Friday, October 17, 2014


The Foo Fighters will be performing a rare small-venue gig at the Cubby Bear tonight but unless you already have a ticket, you can’t go. Those who’d like to see the sold-out show can watch a live stream of it tonight on HBO’s Facebook page, following the premiere of the cable network’s Foo Fighters: Sonic Highway series. The band just wrapped up a week-long residency on Late Show With David Letterman that included performing “Kick It Out” with Heart.

I would have included this in my Wednesday post about tribute bands had I known about it. Tributosaurus is going back to the 1980s for a show of one-hit wonders tonight at the Copernicus Center in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood.

Clash with Zombies. Speaking of tribute band shows, I dropped by The Abbey Pub last night for a lineup that featured Get Back as The Beatles; Phil Angotti and Beachwood Park as The Zombies; Guns And Ammunition as The Clash; and Frank Canino as Roy Orbison. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire event, but I did catch Guns and Ammunition and Phil Angotti. Guns And Ammunition nailed the urgency and power of The Clash with an impressive song selection that included “Police And Thieves,” “London Calling,” Julie’s Been Working On The Drug Squad,” and “Spanish Bombs.” Angotti, a master at doing these types of shows, created gorgeous three-part harmonies with keyboards player-vocalist John San Juan from Hushdrops and bassist-vocalist Casey McDonough on Zombies classics like “Tell Her No” and “She’s Not There,” along with deep cuts from Odessey And Oracle.

Bash with zombies. Elgin will hold its fourth annual Nightmare On Chicago Street, an ambitious Halloween celebration that envelopes the downtown area in spooky fun, next Saturday, October 25th. There will be special guests, live rock bands, and a costume contest. Part of the entertainment will be a store front theater showing Grandma Zombie, a sitcom created by Jeff Kelley and David Metzger especially for the event. I was involved with the filming of Grandma Zombie for the past few weeks, playing a government agent on the lookout for zombies. It should be interesting to see the final result.

Rock critic/Sound Opinions radio show host Jim DeRogatis will be operating in a humorous vein when he hosts Chicago Comedy Film Festival Featuring W.C. Fields and Ernie Kovacs  at 6:00 PM tonight at the ShowPlace ICON in Chicago at 1011 South Delano. The event will include screenings of The Ernie Kovacs Show from 1956, The Ernie Kovacs Special from 1961, and the W.C. Fields Straight Up documentary hosted by Dudley Moore. There will also be a Q and A session with members of the Kovacs and Fields families.

Penthouse Sweets, a fun and energetic Chicago-based band with a few CDs out, are going to be part triple bill tomorrow night at Phyllis’ Musical Inn on Irving Park Road in Chicago. Pittsburgh indie rock trio The Lampshades, and Red Lions are the other acts.

Rockabilly in a classy setting. The Neverly Brothers will be bringing their oldies/rock music history show to the Raue Center For The Arts in Crystal Lake tomorrow night.

Dann Morr is having a record release party for his solo debut Shouting Into The Wind next Thursday, October 23rd at Hideout Inn on Wabansia in Chicago. The Terriers and the Phil Angotti Band will also be performing that night. Shouting Into The Wind received a favorable review here on BHT about a week ago.

Also, on October 23rd, Roxy Swain, a local pop band that has had two CDs favorably reviewed here on BHT, will be at Beat Kitchen, along with The Erratics and Jimmy Gills.

Hushdrops have an in-store appearance at the Reckless Records location on Broadway coming up next Saturday afternoon. The band will be promoting its new Tomorrow album. 

The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame recently announced the nominees for its 2015 induction. They are Green Day, Lou Reed, Sting, War, The Spinners, Joan Jett And The Blackhearts, Bill Withers, N.W.A.,The Smiths, The Marvelettes, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Kraftwerk, Chic, Nine Inch Nails, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. 

The Bangles will be honored as part of The Women’s International Music Network’s 2015 She Rocks Awards on January 23 next year, as part the NAMM Show at the Anaheim Hotel. Guitarist Orianthi, a previous honoree, and Women’s International Music Network founder/journalist Laura B. Whitmore will serve as co-hosts of the event, which will also honor saxophonist-vocalist Mindi Abair. The She Rocks Award comes just The Bangles will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the release of their major label debut All Over The Place. In other Bangles news, the band will present ‘Rocky’s Revival,” an all ages show at the Troubadour in Los Angeles on November 1st.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Tributes And Treats

The Abbey Pub on Chicago’s northwest side will offer an evening of tribute bands tomorrow night, starting at 9:00 PM. Get Back will play a set of music by The Beatles; singer-guitarist Phil Angotti and his band Beachwood Park will cover The Zombies; Guns And Ammunition will take on The Clash; and Frank J. Canino will travel further back in time than any of the other three acts to impersonate Roy Orbison. As far as I know, this is the first time The Abbey has done a show like this in some time, so it would be great if a lot of people came to show their support. Admission is $8.00. 

Also on tomorrow night, Soundtrack Serenade will perform the entire soundtrack from Pulp Fiction at the High Hat Club on Irving Park Road in Chicago. Pulp Fiction cast member/Saturday Night Live veteran Julia Sweeney will be on hand for a Q & A session. The show starts at 9:00 PM, admission is $7.

In other tribute shows news, Halloweekend: The Return is scheduled for October 30th and October 31st at Wall To Wall Recording at 676 N. LaSalle, just north of downtown in Chicago. The Halloweekend Facebook  page promises a bar and a full lineup of bands. This annual event offers five sets each night, and was the inspiration for my It’s All Party Of My Rock And Roll Fantasy post (August 18th, 2014) in which I suggested a number of famous acts for the participating local bands to cover. Once again, no one took my advice. That heartbreak aside, there are a number of reasons to celebrate this year’s edition.

First, Halloweekend is back to two nights, after having been cut down to one at Martyrs’ in 2013. Plus, a number of its best performers from over the years (it has been at The Abbey Pub as well as Martyrs’) are on board for 2014, and their choices are eclectic and inspired. Phil Angotti, who has successfully honored The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Squeeze, and The Doors, will be taking on Tom Petty this time around. Androgynous Mustache, a group that does tribute shows year ‘round and nailed The Replacements at a previous Halloweekend gig, are doing The J. Geils Band.

Metropolly is fronted by Holly Senchak, a versatile singer-guitarist who impressed in previous shows as Courtney Love, Liz Phair, and the female half of ABBA. She’ll be leading Metropolly through a series of Blondie hits on Halloween night. Will Phalen was so good covering Beck last year, I’m looking forward to his Johnny Cash W/ June Carter set with Anna Phalen this time around. The Bon Mots have offered several entertaining impersonations in the past, and this time they’ll be playing that old time rock and roll of Bob Seger. 

The other acts on board for Halloweekend 2014 are Neal Alger And Co. as King Crimson; Johnny And The Creeps as 2015 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame nominees The Smiths; Dirty Pigeons as Queen; Falldown as Uncle Tupelo; and Chris Dorf And Friends as The Cars. As usual, I suspect some of these band names are nom de plumes for the musicians involved. Admission for each night is $10.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Game Theory - Blaze Of Glory

Game Theory’s 1982 debut Blaze Of Glory is the first of the critically acclaimed pop band’s LPs and EPs to be remastered and newly packaged with additional tracks and extensive liner notes. The re-released album, pressed on grapefruit pink vinyl, features the original 12 tracks and includes a download card for live performances, music from lead vocalist-guitarist Scott Miller’s earlier band Alternate Learning, and some of his solo efforts. At 27 tracks, this version of Blaze Of Glory is a lot to digest, but ultimately augments the late musician’s legacy. 

For those of us who discovered Game Theory via the group’s later efforts like The Big Shot Chronicles or Two Steps From The Middle Ages, the songs on Blaze Of Glory might initially seem jarring. Nothing is as exquisite as “Where You Going, Northern” or “Wyoming,” but given a chance, these adventurous cuts win over the listener. Miller always seemed fascinated by abrupt tempo changes and oddball intros, and that approach can be found on catchy songs like “Something To Show,” “Bad Year At UCLA,” and “Date With An Angel.” 

“The Girls Are Ready” and “White Blues” are rapid-fire New Wave tunes fueled by Nan Becker’s keyboards playing, while the funk overtones of “Sleeping Through Heaven” are reminiscent of Prince. Miller was equally adept at injecting vulnerability or venom into his lyrics; asking, “Is it okay that I don’t know what to do?” on the acoustic-based “It Gives Me Chills,” and noting “You thought you knew what was right and wrong/But you’ve been breaking the law all along” on the rebellious “The Young Drug.”

The best of the bonus tracks include the primitive punk of Alternate Learning’s “What’s The Matter” and “Beach State Rocking,” a live version of “Bad Year At UCLA” that has an extended instrumental intro, and Miller’s touching solo effort “She’s A Woman Of The Wind.” Judging from this new take on Blaze Of Glory, fans can expect more treats from the other remastered Game Theory efforts. 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Retro/Active: 1980s Acts Serve Up Old And New Material At The Arcada

Best wishes to Pat DiNizio and Brad Elvis, whose birthdays were yesterday and today, respectively.

It was no surprise that singer Tommy Heath of Tommy Tutone was the first to perform at the Rock Of The 80s Tour that stopped by the Arcada in St. Charles last Friday night. His band had only one hit and the other acts on the bill —Marshall Crenshaw, The Smithereens, and The Romantics—have maintained higher profiles, at least in the Midwest. But Heath set the tone for this enjoyable event by opening with an impressive rock song called “Red Wire,” taken from his upcoming Slow Learner CD. All four acts have released new material in recent years. Heath also offered a hard-hitting take on “Operator,” correctly describing it as a mashup of Jim Croce and The Clash. The audience rose to its feet for some spirited dancing and singing when Heath closed his short set with a rollicking “867-5309 /Jenny.”

Marshall Crenshaw followed immediately afterward, and surprisingly, he was also limited to only five songs. The singer-guitarist has a lot fans who would contend that he’s just as relevant as The Smithereens and The Romantics, who performed twice as long that night. Crenshaw showed no signs of resentment as he opened with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Crying, Waiting, Hoping.” He was ably assisted by drummer Mark Ortmann and bassist-backup vocalist Keith Voegele from Bottle Rockets, who had also backed Heath. Crenshaw slowed the tempo on “There She Goes Again,” just as he did on I Don’t See You Laughing Now, one of a series of three-song EPs he released in 2012. “Cynical Girl” and “Someday Someway” were closer to the original versions. A great set, but it would have been nice to hear some of Crenshaw’s other classics, like “Maryanne” and “I’m Sorry (But So Is Brenda Lee).” 
New Jersey natives The Smithereens have a loyal following in the Chicago area, so the audience was primed for the band’s performance. Regular members singer-guitarist Pat DiNizio, guitarist-vocalist Jim Babjak, and drummer-vocalist Dennis Diken were joined this time out by Derrick Anderson, a veteran bassist who’s been playing with The Bangles for quite a while now. Anderson fit right in as The Smithereens blasted through power pop classic like “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Time And Time Again,” and “Only A Memory.” They also played “Sorry” from 2011, their top notch CD from that year, and paid tribute to John Lennon by performing “Please Please Me” and “It’s Only Love.” In addition to their own material, The Smithereens have recorded three Beatles tribute albums. “This is some fun tonight,” DiNizio, always the consummate showman, mused at one point. “Blood And Roses” was once again a show-stopping number, and the band expertly worked in bits of Free’s “All Right Now” and The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” into the final number “A Girl Like You.”
The Smithereens ended on such a high note, it might have seemed likely to the uninitiated that The Romantics would have a difficult time matching that energy level. And indeed, “When I Look In Your Eyes,” the catchy opener from The Romantics’ 1979 self-titled debut, did sound almost sedate by comparison. But there were obviously a lot of Romantics fans in the house, and the audience soon embraced the Detroit-based band. Lead vocalist-guitarist Wally Palmar, guitarist-vocalist Mike Skill, and bassist-vocalist Rich Cole have been with the band from the start, and drummer Brad Elvis, who’s also in The Handcuffs, and has played in Big Hello, The Elvis Brothers, and Screams, joined in 2004. On Friday night, The Romantics performed a number of high-speed songs, including “Tomboy,” “Tell It To Carrie,” and a cover of The Kinks’ “She Got Everything.” Toward the end of their set, they delivered a muscle-bound version of The Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out Of this Place,” and it was good to hear from the band members after the show that this cover will be included on a soon-to-be-released CD. The Romantics brought this festive night of old and new material to a crowd-pleasing finish with an energetic version of their timeless hit, “What I Like About You.” 


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday Slumgullion

Slumgullion was delayed this week due to a series of fun complications. I had to adjust my freelance schedule on Friday so I could see The Smithereens, The Romantics, Marshall Crenshaw, and Tommy Tutone rocking the walls down at The Arcada in St. Charles. Then I spent this afternoon with Jeff Kelley and Dave Metzger as they filmed scenes for the Zombie Grandma sitcom they’re creating for this year’s Nightmare On Chicago Street Halloween Fest in Elgin. 

Squeeze fans in the Chicago area will have a rare opportunity to see founding member Glenn Tilbrook perform a solo show at City Winery next Wednesday, October 15th. The show starts at 8:00 PM, with Jefferson Grizzard serving as the opening act.

On the following night, Temples, the UK neo-psychedelic band that’s been getting a lot of media attention these days, will be playing “Shelter Song” and other mind-bending tunes from their Sun Structures album at the Park West. The Districts, a young indie rock band from Pennsylvania, will be opening for them.

Also on Thursday night, The Beatles tribute band Get Back will headline an evening of copy tunes at The Abbey Pub that will include the Phil Angotti-led Beechwood Park (The Zombies); Guns And Ammunition (The Clash); and Frank Canino (Roy Orbison). 

Heavy Manners, one of Chicago’s best-known ska bands, is putting together a line-up for an evening of ska music at Mayne Stage on the city’s north side on November 29th. A recent post on the band’s Facebook page promised details will be announced soon.

More and more big names are being added to the  I’ll Take You There - Celebrating 75 Years Of Mavis Staples event coming up on November 19th at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. Gregg Allman, Aaron Neville, Widespread Panic, Jeff and Spencer Tweedy, Emmylou Harris, Grace Potter, and Taj Mahal are among the artists scheduled to perform.

The Handcuffs will be part of a triple bill at the Kryptonite club in Rockford next Saturday night, along with Sexy Ester and Mono In Stereo.

Jeremy Clyde of Chad And Jeremy fame, has released a new solo effort titled The Bottom Drawer Sessions on iTunes and other digital sites. According to a post on the Chad And Jeremy Facebook page, it’s the result of several years of work.

The Telepaths will be performing November 8th at The Mutiny Chicago, at 2428 N. Western Avenue.

Condolences to the family and countless musician friends of producer/bassist Lou Whitney, who passed away from kidney cancer earlier this week. Whitney was a member of the critically acclaimed garage rock bands The Morells and The Skeletons.

Here’s an early suggestion for your New Year’s Eve entertainment: multi-talented Chicago rock veteran Ellis Clark and his new band The Big Parade will be performing at Mayne Stage, along with the unbridled rockabilly group Heeby Jeebies, and the infectious funk group Liquid Soul.

Get well wishes go out to John Wicks of The Records, who is recovering from a prostate procedure. Wicks recently posted a video of “Charmed Life,” a song he recorded with Debbi Peterson of The Bangles on his website. Works In Progress, a collection of demos, rare, and unreleased tracks by The Records, is now available on CDBaby.

Save The Clocktower, the Chicago-based and innovative indie rock band has upcoming gigs at The Frequency in Madison, Wisconsin on November 6th, and then back in its home town at Beat Kitchen on November 15th.

The Australian indie label Zero Hour continues its flow of fascinating compilations (Power Pop Unplugged, tributes to Cheap Trick and Dwight Twilley) with the release of Pop Power From The Garage. The album features 22 tracks from lesser-known but energetic Aussie bands during the years 1974–1986. It sells for $9.99 via the Zero Hour online store. 

Mac’s On Slade in Palatine will present A Tribute To The Beatles on October 30th.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rock Of The 80s Now In St. Charles

Tomorrow night, October 10th, The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles will field a dream team of bands that got their start in the late 1970s/early 1980s and remain masters of the catchy, guitar-driven rock song. The Smithereens, The Romantics, Tommy Tutone, and Marshall Crenshaw have all notched hit singles, so this show is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser. I haven’t seen Marshall Crenshaw or Tommy Tutone perform live, but I have been to concerts by The Romantics and The Smithereens. Here’s what to expect, based on those previous gigs. 

Detroit natives The Romantics have three original members, and drummer Brad Elvis has been with the band since 2004. When I saw them at The House Of Blues in Chicago, guitarist-vocalist Mike Skill powered songs like “Stone Pony” and “Tomboy” and joined lead vocalist-guitarist Wally Palmar and bassist Rich Cole for some airtight harmonies. Starting with “When I Look In Your Eyes” from their 1979 self-titled debut, the closest The Romantics came to slowing down that night was on the seductive “Talking In Your Sleep.” Palmar is a charismatic singer who led the way on catchy songs like “Rock You Up” and a cover of The Kinks’ “She’s Got Everything.” The Romantics finished with a revved up version of “What I Like About You,” a song that still retains its considerable appeal after all these years.

The Smithereens hail from New Jersey but have been frequent visitors to Chicago over the years. Their set at The Roscoe Village Burger Fest proved that singer-guitarist Pat DiNizio, guitarist-vocalist Jim Babjak, and drummer-vocalist Dennis Diken maintain their regular guy appeal while excelling as musicians. Severo Jornacion, who replaced original bassist Mike Mesaros, is a force of energy who’s always up for a party. On that particular night, I was surprised they didn’t play more from the impressive 2011, their first album of original material since 1999. The Smithereens did perform gems like “Blood And Roses” and “In A Room Without A View.” “Time And Time Again” featured extensive jamming, and The Smithereens executed a perfect segue from “House We Used To Live In” into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Halloween Song: Phil Angotti - “I Might Come Back”

Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti is a veteran of the Chicago music scene who started out in The Idea before moving on to a successful solo career. His 2013 CD Life And Rhymes carries on the introspective mood of its immediate predecessor People And Places, but also has two tracks that would be well-suited for a rock and roll Halloween playlist. Last October, I did a profile on one of them; the clever and Byrds-influenced “I See Spaceships.”

The other song, “I Might Come Back,” evokes The Beatles in their psychedelic days, particularly George Harrison’s fascination with the afterlife. Angotti kicks it off by embracing the possibility of dying in his sleep, because he likes to just go with the flow, and has already led a full life. Plus, reincarnation offers a wealth of new possibilities. “You can say that like a cat, I’m curious,” Angotti explains, and envisions himself returning as a black dog, a raven spouting “Nevermore,” or a fly in the ointment. “I might be in the sky or something underground,” he adds. “When I’m gone, please look for me, I’m still around.”

These images are set to a melodic, guitar-driven arrangement that includes Ellis Clark on piano, Hammond organ, and backup vocals. Angotti is also ably assisted by bassist Charlie Short and drummer Brad Elvis. “I Might Come Back” is a far cry from Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” but it never hurts to add a little depth to your Halloween festivities.

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