The Abyssinians No word yet on which version of the legendary reggae vocal group this is. In the late '70s, The Abyssinians split into two separate tribes, one led by brothers Lynford and Donald Manning, another led by Bernard Collins. That original trio is partially responsible for the proliferation of roots reggae's close harmony singing style, as well as for replacing the American soul influence with a more spiritual force.
Cuban Club Cantina
The Gita This popular local quintet has been pigeonholed as something of a jam band, when in fact, they're a tight, jazzy aggregation of funk-rockers, led by singer/guitarist Joran Oppelt and burnished with the flowing locks and riffs of saxophonist/flutist Joe Terrana.
Melissa Ferrick This Boston-based singer/songwriter got her big break after serving as last-minute replacement for Morrissey's opening act. Mozzer dug Ferrick so much that he invited her to open for him on the rest of the tour. That tour led to a deal with Atlantic, which led to critical success but low sales, which yielded three studio albums, one live collection and a whole lot of bitter songs about the record industry. Ferrick has a low, warm, elastic voice (kinda like Ani DiFranco's, only smoother) a charismatic stage presence and a penchant for sincere interpretations of oddball covers.
Split Lip Rayfield If the Blue Rags did it for you last year, be sure to check out their less reverent cousins, Split Lip Rayfield. The drumless Kansas quartet's psychograss goes way past insurgent. Their ringing, four-part vocal harmonies and mandolin and banjo work will catch the breath in your chest, as will the apparatus that ties it all together — the appropriately named Stitchgiver, a single-string, stand-up bass born of a Ford gas tank. The redneck Rube Goldberg device keeps the sound on track with a wild, rhythmic tension, and these boys are wild live. Other than River City High, the punkest thing at this year's Heatwave.
Blectum From Blechdom This coed duo — Kevin Blechdom and Blevin Blectum — represent Tropical Heatwave's first foray into IDM (Intelligent Dance Music). Lots of experimental acts aren't much to look at, but B from B comes straight outta Oakland with humor, costumes and shenanigans to go with their breakbeats and inventive samples. They met at Mills College, and played together for the first time by accident: When Blechdom was supposed to fade out his music to make room for Blectum, the two overlapped and, like those great old Reese's commercials, they discovered that they were two great tastes that taste great together. Inspired by animals with funny names (snauses, mallards and bee-grubs), B from B uses laptops, samplers, pedals, keyboards, and vocals.
River City High The Richmond quartet has been making the Tampa Bay area such a frequent stop these days, you'd think they were lobbying for Heatwave's Token Punk Band slot. With the intense dynamics you expect from the post-hardcore/emo camp and a tunefulness that nudges up against power-pop, the band should give the cantina a good workout, regardless of their agenda.
Dumbwaiters Brian Repetto and his band of merry music snobs have been at it for about six years; the sounds that eddy through DW's repeating themes have evolved from angular guitar rock, through dub and into a more new wavey, rhythmic affair. Echoes of Eno, Bowie and krautrock still remain, but the loose-limbed train that is Dumbwaiters has become its own unpredictable animal. Not only was their Titles one of the Planet's top local releases in 2000, that thing just can't get off the playlists at such prestigious underground radio stations as New York's WNYU and WFMU.
Cuban Club Ballroom
Kelly Hogan And The Pine Valley Cosmonauts If you had the good fortune to listen to college and underground radio 'round these parts in the very early '90s, you probably heard Kelly Hogan's crystalline tones on songs by The Jody Grind. That Atlanta quartet was one of the Southeast's finest alt-rock exports, blending jazz and country in with their tuneful garage musings. Sadly, the band's promising career ended when a van accident killed two members. After a stint in the Rock*a*Teens, Hogan relocated to Chicago and became a star of the Bloodshot Records roster. Last year's Beneath the Country Underdog, paired the twangy chanteuse with the raucous Pine Valley Cosmonauts, which comprises folks from The Waco Brothers, The Mekons and The Bottle Rockets.