Wednesday, June 30, 2010

That Was A Long Time Ago, Dearie

This new feature, where I present something I actually wrote several years ago, takes its name from a line in a sketch Dave Drazin wrote for the Famous In The Future comedy group. First up is a review of Ivy’s 2001 release, Long Distance, that was published in the Illinois Entertainer.


Adam Schlesinger’s two bands, Fountains Of Wayne and Ivy, couldn’t be more different. The former specializes in catchy pop songs delivered from a wise-cracking geek’s point of view, while the latter is all smooth grooves and European chic. With Ivy, Schlesinger, along with Adam Chase and French-born lead singer Dominique Durand, weaves elements of rock, trip-hop, and jazz into a sophisticated sound that’s uniquely their own.


Many of the songs on Long Distance are about troubled relationships. There’s a recurring theme of starting over that first surfaces on “Edge Of The Ocean,” a slow, dreamy song that features layered vocals and elegant piano playing. Ivy adds tropical percussion and Latin style horns to “Let’s Stay Inside,” an irresistible tune that promises sunshine will return once the stormy weather passes. “I Think Of You” is a simple, pretty song that suggests, “If we try, we can begin again.”


Other tracks explore relationships that are beyond saving. On the guitar-based “Blame It On Yourself,” a woman encounters her ex coming out of a store and brushes past him without saying a word. "Lucy Doesn’t Love You” is an energetic song that features a soulful arrangement, while Durand underscores the irony of “While We’re In Love” by seductively describing the emotional damage lovers inflict on each other. “Disappointed” is slow techno song about another doomed affair.


Love is depicted in a more positive way on “Midnight Blue,” which offers a wonderful fantasy built on sci-fi imagery, swirling synthesizers, and some funky guitar playing. Long Distance also includes an unlisted cover of The Blow Monkeys’ “Digging Your Scene,” done in Ivy’s unmistakable style.


* * * *


Ivy’s website, which was last updated in 2009, promised a new CD for the beginning of this year. No sign of it yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to new material from them.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Demo Listen Derby

Photo from William Steffey’s website.


Note: These reviews originally appeared in the Around Hear column of the Illinois Entertainer.


William Steffey’s latest release, the six-song Love And Armageddon, exudes the sophistication of an artist who has been creating music for two decades. The well-crafted pop of “This Show Must Go On” and “Had To Pay” brings to mind Chris Stamey and Crowded House, and Steffey taps into 1980s synth bands for the lush “Cartography By Candlelight.” Melissa Reasoner impresses with her back-up vocals on a funky cover of Thomas Dolby’s “Weightless.”


Toby & The Tremors continue to honor the tradition of Bruce Springsteen on their latest CD, Blond Alibi by spinning tales of everyday people through mainstream rock. The energetic title track depicts a guy searching for a woman from a one-night stand who can clear him of a crime, while “Hidin’ Their Tears” is a touching look at how a divorce effects a couple’s kids. The disc ends with two rollicking party songs, “Memphis Rescue” and “Shake That Stuff.”


The title of Trizonna McClendon’s second CD, NewFamiliar is an apt way to describe her fresh approach to old school R&B. It’s a romantic mix of McClendon originals and her interpretations of other songwriters that showcases her smooth and seductive vocal style. The funkier “Love Electric” aims more for the dance floor than the bedroom, and McClendon proves she can handle the more serious theme of self respect on “A Song For Teena (What About You?)”


3 In Counting creates an interesting Country & Western/jazz hybrid on its 3 In Counting Live CD. Eric Csukor’s fluid piano playing is consisting impressive on easy-going tunes of self-discovery like “At The Edge” and “Handshake.” A pair of bonus tracks show 3 In Country expanding into a more bluesy territory.

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Welcome To Frontier Days, Pilgrim

Photo of The Buckinghams back in the day from The Buckinghams website.


It’s called Frontier Days and has a Stage West, but this five-day festival being sponsored by Arlington Heights has nothing to do with John Wayne. Starting on Thursday, July 1st, the Chicago suburb, like most communities, will be celebrating the Fourth of July by bringing in several food vendors and a variety of entertainment.


Frontier Days kicks off with Starship, featuring Mickey Thomas on July 1st. Don’t look for Grace Slick to be there; she has retired from rock and become a very interesting artist. Night Ranger of “Sister Christian” fame headlines on Friday, and vocalist Dennis DeYoung from Styx will be belting out “Lady” and “Mr. Roboto” on Saturday night. Other acts booked include Bucket Number Six, Modern Day Romeos, Funkymonks, ARRA, Shy Violet, Kraig Kenning, Spazzmatics, and Solid Aire.


Being a 1960s fanatic, I’m more interested in The Chicago Gold Review, which will bring together Dennis Tufano of The Buckinghams; Sonny Geraci of The Outsiders and Climax; Tom Doody and Jim Pilster of The Cryan’ Shames; Jim Sohns of The Shadows Of Knight; and Jimy Rogers of The Mauds. Anyone who listened to WLS or WCFL back in the day, will remember the parade of hit singles these bands brought our way, as well as their popularity on the local club scene. The show starts at 7:30 PM.


The 1960s music will continue in Arlington Heights on Monday, July 5th, when Beatles tribute band American English takes the stage.

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Friday, June 25, 2010

Slumgullion #20

Poster art from Underground Garage website.


Sometimes I worry that this blog is a bit too Chicago-centric, considering I do get visitors from around the world each day. So here’s something for our friends in England. Little Steven Van Zandt is bringing his Underground Garage Revue to London for a pair of shows in the next few days. The international triple bill slated to play the Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park on Sunday, June 27th includes The Breakers from Denmark, the five-woman band Cocktail Slippers from Norway, and English neo-sixties rockers The Len Price 3. On the following night, the same three bands, plus U.K. outfit The Contrast will perform at The Relentless Garage. All of these acts have released CDs on Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool label. I had the great pleasure of seeing a Wicked Cool showcase that featured The Zombies as headliners in my hometown of Palatine (just northwest of Chicago) a few ago, and all I can say is, “Little Steven, please come back!!!”


Speaking of Palatine, I just took a quick break from the computer to dash over to the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater here in town to catch Big Guitars From Memphis. It was a perfect night for an outdoor concert, and the four man band provided an entertaining mix of Country & Western, jazz, and oldies. Versatile guitarist John Pazdan opened a cover of the Tom Jones hit “Delilah” by playing bits from the Pink Panther and James Bond themes, and then the band reinvented the song as though it had been written by Marty Robbins. I still hate “Delilah” for the way it contends that a man has the right to kill a woman if she breaks his heart. Anyway, the concert itself was fun.


The Black Ensemble Theater, which has received a lot of critical acclaim and commercial success for its plays honoring iconic black entertainers, will offer Nothing But The Blues, a celebration of the famous Chicago blues club Theresa’s, starting June 27th. The show was written by Joe Plummer and directed by Black Ensemble Theater Artistic Director Jackie Taylor and Dayrl Brooks. The Black Ensemble Theater is located at 4520 N. Beacon, in Chicago.


In other local theatre news, Cherrywood, written by Kirk Lynn and directed by David Cromer, opened this weekend at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre, at West Sheridan Road. The first few performances have practically sold out, and the play runs through August 8th. Mary-Arrchie is also gearing up for Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins XXII on August 20th, 21st and 22nd. Each year, this freewheeling festival brings together several theatre groups, comedy groups, and solo performers for an entire weekend of virtually non-stop entertainment. (See Archive, August 2009.)


Famous In The Future, the comedy group I performed with for 200 years, is currently seeking a male comedic performer to join the existing cast for its revue at this year’s Abbie Fest. Famous In The Future founding member Frank Carr is the only individual other than Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director and Yippie impersonator Rich Cotovsky to have performed at every single Abbie Fest. If you’re a funny guy hoping to take part in this year’s Famous In The Future revue, you can contact Carr at Frank@famousinthefuture.com


The Penthouse Sweets will be playing tomorrow night. June 26th, at Reggies Music Joynt in the south Loop, as part of a triple bill with The City Streets and The Black Tape. The show starts at 9PM and ticket price is a mere $5.


Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti has been busy this week. He opened for The Handcuffs at an outdoor show in Millennium Park on Thursday, and he’ll be celebrating his birthday with a special show featuring several of his friends at Quenchers Saloon on north Western Avenue this Sunday, starting at 8PM. Happy Birthday to Phil!


Kevin Lee & The Kings (see May Archive) will be performing at 5:00PM this Saturday at Jeff Fest, the annual outdoor celebration that takes place in the Jefferson Park neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side. Other acts slated to perform include 7th Heaven, He Said, She Said, Cuban Essence, Maggie Speaks, Rebel Roots, Hi Fi Superstar, Blackened, Lounge Puppets, K. Michaels Band, Good 2 Go, Darmata, Self Righteous Brothers, and Tumbleweed.


Linda Good, the singer-songwriter who performed with her sister Laura as The Twigs before moving to Los Angeles, has a new website. It includes a Broken Hearted Toy review of her performance at Uncommon Ground in Chicago last August (see August 2009 Archive). Upcoming performances include a July 17th Solo Acoustic With Special Guests House Concert in Los Angeles, and Twigs reunion gigs in Lexington, VA on July 30th and at Uncommon Ground in Chicago on August 6th.


Finally, Chicagoans are walking tall and proud these days. According to an article by Leonor Vivanco in today’s edition of Redeye, Chicago moved from a 46th place showing in 2009 to 7th in an America’s Manliest Cities list put together by the testosterone experts at Combos Snacks. I’d like to think its because I’ve been working out this year, but who knows?

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Thursday, June 24, 2010

CD Review: Welcome To Ashley - Beyond the Pale

When I hear terms like post-rock or post-punk being used to describe bands, it brings to mind lackadaisical slugs sloshing through dirges with wimpy vocals and lifeless arrangements. Fortunately, that’s not the case with Welcome To Ashley, even though they claim to have post-punk influences. On their full-length debut, Beyond The Pale, which follows last year’s critically acclaimed Absent Man EP, the band infuses catchy melodies with a raw energy fueled by some inventive guitar playing. In an interesting change of pace, the final track, “End Of The Line,” has a simple, acoustic arrangement that captures the gritty charm of The Kooks.


Originally from Nashville, but now based in Chicago, Welcome To Ashley calls to mind Eleventh Dream Day on hard-edged songs like “Gotta Get Back To You” and “I Love Monday Mornings.” “Light Of Love” is a high-speed, punk rock romance that features lead vocalist Coley Kennedy pining for a missing loved one, and on the equally aggressive “Thursday Afternoon,” he notes, “I’m not well as far as I can tell.” On “The Catbird Seat,” the band creates a theatrical ambience as Kennedy pokes fun at the entertainment industry, while the weird images conjured in the peppy “These Dreams Of Mine” are a lot of fun.


Welcome To Ashley has a gig coming up at Subterranean in Chicago on July 10th.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

45 RPM Memories: The Stray Cats - “Runaway Boys”

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.


I can’t claim that I’m always ahead of the trends, but I did catch on to The Go-Go’s and The Stray Cats long before they achieved mass popularity. My memory is a bit clouded looking back to 1980, but I’m pretty sure I bought this import single of “Runaway Boys” after hearing it being played in Wax Trax! on Lincoln Avenue. Ah, the fond memories I have of that record store.


“Runaway Boys,” along with “Rumble In Brighton,” would provide a cutting edge alternative to the more playful tunes on The Stray Cats’ 1982 U.S. debut LP, Built For Speed. With Lee Rocker’s galloping bass playing and lines like, “Mom and Dad curse the day you were born,” it was rebellious enough to appeal to the punks. As the title suggests, it’s about kids running away from home and trying to get their kicks on a limited budget. An instrumental passage finds singer-guitarist Brian Setzer cutting loose on his instrument. In addition to capturing the sting of youthful alienation, “Runaway Boys” had a raw feel that made it sound like a live performance.


The B-Side was a cover of “My One Desire,” written by prolific rock-a-billy songwriter Dorsey Burnette, and covered earlier by Ricky Nelson. It’s a mid-tempo summer romance fantasy, and Setzer does a fine job crooning lines like, “Put your lips to mine with your kiss of fire.”


Back in the early 1980s, I worked in a small Mom & Pop record store that was considerably less hip than Wax Trax! Records. We had a display of Billboard’s Top 20 Albums, and if we were sold out of a particular record, we simply put a different album in its place. Being on Chicago’s southwest side, we had a lot of heavy metal customers. One in particular was upset to see Built For Speed in the top seller slot, and moaned, “Don’t tell me those kitty cat guys are number one!”


“No, that’s just there because we sold out of the real number one,” I assured him, but couldn’t resist adding, “The Go-Go’s have the best selling album.”

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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #9

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.


These days, if you want to read about WXRT air personality Terri Hemmert being invited to the White House to see Paul McCartney receive a major honor, you can go to the station’s website and check out her blog entry. Chicago’s Finest Rock did things differently 22 years ago, when its DJ’s had their say in a printed publication called INSIDE WXRT.


Initially edited by veteran music critic Jack Hafferkamp, the first edition of this glossy four-page newsletter came out in January, 1988. I don’t have all the issues, but the name had changed to INSIDE XRT by September 1989, and to XPRESS by the Spring of 1991. The last copy of XPRESS I have is from Fall, 1995, when it was edited by Julie Boyle and Lyon H. Reedy, and printed on recycled, chlorine-free paper. There were never any ads; just a lot of information about WXRT sponsored concerts, as well as its air staff, programs, and promotions.


This particular issue came out in June, 1989 and features a front page article by current morning man Lin Brehmer, who served as Music Director back then. He gave a rundown on new releases, including one by Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, and Bill Buford, who could not call themselves Yes because non-participant Chris Squire legally owned the name. Brehmer praised Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever solo effort, and well as Elvis Costello’s Spike, and XTC’s Oranges and Lemons. He also liked The Replacements’ Don’t Tell A Soul and described the Minnesota band as having a reputation for “devastating live performances.” Two years later, WXRT would see just how devastating The Replacements could be when the band broke up in the middle of the station’s Fourth Of July Concert as it was being broadcast live.


The back page was devoted to photos from a Little Rockers contest, and one of the contestants looks like she could be a pint-sized Crystal Bowersox, who was born in 1985. A feature called Upcoming Programs listed The King Biscuit Flower Hour, which WXRT no longer airs, and Saturday Morning Flashback and Rampant Beatlemania, which, thankfully, are still carried by the station.


It’s a fun nostalgia trip glancing through issues of INSIDE WXRT, and I wonder if maybe we aren’t sacrificing some valuable memories in this digital age. Looking at all the Black Hawks souvenir inserts the Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times have been stuffing into their newspapers these days, it’s hard to think of an online equivalent that would satisfy fans’ need to savor the Stanley Cup victory.

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Monday, June 21, 2010

Pam Appreciation Day!

Each year, on June 21st, I celebrate Pam Appreciation Day in honor of my wife. She was instrumental in helping me set up this blog, and has been extremely supportive of my countless creative endeavors, interests, and obsessions. Here are a few examples:


When we first started dating back in 1989, it didn’t take long for her to discover that I’m an avid Hollies fan. Pam’s an extremely talented artist, and she decided to paint a portrait of the band for me. She did a great job, and the painting (see above) continues to hold a place of honor in my media room.


One of our first dates involved seeing The Smithereens perform at an outdoor concert in Grant Park in Chicago. It was a mercilessly sunny day, and Pam soon looked like she would pass out from the heat. I decided we’d have to leave, but she refused because she didn’t want me to miss one of my favorite bands. So we compromised. I stood up directly in front of her to block out the sun. Which must have looked incredibly ignorant to people around us, because that meant she couldn’t see the stage, but at least I provided a bit of refreshing shade.


When The Hollies came to America for a brief series of concerts in 2002, Pam drove me to Stillwater, Minnesota so I could see them. Why they chose that town instead of somewhere in the Chicago area, I’ll never know. Unfortunately, the concert got rained out, but we did see their sound check since the concert was outside, and had a chance to chat with a very gracious Carl Wayne, who was then the lead vocalist for The Hollies. I also met a fellow Hollies fan who has been my friend ever since.


Pam drives me to my writers meetings for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators twice a month. If any of my novels ever get printed, it will due in part to this very helpful group, and my wife for taking me to the meetings.


Pam and I have created a series of short video clips called Manchester Gallery. They can be seen on the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show. I write the clips and perform in them, which takes about 10 minutes to do. Pam does all the taping and editing, which takes quite a bit longer.


So, for all the wonderful things my wife does for me, I once again celebrate Pam Appreciation Day. Feel free to use this occasion to express gratitude for your own significant other.


Happy P.A.D., Pam!! Love, Terry

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Slumgullion #19

Comic book cover art taken from Jane Wiedlin's Facebook page.

Congratulations to The Go-Go’s for being honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. Now if only this would keep them from breaking up. Meanwhile, Jane Wiedlin, whose recent injury caused the Go-Go’s to cancel their tour, is sure to be much more durable in her comic book persona, Lady Robotika. The musician is telling fans on Facebook that they need to pre-order Issue #1, which will be published by Image comics, at their local comic shops by June 24th. Maybe if the comic book-loving nerds on Big Bang hear of Wiedlin’s alter ego, it will result in a guest spot on the show for her.


Bangles guitarist-vocalist Vicki Peterson has extended her congratulations to The Go-Go’s on their Walk of Fame honor. In a separate tweet, she noted that she, sister Debbi, and Susanna Hoffs just finished a new Bangles song that will be a tribute to famed songwriter Toni Stern.


Indie rock for a good cause: The Handcuffs will be performing at a benefit for the Chicago Abused Women Coalition at The Viaduct on Saturday, June 19th. The show starts at 10PM and admission is $10. The Handcuffs will also be part of an impressive double bill when they and Phil Angotti perform in Millennium Park on Thursday, June 24th. Angotti kicks things off at 4PM, followed by The Handcuffs at 5:30PM.


Avant garde indie rockers WhiteWolfSonicPrincess are coming off a successful gig at Goose Island on north Clark Street, and will be playing from 1PM to 2:30PM Saturday afternoon at the Custer’s Art Fest in Evanston. The stage will be located at Chicago and Main Street. Leave it to radical guitarist-vocalist James Moeller to make a crack about Sitting Bull on his Facebook post.


Yesterday, I did a post about Paul Collins, and wondered if he would be coming to the Chicago area soon. I’ve just heard from Martha Westbrook, the Midwest Commander for The Beat Army, that Paul Collins will be performing at The Empty Bottle on August 25th.


Hollus, a Chicago band that exudes the look and sound of classic 1970s rock bands like The Faces and The Who, has just released its first official video. Their well-produced clip for “Songs That You Love” features the musicians and friends frolicking at various locations, and finds Hollus working in a lighter, jangling pop mode. Maybe those appearances at International Pop Overthrow are rubbing off on them. At any rate, it’s a good song and a good video.


Happy birthday to Paul McCartney. Nice to see so many contemporary musicians and groups saluting him on Facebook.


Anyone familiar with the anecdote about how Paul’s original working title for “Yesterday” was “Scrambled Eggs” will hopefully get a kick out of a running gag my wife and I have going on our comedy series, Manchester Gallery. And when I say ‘comedy series,’ I mean some short clips that can be seen on the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet program. I play an inept and untrustworthy curator of a pop culture museum. On one episode, I displayed the scrambled eggs Paul was eating when he came up with up with “Yesterday,” and explained that they were on loan from the Treasures Room at the British Museum in London. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a close enough eye on the eggs, and the episode ended with the Gallery’s feline mascots eating them. In a more recent clip, a private dick hired by the British Museum came by to inquire about the eggs. All of this is fictional of course, but if you’re looking to celebrate Paul’s birth in a wacky kind of way, you can check out the episode at Jeff’s blog.

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

I Want You (To Not Fit In)

Paul Collins art from poster on The Beat Army Facebook page.


Musician Paul Collins has been recruiting power pop fans for The Beat Army, and recently posted on Facebook that he’s now selling I DON’T FIT IN t shirts. The slogan on the bright red and white shirt comes from a song by the same name on the impressive 1979 self-titled debut from The Paul Collins Beat.


I didn’t discover Collins until a few years after that. Back then, I still lived on Chicago’s southwest side, and hung out at Haywires, an unusually adventurous bar for that area. It often booked new wave and punk bands like Bohemia, The Clocks, and Gary Jones, and held jam nights organized by Bud Monaco. One of the most popular acts was a young local band called Take Me that seemed to have an awful lot of good original songs. As it turned out, they were covering new acts like 20/20 and The Paul Collins Beat that we hadn’t heard before. A bit sneaky, but ultimately, Take Me did these groups a favor by making us want to buy their albums.


The I DON’T FIT IN shirts can be purchased in person when Paul Collins performs along with Mondo Topless, Stupidity, and former Friggs member Palmyra Delran at Asbury Lanes in New Jersey on June 17th. You might also be able to buy one when he plays gigs at Proud Larry’s in Oxford, MS on July 16th, along with The Neckbones; and at Hi-Tone in Memphis, TN with The Neckbones and Peter Case of The Nerves and The Plimsouls. The Beat Army had a rep hanging out at International Pop Overthrow in Chicago this past April, so hopefully that means Collins might be coming our way.


The shirts can also be ordered at paulcollinsband@gmail.com but according to The Beat Army, supplies are limited.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

CD Review: You Say Party! We Say Die! - XXXX

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer. After the review was printed, Devon Clifford, the drummer for You Say Party! We Say Die! suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage from congenital defects while performing at a concert. My condolences to the band and his family.


You Say Party! We Say Die! has been taking us back to the original punk and new wave era of the 1980s since the band first came together in British Columbia in 2006. That continues to be the case on recently released XXXX, which is filled with impossibly catchy guitar and keyboard driven arrangements. The title is the band’s alternate way of writing the word ‘love’ and is also conveyed by a heart on the CD cover.


The band’s view of romance usually involves being saved from a terrible fate. On the atmospheric “Dark Days,” lead vocalist Becky Ninkovic sings, “After the rain comes and drowns us in sorrow/The light comes in” while effectively channeling Siouxsie Sioux. Redemptive love is also the message of the beautifully haunting “There Is XXXX (Within My Heart).” YSP! WSD! does live up to its name with the violent imagery of the hard-hitting and scary “Cosmic Wanship Avengers.” XXXX might sound retro, but when music is rendered with this much intensity, there’s no need to look for an expiration date.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rocking In Palatine 2010

Photo taken from My Villain Your Hero Facebook page.


As summer approaches, my hometown of Palatine, like Chicago and the other surrounding suburbs, offers a full schedule of outdoor concerts. Out this way, bands perform every Wednesday and Friday night, weather permitting, at the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater. The selection process for these concerts has been on autopilot for years; with the same acts, or types of acts always getting the nod. Still, they make for an enjoyable night of music.


American English plays this Friday night, June 18th, carrying on the tradition of kicking things off with a Beatles tribute band. In the past, we’ve also had Liverpool Legends and British Export. A few years back, the outdoor concert series broke tradition by opening with local heroes Dot Dot Dot, who went over extremely well. In addition to Dot Dot Dot, some other bands I’d like to see return to the Palatine stage are The Neverly Brothers and The New Invaders. Plus, it would be great to have an additional night each week, when more cutting-edge bands could play.


Palatine Concert Band always gets three slots over the season, possibly because no musical act in history has had more bad luck in getting rained out. They’re not rock and roll, but they’re very talented, and my wife and I enjoy their tributes to Broadway shows and famous composers. Otherwise, the most interesting concerts this season are Big Guitars From Memphis on June 25th, and oldies cover band The Meteors on July 23rd.


Sometimes, my wife and I buy a pizza at the nearby J.J. Twigs and bring it to the concert along with some refreshing beverages, but there are also concession stands near the amphitheater.


The Palatine Jaycees will sponsor Hometown Fest 2010 from Thursday, July 1st through Monday, July 5th. There will be several food vendors, fireworks, and a full schedule of bands.


My Villain Your Hero, a young group that plays a mix of hip-hop originals and cover versions will perform from 2:00 to 3:30PM on Sunday, July 4th. Although I lean more toward power pop, I caught one of the band’s regular gigs at Durty Nellies, and was impressed with its non-stop energy, as well as the one-two vocal punch of Mig Mora and Jennifer Lee. My Villain Your Hero has become much more popular since I first mentioned them in a post under my Elevated Observations column quite a while ago, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Lee looks like a 20-something version of Jennifer Aniston.


Other acts booked for the 4th of July concerts include One Hand Clapping, 7th Heaven, The Mosquitos, David Allen, Bucket #6, TNT Chicago, New Odyssey, Cowbirds, Donna Matrix, 20 Over, Cammi’s NRG, AVM, Triple Threat, He Said She Said, and the Rolling Meadows Big Band.


Saving the best for last, The Smithereens will headline this year’s Palatine Downtown Street Fest on August 28th. I caught Pat DiNizio and the boys at an outdoor performance right next door to Wrigley Field last summer, and they are still an amazing act to see in a live setting. In addition to playing their own power pop masterpieces like “House We Used To Live In,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” and “Blood and Roses,” The Smithereens expertly cover The Beatles and The Who.


Ralph’s World is returning for another gig at the Street Fest. As I said in my “Pure Pop For Knee High People” post last August (see archive), I’m a long-time fan of The Bad Examples, but I had never seen lead vocalist Ralph Covert performing as Ralph’s World. Covert applies the same elements of irresistible melodies and clever lyrics that make the Examples so much fun to his kid-friendly shows. Hi Infidelity and Sixteen Candles are also booked for the Palatine Downtown Street Fest, and I’m sure other acts will be added along the way.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

CD Review: Graham Nash - Songs For Beginners

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.


Graham Nash recorded Songs For Beginners in 1971, when CSY&N were still a hot new item but were already embroiled in one of their numerous feuds. It was his first solo album, after years of sharing the spotlight with Crosby, Stills, and Young, as well as his first band, The Hollies. Not that Nash was alone on this effort; guest musicians included Jerry Garcia, Rita Coolidge, and Neil Young, performing under the pseudonym Joe Yankee.


Recently released in a remastered version that includes a DVD with an interview as well as lyrics and some of Nash’s photos, Songs For Beginners serves as a template for much of his work. The album strikes a balance between homespun reflections and political rabble rousing. “Military Madness” and “Chicago” still resonate, while the acoustic “Simple Man” and more elaborate “I Used To Be A King” deal with his troubled relationship with Joni Mitchell. Some of Songs For Beginners, especially “There’s Only One,” seems locked in the 1970s, but this new edition should please Nash’s fans.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Slumgullion # 18

The latest issue of Time Out Chicago magazine has a feature on The Like, a four-woman band that draws its inspiration from the original British Invasion. They’re in Chicago tomorrow night, as part of a triple bill that includes The Static Jacks and headliners The Futureheads at Lincoln Hall. I can’t say that I had heard of The Like before, although they’ve been around a few years. The article made them sound pretty interesting, and the catchy and clever songs on their MySpace page have me eager to buy their latest CD, Release Me, which comes out next Tuesday.


Singer-guitarist Jeff Lescher will unveil the new line-up for his critically acclaimed power pop band Green, tonight at Martyrs, on Lincoln Avenue. The band now includes veteran musicians drummer Mike Zelenko of Material Issue, bassist Eddy Ulm, and guitarist Tommi Zender.


Happy Birthday wishes go out today to singer-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell, who along with her husband, drummer Brad Elvis, has fronted Big Hello, as well as their current band, The Handcuffs. Orwell is a charismatic performer who never shies away from expressing her opinions. The Handcuffs are currently working on the their third CD, and have just announced their summer schedule, which includes outdoor gigs at Millennium Park, Taste Of Lincoln Avenue, and North Halsted Street Market Days.


The Old Town Art Fair, which takes place this Saturday and Sunday, is always worth checking out (along with its sibling event, The Wells Street Art Fair) and this year it will be even more fun thanks to The Bon Mots. The highly melodic Chicago power pop band will be performing at the corner of Orleans and Wisconsin Streets at 3:30 PM.


Congratulations to Braam, the Chicago-based rock band comprised of 17 brothers. Actually, three brothers and a non-related drummer. Their “Burlington Northern” has snagged World Music and Independent Film Festival nominations in the Music Videos category for Best Cinematography and Best Director (Jerry Vasilatos). The band is also asking its fans to vote for “Burlington Northern” in the WMIFF People’s Choice category.


I’ve complained here before about the lack of Hollies souvenirs being offered to fans, but there are now some pretty cool things for sale on the band’s official website. In addition to the various tour books which have been available for quite a while, there’s a new book, titled Through The Ages. It features photographs of The Hollies from drummer Bobby Elliot’s personal collection, and many of them are previously unpublished. Fans will also find shirts and a baseball style cap bearing the Hollies logo for sale. I’ve already added some of these items to my birthday wish list, but I’d still like to see The Hollies create their own Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame t shirt.


Crystal’s Blue Line Persuasion. Now that American Idol runner-up Crystal Bowersox has told Mike Thomas at the Sun-Times that she’s considering a “guerrilla subway tour” in Chicago, I wonder if we’ll start seeing a number of pretenders donning blond dreadlock wigs, hoping to cash in on her idea. According to Bowersox, she used to earn enough money to eat and pay rent by performing at L stops in Chicago back in the days before she became famous.


Glenn Tilbrook has just posted on his Facebook page that Squeeze will be releasing a CD in August. The band will be part of a dream double bill with Cheap Trick at Ravinia in Illinois on July 10th.


It was great to read in the news today that Natasha McShane, the Irish exchange student who was severely injured by a man wielding a baseball bat this past April in Chicago, is starting to walk, eat, and talk again. Her recovery is taking time, but her parents are encouraged. There will be two benefits for McShane in the Chicago area this Sunday, June 13th. Gaelic Park, in suburban Oak Forest, has a full line-up of entertainment scheduled for its Tara Room and Carraig Pub. The Orland Park-based band Bohola kicks things off at 3:00PM, and the live music continues until 7:45PM. Other acts include the Katie Sullivan Band, Gavin Coyle, and Three Men In Kilts. The performances at the Irish American Heritage Center, on the city’s north side, will start at 1:00PM with the Pauline Conneely Ceili Band in the Erin Ballroom and the Johnny Gleason Duo in Fifth Province. The fundraiser concludes with the Joe McShane Band and Seamus Kennedy, who start their shows at 8:00. Other acts include students from the Academy of Irish Music featuring Trinity Irish Dance, Baal Tinne, who will also feature Trinity Irish Dance, and Avondale Ramblers. The full schedule for both of these fundraisers can be seen at each location’s website. Here’s wishing McShane a full recovery.


Rock N Load is reporting on Facebook that The Go-Go’s have canceled their Happily Ever After farewell tour, which was scheduled to start at Lilith Fair in San Diego, on July 27th. Guitarist-vocalist Jane Wiedlin injured her knee while hiking, and will need surgery to repair it. Her recovery is expected to take up to a year. No word as to whether the band will try another farewell tour at that time. Wiedlin has posted a message on her Facebook page that she’s currently writing and recording songs.

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

CD Review: King Of Prussia - Save The Scene

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.


The Athens, Georgia based King Of Prussia is a true indie rock band, from the offer on its website to perform at house parties and record stores, to recording songs for its debut in various locations, using a portable digital 8-track machine. Amazingly, Save The Scene, created by ten musicians led by founders Brandon Hanick and Trey McManus, is a highly polished effort. In addition to layers of instrumentation and heavenly harmonies, the CD exudes a wry sense of humor.


“Spain In The Summertime,” which opens with the line,”She couldn’t laugh so she painted a grin on her face,” recalls the offbeat charms of Robyn Hitchcock’s infectious pop music. The presence of notable eccentric Syd Barrett is evident throughout, especially on the melodic “Misadventures Of The Campaign Kids,” and “Cheerleaders,” which shuffles along to hand claps and a marching drum beat. King Of Prussia also gives the stark ballad “Physics Never Stood A Chance” a compelling, atmospheric arrangement.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #8 - New Vinyl Times

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.


I discovered Tower Records back in 1980 when I dropped by their store on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood after auditioning for a guest role as a redneck trucker on The Dukes Of Hazzard. Actually, I visiting an older brother who had moved to California. I was amazed by Tower’s selection of Hollies’ import albums, and bought a copy of Butterfly. As an avid collector of pop culture publications, I was thrilled to find a wide selection of free papers, including the L.A. Reader and L.A. Weekly.


I also grabbed a copy of New Vinyl Times, which according to a diagram on the back cover, was a “Free Record Review Magazine combined with a Special Jukebox (at your record store).” The idea was to use the magazine’s reviews to learn about various artists. The writing was purely hype; I’ve glanced through the various album profiles, which were listed alphabetically from Joan Armatrading’s How Cruel to Warren Zevon’s Bad Luck Streak In Dancing School, and none of them warn against wasting your money on a particular slab of vinyl.


Among the albums listed were Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, Heart’s Bebe Le Strange, Led Zeppelin’s In Through The Out Door, The Buzzcocks’ A Different Kind Of Tension, The Clash’s London Calling, Squeeze’s Argybargy, Pink Floyd's The Wall, and debut releases from The Undertones, The Romantics, and Madness. There were uncredited feature stories on reggae music and The B-52’s and a cool center spread showing over 70 band photos or logos. The inside front cover was a full page ad for The Specials and The Selector, and the inside back cover was a full page ad for Gil Scott Heron. So basically, New Vinyl Times was a 12-page promo packet, but it looked cool, which is why I still have it in my collection.


Some years later, I would have a Tower Records in my own back yard, when I lived in Lincoln Park, just around the corner from their location on Clark Street. I went there at least twice a week to browse through CDs, magazines, and action figures. I saw Material Issue, Ivy, Lime Credo, and Sam Phillips perform live there, as well as several other acts. Even though I’ve long since moved to the suburbs, I was heartbroken to see that Tower Records close down.

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

45 RPM Memories: The Elvis Brothers - “Motormouth”

A semi-regular feature about some of my favorite singles from the past.


I mentioned a few times recently that it’s a mistake for a rock band to end a CD with a slow song. Maybe I’m thinking along the lines of a lines of a live performance, where musicians usually aim to leave a lasting impression on the audience via a big finish. The exception to the CD rule would be a short song that ends the disc on a quirky note, or acts as a reprise of an earlier track.


One of the best examples of ending with a bang can be found on Now Dig This, the reunion CD released by The Elvis Brothers back in 1992 on the Recession label. “Motormouth,” penned by drummer Brad Elvis, opens with what sounds like a snippet from a vintage screwball comedy as some guy repeatedly shouts, “You shut your mouth!” From there, Rob Elvis’s guitar breaks loose, quickly followed by a driving beat provided by Brad Elvis and bassist Graham Elvis. The song has a familiar, classic rock ‘n’ roll feel, and it’s filled with clever observations about a woman who just won’t stop yakking, like “Stop that girl before she drives us all insane” and “Well, I can’t imagine her on a little caffeine.” And keep in mind this was before the proliferation of cell phones.


The 45 RPM version of “Motormouth” came out on green vinyl, and had a card inside the jacket that described it as the vinyl/video mix (a performance video can be seen on YouTube). The startling sleeve art was created by Brad Elvis. The fun continues on the B-side, with the previously unreleased “Rock For It,” which was written by Rob Elvis. It’s a seductive number with a slinky arrangement, and like “Motormouth,” it has the feel of a live performance.

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