It seems a little early but I'm in the mood for some Christmas music. Mind you, I'm more of a fan of anti-Christmas music. Music that if it were a film would surely be more like Bad Santa than Miracle on 34th Street. The Illinois band Dick Smith has added to the Christmas music canon with two offbeat odes to Christmas. On "Red Eyed Santa" you get a twist on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" but instead of the kids catching Mommy and "Santa" kissing you get "Santa" (aka Dad) hungover beside the tree and a raft of unwrapped presents. On the bluegrass-y "Gold Front Tooth" you get a take on "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" except on this version you get the explanation on why the tooth is missing in the first place (something about an argument about the existence of Santa).
Dick Smith can be seen performing these songs and more on December 23 at Chord On Blues in St. Charles at something called "Christmas Hoo Haw".
Louisville, Kentucky band The Fervor craft simply structured music that is filled out and expanded with rich harmonies and a touch of shoegazing guitar fuzz. The songs on their debut full-length, The Bleeder, are piano-driven ballads that are held together by a stunning set of vocals. Natalie Felker’s voice is supple and strong, edgy but warm, and her presence in this music makes it feel complete. Her rising and falling on “Brushfire” gives it a surprising depth, while she turns a rather rudimentary bit of philosophy on “Let’s Fight” (the oft-repeated line “With every new beginning comes an end/We’re born again”) into a warning, a challenge and a comfort. The music of the Fervor is for Sunday morning over coffee and the paper and while they don’t exactly move me out of my seat, the music is honest and heartfelt. They may not be entirely suited for Reggie’s, but that’s where they’ll be this Saturday at 11pm, sandwiched between Disliking Silence and the Morningsides. And while the Reggie’s website makes no mention of this new band, I have been assured by drummer Mat Herron that they will, in fact, be in attendance.
It's getting to be gift-buying season, and whether you're shopping for friends, loved ones, or just out to reward yourself for surviving the checkout line at the grocery store, don't forget to bring the retail love to your neighborhood record store. This week, we give you the skinny on Groovin High records, found on Belmont in the Lakeview neighborhood, and Hyde Park Records, found in...well...Hyde Park. (If you're looking for our past record store reviews, just click over to the archives. If you'd like to nominate your favorite place to find music, just shoot us an email.)
photo by Joseph Mohan
This Friday, the cold weather calls for simple things to beat the cold - warm layers of winter blubber, steamy alphabet soup, and, er, pandas. Well long story short, locals Uncle Grandpa Records are having a Fresh Tables EP release party for label locus Spiller Whale at Subterranean. Recorded with Bobby Conn's lovely wife Monica Boo-Boo on half of the tracks and produced by the Tight Phantomz' Mike Lust, the record looks to hit hard with it's four tracks of sax-assisted, sexy harmonic tunes. Openers include new labelmates RSTLNE and Australia/Brooklyn's smile-a-delic Panda Band, who just saw some love for their release "This Vital Chapter". Tickets are $8; doors are at 9:00PM.
Unwed Sailor first got their start in 1998 in Seattle by guiding member Johnathon Ford. Since then, Unwed Sailor has released four albums, gone through their fair share of members and collaborators, and has switched localities more than a few times (including Chicago, once upon a time). Joined by collaborators from groups as diverse as Damien Jurado (Melissa Palladino), Hong Kong pop artist Nicholas Tse, and a few Okie members of country outfit Lasso -- not to mention Ford's own music history which includes emocore revivalists Roadside Monument and indie pop group Pedro the Lion, and filmmaker Chris Bennett who contributed a 30-minute film movie to Unwed Sailor's 2002 album Stateless -- it's not surprising that Unwed Sailor's releases are some of the most diverse post-rock ambient instrumental albums out there (well, as diverse as post-rock ambient instrumental albums can be). 2001's The Faithful Anchor is your more straightforward instrumental album, while The Marionette and the Music Box in 2003 is an odd fairy tale of, obviously, a marionette doll searching for a music box. The listener (as well as the marionette, I suppose) is helped along with artwork from Jamie Hunt. Needless to say, a live show from Ford (and whoever he has helping him out nowadays) is sure to be interesting. Also, keep an eye out for their newest album, Little Wars which should be coming out soon.
This Will Destroy You is a bit more traditional (or contemporary?) in their post-rock-ness, garnering obvious comparisons to Explosions in the Sky from their 2006 debut Young Mountain. Ambient, dramatic, and climactic, This Will Destroy You plays the age old instrumental game of slow build ups and emotional explosions--but still manages to keep it fresh and interesting.
Kid, You'll Move Mountains is the odd man out, playing with vocals (gasp!) and also a classical pianist (Nina Jones). Created in April of 2006, Kid, You'll Move Mountains features members from all over the Midwest, and are frequently predicted to blow up sometime soon. Do you really want to risk that they'll get big and never play a nice, intimate show like this again? No, you don't.
Unwed Sailor, This Will Destroy You, and Kid, You'll Move Mountains @ Beat Kitchen, 11/30, 9PM. 18+, $10.
First things first: while I may not take the crown, I will definitely go down swinging in a challenge for the World’s Greatest Prince fan (if such a challenge ever existed). I remember fondly when His Royal Badness changed his name inexplicably to an unpronounceable symbal, only to be dubbed by the media with the acronym TAFKAP. And as much as I do love Prince, I’ve been marveling with glee at his increasingly ridiculous artistic choices the past couple of years (I mean, seriously, he named his latest album Planet Earth). So you can imagine my delight when I received a press release for the Artist Formally Known as Vince and his latest album, Welcome to the Show. While I expected a tongue-in-cheek send-up of His Purple Majesty, instead I was handed a surprisingly good blast of fast and furious glam rock.
Thankfully Vince doesn’t take himself too seriously, tossing off a cache of love-pump licking jams, most of them about screwing trashy women, or potentially trashy women. “Come and Touch Me” features the absolutely ridiculous line, “Don’t know where you been / Don’t know your sin”, while “More than Me” laments his lovers preference for drugs over his own diverse charms. “Heartbreak (Leads to Heartattack)” is an oddly sweet, semi-poppy, ready for radio ditty and Lauren Kurtz’s vocals provide a nice dynamic on “Tiara Blues”, a fine piece of dirty, grungy fun. The music isn’t terribly diverse (just straight ahead rock’n’roll) and there’s nothing really insightful that can be said about it but once you get locked into its hooks, there’s really no where else to go. Ultimately, what keeps the album from completely taking off is the lack of production values. While I appreciate a loose and low-fi approach, what would really make all of the jokes work is a healthy dose of nonsensical over-production. Even still, Welcome to the Show is a noble effort that is subversive, trashy and a real good time.
TAFKAVince and Lauren play December 7th at Reggie’s, December 14th at Quenchers and a special holiday show December 15th at the Pontiac Café.
Limited tickets are still available in all price levels for the Old Town School's 50th Anniversary Benefit Concert, featuring Bela Fleck, Jeff Tweedy, first Old Town instructor Frank Hamilton (who will, btw, be giving a couple of workshops) and many others. This should be a fun time.
I asked if there would be rush tickets the night of and the answer was NO! For a preview, listen to 98.7WFMT Saturday at 7PM for a Studs Terkel Program rerun featuring the school's 40th anniversary celebration (Disclosure: I work for WFMT).
@ Auditorium Theatre, December 1, tickets at Ticketmaster.
In the new, tauntingly-titled documentary, You Weren't There—A History of Chicago Punk 1977-1984, which premieres this Saturday at the Portage Theater, maverick bands like Naked Raygun and Articles of Faith are idolized, but according to the film's director, these bands, and the scene they came out of, haven't quite been given its due yet — until now.
Just when you thought the re-united New York Dolls were too much, when Of Montreal's commercial was making you cringe, when Fergie having a sex tape had you out on the ledge, peering down 38 stories: this happens. Slash, the guitarist so bad-ass he had to leave his friend's wedding mid-ceremony to jam out a bad-ass helicopter-friendly guitar solo, has now written a book to sum his life. Why he did this instead of a week-long guitar solo is beyond this author, but we can only assume the autobiography, Slash, is a mildly more comprehensive (if less headbang-tastic) format. What's more, he will be signing this book in the Oak Brook Borders on Tuesday, Nov. 27th, at 7:30 PM. Borders? For real, Slash? And just in case you thought you could at least get that Use Your Illusion poster signed for the trip, think again: Slash will only be signing copies of the book due to the "popularity of this event". Our only hope is that if enough people smuggle in lighters, we can raise them all at once and trigger a Pavlovian response to shred in the erstwhile king of rock. At least he's still more productive that Axl.
Chicago's hip-hop fans definitely have something to give thanks for this week, with two holiday bookend shows from insurgent rap superstar M.I.A. and Chicago's hometown heroes Cool Kids.
M.I.A. (real name Maya Arulpragasam) is the British-Sri Lankan artist whose melange approach to music blends everything from ragga to dancehall and back to hip-hop. M.I.A. became a critical darling in 2005 on the heels of the release of her debut album Arular and North American concerts at the sold out Bowery in New York and a stellar set at the 2006 Coachella festival.
Accompanying M.I.A. on this tour is DJ Low B (formerly Low Budget) who is one half (with Diplo) of the duo Hollertronix. This influential Philadelphia-based duo was at the forefront of the current trend towards eclectic DJing, mixing and mashing everything from indie to soul to old school rap in one frenetic mix. Low B himself is definitely a product of the age of rap. His personal sets draw heavily on classic rap platters and crate-digger soul numbers. There is also news from the Hollertronix camp that there is another M.I.A. mix tape in the works, a sort of Piracy Funds Terrorism part 2.
As if the headliner alone weren't enough to get you out of the house, M.I.A.'s opener is none other than Chicago's own up-and-comers Cool Kids. Touring in advance of their debut album and on the heels of a standout set at this past summer's Pitchfork Festival, Cool Kids seem on the cusp of well deserved wide recognition.
M.I.A with DJ Low B and Cool Kids play two shows this week, Wednesday 11/21 at the House of Blues and Friday 11/23 at The Vic.
Really Cool Contest! We've got a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky reader to the show tomorrow night (11/21) at the House of Blues. The first to email contests (at) gapersblock.com with the subject line "I'm Cool" gets the pair! UPDATE! We have a winner! Congrats to Eric!
If anything, the Baltimore-based trio Celebration deliver a mighty big wallop for a three-piece. After the dizzying, tumultuousness of their impressive 2005 debut, the band has pared things a bit on the newly-released follow-up, The Modern Tribe. Dark, carnivalesque organ and propulsive drumming still fuel their tunes; but these days they’re opting for slightly more sparse and sweeping arrangements that help clear some of the clutter from the stage in order to foreground the vocals of frontwoman Katrina Ford.
Which is all much for the better, seeing how Ford’s vocals is the band’s most distinctive and magnetic asset. She howls and she moans and keeps the range that falls between the two on solid lockdown, packing more raw emotive intensity and nuancing into a single couplet than most manage in the span of an entire album. Bonus points will no doubt be awarded to the new album because fellow tribesters TV On The Radio step in to lend a hand on a couple of tunes; but when all is said and done, Celebration can handle everything pretty superbly on their own.
Celebration will be headlining this Friday at the Empty Bottle. Kill Me Tomorrow and Aleks & the Drummer are scheduled to open. 1035 N. Western Ave. Showtime is 10pm, and tickets are $8.
To be succinct, the show was good. Mission of Burma made an off tour stop at Chicago's Abbey Pub last Friday evening. After a procession of capable but somewhat uninteresting openers, Burma stepped up and brought the perhaps 3/4 capacity crowd to the floor. They served up new songs and their still fresh sounding '80's back catalog with equal aplomb and left the crowd wanting more, proving that Mission of Burma's heyday is now.
If you thought the Get Up Kids were good and gone, you can put an end to your angst-ridden moping, and leave the dark corner for at least an evening to see a reincarnation, Percolator, play Ronny’s Bar this Wednesday. In preparation for having to spend all of Thursday with relatives, these Chicago locals will help you get one last whine out before the turkey and family values. Self-described as “pretty raucous” when it comes to live shows, they say they just want to “entertain and surprise people.” And with hooks that evoke Ted Leo & The Pharmacists, and an enthusiasm heard genuinely through their tunes, it should promise to do at least that. They’ve just finished recording their first record, Man is Not a Bird, which is streaming on their website for your listening pleasure. In addition to Thanksgiving, they’ll also be around the southside Dec 6th for a show at Reggie’s Rock Club.
Not enough people know about the free concerts at the Old Town School of Folk Music Wednesday nights at 8:30pm. In early fall, the free series was called "La Pena" and featured Latin American performers. Last week, a new AfroFolk series began and will feature musicians from Haiti, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and good old Chicago.
No, you probably haven't heard of any of the groups scheduled, but the Chicago compatriots of the musicians that happen to be performing usually have and line up out the door to attend. The coolest part is that you may have unintentionally come to see the biggest pop star of a country on the other side of the globe. And there you are, the envy of every Nigerian or Haitian or whatever, seeing them in one of the most intimate settings possible for free. Bastard!
Up this week is Haitian singer Tifane (pictured above), who was honored in Haiti as “Revelation of the Year” in 2005 and then “Best Female Singer” in 2006 by Musique en Folie and the Hatian Entertainment Awards.
Chicago seems to be breeding an entire sub-genre of well executed high-concept, low-brow theatrical rockers. In the past year or so, on the advice of friends, I have been introduced to the oddball exuberance of The Bitter Tears, and the peculiar camp of Let's Get Out of this Terrible Sandwich Shop. I must admit, however, that I was blindsided by the sheer weirdness of b1g t1me.
Last summer, I met some friends for drinks at Simon's in Andersonville on a Sunday. An interesting looking quartet was setting up in the corner. I asked what they did and the bartender summed it up; "They do '80's one-hit-wonder songs in the style of Tom Waits."
And that they do, more or less. What followed was two hours of pure fun, easily the most interesting accidental concert I've seen in years. The band manages an uncanny mimicry of Waits' style, wringing new meaning from songs that we've all heard a thousand times. Tom Petty's Don't Come Around Here No More takes on a decidedly threatening tone. Dio's Holy Diver is transformed from slapstick metal to a gospel-like call-and-response number. While the concept seems dubious on paper, there's definitely something else going on. By mixing a spot-on homage to Waits' innovative style with classic material that has subtly begged from day one for reinterpretation, b1g t1me manages to create something that easily stands on its own.
B1g t1me plays this Wednesday 11/21 at Quenchers Saloon, corner of Fullerton and Western.
It's a slow week at work, so why not take advantage of the good folks at SPIN & Knob Creek bourbon and RSVP for a free show at Schubas tomorrow night starring local art/pop phenomsOFFICE? Why not, indeed. All you need to know is OFFICE starts at 8pm, the sponsors will be serving free Knob Creek cocktails, it's a 21+ event, and you have to RSVP before noon tomorrow (11/20) to email@example.com in order to get on the list (before it fills up). You might need one of these on Wednesday morning, but you didn't get them here.
Labels used to be curatorial pursuits. Basically they started out as one guy declaring this is the music I love. All that's changed, but there are still lone voices releasing only the music they love, damn the consequences. One of the best one man labels of late is Catbird Records, which sprung out of the Catbird Seat blog. Ryan's got eclectic, at times challenging taste, but if he releases something you can rest assured the quality will be up to his high standards. Some of his past releases include cd's from Get Him Eat Him, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and Tap Tap. Besides releasing some pretty great music, Catbird also has some interesting ideas about compensating the artists. For instance, if you click the pre-order link below you'll find a box to check to donate $1 directly to the band (how cool is that?!).
For his next release (which you can preorder here) he signed Chicago's Manishevitz, they of the odd time signatures and Euro-glam indie rock. Here's "Dead Birds" from the new record East To East.
Bands come, bands go. Some die, some are killed, some commit suicide. What the case is with sally, who will play their final show tonight at the Empty Bottle, is still a mystery. In an email sent out to their fans just 6 days prior to the show, sally offers up sentiments on their ending, but no one's words seem to point to reasons except for frontman and founder Charlie Deet's explanations. In the literary email Deets offers up that he felt it was time to move on and explore new musical avenues. Deets is an artistic mastermind - photographer, musician and label head - so we look forward to his future. But as for now we're forced to mourn a band that had the mark of emerging greatness. sally began their musical magic in early 2004 and brought a raw, but dynamic self-titled debut months after forming. With an two E.P.'s in the next two years sally's sound smoothed out from it's hectic beginnings. This past spring sally released their sophomore full length, Long Live The New Flesh finding the band merging moods fused together perfectly. Despite a sporadic show schedule, sally slowly built a dedicated fanbase with vigorous and vibrant concerts. Sadly the final show has arrived. There are no words for the end of something that seemed to be just starting. Mustering up a thank you and remember what was might be all there is to do.
Ever since "New Evil" broke in 2003, Robbers on High Street have often been discussed as impersonators of similar-sounding bands like Spoon and many of their contemporaries in New York City. The Fine Lines EP and Tree City in the next two years were acclaimed releases that didn't stop critics from simply calling them ripoffs.
But 2007's Grand Animals has changed the pigeonholing critiques. Italian composer Daniele Luppi, whose resume includes Gnarls Barkley and John Legend, produced the record that showcases Robbers on High Street's love for 60s and 70s pop music. With clear influences from the Kinks and Piero Umiliani throughout the record, it's obvious that Robbers on High Street are carving their own path now.
The energetic live band returns to Chicago for a third time in 2007 with a gig at Schubas on Sunday night. Great Northern and Happy Salmon open at 9PM. Admission is $12.
Last night at the Hideout, New York-based musician Baby Dee performed wearing a silky blouse, checkerboard capris, argyle socks, work boots and insane, untamed curly hair that covered a full two thirds of her face. Both her appearance and music are completely unclassifiable, the former falling somewhere between masculine and feminine, the latter a mixture of tender cabaret, guttural indie chanson and non-sequitur cackling comedy routine. The result was a wildy entertaining and assertively authentic performance that ended with the audience not wanting to go home, even after midnight on a cold work night in Chicago.
Her Wikipedia entry defines her as a “transgender musician from Cleveland” and her label, Drag City, describes her as “the badly angelic, Shirley Temple obsessed, high riding cat that ruled the streets of lower Manhattan in the nineties.” Neither description is particularly helpful, especially since most of the audience was neither from Manhattan nor probably old enough to have really noticed the mid nineties. So, the next time she's in down, or the next time you're in NYC, do yourself a favor and see for yourself.
It's a predictably eclectic offering from DJ Spooky who has most recently been working with the Trojan Records catalog. No one does the combination of high concept and high energy quite like DJ Spooky.
DJ Spooky performs at the Chicago History Museum on Saturday, Nov. 17th, at 7:00PM. Tickets ($30 / $15 Students) are still available.
This week alone the Metro will play host to Menomena, Rx Bandits, and Circa Survive. Next week it could be you! (If you play in a Chicago-based band, that is.)
The Metro and Skybox are offering one local band the chance to play on the second day of their three-day “Home for the Holidays Weekend”, a collection of local shows featuring such home-grown acts as Mannequin Men, Holy Roman Empire, and The Audition.
Home for The Holidays Weekend arrives Dec 21-23, but the contest deadline is next Sunday, November 25.
Check out the Metro’s blog for contest details and how to enter.
Somehow the very avant Chicago-based label Locust Music has scored the most blogged about record of the 4th quarter. Hello, Blue Roses is a duo from Canada made up of Dan Bejar (New Pornographers, Destroyer, Swan Lake) and his girlfriend Sydney Vermont. Their new record arrives on Locust on January 22. In typical Locust fashion (it's a small label and probably run by it's bootstraps) there is no info on their website about this release despite the fact that it's the #1 track at the music blog aggregators Elbo.ws and Hype Machine.
The first song released is the surprisingly low-key synth pop ballad "Shadow Falls". Most blogs I found were content to just cut and paste the press release, although it seems a few bloggers actually listened to the track and have called it "pleasant", "a fairly ordinary lullabye", "most austere" and "delicate sounding". So without further ado here's "Shadow Falls".
In May of 1997, a young and talented musician by the name of Jeff Buckley waded into the Wolf River near Memphis and never returned. He left behind one finished album, limitless potential and legions of passionate and heartbroken fans. In the ten years since that tragic day, music lovers around the world have organized yearly festivals, tribute shows to honor and channel his spirit.
In Chicago, the warm and comforting Wrigleyville cafe, Uncommon Ground, carries the torch. On a cold and snowy night in February of 1994, Buckley played a legendary set there that was lauded "Best Concert of the Year" by Greg Kot and sparked a unique relationship between restaurant and music. At this time every year, to coincide with Jeff's birthday on November 17th, musicians and fans gather at Uncommon Ground to play songs, tell stories and remember him for everything that he left behind.
I have a theory that pertains to shows like last night's at the Chicago Theatre: the more high profile an artist, the more annoying the crowd. Maybe it's because the majority probably only go to one or two concerts each year or that they think they're entitled to yell out whatever they want because they paid an absurd admission. Whether it's the fat dude wearing a sleeveless button-down shirt and sweatpants or the soccer mom in her best Lane Bryant, it typically comes down to many oldsters trying to relive their glory days while totally forgetting what they were all about. What unites this riff raff is thankfully the same thing that keeps them quiet at least during the songs. When Neil Young plays, people listen. However, between songs is a different story.
On Tuesday night, on tour to promote Chrome Dreams II, Neil Young took a page from Rust Never Sleeps by performing acoustic and electric sets that wound through his deep discography. The acoustic set highlights were old album tracks like "Mellow My Mind" and "Cowgirl in the Sand" that drew huge ovations. Obviously, the 62-year old's voice isn't the same as it was when he recorded many of these songs, so he wavered a bit on the high notes. But his guitar-playing is still subtly fantastic.
Now, one great thing about a concert by an artist with such a rich history is the element of surprise. Any next song could potentially be one of hundreds. But that didn't exist on this night because a painting depicting an interpretation of each song was displayed on the side of the stage. So everyone in the audience knew at one point that "Everybody Knows This is Nowhere" would be next. There was no chance for pure elation when identifying the first notes. (And the artist made at least one spelling error - "Bad Fog of Lonliness.") With 4 songs from Chrome Dreams II at the core of the electric set, "The Loner" and "Oh, Lonesome Me" sounded like gold to the ears of anyone wanting to hear classics. A 20-minute jam on "No Hidden Path" ended the set and gave way to the encore of "Cinnamon Girl" and "Tonight's the Night." Both were tremendous, naturally.
Tuesday's audience was in for a special treat - "The Sultan." You may ask, "What are you talking about?" Well, "The Sultan" was an instrumental recorded by Neil Young's first band, the Squires, in 1963. The record is very rare and it's doubtful the song's been performed live in 40+ years, but we heard it. Overall, this was a performance that clearly showed the range of Neil Young through the years. Between forgotten album tracks, hit singles, political attacks and good-natured anthems, he treated the audience to a hint of where he's been and what he's done through his career. And what a career it's been.
For over two decades, J. P. Chill's Friday Night radio show on WHPK has been a cornerstone of the Chicago hip-hop scene, and the show's hosted its share of top-tier guest appearances over the years. I myself used to have a cassette that I'd recorded from his show one evening back in early 1994 -- a show that included an incredible 20-plus minute freestyle battle between Masta Ace and his posse, a pre-Resurrection Common Sense(or Common, as we know him now), and the guys in the Southside crew East of the Rock.
Apparently I wasn't the only one recording some of these shows. Courtesy of an mp3 that was recently posted over at Exclusive Trax, we get to hear Common battle a young Kanye West on an edition of Chill's show from 1996. Check it out and get treated.
Busdriver, nee Regan Farquhar, comes from authentic hip-hop stock.
Back in the day, his father wrote Krush Groove, the seminal eighties’ hip-hop, Def Jam movie, an opportunity that allowed Busdriver a look into his future career.
“Getting to meet LL Cool J, Run-DMC and The Fat Boys as a preteen led me to believe I had some insight into rapper ethos,” he says. “I remember that [Def Jam] basically paid LL Cool J in shoes — eighteen or twenty-five pairs of Adidas.”
The impression made upon the young Busdriver was extensive. He began rapping when he was nine and recorded his first album, with the forgettable group 4/29, at age thirteen. But it wasn’t all smooth, and the ladies didn’t necessarily love cool Regan. In his usual self-effacing style, he describes 4/29’s sound as “a bad Kris Kross, minus the Jermaine Dupri coaching and expansive teeny-bopper fan base. It took me years to be actually competent as a rhymer. The formative years were incredibly rough.”
Luckily for listeners, Busdriver’s lyrical style has improved exponentially since those baggy backward-jeans days. His flow, a fast-talking staccato that revels in jazzy diatribes, offbeat in topic as well as tempo. His lyrics are wordy, intellectual and extremely literate. He’ll throw down a word like “troglodyte” as if it were the most normal rap epithet since “wack.”
His latest album — his first on the Anti-/Epitaph label — is RoadKillOvercoat, and it finds Busdriver exploring thicker, weirder beats and rants but with a decidedly pop edge. His producers, Boom Bip and Nobody, effectively manage to keep up with Busdriver’s eclectic tastes, laying down beats alternately hard and dreamy.
See him in action when he performs this Friday, Nov. 16, at the Empty Bottle with Daedelus and Antimc.
Got a hankering to see some legends of proto-punk play Friday night for free? Well, we've got your hook up, right here. The first to email us at contests (at) gapersblock (dot) com with the subject "I'm on a Mission!" gets a pair of tickets to see Mission of Burma at the Abbey Pub this Friday. What a great way to end the week, eh? Update! We have a winner! Congrats to Ingrid!
(Alice Peacock on the right talks with Republican senator John Coryn from Texas)
Alice Peacock, one of the few Chicago artists of late to be signed by a verifiable major label, headed to DC yesterday to testify in front of Congress in an attempt to get musicians who perform on recordings residuals from radio airplay. She joined Lyle Lovett and Ray Benson of Asleep At The Wheel. She even played her song "Bliss" as part of the proceedings. Way to go Alice! Don't forget the little guys/gals. (via USA Today)
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that "In American lives, there are no second acts." I'm pretty sure that that theory doesn't hold water, and if you want to see direct evidence in the contrary, Mission of Burma will make a strong case at the Abbey Pub this Friday.
Mission of Burma formed in Boston in 1979, part of America's burgeoning post-punk/new wave movement. Unlike many punk groups, the members of M.O.B. (Roger Miller - guitar, Clint Conley - bass and Peter Prescott - drums) were well versed in their instruments and grounded in a sense of history that encompassed late '60's proto-punks such as the MC5 and The Stooges. Burma's songs were driving, angular rockers with intelligent, acerbic lyrics; audio pastiches of swirling guitar filtered through the soundboard by original audio engineer and tape loop artist Martin Swopes. In their first iteration, Burma's impact was limited to a single studio album Vs., one EP Signals, Calls and Marches and a couple of singles, all originally released on the Boston label Ace of Hearts. While their output was critically acclaimed, the band disbanded in 1983, in part due to Miller's worsening tinnitus.
1983 may have seen the end of the band's first act, but Michael Azzerad's 2001 punk rock paean This Band Could Be Your Life featured a chapter on the group, introducing them to a new audience. After some exploratory touring in 2002, with Bob Westen of Shellac manning the console and tape deck, Burma released two new studio albums, 2004's ONoffON and 2006's The Obliterati, effectively tripling their original output. Both albums ended up on year-end lists, and the band's live shows seem to maintain more vitality than a band off a 20 year hiatus has a right to possess. While it would be tempting to compare them to their early '80's heyday, it may be closer to the truth to say that their heyday is now.
Mission of Burma plays Chicago's Abbey Pub Friday, Nov. 16 at 9:00 PM with Weber Club, Helicopters, Comasoft and Fun Club opening.
Sometimes I cringe when I hear an artist is playing a solo acoustic show, particularly when their recordings feature a poppy wall of sonic layering. But I have a feeling All Smiles, the solo project of former Grandaddy guitarist Jim Fairfield, will be able to pull it off. His debut album, Ten Readings of a Warning, is a collection of simple and lovely melodies backed by a variety of flourishes and an army of different drummers (from bands like Sleater Kinney, Modest Mouse, Menomena). But the noisy inflections don’t necessarily make the songs, they make them better. The tracks have a stark but uplifting quality and the record, according to Jim, “sounds like the places it was recorded. You can hear the walls, and the floors, and the ceilings, and you can hear the cars, and the trees, and the guys selling drugs outside.” It’s this commitment to authenticity that makes tomorrow night’s show at Martyrs’ a must-see, electric, acoustic or otherwise.
Ed Gray and Kasper Hauser open for All Smiles tomorrow, November 14th, at Martyrs’. Show starts at 8pm. Tickets are $7.
Indie kids, so often constrained to standing and toe-tapping at shows, are finally given the chance to dance the restlessness out this weekend when the Rx Bandits and Men, Women, & Children play the Metro. Rx Bandits promise to provide a good skank for all those dying to let loose to the syncopated sounds of trombones. After a 3 year dry spell, the Bandits were back last October with a new album, a new label, and plenty of energy to catapult them through Bamboozle, Bonnaroo, and a bi-costal tour. The new album, …And the Battle Begun, a refreshingly mature ska work, should provide for, as bassist Joe Troy describes on the Rx blog, a “sweaty, sweet…and succulent” night.
Post-Glassjaw dance-punk projects strike again (see: Head Automatica), this time in the form of ex-guitarist Todd Weinstock’s new band Men, Women, & Children, opening for Rx Bandits on their East Coast and Midwest slots. They have been touring heavily in support of their self-titled debut, released last year, the Bandits being the most recent mainstay they have paired up with. There has been the promise of a few new tracks, but it may be worth it to arrive on time to an already early scheduled all-ages Metro show just to hear “Dance In My Blood”, a conglomeration of techno-beats and guitar riffs that succeeds at neither but still results in the most upbeat of dance tunes.
Rx Bandits, MWC @ Metro, 11/16
Doors open at 5:30, show begins at 6. Tickets are $14 adv/$16 day of show.
Also appearing are two Chicago locals: Nurses and, for the Chicago night only, Maps & Atlases.
After releasing Get Yr Blood Sucked Out to critical acclaim last year, the husband and wife duo Viva Voce are re-releasing long sought after albums Lovers, Lead the Way! (2003) and The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (2004)--along with bonus material, which includes B-sides, live performances, remixes, and some demo takes. Reissued Nov 13 (tomorrow!) on the band's Amore!Phonics label, these two albums have up until now been out-of-print and wickedly hard to find. But no more!
Additionally, the indie duo play Riviera Theater 11/15 and Champaign, IL (in the Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois) on 11/16. This (plus a show in Nebraska) finishes up a 2 month tour supporting Jimmy Eat World, after which Viva Voce plans to head back to studios. A follow-up to Get Yr Blood Sucked Out is scheduled for a 2008 release.
You read this blog and, therefore, you go to shows. And, more often than not, the shows are loud.
Now consider your grandparents, who probably have problems hearing what you tell them, and then imagine yourself when you get to be 80 or so years old. While growing up, your grandparents didn't have iPods, stereos, ultra big speakers at rock concerts (or rock for that matter). You experience those noises every day, and what the American Hearing Research Foundation is trying to tell us, essentially, is that we're screwed if we don't do something about it.
On Sunday, November 18, 2007, the American Hearing Research Foundation (AHRF) will hold a benefit concert at the Empty Bottle to help raise awareness of noise-induced hearing loss. Proceeds from the show will help the AHRF fund research into hearing loss at universities and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada, which the Chicago-based foundation has been doing for more than 30 years with over 165 research projects under its belt. Local bands Le Concorde, The Handcuffs and The Its will perform (all have or have witnessed hearing loss). Free Earlove earplugs for the first ones in.
Admission is only $8. Click through for hearing loss facts and signs:
News is out this evening that Kanye West's mother, manager and longtime Chicago resident Donda West, has died of undisclosed causes in Los Angeles. Anyone familiar with Kanye's music knows how influential his mother was not only in his decision to become a rap artist, but in the success of his career as she acted as his manager and the chair of the Kanye West Foundation. Donda West was also a noted scholar and former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department. She was 58 years old. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Kanye and his family.
The Drones have been poised to make a splash in the States for almost five years now, but getting to the country has been a challenge in itself. The band's full length debut, Here Comes The Lies, was met with heavy praise from native Australian, English and U.S. sources, but touring on the world stage was limited. After troubles with their label, the Drones choose to work hard at getting recorded material back from the label and end the contract. It was nearly three years later when they finally released their sophomore muse Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By. With an international release, more extensive touring and critical praise followed. 2006's Gala Mill continued to solidified the band's eccentric post-punk sound. But as the Drones continue their expansive touring here in the U.S. don't expect to see a post-punk style ala the Rapture or Interpol. With a raw sometimes harsh approach, the Drones mix in styles and sounds, skirting the lines between garage, psychedelia and blues rock. Opening up for Band of Horses Sunday and Monday at the Metro, their style will no doubt contrast the organic, soulful sound of the headliner
It was Revenge of the Nerds last night as “math rock” arrived at the Metro in the form of Battles and Caribou. Whatever that genre means, exactly, after experiencing the show I did last night I can safely say I do not care. Caribou opened and, although never having heard them before, I was immediately drawn in. A backdrop behind the band had logarithmic moving patterns projected onto it, eliminating the band members themselves as any sort of visual focal point, absorbing you completely in the sound environments they created.
Battles nonchalantly gathered on the stage, seemingly regular guys if everyone in the audience hadn’t known the musical power they were capable of. All gathered upstage, drummer included, surrounded by an array of keyboards, guitars, and other electronics the capacity of which no one was entirely sure until they started playing. Once they did begin, Battles wasted no time in creating the most awesome of soundscapes. Wild guitars, memorizing lights, and the eerie vocal lines of Tyondai Braxton absorbed all present, audience and band included, in the potent musical scenery that is Battles.
I know I should write about the headliner of tomorrow night's show at the Beat Kitchen. I know that Richard Buckner is revered like few others in the music world. His fans are rabid, often comparing notes about set lists as if he was the second coming of Bruce Springsteen, Elliott Smith and Kurt Cobain all rolled into one manic depressive singer songwriter. His songs range from the simple to the impenetrable and usually fit musically into a down-tempo americana mold. I know I should write about Richard Buckner but I won't.
That's because David Dondero is opening for him at the Beat Kitchen on Nov. 9. David Dondero uses the fairly conventional folk song structure (folk like Woody Guthrie not Tracy Chapman) to get across his often unconventional ideas about love, sex, politics and faith. His songs are more linear than Richard Buckner's and often tell a good (autobiographical) story. The only complaint I've ever heard about Dondero is that he sounds a little bit like Bright Eyes (that could be one of the reasons he's signed to Connor Oberst's Team Love Records). But that's a non-starter since David Dondero predates the appearance of Bright Eyes by several years.
David Dondero's new record Simple Love is a follow-up to his critically acclaimed release South Of The South. On "Rothko Chapel" David explores his ideas about faith and religion through an example of an unconventional church in Texas that has Rothko canvases hanging in the alter.
He goes on to explain that his religion is in "nature, art and literacy". It's a beautiful song that somehow manages to morph into a love song for a woman who's heart is like the Rothko Chapel. This should be a great show, get there early and don't miss a minute of David Dondero's set. More info at the Beat Kitchen website here.
Rebis Records is run by Jeremy Bushnell and Chris Miller, who also happen to form the label's flagship act, Number None. The two of them recently (June of this year) hosted the two-day Fugue State Festival at the Empty Bottle, showcasing nearly a dozen bands that fall under the loose rubric "drone." And that's what Rebis is all about as well.
The Rebis sound is varied, but largely extended in nature. In fact, their ongoing compilation series features "long-form works," with contributors being given as much as 15 minutes (and never less than seven!) of playtime to work their ethereal, reverberating magic. At the same time, I can think of few discs that even push the 70 minute mark here, proving that even in such endless states, the work of a good editor and sequencer should never be overlooked.
I worked at the Fugue State Festival, and for two nights, I became the hand that collects the money at the merch table (read: card table and folding chair over by the Ms. Pac Man machine). In exchange, the fellas kindly hooked me up with copies of the complete Rebis back-catalog. Vowing to make something useful out of this transaction, I took these 10 CDs, seven of them comprising the backbone of the current label roster (one tour-only CDr, one out of print CDr, and one 3" CDr by Number None not released on Rebis were omitted for time and space reasons, and I'm not talking about Doctor Who re-runs), and worked them over in a public forum for your approval.
French-fluent mildly punk-ish rockers Malajube appear at the Empty Bottle this Friday. Originating from Montreal, the young group garners comparisons to The Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, Super Furry Animals, and The Unicorns. You've probably heard their song "Montréal - 40°C" without realizing it on the Radio Shack ads that ran during the whole "Back to School" marketing time. Catchy to the end, their 2006 album Trompe-L'oeil has done much to push the Canadian band into the mainstream psyche of indie rock. Beyond their very alluring instrumental attacks though, I have to pull a stupid uneducated American moment and confess I have no idea what their lyrics are about--as they are all in French. Together with the Clash-influenced Jai Alai Savant and local act Light Pollution, it should be a rowdy good time.
Malajube, Jai Alai Savant, and Light Pollution @ The Empty Bottle, 11/9/07, 10PM, 21+, $10.
Everyone's favorite noisepop bruisers are back for their first club show since new drummer Matt Kotheimer stepped in for the off-to-Europe Jon Hersh. Kotheimer brings a different element to the band, suddenly prompting all manner of unprovoked Replacements comparisons. Lab Partners, from Reverb Records, opens. All this and an early reading by Lydia Lunch for $7 tonight at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N Western Ave. 21+, 10pm.
New Year's Eve isn't exactly right around the corner (only 54 days until 2008! Can you believe it?) but it's never too early to start making plans. The good people at Intonation know this and have done all of us a huge favor by scheduling the legendary producer and musician, Jon Brion, to play not one but two sets in the Harris Theater at Millennium Park.
Known globally as a producer for Fiona Apple, Kanye West, and Rufus Wainwright, as well as the genius behind the soundtrack to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Brion has cultivated a reputation for playing stellar one-man shows at LA's Largo, building jaw-dropping and spontaneous compositions as he switches deftly from guitar to piano to drums. For this show, he will no doubt pull out all the stops and there's a better than average chance a few famous music friends will drop by for the festivities.
Tickets are $85 and include a full New Year's Eve Party with dancing, drinks and frivolity plus the two sets and that is a flat rate, with the house being sold from front to back, which means that if you purchase your tickets right when they go on sale on November 9th (this Friday), you may sit in the front row.
Tickets for this New Year's madness can be purchased at the Harris Theater Box Office (312-334-7777), or online at www.harristheaterchicago.org.
It is always refreshing to find some genuine musical maturity in a world of indie musicians taking themselves too seriously. Awe-inspiring vocal talent doesn’t hurt either. My Brightest Diamond, the solo-project of multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden, brings to the table that and so much more. Worden grew up in Michigan and toured briefly as a part of Sufjan Steven’s Illinoisemakers, but broke onto the scene as My Brightest Diamond with her debut in 2006, Bring Me the Workhorse. A student of opera and classical music, this dive into avant-garde rock draws the listener into dark crevices of minor chords, string quartets, and penetrating vocals more akin to Nico and, yes, Whitney Houston than anyone on the scene today.
If you happened to catch the Decemberists play at the Riv early this year, you would have seen My Brightest Diamond’s formidable opening set, including a killer cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter”. Any doubts one had upon seeing a tiny chick fumbling with the size of a double-neck guitar were snuffed when she opened her mouth and hit the first note. My Brightest Diamond embarks on a headlining tour tomorrow, arriving in Chicago on Sunday at the Lakeshore Theater. Anyone looking for the thought-to-be-extinct feeling of being knocked over by a performance solely because of the music should check this out.
My Brightest Diamond @ Lakeshore Theater, Sun 11/11, 9 PM, $13
Also appearing: Tim Fite
Tomorrow, I know last minute but we are VICE is just how we roll, we are throwing a fundraiser in Chicago for our buddies the Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda. The band is the center piece of our new movie "Heavy Metal in Baghdad." The long of the short, they need to get out of Iraq where they are receiving death threats about their music and ways. So we are raising money to get them out. How? The only way VICE knows how, drinking and having a good time. So far we have raised over $13K.
At this year's Pitchfork Music Festival, all eyes were on Battles. And with their lush, wigged-out electro-prog-math rock and bro-fros, they did not disappoint. It's no wonder, since band members include the likes of guitarist David Konopka (Lynx), drummer John Stanier (Helmet, Tomahawk), keyboardist/guitarist Ian Williams (Don Caballero), and avant musician Tyondai Braxton. Their debut full-length CD, Mirrored, made indie kids and noise freaks swoon all summer.
If all else, challenge yourself: Can you dance to it? Can you dance to it and still maintain an iota of coolness? Catch Battles in all their glory when they play with Caribou, Born Ruffians, and White Williams at the Metro on Thursday, Nov. 8.
Buried in this morning's headlines about ex-Disney stars being arrested are hot-off-the-press raving reviews of Lyric Opera of Chicago's "Julius Caesar," which opened this weekend. The former are about the kind of "stars" that probably had little talent to begin with. The latter focus on lead Danielle de Niese (pictured above as Cleopatra), who will probably remain a star of the opera world for years to come -- and not for being arrested in Walgreen's or any other way for that matter.
In fact, the whole thing is a kind of lesson in praise:
The Tribune writes "where do you begin cataloging the delights of Handel's 'Julius Caesar,' now gracing the stage of Lyric Opera of Chicago?" The Sun-Times starts off describing Caesar as "one of the most exciting, insightful, successful and audience-pleasing productions at the Civic Opera House in many a moon."
Amazingly, there are some tickets available -- even nose bleed seats, which are the cheapest at $31. Buy online at lyricopera.org and also visit the site for audio and video clips.
Renowned avant-garde violinist and vocalist Iva Bittová doesn't make it stateside very often, and her appearances in Chicago have been few and far between. But thanks to the organizers of the Umbrella Music Festival, you'll have a chance to see her perform for free this Monday evening.
The daughter of a Romani (or "gypsy") musician father, Bittová hails from the Moravian region of the Czech Republic. In the 1970s and '80s, she had held down careers as a film and theater actress, and was the vocalist for the Czech fusion-rock band Dunaj before taking up studies in classical violin. Over the past two decades, she's done a fair amount of work with classical material, recording the works of composers such as Leoš Janáček and Béla Bartók. What she's most known for, however, is creating what she calls her "own personal folk music."
Bittová style and technique on violin and vocals (she plays and sings simultaneously) relies heavily on improvisation and involves a brilliantly unique combination of classical precision, "experimental" improvisation, and a strong folk-ish, fiddler sensibility that comes from her Slavic and Romani background. Musically, it all adds up to a listening experience that's spellbinding, sometimes frightening, and often piercingly beautiful. To all of this add that her stage performances are said to be absolutely riveting. (Proof: Check the second clip below.)
Iva Bittová will be in the Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center on Monday evening as part of the Umbrella fest. Bittová will be performing solo and is scheduled to go on at 7:15pm. 78 E. Washington St. The performance is free to the public.
The press kit for the North Carolina outfit The Annuals would have us believe that the band is of the "should appeal to fans of Arcade Fire" stripe. Such reductivism and coattail-riding is the bread and butter of music industry blurbsters and hype merchants. Granted, there's plenty on the band's latest EP, Frelen Mas, to give teeth to the comparison. But fortunately, the Annuals know to pare back on the storm and stress and end-of-the-worldness much of the time, allowing more space for the listener to cozy into. And they prove that they're (thankfully) capable of bringing a little much-needed humor and whimsicality to the table.
On Frelen Mas, instruments and leads get passed around quite playfully, and the Annuals actually sound like they know how to enjoy themselves and keep the caterwauling and histrionics within reasonable limits. While their version of "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" doesn't really do the band or the songbook staple any great favors, there's still a fair amount of lush and capacious prettiness to be found throughout. Not to mention that they manage to pull together something that's damned near sexy with “Such a Mess.”
And, oh yeah, Sneak Attack Media is currently hosting a contest where fans and listeners are welcome to mashup an Annuals’ tune with some material by labelmates The Manchester Orchestra. Which, given the similarity between the two artists, ain’t exactly like mixing anchovies and ice cream. (Check the links below to hear the two bands covering each other's songs.)
The Annuals will be playing at Subterranean this coming Tuesday evening. Manchester Orchestra and The Nevers are also on the bill. 2011 W. North Ave. Doors open at 6;30pm, show starts at 7; and tickets are $10 in advance, $12 the night of.
The clocks fall back at 2AM on Saturday night, so you've got an extra hour with which to do your witching -- and Brighton, MA, The Forms, and Brad Peterson will be waiting for you at the Beat Kitchen. Headlining chamber-rockers Brighton MA have been confidently described to me as sounding like "what would have happened if Bob Dylan got drunk with The Kinks. And maybe Van Morrison showed up with some drum mallets. And there was a light show." That's quite an act to lead into, but the lush instrumentation of Brooklyn's The Forms seems like it might be able to keep up, with all manner of piano-driven melodies washing over layers of synths and vocal harmonies. Longtime Chicago resident Brad Peterson will open the night with his eponynous backing band and catalog of danceable folk-pop, and then, instead of going home, the rest of the city will spill out before you for one more glorious hour. I'll be there. Will you?
Brighton, MA, The Forms, and Brad Peterson at the Beat Kitchen, 1100 W. Belmont. Doors @ 9:00 pm, show @ 9:30pm, $10.00 ($8 advance). 18 and over.
Just a tick below, Nicholas makes some pretty convincing arguments as to why you really should head out to the Hideout Monday night to see Madison-based Pale Young Gentlemen rock their indie pop out at a special RadioFreeChicago.org-sponsored show. And now you have no excuse not to go, as we're going to send one lucky reader (and their BFF) to the show for free, yo. Just be the first to email us at contests (at) gapersblock (dot) com with the subject "Pale Rider" and you're in it to win it.Update! We have a winner! Congrats to Taylor!
After playing merry prankster on the breakcore scene for a brief stint, Drop The Lime (aka Luca Venezia) threw all and sundry a big curveball with his breakout album We Never Sleep in 2006. The LP marked an bewildering and ambitious follow-me-now branching out--one that embraced a more party- and listener-friendly sound that ranged from dancefloor bangers to cabaret crooning. Spun on a thread of stylistic twists and somersaults, it didn't exactly hurt that Venezia hammered the whole thing home with the ultimate above-the-sheets caress-fest soundtrack "Turn Out The Lights."
Nonetheless, it's his party-ripping DJ sets that Venezia's been hanging his hat on lately. He's become the accidental impresario behind the die-hard Trouble & Bass dance scene in New York within the past two years, spearheaded his own subgenre by specializing in what can only be described as a monsterous breed of "dirty-electro-bootybass-grimey house." It's the sort of stuff that moves like a panther: dark, growling, riding low and incredibly fast. It goes 0-140 BPMs in 20 seconds flat and renders the entire Ed Banger catalog sluggish and obsolete just as quickly. And somehow he's managed to carry over some of the silliness and wrecktitude that characterized his early breakcore output.
Drop The Lime is spinning with fellow Brooklynite XXXChange (of SpankRock affiliation) Friday evening at Sonotheque. Also on hand will be hometown fave Jordan Z and other New Indie residents. And even though Sonotheque's floorplan isn't exactly designed for optimal dancing, expect to get all frenzied and sweaty -- so much so that you might actually hurt the next day. But hey, you'll have an extra hour to recuperate this weekend, so go get with that. 1444 W. Chicago. Admission is $10, doors open at 9pm.
It seems that every passing year of indie rock brings with it at least one completely out-of-left-field self-release success story. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah cooled off 2005, Tapes ‘n Tapes rocked 2006, and 2007 now belongs to Pale Young Gentlemen (sorry, Radiohead, does not actually count).
Hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, Pale Young Gentlemen play the kind of classically-inspired pop rock that is becoming almost commonplace in today’s musical landscape. Orchestral arrangements abound in many an indie rock outfit so the kind of music they’re playing—pop melodies mixed with swirling strings and bouncy, cabaret-inspired piano—isn’t exactly new, but there’s something fresh about the whole affair. First, the obligatory cellist (Liz Weamer) is actually an integral part of the music, not shoved into the background like in most pop bands; her work is a focal point of the melodies, rather than relegated to a fill-in-the-holes kind of status. Additionally, the focus is on the arrangements, with songs as compositions, complete movements and carefully constructed choruses, more overtly classical than their contemporaries.
But what really sets the Pale Young Gentlemen apart is their flair for the dramatic. I imagine at some point these cats probably took a few theatre classes, as their presentational style would make Kurt Weill, Jacques Brel and the Tom Waits of Black Rider proud. “Saturday Night” swings with a bawdy melody, while “Clap Your Hands” shakes and shimmies just enough to make any young man or woman do an awkward, half-drunken turn around the barroom. “Fraulein” dances a rock’n’roll waltz about unrequited love that avoids lapsing into over-the-top quirkiness. The tracks are carefully measured but still remain loose and while lead singer Michael Reisenauer occasionally approaches Chris Martin territory that misstep can certainly be forgiven, because there’s something really exciting about these new musical voices. The drool that critics have laid at the doorstep of Pale Young Gentlemen’s eponymous debut is justly deserved and it’ll be exciting to witness how they handle their newfound success, both personally and artistically.
For now, you can catch the Pale Young Gentlemen as they step away from their humble home to the north for a show this Monday, at the Hideout, opening for the Panda Band.
The last few years have been difficult for record stores. Tower is gone and Virgin has closed in some cities. Even Berwick Street in London (famous for its plethora of shops immortalized on the cover of Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory?) has been hit hard in the last few years and lost many of its shops. In Chicago, Hi-Fi closed last November and other stores are struggling. The trick in staying open appears to be appealing to a niche crowd and offering consumers something that can't be downloaded.
Or, in the case of Hot Jams at 4814 S Pulaski, it's been offering consumers the chance to download. You see, at this shop that specializes in house and all types of electronic music, the front half has become an internet cafe, which allows for customers to check out records while being online. And in January, the store will become Pink Machine Studios. To make way for the space needed for the recording studio, Hot Jams is clearing out the old vinyl inventory at 50% off until it's gone! So if you're looking for your vinyl-loving friends in the next few months, there's a good chance they'll be digging at Hot Jams.
Sometimes the best things are born during a crisis.
The official shuttering of the original Velvet Lounge in April 2006 represented the end of an era. Chicago jazz, for all practical purposes, had lost one of its most beloved homes, ironically, to make way for new homes — a condo tower development. And the Velvet wasn't the only one to take the axe. The Empty Bottle, which had offered a jazz series since 1995, was pulling the plug on jazz, and 3030 was closing up shop. In response to this crisis, a group of seven jazz musicians, which had formed loosely in 2002, quickly consolidated and stepped up their efforts. "Suddenly the Hungry Brain was becoming the one place for jazz to have a regular home in Chicago, and musicians were understandably alarmed by this loss," says saxophonist Dave Rempis, one the original seven members. The collective found a name—Umbrella Music, and took Mike Orlove from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs along as adviser.
"Jazz can't be successful if there are no places to play," says Orlove, who explains his role in Umbrella as the one who helps connect the dots, in addition to providing guidance. As a result of Umbrella's efforts, now, more than a year later, a once waning jazz scene is now thriving. "We founded the new Elastic series and space, helped the Velvet Lounge move, established a new weekly series at the Hideout, and partnered with Gallery 37," says drummer and Umbrella member Mike Reed. Other Umbrella successes include a new Elastic series (formerly 3030) at Elastic Arts, and the rescue of jazz at the Empty Bottle. According to Reed, Umbrella now funnels between 130-170 shows per year, a sizeable chunk of solid jazz play.