College rock

UFOFU brings 'alternative' to ETSU and wins the talent show

They showed up the headliners, made a brilliant rock-and-roll sound that sometimes bordered on arena-rock free-jazz and sometimes skirted the pop-punk issue, and they proved you need not speak to the audience to be heard or even liked.

On the surface, the members of UFOFU could be tagged Nirvana-bes, but of the most noble breed: "The Thing of It Is" off their new four-song EP (available on the Long Beach, California-based Time Bomb label) kicks with a Foo Fighter force; theirs is a catchy and brutal brand of rock and roll, a pastiche of power-trio conventions presented as though brand-new. UFOFU may well have begun as a prog-rock notion back when Joe Butcher was living in New York City and fronting an earlier incarnation of the band that featured no vocals, but it has since evolved into a power trio that pays homage to the concept of rock as a larger palette.

Their interpretation is a much broader one: "Yeah Yeah" (from the same EP) revisits 1983 new wave in all its delirious repetition, but the band also has a penchant for exploring the furthest boundaries of pop, where the melodies begin to fall away the longer the musicians draw out the notes and peel away the cool exterior. In concert, as in front of a befuddled and bemused ETSU crowd, Butcher and the brothers Curtis suddenly and inexplicably break into improv between tightly structured songs; they attack Lunch Factor's "Oya Oya" like Ornette Coleman fronting the Pixies, the notes rubbing against each other till they're rubbed raw.

"I want to try and take things out more, but some of the newer stuff is more rock," Butcher says of the disparate sound. "I used to try to be this progressive-punk stuff. I was listening to Zappa but was into metal and hard-core and all that silly shit.

"The earlier incarnation of this band had a horn player and this chick playing cello. I wanted it to be like Zappa meets Nine Inch Nails meets Deee-Lite meets Charlie Parker, but it didn't work out that well. I needed time for the music to find itself--it needed time to find itself in the dumpster. I used to write music for the band to read a long time ago, but I'm a rocker now."

After UFOFU's set--a triumph even if no one in the audience noticed--the Daisy takes the stage with new drummer Mitch Marine in tow. Though concert officials insist the audience sit before the Daisy makes its entrance, the crowd is on its feet throughout the band's show--and it is a Show if nothing else, all bright lights and frontman Tim DeLaughter's ghastly theatrics and annoying voice. A blond wig covers his green hair--no, wait, it's supposed to be funny.

Marine, the longtime Brave Combo drummer brought in to replace the exhausted and bored Bryan Wakeland, gives the Daisy an extra kick; if the band was a 10-speed before, it's now a Harley-Davidson, all muscle and bulging veins. But if you don't have the songs, musicianship will only take you half the way home. Luckily, we had a car to take us the rest of the way.

Scene, heard
He swears it counts for something, but they don't call him "Poor David" Card for nothing. The winners of the 8th Annual B.W. Stevenson Singer-Songwriter Memorial Competition are in, and the first prize of 100 bucks goes to Shara Wright, who also gets a slot at Poor David's opening for a national performer (does Ray Wylie Hubbard count?) and a free pass to the Kerrville Folk Festival. Second prize--and $50, enough for five beers at Poor David's--went to Elizabeth Wills, who also gets an opening gig. (Past winners include Colin Boyd and Mark David Manders.) Ironically, the Oak Cliff-born Stevenson--who died in April 1988 while undergoing open-heart surgery--is enjoying more success right now than anyone who's ever won the award named after him: Brooks and Dunn's cover of Stephenson's 1973 Top-10 hit "My Maria" is the No. 1 country single in America...

Think of it as a Lollapalooza for all those who wished Stereolab was headlining instead of Metallica: The Melodica Festival--a three-night showcase of ambient-rock-etc. bands taking place over the weekend at the much-loved Argo in Denton--kicks off Friday with performances from Comet, Thorazine Dreams, Ultra Sound, Electric Company, Sixteen Deluxe, and Lotus Crown. (Jeff Liles--or cottonmouth, texas, you make the call--will DJ throughout the evening). Saturday's show features Mazinga Phaser, Furry Things, Experimental Audio Research, Young Pioneers, Skiptracer, and Magnog. Sunday finishes with a bang with a bill that features 5ive Style, Tortoise, Oddfellows, Sivad, Light Bright Highway, and Sea and Cake. Tickets are $25 for the weekend or $10 a night, and they're available at Last Beat, Bill's, or at the Argo...

In a town where everybody's either trying to get a major-label deal or trying to get out of their major-label deal, landing a song on a movie's soundtrack seems to be the new trivial pursuit. Joining the likes of Reverend Horton Heat, Tripping Daisy, and Toadies on soundtracks present and future, Hagfish has landed a rather uninspired cover of "Hot Child in the City" on the new Barb Wire album, which also features Johnette Napolitano, Meat Puppets, Salt 'N' Pepa, and Mr. Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, who rocks as well as his old lady acts.

Street Beat welcomes e-mail comments and tips at robert_wilonsky@dallasobserver.com.

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