Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Upcoming Shows And Some Self-Promotion

Photo from the Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers Facebook page.

Milwaukee’s annual SummerFest kicked off today and runs through July 9, with a one-day break on July 3. Acts scheduled to perform include Red Hot Chili Peppers; Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers; Outlaw Music Festival; Bob Dylan; Sheryl Crow; The Shins; The Moody Blues; Ziggy Marley; Tegan And Sara; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot; The Isley Brothers; Guster; Peter Wolf; The Church; Berlin featuring Terri Nunn; and The Regrettes.

Goose Island and WXRT’s Friday Night Sounds on the Plaza at Millennium Park concert series continues this week with an acoustic set by Chicago’s long-running punk band Smoking Popes. The show has an inconvenient starting time of 4:30 p.m., but hopefully those of us who work nine-to-five will be able to catch some of the Smoking Popes before they finish at 6:30. Upcoming Friday Night Sounds concerts include Tim Kinsella and Joan Of Arc on August 11 and Scott Lucas of Local H on August 18.

Local pop band Ne-Hi, who came across very well on a recent appearance on XRT’s Local Anesthetic program with Richard Milne, have a gig coming up on July 15 at Lincoln Hall.

The 2017 Writing Workshop Of Chicago held last Saturday at the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue no doubt provided inspiration as well as a reality check for aspiring authors. There were several sessions hosted by industry professionals that offered essential tips on getting published. For an additional fee, you could have one-on-one time to pitch your book to a literary agent or get feedback on its first 10 pages.

I opted for the latter, and had a rewarding conversation with a successful author/writing teacher about my Young Adult, paranormal rock and roll novel. Her encouraging words gave me a buzz I’m still enjoying four days later, and she suggested some astute edits as well. Now, the challenge is for me to put those positive vibes into action.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Slumgullion

There’s a double bill of Material Reissue and Cliff Johnson backed by The Raine tomorrow night at the Wire club in Berwyn. Material Reissue, featuring original Material Issue members bassist-vocalist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, along with singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, have been performing the classic power pop songs created by the late (and original vocalist-guitarist) Jim Ellison on the Chicago club scene over the past few years. Cliff Johnson, of Pezband and Off Broadway fame has found a solid match in his current backing band The Raine.

Those of us who have enjoyed Wendy Rice’s wit and friendly delivery as host of WXRT’s Saturday Morning Flashback over the years will have one last chance tomorrow to hear her do the show. Rice, who started as an intern at the station in 1978, always fit in perfectly with the station’s patented air personality as friend format. With pre-recorded help from other members of the staff, like Lin Brehmer, Frank E. Lee, and news anchor Mary Dixon, Rice made Flashback fun, nostalgic, and informative. Each Saturday, the show focuses on a particular year with songs, news, and trivia. Rice will cover 1978 on her final broadcast before retiring. Unfortunately, I’ll be at a writing seminar all day tomorrow, so I’ll miss it.

Speaking of WXRT, congratulations to morning man Lin Brehmer on being voted as Chicago’s Best Radio DJ in the The Reader’s annual Best Of Chicago Issue. It’s always interesting to find out who nabbed top honors in the weekly free paper’s assorted categories. Other winners this year include Women And Children First as Best Bookstore; Alleycat Comics as Best Comics Shop; Salvage One as Best Place To Get Married (my nephew and his wife had their reception there); Revolution Brewing as Best BrewPub; CHIRP Radio as Best Local Music Blog; Riot Fest as Best Music Festival; and Steppenwolf Theatre as Best Established Theater Company.

That writing seminar I mentioned previously is The 2017 Writing Workshop of Chicago, being held from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Congress Plaza Hotel at 520 S. Michigan Avenue. Several literary agents will be on hand, and there will be a series of seminars with tips on how get published and how to develop stronger writing skills. I’ll be discussing my Work In Progess, a YA/Paranormal/Romance novel set in a rich San Diego suburb, in a 10-minute one-on-one with a literary agent. I also have three complete novels that I’m hoping to get published.

Chicago venue The Elbo Room is sponsoring the ninth annual I Am Fest – International Art and Music Festival on August 19. The day-long event will actually be held at the more spacious House Of Blues and feature music acts, art, and photography. The Smoking Popes, Sin Anestesia, and Littlebirds are scheduled to perform. Tickets are $18, doors open at 2:00 p.m.

Steppenwolf Theatre will be presenting How To Be A Rock Critic (Based ON The Writings Of Lester Bangs) as part of its New Lookout Series. As reported by Chicago Tribune theatre critic Kerry Reid in a preview of summer shows, there will be special guests after each performance. The show run from July 6 through July 22.

Milwaukee’s annual SummerFest runs June 28 – July and July 4 – July 9, and as usual, offers an amazing range of musical genres. Acts scheduled to perform include Red Hot Chili Peppers; Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers; Outlaw Music Festival; Bob Dylan; Sheryl Crow; The Shins; The Moody Blues; Ziggy Marley; Tegan And Sara; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot; The Isley Brothers; Guster; Peter Wolf; The Church; Berlin featuring Terri Nunn; and The Regrettes.

There’s still time to see a production of Hair at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. The musical, which debuted off Broadway in 1967, runs at the Metropolis through July 1.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Power Pop Drawing Power?

Ric Menck, a musician whose impressive career stretches back to the Chicago-based band The Reverbs in 1984 to performing on Matthew Sweet’s new Tomorrow Forever album, recently posted an interesting question on Facebook. He asked if anyone would go to a power pop weekend festival with artists like Cheap Trick, The Smithereens, The Raspberries, Big Star Redux, Dwight Twilley, Shoes, Pezband, Rubinoos, Marshall Crenshaw, Matthew Sweet, Material Reissue, and others. There is no such event in the works, but hopefully Menck’s post might get some influential people thinking about staging one. We can only hope.

In the meantime, there is some good news on the power pop front. Like the double bill of Material Reissue and Cliff Johnson backed by The Raine coming up this Saturday at the Wire club in Berwyn. Material Reissue comprises original Material Issue members bassist-vocalist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, along with singer-guitarist Phil Angotti. They’ve been doing a great job of performing the classic songs the late Jim Ellison created with the band back in the 1990s. As a veteran of Pezband and Off Broadway (and other groups), Cliff Johnson has composed and sang lead vocals on several power pop gems. Lately, he’s been hitting the club scene backed by veteran band The Raine, and the combination has been working really well.

Later this summer, Matthew Sweet (and I’m assuming with Ric Menck) has two shows coming up at City Winery Chicago on July 13 and July 14. Then there’s a Power Pop Night at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on August 11 featuring Dwight Twilley, Pezband, and Shoes. I’ll be posting more about this as the concert gets closer. In other news, The Smithereens have reunited with their original bass player Mike Mesaros and have two shows coming up on July 2 and 3 at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, NJ. According to the Slicing Up Eyeballs website,  Mesaros is also joining The Smithereens in the recording studio as they work on a new album.

Bassist-vocalist Derrick Anderson, who has performed with The Smithereens on occasion, recently recorded a video for “When I Was Your Man” with help from Vicki and Debbie Peterson from The Bangles and Kim Shattuck from The Muffs. The song was on Anderson’s stellar debut A World Of My Own, which included help from The Bangles, Shattuck, The Smithereens, Matthew Sweet, and other power pop stars. It would be great to see Anderson tour with all of those people onboard, or maybe as part of a major power pop weekend festival.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Slumgullion

Summer Of Love Revisited Part I. The Music Box Theatre on Chicago’s north side is screening a new 4K restoration of D. A. Pennebaker’s 1968 documentary Monterey Pop today and tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. The groundbreaking rock festival, which took place a year before the film was released, included performances by Jimi Hendrix, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Buffalo Springfield, Janis Joplin, The Who, Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, Simon and Garfunkel, Grateful Dead, Lou Rawls, The Mamas and The Papas, and The Byrds. Lou Adler, the successful producer and one of Monterey Pop’s organizers, is staging a 50th Anniversary version this weekend. Original performers Eric Burdon, Booker T. and Phil Lesh will be joined by new acts like Norah Jones (Shankar’s daughter), Father John Misty, and The Head And The Heart.

Tellin’ Tales Theatre, a Chicago-based company with a mission to “shatter barriers between the disabled and able-bodied worlds through the transformative power of personal story,” is bringing back its original production of Divercity for a limited run this weekend at Prop Thtr. It opened last night and will be staged tonight at 8:00 p.m. and tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Divercity features monologues from cast members. Prop Thtr is located at 3502 N. Elston.

Summer Of Love Revisited Part II. There’s still time to see a production of Hair at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. The musical, which debuted off Broadway in 1967, runs at the Metropolis through July 1.

Cheap Trick’s latest album We’re All Alright became available to download yesterday for those of us who preordered it through PledgeMusic. It’s a harder edged effort than last year’s Trick offering Bang, Zoom, Crazy . . . Hello, but still retains the band’s knack for infectious melodies. One of the less manic tracks (and possible the album’s best) is a magnificent cover of The Move’s “Blackberry Way.” I’ll be reviewing We’re All Alright here in the near future.

Martyrs’ On Mondays. The Sunshine Boys, a new band formed by music veterans vocalist-guitarist Dag Juhlin (The Slugs, Poi Dog Pondering, EXPO ’76); drummer Freda Love Smith (Blake Babies Antenna, Mysteries Of Life); and bassist-backup vocalist Jacqueline Schimmel (Big Hello), have a solo gig coming up this Monday at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue and a week later at the same venue as the opening act for The Imperial Sound. For those hesitant to venture out on a school night, The Sunshine Boys promise they have more gigs on the way. They also have a demo of their politically charged song “Schoolyard Bully” available as a name-your-price deal on their BandCamp page.

Summer Of Love Revisited Part III. The Second Disc website recently had a post by Joe Marchese about a new album from The Isley Brothers and Santana titled Power Of Peace. The collaboration is due out August 4 and will feature covers of inspirational rhythm and blues standards like Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “What The World Needs Now,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy, Mercy Me.”

Northwestern University has announced the shows for its SummerStage 2017 at the Ethel M. Barber Theater in Evanston. The performance series includes an August 3 – 6 run for The Who’s Tommy - In Concert directed by Northwestern alum Geoff Button. Northwestern Communication promises, “a unique and electrifying tribute concert staging of this acclaimed musical that will rock your senses!”

The indie UK label Fruits de Mer has three new vinyl-only releases coming soon. California-based trio Sidewalk Society will once again pay tribute to The Action by recreating demos recorded by the British group for its Rolled Gold album back in the 1960s. The Action’s original version didn’t see the light of day until the early 1990s. Sidewalk Society’s self-titled 2016 EP had two covers of songs by The Action. Also on the FdM label, Tony Durant from Fuchsia has put together a double seven-inch release titled Song that features tracks culled from the psyche/folk band’s 50-year career. And American singer-songwriter/producer Anton Barbeau’s Heaven Is In Your Mind four-song seven-inch EP on FdM has one original tune, plus a David Bowie cover, a Big Star cover, and a Traffic cover.

Summer Of Love Revisited Part III. The Prop Thtr is staging the Andy Somma 60 Psychedelic Show on Saturday, July 22. According to a post on the theatre’s Facebook page, the event will offer, “music, dance,film, and more!” The late 1960s vibe returns to Prop about a month later when the very first YippeFest, a love child of the late Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival, runs the weekend of August 18 through 20.

Social Act, one of the first local bands I interviewed when I began my decades-long tenure at the Illinois Entertainer, recently reunited and has filmed a video to promote its upcoming album Today’s Tomorrow. Band members include Ellis Clark and John A. Krenger.

Wonder Woman is getting a lot of press these days, thanks to the new action-packed movie starring Gal Gadot. If you had enough cash, you could have snagged the Wonder Woman #1 DC comic from 1942 at a recent Heritage Auctions event. It sold for $95,600. Or you can probably still get the June 5 – 11 edition of Streetwise from one of the publication’s vendors for $2.00. It has Wonder Woman on the cover and features some great DC Entertainment images and copy by Anastasia Safioleas from Australia’s The Big Issue publication.

Summer Of Love Revisited Part IV. There may be no better way to remember The Summer Of Love than to pick up a copy of the remixed 50th Anniversary of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band album. The sound quality is amazing and the 2-CD edition includes 18 tracks of alternate takes of the album’s songs, plus versions of “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields.” I’ll be posting a more extensive look at this new release of the iconic album in the new future.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Concert News

Art from the Elvis Costello Facebook page.

A hearty Broken Hearted Toy welcome to Elvis Costello, who’s in town tonight with The Imposters for an Imperial Bedroom and Other Chambers gig at the Huntington Pavilion at Northerly Island. I see some of my Facebook acquaintances are there, and I’m sure they’re have a great time. Even though the temperature was up in the 90s today, it’s probably perfect on the lakefront right now.

Micky Dolenz comes to City Winery Chicago for shows tomorrow and Wednesday night, and Feist will be at the Vic Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday.

Roger Waters’ Us + Them Tour hits Chicago for a concert at the United Center on July 23, which means he, Paul McCartney, and Graham Nash will all be in town around my birthday. Give me a call, guys. We’ll get together.

Meanwhile, the massive, multi-media The Pink Floyd Exhibition: Their Mortal Remains is now open at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. According to a piece on the ABC News Radio website, the exhibit arrives on the 50th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd’s first single “Arnold Layne.” With its collection of instruments, artifacts, handwritten lyrics, and posters, it sounds similar to The Rolling Stones’ Exhibitionism, which has now migrated to our own Navy Pier. If Their Mortal Remains ever comes to to Navy Pier, I guarantee you Frank Carr from the Famous In The Future comedy group will move in there.

According to an article by William Lee in the Chicago Tribune, a huge crowd gathered at the corner of State and Randolph in downtown last Thursday to witness the official dedication of a huge and colorful mural honoring blues great Muddy Waters. Waters’ sons Mud and Big Bill Morganfield performed live with their band at the event.
I recently reviewed the Cover Palooza show at The Gallery Cafe, but I want to add how much I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to some of the musicians involved. I ran into Erica Loftus from The Right Tidys as soon as I arrived, and later had a chance to sit down with Lou Galassini from Van Go and The Right Tidys. John D. Kolonel from The Raine wasn’t performing that night, but he joined Galassini and me for while. Gallassini told me Van Go is currently recording a new album, which will be one of their hardest hitting one yet. The Raine will once again back Cliff Johnson from Off Broadway in a double bill with Material Reissue on June 24 at Wire in Berwyn.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Cultural Cornucopia

If you’re a Chicagoan with out-of-town guests this weekend, you’ll have plenty of ways to impress them with some hometown culture.

The Printers Row Lit Fest returns to the Printers Row section of downtown Chicago this weekend. The event will feature 200 authors and presenters, as well as 150 booksellers. There are other interesting vendors and food places too. Admission to the fest itself is free, but it does cost money to attend the speaking engagements/book signings by Abdul-Jabbar and Al Franken.

The world-renowned Chicago Blues Festival runs Friday through Sunday, in its new space in Millennium Park. Performers include Lurie Bell, Freddie Dixon, Bill McFarland and Chicago Fire Horns, Rhiannon Giddens, and Ronnie Baker Brooks. Admission is free.

Two of Chicago’s most popular arts fests take place this Saturday and Sunday, and they’re within walking distance of each other. The Old Town Art Fair, which is located at 1763 N. North Park Avenue, will be back for its 69th year, with 250 juried artists, a garden walk, and live music. The Wells Street Art Festival, at the corner of North and Wells (just south of Second City), has a bit more of a party feel, and if the weather’s nice, the street gets extremely crowded. It also offers a schedule of live music.

The Andersonville Midsommarfest is located at 5200 N. Clark, and runs Friday through Sunday. The New Invaders, one of Chicago’s best 1960s cover bands, will be performing at Midsommarfest at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday.

CAKE - Chicago Alternative Comics Expo takes place Saturday and Sunday at the Center On Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. Special guests include Gabrielle Bell, Gary Panter Ben Passmore, and Jessi Zabarsky. Admission is free.

Long-time blues rock (and occasional classical) performer Corky Siegel will be the keynote speaker for Jews and the Blues, a three-day event held by the Congress of Secular Jewish Organization at the University of Chicago at Chicago this weekend.

Denny Laine, a founding member of The Moody Blues and a member of Wings; Fran Cosmo, who was a lead vocalist for Boston; and Joey Molland from Badfinger will be performing together at The Arcada in St. Charles this Saturday. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cover Palooza and YippieFest

The Cover Palooza event at The Gallery Cabaret last Saturday night gave local bands who usually perform original material an opportunity to pay homage to some of their favorite artists. The cover versions played by Van Go, Deadly Bungalows, Right Tidys, Red Wigglers, and 92 provided insight into the type of music that inspires them. Some of the selections were obscure, which led to a fun audience participation guessing game as to the artists being covered. Luckily, the Gallery Cabaret audience had an extended knowledge of power pop and alt rock.

Van Go’s set (each act did about five songs) included Blondie’s “Dreaming, The Plimsouls’ “Million Miles Away,” and as a change of pace, Def Leppard’s “Wasted.” The Right Tidys offered pumped-up versions of “Under The Milky” by The Church and Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold,” along with a faithful take on Cheap Trick’s “He’s A Whore.” Red Wigglers had fun adding a horn section to Devo’s “Mongoloid” and World Party’s “Put The Message In The Box.” I wasn’t able to stay for all of Cover Palooza, but I’ll definitely be back if there’s another round.

It looks like YippieFest, the tie-dyed offspring of the annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Ours Sins performing arts festival at Mary-Arrchie Theatre, is aiming to rock. Abbie vets like Frank Carr and Desiree Burcum of the Famous In Future comedy group are looking to carry the torch now that Mary-Arrchie has called it quits after a 30-year run. It has the blessing of former Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director and Abbie Hoffman impersonator Rich Cotovsky.

Singer-guitarist James Moeller from the alt-rock band whitewolfsonicprincess and garage rock outfit The Telepaths, is the designated Music Coordinator for YippieFest. Moeller is also a founding member (along with Carla Hayden of whitewolfsonicprincess) of Black Forest Theatre, which bewildered and amused audiences (in a good way) at Abbie Fest for several years. YippieFest is scheduled for the weekend August 18-20 at Prop Thtr. Musicians interested in performing can contact Moeller via the fest’s official website.

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