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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