Solo artists Soltero and ex-Ride frontman Mark Gardener bring their respective low-key rock to town

Doing the solo singer/songwriter thing well is hard to pull off. You've got to offer the breathy brilliance of an Elliott Smith, the homespun wit of a Loudon Wainwright, the poetic audacity of a Joni Mitchell -- or in the case of Tim Howard, aka Soltero , a bit of all three. On his four LPs, the Philly resident plays delicate acoustic melodies, jaunty piano, and psychotic guitar, singing in a drowsy tone that rises to falsetto or urgent holler as the song dictates, sort of like Neil Young if he hadn't reached puberty. Mainly, though, it's Howard's lyrics that are so striking. Some are rich with detail ("Saw you fix your hair in an ambulance window"), some are funny andmelancholy ("Now and then I think of all the good times/ It never takes me more than 20 seconds"), some are so literately romantic that sexy librarians must throw bookmarks at his feet ("No Italian actress was ever this pretty/ With the slightest exception of Miss Monica Vitti"). Although on his recent Hell Train(released on S.F.'s Three Ring Records) Howard plays with a full band, he'll be solo when he performs with Petracovich and Frankl on Thursday, Dec. 8, at Amnesia. Make sure to bring your bookmarks (and your handkerchiefs); call 970-0012 or go to for more info. -- Dan Strachota

As many a shoegazer fan will ruefully recall, the mid-'90s rise of Britpop -- which put a premium on personality and fookin' choones, mate, as opposed to pedal worship and 20-minute psych-rock swirlathons -- all but killed off the scene spearheaded by My Bloody Valentine and the Oxford, England, quartet Ride. Andy Bell, guitarist for the latter, only added insult to injury when (in a "can't beat 'em, join 'em" move) he formed the Oasis knockoff band Hurricane #1, and then went and actually joined Oasis as its bassist in 1999. Meanwhile, Ride singer/guitarist Mark Gardener , perhaps sensing that the only winning move was not to play, pretty much disappeared after the band's acrimonious late-1995 split, at one point living rather hermitlike on a farm in France. A couple of years ago, he took up songwriting in earnest again, and now he's basically reinvented himself as a mainly acoustic, altcountry-dusted, Neil Young/Nick Drake acolyte (not entirely unlike fellow shoegazer vet Neil Halstead, formerly of Slowdive and now leading Mojave 3). Expect to hear most of the songs from his solo debut, These Beautiful Ghosts, and a healthy number of reworked Ride classics when Gardener performs on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Bottom of the Hill; call 621-4455 or visit for more info.-- Michael Alan Goldberg

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