Saturday, March 31, 2018

April, Rock She Will

Mark your calendars. As in so many years in the past, April will be an adventurous month in the Chicago area. Its eclectic schedule involves annual events and live performances; music, film, theatre, fantasy, and collectibles. Here’s a quick look at what to expect.

Saturday Night Live: The Experience exhibit runs through December 31 at the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications on State Street.

The Next Big Thing, Carrie J. Sullivan’s grunge rock play, continues its run at the Factory Theater on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through April 21.

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Punchline, an exhibit on comics, runs through April 21 at the Chicago Literary Alliance.

The 34th Latino Film Festival runs from April 5 through 19 at AMC River East 21.

Modern Motions will be presented by Chicago Repertory Ballet at The Atheanaeum Theatre on April 6 and 7.

The English Beat performs at City Winery Chicago on April 6 and 7.

C2E2 The Chicago Comic and Entertainment EXPO returns to the South Building of McCormick Place on the weekend of April 6 through 8.

The Asian American Showcase runs from April 6 through April 18 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

The Bad Examples perform at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on April 7.

The Decemberists come to the Chicago Theatre on April 10.

The 16th Annual CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights will be held on April 14 at the Local 130 Plumbers Union Hall at 1340 W. Washington in Chicago.

Big Suit, the Chicago Talking Heads tribute act, performs at Park West on April 14.

The Sopro Tax Time Relief All-Star Blues Revue will be held on Sunday, April 15 at the Pheasant Run Inn in St. Charles.

The Real Pretenders, a Pretenders tribute takes place at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on April 19.

The reunited L7 at performs at Metro on April 20.

Flirting With Time: A Tribute To Neil Young takes place at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on April 20.

Record Store Day, offering limited-edition vinyl releases in every known genre of music, returns on April 21. Watch for in-store performances throughout the area.

Marshall Crenshaw comes to The Old Town School Of Folk Music with The Bottle Rockets for two shows at on April 21.

Define American Film Festival (DAFF), organized by writer/filmmaker Joes Antonio Vargas, takes place on April 20 through 22 at Venue Six10 on Michigan Avenue.

International Pop Overthrow - Chicago, starts Friday, April 20 and runs through Saturday, April 28 at the Red Line Tap, with multiple band showcases each night.

The Chicago Palestine Film Festival runs from April 21 through May 3 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Peter Case, founding member of The Nerves and The Plimsouls, will be at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on April 27.

Jeff Tweedy will be at The Vic on April 27.

Frisbie celebrates its 20th anniversary on April 28 at Martyrs, with special guest The Sunshine Boys.

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Friday, March 30, 2018

Slumgullion

Being mellow is much better than hating your sister.

I was glad to be able to snag a ticket today for the The Posies and Material Reissue show at Park West on Saturday, June 23. The Second Disc website has a post today about expanded reissues of the classic Posies albums Dear 23, Frosting On The Beater, and Amazing Disgrace. Each two disc set comes with loads of bonus tracks. Dear 23 includes an alternate version of the cover of “King Midas In Reverse” The Posies recorded for The Hollies tribute album Sing Hollies In Reverse in 1995.

Tickets also went on sale tomorrow for Ry Cooder at Thalia Hall on 6-24; Handsome Family at SPACE on 7-13; Robyn Hitchcock and The Nashville Fabs at Thalia Hall on October 10; John Mayall at City Winery Chicago on June 12; Cathy Richardson Band at City Winery Chicago on May 24; Social Distortion at House Of Blues on June 22; and Matthew Sweet at SPACE on July 12.

The Bad Examples will be performing at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn next Saturday, April 7.

Factory Theater’s production of Carrie J. Sullivan’s grunge rock play The Next Big Thing runs on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through April 21.

I thought this was an April Fools’ Day joke when I saw it listed in the April issue of the Illinois Entertainer, but Juliana Hatfield has indeed recorded an album of Olivia Newton John covers that’s due out April 13. Hard to imagine what the world’s number one Hatfield fan—Frank Carr from the Famous In The Future comedy group—thinks of this, but maybe she ran it past him.

The April IE also has a piece on the Molecule 8 limited edition 1:6 scale (12 inches) trio of John Lennon figurines approved by Yoko Ono. The extremely lifelike statue sculpted by K.A.KIM captures Lennon from his “Imagine” period. IE doesn’t mention a price, but the email I received regarding the Lennon figure has a Pre-order link that shows the price at $299.99. I’d love to see Molecule 8 raffle one off and donate the money to a charitable organization.

In other Beatles news: Congratulations to writer Vivek J. Tiwary (and Sonar Entertainment) on working out a deal with the Bravo channel to have his graphic novel The Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story developed into a mini series. According to The Holywood Reporter, The Fifth Beatle project will have rights to use songs composed by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and is working toward securing rights to George Harrison’s Beatles compositions. Tiwary was a featured guest at last year’s Fest For Beatles Fans – Chicago, and gave a fascinating talk about how he researched the book, selected artists, and then began exploring film possibilities once the graphic novel was completed.

The Best Of Tellin’ Tales Solo - A New Kind Of Spring Benefit will be held on Sunday, April 8 at The Edge Theatre at 5451 N. Broadway.

My nephew and Top Chef champion Joe Flamm will be preparing a five-course spring menu with wine pairings created by Rachael Lowe at Spiaggia on April 16. The price is $200. He’s the executive chef at the Michigan Avenue Italian restaurant. Also, congratulations to Spiaggia Chef and boss Tony Mantuano on coming in at number 19 on New City magazine’s Chicago’s Food And Drink 50 feature in its April issue.

Chicago Tribune writer Tracy Swartz had a funny piece in this past Wednesday’s issue noting how my nephew Joe was starstruck when actress Emmy Rossum mentioned him in a video about the Top Chef finale, even though Rossum wanted Adrienne Cheatham to win. Rossum portrays Fiona Gallagher on the TV show Shameless; Rich Cotovsky, who had a role on the show, ran the annual Abbie Fest as part of his Artistic Director duties at Mary-Arrchie Theatre; and I performed at Abbie Fest several times as a member of the Famous In The Future comedy group. So there’s some sort of six degrees of separation thing between me and Emmy Rossum going on here.

Speaking of six degrees, tickets are now on sale for The Bacon Brothers gig at City Winery Chicago on July12. That’s an entire room of people who will become part of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues its run this weekend at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The 34th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival will run from April 5 to 19. Over 100 films from Spain, Latin America, Portugal, Canada, and America will be screened at AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois.

I’m not sure is this will be a regular feature, but here’s This Week’s Vinyl Purchase At Reckless Records. I dropped by the downtown location yesterday and picked up a limited edition blue vinyl seven-inch single of “Lenny” by Supergrass. It’s an English import on the Parlophone label.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Birthday That Deserves To Be Observed

Just a reminder: The Steepwater Band and The Handcuffs are performing tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

Best wishes to Boris Boden on his birthday. I first met the Chicago area power pop fan/supporter/promoter when we were regulars at the Harlow’s rock club just across the city’s southwest border and he designed their monthly ad in the Illinois Entertainer. We often compared notes on new bands and he introduced me to the work of 20/20, Paul Collins Beat, and Ian Lloyd. We pretty much discovered The Smithereens at the same time, via a review of Beauty And Sadness in Rolling Stone.

These days, Boris shares his limitless collection of power pop tunes through the Secret Weapon podcast on Woody Radio. If there’s a power pop group Boris doesn’t know about, it’s probably because they only formed 10 minutes ago. After losing touch for so many years, I came across Boris more recently at the very first Material Reissue gig at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago, and at the Shoes, Pezband, Dwight Twilley showcase at The Arcada in St. Charles. Happy Birthday, Boris, and keep sending all the power pop our way.

Tickets go on sale tomorrow for Ry Cooder at Thalia Hall on 6-24; Handsome Family at SPACE on 7-13; Robyn Hitchcock and The Nashville Fabs at Thalia Hall on October 10; John Mayall at City Winery Chicago on June 12; The Posies and Material Reissue at Park West on June 23; Cathy Richardson Band at City Winery Chicago on May 24; Social Distortion at House Of Blues on June 22; and Matthew Sweet at SPACE on July 12. You can find a full list of shows going on sale tomorrow on the second to last page of this week’s Reader.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Perms - Miracle

Released late last year, Miracle is the latest in a series of EPs and albums The Perms have released since 1997. The Canadian trio is most notable for the high-powered but consistently precise harmonies of bassist-vocalist Shane Smith and guitarist-vocalist Chad Smith. Drummer John Huver plays a major role in providing the hard-hitting rock behind their impressive singing.

The Perms work predominantly with mid-tempo arrangements this time out but still succeed in keeping their sound adventurous. Their message seems less satiric than on past efforts, particularly on uplifting songs like “Now November” and “Turnaround.” The latter suggests appreciating life, and notes, “What was lost is found.”

“Wanted You To Know” seems to be about a father comforting and supporting his young daughter, and it sports some of Miracle’s most ambitious harmonies. There’s an enticing mix of glam and classic rock on “Be Alright” and “Busy Izzy,” and everything here is produced with radio-ready efficiency. The album ends with the appealing and mostly acoustic “Gone.”

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Incoming

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10:00 a.m. for the dream power pop pairing of The Posies and Material Reissue at Park West on Saturday, June 23. The Posies are in the midst of a 30th Anniversary Tour and will be performing with their Frosting On The Beater era lineup. This is the second time Material Reissue has snagged the opening slot for a stellar power pop act at Park West. They were with Matthew Sweet back in September 2016.

Ken Stringfellow of The Posies will join Italian garage rock/power pop band The Sick Rose for a “an Italia mini promotional tour” in mid April, according to band member Giorgio Cappellaro. Stringfellow produced the band’s new and very catchy Someplace Better album, which is now available on vinyl, CD, and Bandcamp.

Steepwater will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this Friday night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. Formed in 1998, the Chicago-based band will release Shake Your Faith—its sixth album—in the next few days on Diamond Day Records. Founding members vocalist-guitarist Jeff Massey, drummer Joe Winters, and bassist Tod Bowers are now joined by guitarist Eric Saylors. Steepwater draws inspiration from vintage British blues rock, and has toured with Umphrey’s McGee, Gov’t Mule, 38 Special, and Cheap Trick.

It’s also an important event for opening act The Handcuffs. The coed quintet, led by singer-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis, have been hard at work on a new album (their fourth), and plan to unveil some new songs during their Martyrs’ set. Previous releases have sprung songs onto popular TV shows, so it will be interesting to see if that happens with any of the new stuff. The Handcuffs will return to Laurie’s Planet Of Sound for a 4:00 p.m. in-store performance on Record Store Day, although I don’t know if they’ll be playing new songs at that gig.

Tommi Zender and Phil Angotti are also Laurie’s Planet Of Sound Record Store Day regulars and they’ll be performing in separate shows this year. There’s a rumor Angotti will be covering The Kinks. I hate to sound like a broken record (pun intended), but I’m still waiting for a Hollies tribute at one of these LPOS RSD events.

The Vintage Vinyl store in Evanston will have a live performance by avant garde/alt rockers whitewolfsonicprincess at 11:00 a.m. Guitarist-vocalist James Moeller, who founded the band with vocalist Carla Hayden, suggested in a Facebook post that they might play a few covers. “Probably not a Doobie Bros song, but maybe Townes Van Zandt, The Doors, Big Mama Thornton, The National, or Drive By Truckers.”

The Val’s Halla store in Oak Park usually offers hours of Record Store Day performances but I haven’t seen a schedule for this year yet. Psychedelia masters The Luck Of Eden Hall traditionally do the RSD thing. Check your favorite artists’ social media pages to see if they have any RSD gig scheduled.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Slumgullion

The Sunshines Boys have a great debut album for sale.

Material Reissue has a show tonight at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The music starts at 8:00 p.m. with opening act Cabin Essence.

Congratulations to Toronto-based indie rock/synth band Alvvays on selling out its show tonight at Metro. Alvvays has two superb albums to draw material from. Next Friday, Wolf Alice, led by the amazingly versatile vocalist-guitarist Ellie Rowsell, will be at Metro. Wolf Alice’s Visions Of A Life was one of 2017’s best albums.

The Sunshine Boys have a two-part record release show celebrating their debut Blue Music coming up tomorrow. They’ll be at Rediscover Records in Elgin at noon, before heading off for a 3:00 p.m. performance at Val’s Halla in Oak Park. Blue Music is now available on iTunes and Spotify. The band’s song “Billy Boy” rang out over the WLS AM 890 airwaves earlier today.

Ch-ch-changes. As noted on the Sons Of The Silent Age Facebook page, an injury to one of its band members has caused them to cancel tomorrow night's gig at Martyrs’. Space Face, another Chicago-based Bowie tribute act, will be filling in for them.

Also tomorrow night, the engaging indie rock group In Tall Buildings will be performing at Schubas.

Lollapalooza announced its 2018 schedule this past Wednesday, a day after four-days passes went on sale. Surprisingly, those passes didn’t immediately sell out, which gave some potential ticket buyers a rare opportunity to check out the lineup before taking the plunge. Scheduled acts include The Regrettes; St. Vincent; Jack White; Catfish And The Bottlemen; Franz Ferdinand; Portugal The Man; The Weeknd; Bruno Mars; The National; Arctic Monkeys; Vampire Weekend; The Vaccines; Greta Van Fleet; Khalid; Chvrches; and Manchester Orchestra.

Tickets went on sale today for Liz Phair at The Empty Bottle on June 9; legendary surf guitarist Dick Dale at Reggie’s Rock Club on August 10; Stereophonics at The Vic on September 11, and Al Stewart at City Winery Chicago on June 4 and 5.

FitzGerald’s in Berwyn has some interesting shows coming up next month, starting with The Bad Examples on April 7. On April 19, there’s a Pretenders tribute by The Real Pretenders, and the following night offers Flirting With Time: Tribute To Neil Young.

Factory Theater’s latest new production The Next Big Thing uses 1990s grunge rock for Carrie J. Sullivan’s tale of a small town musician who hopes to conquer the Chicago music scene. Allison Grischow stars in the lead role, and Robyn Coffin directs. The Next Big Thing runs on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through April 21.

The Best Of Tellin’ Tales Solo - A New Kind Of Spring Benefit will be held on Sunday, April 8 at The Edge Theatre at 5451 N. Broadway.

Marshall Crenshaw is coming to Chicago with The Bottle Rockets for two shows at The Old Town School Of Folk Music, both on April 21. David Hidalgo and Marc Ribot will be at Old Town School Of Folk Music on March 30.

Rock this town’s Independence Day celebration. The Stray Cats will be the co-headlining act with Melissa Etheridge at this year’s RibFest in Naperville on the 4th of July. Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame will be backed by the Loving Mary band on July 6.

The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues through April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center. The 34th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival runs from April 5 to 19. Over 100 films from Spain, Latin America, Portugal, Canada, and America will be screened at AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois.

Just a reminder that former Saturday Night Live writer Alan Zweibel’s play Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort Of Love Story is running at the Mercury Theater in Chicago through April 1.

The Saturday Night Live: The Experience exhibit runs through December 31 at the Chicago Museum of Broadcast Communications on State Street.

On this Sunday, Millright’s restaurant in Simsbury, CT will have Season 15 Top Chef finalists Adrienne Cheatham and Chris Scott preparing a five course meal and cocktails. The event will benefit the Sarcoma Foundation Of America, in honor their fellow Season 15 contestant Fatima Ali, who is battling cancer.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Two Good Choices For Tomorrow Night

Chicago area power pop fans can catch one of the best acts of that genre tomorrow night if they don’t mind traveling a bit. Material Reissue, which features original Material Issue members Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko, along with singer guitarist Phil Angotti and guitarist Jay O’Rourke, have a show at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s a treat to watch these guys can carry on the catchy and emotionally potent music penned by the late Jim Ellison. Material Issue took MTV by storm back in 1991 with its black and white video for “Valerie Loves Me,” and went on to release power pop gems like “Diane,” “Renee Remains The Same” and “That’s What Girls Want.” Tomorrow night’s show starts at 8:00 p.m. Cabin Essence, a band that’s pretty much Nick Maas on record but includes additional musicians when performing live, will be the opening act.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Alvvays will be performing a sold-out show at Metro tomorrow night. The Toronto-based band switches easily from atmospheric dreamscapes to energetic alt rock, with lead vocalist-guitarist Molly Rankin leading the way. Hearing songs like “Plimsoul Punk” and “Lollipop (Ode To Jim)” from its 2017 album Antisocialites should be a blast, and Alvvays can also draw from its stellar 2015 self-titled debut. The doors open at 7:30 p.m.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Richard X. Heyman - Incognito

Richard X. Heyman’s 12th album finds the singer-guitarist and founding member of The Doughboys once again crafting strong melodies for his power pop and indie rock songs. Released in 2017, Incognito also has elements of country and western, urban contemporary, and mainstream rock. Songs like “Her Garden Path” and “Chalk It Up” work particularly well because there’s a harder edge to the arrangements.

According to his website, Heyman wanted this effort to reflect the anxious mood of 2016 America without going into specifics. That approach is especially noticeable on the title track, which kicks off with ringing guitars before delving into some troubling observations. The rhythm and blues influenced “So What” advises “Go out and make it happen” when faced with life’s struggles, and Heyman sets a similar message to the lighter, ‘80s rock of “Lift.”

“All You Can Do” and “In Our Best Interest,” both of which are slow songs with backup vocalists, are the only times when Heyman sounds a bit too generic. “Gleam,” on the other hand, features clever and romantic lyrics set to an irresistible toe-tapping arrangement. He’s also obviously having a ball playing rollicking old-time blues on his tale of an untrustworthy girlfriend “Terry Two Timer.”

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Slumgullion

Peter Asher and Jeremy Clyde will be at Old Town School Of Folk Music tomorrow.

The WNUR radio program Power Pop Shoppe has done well with its first few live shows, but the one tonight at The Elbo Room is bound to be extra special. Local acts Phil Angotti, The Cells, The Thin Cherries, King Mixer, The Joy Poppers, Mark Watson Band, The Sh***y Amps, Love Punch, and others will take part in a tribute show to honor power pop icons Pat DiNizio of The Smithereens and Tommy Keene. All proceeds from the event will go to the Felines and Canines Dog Rescue Shelter in Edgewater.

Chicago psych group Umbra and the Volcan Siege are marking the vinyl, cassette and digital release of their latest album, Someone Will Love You But It’s Just Not Me, with a free show tonight at the Virgin Hotel in downtown Chicago.

The week of English gentlemen. Some key members of the original British Invasion will be performing in the Chicago area. Tomorrow night’s Peter and Jeremy gig at The Old Town School Of Folk Music will surely confuse anyone who got Peter And Gordon with Chad and Jeremy mixed up in the 1960s. This show gives us one from each duo; Peter Asher and Jermey Clyde. Graham Nash, who founded The Hollies with childhood friend Allan Clarke before moving on to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and a successful solo career, has a show tomorrow night at The North Shore Center For The Performing Arts. The invasion continues this Monday and Tuesday when The Zombies rock City Winery Chicago.

The Ravinia Festival, one of the Chicago area’s favorite places to see music outdoors, has announced its 2018 lineup. The dates run from June 1 through September 16 and cover just about every genre. Some of the acts scheduled are Roger Daltry with members of the Ravinia Festival performing Tommy; Lyle Lovett and His Large Band; Los Lobos; Diana Ross; John Fogerty and ZZ Top; Anita Baker; Sugarland; Jackson Browne; A Flock Of Seagulls; Janis Ian; Juilliard String Quartet; John Hiatt and The Goners; Culture Club, The B-52’s and Thompson Twins; Yes; Bonnie Koloc and Howard Levy; Johnny Rivers and Jimmy Webb; Earth, Wind and Fire; James Galway; Ian Anderson; Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue; Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang; Cake and Ben Folds; The Beach Boys; and Alison Krause. Tickets can be purchased for the pavilion or the lawn.

If there are any parents in Chicago wondering why their teenagers are so well behaved this weekend it could be because four-day tickets to Lollapalooza go on sale on Tuesday. The festival runs August 2 through 5. Per tradition, the schedule has yet to be announced.

Material Reissue, which features original Material Issue members Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko, along with singer guitarist Phil Angotti and guitarist Jay O’Rourke, has a gig coming up next Friday, March 23 at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Alt rock band Alvvays, whose 2017 Antisocialites album was favorably reviewed here on BHT, will be will be at Metro next Friday, March 23.

The Sons Of The Silent Age will be paying tribute to David Bowie in their usual funky, atmospheric, and all-around impressive way at Martyrs’ next Saturday, March 24. The band comprises several veterans of the Chicago rock scene, including vocalist Chris Connelly of Ministry and Revolting Cocks fame.

The engaging indie rock group In Tall Buildings will be performing at Schubas next Saturday.

The Sunshine Boys have a two-part record release show celebrating their amazing debut Blue Music coming up next Saturday. They’ll be at Rediscover Records in Elgin at noon, before heading off for a 3:00 p.m. performance at Val’s Halla in Oak Park.

Factory Theater plunges into the late 1990s grunge rock scene with its current production The Next Big Thing. Carrie J. Sullivan’s play features original music in a tale of a small town musician named Beth who hopes to conquer the Chicago music scene. Allison Grischow stars in the title role, and Robyn Coffin directs. The Next Big Thing runs on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through April 21.

The Jewish Film Festival is about to wrap up its run three weekend run. Films are being screened at ArcLight Chicago, ArcLight Glenview, Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 and Century 16 Deer Park. The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues through April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Millright’s restaurant in Simsbury, CT will have Season 15 Top Chef finalists Adrienne Cheatham and Chris Scott preparing a five course meal and cocktails on Sunday, March 25. The event will benefit the Sarcoma Foundation Of America, in honor of their fellow Season 15 contestant Fatima Ali, who is battling cancer.

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Slumgullion

Congratulations to my nephew Joe Flamm on winning this season’s Top Chef competition on the Bravo channel. Earlier today, I did a post here about the Top Chef viewing event the Spiaggia restaurant in Chicago hosted last night.

In related news, the Millright’s restaurant in Simsbury, CT will have Top Chef contestants Adrienne Cheatham and Chris Scott preparing a five course meal and cocktails on March 25 to benefit the Sarcoma Foundation Of America in honor fellow Season 15 contestant Fatima Ali, who is battling cancer.

Factory Theater will be plunging into grunge rock circa 1997 when its production of The Next Big Thing opens in previews tonight. Carrie J. Sullivan’s play features original music in a tale of a small town musician named Beth who hopes to conquer the Chicago music scene. Allison Grischow stars in the title role, and Robyn Coffin directs. The Next Big Thing will run on Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. through April 21.

Prop Thtr’s new late-night production The Uploose Odditorium opens tonight at 10:30 p.m. The hour-long sketch comedy show features Jessica Kearney, Dash Kidman, Kyra Leigh, Dylan McGorty, Matt Nikkila, Zoë Pike, and Chloe Speschockrom, with Jamie Shriner as a musical guest. Admission is $10; Prop Thtr is located at 3502-04 N. Elston.

Elizabeth Acevedo, a poetry slam champion who is now an author, will be discussing her first novel Poet X at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in the Hyde Park neighborhood tomorrow at 5:00 p.m.

Graham Nash returns to the Chicago area next Saturday, March 17 with a show at the The North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie. The British Invasion continues a few days later when The Zombies perform at City Winery Chicago on March 19 and 20.

The official International Pop Overthrow website has now posted the schedule for its 2018 nine-day/12 showcase run in Chicago. The fest starts on Friday, April 20 and runs through Saturday, April 28. Several IPO favorites will be performing, including Tommi Zender, Phil Angotti, Rob Schultz Band, King Mixer, The Jeremy Band, The Lilacs, The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club, Larry O. Dean, The Spindles, Thrift Store Halo, The Red Wigglers, The Cells, The Jay Goeppner Band, Michael Steven Cohen, Certain Stars, The Unswept, Dave Rave, Freetoed, Mike Vanderbilt And The Suburban Garage Sound, The Queue, and Too Much Saturn. IPO Founder/CFO David Bash has created profiles of most of the acts involved, along with links to their websites or Facebook pages. So even those who can’t make it to the shows can use this site to discover some amazing new power pop and indie rock acts.

Rock on and thanks for all the fish. The U.K. vinyl-only, indie label Fruits de Mer is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with Goldfish—a three LP/one seven inch single set on color vinyl in a triple gatefold sleeve. The tracks stretch across FdM’s decade of offering psychedelic and prog rock artists, and includes The Pretty Things, The Chemistry Set, Jack Ellister, Vibravoid, Soft Hearted Scientists, Tir na nOg, and Stay.

In addition to Goldfish, Fruits de Mer’s ten-year history will be featured in Goldmine magazine writer Dave Thompson’s new book The Incomplete Angler. The mind-bending cover art was created by artist/musician Gregory Curvey, whose band The Luck Of Eden Hall has appeared on a number frequent FdM various tribute compilations.

The Jewish Film Festival continues its run this weekend and next weekend. A total of 31 films will be screened at ArcLight Chicago, ArcLight Glenview, Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 and Century 16 Deer Park. The Chicago European Union Film Festival continues through April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

WNUR’s Power Pop Showcase’s multi-act tribute to Tommy Keene and Pat DiNizio takes place next Friday, on March 16 at The Elbo Room on CHicago’s north side.

Nancy Wilson from Heart will be taking part in a Rock And Roll Fantasy Camp in Chicago with blues legend Buddy Guy June 28 through July 1.

Longtime Chicago Tribune rock critic Greg Kot, whose 2014 Mavis Staples bio I’ll Take You There was chosen as part of the city’s One Book, One Chicago campaign, has a new work available in print or ebook format. Turn It Up is a collection of his Tribune reviews, as well as columns about Bono, Beck, Patti Smith, Knaye West, Wilco and other big name music acts.

The One Where A Friends Star Helps Fight Sexual Harassment. David Schwimmer, who brought plenty of humor to his lovelorn character Ross Geller on Friends before moving on to various dramatic roles, is also well known in Chicago as the co-founder of Lookingglass Theater. As noted by writer Kim Janssen in the Chicago Tribune, Schwimmer has made five short films to identify and combat acts of sexual harassment in the workplace. The clips will be shown on screens on the backseats of Chicago cabs.

Actor Michael Shannon, who like Schwimmer, remains a vital part of the Chicago theatre scene even after achieving widespread critical and commercial acclaim, watched the recent Oscars Awards show at the Old Town Ale House, according to a Chicago Sun-Times story by reporter Mitch Dudek. Shannon had every right to be at the actual ceremony in Hollywood since he had a major role in The Shape Of Water, which was nominated in 13 categories. But he chose instead to be at the closing night of the play Traitor at A Red Orchid Theatre since he was the director.

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And The Crowd Goes Wild

Photo from the Spiaggia Facebook page.

For the second consecutive Thursday, Spiaggia on Michigan Avenue rolled out the red carpet for family and friends of its Executive Chef (and my nephew) Joe Flamm as he edged closer to winning the Season 15 Top Chef competition on the Bravo channel. The March 1 event, held in the restaurant’s upstairs party room with free food and drinks, ended on a happy note as we watched Joe and Adrienne Cheatham on a big screen TV being selected to move on to the finale. (The latest season wrapped up months ago but the contestants have been sworn to secrecy as to its outcome.) Joe has been traveling the country promoting Top Chef with some of the other contestants but he was in house again last night.

I can only assume this was a bigger crowd than what you’d usually find at Spiaggia, but the staff was consistently friendly and on top of things. A DJ playing an energetic blend of urban contemporary and vintage new wave added some cutting edge ambience to the restaurant’s elegance. The overall mood was happy and anxious as relatives and old friends saw each other for the first time in a while. It was tough maneuvering through all those people and even more of a challenge to find somewhere to sit for watching the show once it came on.

Shortly before airtime, my wife Pam asked if I could get her a Coke, and as I made my way to the bar, I came face to face with Mustache Joe Sasto. He had joined my nephew in a Joe Down Throw Down event the previous night at Spiaggia.

“Joe, good to see you,” I said, feeling like we were friends since I had been watching him on TV for weeks.

“Nice to see you too,” he responded.

Three other former Season 15 Top Chef contestants—Bruce Kalman, Brother Luck, and Tyler Anderson—were also present. Joe, Bruce, and Tyler called themselves The Bears on Top Chef, and Joe’s mother presented each of them with a toy stuffed bear at Spiaggia. Things quieted down when the broadcast, shown across a huge, north-facing window and on a few big-screen TVs, came on.

It quickly became obvious both contestants would be giving their best as they each cooked a four-course meal. Judges Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Graham Elliott talked about Joe and Adrienne being neck and neck after each course was set before them. As the crowd at Spiaggia waited for the judges to announce their decision, I couldn’t help thinking both Joe and Adrienne had won, even though only one of them could be chosen.

When Padma informed the onscreen Joe he was Top Chef, the in-house Joe and his wife Hillary embraced as everyone around them cheered and applauded. Joe Sasto and Brother Luck also came over to hug Joe. Most of the crowd lingered long after the show ended. Pam and I had a chance to talk to Brother Luck and his wife, Joe Sasto and his girlfriend, and Bruce Kalman. They were all extremely friendly. (I didn’t see Tyler after the broadcast.)

In the end, I was most proud of my nephew Joe for meeting each challenge on Top Chef head on and always keeping his cool. That could also be said for most of this year’s contestants as they created an experience they’ll probably remember the rest of their lives.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Count Vaseline – Tales From The Megaplex

Dublin native/current Atlanta, GA resident Stefan Murphy recorded albums and EPs with his band The Mighty Stef for 10 years before reinventing himself as Count Vaseline in 2017. His debut effort Tales From The Megaplex evokes swamplands rather than lush Irish pastures, with his deep vocals and twangy guitar adding to the off-kilter fun. The eight tracks zip by in flash but each makes a lasting impression.

Count Vaseline’s rock-a-billy take on Ween’s “I’ll Be Your Johnny On The Spot” is just a bit over a minute and a half long, and he crafts an informative and humorous (though not necessarily fair) comparison of John Cale and Lou Reed on “Hail Hail John Cale” in even less time. He weaves a few oddball narratives throughout the exotic rhythms of “Heavy Is The Head That Wears The Crown.” The title track uses the same bare-bones punk meets 1960s rock method that worked so well for The Ramones.

On other tracks, Count Vaseline opts for a more quirky, B-52’s approach by adding keyboards. “Song For Tom” honors a man whose adventures across the galaxy couldn’t bring him love. “He was a very good man but he died alone.” Alluring backup vocals and a dreamy arrangement provide an ironic setting for “What’s Your Name, Where Are You From, What are You On,” a song that asks people to identify themselves and their chosen drug.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Slumgullion

This year’s Record Store Day isn’t until April 21, but information is already starting to trickle out. The Second Disc website, a great source for RSD info, recently reported that three David Bowie releases will be available. They are Welcome To The Blackout, a three-record set of live performances from the artist’s 1978 Isolar World Tour; a 12-inch single with an extended “Let’s Dance” newly remixed by Nile Rogers; and a reissue of the 1978 promo album Bowie Now, on white vinyl. Led Zeppelin will offer a seven-inch single on RSD with previously unreleased versions of “Rock And Roll” and “Friends.”

The Breeders’ new album All Nerve came out today. Other releases due this month include Francis Trouble by Albert Hammond, Jr.; American Utopia by David Byrne; In Your Own Sweet Time by The Fratellis; I’ll Be Your Girl by The Decembrists; Space Gun by Guided By Voices; and Boarding House Reach by Jack White.

Tickets are now on sale for the Pitchfork Music Festival, with Tame Impala, Japandroids, and several other artists on July 20 –22; Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Aragon Ballroom on May 29; Gomez at The Vic on June 15 and 16; Joan Baez at the Chicago Theatre on October 5; and Alan Parsons Project on June 5 at Copernicus Center.

The Continental Drifters are back in action and have a gig coming up on May 26 at the Tipitina’s club in New Orleans. The band includes Peter Holsaple of The dB’s, Vicky Peterson of The Bangles, and Susan Cowsill of the Cowsills.

The Bangles are one of the many big name acts scheduled for the Arroyo Seco Weekend festival in Pasadena on June 23 and 24. Neil Young; Jack White; The Pretenders; Belle and Sebastian; The Specials; Dwight Twilley; Robert Plant and The Sensational Space Shifters; Violent Femmes; and Los Lobos are some of the other artists scheduled to perform.

The world premiere of the Paul Edwards adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Picture Of Dorian Gray, opens tonight at City Lit, and will run through April 15. The Edwards version sets the drama in New York from 1970 through 1980.

Karen Gillan, who easily transitioned The Doctor’s fiery companion Amy Pond on Doctor Who to the formidable villain Nebula in Guardians Of The Galaxy, has written and directed The Party’s Just Beginning, her first feature film. She also stars in comedy/drama, along with Lee Pace and Matthew Beard. Gillan was on hand when the film had its world premiere at the 14th Glasgow Film Festival on February 24.

The 19th Chicago Irish Film Festival - Films from the Land of Storytelling opened yesterday, and will run through this Sunday at the Gallery Theatre and Logan Theatre. Both venues are located on Milwaukee Avenue. The event will include feature films, shorts, and documentaries.

Abbey Road, which recently added two new studios and a mix stage, was named 2018 Studio of The Year at the Music Producers Guild - MPG Awards yesterday. My wife Pam and I saw Abbey Road when we visited London in 2006, but we weren’t allowed inside.

The Jewish Film Festival opens tomorrow and will run on weekends through March 18. A total of 31 films will be screened at ArcLight Chicago, ArcLight Glenview, Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 and Century 16 Deer Park.

The Chicago European Union Film Festival kicks off next Friday, March 9 and will continue through April 5 at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Hello, It’s Good New News For Todd Rundgren fans. He and fellow Utopia members Kasim Sulton, Willie Wilcox, and Ralph Shuckett are reuniting for a 2018 tour that will bring them to the Chicago Theatre on May 22. Other stops include Denver, Minneapolis, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. Plus, The Second Disc website recently covered the new three-CD Todd Rundgren - All Sides Of THE ROXY, which features his residency at the L.A. club back in 1978.

Prop Thtr is promising audiences will encounter “unhinged, unpredictable, uninhibited entertainment” at its new late-night production The Uploose Odditorium coming up next Friday, March 9. The hour-long sketch comedy show starts at 10:30 p.m. and will feature Jessica Kearney, Dash Kidman, Kyra Leigh, Dylan McGorty, Matt Nikkila, Zoë Pike, and Chloe Speschockrom, with Jamie Shriner as a musical guest. Admission is $10; Prop Thtr is located at 3502-04 N. Elston.

Elizabeth Acevedo, a poetry slam champion who is now an author, will be discussing her first novel Poet X at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore in the Hyde Park neighborhood on March 10 at 5:00 p.m.

Top Chef contestant (and my nephew) Joe Flamm was the honored guest at a viewing event for his family and friends last night at the Spiaggia restaurant on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. This season had come down to three contenders—Joe, Adrienne Cheatham, and Joe Sasto—and one of them would be eliminated before the finale next week. The mood in Spiaggia’s third-floor party room was anxious but festive, and I doubt my wife Pam and I were the only ones impressed with the bond that has developed among these competing chefs. The episode also had its fun and humorous moments, and it was a kick to see former Season 15 contestants Carrie Baird, Chris Scott, and Bruce Kalman come back to help out. In the end, Joe Flamm was the first chosen to move on to next week’s finale, followed by Adrienne Cheatham. Joe Sasto, AKA, Mustache Joe, was eliminated from the competition.

A tip of the chef hat to Mustache Joe. After seeming a bit controlling at first, he now comes across as big-hearted and funny. He’ll be in town next Wednesday for the sold-out Joe-Down Throw-Down Dinner with Joe Flamm at Spiaggia.

On March 25, the Millright’s restaurant in Simsbury, CT will host Adrieene Cheatham and Chris Scott for a five course meal and cocktails to benefit the Sarcoma Foundation Of America in honor former season 15 contestant Fatima Ali, who is battling cancer.

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