Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Shelters - The Shelters

The Shelters’ journey through this self-titled album is so sure-footed, it’s hard to believe it’s their full-length debut and they’ve only been around a few years. Having Tom Petty co-produce surely helped, but the credit for the depth and quality of material goes entirely to this Los Angeles-based quartet. Two of the tracks have already been chosen as “Coolest Song Of The Week” by Little Steven Van Zandt on his Underground Garage radio program, and several more are qualified to follow.

It’s hard to pin a label on The Shelters since they dabble in so many genres, but suffice to say if it’s cool and guitar-driven music, you’ll probably find it here. The jangling intro to “Rebel Heart” is pure Beatles, but the song also has a glam rock allure. “Fortune Teller,” embellished with harmony vocals and harmonica playing, could have been an early Hollies hit single. “Never Look Behind Ya” and “Down” are gritty, blues rock songs, and the acoustic “Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrying ‘Bout That Girl” falls between Jack White and something from Led Zeppelin III.

Throughout the album, hard-edged tunes like “Birdwatching” and “Surely Burn” are balanced with the dream-like atmosphere of “Born To Fly” or the easy-going prog rock of “Dandelion Ridge.” The mysterious experiences described in “Gold” evoke vintage Fleetwood Mac, while “The Ghost Is Gone” drifts through some interesting tempo changes. “Liar,” a song about a relationship riddled with deceit, combines echo-laden vocals and energetic guitar playing for a classic rock feel.


Monday, August 29, 2016

By The Time We Got To The Den Theatre

When Mary-Arrchie Theatre staged The Last Abbie at The Den Theatre a little over a week ago, it marked the end of a 28-year tradition of celebrating the communal and unbridled spirit of the original Woodstock via the annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival. If you missed that event, or saw it and want to keep your hippie groove going, head back to The Den Theatre tomorrow (Tuesday) night. That’s when New American Folk Theatre is presenting its fundraiser The Woodstock Cabaret.

New American Folk Theatre (NAFT) has been on the Chicago theatre scene since 2011, having morphed from southside children’s theatre group. The Woodstock Cabaret, billed as “1 Night of Peace, Love and Music,” will offer a number of musicians performing songs by Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Melanie, The Band, and other acts that gathered on Max Yasgur’s farm back in 1969. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $10. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at The Den Theatre, which is located at 1329 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.


Friday, August 26, 2016


The Muffs, a fun garage rock/power pop band led by vocalist-guitarist Kim Shattuck, will likely be showcasing their new album Whoop Dee Doo during a gig this Sunday night (August 28) at Empty Bottle on Chicago’s north side. Shattuck has also spent time performing with The Pandoras and Pixies.

The 31st Annual Bucktown Arts Fest will offer loads of art, live bands, poetry, and a kids’ tent this weekend at 2200 N. Oakley Avenue.

I’ve mentioned WXRT’s Garage Sale/Saturday Morning Flashback live broadcast a few times here now. It takes place at Schubas Tavern tomorrow morning from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., with a live concert by The Kickback at 1:00 p.m. I heard on XRT today that the year being featured for the live broadcast is 1974. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens. I wonder if the Garage Sale will have that WXRT blue neon sign from their TV commercials a few decades ago or the Beatles wig Michael Palin wore in another XRT ad.

There will be a Preview Party next Wednesday night, August 31, at The Copernicus Center for this year’s Chicago Fringe Festival. The actual festival will offer a wide range of theatre, dance, storytelling and film through September 11 around Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tickets can be purchased online or at one of the venues involved with the Fringe Fest.

A triple bill of Frisbie, Zapruder, and Mooner are going to be rocking tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

Matthew Sweet drops by Chicago in a couple of weeks for a September 9 show at Park West. His opening act will be Material Reissue, which includes bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko from the original Material Issue, with Phil Angotti replacing the late Jim Ellison on lead vocals. I still remember Material Reissue’s terrific performance at a sold-out International Pop Overthrow showcase in 2011, and of course, I’ll never forget the original lineup.

The Second Disc website is reporting that Concord Bicycle Music, which recently acquired the rights to R.E.M.’s Warner Bros. output, will release a 25th Anniversary Deluxe edition of the band’s 1991 hit album Out Of Time in November. The two-CD set will include the original 11 tracks along with 19 demo versions, and there will be a three-CD set that features a live R.E.M. concert recorded at the Capitol Plaza Theater in Charleston, WV.

Mary-Archie Theatre held its Last Abbie Fest last weekend at The Den Theater, bringing 28 years of Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festivals to and end. I’m still debating how to honor this freewheeling celebration, and how much it meant to me and so many others in the local theatre community. So far, I’ve got comments from Carla Hayden and James Moeller from Black Forest and Frank Carr from Famous In The Future; along with a new song parody I’ve written. If anyone else wants to contribute some thoughts, please feel free to contact me via Broken Hearted Toy.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

1966, A Flashback Auction, and Revolver Tributes

WXRT air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback this Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m at Scubas Tavern. The event is being combined with the progressive rock station’s first Garage Sale, and people willing to get up early on their day off will be able to bid on some interesting stuff. The items include autographed guitars and posters; WXRT CD compilations that are no longer available anywhere else, 2017 Lollapalooza passes, assorted rock and roll memorabilia, and a chance to hang out with one of the dee jays.

The Kickback, a Chicago area band that’s been getting a lot of attention and has released its debut album Sorry All Over The Place, will perform at Schubas at 1:00 p.m.. Their show should be a good way to wrap up this rare opportunity to see Rice working Flashback in person. All proceeds from WXRT’s Garage Sale will go to The Salvation Army's Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

Saturday Morning Flashback, which has been a popular feature on WXRT for several years now, celebrates a different year for each show via music, trivia, news stories, and brief reports recorded by others members of the air staff. It’s well researched, fun, and never fails to bring back a lot of memories. My only complaint is that it’s time for Flashback to go beyond its current range to include at a few years from the current millennium, as well as going back to 1966.

And to that point, The Whatfour, a local band comprising Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, Scott Ligon, Joe Camarillo and John San Juan, will perform The Beatles’ Revolver album in its entirety next Friday (September 2) at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Angotti has become quite adept at honoring 1960s acts, and performed at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. This year’s Fest also featured the Liverpool Beatles tribute band covering Revolver. The landmark album was released 50 years ago.

The Chicago Tribune recently carried a fascinating piece by Los Angeles Times writer Randy Lewis about 1966 titled Rock ’N’ Roll’s Most Revolutionary Year. In it, Lewis mentions Revolver, Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, Love’s Love, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, and Face To Face by The Kinks. I would add For Certain Because by The Hollies. So, there’s plenty of material if 1966 is ever added to the Saturday Morning Flashback roster.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sidewalk Society - Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon

Anyone who’s been impressed with the cover versions Sidewalk Society has recorded for the vinyl-only UK label Fruits de Mer (most recently The Action and David Bowie songs) should check out the California-based trio’s 2012 debut Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon. That same 1960s vibe runs through Sidewalk Society’s original compositions, and with drummer Jerry Buszek, guitarist Danny Lawrence, and bassist Dan West all singing, the vocals are consistently enticing and adventurous. A lot of the catchy yet complex arrangements feature instrumental passages.

That extended time on the psychedelic “Abbey Chatsworth” allows Lawrence to cut loose with some unbridled guitar playing. On “Nice Boys,” a caustic look at a woman who seems to enjoy the challenge of dating obnoxious losers, the band combines funky guitars with a string arrangement. The well-crafted lyrics sometimes take aim at careless lovers, as in the Beatles-influenced “If Only,” but have more of a political and social feel on “Silent Echo” and “Golden Parachute.” The hard-hitting “Sign Of Evolution” has lines like, “I guess all I need is someone to believe in, but it ain’t you.”

Sidewalk Society goes for a mysterious and psychedelic approach on the mid-tempo “Miss Understood,” which describes a woman who, “comes to me from the dead, to give me an answer.” “I Let Her Get Away” has a vintage Motown town, as well as one if those extended instrumental passages. The title track slips into the early 1970s, with a glam rock groove that recalls the party ambience of T-Rex.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Slumgullion

Poster montage from the Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field! Facebook page.

Slumgullion comes a day early this week due to the fact that I’m going out parading tomorrow night.

The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour comes to Ravina tomorrow (August 19) night in Highland Park. I still have fond memories of seeing The Go-Go’s for the first time at ChicagoFest on Navy Pier and then walking over to a record store on Rush Street (I believe where the Barnes And Noble is now) and buying their stellar Beauty And The Beat debut.

Mary-Archie Theatre kicks off its very last Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festival tomorrow night at The Den Theater, where it will revel in wild abandon through Sunday night. You can bet this freewheeling celebration of drama, performance art, live music, and comedy is going to go out with a bang.

If you’re looking for a suitably counter-culture place for dinner before going to The Last Abbie Fest, check out the Revival Food Hall. It just opened today at 125 S. Clark Street, with an impressive roster of 15 restaurants, including Union Squared, Furious Spoon, Brown Bag Seafood Co., and Antique Taco Chiquito. With a Curbside Splendor books and record store also on the premises, this just might be the hippest destination in the downtown area.

The highly influential Los Angeles punk band X, with guitarist-sax player Billy Zoom back in the fold, are performing tomorrow (August 19) night at Metro. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

A video for Graham Nash’s tuneful and introspective song “Myself At Last” is now available on YouTube. The clip consists of stark black and white images of Nash that reflect his twin passions for photography and music. “Myself At Last” is the first single from his recent This Path Tonight album.

Look for Eddie Vedder to be in particularly good spirits when Pearl Jam plays Wrigley Field on Saturday and Monday. His beloved Cubs are having their best season since 1969 and are leading the National League East by double digits. Pearl Jam has commissioned five artists to create posters for the concert. Hopefully, there won’t be any extended rain delays this time.

The weather could also be a factor when Wilco performs at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion this Sunday. The band will likely be showcasing songs from its upcoming album Schmilco, which is due out in a few weeks. Wilco’s opening act on Sunday will be Twin Peaks, a band that’s been attracting a lot of attention in the past few years.

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con opened today at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont and runs through Sunday. This year’s celebrities guests include Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher Rosario Dawson, John Barrowman, and Norman Reedus.

Theater Zuidpool will bring “Belgium’s greatest rock musicians” to Thalia Hall 2 for its hard rock adaptation of Macbeth this Saturday and Sunday. The production is being presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Thalia Hall. Tickets start at $28.

The Glenwood Ave Arts Fest will offer an eclectic selection of music acts when it takes place this weekend in the Rogers Park neighborhood, just off the Red Line stop. Performers include White Mystery, The Red Plastic Buddha, The Locals, Devil In A Woodpile, Boolean Knife, The Amazing Heebie Jeebies, and Ellis Clark and And The Big Parade with special guests Carla Prather from Poi Dog Pondering and Ary Jeebie from The Amazing Heebie Jeebies. And there’s no admission fee.

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ellis Clark, whose impressive resume includes performing with Epicycle, The Handcuffs, and the previously mentioned Ms. Jeebie, recently posted on Facebook that he’s wrapping up work on a new Social Act album. Back when I was a cub reporter for the Illinois Entertainer in the late1980s, I interviewed Clark and his Social Act bandmates after a performance at (if my memory is correct) Park West.

Maybe I could sell some of my Featured Artists cards there. WXRT is holding a Garage Sale next Saturday at Schubas Tavern on Chicago’s north side from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If that sounds on the early side, it’s because air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback from 8:00 a.m. to noon. There will also be live music, shopping, and music-related items to bid on. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

It was nice to see so many people show up at Mac’s On Slade in Palatine last Sunday for a benefit to help Shadows Of Knight lead vocalist Jimi Sohns cover some of his recent medical bills. Kevin Lee And The Kings, Soul Patch Monkey, Dream Police, and Dean Milano performed live, and Sohns appeared to be in good spirits as he socialized at the event.

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra has an upcoming gig at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on September 3, along with Jay O’Rourke.

Plan Ahead

Muffs - August 28 at Empty Bottle

Matthew Sweet with Material ReIssue - September 9 - Park West

Riot Fest - September 16–18 in Douglas Park

Lush - September 18 at The Vic (Sold Out)

The Buzzcocks - September 22 - The Vic

The Smithereens - September 25 at City Winery

Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary - October 1 at The Chicago Theatre

Nick Lowe with Josh Rouse - October 15, October 17 at Old Town School of Folk Music

Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom And Other Chambers Tour - October 29 at The Chicago Theatre


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome To My (Wizard) World - 2016

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont tomorrow and will cast its magical spell through Sunday. This annual convention is a major attraction for self-professed nerds, sci-fi devotees, graphic novels readers, art lovers, and anyone who embraces the more adventurous paths of modern culture. A four-day pass costs $105, and prices for single day tickets vary.

This year, several celebrity guests are assembled in teams. You’ll find Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson from Back To The Future; along with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis from The X-Files; Norman Reedus, Tom Payne, and Danai Guria from The Walking Dead; Rosario Dawson, Eldon Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elodie Yung, and Charlie Cox from Daredevil; and John Barrowman and Colin Donnell from Arrow.

I would have loved to see a lineup like that from Doctor Who. At least this year’s Comic Con has the very funny Barrowman, who in addition to starring on Arrow, played Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Carrie Fisher, Kate Mulgrew, Rose McIver, and Bruce Campbell will also be on hand. 

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con also offers aisle after aisle of corporate and independent vendors selling comic books, t shirts, action figures, and other fantasy/sci-fi related artifacts. In the huge marketplace dubbed Artists Alley, up-and-coming artists and writers compete for attention. If was a high-powered financier from a counter-culture version of Shark Tank, I’d put up funds for several of the worthy projects these people have created.

There’s also a fun, masquerade atmosphere as people dress up in superhero or villain costumes, and gladly pose for photos. Where else are you going to see Batman and Princess Leia sipping 32-oz. Cokes together, or Captain Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter walking side by side. Check the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con website for the complete schedule and prices.

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