- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Outdoor venues around Washington range from makeshift stages in quiet parks to magnificent, tree-lined amphitheaters. They’re all busy through the summer, and none more so than Wolf Trap’s Filene Center. Chris Isaak visits on Sunday night to support his recently released “Best of” disc, which compiles hits such as the darkly dreamy “Wicked Game” and pop heartbreaker “Somebody’s Crying.”

Mr. Isaak will play to his strengths at Wolf Trap: straightforward storytelling, a deep, buttery vocal delivery and tone similar to the late rock legend Roy Orbison.

On the new disc, Mr. Isaak performs his version of “Only the Lonely,” a staple of the Orbison musical repertoire. Mr. Isaak once worked with Mr. Orbison and wrote with him.

“He was probably the nicest guy I ever met in show business,” Mr. Isaak told Country Music Television’s CMT.com. “For me to do one of his songs kind of felt real right.”

It also felt right when executives at the cable network Showtime supported a musical variety show starring the photogenic Mr. Isaak, whose ruggedly handsome face and waves of auburn hair elevated him to heartthrob status. “The Chris Isaak Show” presented the singer and fast-emerging actor as “the rock star next door” for three seasons starting in 2001.

• • •

Expect a frisky evening tonight at a terrific but distinctly more “underground” outdoor spot. The penultimate night of the annual Fort Reno concert series, located next to Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest, welcomes Mary Timony, Garland of Hours and Pagoda.

Opening band Pagoda is excitedly celebrating the release of its second disc, an EP titled “Seven Nights.”

Miss Timony headlines music clubs throughout the country and is recording tracks for her 10th album, including her work with bands such as Helium and the District’s Autoclave. She’s an adventurous singer and songwriter who populates her songs with characters formed of a relentlessly curious imagination.

During the spring, she worked on the new album in the Baltimore studio of J. Robbins, formerly of the revered D.C. punk bands Government Issue, Jawbox and Burning Airlines.

All summer, Fort Reno has presented two shows a week featuring local bands at different stages of their careers. The Fort Reno concerts are the best opportunities to find new bands to love, especially for the price: absolutely free.

• • •

The Bay Area punk icon Rancid has opted for the irreplaceable pleasure of playing smaller downtown clubs on multiple nights. The group’s current local stay spans three days at the Black Cat, including sold-out appearances last night, tonight and tomorrow.

Throughout its three-month North American tour, Rancid will pack shows during two nights in Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston, three nights in Montreal and four nights in New York City.

The band promises to play an original set list every night, mining its six-album catalogue, including never-played-in-concert tracks.

And it will add songs from singer/guitarist Lars Frederiksen’s side group and from Operation Ivy, the influential ska-punk band that propelled bassist Matt Freeman and guitarist/vocalist Tim Armstrong to independent rock fame during their pre-Rancid days.

Since the release of its first record in 1993, Rancid has lived by a “no-sell-out” ethic. A musical blueprint of blazing guitars, gritty lyrics, Jamaican rhythms and sprinting, serpentine bass lines initially led to overwrought comparisons to the Clash and other members of the 1977 class of British punks.

But Rancid, which also features Brett Reed’s jackhammer drumming, never intended to become a rock ‘n’ roll footnote. The group shredded the doubters by layering its albums with blasts of vivid and often compassionate portrayals of street hustlers and nonconformists who struggle to find their place in an anarchic society.

The songs present a mix of styles and influences, which enhanced the texture and added to the group’s appeal. Mr. Armstrong’s slurry vocal delivery contrasts with Mr. Frederiksen’s billy-club-to-the-skull vocals. And both seem ill-suited for hummable, radio accessible choruses, yet the fist-pumping swells of “Time Bomb” and “Ruby Soho” would never succeed without them.

The group’s most recent disc, 2003’s “Indestructible,” is also its most personal. In an interview with MTV News, Mr. Armstrong said the title “is about how you can’t take away our friendship, and no matter what happens, your music lives forever.”

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