Friday, October 31, 2014

Witch’s Cauldron

This is going to be Chicago’s coldest Halloween in quite some time, so aside from a few brave kids trick-or-treating, most of the seasonal activities will be going on inside. Here are a few suggestions for where to find some spirited fun.

The Double Door club, at 1572 N. Milwaukee Avenue, will be holding its 18th Annual Halloween Bash tonight. This year’s event features Rebel Rebels performing as David Bowie; AM Taxi as The Kinks; The Noise FM as The Police; Blackbox as Oasis; and Hessler as Guns N’ Roses. Judging from the Double Door website, there might be more bands involved. The doors open at 7:30 PM. General Admission is $10, VIP Admission is $20.

The Chicago-based psychedelic band The Red Plastic Buddha has recorded a fun video for the song “She’s An Alien” from their mind-bending new album Songs For Mara. The clip was directed by Henrique Cirne-Lima, and features burlesque dancer Red Rum in alien makeup menacing singer-bassist Tim Ferguson and other members of the band.

The second half of Halloweekend: The Return takes place tonight at Wall To Wall Recording at 676 N. LaSalle, at the corner of LaSalle and Huron in Chicago. There will be five bands on hand, each performing as a famous rock act. The music starts at 9:00 PM. There is nothing on the building to indicate that Wall To Wall Recording is located there, but there will be a sign by the door directing people to the entrance to Halloweekend.

I was there last night. The live performance space has the ambience of being in someone’s basement, and there’s no seating. But it became a bona fide party once the bands started performing. John Aselin and Phil Angotti, portraying Morrissey and Johnny Marr respectively, fronted a Johnny And The Creeps’ set of music by The Smiths. Their rendition of “How Soon Is Now” was one of the evening’s highlights. Tonight’s lineup is Chris Dorf And Friends as The Cars; Phil Angotti as Tom Petty; Metropolly as Blondie; Falldown as Uncle Tupelo; and The Bon Mots as Bob Seger. Admission is $10. 

No need for Stephen King. If those frigid winds just make you want to stay inside and curl up with a cup of tea and a scary novel, a few members of the writers coven I belong to can make that happen. Cherie Colyer has two entries in her supernatural Embrace series—Embrace and Hold Tight—and then there’s her more diabolical Challenging Destiny. Kym Brunner spins a chilling and funny tale of two teens caught up with the spirits of Bonnie And Clyde in Wanted: Dead Or In Love; and Susan Kaye Quinn delves into a futuristic society where just about everyone has the ability to read minds in her Mindjack sci-fi thriller trilogy.

On a related note, congratulations to Katie Sparks from our writers group on the publication of her first YA novel Reality Natalie. It’s not spooky, but its fun. 

Martyrs’ has assembled four bands to celebrate Halloween tonight. New World Ancients will be in costumes, performing the music of The B-52’s, and Terrible Spaceship, an eight-member band whose Facebook page lists its genre as ambient synthetic horror pop, will be performing songs from its Zontar, the Thing From Venus album. The Need And The Night and Funky Hot Grits will also be on hand.

People partying in colorful garments that arent costumes. There’s nothing Halloween-related in Rick Hromadka’s video for “Dreams Of A Hippie Summer (unless you think Twiggy is scary) but it is a fun look back at the carefree 1960s, set to a breezy arrangement. The song is taken from the Maple Mars singer-guitarists solo debut Trippin’ Dinosaurs, which was favorably reviewed here on BHT earlier this October.

On a theatrical note, The Mammals will offer an evening of female-created horror with its All Girl Edgar Allan Poe revue tonight at Zoo Studios. The show features pieces adapted from The RavenThe Tell-Tale HeartThe Black CatThe Pit And The PendulumThe Imp Of The Perverse, and The Masque Of Red DeathAll Girl Edgar Allan Poe runs on Friday and Saturday nights through 8th.

Jeff Kelley and David Metzger created the Zombie Grandma series, a mashup of zombie films and Leave It To Beaver, for Elgin’s annual Nightmare On Chicago Street celebration, but you can now watch three episodes on YouTube. I’ve created comedy bits for Kelley’s Coffee With Jeff internet series in the past, and I play a dimwitted FBI agent in Episode 3 of Zombie Grandma


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Various Artists - Shots In The Dark

With a weekend of tribute shows coming up on the local club scene in celebration of Halloween, it seemed like a perfect time to showcase one of the most fun tribute albums ever released. Shots In The Dark - A Bob Keane Production brings together 20 different acts to honor the mega-successful TV theme and soundtrack composer Henry Mancini. Most of the performers involved are unknown outside of the indie rock scene, although some might be better-known musicians performing under pseudonyms.

Mancini fans might not even recognize the revved-up version of “Experiment In Terror” offered here by Davie Allan And The Arrows, but it’s well known to regular listeners of Little Steven’s syndicated Underground Garage radio show. Poison Ivy of The Cramps delivers a bone-crushing rendition of “Peter Gunn,” and The Wondermints exude a hippie vibe with their take on “The Party.” Wiskey Biscuit likewise connects with the 1960s on “A Shot In The Dark.” The Jigsaw Seen, a band that participated on a number of these tribute CDs, has a blast with an amped-up “Baby Elephant Walk.”

Just about every track on Shots In The Dark works as an unexpected but happy marriage of Mancini’s genius for creating indelible melodies and a cutting edge band’s ingenuity. Other highlights include The Boardwalkers doing “Banzai Pipeline,” Four Piece Suit’s “Something For Cat,” Man Or Astroman’s “Touch Of Evil,” and “Mr. Lucky” by Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods. Even a literally out-of-this-world version of “Dreamsville” by Br. Cleve And His Lush Orchestra is fascinating.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

45 RPM Memories - “Don’t Box Me In”

Recorded by Stewart Copeland and Stanard Ridgway in 1983, “Don’t Box Me In”  is an off kilter declaration of independence that sounds like a mashup of the The Police and Wall Of Voodoo. The song retains its infectious melody while lurching through various tempo shifts, and comes from the soundtrack album Copeland composed for Francis Coppola’s film adaptation of the S. E. Hinton Young Adult novel Rumble Fish. Ridgway, best known for “Mexican Radio,” applies his distinctive delivery to Copeland’s clever lyrics about not being limited by other people’s expectations.

“I feel a tug on the line,” Ridgway sings, “Which end will I be on this time?” Observing the sad state of a fish in a jar at the end of the bar, Ridgway decides, “There’s an ocean out there that I gotta swim.” The arrangement taps into new wave while maintaining a unique identity, based on Copeland’s driving drumbeat and Ridgway’s wistful harmonica and energetic keyboards playing. Ultimately, “Don’t Box Me In” celebrates the freedom and confidence to be yourself. “There’ll be a time when I won’t remember what I was afraid of.” That’s a good philosophy for Halloween or any other time of the year.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Scare Tactics

A Few Halloween Celebration Suggestions:

Martyrs’ has assembled four bands to celebrate Halloween this Friday night, and there will be some role playing involved, along with some spooky stuff. New World Ancients will be in costumes, performing the music of The B-52’s, and Terrible Spaceship, an eight-member band whose Facebook page lists its genre as ambient synthetic horror pop, will be performing songs from its Zontar, the Thing From Venus album. The Need And The Night and Funky Hot Grits will also be on hand. Admission is $10

Halloweekend: The Return is an annual celebration in which a number of local bands each perform a short set of songs by a famous artist. There will be five bands each night starting at 9:00 PM on October 30th and October 31st in the live performance space at Wall To Wall Recording at 676 N. LaSalle, at the corner of LaSalle and Huron in Chicago. The Halloweekend Facebook page promises there will be a full bar. I scouted this address and discovered there is nothing on the building to indicate that Wall To Wall Recording is located there. If you scroll through the directory/buzzer by the front door, you’ll find Wall To Wall Recording listed, along with a number to call to be let inside. I’m not sure if there will be another system for getting people inside while the event is taking place. Previously, this event has been held at The Abbey Pub and Martyrs’, and based on those showcases, I can attest to the talent and imagination these musicians put into their tributes.

Once again the choices are eclectic and inspired. Phil Angotti, who has covered The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Squeeze, and The Doors, will be taking on Tom Petty this time around. He will also be portraying Johnny Marr to John Aselin’s Morrissey when Johnny And The Creeps perform as The Smiths. Androgynous Mustache, which does tribute shows on a regular basis under the Soundtrack Serenade banner, are doing The J. Geils Band for this event.

Metropolly is fronted by Holly Senchak, a versatile singer-guitarist who impressed in previous shows as Courtney Love and Liz Phair, and helped out The Webstirs when they portrayed ABBA two years ago. As a techno band, Metropolly should be right at home covering Blondie on this Halloween night. Will Phalen was right on the mark as Beck last year, so there’s good reason to have high hopes for his Johnny Cash W/ June Carter set with Anna Phalen this time around. The Bon Mots are Halloweekend veterans who relish stepping out of their indie pop mode, so it will be fun watching them play that old time rock and roll of Bob Seger. The other acts on board for Halloweekend 2014 are Neal Alger And Co. as King Crimson; Dirty Pigeons as Queen; Falldown as Uncle Tupelo; and Chris Dorf And Friends as The Cars. As usual, some of these oddball band names are nom de plumes for the musicians involved. Admission for each night is $10.

On a theatrical note, The Mammals will offer an evening of female-created horror with its All Girl Edgar Allan Poe revue on Halloween night at Zoo Studios. The show features pieces adapted from The Raven, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Pit And The Pendulum, The Imp Of The Perverse, and The Masque Of Red Death. All Girl Edgar Allan Poe runs on Friday and Saturday nights through 8th. Tickets are $20.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Various Artists - Postcards From The Deep

Today’s post is a combination Halloween playlist suggestion and a various artists album review. Postcards From The Deep is from the English indie label Fruits de Mer, although this time out it’s not on colored vinyl. Even though none of the songs has a holiday theme, this new release is being billed as a Christmas 2014 limited-pressing, and consists of 10 flexi-discs, 10 postcards created by artist Mick Dillingham (one postcard for each flexi-disc) a poster, and a CD with all 10 songs. There will only be 700 copies released to the entire world.

According to the rather self-effacing but funny press release (“yes, it’s another case of the same old, same old from Fruits de Mer”), the CD version is necessary because while flexi-discs make cool collectors items, their audio quality leaves a bit to be desired. As on a number of previous Fruits de Mer efforts, the mission here is to have modern bands cover songs (major hits as well as rarities) from the late 1960s and early 1970s. Far from being a “same old” thing, this approach has yielded adventurous results, and that’s certainly the case with Postcards From The Deep.

The entire CD is consistently wild enough for any party, and some tracks would be particularly well-suited for Halloween. The Loons’ cover of “Celestial Empire,” originally done by Dragonfly, is an energetic tale of a magical woman, and when The Crawlin’ Hex delves into “I’m A Living Sickness” by Calico Wall, it becomes a harrowing ride through a winding tunnel. The mind-altering “Brainticket,” originally recorded by the band Brainticket and done here by Astralasia, opens with distorted vocals and otherworldly synth noises. Fruits de Mer stalwart Icarus Peel electrifies the Laurie Johnson-composed theme from the 1960s Brit TV show The Avengers, transforming it into something Jeff Beck might have recorded.

The Chicago-based band The Luck Of Eden Hall delivers a thundering yet authentic take on Count Five’s classic “Psychotic Reaction,” while the always-enchanting Crystal Jacqueline succeeds with the catchy garage rock of “You Just Gotta Know My Mind” (previously been recorded by Donovan and Dana Gillespie.) The Thanes blast through “LSD” by The Pretty Things, while Schizo Fun Addict adds some indie rock style male-female vocal interplay to their haunting version of The Sorrows’ “Take A Heart.”

Note: According to the Fruits de Mer press release, some of the tracks on the Postcards From The Deep CD were re-recorded by the bands and are different from the flexi-disc versions, as well as from versions on the promotional CD.


Friday, October 24, 2014


A hearty Broken Hearted Toy welcome to Dum Dum Girls, who are in town for a show tonight at Metro. The band will be showcasing its Too True album, which came out earlier this year. Like on earlier releases from the Dum Dum Girls, vocalist-guitarist and songwriter Dee Dee Penny did a great job on Too True of setting angst to irresistible melodies, with the added allure of 1960s style twanging guitar.

Tickets went on sale today for the Sleater-Kinney gig coming up on February 17th at the Riviera Theatre. The recently reunited trio is also rumored to have a full length album coming out next year.

The Psychedelic Furs will be coming to City Winery in Chicago on January 5th and 6th, 2015. Tickets went on sale yesterday. On January 8th, Marshall Crenshaw and Bottle Rockets will be at the venue.

Last Rites is presenting an odd and imaginative lineup at Subterranean tomorrow night that will likely involve loud music, sci-fi, and comedy. Captured! by Robots are the headliners; the other acts on the bill are I Love Rich; The Luck Of Eden Hall; and Beast Warrior. Tickets are $12 to $14, showtime is 8:30 PM.

Fun with pasta. SOPRO will present the all-original lineup of popular Chicago club band The Dancing Noodles tomorrow night at Sullivan’s Irish Pub in Midlothian, IL.

Elgin will hold its fourth annual Nightmare On Chicago Street, an ambitious Halloween celebration in the downtown area, tomorrow, October 25th. There will be special guests, live rock bands, and a costume contest. Part of the entertainment will be a store front theater showing Zombie Grandma, an original sitcom created by Jeff Kelley and David Metzger. I had the pleasure of performing in some of the scenes of Zombie Grandma. Admission for Nightmare On Chicago Street is $10.

Hushdrops, the Chicago-based power pop/psychedelic band, will be performing songs from its long-awaited full-length effort Tomorrow at the Reckless Records store at 3126 N. Broadway tomorrow (October 25th) at 3:00PM.

Halloweekend: The Return takes places on Thursday, October 30th and Friday, October 31st at Wall To Wall Recording at 676 N. LaSalle. The lineup includes Phil Angotti as Tom Petty; Androgynous Mustache as The J. Geils Band; Metropolly as Blondie; Will Phalen and Anna Phalen as Johnny Cash W/ June Carter; The Bon Mots as Bob Seger; Neal Alger And Co. as King Crimson; Johnny And The Creeps (featuring John Aselin and Phil Angotti) as The Smiths; Dirty Pigeons as Queen; Falldown as Uncle Tupelo; and Chris Dorf And Friends as The Cars. Admission for each night is $10.

Bands across the water. The British Invasion: How 1960s Beat Groups Conquered America is a new exhibit that opened at The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool on October 16th. It’s being curated by the Los Angeles-based GRAMMY Museum in a joint effort by the two institutions, and features artifacts from various English groups from the 1960s. Bobby Elliott, longtime drummer with The Hollies, has lent some interesting items to the exhibit, including a life-size cutout of himself, his Ludwig 400 snare drum, and a suit once worn by Hollies guitarist Tony Hicks. It sure would be nice to see The British Invasion come to Chicago. After all, we have done quite nicely with the David Bowie Is exhibit, which runs through January at the Museum Of Contemporary Art. 

Mac’s On Slade in Palatine will present A Tribute To The Beatles next Thursday, October 30th.

Learn several languages in just over two minutes. There are 10 catchy power pop/indie rock songs on the recently released CD Record Heat by The Safes, and the Chicago band is promoting one of them using an internationally flavored video. Directed by Mickey Mangan, “I Would Love To” features footage of The Safes performing live, along with scenes of fans in different countries holding up signs with a line from the song written on it in their native language. The clip recently premiered on the Yahoo Music site. 

Mooner, the Chicago-based band whose latest effort was favorably reviewed here on BHT, has a show coming up next Monday, October 27th at the Township club in Chicago, at 2200 - 2202 N. California. The Iowa power pop band TWINS will also be on the bill, most likely playing songs from their new Tomboys On Parade album. The experimental rock trio The Thons will also be on hand.

Pride Before A Fall by The Church made its debut earlier this week by way of a video on the official Rolling Stone website. The atmospheric ballad is from Further/Deeper, the full length effort the Australian band plans to release on February 3rd, 2015. It will be the 25th album by The Church but the first without guitarist Marty Wilson-Piper on board. Ian Haug from the band Powderfinger joined founding member Peter Koppes on guitar for this effort. There is talk of The Church embarking on a U.S. tour at some point next year.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

David Bierman Overdrive - Standard Skies

Detroit-based singer-guitarist David Bierman had been away from the music scene for 20 years before returning to the studio to record Standard Skies under the clever moniker of David Bierman Overdrive. In the early 1990s, he fronted Junk Monkeys, a band that garnered rave reviews for its energetic power pop. Backed by a number of veterans of Midwest area bands, Bierman returned to those power pop roots while simultaneously driving full force into Country And Western music.

“Unmade Things” and “Fountain” are appealing mid-tempo songs augmented by David Feeny’s pedal steel guitar playing, and “Swept Away” is a touching, acoustic love song. “You Make Me Feel” is actually Bierman’s reinterpretation of the Aretha Franklin classic “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” and he gives it an inviting treatment that’s equal parts roots rock and soul music.

Bierman’s rough hewn vocals evoke Joe Strummer of The Clash and Mike Peters of The Alarm. That approach adds authenticity to more intimate material like “Waltz Of The Spilled Drinks,” and lets him soar on the high energy winners “Superhuman” and “Marking Days.” “This Is The Chorus” is one of those songs that’s about the making of a song, but Bierman avoids the usual pitfalls via his clever lyrics and irresistible power pop arrangement.

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