Saturday, July 24, 2021

Saturday Slumgullion


Tickets went on sale yesterday for the Elvis Costello and The Imposters Hello Again! show at the Chicago Theatre on November 3. Other stops on the tour include Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. In other Elvis Costello news, his 1978 album with The Attractions This Year’s Model has been re-recorded as a Spanish language version. The new album retains the original arrangements but Costello’s singing has been replaced with vocals by Juanes; Cami; DRACO ROSA; Nina Diaz; and other Latin recording artists. The album is due out September 10.


The Handcuffs were in top form last Saturday at the Belmont/Sheffield Festival. In addition to playing material from their three albums and a few cover versions, the band also tossed in a few songs that will be on their upcoming new release. Earlier that day, I checked out the Millennium Art Fair, and dropped by the Reckless Records store downtown for my Record Store Day purchases. The Handcuffs have a 7:00 pm show tomorrow night, as part of the Sundays On State series, and will be at The Northman on The Riverwalk August 14, and at the Skokie Backlot Bash on August 28.


The Handcuffs’ Saturday, August 28 Skokie Backlot Bash gig will be at 5:45 pm—sandwiched between Smoking Popes (7:00 pm) and Material Reissue (4:30 pm). That’s a lot of great Chicago original rock, and the headline act that night is The Verve Pipe. The August 27 headline act is Ohio Players and the August 29 headline act is Tributosaurus Becomes The Allman Brothers.


Avid Harry Potter fans across the globe may want to shell out the bucks for a trip to Manchester, England to experience A Forbidden Forest Experience. It’s an actual nature trail based on the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series. According to the Secret Manchester Instagram site, visitors will be taken “on a journey that will quite literally illuminate some of their favorite Forbidden Forest moments.” The trail will open this fall.


The Rolling Stones have announced the dates for their rescheduled U.S. tour, which kicks off in St. Louis, MO on September 26, and wraps up with a stop in Austin, TX on November 20. A post on the band’s Facebook page states all previously purchased tickets will be honored for the rescheduled dates. There were some shows that couldn’t be rescheduled, and few new ones were added. Unfortunately, Chicago doesn’t figure in any of this.


Tickets are now on sale for Kim Gordon (9/10), Mavis Staples (11/190, and Houndmouth (12/17 and 12/18); all at Thalia Hall in Chicago.


DiWulf Publishing House is sponsoring a book release party for SKA BOOM! – An American Ska and Reggae Oral History at Four City Brewing in Orange, New Jersey tomorrow, Sunday, July 25. Long-time Chicago ska band Heavy Manners is featured in this book.


Sunshine Boys are taking another stab at hosting a record release party for their 2020 Work And Love, this time at SPACE in Evanston on Thursday, July 29. The pandemic shut down everyone’s ability to stage live events when the album first came out, but there’s no holding back “Infinity Girl,” “Don’t Keep It Inside,” “A Ghost, At Best,” and the other well-crafted indie rock songs from the trio’s second effort. The Bobbleheads, a guitar-driven pop band visiting from San Francisco, will be the opening act.


SPACE has an impressive lineup for its Out Of  Space festival running August 5 – 8 . The Emmylou Harris and Los Lobos (8-5) and Caamp (8-8) shows are sold out; but there are still tickets available for Patti Smith And Her Band (8-6) and Ben Harper (8-7).


As reported on the Rolling Stone website, Rod Stewart, Ron Wood, and Kenny Jones have reunited in the studio and are working on new recordings.


The Chicago Brewing District’s Dancing In The Streets festival will take place August 6 – 8 on Hubbard between Paulina and Wood. The event will feature craft beer from Chicago Brewing District brewers and live music.


Singer-songwriter Andrew Krull, a veteran of Chicago’s indie rock/country scene, has released a solo EP that draws inspiration from Nick Drake and Elliott Smith. The first single from It All Goes  is “Magnolia,” which combines shimmering guitars and a duet between Krull and folk singer Alayne May. It All Goes is due out August 27.


Long Live The Zine. According to a recent Instagram post, Time Out London Magazine is now being printed again and will be available on the city streets as of July 20. Time Out Chicago used to be available in print at the Time Out Market at 916 W. Fulton in Chicago before the pandemic, but I dropped by there yesterday and didn’t see any. Hopefully, they’ll be back soon.


Indie rock band whitewolfsonicprincess will at Few Spirits in Evanston next Friday for “cocktails, friends, music and spirits.” The event starts at 5:00 pm.


Kid Gulliver, the Boston-based band that gave us the funny and meaningful Ramones-influenced “Susie Survived Chemotherapy” last year, is back with a new four-song EP titled Gimme Some Go. It kicks off with a revved-up take on The Bee Gees’ “I Started A Joke” that’s a must-buy for people like me who love 1960s rock cover versions fused with punk energy.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Steve Dawson - At The Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of A Tree


Photo from Steve Dawson’s Facebook page.

Chicago-based singer/songwriter Steve Dawson has been crafting Americana-flavored indie rock since he formed the band Stump The Host with his wife Diane Christiansen in 1988. It’s a path that’s led to Dolly Varden (also with Christiansen), Funeral Bonsai Wedding, and occasional solo efforts. On his introspective, recently released album At The Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of A Tree, Dawson plays almost all the instruments himself, and as producer, expertly layers his vocals.


It’s inevitable some of the somber reflections here evoke the pandemic. Especially “This Is All There Is” and “Hard Time Friend,” which finds Dawson singing, “I need to know that you’re gonna to be okay/But the only thing I’ve ever really learned is that are no guarantees.” Other songs, like the stinging title track and “Forgiveness Is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be” examine the pain of fractured relationships. It’s hard to know if “I Will Never Stop Being Sorry” is really about a man who accidentally burned down his house or if it’s an allegory for irreparable damage done to a marriage.

 

Back in 2013 when I interviewed Dawson for the Illinois Entertainer about Dolly Varden’s For A While album, he seemed surprised but happy with my comparison of his song “Why Why Why” to Fleetwood Mac. (He thought it sounded more like Van Morrison.) “22 Rubber Bands” on At The Bottom also reminds me of Fleetwood Mac, with its shimmering guitar playing and gorgeous melody. The lines “I loved you from the minute I met you/You were taking your first breath curled up soaking wet” and “You spent your first night here on my chest” create a heartfelt message from a father to his child.


The short gem “The Spaces In Between” features Michael Miles on banjo and calls to mind John Prine with fun contradictions like “I’m filled with hope and I’m filled with dread” and “I want to remember, I wish I could forget.” The most energetic song on At There Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of A Tree is “Time To Remember.” With its funky beat and nocturnal jazz ambience, it shows Dawson can succeed in a variety of musical styles.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Slumgullion


Today was the official release date for Steve Dawson’s new album At The Bottom Of A Canyon In The Branches Of A Tree. It’s available on LP, CD (with two bonus tracks) and on streaming services. He’s having a record release party at 1:00 pm tomorrow (Saturday, July 17) at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Dawson, a veteran singer-guitarist who’s performed with Stump The Host, Dolly Varden, and Funeral Bonsai Wedding, as well as a solo act, is already racking up rave reviews for his latest effort. It’s a collection of heartfelt songs that taps into soul, light jazz, and acoustic rock. I’m hoping to post a full review in the near future.

Malcolm C. Searles, the British author who’s already written books about The Beach Boys, Bread, and The Association, announced today that his 600-page biography The Hollies  - Riding The Carousel is now available for sale through his Dojotone Publications website. The book covers the band’s complete history, from the very earliest days in the late 1950s to the current lineup (which still includes founding members Bobby Elliott and Tony Hicks). This will be a limited first run, so fans should act fast if they want a copy. As an added incentive, the first one hundred people who order a copy will also get a set of postcards free. Author-musician Ken Sharp, who interviewed members of The Hollies for his book Play On! Power Pop Heroes Volume No. 1, posted a note of congratulations on Searles’ Facebook page, and that’s solid endorsement. Needless to say, I’ve already ordered my copy.


The Handcuffs will be performing on the Community Stage at 4:00 pm tomorrow (Saturday, July 17) as part of the Belmont/Sheffield Music Fest. The Chicago-based quintet has three albums (with a fourth on the way) filled with energetic glam/indie rock originals to choose from, such as “Dirty Glitter,” “Vinyl Isabella,” and “Gotta’ Problem With Me.”


Record Store Day RSD Drop #2 takes place tomorrow (Saturday, July 17),  with limited edition vinyl offerings from The Allman Brothers Band; The Clash; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; The Cure; Dave Davies; Miles Davis; The Dirty Knobs; Bob Dylan; John Fogerty; Aretha Franklin; The Monkees; Pearl Jam; John Prine; Richard Pryor; Suzi Quatro; Queen; The Ramones; Lou Reed; The Rolling Stones; The Sweet; Ultravox; War; and Amy Winehouse.


Van Go has an afternoon gig at Montrose Saloon this Sunday at 3:00 pm. The band’s energetic power pop often packs a satirical punch, thanks to frontman Davey Sippel’s consistently clever way with words.


Chicago-based ska band Heavy Manners recently released a “Fresh Mix” version of its 1982 hit “Flamin’ First” that’s now streaming on YouTube. Anyone who experienced the north side of Chicago’s vibrant club scene back in the late 1970s and early 1980s likely has fond memories of Heavy Manners and its irresistible exotic beat. Led by Kate Fagan on vocals and keyboards, the quintet channeled the sound of The English Beat and The Selector. In addition to “Flamin’ First,” Heavy Manners was known for it comic song “Taking The Queen To Tea.” Two new books—In Defense Of Ska by Aaron Carnes and Skaboom! An American Ska and Reggae Oral History by Marc Wasserman—take note of the role Heavy Manners played in bringing ska to the United States.


The Millennium Art Festival at Lake Street and Michigan Avenue takes place tomorrow, so if you check out the RSD Drop #2 at Reckless Records, you can then head just a few blocks over to take in some paintings, photographs, and sculptures. The Millennium Art Festival is one of the smaller annual art fairs, so you could even work in a few other activities, like checking out the recently reopened Chicago Cultural Center on Washington Street.


Chicago jazz scene veterans Liquid Soul have a gig at the Hey Nonny venue in Arlington Heights tomorrow night, Saturday, July 17. On July 20, Hey Nonny’s staff gets to put on a show, starting at 7:30 pm. Other upcoming events at Hey Nonny include a Blues Brunch With Li’l Ed on July 24; Steve Dawson and Friends on August 17; and Jason Narducy on August 25.


The Copernicus Center, which is within walking distance of the Jefferson Park bus and Blue Line hub, has started a new outdoor concert series that will run on Saturday nights through July and August. (The exception will be July 31, due to Jeff Fest taking place that night. The scheduled acts include festival regulars 7th Heaven; Wedding Banned, and Breakfast Club; as well as Think Floyd; Tributosaurus Becomes The Rolling Stones; Heroes David Bowie Tribute Band; Trippin Billies. Tickets are $10 for each event, the full schedule at the Copernicus Center website. https://copernicuscenter.org/summer-concert-series-july-17/ Keep in mind that the Copernicus Center also offers indoor concert events; including Gordon Lightfoot on July 24, Air Supply on October 15, Sparks on March 19, 2022, and Robin Trower on April 9, 2022.


There will be a Fox Fest Benefit Concert for Chicago bass player Tim Fox at Martyrs’ on July 25. The entertainment will be Tributosaurus Becomes Steely Steely Dan, as well as Chris Siebold and Psycles. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Incoming


The Handcuffs, one of the more fun bands you can see outdoors on a summer afternoon, will be performing on the Community Stage at 4:00 pm next Saturday (July 17) at the Belmont/Sheffield Music Fest. The Chicago-based quintet has three albums (with a fourth on the way) filled with energetic glam/indie rock originals to choose from, such as “Dirty Glitter,” “Vinyl Isabella,” and “Gotta’ Problem With Me.” Sometimes their songs flow naturally into an impeccable cover version of The Kinks or Mott The Hoople. A week later, The Handcuffs have a 7:00 pm gig as part of the new Sundays On State series.


The very first Sundays On State event was held yesterday, and according to an article by Talia Soglin in today’s Chicago Tribune, it was a complete success. Local vendors and businesses were on hand to sell books, crafts and food, and the performers included the Trinity Academy Of Irish Dancers and the Joffrey Academy Of Dance. Soglin noted the vibe was very festive.


There will be a Let’s Active 40th Anniversary Event + Concert at The Ramkat venue in Winston-Salem, NC on November 4. Founding member Mitch Easter will perform with special guest musicians who will also discuss the legacy of the band. The evening will include a tribute to Let’s Active original members the late Faye Hunter and Sara Romweber. Tickets go on sale on July 14. I saw Let’s Active as the opening act for R.E.M. at Park West, and was immediately hooked. I bought all their records, as well as the 2003 tribute album Every Word, which included Let’s Active covers by Bill Lloyd; Don Dixon and Jamie Hoover; Marti Jones; The Trolleyvox; Paul Chastain; and Bobby Sutliff.


The recent road trip my wife Pam and I took included a few days in Asheville, NC. On the day I checked out the Harvest Records Store, I wore the dB’s t-shirt I bought when they performed at The Hideout several years ago. Like Let’s Active, they’re NC natives. When the guy behind the counter complimented me on the shirt, I told him I knew I had to wear it while I was in North Carolina. “Absolutely,” he agreed. He said he had heard of The Hideout and was glad it survived the pandemic.


If the Let’s Active 40th Anniversary celebration has t-shirts and they’re available online, I’ll definitely buy one.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Go Time! - Eight Ball


Over the past 10 years, Go Time! has shown a knack for creating inventive arrangements, and that tradition continues on its appropriately titled eighth release, Eight Ball. The Chicago-based band works on the rougher edge of power pop by fueling lead vocalist-guitarist Scott Niekelski’s melodic songs with high-powered instrumentation. With its steady lineup of Niekelski, drummer Steve Grzenia, bassist Mark Marketti, and guitarist Paul Schmidt, Go Time! keeps fresh musical ideas flowing throughout an ambitious collection of 20 tracks.

Niekelski has never been one for sentimental love songs, so it’s no surprise most of his lyrics here concern people behind the eight ball rather than about to run the table. “Moments Of Compassion,” an energetic track augmented with keyboards, describes a man with no hope under a microscope. “Little By Little,” “All Or Nothing,” and “Still Life” feature rampaging guitars, while “Carrying The Load” finds Go Time! opting for a mid-tempo approach. The atmospheric “Critical Task” stands out as one of the album’s best songs about trying to navigate the challenges of modern living.


Go Time! will likely be playing these songs tonight during its gig at The Brauer House in Lombard.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Slumgullion


The Smithereens have a long history of performing in the Chicago area. I’ve seen them at street fests alongside Wrigley Field and in Lincoln Park; at City Winery in the West Loop; at theaters in Schaumburg and St. Charles; and in my hometown of Palatine, where guitarist Jim Babjak gave me a Smithereens 30th Anniversary guitar pick. The band is known for greeting fans as if they were best friends after its shows. Sadly, we lost lead vocalist-guitarist Pat DiNizio a while back, but The Smithereens have continued to perform, using a rotating corps of veteran singers. Marshal Crenshaw, who’s released a number of worthy albums in his career, will be on hand when The Smithereens return to City Winery Chicago on Saturday, July 31. That’s not exactly my birthday, but it’s close enough to be part of the celebration.

That will be a busy weekend for bands that specialize in highly melodic rock, because The BoDeans have a gig on July 30 at The North Shore Center For The Performing Arts in Skokie.


Musician/artist Ronnie Wood has a pop-up store at 56-57 Carnaby Street in London. It’s  open from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday – Saturday through July 31. He’ll be selling original artwork, limited editions, illustrated Rolling Stones setlists, and box sets.


The Spindles, Go Time!, and Crown Vic Royal will share a triple bill tomorrow night at the Brauer House in Lombard.


Director Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s documentary Summer Of Soul opened in theaters, and is also now available to watch on Hulu. The film combines vintage footage of Sly And The Family Stone, Gladys Knight and The Pips, Stevie Wonder, The Fifth Dimension, and other acts from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival with commentary from current musicians as well as those who performed at the event.


It looks like Yes frontman Jon Anderson will have the honor of being the first act to perform at The DesPlaines Theatre in suburban Des Plaines. Onesti Entertainment, which also runs The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, has done some extensive renovations at the former movie house, and has eight events lined up for August and September. Anderson performs on August 19; followed by Firefall and Pablo Cruise on September 3; Stryper and KIX on September 11; Tower Of Power on September 17; Geoff Tate on September 18; Violin Femmes/Femmes Of Rock on September 19; Freddy Jones Band on September 24; and Dokken with Hoodlum Johnny on September 25.


The people behind Record Store Day continue their 2021 altered schedule with RSD Drop #2 next Saturday, July 17. The 45th Anniversary Edition of Jon Anderson’s Olias Of Sunhillow LP will be among the limited-edition vinyl offerings; so if you buy a copy you could see if he’ll sign it at his DesPlaines Theatre gig. RSD Drop #2 will also include releases by The Allman Brothers Band; Beastie Boys; Canned Heat; The Clash; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; The Cure; Dave Davies; Miles Davis; The Dirty Knobs; Bob Dylan; John Fogerty; Aretha Franklin; Rory Gallagher; Peggy Lee; Love; The Monkees; Randy Newman; Sinead O’Connor; Pearl Jam; John Prine; Richard Pryor; Suzi Quatro; Queen; The Ramones; Lou Reed; The Rolling Stones; St. Vincent; The Selector; Small Faces; Chris Stamey And The Fellow Travelers; The Sweet; Ultravox; War; and Amy Winehouse.


The Millennium Art Festival at Lake Street and Michigan Avenue also takes place next weekend, so if you check out the RSD Drop #2 at Reckless Records, you can then head just a few blocks over to take in some paintings, photographs, and sculptures. The Millennium Art Festival is one of the smaller annual art fairs, so you could even work in a few other activities, like checking out the recently reopened Chicago Cultural Center on Washington Street.


Chicago jazz scene veterans Liquid Soul have a gig at the Hey Nonny venue in Arlington Heights next Saturday, July 17. On July 20, Hey Nonny’s staff gets to put on a show, starting at 7:30 pm. Other upcoming events at Hey Nonny include a Blues Brunch With Li’l Ed on July 24; Steve Dawson and Friends on August 17; and Jason Narducy on August 25.


There will be a Fox Fest Benefit Concert for Chicago bass player Tim Fox at Martyrs’ on July 25. The entertainment will be Tributosaurus Becomes Steely Steely Dan, as well as Chris Siebold and Psycles. Looking further into the future, Phil Angotti and Friends will perform an 81 Songs For 81 Years John Lennon Birthday Bash at Martyrs on October 8.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Incoming


Happy Birthday to Ringo Starr, who turned 81 but seems to have the energy of an 18-year-old. Maybe some day, his mission of universal peace and love will become a reality. I’m so glad I had a chance to see him in person a few years back when he and his All-Star Band performed at the Chicago Theater. He sounded great and was gracious in sharing the spotlight with the talented rock and roll veterans on stage with him.

I’ve had the philosophy for some time that once the 4th of July is over, the summer zips past in the blink of an eye. If you’ve had that sensation too, the best way to remedy it is to go out and (safely) enjoy as many summer events as you can. I’ll try to keep posting suggestions here, but it’s a good idea to check the websites for all your traditional entertainment and arts events. You might be surprised which ones are back to normal.


Here are a few things to look forward to this month alone: a triple bill of The Spindles, Go Time!, and Crown Vic Royal this Saturday at the Brauer House in Lombard; The Record Store Day RSD Drop #2 on Saturday, July 17; The Millennium Art Festival at Lake Street and Michigan Avenue on the weekend of July 16, 17, and 18; The Smithereens with Marshal Crenshaw on lead vocals at City Winery Chicago on July 31; and Lollapalooza, which kicks off on July 29.


Reason number 5,725 why I wish I could hop on a supersonic jet and visit England any time I wanted: Musician/artist Ronnie Wood has a pop-up store at 56-57 Carnaby Street in London. It’s open from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday – Saturday through July 31. He’ll be selling original artwork, limited editions, illustrated setlists from Rolling Stones shows, and box sets.


Finally, Happy Birthday to Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd and Jim Rodford of The Zombies, who left us on this day in 2006 and 2018, respectively. Rock In Paradise, guys.

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