Stars Pushed Past Summer

Ever notice that Labor Day Weekend, although weeks from the "official" end of the season, usually has the feeling of a summer wrap-up? The traditionally sultry "dogs days," so named for the conjunction on dawn's horizon of the sun and Sirius- brightest star of the Canis Major (Greater Dog) constellation- are over with the month of August. (Although this year, of course, the months seemed to go June, July, Elvis, September as August ended with a princess being hounded out of existence by values and pressures of the marketplace on the same day schoolgirls were accessing a last chance to wear that bikini that dad's been so grumpy about.)

Those who swim in trunks were reminded by this weekend that it's not too early to start thinking about that thesis- let's see, what was it called? "Numerical Divination, Factoring Relative Determinations of Variable Velocity and Calculable Force Estimation; Nonrandom Statistical Probability Perimeters; Multiple Route Deception Limitation and Co-balanced Design Principle; Anatomatically Specific Impairment Evaluation; Geographically Modified Meteorological Interference Differential and Intangible Emotive Stimulus Computation" for Professor Swami Berman's ESPN Bristol University course on Football and the Occult. But, on the last Friday night of summer, sunbathers and students were fully clothed on the churning dance floor of the Tinker Street Cafe, moving with an urgency that bespoke precisely which Friday night this was as The Pushstars pumped the grin-flashing atmosphere full of their own stellar progressions.

In from Boston to play Sunday's Jubilee, the rock trio wasn't coming as strangers and more than a few locals demonstrated their familiarity with the group's repertoire by singing along or calling out knowing requests. Although their first CD was cut in Cambridge & Brighton, Mass, the newer one went down in Woodstock's Dreamland Studio (excepting the stripper ballad recorded in a Minnesota club) and their gigs here are into double digits.

Fellow Bostonians making their first local appearance, Jim's Big Ego, opened the night with an amusing set of quirky numbers from their More Songs About Me CD. Jim Infantino (guitar, vocals, harp, phrase-gobbling sampler) deadpanned "I really liked her but now she's dead" pathos and a selection of other tunes that could be termed songs as loosely as you might call his delivery "singing" but were more like lines stacked against a rhythm provided groovingly or spastically by drummer Dylan Callahan and Kurt Uenale on stand-up bass. Lines like "Everybody's trying to be like everybody and I don't want to be like that" provided the philosophy as Infantino's rap-cool, laidback rocking took to casual falsetto toward the end of "Ambition" and meshed in a comfortably out-of-place snatch of the song Paul Simon wants to disown, "Feeling Groovy."

The Pushstars upped the ante with the pulsing, thought-crowded songs of Chris Trapper, who definitely does sing but sometimes so flowingly, live, that you lose many of his brilliantly etched images in the rush. (The remedy is seeing about obtaining their CDs at local outlets or from at your earliest convalescence). Trapper's luring verbosity descends more from a Springsteen tradition than a Dylan line, filled with conflict and contradiction, involved and intricate glimpses of life in a blend of youth angst and cultural sophistication that speaks slyly from the side of things.

Scorning imaginations as wide as a tv screen and bemoaning life that passes "like the taillights of a speeding car," Trapper brushes, artfully, some of the strokes Adam Duritz paints with dark, muddy and disjointed logic on Counting Crows albums, remarkably managing to carry C.C.'s equivalent thrust with John Fogerty juice and Van Morrison flow. While already an exciting act with three years of seasoning, what's even more promising are the directions into which their developing maturities are so obviously drawing them. (And I don't mean the Rudy Vallee tapes they swore they were listening to on their way here.)

Ryan MacMillan's percolating backbeat and Dan McLoughlin's curve-hugging bassline lit up a wall-to-wall crowd of undulating fest-seekers as Trapper's beat-inflected lines rolled, rambled and hopped around the question of the goals we set in "Sinking In It." McLoughlin swung over to keys for "Any Little Town" and when Trapper popped a string on his Epiphone f-hole, knew which little town they were in.

"Can anybody here change a guitar string?" Trapper asked, grabbing another axe, anxious to get on with it.

"This is Woodstock," McLoughlin chided, "everybody can."

Irv Yarg