Friday, June 24, 2016


June 25 is Global Beatles Day. At some point tomorrow, Indianapolis-based organizer Faith Cohen will be interviewed by the BBC about the annual celebration of the lads’ enduring and powerful influence on music and popular culture.

Passion Pit and JD McPherson are the headliners for this year’s Worlds Largest Block Party at Old St. Patrick’s Church tomorrow night. The festivities run from 5:30 to 11:00 p.m. at the UIC Festival Lot.

By the time he gets to Woodstock. Graham Nash has announced a Fall Tour that will take him to the Northeast part of America. He’ll be visiting Northampton, MA; Portland, MA; Hartford, CT; and Woodstock, NY, among other places.

The Threadbare Book Party And Trunk Show, presented by The Ladydrawers Comics Collective, takes place tomorrow at In House from 4 to 8 p.m. tomorrow. The event will offer local artists, handmade clothing, art, comics, and literature. In House is located at 3520 W. Armitage in Chicago.

Mighty Con Dupage Comic Con takes place tomorrow and Sunday at the DuPage County Fair Grounds in Wheaton. The event promises over “100 vendors, artists, creators, and guests.” A day pass costs $8, a weekend pass is $12, and kids under 12 are admitted free.

Topical Humor. EXPO ’76, one of Chicago’s best, eclectic, and fun cover bands, is performing at FitzGerald’s tonight. The band’s singer-guitarist Dag Juhlin posted on Facebook, “We’ll be playing songs by British artists tonight, so please join us for Brexpo ’76.”

Phil Angotti will be joined by several fellow musicians as he celebrates his birthday tomorrow night with a performance at FitzGerald’s. The venue holds its critically acclaimed annual American Music Fest from June 30 to July 3, with a guest list that includes Dos Lobos (David Hidalgo and Louie Perez from Los Lobos); James McMurtry; Robbie Fulks; Webb Wilder; Tributosaurus as James Brown; and several other roots rock acts.

Graham Crackers Comics is having a Doctor Who Day Signing at its downtown location on July 9 from noon to 3:00 PM. Fans will have a chance to meet artists Andrew Pepoy and Jason Millet.

The first Wednesday of each month is Ladies Night at the downtown Graham Crackers location. All women will receive 10% off any purchases on those evenings. I talked with a few representatives from Ladies Night at The Printers Row Lit Fest a few weeks back, and they told me that Big Bang Theory notwithstanding, a growing number of comic and graphic novel buyers are female. Ladies Night anthologies featuring local comic creators are available for purchase at Graham Crackers.

Amy Gore recently posted on Facebook that the Gore Gore Girls’ previously unreleased seven-inch single “Don’t Cry” b/w “Sweet Potato” is now available through Bloodshot Records and Get Hip Recordings. According to the Bloodshot website, the record “includes neat-o insert stickers for your jukebox.”

Congratulations to WXRT early morning drive shift air personality Lin Brehmer on being named Best Radio DJ in The Reader’s annual Best Of Chicago Poll. Terri Hemmert, whose shift follows Brehmer’s each day, came in second, and the station itself was the runner-up to WBEZ in the Best Overall Radio Station category.

Also in the poll, journalist/photographer/blogger Robert Loerzel was named Best Chicagoan To Follow On Twitter. Many years ago, Loerzel was my editor at the Palatine Countryside newspaper. The Reader is available for free in various downtown locations and on Chicago’s north side.

Peter Gabriel and Sting are coming to the United Center on July 9th.

Cliff Johnson and The Raine will be sharing another bill with Kevin Lee And The Kings on July 9 at FitzGerald’s. I saw Johnson backed by The Raine at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine a few months ago, and this is a beneficial matchup for everyone involved.

Comic artist/musician Plastic Crimewave (AKA Steve Krakow) featured Johnson’s former band Off Broadway in his very cool strip The Secret History Of Chicago Music in this week’s edition of The Reader. Krakow’s hardbound book My Kind Of Sound – The Secret History of Chicago Music  Compendium, published by Curbside Splendor, picked up a rave review in the April issue of the UK mag Shindig. (The one with 10cc and Graham Nash on the cover.) Reviewer Kris Needs wrote, “Every turn of the page can elicit a gasp of pleasure, if not alway recognition, as Krakow works through the underdogs and mythical characters in jazz, blues, funk, soul, and rock’n’ roll who have lived in the city.”

Heart’s new album Beautiful Broken, which sports the ugliest cover I’ve seen in some time, is now available for pre-order on iTunes. The band will be probably be showcasing a few of these new tunes when it joins fellow Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductees Cheap Trick and Joan Jett at the July 19 Three For All concert at FirstMerit Bank Pavillion on Northerly Island.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Arvidson And Butterflies - Arvidson And Butterflies

Roger Arvidson, a Swedish singer-guitarist whose recording history stretches back to the previous century, seems to have butterflies on his mind these days. That’s what he calls the band of the veteran musicians backing him on this self-titled effort available from Kool Kat Musik, and it’s the name of one of his best new songs. Plus there’s a metamorphosis theme going on here, as Arvidson explores the various ways people outgrow each other in relationships. If that sounds too clinical, rest assured that these observations are couched in consistently inventive vocal stylings and guitar-driven arrangements.

“I’m changing into something new,” Arvidson sings on “Butterflies,” a catchy tune with impeccable harmony vocals. The acerbic “Tired Of Running” gets an authentic 1960s ambience built on Byrds-like ringing guitars, while “Will Follow,” a song about reluctantly staying in a stagnant situation, evokes the baroque pop of The Bee Gees in their earliest days. The list of energetic power pop gems includes “Part Of The Past,” “Lights Go Out,” and “Changing All The Time.”

Arvidson And Butterflies tap into other styles as well; creating a 1980s techno vibe via acoustic guitar and keyboards on “Want What I Can’t Have,” and adding an orchestral coda to “Change The World,” a much-needed call for people to “act wiser” and help each other. The delicate “Springbirds” pays tribute to the joys of seeing migratory birds in one’s garden. “People always tend to say a little more than I want to hear,” Arvidson complains on the nonetheless charming “Not A Dream,” but it’s not likely power pop fans will lose patience with this effort.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Tommy And The Rockets - Beer And Fun and Rock ’n’ Roll

Danish singer-guitarist Thomas Stubgaard evokes an American style sock hop on Beer And Fun And Rock ’n’ Roll, his first release under the name Tommy And The Rockets. Like his heroes The Ramones, Stubgaard infuses nostalgia with punk energy, along with a nod toward power pop masters Paul Collins, Rockpile, and Fountains Of Wayne. He supplies his own spirited “Ooh la la” and “Sha la la la la la” backing vocals, while Yank musicians Brad Marino and Kris “Fingers” Rodgers from The New Trocaderos support him on drums and keyboards, respectively.

Co-written with New Trocaderos producer/composer Michael Chaney, Stubgaard songs like “Time To Rock” and “Mommy’s Little Girl” focus on the exhilaration of dating and partying. “What Am I S’pose To Do” and the frantic “You Want Me (But I Don’t Want You)” deal with the darker aspects of relationships, while the catchy “Silly Teenage Love” depicts a guy contemplating the love that might have grown from a relationship he scuttled years earlier by being unfaithful.

“Take My Advice,” with backing vocals by Bente Helgeneseth, is a twisted look at twin sisters who are polar opposites of each other. The aptly named title track and “Here Comes Summer,” which evokes The Beach Boys with its celebration of bikinis, the ocean, and driving a Woodie car, are both loads of fun. All in all, this international collaboration turned out to be a smashing success.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Zombies - Still Got That Hunger

When The Zombies wrapped up their recent U.S. tour at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles a few weeks back, they included a number of songs from their 2015 album Still Got That Hunger. It was a risky move to try out new material in front of an audience eager for “Time Of The Season,” “Tell Her No,” and “She’s Not There,” but The Zombies knew what they were doing. Founding members vocalist Colin Blunstone and vocalist-keyboards player Rod Argent, with help from bassist-vocalist Jim Rodford, drummer Steve Rodford, and guitarist-vocalist Tom Toomey continue to draw upon the American blues and soul music that has inspired them since the early 1960s.

The Argent-composed “New York” harks back to the first time The Zombies toured America, and were warmly welcomed by artists like Patti Labelle and Aretha Franklin. Argent wrote all but one of these 10 tracks, and his keyboards work plays an prominent role throughout. Blunstone still possesses amazing power and range; whether he’s belting out the hard-edged “Moving On” or soaring on “Edge Of The Rainbow.” His own composition “Now I Know I’ll Never Get Over You” is one of the more pop-oriented tunes on Hunger, and features Toomey’s ringing guitar.

Along with highlights like the gorgeous harmonies on the romantic “And We Were Young Again” and the jazzy piano on “I Want You Back Again (2015),” there’s a theme running throughout Still Got That Hunger about overcoming adversity and looking forward to whatever comes your way. It can be found in the line “What doesn’t kill me will fill me with life” from “Moving On” as well as on “Chasing The Past,” when Argent vows, “Now we’ll take tomorrow and give it hell.”


Friday, June 17, 2016


Heart’s red vinyl 40th Anniversary version of its debut LP Dreamboat Annie went on sale today. It doesn’t have any bonus tracks, but I’m hoping to pick up a copy at Reckless Records while I’m downtown for the Gold Coast Art Fair, which is being held in Millennium Park tomorrow and Sunday.

Material Reissue, featuring original Material Issue members bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko with singer-guitarist Phil Angotti in place of the late Jim Ellison, are sharing a double bill with Green tonight at Wire in Berwyn. Zelenko and Angotti were guests on Richard Milne’s Local Anesthetic last Sunday on WXRT. If you missed the program, you can still catch it on the Local Anesthetic website.

Lin Brehmer, WXRT’s morning show host is sharing Emcee duty with Joel Murray from the hit TV show Mad Men at the annual baseball-themed Hot Stove Cool Music VIP Party tonight at Metro. Liz Phair, Bernie Williams, and JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound slated to perform, along with Peter Gammons and The Boston Hot Stove All Stars and Len Kasper and The Chicago Hot Stove All Stars.

The Tickets went on sale today for legendary punk pioneers The Buzzcocks’ September 22 show at The Vic, and new buzz band Catfish And The Bottlemen’s October 12 gig at The Riviera Theatre.

Jay Goeppner and his band Backdated will be performing at the Taste Of Des Plaines street festival tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.

Eric Howell’s King Mixer Record Release Party takes place tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. Phil Angotti and The Bigger Empty will also be on hand.

Whitewolfsonicpricness, whose new Shadow Of The Marigold is an ethereal, sometimes troubling but always engaging album, will be featured on WXRT’s Local Anesthetic this Sunday night. Host Richard Milne will also play tracks by Fort Frances, Studebaker John and The Hawks, Steve Leaf and the Ex Pats and Pat McKillen and Outburst on the 66.

Hard Rock Cafe is presenting The Underground Garage Concert Series on Friday nights this summer at Yankee Stadium in New York. The schedule includes WYLDLIFE next Friday; The Grip Weeds on August 5; Palmyra Delran and The Dopple Gang on August 26; and The Weeklings on September 9. Little Steven, please bring some of these shows to the Chicago area.

Taste Of Randolph, one of the higher class summer festivals in the Chicago area, is running this weekend with a band list that includes Peter Bjorn and John; The Record Company, and Save The Clocktower. I realize I’m hyping WXRT a lot this week, but the station is sponsoring a lineup of local bands on a stage that will replicate the Red Rocks Amphitheater outdoor concert venue in Denver. Those in attendance will have a chance to win a trip to Red Rocks.

I was sad to read in this past Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune that former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough has passed away at age 72. I saw the soft-spoken but interesting McCullough being interviewed at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago a few years back, and his anecdote about playing the guitar solo on Paul McCartney’s “My Love” was fascinating and funny.

The Mary-Arrchie Theatre has come up with an eye-catching t-shirt for its very last Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival, which runs August 19–21 at The Den Theatre. The hippie skull design is available in blue, pink, grey, or green, and can be purchased through the theatre’s Booster funding page.

Comedian/magician and now screenwriter Penn Jillette and director Adam Rifkin will be at The Gene Siskel Film Center on July 7 for the Chicago premiere of their new comedy Director’s Cut. The film also stars Herbert Blount and Missi Pyle.

Mighty Con Dupage Comic Con takes place next Saturday and Sunday at the DuPage County Fair Grounds in Wheaton. The event promises over “100 vendors, artists, creators, and guests.” A day pass costs $8, a weekend pass is $12, and kids under 12 are admitted free.

If you’re in downtown Chicago, check out the massive and really cool mural of Muddy Waters on a building at the intersection of Madison and State.


Thursday, June 16, 2016

Karen Haglof - Perseverance And Grace

Singer-songwriter/artist Karen Haglof’s off-kilter perspectives on life and romance are likely to be a comfortable fit for fans of artists like Lucinda Williams, Dawn Landes, and Elizabeth and The Catapult. Her second solo album Perseverance And Grace finds Haglof, a veteran of New York’s 1990s alt rock club scene, setting clever and often biting lyrics to alluring melodies. Her approach to arrangements is a bit repetitive but with help from bassist-vocalist Steve Almaas (who also produced this effort) and drummer CP Roth, Haglof keeps things interesting.

Most of her subject matter concerns navigating the various ups and downs of everyday life. The title track is a guitar-driven allegory in which Perseverance and Grace are the names of a married couple that befriends Haglof and nurtures her. “Monday Under My Belt,” a funky rock tune augmented by Liza Colby’s backing vocals, offers a survival guide for the work week, and on the bluesy “Tornado (Through The Bottleneck),” Haglof wishes for a “haven from harm.”

The outlook is much sunnier on the romantic rock song “Sunday Walk,” as a woman enjoys the simple pleasures of running errands with her significant other. “Trouble-Won’t Say More,” which features Mitch Easter on guitar, and the hard-hitting “Hair Bite” showcase Haglof's gift for crafting fun and imaginative wordplay. She offers the helpful strategy of taking things in stride on slinky and tropical-sounding final track “Cool Down.”


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Saturday Slumgullion

My wife Pam and I just returned from a week-long vacation in Washington, D.C. that included visits to most of the city's historical and cultural landmarks. I was barely back in time to prepare for one of Chicago’s best weekends of the year for art and entertainment.

Attending the Summer Suite 2016 Opening Reception at the Palette And Chisel Academy Of Fine Arts last night kept me from posting Slumgullion. So here’s a belated Broken Hearted Toy welcome to all the tourists, whether they’re in town for The Blues Festival, The Printers Row Lit Fest, Old Town Art Fair, Wells Street Art Fair, Spring Awakening, or America’s Cup.

The Chicago Blues Festival wraps up tomorrow night with a Tribute To Otis Rush at The Petrillo Music Shell. Participants include Jimmy Johnson, Eddy Clearwater, Lurie Bell, Kenny Anderson, and Eddie Shaw.

Spring Awakening, now in its fifth year, has one more day of positive vibes at Addams/Medill Park. 

The 32nd Annual Printers Row Lit Fest covers about three blocks in the south end of the Loop, and features well-known authors, fledgling writers, booksellers, and food vendors. I spoke with author Laura Quinn about her novel Punk Charming, which is set in the mid-1980s and is described as, “A Mixtape Of Spiked Hair, An Elusive Heir . . .  and Spiteful Stares.”

The Midsommarfest in Andersonville continues Sunday with several performances scattered across five stages. Long-time Broken Hearted Toy favorites The New Invaders perform an amazing variety of 1960s rock at 4:00 PM on the Swedish Stage.

There’s also one day left to check out Remix Chicago in Logan Square on Milwaukee Avenue. In addition to line performers, this street fair offers recycled art, repurposing workshops, and a vintage market.

The Kickback and Freakwater are among the acts scheduled tomorrow for Ribfest Chicago on Lincoln/Irving Park/Damen.

It looks like the weather will be perfect for checking out all kinds of art at The Old Town Art Fair and The Wells Street Art Fair tomorrow.

Tickets are now on sale for An Evening With David Crosby at Thalia Hall on August 31 and Patti Smith and her Band performing Horses at the Riviera Theatre on December.

A few days before leaving for D.C., Pam and I saw The Zombies at The Arcada in St. Charles. Prior to the concert, we checked out an art fair just outside the venue, and spotted Zombies guitarist Tom Toomey wandering through the crowd. I bought a very cool print of Paul McCartney and John Lennon from artist Chris Drenth.

The annual baseball-themed Hot Stove Cool Music VIP Party takes place next Friday, June 17 at Metro. Liz Phair, Bernie Williams, JC Brooks and The Uptown Sound, Band Of Their Own, and Avid Dancer are slated to perform, along with and Peter Gammons and The Boston Hot Stove All Stars and Len Kasper and The Chicago Hot Stove All Stars. WXRT morning show host Lin Brehmer and Joel Murray from Mad Men will serve as Emcees.

Passion Pit and JD McPherson are the headliners for this year’s World’s Largest Block Party at Old St. Patrick’s Church on June 25. The event takes place from 5:30 to 11:00 PM at the UIC Festival Lot.

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