Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Kumari - Until That Day


The Kumari, a London-based quartet that has been drawing critical acclaim for its authentic 1960s style rock since forming in 2012, is once again utilizing the 7-inch vinyl record format. “Until That Day” is a three-track single being offered in a limited run of 500 copies via the Spanish label Hey Girl Records. The songs can also be downloaded on The Kumari’s Bandcamp page.

The energetic Side A Until That Day,” which features the ethereal vocals of Claude Pelletier along with the ringing guitars of Pelletier and Dimitri Rouzo, harks back to an era when psychedelia flowed like a river through San Francisco. The Kumari switch to pure garage rock on Side B for “Her Heart Of Stone,” using Pellertier’s raw singing, fuzzed-out guitars, and an infectious beat that will make everyone (guys included) want to start go-go dancing. “Girl Dont Exist,” the second track on the B Side, offers a change of pace. The twanging guitar arrangement on this tale of love and longing owes as much to Country and Western music as it does to the 1960s underground rock that The Kumari do so well. 

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Click Beetles - Wake Up To Music!


The Click Beetles might sound like the name of a Beatles tribute band, but it’s actually a pseudonym for musician/journalist Dan Pavelich. Numerous power pop fans will be familiar with his band The Bradburys, as well as the holiday compilations he puts out on his Vandalay Records label to help charities. Longtime power pop fans may even remember him as a member of The Steppingstones. Wake Up To Music! is the result of a few years of recording solo material in Pavelich’s home studio, with only his wife and daughter helping out.

There’s one Beatles cover within the 11 tracks on this effort, but Pavelich reinterprets “Do You Want To Know A Secret?” as though it had been recorded by one of The Fab Four’s British Invasion contemporaries. He also taps into that era for the appealing “Try Girl.” He offers a solid cover of Marshall Crenshaw’s “Cynical Girl,” and gives “I Never Said Goodbye,” co-written with pop singer-songwriter Lisa Mychols, the feel of a mid-1960s Motown single.

The catchy “Shut The TV Down” and “Tell Me How You Feel” are similar to Pavelich’s work with The Bradburys, and he borrows the line “Do you, don’t you want me to love you?” from “Helter Skelter” for “Glad,” a fun song that evokes The Cars with its peppy synthesizer arrangement. Wake Up To Music! gets even more adventurous with harder guitar and darker theme on “Ever Since The World Began,” and the rock biz satire “Bubblegum.”

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Bangles 101

Drummer Brad Elvis joined The Bangles on two of their more popular songs.

At one point at City Winery last night, The Bangles joked that they should have brought along a slide show. The concert, the first of two sold-out gigs at the Chicago venue, did provide an extensive history of the band, with Susanna Hoffs, Debbie Peterson, and Vicki Peterson (Michael Steele departed over 10 years ago) sharing memories of their earliest recording days. Maybe they were inspired to uncork their vintage material by the custom-made bottles of Bangles Wine City Winery had for sale.

Hoffs and the Peterson sisters, along with bassist Derrick Anderson, entered to a recording of “My Own Time”* by their brethren in L.A.’s Paisley Underground, The Three O’Clock. The opening number “Hazy Shade Of Winter” set the pace for a band that has always had more to offer than a handful of Top 40 singles and still performs with a fountain-of-youth intensity. The harmonies were consistently impressive, whether on early LP cuts like “Live” or on the title track from The Bangles’ 2011 release, Sweetheart Of The Sun.

Other than “Manic Monday,” the first half of the concert concentrated on lesser-known deep tracks like “Some Dreams Come True,” “James,” and “Angels Don’t Fall In Love.” They went back to their very first single, the independently released, “Getting Out Of Hand,” and played all three tracks from their  1982 self-titled EP. “In Your Room” had a grittier feel than one might remember from the seductive rock video, and an extended version of “Hero Takes A Fall” morphed into a jam session that included the riff from Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.”

While introducing a sterling cover of the Alex Chilton-penned “September Gurls,” Vicki Peterson suggested that anyone not familiar with his band Big Star should, “get yourself educated.” She added,  You’ll be glad you did.” The Bangles also romped through the classic garage rock of “Open Your Eyes” by The Nazz, and called upon a popular local musician to help out with the Kimberly Rew composition “Going Down To Liverpool.”** Debbi Peterson joined her sister and Hoffs at the front of the stage, while Brad Elvis from The Romantics and The Handcuffs took over on the drums.

The same lineup was later used for “Walk Like An Egyptian,” which served as the evening’s second and final encore, following a delicately beautiful rendition of “Eternal Flame.” As with every previous Bangles concert I’ve seen since their return in 2000, they seemed to thoroughly enjoy performing on their own terms without interference from a major label. And that’s another important lesson.

*   Originally recorded by The Bee Gees
** Originally recorded  by Katrina And The Waves

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

That’s Life: The Blue Whiskey Windup


It’s almost time to bid farewell to The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival for another year. The festival will screen one feature-length film and three shorts at Cutting Hall in Palatine from 7:00 to 10:30 PM tonight. The action moves to the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights tomorrow, July 27th, for an Awards Dinner and a feature-length film that will serve as the Blue Whiskey Chaser. All films were made in the USA except as noted. 

Tonight’s main attraction is Life Inside Out, director Jill D’Agnenica’s 108-minute family drama about a mother and her alienated son and how they grow closer by performing music together. Life Inside Out, which stars Maggie Baird and Finneas O’Connell, has won awards as Best Narrative Film at a number of independent film festivals. It will be preceded by director Mischa Jakupcak’s The Hero Pose, a 13-minute comedy about a father and his eight-year old daughter learning to connect; Lost In The Sky, a 15-minute sci-fi/family film from Canadian director Matt Landry; and Canadian director Ben Petrie’s 17-minute surrealistic comedy Nice Is Cool.

The Blue Glass Awards Dinner, which will include honors for this year’s Best Of Fest, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and several other categories, will take place at the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights tomorrow night, starting at 7:00 PM. The Awards Dinner will be followed by the Midwest Premiere of Life After Beth, director Jeff Baena’s comedy/horror film about a young man named Zach who finds his girlfriend Beth behaves much differently after she returns from the dead. It stars Dane DeHaan as Zach and Aubrey Plaza as Beth, along with Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Gray Gubler, Cheryl Hines, and Paul Reiser.

If you’re a suburban resident who longs for more cultural diversity, this is a great place to find it. I would like to thank the Blue Whiskey organizers for once again bringing their impressive creative event to our humble community. May the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival always thrive here, and may it also inspire other festivals to set up shop in Palatine.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Slumgullion


It’s my party and I’ll post if I want to. Today is my birthday but I’ve been celebrating with live music since last Saturday night with a Shoes and The Valley Downs double bill at SPACE in Evanston. Next up was a concert by Aimee Mann and Ted Leo as The Both (with opening act Tongues And Pillars) at Millennium Park on Monday; and then a swing by Durty Nellies on Wednesday night for the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival Center Piece Concert featuring Big Paraid (I got home too late from work to see Jackpot Donnie.) There are plenty of opportunities for me and everyone else in Chicago to make merry during the next few days.

The Fifth Annual Blue Whiskey Film Festival  wraps up this weekend with screenings at Cutting Hall in Palatine this afternoon, tonight, and tomorrow night, and The Awards Dinner and Chaser at Star cinema Grill in Arlington Heights on Sunday. There’s another double bill today; the 70-minute documentary Not Exactly Cooperstown and the comedy short Wooing Wes Wilson in the 4:00 to 5:45 PM showcase, and the feature-length drama Nightlights, along with the short comedy Four In The Morning, the 12-minute drama A Man On The Edge, and the 15-minute drama Insomniacs in the 7:00 to 10:30 PM showcase.

No, but I went to LollaShop. If you’re brokenhearted because you missed out on Lollapalooza tickets, or you really like the acts scheduled but were worried you’d feel out of place at the indie rock fest because you’re over 20, you can still have a Lollapalooza experience by going to its LollaShop pop-up store at Block 37 (108 N. State Street) in downtown Chicago. It opens today and runs through August 4th.

The Bangles will be in Chicago for two sold-out shows at City Winery on July 27th and 28th. If they arrive two days early they could come to my birthday party, but they would more likely check out their good buddy Matthew Sweet who has a gig at that very same City Winery tonight, with special guests Stolen Silver and Tommy Keene. A lot of people come to Bangles concerts eager to hear the hits like “Manic Monday” and “Eternal Flame.” Which is fine, but truly knowledgeable power pop fans also embrace the album tracks like “Some Dreams Come” and “Tear Off Your Own Head,” as well as the well-chosen cover versions of 1960s nuggets.

Chicagoans who come to The Bangles show on the 27th will get an added treat. Our own Brad Elvis will be playing drums on a few songs while Debbi Peterson moves up front to join Vicki Peterson and Susanna Hoffs. Brad Elvis, formerly of Screams and The Elvis Brothers, also performs with The Romantics and is very active with The Handcuffs, the band he formed with his wife, singer-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell. The Handcuffs will be playing at Northalsted Market Days on August 10th. I wonder if Brad will be wearing a Bangles t-shirt at that gig.

Belinda Carlisle will be the main act on Saturday night, at 8:45 PM at Northalsted Market Days. Other bands on the bill include The Locals, Girl In A Coma, Catfight, and Lez Zeppelin.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Make That A Double Shot Of Blue Whiskey


Photo from the Plato’s Reality Machine Facebook page.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival returns to Cutting Hall in Palatine today after taking a musically inclined detour to nearby Durty Nellie’s for the Festival Centerpiece Concert last night. There are two separate showcases today; one from 4:00 PM to 5:45 PM, and a second from 7:00 PM 10:30 PM. All films are from the USA except where noted.

The earlier showcase has two films, and one has a local connection. Director Susanne Suffredin is an Illinois resident whose 56-minute documentary @Home casts a spotlight on homeless advocate Mark Horvath. He had spent time as an addict living on the streets of Los Angeles after losing a successful television career in Hollywood. Once he was back on his feet, Horvath decided to chronicle the plight and feelings of homeless people in California, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania, using a digital camera and his cell phone.

Director Thomas Wood’s 25-minute documentary LA Miner follows the mining adventures of Patrick Blankenship, an engaging eccentric who hopes to find gold just outside of Los Angeles.

Later tonight, Blue Whiskey presents director Myles Sorensen’s 80-minute drama Plato’s Reality Machine. It’s a study of modern relationships, centered on Charles, a video games fanatic and five people who become involved in sexual/romantic encounters. Plato’s Reality Machine will be preceded by four short films. 

Director Jeff Wolfe’s 11-minute drama Pennance concerns a man seeking to escape the sins of his past. The Fall, directed by Kristof Hoornaert from Belgium, is a drama about a couple getting lost while driving on vacation. Black Water is director Ryan Ovadia’s 16-minute drama about crime activity in West Texas; and director Andrew Eckblad’s 30-minute drama/series pilot Blood Brothers is about a well-educated young man forced into a life of hustling as he tries to help a loved one.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival has three more shows at Cutting Hall in Palatine before moving on to the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights on Sunday, July 28th, for the Awards Dinner and Blue Whiskey Chaser.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Classical Blast And A Shot Of Blue Whiskey


My usually sedate hometown of Palatine has a pair of competing events going on tonight, and both look very promising. I might have to dash back and forth between the two of them. At the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater, there’s an outdoor concert by Classical Blast that looks like it could be the most interesting booking of Palatine’s 2014 Sounds Of Summer series. Actually, it’s hard to figure why they were scheduled on a Wednesday instead of a Friday.

The quartet blends cello and violin with guitars and drums while performing songs like Cream’s “The White Room” and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.” Founder/cellist Petar Kecenovici has worked with Dennis DeYoung from Styx, classical superstar Andrea Bocelli, and Cheap Trick. He’s also performed in Broadway musicals. Violinist Jimmy Chaos is a classically trained musician and instructor; guitarist David Kav is also a member of the duo KAVUS and has performed in local productions of Tommy and Man Of La Mancha; drummer Glen Kosche has logged time with JP and The Cats, Tom Carey Band, and Kickbend; and guitarist Bill Syniar was a founding member/producer of Tantrum, and has worked with Survivor, The Doobie Bros., and Steve Walsh of Kansas. Admission to the Classical Blast concert is free.

Also tonight in Palatine, The Blue Whiskey Film Festival will present its Festival Centerpiece Concert at Durty Nellie’s. The headliner is Big Paraid, an alt rock trio that incorporates dancers and a theatrical approach in its shows. The band has performed at the Double Door, House Of Blues, and Metro. They go on at 8:45 PM. Earlier, the rock/reggae quintet Jackpot Donnie opens at 7:30 PM. There will be five Official Selection Music Videos screened between the two live acts. Admission is $10.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival continues at Cutting Hall in Palatine through Saturday, July 26th, and on Sunday, July 28th, it returns to the Star Cinema Grill in Arlington Heights for the Awards Dinner and Blue Whiskey Chaser.

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