Friday, November 21, 2014


Tickets went on sale yesterday for The British Invasion Tour’s March 7th, 2015 date at City Winery in Chicago. The lineup will feature Peter Asher; Chad And Jeremy; Terry Sylvester of The Hollies; Billy J. Kramer; Mike Pender’s Searchers; and Denny Laine of Wings and The Moody Blues. I’ve seen all of the above at various times over the years at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, but having them all perform in a single evening would be even more fun. Other dates on the tour include Boston, MA; Lancaster, PA; Tarrytown, NY; and Alexandria, VA.

Secret Colours, four young musicians who have already become masters of the psychedelic genre, are performing with Thin Hymns at the Portage Theater on Milwaukee Avenue tonight. Positive Distractions, the bands latest release, was favorably reviewed here on BHT on June 18th of this year.

WXRT’s weekly Local Anesthetic program and Goose Island Beer Co. are sponsoring a double bill of Split Single and Bailiff at Lincoln Hall tonight.

“Celebrate Your Heartbeat,” a brand new single from the Minneapolis-based synth rock band The Melismatics is now available on iTunes.

The Webstirs, a Chicago-based band that describes its music as, “Hog-butchering pop to melt your jaded hipster heart,” will be bringing its catchy melodies and clever lyrics to the Live 27 venue in Evanston tonight. Weekend Vinyl is also on the bill. The music starts at 8:30 PM.

The TesserAct Theatre Ensemble continues its run of The Christmas Schooner at Cutting Hall with shows tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday afternoon, along with three more shows next weekend.

Also in Palatine, there will be a Pours 4 Paws benefit at d’Vine Wine and Gifts tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 PM. Admission is $30 at the door, and proceeds will go to help transport pets that American troops have adopted back here to the States.

Grownup Noise, a Boston-based quintet that mixes elements of classical music within introspective indie rock songs, will be performing tonight at Uncommon Ground.

WXRT air personalities Lin Brehmer and Marty Lennartz will be at the Park West tomorrow night co-hosting the 26th Annual Rock For Kids Rock And Roll Auction. The charity event will benefit Foundations Of Music, an organization that helps provide music education to children who might not otherwise have that opportunity.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery to Bono. The U2 vocalist severely injured his arm in a recent bicycle accident that required extensive surgery, and will involve extensive therapy.

Lights, camera, catchy melodies. People going to International Pop Overthrow Boston Power this weekend might want to dress in their most hip outfits. Justin Fielding will be filming there for his upcoming The Power Pop Movie. I posted about this documentary last Monday here on BHT.

Eccentric UK musician Robyn Hitchcock has a gig tomorrow night at the Old Town School Of Folk Music, with The Astronomer as his special guest. Other shows coming up at Old Town School Of Folk Music include the Cherish The Ladies Celtic Christmas show on December 4th; singer-songwriter Linda Marie Smith’s multi-media fantasy Mearra - Selkie from The Sea (recommended for ages six and up) on December 7th; and alt-rock /country and western masters Over The Rhine on December 15th.

There will a Honky Tonk/Country Show this Sunday evening at the Burlington Bar in Chicago. Cropduster 4 goes on from 7:30 to 8:30, followed by Dan Whitaker at 8:45, and Decoy Prayer Meeting at 10:00 PM. Admission is $7, which is right cheap. 

Local musicians Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis will be pulling double duty at Simon’s Tavern this Sunday when they perform original power pop as The Abbeys and vintage cover versions as Everly Hillbilies. It’s a free show and the music starts at 9:00 PM sharp.

Also on Sunday evening, veteran power pop band Sloan will be performing at Bottom Lounge, just west of downtown Chicago.

Tickets recently went on sale for British comedian/Nerdist website founder Chris Hardwick’s show at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the Davie Bowie tribute band that entertained in Daley Plaza on David Bowie Day, will be traveling up to Milwaukee early next year for a Pablove Benefit. It takes place on January 17th at Turner Hall Ballroom.

WXRT has started playing tracks from its Live From The Archives Volume 16, which will be available at Chicago area Target stores on December 2nd. The limited edition CD will include performances by Suzanne Vega, Temples, Los Lobos, Jake Bugg, Modern English, and John Butler Trio that were recorded at local venues or in the station’s own studio over the years. I still think WXRT should offer some sort of cool container for those of us who have collected the entire set.

The Severed Limb, one of the first bands to contact me when I started Broken Hearted Toy (and they’re from England) have a new record coming out in January next year. It’s titled If You Aint Livin Youre A Dead Man, and likely features the fun, skiffle-influenced rock of their earlier efforts. The Severed Limb Facebook post promises, “It’s an exotic tale of life, death... and cats.”

Put on your pork pie hat and dance off those Thanksgiving pounds. Chicago’s renown ska band Heavy Manners has a show next Saturday night, November 29th at Mayne Stage on Chicago’s far north side. The band will be selling and autographing copies of its heavier than now CD, which includes vintage hits like “Flamin’ First,” “Hometown SKA,” “Taking The Queen To Tea,” and “Blue Beat.” Run and Punch and NEO DJs Suzanne Shelton and Glenn Russell are also on the bill.

Damn right, I got the drumstick. SOPRO Music will present its 32nd Annual Thanksgiving Chicago All Star Blues Revue next Saturday, November 29th at Sullivans Irish Pub And Eatery in Midlothian. As usual, several musicians are involved, including The Chicago Horns, vocalist-guitarist Joey Drada; singer-harmonica player Doug Lee; and vocalists Peaches Staten, France Marie, and Deb Seitz. Plus there will prize giveaways. The event starts at 9:00 PM.

The online magazine Empty Lighthouse reports that Graham Nash will be on Howard Stern’s Howard 101 Show at 3:00 PM Eastern time on Wednesday, November 26th, performing acoustic versions of his solo material as well as songs from the recent CSNY 1974 box set.

Johnny Marr will likely be performing songs from his recently released Playland CD as part of a WXRT Concert for the Kids at The Vic Theatre  on Tuesday, November 25th. Those attending are being asked to bring a new or like new toy or book that can be given to children in Chicago area hospitals. Marr, a founding member of The Smiths, notched the top spot on my BHT Favorite Releases of 2013 with The Messenger, and he continues his atmospheric 1980s approach on Playland with energetic songs like “Back In The Box,” “Dynamo,” “This Tension,” and the title track.

The Chicago-based funk rock band Honey And The 45s  have a release party for its new MAD album coming up on December 5th at Metro.

The Bangles served up a fun and interesting nostalgia trip with the two-part video Q and A session that can be seen on their Facebook page. Fans were asked to submit questions about the band’s earliest days, as part of a promotion for Ladies And Gentlemen... The Bangles, a digital-only rarities collection that will become available on Thanksgiving Day. Susanna Hoffs recalled feeling embarrassed knowing Marshall Crenshaw was in the house at a concert where The Bangles’ sound system wasn’t functioning. Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, and Vicki Peterson played Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” when they got together for the first time, and the band once rehearsed in a crawlspace.

Three bands will gather ‘round the Festivus Pole at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine on December 28th. The all-ages show, which features Omega 3, Rough Draft, and Wett will run from 5:00 to 10:00 PM, and there is no cover charge.

Dog And Butterfly, a new children’s book from Ann and Nancy Wilson based on the Heart song of the same name, is now available for pre-order from the band’s official website. An autographed hardcover edition is $25, a paperback edition is $15.

Go Time! has returned with an ambitious 19-track effort titled Ratsel that explores new territory while maintaining the band’s hard-edged power pop approach. I plan on during a review here on BHT in the near future.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Beatles For Sale

You could have a brown suede jacket just like the one John Lennon is wearing here.

The 2014 Fest For Beatles Fans Holiday Shopping catalog recently arrived in the mail, and while it’s not as thick as those toy catalogs I remember browsing through when I was a kid, it does offer 30 pages of fab gear merchandise. It’s like a printed version of the marketplace that’s part of The Fest For Beatles Fans when it comes to Chicago and a few other major cities, except that the actual marketplace has collectibles from other famous bands. The catalog is pretty much all Beatles. Some of us would like the catalog even more if it also had t-shirts, coffee mugs, keychains, baseball caps, blankets, and action figures of The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Monkees, The Hollies, The Move, and other 1960s artists.

That said, this year’s The Fest For Beatles Fans catalog once again has just about everything for that John, Paul, George, and Ringo fan on your holiday gift list. The new Art Of McCartney tribute CD was a good start, but imagine the joy on your Beatles devotee’s face when you give him or her a Fab Four pair of cufflinks, bottle opener, lamp, socks, dice, dart board, jigsaw puzzle, plush doll, lunch box, or pajamas. There’s a brown suede jacket just like the one John Lennon wore on the cover of Rubber Soul, and an assortment of Beatles-themed umbrellas to make sure it doesn’t get ruined when the rain comes.

The catalog has a two-page spread of Christmas ornaments that includes Yellow Submarines, vehicles, record players, guitars, stockings, figurines, and the standard round ornaments. All of this merchandise is also available at The Fest For Beatles Fan online shop. 


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Aerial - Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School?

It took 10 years for Aerial to put out a second album, and according to an entertaining and informative video on the Scottish trio’s official website, the recently released Why Don’t They Teach Heartbreak At School? (available in the U.S. at Kool Kat Musik) reflects the musical and personal changes that band members Colin Cummings, Mackie Mackintosh, and Steven Henderson went through during that time period. It’s a perspective that probably won’t be immediately apparent to most listeners, since they’ll be more caught up in the album’s high energy power pop arrangements. Still, it doesn’t take long to notice that Aerial creates imaginative and clever ways to examine the topic of growing up.
The catchy title track uses fun, Beach Boys style harmonies to suggest that standard subjects like Algebra and History might not be as important as teaching students how to survive a broken heart. “Great Teenager” is another satiric look at adolescence augmented by intricate vocal interplay and an infectious melody, while on “Japanese Dancer,” Aerial adds a touch of new wave to an offbeat love song. The powerful guitars on “Cartoon Eyes, Cartoon Heart” are reminiscent of The Smithereens, while “Madeline It’s Me” and “More Than Alcohol” find the band taking a lighter, but still catchy approach. The final track, “Wave Goodbye To Scotland.” finds Aerial exploring even further; beginning simply with piano and vocals before blossoming into full orchestration.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Harmonizing At A Theater Near You

I have a couple of stock answers for those occasions when someone asks me to define power pop. One is: melody + harmonies + energy = power pop. The other is to explain that power pop is like The Beatles and The Hollies, except with more of an edge. Of course, like any genre, power pop can have its ups and downs. It can be twee lyrics set to a derivative arrangement, or it can be an invigorating roller coaster ride driven by ringing guitars and razor-sharp observations on the joys and frustrations of romantic relationships. And soon power pop will the subject of an expansive trilogy of books, as well as a documentary.

I’m hoping to post a review of noted music author Ken Sharp’s Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume No. 1 sometime around the end of November or the beginning of December. I’ve already ordered my copy of his limited-edition book, which is due to be shipped in a few weeks. The cover alone is enough to get power pop aficionados and fans of The Who salivating.

And just today, I received word from Boston-based filmmaker Justin Fielding of CastParty Productions  that he’s set to begin work on a power pop documentary. Fielding has already lined up International Pop Overthrow Founder/CFO David Bash and Bruce Brodeen from Not Lame Recordings and the Pop Geek Heaven website as Executive Producers. He’s also been in contact with the members of the iconic power pop band Shoes. Principal photography will kick off at International Pop Overthrow - Boston, which runs from Wednesday, November 19th through Saturday November 22nd.

Fielding will offer updates on the film’s progress on the newly created The Power Pop Movie blog.  He’s also asking people to weigh in with their own definition of power pop, and to suggest bands they would like to see in the movie. With the arrival of Ken Sharp’s series of power pop books and Justin Fielding’s flick, there may soon be some definitive answers to the question, “What is power pop?”


Friday, November 14, 2014


Happy Birthday to vocalist-guitarist Dag Juhlin. EXPO ‘76, one of the dozens of bands he has performed with over the years (The Slugs and Poi Dog Pondering are two of the others) will be celebrating the occasion tonight with a gig at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. EXPO ‘76 is an eclectic covers band comprised of veterans of the local music scene.

Welcome to Ian Hunter, who will be performing with his Rant Band tonight at the Park West in Chicago.

Folk singer-guitarist Quinn Tsan performs at Constellation at 3111 N. Western Avenue in Chicago tonight to celebrate the release of her Good Winter EP at in Chicago. Passerines and Kelsey Wild are also on the bill; the show starts at 9:30 PM.

Over 90 vendors will be on hand when Andersonville Galleria holds its 7th Anniversary Party tonight from 7:00 to 10:00 PM. There will be free refreshments and hors d’oeuvres. Andersonville Galleria is located at 5247 N. Clark Street.

The TesserAct Theatre Ensemble’s production of The Christmas Schooner opens tonight at Cutting Hall in Palatine. The holiday-themed musical will run through November 30th on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $16 in advance, and $18 at the door.

ChillFest returns for its second year tomorrow, when it will present 85 acoustic performances over the course of six hours. The festival kicks off at noon and will take place throughout Wicker Park and Bucktown; involving venues like Subterranean, Lottie’s Pub, David’s Tea, Bar Bar Black Sheep, and The Smoke Daddy. Performers include Urban Twang, Liz Chidester, Blue Line, Tijuana Hercules, and Acoustic Raccoon. There will be an after-party at Subterranean, starting at 7:15 PM.

Chrissie Hynde was in town this past Wednesday for a show at the Chicago Theatre. Backed by a band of young musicians, she performed a mix of Pretenders classics and songs from her 2014 solo debut Stockholm. My review of the concert is now up on the Illinois Entertainer website.

Big Paraid, the energetic indie rock trio that performed an impressive set at Durty Nellie’s this past July as part of the Blue Whiskey Film Festival, has a gig coming up next Wednesday, November 19th at the Cobra Lounge in Chicago.

Seven bands will be performing at a benefit for Wicker Park business owner Tiffany Dean at the Double Door club on November 19th. Black Cat Heart Attack; The Artist Formally Known As Vince; The Dead On; Anger; The Ladies & Gentlemen; Sunken Ships; Dorian Taj; and Cochinas y Los Pistoleros are the musical guests, and Herb Rosen from the Liars Club will serve as host. The doors open at 7:30 PM, admission is $8. 

Grownup Noise, a Boston-based quintet that mixes elements of classical music within introspective indie rock songs, will be performing at Uncommon Ground on November 21st.

Chicago TARDIS will mark its 15th year of celebrating Doctor Who on November 28–30 at The Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard. Actress Billie Piper, who played Rose Tyler, the first companion of the rebooted series, and Noel Clarke, who played her boyfriend (and eventually fellow companion) Mickey Smith, are among the special guests.

Oh Holy (Because The) Night. The Huffington Post  is reporting that Patti Smith has been invited to perform at a Christmas concert being held by Pope Francis in Rome.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Return Of The Rock For Kids Rock And Roll Auction

The Rock For Kids Rock And Roll Auction returns to the Park West on Chicago’s north side for its 26th year on Saturday, November 22nd. WXRT air personalities Lin Brehmer and Marty Lennartz will once again co-host this annual charity event, which benefits Foundations Of Music. It’s an organization that helps provide music education to children who might not otherwise have that opportunity. There will also be DJ sets by DJRC, and live music by the student-comprised groups Morphtet and The Foundations of Music Blues Band.

Rock For Kids is well known for offering a fascinating selection of memorabilia from musicians and other celebrities. Some of the treasures attendees can bid on this year include a WXRT Lollapalooza Weekend package; The Ramones Anthology signed by the original members, the Heart vinyl LP Fanatic signed by Ann and Nancy Wilson; a hat signed by The Cure; a framed photograph of John Lennon; a Brian Wilson-signed DVD of Pet Sounds - Live In London; a Ray Davies guitar pick; and a Wilco and Flaming Lips New Year’s poster. There will be a silent auction and a live auction; see the Rock For Kids website for details and the complete list. 

Not everyone has the money to snag one of these rare items, but Rock For Kids is fun even for those who are just there to watch. At times, the auction takes on the ambience of a playoff game as the bidding gets ferocious. And in the end, it will be Chicago area kids who will be the winners. Early Bird tickets can be purchased for $75 through November, after that they’re $125.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Reliving The 1980s Through A Scrapbook

It seems like I’ve been saving entertainment-related articles and reviews for over a hundred years now. Some of them are ones that I’ve written and others are by people who’ve actually made a living as journalists. The pieces by other writers are pasted into spiral notebooks, along with photos, art, and comics that also struck my fancy. I’ve been toying with the idea for some time now of trying to base blog posts on these scrapbooks, similar to the posts I do about vintage publications and 45 RPM records. And so, here’s the first installment of what could become a semi-regular feature.

My oldest notebook dates back to 1981, and despite being bloated from all the clippings pasted inside, it remains in good shape. Back then I had a part-time job at a Mom and Pop record store in the Peacock Alley section of the Ford City Mall on Chicago’s southwest side. The owner would give me his copies of Billboard magazine once he was done with them, and I would search each issue for items about my favorite bands.

I was also an avid reader of other national rock magazines, plus the Illinois Entertainer (even before I started writing for it), The Chicago Reader, and the daily newspapers. Glancing though the notebook, several of the bylines are familiar, such as J.D. Considine, Christopher Connelly, Kurt Loder, and David Fricke from Rolling Stone; and Lynn Van Matre, Dave Hoekstra, Lloyd Sachs, Don McLeese, Neil Tesser, Bill Dalton, Cary Baker, Bill Paige, Edward M. Bury, Parke Puterbaugh, Jeff Lind, and M.J. Carroll from the local press.

There are reviews and articles related to the early days of bands like The Bangles, The Elvis Brothers, The Plimsouls, Off Broadway, Gang Of Four, R.E.M., Shoes, The Teardrop Explodes, Heavy Manners, Rank And File, and Translator. There’s a bio of local power pop band The Kind from what I think is a radio station survey; ads for local acts Bohemia, The Way Moves, Naked Raygun, and John Hunter; as well as a quarter page ad for the ABC Channel 7 Sweet Home Chicago TV special that was simulcast on WXRT. It starred Dan Ackroyd, Koko Taylor, James Cotton, Buddy Guy, and Willie Dixon. 

I don’t often get a chance to sit down and reminisce with these scrapbooks, but like any good book, it’s nice to know I still have them in my library.

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