This Saturday, the Rocket Bar is the place for smart pop people, with performances from two local acts and one national, each with its own fine take on '60s-informed garage pop. With a sense of whimsy as strong as its sense of melody, Denver's Apples in Stereo
is one of the pop underground's shining success stories. From their humble 7-inch-single beginnings through their contract with a cool indie label (Spinart) to featured spots on national TV commercials, the band's members have never lost sight of why people like them: They write good songs, awash in lush harmony and chock-full of pop hooks. As the flagship band of the Elephant Six Collective (a loose congregation of like-minded bands such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control and a host of others), the Apples have an affinity for '60s AM pop, mostly drawing inspiration from midperiod Beatles and just-after-Brian-Wilson-went-crazy Beach Boys. They don't play it too sugary-sweet, though; some nice garagey fuzz pops up now and again as well.Opening the show are two of St. Louis' newest and finest garage-pop bands, the Golden Spiderz
and the Fantasy Four
. The Golden Spiderz temper their heavy '70s-style bong riffs with a knack for poppy hooks, ending up sounding something like Bob Pollard playing Grand Funk Railroad. The Fantasy Four -- featuring former Bunnygrunter Karen Stephens, Tics/Shiny Tim leader Marcia Pandolfi and drummer-about-town Jeff Hess -- cross Ramonesish punk with Nuggets
-style fuzz-wah and girl-group harmonies.