Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Shelters - The Shelters

The Shelters’ journey through this self-titled album is so sure-footed, it’s hard to believe it’s their full-length debut and they’ve only been around a few years. Having Tom Petty co-produce surely helped, but the credit for the depth and quality of material goes entirely to this Los Angeles-based quartet. Two of the tracks have already been chosen as “Coolest Song Of The Week” by Little Steven Van Zandt on his Underground Garage radio program, and several more are qualified to follow.

It’s hard to pin a label on The Shelters since they dabble in so many genres, but suffice to say if it’s cool and guitar-driven music, you’ll probably find it here. The jangling intro to “Rebel Heart” is pure Beatles, but the song also has a glam rock allure. “Fortune Teller,” embellished with harmony vocals and harmonica playing, could have been an early Hollies hit single. “Never Look Behind Ya” and “Down” are gritty, blues rock songs, and the acoustic “Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrying ‘Bout That Girl” falls between Jack White and something from Led Zeppelin III.

Throughout the album, hard-edged tunes like “Birdwatching” and “Surely Burn” are balanced with the dream-like atmosphere of “Born To Fly” or the easy-going prog rock of “Dandelion Ridge.” The mysterious experiences described in “Gold” evoke vintage Fleetwood Mac, while “The Ghost Is Gone” drifts through some interesting tempo changes. “Liar,” a song about a relationship riddled with deceit, combines echo-laden vocals and energetic guitar playing for a classic rock feel.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

By The Time We Got To The Den Theatre

When Mary-Arrchie Theatre staged The Last Abbie at The Den Theatre a little over a week ago, it marked the end of a 28-year tradition of celebrating the communal and unbridled spirit of the original Woodstock via the annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival. If you missed that event, or saw it and want to keep your hippie groove going, head back to The Den Theatre tomorrow (Tuesday) night. That’s when New American Folk Theatre is presenting its fundraiser The Woodstock Cabaret.

New American Folk Theatre (NAFT) has been on the Chicago theatre scene since 2011, having morphed from southside children’s theatre group. The Woodstock Cabaret, billed as “1 Night of Peace, Love and Music,” will offer a number of musicians performing songs by Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jimi Hendrix, Melanie, The Band, and other acts that gathered on Max Yasgur’s farm back in 1969. Tickets are pay-what-you-can, with a suggested donation of $10. The show kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at The Den Theatre, which is located at 1329 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Slumgullion

The Muffs, a fun garage rock/power pop band led by vocalist-guitarist Kim Shattuck, will likely be showcasing their new album Whoop Dee Doo during a gig this Sunday night (August 28) at Empty Bottle on Chicago’s north side. Shattuck has also spent time performing with The Pandoras and Pixies.

The 31st Annual Bucktown Arts Fest will offer loads of art, live bands, poetry, and a kids’ tent this weekend at 2200 N. Oakley Avenue.

I’ve mentioned WXRT’s Garage Sale/Saturday Morning Flashback live broadcast a few times here now. It takes place at Schubas Tavern tomorrow morning from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., with a live concert by The Kickback at 1:00 p.m. I heard on XRT today that the year being featured for the live broadcast is 1974. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens. I wonder if the Garage Sale will have that WXRT blue neon sign from their TV commercials a few decades ago or the Beatles wig Michael Palin wore in another XRT ad.

There will be a Preview Party next Wednesday night, August 31, at The Copernicus Center for this year’s Chicago Fringe Festival. The actual festival will offer a wide range of theatre, dance, storytelling and film through September 11 around Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tickets can be purchased online or at one of the venues involved with the Fringe Fest.

A triple bill of Frisbie, Zapruder, and Mooner are going to be rocking tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

Matthew Sweet drops by Chicago in a couple of weeks for a September 9 show at Park West. His opening act will be Material Reissue, which includes bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko from the original Material Issue, with Phil Angotti replacing the late Jim Ellison on lead vocals. I still remember Material Reissue’s terrific performance at a sold-out International Pop Overthrow showcase in 2011, and of course, I’ll never forget the original lineup.

The Second Disc website is reporting that Concord Bicycle Music, which recently acquired the rights to R.E.M.’s Warner Bros. output, will release a 25th Anniversary Deluxe edition of the band’s 1991 hit album Out Of Time in November. The two-CD set will include the original 11 tracks along with 19 demo versions, and there will be a three-CD set that features a live R.E.M. concert recorded at the Capitol Plaza Theater in Charleston, WV.

Mary-Archie Theatre held its Last Abbie Fest last weekend at The Den Theater, bringing 28 years of Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festivals to and end. I’m still debating how to honor this freewheeling celebration, and how much it meant to me and so many others in the local theatre community. So far, I’ve got comments from Carla Hayden and James Moeller from Black Forest and Frank Carr from Famous In The Future; along with a new song parody I’ve written. If anyone else wants to contribute some thoughts, please feel free to contact me via Broken Hearted Toy.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

1966, A Flashback Auction, and Revolver Tributes

WXRT air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback this Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m at Scubas Tavern. The event is being combined with the progressive rock station’s first Garage Sale, and people willing to get up early on their day off will be able to bid on some interesting stuff. The items include autographed guitars and posters; WXRT CD compilations that are no longer available anywhere else, 2017 Lollapalooza passes, assorted rock and roll memorabilia, and a chance to hang out with one of the dee jays.

The Kickback, a Chicago area band that’s been getting a lot of attention and has released its debut album Sorry All Over The Place, will perform at Schubas at 1:00 p.m.. Their show should be a good way to wrap up this rare opportunity to see Rice working Flashback in person. All proceeds from WXRT’s Garage Sale will go to The Salvation Army's Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

Saturday Morning Flashback, which has been a popular feature on WXRT for several years now, celebrates a different year for each show via music, trivia, news stories, and brief reports recorded by others members of the air staff. It’s well researched, fun, and never fails to bring back a lot of memories. My only complaint is that it’s time for Flashback to go beyond its current range to include at a few years from the current millennium, as well as going back to 1966.

And to that point, The Whatfour, a local band comprising Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, Scott Ligon, Joe Camarillo and John San Juan, will perform The Beatles’ Revolver album in its entirety next Friday (September 2) at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Angotti has become quite adept at honoring 1960s acts, and performed at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. This year’s Fest also featured the Liverpool Beatles tribute band covering Revolver. The landmark album was released 50 years ago.

The Chicago Tribune recently carried a fascinating piece by Los Angeles Times writer Randy Lewis about 1966 titled Rock ’N’ Roll’s Most Revolutionary Year. In it, Lewis mentions Revolver, Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, Love’s Love, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, and Face To Face by The Kinks. I would add For Certain Because by The Hollies. So, there’s plenty of material if 1966 is ever added to the Saturday Morning Flashback roster.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sidewalk Society - Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon

Anyone who’s been impressed with the cover versions Sidewalk Society has recorded for the vinyl-only UK label Fruits de Mer (most recently The Action and David Bowie songs) should check out the California-based trio’s 2012 debut Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon. That same 1960s vibe runs through Sidewalk Society’s original compositions, and with drummer Jerry Buszek, guitarist Danny Lawrence, and bassist Dan West all singing, the vocals are consistently enticing and adventurous. A lot of the catchy yet complex arrangements feature instrumental passages.

That extended time on the psychedelic “Abbey Chatsworth” allows Lawrence to cut loose with some unbridled guitar playing. On “Nice Boys,” a caustic look at a woman who seems to enjoy the challenge of dating obnoxious losers, the band combines funky guitars with a string arrangement. The well-crafted lyrics sometimes take aim at careless lovers, as in the Beatles-influenced “If Only,” but have more of a political and social feel on “Silent Echo” and “Golden Parachute.” The hard-hitting “Sign Of Evolution” has lines like, “I guess all I need is someone to believe in, but it ain’t you.”

Sidewalk Society goes for a mysterious and psychedelic approach on the mid-tempo “Miss Understood,” which describes a woman who, “comes to me from the dead, to give me an answer.” “I Let Her Get Away” has a vintage Motown town, as well as one if those extended instrumental passages. The title track slips into the early 1970s, with a glam rock groove that recalls the party ambience of T-Rex.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Slumgullion

Poster montage from the Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field! Facebook page.

Slumgullion comes a day early this week due to the fact that I’m going out parading tomorrow night.

The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour comes to Ravina tomorrow (August 19) night in Highland Park. I still have fond memories of seeing The Go-Go’s for the first time at ChicagoFest on Navy Pier and then walking over to a record store on Rush Street (I believe where the Barnes And Noble is now) and buying their stellar Beauty And The Beat debut.

Mary-Archie Theatre kicks off its very last Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festival tomorrow night at The Den Theater, where it will revel in wild abandon through Sunday night. You can bet this freewheeling celebration of drama, performance art, live music, and comedy is going to go out with a bang.

If you’re looking for a suitably counter-culture place for dinner before going to The Last Abbie Fest, check out the Revival Food Hall. It just opened today at 125 S. Clark Street, with an impressive roster of 15 restaurants, including Union Squared, Furious Spoon, Brown Bag Seafood Co., and Antique Taco Chiquito. With a Curbside Splendor books and record store also on the premises, this just might be the hippest destination in the downtown area.

The highly influential Los Angeles punk band X, with guitarist-sax player Billy Zoom back in the fold, are performing tomorrow (August 19) night at Metro. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

A video for Graham Nash’s tuneful and introspective song “Myself At Last” is now available on YouTube. The clip consists of stark black and white images of Nash that reflect his twin passions for photography and music. “Myself At Last” is the first single from his recent This Path Tonight album.

Look for Eddie Vedder to be in particularly good spirits when Pearl Jam plays Wrigley Field on Saturday and Monday. His beloved Cubs are having their best season since 1969 and are leading the National League East by double digits. Pearl Jam has commissioned five artists to create posters for the concert. Hopefully, there won’t be any extended rain delays this time.

The weather could also be a factor when Wilco performs at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion this Sunday. The band will likely be showcasing songs from its upcoming album Schmilco, which is due out in a few weeks. Wilco’s opening act on Sunday will be Twin Peaks, a band that’s been attracting a lot of attention in the past few years.

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con opened today at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont and runs through Sunday. This year’s celebrities guests include Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher Rosario Dawson, John Barrowman, and Norman Reedus.

Theater Zuidpool will bring “Belgium’s greatest rock musicians” to Thalia Hall 2 for its hard rock adaptation of Macbeth this Saturday and Sunday. The production is being presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Thalia Hall. Tickets start at $28.

The Glenwood Ave Arts Fest will offer an eclectic selection of music acts when it takes place this weekend in the Rogers Park neighborhood, just off the Red Line stop. Performers include White Mystery, The Red Plastic Buddha, The Locals, Devil In A Woodpile, Boolean Knife, The Amazing Heebie Jeebies, and Ellis Clark and And The Big Parade with special guests Carla Prather from Poi Dog Pondering and Ary Jeebie from The Amazing Heebie Jeebies. And there’s no admission fee.

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ellis Clark, whose impressive resume includes performing with Epicycle, The Handcuffs, and the previously mentioned Ms. Jeebie, recently posted on Facebook that he’s wrapping up work on a new Social Act album. Back when I was a cub reporter for the Illinois Entertainer in the late1980s, I interviewed Clark and his Social Act bandmates after a performance at (if my memory is correct) Park West.

Maybe I could sell some of my Featured Artists cards there. WXRT is holding a Garage Sale next Saturday at Schubas Tavern on Chicago’s north side from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If that sounds on the early side, it’s because air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback from 8:00 a.m. to noon. There will also be live music, shopping, and music-related items to bid on. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

It was nice to see so many people show up at Mac’s On Slade in Palatine last Sunday for a benefit to help Shadows Of Knight lead vocalist Jimi Sohns cover some of his recent medical bills. Kevin Lee And The Kings, Soul Patch Monkey, Dream Police, and Dean Milano performed live, and Sohns appeared to be in good spirits as he socialized at the event.

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra has an upcoming gig at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on September 3, along with Jay O’Rourke.

Plan Ahead

Muffs - August 28 at Empty Bottle

Matthew Sweet with Material ReIssue - September 9 - Park West

Riot Fest - September 16–18 in Douglas Park

Lush - September 18 at The Vic (Sold Out)

The Buzzcocks - September 22 - The Vic

The Smithereens - September 25 at City Winery

Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary - October 1 at The Chicago Theatre

Nick Lowe with Josh Rouse - October 15, October 17 at Old Town School of Folk Music

Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom And Other Chambers Tour - October 29 at The Chicago Theatre

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome To My (Wizard) World - 2016


Wizard World Chicago Comic Con returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont tomorrow and will cast its magical spell through Sunday. This annual convention is a major attraction for self-professed nerds, sci-fi devotees, graphic novels readers, art lovers, and anyone who embraces the more adventurous paths of modern culture. A four-day pass costs $105, and prices for single day tickets vary.

This year, several celebrity guests are assembled in teams. You’ll find Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson from Back To The Future; along with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis from The X-Files; Norman Reedus, Tom Payne, and Danai Guria from The Walking Dead; Rosario Dawson, Eldon Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elodie Yung, and Charlie Cox from Daredevil; and John Barrowman and Colin Donnell from Arrow.

I would have loved to see a lineup like that from Doctor Who. At least this year’s Comic Con has the very funny Barrowman, who in addition to starring on Arrow, played Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Carrie Fisher, Kate Mulgrew, Rose McIver, and Bruce Campbell will also be on hand. 

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con also offers aisle after aisle of corporate and independent vendors selling comic books, t shirts, action figures, and other fantasy/sci-fi related artifacts. In the huge marketplace dubbed Artists Alley, up-and-coming artists and writers compete for attention. If was a high-powered financier from a counter-culture version of Shark Tank, I’d put up funds for several of the worthy projects these people have created.

There’s also a fun, masquerade atmosphere as people dress up in superhero or villain costumes, and gladly pose for photos. Where else are you going to see Batman and Princess Leia sipping 32-oz. Cokes together, or Captain Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter walking side by side. Check the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con website for the complete schedule and prices.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

So Long, And Thanks For All The Freaks

Mary-Arrchie Theatre was a storefront ensemble that exuded a counter-culture vibe throughout three decades of critically hailed productions. That attitude was never more evident than during its annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival, which first sprang from the unfettered mind of Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky in 1989 and has been a tradition ever since. The company closed earlier this year, but will offer one more hippie hurrah as The Last Abbie Fest runs this Friday through Sunday.

The official kickoff will be a rally in Daley Plaza at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. As always, the event will bring together veteran and fledgling groups from across Chicago’s vibrant theatre community. Since the building that Mary-Arrchie called home—at the corner of Broadway and Sheridan Road—has been demolished, Abbie Fest will be held at The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Cotovsky will resurrect his impersonation of Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman as he 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. Mary-Arrchie will perform Arlene Cook’s Gas Mask 101 and Matt Borczon’s Wild Dogs, both of which are annual showcases for the theatre company’s hard-edged approach. Mary-Arrchie ensemble member/director Carlo Garcia will host an Abbie-Okie Karaoke and Cotovsky will rage through a Bitch With Rich session in the wee hours of the morning.

I performed at Abbie Fest 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 fanatics. This year, Famous In The Future, which has carried on nicely without me, will present the aptly titled revue of skits and songs The End Of Abbie Road at 5:50 p.m. on Saturday. The always fascinating Black Forest will perform their latest original avant garde piece Shimmerings that same afternoon.

Other Abbie Fest regulars who’ll be back for this one last ride include A Red Orchid Theatre; Rush Pearson; The Plagiarists; Strawdog Theatre, Sense Of Urgency Theatre; Democracy Burlesque; REVOLUTION Theatre; Indie Boots Theatre; and Trained Monkey Productions.

The Closing Ceremonies on Sunday, which feature Cotovsky as Abbie Hoffman railing against the evils of right wing society before being carried off by pallbearers, will be especially poignant. This time, Abbie Fest won't be coming back.

The full schedule is available on the Mary-Arrchie website.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Mimi Betinis - Music Sounds

Mimi Betinis is well known to power pop fans as the lead vocalist and guitarist for Pezband, one of the very first acts to embrace the genre. In addition to performing with the group and releasing the 2014 rarities collection Dangerous People - Pezband Nineteen Hundred Seventy Nine, Betinis is also a solo artist. The recently released Music Sounds continues the approach of his 2010 All That Glitters in exploring different types of music while keeping the emphasis on strong melodies.

“This Girl” has a playful Latin feel, along with fluid piano playing and funky guitars. The techno beat of “There Is Love” is irresistible from the start, while the strings-embellished “Palm Of Her Hand” sounds like 1960s make out music. Betinis evokes Paul McCartney’s “Another Day” with the light, melodic fare of “Listen To Me Boy” and a reworked “Say The Word” from All That Glitters.

There’s also the party rock of “Most Of The Time,” a tribute to a (usually) faithful lover, while the guitar-fueled “Pontiac” takes listeners on a nationwide quest to find the answers to life’s assorted mysteries. “Sound The Alarm” taps into vintage Pezband as Betinis vows to save the world from heartache, starting with a particular woman he has in mind.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Slumgullion

The Official Hollies website and Facebook page have announced that two of the band’s classic albums are about to be re-released in splendid fashion. There will be mono and stereo versions of each of the tracks on Evolution and Butterfly—which originally came at the height of the first psychedelic era—on 180g vinyl, along with stereo versions on CD. The music showcases Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Bobby Elliott, and Bernie Calvert at the height of their creative powers. The Evolution and Butterfly reissues are available for preorder on the English and American Amazon sites. Now that The Hollies have rejoined the vinyl world, maybe they’ll do something really cool for the next Record Store Day.

Toots And The Maytals are headlining the “One Day, One Love!” Reggae Fest Chicago 2016 tomorrow. The event is being held at Addams Medill Park at 15th Street and Loomis. Other performers include Lee “Scratch” Perry, Dauby Taure, and Iration.

The 40th Anniversary Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago kicked off tonight at the Hyatt Regency - O’Hare and will run through Sunday with celebrity guests that include Albert Lee, Peter Asher, Billy J. Kramer, Klaus Voorman, Mark Hudson, Joey Molland, Pat DiNizio, and George Harrison’s sister Louise. See this past Wednesday’s post for a more extensive look this fun annual event.

Kevin Lee and The Kings, Dean Milano, Dream Police, and Soul Patch Monkey are getting together this Sunday afternoon at Mac’s On Slade in Palatine to stage a benefit for Shadows Of Knight vocalist Jimi Sohns. All proceeds will go toward paying Sohn’s recent medial bills.

Mary-Archie Theatre will present its very last Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins next weekend August 19–21 at The Den Theater. You can bet this freewheeling celebration of drama, performance art, live music, and comedy is going to go out with a bang. I’m hoping to post more about The Final Abbie next week.

Buy your tickets now before all of the good ones are taken. Ian Hunter and The Rant Band have a couple of gigs coming up at City Winery Chicago on October 11 and 12.

X, with guitarist-sax player Billy Zoom back in the fold, will be performing at Metro next Friday night, August 19.

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont next Thursday, August 18 and runs through Sunday. In addition to hordes of vendors selling comic books, t shirts, action figures, and other fantasy/sci-fi related artifacts, you’ll encounter people in elaborate costumes, and have a chance to see celebrities like Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher, Rosario Dawson, John Barrowman, and Norman Reedus.

The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour comes to Ravina in Highland Park next Friday, August 19.

Theater Zuidpool will bring “Belgium’s greatest rock musicians” to Thalia Hall 2 for its hard rock adaptation of Macbeth on August 21 and 22. The production is being presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Thalia Hall. Tickets start at $28.

Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller and The Milk Carton Kids will gather at the Vic Theatre on October 13 for Lampedusa: Concert for Refugees.

If you think this year’s selection of live bands at Chicago area street festivals has been more cookie-cutter than ever, you might be interested in the very first Thirsty Ears Festival taking place tomorrow on the north side. According to Rick Kogan’s piece in last Sunday’s Chicago Tribune, the Thirsty Ears bash created by Seth Boustead will offer live performances of classical music, as well as European craft beers. Having face painting for kids sounds a bit mundane, unless they mean Renoir, van Gogh, or Picasso reproductions.

Plan Ahead:

Wizard World Comic Con - August 18–21 at Donald A. Stephens Center

Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival - August 19–21 at The Den Theatre

Muffs - August 28 at Empty Bottle

Matthew Sweet with Material ReIssue - September 9 - Park West

Riot Fest - September 16–18 in Douglas Park

Lush - September 18 at The Vic (Sold Out)

The Buzzcocks - September 22 - The Vic

The Smithereens - September 25 at City Winery

Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary - October 1 at The Chicago Theatre

Nick Lowe with Josh Rouse - October 15, October 17 at Old Town School of Folk Music

Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom And Other Chambers Tour - October 29 at The Chicago Theatre

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Lash Outs - State Of Excess

The Lash Outs live up to their name on their third album State Of Excess by mixing criticism and aggressive arrangements in equal measures. Their targets are well chosen, though, and while the quick-rhyming put-downs come fast and furious, they’re clever and fun. It also helps to have a vocalist like lead guitarist Joey Holbrook, who sounds like the late Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy at times.

Basically, this Dallas-based quartet has little patience for jerks, whether it’s the snot-nosed fellow employee on “Work To Get By” or a woman’s parasitic boyfriend on “Don’t Know Why.” Holbrook is like a boxer landing punches when he sings, “When she comes home from work/She’s sure to find a jerk.” On “Retail Therapy,” a song about a shopaholic, he notes, “This little habit, she can’t combat it,” while cutting loose on guitar alongside rhythm guitarist-vocalist Ralph Thompson.

Holbrook, Thompson, bassist Adam Allen and drummer Dustin Crabtree craft a catchy sound that’s part hard rock, part The Ramones, and at times reminiscent of “Back Of My Hand (I’ve Got Your Number)” by the UK band The Jags. While The Lash Outs obviously relish their zingers, there’s a sort of ‘don't try this at home’ message in their song “Mistakes.” Holbrook urges taking care, because angry words or actions “could mean the end of you or someone else.” A warning worth heeding in these troubled times.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Step Right Up

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago runs this Friday through Sunday. Founded by Mark and Carol Lapidos back in the late 1970s, the annual celebration brings a wide range of fans together at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont to relive Beatlemania via concerts, celebrity interviews; sing-along sessions; trivia contests; art exhibits; video presentations, and more. There are also unique Beatles and rock items for sale in the marketplace.

The 2016 lineup of celebrity guests includes musicians; authors (including Bruce Spizer and Robert Rodriguez); artist Eric Cash; and Louise Harrison—George’s sister. Klaus Voorman, the artist/musician who inspired The Beatles in their earliest days, will be on hand for a premiere and exhibition of a graphic novel based on how he designed the Revolver album cover. Peter Asher and Billy J. Kramer, contemporaries of The Beatles (and recipients of some of their compositions) will be there, along with Badfinger’s lead guitarist Joey Molland.

Guitarist Albert Lee, who performed with George Harrison and Eric Clapton, is making his Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago debut. Mark Hudson, a musician and producer who has worked with Ringo Starr and Cher, is a longtime Fest participant with an unbridled sense humor and an extensive knowledge of rock and roll.

Once again, there will be lots of live music, including Peter Asher and Albert Lee’s In Story And Song Part 1 on Saturday and Part 2 on Sunday in the Ballroom. The Apple Jam Stage, which made an impressive debut last year, offers performances on a small stage all weekend. I would particularly recommend catching Phil Angotti, who has done several 1960s-related shows around town; Jay Goeppner, who often performs with Angotti and leads the tribute band Backdated; and Pat DiNizio, lead vocalist-guitarist with The Smithereens. The superb Beatles tribute band Liverpool performs in the Ballroom each night of The Fest, and on Saturday night, they’ll cover songs from Revolver and then jam with Kramer, Molland, Hudson, Lee, and DiNizio. The Weeklings, a quartet comprised of Glen Burtnik and John Merjave from Liverpool, plus Bob Burger and Dave Anthony, will perform on Saturday afternoon.

There will be designated signing times for most of the guests, and many will be interviewed by master of ceremonies Terri Hemmert, whose Breakfast With The Beatles show airs on WXRT in Chicago every Sunday morning. (I posted a piece about Hemmert this past Sunday.)

Tickets are $52 for Friday, $78 for Saturday or Sunday, and $190 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 (too many to list here) going on all weekend.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Dot Dash - Searchlights

Over the course of four previous albums, Dot Dash has shown an expertise for not only drawing inspiration from the cutting-edge rock of the late 1970s and ‘80s, but also making that sound their own. They offered authentic punk on their debut Spark>Flame>Ember before moving on to a more guitar-driven approach reminiscent of Translator and Red Rockers on their later efforts. It’s not as immediately evident what the Washington, D.C.-based band is going for on the brand new Searchlights, but it’s another adventurous, engaging effort.

“Dance On Broken Glass” could easily be taken as a hard rock song, based on the furious guitar playing of Steve Hansgen and vocalist Terry Banks. They also cut loose on the high-speed “Lonely Serenade” and the epic-length “Fading Out.” And yet, there’s “Dumb Entertainment,” a stark blast of sneering punk defiance, and it feels as though the ghost of Joe Strummer is drifting through “10,000 Days,” “The Infinite,” and the more nuanced but still edgy title track.

Dot Dash keeps the emphasis on strong melodies and biting lyrics while exploring new territory. “Sooner or later, every caped crusader finds a villain he can’t beat,” Banks sings on “Crumbs,” another song that taps into The Clash. His vocal inflections add a subtle touch to the more introspective “Summer Lights,” and he growls through the goofy party rock of “Daddy Long Legs.”

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

The (Class) Act You’ve Known For All These Years

Photo from Terri Hemmert's Facebook page.
You could almost hear a collective sigh of relief among Chicago area Beatles fans this morning as they tuned in to Breakfast With The Beatles on WXRT and found host Terri Hemmert has returned to her regular schedule. She had been out of commission due to back surgery but recorded a number of editions of the two-hour weekly program in advance so it wouldn’t have to go on hiatus. Today’s Breakfast With The Beatles was her first new one since her operation.

The good news extends to the 40th Annual Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago at the Hyatt Regency - O’Hare in Rosemont next weekend. Hemmert might need a wheelchair to get around, but she does intend to serve as the event’s Master Of Ceremonies for her 39th consecutive year. This likely includes chatting with the celebrity guests and conducting The Battle Of The Beatles Bands contest.

As an interviewer, her calling card is combining the enthusiasm of a fan with the professional approach of an air personality who’s earned a place in the National Radio Hall Of Fame. Hemmert joked on her show today that she would host The Fest even if she had to do it on a stretcher. That’s probably true but let’s hope it never comes to that.

Terri Hemmert also has also returned to the 10a.m. to 1p.m. weekday shift on WXRT.

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Slumgullion

Two veteran Chicago rock critics posted articles this week praising L7 in advance of a gig tomorrow night (August 6) at Metro featuring the band’s best-known lineup of guitarist-vocalists Donita Sparks and Suzi Gardner, bassist Jennifer Finch, and drummer Dee Plakas. Chicago Tribune writer Chrissie Dickinson offers an informative interview with Sparks, and in The Reader, Monica Kendrick describes L7 as “a force of nature, steamrolling gender barriers.” Both writers mention an upcoming L7 documentary from director Sarah Price.

Bryan Ferry will make his Ravinia debut tomorrow night in a show that’s bound to be soulful, seductive, and very classy.

Taste Of Lincoln Avenue arrives a bit late this year, but it will still feature two days of live music on four stages between Fullerton and Wrightwood. Gin Blossoms, G Love And Special Sauce, Catfight, and Dan Hubbard are among the acts scheduled to perform.

The Bad Examples promise they’ll have some new songs when they perform tomorrow night at Frankie’s Blue Room in Naperville. The first set starts at 8:00 PM. Longtime fans still have time to get a vinyl reissue of the band’s 1991 debut album Bad Is Beautiful via a PledgeMusic campaign.

Toots And The Maytals will headline Reggae Fest Chicago 2016 next Saturday, August 13. The event, which is being billed as “One Day, One Love!,” will be held at Addams Medill Park at 15th Street and Loomis. Other performers include Lee “Scratch” Perry, Dauby Taure, and Iration.

Heavy Manners lead vocalist Kate Fagan is set to re-release her 1980s solo effort I Don’t Wanna Be Too Cool on August 8. She’ll be a special guest at the Neo New Wave Thursdays Haven at the Debonair Social Club on August 11.

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago recently unveiled the entire schedule for its run at the Hyatt Regency - O’Hare next weekend, and it now includes Smithereens frontman Pat DiNizio among the special guests. The Smithereens will be performing on September 25 at City Winery Chicago. This will be the 40th year for Fest For Beatles Fans in Chicago.

According to an ad in The Reader, Theater Zuidpool will bring “Belgium’s greatest rock musicians” to Thalia Hall for a two-night run of its hard rock adaptation of Macbeth on August 21 and 22. The production is being presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Thalia Hall. Tickets start at $28.

Steve Johnson’s extensive look at “Here’s Johnny: The Making Of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune serves as a reminder that the exhibition ends its run at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in mid-October. With its collection of costumes, clips, and artifacts, this looks like a fun and nostalgic trip for those of us who grew up watching Carson on TV.

The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour brings them to Ravina in Highland Park on August 19. I listened to the band’s 2001 reunion album God Bless The Go-Go’s recently, and was impressed with how well those songs have held up. And of course, the earlier hits are still great too.

While the five woman cover band Catfight continues snag just about every outdoor festival on the Chicago area circuit, two of its founding members, Lisa Kaber and Julie Dutchak, will perform as an acoustic duo at an upcoming gig at the Edgewood Valley Country Club. I couldn’t find an exact date on this.

Plan Ahead:

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago - August 12–14 at Hyatt Regency Hotel

Wizard World Comic Con - August 18–21 at Donald A. Stephens Center

Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins Festival - August 19–21 at The Den Theatre

Muffs - August 28 at Empty Bottle

Matthew Sweet with Material ReIssue - September 9 - Park West

Riot Fest - September 16–18 in Douglas Park

Lush - September 18 at The Vic

The Buzzcocks - September 22 - The Vic

The Smithereens - September 25 at City Winery

Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary - October 1 at The Chicago Theatre

Nick Lowe with Josh Rouse - October 15, October 17 at Old Town School of Folk Music

Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom And Other Chambers Tour - October 29 at The Chicago Theatre

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Get Your Halos On

Photo by Richard Hall from the Thrift Store Halo Facebook page.

When Thrift Store Halo plays the Ballydoyle Irish Pub and Restaurant in Downers Grove tomorrow night (August 4), it will be only the second time they’ve performed live in the last 17 years. One of those gigs was a dream job serving as the opening act for The Zombies at Viper Alley in Lincolnshire. Tomorrow’s show at Ballydoyle starts at 8:30, and according to the band’s Facebook page, will run for about two hours.

The Chicago-based trio of lead singer-bassist Frank Gradishar, guitarist Brent Seatter, and drummer-vocalist Scott Proce released its debut CD World Gone Mad in 1998. Guitar-driven and catchy power pop songs like “Put Me Down,” “Crashing In,” and “Fly Me Away” have stood the test of time. The musicians have kept active with other bands over the years, but it’s good to know Thrift Store Halo is back in action again. Hopefully there will be more shows and new music in the near future.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

August, Rock She Must

This is the last of the three months that unofficially comprise summer, so the beginning of August is a good time to reflect on whether you’ve been fully appreciating the season. There are some fun-filled events coming up in Chicago, including three longtime favorites here at Broken Hearted Toy. They often fall on the same weekend, which results in hectic scheduling and tough choices. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to go into greater detail for each of these in future posts, but for now, here's a quick rundown.

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago is an easy pick this year because it sits by itself on the weekend of August 12–14 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont. Founded by Mark and Carol Lapidos back in the late 1970s, the annual celebration has never failed to live up to its name. It’s a great way to relive Beatlemania via concerts, celebrity guests; sing-along sessions; photography; artwork; and a joyful sense of community among fans of all ages and walks of life.

Mary-Archie Theatre closed earlier this year, ending a 30-year run of providing some of the city’s most provocative storefront productions. It said goodbye with a critically acclaimed and extended run of David Mamet’s American Buffalo, but the theatre still has one last trick up its tie-dyed sleeve—Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins XXVIII. Since Mary-Arrchie’s home base no longer exists, it’s being held at The Den Theatre on the weekend of August 19–21. Expect even more freewheeling fun as this final annual celebration of the Woodstock spirit offers virtually non-stop drama, performance art, live music, and comedy.

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont on Thursday, August 18 and runs through Sunday, August 21. Once again, there will be tons of vendors selling comic books, t shirts, action figures, and other fantasy/sci-fi related artifacts. People often dress up in costumes, which can make for some odd couplings—like Captain Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter walking side by side. The biggest draw for most people though is a chance to meet the celebrity guests.

Also coming up this month: Taste Of Lincoln Avenue - 6 and 7; North Halsted Market Days - 13 and 14; the very first Reggae Fest Chicago - 13; Chicago Air and Water Show - 20 and 21; Bucktown Art Fest - 27 and 28; and Chicago Fringe Fest - August 31 through September 11.

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