or www.storkcluboakland.com) or on Friday, July 8, at the Hemlock Tavern (923-0923 or www.hemlocktavern.com). -- Mike Rowell


"I wanna be timeless," sang the members of Zolar X on their insanely obscure 1982 album appropriately titled Timeless, which finally enjoyed proper CD release last year via S.F.'s Alternative Tentacles label. With a glam-punk sound that hinted at everything from Bowie to the Sweet to the Damned, Zolar X's Timeless caught the attention of many with its audacious astro-rock. Now the band is getting its wish for immortality. Recently resurfacing after 20-some years with a lineup that features main alien/guitarist Ygarr Ygarrist, original drummer Eon Flash, and new bassist Jett Starr, the group reportedly delivered a tight, energetic, and powerful performance last month at San Jose's Blank Club. The trio played several new tunes, as well as such classics as "Jet Star 19," "Rocket Roll," and, of course, "Timeless." Expect spacesuits, helmet-hair wigs, glittery props, and transdimensional rock when Zolar X plays Friday, July 8, at the Great American Music Hall; call 885-0750 or visit www.gamh.com for more info. -- Mike Rowell


16 Bitch Pile-Up is an awfully wicked-sweet name for a band evoking images of fiercely pissed-off young women commandeering large, steel-made machinery (Mercury Cougars, forklifts, combines, etc.) and maniacally slamming them into one another at some illegal demolition derby. Shit, that reads like a (less abstract) passage from J.G. Ballard's Crash or even The Atrocity Exhibition -- sexual hi-NRG funneled into mechanical violence terminating in a sculptural collage of mutilated anatomy and twisted scrap-metal. Now, imagine the perfect score for this nightmare, and I guarantee it sounds not unlike the gnarled particle-waves of howling electronic-feedback that Columbus, Ohio's 16 Bitch Pile-Up has been pumping out over the past several years. In fact, the group's semilegendary live performances even mirror some of the essential themes in my Ballardian vision: three young 'n' angry freaks (women and men) funneling their sexual hi-NRG into a mechanical kind of sonic violence that ends in a sculptural collage of sweaty 'n' exhausted anatomy and a stage covered in twisted electronics and half-broken instrumentation. Sweet. Try to catch 16 Bitch Pile-Up when it plays on Sunday, July 10, with two of Oakland's finest noise-makers, D Yellow Swans and Sixes, at the Hemlock Tavern; call 923-0923 or go to www.hemlocktavern.com for more info. -- Justin F. Farrar

 
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