Thursday, August 17, 2017

Yippie! Chicago Has A New Arts Festival!

YippieFest, a three-day celebration of theatre, comedy, music, puppets, and other forms of offbeat entertainment, opens tomorrow, August 18 at Prop Thtr on Chicago’s north side. The people behind this brand new event—Frank Carr and Desiree Burcum from the Famous In The Future comedy group, and Carla Hayden and James Moeller from Black Forest Theatre—are veterans of the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival that Mary-Arrchie Theatre hosted for 30 years. If they can carry on that same tie-dyed, rebellious spirit Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky, channeling Abbie Hoffman, brought to his annual events, YippieFest will be worth celebrating.

Fans of Abbie Fest will see some familiar faces at its lovechild. In addition to Famous In The Future (full disclosure: I used to be part of this group) and Black Forest, YippieFest will offer Rush Pearson, DB Comedy, David Drazin, and Danger Circus. There will also be plenty of live music, including Moeller and Hayden’s alt rock band whitewolfsonicprincess; The Rut; The Telepaths; Voodoo Asylum; and the Grateful Dead tribute band Trouble Ahead. Tickets are $15 for each night, $25 for the entire weekend.


Friday, August 11, 2017


Photo from the official Shoes Facebook page.

People sometimes call these the dog days of summer but I prefer to employ the more positive Simon and Garfunkel paraphrase, August, Rock She Must. The month traditionally has a lot going on in the Chicago area, and 2017 is no exception. In the next few weeks, we have a power pop showcase with Dwight Twilley, Pezband, and Shoes at The Arcada in St. Charles; Fest For Beatles Fans and Wizard World Comic Con Chicago in Rosemont; and YippieFest and The Chicago Air And Water Show taking place in the city.

The 41st Annual Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago comes to the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in suburban Rosemont this weekend. The event presents musicians, authors, artists, photographers, and music biz people who have some connection to to the most famous band in rock history. See yesterday’s post for more information.

The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles presents three power pop legends tonight with Pezband, Shoes, and Dwight Twilley. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. See my Wednesday night post for more information. Note: Due to unforeseen circumstances, Cliff Johnson and The Raine will not be performing as part of the show tonight.

YippieFest, a three-day celebration of theatre, comedy, music, puppets, and other forms of entertainment set for next weekend, August 18 – 21 at Prop Thtr. The people behind this brand new event are veterans of the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival that Mary-Arrchie Theatre hosted for 30 years.

When Wizard World Comic Con Chicago returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont August 24 through 27, it will be particularly interesting for Doctor Who fans. David Tennant, Alex Kingston, John Barrowman, Catherine Tare, and Jenna Coleman will be on hand. Fans of the TV shows The Walking Dead; Arrow; Firefly; and Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. will also find some of their favorite stars there. I’m hoping to post more on this in the near future.

Jackson Browne and Greg Leisz are performing a Benefit For Veterans For Peace this Sunday night at the Copernicus Center in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood.

California residents will have an opportunity to hear two famous and very funny British men conversing now that tickets are on sale for the John Cleese with Eric Idle Live Talks Los Angeles show at The Alex Theatre. The Monty Python duo will be discussing Cleese’s book So, Anyway . . .

Monty Python fans in the Chicago area can see Neil Innes at Fest For Beatles Fans this weekend at the Hotel in Rosemont. Innes is a musician/comedian who worked quite bit with the Pythons, and was a driving force behind the Beatles parody act The Rutles.

The 23rd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival continues at the Gene Siskel Center in downtown Chicago and runs through the end of the month.

The American Ska-Thic festival will celebrate its 25th Anniversary next Saturday, August 19 at Metro. MU330, Coolidge, The Eclectics, Detroit Rude Boy Society, Skapone, Tango Wedding Band, and DJ Chuck Wren will be performing.

Also, next Saturday, Chicago venue The Elbo Room is sponsoring the ninth annual I Am Fest – International Art and Music Festival. The day-long event will actually be held at the more spacious The House Of Blues and feature music acts, art, and photography. The Smoking Popes, Sin Anestesia, and Littlebirds are scheduled to perform.

Tributosaurus will performing Tom Petty songs at the Taste Of Polonia Festival in Jefferson Park on September. The critically acclaimed tribute act, which use a rotating lineup of musicians, has honored Petty in the past.

Jefferson Park will also be the home of the Chicago Fringe Fest, which takes place in various venues around the northwest side neighborhood on two weekends, starting August 30. There’s a Preview Party on August 30 at the Copernicus Center.

We’ve recently had Stephen Stills and Graham Nash doing separate shows in Chicago, and now David Crosby is on his way. His David Crosby and Friends concert comes to City Winery Chicago on 10 - 30. Other upcoming shows at City Winery include Rusty Young with Poco on 10-25; The Alarm on 8-28, and Living Colour on 9-3.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Step Right Up

Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago runs tomorrow, August 11 through Sunday. Founded by Mark and Carol Lapidos back in the late 1970s, the annual celebration brings a wide range of fans together at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont to relive Beatlemania via concerts, celebrity interviews; sing-along sessions; trivia contests; art exhibits; video presentations, and more. There are also unique Beatles and rock items for sale in the marketplace.

The 2017 lineup of celebrity guests features four musicians who performed at various times with Paul McCartney in Wings: Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, Denny Seiwell, and Steve Holley. Returning favorites include George Harrison’s sister Louise; Neil Innes, the comedian/musician behind The Rutles parody and a cohort of the Monty Python; and sax player-vocalist Mark Rivera. Mark Hudson, a musician and producer who has worked with Ringo Starr and Cher, remains a longtime Fest participant with an unbridled sense humor and an extensive knowledge of rock and roll. Bruce Spizer, Jude Southerland Kessler, Jorie Gracen, and Robert Rodriguez are among the numerous authors who’ll be on hand.

The Apple Jam Stage, a well-received recent addition to The Fest, offers performances by Laurence Juber, Phil Angotti, Jay Goeppner, Scott Erickson, and other music or comedy acts on a small stage all weekend. The superb Beatles tribute band Liverpool performs in the Ballroom each night, and will cover Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on Saturday and Sunday night. They will also cover other Beatles songs and then likely jam with the members of Wings; Hudson; and Riveria. The Weeklings, a quartet that includes Glen Burtnik and John Merjave from Liverpool, will perform on Sunday.

There will be designated signing times for most of the guests, and many will be interviewed by master of ceremonies Terri Hemmert, whose Breakfast With The Beatles show airs on WXRT in Chicago every Sunday morning. Wally Podrazik, Tom Frangione, Susan Ryan, and Byrd will also serve as hosts and announcers. Tickets are $52 for Friday, $78 for Saturday or Sunday, and $190 for the entire weekend. Various two-day combinations are also available. Check Fest For Beatles Fans-Chicago online for a list of the celebrity guests and an extensive rundown on all the activities going on all weekend.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Somewhere To Be This Friday Night

Pezband photo from the band’s Facebook page.

On August 11, The Arcada Theatre will present three of the Chicago area’s best-known power pop acts, along with a Tulsa, OK native who’s known for his mastery of the genre. The quadruple bill of Pezband, Shoes, Cliff Johnson and The Raine, and Dwight Twilley kicks off at 7:00 p.m. It’s another multi-act event for the St. Charles venue, which is housed in a vintage movie theatre.

Twilley is best known for the hits “I’m On Fire” and “Boys,” and his knack for melodic and energetic songs has influenced several musicians. He’s worked extensively with Tom Petty. Pezband was one of the first Chicago bands to embrace power pop music back in the mid-1970s. “Please Be Somewhere Tonight” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” led by vocalist Mimi Betinis, remain classics. The band’s 30 Seconds Over Schaumburg EP—recorded at the B’Ginnings club in the northwest suburb, has great versions of original tunes and a cover of “Blue Wind/Stroll On.”

Cliff Johnson’s impressive career includes fronting the band Off Broadway, which gained national attention with impossibly catchy songs like “Stay In Time,” “Hang On For Love,” and “Full Moon Turn My Head Around” from its 1980 Atlantic Records debut On. Johnson currently performs with the veteran Chicago power pop band The Raine on the local club scene. Shoes were one of the very first successful practitioners of the DIY recording approach, attracting major label interest with their self-released Black Vinyl Shoes in 1977. Their tenure with Elektra Records produced gems like “Tomorrow Night,” “Your Imagination,” and “May Day,” before they went back to recording on their own Black Vinyl label. Their most recent effort, 2012’s Ignition, found the band performing at full power with songs like “Head Vs Heart,” “Diminishing Returns,” and Rolling Stones influenced “Hot Mess.”


Nash Thrives In New Musical Partnership

Photo of Shane Fontayne (left) and Graham Nash from Graham Nash’s Facebook page.

Graham Nash’s latest tour features him once again sharing the stage with guitarist-vocalist Shane Fontayne. It’s at least his third time around with Fontayne, who also toured with Sting and Bruce Springsteen. The duo has evolved nicely into another successful musical relationship for Nash, following those he’s forged with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young, as well as with Allan Clarke and Tony Hicks of The Hollies.

During Nash’s July 29 concert at The Old Town School Of Folk Music in Chicago (the second of his three sold-out shows there), he and Fontayne demonstrated how they practice harmonizing by delivering a breath-taking version of Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird.” Their compatibility extended to the way Fontayne’s electric guitar playing provided a powerful undercurrent to Nash’s melodic acoustic strumming on “Wasted On The Way,” “Immigration Man,” “Wind On The Water,” and “Marrakesh Express.” “I Used To Be A King,” which Nash described as “My first breakup song,” concluded with some spirited jamming.

Nash continued his recent tradition of opening shows with a pair of Hollies songs—this time playing “On A Carousel” and “Carrie Anne.” It would great to see him delve deeper into his tenure with the British Invasion band for songs like “Butterfly” or “Tell Me To My Face.” He and Fontayne added another stellar Beatles cover with “A Day In The Life” from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The bulk of the concert was devoted to Nash’s solo output and his work with Crosby, Stills, and Young. “Golden Days” and “Found Myself At Last” from his 2016 solo effort This Path Tonight were introspective and engaging. “Mississippi Burning,” a bonus track on Path, was a hard-hitting tribute to murdered civil rights workers.

Nash’s occasional political comments during the Old Town show were measured but forceful, and he altered a line in “Military Madness” to “I hope Trump discovers what’s driving the people wild.” “Chicago,” performed as the final encore, remains as relevant today as when it sprung from his Songs For Beginners solo debut in 1971. Like the early Crosby, Stills Nash and Young hits “Teach Your Children” and “Our House,” it had people joyously singing along with Nash and Fontayne.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Get Yer Na Na Na Na Na Na Nas Out

On any given night of Paul McCartney’s current tour, a number of audience members are fulfilling a long-time (almost lifelong) desire to see Beatles songs performed by an actual Beatle. Scanning the crowd at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park this past July 25, it was easy to spot girls-night-out friends hugging and laughing in disbelief that they were about to see Paul McCartney in person. A pair of guys behind where my wife Pam and I were sitting swapped predictions of which songs McCartney had to play, and there were plenty of parents who brought young kids with them.

McCartney and (from what I’ve read) Ringo Starr approach this mammoth responsibility with a bemused expression and an old-fashioned work ethic. McCartney played three hours of classic material augmented by dazzling technical effects, but consistently addressed the crowd as though he was chatting with some mates at the corner pub. His tales centered on encounters with other famous musicians, as well as the simple events that sometimes provide inspiration for a song.

“We’re going to take you back in time,” he announced before harmonizing perfectly with members of his first-rate backup band on the pre-Beatles Quarrymen song “In Spite Of All The Danger.” The concert also included the engaging “Queenie Eye” and “New” from his most recent release, New. McCartney’s days with Wings were well represented with rousing versions of “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five,” “Letting Go,” and “Band On The Run.” An extended jam at the end of “Let Me Roll It” honored Jimi Hendrix and led to a funny anecdote about the iconic musician playing to a star-studded audience that included McCartney and Eric Clapton. After realizing his guitar was out of tune, Hendrix reportedly spotted Clapton and asked if he’d come on stage to tune it for him. According to McCartney, Clapton refused.

While introducing the rollicking “I Wanna Be Your Man,” McCartney related how he and John Lennon decided to give the song to The Rolling Stones so they could have a hit single with it. “Here Today,” served as a knowing and heartfelt tribute to Lennon, and later in the show, McCartney quietly strummed “Something” on a ukulele before the full band joined in and photos of George Harrison spread across the big screens surrounding the stage. McCartney also took a moment to honor producer George Martin, suggesting there wouldn’t have been a Beatles without his guidance.

Throughout the show, he seamlessly blended highlights from his solo career—“Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Temporary Secretary,” an eye-popping “Live And Let Die”—with Beatles classics. “Blackbird,” which he explained was inspired by the civil rights movement in America, “And I Love Her,” “Fool On The Hill,” and “Let It Be” were pure magic, while “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” and “Lady Madonna” were performed at full power by McCartney and his band. He dedicated “Birthday” to everyone in the crowd who was celebrating their birthday that night (which included me), and in honor of the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper, played “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)” and “Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite!”

As “Hey Jude” sparked its customary audience sing-along on the “Na na na na na na na” coda, it was amazing to glance around the stadium, as well as back across the lawn area, and see so many exuberant people joining together.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Saturday Night Slumgullion

An Evening Of John Lennon is coming to City Winery Chicago tomorrow night, August 6, featuring Phil Angotti, Tommi Zender, Casey McDonough, Joe Camarillo, and Dick Schmidt. These guys are veterans of the local music scene and have successfully staged this retrospective before. Tickets are $15; the music starts at 7:30 p.m.

The 23rd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival opened today at the Gene Siskel Center in downtown Chicago and runs through the end of the month.

The Chicago Art Book Fair, an international showcase of “zine-makers, book artists, comic makers, photo book creators RISOgraph printers, and self-publishers,” makes its debut November 16 through 19 at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel at 12 S. Michigan Avenue. It will be free and open to the public.

That new video Derrick Anderson talked about filming a while back for his impossibly catchy song “When I Was Your Man” is now available. Taken from his recent solo album A World Of My Own, the stark but fun clip features him on bass, along with Debbi and Vicki Peterson of The Bangles, and Kim Shattuck from The Muffs. Anderson has been performing with The Bangles as their bass player for some time now, and he got them, along Shattuck, Matthew Sweet, The Smithereens, and other power pop stars to help out on the album. As I said here before, I’d love to see Anderson go on tour with that all-star band, and come to Chicago.

In other Bangles news, the band’s 1984 album All Over The Place, was named as one of National Public Radio’s The 150 Greatest Albums Made By Women. Join Mitchell’s Blue came in at Number One. Vicki Peterson has formed a new band called Action Skulls with John Cowsill and Bill Mumy. “Mainstream,” a satiric and jangling tune from their upcoming album Angels Hear, can be heard on The Bangles Facebook page.

The always essential website The Second Disc recently reported on Leave Home: 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Ramones’ second album. Writer Joe Marchese stated that the three-CD/one-LP box set comes with a remastered version of the album, a new mix on CD and vinyl, and a bonus disc with 33 rare tracks. In another Second Disc post, Marchese covered The Who’s upcoming Maximum As and Bs: The Complete Singles five-CD box set. It comes with a 48-page booklet.

Chicago venue The Elbo Room is sponsoring the ninth annual I Am Fest – International Art and Music Festival on August 19. The day-long event will actually be held at the more spacious The House Of Blues and feature music acts, art, and photography. The Smoking Popes, Sin Anestesia, and Littlebirds are scheduled to perform.

The American Ska-Thic festival will celebrate its 25th Anniversary on August 19 at Metro. MU330, Coolidge, The Eclectics, Detroit Rude Boy Society, Skapone, Tango Wedding Band, and DJ Chuck Wren will be performing.

Carlos Santana’s Transmogrify Tour comes to Ravinia next Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12.

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