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Koufax @ BOTH

Band brings 'Hard Times' to SF

Just one day after its third LP Hard Times Are in Fashion hits the streets, Midwestern quintet Koufax will bring it's piano-laden tunes to Bottom of the Hill on Wednesday. Products of the modern rock bumper crop that turned The Strokes and The White Stripes into household names in 1999, Koufax has achieved more moderate commercial success with its eclectic fusion of '70s inspired, Steely Dan-esque arrangements and power chord chops.

Koufax, which takes its name from legendary Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax (apparently frontman singer/guitarist Robert Suchan liked the way it sounded), is the product of a merger of musicians that joined forces in the wake of several disbanded Detroit and Northwest Ohio area groups. The band scored with a self-titled EP released on Toledo-based Doghouse Records in 1999 that caught the ears of emo-staple The Get Up Kids. It turns out The Kids liked what Koufax was doing and went out of their way to arrange a deal for the band to record its first LP It Had To Do With Love (2000) on The Get Up Kid's Heroes and Villains label, a subsidiary of Vagrant.

The formula worked well enough for all parties involved and in 2002 Koufax returned with its second LP on Heroes and Villains/Vagrant, Social Life, a swanky montage fueled by Jared Rosenberg, on keys, Suchen's vocals and solid rhythmic backing from bassist Ben Force and drummer Dave Shelter. The album earned a warm response from critics, but hard times were just around the corner. Following the release of Social Life, Shelter left the band, and brothers Robert and Ryan Pope of The Get Up Kids, were recruited to play bass and drums, respectively. Force picked up some guitar work and backup vocals, while continuing to play bass as well.

But the change in lineup wasn't Koufax's biggest dilemma, the band left Vagrant and was without a label for most of 2004 during the recording of Hard Times are In Fashion. However, Koufax stayed with the trend and stuck it out until Doghouse came to the rescue and put the band back on its roster. Recorded mostly in Kansas last summer and winter, Koufax emerges on Hard Times as a band that has weathered the storm.

Its arrangements are a bit edgier and more urgent. Suchan's lyrics are more unabashed and blatantly pointed. The album reflects both the band's inner turmoil and, perhaps, the divisive climate that filled our county's psyche while the band was recording the album in the months preceding the 2004 election. Or maybe it was just the debt that the band was accruing while recording its album with no label providing financial backing. Hard times, after all, are in fashion. Limebeck will join Koufax at Bottom of the Hill.

Santa Barbara quintet Kissing Tigers will also perform. Tickets to the all-ages show are $8. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. the concert is scheduled to start at 9 p.m.