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The Independent Culture
Page & Plant are doing it in Dublin, as are the Bluetones. Supergrass opt for Salisbury and Folkestone, Monaco go for Stoke, while Gene prefer Brighton. Yes, it's the great Reading Festival warm-up week, when bands take to smaller-than-usual venues to polish their performances for the big weekend. Londoners benefit most from this annual ritual and, while some gigs are fully publicised, many are semi-secret affairs leaked out on the day and you never know who else could turn up on stage. The trick is to keep an ear to the radio and watch out for suspicious-looking gaps or pseudonyms on bills.

On the topic of low-key gigs, check out Maximum Roach, the surf-jungle side project of the chartbusting Apollo 440. They are the special guests of A1 People, who launch their excellent Fresh Juice album this evening, at the "Night of Electro Funk Hip-hop" in the Brix (London SW9, 0171-737 1016).

The marketing campaign in the lead-up to the release of the UNKLE album (see reviews, page 40) enters its final phase tomorrow night at HMV's 150 Oxford Street, London store. There will be an album playback at 10pm, then James Lavelle and DJ Shadow (above), the pair behind the project, will hit the decks before the product goes on sale at midnight. During the evening, New York graffiti artist Futura 2000, who designed the figures used for the UNKLE sleeve plus associated toys and merchandise, will be making his mark on a canvas. Call HMV on 0171-432 2036 for tickets.

Tim Perry