Leave it to those suave Italians to discover one of New York City's best-kept secrets. It ain't thin-crust pizza, brainiac. And it ain't those American designer blue jeans. It's country-rock believers The Hangdogs, who once wrote a song called "They Don't Play No Country On the East Side of New York" just to prove themselves wrong. The band commands big crowds in Italy, as well as at Manhattan's Rodeo Bar, a disorienting room with sawdust and peanuts on the floor where city folks with stock-broking day jobs shout like livestock and use phrases like "I'm fixing to git me another drank" before returning home to swank loft apartments full of original Warhols. East of Yesterday, The Hangdogs' excellent Shanachie Records debut, offers an artery-clogging dose of twangy, red-meat rock 'n' roll. The sound is predicated more on Springsteen and Steve Earle than Gram Parsons and Uncle Tupelo, and the lyrics of singer Matthew Grimm are as smart as they are bitter. At Local 506, it's a good bet the band will play "Hey Janeane," their affectionate ode to actress Janeane Garofalo. Garofalo got wind of the song awhile back and, after surprising the band backstage at a show, made a cameo appearance in the video for the song. Garsh, maybe New York ain't such a big city after all. The Hangdogs open for The Backsliders at Local 506 this Saturday, March 11. --Gavin O'Hara
File under "another great band that got lost in the shuffle" department: After their flirt with major label hoopla (Banda Macho on Capitol) The Figgs (pictured right) have been hard to keep track of. These guys have been playing aggressive, delirious pop/punk since they were non-jocks cutting high school back in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; and it's won them "legendary live band" status among fellow musicians. These guys play like they're hopped up on goofballs, and they don't believe in songs that take more than three minutes to deliver the punch. They've got a new EP you can order online: For EP Fans Only. Starpoint Electric opens the Thursday night show, March 9, 9 p.m. at Local 506. Call 942-5506.
I'm not sure about The Donnas. If The Ramones had never existed, would The Donnas (pictured left) have had a blueprint for, like, every one of their songs? Or their entire shtick? (Instead of all taking the same last name, they're all named Donna. Clever.) Although there's no obvious Kim Fowley Svengali figure you can point to, as with '70s glam/tarts The Runaways, you still get the feeling these babes have had some heavy career guidance. (Is it me, or does one Donna look more like Christina Ricci every tour?) Songwriting-wise, Kim from The Muffs is worlds better. From a novelty standpoint, The Donnas are better-than-average chick players who put off a bratty teen vibe. Live, they're trashy good fun. But then, so is Jello wrestling. They'll be at the Cat's Cradle Sunday night, March 12. Call 967-9053.
Coming from the land of suds and cheese hats, Milwaukee's critical faves The Promise Ring swing back through the Triangle. Sounding sort of like a cross between early Superchunk and the Descendants, their last release, Very Emergency (produced by Burning Airlines' J. Robbins) cemented their hold on college radio and had lots of critics screaming (they made Spin's "bands to watch" list last year). Expect a rocking show; they've been touring relentlessly. They'll be at The Brewery, Saturday, March 11. Call 834-7018 for ticket info. --Angie Carlson