Music Showcase, Take Three

Nominated in Rockabilly/Roots
8 p.m. McCormick's Fish House & Bar

The 1996 CD Songs From the Hamster Theatre was put together by accordionist and guitarist David Willey all by himself, but even while making the album, he dreamed of finding musicians who could help him expand his challenging compositions. With the assembling of guitarist Mike Johnson, trombonist/keyboardist Jon Stubs, bassist Mike Fitzmaurice, drummer Raoul Rossiter and reedman Mark Harris under the appropriate handle Hamster Theatre, he's done it. Willey's truly alternative concoction mixes together, he says, "circus elements and film elements and a lot of other things. It's got a lot of similarities to some European rock bands from the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, but it's still its own thing." Thus far, Willey has not captured the Theatre on tape, but he hasn't given up trying. "It would be nice to have something that represented the band instead of just something played by me," he says. "We develop a really good connection when we play. And it keeps getting better and better the more we do it." To put it mildly, Hamster Theatre doesn't traffic in musical predictability, but despite its quirkiness, Willey points out that audiences have been responding favorably to the band. "I try to believe that it's a myth that people only like the kind of music that gets crammed down their throats, and our shows bear that out. If they take the chance to go out and hear something that's not like things they've heard over and over again, and if they're not too cynical to enjoy music anymore, then they can get into it."

Nominated in Alternative
8:45 p.m. The Great Room at Wazoo's

It's not wholly accurate to imply that the Hate Fuck Trio (guitarist Jon DeStefano, guitarist/vocalist Sam DeStefano, drummer Sean Weldon and bassist Peter Cassidy) isn't punk anymore. Suffice it to say, then, that they're not letting the genre's rules stop them from burning down other houses. Exhibit A is Ol' Blues Eyes, an EP on Seattle's Shaky Records that's credited to the Hate Fuck Trio Orchestra. "It's our slant on Frank Sinatra," Jon says. "We did it because we love the guy. My brother and I are Italian, and the other guys are at heart, and we wanted to do something for him." Ol' Blue Eyes isn't a simple valentine, though, and the impact it might have on its subject concerns Jon. "We hear he's pretty sick right now, and we're afraid that this might put him in the grave completely--which we say with all due respect, of course." The disc, which should arrive with the first week of October, contains several covers of songs associated with the Chairman of the Board, including "Witchcraft," "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "I Get a Kick Out of You," but they've been vigorously reworked and occasionally retitled; for example, "I've Got the World on a String" has been transformed into "I've Got the Whole Fucking World on a String." There's also a new ditty, "Frankengasoline/(Sucker Fuck)," that's unlikely to log much time on the Sinatra family jukebox. Future Hate Fuck Trio material probably won't top Frank's hit parade either. "We're going to go out to L.A. over Christmas and start recording our next album," Jon relates. "We haven't totally figured out what we're going to do yet, but we've been thinking about getting back to our punk roots. You Know, For Kids [the trio's debut album] and Ol' Blue Eyes have a lot of random curves on them, so we might try to keep things pretty straightforward next time." He adds, with relish and a side order of sarcasm, "We just want to rock."

Nominated in Alternative
9:30 p.m. Rock Island (all ages)

"We've been together for going on seven years now, which makes us the longest running reggae band from Colorado that I know of," says Mark Caldwell, guitarist and vocalist with the Healers. "But you can't go that long without people coming and going at various times in the band's history." At present, Caldwell is joined in the Healers by drummer Wayne Rhymer, bassist Scott Rich and keyboardist Larry "L.C." Clark, who came aboard after his forerunner, Jr. Alexander, moved his family to St. Croix earlier this year. "Jr. will probably still come up and do some guest appearances with us," Caldwell asserts. "But L.C. has been a great addition. I don't think things have really changed for us that much since he's joined. It's like the difference between one flavor of ice cream and another flavor. They're different, but they taste just as good, and in the end, they're both ice cream." The Healers, a CD issued in January, continues to garner sales and airplay, particularly in the Caribbean, prompting Caldwell and company to make plans for a followup. This mission, combined with a busy itinerary filled with club dates and festivals, makes this what Caldwell sees as a very good time for the Healers. "I think the amount of work we've done this summer and the responses we've gotten speak for themselves about how we're doing."

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