Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Book, An Album, And A Touching Tribute

Chris Stamey, who’s been a driving force on the alternative rock scene for decades with The dB’s as well as a solo artist, just released an autobiography. A Spy In The House Of Loud - New York Songs and Stories is now available via the University Of Texas Press, and according to publisher’s website covers the origins of punk in the late 1970s. I would guess it also includes his remembrances of Alex Chilton, since the two musicians worked together on various projects. At any rate, it’s bound to a fascinating addition to your rock and roll library, and received a rave review on the Popdose website.

Universal Love, an album that was released in digital form last week, will be available on vinyl for this year’s Record Store Day. The concept behind Universal Love is to flip the pronouns in popular songs in order to send a message of inclusion and diversity. Bob Dylan, Kesha, St. Vincent, Benjamin Gibbard fron Death Cab For Cutie; Valerie June; and Kele Okereke from Bloc Party are the artists involved. 

Reporter Maureen O’Donnell offered an informative and touching tribute to music marketer Mike Egan in a recent edition of the Chicago Tribune. For decades, Egan was a familiar face at local record stores, and helped visiting bands (such as U2 before they were huge) navigate the city. He was an avid supporter of new wave, house music, and Japanese anime.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Record Store Day Advice

Record Store Day, the annual celebration of vinyl in all its 7, 10, and 12 inch glory, returns this Saturday, April 21. The number of recording artists participating has grown over the years, and many record stores now entice customers with live entertainment, and in some cases, food and beverages. Collectors hoping to snag some of those limited edition or colored vinyl releases will need to get up  early and stand in line outside the record store of their choice. There’s a complete rundown of all the one-time treasures being offered this year on the official Record Store Day website. Just about every genre is represented, including hip hop, country, blues, jazz, and numerous variations of rock and roll.

Once you’ve studied the website and compiled your wishlist, here are a few pointers.

There are a lot of Chicago area stores to choose from. Pick up a copy of this month’s Illinois Entertainer for an extensive list. Keep an out for pop-up stores like Numero Uno in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Bring a written list of the records you want, showing the title, artist, and vinyl format. (7-inch single; 12-inch single; 10-inch EP; LP; double-LP, box set, etc.) The stores I’ve been to keep all the records behind the counter, and they like to keep the line moving. They will not look at a list on your smart phone, and definitely don’t want to hear you trying to remember what you want.

Be prepared for sticker shock. I’ve haven’t been able to find anyplace online that lists prices, so you won’t know how much these records cost until the clerk places them in front of you. Some will be relatively cheap, while others can get expensive.

Here’s a sampling of RSD in-store events.

Laurie’s Planet of Sound - 4639 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago:
1:00 p.m. Tommi Zender and Natalie Galey covering Joni Mitchell; 2:00 p.m. Phil Angotti covering The Kinks; 3:00 p.m. The Census Takers covering The Residents; 4:00 p.m. The Handcuffs

Val’s halla Records - 239 Harrison St., Oak Park:
11:00 a.m. Farewell Captain; noon Two Guitars And A Tuba; 1:00 p.m. Matt Lenny and Elm City Council; 2:00 p.m. Ginger; 3:00 p.m. The Frantastic Sound System; 4:00 p.m. Gino and Friends Jam

Vintage Vinyl - 925 Davis Street, Evanston:
11:a.m. whitewolfsonicprincess (alt rock band)

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Friday, April 13, 2018

Slumgullion

The annual CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights, always one of the best things about April in Chicago, takes place tomorrow at the Local 130 Plumbers Union Hall at 1340 W. Washington. An amazing selection of records, CDs, DVDs, posters, books, and other rock and roll related merchandise will on sale from vendors; and the entertainment includes live music and DJs. Admission from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. is $8, and early admission from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. costs $25. The first 500 attendees will get a free tote bag that includes the download code for the CHIRP Record Fair Local Label Sampler.

Tickets went on sale today for the premiere of the Andrew Bird film Blue Heart at Thalia Hall on May 9. Other shows now on sale include Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues at City Winery Chicago on August 26; Dave Alvin of The Blasters and Americana artist Jimmie Dale Gilmore at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on September 8; Rufus Wainwright at The Vic on November 20; and the Willy Porter Band at City Winery Chicago on September 28.

Big Suit, the Chicago Talking Heads tribute act, performs at Park West tomorrow night.

Phil Angotti, with special guest Cliff Johnson, will be performing his monthly Beatle Brunch this Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m. at the Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant. Both of these guys are veterans of the Chicago power pop scene, so they practically have 1960s hits flowing through their veins. In addition to his solo work and tribute shows around town, Angotti was a member of the band The Idea. Johnson currently performs with The Raine and is best known as the lead vocalist for Off Broadway. Reclaimed Bar and Restaurant is located at 3655 N. Western Avenue.

Later that same day, you can catch Tommi Zender, with special guest Steve Dawson, at Wishbone North from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Zender is a veteran of the Chicago scene and a frequent participant in tribute shows; Dawnson is a solo artist as well as a member of the critically acclaimed alt rock/Americana band Dolly Varden.

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.

I was happy to see Jeff Elbel’s article in today’s Chicago Sun-Times about The Smithereens performing on April 19 at The Genesee Theatre in Waukegan. Robin Wilson from The Gin Blossoms will be serving as lead vocalist. It was no doubt a difficult decision to continue on after Pat DiNizio passed away last December, but I would agree with what a lot of fans are saying, which is The Smithereens’ power pop music should continue to be performed live. The Smithereens will be opening for Dave Davies of The Kinks at The Genesee.

Elbel also mentioned the new Covers album being released by The Smithereens, which features several cover versions recorded by DiNizio and the band over the years.

Head Over Heels, the new musical based on songs by The Go-Go’s, began previews earlier this week at the Curran in San Francisco. Tickets for Broadway previews, which starts in New York on June 23, are now on sale. Here’s hoping Head Over Heels comes to Chicago at some point.

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.

The 34th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival runs through April 19 at AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois.

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

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

Colin Blunstone of The Zombies will embark on a U.K. tour before rejoining the band later this year for another tour. According to a post on the Essentially Pop website, Blunstone is also busy recording his next solo album.

The Posies’ 30th Anniversary Tour now includes dates in the U.K. (It arrives at Park West in Chicago, with Material Reissue as the opening act, on June 23.)

Chicago-based psychedelic band Secret Colours has created a fun and eye-catching video for its song “Dream Dream.”

Four very good songs by The Valley Downs, one of Chicago’s best but not altogether busy bands, can now be heard on Spotify.

Art Encounter, a nonprofit art education organization, is hosting an event to honor gallerist William Lieberman on Sunday, May 6 at the Evanston Women’s Club.

The Chicago Toy Show returns to the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles on April 22 for the first of its two events there in 2018. In addition to collectibles, action figures, Matchbox cars, and Star Wars treasures, the show also offers a fair amount rock and roll memorabilia. There are vendors offering vintage publcations, records, CDs, and even music-related toys. I’ve purchased a car imprinted with the Beatles Revolver allbum cover, and a semi trailer showing Cheap Trick. Admission The Toy Show is &10, hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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

Flirting With Time: A Tribute To Neil Young takes place at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on April 20.
The reunited L7 at performs at Metro on April 20.

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.

There will be a screening of the film Concert For George – Celebrating the Life and Music of George Harrison on May 16 at the Music Box. The 2002 concert brought together Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Ravi Shankar, Tom Petty, Monty Python, and other to honor Harrison.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wolf Alice - Visions Of Life

Back when I reviewed Wolf Alice’s full-length debut My Love Is Cool in 2016, I imagined how interesting it would be to see lead vocalist-guitarist Ellie Rowsell bring the various genres and personas from that that album to a live performance. The English band’s followup Vision Of Life is no less adventurous despite a persistent obsession with death. Rowsell can evoke an angel, a street fighter, or an alluring hipster, depending on the song. And once again, the well-crafted arrangements flip from pristine to overpowering in a matter of moments.

The intro to “Heavenward” could turn any church choir green with envy, and Wolf Alice drifts into a symphony before eventually bringing on the heavy metal thunder. Meanwhile, the lyrics focus on celebrating someone close who has died and looking forward to seeing that person again in the afterlife. “St. Purple And Green” has a similar approach and seems to specifically mourn a grandmother. The straight-up techno rock of “Space And Time” exudes a fear of losing control, and on the gorgeous folk ballad “After The Zero Hour,” a woman refuses to die, and embarks on an adventure instead.

Visions of Life offers other outlooks as well. Rowsell sounds like she’s ready to rip somebody’s head off in the careening “Yuk Foo,” while the light and poetic “Sad Boy” is about a guy who “thinks too much.” The impossibly catchy “Formidable Cool” depicts a villain who uses his position of power to seduce women and leave them feeling used. On “Sky Musings,” a jet flight triggers a series of emotions from the fear of crashing to regrets over not having taken a chance on a relationship. Wolf Alice is less direct but still enticing on the playful “Beautifully Unconventional” and the sci-fi adventure “Planet Hunter.”

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Slumgullion

Now it’s time to say good knight. Tickets for the September 22 concert at Chicago Theatre featuring the recently knighted Ringo Starr and his All Starr Band went on sale today. This time around, he’ll be joined by Steve Lukather; Colin Hay; Gregg Rolie; Graham Gouldman; Warren Ham; and Gregg Bissonette. There’s no doubt Ringo means it when he says “peace and love.” If only enough people would take that message to heart.

Other shows that went on sale today are Jayhawks at Thalia Hall on July 13; New Pornographers at Temperance Beer Company on June 22; Mavis Staples at Canal Shore Golf Club on July 27; and Dar Williams at City Winery Chicago on September 16.

The tribute act Fleetwood Mac Mania has sold out its show tomorrow night the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights. Tapestry: The Carole King Concert Experience comes to the Metropolis on April 24.

Happy Birthday to Allan Clarke, who served as lead vocalist of The Hollies for decades and was one of the major reasons for their distinctive and effervescent sound.

C2E2 - The Chicago Comic and Entertainment EXPO landed at the South Building of McCormick Place today and will stay through Sunday. The annual pop culture event offers high-tech promotions and exhibits, celebrity guests, and loads of people in sci-fi, superhero, ultra villain, monster, and sexy costumes. Rows of vendors offers comics, t-shirts, games, action figures, and all sorts of imaginative memorabilia. Local artists and writers get their shot at selling stuff too.

The Bad Examples will be performing at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn tomorrow night.

Repertory Ballet is presenting Modern Motions today and tomorrow at The Atheanaeum Theatre on Chicago’s north side.

The English Beat, one of the best ska revival bands that sprang up in the UK in early 1980s, will be ranking full stop at City Winery Chicago tonight and tomorrow.

There are still some tickets left for The Best Of Tellin’ Tales Solo - A New Kind Of Spring Benefit, which will be held this Sunday at The Edge Theatre at 5451 N. Broadway.

SummerFest has announced its full schedule. Here are some of the best reasons for traveling up to Milwaukee to see a concert: Cheap Trick; Matthew Sweet; The Posies; Spoon; Gin Blossoms; and Nick Lowe featuring Los Straitjackets.

The Chicago Toy Show returns to the Kane County Fairgrounds in St. Charles on April 22 for the first of its two events there in 2018. In addition to collectibles, action figures, Matchbox cars, and Star Wars treasures, the show also offers a fair amount rock and roll memorabilia. There are vendors offering vintage publications, records, CDs, and even music-related toys. I’ve purchased a car imprinted with the Beatles Revolver album cover, and a semi trailer showing Cheap Trick. Admission The Toy Show is $10, hours are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

September 22 is the day your life will surely change for The The fans in the Chicago area. The band—Matt Johnson, really— will be at The Riviera Theatre on that night. In addition to “This Is The Day Your Life Will Surely Change” and other techno pop gems, The The also gave us the masterpiece “Uncertain Smile” on a 12-inch single.

The 34th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival kicked off yesterday and will run through April 19 at AMC River East 21 at 322 E. Illinois. Over 100 films from Spain, Latin America, Portugal, Canada, and America will be screened.

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.

Aimee Mann and This Is The Kit will be performing at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on July 30. Indie rockers The Sea And The Cake and Moonrise Nation will perform at the outdoor venue on August 16.

Congratulations to Chicago Tribune jazz critic Howard Reich on 40 years of writing reviews for the paper. Reich listed his top 40 favorite shows in an article this past Wednesday. Among the iconic acts he’s seen, enjoyed, and shared with his readers are Dizzy Gillespie; Cassandra Wilson; Kurt Elling; Dave Brubeck; Miles Davis; and Tony Bennett.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Incoming

Cheap Trick; Matthew Sweet; Buddy Guy; The Posies; James Taylor; Pixies; Foster The People; Janelle Monae; Jethro Tull; Spoon; Social Distortion; Mayer Hawthorne; Gin Blossoms; Michael Franti and Spearhead; and Nick Lowe featuring Los Straitjackets are among the acts that will be performing at SummerFest in Milwaukee this year. The annual festival runs from June 27 to July 1, and the July 3 to July 8.

C2E2 - The Chicago Comic and Entertainment EXPO returns to the South Building of McCormick Place this weekend, celebrating every imaginative form of pop culture. It’s always a fascinating event to take in high tech promotions and exhibits, celebrity guests, and loads of people in sci-fi, superhero, ultra villain, monster, and sexy costumes. Rows of vendors offers comics, t-shirts, games, action figures, and all sorts of imaginative memorabilia. Local artists and writers get their shot at selling stuff too. This year’s guests include musician/spoken word artist Henry Rollins; Caity Lotz and Dominic Purcell from DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow, Charlie Cox from Daredevil; Daphne Zuniga from Melrose Place; Gina Torres from Firefly; Khary Payton from The Walking Dead; former White Sox star Ron Kittle; and Svengoolie.

The Bad Examples perform at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn this Saturday night. Lead vocalist-guitarist Ralph Covert (of Ralph’s World fame) often calls to mind Squeeze with his vocal style on The Bad Examples’ catchy pop tunes.

Chicago Repertory Ballet is presenting Modern Motions at The Atheanaeum Theatre on tomorrow, April 6 and Saturday.

The English Beat, one of the best ska revival bands that sprang up in the UK in early 1980s, will have people up and dancing at City Winery Chicago tomorrow, April 6 and Saturday.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Early Bird Gets The RPM

This year’s Record Store Day takes place on April 21 and the massive list of limited-edition, one-day only vinyl releases can be found on the official website. Just about every genre is represented, including hip hop, country, blues, jazz, and numerous variations of rock and roll. There are seven-inch singles, ten-inch EPs, single albums, double albums, even quadruple albums. This month’s issue of the Illinois Entertainer also has the list, as well as an index of local retailers who are taking part.

The charm—or curse—depending on your point of view, is the old school method RSD employs. In order to have the best shot at purchasing these records, shoppers have to get up early on that Saturday morning, make their way to their chosen record store, and wait in an extended line outside until the store opens. Of course, some of these releases will eventually wind up on eBay, but if you really want a particular title, you’re taking a risk by going that route. Plus, the old school way is more fun, especially if you celebrate your acquisitions afterward over a bowl of hot rum punch (or at Starbucks) and check out some of the in-store live performances.

Here’s a sampling of the artists who have releases coming out on Record Store Day.

B-52’s; The Kinks; Belly; Chuck Berry; The Regrettes; Cypress Hill; Steve Earle And The Dukes; David Bowie; The Flaming Lips; Jeff Buckley; Circle Jerks; Sun Ra; Living Colour; Johnny Cash; The Cure; Grateful Dead; Jimi Hendrix; Eric Clapton; MC5; Duran Duran; Albert Hammond Jr.; Led Zeppelin; Lou Reed; U2; Tom Waits; The Stooges; Prince; The Smithereens; Tangerine Dream; Question Mark and The Mysterians; Wilco; Dickey Betts; The Police; Marvin Gaye; Small Faces; The Who; Ella Fitzgerald; Air; Dr. Dre; John Coltrane; The Residents; Arthur Lee and Love; Jeff Beck; The Rolling Stones; Neil Young; Jethro Tull; Pink Floyd; and The Ramones.

By the way, Record Store Day is also held in other countries, and they each have their own list of releases. That’s where eBay comes into play. Unless you’re planning a trip to London.

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