Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Another Christmas Song Under The Tree

When it’s done correctly, a rock and roll Christmas song can serve as an effective marketing tool. That’s definitely the case with The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, a Frankfort, IL quintet with a Monty Pythonesque name and a catchy holiday tune called “Bad Sweater Christmas Party.” Set to a shuffling beat with harmony vocals and a touch of glam, this seasonal tribute to those loud, and occasionally so bad they’re actually cool articles of clothing is available for a free download on the group’s Bandcamp  page. Adding to the fun are clever lyrics like, “I got some friends of mine/We’re diggin’ our knit design” and “So buy us another beer/It only happens once a year so you know better.”

The song is part of a digital album that also includes “Never Be Big Stars,“ a hard-hitting satire that evokes Cheap Trick. A glance at The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club’s Facebook page reveals a number of gigs on the Chicago club scene. There are also some songs posted, like “Bob’s Your Uncle,” that showcase strong melodies along with the impressive harmonies of lead guitarist-vocalist Bill Giricz, bassist-vocalist Dan Passarelli, and guitarist-keyboards player-vocalist Paulette Bertrand. “Bad Sweater Christmas Party” not only entertains, it inspires listeners to do some research on the group that recorded it.   


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Genuine Hollies Day

If you could take a look at my Facebook feed today, you’d quickly realize that December 16th is the birthday of Hollies guitarist-harmony vocalist Tony Hicks. The Chicago band Go Time! included him in its daily rock and roll birthdays list, and other musicians are weighing in with tributes. Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti posted a video of “Stop Stop Stop” and Dennis Diken, the drummer for The Smithereens, posted a clip of The Hollies performing “On A Carousel” at Abbey Road Studios in 1967. The A Hollies Appreciation page on Facebook is teeming with best wishes, along with video clips and rare photos of Hicks from throughout his expansive career.

That “On A Carousel” sequence can be found on a DVD called The Hollies - Look Through Any Window 1963 – 1975  that’s part of the British Invasion series from Reelin’ in the Years Productions. With a running time of 184 minutes, it’s a must-have for any Hollies fan, and includes interviews with Hicks, Graham Nash, lead vocalist Allan Clarke, and drummer Bobby Elliott (whose birthday is December 8th). It offers conclusive evidence of why many musicians, including Little Steven Van Zandt, regard Hicks as one of rock’s better and most under-appreciated guitarists.

Hollies fans would also be pleased with Ken Sharp’s recent book Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume No. 1, which includes 30 pages of quotes from Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, and Tony Hicks. There are also quotes from members of The Move about Carl Wayne, who fronted The Hollies for a few years after Clarke retired. There are also interviews with Ringo Starr, members of The Beach Boys, The Zombies, The Kinks, Badfinger, The Bee Gees, The Small Faces, The Who, The Byrds, The Dave Clark Five, and other artists Sharp considers to be progenitors of power pop. You can pretty much turn to any page and find a fascinating quote about how a hit song was recorded or how a particular musician felt about it. I hasten to add that this was a limited-edition release and is probably very hard to come by at this point. Keep an eye out for Volumes Two and Three of Play On!, which will focus on power pop acts that came along in later years.

In honor of Mr. Hicks’ birthday, here’s what he told Ken Sharp about that “On A Carousel” recording session: “I remember everything about recording ‘On A Carousel’. I had a very strange guitar sound with a Vox amplifier that had a midrange boost. I used one of the guitars that I had bought from a pawn shop in America.” Speaking of the U.S.A., here’s another quote from Tony Hicks:  “The enthusiasm from the American people to what we do is quite staggering. I mean, I remember when we got back together with Graham Nash and made an album called What Goes Around and we did dates in America. We did loads of press. What was amazing is all of the press was so very positive and excited about it. . . . They were really enthusiastic about what we were doing and what we wanted to do and that was really refreshing, and it’s still the same today.”

Which brings up an interesting point. Hicks and Bobby Elliott still tour with the current lineup of The Hollies throughout Europe, but they haven’t been to the States since a smattering of dates in 2002. So happy birthday to Tony Hicks, along with the hope that he’ll grant American Hollies fans their wish and come over here on an extended tour.


Friday, December 12, 2014


A “Simple Man” in the Sunshine State. Graham Nash has announced the dates for a series of solo performances he’ll be doing in Florida during the month of January. I hope this means at some point he’ll be doing a month’s worth of shows in Illinois.

The talented mimics of Tributosaurus will wrap up their Becomes The Beatles series at 8:00 PM tonight when they perform the entire Let It Be album at the Copernicus Center in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Accompanied by an orchestra, they’ll also play other elaborate selections like “I Am The Walrus” and “A Day In The Life” from The Beatles catalog.

The New Candy Store Prophets will perform the music of The Monkees and Tommy Boyce And Bobby Hart as part of the Go Go Holiday Rock And Roll Dance Party being held tonight at the Old Town School Of Folk Music. The Prophets are Phil Angotti, Tim Fowler, Anthony Illarde, Cathy Norden, John San Juan, and Jason Walker. There will be dance instruction at 8:30 PM; the rock and roll starts at 9:00 PM. 

U2 has added two more dates at the United Center in Chicago for its iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour, which takes place next summer. The band will be in town from June 24th through the 29th.

Five fish and a funeral. Singer-guitarist Steve Dawson will be pulling double duty at SPACE in Evanston tonight when Dolly Varden, the critically acclaimed alt rock/country band he’s fronted with his wife, singer-guitarist Diane Christiansen for several years, will share the bill with his new ensemble Funeral Bonsai Wedding. The music starts at 8:00 PM. 

Only a warped, frustrated old man could complain about this event. The Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center in Palatine will be showing It’s A Wonderful Life on a big screen tonight. The 7:00 PM screening will be preceded by Caroling With Allegro Adult Choir at 6:30 PM. Admission is free but you need tickets, which can be picked up just down the street at the Community Center at 250 E. Wood. Cutting Hall will show the comedy classic A Christmas Story on the big screen on December 22nd. Tickets for that screening are $6.00.

The Music Box on Southport will also be showing It’s A Wonderful Life on a big screen, along with White Christmas as part of its Annual Music Box Christmas Show. Tickets are $13 per screening, $20 for both films.

Local indie rockers Fort Frances have a show at 9:00 PM tonight at Lincoln Hall on Lincoln Avenue. The band is also offering a free holiday download with its cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on its website.

It’s possibly the most eclectic night of tribute bands you’ll ever see, and it’s for a good cause. Cover For Covers 6 - A Rock Benefit For Teen Living Programs, hosted by Mia Park, takes place tonight at Schubas at 3159 N. Southport. For $15, you can watch “female musicians and their friends cover their favorite bands to provide cover for homeless teens.” Here’s the lineup: Girlband plays Lionel Ritchie; Pet Theories play The Police; Ass Of Base plays Ace Of Base; Little Missiles plays Nirvana; The Sentinels play Beyonce; Little Queens play Led Zeppelin; Plastic Passion plays The Cure; Killest Queen plays Queen; and Impulsive Heart plays Connie Francis. The music starts at 8:00 PM.

Hey baby, I got candy canes. Jim Peterik (the very first musician I ever interviewed) will be headlining the Jim Peterik And The Ides Of March Christmas Show at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles tomorrow night, December 13th.

James Moeller and Carla Hayden of the whitewolfsonicprincess alt rock band are staging their annual Rock For Tots benefit tomorrow night, December 13th  at Redline Tap on Chicago’s north side. The entertainment includes The Darkroom Men, John Dalton, John Battles, Sameena Sultana, Hapkido All-Stars, Christina Trulio, The Telepaths (which includes Moeller and musician/journalist Pat Über-Critic McDonald), Elizabeth Gomez, The Rut. and Tina Teske and the Teskerderos. Those last two acts are offshoots of the Famous In The Future comedy group. People coming to the show are being asked to bring toys, and there will also be a raffle. Whitewolfsonicprincess now has an official t-shirt, if you’re looking for that perfect Christmas gift for everyone on your list.

WXRT’s Richard Milne will present his annual Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular this Sunday night at 8:00 PM. The wildly eclectic show is always a fun way to hear Chicago area musicians creating short audio clips that celebrate the holiday season, WXRT, and themselves.

Power of the blog. Various air personalities at WXRT have been announcing that its Live From The Archives Volume 16, a collection of live performances that originally aired on the progressive rock station, is quickly selling out at Chicago area Target stores. They haven’t speculated on the possibility that these brisk sales could be due my positive review of the CD on December 4th, but it seems likely.

Kevin Lee And The Kings will be performing melodic power pop/rock tunes at The Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue next Thursday. They’ll be part of four-band lineup that includes Dogs On The Subway, Walk Off Hits, and Stop.Drop.Rewind. The music starts at 8:00 PM; admission is $9. There will be a live video streaming on gigitytv.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

All I Want For Christmas

Australian multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri is a member of the international power pop trio The Britannicas, and frequently performs as a solo artist under the name The JAC. Whether he’s working with the band or on his own, Algeri specializes in imaginative and clever lyrics set to catchy arrangements. Each year, right around this time, he applies that offbeat approach to an original holiday song.

For 2014, he gives us “Sweet Tooth Ache,” a sort of muscular take on The Byrds, built with sitar, fuzzy guitar, a strong melody, and harmony vocals. Somehow it mixes Christmas, a dentist, and a summer romance that fizzled in December. Algeri gets help from his American mate in The Britannicas, bassist-vocalist Herb Eimerman, along with assorted musicians from Sweden, Finland, and Australia. There are even extensive liner notes by a fictional rock journalist about recording this effort in India.

As he has done in the past, Algeri is offering this year’s holiday treat for free on his Bandcamp page.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Of Brothers And Monkees

There are a couple of shows coming up that feature Chicago-based musicians covering artists that arrived on the rock and roll scene decades ago and still wield a lot of influence to this day. The Everly Hillbillies will be doing their tribute to The Everly Brothers at Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin tomorrow night. On Friday, The New Candy Store Prophets will perform the music of The Monkees as part of the Go Go Holiday Rock And Roll Dance Party being held at the Old Town School Of Folk Music.

Singers-guitarists Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis joined forces years ago and have been weaving Everly Brothers type harmonies with their power pop band The Abbeys ever since. So paying tribute to Phil and Don in a side project dubbed The Everly Hillbillies came naturally. They’ve gained a following on the local club and outdoor concert scene, and performed with Don Everly’s son Eden at The Arcada in St. Charles in 2013. The Everly Hillbillies will perform at Grand Victoria from 7:00 to 10:00 PM.

Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti kicked off his career as a founding member of the power pop band The Idea before moving on to a solo career. He’s also known for his tribute shows to The Beatles, The Bee Gees, and other 1960s bands. John San Juan is a founding member of the psych/power pop band Hushdrops, and recently joined Angotti for a tribute to The Zombies. For their Monkees show, they’ll be joined by musicians Tim Fowler, Anthony Illarde, Cathy Norden, and Jason Walker. The Go Go Holiday Rock And Roll Dance Party at The Old Town School Of Folk Music will feature dance instruction at 8:30 PM; the Monkee business starts at 9:00PM.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Go Time! - Rätsel

The fifth album from Go Time! is a 19-track effort with a German name that translates as ‘puzzle,’ ‘riddle,’ or ‘mystery.’ Occasionally, it’s a rätsel as to why the Chicago-based quartet still describes its hard-edged rock as power pop, even as it claims to be “Taking power pop to less-traveled latitudes.” That’s not really a problem, because Rätsel continues the successful approach Go Time! utilized on Tight Like Wood in 2013. The inventive, energetic arrangements, composed for the most part by lead vocalist-guitarist-keyboards player Scott Niekelski, offer a lot of variety. Including some fine examples of power pop.

The immediately appealing “No One Like You” could have easily come from the Gin Blossoms, while “Back Around” is an effective blend of a fetching melody and vintage psychedelia. The adventurous “Shotgun Express” could be exactly what  Go Time! means by, “less-traveled latitudes,” while “Demand” finds the band taking a lighter approach. “Tailspin,” which sports an exotic arrangement spiced with keyboards, and the hard-hitting opener “The Secrets” find Niekelski playing the role of an outsider searching for acceptance.

“Get By” and “Timebomb” are propelled by Niekelski and Paul Schmidt’s careening guitars, while “Life’s Wide Array” features an expansive sound built on acoustic guitars and majestic keyboards. Go Time! closes this ambitious collection with a revved up version of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” It’s not power pop, but it sure is fun.


Friday, December 5, 2014


Wilco kicks off its Winterlude 2014 series of concerts at the Riviera Theatre tonight, with five more dates between now and December 12th. That’s an ambitious undertaking, and even more a amazing is that the Chicago-based band has sold out all six shows of this WXRT Holiday Concert For The Kids event. People who were lucky enough to get tickets are being asked to bring a new or like-new toy or book for the children in Chicago area hospitals. If you don’t have a ticket, WXRT will be broadcasting this Saturday night’s concert live at 9:00 PM central time on the radio and on its website. The band recently released the compilation Wilco Alpha Mike Foxtrot - Rare Tracks 1994–2014.

Two of Chicago’s more entertaining cover bands, The Beatle Bros. and EXPO ‘76 will be sharing the bill tonight at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. The Bad Examples will be at FitzGerald’s next Friday.

Local singer-guitarist Ian Frees will be among the participants when Coffee Planet in Rolling Meadows kicks off its new series of Acoustic Night Jams this evening. Coffee Planet has also hosted poetry nights and displays the work of local artists. The acoustic jam sessions will be held on the first Friday of each month.

What the world needs now. Cracker will likely be performing “Teen Angst” and other catchy rock/Americana tunes at their Old Town School Of Folk Music gig tonight. Tickets are $30.

Get It On is presenting PowerPop Fest! tonight at the Debonair Social Club on Milwaukee Avenue. Three bands, The Typical, Peasantry, and The Viaducts, are on the bill. The music starts at 8:00 PM, admission is $10.

Chicago-based band Mutts have an LP release party for its latest effort Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4 tomorrow, December 6th at Metro. Archie Powell And The Exports, The Kickback, and the Cincinnati band Pop Goes The Evil will also be on hand.

U2 has announced plans for a major tour dubbed iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE that will bring them to Chicago for two dates at the United Center on June 24th and 25th. 

Ralph Covert, of Ralph’s World and The Bad Examples fame, has a CD release party tomorrow night at Schubas for his latest effort, The Accidental Soundtrack. Covert recorded it with Bad Examples mate Steve Gerlach and Michael Hartigan. He’ll be opening for Verve Pipe.

A new deluxe version of Chrissie Hynde’s impressive solo debut Stockholm is now available on iTunes, with live tracks from her recent performance at the iTunes Festival in London. It also has a new version of the holiday tune “2000 Miles.”

SOPRO Music is inviting jazz and blues fans to drop by the SIP Appetizer Bar in Oak Lawn tomorrow night to see guitarist John Moran and vocalist Catherine Whitney perform. The duo was recently part of SOPRO’s Thanksgiving Blues Revue, and went over extremely well. SIP Appetizer at located at 4911 W. 95th Street, the show starts at 9:00 PM.

Hey baby, I got candy canes. Ides Of March and Survivor member Jim Peterik will be signing copies of his Through The Eyes Of A Tiger book at the Barnes And Noble at the DePaul Center on Jackson in downtown Chicago tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM. On December 13th, he’ll be headlining the Jim Peterik And The Ides Of March Christmas Show at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles. Tickets for the Arcada concert are $39–$49.

The Arcada has The Robin Zander Band coming on December 20th and the 21st, and BoDeans will be performing there on December 27th. Several interesting shows have already been booked for 2015, including The B-52’s on February 12th, The Smithereens on April 3rd, Alan Parsons on May 29th, and the 50th Anniversary Tour of Peter Noone’s Herman’s Hermits on May 30th.

Let It Be - A Celebration Of The Music Of The Beatles comes to Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, IL for two shows on February 21st.

James Moeller and Carla Hayden of the whitewolfsonicprincess alt rock band are staging their annual Rock For Tots benefit next Saturday night, December 13th, at the Red Line Tap. Along with their band, the musical entertainment includes The Darkroom Men, John Dalton, John Battles, Sameena Sultana, Hapkido All-Stars, Christina Trulio, The Telepaths (which includes Moeller and musician/journalist Pat Über-Critic McDonald), Elizabeth Gomez, The Rut. and Tina Teske and the Teskerderos. Those last two acts are offshoots of the Famous In The Future comedy group. People coming to the show are being asked to bring toys, and there will also be a raffle. 

Fans who still lament the breakup of popular club/streetfest band Dot Dot Dot will be glad to know its former lead vocalist, the charismatic Adam Blair Heisler, is now fronting another big act on the Chicago scene, 7th Heaven

Local indie rockers Fort Frances have a show next Friday at Lincoln Hall on Lincoln Avenue. The band is offering a free holiday download with its cover of John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” on its website. 

Diana And The Dishes will mark their third consecutive year of headlining the annual Woman Power Holiday Show, when it takes place on Monday, December 22nd at Schubas Tavern on Chicago’s north side. This year’s evening of female-fronted bands will benefit Global Girls, a performance education organization for girls in the South Shore neighborhood. Diana And The Dishes will be backed by the six-piece soul group Everybody Say Yes, and Birdie Wing, a duo comprised of singer-songwriter Lara Filip and keyboards player Shannon Greene Robb, will be the opening act. Admission is $15, the music starts at 8:00 PM.

The December issue of the Illinois Entertainer is out and it has my reviews of new releases by The Buzzcocks, The Bangles, and The Safes.

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