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Feature Thu Sep 18 2008
Here are some of our picks for good times at the 12th Annual Hideout Block Party.
Saturday, September 20Plastic Crimewave's Vision Celestial Guitarchestra - 11:30am
You know what they say: it takes a village to raise a pyramid. Feeling, I suppose, that 40 or 50 guitarists is a good start, but nothing to be content with, Steve Krakow will attempt to pull together a society of 100 guitarists and let them have at the celestial guitar chord (which happens to be "E," as if you didn't already know that) until the spaceships come and take us away from all the stupid drama and pettiness of this world, or your mind is reduced to an orange, syrupy liquid puddling up around your shoes. Whichever comes first.
Howe Gelb was born of the same Southwestern desert brain-frying dead zone that gave us the Meat Puppets, Green on Red, the Sun City Girls, and (spiritually, anyway) Neil Young's Zuma album. His long-running project Giant Sand has been compared to all these and more, songs containing equal parts rock power, gee-gawsh melodicism, and absurd levels of distortion. His albums are known for a proliferation of special guests, and with album names like Giant Sand is All Over the Map, it should be readily apparent that the only guarantee is no guarantee.
Keep this band in mind the next time you get all touchy about someone on the brown line tsk tsk-ing your pink mohawk: Plastic People played loud, abrasive, downer psychedelic rock (We're talking Zappa/Mothers and Velvet Underground psych, not Byrds psych) in Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia at a time (1968-1986) when the deviance of rock and roll was punished not with non-payment for gig, or the occasional eye-roll by an authority figure, but with random beatings by the secret police, imprisonment, interrogation, and exile. And yet, no matter how many times a farmhouse on the edge of the wilderness used for Plastic People shows was "mysteriously" burned down, or how many times the members stood trial for "public obscenity" or "negativity in music," no matter how many decades of collective imprisonment (we're not talking 30 days in the hole here, people) members of the band received, they just kept coming back; stronger, more determined, and more sure that what they were doing would change history. Sure enough, it did — their pounding, Velvets-derived rock mantras inflamed the future leaders of the post-Soviet Czech Republic, among them Vaclav Havel, who turned the Plastic People into the Czech cultural ambassadors they were always meant to be. It's a heady story, really — read more about it here, or check out their Myspace, where you can hear three very long (and very powerful) modern-day live tracks from the band, which has grown to include extended family — nieces and children of former members. Fans of the Ex, Crass, Velvets, etc. absolutely positively 100% do not want to miss this.
Legend has it that Captain Beefheart would routinely tell the members of his Magic Band to "Hit it to hell in a breadbasket and fingerfuck the devil." Over the years, many aspiring musicians have since taken this maxim to mean, "Play every note or show as if it were your last." And it seems that no other band has taken that ethos more their hearts than the members of the Tel Aviv-based punk trio Monotonix. In the course of a typical gig, lead singer Ami Shelev might be found howling and yarbling while hanging by his knees from overhead pipes, with drummer Ran Shimoni pummeling away while both he and his kit are being hoisted aloft by the crowd. The band's recent Body Language EP on Drag City is spread thick with heavy, bluesy proto-punk riffage — the sort that speaks of stoner youth nurtured on a musical diet of vintage Blue Cheer, the Stooges, early Black Sabb, with the odd bit of strut-y glam-rock fare popping up now and again. And while the trio's recorded output is sufficiently amped and energetic, it barely hints at the havoc and catharsis of their live shows. How their set might translate to a festival setting remains to be seen; but chances are they'll be among Saturday's most talked-about appearances.
As a musician it's never easy to live in the shadow of a famous parent. Ask Ravi Coltrane, Jakob Dylan, or any number of famous offspring how hard it is to carve out an identity as an individual when all anyone does is compare you to your famous mom or dad. So let's get that part out of the way: Vieux Farka Toure is indeed the son of the legendary Malian singer and guitarist Ali Farka Toure, who passed in 2006 just as Vieux was emerging as an artist on the international scene. Given the stature of his father, Vieux Farka Toure has done an impressive job of carving out his own niche in a short period of time since his father's death. His sound embraces a decidedly broader aesthetic, embracing elements of reggae, rock, and more modern vocal stylings. He has made Chicago a regular stop after being brought in for a past World Music Festival, and he always puts on a great show, full of danceable, trancey grooves, and great melodies.
Neko Case's Alt-Country stylings have long been a favorite of music fans in search of a red-headed angel to worship. Case, a onetime Chicagoan and Bloodshot recording artist, has wowed concert goers in town over the years in venues ranging from the Metro to the Chicago Theatre, and I'm sure the back lot at the Hideout will be no less of a stunning setting to hear her let loose. Falling somewhere between confession and absolution, Case's lyrics ring forth a sense of having traveled a long, hard road and come out wiser, but not cleaner. As Saturday's closing act for the Hideout Block Party this will be the first of two chances to hear Neko Case's powerful pipes rise up over the rapt crowd on Wabansia Avenue. Also a member of the New Pornographers, festival-goers will be thrilled that Neko will also step up to the mic when the band hits the stage on Sunday at 7:30pm.
Sunday, September 21
The Ugly Suit
You know that band you formed your freshman year in high school, and all of those basements and backyards you played? Well, what if you hadn't drifted apart or went to separate schools and actually stuck with your musical aspirations? Do you think you would be signed to Chicago's Touch and Go/Quarterstick Records? Every high school has those garage bands with wacky names and hand drawn CD covers, and that is exactly where this flower-eyed sextet from Oklahoma called The Uglysuit is coming from. Having played together since they were in their early teens, these early twenty-somethings are now ready to explode onto the national scene. Their self-titled T&G debut finds them exploring light and bouncy melodies not unlike those of The Shins or Midlake. Their lead single is aptly named "Chicago" [mp3], and is piano rocker about buying a ticket to the big city.
The music of Tim Fite has always been hard to classify. Frequently slipping between sing-along folk and sample-based hip hop, Tim has the ability to do just about anything he wants. In fact, my favorite project of his 2006 was intimate collaboration with Danielle Stech-Homsy called "The Water Island". However, regardless of the genre there are a few facts about Fite that will always ring true, he loves guns, hates the establishment, and is not afraid to try something new. His latest album, Fair Ain't Fair (2008, Anti Records), stands in contrast to his free on-line release in 2006 Over The Counter Culture. Counter Culture was intentionally heavy on hip hop and political commentary, but served a fine purpose. However, in May he returned to form and again blending southern folk (although from Brooklyn) and flashes of hip hop aesthetic. Said to be eccentric, expect Fite to be in nice suit, perhaps seersucker, with a video scene projecting images of hand drawn guns behind him as he takes the stage at the block party.
When a band like Dark Meat plays, the audience is forced to take notice. Five minutes into their sets, there aren't many people still in the back with their arms crossed. The ensemble collective based out of Athens, GA creates what sounds like a bizarro mix of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Sun Ra that couldn't turn down new bandmates. (At the Empty Bottle in April, they had 12 people, including 3 guitarists, 3 drummers, a violinist and bassist, and 4 on various brass instruments. In May at the Bottle, they had 16.) Frontman Jim McHugh doesn't lead as much as take the reins during the shows that are heavy on audience participation. Their latest album, Universal Indians, is a hodgepodge of influences with southern rock leanings. Their wild stage presence will make them one of the weekend's most fun sets.
Hercules & Love Affair
Beyond its ensemble cast of vocalists and musicians, Hercules & Love Affair is primarily the work of producer and DJ Andy Butler. The group's self-titled debut from earlier this year finds Butler (with assistance from DFA's Tim Goldsworthy) steering the groove into the deep, vintage disco territory — back past disco's "mutant" and mainstream manifestations and to its queer-culture roots. It's sleek and luxurious at first listen, but beneath that veneer lies a parallel world of emotional tension — tales of nightlife tainted by feelings of yearning, desperation, and regret. Admittedly, most of the album's richest moments are thanks to the guest vocals supplied by Anthony & the Johnsons frontman Anthony Hegarty, who's never sounded more perfectly in his element than here. Unfortunately, Hegarty's erstwhile obligations have kept him from touring with the band, which is one of the reasons why Butler's headlining tonight in DJ mode. Given the Hideout's history with its Saturday night soirees, this one's slated for the dance crowd.
12th Annual Hideout Block Party Schedule
11:30 - Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestra
12:30 - Wee Hairy Beasties
1:15 - KatJon Band
1:45 - Giant Sand
2:45 - Little Cow
3:45 - Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
4:30 - Plastic People of the Universe
5:30 - Monotonix
6:00 (inside) - Neil Hamburger's Drunken' Spelling Bee
6:15 - Black Mountain
7:15 - Vieux Farka Toure
8:15 - Neko Case
Sunday1:00 - Jon Rauhouse Sextet
1:45 - Honey Boy Edwards & Devil in a Woodpile
2:30 - The Uglysuit
3:30 - Tim Fite
4:15 - Mucca Pazza
4:45 - Dark Meat
5:45 - Robbie Fulks
6:45 - Rhymefest
7:30 - New Pornographers
8:45 - Ratatat
9:45 - Hercules and Love Affair DJ Set