Goo Goo Dolls
Fastball
Splender
Tops Great American Rib Cook-Off
May 28

When it shares the bill with food and drink, musical entertainment is often a dicey thing at best. All the scarfing and slugging can make a concert seem more like a frat party: long lines for everything and beach balls, plenty of bouncing beach balls.

An event like the Great American Rib Cook-Off at Burke Lakefront Airport also forces rockers to be family-friendly. Shows are edited like R-rated movies on network TV, which can be a good thing: The music has to stand up for itself.

Splender played before an indifferent crowd that doubled by the time Fastball took the stage. Few bands have a better live sound than this Austin three-piece with the flair for sunny rock spiced with Tex-Mex. Fastball's music isn't high art, but on a balmy spring night, with a bellyful of Arkansas ribs, it was the perfect fit. Extra points for the cover of "On the Road Again."

The Goo Goo Dolls could be described as the happy man's Nirvana, and their light guitar pop was a good match for a crowd more in need of an open Port-O-San than rage therapy. Their set was carried by obvious choices like "Slide," "Iris," and "Name." Each song was delivered with minimal fanfare and faithfulness to the recorded version. The hundreds of unopened Pepto-Bismol samplers littering the ground suggested that the music and everything else went down well.

--Bill Gibb

Poison
Ratt
Great White
L.A. Guns
Blossom Music Center
May 29

An Aquanet reference may have been the fun way to begin this review, but it wouldn't have been accurate. Oh, sure, there were plenty of pairs of tight jeans, ten-year-old concert T-shirts, and slutty-looking women, but the hair has been toned down, even groomed for the office. Some of the acts on the Rock Never Stops tour haven't played sheds in years, yet they played as if, indeed, the rock hadn't stopped.

Poison had a bit of a rough go. Touring as the original incarnation for the first time in seven years, the band was energetic but anything but tight. Bret Michaels is still a charismatic frontman, guitarist C.C. DeVille hasn't lost his manic touch, and Rikki Rockett is a visually entertaining drummer. The crowd ate up tracks like "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," "Unskinny Bop," "Nothin' But a Good Time," and "Talk Dirty to Me," but there were a number of snafus: a keyboard miscue on "Something to Believe In" and Michaels's inability to remember some of the words to "Fallen Angel." The crowd, though, didn't seem to mind much.

Raunchy, sweaty, and sleazy, Ratt brought the crowd to its feet with "Shame, Shame, Shame," and the audience stayed there. Singer Stephen Pearcy had the audience eating from the palm of his hand, and the band fed off his energy, yielding the best performance of the night. The band even introduced new material that, not surprisingly, seemed to have been inspired by bands like Seven Mary Three and Stone Temple Pilots.

Great White played a heavy set of blues-based rock. Singer Jack Russell still possesses one of the most underrated voices in the rock business. Because of a ticket foul-up, I missed L.A. Guns's set.

Pearcy may have summed the night up best. "Man, you guys haven't changed much," he said during Ratt's set.

Neither had they.
--Jay Youngless

Shootyz Groove
Jaymeer
Bedroom Legends
Peabody's DownUnder
May 25

It's safe to say that we are no longer as easily charmed by the car-wreck hybrid of rap and rock music. That is, we need something different from the inventive yet white-bread style of Faith No More or the sociopolitical anger of Rage Against the Machine. Unfortunately, the cutting edge won't be found with New York's hip-hop/rock purveyors Shootyz Groove.

At Peabody's, this well-rehearsed five-piece played an indifferent set, which varied from island beats to '80s bluesy guitar rock. The loud, in-your-face vocals seemed to rival the music it was supposed to complement. Their fringe style--rappers blow them off as wannabes, and metal fans don't dig the hip-hop shit--consists mostly of intertwining A Tribe Called Quest rhymes, fat bass lines, and a confusing mix of jangly reggae chords and glam-rock guitar riffs.

The band's most recent single, "L Train," appears to be its vain attempt at commercialization. With rapid-fire rhymes and a gentle ska/reggae beat, the false hooks were more obvious than the "I love you"s in an 'N Sync ballad.

It didn't take long for Shootyz Groove to perpetuate another rap cliche in the form of the pro-hemp tune "Buddahful Day." Apparently, the song is a takeoff on Mr. Rogers's theme. It's a good thing that damn trolley didn't pass by, or I might have heaved myself in front of it.

Shootyz Groove exerted plenty of effort. As for intriguing music or enticing stage presence, there was very little to grab onto. A vexing cover of XTC's "Dear God" summed up the evening. After an extraordinary amount of "Dear God, Oh-ma, Oh-ma, Oh-ma God" choruses, a band member exclaimed "It's about God, yo!" Thanks.

Jaymeer opened the night with the best Rage-Against-the-Machine-meets-the-Beastie-Boys set I've ever heard. Too bad this is 1999 and not 1992. Bedroom Legends followed with a raw rockabilly set, where the only highlight was an impromptu Clash jam.

--John Benson

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