Material Issue making three stops in area


Growing up in suburban Chicago, the members of the band Material Issue grew up worshiping cross-town rockers Cheap Trick.

It seems only fiting that when Jim Ellison calls for an interview that he is in the lobby of the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, where his boyhood heroes are headlining a special show.

"We used to sneak into clubs to see these guys when we were little kids," said Ellison, 24.

Material Issue will perform at the outside square in Fells Point Tuesday afternoon and then open for The BoDeans that night at Shriver Hall. Also, when Simple Minds plays at Lisner Auditorium in D.C. on May 31, the band will be the special guest.

The band's first album, "International Pop Overthrow" is a throwback to more traditional pop-rock, with the use of just one guitar, one bass and a set of booming drums.

"We want to throw pop back in people's faces," Ellison said. "It seems kind of twisted that pop music today is associated with Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson. To me, it's always been guitar-driven rock. Maybe we've listened to too many Beatle records or something."

Ellison's voice on the record does smack of a British lilt, but he swears it wasn't purposeful.

"As long as people are buying the record and like us it's OK if they think we are British," Ellison said.

While "Overthrow" isn't even near being a gold record, the band has gained a modest following on the heels of the hit song "Valerie Loves Me."

"She was just a beautiful girl that lived upstairs from my parents' apartment when I was a kid," Ellison said. "I used to always fantasize about her coming down and talking to me but she never did."

"Overthrow" was complete when Ellison, drummer Mike Zelenk and bassist Ted Asani began shopping it around for distribution a year ago.

"When we signed with Mercury Records they allowed us leave the album the way it was," Ellison said. "It cost $5,800 to make that record. Most bands spend more money on cocaine and booze than we did making the whole record.

"It's even better now that we've had a little bit of success because we didn't get advanced a ton of money that we have to pay back," Ellison said. "Whatever we make is ours. We don't ask for much either, so we've kind of championed an underdog spirit around the record company. They like us."

The concert calendar:

The Capital Centre hosts Guns 'n' Roses (June 19).

Coming to the Baltimore Arena, Hank Williams Jr. and Sawyer Brown (June 1) and Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeath and Alice In Chains (June 30).

Merriweather Post Pavilion opens its season tomorrow with Styx. Poison, Slaughter and Bulletboys appear next Saturday.

Max's On Broadway has Dave Mason (tonight) and The Monks Of Doom (May 30).

Hammerjacks also welcomes Tommy Conwell (tomorrow), Billy Squier (June 11) and Divinyls (June 22).

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