Spotlight 

By ANDY SMETANKA

Note the modified spelling of my name, please; from the Swedish, smet meaning "sludge," and anka, meaning "duck." It's pure coincidence, but if Swedes gave out Native American-style names, I'd probably end up with something like this anyway.

But this week it's especially appropriate, because a blazing chunk of Sweden is going to smack into the Cowboy Bar next Tuesday. That's right, this is the Big One, as Redd Foxx would say, the raddest show Missoula is going to see this summer. Sweden versus the United States in the World Cup of debauched KISS worship: the Hellacopters, the Nomads, the Quadrajets and the Fireballs of Freedom duking it out for man-rock supremacy.

The Hellacopters are probably the most hyped band in the world these days. Sweden is currently enjoying a huge amount of attention from the music press thanks to the rock revolution apparently unfurling on the tundra, a new fraternal order of bands like the Backyard Babies, Puffball and, of course the Hellacopters. All of these bands trace their phantom lineage to KISS and the MC5, and beyond that back to Chuck Berry. And with all due respect to the past masters, the fact that Wayne Kramer and the members of KISS have stubbornly refused to retire with dignity makes the Swedish ticket even more exciting.

The Hellacopters rock like Vikings at this Tuesday's all-star show at The Cowboy Bar.


It's interesting to see how these things come around in cycles; Sweden's biggest rock export has traditionally been death metal, an ultra-fast, crushingly heavy offshoot of speed metal, begat by regular metal, begat by rock. It all comes back to the same place. What's interesting about it is that even the Entombed-doubtless the biggest name in Swedish death metal-drifted back to the rock side of things. And now-years later-here's their former drummer Nicke playing guitar in, yes, the Hellacopters.

The Nomads, on the other hand, have been around since members of the Hellacopters were still in grade school-coming up on 20 years now. They got their start in a suburb of Stockholm in 1981, playing obscure garage and R&B covers alongside similar bands that collectively came to comprise the so-called "Solna scene." The Nomads have done quite well for themselves outside Sweden; their records have been released on labels all over the world, including the definitive American garage label, Estrus.

Estrus Records is also second home to Auburn, Alabama's Quadrajets, swinging west on a 12-date U.S. tour with the Nomads and the Hellacopters. They've played in Missoula before, and judging from the number of Quadrajets t-shirts you see around town, their self-described "hell-raisin', ass-kickin', nitro-drippin', redneck rock" didn't exactly fall on deaf ears at Buck's Club.

The Fireballs of Freedom certainly need no introduction in Missoula. They've made a career out of blowing bands off the stage, but this time they're in solid company. Still, I reckon they'll teach the Swedes a thing or two about rock 'n' roll. I mean, whose idea was it, anyway?

The Hellacopters, the Nomads, the Quadrajets and the Fireballs of Freedom fill out a killer bill at The Cowboy Bar on Tuesday, May 25. Tickets $10 advance, $12 at the door.

Russell Jackson gets blue

By CHAD DUNDAS

For years, Russell Jackson was the man behind the man.

During the stellar 25 years he has spent in the music business, he has worked with a virtual Who's Who in the world of blues. From Otis Clay to Matt "Guitar" Murphy to a six-year stand with B.B. King, Jackson carved out a name for himself as one of America's most sought-after back-up men, and one of the greatest bassists in the world.

But Russell Jackson's role has changed. A few years ago he stopped directing his musical brilliance toward making other people sound good. Now Jackson is the man in the spotlight, and when he returns to Missoula this week, he will be the one leading the band.

"Being a front man was never something I really planned on, but I gave it a try," Jackson says. "I had become pretty well-known as a side man, and after a while, being a front man got to be pretty easy for me."

Soak up the blues with Russell Jackson, Saturday at the Top Hat.


Jackson estimates that he has worked on about 16 studio albums, providing the low-end rhythm for a host of renowned blues artists. With all that effort devoted to studio work with other artists, Jackson has only recently found adequate time to spend on his own projects. His Missoula show kicks off a six-week tour to support only his second solo album, Becoming Blue, which was released in January.

But according to Jackson, who got hipped to the blues while in his early 20s, after detouring through a love affair with British rock acts like Led Zeppelin and Cream, all that time spent backing up the great musicians of our time laid the groundwork for what he hopes is a successful solo career. And Missoula, he said, is the perfect site to kick-start his new conquest of America.

"I haven't played [in Missoula] for two years, but it's a really great city," Jackson says. "The music scene there seems really vibrant, and I'm really excited to get back there with this new product."

Jackson's big break in the blues came after he spent the mid-1970s kicking around Chicago, playing with local artists. Then, in 1979, he met and was recruited by B.B. King. It turned out to be a perfect match for them both.

"I kind of cut my teeth on the blues while I was in Chicago," Jackson says. "Once I got with B.B. King, well, the rest is history. That enabled me to rub elbows with just about everybody. If you name them, I've probably played with them, recorded with them, or something."

Jackson left B.B.'s band in 1986 and moved to L.A. to attend the Big Grove School of Music. While in California, Jackson lent his talents to a group called Silent Partners. It was there that Jackson first tried his hand at singing lead vocals, and discovered that he could handle the pressures of being the man.

After relocating to Vancouver, British Columbia, to help raise his baby daughter, Jackson finally set out on his own. Jackson said the laid-back Canadian environment provided the right setting for him to hone his talents as a vocalist. Now, with a new band and a new album, he's ready to entertain the faithful in the States.

"The people know to put on their dancing shoes and their party clothes," Jackson says. "If they come down to the show, they're guaranteed a good time."

The Russell Jackson Band plays the Top Hat Saturday, May 22 at 9 p.m. There's a $3 cover, but folks with wristbands from that afternoon's MicroB.R.I.W. festival in Caras Park will be admitted free of charge.


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