Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CD Review: Kathy Valentine - Light Years

Before moving on to the review, which originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer, I’d just like to express how sad I feel about the death of Davy Jones. The Monkees were one of the first bands I followed when I was a teenager. Dismissed by some rock fans as bubblegum, they nevertheless brought a gritty, emotional feel to songs like “(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone” and “She.” There was also the satire of “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Your Auntie Grizelda,” along with the band’s more experimental moments, particularly with Frank Zappa and the film, Head. Farewell, Davy. And thanks for all the fun.

If you’re one of the over 9,000 people who follow singer-bassist Kathy Valentine on Twitter, you know she’s still very active on the music scene. She’s a member of The Go-Go’s, who’ll be performing at the AIDS Assistance Program’s Evening Under The Stars benefits on May 3rd and May 5th in California, and she also writes for and produces other bands. Here’s a look back at a solo effort she released in 2005.

Kathy Valentine of The Go-Go’s swaps her bass for lead guitar on Light Years, which like her band’s 2001 reunion CD, packs quite a punch. She gets solid support on this self-released solo debut from Clem Burke from Blondie, Ace Frehley from Kiss, Pete Thomas from The Attractions, and Gilby Clarke from Guns N’ Roses. The self-described “Texas rocker chick at heart” plays loud and fast, particularly on a cover of Gary Myrick’s “Guitar, Talk, Love, & Drums.”

Valentine frequently creates a girl group sound by overdubbing her vocals. The anti-religious “Creation Myth” features a slinky bass line and hip hop rhythms, while the psychedelic “Happy Endingless” and “Until Then,” a cautionary tale about making the most in life, are the only slow tracks. Otherwise, Valentine rocks out consistently.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Reunited, And It Feels So Good - Haymakers Reunion, Part Two

As Bitch prepared to kick off the festivities, people approached the stage to take pictures of the musicians, say hello, and shake their hands. This friendly ritual between performers and audience members would carry on throughout the day.

Bitch made quite a splash back in the late 1970s by playing hard rock at a time when few all-female bands dared to do that. One of their songs at Durty Nellie’s was about a rock and roll grandma, but there was nothing frail in the way these women approached their first performance together in over three decades. Lorrie Kountz, who had gone on to other bands like Illicit and Surrendur Dorothi after Bitch, wailed on guitar. The four members exuded a joy in performing together again, and that would be evident for all the other bands that followed. Bitch finished with a rollicking version of “Time Warp” from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Pezband Allstars, featuring vocalist-guitarist Mimi Betinis and bassist Mike Gorman, were the only power pop band on the bill, but they did the genre proud. “This is really quite an event, isn’t it?” Betinis noted, already feeling a positive vibe building in the room. The band opened with the lively “Please Be Somewhere Tonight” from Pezband’s 1977 self-titled debut. They tapped into that album as well as later releases, and Betinis added some strong material from his 2010 solo release, All That Glitters. “Love Is Just A Thin Veneer” in particular, proved that he hasn’t lost a bit of his gift for crafting exquisite pop melodies.

Between sets, it was interesting to see current Illinois Entertainer publisher John Vernon conversing with the publication’s founder, Ken Voss. By that point, the room was filled to capacity. Vendors had set up shop in the vestibule, offering Haymakers Reunion t shirts and CDs. Folk singer/author Dean Milano was selling copies of The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s, (an apt book for this event) and singer Jimy Sohns had reps hawking Shadows of Knight merchandise.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, an ill-planned dinner break (it was talking to people on the way out that threw off my timing) caused me to completely miss One Arm Bandit’s set. I apologize to them, but I did hear is was an impressive performance. Guitarist Hoppy Niles, whom I interviewed for a paper called Metro Calendar back in the days when he was with Pin-ups, is one of the more inspiring musicians in Chicago rock.

I also missed Hounds opening their set with “Drugland Weekend,” one of the songs I (and probably everybody else) had most wanted to hear that night. I still have fond memories of WXRT playing “Drugland Weekend” every Friday, as the Hounds quickly rose from the Chicago club scene to a debut on Columbia Records. Lead vocalist John Hunter, dressed in a suit and tie and looking like a cross between Roger Daltrey and Tom Baker era Doctor Who, bounced from the mic to the piano while playing songs from the two Hounds albums, as well as “Tragedy” from his solo LP. After a rousing set, he autographed LPs for people who approached the stage.

Dreamer boasts a trio of singers who take turns on lead vocals and combine for some amazing harmonies on melodic hard rock songs. Sadly, the band’s original drummer has passed away. Greg Potter, a veteran drummer with several bands, did a great job filling in. In a definite departure from Dreamer’s original days at Haymakers, singer-bassist Mark Dawson, who’s also a current member The Grassroots, held up an iPad, on which a woman could be seen waving to the crowd.

In addition to playing at Haymakers, Tantrum was one of the bands that brought a party atmosphere to the Rock Around The Dock stage at ChicagoFest. Comprised of singers Barb Erber, Sandy Caulfield, and Pam Bradley, backed by five musicians, Tantrum played melodic rock with an emphasis on harmonies. At times, their set at the reunion had the appeal of a well-orchestrated Las Vegas revue, and they brought out some impressive guest musicians. Surprisingly, Tantrum didn’t perform “Happy Yesterdays,” a song with a funny reference to the reunion’s co-host, Dirty Dan Buck.

It’s always a good sign at one of these marathon events when performers stick around after their show to support the acts that come on after them. Bitch’s drummer Donna Fraser (who had flown in from Texas for the reunion) and bassist Donna Kirkendall Lucier were still in the audience a good five hours after their set, cheering on Madfox (and later, Jimy Sohns). Which was only fitting, since Madfox guitarist Michael J. Kurtz had already been hanging out at Durty Nellie’s while Bitch was playing. Kurtz’s blistering duets with his fellow guitarist gave Madfox a great deal of firepower, and the band has a true showman in its lead singer. The audience was particularly responsive to rampaging covers of The Tubes’ “White Punks On Dope” and Al Green’s “Take Me To The River.”

Jimy Sohns and his band were the final act, and they got a boost from Kurtz, who hung around for a few songs, and Dirty Dan Buck, who shared a mic with keyboards player Cindy Gotshall on “Gloria.” Tantrum vocalist Pam Bradley also came onstage for a number, and I began hoping for a huge finale involving all the musicians who were still on hand. That didn’t happen, but Sohns’s set, which included covers of The Doors and Rolling Stones, was still a fun way to finish the night.

The best way to judge how much the Haymakers Reunion meant to those in attendance is to scroll down the event’s Facebook page. When organizer Maureen Welch Bonifazi posted, “Who’s interested in another reunion this summer?” the responses included, “Oh Hell, Yes!,” “Abso-freakin-LUTELY,” and “How about tomorrow?”

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reunited, And It Feels So Good - The Haymakers Reunion, Part One

Let’s hear it for marathon entertainment. Not the couch potato variety where you just slump back and watch multiple episodes of Gilligan’s Island, but the kind where you travel to a destination to celebrate something you really enjoy, with like-minded people. Bigger events, like Fest For Beatles Fans, C2E2, or ComicCon provide the most variety, but I’ve been known to sit for hours in the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s storefront space watching one production after another during Abbie Fest, or stand for hours watching bands at International Pop Overthrow.

The Haymakers Reunion at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine this past Sunday night had that same communal ambience. Organized by Maureen Welch Bonifazi, former Illinois Entertainer editor Guy Arnston, Cathy Powers-Hall, Christine Trinity, and Chuck Fieldman, the event brought together hundreds of former regulars of Haymakers, a club that hosted the area’s best-known bands back in the 1970s and 80s, to see if they could recapture the magic. All of the profits (after expenses) will go to help two charities: Little Kids Rock, which provides free musical instruments and qualified instructors for K to grade 12 kids in public schools, and Caring Arts, which enlists artists and performers to help those afflicted with cancer.

Eight groups from that era, including, Bitch, Dreamer, Hounds, Madfox, One Arm Bandit, Pezband Allstars, Jimmy Sohns from The Shadows Of Knight, and Tantrum would provide the entertainment. Even though a few of these acts hadn’t performed in over 30 years, they were all impressive in their half-hours sets. Living just five minutes away from Durty Nellies made it easy for me to attend, but I certainly wasn’t the only one who stayed for the entire thing. Sadly, a miscalculation on my part as to when to take a dinner break, resulted in my missing One Arm Bandit’s set and part of the Hounds’ set.

As Durty Nellies began to fill up with a mix of fans and musicians, there were laughs of recognition, hugs, handshakes, and a lot of catching up to do. Mitch Michaels, a popular on-air personality for several of Chicago’s rock stations over the years, and Dirty Dan Buck, former lead vocalist for the hard rock band The Boyzz, served as the reunion’s tireless co-hosts; staying fresh and funny throughout the nearly nine-hour event. Spotting a picture of the notoriously party hardy Rock Around The Dock stage at ChicagoFest on the club’s big video screen, Buck joked, “Rock Around The Dock. If you remember it, you weren’t there.”

The Haymakers Reunion kicked off with a short set of cover versions from New Soundz, a band of young musicians from the Little Kids Rock organization. They were well-received, and afterward it was evident how proud their parents were of them. From then on, it was up to the official reunion bands to keep the party going.

Coming tomorrow: A look at the bands.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Slumgullion #102

Singer-guitarist Mimi Betinis will be bringing his band to the Haymakers Reunion at Durty Nellie's this Sunday. Former fellow Pezband member Mike Gorman will be joining him for a few songs. Hopefully, Betinis will also play songs from his impressive 2010 CD, All That Glitters. Photo from the Mimi Betinis Facebook page.

Here’s a birthday toast to George Harrison, who would have turned 69 tomorrow. WXRT in Chicago is getting a jump on the celebration by designating him as their Friday Featured Artist. The station will be playing his songs with The Beatles, as well as songs from his extensive solo career, throughout the day. Terri Hemmert will also honor George on this Sunday’s edition of her weekly program, Breakfast With The Beatles, from 8:00 to 10:00 AM. Non-Chicago residents can stream WXRT via the station’s website.

The Jokes4Miles event returns to Leona’s restaurants in the Chicago area tomorrow night. Drop by the location nearest you from 5:00 to 11:00 PM and you’ll find a friendly camera person ready to record your joke for Miles Austrevich. I’ll be helping out at the Des Plaines location.

Miles is currently receiving treatments for brain cancer and gets an emotional boost from the jokes he receives from celebrities and everyday people. His father, stand-up comedian Len Austrevich, hopes to collect 5,000 videos. There’s also a documentary in the works, and Len is accepting donations via the IndieGoGo funding site to help cover the cost of production.

1980s garage rockers, The Del Fuegos have reunited, and will be performing at Lincoln Hall, at 2424 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago tomorrow night. The band’s debut, Longest Day, offered some classic examples of the genre, including the title track,“Nervous And Shakey,” Backseat Nothing,” and “Mary Don’t Change.” Back in the day, I used to love combining Del Fuegos and Plimsouls songs on my mixed cassettes. As I mentioned in last week’s Slumgullion, Alive Natural Sound Records just released Beach Town Confidential, which captures The Plimsouls performing songs like “Shakey City” (a perfect segue from “Nervous And Shakey”), “Magic Touch,” and “A Million Miles Away” at the Golden Bear club in 1983.

Chicago may have the G8 Summit coming up in May, but here in my sleepy suburb of Palatine, we have the Haymakers Reunion. Eight acts and hopefully a lot of former regulars of the rock club (362 according to the reunion’s Facebook page) will be coming to Durty Nellie's this Sunday for an event that runs from 2:00 until 11:30 PM. The lineup includes Bitch, Dreamer, Hounds, Madfox, One-Arm Bandit, Pezband Allstars (including original members Mimi Betinis and Mike Gorman), Tantrum, and former Shadows Of Knight lead vocalist, Jimmy Sohns.

I never made it out to Haymakers, but I’ve written about most of the bands at one time or another, so I’ve got my ticket. Plus, Durty Nellie’s is only a five-minute walk from my house. A note to anyone thinking about taking public transportation to the reunion: the Metra Northwest line pretty much stops at Durty Nellie’s doorstep. Catch the 12:30 train from Chicago’s Ogilvie Transportation Center at 12:30 PM and you’ll arrive in Palatine at 1:24 PM. From that point on, trains run to Palatine every two hours through 8:30 PM. Keep in mind though for your ride back, the last Metra train stops in Palatine at 9:25. Miss that one, and you may have a long walk home. Earlier trains leave Palatine at 7:25, 5:25, and 3:25.

Local singer-songwriter Briar Rabbit (AKA Phillip Michael Scales) will be celebrating the digital release of The Great Routine as part of the 4th Annual Windy City Winter Ball tomorrow night (February 25th) at Subterranean. Pet Lions, Brighton, MA, and Ben Keeler are also on the bill. The event starts at 8:00 PM and admission is $10.

Briar Rabbit has been releasing a free download each week in February as part of Black History Month. The Great Routine is a thought-provoking four-song concept album about black actors in black face performing funny but racist comedy bits in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The Britannicas, three power pop musicians who record songs together despite each of them being on a different continent, are working on a new EP. In keeping with that international/indie vibe, the new songs from Swedish guitarist-vocalist Magnus Karlsson, American bassist-vocalist Herb Eimerman, and Australian drummer-vocalist Joe Algeri are being previewed on radio stations around the world and can be streamed on the web. Updates and details are being posted on the trio’s Facebook page.

Don’t be surprised if you see the people at Mary-Arrchie doing the Church Lady’s superior dance these days. The theatre has been selling out shows during its current production of the Tracy Letts play, Superior Donuts. Artistic Director Cotovsky is reprising the role of donut shop owner Arthur Przybyszewski, which he played when Superior Donuts was being staged in 2010 at the Studio Theatre in Washington. D.C. The Mary-Arrchie version runs through March 25th.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

45 RPM Memories: The Blasters - “So Long, Baby, Goodbye”

Back in 1981, when I was working at a Mom & Pop record store in the Ford City Shopping Mall on Chicago’s southwest side, my boss didn’t open many records to play on the stereo. We had Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and a handful of heavy metal releases, but other than that, the only records available were ones that customers had returned. Fortunately, someone brought back The Blasters’ self-titled debut, and I played it just about every night I worked. I bought this single at Kroozin Music, which was a much more hip record store than the one where I was employed.

Breaking up has never been easier than it was for the protagonist of “So Long, Baby, Goodbye.” Voiced by singer-guitarist Phil Alvin, who also contributed some spirited harmonica playing, the lyrics are basically a checklist of reasons for splitting, including, “You made a lot of promises I aint seen yet.” The relationship seemed doomed from the start, as Alvin recalls, “There was a cold wind blowing on the night we met/The leaves fell from the trees.”

The song has a rollicking arrangement fueled by Phil and his brother Dave’s guitar playing and the galloping bass lines from John Bazz, while Lee Allen and Steve Berlin’s saxophone playing adds to the celebratory mood. The Blasters tapped into a vintage rock-a-billy sound, but they also weren’t far removed from the cowpunk of Slash label mates Rank And File.

The B-side, “Border Radio,” offers a more heartbreaking portrait of a troubled relationship, as a woman longs for the man who deserted her and their son. She dedicates a song to him, hoping he’ll hear it via the “50,000 watts out of Mexico” and be inspired to return. Phil Alvin’s vocals convey the woman’s loneliness, and Gene Taylor adds an Americana flavor to the melodic arrangement with some boogie woogie piano playing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

CD Review: PowerPlay FYI - A Normal Life

PowerPlay FYI has 10 members and that’s not including the various guest musicians helping out on the Chicago-based band’s debut CD. The tracks on A Normal Life, written for the most part by keyboards player-vocalist Ruben Agosto, explore various forms of urban contemporary and Latin music. It’s a strong effort from a group that makes its bread and butter playing cover songs at weddings and venues like Green Dolphin Street and Navy Pier.

The melodic title track evokes Robert Cray while depicting the chaotic lifestyle of musicians who also hold down day jobs, and concludes, “The cost can bring you tears/Yet I’d do it all again.” Singer Pamela Fernandez shines on “The Power Of Love,” a smooth ballad that sounds like an old standard updated with soulful horns and a sophisticated vocal arrangement. It’s got great potential as a hit single.

“Amparo,” a song about unrequited love, was obviously influenced by the Latin rhythms and sizzling guitar of Santana, while guitarist David Morales’s “Crazy Music” is an energetic call to party. A breezy reprise of “A Normal Life,” with the emphasis on harmony vocals and piano, deftly underscores Agosto’s line about, “the sound is tight.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CD Review: Pete Best - Haymans Green

Original Beatles drummer Pete Best and his band (a newer one, not the Fab Four) released the underrated Haymans Green back in 2008. Named after a well-known street in Liverpool, it’s a thoughtful collection of songs about life, love, and survival, set to gorgeous melodies. Best co-wrote the 11 tracks with his brother, drummer Roag; guitarist-vocalist Phil Melia; and guitarist-keyboards player Paul Parry. Neither of the Best brothers sang on the CD; the lush harmonies were crafted by Melia, Parry, and guitarist-vocalist Tony Flynn.

The opening track, “Come With Me,” entices the listener to travel via music, using an exotic arrangment and heavenly vocals. Some of the slower material, like “Dream Me Home” and “Everything I Want” blends together, but the fun and energetic “Red Light” calls to mind Best’s former band mate Paul McCartney, and “Beat Street” is a swinging instrumental. The fetching melodies on “Gone” and “Broken” make them irresistible, and the title track taps into mid-1960s British psychedelia.

Monday, February 20, 2012

CD Review: The Silencers - Dance To The Holy Man

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 1991.

As the title suggests, there’s a spiritual theme running through this latest release from the UK band, The Silencers. That’s not surprising since lead vocalist and guiding light, Jimme O’Neill, had woven religious imagery and moral implications throughout his lyrics on the band’s first two efforts. Dance To The Holy Man explores a variety of musical styles and gives O’Neill and lead guitarist Cha Burns a chance to pay homage to their previous band, Fingerprintz.

The Silencers rework “Bulletproof Heart” from Fingerprintz's undiscovered punk/pop masterpiece, Distinguishing Marks, by replacing the menacing guitars with a synth-based arrangement. It’s still a harrowing depiction of urban violence, and serves as a reminder of the days when O’Neill’s songs were obsessed with the darker side of life. By contrast, Holy Man looks at the world from a number of different angles. “Hey, Mr. Bank Manager” is a bluesy reworking of The Beatles’ “Taxman,” while “The Art Of Self-Deception” is a soulful ballad. “Just Can’t Be Bothered” is a breezy, Country & Western flavored tune about wasting away a summer afternoon.

Fans who first discovered The Silencers via their pulsating politically-charged hit, “Painted Moon,”

will enjoy the guitar-driven “This Is Serious/John The Revelator,” while “Rosanne” is an appealing folk ballad. O’Neill is still one of rock’s more provocative songwriters, but through his work with The Silencers, he’s working with an expanded musical palette.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Slumgullion #101

Wes Hollywood is coming to International Pop Overthrow in Chicago. Hopefully with songs from a new CD.

Photo from Wes Hollywood Facebook page.

International Pop Overthrow, David Bash’s vagabond celebration of indie rock and power pop, kicks off the 2012 season with a visit to San Diego this weekend. All four showcases will be held at the Eleven club and the roster of artists includes the unstoppable Dave Rave, The New Kinetics, Sue Hedges, The Cherry Bluestorms, and The Swarm. After San Diego, IPO moves on to Phoenix and the Hollywood Alley club for the weekend of March 2nd & 3rd. Then it’s off to Detroit for shows at Paycheck’s Lounge from April 12th through the 14th.

International Pop Overthrow visits Chicago from April 19th through 28th with a whopping 13 showcases at Redline Tap. Unfortunately, The Abbey Pub is not involved this year. Some of the tried and true Windy City talent lined up includes Aaron Fox & The Reliables, Go Time, The Valley Downs, Mimi Betinis (from Pezband), The Pop Dollys, The Abbeys, Phil Angotti, The Webstirs, The Luck Of Eden Hall, Wes Hollywood, The Queue, Red Plastic Buddha, 92 Degrees, Magatha Trysty, Squeegee, and The Goldstars. Notable out-of-town visitors include Dave Rave, Trolley, and Jeremy.

The lineup changes for each city, so it’s a good idea to check out the new, improved IPO website for links to most of the acts who’ll be participating. After Chicago, there are 12 other cities on Bash’s 2012 itinerary.

The Napervillain MILFs, a four-man cover band that takes pride in its unconventional choice of material (Husker Du, The Ramones, The Donnas, Naked Raygun, to name a few examples), will rock their first headlining gig, at Game Pazzo, in Downers Grove tomorrow night. Show time is 10:00 PM.

The next round of Jokes4Miles events takes place on Saturday, February 25th, at Leona’s restaurants in the Chicagoland area. To recap, veteran stand-up comedian Len Austrevich is determined to collect 5,000 videotapes of individuals telling a joke to his son. Miles Austrevich has brain cancer, and he gets a big boost from watching the clips while he’s going through therapy. Anyone interested in participating can visit the nearest Leona’s on the 25th, where a Jokes4Miles crew will be on hand with a camera from 5-11 PM.

“For this event, we’re getting a tremendous amount of support including 15,000 fliers, 10,000 promo business cards and a banner at each location,” Len explained in a recent email. “In addition, 100,000 emails will be sent out promoting this event as well as a viral and press push.” People can also create their own videos and upload them at the Jokes4Miles website.

Trolley, whose Things That Shine & Glow was one of my choices for Top 10 CDs of 2011, will be performing tomorrow night at The Cactus Club in Milwaukee, along with synth rock band The Melismatics, and the hard pop outfit Revolush. The Melismatics are celebrating the release of their CD, Mania.

It was a kick seeing actress Catherine Tate, who played the wisecracking but fearless Donna Noble on Doctor Who a few years back, in a guest role on the American version of The Office last night. Tate revived her Nellie Bertram character, who first appeared toward the end of the 2011 season as as a not so well adjusted potential replacement for the departing Michael Scott as manager of Dunder Mifflin’s Scranton branch. Bertram was even more daft in this new episode, so here’s hoping we’ll see her character continue on The Office.

Speaking of Doctor Who, The Nerdist, a fun and informative website that focuses on all things sci-fi and beyond, recently reported on an upcoming comic series that mixes the long-running Brit show with Star Trek. According to writer Kyle Anderson, Assimilation 2 finds the 11th generation Doctor (played by Matt Smith on the telly) joining forces with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) of the Enterprise in order to defeat both the Cyberman and the Borg. Look for IDW Comics to release the first installment in May.

Brian Slupski reports on the Palatine Patch website that Shishonnah, a Celtic music duo comprised of vocalists Liz Madden and Jenne Lennon, will be performing at the St. Paul United Church in Palatine on St. Patrick’s Day. The concert starts at 7:00 PM.

There’ll be a gathering of punk and new wave veterans at Reggies Rock Club in Chicago on March 1st. Glen Matlock, former bassist with the Sex Pistols, and Hugh Cromwell, onetime vocalist of The Stranglers are sharing the bill, and they’ll be joined by Clem Burke, who played drums with Blondie. Chicago area indie band, The Handcuffs are the opening act.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Vintage Publication Spotlight - Illinois Entertainer

Believe it or not, there was a time when I didn’t write for the Illinois Entertainer. This issue came out in November, 1979, a good eight years before I joined the staff. Along with editor Guy Arnston, some of the regular contributors back then included Cary Baker, Linda Cain, Bill Dahl, Wayne Jancik, Clarke Krueger, Jeff Lind, Paul Natkin, Bill Paige, D. Shigley, and Bill Sosin.

The paper, published and founded by Kenneth L. Voss, was celebrating its fifth anniversary with a turn-of-the-decade feature called “Chicago Bands Primed For The ‘80s.” The cover featured Sosin’s shot of Survivor, Pezband, and Hounds on different levels of a north side apartment building’s back stairwell. The issue included profiles of those three bands, as well as Shoes, Styx, and Yipes.

Voss and Arnston wrote the cover story, which referenced Cheap Trick, REO Speedwagon, Wazmo Nariz, and Skafish. The 96 page special also had an expanded, “A Primer For The ‘80s” version of the Streetwalkin’ column, in which a team of writers covered standout local artists like B.B. Spin, Big Twist, Thom Bishop, Bitch, Clox, Dadistics, Dreamer, Fayrewether, Heartsfield, Jump ‘n the Saddle, Madfox, Harvey Mandel, Ouray, Pearl Handle, and Pin-Ups.

The Rack Jobbing column featured album reviews of Cheap Trick’s Dream Police, Present Tense by Shoes, Cornerstone by Styx, and Tantrum’s Rather Be Rockin’. Cary Baker’s “Renaissance For Homegrown 45s” piece gave props to Huge Hart, Immune System, and Public Enemy. All in all, an extensive and well-researched exploration of Chicago’s multi-faceted music scene.

Some of the more prominent ads in this issue were for The Granada Theatre; The Bee Gees’ Greatest and The Police’s Reggatta De Blanc albums; The Loop and WXRT; record stores like Wax Trax, Rainbow, Laury’s, Swollen Head, Burbank, Dog Ear; Uncle Albert’s, and Rolling Stone; bands like Brief Encounter, Europe, Off Broadway, Risk!, Scraps, Star Trooper, and Trillion; and clubs like B’Ginnings, The Edgewater, The Rock Garden, Knight Moves, Minstrel’s Alley, Pips, The Thirsty Whale, Studio One, and Haymakers.

On a related note, there will be a Haymakers Reunion in a little over a week from now, on February 26th, at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine. There will be live performances by the previously mentioned Bitch, Dreamer, Hounds, Madfox, and Tantrum, as well as the Pezband Allstars, One Arm Bandit (which includes guitarist Hoppy Niles, who was in Pin-Ups), and Jimmy Sohns from Shadows of Knight.

If it was possible, I would give everyone who attended the reunion a copy of the November, 1979 Illinois Entertainer, because it captures that era of Chicago’s music scene so well. Fortunately, organizers, Maureen Welch Bonifazi, Guy Arnston, Kathy Powers-Hall, Christine Trinity, and Chuck Fieldman, plan to have photographs and videos to help recapture those rock and roll moments. And of course, there will be the bands.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

CD Review: Hushdrops - Volume One

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer in 2003.

The ambitious scope of the Hushdrops’ full-length debut may surprise those who remember the Chicago duo’s psychedelic tunes like “Snow” or “Myrtle” on local compilations. Volume One, which arrives after more than 10 years of performing, finds John San Juan (vocals, guitar, piano) and Joe Camarillo (vocals, drums, guitar) covering a lot of ground with help from an assortment of guest musicians.

The hard-hitting though optimistic “Summer People” is a melodic song that was covered earlier by The Webb Brothers, and “Miami Rap” taps into 1960s garage roc. “Macho” is slow and soulful while “Cold Harbor Lane” works as a jazz-influenced instrumental.

The melodic love song, “Emily,” features spirited backup vocals from Carolyn Engelmann, Elizabeth Elmore, and Laura Katter. The three women takes turns singing lead on “Here She Comes,” an energetic track that recalls the English band, Lush. Ultimately though, Volume One is about the tight harmonies and spirited musicianship San Juan bring to a variety of songs.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Photo of Karin Bergquist from the Over The Rhine Facebook page.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all BHT visitors and especially to my wife Pam, who set up this blog for me. Thanks, Pam, for all your love, inspiration and support.

Now, how about a love song that’s a little different?

“Rhapsodie” was just one of several intriguing tracks on Patience, the 1992 major label debut from the Cincinnati-based alt rock/Americana band, Over The Rhine. Written by singer-acoustic guitarist Karin Bergquist, its exquisite piano and strings arrangement, plus the line, “And I couldn’t love you any more than I do right now” might make this seem like a perfect choice for a first dance at a wedding. But Bergquist was singing about something deeper and more challenging; a love that endures hardships, and the way people in a relationship change over the years. A love that continues even after a couple has broken apart.

“And the cadences we hear/may grow different in the coming years,” Bergquist sings in a gorgeous but haunting voice. “But still I’ll tell you that I couldn’t love you any more than I do right now.” Later she adds, “And if you should ever leave/then I would love you for what you need.”

I interviewed Bergquist and bassist-keyboards player Linford Detweiler for the Illinois Entertainer when Patience first came out. Bergquist agreed that “Rhapsodie” was open to interpretation.

“I had a local artist approach me about doing a video for that,” she said. “He wanted to do it from an AIDS perspective. It’s broad enough to be more than a wedding song. I’m very pleased that it can be taken in different ways.”

Whatever meaning a listener takes away from “Rhapsodie,” it’s a beautiful and powerful reflection on love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Yeah Yeah Boys

Photo from the Stockwood Facebook page.

Shortly before Stockwood took the stage at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine this past Saturday night, an offstage announcer informed the crowd that the two-hour concert was going to be filmed. The teenaged Beatle tribute band’s following ranges from young girls to baby boomers, although a steady stream of 1960s hits played on the overhead sound system. Where else would a 13-year old lass hear Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs singing “Sugar Shack”? Durty Nellie’s, with its huge stage, curtains, and bank of colored lights, provided an impressive backdrop for the filming.

Stockwood, with Collin Berg as John, John Morefield as Paul, Nick Solideo as George, and Evan Berg as Ringo, opened with “I Saw Her Standing There.” They looked quite a bit older since I saw them win the Battle Of The Beatles Bands competition at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago some time ago. At Durty Nellie’s, their first set featured the boys decked out in black suits, white shirts, and skinny ties as they performed vintage Beatles songs. All four members have strong voices, and it’s easy to imagine that someone hearing them from another room would assume the band was comprised of grown men.

Billed as a 2012 Preview, the Durty Nellie’s show added a few welcome twists to the by now overly familiar template for Beatles tribute bands, which involves British accents; costumes; and dividing The Beatles’ timeline into three distinct chapters. When Stockwood came back for their second set, they passed on the Sgt. Pepper uniforms and simply swapped their dress shirts and ties for black turtlenecks. As they romped through mid-1960s fare like “Paperback Writer,” “Ticket To Ride,” and “Day Tripper,” I began hoping they’d stay in that era. Nothing against “Revolution” or “Get Back,” but at least a Beatles tribute band that specialized in the Revolver era would be a new approach.

Alas, after they finished the second set with a spirited “With A Little Help From My Friends,” Stockwood returned in the usual late Beatles period regalia, including long wigs and applied facial hair. Still, they breathed new life into the standard transition where ‘George’ does a solo bit, by having the full band erupt behind Solideo midway through, turning a delicate version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” into a barnburner. And it’s hard to fault Stockwood for wanting to flex their muscles. It was cute when they were little boys playing, “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” but now they want to take on tougher challenges like “Polythene Pam/She Came In Through The Bathroom Window,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “I’ve Got A Feeling.”

Between sets, I struck up a conversation with John Morefield’s grandfather, who was manning the t-shirt and souvenir table. He told me Stockwood was filming the show for an upcoming DVD, and added that a CD was also in the works. I should have asked if the wigs and beards were a new addition to the Stockwood repertoire. I can’t help thinking it would have looked silly when they were performing as little boys. Now in their mid to late teens, Stockwood have been around for eight years. Who knows, maybe they’ll set a record by playing Beatles music their entire lives. Worst things could happen.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Slumgullion #100

The Jokes4Miles events scheduled for tonight at Chicago area Leona’s restaurants have been postponed. Veteran stand-up comedian Len Austrevich is on a quest to collect 5,000 videotaped jokes for his son, Miles, who has brain cancer.

Last Friday, I spent a few hours hanging out with Len at his headquarters while he coordinated efforts to send crews out to a number of Leona’s locations. I wound up at the Leona’s in Des Plaines where a photographer named Ryan and I stood ready to videotape people who wanted to share a joke with Miles. The waitresses had graciously informed customers of our mission and we got some volunteers. The funny messages help cheer Miles up during his therapy sessions.

The next Leona’s videotaping event should be in a few weeks, as Len Austrevich continues to build support through the media. People can also videotape themselves telling Miles a joke and upload it at the Jokes4Miles website.

Regulars at The Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago are probably familiar with the young lads of Stockwood. The Beatles tribute band will be doing a free concert tomorrow at Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, starting at 7:00PM. Doors open at 6:00PM.

There will be a Remembering Doug tribute on the Doug Fieger Memorial Page on Facebook this coming Tuesday. Organizer Beth Fieger Falkenstein is asking people to post a message about her brother, who was the charismatic singer-guitarist for The Knack. Fieger Falkenstein also suggests fans use a photo of the musician as their Facebook profile on February 14th, which marks the second anniversary of his passing away from lung cancer.

Power pop fans checking out the Rebuilder Concert Series in Kenosha, Wisconsin last Saturday night got an added bonus when former Off Broadway singer Cliff Johnson joined The Bradburys onstage. According to a Facebook post from Bradburys vocalist-rhythm guitarist Dan Pavelich, Johnson sang the Off Broadway hit, “Stay In Time” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What.”

Whitewolfsonicprincess, the alt rock band fronted by James Moeller and Carla Hayden of the Black Forest Theatre group, will be among 4 musical acts performing at the Winter Concert at St. Luke’s next Friday, February 17th. Other acts on the bill include Mr. Mo, Chris Bock, and the Hannah Frank Quartet. The church is located at 939 Hinman in Evanston.

Bangles vocalist-guitarist Susanna Hoffs recently posted on Facebook that Starbucks is playing music from her upcoming solo effort. Hoffs doesn’t have a date for the release yet, but listed the 10 track titles so fans will know when one of her songs is playing on the Starbucks sound system.

In other Bangles news, vocalist-guitarist Vicki Peterson will be taking part in a staged reading of Bradley Kesden’s play, The Love Handyls. It’s part of the Los Angeles-based Katselas Theatre Company’s Inkubator festival, which runs on the weekend of February 18th and 19th.

Chris Hardwick,who created the fascinating and often funny website, The Nerdist, is coming to the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo being held at McCormick Place in April. It would be great if he brought some of his Doctor Who pals along with him. Hardwick joins a growing C2E2 roster that includes other recent additions, comic artist Neal Adams and one of Chicago's most successful and trendy chefs, Stephanie Izard.

Looking for some wild fun this Valentine’s Day? Don’t forget The Handcuffs. The Chloe F. Orwell/Brad Elvis led band will be playing songs from its trio of indie rock CDs at the Double Door on Tuesday. Also on the bill: the four woman, hard rocking band The Wanton Looks; C&W rockers/mockers The Siderunners; the guitar-driven and Who-inspired The Sonnets, the coed garage rock trio The Demerits; and a DJ. The entire event will be streamed live on Gigity.TV.

The Gram Parsons Foundation will sponsor two events on March 14th to celebrate its official launch. Named in honor of the critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter who passed away in 1973, The Gram Parsons Foundation is dedicated to providing drug and alcohol counseling to young people. Blitzen Trapper, Brendan Benson (with Eric Burdon of The Animals), Great Lake Swimmers, Poor Moon (a Fleet Foxes offshoot featuring Christian and Casey), and other performers are scheduled for the first fundraiser, which will take place at the Hotel San Jose parking lot from noon to 8:00 PM. The event will be streamed live via VenueOne.

Later that night, Parsons’ daughter, Polly Parsons, will speak at a private VIP fundraiser being held at Hotel San Jose Courtyard from 9:00 to midnight. The performers for the second event have yet to be announced. For further information, visit The Gram Parsons Foundation website.

Beach Town Confidential, a 16-track CD taken from a live performance by The Plimsouls back in 1983, is now available on Alive Naturalsound Records in vinyl, digital, and CD format. Plimsouls founder Peter Case is currently on tour with Paul Collins. The two musicians first came together in the short-lived but highly regarded The Nerves, and plan to play songs by that band as well as by The Plimsouls and The Paul Collins Beat. They’ll be at The Empty Bottle on March 25th.

The Blue Whiskey Cinema Series returns to Cutting Hall in Palatine next Wednesday, February 15th. Also at Cutting Hall, Music On Stage will be presenting Wizard Of Oz from February 11th through 26th.

Mary-Arrchie Theatre's production of the critically acclaimed Tracy Letts play, Superior Donuts runs through March 25th. Sun-Times columnist Mary Houlihan recently wrote a piece on Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky's connection to the play. Mary Arrchie Theatre is located at 735 W. Sheridan in Chicago.

It’s always nice to get feedback from the artists I cover here on BHT. David Mosey commented on my review of his English Kills digital release, and the song, “There's One Last Thing,” which I described as cryptic. (Translation: it sounded intriguing but I wasn’t sure what it meant.) “Oh, and for the record,” Mosey explained, "‘There's One Last Thing’ is an envisioned dialogue exchange between Bogart and Hepburn from Casablanca -- you know the scene where they're trying to finish the champagne before the Nazis arrive, saying goodbye, expecting the march into Paris, hearing the distant report of artillery...” You have to admire a musician who can come up with a catchy synth pop song about Bogey.

I also heard from Lorinda Murphy, wife of Shoes vocalist-guitarist Jeff Murphy regarding my 45 RPM Memories post about the Shoes single “Tomorrow Night”/“Okay” on Bomp Records. I wrote that the A-Side was a different version from the one that appeared on the Present Tense album on Elektra, and that the B-Side was taken from Shoes’ self-produced Black Vinyl Shoes. Terrence - read your comments on the Bomp single,” she wrote. “FYI...that version of Okay is different than the BVS version.” She also mentioned that Shoes are currently in the recording studio, wrapping up work on a new CD.

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