REMEMBER LILY LIVER? To me and my college pals, that pop trio was the local band in the summer of '94. Marked by a distinctive girl-boy wall of harmony and sexual tension, their spunky, punky pop shattered usual conceptions of "catchiness" with singer/guitarist Missy Greer's funny, lyrical themes of teen angst and adult anxiety. They were the landslide victors in City Pages's New Music Poll that summer, while their "Queen of the Ball"/"Movie Star" single garnered airplay on the BBC's Radio One, prompting phone calls from UK indie labels.
Last summer, Greer and drummer Hallie Kaufman were at a freeway rest stop when Greer experienced faintness and a panic attack. She was initially treated for heat exhaustion, but after symptoms endured, she was finally diagnosed with environmental toxicity--also known as "environmental illness," "multiple chemical sensitivity," "the hot new illness of the '90s," or just plain "allergic to everything." A former housecleaner, the 26-year-old Greer had experienced an immune system breakdown as the sum result of everyday chemical exposure, unrecognized allergies, and her smoking-and-drinking rock & roll lifestyle.
A year later, Greer has good days, but her acute sensitivity can hinder her energy level, coordination, thought patterns, and short-term memory, among myriad chronic symptoms. She's still largely confined to her home, where Kaufman faithfully takes care of her. But despite cabin fever, depression, and other setbacks, she appears to be the same giggling Missy Greer--just tired, and a bit wiser. "Yeah, and sober!" she adds, laughing. There is an upside to her condition, Greer contends: "You finally learn that you're not immortal, and you stop thinking you're so cool. Sure I still think I'm cool, but I used to think I could do anything--I could drink anybody under the table, I could ride my bike as fast as I wanted to. Now I think that I'll be more cautious about life, 'cause I'm really thankful that I'm still alive."
That sentiment is echoed by many others, which is why a star-studded lineup--Lifter Puller, Punchdrunk, Silverfox, The Honeydogs, John Casey, Rank Strangers, Kraig Johnson, and "surprise guests"--will play 7th Street Entry on August 21 to help pay off expenses Greer incurred before getting medical insurance. (For more information on A Benefit for Missy, call 338-8388.) Greer herself will probably be unable to attend the smoky, hectic rock show; and while she still plays guitar and wants to record Lily Liver's tunes, music is stuck on a back burner as she endures the long haul to semi-recovery. Right now, she wants people to become more informed about this increasingly common illness.
"There's probably people out there who have it and don't even know," she says, "and people are telling them they're crazy, and they're not. Just think about it, instead of being stupid: If you can't pronounce it, don't put it in your body." She laughs, all too knowingly. (Groebner)
THREE SIGNIFICANT CD releases this week: Steeplejack and Green Pyramids play a combined release party Saturday at 7th Street Entry for their respective debuts, Kitchen Radio and Down the Hall. The Steeplejack record is a sturdy rock & roots effort for Dejadisc, a San Marcos, Texas label. Produced by Tim Mac at Paisley Park, it proves the 'Jacks mean business; wish them luck as they seek out a new rhythm section and prepare for some serious road time. The Pyramids' disc unfortunately arrives a year or two late for the buzz achieved by this semi-psychedelic pop-rock trio, but who's counting? There are some great moments on tap, like the bells on the acoustic "Pretty," the eclectic piano cut "Believe" (Tori who?), and "Want It," a clamorous unlisted track. And there's no denying leader Krystal MacKay's got quite a set of pipes. National Dynamite opens the gig. ($5. 9 p.m. 701 First Ave. N., Mpls.; 338-8388.)
Greazy Meal bills itself as "Minneapolis' biggest drawing band"; indeed, they cleaned up at the Minnesota Music Awards, winning in five categories. This eight-man funk powerhouse has the advantage of numbers, but the 11 originals on their sharply recorded Visualize World Greaze abound with great performances, notably from singer Julius Collins, III, keyboardist Tommy Barbarella, bassist Jim Anton, and co-producers/guitarists John Strawberry Fields and Ken Chastain. The music's a seamless blend of classic soul and Minneapolis funk, with some balladry and great studio trickery. The Meal plays two big release parties on Saturday ($5) and Sunday ($3) at the Cabooze--one on the eve of Cedarfest, one right after. (9:30 showtime both nights. 917 Cedar Ave. S., Mpls.; 338-6425.) (Groebner)
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