Friday, October 12, 2018


The ACE Comic Con kicked off today and runs through Sunday at Navy Pier. Guests include Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Zadie Beetz, Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olson, and Lee Pace. There will also be artists and writers on hand, along with a number of vendors.

Liz Phair has a 7:00 p.m. gig this Sunday night at Metro, with Material Reissue as her opening act. See yesterday’s post for more details.

Tickets went on sale today for Joe Jackson at Thalia Hall on February 21 and 22. Other tickets now available include Cat Power and Willis Earl Beal at Thalia Hall on December 20; Steve Earle at City Winery Chicago on January 14 and 15 and February 25 and 26; Regrettes at Subterranean on November 30; and Lily Allen at The Vic on Halloween.

Neil deGrasse Tyson returns to The Chicago Theatre next Thursday, October 18.

Monty Python member and Spamalot creator Eric Idle has a new book out titled Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life – A Sortabiography. An ad in the Review section of UK publication The Daily Telegraph describes the work as “The Holy Grail For Comedy Fans” and “Absurdly Funny.”

Snow City Arts will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a multifaceted bash this Sunday at the Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street. The non-profit organization promises “monsters, alien encounters, heavy metal superheroes and talking paintbrushes as we celebrate student films, videos, and animations created at Rush University Children’s Hospital, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital Of Chicago, Children’s Hospital University Of Illinois, and Stroger Hospital Of Cook County.” Admission is free.

Garbage will perform next Wednesday, October 17 at The Riviera Theatre as part of its 20 Years Paranoid tour. On that same night, The Church will be at Lincoln Hall as part of its Starfish 30th Anniversary Tour.

The Goodman Theatre is having a costume sale next Saturday, October 20, from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

The Lantern Tour, which features Emmylou Harris, Jackson Browne, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Lila Downs Steve Earle and Graham Nash has its first gig coming up on October 23 at the City Winery in Nashville, TN. Other stops include Washington, D.C., Boston, and New York. The series of acoustic concerts will benefit the Women’s Refugee Commission, which advocates on behalf of migrant and refugee families.

Destinos, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, runs through October 21 at various venues around town.

High Concept Labs is holding an Open House from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 25 at Constellation. There will be performances and exhibitions, as well as an opportunity to engage with artists. Admission is $20. Constellation is located at 3111 N. Western Avenue.

According to a blurb in a recent copy of the Chicago Tribune, journalist/filmmaker Cameron Crowe plans to turn his hit movie Almost Famous into a musical. He’s enlisting critically acclaimed composer Tom Kit to write the music, and is hoping for a run on Broadway at some point in the future.

The Logan Center Blues Fest, three days of concerts, workshops, film, poetry and conversation, will be held next weekend (October 19 – 21) at the Reva and David Logan Center For The Arts. Charlie Musselwhite, Ruthie Foster, and Chris Thomas King are the headliners, and several other musicians will participate.

Black Friday Record Store Day is still over a month away, but vinyl collectors can already check out the official RSD website for the list of limited-edition releases that will only be available on November 23. Generally, the Black Friday version doesn’t generate as much of a buzz as the April version, but there are definitely some prime choices this time around from The Byrds, Cheap Trick, Garbage, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Paul McCartney, and a new compilation from Paisley Underground veterans The Bangles, Rain Parade, The Three O’Clock, and Dream Syndicate.

Private Peaceful, the play based on Michael Morpurgo’s 2003 critically acclaimed children’s novel, has its Chicago premiere next Wednesday, October 17 at the Greenhouse Theater on Lincoln Avenue and runs through November 11. Lead actor Shane O’Regan was an Irish Times Best Actor nominee when Private Peaceful was staged in Ireland.

Beatles fans are mourning the loss of another key figure in the band’s legacy after the news that recording engineer Geoff Emerick passed away. He worked closely with John, Paul, George and Ringo on a number of groundbreaking techniques, particularly on the Revolver and Sgt. Pepper albums. A number of people in the Chicago area were treated to a rare opportunity to meet Emerick in person when he was a special guest at The Fest For Beatles Fans this past August. From all the accounts I saw on Facebook, he was as gracious as he was talented.

On another sad note, the power pop genre lost one of its best practitioners when vocalist-guitarist John Wickes passed away from cancer. He recorded “Starry Eyes” and “Teenarama” (I still have those 45s) as a founding member of the UK band The Records, and went on to records gems like “That Girl Is Emily” during his more recent solo career.


Thursday, October 11, 2018


Indie rock singer-guitarist Liz Phair has a 7:00 p.m. gig this Sunday night at Metro. Back in 1993, at a time when our city’s music scene was criminally neglected by the national media, she put Chicagoon the rock and roll map with her critically acclaimed 18-song debut Exile In Guyville. “Help Me Mary” and “Never Said” became FM radio hits. Phair recently released Girly-Sound To Guyville: The 25th Anniversary Box Set.

Material Issue was another hot band from Chicago in those days, with their debut International Pop Overthrow spawning two videos in heavy rotation on MTV.  Phair has tapped the band’s current version as her opening act for this Sunday’s show. Material Reissue features original band members bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, along with Phil Angotti in the lead vocalist-guitarist role once held by Jim Ellison. They’ve opened for Matthew Sweet and The Posies. Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark, not far from Wrigley Field.

Still paisley after all these years. Original Paisley Underground bands The Bangles, The Three O’Clock, The Dream Syndicate and The Rain Parade have combined forces on a new album that features them covering each other’s material from the early 1980s. The 12-song 3X4 will be available on vinyl from the Yep Roc label for this year’s Black Friday Record Store Day and will have its official release on January 11.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Evening Of Nonstop Showstoppers

Ringo Starr’s long-awaited return to the Chicago area took place with a recent sold-out concert at the Chicago Theatre. Like Paul McCartney’s shows last July at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park, there was the incredible excitement of seeing an actual Beatle in person. Amazingly, each exuded a friendly, regular guy persona even while performing songs that mean so much to generations of fans.

For a number of years, Starr has picked musicians who are popular in their own right to back him on tours. The band he brought to the Chicago Theatre featured Gregg Rolie, from Santana and Journey; Colin Hay from Men At Work; Graham Gouldman from 10CC; and Steve Lukather from Toto. They each took the lead on three of their own songs, and made the most of those opportunities. Veteran touring/studio musicians Warren Ham and Greg Bissonette were also onstage, providing invaluable support throughout the concert.

Starr didn’t seem concerned that the rousing renditions of songs like Rolie’s “Black Magic Woman,” Hay’s “The Land Down Under,” Gouldman’s “I’m Not In Love,” and Lukather’s “Hold The Line”might upstage him. He was a confident gracious host, joking with the audience, and making his “Peace And Love” mantra feel genuine whether he was front and center or back at his drum kit. That goodtime vibe extended to renditions of Beatle and solo songs with his all-star group providing stellar instrumental support and amazing harmony vocals.

The set list stretched back to the early Beatles days for “I Wanna Be Your Man” and up to Starr’s own contribution to the White Album, “Don’t Pass Me By.” The entire audience sang along with the iconic “Yellow Submarine,” and Starr also did well with “Act Naturally” and “Matchbox.” He performed his solo hits “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph,” and “You’re Sixteen,” as well as the more recent and aptly named “Anthem.” The final song, “A Little Help From My Friends,” felt like classic understatement as Starr, his band mates and everyone in the Chicago Theatre joined together on the vocals.


Monday, October 8, 2018

Jonny Weathers With Paul Cook - Sonic Assault

Singer-guitarist Jonny Weathers’ new four-song EP Sonic Assault features the same sort of raw vocals and hard-driving arrangements that made his 2017 full length effort Jonny Weathers And The Cosmic Scream such a thrill ride. Weathers, the alto ego of London-based musician Gareth Proctor, gets some potent help this time out from drummer Paul Cook of The Sex Pistols fame. Together, they generate enough energy for an entire album.

On “The Man From The Orleans,” Weathers conjures a mythical ambience via cryptic lines like “He comes in here but he’s rarely seen” while spinning the tale of a woman searching for her mysterious mate. “Mother Shotgun Baby” and “Mongo Shaker” live up to their provocative titles, and each includes a freewheeling instrumental passage. “Take It Back” is more of a heavy metal stomp, as Weathers and Cook tap into that same Jimi Hendrix vibe that ran through Cosmic Scream.

Personal note: The line, “Caught the last train out of Chicago” in “The Man From The Orleans” makes it a perfect song to kick off a playlist I created for when I’m riding the 12:30 a.m. Metra back to Palatine on after seeing a band in perform in the city.


Sunday, October 7, 2018

Jet Lag Slumgullion

Doctor Who fans who have been on the fence about checking out the ACE Comic Con coming to Navy Pier next weekend (October 12 ­­– 14) should no longer have any doubts. Matt Smith, who portrayed the 11th version of The Doctor, and Karen Gillan, who was his companion Amy Pond on the British sci-fi show, have recently been announced as guests, Following his tenure on Doctor Who, Smith went on to portray Prince Phillip on The Crown, and Gillan is well known as Nebula in the Guardians Of The Galaxy franchise. She also recently wrote, directed and starred in the independent film The Party’s Just Beginning. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to catch a screening of that at some point in Chicago.

Irish Vacation Lore Part 1: Pam and I just returned from a 10-day trip to Ireland. We opted for a country-spanning bus tour, with Irish-born/Chicago-based singer Paddy Homan as our guide. We traveled to Cork, Killarney, the Dingle Peninsula, Ennis, Galway, and Dublin to experience the country’s historic sites and stunning natural beauty. We also dropped by pubs to watch local musicians performing jigs, reels, and traditional folk songs. On a few occasions, Homan joined them onstage.

The Chicago TARDIS Convention, coming to Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard on November 23 – 25, continues to entice Doctor Who fans. Pearl Mackie, who played Bill Potts during Peter Capaldi’s take on The Doctor (he followed Smith), will be on hand, and more recently, Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) has been added to the guest list.

The next season of Doctor Who, with Jodi Whittaker taking on the title role, kicks off tonight on the BBC. It will be interesting to see how Whittaker, the first woman to portray The Doctor, survives last seadon’s cliffhanger of being jettisoned from the TARDIS.

If you’re planning on hosting a holiday party this December, imagine the look on your guests’ faces when you greet them at the door dressed as Old Fezziwig. That might be possible if you check out the Goodman Theatre’s Costume Sale on Saturday, October 20, 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. I have no idea what costumes will be on sale, but The Goodman has been doing its critically acclaimed production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for decades. You might even find a Tiny Tim costume for one of your kids. God bless us, everyone.

I used the hours of sitting on a plane to and from Dublin to finally delve into my copy of Chrissie Hynde’s Reckless autobiography. I bought it over a year ago at Quimby’s Book Store on North Avenue, but I’m terrible at finding the time to read. I’m hoping to post a review sometime in the future; in the meantime I’d like to share her thoughts on growing up listening to 1960s rock: “We were looking for adventure. We longed to live on Love Street, We had too much to dream last night. We wanted the world and we wanted it now. We were born to be wild. We were stone free.”

Irish Vacation Lore Part 2: We had the same driver throughout our bus tour. Austin (Pam and I aren’t sure if he and our fellow travelers would want their full names used here) was a super hero in terms of navigating the country’s notoriously tricky roads under any circumstance. He also regaled us with hilarious tales and informative commentary of Ireland’s monuments and history.

A number of local musicians, including Phil Angotti, Tommi Zender, Casey McDonough, Joe Camarillo, and Tony Ryan will be gathering at City Winery Chicago this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. for A John Lennon Birthday Retrospective. All of these guys have extensive experience putting on tribute shows , and most have performed on the Apple Jam Stage at Fest For Beatles Fans – Chicago.

Irish Vacation Lore Part 3: It should come as no surprise that I was on the lookout for record stores during this trip. In Dublin, Pam helped me find Tower Records, the last remaining location for the once global record store chain. Stopping there brought back fond memories of when I visited the Tower Records in Hollywood while on a California vacation in 1980, and from when lived just around the corner from the Tower Records in Lincoln Park. The Dublin version did not disappoint. I browsed through CDs, vinyl records, magazines, and assorted rock-related memorabilia. I bought a Kinks coffee mug, a seven-inch picture sleeve 45 of “Fire Burning” by Irish rockers The Urges, and a Tower Records Dublin t-shirt. From there, we walked a few blocks to the Hard Rock CafĂ© where I picked up a few more souvenirs. Earlier on the trip, we stopped in The Record Rack store in Ennis, where I bought a Bangles “In Your Room” seven-inch picture sleeve 45, and a 1980 copy of a UK magazine called Rock Compact Disc.

Tellin’ Tales Theatre will wrap up Six Stories Up In Climate Change, the latest installment in its long-running Six Stories Up series, this weekend at the Filament Theatre. The musical comedy, written and performed by middle school students and adult mentors with and without disabilities, is set in Alaska delivers a timely message about saving the environment. Tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for children. Filament Theatre is located at 4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

Irish Vacation Lore Part 4: Another benefit of our bus tour of was becoming part of a friendly and fun group of travelers, Several had been on bus tours in Paddy Homan in previous years. Since most of us came from Chicago, it’s a safe bet we’ll be keeping in touch—probably at on of Homan’s Sunday night gigs at the Galway Arms venue on Fullerton.

Destinos, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, runs through October 21 at various venues around town.

Irish Vacation Lore Part 5: Gee, but it’s great to be back home. I mentioned Doctor Who in a few paragraphs earlier in this post. Pam and I could have used The Doctor’s help in getting back to Chicago. Our Friday morning flight out of Dublin was delayed five hours before being canceled, and our Saturday afternoon flight was delayed 45 minutes. It would have been great to hop into the TARDIS and delivered to Chicago at the originally scheduled time.

Having our trip back delayed a day and a half demolished the plans Pam and I had for using this weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary. (It’s October 5.) We didn’t get home until 11:30 last night. I want to wish Pam a happy anniversary and thank her for all these wonderful years and being such a fun and knowledgeable travel companion. Pam, I love you!


Friday, September 21, 2018


He didn’t pass us by with this tour. A warm welcome to Ringo Starr, iconic musician and ambassador for peace and love, on his long-awaited return to Chicago. He’ll be performing at the Chicago Theater in downtown Chicago tomorrow night. According to set lists I’ve seen posted online, he’ll be playing a mix of Beatles gems like “Yellow Submarine” and “With A Little Help From My Friends,” along with his solo hits like “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Photograph.”

This time out, his all-star band includes Gregg Rolie of Santana and Journey; vocalist Colin Hay from Men At Work; successful songwriter and 10CC member Graham Gouldman; Steve Lukather from Toto, veteran studio/live tour musician Warren Ham; and drummer/professional instructor Gregg Bissonette. Count on hearing a few hits songs from each all-star.

The two-day Goose Island 312 Block Party kicked off tonight with performances by TV On The Radio, Sunflower Bean, and four other bands. Drive By Truckers and The Hold Steady headline tomorrow night. The festival is being held just outside the brewery, at 1800 W. Fulton Street.

Minstrel Palooza Live returns to Durty Nellie’s in Palatine tomorrow for another gathering of musicians related in various way to the Minstrels Music Store in Niles. Scheduled acts include Gus Adonis; Kevin Lee and The Kings, Cracked Actor; Van Go; Todd Money Experience; Larry Mitchell and Dave Ulrich; Charlie Victor; and Tiger Bite. Admission is free, and the show starts at 1:00 p.m. Van Go has a new album titled I Wish I Could Be Grateful coming out next Friday, September 28. Power pop expert Boris Boden recently played a track from it on his Secret Weapon podcast on Woody Radio.

MusicDirect is holding a “Rock ’N’ Roll The Warehouse” Vinyl LP Sale! tomorrow Saturday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at 1811 W. Bryn Mawr in Chicago. The Facebook post promises lots of stuff—imports and domestic—in near mint shape. The records are mostly from the 1970s, with a few from the 1950's.

Grand Rapids-based band The JetBeats will be performing tomorrow night at Montrose Saloon on Chicago’s north side. Judging from the catchy 1960s flavored tunes on their latest album, it’s going to be a fun show.

Tickets went o sale today for Elvis Costello and The Imposter at The Vic on November 14; David Crosby at North Shore Center For The Performing Arts on November 19; Rhett Miller at SPACE on December 20; Liz Phair and Speedy Ortiz at Metro on October 13; Procol Harum at City Winery Chicago on February 20 and 21; Kasim Sulton’s Utopia ar City Winery Chicago on March 7; and Teenage Fanclub at Metro on March 6.

Incoming: The Charlatans UK have a gig coming up at Bottom Lounge, which is just west of downtown, next Tuesday. Belly will be doing a show at The Vic Theatre on Saturday, October 6; Fleetwood Mac will be at the United Center on October 6; and Death Cab For Cutie has a show at the Auditorium on October 7.

The Petty Kings will bring their tribute to Tom Petty to The Prairie Arts Center in Schaumburg tomorrow night as part of a double bill with the ‘70s FM Radio Rock band.

Tellin’ Tales Theatre will present Six Stories Up In Climate Change, the latest installment in its long-running Six Stories Up series, on the weekends of September 28 – 30 and October 5 – 7 at the Filament Theatre. The musical comedy, written and performed by middle school students and adult mentors with and without disabilities, is set in Alaska and delivers a timely message about saving the environment. Tickets are $20 for adults; $15 for children. Filament Theatre is located at 4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago.

The Old 97’s and Old St. Nick. Having seen The Old 97s bring down the house at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, I have high expectations for their very first Christmas album Love The Holidays. The cover photo suggests these guys aren’t expecting much in the way of presents, but they’re gifting us with a mix of standards, originals like “Snow Angels” and “Gotta Love Being A Kid (Merry Christmas),” as well as their own take on “Auld Lang Syne.” Frontman Rhett Miller has a solo effort titled The Messenger coming out on November 9.

More holiday merriment. The Monkees Christmas Party, also a mix of standards and originals, is available for preorder in CD and digital format. The new songs were penned by Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey; Rivers Cuomo; Andy Partridge; and Adam Schlesinger.

Saatchi Art will present The Other Art Fair next weekend, September 28 – 30 at the Mana Contemporary gallery at 2233 S. Throop. The event promises visitors will be able to “meet and buy direct from 120 of the best emerging and independent artists in a unique experience.”

Destinos, the 2nd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, kicked off today and runs through October 21 at various venues around town.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Ex Norwegian - No Sleep

Even while keeping a steady pace of recording a new album each year, Ex Norwegian shows no signs of losing its creative edge. No Sleep, which dropped a few months back, is the Miami-based band’s latest collection of cryptic lyrics set to catchy melodies. And it’s great to hear singer-guitarist Roger Houdaille and singer Michelle Grand joining forces again after Grand was absent throughout much of 2017’s Tekstet (Subtitled).

That Houdaille/Grand tandem is particularly impressive on high energy numbers like “Good Intentions” and “Right Again,” but also works on the more elegant “Seldom Sober,” which is augmented with a string arrangement. They also take turns being the sole lead vocalist; with Houdaille grabbing the spotlight on “Making Deals,” and Grand driving the garage rock fun of “Marquee 1970s.” Grand also brings an engaging carefree attitude to the breezy indie rock of “So Maybe Next Time.”

It’s hard to get a consistent message via Houdaille’s edgy lyrics. “Triggered Weeknd” opens with the inspired mantra of “Feel good deep inside, feel good worldwide, feel good to be alive” but later talks about “corrupting musical minds.” Then there’s this couplet from the acoustic-based “Alt Cool”: “traffic flowing into march/Clear blue sky seeking animal starch.” It might not make sense, but like all the songs on this latest effort from Ex Norwegian, the well crafted performances make it work.

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