Friday, July 29, 2011

Slumgullion # 72

Just A Song Before He Goes. Dennis Florine, the singer-guitarist who opened last week’s Blue Whiskey Film Festival in Palatine with an impressive concert with his band The Messengers, has a solo gig in Chicago tonight. He’ll be performing an acoustic “Goodbye Chicago” show at The Irish Oak on 3511 N. Clark Street in Chicago. The show starts at 10:00 PM. Florine isn’t mad at us; he’s getting married and moving downstate.

Land Ho! Expo. Expo 76 sets sail for the Landshark Beer Garden on Navy Pier later this afternoon with a cargo of eclectic cover versions. The show starts at 5:00 PM, so be sure to drop by after work and order a tankard of ale.

The Wait Is Over. Earlier today, I submitted my review of The Handcuffs’ latest CD, Waiting For The Robot to the Illinois Entertainer, so the world will have to wait with bated breath to see what I thought of it. (Hint: If I hated the CD, I wouldn’t be talking about it here.) Or, everyone can judge for themselves by dropping by the Abbey Pub tomorrow night when the band holds it CD release party. The Blissters and Penthouse Sweets are also on the bill. This would be a perfect opportunity to check out The Abbey, which recently went through an extensive, TV show-funded renovation.

Take Me To The River. Elgin is presenting its annual Art & Soul on the Fox festival this weekend, from 11:00 AM Saturday through 5:00 PM Sunday. Artist David Metzger, who portrayed the obsessive, Beatles button chasing fiend on my Manchester Gallery comedy clips on the Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff Internet show, will be displaying his weird but entertaining artwork at Booth 51.

Honky Tonk Happenings. Musician/comedic performer Dave Drazin, a former member of my old comedy group, Famous In The Future, will be joining resonator guitarist/snare drum player Dennis Leise for some country, blues, and ragtime this Sunday at the Honky Tonk Barbecue Restaurant in Chicago. Drazin will be performing during the last hour of Leise’s 4:30 - 7:00 PM set, just prior to headliners the Fat Babies jazz band.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

CD Review: The High Strung - Moxie Bravo

Note: This review first appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

The High Strung’s latest CD, Moxie Bravo would be impressive enough based on lead singer-guitarist Josh Malerman. A gifted songwriter, he delivers his clever lyrics via glam rock vocals while playing guitar with wild abandon. His observations are particularly sharp on the hyper portrait of a workaholic, “A Real Meal Ticket.” Add the mammoth rhythm section of bassist-vocalist Chad Stocker and drummer-vocalist Derek Berk, and you get a trio that blows away the often-used rap that power pop is too precious.

Berk sounds like Keith Moon was his personal tutor whether he’s pounding away on the energetic “Truce” and “Anything Goes” or the slower “Seems It’s One Thing.” Stocker powers the ultra fast “The Luck You Got” and melodic “Deck The Boy With Mettle And Manhood.” All three band members play at full tilt on “Here It Comes Again,” “Never Saw It As Union,” and “On Your Feet,” while the more subtle "The Gentleman" evokes vintage Ray Davies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CD Review: The Dead 60s - Self-Titled

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 2005.

The self-titled debut from The Dead 60s features songs that initially created a stir in England when they were released as singles on an indie label. Anglofiles who recall a similar scenario with The Specials, The Buzzcocks, and The Clash will be glad to find The Dead 60s carrying on the spirit of those bands. Each of the 13 tracks is delivered with intensity and street credibility, whether it’s punk or ska.

“Riot Radio,” the quartet’s first big UK hit, immediately casts singer-guitarist Matt McManamon as a rebel in the style of Joe Strummer. McManamon’s emotionally charged vocals and frenetic strumming continually spark The Dead 60s, although bassist Charlie Turner, guitarist-organist Ben Gordon, and drummer Bryan Johnson play pivotal roles as well. Turner kicks off “Nowhere,” a grim look at factory life, and propels the hard-hitting “The Last Resort.” On the high speed punk track, “Horizontal,” McManamon sneers, “I guess I’m pretty bored with the present day,” while on “Nationwide,” the band uses a soulful ska arrangement in its criticism of an oppressive government.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CD Review: Robin Zander - Self-Titled

Here’s some good news: Cheap Trick has announced through its website and Facebook page that Sandy, the truck driver who was injured when the stage collapsed during the band’s concert at the Ottawa Bluesfest on July 17th, has been released from the hospital.

The following review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 1993.

Robin Zander’s self-titled solo effort isn’t as much of a radical departure from the usual Cheap Trick fare as Interscope Records claims, but it does offer some interesting duets and collaborations with an impressive list of guests. “Boy (I’m So In Love With You)” teams Zander with Christina Amphlett of The Divynyls on a dreamy techno ballad about a rekindled love affair, and Maria McKee adds harmonies to the catchy opening track, “Reactionary Girl.” The amiable light rock tune ‘Secret” gets a boost from Stevie Nicks on back-up vocals and Mick Fleetwood on drums. Other guests include J.D. Souther, Don Felder, Dave Stewart, Dr. John, members of The Heartbreakers, and Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson.

Still, Zander pretty much follows Cheap Trick’s more recent (and successful) formula of balancing power pop with lush ballads, while avoiding the AC/DC overkill of the band’s leaner times. A few of the ballads, like “Show Me Heaven” and “Time Will Let You Know” are a little tepid, but the infectious energy of “I’ve Always Got You” and “Tell It To The World,” as well as a rousing cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump Into The Fire” ensure that Robin Zander is a success.

Monday, July 25, 2011

45 RPM Memories “Happy Birthday”

The electricity is back on at our house, so I’m free to blog away.

I hope all of the people who came here as part of Chicago’s One City One Blog program are enjoying the site and will become regular visitors. This is a feature I do on a semi-regular basis called 45 RPM Memories, where I take a vintage record from one on my 45 cases, scan the cover, and then offer a few observations.

Released in 1981, “Happy Birthday” was the title track of the UK band Altered Images’ debut album. Vocalist Clare Grogan kicks things off by singing the title repeatedly over some bouncy keyboards before the song swings into a classic new wave arrangement. Her appealingly playful voice would work better on later hits like “Don’t Talk To Me About Love,” but this is a fun tune that probably still gets played at a lot of birthday parties. WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert often used it while announcing celebrity birthdays when she had the early morning shift at the progressive rock station. (She’s now the mid-morning deejay.)

While “Happy Birthday” has an irresistible melody, the cryptic lyrics talk about celebrating in a hot bath while people lurk in a dark cupboard with birthday cake. This might be an offbeat way to describe a surprise party, but it still sounds creepy. Usually, my wife Pam and I go to Olive Garden. Then we come home and open my presents while playing this song on my iPad or the boombox.

So, today is my birthday, and I want to thank all of the people who posted best wishes on my Facebook wall. Quite a collection of talented, fun, and supportive friends, if I say so myself. And most of all, I’d like to thank my wife Pam for making every July 25th so special.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't Touch Me, I'm A Real Live Wire

I had wanted to do a post yesterday with profiles of the films scheduled to be shown on the final screening day of the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival here in Palatine. Unfortunately, we lost power Friday night during a storm when a huge branch broke off a tree, landed on the power line, and yanked it right out of the wall of our house. The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival closes today (Sunday) with an awards ceremony at Hotel Bollero in Palatine.

We have temporary power now but it could be out again for days, because an electrician still has to fix the connection to our house, and then it's up to the whims of Com Ed as to when they permanently restore power. They told us we won't be a priority. So if there are no posts here throughout the week, that would be the reason. Hopefully, everything will work out, and I'll be able to keep posting.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Slumgullion #71

Photo from Rhys Darby's Facebook page.

Darby & The Laughing People. Actor/comedian Rhys Darby, who played the hilariously inept agent Murray Hewitt on Flight Of The Conchords, will be performing stand-up this weekend at The Improv, at 5 Woodfield Road in Schaumburg. He has shows at 8:00 and 10:15 tonight; 7:00 and 9:15 PM Saturday, and 7:00PM on Sunday. According to the On The Town section in today’s Chicago Tribune, Darby is also slated to begin filming a new series for CBS called How To Be A Gentleman.

It’s My Party And I’ll Lie If I Want To. Back on April 1st, as part of my second annual April Fools Day post, I stated that newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel had chosen Broken Hearted Toy to be part of his new One City One Blog program. He designated my birthday, July 25th as the date when everyone in Chicago should visit this site. Well, I made that up, but I still think it’s a grand idea. So be sure to come back here Monday, and tell all your friends to drop by as well. Imagine what a birthday treat it will be when my sitemeter registers over a million hits that day.

Fountains Of Wayne have already decided to join in on the fun by appearing on Late Night With David Letterman on Monday. Don’t know if they’ll actually mention my birthday, but I’m sure it will be on their minds. By the way, their latest CD, Sky Full Of Holes, is a power pop gem.

Keep That Whiskey Flowing. The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival rolls on in Palatine tonight. Chris Petlak, who was consistently funny and entertaining as the opening act for Dennis Florine at the festival’s opening night this past Tuesday, has an gig scheduled for Cutting Hall’s outdoor patio at 6:00 PM. Here’s the lineup of films that will shown:

7:00 Yelp: With Apologies To Allen Ginsberg’s Howl A 3-minute experimental effort from director Tiffany Shlain about modern technology, with narration by Peter Coyote.

7:05 Bathing And The Single Girl Director Christine Elise McCarthy serves up an 11-minute comedy about the complications that arise from dating younger guys and hopping in a tub with them.

7:20 The Last Temptation Of Chris A marriage counselor feels conflicted when an old flame and her current spouse come to his office seeking help, in this 12-minute drama directed by Marcus Markou.

Flowers Of Evil Set in Paris and Tehran, director David Dusa’s 98-minute drama centers on a young Frenchman and his Iranian girlfriend, and how their relationship is affected by political unrest and modern technology like YouTube and Twitter.

9:30 Ghost A spirit pays a visit to her parents in this short (8 minutes) experimental film by director Tobias G. Boesen.

9:40 Absentia Director Mike Flanagan’s 91-minute horror film about two sisters who believe a mysterious tunnel is behind the disappearance of several people.

Living With George On HBO. Rolling Stone online reports that renowned director Martin Scorsese has completed a documentary about the quiet Beatle, titled George Harrison: Living In The Material World. It will air in two parts on HBO this coming October. In addition to interviews with George’s widow, Oliva; Paul McCartney; Ringo Starr; Eric Clapton; Yuko Ono; and Tom Petty, Living will include previously unseen footage and photos.

Five Flat Musicians And A Bunch Of Film. The FLAT FIVE, a quintet of veteran singer-songwriters that plays a variety of musical genres, will be making one of its rare appearances at the Old Town School Of Folk Music next Saturday as part of Chris & Heather’s 16mm Film Fest Opening. The band, which features Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Alex Hall, places an emphasis on harmony vocals while covering everything from 1960s tunes by The Beach Boys and The Mamas & The Papas to the country rock of Asleep At The Wheel. As for the fest, indie cartoon artist Heather McAdams and musician Chris Ligon will be presenting an eclectic collection of vintage film clips.

Shakin’ With Schingoethe And The Dames. Faith In The Fallen, the hard rock band fronted by vocalist Guy Schingoethe, a current member of New Millennium Theatre and a former member of my old comedy group Famous In The Future has a hot date with the burlesque troupe The Flaming Dames on July 30th at the Vision night club. Faith In The Fallen will opening for The Dames, who’ll be performing Talk Dirty To Me, their successful revue honoring big hair bands of the 1980s. Vision is located at 632 N. Dearborn.

Their Hearts Belong To Paul. Heart, who’ll be in town on July 28th as part of a double bill with Def Leppard at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, has recorded a pair of songs for an upcoming Paul McCartney tribute CD. BB King, The Cure, Billy Joel, and Kiss have also contributed tracks.

Rock, Rock, Rock Rock, Rock And Roll Night School. Next Wednesday, July 27th, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame will offer the first in a series of evening classes in the Foster Theater at its museum in Cleveland. The initial installment, titled Women Who Rock (Part 1 of 8) Exploration And Exhibition, will focus on how creative and business opportunities for women have evolved throughout the history of rock. The classes will be held from 7:00 to 8:30 PM on the last Wednesday of each month. Admission is free and reservations are not required.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CD Review: The Buzzcocks - Trade Test Transmissions/BWiFF Continues

Before getting to my review of The Buzzcocks’ 1993 CD, Trade Test Transmissions, here’s what's going on at The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Fest, which continues tonight in Palatine. These five entries will be shown at Cutting Hall.

7:00 PM Odd Shoe Paul Cotter directs a 10-minute drama about a young boy who’d love to replace his ratty-looking shoes before asking out the girl of his dreams.

7:10 Diversion A Chicago lawyer gets caught up in international intrigue while trying to save his family from threats made by an anonymous phone caller. Chris Folkens directed this 14-minute suspense film.

7:30 Happily After A budding romance morphs into a potentially dangerous love triangle involving an ex-husband in director John Klein’s 75-minute thriller.

9:15 Undercity Director Andrew Wonder follows urban historian Steve Duncan as he takes viewers into rarely-seen sections of New York City in this 28-minute documentary.

9:45 The Wanteds Director Stephanie Smith’s 86-minute documentary/drama about eccentric musician Tommy Harrington, who discovers his girlfriend is pregnant just as he’s about to launch a national tour as the one-man band, The Wanteds.

Note: The following review appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 1993.

Any doubt that The Buzzcocks could still be vital in the 1990s is blown away by “Innocence,” the second track on Trade Test Transmissions. As lead vocalist-guitarist Pete Shelley sings, “Something hesitated in the sky when I found you/Something emanated from your eyes, my dream came true,” the band plays at full tilt behind him. Combining romantic longing with unbridled punk energy has been The Buzzcocks’ specialty since this UK band formed in 1977.

This is the first release to showcase what The Buzzcocks have been up to since Shelley and guitarist Steve Diggle revived the band with new recruits, Phil Barker and Tony Barber in 1991. The commercial first single, “Do It” has enough power to carry it past any accusations that these guys are selling out, and “Alive Tonight” captures the excitement of hitting the local party scene. The Buzzcocks explore more disturbing material on songs like the paranoia-driven “Last To Know” and nightmarish “Unthinkable,” but the melodies never lag.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Blue Christmas In July

Poster art from The Dead Inside website.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival, in conjunction with CNGM Pictures, kicked off its 2011 run here in Palatine last night by treating the town to a double dose of free indie rock music. Some people may have been surprised when opening act, singer-guitarist Chris Petlak, took the stage since he wasn’t listed on the schedule. But the Mount Prospect native, who also played at last year’s BWiFF opening bash, quickly won them over with his performance and sense of humor.

Petlak’s jokes, which were frequently at the expense of audience members, were funny enough to keep anyone from complaining. He deftly incorporated alternative rock and rap throughout a mix of originals and imaginative covers, sometimes coming across as a one-man Flight Of The Conchords. His stripped down take on Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was particularly good. Steve Flint, a member of Dennis Florine’s band The Messengers, added percussion to many of Petlak’s songs.

Singer-guitarist Dennis Florine returned to his hometown armed with a new CD titled O’ World, What A Beautiful Tragedy, and backed by a first rate band called The Messengers. The crew at Cutting Hall did a bang up job creating an elaborate set, and Florine, who has acted in Shakespeare productions, often added a theatrical flair to his vocal style. At one point, he sang to a blond damsel who appeared in an actual tower that rolled majestically onto the stage.

Florine’s music, particularly the hit, “Romina,” is radio-friendly alt-rock with an emphasis on emotional lyrics. Having never seen him before, I didn’t connect with the songs as much as his fans would, but it was impossible not to be bowled over by the sheer power of his voice. A cover of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” was a stunning showcase for Florine and his band, and they also impressed with U2’s “With Or Without You.” Dennis Florine is definitely a native Palatine can be proud of, and this opening night double bill was a well-appreciated gift from the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival.

After the live performances last night, the BWiFF showed rock videos on a huge screen. Some were run of the mill, but the clips by Walk The Moon, The Bell Beat, and Ben Folds mixed good songs with eye-catching imagery.

The fest continues through Sunday, and there is a cover charge for the remaining events. See the website for ticket information. Here are the BWiFF flicks being shown tonight at Cutting Hal:

7:00 Machines Of The Working Class A two-minute comedy from directors James Dastoli and Robert Dastoli about the dreams of a couple of blue collar workers.

7:05 Implants Director Pardis Parker’s two-minute digital comedic film.

7:10 The Oldest Profession Six-minute comedy directed by Lori Bohner, in which a CPA compares his occupation with being a hooker.

7:20 The Fourth Director Jared Varava looks at the dreams of a trio of guys in tight shorts in this 17-minute comedy.

7:40 No Names Director Enrico Natale’s sitcom pilot about two recently evicted guys staying with a friend who’s in the entertainment biz.

8:10 Turkey Bowl A game of touch football is played out in real time (64 minutes) in this Thanksgiving comedy directed by Kyle Smith.

9:30 Animal Control Kire Paputts directed this drama about a lonely man who combines his job in Animal Services (picking up roadkill) with his taxidermy hobby.

9:50 The Dead Inside Director Travis Betz takes the tale of a photographer trying to help his girlfriend overcome an evil spirit, and makes it a musical.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

CD Review: Fan Modine - Gratitude For The Shipper

Before moving on to the Fan Modine CD review, just a quick note that The Postelles have a special seasonal offering titled Summer Undercovers available for a free download at their website. The New York-based band covers The Smiths, Joe Jones, Wreckless Eric, and The Ramones.

Note: The following review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.

Gratitude For The Shipper marks the third time singer-guitarist Gordon Zacharias, an eccentric veteran of the Minneapolis indie rock scene, has released a CD using the Fan Modine name. Produced by Daniel 13 label honcho/former R.E.M. manager Jefferson Holt, along with The dB’s founder Chris Stamey, and Zacharias himself, it’s an ingratiating collection of offbeat pop tunes with fanciful lyrics and irresistible melodies. The CD twists through several tempo changes before settling into a slow, melodic groove through the last three songs.

Fan Modine taps into a Sufijan Stevens style of baroque indie rock on “Julu Road,” using ringing guitars and interwoven vocals, while the exuberant “M.O.I. (Can We Dance?),” with its 1980’s club beat, is an invitation that can’t be turned down. “Wormwood Scrubbs” is a breezy concoction made up of equal parts old time music hall, 1960s era psychedelia, and lilting strings, while the title track has fun with a steady beat, an unidentified female back-up vocalist, and lyrics about ‘sailing to a future world.” “Waiting For Distant Light,” collapses under the weight of a slow moving, 1970s hard rock ballad arrangement, but it’s the only track on Gratitude For The Shipper that fails to entertain.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Another Shot Of Whiskey

Photo from the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival website.

The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival returns to Palatine for its second year tomorrow and runs through July 24th. Founded by Michael P. Noens and J. Spencer Greene, the BWiFF will screen 29 films from across the globe at Cutting Hall (150 E. Wood Street), ranging in length from two minutes to 108 minutes. Virtually every genre will be represented, including Mike Flanagan’s horror film, Absentia; Travis Betz’s The Dead Inside, which is a musical horror film; Enrico Natale’s sitcom pilot No Names; Kire Paputts’s drama Animal Control; Jared Varava’s comedy The Fourth; Adrien Merigeau’s animated short, Old Fangs; and Andrew Wonder’s documentary, Undercity. See the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival website for the full schedule and film descriptions.

The festival kicks off with a free opening night ceremony at 7:00 PM Tuesday, featuring Dennis Florine, a singer-guitarist who grew up in Palatine. Florine recently released his second CD, Oh World, What A Beautiful Tragedy. The Palatine-based Theatre Nebula is sponsoring Florine’s performance. Singer-guitarist Chris Petlak, who performed at last year’s Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival, has a gig as part of the new “On The Patio” feature, at Cutting Hall on Friday 6:00 PM.

Opening night will also feature specially chosen music videos by artists like Turin Brakes; Lykke Li; Ben Folds (doing a song with lyrics by High Fidelity author Nick Hornby); The Bell Beat; The Material; Gypsyblood; Walk The Moon; and Jackie Daum. The Blue Whiskey Film Festival has worked with an assortment of international musicians on a Festival Soundtrack. More information about the various artists will be available in the lobby of Cutting Hall.

The films will be shown from 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM Wednesday through Friday, with two separate blocks of screenings (12:30 PM to 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM) on Saturday. There will also be a Dinner With The Filmmakers at Emmetts Restaurant, at 110 N. Brockway Street, from 4:45 to 6:30 on Saturday, while on Sunday, an Awards Brunch will be held from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM at Hotel Bollero, 920 E. Northwest Highway in Palatine. Three judges, John Oak Dalton, David B. Grelk, and Pete Guither, will confer on which filmmakers receive the honors.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Slumgullion #70

Photo from Baron Wolman’s website.

Let Us Pray. Decoy Prayer Meeting is a C&W/rockabilly outfit that includes vocalist-guitarist Eric Chial from Penthouse Sweets and Bon Mots; former Bon Mots drummer Jason Styx; bassist-vocalist Brian Stout from Le Concorde; and pedal steel guitarist Ken Champion from Smog. They’ll be playing melodic, thought-provoking songs like “Younger Than You” and “Jackboot” during a single set at The Horseshoe club at 4115 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago tonight, followed by the Austin, Texas based band Horse Opera.

Good To Go. The hard-edged power pop band Go Time! also has a date at The Horseshoe this weekend, sharing the bill with Headless Troubadour and Justin And The Salty Dogs tomorrow night. I reviewed Go Time!’s Hit It CD in an earlier post, noting the band never loses track of the melody while charging through songs like “Sudden Death” and “Wilmette.”

The Baron Of Rock Photography. Rock Art Show, an online site that sells art and photographs of and by famous musicians, has a special deal for its VIP members on the new book by former Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman. The 176-page effort, titled The Rolling Stone Years, collects pictures from his days of working at the magazine from 1967 -1969, some of which have never been seen before. The book also includes Wolman’s behind the scenes stories about photo shoots, hanging out with Mick Jagger, The Who, Janis Joplin, George Harrison, and Jimi Hendrix, as well as being onstage at Woodstock. Wolman will sign and personalize copies of the first printing/first edition for those who purchase The Rolling Stone Years through Rock Art Show by August 1st . Total price will be $48.90, including shipping.

Rock From The Heart. A number of acts will be coming together at The Heartland Cafe on Saturday, July 23rd for Real Vision Is In The Heart, A Benefit for the Choroideremia Research Foundation. (Choroideremia is a hereditary eye disease that affects peripheral vision and ultimately results in blindness.) The Hannah Frank Trio, WhiteWolfSonicPrincess, The Telepaths, Urban Twang, and seven other performers will take part from 8:00 PM to 1:00 AM. There is a $5 donation. The Heartland Cafe is located at 7006 N. Glenwood Avenue in Chicago.

A Recurring Dream. Cheap Trick, along with the Rhythmic Noise Philharmonic Orchestra & Mind Choir in 4D, plans on bringing its multi-media Dream Police show back to the Northern Lights Theater in Milwaukee for 10 performances starting on October 7th. Tickets go on sale tomorrow. Still would love to see them bring a show like this to Chicago.

Beady’s Back. The Oasis offshoot Beady Eye has announced a U.S. tour for this Fall. So far, the only dates are at the 9:30 club in Washington, DC on December 8th and at the Terminal 5 club in New York City on December 9th. Hopefully, more dates will follow.

Your Say It’s Her Birthday. Beatles tribute band Liverpool Legends will be staging a special concert at The Mansion Theatre in Branson, Missouri on August 16th in honor of Louise Harrison’s 80th Birthday. The Bash for George’s big sis starts at 8:00 PM. Ticket price is $19.21.

Women On Weapon. “Boris” Boden, a graphic designer who creates work for SoPro and other music-related clients, has been an avid fan of power pop and indie rock for decades. So it’s no surprise he’s amassed more songs than most countries have citizens. It’s now possible to check out his impressive collection via Secret Weapon, which is part of the online Canadian-based Woody Radio.

One of his regular programs, “Women And Chords First,” can be heard each Wednesday, and recently offered Rachel Sweet doing the medley “Then He Kissed Me”/“Be My Baby” and Bazooka Jones covering “These Boots Are Made For Walking.” “Everything on the Secret Weapon is from my collection of music,” Boden explained through a Facebook message. Station Manager DJ Gidget, who’s based in Indiana, “is the keeper of the store. She loads them up and oversees the operation.” Secret Weapon can also be accessed through its Facebook page.

Hopefully They’ll Rise Again. Garage rockers Michael Lux And The Bad Sons are describing their Thursday, July 21st gig at The Empty Bottle as their last in Chicago “for some time.” Not sure what that means, but it might be a good idea for the group’s fans to check it out. Lux is also the lead guitarist for the rock band Hollus.

Waterloo In Schaumburg. Prairie Center for the Arts in Schaumburg kicked off its free Summer Breeze 2011 outdoor concert series with The Neverly Brothers last Saturday. Tomorrow night, the tribute band ABBA Salute pays homage to the Swedish chart-toppers. The concert gets underway at 7:00 PM. Upcoming Summer Breeze concerts include Eddie Harrison Band on July 23rd, Midway Ramblers on August 13th, Rio Bamba on August 20th, and Symphonic Pops Orchestra Of Chicago on August 27th.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Cure For The Summertime Blues

Photo from The Smithereens Facebook page.

The Smithereens have become regular summertime visitors to Chicago; having played at least one outdoor concert here in each of the last three years. Last Saturday, they headlined the Roscoe Village Burger Fest, a fitting choice considering the band’s long-held meat and potatoes approach to rock and roll love songs. Singer-guitarist Pat DiNizio, guitarist-vocalist Jim Babjak, and drummer-vocalist Dennis Diken have lost none of their regular guy appeal over the past three decades, and Severo Jornacion, who replaced original bassist Mike Mesaros, always seems to be up for a party. I’ve used this comparison before, but it’s still appropriate to say The Smithereens approach every concert as master craftsmen.

The main question going into Saturday’s show was how many songs The Smithereens would play from 2011, their first album of original material since 1999’s God Save The Smithereens. A sensible guess would have been several since it’s an impressive comeback, with songs like “One Look At You,” “Rings On Her Fingers,” and “What Went Wrong” that stand with the band’s best material. (See my full review in archives, under July 4th) So it was surprising that the energetic “Keep On Running” was the only new tune DiNizio & company did during their regular set. They certainly gave it the same intensity they brought to “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” and “Top Of The Pops.” But it was odd that they didn’t hype 2011 more.

If The Smithereens believed people wanted to hear old favorites, they were fully committed to carrying out that mission. “In A Room Without A View” and “Time And Time Again” featured extensive jamming, and at one point, Babjak and Jornacion jumped from the stage and played in the midst of the SRO crowd. After The Smithereens executed a perfect segue from “House We Used To Live In” into “Sparks” from The Who’s Tommy, DiNizio let out a joyous roar. The man enjoys his work. He thanked Chicago and radio station WXRT for always supporting The Smithereens, before a rousing version of “Only A Memory.” The bass-driven “Blood And Roses” remains a stunning showpiece, and the concert ended on a high note with “A Girl Like You.”

I had to leave before the encores (I assume there were some) in order catch the CTA and Metra back to Palatine. So I may have missed a new song in that portion of the show. Still, it would great if The Smithereens came back soon and concentrated more on 2011. It’s definitely an album that deserves to be heard.

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