Friday, January 30, 2015

Slumgullion


Happy Anniversary to EXPO ‘76. The eclectic covers band comprised of seasoned and humorous veterans of Chicago’s fertile rock scene will celebrate five years of playing any damn song they want with a show at 27Live in Evanston tonight. Robert Cornelius will be their special guest.

I’m certainly not alone in wishing David Bash a quick and full recovery. The International Pop Overthrow Founder/CEO recently had two procedures to fix a blockage in one of his arteries. His Facebook page is overflowing with Get Well messages from musicians and friends from around the globe.

If you were at Lollapalooza in 2013, and caught shows by Atlas Genius and/or Imagine Dragons, you might want to check out the flick Project Almanac, which opened in Chicago today. As revealed by Luis Gomez in a recent Chicago Tribune article, the sci fi tale of three young time travelers filmed a few scenes at those Lolla performances. Project Almanac didn’t fare too well with Chicago’s film critics though; drawing lukewarm reviews in the Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago’s garage rock pioneers The Shadows Of Knight will celebrate their legacy with a 50th Anniversary Show March 14th at The Blues Bar in Mount Prospect. According to a Facebook post, lead vocalist Jimy Sohns is trying to persuade some of the band’s original members to join him on stage for the event. Other special guests will be announced.

The critically acclaimed and sometimes confrontational singer-songwriter Steve Earle has a four-night Solo And Acoustic residency coming up at City Winery February 1 – 4. His special guest will be the off-kilter but always enchanting singer-songwriter Dawn Landes. 

Tickets for Death Cab For Cutie’s April 30th show at the Chicago Theatre went on sale today. Earlier this week, tickets went on sale for Guster’s April 10th gig at the Riviera Theatre.

In light of recent new stories about how the David Bowie Is exhibition was one of the few major successes in what was considered an off year for Chicago area museums in 2014, the obvious solution is to bring in more rock-related exhibitions. The Grammy Museum’s The British Invasion: How 1960s Beat Groups Conquered America comes to mind, but it’s booked at The Beatles Story museum in Liverpool through October 2016. Maybe Chicago could latch onto it after that, but in the meantime, there must be some other worth shows of that ilk available.

Somewhat along those lines, the British Invasion 2015 Tour, which features Peter Asher; Chad And Jeremy;  Billy J. Kramer; Mike Pender’s Searchers; Denny Laine of The Moody Blues and Wings; and Terry Sylvester of The Hollies, will be at City Winery on March 7th. Each of these acts has turned in impressive performances at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago in recent years, so it should be a treat to see them all together in one show.

Singer-guitarist Ian Frees will be among the musicians performing at the Acoustic Night at Coffee Planet in Rolling Meadow next Friday. 

Crosby, Stills and Nash have added a second show at The Chicago Theatre. They’ll now be there on May 5th and 6th.

He can still play the honky tonk like anything. Tickets for Mark Knopfler’s October 2nd show at the Chicago Theatre go on sale at 10:00 AM tomorrow. 

The very first Elgin Literary Festival takes place next weekend, February 6–8 at several venues in the downtown area. There will be free workshops, panel discussions, sales, book signings, and guest speakers.

Veteran Chicago musician Eric Howell recently released a single as a preview to his upcoming Music On The Bones album. Working under the moniker King Mixer, he’s offering the melodic fable “Zookeepers” and the more power pop-oriented “45.” The singles are available online and at Howell’s live gigs.

Singer-songwriter Dann Morr wrapped up his Tuesday nights in January residency at The Hideout with a guest appearance from singer-guitarist Kevin Lee.

The Arcada in St. Charles has borrowed Cupid’s bow and arrow and is aiming to entice 1980s rock fans with a Valentine’s Day double bill of Loverboy and The Romantics. And since Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, it’s a perfect date night.

Let It Be - A Celebration Of The Beatles, a London-bred musical featuring 40 of the band’s tunes, will be at the Rosemont Theatre for two shows on February 21st.

Honey And The 45s, a coed band that combines elements of blues and jazz into original rock songs, will be showcasing its new Mad CD at the Tonic Room next Friday night. They’ll also be at The Hideout on March 1st.

The official David Tennant blog is keeping fans informed on the progress of a Tenth Doctor Figure being created by Big Chief Studios. A closeup of the figure’s face is so lifelike it’s almost frightening. There’s no doubt the finished product, featuring The Doctor in his blue pinstriped suit and sneakers, will be extremely cool. But the blogsite notes it will cost “in the region of £159.99-£189.99.” Now if only someone could make action figures of The Doctor’s companions that looked remotely like the actresses that portrayed them.

Speaking of Doctor Who companions, I was wrong when I stated last week that the Karen Gillan BBC movie We’ll Take Manhattan would be on the ABC network this past Thursday. It’s currently being shown on the ABCiview website. I apologize for the error.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Eric Howell - “Zookeepers” and “45”


Just a quick note before moving on to Mr. Howell’s new single. Phil Angotti, Jim Barclay, and Casey McDonough will be performing an acoustic version of the Squeeze Singles - 45s and Under album at Reggie’s on State Street in Chicago tomorrow night at 9:00 PM. I saw Angotti perform Squeeze songs a few years back as part of a Halloweekend Show at the Abbey Pub, and he did Difford and Tilbrook proud.

Eric Howell, a Chicago-based singer-songwriter and radio producer whose debut album Greatest Hitch! Vol 1 is still highly regarded among power pop aficionados, has just released a new single as a preview to his upcoming album Music On The Bones. Now working under the moniker King Mixer,  he’s joined on the A Side “Zookeepers” by drummer Nick Kitsos, guitarist Grant Tye, bassist Young Jake Crowe, and keyboards players Matt Nelson and Christian Cullen. It’s a fable about trying to navigate a troubled world (or possibly an after-world) laced with striking imagery of a media darling/femme fatale, fallen angels, and runaway nukes. “Zookeepers” is set to an engaging, mid-tempo arrangement and leaves listeners to ponder the question, “What if weve already been saved, and all of this is a paradise that we blew up?”

The B Side “45” is slightly less ominous and moves to an energetic power pop beat with rough-hewn vocals that are reminiscent of Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter. Crafted by King Mixer, Young Jake Crowe, Christian Cullen, and drummer Mike Frumlee, this catchy look at how time spins like a vinyl record is actually the more impressive of these two new songs. Both are available online and will be for sale at King Mixer’s upcoming live gigs.

And one final note: Today is Eric Howell’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Eric!

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Kooks - Listen


With the high-spirited Behind The Force Choir heralding its arrival on the opening track, it’s clear that Listen is going to be different from what we’ve learned to expect from The Kooks. The band has dabbled in different styles on previous efforts, but this album, released last year, is almost a complete makeover. At times, Listen answers the question, “What would four English working-class lads sound like if they tried to become Prince?” Funky rhythms and playful keyboards flow throughout these 11 tracks with varying degrees of success.

“Around Town,” the previously mentioned first song, is a gospel-fueled call for people to avoid violence and get involved with the world around them, while the optimistic “Are We Electric” evokes successful Brit techno bands like the Kaiser Chiefs. “Forgive And Forget” authentically recreates the fun and irresistible grooves of The Purple One. “Sunrise,” on the other hand, feels like a calculated attempt at a dance club hit single, and the “Down down diggy de down” singing on the mercifully short “Down” is just plain annoying.

The danger on Listen is that the amiably eccentric Kooks could lose their identity. The romantic “Westside” and imaginative fantasy “Dreams” are engaging but could have easily done without the synth embellishments. Luckily, “See Me Now,” a heartfelt tribute to a deceased father, is left uncluttered, while the compelling protest of “It Was London” is set to a gritty mix of acoustic and electric guitars. Listen has its adventurous attributes, but here’s hoping The Kooks’ core strengths are back in full force on their next effort. 

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Alvvays - Alvvays


Alvvays (pronounced Always) has been attracting a lot of attention since releasing this self-titled debut of shoegazer/dreamy pop songs last summer. The Toronto-based quintet was one of the headliners at Chicago’s recent Tomorrow Never Knows Festival, and will be back on March 27th as the opening act for The Decemberists at The Chicago Theatre. Lead singer-guitarist Molly Rankin’s ethereal vocals weave heartache within irresistible melodies and twangy guitars in much the same way Dee Dee Penny does with the Dum Dum Girls. There’s also a sparse, nocturnal feel to these arrangements that captures the excitement of new wave’s earliest days.

On the slow, engaging shoegazer track “Archie, Marry Me,” Rankin effectively channels the conflicted emotions of a woman who’s fallen for a guy saddled with a crippling fear of serious relationships. The woman in the catchy opening track “Adult Diversion” also feels neglected, wondering, “Is it a good time, or is it highly inappropriate?” That same sense of longing is set to a spooky keyboards and percussion backdrop on “Red Planet.” Alvvays takes another imaginative turn on “Dives,” by adding solemn, techno-oriented keyboards to a song that evokes a slow dance at a 1950s sock hop. Still, the best moments on this impressive first effort come when Rankin and her mates cut loose on the energetic “Next Of Kin” and “Atop A Cake.” 

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Slumgullion


Former Doctor Who star Karen Gillian’s underrated sitcom Selfie didn’t fare well on ABC, but she’ll be back on the same network next Thursday night with another show about taking pictures. We’ll Take Manhattan is actually a Brit film set in the 1960s that first aired on the BBC in 2012. It centers on the early days of trendsetting model Jean Shrimpton and photographer David Bailey.

The Pitchfork website is reporting that 1960s garage rockers The Sonics will soon be releasing their first album since 1967. The news was also shared on Facebook by Dig It Up, the concert promoting arm of Australia’s very fun and garage rock influenced band The Hoodoo Gurus. The Sonics joined the Hoodoo Gurus as part of the 2012 Dig It Up tour. The Sonics will be at Thalia Hall in Chicago with Barrence Whitfield and The Savages on April 24th.

The six-part, various artists digital album Legends: Shoulder To Shoulder was released earlier this week by The Pete Quaife Foundation Quaife was the original bassist for The Kinks. The foundation that was formed shortly after his death in 2010 has been using events and albums released on its own label to raise funds to supply sterilized kindles, play stations, and other devices that can be used by children undergoing kidney dialysis. The musician himself had suffered through the those monotonous treatments. Shoulder To Shoulder includes tracks by Noel Gallagher; Terry Reid/Kast off KinKs; The Jigsaw Seen; Michael Des Barres; Tommy Keene; John Wicks and The Records; Peter Noone; Paul Weller; Roger McGuinn; Mike Pender’s Searchers; Johnette Napolitano; and Robin Hitchcock.

Looking up. Speaking of Noel Gallagher, he’ll be bringing his High Flying Birds for a show at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago on May 29th. Tickets went on sale today.

Other shows that went on sale today include Jenny Lewis at The Vic on May 18th; Screaming Females at Empty Bottle on March 27th; and Southern Culture On The Skids at FitzGerald’s on May 6th.

Hootin’ and hollerin’ at The Hideout. Pearls Mahone, the Chicago-based singer who has traveled the globe belting out authentic rockabilly, country, and bluegrass tunes, is having a release party for her solo debut Echoes from the Prairie at The Hideout on February 6th.

The very first Elgin Literary Festival takes place on the weekend of February 6–8 at several venues in the citys downtown area. There will be free workshops, panel discussions, sales, book signings, and guest speakers. Sunday’s action includes workshops by published authors Kym Brunner, Katie Sparks, and Cherie Colyer from the writers group I’ve belonged to for a number of years.

The UK indie/vinyl-only label Fruits de Mer has just released its first album of 2015 and it’s a double LP titled Mechanisms Part Two from the prog rock band Cranium Pie. There’s a video of the track “The Lost Song” for all those people who have been clamoring for prog rock mind-bending videos with crustaceans in them.

Visitors to the Curly Tale Fine Art Gallery just north of downtown in Chicago have no doubt encountered the friendly pug dog Tina who inspired the venue’s name. I met her when I was there for a Beatles-related exhibit. Tina was recently diagnosed as having cataracts in both her eyes and is in need of surgery. Curly Tale owner Anita Jerman has announced a fundraiser to help cover the costs and is asking individuals for $20 donations Checks can be sent to Curly Tale Fine Art, Anita Jerman, 16 W. Erie Street, Chicago, IL 60654. 

Come on an amazing journey. The Paramount Theatre’s production of Tommy is a definite success, if you can believe critic Chris Jones (and I usually do) of the Chicago Tribune. Jone gave director Jim Corti’s take on The Who’s rock opera/broadway musical three and a half stars.

A sad note. Dallas Taylor, the drummer best known for his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (as well as being the mysterious guy on the back cover of the CSN debut) has passed away from kidney failure. There was a touching and well-crafted tribute to him by Steve Chawkins in this past Tuesday’s Chicago Tribune. It covered Taylor’s accomplishments as a musician as well as how he overcame substance abuse and went on to become a certified addiction counselor.

The indie rock band Save The Clock Tower will headline a show with two other bands at The Abbey Pub on January 30th.

Singer-guitarist Dann Morr, a veteran of bands like Wells-next-the-Sea and Mooner continues his residency at The Hideout this coming Tuesday night.

How can you say someone has indie rock cred if he’s never been a bubblegum card? I heard WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert talking about the new Topps Baseball cards for Eddie Vedder and Jack White on the air today and had to check it out. The two musicians qualified for this honor by appearing at baseball games to throw out the first pitch. Other celebrities featured on the new cards are Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and actor Jeff Bridges.

Hopefully, it won’t seem wildly inappropriate to follow the above item with this one, but as I was about to post this, I saw the news report that Cubs great Ernie Banks passed away this evening. When I was growing up, with four brothers and a Dad who loved baseball, Ernie Banks was one of our favorite players. My younger brother had a chance to meet him a few times in more recent years, and said that Mr. Banks was genuinely friendly and a class act. A tip of the cap to Mr. Cub. 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Phantoms - “Wasting Time”


First a reminder that the Fifth Annual Warren Zevon Birthday Bash takes place tonight at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. Androgynous Mustache, a local tribute band with a revolving roster of members, will once again anchor the event; covering the Zevon catalog from beginning to end. The Faders are also on the bill. The show starts at 8:00 PM, with $10 admission charge.

“Wasting Time” is the latest single from The Phantoms, a West Lothian, Scotland quartet that formed in 2012. Their EP This Is How It Should Be, released a year later, and the 2014 single “Revolution” have garnered a lot of attention in the UKOn “Wasting Time,” which officially arrives on March 15th, lead vocalist-rhythm guitarist Colin Simpson’s emotive vocals soar above a hard-hitting arrangement that provides equal opportunities for lead guitarist Colin McKillop, bassist-backup vocalist Peter Stewart, and drummer Blair Cullen to showcase their chops.

Following a shimmering guitar intro, “Wasting Time” quickly switches to a driving beat fueled by Stewart and Cullen’s mammoth playing. Throughout the song, Simpson convincingly creates a sense of urgency on lines like, “Have you made up your mind or are you wasting time?” Another highlight comes toward the end of the track, when The Phantoms delve into an intricate and haunting instrumental passage that evokes U2 on its Boy album. 

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

76 Reasons To Help Out Kids


While the biggest buzz among Kinks fans these days is whether or not the Davies brothers will agree on some sort of reunion to celebrate the band’s 50th Anniversary, there is another newsworthy Kinks-related event taking place. The six-part, various artists digital album Legends: Shoulder To Shoulder is being released tomorrow by The Pete Quaife Foundation. Quaife was the original bassist for The Kinks, and the foundation that was formed shortly after his death in 2010 has been raising funds in his honor to supply sterilized kindles, play stations, and other devices that can be used by children undergoing kidney dialysis. The musician himself had suffered through those monotonous treatments.

In Ken Sharp’s new book Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume 1, Dave Davies talked about Quaife’s essential role in The Kinks. “Pete was there from the beginning with me and Ray, and in many ways, he acted as a go-between for me and Ray, which was very important.” Davies also described Quaife as optimistic, very clever, and an inspiring guy to be around. It’s nice to see those same qualities at work in the foundation that bears his name.

The 76 songs on Legends: Shoulder To Shoulder are a mix of Kinks cover tunes and original songs; recorded by famous acts and lesser-know groups. Noel Gallagher performs “Here Come The Nice,” Terry Reid/Kast off KinKs cover “Waterloo Sunset,” and The Jigsaw Seen contribute “This Is Where I Belong.” Other acts involved include Michael Des Barres, Tommy Keene, John Wicks and The Records, Peter Noone, Paul Weller, Roger McGuinn, Mike Pender’s Searchers, Johnette Napolitano, and Robin Hitchcock.

Legends: Shoulder To Shoulder will be available tomorrow on iTunes. The Peter Quaife Foundation has released other albums on its own record label, with money from the sales going to help children. You can buy the albums or make a donation on the official website.

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