Graphic from the cover of the International Pop Overthrow Midwest ‘11 Official Program And Guide. Graphic Design and Layout: Jim Horan; Art Director: Steve Stanley.
The sights, the sounds, and the people of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2011.
Shortly after arriving at The Abbey Pub around 7:30 Saturday night, I went over to say hello to Founder and CEO David Bash and Executive Vice President Rina Bardfield of International Pop Overthrow and congratulate them on another great Chicago festival. Over the past 10 days, they had brought an amazing range of talent to the stages of The Red Line Tap and The Abbey Pub, and now it had come down to the 2011 finale. Bash confirmed that the April 23rd showcase was the first in IPO - Chicago history to be sold out.
With the line-up down to five bands (I have no idea of what happened to Johnny Monaco) the starting time for Saturday night’s opener, Waiflike was pushed back to about 8:15. The trio, comprised of founding member guitarist-vocalist Richard Neil Miller, drummer Lucas Frantom, and guest musician bassist Lennie Dietsch from Verbow, were dressed in black and played a hard-hitting type of catchy pop. Miller and Dietsch both seemed to be playing lead, which made for some powerful music.
There was a large crowd at The Abbey by this time, and the mood was genuinely festive. Several of the night’s musicians were already in the house, including members of The Valley Downs and Van Go. Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell of The Handcuffs were hanging out, as well as members of Penthouse Sweets. An old friend of mine, Boris, came up to say hello. I hadn’t seen him since the days when we used to hang out at Harlows/Pips/Haywires (the club went by various names but basically kept the same format) on the southwest side back in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.
“They don’t sound like their name,” Boris noted, referring to Waiflike. I also ran into Althea Legaspi, my former editor at the Illinois Entertainer, who now writes for the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She wrote the liner notes for Material Issue’s International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition, and did an interview with bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko for radio station WBEZ.
Material re-Issue blasted through the unforgettable opening trio of girl songs from the International Pop Overthrow album (“Valerie Loves Me,” “Diane,” and “Renee Remains The Same”) before directly addressing the crowd. Phil Angotti wisely didn’t try to imitate the late Jim Ellison’s personality or dress like him; he was basically the same guy who had performed songs from his own CD on the previous night. He let the nattily dressed bassist Ted Ansani do most of the talking, and humbly waved off the occasional compliment Ansani paid him.
“We’ve got the whole album to do for you this evening,” Ansani said after the trio had played the romantic “This Letter.” The trio excelled on all 14 original tracks, as the audience sang along, clapped, and cheered. Angotti was impressive on guitar, and varied his vocal approach from the yelp of “Trouble” to the more subtle “Very First Lie.” The songs, like The Ramones-inspired title track, the joyous “Crazy,” and the abrasive “Chance Of A Lifetime,” have held up well over two decades.
Material re-Issue left the stage after playing “Li’l Christine,” the final track from International Pop Overthrow, but quickly returned for an encore, joined by guitarist Jay O’Rourke from another one of Chicago’s premier bands, The Insiders. They performed “Next Big Thing” from the Destination Universe album, plus “Goin’ Through Your Purse” and “Kim The Waitress” from Freak City Soundtrack. The band returned for yet another encore, with the song “Sixteen Tambourines,” and probably could have played all night as far as the audience was concerned.
“I’d hate to be the poor band following these guys,” Mike Galassini of The Valley Downs joked as he passed by me while everyone was still in the midst of Materialmania. As the next act up, he knew his band would be facing a major challenge. Then again, if The Valley Downs were shrinking violets, they wouldn’t haven’t gone to Liverpool to play an IPO gig at The Cavern Club. Moments later, Galassini received a Karate Kid type message of encouragement from his brother Lou, who would be playing bass for the evening’s final act, Van Go. Unfortunately, a good deal of the crowd had left immediately after the Material re-Issue set.
I saw guitarist Brent Seatter, a veteran of Thrift Store Halo and Kevin Lee’s band, in the crowd, along with his wife Pam. He told me that Thrift Store Halo was back in business and ready to release another CD, which is good news since their last effort, World Gone Mad, included a number of power pop gems.
The Valley Downs, led by vocalist Marianne Shimkus-Galassini and bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini, played songs from their Behemoth EP, along with some energetic new material like “Break My Heart” and “Last Days Of Summer.” Shimkus-Galassini, an engaging performer with a strong voice, frequently harmonized with her husband, while guitarist Todd Rusin cut loose with some inventive strumming. The band took a risk with a slowed-down, Country & Western flavored take on The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” but made it work.
Velvet Cadillacs provided more evidence that sticking around after the Material re-Issue set was a great idea. This is a young band with boundless energy and a brash lead vocalist in the comically-named CD Riviera. Guitar-driven songs like “Wish I Was Cool” and “Somebody’s Crying” had a punk intensity while remaining melodic. “Inside Out,” the title track from a forthcoming release, bodes well for the band’s future.
Unfortunately, I had to leave at around 12:20 to make sure I could catch the last Metra train back home. Van Go was just taking the stage as I was going out the door, so I’ll have to go with what I wrote about them at last year’s IPO - Chicago gig. Back then, I mentioned that the band had four CDs to draw on, and its experience was evident on several melodic but hard-hitting songs. I did get a copy of Van Go’s The Long Lost Last Call, which I’ll be reviewing here in the new future.
And so, the book closes on another successful International Pop Overthrow - Chicago. David Bash will set up shop with a different line-up of bands in Detroit from April 28th-30th, and then wrap up his swing through the Midwest in Milwaukee from May 5th -7th.