Monday, August 31, 2015

Larry O. Dean - Good Grief

Anyone who has ever wondered how The dBs would sound if they took up social satire should listen to Larry O. Dean's new CD Good Grief. A published author as well as a singer-songwriter, the Chicago-based Dean has been working the outer edges of the rock scene over the course of 13 solo albums and with the bands The Injured Parties and Post Office. He recruited dBs founder Chris Stamey to produce Good Grief (Stamey had previously produced a Post Office effort) with the result being a dozen songs filled with acerbic observations, jangling guitars, and catchy melodies.

Dean's approach can range from the light and clever "(Driving) Under The Influence (Of Love)" to the disturbing "Sniper," which is from the point of view of an American soldier forced into the title role. Dean is assisted here by guitarist George Friend, drummer Lance Helgeson, bassist Dann Morr, and vocalist Amy Russell. Occasionally, his distinctive, talky vocal style can oversell the humor, as on "Botox Party," and it also diminishes an otherwise slinky and fun cover of the Translator classic "Everywhere That I'm Not."

Dean is at his best when his barbed lyrics are matched with more energetic arrangements. The first single, "Americans For Prosperity" takes aim at money-grabbing corporate kingpins, while "Mad In The U.S.A." delivers a rapid-fire attack on HMOs ("It's all the same if you're dying or you're fine") and other frustrating aspects of American society. Good Grief will be released on September 25.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Slumgullion

Foo Fighters will be belting out songs from their latest CD Sonic Highway at Wrigley Field.

Last Friday’s Slumgullion was merely a ramekin of leftovers, so I’m making sure this week’s serving is at least a bit more substantial by offering it on Thursday. It takes hours to prepare this column, and my freelance schedule tomorrow will not allow that. Besides, there are some important events coming up tomorrow and it helps to actually mention them before they're already in progress.

Wrigley Field has been a joyful place this summer due to the unexpected success of the Chicago Cubs, but the newly renovated venue will be rocking for a different reason this Saturday night. Foo Fighters have a Sonic Highways World Tour date there, and in a class move, they’ve invited three Chicago-area bands to join them. Cheap Trick is more famous than the punk-oriented Naked Raygun and Urge Overkill, but all three supporting acts were chosen because they had a major influence on the Foo Fighters’ sound. The concert, which kicks off at 5:30 PM, is sold out, but if you’re in the neighborhood, just stand outside and you’ll hear the whole thing perfectly. That’s what I did for the Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen concerts that were held there.

Help is on the way. Anyone who was intrigued by my description of the performances by Phil Angotti and Liverpool at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, and is thinking, "I must experience one of these tribute shows you speak of," will be glad to know that Angotti and some of his musical pals will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of The Beatles' second flick Help this Saturday night at FitzGerald's in Berwyn. Showtime is 7:00 PM. 


A second Helping Jay Goeppner, who joined in on Angotti’s Lennon Tribute and Mark Hudson’s Musicians’ Forum on the final day of The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago this year, will also be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the release of Help this Saturday. Except he'll be at Colletti’s on Chicago's northwest side. The show starts at  8:00 PM; Colletti’s is located at 5707 N. Central Avenue in Chicago. Goeppner and Angotti have performed together as The Beatle Brothers at a number of clubs in the area. 

Jessica Hopper, a Senior Editor at Pitchfork and regular contributor to Spin and The Reader, will be part of a double author event this Friday night at the Women And Children First book store on Chicago’s north side. Hopper will read from and discuss her latest book The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic; and Suzanne Scanlon will do the same for her latest effort, an “experimental memoir” titled Her 37th Year, An Index. The event takes place at 7:30, and will be moderated by Naomi Huffman, Editor-in-Chief at the Chicago-based publishing house Curbside Splendor. Women And Children First is located at 5233 N. Clark Street.

The Milwaukee-based power pop band Trolley, whose song “I Woke Up” was a Coolest Song In The World pick on Little Steven’s Underground Garage syndicated radio show, will be opening for Pugwash on September 18 at McAuliffe’s in Racine, Wisconsin. The gig will find Trolley showcasing songs from their upcoming new release, Caught In The Darkness.

Ain’t never gonna do it without the fez on. Whether you wear a fez as a tribute to Steely Dan or Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor on Doctor Who, The Elgin ArtSpace Gallery has you covered. FezFest 2015,  created by the people at Dangerous Brains, is being described as "an interactive celebration showcasing the Fez in art, history, and pop culture.” There’s an opening reception at the gallery from 6:00 to 10: PM on September 11. 

Chicago firefighters did an amazing job on Wednesday of keeping The Second City's Main Stage from going into a permanent blackout. As reported by Tina Sfondeles in today's Chicago Sun-Times, an extra-alarm fire started in the Adobe Grill, which is located in the same building as The Second City, and caused a lot of damage to the world famous venue's offices on the second and third floors. The firefighters took great care to save the Main Stage, which has been home to countless iconic comic actors over the decades.

Even though there were rumblings that this year's Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins might be the swan song for the Mary-Arrchie Theatre's annual celebration of the original Woodstock spirit, it was still a shock to read the news in the daily papers. Worse yet, the Mary-Arrchie itself, which has staged critically acclaimed productions of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie; Tracy Letts' Superior Donuts; and the riveting Viet Nam War drama Tracers,  is going away after one final (its 30th) season. Chicago Sun-Times theatre critic Hedy Weiss quotes Artistic Director (and Abbie Hoffman impersonator) Rich Cotovsky as explaining, "We're losing our space at Angel Island at 735 W. Sheridan, which we've called home for 26 years, so our 30th anniversary feels like the time to bid farewell."

The current season will continue into 2016 but apparently won't include an Abbie Fest. Cotovsky also spoke to Chicago Tribune theatre critic Chris Jones, noting, "It's not a bad thing. It will take a weight off my back.We struggled and fought to do what we thought was best. And now I can look back and say, 'Wow, we did all that." Cotovsky isn't likely to sit around counting flowers on the wall. He's got a day job, and has had small roles in Shameless and other TV series, as well in plays like Hellcab at other theatre companies. Still, the Mary-Arrchie, with its in-your-face productions and rebellious spirit, will be sorely missed.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I’ve Just Seen A Fest - A Friendly One

One of the new features at The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare this year was a performance area on the second floor called the Apple Jam Stage. I only caught one show there on Sunday but it proved that booking local acts for The Fest has a great deal of potential. Phil Angotti, (pictured above) an accomplished singer-songwriter who has also been doing tribute shows on the Chicago club scene for some time now, put one together for John Lennon at The Fest For Beatles Fans that featured a number of his musician friends. Angotti should be familiar to listeners of WXRT’s Sunday morning Breakfast With The Beatles show since its host/Fest MC Terri Hemmert occasionally plays recordings of his inventive takes on Beatles songs.

The John Lennon tribute began with Angotti backed by bassist Casey McDonough, guitarist Tommi Zender, drummer Joe Camarillo, and piano player Dick Schmidt. The band performed a well-chosen selection of Lennon's solo and Beatles compositions, including "Not A Second Time," "Dream Number 9," "She Said She Said," "Jealous Guy," and "Nowhere Man." As the performance continued, local musicians, including Jay Goeppner (who has performed with Angotti as The Beatle Brothers) and Eric Howell came up onstage to join in on the vocals.


Marty Scott, whose band Liverpool Legends is managed by Louise Harrison (one of The Fest's Special Guests this year), led the way on "If I Needed Someone," the lone George Harrison song that was performed during the show. As songs like "Baby, You're A Rich Man," "In My Life," "Mind Games," and "Instant Karma" continued to flow, other musicians I wasn't familiar with wandered on stage. There was an amazing, happy vibe in the room, with people in the audience singing along and dancing. It would be great to see Angotti, who did a Paul McCartney tribute on Saturday, performing on The Apple Jam Stage next year. I’d also like to see more local bands, like EXPO ’76, The Abbeys, The Webstirs, and The New Invaders, involved.

While watching the Lennon Tribute on the Apple Jam Stage, I kept thinking everyone at The Fest should be here experiencing this. But the challenge of of trying to see everything you want at The Fest For Beatles Fans can not always be met. Here are a few things that were going on at the same time as the Lennon Tribute: Mark Rivera, who plays saxophone and has served as Ringo Starr's Musical Director, was being interviewed in The Grand Ballroom; followed immediately by an interview with performer/producer Mark Hudson; an exhibit by Rob Shanahan, who has been Starr's photographer since 2005; and an interactive show at the FABoratory (another new feature) involving music discussion and gourmet chocolates.

The 13 contestants in Sunday night's Battle Of The Beatles Bands were a mix of professional musicians and (I'm guessing) amateurs who rarely get a chance to perform before such a large audience. There used to be a tendency on the part of the audience, which votes by applause, and the final judges to favor any band that included little kids, but in recent years, the emphasis has been more on actual talent. I usually agree with contest's outcome, and this year's winner, Beetlejuice did a nice of incorporating strings into their performance of "A Day In The Life." The other strong contenders this year were MegaBeatles (whose lead vocalist had been part of the Lennon Tribute earlier); NBB, who came in second; and former two-time winner Ringer's All Starr Band.

I mentioned the Beatles tribute band Liverpool in each of my previous Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago 2015 posts, but it's worth mentioning again how incredibly well they perform Beatles music. Guitarist John Merjave, bassist Glen Burtnik, rhythm guitarist Drew Hill, and drummer Chris Camilleri can all sing lead, and they join together for impressive harmonies. With Marc Rubinstein's Pig Light Show providing a suitably psychedelic ambience, Liverpool performed the entire Help soundtrack before moving on to an adventurous selection of Beatles tracks that included "Old Brown Shoe," "We Can Work It Out," "Golden Slumbers," "Eight Days A Week," "Happiness Is A Warm Gun," and "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

After a full set of Beatles tunes, Liverpool was joined by this year's Special Guests Mark Rivera, Billy Kinsley from The Merseybeats, Terry Sylvester from The Hollies, and Mark Hudson. This portion of the concert, where Liverpool performs hits by that particular year's guests, is always one of the highlights of The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago and serves as a Grand Finale.
  

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Monday, August 24, 2015

I’ve Just Seen A Fest - 2015

Due to a hectic schedule on the weekend of August 14 - 16, I was only able to make it to The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare on the final day. It turned out to be 12 hours of almost non-stop action, involving live performances, panel discussions, contests, and a bit of treasure hunting. I’ve already gone over the Fest activities involving former Hollies member Terry Sylvester in a post last Thursday, so today, I’ll be concentrating on some of the other highlights.

The Weeklings had been on my radar for a while, so seeing their concert in the Grand Ballroom was a must. Regulars at The Fest For Beatles Fans will recognize guitarist John Merjave and bassist Glen Burtnik as being members of Liverpool, the first-rate Beatles tribute band that has been performing at this annual celebration for some time now. The concept behind The Weeklings, which also includes guitarist Bob Burger and drummer Dave Anthony, is to create a cohesive mix of Beatles songs and original tunes that sound like they could have been done by The Beatles.


Most of the cover material was composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney or George Harrison but was never officially released by The Beatles. They were either handed off to other artists in Brian Epstein’s stable or tossed aside until they finally saw the light of day via the Anthology series. And as other critics have noted, even The Beatles' castoffs are often rock and roll gems.

As with Liverpool, all four members of The Weeklings are capable of singing lead vocals. Their rousing performance at The Fest For Beatles Fans  - Chicago featured Harrison’s “You Know What To Do” and the Lennon-McCartney compositions “One And One Is Two,” “I’m In Love,” “It’s For You,” “If You’ve Got Trouble,” and “That Means A Lot.” Merjave and Burtnik are long-time masters of covering The Beatles, and their additional partnership with Burger and Anthony also works extremely well. The Burtnik-Burger originals were catchy, fun, and steeped in the mid-1960s. The Weeklings succeeded in delivering all the songs in a seamless performance, and tossed in some brand new stuff (Beatles and their own) that will be on the follow-up to their official debut Monophonic.

After their performance, The Weeklings met fans in the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom to sign autographs and sell vinyl and CD copies of Monophonic. I’m hoping to post a review of this album in the near future.  


Prior to The Weeklings’ concert, I caught the tail end of an interview with Bob Eubanks being conducted by journalist Tom Frangione. Eubanks is best known as the host of The Newlywed Game TV show back in the 1960s and 70s, but he was also one of the first air personalities to play The Beatles on the radio and he booked them to perform at Dodger Stadium in 1966. He exuded the same easy-going personality and humor he specialized in back in his game show days, and explained that part of his approach came from watching Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Eubanks also offered interesting insight and anecdotes relating to the early days of rock and roll radio, and how he struggled to find financial backing for his plan to bring The Beatles to Los Angeles. 


I also took a few passes through the The Fest Store and The Marketplace; two separate rooms that offered loads of Beatles-related books, records, and collectables. I miss the days when all the vendors were gathered in a downstairs huge room at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, and I could swear there aren’t as many items for sale in this new format. Still, the The Fest Store and The Marketplace offered access to books like Anthony Robustelli’s I Want To Tell You - The Definitive Guide To The Music Of The Beatles Volume 1: 1962/1963, and Kit O’Toole’s Songs We Were Singing - Guided Tours Through The Beatles’ Lesser-Known Tracks.

Other books on sale included Chuck Gunderson’s Some Fun Tonight - The Backstage Story Of How The Beatles Rocked America: The Historic Tours 1964 - 1966; Andrew Grant Jackson’s 1965 - The Most Revolutionary Year In Music; and the massive, limited-edition Eight Arms To Hold You, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the release of Help. Author Dave Schwenson, who wrote The Beatles At Shea Stadium, was also on hand to talk about his The Classic Rocker blog, and give a presentation about famous rock songs that were banned in Cleveland. Schwenson told me it’s ironic that Cleveland is now the home of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

In addition to vintage vinyl and publications, the shops at The Fest For Beatles Fans are a great way to discover what new and imaginative Beatles-based products people are creating. A prime example is Music City Minis, a company that uses a special shaping technique to create vinyl record art from classic albums by The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin and others. The company also used this technique to create Doctor Who and James Bond artifacts. Custom album shapes can also be created for lesser known acts or to be used for specials occasions. It’s a good idea to peruse The Fest Store and The Marketplace a number of times because it’s easy to miss something really cool on a single visit.

Coming up: The Apple Jam Stage, The Battle Of The Beatles Bands, and The Grand Finale with Liverpool.  

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Friday, August 21, 2015

A Few Reminders

Arthur Darville, star of the very first Rory Williams Comic Con Chicago.

I didn't have enough time to create a post today. Here are a few items from last Friday's Slumgullion that are still relevant.


Wizard World Comic Con Chicago has arrived at the Donald E. Stephens Center in Rosemont and will run through Sunday. Billie Piper and Arthur Darville from Doctor Who are among the many celebrity guests. I’m calling it the Rory Williams Comic Con Chicago because Darville, who played that character on the sci-fi series, isn’t being promoted as much as he deserves for this event.

150 juried artists and over 30 bands will be involved in the first ever West Loop Art Fest, which takes place tomorrow and Sunday on Washington Boulevard, between Halsted and Aberdeen. There will also be food vendors, beer and wine tents, and family-related activities. Admission is $10.

Philamonjaro Studio will present an opening reception for its exhibit featuring Howard Greenblatt’s photos of Tut’s at the Blues Heaven club tomorrow from noon to 3:00 PM. Tut’s played host to some of alt rock’s best bands—including Los Lobos, X, The Replacements, and Missing Persons, along with Chicago’s best acts—from 1979 to 1984. The exhibit will run for about six weeks. Blues Heaven is located at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue.

The band Frisbie will be performing on Chicago’s Downtown River Walk tomorrow from 1:00 to 3:00 PM. I’ve heard that the bands play by the stairs at LaSalle, but if that’s not the case, just follow the sound of ringing guitars to the right location.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

I've Just Seen A Fest - Mr. Sylvester's Busy Day

Terry Sylvester, on the far right of this recent compilation,
 had a busy weekend at The Fest.

Today's post takes a Hollies-centric point of view that is not meant to diminish the numerous other entertaining activities that took place at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. I'm hoping to offer some additional reflections on this event, but it might be Monday before I can accomplish that.

The second major event in A Hollies Summer In Chicago took place last weekend, although most of those in attendance knew it as The Fest For Beatles Fans. Terry Sylvester, a former member of The Hollies, was one of the Special Guests, along with Louise Harrison, Mark Hudson, Mark Rivera, and Billy Kinsley. Sylvester was there for all three days, but Sunday was particularly busy for him.

His hectic schedule started at 12:15 PM with Talking and Joking with a Bunch of Scousers, a fascinating panel discussion featuring him, Harrison, and Kinsley. Harrison, who sold all the copies of her new book My Kid Brother's Band  . . . a.k.a. The Beatles she had brought to The Fest, kicked things off by jokingly objecting to being called a scouser. Host Wally Podrazik asked her to elaborate, which led to all three panelists discussing the customs, accents, and geneology of the Liverpudlian populace. Kinsley, who was a member of The Merseybeats, lived up to The Fest program's description of him as "quite a storyteller," by weaving his remembrances of growing up in post-World War II England with the interesting tales offered by Sylvester and Harrison.

Next up for Sylvester was an autograph session that started at 2:00 PM. I gave him another Broken Hearted Toy button and he told me he still had the one I gave him when he came to City Winery - Chicago in February as part of the British Invasion Tour. We talked a bit about Distant Light, and how much he enjoyed recording it. That was the LP that had "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" and other songs that found The Hollies successfully experimenting with a more hard rock oriented sound.

At 3:30, Sylvester joined The Fest For Beatles Fans MC/WXRT DJ Terri Hemmert for an interview session in the Grand Ballroom. In addition to talking with Hemmert about his tenure with The Hollies, his friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly relationship with Graham Nash, and his recording studio encounters with The Beatles, he performed acoustic versions of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" from The Hollies Sing Dylan and the England Dan and John Ford Coley hit "I'd Really Like To See You Tonight." Sylvester likes to augment his appearances with deliberately cornball jokes, and comes across as a friendly guy you'd enjoy hanging out with at the local pub.

The Musicians' Forum, a freewheeling discussion and jam session that was originated by Martin Lewis (at least at the Chicago Fest) and is now hosted by Mark Hudson, was once again a highlight of the Fest. Hudson has toned down his occasionally over-the-top antics in favor of tapping into his vast musical knowledge and talent. Mark Rivera, who has served as Ringo Starr's Musical Director and plays a mean saxophone, was impressive in this basically improv format, as were Sylvester and Kinsley.

All four musicians returned later that night for guest appearances during a concert by the highly talented Beatles tribute band Liverpool. Sylvester performed "Bus Stop" and "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," with members of Liverpool joining in on harmony vocals. He also did "Hippy Hippy Shake" from his days with The Swinging Blue Jeans, and an extended take on "Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress" that featured some searing guitar work from Liverpool's John Merjave. It closed out an almost non-stop day for Terry Sylvester, that like Graham Nash's stellar show at The Arcada on July 28th, justified my designation of this as A Hollies Summer In Chicago.

Note: The New Invaders, a very good 1960s-oriented covers band that often includes Hollies songs in their shows, will be performing from 11:30 to 1:30 tomorrow at the Willis (Sears) Tower in downtown Chicago tomorrow.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Radical Night Of Fun

Anna Rose li-Epstein's photo of Famous In The Future outside the
Mary-Arrchie Theatre from the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Facebook page.

August 14 - 16 was one of those rare and exciting three-wristband weekends in which I came home late each night with a different ribbon around my wrist signifying that I had been out having fun. On Friday and Saturday night, I was at Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre, and I spent 12 hours on Sunday at The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. Tough choices have to be made when these two summertime favorites occur simultaneously, which means that I wind up missing some cool stuff. The ideal would be to have enough time (and money) to fully experience each of these annual celebrations. 

One of several memorable moments at Abbie Fest 27 came right at the start of the Opening Ceremony. A simple living room set on the Mary-Arrchie stage featured windows and a front door that suggested a suburban neighborhood existed just outside. As the audience eagerly waited for Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky to enter in his beloved role of Abbie Hoffman, he suddenly appeared outside the door, peering in through a small window at the top. Cotovsky held this pose for a few minutes, like a burglar waiting to break in, until it was clear from the laughter and applause that everyone could see him. What a concept: Abbie Hoffman on your doorstep.

In addition to Cotovsky/Hoffman's inflammatory intro, other highlights on Friday night included Rush Pearson (an Abbie Fest veteran) literally throwing himself into a solo performance of Nicolai Gogol's Diary Of A Madman. Otherworld Theatre Company's witty and crisply acted staging of Jonathan Cook's Transferring Kyle, a supernatural tale of people being replaced with better versions of themselves if they don't live up to their potential, was another winner.

Saturday evening found long-time Abbie Fest performers Black Forest swapping out their customary off-kilter and comedic endeavors for a stirring reflection on mourning that involved live music, poetry, and monologues. Famous In The Future followed a short time later. Having been a cast member of this sketch comedy group for 20 years, I wonder about the journalistic integrity of giving them a favorable review. Still, they went over really well again this year; with imaginative concepts, clever songs, and fun costumes.

Transportation logistics kept me from staying late on Friday or Saturday, so I'm sure I missed a lot of other good shows. I've seen posts on Facebook stating this may have been the last time we'll see Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins, at least at the Mary-Archie's current space on Sheridan Road. It would be a shame to lose this annual event that brings together performers from across Chicago's theatre community for three days of virtually non-stop, freewheeling entertainment. Mary-Arrchie held its 25th Anniversary Abbie Fest at The Den Theatre a few years ago, so hopefully that venue would still be an option in the future.

Coming up next: I've Just Seen A Fest.

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Friday, August 14, 2015

Slumgullion


August, rock she must. This is one of the most festive and important weekends on the Broken Hearted Toy calendar. The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago and the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s  Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival both run today through Sunday. And being an airplane buff since childhood, I’ll also have to find time to check out The Chicago Air And Water Show on the lakefront. 

Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins brings performers from across Chicago’s vibrant theatre community to the Mary-Arrchie Theatre on the city’s northside. Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky oversees a chaotic and virtually nonstop barrage of drama, comedy, music, and performance art that he jokingly concedes he shouldn’t be possible to pull off. But somehow he always does. Check out my Abbie Fest Preview posted this past Tuesday for more info, and the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Facebook page for updates throughout the festival. 

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago always lives up to its name; rewarding people who come together at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont with Beatles-related concerts, celebrity interviews; sing-along sessions; trivia contests; photography; artwork; an art contest; and much more. Terry Sylvester, formerly with The Hollies and Louise Harrison, George’s older sibling, are among this year’s guests. See my Fest For Beatles Fans preview (posted this past Wednesday) and The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago website for more information.

The Chicago Air And Water Show is staged along one of the most popular areas on Chicago’s lakefront, which helps add a party atmosphere to the event’s breathtaking display of aerial acrobatics. There are also companies offering food samples, promo items, and chances to win prizes.

The Great American Lobster Fest returns to Chicago’s Navy Pier tomorrow and Sunday. The Original Wailers, who backed reggae superstar Bob Marley, will headline both nights. Other acts scheduled to perform include Burnside And Hooker, a coed band that weaves theatrical elements within jazz and rock arrangements; the folk rock act The Future Laureates; and Honey And The 45s, a soul/jazz act fronted by two women lead vocalists. 

The final outdoor concert in Palatine’s 2015 Sounds Of Summer series takes place tonight at the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater, and it looks like a good one. Lance Lapinsky and The Lovers perform 1950s and 1960s style music with an emphasis on unbridled piano playing. Lapinksy was a cast member in the Chicago production of Million Dollar Quartet.

Also, in Palatine, The Freemont Theater Company will wrap up its production of the hit musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying at Cutting Hall in Palatine. It will be performed Friday through Sunday.

Yes, he’s gonna throw a party, party. Smithereens lead vocalist-guitarist Pat DiNizio is bringing back his FAN-tastic Fan Fest format to celebrate his 60th birthday on October 10 at the Italian American Hall in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. The Smithereens, Marshall Crenshaw, and The Grip Weeds will be performing, with other musical guests to be added soon. The event will also serve as a fundraiser to help pay for surgery DiNizio needs on his arm and hand. Tickets are available through PayPal for $99.99 and must be purchased in advance. See The Smithereens Facebook page for more information.

LaGrange used to have a Borders book store in its downtown area and now it’s got an Anderson’s Book Store that just opened this month. Anderson’s is known for the many author-related events it holds at its Naperville and Downers Grove locations, and there are already some being lined for this new space.

Wizard World Comic Con Chicago runs next Thursday, August 20 through Sunday, August 24 at the Donald E. Stephens Center in Rosemont. Billie Piper and Arthur Darville from Doctor Who are among the many celebrity guests. I’m calling it Rory Williams Comic Con Chicago because Darville, who played that character on the sci-fi series, isn’t being promoted as much as he deserves for this event.

Reason number 5,257 why I want to visit England again. There will be a Rolling Stones memorabilia exhibit called Exhibitionism at the Saatchi Gallery in London from April September 2016. Check out the amazing promo video on the official website.

Philamonjaro Studio will present an opening reception for its exhibit featuring Howard Greenblatt’s photos of Tut’s at the Blues Heaven club next Saturday, August 22nd, from noon to 3:00 PM. Tut’s played host to some of alt rock’s best bands—including Los Lobos, X, The Replacements, and Missing Persons, along with Chicago’s best acts—from 1979 to 1984. The exhibit will run for about six weeks. Blues Heaven is located at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue.

The New Invaders, an honorary tribute band of A Hollies Summer In Chicago due to their inclusion of Hollies songs at many of their shows, will be performing a Summer Lunchtime Concert from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Friday, August 21 at the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in downtown Chicago.

The waiting is almost over for fans of Tributosaurus who enjoy when the eclectic and critically acclaimed tribute band plays Tom Petty songs. Tributosaurus has covered Petty in the past, and will be doing it again on September 4 as part of the Taste Of Pononia festival taking place September 4 through 7 outside the Copernicus Center in Jefferson Park. 

Down by the river. The band Frisbie will be performing on Chicago’s Downtown River Walk from 1:00 to 3:00 PM next Saturday, August 22nd. I’ve heard that the bands play by the stairs at LaSalle, but if that’s not the case, just follow the sound of ringing guitars to the right location.

I haven't been able to find much info on this, but the first ever West Loop Art Fest takes place next Saturday and Sunday on Washington Boulevard, between Halsted and Aberdeen. Admission is $10.

The good news keeps rolling in for Squeeze fans. Founding members Chris Difford & Glenn Tilbrook have two acoustic shows coming in November at Park West in Chicago, and the band recently announced plans to release its first album of new material in 17 years. Cradle To The Grave drops October 2, but fans can order a limited edition CD version that comes with individually numbered collector inserts. The tracks will be the same as on the version that comes out in October.

Herb Eimerman, who sings and plays bass with the international power pop trio The Britannicas, and once teamed with Shoes member Jeff Murphy as The Nerk Twins, has a solo EP coming out August 28 on the Ego indie label. The five-song Five Dimensional Man features Eimerman providing just about all the instruments and vocals. It was produced by his Britannicas mate Joe Algeri. I’ll be reviewing Five Dimensional Man in the near future. Hopefully, I’ll also be getting to reviews of new efforts by Wilco, Jack Scratch,  Larry O. Dean, and some new imports from the UK label Fruits der Mer.

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Jigsaw Seen - “Have A Wonderful Day”


It doesn’t take long to realize the title of this hard-edged new single from The Jigsaw Seen is laced with sarcasm. Described by lead vocalist and songwriter Dennis Davison as a State Of The Union address that turned sour, “Have A Wonderful Day” is a psychedelic doomsday clock set to a catchy melody. “Tamper with perfection,” Davison sings, protesting the way we abuse the environment. “Turn it to pollution.” Jonathan Lea backs these sentiments with his powerful guitar playing, and bassist-keyboards player Tom Courier’s engaging piano work augments a slower interlude.

The single also includes a new mix of “We Women,” an acerbic but irresistible look at the war between the sexes composed by Davison and propelled by Teddy Freese’s steady drumming. It originally appeared on Old Man Reverb, the most recent in a line of well-received albums from this band over the past few decades. “Running To The Convent” is a little-known garage rock gem by the English band Dry Ice that The Jigsaw Seen obviously had a blast covering live at radio station KFJC.
   
The Jigsaw Seen will be out touring the U.S. in the next few months.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fest For Beatles Fans Fits Perfectly In A Hollies Summer In Chicago


Photo from the Fest For Beatles Fans Facebook page.

And now we move on to the second major event in what I’ve designated as A Hollies Summer In Chicago. On July 28, Graham Nash performed at The Arcada in St. Charles and now Terry Sylvester, who replaced Nash in The Hollies in 1969, is one of the guests at this year’s Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. He’ll be interviewed on Saturday and Sunday, take part in a Musicians’ Forum on Sunday, and perform a few songs with the Liverpool tribute band on Saturday and Sunday night. I’ll be curious to see if he’s wearing the Broken Hearted Toy button I gave him when he performed at City Winery - Chicago as part of The British Invasion tour.

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago runs this Friday through Sunday. Founded by Mark and Carol Lapidos back in the late 1970s, the annual celebration has never failed to live up to its name. A wide range of fans will come together at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont to relive Beatlemania and the original British Invasion via concerts, celebrity interviews; sing-along sessions; trivia contests; photography; artwork; a Beatles art contest; and much more. There’s a huge marketplace of every imaginable form of Beatles and rock memorabilia that can take hours to fully explore and appreciate.

In addition to Sylvester, the 2015 lineup of celebrity guests offers contemporaries of The Beatles; industry people who worked with The Beatles; several authors; creative types who were inspired by The Beatles; and a high-profile relative. Louise Harrison—George’s sister—is returning to Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago for the first time since 1999. She’ll no doubt be discussing her new book My Kid Brother’s Band. . .a.k.a. The Beatles during her Special Guest appearances on Saturday and Sunday.

Billy Kinsley, a member of The Merseybeats and Liverpool Express, as well as a session musician for Apple Records, will be on hand Saturday and Sunday, and perform a few songs with the Liverpool tribute band on those same nights. Jack Oliver, the former president of Apple Records, will share what it was like to run a world famous label with The Beatles. The Weeklings, a new quartet comprised of Glen Burtnik and John Merjave from the Liverpool tribute band plus Bob Burger and Dave Anthony, will perform on Sunday at 2:30 PM. They’ll have vinyl and CD copies of their debut Monophonic for sale afterward. Dick Biondi will talk about his decades of being one of Chicago’s most popular rock and roll disk jockeys.

Fest regular Mark Hudson is a producer and musician who has worked with Ringo Starr, Cher, and numerous other highly successful musicians. On Sunday, he’ll host the always entertaining Musicians’ Forum, with this year’s participants Sylvester, Kinsley, and sax player Mark Rivera. Rivera has worked as Ringo Starr’s Musical Director and is an impressive recording artist as well. Rob Shanahan has spent years as Ringo Starr’s photographer, and Bruce Spizer is part of an impressive list of authors whose books explore The Beatles from several points of view.

There will be designated signing times for all the guests, and many will take part in extended interviews throughout the weekend in the Grand Ballroom. Long-time master of ceremonies Terri Hemmert, whose Breakfast With The Beatles show airs on WXRT in Chicago every Sunday morning, is the one who conducts those interviews. Her approach mixes the enthusiasm of an avid fan with the insight she’s gained as a veteran broadcaster. A number of authors will have presentations in the Grand Ballroom as well.

There are some new activities this year—or at least some I don’t remember seeing in the past—including the FABoratory Beatles Experimental Zone, which brings fans and performers together on fun and creative projects. The Apple Jam Stage will feature shows by local performers, like singer-guitarist Phil Angotti; ukulele player Nick Peay; singer-guitarist Scott Erickson; and School Of Rock. Over at the Paperback Writer Room, one of the more promising sessions taking place will be Talking and Joking With a Bunch of Liverpool Scousers, featuring Harrison, Sylvester, and Kinsley.

Saturday and Sunday night will end with a performance by Liverpool, one of the top Beatles tribute bands in the country. They don’t dress up in Sgt. Pepper uniforms or chatter in fake accents—they just play amazingly faithful covers of Beatles songs. On Saturday, they’ll recreate The Beatles’ 1965 Shea Stadium concert, and on Sunday, they’ll salute the 50th anniversary of the movie Help. Liverpool will be joined by Sylvester, Hudson, and Rivera during those performances on Saturday and Sunday night. Seeing as there are fewer musicians among the guests this year, I’m hoping that means Terry Sylvester will get to play a number of Hollies songs. It is after all, A Hollies Summer In Chicago.

Tickets are $52 for Friday, $75 for Saturday or Sunday, and $189 for the entire weekend. Various two-day combinations are also available. Check Fest For Beatles Fans-Chicago online for a list of the celebrity guests and an extensive rundown on all the activities going on this weekend.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Abbie Fest 27 Preview


The man at the center of the mayhem. Photo from Rich Cotovskys Facebook page.

Mary-Arrchie, a storefront ensemble with close to three decades of critically hailed in-your-face productions, will hold its Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival this weekend, August 14th - 16th. The annual event involves veteran and fledgling groups from across Chicago’s vibrant theatre community gathering at the Mary-Arrchie’s 735 W. Sheridan Road home base. It has almost been around as long as the theatre itself, having sprung to life just two years after Mary-Arrchie was founded.

Once again, the official kickoff will be a hippie-infused rally in Daley Plaza at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. This will lead to a march to the Mary-Arrchie Theatre at the corner of Broadway and Sheridan Road, just south of Irving Park Road. Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky will once again resurrect his impersonation of Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman. I’ve seen the Opening Ceremony several times, and it’s simultaneously spooky and fun how he emerges from a casket after being brought onstage by a fervent team of cast members.

Each year, Cotovsky/Hoffman oversees a chaotic and virtually nonstop barrage of drama, comedy, music, and performance art that he jokingly concedes he shouldn’t be able to pull off. But somehow he always does. I performed there for 20 years with the Famous In The Future comedy group, and I’ve continued to go every year since. The participants develop a sense of community among themselves, as well as with the audience members who have become Abbie Fest regulars.
  
This year, Famous In The Future will present a mix of skits and songs titled Organic Free-Range Non-Genetically Modified Comedy on Saturday night. They’re the only group other than the Mary-Arrchie to have participated in every single Abbie Fest; FIF founder Frank Carr and Rich Cotovsky are the only performers who have managed that feat. Also on Saturday, Abbie Fest veterans Black Forest will present their latest original avant garde comedy piece And Now. Mary-Arrchie will perform Arlene Cook’s Gas Mask 101 and Matt Borczon’s Wild Dogs, both of which are showcases for the theatre company’s hard-edged approach.

Other performers include Rush Pearson; The Plagiarists; Dramageddon; Democracy Burlesque; Revolution Theatre; Iguana Productions; Indie Boots Theatre; and Trained Monkey Productions. The full schedule, voluntarily put together by Frank Carr, can be found on the Famous In The Future website. Also, the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Facebook page has updates and informative posts from the various acts involved in the festival. 

Tickets are $10 for an all-day pass and $25 for a weekend pass.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Arthur Nasson - The Emperor’s New Sound


Singer/multi-instrumentalist Arthur Nasson has simultaneously released a pair of EPs with the experimental That’s No Way To Treat A Piano and more accessible The Emperor’s New Sound. The latter finds Nasson, who’s also a producer, songwriter, and filmmaker, crafting original pop music that’s defiantly out of synch with the current chart-topping hits. With help from his sons Graham and Colin, Nasson gives the five songs vintage, big production values along with clever and well-honed lyrics.

Nasson has been known to tap into the British Invasion on previous efforts, but it’s harder to pinpoint what era he’s aiming for this time out. The energetic piano and guitar playing on “Multiverse” and the satiric title track evoke Elton John in his prime, while “Tiger By The Claws,” with its breezy vocal arrangement, has more of an early 1960s cocktail vibe. Nasson’s lyrics on “Purple Swan” are bit cloying, but once again the instrumentation makes it work. Graham Nasson plays a Hammond B3 organ on “Graham’s Gentlemen’s Club,” the slinky instrumental that closes this anachronistic but fun EP.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

Slumgullion


I was planning to buy everybody in Chicago one of these but I ran out of money.

There’s really no reason to feel let down or bored. Sure, Lollapalooza has passed, John Stewart has left The Daily Show, and summer is more than half over, but there are still a lot of indoor and outdoor activities coming up in the next few weeks. Here’s a rundown of some of those events from the world of entertainment. As always, Slumgullion is entirely organic and free of SEO or corporate additives.

For those who want to relive the fun they had at Lollapalooza or see what the missed, radio station WXRT currently has exclusive footage of live performances, including Paul McCartney’s entire set; interviews with some of artists; and an archive of photos.

The Freemont Theater Company’s production of the hit musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying opens tonight at Cutting Hall in Palatine. It will be performed through Sunday this weekend, and then Friday through Sunday next weekend.

Rock Art Show, the online store that sells art of and by famous musicians, is offering a hand-signed piece by Ringo Starr that features his handwritten lyrics from The Beatles song “Don’t Pass Me By.” As an added incentive, 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Ringo’s charity The Lotus Foundation.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Awesome August post, two must-see events on the Broken Hearted Toy calendar occur next weekend in Chicago. The 27th Annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival runs Friday through Sunday at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre, and Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago returns to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont for those same three days. Check yesterday’s post and the Mary-Arrchie Theatre and Fest For Beatles Fans websites for more information.

In two weeks, Wizard World Comic Con Chicago runs from Thursday, August 20 to Sunday, August 24 at the Donald E. Stephens Center in Rosemont. I’m hoping to post previews of Abbie Fest 27, Fest For Beatles Fans, and Wizard World here on BHT.

The Chicago Air And Water Show takes place on the lakefront at North Avenue next Saturday and Sunday, and you can see the jets flying overhead from outside the Mary-Arrchie Theatre. 

Graham Nash, whose show at The Arcada in St. Charles on July 28 was the primary reason I’ve declared this A Hollies Summer In Chicago, has posted a review of that show on his Facebook page. It was written by Ron Onesti, the owner of The Arcada, and originally ran in the Daily Herald. It’s a fun review but also kind of heartbreaking.

My wife Pam and I arrived in St. Charles a few hours before that concert in the hope of running into Nash. We talked about what would be the most likely places he’d go. In his review, Onesti says that Nash went out before the concert to a vintage car show down the street, and was talking with people there. By the time we noticed the car show, it was almost time for the concert, so we didn’t check it out. Just a reminder, anyone who wants to read my review of that same concert can check out my July 29 find it post.

The Anglo Tees company is offering a limited-edition British Invasion t-shirt that features the names of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Donovan, Petula Clark, The Who, The Yardbirds, and several other UK acts from the 1960s. It’s available in grey or black, in a v-neck or long-sleeve style, and as a sweatshirt or a hoodie. I’m tempted to buy one for everybody in Chicago as part of my Hollies Summer celebration but that would seriously dent my BHT bank account. It’s only available for the next six more days.

Philamonjaro Studio will present an opening reception for its exhibit featuring Howard Greenblatt’s photos of Tut’s at the Blues Heaven club on August 22nd, from noon to 3:00 PM. Tut’s played host to some of alt rock’s best bands—including Los Lobos, X, The Replacements, and Missing Persons, along with Chicago’s best acts—from 1979 to 1984. The exhibit will run for about six weeks. Blues Heaven is located at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue.

Don’t be fooled by the ironically optimistic title.  The Jigsaw Seen sets an ecological warning to a thundering psychedelic arrangement on the brand new song it just released  “Have A Wonderful Day.” It’s part of a three-track single that also includes a new mix of “We Women” from The Jigsaw Scene’s recent Old Man Reverb album and a live cover of “Running To The Convent” by the English band Dry Ice. I’ll be posting a review of this single in the near future.

The New Invaders, an honorary tribute band of A Hollies Summer In Chicago due to their inclusion of Hollies songs at many of their shows, will be performing a Summer Lunchtime Concert from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Friday, August 21 at the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in downtown Chicago.

Down by the river. Power pop band Frisbie will be performing somewhere along Chicago’s Downtown River Walk from 1:00 to 3:00 PM on Saturday, August 22nd. I haven’t seen a specific location mentioned, but the Riverwalk isn’t that long, so just follow the sound of ringing guitars.

All The Wine, the Chicago-based indie rock trio whose Summer Parade EP was favorably reviewed here on Broken Hearted Toy on July 1, has a new song called “Time And Direction” that’s available for a free download on their Bandcamp page. Like the songs on Summer Parade, it features angst-ridden lyrics within a powerful guitar-driven, arrangement.  

About a week ago, my wife Pam and I had a bittersweet get-together with our long-time friend Karen at a nearby restaurant. Her husband Ross, also a good friend, couldn’t join us because he was busy finalizing their family’s move to California at the end of the month. Over dishes of ice cream, we shared memories, a lot of them centered on the days when Karen and I performed in the Famous In The Future comedy group.

She left a few years before I did but we still had a decade together. Karen is a natural at performing comedy and memorizes lines almost immediately. She didn’t write skits, but like everyone in our group, helped shape their outcome. And even though Karen never hesitated to say when she didn’t like something, she voiced her objections tactfully. It was always a joy to watch her bring a character to life.

Next Saturday, I’ll be at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre on Chicago’s north side, watching Famous In The Future perform as part of The 27th annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival. I haven’t missed an Abbie Fest or an FIF show there yet. So here’s a toast to Karen, Frank, Desiree, Michael, Tina, Pat, David, Lisa, Nathan, Guy, Bryn, Amy, Tracy, Kelly, Geneiveve, John, Susan, Cheryl, and all the many cast members who made Famous In The Future so rewarding and fun for me over 20 years. May the group continue to flourish. 

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