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Reunited Americans 

Durham's first punk band reunites at Kings

If Neil Young hadn't written "Buffalo Springfield Again" during one of the more quietly acoustic portions of his career, it would make an appropriate musical motif for the reunion action set for Kings Barcade on Thursday night. But, as is, don't expect to hear a time-stopping, mind-unraveling hardcore punk take on the Young country pine during the 20th anniversary gig of The Ugly Americans, Durham's first punk band.

Sometime in 1983, Northgate Mall Record Bar clerk Bob McIlwee discovered that he shared a love for punk rock with Danny Hooley, a video arcade employee. The two formed a band that summer, recruiting drummer Dan Adams and bassist Chris Eubank--both Duke students--to complete the lineup. Adjoining dorm rooms in Duke's Alspaugh Hall were the home of the band in its infancy, though they quickly graduated to practicing and playing shows at the Duke Coffeehouse.

Early the next year, the band acted quickly, founding its own Discipline Records and recording a 14-track debut with Byron McKay at JAG Studios. The album was pressed and issued on blue vinyl months later and just months before Adams left the band. Jon McClain of Stillborn Christians success stepped in behind the kit, and a more metal-oriented approach quickly manifested itself, due in large part to Raleigh crossover rabble-rousers, Corrosion of Conformity.

The band later signed to Metal Blade imprint Death Records and issued the eight-song Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed in 1985. Tours with The Dead Kennedys, The Descendents and COC followed for two years. The band broke up in 1987, only to reform following their first reunion gig in 1988. Once again, the band eschewed metal, experimenting now with punk songs conceived with open tunings and wild time signatures when original drummer Jon McClain rejoined. They broke up for the last time in 1990.

Since then, the band has played three more reunion shows, the last of which was over a decade ago in 1992 at Durham's Under The Street (the club, even, has gone under since that gig). But, now and for the last time, The Ugly Americans plan to demonstrate the punk that guitarist Danny Hooley claims the band has never forgotten.

"It occurred to us late last year that we had approached the 20 year anniversary of the band... Jon said he wanted to come visit from California, so we decided maybe we should play a gig," Hooley, now a reporter for the North Raleigh News and a music critic for the News & Observer, says. "We've been practicing without Jon for a few weeks now, and it still sounds great. When we played the first notes, I saw this smile of recognition sweep across Chris' face."

McClain arrived in town from Burbank, Calif. late Saturday night, and Hooley says the band should be in prime shape for the Thursday night finale. After all, Hooley deals with music every day, as does Eubanks, now a member of Shark Quest and Defenestrator. After the band broke up, McClain played with the Bad Checks and Picasso Trigger for a time, and McIlwee is an active member of California's Camarohead.

As Hooley puts it: "We're just ready to kick ass one more time."

Back to Utah!
Bravado math-rock trio Utah! hit the road for a two-week headlining run in late March that has already taken them through Michigan, Kentucky and Illinois. The band kicked off the 10-day, passenger van trip on March 25 on a split bill at Vincent's Ear in Asheville with fellow Raleigh popsters, The Rosebuds (who just returned from a tour of their own) before moving on to stops in Nashville, Athens, Murfreesboro and Champaign with bands from Ester Drang to Jet By Day. The tour highlight, though, has been a three-stop run through Michigan, the state in which the band formed while at college in Kalamazoo and left just a few years ago in favor of the Triangle rock scene.

"The Detroit and Kalamazoo shows were really awesome for us... We got to see a lot of old friends that we hadn't seen in a while, and they were all packed with about 300 people each night," the band's frontman, Eddie Pellino, said from the road during a short tour break in Detroit.

Pellino says the tour has been relatively calm and "safe" so far, although his amp would require some repairs before the next gig and that the band had left equipment behind in a few different cities. Utah! plays the Knitting Factory in New York City on Friday night at 8 p.m. before heading back towards Raleigh on Saturday. They will play the "Anybody But Bush" party presented by the hometown political initiative Axis of Change on May 1 at Kings Barcade.

Utah!'s touring music of choice: lots of reggae, Led Zeppelin III, Houses of the Holy, CSNY, hip-hop and a few road-trip mixtapes made by friends of the band back in Raleigh.

At a Glance
Congratulations to Dave Wilson, frontman of Chatham County Line and Stillhouse and a member of Tift Merritt and The Carbines. Wilson was selected as one of only 12 finalists from a pool of 889 applicants for Merlefest's annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest. Wilson is one of three finalists participating in the bluegrass category, and--if he wins--Chatham County Line will perform his "Dark Clouds" on the Cabin Stage of Merlefest in Wilkesboro, N.C. on April 30.

Whiskeytown will contribute a cover of Alejandro Escovedo's "The Rain Won't Help You" (from his mid-1980s work with The True Believers) for a tribute disc due later this year to benefit the ailing Texas songwriting legend. Caitlin Cary and Chris Stamey are also set to record a yet undecided Escovedo tune for the compilation, which features acts from Los Lobos and Calexico to M. Ward and Billy Corgan.

In the meantime, you can catch Caitlin Cary with Tres Chicas--the recently revived trio of Cary, Tonya Lamm and Lynn Blakey--at the Guitartown Rock 'n' Roll Revue on April 9. The group's debut effort, Sweetwater, will be released by Yep Roc Records on June 29. To hear the title track, visit www.yeproc.com . EndBlock

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