Saturday, December 30, 2017

More New Year’s Eve Suggestions

Ring in the new year with The Zombies

Every time I cruise Facebook, I find more worthwhile things to promote for New Year’s Eve. Please note, I listed some on yesterday’s post as well. Wish I could travel around with a film crew and broadcast all of these fun celebrations on national TV.

The Zombies have a fun suggestion for New Year’s Eve. If you start playing “This Will Be Our Year”  from their classic Odessey and Oracle album at 11:58:16, the final “this will be our year” will play exactly at midnight. Unfortunately, it wasn’t their year to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame but they’re going to be on tour in 2018, so you can tell them in person how well their New Year’s Eve idea worked.

EXPO ’76, a cover band comprising veterans of the Chicago rock scene, will be performing selections from their massive and amazingly eclectic repertoire at the Sidebar Room at FitzGerald’s.

The Chicago Botanic Garden, at 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, is offering its annual Wonderland Express through January 7. The indoor exhibit features model trains, miniature Chicago landmarks, and carolers.

It’ll be a bit past New Year’s Eve, but there’s some retro-inspired good times coming up at Martyrs’ on Thursday, January 4 when Rosie And The Rivets, Amazing Heeby Jeebies, and Tiny Miles Trio share a triple bill.

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Friday, December 29, 2017

Champagne!

Photo from the Over The Rhine Facebook page.

New Year’s Eve is only two days away, so here are some suggestions for people in the Chicago area who haven’t made plans yet.

The Cincinnati-based alt rock/roots band Over The Rhine will be playing songs from their critically acclaimed albums at The Old Town School Of Folk Music. Founding members/spouses Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist craft inventive arrangements and Bergquist’s amazing vocals bring the provocative lyrics to life. Journalist Jef Elbel has an interesting interview with Detweiler in the Agenda section of today’s Chicago Sun-Times.

From RSD to NYE. There’ll be no cover charge when Laurie’s Planet Of Sound holds its annual New Year’s Eve party at Ricochets Tavern on Lincoln Avenue. The record store throws great Record Store Day bashes every April, so why not check out how they’ll ring in 2018. DJ Samorama is in charge of the music and there’s free champagne at midnight. The party starts at 9:00 p.m.

The BoDeans perform the first of two gigs at City Winery Chicago on New Year’s Eve, with the second one coming on January 1. The Wisconsin-based band has lots of catchy, fun material to draw from, including “Closer To Free,” “Fadeaway,” and “She’s A Runaway.”

Guided By Voices, whose distinctive brand of alt rock/power pop has attracted a devoted following for several years now, will be performing at The Empty Bottle on Western Avenue on the north side.

WXRT (93.1 FM) overnight air personality Emma Mac, who usually holds down the oversight shift, will switch hours in order to host the station’s commercial-free 93 Best Party Songs programming. It kicks off at 7:00 p.m. and runs through midnight.

And in other entertainment news:

If you got money or a gift card for the holiday and are looking for a rock and roll way to spend it, how about On Air, a new two-CD release of live recordings by The Rolling Stones at the BBC between 1963 and 1965. It includes eight tracks that were never released or recorded commercially.

Cliff Johnson and The Raine and The Jay Geoppner Band will be performing at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on Saturday, January 6. Later next month at FitzGerald’s, Classic Tribute Night on January 18 will feature Phil Angotti performing The Rolling Stones’ Out Of Our Heads; Rachel Drew performing Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black; and North Berwyn Rhythm And Soul Organization performing as a mystery guest.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the David Bowie tribute act composed of several Chicago music scene veterans, will have acclaimed actor Michael Shannon as their special guest when they perform The Berlin Years on January 6 at Metro.

Upcoming new albums include Wrong Creatures by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on January 12; Marble Skies by Django Django on January 26; and Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand on February 9.

The official trailer for Metric’s 2018 Dreams So Real concert film can now be seen on YouTube. Fans can preorder Dreams So Real on DVD and Blu Ray or as a three-LP set on the band’s PledgeMusic site.  Various bundles featuring a t-shirt, signed items, liner notes, etc. are also available. Metro vocalist Emily Haines released her third solo effort, Choir Of The Mind, earlier this year and plans to tour in support of it.

The January issue of the Illinois Entertainer is out, with staff members listing their choices for best albums and concerts. Over the twenty-some years I wrote for them, I.E. invited me to participate in this annual ritual a whopping one time. Anyway, it’s nice to see Curt Baran name The Regrettes’ Feel Your Feelings Fool among his top albums and their show at Schubas among his top concerts. Baran and publisher John Vernon both picked Visions Of A Life by Wolf Alice as one of their favorite albums, which increases my interest in buying it.

Meet the new Doc, definitely not the same as the old Doc. Actress Jodie Whittaker officially arrived as the 13th incarnation of The Doctor when the Doctor Who annual Christmas Special aired this past Monday. Whittaker is the first woman to portray the iconic sci-fi character who is able to regenerate and take on an entirely appearance and, to a less degree, persona. Imagine the suspense and surprise among the show’s loyal fans if there was no way of knowing what the new Doctor will look like until the episode aired. Of course, that kind of secrecy would be pretty much impossible these days.

After surviving a tough round in the fourth installment, my nephew Joe Flamm will be among the remaining contestants on the Bravo Channel’s Top Chef as it moves into 2018.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Coke Belda - (3) Gs - A Tribute To The Bee Gees

The Bee Gees weren’t exaggerating when they named one of their early records Rare, Precious And Beautiful, although they would later court a different following with funky dance-oriented material. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Coke Belda covers that full spectrum on his recent release (3) Gs - A Tribute To The Bee Gees. A native of Spain who now lives in Pittsburgh, Belda gives each track the easy-going allure of the band’s baroque pop era, even when he’s performing something from as late as 1987. This mix of singles and deep album cuts avoids the biggest hits (thankfully, there’s no “Jive Talking”) while concentrating on the exquisite melodies and eccentric lyrics that were Brothers Gibb trademarks.

“Claustrophobia,” a song from The Bee Gees’ early days in Australia, doesn’t so much kick off the album as float in like a feather. It’s a light, very British Invasion type song about a guy who feels the woman he’s dating has too many boyfriends. “You Win Again,” the track from 1987, also deals with too much competition in a relationship, and sports a mid-tempo arrangement with masterfully layered vocals. “Edge Of The Universe,” from the mid 70s Main Course album, finds Belda working with a soulful beat, and proves that regardless of the era, The Bee Gees loved crafting silly lyrics.

There’s plenty of clever wordplay on vintage gems like “Indian Gin And Whiskey Dry,” “Cucumber Castle,” and “Sir Geoffrey Save The World,” which has its title character, “Talking with lambs who came out of the skies.” Belda also effectively channels the different brothers’ vocal styles, particularly on the singles “First Of May,” “Gotta Get A Message To You” and “Run To Me.” But the highlight of (3) Gs - A Tribute To The Bee Gees is Belda’s breathless, power pop take on the energetic title track from Idea, the band’s million-selling third album.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas!

Happy holidays to all who visit this blog.

Here are three edited versions of reviews I’ve done in the past of classic rock and roll Christmas albums.

Yuletunes

Released in 1991 on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label, Yuletunes was an ambitious collection of original Christmas songs created by various power pop artists. Shoes led the way with “This Christmas,” a catchy rock song with a monster drum beat, chiming guitars, and the band’s lush harmony vocals. Material Issue’s “Merry Christmas Will Do” features Jim Ellison’s rugged guitar playing, and as a vocalist, he’s a master at selling the pain of unrequited love. The Idea, fronted by vocalist-guitarist Phil Angotti, contribute the fetching “It’s About That Time,” while Leroy checks in with the fun and mid-tempo “Santa Stole My Baby.”

Matthew Sweet contributed the reverent “Baby Jesus,” Marti Jones and Don Dixon created a joyous duet on “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday,” and “The Saddest Time Of The Year” by Spooner reflected on disappointment and loneliness at Christmas. The Spongetones describe a tranquil paradise with their acoustic-based, innocent fantasy “Christmasland,” while “A God Of My Own” by 92 Degrees takes a complex look at religious beliefs.

Bill Lloyd’s deliriously happy “Underneath The Christmas Tree” depicts a guy and his girlfriend sharing an evening of holiday decorating, but Kelly Ryan is inconsolable on the ballad, “It’s Not Christmas,” as she spends the holiday alone “for the first time in years.” Singer-guitarist Herb Eimerman’s gorgeous ballad “You Gave Me” celebrates family traditions at Christmas, as well as the way love and values are passed on from one generation to another. The Critics uncork an irresistible energy on their romantic “She Feels Like Christmas Day.” It’s the one song on this memorable collection that could conceivably be played at any time of year.

Christmas A-Go-Go

Guitarist/actor/radio show host Little Steven Van Zandt morphed into a crazed Santa for this ambitious 2008 holiday compilation, determined to find just the right gift for everyone on his list. Fortunately, he didn’t care if the recipients are naughty or nice, just as long as they listened to his syndicated weekly program, Underground Garage. An ultra rare recording of Keith Richards romping through the Chuck Berry chestnut “Run Rudolph Run” kicks things off in a blues-rock vein.

The Ramones bring their instantly identifiable revved-up sound to “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want To Fight Tonight).” “All Alone On Christmas” features vocalist Darlene Love, (one of the acts on the Phil Spector produced album A Christmas Gift For You) backed by The E Street Band. Ringing guitars and great harmonies help Brit rockers The Len Price 3 hark back to the original British Invasion on “It’s Christmas Time Ebenezer.”

On the relentlessly cheerful “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday,” Roy Wood’s Wizzard uses a Wall Of Sound influenced approach to build an entire palace. Tina Sugandh’s beautifully sung “White Christmas” begins with the standard arrangement, but soon drifts off to India via exotic sitars and tablas. The Chesterfield Kings’ knack for tapping into Aftermath era Rolling Stones is readily apparent on “Hey, Santa Claus.” Former Stray Cats vocalist-guitarist Brian Setzer’s “Santa’s Got A Hot Rod,” rocks with a highly energetic swinging arrangement. “Santa Claus Is Surfin’ To Town,” delivered by 1950s kids show host Soupy Sales, is another one of those fun rarities Van Zandt was obviously delighted to offer. Swedish band The Cocktail Slippers deliver “Santa’s Coming Home,” a catchy number that laments the amount of time Santa’s work keeps him away from his girlfriend.

The Seattle-based Boss Martians give Charles Dickens a psychedelic spin with their high speed rock song, “3 Ghosts (A Modern X-mas Carol).” Aussie garage rockers The Chevelles unleash a spirited take on a treasured hymn with the mostly instrumental “Come All Ye Faithful Surfer Girls,” and The Electric Prunes’ psychedelic and slightly unsettling version of “Jingle Bells” has a spoken word intro that includes a special holiday greeting for Underground Garage listeners. Ray Davies of The Kinks has always been a master of satire, and on “Father Christmas,” he leads the band through a funny tale of a retail store Santa being pummeled by destitute children.

Christmas With The Smithereens

In 2007, The Smithereens, which by then featured new bassist Severo Jornacion, really showed its holiday spirit by releasing the full-length Christmas With The Smithereens. It’s a fun party from start to finish, as The Smithereens bring their engaging power pop approach to a mix of originals and cover versions. “Waking Up On Christmas Morning” is a catchy tune penned by guitarist Jim Babjak. The fast-paced “Christmas Time All Over The World,” written by Babjak, singer Pat DiNizio, drummer Dennis Diken, and original bassist Mike Mesaros, celebrates hugging and kissing under the mistletoe, and compares the holiday to a big rock show. The other Smithereens original, “Christmas (I Remember)” takes a melodic look back and notes, “The kid inside my heart won’t die.”

There are also guitar-driven interpretations of Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree,” and The Beach Boys’ “Merry Christmas, Baby.” The Smithereens also do well with “Christmas Time Is Here Again,” one of the rare songs The Beatles recorded for their fan club members. The Smithereens set Clement Clark Moore’s classic poem, “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas” to a jazzy percussion-led arrangement, and open “Auld Lang Syne” with acappella vocals before launching into a rollicking instrumental jam session.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Holiday Punch

The Posies have big plans for 2018

You’d think having this past Friday off from work would have given me enough time to post a proper Slumgullion, but I spent most of that day roaming around downtown Chicago looking for various Christmas presents. What follows is an odds and sods mix of holiday sentiment, family memories, charity events, and entertainment news. And as Clarence the wingless angel said to St. Joseph in It’s A Wonderful Life, “No, I didn’t have a drink.”

My family celebrated Christmas yesterday at my brother’s house on the south side. His oldest son, my nephew, Joe Flamm has now made it through three rounds of this season’s Top Chef program on the Bravo Channel. Joe was at the gathering yesterday and we gave each other a bottle of wine as a gift. (He’s also my godson.) This is the first Christmas I’ve been able to say I received a present from a contestant on a reality TV show.

It’s always fun when Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday because many of the newspaper comics—or the funnies as some people call them—are about celebrating the holiday. Back when I was a kid, we called the comics “the jokes,” although I haven’t come across any other families that did that. During the past few years, I’ve been clipping some of the better Christmas-related comics and putting them in the same box as our decorations.

My Friday travels around downtown brought me to Water Tower Place on Michigan Avenue, and an exhibit called The Great Fermentation on one of the upper floors. According to a woman I spoke with there who called herself Dr. Shiraz, it’s a preview of a multi-media celebration of wine that might be coming to Chicago (other cities are still in the running) in 2019.

Congratulations to Joe Shanahan, owner of the Metro venue on Chicago’s north side, on already raising over $1,000 via his Facebook fundraiser for the Chicago Children Choir. The CCC is a nonprofit organization that helps kids ages 8 through 18, “become global citizens through music.” It has choral programs in 80 Chicago schools.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the David Bowie tribute act composed of several Chicago music scene veterans, will have acclaimed actor Michael Shannon as their special guest when they perform The Berlin Years on January 6 at Metro. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit cancer patients at Northshore University Healthsystem’s Integrative Medicine Program.

A winning team. According to reporter Annie Sweeney’s recent article in the Chicago Tribune, five Chicago sports franchises have joined together to help stop street violence in the city. The Chicago Sports Alliance comprises the Cubs, White Sox, Blackhawks, Bears, and Bulls, and has raised $1 million so far to fund mentoring programs for youths in the Englewood neighborhood.

The Posies plan to celebrate their 30th anniversary in style during 2018 with live performances around the the USA, as well as offering some enticing opportunities via the PledgeMusic site. Depending on how much money you’re willing to shell out, you can choose anything from spending a day with founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow in Paris to acquiring new deluxe versions of Dear 23, Frosting On The Beater, and Amazing Disgrace for $18 each. Other options include a yet-to-be-designed t-shirt; socks; handwritten lyric sheets; a signed CD box set; a signed LP box set; signed albums and CDs; a signed setlist; a concert in your house with either one or both of the founding members; or having a coffee date with one or both of them. Various packages involve a mix of the above items, and every package includes an access pass.

Auer and Stringfellow will tour as a duo starting in January, and and at some point, as a full band. Upcoming dates include New York, Boston, Memphis, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Nashville. They’ll hit City Winery Chicago for a duo show on January 31. VIP packages involving a meet and greet are available.

The rebooted Jumanji movie opened at movie theaters recently. To be the honest, the only reason I’m interested is that the cast includes Karen Gillan, whose Amy Pond was among the most interesting companions to hang out with The Doctor on the long-running English sci-fi series Doctor Who.

Well, I’m off to watch the Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, and if it doesn't get too late, It’s A Wonderful Life. Best holiday wishes to all who visit this blog, along with the hope that we’ll all be successful in our creative projects in the coming year. 

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Last-Minute Christmas Rocking

It may be too late to run out to a record store, but here are some options for holiday rock tunes you can find on iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, other sites, or on the radio.

The Minus Five’s Dear December finds band leader Scott McCaughey and guest musicians The Posies, Benjamin Gibbard, Mike Mills, Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Tammy Ealom, Colin Meloy, M. Ward, and Chuck Prophet performing fun, off kilter original songs about Christmas and Hanukkah. Highlights include the clever holiday romance “Yule Tide Me Over,” the chiming “I  See Angels,” and “Merry Christmas Mr. Gulp-Gulp,” a lounge tune about battling alcoholism.

Australian vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Joe Algeri, AKA The JAC, continues his annual tradition of creating an original Christmas song for free download with “A Petty Xmas (Parts 1 and 2).” This year’s edition is a bit more serious, as Algeri honors not only the late Tom Petty but also George Young, who played rhythm guitar for The Easybeats and later produced AC/DC albums. George and his brother/AC/DC co-fonder Malcolm both passed away this year. “A Petty Xmas (Parts 1 and 2)” has a catchy mid-tempo arrangement that features Algeri on lead vocals and guitars, along with fellow Britannicas members Herb Eimerman on jazz bass and backing vocals; and Stefan Johansson on drums. Five other musicians are involved with this worthy project.

Christmas With The Smithereens is one of the best rock holiday albums ever recorded, featuring an energetic mix of originals and cover tunes. Sadly, lead vocalist-guitarist Pat DiNizio also left us this year. The band is asking fans who would like to express their condolences to DiNizio’s mother to send their cards or messages to: The Smithereens P.O. Box 307 Tennent, NJ 07763.

Cheap Trick covers The Ramones, Roy Wood, Harry Nilsson, Ray Davies, and Chuck Berry on its recent Christmas Christmas album, and offers three originals tunes as well. The performances are consistently energetic, and there’s also a faithful rendition of “Silent Night.”

WXRT’s final Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular will be rebroadcast on Christmas Eve at 10:00 p.m. Several short seasonal messages and songs from area musicians comprise the show and it’s always fun to hear what the participants come up with. Just to clear up any confusion, Local Anesthetic host Richard Milne has not left the station, and will continue in his regular time slots. Milne recently became part of the rotating trio of hosts for XRT’s Saturday Morning Flashback.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Kevin Lee And The Kings - Sticks And Stones

Kevin Lee is a guitar-slinger with an unerring sense of melody, which has resulted in a series of impressive albums over the years. Like fellow Chicagoans Cheap Trick, his songs are an enticing blend of power pop and hard rock, and he’s a strong vocalist as well. The recently released Kevin Lee And The Kings album Sticks And Stones finds Chicago rock veterans guitarist-backing vocalist Michael Kurtz and bassist-backing vocalist Patti Prendergast joining Lee and drummer Erik Strommer for the first time on a recording, but this lineup has been gigging together for a while now.

Lee and Kurtz provide plenty of firepower as the band zips through 10 songs, with “Tell The Truth”—a tale of a troubled relationship—being the only slow one. The well-crafted arrangements are consistently catchy and Lee gets solid vocal support from Kurtz And Prendergast. “Slip Of The Tongue” takes aim at loose talk and gossip, while “Sticks And Stones” is about trying to get along with someone who constantly criticizes and complains.

Lee strikes a more inspirational tone with the rollicking “On Top Of The World,” and on “One Day At A Time,” a guy tells his commitment-seeking girlfriend it’s better to just take life as it comes. That sentiment also shows up on “All We Have Is Now,” which has more of a garage rock feel. The defiant “Nothing To Lose,” with its high-speed instrumental intro and lush harmonies, serves as the best cut on an album filled with good rock tunes.

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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Saturday Slumgullion

Tony Hicks is at the bottom of the steps in this vintage Hollies pic.

A happy belated birthday to guitarist-harmony vocalist Tony Hicks of The Hollies. Hicks has played an essential role in the band’s distinctive and effervescent sound from the start and still tours across Europe with the current lineup, along with original drummer Bobby Elliott.

Graham Nash, who performed with Hicks in The Hollies through 1969, will be at the North Shore Center For the Performing Arts on March 17, 2018. In the past few years, Nash has performed in the Chicago area at The Arcada in St. Charles; City Winery Chicago; and The Old Town School Of Folk Music. And he’s always welcome.

I got my first Hollies album as a Christmas present back in 1966 and have been hooked since.

Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti will offer a Beatles Brunch Extravaganza tomorrow afternoon at the Reclaimed Restaurant on Western Avenue. Angotti promises to play holiday songs, Beatles material, and take requests from the audience.

Richard Milne’s Local Anesthetic Holiday Spectacular on WXRT has been an annual tradition among fans of Chicago area rock for several years. But the very last one is this Sunday night at 8:00 pm., with a repeat airing on Christmas Eve. Several short seasonal messages and songs from area musicians comprise the show and it’s always fun to hear what the participants come up with. A toast to Mr. Milne for the decades he supported Chicago music on his weekly Local Anesthetic show.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans next Thursday, December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics. On December 22 at FitzGerald’s, the annual Redmonds Christmas Show will will feature hosts The Redmonds and their guests Kevin Lee And The Kings, Duct Tape Band, and The Romeo Brothers. On the next night, December 23, there’s Flirting With Time: A Tribute To Tom Petty. Proceeds will benefit the One America Appeal Hurricane Charity.

Congratulations to 2018 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees The Cars, Dire Straits, The Moody Blues, Nina Simone, Bon Jovi, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. I wanted The Zombies to make it in this year, but I also had Dire Straits, The Cars, and The Moody Blues on my wish list. American fans can make it up to The Zombies by seeing the band on its 2018 tour. They’ll be at City Winery Chicago on March 19.

The Go-Go’s recently shared a link on Twitter to a Variety article about the band’s Head Over Heels musical coming to Broadway at some point in 2018 or 2019. Gwyneth Paltrow is slated as the producer.

My nephew Joe Flamm’s adventure as one of the contestants on the new season of the Bravo Channel’s Top Chef continued in fine fashion this past Thursday as he won the Quick Fire event and earned immunity for the second elimination round.

Several local acts are lined up for the 13th Alex Chilton Birthday Bash! coming up on December 28 at the Empty Bottle. Sponsored by the WNUR radio show Power Pop Shoppe, the event will include The Injured Parties, Dann Morr, Hannah Frank Group, and Falling Stars.

I mentioned in my Thursday post about Pat DiNizio that I first heard about his passing away early morning on WXRT. That was when overnight DJ Emma Mac was still on the air and she broke the news. Later that day, the station’s morning air personality Lin Brehmer offered a touching tribute that has been shared on The Smithereens Official Facebook page and by others.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Beauty And Sadness

Listening to WXRT early yesterday morning, I heard the sad news that Pat DiNizio from The Smithereens had died. I first discovered The Smithereens back in 1983 via a Rolling Stone review of their Beauty And Sadness five-song EP. I mentioned the record to fellow power pop fanatic “Boris” during one of the many times we ran into each other at the Haywires club, and learned they were already on his radar too. Many will mourn DiNizio’s passing not only as fans but as friends who connected with him on a personal level over the years.

I can’t remember ever going to a Smithereens concert where they didn’t come out afterwards to chat, pose for pictures, and sign autographs. And I probably saw them more times than any other group. I doubt they were able to remember all of us from one concert to the next, but DiNizio, guitarist-vocalist Jim Babjak, drummer-vocalist Dennis Diken, bassist-vocalist Mike Mesaros (and later, bassist-vocalist The Thrilla) were always genuinely friendly. I would bring things for them to sign that would prove my loyalty. When I handed DiNizio my vinyl copy of Beauty And Sadness after one show, he laughed, turned to his fellow musicians and asked, “Where do they find this stuff?”

The music DiNizio wrote and performed with The Smithereens was a workingman’s power pop with energy and an unerring sense of melody. The ominous “Blood And Roses” from Especially For You brought them national attention and they scored big with songs like ‘Strangers When Me Meet,” “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “A Girl Like You,” “Only A Memory,” and “Drown In My Own Tears.” In 2011, they recorded The Smithereens 2011, which found the band still at its peak with catchy songs like “Sorry,” “Rings On Her Fingers,” and “What Went Wrong.” The Smithereens remained a dynamic live act through 2017, and had plans to tour next year.

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Friday, December 8, 2017

Slumgullion

Christmas is just over two weeks away, and if you’re like me, you haven’t finished decorating, gift buying, or sending cards. You still have to bring out your favorite rock and roll holiday CDs and start the rotation of seasonal DVDs, saving A Charlie Brown Christmas and The Snowman for last. And on top of all that, there’s a bunch of entertainment stuff to keep up with.

Chris Ligon and Heather McAdams have enlisted several area musicians to help out with their 20th Anniversary Calendar Show tomorrow night at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. The guests’ performances tie in with the illustrations in McAdams’ imaginatively illustrated calendar and will include The Flat Five as The Turtles; Devil In A Woodpile as Ray Price; and Jodee Lewis as Joan Baez. Vernon Tonges will take on Burl Ives;, Big Hair Trouble will be The Royal Teens; The Corsairs will be Ronnie Hawkins; Phil Angotti will cover Crosby, Stills and Nash; Jim Becker and Becky Levi will be Buffalo Springfield; Jane Baxter Miller and Kent Kessler will sing like The Byrds; and Joel Patterson with Kelly Hogan, and Nora O’Connor will perform as Les Paul and Mary Ford.

The Bucktown Holiday ArtShow takes place tomorrow and Sunday at The Holstein Park Fieldhouse at 2200 N. Oakley. Admission is $2. The Anderson Galleria, at 5247 N. Clark Street, describes itself as, “like an Art Festival under a roof and year-round.” More than 90 local vendors sell handmade items, many of which are likely to have a holiday them around this time of year.

What I like about two. There’s a double bill of The Romantics and The A Flock Of Seagulls at Joe’s on Weed Street in Chicago next Wednesday, December 13.

1-2-3-4-5-6. Jonathan Richman of The Modern Lovers fame will be coming to on SPACE in Evanston on March 14. Tickets are available via the venue’s website. Tickets are also now on sale for Drive-By Truckers at Thalia Hall on April 6 and 7; Keren Ann at City Winery Chicago on February 20; Ty Segal at The Riviera Theatre on April 8; Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes at SPACE on March 3; and Steve Winwood at the Chicago Theatre on February 22.

Chris Stamey, who has a successful career as a solo artist as well as being a member of The dBs, has been named as the opening act for The Alejandro Escovedo Band’s three-night stand at City Winery Chicago on January 25 through 27.

Hugh Hart is still creating vital music even as he continues his successful endeavors in journalism. His latest recording, “Bye Bye Donny,” which can be heard on Soundcloud finds Hart setting politically charged lyrics to a catchy arrangement that recalls his 1980s work with his Chicago-based band The OD’d. Hart’s freelance articles have appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

The Social Act, one of the first bands I interviewed for the Illinois Entertainer back in the late 1980s, has been working on a new album, and will be performing at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue next Friday, December 15. Razorhouse will also be on the bill that night.

Belly has been offering some interesting perks on its PledgeMusic page, and the latest is a colorfully illustrated retro design campaign poster.

Imagine fun in Minnesota. The 38th Annual John Lennon Tribute John Lennon Tribute featuring Curtiss A and his friends is taking place tonight in Minneapolis.

It’s the time of the holiday season to ask for Odessey And Oracle wall art, pillows, or shower curtains from The Zombies website. The British Invasion band is offering its initially overlooked but now iconic LP in assorted sizes and in various mediums.

It’s also entirely appropriate to ask Santa for rock and roll related books. Here’s a few from my list:
Everything I Know I Learned From Rock Stars by Bill Paige and We Have Company - Four Decades Of Rock And Roll Encounters by Bobby Skafish.

Congratulations to my nephew Joe Flamm on making it through the first elimination round on Top Chef. The cooking reality show opened its latest season last night on Bravo, and it was a kick to watch my godson working his culinary magic among 14 other contestants in Denver.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans on December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics.

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Slumgullion

The local musicians behind Great Moments In Vinyl continue their series of honoring classic LPs with a double dose of The Rolling Stones tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. They’ll be performing Sticky Fingers and Some Girls in their entirety. Next week, on Wednesday, December 7, Tributosaurus will become Paul McCartney at Martyrs’.

U2 has has added a second show at the United Center in Chicago next May as part of its iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour. Tickets go on sale this Monday at 10:00 a.m. The band’s new album Songs Of Experience came out today.

WXRT Live From The Archives Volume 19 is now available at Chicago area Target stores. The limited-edition various artists compilation sells out quickly.

Bloodshot Records will be spinning tracks from its various artists 13 Days Of Xmas album when it hosts a Holiday Pop Up Store tomorrow at its headquarters on Irving Park Road. The Chicago-based indie label is promising refreshments and snacks, along with exclusive holiday stuff like records, clothing, and signed memorabilia for sale. The event, which will run from noon to 7:00 p.m, ties in with Bloodshot’s seventh annual Stuffed Animal Drive, which collects soft toys and warm clothing.

If you’re searching for a unique gift that can’t be bought in any department store, check out The Renegade Craft Fair tomorrow and Sunday at The Bridgeport Center at 1200 W. 35th Street. The Bucktown Holiday ArtShow takes place next Saturday and Sunday (December  9 and 10) at The Holstein Park Fieldhouse at 2200 N. Oakley. Admission is $2. The Anderson Galleria, at 5247 N. Clark Street, describes itself as, “like an Art Festival under a roof and year-round.” More than 90 local vendors sell handmade items, many of which are likely to have a holiday them around this time of year.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess and garage rockers The Telepaths are hosting a multi-band Toys For Tots Benefit Show tomorrow night at Red Line Tap. Other performers include Kc Chronis; The Darkroom Men; Joe Lapsley and Jana Measells; Gary Nobody; The Rut; and The Rolling Clones. The show starts at 7:00 p.m.

Local bands Super Sonic Space Rebels and The Amazing Heeby Jeebies will present A Night Of Rockabilly, Punkabilly And Garage Rock’n’Roll on December 7 at the Burlington Bar on Fullerton on Chicago’s north side.

The perception that only guys are interested reading and/or creating graphic novels gets upended on the first Wednesday of each month at Graham Crackers in downtown Chicago. That’s when the store hosts Ladies Night, which members describe as, “Wimmen talkin’ ta wimmen ‘bout comics!” The next get-together takes place on December 6. Ladies Night compilations, featuring several local comic creators, are available for sale at the store.

We Fitz You A Merry Christmas. The FitzGerald’s venue in Berwyn will be a festive place over the holiday season. Next Saturday, December 9, Chris Ligon and Heather McAdams will enlist several area musicians to help out with their 20th Anniversary Calendar Show. Guests include The Flat Five, Devil In A Woodpile, Jodee Lewis, Vernon Tonges, Big Hair Trouble, The Corsairs, Phil Angotti, Joel Patterson with Kelly Hogan, and Nora O’Connor. Chicago Tribune rock critic Greg Kot’s feature story on McAdams and Ligon in today’s On The Town section mentions that the illustrated Heather’s L’il Folk, Rock, Pop, and Country Calendar includes Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young; Mel Torme; and Ray Price.

On December 22 at FitzGerald’s, the annual Redmonds Christmas Show will feature hosts The Redmonds and their guests Kevin Lee And The Kings, Duct Tape Band, and The Romeo Brothers. On the next night, December 23, there’s Flirting With Time: A Tribute To Tom Petty. Proceeds will benefit the One America Appeal Hurricane Charity.

The Regrettes played to an enthusiastic crowd at The House Of Blues last night. They were the opening act for a double bill of Swmrs and The Interrupters, but it’s already clear these young Los Angeles natives are building momentum with their catchy and emotionally charged songs. Seventeen-year-old lead vocalist-guitarist Lydia Night channels the unbridled energy that has kept punk a vital force over four decades while adding a touch of adolescent playfulness.The Regrettes’ “A Living Human Girl” was chosen chosen by Billboard magazine as one of the Top 25 Feminist Anthems, and the band’s “I Don’t Like You” is in contention for Coolest Song Of The Year on Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio program.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the David Bowie tribute act composed of several Chicago music scene veterans, will have acclaimed actor Michael Shannon as their special guest when they perform The Berlin Years on January 6 at Metro. A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit cancer patients at Northshore University Healthsystem’s Integrative Medicine Program.

All in the family. Singer-guitarist John Petitt, formerly with the rock trio This Is This, will be performing as part of the Big Brother’s Vinyl show on January 13 at the Arlington Ale House (third floor) in Arlington Heights. He’ll be joined by musicians Ryan Aiello, Rick Fobes, Joe McMichael, and Naveen Prashantham. Lizzy Petitt (John’s daughter and a former member of Serendipity) and the Bandwagon will be the opening act. The music starts at 7:30 p.m.

Band Called Catch celebrates its 10th anniversary with a show on January 13 at Martyrs’. Past members are scheduled to join in the celebration. The show will be preceded by sets from Laura Glyda, Buffalo Rose, and Todd Kessler.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Music And Comic News

CHIRP Radio, which has a well-established reputation for supporting local, independent musicians, is now broadcasting from Chicago’a north side and can be heard at 107.1 FM. The station also holds its CHIRP Record Fair And Other Delights mammoth record and pop memorabilia event each April on Washington, just west of the Loop.

The NutTapper Holiday Variety Show takes place tomorrow morning, December 1, at The Old Town School of Folk Music. Reggio “The Hoofer” McLaughlin once again hosts the annual multicultural reimagining of Tchaichovsky’s classic ballet The Nutcracker, with help from local students and professional dancers. The show kicks off (literally) at 10:00 a.m.

The locals musicians behind Great Moments In Vinyl continue their series of honoring classic LPs with a double dose of The Rolling Stones this Saturday night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. They’ll be performing Sticky Fingers and Some Girls in their entirety. Next week, on Wednesday, December 7, Tributosaurus will become Paul McCartney at Martyrs’.

The perception that only guys are interested reading and/or creating sci-fi graphic novels gets upended on the first Wednesday of each month at Graham Crackers in downtown Chicago. That’s when the store hosts Ladies Night, which members describe as, “Wimmen talkin’ ta wimmen ‘bout comics!” The next get-together takes place on December 6 next week. Ladies Night compilations, featuring several local comic creators, are available for sale at the store.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Various Artists - We Weren’t Meant To Last

We Weren’t Meant To Last is the latest Norcore Comics Group compilation that casts a spotlight on the once vibrant punk scene in Norwood Park. The northwest side Chicago neighborhood seems fairly sedate now, but back in the early 1980s, it spawned numerous bands that rocked The Courtside Racket Club and other local venues. We Weren’t Meant To Last unleashes 27 songs originally recorded between 1983 and 1986 that have been mastered by Blaise Barton at Joyride with additional engineering by Brian Leach. Not all the tracks qualify as punk, but the album is a complete success.

“Lost Track” (I’m not sure if that’s the real name or just what Noncore is calling it) by Crinkum Crankum is raw and bluesy, while the boogie of The Gadderwalls’ “No Doubt About It” sounds more like Canned Heat than The Clash. The Outer Ring’s instrumental “Ska Tune” works an espionage mystique and Puss ’N Boots offers the acoustic and compelling “Parting Sees.” Blue Eyed Pasty Whites kick things off with good time rock of “Coulda Woulda Shoulda” and The Beach Hermits mix ska and power pop on “Watershed.”

The punk music exhibits a variety of approaches as well. Throttle Body’s “23 (Listen For It),” The Chocita Bandits’ “Russ Meyer,” and Helstrom’s “Something Special” are fast-paced, guitar driven efforts, while The Supreme Hustle adds a bit of funk to “Back On Up To Me.” “Jump Start” by Vagiant is a catchy, romantic song with female lead vocals, and The Tardagens rage through “Hand To Hand Combat.” The colorful liner notes by Terry Fox describe a scene “whose frenetic pace was only eclipsed by its own brevity.” Thanks to Norcore, that brief exuberance can still be experienced decades later.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Incoming

Photo from The Regrettes Facebook page.

Some fun things around Chicago in the next few days.

The Los Anegles-based band The Regrettes return to the Chicago this Thursday night at The House Of Blues as the opening act for co-headliners The Interrupters and Swmrs. It looks to be an evening of vintage punk, and as young as they are, The Regrettes are authentic practitioners. On the quartet’s full-length debut Feel Your Feelings Fool, lead vocalist-guitarist and main songwriter Lydia Night consistently brings grit and humor to her lyrics.

The explosive but irresistible arrangements on songs like “I Don’t LikeYou” and “How It Should Be” tap also into the 1960s girl group sound in a way that’s reminiscent of the very early Go-Go’s. Even when Night creates upbeat romantic songs like “Hey Now” and “’Til Tomorrow,” they exude an off-kilter and vulnerable charm. “A Living Human Girl” mocks the limitations society places on women. The Regrettes have previously been in town for gigs at Riot Fest and Schubas.

Rhett Miller’s Holiday Extravaganza with Special Guest Matthew Ryan takes place this Thursday, November 30 at City Winery Chicago. Miller is the lead vocalist for the alt/roots rock band The Old 97s, and if you’ve seen them, you know he’s a high-energy, charismatic showman. It should be interesting to see how he works Old 97s classics like “Champaign, Illinois,” “Let’s Get Drunk And Get It On,” and “Time Bomb” into a holiday show.

WXRT overnight radio personality Emma Mac continues her series of Holiday Hours with Heineken events at venues around the Chicago this Thursday, November 30. The event will be at the Fado Irish bar on Grand Avenue. The festivities last from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and those who show up have a chance to win a Heineken guitar.

Bloodshot Records will be spinning tracks from its various artists Christmas album when it hosts a Holiday Pop Up Store on December 2 at its headquarters on Irving Park Road. The Chicago-based indie label is promising refreshments and snacks, along with exclusive holiday stuff like records, clothing, and signed memorabilia for sale. The event, which will run from noon to 7:00 p.m, ties in with Bloodshot’s seventh annual Stuffed Animal Drive, which collects soft toys and warm clothing.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess and garage rocker The Telepaths are holding a Toys For Tots Benefits Show on December 2 at Red Line Tap. Led by vocalist Carla Hayden and guitarist-vocalist James Moeller, whitewolfsonicprincess are veterans of Chicago’s holiday charity scene.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Turkey Casserole

Photo from the Squeeze Facebook page.
A festive Broken Hearted Toy welcome to Squeeze, who have a show tomorrow night at the Vic. The critically acclaimed British act, whose chief songwriters Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford are sometimes compared to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, released their most recent album The Knowledge this past October. Singer-guitarist Wesley Stace (John Wesley Harding) is the opening act.

There’s going to be a Skanksgiving 80s Ska Revival at The Beat Kitchen tomorrow night featuring Heavy Manners, DJ Chuck Wren, and Max And The Invaders. Admission is $15, doors open at 8:00 p.m.

Tickets are now on sale for U2’s May 23 concert at the United Center as part of its eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE tour. The band’s album by that name comes out next Friday.

Bad Examples lead vocalist/chief songwriter Ralph Covert will be at FitzGerald’s tomorrow night, as Ralph Covert’s Acoustic Army.

The power pop scene took a major hit with the recent death of veteran musician Tommy Keene. Although he never became a major star, it’s obvious from the numerous emotional posts across social media that he was highly respected and a close friend to musicians as well as journalists and promoters.

There are still some tickets left for the 93XRT Goose Island Holiday Jam featuring Spoon with special guest Real Estate on December 10 at the Chicago Theatre.

WXRT Live From The Archives Volume 19 will be available on December 1 at Chicago area Target stores. A partial list of the artists involved has been posted on the station’s website and includes Phoenix, Cold War Kids, Sting, Portugal. The Man, Vance Joy, and Real Estate. All of these live performances were recorded in 2017.

Tributosaurus, one of the Chicago area’s best known tribute bands, becomes Paul McCartney on December 6 at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

Punk’s Not Dead. The Regrettes, an L.A.-based band that blended vintage punk, the 1960s girl group sound, and a defiant spirit on its Feel Your Feelings Fool debut, has a gig coming up on November 30 at House Of Blues in Chicago. They’ll be supporting co-headliners The Interrupters and Swmrs. The Regrettes have visited Chicago at least twice already, for appearances at Riot Fest and Schubas.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience, a multimedia exhibit celebrating the long-running NBC show, is currently running at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago.

I had a successful early morning Black Friday Record Store Day visit to the Reckless Records on Madison in downtown Chicago today, where I picked up the Cheap Trick Christmas Christmas album, The Minus Five’s Dear December album, and both Holidays Rule seven-inch singles by Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots. (One has The Decembrists singing Alex Chilton’s “Jesus Christ” on the flip side and the other has Norah Jones singing “Peace.”

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Rock And Roll Holiday Gift Guide

First of all, a Happy Thanksgiving to all the American readers of this blog. Even if you’re not located in the U.S., it’s never a bad idea to take a few moments to consider the things you’re grateful for.

It’s that time of year when indie newspapers and major publications alike offer gift guides for their readers. Their choices are decidedly quirky and aimed at those with special interests or hobbies. It’s a great way to discover items you won’t likely encounter in your local department store. With that goal in mind, here’s the somewhat annual (I know I’ve missed a few years) Broken Hearted Toy Rock And Roll Gift Guide.

When I was at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago this past August, I had the honor of meeting Vivek J. Tiwary, author of The Fifth Beatle - The Brian Epstein Story. It’s an eye-pooping, 135-page graphic novel tribute to the man who gave us The Beatles, and has won a number of awards. Tiwary, who’s also a successful Broadway producer, is currently bringing The Fifth Beatle to television as a six-part mini series.

For the vinyl lovers in your life, choose from the limited-edition releases coming to record stores tomorrow only for Black Friday Record Store Day. It’s not as massive as the April version, but there are lots of choices in every imaginable genre. Keep in mind, the earlier you get there, the better the selection. In yesterday’s post, I mentioned some of the artists participating, but I’d like to add something to my comments on the Dear December holiday album from The Minus Five. The band’s founding member Scott McCaughey is recovering from a recent stroke, and a portion of the sales will go to his medical fund. As noted in an email from Yep Roc Records, several well-known artists helped out on Dear December, including M. Ward, Ben Gibbard, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, The Posies, Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor.

Author Bill Bentley’s Smithsonian Rock And Roll - Live And Unseen hardcover book is the result of the Smithsonian museum asking fans in 2015 to submit photos they had taken at their favorite concerts. The Woodstock and Lollapalooza festivals are included, as well as gigs at the Whisky A Go Go. The photos include Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, and other major artists.

For sci-fi, gaming, action figures, vintage toys, movie and TV memorabilia, and other collectibles, check out the Chicago Pop Culture Convention  at the Pheasant Run Mega Center and Ballroom in St. Charles this Saturday and Sunday. The event also promises cosplay, artists, sports memorabilia, and music in vinyl and CDs.

As reported in the most recent edition of Parade magazine, rock and roll fans can purchase photos of iconic musicians like The Doors; The Beatles; Crosby, Stills and Nash; Joni Mitchell; The Clash; Stevie Wonder; The Rolling Stones; Jimi Hendrix; Bruce Springsteen, The Who; and Bob Dylan from the Morrison Hotel Gallery. Books, posters, t-shirts, and tote bags are also available on the site’s marketplace.

After buying a pack of colorful David Bowie stickers at the Alice’s Tea Cup restaurant when my wife Pam and I were on vacation in New York, I was surprised to discover Last Craft, the company that makes them, is located in Chicago. The website also sells candles, clothing, stickers, tarot cards, enamel pins, and shoelace locks—aimed at new wave, goth, feminist, gay, lesbian, and witch consumers.

Also, be sure to check out the Facebook pages and websites of your favorite artists for exclusive music, apparel, and other items. Record label websites like Bloodshot, Yep Roc, and Fruits de Mer are always worth shopping, and The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame website has lots of inductee and exhibit memorabilia. Pledge Music, Go Fund Me, and other crowd funding sites are a good way to support your favorite artists and pick up autographed items. And you never know what rare treasures you’ll discover on eBay.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

When Black Friday Comes

The Black Friday version of Record Store Day has yet to achieve the success of the original that comes in April, but there are still enough vinyl treasures in a variety of genres to make a trip to your nearest record store worthwhile. The artists involved include Tori Amos; Chuck Berry; The Byrds; Papa John Creech; Steve Earle; Janis Joplin; Wes Montgomery; Queen; Southside Johnny; The Sundays; Tangerine Dream; Big Star; Muddy Waters; Chet Atkins; U2; Sparks; Sun Ra; The Turtles; The Brian Setzer Orchestra; Gram Parsons and The Fallen Angels; The Doors; Aretha Franklin; The Grateful Dead; Richard Hell and The Voidoids; John Lee Hooker; Lydia Loveless; Waylon Jennings; Ziggy Marley; Petula Clark; Procol Harum; The Raspberries; Otis Redding; and Neil Young. There are also various artists collections featuring garage rock, jazz, soul, and 1960s Los Angeles-area bands.

The colder weather, holiday celebrations, and an already established tradition of shopping department stores may cut down on your competition for RSD limited editions, but it’s still advisable to get out there early. Afterwards, you can celebrate your successful hunt over a hot beverage (in my case, a chai tea latte) at a nearby Starbucks, Argo, or Dunkin Donuts. Here’s a look at some of the records I’m hoping to snag this time around.

Paul McCartney, Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots - A pair of Holidays Rule seven-inch singles, both with “Wonderful Christmastime” on the A-Side. The green vinyl version has The Decemberists singing Alex Chilton’s “Jesus Christ” on the flip side and the red version has Norah Jones singing “Peace.”

Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas A 12-song holiday collection of original tunes and cover versions of The Kinks, The Ramones, Chuck Berry, and Wizzard.

The Minus Five - Dear December A 12-song seasonal collection from the quirky power pop band.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ooh, You’re A Holiday

Some festive activities coming up in town.

WXRT overnight radio personality Emma Mac will be hosting Holiday Hours with Heineken at venues around the Chicago every Thursday through December 21. This week’s event at O’Shaughnessy’s on Ravenswood takes place tomorrow (Wednesday) night due to Thanksgiving. Mac will be at Fado, Elbo Room, Emerald Loop Bar and Grill, and Lottie’s in the coming weeks. The festivities last from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. and those who show up have a chance to win a Heineken’s guitar.

Vinyl fanatics can unwind with some live music after buying limited-edition albums and singles on Black Friday Record Store Day at Val’s Halla in Oak Park. Scheduled performers include Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; the Greg Jackson Combo; Decoy Prayer Meeting; Scott Williams Family Band; Phoenix; Tom Klein Experience; Phil Angotti; Black Friars Club; and Hamburglars.

Bloodshot Records will be spinning tracks from its various artists Christmas album 13 Days Of Xmas when it hosts a Holiday Pop Up Store on December 2 at its headquarters on Irving Park Road. The Chicago-based indie label is promising refreshments and snacks, along with exclusive holiday stuff like records, clothing, and signed memorabilia for sale. The event, which will run from noon to 7:00 p.m, ties in with Bloodshot’s seventh annual Stuffed Animal Drive, which collects soft toys and warm clothing.

Alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess and garage rockers The Telepaths are holding a Toys For Tots Benefit Show on December 2 at Red Line Tap. Led by vocalist Carla Hayden and guitarist-vocalist James Moeller, whitewolfsonicprincess are veterans of Chicago’s holiday charity scene.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans  on December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Gee, But It’s Great To Be Back Home

I’ve offered excuses in the past for being AWOB (Absent Without Blogging) but this is a particularly valid one. My wife Pam and I were on vacation in Manhattan starting last Wednesday and just returned today. It was my first visit, and New York more than lived up to its billing as an eye-popping, multi-cultural, bigger-than-life entertainment mecca with delightful surprises and cultural icons around every corner.

All the credit goes to Pam for crafting an itinerary that included the best tourist attractions as well as places that appealed to our own unique interests. We walked at least 10 miles a day, including a journey up inside The Statue Of Liberty to her crown, and taking in the view from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. We mingled with the crowd in Times Square each night and listened to a lecture on immigration at Ellis Island.

We passed by The Ed Sullivan Theatre, where The Beatles performed and David Letterman held court; and got a quick view of The Apollo in Harlem. We joined the fans at the John Lennon Imagine memorial in the Strawberry Fields area of Central Park, and browsed the John Varvatos store where CBGB’s—the cradle of America’s punk scene—used to stand. Broadway retains its status as the most influential and star-studded theatre scene in the country.

As we passed through LaGuardia Airport today, a guard asked if I had any magazines or newspapers in my luggage. It’s the first time I’ve been asked that by airport security, and I answered that I had a ton of them. Luckily, it just involved her taking a quick look through my newfound collection. I’m hoping to post more about those New York publications, as well as some record stores and small eateries, in a future post.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Slumgullion

Photo of Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow from The Posies' Facebook page.

2018 will mark the 30th anniversary for The Posies, and some celebrations are in the works. Founding members Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow plan to tour as a duo starting in January, and and at some point, as a full band. Upcoming dates include New York, Boston, Memphis, Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Nashville. They’ll hit City Winery Chicago on January 31. A post on the band’s Facebook page states: “We will be doing material from four different decades in these shows. Good Grief! Special guests . . . mayhem . . . harmonies . . .” The Posies will also release deluxe reissue of their albums from the 1990s.

CIMMfest (Chicago International Movies and Music Festival) is back for its annual run at various venues around Chicago. The four day event runs through tomorrow and will screen films featuring David Bowie, Sharon Jones, Penelope Spheeris, Paul Butterfield, Public Image Ltd., X, Blind Boys From Alabama, System Of A Down, Dixie Hummingbirds, Circle jerks, Pansy Division, and others. Live music performances include a Sharon Jones and Dap Kings Tribute, Tom Rush, Lee Ranaldo, and Nth Power.

They’re still in love with him. A number of local musicians will join together at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue this Monday, November 13 for Love And Happiness: The Music of Al Green.  John Mead (who’ll serve as host), Bill Brickey, Steve Dawson, and Alton Smith are going to pay tribute to the iconic singer, with help from Chris Greene, Jack Cassidy, Gros Nolle Polossi, and Lenny Marsh. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience, a multimedia exhibit celebrating the long-running NBC show, is currently running at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago. 

Phil Angotti will likely be showcasing songs from his latest album Such Stories when he performs at Montrose Saloon on Wednesday, November 15.

The Chicago Art Book Fair will run from Thursday, November 16 through Sunday, November 19 at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel on Michigan Avenue. The first annual showcase promises zine-makers from around the globe, book and comics artists, and self publishers. Admission is free.

Record Store Day Black Friday is a great opportunity to pick up one-of-a-kind vinyl treasures, either as holiday gifts or for yourself. You can also catch some live music throughout the day after Thanksgiving at Val’s Halla record store in Oak Park. The scheduled performers are Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; Greg Jackson Combo; Decoy Prayer Meeting; Scott Williams Family Band; Big Hair Trouble featuring Ellis Clark and Ary Jeebie; Phoenix; Tom Klein Experience 3:30; Ellis Clark and The Big Parade featuring Ary Jeebie; Phil Angotti; Black Friars Club; and Hamburglars.

WXRT Live From The Archives Volume 19 will be available on December 1 at Chicago area Target stores. A partial list of the artists involved has been posted on the station’s website and includes Phoenix, Cold War Kids, Sting, Portugal. The Man, Vance Joy, and Real Estate. All of these live performances were recorded in 2017.

Limited-edition 18 x 24 screen prints of artist Shepard Fairey’s dazzling portrait of Debbie Harry will become available for $75 each between 10:00 a.m. and noon on November 13 on his Obey Giant  website. The prints will be signed by Fairey and Blondie founding members Debbie Harry and Chris Stein.

The Empty Bottle is hosting Warm, Safe and Sound, A Coat/Sweater Drive for Homeless Chicagoans  on December 21. Donating a coat or sweater will get you in to see the blues rock band North By North, psychedelic rockers Secret Colours, indie rock band The Handcuffs, and the coed indie pop duo Star Tropics.

Tributosaurus, one of the Chicago area’s best known tribute bands, becomes Paul McCartney on December 6 at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

The Bill Graham Rock And Roll Revolution
 ends its run at the Illinois Holocaust Museum And Education Center in Skokie tomorrow. Graham is credited with helping the careers of Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix.

Congratulations to Rolling Stone on its 50th anniversary. The magazine is celebrating in various ways, including a recent two-part special on HBO and special printed editions. If you missed the TV special, it’s likely it will air again, and/or be released on DVD or Blu-ray.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Slumgullion

The Bad Examples will be performing the energetic rock of “Not Dead Yet,” along with Squeeze-worthy gems like “Kill Amanda” and “Pictures Of A Masquerade” at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn tomorrow night. Billy Prine, younger brother of iconic folk singer John Prine, and his band are the opening act. Bad Examples lead vocalist/chief songwriter Ralph Covert will be back at the same venue on November 25 as Ralph Covert’s Acoustic Army.

Other highlights at FitzGerald’s this month include critically acclaimed singer-songwriter James McMurtry with Max Gomez next Saturday, and the Speed4Sarah Fall Fundraiser and Concert with Expo ’76 and Nasty Snacks on November 24.

IFP Chicago will celebrate 30 years of supporting independent filmmakers with a bash on tomorrow at Noisefloor on Erie Street. There will drinks, entertainment, and raffle prizes.

There’s a four-band showcase taking place at Silvie’s on Irving Park Road tomorrow night featuring Go Time!, Paul Coady And The Edsels, Letterbomb, and Too Much Saturn.

The 34th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival continues through this Sunday at Facets on Fullerton, The Music Box on Southport, and six partner venues around Chicago and the suburbs. The films—several are animated—are divided into the categories of Tots, Big Kids, Tweens, and Teens.

Punk’s Not Dead. The Regrettes, an L.A.-based band that blended vintage punk, the 1960s girl group sound, and a defiant spirit on its Feel Your Feelings Fool debut, has a gig coming up on November 30 at House Of Blues in Chicago. They’ll be supporting co-headliners The Interrupters and Swmrs. The Regrettes have visited Chicago at least twice already, for appearances at Riot Fest and Schubas.

The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles just might be ornate enough to pass for a ballroom when The Sweet performs there on at on March 31. Tickets are now on sale on the venue’s website.

Tickets went on sale earlier today for Los Lobos at SPACE in Evanston on December 9, Anne Heaton at SPACE on December 28, and Guided By Voices at Empty Bottle on December 30.

If it’s not too early to make holiday plans, The BoDeans will be at City Winery Chicago on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience is now running at the Museum Of Broadcast Communications in downtown Chicago, and judging from the press it has been receiving, the exhibit, to quote Wayne and Garth, is “Excellent.” The suburban Aurora basement studio where Wayne’s World was filmed is just one of the sets that has been recreated for the exhibit. You can even pose on the couch in your ripped jeans and baseball cap while reciting your favorite catch phrases from the skit. The exhibit’s format of a typical SNL work week includes props and costumes, as well as a representation of the Wednesday table read, where everyone involved with the show would go over that week’s script.

The Safes, a Chicago-based band whose punk/garage rock Record Heat and Thanks To You albums were favorably reviewed here on BHT, have a record release party for their latest release Tasty Waves coming up at Beat Kitchen on November 22. The Differents (who were very impressive at Martyrs’ last Saturday), Little Boy, Jr., and The Hustle are are also on the bill that night.

The Social Act, one of the first bands I interviewed for the Illinois Entertainer back in the late 1980s,  have been working on a new album, and they’ll be performing at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue on December 15. Razorhouse will also be on the bill that night.

The Bill Graham Rock And Roll Revolution continues its run at the Illinois Holocaust Museum And Education Center at 9603 Woods Drive through Nov. 12.

Desiree Burcum and Tina Teske, longtime members of the Famous In The Future comedy group, will be performing at the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival in Madison. WI tomorrow night. Their Sketch-She (Improv & Sketch) show goes on at 7:00 p.m. at the Artemis Bow Stage. Burcum is a Marilyn Monroe fanatic, so I wonder if she knows about Milton H. Greene’s new book The Essential Marilyn Monroe: 50 Sessions. It has 154 photos that have been previously unseen by the public.

In the Garden of Atlantis, a fashion show benefit for Elements Ballet, will take place on November 18 at the Hairpin Arts Center in Logan Square. Models on the runway will be sporting Atlantis-inspired fashions from Rebirth Garments, MJ Ernst, and Amara Black. There will also be art, photography, dance performances, and a reading of a new novel by Miata Boayue.

There’s going to be a Skanksgiving 80s Ska Revival at The Beat Kitchen on November 25 featuring Heavy Manners, DJ Chuck Wren, and Max And The Invaders. Admission is $15, doors open at 8:00 p.m.

The Second Disc website recently reported on a new box set of seven-inch singles that were originally released only to members of the Official Beatles Fan Club from 1963 through 1969. The records are packaged in reproductions of the original sleeves.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Record Store Day Black Friday - For The Vinyl Junkies On Your Holiday Gift List

Traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving is when bargain hunters swarm retail outlets, battling for the best prices on items for gifts or for themselves. In recent years, it’s also become a challenge for vinyl aficionados hoping to acquire limited-edition releases. Record Store Day Black Friday is the seasonal version of the original RSD that takes place every April. The timing has been ideal for nabbing one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.

This year, some of the more interesting Black Friday releases are literally Christmas gifts. Cheap Trick’s Christmas Christmas is a 12-song album with original holiday tunes and cover versions of The Kinks, Wizzard, and The Ramones. Paul McCartney is releasing a new version of “Wonderful Christmastime” he recorded with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on two separate seven-inch singles. The red vinyl one has Norah Jones singing “Peace” on the B-side and the green vinyl one has The Decembrists performing “Jesus Christ” on the B-side.

Also, The Minus Five, the Scott McCaughey-led band that excels at mixing quirky ideas with catchy indie rock arrangements, is releasing Dear December. It’s hard to figure how titles like “Musical Tribute To The Oscar Meyer Weiner Wagon” fit the holiday theme, but it is a white vinyl album with an Advent calendar inspired cover. I’m hoping to post more about Record Store Day Black Friday as it gets closer.

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Monday, October 30, 2017

A Few Tricks But Plenty Of Treats

John San Juan (left) joins Phil Angotti (center) and Friends for a Squeeze number.
Photo by Ari Shagal on John San Juan’s Facebook page.

It would have been possible in Chicago this past weekend to go from bar to bar checking out rock band tribute shows, much like kids trick or treating in their neighborhood. The Montrose Saloon, Live Wire, Martyrs’, and Subterranean were just a few of the venues presenting local musicians covering famous ones. It would have been great to go to them all, but due to a hectic schedule, I was only able to drop by Martyrs last Saturday night.

In keeping with the holiday, a few of the acts had tricks up their sleeves. John San Juan and his band’s set was listed as an Eddie Money tribute but anyone hoping for “Two Tickets To Paradise” would have been waiting so long to hear that or any other Money material. That’s because San Juan instead performed songs by the less commercial but catchy and engaging Teenage Fanclub.

Phil Angotti and Friends delivered a set of Squeeze hits as promised, and captured the sophisticated pop of “Black Coffee In Bed,” “Take Me I’m Yours,” “Tempted,” and “Up The Junction.” Still, the biggest treat from his set might have been the lesser known but irresistible “Messed Around.” Angotti also brought up guest musicians to augment the first-rate ensemble he had already hand-picked.

Like John San Juan, The Differents were in prank mode that night, but their idea was well-executed and clever enough to ensure nobody would complain. They promised a.m. radio hits, which for most people would mean the 1950s and 60s. Instead, they covered alt rock songs that were released long after the a.m. dial became infested with talk radio. An onstage announcer claimed the show was being broadcast live, and used the distinct patter of an old time disk jockey to describe the proceedings (“That was The Differents covering The Jam on ‘Start’”).

Comprising singer-guitarist Lou Hallwas (who had been one of Angotti’s guests) vocalist bassist Gary Stier, and drummer Dan Garrity, the band also covered The Pretenders’ version of “Stop Your Sobbing” and also roughed up Freda Payne’s “Band Of Gold.” Angotti climbed onboard to sing lead  and play guitar on Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” and by the time The Differents blasted through Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into The Fire” and Cheap Trick’s “Southern Girls,” there were a number of guest musicians joining in on the fun.

Sadly, that was as much of the party I caught at Martyrs’ since it was almost midnight and I had to make the long public transportation trek back to Palatine.

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Halloween Song: The Flat Five - The Raven

The Flat Five has been called a Chicago super group due to members Casey McDonough, Kelly Hogan, Scott Ligon, Nora O’Connor, and Alex Hall being veterans of the local music scene and beyond. There’s a vintage quality to their music that includes silly lyrics, smooth-as-silk crooning, jazz beats, and occasional Latin rhythms. After years of performing together on an irregular basis, The Flat Five surprised its fans with a full-length debut last year.

That entertaining vibe of It’s A World Of Love And Hope continues on the band’s recent 45 rpm, colored vinyl single “The Raven.” The members sing Edgar Allan Poe’s words verbatim to finger-snapping arrangement with keyboards and percussion. It’s tempting to think the melody crafted by The Flat Five could be more adventurous, but that approach might have obscured the fun of turning one of the most chilling poems ever written into an irresistible Halloween party song. “The Raven” can be ordered on vinyl or downloaded via the Bloodshot Records site.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Slumgullion

A warm Broken Hearted Toy welcome to the iconic Bob Dylan, who’s in town for a WXRT concert tonight at the brand new Wintrust Arena on the lakefront. Chicago’s own legend Mavis Staples will also be performing, which makes this a potent double bill.

Dylan is on the cover of a new Heritage Auctions catalog I just received in the mail. I’m only familiar with Heritage because the company usually has reps at Fest For Beatles Fans, and they’re very friendly. Their Music and Entertainment Memorabilia Signature Auction coming up live in Dallas and online on November 11 includes a “Bob Dylan owned and stage-played 1963 Martin D-28 acoustic guitar used on stage at George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh and the Rolling Thunder Review Tour.” There are also items related to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Billie Holiday, Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Marilyn Monroe. The opening bid on the Dylan guitar is $300,000.

Halloweekend, the annual two-night tribute event that offers at least four bands doing short sets each night, kicks off at Montrose Saloon tonight. Depending on what time you read this, you could catch part of tonight’s like up of Shoeless Joe Jackson as Joe Jackson; Statutes Of Libery as Grand Funk Railroad, Phil Angotti as The Animals; Rachel Drew covering The Pixies; and The Big Parade & Ary Jeebie as Alice Cooper. Tomorrow night, Decoy Prayer Meeting pays homage to Tom Petty; The Webstirs will be The Guess Who; Androgynous Moustache performs as Crowded House; and Charlie Short will be Robert Palmer. Montrose Saloon is located 2933 W. Montrose.

There’s also a tribute show going on at Subterranean tonight, as part of a benefit/tribute fest for the Intonation Music charity. The Handcuffs will be playing George Harrison tunes; Dayton will play The Rolling Stones; The Good will perform as Queen; Kid Million will do Jane’s Addiction; The Cell Phones will play Lesley Gore; and Que Rico will perform as Toto.

There are five bands doing tributes tomorrow night Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. The Cells will be performing as The Smithereens; Craftwerc will be doing a Kraftwerk tribute; Phil Angotti and Friends will perform as Squeeze, The Differents will be playing AM Radio Hits; and John San Juan will be doing the songs of Eddy Money

If you’d rather be the one belting out tunes by famous (albeit no-longer-with-us) musicians, then FitzGerald’s in Berwyn would be the place for you tomorrow night. That’s when the venue is holding a Ghosts Of Rock Stars Past Halloween Costume Party – Lip Sync Battle And Dance Party.

The Safes, a Chicago-based band whose punk-inflected indie rock albums have been favorably reviewed here on BHT, have a record release party for their new release Tasty Waves coming up at Beat Kitchen on November 22. The Differents, Little Boy, Jr., and The Hustle are are also on the bill that night.

The Bangles, The Romantics, A Flock Of Seagulls, Violent Femmes, Nick Heyward, Boy George And Culture Club, Salt N Peppa and Adam Ant will all be on the bill at the Totally 80s Live Show coming up on January 26 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.

Congratulations to my nephew Joe Flamm on being chosen as one of the contestants for the upcoming season of the Bravo Channel’s Top Chef  program. Joe is currently the chef at critically acclaimed Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue. Our family is extremely proud of him.

A tip of the cap to Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo on proving once again that he’s first-class guy. Rizzo, who has battled cancer himself, had already sent 12-year-old Abby Schrage an autographed picture to help her cope with her treatment for brain cancer. When the news broke that Schrage was devasted after the photo was stolen from her hospital room, Rizzo sent another signed photo, a signed jersey, and some tickets so she and her family can go to the Cubs’ 2018 season opener.

Just when you thought they might be dead (pronounced ‘did’ with A New Zealand accent) The Flight Of The Conchords have announced upcoming concerts in Ireland and the U.K. According to posts on Facebook, the March/April 2018 shows sold out almost immediately.

A super hectic schedule last week decimated my blogging output, resulting in missed opportunities for promoting some worthwhile events. I even neglected to mention Elgin’s annual Nightmare On Chicago Street Halloween Festival, which was held in the city’s downtown area last Saturday. Jeff Kelley and Dave Metzger once again created a zombie-related comedy/thriller to be screened as part of the festivities. I have a small part in their new The Elgin Dead film, which makes my failure to mention it here even more glaring. At least I can mention that The Elgin Dead can be seen on YouTube.

The Fall issue of Inspirer came out before the 2018 nominees for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame were announced but the magazine and the Hall seem to be somewhat on the same wavelength. Inspirer, which is dedicated to covering women in music and entertainment, ran a feature titled Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, Induct These Women. Three of their suggestions—Nina Simone, Kate Bush, and Chaka Khan are among this year’s nominees. Inspirer’s RRHOF recommendations also included The Runaways, Janet Jackson, The Go-Go’s, PJ Harvey, Pat Benatar, Lucinda Williams, and Carole King.

Belly, of “Feed The Tree” fame, has launched a Pledge Music campaign to help with the release of its long-awaited third album. Those who sign up for the yet-to-be-titled effort will have access to exclusive merchandise like signed vinyl, posters, and special show passes.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interesting Rock Formations

Dating back to the days of Crosby, Stills and Nash and Blind Faith, it’s always been fascinating to discover the chemistry that happens when members of various bands join together to start a new project. In Chicago, the recently formed trio Sunshine Boys comprises Freda Love Smith from Blake Babies; Dag Juhlin from The Slugs; and Jacqueline Schimmel from Big Hello. Blue Music, their debut release of hard-hitting but consistently melodic songs is due out early next year and they open for Poi Dog Pondering (another band Juhlin is part of) on December 30 at City Winery Chicago. Back in 2015, members from the Love Me Nots and Wooly Bandits joined forces for an impressive and fun new garage rock band called Motobunny.

More recently, Vicki Peterson from The Bangles; John Cowsill from The Cowsills; and actor/producer/musician Billy Mummy forged Action Skulls. Their debut album Angels Hear is now available and it’s filled with sparse, roots and garage rock tunes with twangy guitars and an adventurous mix of vocals from all three members. Highlights include the catchy “Mainstream” and gospel influenced “Feed My Hungry Heart.”

The Small Square combines Paul Chastain, who co-founded The Velvet Crush with Ric Menck, with John Louis Richardson who currently performs with Shoes. The resumes for both musicians include time spent with Matthew Sweet, Tommy Keene, Susanna Hoffs, Joey Molland, Ric Menck, Roger McGuinn, and Mitch Easter. The Small Square’s new single “Open Up”  is a power pop gem gleaming with the unmistakable presence of guest musicians Jeff Murphy, John Murphy, and Gary Klebe from Shoes.

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