Friday, April 30, 2010

Slumgullion #12

Going, going, gone. Photo from The Go-Go's MySpace page.

A buffet of items about the pop culture world.


First there was the sobering news that Supergrass was embarking on a farewell tour, and now comes word that The Go-Go’s will be calling it quits after their next tour. Neither band will visit Chicago. The Go-Go’s released an impressive comeback CD with God Bless The Go-Go’s in 2004, but never regained their initial popularity. I saw them a few years back at The House Of Blues in Chicago, where they thrilled a packed house with their dynamic performance, Some of the members will no doubt continue on, but this is still a major loss to the power pop scene.

The Goldstars, who released some truly fun pop CDs and did a stellar job of opening for The Hoodoo Gurus a few years back, are also leaving us. They have a farewell show scheduled at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago on June 12th.

Ralph Covert of The Bad Examples and Ralph’s World fame has a solo gig coming up at Two Brothers Tap in Warrenville, IL on May 12th. Covert describes the gig as “an evening for grown-ups” and promises to play some new material, as well as take audience requests for old favorites.

Give ‘em an award, and now they think they’ve got what it takes to rule Facebook. The Hollies have an official page where fans can learn about upcoming radio interviews, watch videos of live performances, order the band’s Midas Touch CD, and enter contests.

Singer-songwriter Ellen Rosner will be part of a triple bill with Scott Free and Kathryn Trapper this Sunday night as Cake Chicago returns to Red Line Tap for its monthly showcase. Hosted by singer-songwriter Ripley Caine, Cake Chicago aims to blend “queer artistry into the general public through live music and more.” The show starts at 9:00PM.

Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, a veteran of Chicago’s power pop scene on his own as well as with other musicians, has a gig with Casey McDonough, Carolyn Engelmann, and Tommi Zender this Sunday night at Simon’s Tavern on north Clark Street in Chicago. The band will play two sets, starting at 9:00PM.

The DVD’s the thing. If you missed former Doctor Who star David Tennant performing the title role in that recent PBS Greatest Performances production of Hamlet, or if you liked it so much you want a copy to keep throughout all time, you’ll be happy to know BBC America will release it on DVD and Blu Ray on May 4th.

The Bangles come to Chicago tomorrow night for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s back-tie Spring Gala. The event is being held from 6:00PM to midnight at the Hilton Chicago on South Michigan Avenue. Tickets are $500.00.

International Pop Overthrow wraps up its 2010 tour of Chicago this weekend with a showcase tonight at Bird’s Nest on Southport, and a pair of showcases tomorrow at The Abbey on Elston. IPO founder David Bash has a talent for spotting up-and-coming power pop and indie rock talent, so I highly recommend checking out one of these events. All acts are from Chicago unless otherwise noted.

Toronto singer-songwriter Blair Packham is the opening act for tonight’s lineup at Bird’s Nest. His melodic tales include “One Hit Wonder,” one of the few tributes to Bobby “Boris” Pickett you’re likely to hear. A former member of The Jitters, his latest CD is Could’ve Been King. Former St. Louis resident Doug Bobenhouse was the driving force behind The Sun Sawed In 1/2 and now he’s in Chicago leading The Effingways. The band creates spare but appealing pop tunes like “Memories Of Doubt” and is working on its first CD.

The Elements Of Style may sing “Rock & Roll Is Dead,” but it’s actually alive and well in this quartet’s hands. Guitar-driven songs like “In The City” and “When I Close My Eyes” have a classy sound similar to The Changes, but with a rougher edge. The Help Desk calls its music “diversapop” because of the various musical styles it incorporates, but there’s also an off kilter sense of humor at work here, as evidenced by song titles like “Ghost Tattoo” and “The Jellyfish Song.” “My Favorite Wrapper” is straight up pop, while “She Said” has more of a jam band feel.

Minneapolis club scene veterans Tim Casey & The Martyrs were scheduled for 10:00PM tonight, but I’m seeing Facebook posts from David Bash and Aaron Fox & The Reliables that Fox and his band are now playing in that slot. Here’s what I had to say about Aaron Fox & The Reliables when they performed at The Abbey last Thursday: The band’s melodic approach to rock is most impressive on the energetic “Get Down,” which has a bit of a Gin Blossoms feel to it. Other tracks, like the chiming “Over Again,” effectively mix acoustic and electric guitars in lighter arrangements.

Led by 92 Degrees bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini and his wife, singer Marianne Shimkus, The Valley Downs create melodic pop tunes that at times evoke The Bangles. The band released an impressive EP in Behemoth, and recorded a video for the fetching new tune, “Play For You.”

Tonight’s headliners The Webstirs have a tradition of creating catchy power pop that extends to its latest CD, So Long. The title track is a prime example of the band’s approach, with strong vocals, energetic instrumentation and great hooks.

I'm hoping to catch some of this weekend's IPO performances and post reviews next week.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

One Week And Counting

International Pop Overthrow started its 2010 tour of Chicago last Thursday at The Abbey, and now there are just three days left to catch one of these multi-act showcases. The action moves back to Red Line Tap tonight. All acts are local except as noted.

Larry O. Dean’s power pop credentials include time spent with the clever and catchy Post Office. A poet and artist as well as a musician, he brought a light, comedic touch to Fun With A Purpose, his latest CD with The Injured Parties. Look for Dean to perform some engaging musical portraits when the band opens tonight’s festivities at 8:00PM.

Milwaukee natives Certain Stars add biting lyrics to garage rock songs like “You’re A Caution” and “highschoolalloveragain.” The band released the five-song EP Wired For Sound in 2007 and the full length Times Like These Call For Tambourines in 2004.

Greg Pope comes from Nashville, Tennessee, and plays irresistibly melodic pop songs like “Fall Into Your Arms” and “The Only Thing I’ve Got” that evoke the British Invasion days of The Kinks with layered vocals and chiming guitars. He’ll have two critically acclaimed CDs, Popmonster and Pete, to draw from when he takes the stage at 9:00PM.

Taking its name from one of the Hamburg clubs The Beatles played back in their earliest days, Kaiserkeller specializes in raw but catchy tunes like “Faces” and “Flower Hill.” The band lists itself as “undiscovered” on its MySpace page, but hopefully that won’t be the case for long.

Eric Howell mixes elements of Americana music into his energetic mainstream rock, but can also delve into classic power pop on tunes like the satirical “Wubby Station.” He tends to rotate members in and out of his band The Implants, and he’s worked with some of Chicago’s better musicians over the years. Speaking of years, Howell has made a funny promo clip with special guests explaining how long it took to complete his Greatest Hitch CD. The audience will hear the results of that quest tonight at Red Line Tap.

Multi-instrumentalist Andy Stone isn’t a lead vocalist, so he recruited people like Tom Godsman, Phil Angotti, Mike Przygoda, and Danny Malone to sing on his You Don’t See Many Of These Nowadays and In The Coffee Shop, When CDs. Stone’s well-crafted compositions recall the mid-1960s with light arrangements and layered vocals. It should be interesting to see who he’ll have on stage with him for tonight’s gig.

You have to like a band that titles its latest CD, Welcome To My End Of The Rope. Tonight’s headline act Missile exudes an offbeat sense of humor on guitar-fueled garage rock tunes like “Real Job” and “Greased Slide To Hell.” Singer-guitarist Don puts across the funny lyrics with a brash attitude while drummer Jeff and bassist Josh join in on backup vocals.

IPO kicks off the weekend tomorrow night by returning to Bird’s Nest with a seven act lineup that includes headliners The Webstirs. Note: there are two showcases at The Abbey on Saturday; the first starting at 1:00PM and the second starting at 9:00PM. Be sure to check out International Pop Overthrow before it moves on to Milwaukee.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Weekend At IPO - Part 2

Photo from Pop Dollys MySpace page.

As I said on yesterday’s post, in a perfect world I would check out all of the International Pop Overthrow showcases being staged around Chicago this week. So far, I’ve only seen the ones that were held at The Abbey last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Here is a review of the five bands I saw on Saturday.

The all-ages afternoon gigs have a different ambience than the usual club-going experience. For one thing, the sun is shining through the windows, and for another, there are kids on the premises. About midway through the showcase, a musician carrying his guitar case strolled into The Abbey, with a little girl trailing behind him, holding a stuffed animal. But the communal spirit I had noticed the night before, where members of different bands hung out and supported each other was still very much in evidence.

92 Degrees hasn’t recorded anything since its self-titled CD was released on Shoes’ Black Vinyl label in 1995. The power pop trio also put out the seven-song LP Money Makes The World Go ‘Round in 1990, but in recent years, its only live performances have been at International Pop Overthrow. It would be great to see 92 Degrees play out more often because its catchy songs like “I’ve Been Thinking Of You” and “Mrs. Jones” have held up extremely well.

The Queue is a young band with a firm grasp of how to translate its fascination with the original British Invasion into classic power pop. With two strong vocalist-guitarists in Sean Michael Mulligan and James Marshall Duich, The Queue was able to create some impressive harmonies, especially when bassist Mike Schiff joined in on the singing. Drummer Aaron Bouslog kept a steady beat while Duich frequently cut loose on guitar. The band had a very catchy single for sale titled “Turn It Up Turn It On.”

Judging from its MySpace page, I figured Minnesota youngsters, Matt Dodge & The Lobsters were primarily aiming for the tween girl demographic, ala The Jonas Brothers. Their set at The Abbey quickly blew away that misconception. This is a hard-hitting quartet, with a dynamic frontman in Dodge. The band played energetic songs from the Lobsters! CD it was giving away at the merchandise table, and closed with a Clash-like intensity on the politically-charged “Currency.”

The Shake-Ups got their start in San Diego before moving to Indianapolis, and have released four CDs along the way. Their latest, Warm Fuzzies, is full of delicate, well crafted pop tunes written by vocalist-guitarist Patrick O’Connor. The band was more energetic live, with O’Connor sharing lead singing duties with keyboards player-vocalist Bitsy Matatall on new songs like “Prom Night Disaster,” as well as older stuff like “Can’t Stop The Signal” and “Forget The Future.”

Pop Dollys is a new trio whose members are veterans of several local pop bands. Vocalist-bass player Mike Cohen continues to perform as part of The Abbeys, guitarist-vocalist Tony Kola played with The Desperate Club, and drummer Don Koss played in Contraband. Together, they pursue a punk/pop hybrid approach on songs such as “Like A Hurricane,” which Cohen explained was about hotel mogul Leona Helmsley, and the funny “My Girlfriend’s Drunk Again.” Cohen belted out clever lyrics while Kola and Koss blazed away behind him. Fittingly, Pop Dollys closed with a faithful take on The Buzzcocks classic, “Harmony In My Head.”

Due to time constraints, I wasn’t able to stay for The Abbeys or Cyclesomething last Saturday afternoon. I’m hoping to make it out to a few more IPO showcases this weekend, and post more reviews.

When Wednesday Comes

It’s hump day, and International Pop Overthrow will be checking into Bird’s Nest at 2500 N. Southport Avenue for another round of power pop and indie rock bands. All seven acts are from the Chicago area.

Singer-guitarist Vance Stephens, who starts things off tonight with an 8:00PM gig, shows how much the boundaries for IPO have changed over the years. His indie rock ballads are light years away from power pop, with spare, acoustic arrangements, soft-spoken vocals, and introspective lyrics. Club For Heroes likewise opts for indie rock, but adds a harder edge that recalls Seattle’s grunge scene. Vocalist Matt Feddermann gives the band a powerful presence up front while guitarists Matt Graze and Ben McCann provide plenty of firepower.

Kevin Lee is a veteran of Chicago’s power pop scene and continues to create catchy, guitar-driven songs. Now working with his back-up band The Kings, Lee will have plenty of material to draw upon for his 9:00PM set, including songs like the radio-friendly “I Still Believe” from his latest CD, Dusk Till Dawn. Last Days Of Pompeii blend humor with catchy, guitar-based rock songs. The band will be releasing a new CD, From Here On Out, in the near future. The Cells are a trio that crafts high energy power pop augmented by ringing guitars and harmony vocals. Songs like “She Robot” and “Drag It On” are particularly fun. The Cells have just released a new CD, titled Mayday.

Starting with a name that sounds like a cleaning product, The Right Tidys take an offbeat approach to creating their catchy pop music. Fronted by lead vocalists Erica Loftus and Michelle Tormey, this six-piece outfit tends toward clever and teasing lyrics on songs like “Set The Hook” and “Rippin’ Me Off.”

Headliners The Salts are scheduled to take the stage at 11:00PM. Their spare but energetic indie rock songs evoke Modest Mouse and The Strokes, with catchy melodies and biting lyrics about relationships. The prolific trio has quickly followed up Broomstick Rock Star, from late 2009 with the more recent Just A Pinch, and also has a disc from 2008 called Do A Somersault!

International Pop Overthrow shifts back to Red Line Tap for tomorrow night’s line-up, and then there’s a busy schedule of shows this weekend at Bird’s Nest and The Abbey.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Weekend At IPO

Picture of The Laureates from the band's website.

In a perfect world, I would be attending each of the International Pop Overthrow showcases being offered this week in Chicago. Founder David Bash does such a great job of putting these bands together, I always look forward to when he comes to town.

I’ve tried to entice other people to check out these gigs by providing a preview each day of the acts that will be performing. If it has seemed like some previews were more detailed than others, it was due to time constraints and not meant as a slight against any of the acts.

I caught the IPO showcases at The Abbey last Friday night and Saturday afternoon. I was familiar with some of the acts I would be seeing, but in many cases, my expectations were based on what had been provided via the Internet. It’s a kick to see these bands spring to life in person, and I can honestly say I wasn’t disappointed by any of them. The following is a review of Friday night’s showcase.

I met guitarist-vocalist Christopher Bevard shortly after his band Magatha Trysty had performed the first set of the evening. He told me they had been a late addition to this year’s IPO, but their catchy pop tunes like “Be Safe” and “Printer’s Row” came across as well-polished. Christopher and his wife, Catherine, who plays keyboards, traded lead vocals and frequently combined for some dynamic harmonies. Magatha Trysty also made a strong impression with a free three-song CD.

Bash introduced the next performer, Jeremy, as a longtime friend, and in fact, the Michigan based singer-guitarist/indie record label honcho has taken part in many IPO showcases. He sometimes works with several musicians, but on this occasion, he was backed by a bassist sporting a Paul McCartney style Hofner, and a drummer. Jeremy’s music often had a tripped-out psychedelic vibe, with vocals reminiscent of Robin Hitchcock, but there were also moments when cut loose and led his trio through some massive, hard rock jams.

The name Gidgets Ga Ga may conjure images of a glam rock band (or a multi-platinum singer with a similar name) but this Chicago trio played a workingman’s version of power pop that was consistently engaging. Songs like the catchy “Beki.” were particularly impressive, and Gidgets Ga Ga had more to offer on its new CD, The Big Bong Fiasco, which was for sale at the merchandise table.

The Laureates have been garnering a fair amount of press recently, and it was easy to see from last Friday night’s performance why this high energy power pop outfit has been impressing the critics. Their elaborate arrangements featured harmony vocals and ringing guitars, so it was no wonder the free CDs they were giving away at the merchandise table rapidly disappeared. The Laureates brought their rousing set to a close by covering The Velvet Underground.

The Blissters served up an energetic set of melodic rock songs like “Is It Monday?” that mixed elements of punk with male and female vocals and airtight three-part harmonies. Vocalist Erica C. sometimes seemed as though she was playing keyboards and guitar simultaneously. The four musicians were having a blast onstage, and that emotion was definitely passed on to the audience.

The Penthouse Sweets entertained with energetic indie rock songs fueled by two solid vocalist-guitarists in Andy Hansen and Lou Hallwas, as well as a goofball stage presence that kept the audience wondering what was coming next. Rubber-limbed Eric Quinlan was hysterical and talented on the keyboards, and all five members, including bassist Eric Chial and drummer Loren Guzik joined in on the fun. The group has released two CDs.

It was great to see Million Yen back on stage. The band released the classic power pop album Blue Television Windows in 2001, but hasn’t been active on the club scene as of late. The time off apparently didn’t hurt, as Million Yen opened with a rollicking take on Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know” before moving on to original gems like “Chemical Drip,” “Poor Little Rich Kid,” and “Velveteen.”

Sadly, I missed most of Ellis Clark & Epicycle, since I had to catch the 12:30 train back to Palatine. (My only complaint about Friday’s IPO showcase would be that it eventually ran over an hour behind schedule.) Clark, who is also a member of The Handcuffs, and has performed with many bands over the years, assembled an all-star band that included Handcuffs drummer Brad Elvis, a horn section, and several other guest musicians. The set opened with a symphonic version of “In Your Arms,” one of the better tracks from the ambitious Uber Der Berlin Wall CD by Social Act, one of Clark’s former bands. I only have the one song to judge by, but I’m sure I missed one hell of a performance by Ellis Clark & Epicycle.

I’m hoping to post a review of last Saturday’s afternoon show at The Abbey tomorrow.

Lineup For A Groovy Tuesday

Band graphic from The Earth Program’s website.

Bird’s Nest, a club at 2500 N. Southport, stages its first International Pop Overthrow showcase of 2010 tonight, starting at 8:00PM.

The coed duo of Katie & Pat will be the first of seven acts to perform. Their light indie rock is based on keyboards, acoustic guitars, and Katie’s engaging voice. The pair has released an EP titled Short Cuts. The experimental quartet The Earth Program not only lists its influences as “the universe and all its contents” on its MySpace page, it has apparently renamed Chicago ‘Obbityville.’ That sense of fun extends to songs like “Pink Pit (reprise)” and “Greeny” that mix garage rock with spacey keyboards. The Earth Program has released a CD titled, Invade!

Wiplot, the third act tonight comes from Bloomington, Illinois and plays catchy rock tunes like “Minus Mind” and “Lower Heights.” Superbig, scheduled to play at 9:30PM, offers catchy power pop on songs like “Ordinary” and “So Over,” and switches to high-speed joke rock for “Barrettes and Fake Tits.” The Velvet Cadillacs mix revved up guitar-driven rock with a dash of Country & Western on satiric songs like “Holiday Day” and “Things I Plan To Do.” Their Wish I Was Cool CD is available on iTunes. Unfortunately, Zerostars, a fun power pop band, is no longer scheduled to perform tonight. The current IPO schedule online now lists TBA for the 10:30 time slot.

Freetoed, the headline act, blends acoustic and electric guitars on energetic rock songs like “Patterns,” and can also craft more introspective music like “Missoula, MT.”

IPO returns to Bird’s Nest tomorrow night with another batch of indie and power bands before heading back to Red Line Tap on Thursday.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Everybody’s Rocking On A Weekday

Photo from Go Time's Facebook page.

International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash proved last Thursday he’s not afraid to present a rock ‘n’ roll show on a week night, and that fearless determination continues tonight as IPO checks into the Red Line Tap at 7006 North Glenwood Avenue for a seven-act lineup starting at 8:00PM.

Singer-guitarist Frank Tribes, a former member of the impressive Garden Bower, will kick things off with shimmering rock tunes from his latest CD, Gallery. The Sometimes Family, a coed group that adds touches of jazz and blues to its introspective indie rock, has a self-titled CD that it will most likely be selling at its 8:30PM gig. Next up, vocalist-guitarist Lauretta Tagli will lead The PowWows through energetic, guitar-based songs like “Gimme” and “All I See,” backed by guitarist Anthony Caldarisi and drummer Kyle Olsen.

As its name suggests, the quintet Ditchweed Diesel aims for authentic Americana music, with spirited songs like “Nowheresville.” Go Time’s energetic tunes like “Broken Retrofit” and “You Know” have the feel of classic power pop, with ringing guitars, strong melodies, and harmony vocals. Former Parisian Julie Meckler now sings and plays guitar in the Windy City. Her music ranges from the delicate, cosmopolitan feel of “Mexico” and “No Wendy’s” to the grittier “Deportation Blues.”

Headliner Suddyn, scheduled to take the stage at 11:00PM, is the only non-Chicago only act on tonight’s bill, with members from New York and Ireland. The trio’s Dark Lights EP features evocative singer-piano player Alan on hard-hitting and atmospheric songs like “Generation.”

International Pop Overthrow moves to Bird’s Nest at 2500 N. Southport tomorrow night for another seven-act lineup.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

International Pop Overthrow Rolls On

Photo from the Hollus Facebook page.

International Pop Overthrow continues today with an afternoon show kicking off at 1:30PM at The Abbey. The lineup features Hop On Pop; Leslie Hunt; Superfly Samurai; Detroit’s melodic rockers The Pounders; the glam rock of V Sparks; and the coed catchy pop of Otter Petter. Hollus, a band that expertly channels the vintage rock of The Faces and early Led Zeppelin, will be giving away copies of its brand new single, "Lucy Grey/Songs That You Love" at today’s show.

Later tonight, IPO moves to Red Line Tap on Glenwood Avenue for another showcase, beginning at 8:00PM. Ghostwriter, featuring former Catsplash member John Luckhaupt, is the first act, followed by The Pralines, with singer-songwriter Pamela Richardson. The Desperate Club, whose light, melodic sound has elements of Robin Hitchcock, takes the stage at 9:00, with Springfield’s power pop band The Oohs following directly afterward. The Sweeps, a guitar-driven trio, and Wild Wild Voices from Milwaukee come next, and Milwaukee’s psychedelic Elusive Parallelogram are tonight’s headliner.

IPO will be back at Red Line Tap tomorrow night with another impressive showcase.

I’m hoping to post a review of the bands I saw this weekend later here on this blog.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

International Pop Overthrow Roundup

The Shake-Ups are part of today’s IPO lineup at The Abbey. Photo from the band’s website.

International Pop Overthrow had plenty to offer on the second day of its latest visit to Chicago. Tireless IPO founder David Bash was on hand to introduce each act at The Abbey, and the eight-band lineup was rock solid from start to finish. One of things that’s particularly enjoyable about IPO is its communal ambience, as musicians from the various bands hang out together and offer mutual support, while fans who might have come to see one particular act, discover several others. I’m hoping to offer a more detailed account here of some of this weekend’s IPO showcases within the next few days.

IPO continues with two showcases today; one in the afternoon at The Abbey, and one later tonight at The Spot. I would recommend attending both. See the IPO website for the full schedules.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Slumgullion # 11

Picture from Todd Wright's Facebook page.

Ten weeks from now it will be time to get Todd Wright a birthday card. I only know this because of the singer-songwriter’s 40x40 project, which he has been promoting on Facebook and other websites. An acquaintance of his clued me in about Wright’s ambitious plan a while back, and I’ve been noting his progress in the Elevated Observations column on my blog.

Wright wants to raise funds to support Juvenile Diabetes research by releasing a free track download each Wednesday for 40 straight weeks, to coincide with this 40th birthday. With this week’s song, “Let Me Down Easy,” Wright is three quarters of the way through. If you go to his website at to download the song, consider making a donation of $10, $25, $50, or $100 to the American Diabetes Association. The songs are also available for $5.99 as a digital download with a bonus track and PDFs of the CD art, and for $11.99 as an actual CD with a bonus track and PDFs of the CD art. Buyers will be entered to win an iPod loaded with all of Wright’s 40x40 project songs. Keep up the good work, Todd, you’re in the home stretch now.

It’s the second day of International Pop Overthrow’s ninth visit to Chicago. Tonight’s IPO showcase at The Abbey kicks off with the co-ed indie rock of Chicago’s cleverly named Magatha Trysty, followed by veteran power pop musician and Michigan native Jeremy. The rest of tonight’s acts are local. Gidgets Ga Ga aren’t related to Lady; they’re a power pop band who play energetic songs like “Beki” and “Offer You Can’t Refuse.” The Laureates likewise go the irresistible power pop route, while The Blissters (not the same band as The Blisters, which includes Jeff Tweedy’s kid) opt for a more punk style of music augmented by keyboards.

Penthouse Sweets are energetic and fun; they did a bang-up job of portraying The Sex Pistols at The Abbey’s Halloween bash last October, and they’re sure to be cutting loose tonight. Million Yen’s gift for well-crafted power pop is evident throughout its 2001 CD, Blue Television Windows. Chicago alternative veterans Ellis Clark & Epicycle will surely provide a wild finale for IPO Day Two. Clark, who performs with The Handcuffs, as well as Epicycle, has been promising surprises, and there’s a good chance drummer Brad Elvis of The Handcuffs will be joining in.

Note: There is an all ages IPO show tomorrow afternoon at The Abbey, as well as a nighttime IPO show at The Spot on Broadway. See the website for the schedules.

Chicago rockers Dot Dot Dot have been promoting their new self-titled CD on a national tour that has included Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Indiana, and Wisconsin. They’re be back in Illinois for a show on April 30th at The Roadhouse in Elgin.

On a sad note, I received an e-mail yesterday from Illinois Entertainer editor Steve Forstneger forwarding a message from the High Rise PR agency that Devon Clifford, the drummer for the neo-1980s band You Say Party! We Say Die! suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage from congenital defects while performing last Friday. I had recently reviewed the band’s latest CD, XXXX for the Illinois Entertainer, praising its impossibly catchy guitar and keyboard arrangements. I extend my sympathy to You Say Party! We Say Die! as well as his family and friends.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Popping In The Windy City

International Pop Overthrow returns to Chicago for its ninth year tonight with an eight-band showcase at The Abbey Pub on the city’s northwest side. It’s a familiar setting for IPO founder David Bash since The Abbey has taken part in all of all his fests here. During a recent interview with me for the Illinois Entertainer, Bash said it was singer-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell of The Handcuffs who first recommended the venue to him. He’ll be in town presenting power pop and indie rock bands for the next week, including shows at The Spot on Broadway, The Red Line Tap on Glenwood Avenue, and Bird’s Nest on Southport. In addition to performing, many acts will be selling CDs, t-shirts, and other promotional merchandise.

Chicago-based Aaron Fox & The Reliables will be using their 10:00PM IPO gig tonight to promote their newly released full-length CD, Late Too Soon. The band’s melodic approach to rock is most impressive on the energetic “Get Down,” which has a bit of a Gin Blossoms feel to it. Other tracks, like the chiming “Over Again,” effectively mix acoustic and electric guitars in lighter arrangements.

Canadian visitors The Eric Welton Band augment their indie rock with keyboards and a sense of humor, while Grand Rapids natives Common Shiner aim for mainstream rock ala The Dave Matthews Band.

The remaining acts are local. Tom Fuller Band, whose Maristar CD is due out soon, tap into The Summer Of Love on songs like “Lollipop Guild,” and embellish their faithful take on The Hollies’ “Air That I Breathe” with lush synthesizers. The Luck Of Eden Hall have an impressive history of lacing their hard-hitting rock with psychedelic effects, particularly on songs like “Just Can’t Compromise My Security,” while No Exit will be performing spare, guitar-driven songs like “Two Cars” and “In Between My Love And Here.” Singer-guitarist Karle Lapetina kicks things off tonight at 7:30PM with engaging pop tunes that are reminiscent of The Go-Go’s at times.

Friday night’s lineup at The Abbey will be particularly interesting for power pop fans. More on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CD Review: Dolly Varden - The Panic Bell

Singer-guitarist Steve Dawson and singer-guitarist Diane Christiansen front the Chicago band Dolly Varden. This husband and wife team was also the driving force behind Stump The Host, and has been responsible for a lot of interesting indie rock music.

Dawson has recently released his latest solo effort, titled I Will Miss The Trumpets And The Drums, and has shows coming up on April 25th at SPACE in Evanston; April 30th and May 1st at Off Broadway in St. Louis, MO; and on May 16th at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

Here’s a review of the 2007 Dolly Varden CD, The Panic Bell. Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

Dolly Varden returns after a three year absence with husband and wife Steve Dawson and Diane Christiansen still at the helm. That’s good news for fans of the duo’s distinctive harmonizing and well-crafted Americana music. The Panic Bell shows the Chicago-based band breaking some new ground musically behind singer-guitarist Dawson’s compelling lyrics.

On “Your Last Mistake,” he attacks political leaders, singing, “The world is run by finks and clowns/Who slither underground like snakes.” “Triumph Mine, Idaho” takes on industrial pollution, while “It’s All Gonna Change” and “The Truth Is Told” reflect on more personal relationships. Singer-guitarist Christiansen shines on her composition, the stark ballad, “Small Pockets.” Dolly Varden also succeeds with the catchy rocker, “Everything.”

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

C2E2 & Vinyl Too

I’m not sure if anyone else combined the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo with Record Store Day like I did this past weekend. McCormick Place played host to a variety of exotic creatures as C2E2 landed for its first Windy City visit while RSD had indie music fans packing into retail outlets looking for one-of-kind treasures and watching live performances.

A young woman outside Reckless Records was handing out flyers for the Graham Crackers comic store just down Madison Street. I asked if her store had a booth at C2E2, and she enthusiastically described some of the things she had seen while working there the previous day, including the DeLorean DMC-12 from Back To The Future. I bought a special edition vinyl 45 of “Pump It Up” by Elvis Costello and gladly accepted a free 45 of the Chicago-based trio MR RUSSIA covering David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging.”

C2E2 is like Wizard World (formerly Comic Con), which has been around much longer and is scheduled to return to suburban Rosemont August 19th -22nd. In addition to offering tons of comic books and graphic novels, some of which are free, both events inspire some visitors to dress up as their favorite heroes. Characters from Batman, Avatar, Star Wars, and Superman were on hand, and there was an official costume contest. The overall effect was like being at a huge Halloween party where you can buy a lot of cool stuff. Vendors sold action figures, posters, and t shirts, and there were even some booths offering spooky contact lenses and tattoos.

C2E2 had celebrity guests, including actress Carrie Fisher, writer Neil Gaiman, and several well-known comic artists. In addition to the DeLorean, visitors could have pictures of themselves taken sitting inside the Batmobile. Marvel Comics sponsored contests and had attractive young women in super hero costumes greeting visitors.

Artist Alley was filled with tables where successful as well as fledgling comic book creators hawked their wares. Some aggressively sought to connect with the people passing by, while others seemed more interested in drawing on pads of paper. I struck up a conversation with Eric Rampson, who along with Brett Wood, creates The Silver Bullet comic. It’s an imaginative series that follows the offbeat adventures of the title character. Rampson is also a member of The Fling, a Chicago improv group that includes a friend of mine, Heather Svoboda. Like other comic book creators in Artists Alley, Rampson and Wood take a good deal of pride in producing and publishing their own work.

At a time when we could all use a bit of diversion, Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo and Record Store Day celebrated some of our favorite forms of entertainment as well as the creative spirit.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Slumgullion #11

They shouldn't go go.

Supergrass, the British band that created a whole lot of irresistibly catchy and fun pop music over the past 16 years, is calling it quits. I can still remember when Michael Harris, then editor of the Illinois Entertainer, suggested I review I Should Coco, because “Supergrass is a Terry Flamm band if I’ve ever heard one.” He was right and I’ve been a fan since that rollicking debut. The 2008 release, Diamond Hoo Ha, was one of the band’s strongest. Supergrass will perform four more shows, unfortunately all in Europe, before pulling the plug. At least fans can console themselves with The Hot Rats, a new side project featuring Supergrass alums Gaz Coombes and Dan Goffey. I’ve been bugging current I.E. editor Steve Forstneger to send me a copy of their Turn Ons CD for the past two months, so hopefully, he'll come through.

A few days ago, I mentioned in a post about Puerto Muerto’s recently released Drumming For Pistols that the duo of vocalist-percussionist Christa Meyer and vocalist-guitarist Tim Kelley has broken up since the CD came out. Meyer will be playing with Mekons vocalist guitarist/radio host Jon Langford on May 2nd at the Chicago Cultural Center, at 78 E. Washington. Admission is free.

This Saturday, April 17th is Record Store Day, a fun new tradition, started in 2007, that’s held throughout the world. It’s an opportunity to enjoy an experience that has become increasingly rare these days: shopping for music in a physical setting rather than from a chair in front of your computer. Sort through vinyl records and CDs, page through international and local magazines, admire the posters on the walls, and even chat with an employee about whatever artist is playing on the overhead speaker.

Over 20 records stores in Chicago will be involved, including Permanent Records; Gramaphone Records; the Reckless Records locations in downtown, on Milwaukee Avenue, and on Broadway; Dusty Grooves America; Beverly Records, DEADWAX; Dave’s Records; Kstarke Records; Shake Rattle, & Read; Hard Boiled Records; and Record Breakers. There are a number of special edition vinyl releases that will be sold only on Record Store Day, so get out there and join the treasure hunt.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Vintage Publication Spotlight #7

The latest entry in an ongoing series devoted to magazines of the past.

I was 14 years old in 1967 when I heard an ad on WLS saying the AM radio powerhouse was publishing its own Personality Album magazine, filled with photos, stories, and profiles of the on-air personalities.

I loved listening to the station, particularly night-time disc jockeys Ron Riley and Art Roberts, so I knew I had to have the magazine.

I wasn’t fluent in marketing jargon, so when the ad said Personality Parade would be available at news stands, I thought I could only buy one from an actual news stand. The nearest one was miles from our house, so I begged my Dad to drive me there. I soon learned I could have picked up a copy at any of the drug stores in my neighborhood. As much as I treasured that WLS Personality Album, it didn’t keep me from eventually losing track of it. The one in my collection now was purchased years later off eBay for considerably more than the original 50 cent asking price.

There wasn’t any advertising in the WLS Personality Album other than for the station itself. There were extensive bios for dee jays Clark Weber, Bernie Allen, Dex Card, Ron Riley, Art Roberts, and Don Phillips. Judging from the numerous pictures, these guys had a ball hanging out with all the big pop stars of the day. There are shots of Clark with Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five; Allen with Paul Revere & The Raiders and Tony Bennett; Card with The Supremes and The Cryan Shames; Riley with Chad & Jeremy and The Hollies; Roberts with The Byrds, The Yardbirds, and The Lovin’ Spoonful; and Phillips with The Shangri-Las and The Turtles.

Often these bands would come into the studio for interviews. I remember Riley’s interview with The Hollies in particular. He was a funny guy who came across like he was friends with the band members, even though he claimed their British accents made them sound like they were calling their latest album Booterfly instead of Butterfly. One of The Hollies then pronounced the name Buttahfly, like an American southerner. Riley loved the Batman TV series and even managed to snag a cameo on it.

In addition to playing the Top 40 hits, Roberts featured comedy bits on his show, including his own Hip Fables and a spy spoof called Peter Fugitive that was created and voiced by Ray Van Steen. That’s probably what triggered my own fascination with making people laugh. I already had the writing bug at that point, unaware of how it would eventually lead me down such a frustrating and penniless career path.

WLS would later switch to an all-talk format. Back in 1967, it showcased an incredibly exciting time on the Chicago rock scene, when bands like The Cryan Shames, The Buckinghams, The Shadows Of Knight, The Mauds, and several others had hit songs. This era was captured on the 2131 South Michigan Avenue 2-CD set (See Vintage Rock, Chicago Style post in Archives, under November, 2009). The book Chicago Top 40 Charts 1960-1969, compiled by Ron Smith, is another helpful resource.

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