Friday, April 29, 2011

(Royal) Slumgullion #59

Thanks for taking time out from your Prince William and Kate Middleton merry festivities to check out my blog today. The picture above was taken by my wife Pam during our 2006 swing through Europe in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary. May the Royal Couple experience as much joy as Pam and I have during the past 15 years.

Speaking of anniversaries, Tributosaurus will be celebrating its 10th with a sort of year-long greatest hits series. The band, known for its rotating ensemble of musicians and ability to sound identical to artists from The Beatles to Michael Jackson, will be performing 12 of its best shows. There will be one each month, starting with a tribute to Bruce Springsteen in August. Other bands who’ll be honored include Jackson, Queen (the band, not Elizabeth), Pink Floyd, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder. Ten of the gigs are scheduled at Tributosaurus’s usual haunt, Martyrs’, and two will be at the Vic Theatre.

Maple Mars is heading to England, but not as guests of the Royal Newlyweds. The California-based power pop band, led by singer-guitarist Rick Hromadka, will be promoting its latest CD, Galaxyland in a series of U.K. gigs that includes London on May 19th, Liverpool May 23rd, and Edinburgh on May 26th. Drop in on these psychedelic sounding Yanks and tell them Broken Hearted Toy sent you.

Actress Lis Sladen wasn’t royalty, but as Sarah Jane Smith, she was one of the long-running British TV series Doctor Who’s most popular characters. She was a regular cast member from 1973 to 1976, but came back for guest appearances, and also starred in a successful spinoff, the more kid-friendly Sarah Jane Adventures. Sadly, she died of cancer on April 19th. One of my favorite Doctor Who moments since the series returned in 2005 was when the 10th incarnation of The Doctor, played by David Tennant, saw Sarah Jane for the first time in quite a while. His wide, joyous grin, reminiscent of Tom Baker’s portrayal of The Doctor, said so much about the deep emotion he felt for her. The fifteen-minute My Sarah Jane: A Tribute To Elisabeth Sladen recently aired on the BBC, featuring commentary from Tennant, current Doctor Who star Matt Smith, and other cast members.

Rainbow Connection. Singer-songwriter Amy Kuney has created a cautionary video for her song, “Gasoline Rainbows,” which deals with the 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill. The song is from the compilation album of the same name, which was put together by One Tree Hill cast members Sophia Bush and Austin Nichols.

Who’s That Girl? Falling for a mysterious stranger has long been a part of popular culture, as evidenced by the Curt character so comically brought to life by Richard Dreyfuss in American Graffiti. His obsession with the T-bird driving blond played by Suzanne Somers works because it’s so believable. Some guys even swoon for women on TV commercials, which is where the Who Is That Hot Ad Girl? Facebook page comes in. Covered in today’s edition of the Thrillist online newsletter, this helpful site gives the lowdown on actresses who appear in TV ads.

As someone who had a serious crush on the perky brunette Dodge Girl back in the late 1960s, and later on the helpful and beautiful American Express operator in the mid-1980s, I can certainly relate to Who Is That Hot Ad Girl? Check out the site’s Facebook page today for a funny and apparently rarely seen T-Mobile parody of the Royal Wedding.

How To Be A Groovy Guy. The Lost At E Minor online arts newsletter featured an item today from the adult-oriented Viceland blog about a rocking alternative to the dreary custom of funerals. If you have the departed’s remains cremated, the And Vinyly company will press the ashes into a vinyl record that can be played on any stereo. I’m not sure what you’d hear if you played the record backwards, and there was no mention of this service on Record Store Day.

Double Dose Of Dean. Author and musician Dean Milano plans on combining his talents next week. He’ll be singing original tunes and signing copies his book, Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s at 2:00 PM on Thursday at Mather’s Cafe at 3235 N. Central in Chicago, and on Saturday at the Lisle French Market in downtown Lisle.

Rocking In Palatine. And finally, out in Palatine, where Pam and I are often considered the village’s Royal Couple, the summer schedule of outdoor concerts has been announced. Downtown Palatine Street Fest will take place on the weekend of August 26th through 28th. So far, there’s no word on which bands will be performing, but considering The Smithereens and The Bad Examples were involved last year, I have my hopes up. Also, the Sounds Of Summer concerts will be held on Wednesdays and Fridays from the middle of June through the first week of August at the Fred P. Hall Amphitheater. Of particular interest is the July 8th performance by the always entertaining retro rock trio, The Neverly Brothers.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Consolation Prizes: Record Store Day Part Two

After having a quick lunch back at home, I took the Metra into downtown Chicago, where I planned to catch the Blue Line to the Damen stop. Having already checked out Top 5 Records in Palatine, my next Record Store Day destination was the Reckless Records on Milwaukee Avenue. There would be live entertainment, including a set by the new super group Candy Golde. But since I still wanted to find The dB’s “Picture Sleeve” 45, I decided to make a side trip to the Reckless Records on Madison, in the heart of downtown. Even though the store was smaller than the Milwaukee Avenue location, I figured they would be much less busy.

“Actually, that we do have,” a clerk at the downtown Reckless said, in response to my dB’s inquiry. They were out of the R.E.M. singles box set though, and based on what I overheard from customers, most of the other rarities were already gone too. With my dB’s quest completed, I headed off toward Milwaukee Avenue, to soak up some more Record Store Day ambience.

A large crowd had gathered at the back of the store to watch a live performance by the indie rock band Joan Of Arc, but there were also plenty of people sifting through bins of CDs and vinyl. A friendly crew of employees hustled behind the long counter, fielding questions, retrieving merchandise, and handing out promo items. I requested a copy of the free various artists cassette, Reckless Records “Lifers” Vol. One, and a staffer gladly provided it. The tape includes “The Felled Wych Elm” by Chris Connelly, “Amoeba Amore” by The Dials, “I Own A Lot Of Soul Records” by Bride Of Wolf Destroyer,” and 11 other songs.

Just inside the doorway, the popular comic artist known as Plastic Crimewave was drawing rock band caricatures with a black marker for five bucks. I had heard an artist would be doing this, and planned on bringing a Hollies CD jacket to be done, but forgot all about it. When I saw the artist was Plastic Crimewave, who does the syndicated strip Secret History of Chicago Music for The Reader newspaper, I was doubly disappointed that I hadn’t brought a Hollies pic along.

I searched through the bins, but the only Hollies release I could find at Reckless was a vinyl copy of the very early Hear! Here! album. I would have preferred something from the band’s psychedelic era, but Plastic Crimewave did a nice job with the material he had to work with. Pointing to Tony Hicks in the midst of the Hollies caricature, the artist described him as one of rock’s most underrated guitarists.

Joan Of Arc finished its set, and gave way to singer-guitarist Nicholas Tremulis, a veteran of the Chicago music scene, and drummer Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick. The two are members of Candy Golde, which also includes John Stiratt of Wilco, and Rick Rizzo of Eleventh Dream Day. The band had made its live debut at SXSW earlier this year, but for the Record Store Day show, Tremulis and Carlos were the only members on hand. The duo played songs from the Candy Golde EP, which is being released in May, and plugged their upcoming gig at The Double Door.

After Tremulis and Carlos finished their set, I decided to head home. I may not have found all the records I had been searching for, but the day had been a success in so many other ways. Long live vinyl!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Consolation Prizes: Record Store Day Part One

I had intended to post this piece over a week ago, but my obsession with International Pop Overthrow - Chicago got in the way.

My wife Pam and I have a running joke about when one of us has to admit to being wrong. It’s based on an episode of Happy Days where the usually self-assured Fonz is faced with such a situation, and is unable to fully articulate his guilt. So what he says sounds like, “I was wrrrrrrrrrrr” instead of a simple “I was wrong.”

So, I was wrrrrrrrrrrr about this year’s Record Store Day. When Pam asked if I wanted to get up early that Saturday morning in order to be one of the first customers clamoring for the vinyl rarities at Top 5 Records in Palatine, I assured her there was no need to do that. It was a new store in a sleepy suburb, and most people weren’t even aware of its existence.

It was almost 11:00 AM when I arrived at Top 5 Records, which currently occupies a space in The Wolff's Flea Market at 1775 N. Rand Road. Store owner Alan Brostoff hopes to move into a permanent location in the near future. One of his employees told me their supply of Record Store Day treasures had been pretty much wiped out within minutes of opening. The R.E.M. boxed singles set from their latest release, Collapse Into Now, the Foo Fighters Medium Rare covers album, and several other items were already gone. As it turned out, they never did get the dB’s “Picture Sleeve” 45 that was at the top of my wish list.

Brostoff told me that he had checked around the area, and found similar situations among his competitors. Records had quickly sold out and there were rumors that some of them were already showing up on eBay. No one had received the Daft Punk 10” Translucence, and apparently one location didn’t get any Record Store Day merchandise at all. Still, Brostoff felt that the success of Record Store Day should help Top 5 Records get its feet on the ground. And what was good news for him was good news for independent record stores everywhere.

Brostoff made sure I received one of the bags of free items his store was giving out for the occasion, which included a Top 5 Records t shirt; a pack of Soundgarden buttons; a Record Store Day magazine with Beady Eye on the cover; a limited edition Select-O-Hits sampler of artists like James Taylor, Dennis Diken from The Smithereens, and Heather Myles; plus Sub Pop Terminal Sales Vol. 4, which featured Fleet Foxes, Low, J Mascis, Dum Dum Girls, and other cutting-edges acts. Not a bad haul considering I had been so wrrrrrrrrrrr.

Coming up: Riding the rails to Reckless Records.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Double Shot Of IPO - Chicago: Part 2

Graphic from the cover of the International Pop Overthrow Midwest ‘11 Official Program And Guide. Graphic Design and Layout: Jim Horan; Art Director: Steve Stanley.

The sights, the sounds, and the people of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2011.

Shortly after arriving at The Abbey Pub around 7:30 Saturday night, I went over to say hello to Founder and CEO David Bash and Executive Vice President Rina Bardfield of International Pop Overthrow and congratulate them on another great Chicago festival. Over the past 10 days, they had brought an amazing range of talent to the stages of The Red Line Tap and The Abbey Pub, and now it had come down to the 2011 finale. Bash confirmed that the April 23rd showcase was the first in IPO - Chicago history to be sold out.

With the line-up down to five bands (I have no idea of what happened to Johnny Monaco) the starting time for Saturday night’s opener, Waiflike was pushed back to about 8:15. The trio, comprised of founding member guitarist-vocalist Richard Neil Miller, drummer Lucas Frantom, and guest musician bassist Lennie Dietsch from Verbow, were dressed in black and played a hard-hitting type of catchy pop. Miller and Dietsch both seemed to be playing lead, which made for some powerful music.

There was a large crowd at The Abbey by this time, and the mood was genuinely festive. Several of the night’s musicians were already in the house, including members of The Valley Downs and Van Go. Brad Elvis and Chloe F. Orwell of The Handcuffs were hanging out, as well as members of Penthouse Sweets. An old friend of mine, Boris, came up to say hello. I hadn’t seen him since the days when we used to hang out at Harlows/Pips/Haywires (the club went by various names but basically kept the same format) on the southwest side back in the mid-1970s to early 1980s.

“They don’t sound like their name,” Boris noted, referring to Waiflike. I also ran into Althea Legaspi, my former editor at the Illinois Entertainer, who now writes for the Chicago Tribune, among other publications. She wrote the liner notes for Material Issue’s International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition, and did an interview with bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko for radio station WBEZ.

Material re-Issue blasted through the unforgettable opening trio of girl songs from the International Pop Overthrow album (“Valerie Loves Me,” “Diane,” and “Renee Remains The Same”) before directly addressing the crowd. Phil Angotti wisely didn’t try to imitate the late Jim Ellison’s personality or dress like him; he was basically the same guy who had performed songs from his own CD on the previous night. He let the nattily dressed bassist Ted Ansani do most of the talking, and humbly waved off the occasional compliment Ansani paid him.

“We’ve got the whole album to do for you this evening,” Ansani said after the trio had played the romantic “This Letter.” The trio excelled on all 14 original tracks, as the audience sang along, clapped, and cheered. Angotti was impressive on guitar, and varied his vocal approach from the yelp of “Trouble” to the more subtle “Very First Lie.” The songs, like The Ramones-inspired title track, the joyous “Crazy,” and the abrasive “Chance Of A Lifetime,” have held up well over two decades.

Material re-Issue left the stage after playing “Li’l Christine,” the final track from International Pop Overthrow, but quickly returned for an encore, joined by guitarist Jay O’Rourke from another one of Chicago’s premier bands, The Insiders. They performed “Next Big Thing” from the Destination Universe album, plus “Goin’ Through Your Purse” and “Kim The Waitress” from Freak City Soundtrack. The band returned for yet another encore, with the song “Sixteen Tambourines,” and probably could have played all night as far as the audience was concerned.

“I’d hate to be the poor band following these guys,” Mike Galassini of The Valley Downs joked as he passed by me while everyone was still in the midst of Materialmania. As the next act up, he knew his band would be facing a major challenge. Then again, if The Valley Downs were shrinking violets, they wouldn’t haven’t gone to Liverpool to play an IPO gig at The Cavern Club. Moments later, Galassini received a Karate Kid type message of encouragement from his brother Lou, who would be playing bass for the evening’s final act, Van Go. Unfortunately, a good deal of the crowd had left immediately after the Material re-Issue set.

I saw guitarist Brent Seatter, a veteran of Thrift Store Halo and Kevin Lee’s band, in the crowd, along with his wife Pam. He told me that Thrift Store Halo was back in business and ready to release another CD, which is good news since their last effort, World Gone Mad, included a number of power pop gems.

The Valley Downs, led by vocalist Marianne Shimkus-Galassini and bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini, played songs from their Behemoth EP, along with some energetic new material like “Break My Heart” and “Last Days Of Summer.” Shimkus-Galassini, an engaging performer with a strong voice, frequently harmonized with her husband, while guitarist Todd Rusin cut loose with some inventive strumming. The band took a risk with a slowed-down, Country & Western flavored take on The Clash’s “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” but made it work.

Velvet Cadillacs provided more evidence that sticking around after the Material re-Issue set was a great idea. This is a young band with boundless energy and a brash lead vocalist in the comically-named CD Riviera. Guitar-driven songs like “Wish I Was Cool” and “Somebody’s Crying” had a punk intensity while remaining melodic. “Inside Out,” the title track from a forthcoming release, bodes well for the band’s future.

Unfortunately, I had to leave at around 12:20 to make sure I could catch the last Metra train back home. Van Go was just taking the stage as I was going out the door, so I’ll have to go with what I wrote about them at last year’s IPO - Chicago gig. Back then, I mentioned that the band had four CDs to draw on, and its experience was evident on several melodic but hard-hitting songs. I did get a copy of Van Go’s The Long Lost Last Call, which I’ll be reviewing here in the new future.

And so, the book closes on another successful International Pop Overthrow - Chicago. David Bash will set up shop with a different line-up of bands in Detroit from April 28th-30th, and then wrap up his swing through the Midwest in Milwaukee from May 5th -7th.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Double Shot Of IPO - Chicago: Part One

Poster from Ellis Clark's Facebool page.

The Material re-Issue performance at The Abbey Pub on the final evening of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2011 definitely lived up to all the publicity that preceded it. The SRO crowd at The Abbey Pub roared with approval at the end of the opening number, “Valerie Loves Me,” blowing away any doubts that singer-guitarist Phil Angotti would be embraced for bringing the songs of Jim Ellison back to the stage again. Introducing the trio of Angotti and original members Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko, International Pop Overthrow honcho David Bash had exuberantly proclaimed, “Jim Ellison, this one’s for you!”

About 24 hours earlier, Angotti had been part of an IPO - Chicago showcase at The Abbey that drew a much smaller crowd, but still underscored the sense of community this annual festival tends to foster. Friday night’s opening set was by guitarists Tom Curless and Brian Krumm of Your Gracious Host, who played tuneful indie rock songs like “Surrender Me” and “The Sunrise Nearly Killed Me.” Your Gracious Host’s newest CD, Sleepers Awaken, was available at the merchandise table.

Angotti came on next, performing the bulk of his latest solo effort, People And Places. Well-crafted songs like “Broken Baby Doll House,” “Same Ol’ We,” and “Whatever Happened To. . .” came off well in the live setting, and “My Old Records” featured a guest appearance by Brad Elvis on drums. Tommi Zender, who played drums throughout most of the set, also took a few turns on guitar, and provided harmony vocals. Kevin Junior, who was due up next, joined Angotti on harmony vocals while covering a vintage Kinks song. Keyboards player-vocalist Carolyn Engelmann was also impressive, and would become a familiar face throughout the night by performing on Kevin Junior and Ellis Clark’s sets as well. Angotti dedicated the touching “Parting For Awhile” to the late Carlos Hernandez Gomez, an acclaimed reporter as well as a Beatles fanatic.

Kevin Junior, best known for his symphonic pop music with the acclaimed Chicago band The Chamber Strings, performed a set of melodic songs from his Ruins CD, backed by Lou Hallwas of Penthouse Sweets on keyboards, Angotti on guitar, and Engelmann on keyboards and backup vocals. Junior and Angotti harmonized beautifully on several songs, and toward the end of the set, guest musicians Brad Elvis and Ellis Clark came on board. Junior announced that The Chamber Strings will be playing their first live gig in two years at The Hideout on May 19th.

Ellis Clark and Epicycle came on next, with Engelmann on keyboards, Charlie (sorry, I didn’t catch his last name) from Phil Angotti’s band on bass, and Brad Elvis on drums. As David Bash pointed out during his introduction, singer-guitarist-keyboards player Clark has explored numerous types of music throughout his career, always with wit and imagination. Friday night’s show included catchy songs like “Strange Days,” “Big Day,” and the satiric “I’m So Cool.” The set included new songs like “The Lucky Ones” and (I’m guessing on the title) “Hand Of Love.”

Brothers Jonathan and Robert Scott of Doleful Lions unleashed sheets of shimmering sound via their guitars and pre-recorded synth beats. Their songs, like the title track of their latest CD, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison, recalled the UK shoegazer music of the 1990s.

Penthouse Sweets were minus bassist Eric Chial for their IPO - Chicago gig, and aside from the occasional odd comment like vocalist-guitarist Andy Hansen telling guitarist-vocalist Lou Hallwas, “You looked like Adolph Hitler for a minute there,” the musicians didn’t joke around as much as in past shows. Still, it’s always fun to take in the band’s freewheeling brand of melodic pop. New songs like “Dark Eyes” and a cover of The Who’s “Pictures Of Lily” were particularly strong, and Penthouse Sweets wrapped up the evening with a rollicking version of The Replacements’ “I.O.U.”

Members of Penthouse Sweets showed up at The Abbey Pub long before they were due to go on, and Curless and Krumm from Your Gracious Host hung out long after their opening set was over. It’s inspiring how much the bands involved with International Pop Overthrow support each other. Mike Galassini from 92 Degrees and The Valley Downs was also hanging out, as was Chloe F. Orwell, Brad Elvis’s partner in crime from The Handcuffs. Phil Angotti pretty much spent the entire evening at Friday’s showcase, and I had a chance to ask if he was nervous about the Material re-Issue gig coming on the following night. He said he felt a little nervous, but strongly believed he, Ansani, and Zelenko were ready.

Coming Up: A sold-out crowd finds Material re-Issue is ready.

Friday, April 22, 2011

IPO - Chicago 2011: On With The Show, This Is It

Mike Zelenko and Ted Ansani on their way to meet Phil Angotti at The Abbey.

Almost from the moment the 2011 International Pop Overthrow - Chicago schedule was announced, the bands slated for April 23rd were warning their friends on Facebook to buy tickets in advance. The reason for their concern was a Material re-Issue gig, set right in the heart of the six-band showcase. Veteran singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, joined by original members bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, would be playing Material Issue’s legendary debut, International Pop Overthrow from start to finish.

It’s a safe bet promoter David Bash, who staged his first International Pop Overthrow in Los Angeles back in 1988, is thrilled to have International Pop Overthrow the album playing such an integral role in his traveling festival’s 10th anniversary visit to Chicago.

As expected, the April 23rd evening lineup at The Abbey Pub has sold out. But here’s some advice for anyone who does have tickets: Arrive early enough to see the bands performing before Material re-Issue, and check out the bands coming on afterward. One of the true joys of International Pop Overthrow the festival is the variety of talent Bash brings together for his showcases.

Singer/multi-instrumentalist Richard Neil Miller is by no means fragile in his Waiflike project, which finds him performing energetic, British Invasion inspired songs like “Sober Now” and “Dime Store Daisy.” In addition to catchy power pop, Waiflike also dabbles in more acoustic material like “Running In Place.”

Former Enuff Z’nuff singer-axeman Johhny Monaco carried on the tradition of that industrial-strength power pop band with the songs on his 2007 solo debut, Overrated. “Still Haven’t Called” and “LetsSetOurHeartsSelfDestruct” combine layered vocals and strong melodies within energetic arrangements, while “I Like You More” has a White Stripes whimsical feel.

It’s common to find a lot of musicians hanging out at International Pop Overthrow, supporting each other’s gigs and catching up with old friends. The WXRT-sponsored Material re-Issue show has been getting loads of media attention, which should mean even more musicians at the Abbey Pub. In my recent review of the International Pop Overthrow 20th Anniversary Edition for the Illinois Entertainer, I described the album as proving “the staying power of lead vocalist-guitarist Jim Ellison’s songwriting ability, and the memorable songs he created with bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko.” I also noted that, “Ellison pretty much concentrated on affairs of the heart, but approached the topic from various directions and filled his songs with believable characters whose emotions were readily recognizable.” Angotti will face a mammoth challenge in playing Ellison’s role onstage, but he’s a longtime friend of the band, as well as a gifted artist in his own right. It’s not likely anyone will come away from this show disappointed.

The Valley Downs, led by the husband wife team of singer Marianne Shimkus Galassini and bassist-vocalist Mike Galassini, have released two EPs of well-crafted indie rock. In my Broken Hearted Toy review of the band’s untitled second EP, I said, “the band continues to craft melodic songs that sound like tracks from a Bangles CD, or perhaps The Continental Drifters. There’s also a definite Beatles influence running through these four tracks.” The band has played several IPO gigs in Chicago and other cities.

The Velvet Cadillacs add a Warren Zevon type of dark humor to revved up songs like “Things I Plan To Do” and “Holiday Inn.” The guitars of CD Riviera and Karl Caprice Classic are always prominent, and Riviera’s raw vocals suit the frequently criminally-inclined lyrics.

While listening to the Van Go CD, The Long Lost Last Call in preparation for an upcoming BHT review, “Your Three Minutes Are Up” sounded strikingly familiar. Sure enough, that song had jumped out at me during a 2010 IPO Van Go performance. Led by vocalist-guitarist Dave Sippel, the band charged through a cover of Elvis Costello’s “Girl Talk,” as well as hard-hitting originals like “London Underground.”

IPO - Chicago: Various Sounds For A Weekend Afternoon

April in Chicago can be unseasonably chilly. Photo taken from The PondHawks MySpace page.

Saturday night’s rousing climax to International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2011 is officially Sold Out. Fans can still check out an impressive lineup at tonight’s IPO at The Abbey Pub, and there’s an afternoon showcase at The Abbey tomorrow.

Don’t be surprised if the kids from Northbrook Garage go on an Easter egg hunt after their 1:00 PM performance on Saturday. Okay, they’re not that young, but these musicians are currently in 7th and 8th grade. Not that anyone would know that from listening to Elenna “LNA” Sindl’s husky vocals or her band mates’ professional playing. Northbrook Garage’s funky “Under The Hood” should have patrons at The Abbey smiling in amazement.

The four guys from The April Year look pretty young as well. Their highly polished songs, like “Meet Me Here” and “So Much For The Art Museum,” could land the band some heavy radio airplay.

The band Emerson takes an introspective approach to its original material, crafting romantic ballads like “Alright, Okay” and “Tonight.”

The bouncy, piano driven songs by the Minnesota-based The Golden Bubbles have a music hall feel that’s augmented by fun vocal interplay and shifting tempos.

Michigan native Jeremy has an IPO pedigree that goes well beyond Chicago. He taps into classic pop sensibilities on songs like “Pop Rules” and “Come Clean,” but don’t be surprised if he cuts loose with some impressive guitar jamming during his performance.

The PondHawks can cut loose with guitar-driven tunes with a modern edge like “Fire Eyes” and “Midnight Howl,” but also place a strong emphasis on harmony vocals. “Your Mind Is Hard To Find” features them working in a slower, more Beatlesque vein.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Media Blitz Eve - Friday At IPO - Chicago

Saturday, April 23rd is easily the biggest night of International Pop Overthrow - Chicago 2011. WXRT is sponsoring the event, and the Material re-Issue gig, featuring singer-guitarist Phil Angotti, along with original members, bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko, has been generating a lot of publicity. All the attention should result in a packed house, and hopefully some new people who’ll become regular visitors to this annual celebration of power pop and indie rock music.

So, tomorrow is sort of a Media Blitz Eve at The Abbey Pub. There’s a lot of Chicago musical history within this six-act lineup, and as always, promoter David Bash has assembled some impressive talent.

True to its name, Your Gracious Host, a Michigan-based band led by former Autoliner member Tom Curless, exudes an easy-going vibe on tunes like the intricate “Admit To Myself” and more energetic “I Feel Alright.” The band’s indie rock approach is crafted from acoustic and electric guitars, along with layers of vocals. Your Gracious Host has released two CDs, the more recent one being Easy Red.

The spotlight currently being shone on singer-guitarist Phil Angotti is due to his role in Saturday night’s Material re-Issue show, but his new People And Places CD merits attention as well. Angotti’s power pop resume reaches back to the days when he fronted The Idea, so this Friday night’s solo show qualifies as one of IPO - Chicago’s highlights as well.

Singer-guitarist Kevin Junior was one of the chief artists behind the renaissance power pop of The Chamber Strings, a multi-faceted ensemble that has released two critically-acclaimed CDs. Look for his new solo work to carry on in that tradition.

Singer-guitarist-keyboards player Ellis Clark’s contributions extend well beyond Epicycle, which in itself would cover several years of being at the cutting edge of the Chicago music scene. He was also behind the melodic rock of Social Act, and is currently a member of The Handcuffs, the indie rock band fronted by vocalist-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis. Brad Elvis will be at the drum kit for Clark’s Friday’s show.

Doleful Lions have a droll sense of humor that’s manifested in the title of their latest CD on Parasol Records, Let’s Break Bobby Beausoleil Out Of Prison. They also recently posted a minimalist music video by frontman Jonathan Scott on their Facebook page. Some of the off-kilter pop tunes they might be playing Friday night include “Underground Werewolf Scribe Agape” and “The Brooks Brothers Riots.”

Penthouse Sweets are no strangers to The Abbey Pub, having been part of IPO - Chicago showcases there in the past. The band, led by vocalist-guitarist Andy Hansen and guitarist-vocalist Lou Hallwas, combines funny antics and solid musicianship on songs like “Dark Eyes.” “Smart Black Dress,” from the latest EP, See You In Bed, is a rollicking number that evokes The Rolling Stones

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

IPO - Chicago Thursday: Another Fun Lineup at Red Line Tap

All three of these guys are schizophrenic. No, they’re not. Graphic from official New Duncan Imperials website.

Remember that scene in the 1989 Batman flick, when The Joker asks in amazement, “Where does he get all those wonderful toys?” I’ve been thinking about that as I research the acts David Bash has assembled for this year’s International Pop Overthrow - Chicago. Where does he get all these wonderful performers? Here’s the lineup for tomorrow night at Red Line Tap.

Houston, Texas native Chase Hamblin is an eccentric performer who wryly describes his music as Melodramatic Popular Song on his MySpace page. He covers a lot of ground, from the samba beat of “Think Of The Good Times” to the pulsing garage rock of “Never Let You Go,” which could have been a hit for The Yardbirds.

Fronted by vocalist-guitarist Pamela Richardson, The Pralines offer a mix of melodic rock songs like “What To Do About You” and the more folk-rock oriented “Raphael.” The Pralines also tap into some appealing rock-a-billy with “Redeye to Loveland.” Their debut CD is titled Song Of The Day Cafe.

Tenniscourts features members of The Wes Hollywood Show, whose 2003 release Moonraker still stands as one of the best releases by a Chicago power pop band. Catchy songs with gorgeous harmonies like “Swimming Pool” by Tenniscourts carry on that tradition, and the band has just released a new CD titled Dig The New Sounds Of.

Wise guy trio New Duncan Imperials has a long history of performing high-speed, humorous songs like “I’m Schizophrenic (No I’m Not)” on the Chicago club scene. Also known for their outlandish outfits, New Duncan Imperials will have a wealth of CDs to draw from at their IPO - Chicago gig. Their latest release on the Pravda label is sort of a greatest hits package, titled The Singles Collection.

Considering they named their most recent CD Just Ad Nauseam, it’s not surprising to find Wiplot, the final act on tomorrow’s showcase, takes a fun attitude toward making music. A bit of a funk surfaces amidst the harmonies of “Sunshine Factory,” and the band experiments with a psychedelic arrangement on “Minus Mind.” The goofy “Lower Heights” adds another element to Wiplot’s approach.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

When Wednesday Comes - IPO Continues

Photo from The Right Tidys' Facebook page.

Wednesday night’s International Pop Overthrow - Chicago showcase kicks off with Susan Hedges, a Liverpool-based singer-songwriter who’s currently touring the states in support of her latest CD, Faces Without Names. Her lush ballad “Nobody’s Fool” showcases her evocative vocals and ornate piano playing.

Vocalists Erica Loftus and Michelle Tormey of The Right Tidys create playful harmonies on catchy rock tunes, backed by a band that includes bassist-back-up vocalist Lou Galassini of Van Go. (Van Go has the honor of being this year’s final act.) “Rippin’ Me Off” has a garage rock feel similar to what the French four-woman band The Plastiscines are up to these days, while on “Set The Hook” the band takes a sensual new wave approach.

With melodic gems like “Turn Off The Night” and “Take It Out On Me,” it’s no wonder singer-guitarist Lannie Flowers has generated a buzz across the power pop blogosphere. The native Texan will likely be playing tunes off his critically-acclaimed latest CD, Circles.

The name Superbig could be referring to commercial aspirations, but it also applies to the band’s approach to power pop. The melodic but expansive “Way We Were” and “Run Me Over” sound radio-ready, and Superbig adds strings to the emotional “Giving Up On You.”

The Love Shots rough up 1960s style arrangements with raw vocals and guitars in a manner reminiscent of The Clash. The trio actually crafts some sweet harmonies, which add to the allure of catchy songs like the brash “Shutterbug” and the mid-tempo “Banshee.” They’ve just released a six-song EP.

Led by Chicago music scene veteran Tim Ferguson, neo-psychedelic rockers Red Plastic Buddha will close out Wednesday night’s showcase with a series of long form musical trips from their Sunflower Sessions CD. The video for “Forget Me Not” which can be seen on the band’s MySpace page, perfectly captures the Red Plastic Buddha vibe.

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