Friday, July 12, 2013


People just coming out of Taste Of Chicago tonight and looking for something to do while they’re still downtown, should check out the 11:40 PM set by power pop masters Pezband at The Hard Rock Cafe 
on Ontario. Alice Sweet Alice, Spectors, and Jacob’s Cabin performed earlier. Admission is $10. Pezband lead vocalist-guitarist Mimi Betinis informs me that he’s working on a CD featuring previously unreleased material by the group from 1979. It’s set to be released on Air Mail Recordings this Fall. 

Generally I avoid Taste Of Chicago unless there’s some good live music going on at the Petrillo Band Shell. Over the years, I’ve seen Ray Davies, The Go-Go’s, Graham Nash, The Smithereens, Squeeze, Liz Phair, Fountains Of Wayne, and probably numerous other acts that aren’t coming to mind at the moment. Now I can add Robert Plant to the list since he and the Sensational Space Shifters were at Grant Park tonight as part of the XRT Annual Free Concert

The former Led Zeppelin front man was at the top of his game as he belted out songs from that band and his solo stuff, along with a selection or two from the American blues canon. Plant praised Chicago’s vital role in the development of the blues before launching into an exotic version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Spoonful.” He also added a touch of World music to a reworked “Black Dog,” and engaged the audience in some call and response with the “Ah - ah” part of the lyrics. The biggest applause (and a general sense of awe) came for his faithful renditions of Led Zeppelin songs like “Going To California” and “What Is And What Should Never Be.”

The Irish American Heritage Center, on Chicago’s northwest side, is staging Irish Fest this weekend. Main Stage acts include Derek Warfield And The Young Wolfe Tones, Enter The Haggis, The Killdares, The Tossers,. Baal Tinne, a band my wife Pam and I always enjoyed at Celtic Fest, are among the featured performers, and there will a number of dance troupes, such as Trinity Irish Dancers and McNulty School Of Irish Dance. Tickets are $15.

The Valley Downs will be the opening act when Shoes performs at SPACE in Evanston on July 27th. The two groups have a connection that stretches back for a couple of decades. Valley Downs bassist-backup vocalist Mike Galassini is also a member of the power pop trio, 92 Degrees, whose self-titled debut was released on the Shoes Black Vinyl label in 1995. 

The Valley Downs, fronted by Galassini and his wife, lead vocalist Marianne Galassini, have recorded a pair of four-song EPs. Their melodic arrangements are similar to The Bangles, particularly on songs like “Better,” and Mike Galassini has a knack for off-kilter but well-crafted lyrics. The Valley Downs are long-time veterans of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago (they followed Material Re-Issue at a sold-out showcase at the Abbey Pub in 2011) and have also played IPO - Liverpool.

Shoes, meanwhile are playing the occasional gig in support of their 2012 critically acclaimed comeback, Ignition. They'll also be at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on July 26th. 


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