Friday, September 28, 2012


They’ve got a Gift for you. Photo from The Jam’s Facebook page.

Magatha Trysty could be onstage at this very moment, playing songs from its impressive new CD, Your Clothes Will Wear Themselves (my review ran here this past Monday), at Stage Bar. The CD is available at Reckless Records location on Madison in downtown Chicago.

A beautiful and beaming Susanna Hoffs and some happy couples are featured in a new eye-catching video for the breezy 1960s style pop of “Picture Me.” The song is from her new solo effort, Someday. Hoffs has a November 6th gig at City Winery in Chicago.

The Viaducts head out to the Penny Road Pub in northwest suburban Barrington tomorrow night for an evening of guitar-driven garage rock from their Mission To Destroy CD. Singer-guitarist Jimmy Rane is particularly impressive in a live setting. The show starts at 10:00 PM.

The Love Shine Festival for Autism takes place this weekend, kicking off at Multikulti in Wicker Park tomorrow at 2:00 PM and running through 4:00 AM Sunday. A number of local bands are scheduled to perform, including Electric Medicine, Flow Theory, Flabby Hoffman Trio, and Genral Patton. Donations will be greatly appreciated.  

Heart will be previewing songs from its new Fanatic CD this Sunday night on the web-based AXS TV  at 8:00PM EST.

Rare Terra Theatre, who have done provocative shows at the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s Abbie Hoffman Fest over the years, are currently staging David Hirson’s satirical comedy Wrong Mountain at The Second Stage on Sheffield in Chicago. Directed by Ian Streicher and featuring Richard Sandoval and Douglas Vickers, it runs Thursday - Saturday nights through October 7th.

The Ellis Clark Allstars have the 9:00 PM slot at Club Lucky tomorrow night as part of this weekend’s Coyote Festival being held in Wicker Park. 24 bands, including Donna Frost, Junction 325, Matthew Morgan and The Lost Brigade, and whitewolfsonicprincess, are scheduled to perform at Club Lucky, Double Door and the Flat Iron Building.

Universal Records plans to release a four-disc box set edition of The Jam’s 1982 album The Gift on November 19th. The English trio’s final effort reached the top of the UK charts and featured the hit single, “A Town Called Malice.” The new deluxe edition will include a Live at Wembley CD, DVD, a 72-page book, and The Jam’s final singles, “The Bitterest Pill” and “Beat Surrender.”

Amanda Thompson of the British band Ozone Baby recently posted on Facebook that she was thrilled to have former Let’s Active member Faye Hunter join her on vocals for the song, “Let’s Pretend We’re Spies.”  Let’s Active frontman/noted producer Mitch Easter recorded Hunter’s vocals in North Carolina. The catchy track will be available for download soon, and will be out on 7” vinyl in 2013. Incidentally, an American band called Ozone Baby suspects that a sudden burst of ‘Likes’ it’s been getting on its Facebook page are from people confusing them with someone else. Possibly the UK outfit? Judging from the cool art the Yank Ozone Baby has on its Facebook page, they could be fun too.

As noted in today’s issue of Redeye, VeganMania  is coming to the Broadway Armory tomorrow, from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM. The event will offer cooking demonstrations, live music, and poetry readings.

The Metropolis Performing Arts Center is holding a fundraiser this Sunday at the Cotillion Banquet Hall in Palatine. For $55, guests can party to the rock-a-billy sounds of The Neverly Brothers, enjoy dinner, and snack on hor d’ oeuvres.

The Ravenswood ArtWalk has added a film competition to this year’s event, which takes place tomorrow and Sunday on Ravenswood, between Irving Park Road and Lawrence Avenue. In addition to lots of art, there will be live music and food trucks on hand.

Power pop away those extra pounds! The band Didn’t Planet created the “Walking Around Boston” song and video on behalf the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center to help promote walking as a form of healthy exercise. The catchy and clever song, which mixes jangling guitars with a positive message, has received significant airplay on the city’s WBZ 1030 AM radio station. Didn’t Planet’s new CD We’re Goin’ Nowhere is now available on iTunes.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Vintage Publication Spotlight: The History Of Rock

Back in the early 1980s, the London-based Orbis Publishing Limited set out to cover the history of rock music, using an extensive series of magazines. I only have a few copies of The History Of Rock, but I’m pretty sure each issue was devoted to a particular topic or genre. This one (Volume 3, Issue 31), which I bought on eBay decades after it first came out, covers the original British Invasion.

It’s a relatively thin publication that seems more like one of those free inserts you get with Q, Shindig, or Mojo these days. It starts with page 601, which suggests that if you bought all the issues, they would comprise one continuous literary work. Also, like a book, there were no ads in The History Of Rock. Each issue cost 80p in the UK; $1.95 in the US and Australia. Binders were also available.

Volume 3, Issue 31 was titled “The Beat Boom,” and featured an introduction by Stephen Barnard. He also wrote a closing piece on the role of traditional ballrooms in the rise of British pop music. Plus, there were stories on The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, Freddie & The Dreamers, and The Tremeloes. The last page had a profile on American jazz artist Stanley Clarke under the heading “The Great Musicians. It didn’t fit the issue’s theme, but maybe The Great Musicians” was a regular feature.

John Pidgeon’s piece on The Hollies describes “King Midas In Reverse”as Graham Nash’s masterpiece despite its disappointing sales; Alan Clayson recalls how The Dave Clark Five’s “Glad All Over” nudged “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from the top spot on the charts; and Peter Jones notes that “Silence Is Golden” was the first Number One for The Tremeloes. The Beat Boom” overflows with eye-catching graphics and photos, making it a great collector’s item, even for those of us who don’t own the other hundreds of pages in the History Of Rock series.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

45 RPM Memories: 999 - “Homicide”

Sometimes there’s a thin line between punk and hard rock. Recorded in 1978, in the earlier days of punk, 999’s “Homicide” set raw vocals to a driving beat that wouldn’t have been on out of place on an AC/DC album. There's also a hint 0f T-Rex. Written by lead vocalist-guitarist Nick Cash and lead guitarist Guy Days, “Homicide” was taken from the London-based band’s second release, Separates.

Listening to this song always brings me back to the days when I hung out at Harlows/Pips/Haywires. It was about the only venue on Chicago’s southwest side where punk occasionally raised its spikey head, and the club changed names in such rapid succession I can’t remember at this point which name goes with any specific time. Always a master of the platonic relationship, I had some wild and attractive women friends who would badger the club’s DJ to play “Homicide” between band sets. When he finally gave in, they would dance up a storm to it.

Depending on which lyrics site you choose, the song either kicks off with the proclamation, “I believe in homicide” or “I believe it’s homicide.” Over the years, I’ve always thought it was the former. There’s also a discrepancy on the line, “They’d rather say that its a red alert,” which another site shows as, “They’d rather say that it’s irrelevant.” Just don’t let my younger brother take a guess, because he’s notoriously bad at hearing lyrics.

In any case, “Homicide” remains a classic of the punk era. Cash’s voice is menacing, the bass line bounces along, and there’s a guitar-driven instrumental passage that underscores the drama. And the lyric sites agree on the ominous send-off,  “I’ll be touch/So don’t leave town in a big black car.”

The non-LP B-Side, “Soldier,”continues in a similar vein as “Homicide,” with a harrowing look at a young man on the battlefield. Also written by Cash and Days, the hard-hitting song describes the military being driven to the point where they may never be able to lose the urge to kill. “What is this life you’re living?” Cash asks at one point, and later sings, “So get them, can’t you see?/They’re in your territory.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

CD Review: The Friggs - Rock Candy

When Little Steven Van Zandt recently chose singer-guitarist Palmyra Delran’s “You’re My Brian Jones” as the “Coolest Song Of The Week” on his syndicated Underground Garage radio show, it brought back fond memories of her work with The Friggs. Rock Candy, released in 1997, was most likely Van Zandt’s introduction to the Philadelphia-based, four-woman band. It’s easy to imagine the world’s number one garage rock fan being smitten with the fuzzy guitars and revved-up 1960s girl group vocals on this debut effort. I reviewed Rock Candy when it was first released, for the Illinois Entertainer, but rather than reprint an old critique of this overlooked gem, I’ve decided to start from scratch.

The cover of Rock Candy mimics a B-movie poster with each member of The Friggs cast as a femme fatale. Although they look like they’d gladly commit homicide, their impressive debut instead offers sharp-witted putdowns set to catchy garage rock arrangements. Vocalist Lexy Plumm, guitarist Palmyra Delran, and bassist Suki Von Trapp take turns singing lead while drummer Elle Sandoz keeps a steady beat. Like Blondie’s “Rip Her To Shreds,” the songs on Rock Candy bristle with a streetwise sense of humor. 

“On The Scene” dismisses a clueless poseur with lines like “You’re not even worth a word” and the title of “Loathe/Hate Relationship” neatly sums up the song’s spiteful lyrics. Even a threat of suicide is met with derision on the rapid-fire “I Thought You Said You Were Gonna Kill Yourself.” Still, it all comes across as fun, thanks to The Friggs’ vocal interplay and spirited playing. And the band even shows a more vulnerable side with the mid-tempo romance of “Got Your Letter.”   

Monday, September 24, 2012

CD Review: Magatha Trysty - Your Clothes Will Wear Themselves

Magatha Trysty has maintained a steady presence on the local club scene since its International Pop Overthrow- Chicago debut a few years back. The quartet fields two strong lead singers in the husband and wife team of keyboards player Catherine Louise and guitarist Chris Bevard, while consistently finding inventive ways to mix indie rock and power pop. Bassist Billy Blastoff also chimes in on harmony vocals. Your Clothes Will Wear Themselves is a self-assured debut, brimming with irresistible melodies and biting lyrics about troubled relationships.

“Want To Stay” immediately establishes the band’s dynamic male-female shared lead vocal approach; evoking Let’s Active or a coed version of The dB’s. Catherine Louise and Bevard work that same magic for the high-energy satire of “Art Zero” and “Printer's Row.” On the tracks where one mostly sings lead, the other is never too far away, eager to jump in on the chorus. John Monaghan’s rolling drumbeat propels “Saturday Dress” while Catherine Louise’s pristine vocals add a touch of folk to the 1980s style arrangement. Magatha Trysty takes a breather on the more subtle “Dimestore Fairytale” and “Another Lovely Party.” Even on a CD enriched with immediate grabbers, “Clairvoyant” stands out as a classic throwback to Chicago’s nascent punk/new wave scene, with a powerful blend of guitars and keyboards.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Photo from The Smithereens Facebook page.

Here’s a hearty welcome to The Smithereens on their return to the Chicago area, and a few tears that I’m not at their Viper Alley gig in Lincolnshire tonight. On October 2nd, Pat DiNizio and the boys will be Blondie’s special guests at a show at The State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Singer-guitarist Palmyra Delran’s recently released new single, “You’re My Brian Jones” was picked by Little Steven Van Vandt as the Coolest Song Of The Week on his syndicated Underground  Garage syndicated radio show last week. It’s from her forthcoming CD, You Are What You Absorb, due out later this year. Delran, a former member of the very fun all-woman band, The Friggs, will be part of what seems like a Little Steven-inspired triple bill with The Party Lights and The Dahlmans at the Mercury Lounge in New York on Sunday, October 14th. Admission is $10.

Ann and Nancy Wilson’s book Kicking And Dreaming, written with Charles R. Cross, is now available at stores and online sites like Amazon.  The 270-page effort covers the sisters’ rock star and personal lives, and includes a section of rare photos.

Chicago power pop group Van Go recently announced on Facebook that its third album, We Happy Few (it preceded their The Long Lost Last Call CD which I reviewed favorably here a while back) has recently been re-released in digital format. According to the post, this was the band’s finest hour. 

International power pop trio The Britannicas have a three-song digital album for sale on drummer Joe Algeri’s Bandcamp page. The 1960s remain a powerful influence on these guys, and how they create those tight harmonies when each member lives on a different continent is a marvel of modern technology. Algeri also recently released an impressive solo effort titled Faux Pas under the pseudonym of The JAC. 

As noted in the Palatine Patch, Hot Dog Richie’s in Palatine is hoping to raise funds for Rosie Colicci, an eight-year old who has battled brain cancer for most of her life. In order to help others like herself, she created the Rosie’s Toy Box campaign, which collects toys and books from donors. In addition to providing a venue for the event, which takes place tomorrow, September 22nd, from 11:00 AM to 8:00PM, Hot Dog Richie’s is also helping out with a donation.

The dB’s have an upcoming gig at The Hideout in Chicago on November 15th. I saw the renowned power pop band play outside this venue as part of the annual Block Party a few years ago, when their Falling Off The Sky reunion CD was in the early planning stages. Nice to see them coming back.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

CD Review: This Is This - The Hours, The Minutes And The Days

The Chicago-based trio This Is This continues to defy categorization on its third release, The Hours, The Minutes And The Days. Guitarist-singer John Petitt, bassist-singer Don Torres, and drummer Eric Helge keep things interesting by infusing their mainstream rock songs with elements of other genres. Songwriters Petitt and Torres once again put an emphasis on fetching melodies, and take turns on lead vocals.

The easy-going ballad “Lula’s Heart” has a bit of Latin flavor along with Petitt’s deft harmonica playing, while “Last Round” offers some blue-eyed soul in a Boz Scaggs vein. The band pokes fun at macho posturing on the slinky blues tune “I’m A Man” by serving up a litany of absurd comparisons to the Cardiff Giant, King Kong, and Loch Ness monster. “And Ana Too” taps into jazz swing, while “Sorry Don’t” is a funky look at how apologies sometimes don’t have much effect.

Guest musicians keyboards player Andrew Collins and guitarist Reverend Reno Von Gitbox add interesting textures to the energetic “Snowflakes” and spooky hard rock of “Old Angel,” respectively. This Is This probably has its best shot at mainstream success with “Don’t Wait” and “She’s All Summer,” both of which exude Crosby, Stills and Nash via harmony vocals and pleasant arrangements. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CD Review: Dot Dash - Winter Garden Light

Dot Dash may be obvious in its choice of influences, but this Washington, D.C.-based quartet doesn’t imitate its heroes so much as embody their spirit. The Clash and The Jam readily sprang to mind while listening Dot Dash’s first-rate debut, Spark>Flame>Ember>Ash in 2011, while the recently released Winter Garden Light sounds more like it was inspired by guitar-oriented bands like Wire Train and Translator from the 1980s. It’s a melodic swirl of ringing guitars, singer-guitarist Terry Banks’s evocative vocals, and a lot of spirited instrumental passages.

“The Past Is Another Country” is the only song on Winter Garden Light that adheres to Dot Dash’s earlier punk rock approach. “Countdown,” which advises people to make the most of their time while they still can, recalls The Church with a shimmering arrangement led by Banks and guitarist Bill Crandall. Drummer Danny Ingram is impressive throughout, but especially on the ominous “The Devil’s Road,” while bassist Hunter Bennett propels the powerful “Shouting In The Rain.”

There’s also a bit of vintage R.E.M. in the cryptic lyrics that occasionally creep into Winter Garden Light. “I don’t know where it’s going, I don’t know where it came from,” Banks sings on “Writing On The Wall,” and on “Live To Tell,” he concedes, “What it meant, I don’t know.” The slower and mysterious “Two Octobers” seems to deal in some sort of telepathic communication. Even if it’s not always clear what’s going on, Dot Dash still creates compelling music. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

CD Review: Pop Dollys - Aloud

Photo from Pop Dollys Facebook page.

Pop Dollys have only been around since 2009, but all three members, bassist-vocalist Mike Cohen, guitarist-vocalist Tony Kola, and drummer Jim Hurley, are veterans of the Midwest’s hallowed power pop scene. The trio has been making a name for itself with regular live gigs, particularly at International Pop Overthrow - Chicago. The soon-to-be released CD, Aloud, explores virtually every nuance of power pop, with breakneck speed and irresistible melodies.

“Never Gonna Miss You Again” and “Love Is A Dream” are big-sounding gems in a Cheap Trick/Off Broadway vein, while “And I Want” has more of a revved-up rock-a-billy feel. On “Like A Hurricane,” Pop Dollys dispense some barbed social satire at the expense of the late hotel maven, Leona Helmsley, and “Your Move” evokes an eccentric 1960s hit single from a Brit Invasion band. A freewheeling cover of the T. Rex song "Metal Guru" adds to the fun. “Sketching Miss Black” and “Different Now” find the band adroitly adding spacey keyboards and offbeat sound effects into the mix, similar to the way The Elvis Brothers did on “I’ve Got Skies For Her.” Just about everything on Aloud zips along, but the slower “Cathy’s Crying” and mysterious “Little Notes” are successful as well.  

Friday, September 14, 2012


Poster for Power Pop-A-Licious from Paul Collins Facebook page.

The Chicago Tribune carried an interesting article by Lonnae O’Neal Parker from the Washington Post yesterday about the “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” exhibit that’s currently being presented at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.. Stretching back to blues pioneers Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey and up to today’s indie, folk, and rap artists, the collection of instruments, outfits, and lyrics aims to show how women have found power through their music. After finishing its run in Washington, D.C., “Women Who Rock: Vision Passion, Power” will kick off a three year tour of the United States. Hopefully, that will include a stop in Chicago.

How about some Infinite Sadness with that chai latte? Newspapers and blogs around Chicago are reporting that Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan has opened a dazzling tea shop called Madame Zuzu’s in suburban Highland Park. He and business partner Sharon Mackin-Norberg envision a hub of live performances, hot beverages creative discussion.

Singer-guitarist Paul Collins, of The Nerves and The Beat fame, will be staging Power-Pop-Licious II at Asbury Lanes in New Jersey on Saturday, November 17th. The scheduled acts for the fest include Collins, The Electric Mess, The Disconnects, and Esther Crow. Admission will be $15. 

Also on the East Coast, Power Popaholic has several acts lined up for its eponymous fest at the Lulu’s club in Port Jefferson, New Jersey. Artists include The Heartless Devils, Lannie Flowers, and The Turnback. The fest kicks off at 8:00 PM, admission is $10.00.

Chicago band JIP, fronted by Jim Gwynn, has a record release show for its Sparks, Flames, and Names CD coming up on October 12th at the Hard Rock Cafe on Ontario in Chicago’s River North area. The Burrows, The Lucky Dutch, and The Employees are also performing that night. The show starts at 10:00 PM, admission is $10.

Chicago Ideas Week returns for its 2012 edition, starting October 8th, and will offer several creative discussion, labs, and presentations at various locations around the city through October 14th. Speakers include editors, executives, media personalities, and performers. Tickets to most event are $15 unless otherwise indicated.

Signal Ensemble Theatre is inviting patrons to meet playwright Robert Askins tomorrow night after a performance of his play, Princes Of Waco.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CD Review: The Aquanettas - Love With The Proper Stranger

Back in 1990, the four-woman band, The Aquanettas, released a debut album filled with fun and catchy garage rock tunes spun from a woman’s perspective. It should have launched them into a successful career, but sadly, they broke up five years later. I can’t even find an official video by them on YouTube, even though I remember seeing one (possibly on JBTV) a number of years back. Lead vocalist -guitarist, Deborah Schwartz, released a solo CD titled The Wrongs Of Passage in 1998. Here’s an edited version of a review I wrote for the Illinois Entertainer back when Love With The Proper Stranger first came out.

Like The Go-Go’s and The Bangles before them, the four-woman New York based band, The Aquanettas, turn to the 1960s for inspiration on their 12-song debut, Love With The Proper Stranger. The hard-edged “Faults” would be a perfect segue from Eleventh Dream Day’s “Driving Song,” as both tracks examine the frustrations of trying to score on the night club scene. “Pictures Of Italy” is a silly but irresistible look at life on a budget that opens with the line, “Every day I eat pasta rigitoni for breakfast.” The bouncing rhythm of “Up” provides another highlight.

“Beach Party”  opens with a poetic description of the ocean shore at dusk before the first verse ends with the line, “With beer cans and papers all over the place.” It’s a rollicking song about partying on the beach, and two of the regulars who hang out there. “Larry and Pete are just typical guys/Blasting their music and watching the thighs.” The songs on Love With The Proper Stranger are pretty basic, but they prove there’s plenty of room for women in the garage.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CD Review: Hugh Hart - Idolizer

Singer-songwriter Hugh Hart is about to follow up his 2010 collection of satirical songs, How To Be A Millionaire, with the four-track EP, Idolizer. The actual song “Idolizer,” a catchy and fun tribute to a guy’s obsession with fashion models, that Hart originally recorded with the band Wedge in 1996, isn’t included. Hopefully, it will be on the full CD version, which is due out later this year.
There’s a lot of nicely-turned rhymes in the lyrics for the Idolizer EP, although Hart mostly has a darker purpose for them. “They Just Keep Coming On” moves to a deceptively amiable Country and Western beat even as Hart laments bickering politicians and the casualties of war: “Kids are starving while they bitch and bargain, guttin’ my future on a whim/Soldiers dying, or they come home crying, fitted with an artificial limb.” The melodic and mid-tempo “All Fall Down” deals with the struggle just to survive.

“Too Many Tears” has a more soulful feel, with a horn section and backup singers, as it focuses on an employee caught up in corporate corruption. The vocals and sentiment are reminiscent of some of Graham Nash’s better protest songs. “We got a rupture in the structure of the system,” Hart declares. The sparse “You Never Crack” tackles frustration on the relationships level, as a guy tries to break through his girlfriend’s icy exterior. Idolizer is a bit low key at times, but it’s thought-provoking and well-crafted. A journalist as well as musician who got his start with The Odd back in Chicago’s original new wave explosion in the 1980s, Hart always has some interesting things to say.  

Monday, September 10, 2012

When I’m Out On The Street

Photo by Jo Lopez, from Bruce Springsteen Facebook page.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band dropped by Chicago for a pair of concerts within what has become the frustrating confines of Wrigley Field, and made it a happy place again. I didn’t get a ticket, but having discovered during Paul McCartney’s concert last year that you can clearly hear an artist performing at Wrigley Field even when you’re outside the venue, I decided to go there on Saturday night and hang out for a while.

Springsteen, like McCartney, is on the A-List of performers that any true rock fan really should catch in a live performance. Even if you can’t actually see him. Time and travel limitations meant I could only stay for a fraction of Springsteen’s show, so I missed out on classics like “Born To Run,” “Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),” “Because The Night,” “Badlands,” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out.” I also missed Springsteen’s duets with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam on “My Hometown” and “Darkness On The Edge Of Town.” 

As with McCartney’s concert, there was a festive atmosphere hanging over the Wrigleyville neighborhood Saturday night. Before the show started, I passed a woman on the way to one of the entrances. She stopped, pointed to her face with both index fingers, and asked her friends, “Do I look happy?” They didn’t need to respond. The rooftops of the apartment buildings surrounding Wrigley Field were packed, and people were also partying on the front steps. Others had spread blankets picnic style on the sidewalk and were sitting with friends. Some of us stood in the vicinity of the Ron Santo and Billy Williams statues, and waited for the music to start.

Springsteen came on a good 45 minutes past the scheduled 7:30 starting time, yelled an enthusiastic greeting, and tore into “Promised Land.” What a kick to hear that famous voice in person; the voice that has emotionally touched so many people. It was haunting to hear the saxophone and realize the notes weren’t being played by Clarence Clemons. Later, I read in the Sun-Times and Tribune, that The Big Man’s nephew, Jake, was now carrying on the tradition. Initially, Springsteen barely acknowledged the crowd, preferring to offer a seamless string of energetic songs that included “The Ties That Bind,” “No Surrender,” and “We Take Care Of Our Own” (with a hook that still reminds me of Off Broadway’s “Hang On For Love.”) Even those of us outside were clapping, and two young women were joyously dancing outside one of the apartment buildings.

The most impressive moment from my limited time at the show came at the beginning of “Hungry Heart,” when the crowd started singing the lyrics without being prompted. Springsteen let the massive audience participation go on for a few verses; adding an occasional shout of encouragement. It was a great rock and roll moment, like the time Ray Davies played Grant Park in Chicago and everyone in the seated area jumped up in unison at the opening notes of “You Really Got Me.”

Springsteen finally addressed the crowd with a long introduction to “Death To My Hometown,” which I didn’t find out until later also featured Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. From where I was standing, it was hard to pick up what Springsteen was saying, and I’m sure I missed an inspiring message. But I had come to hear his music, and that flowed past the ivy-covered walls loud and clear. 

Friday, September 7, 2012


CD art from the Smoking Popes Facebook page.

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to see joyous people streaming out of Wrigley Field, drop by Clark and Addison tonight or tomorrow night, around 10:30. That’s about when the Bruce Springsteen shows will be ending. Even if you don’t have a ticket, I’d recommend  dropping by during the concert because you can hear the music perfectly from outside the venue. I did that last year for the Paul McCartney show, and it was well worth the train and bus ride from Palatine. I didn’t want to miss the chance to hear a Beatle performing in person even if I couldn't see him. Plus, there was a lot promotional activity going on in the area, along with a festive buzz. It’s a safe bet it will be that way for The Boss as well.

The Lakeview Festival Of The Arts  takes place this Saturday and Sunday on Broadway from Belmont to Hawthorne. In addition to 150 juried artists, there will be food and plenty of live music. Some of the more impressive acts performing on the Main Stage include alt rock/Country & Western band Dolly Varden at 1:15 tomorrow; atmospheric synth rockers Save The Clocktower at 1:00 PM Sunday, and singer-songwriter Robbie Fulks at 4:00 PM Sunday.

The 10th Annual Renegade Craft Fair is also going on this weekend, in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood on Division Street, between Damen and Paulina. A list of the artists can be found on the festival’s website, and DJs from Reckless Records, Dusty Groove, and CHIRP Radio will be providing the music.

Blue Whiskey is increasing its presence in my hometown of Palatine. In addition to sponsoring the annual Independent Film Festival each July, the organization will now present a new independent film at Emmett’s Brewing Company on the last Wednesday of each month. The documentary Sadermania: From Fanship To Friendship  will be shown on September 26th, Nailbiter will be shown on October 31, and Separation Anxiety will be shown on November 28th. Tickets are $5.00 online, and $7.00 at the door. Emmett’s is located at 110 North Brockway Street in Palatine.

Although it’s not listed on the official The Go-Go’s website, it looks like the band has an October 7th date at the Arcada venue in St. Charles. The band will also be playing th Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville Indiana on October 6th.

When Smoking Popes reissue a deluxe version of their 1995 major label debut, Born To Quit, on October 23rd, it will come with some intriguing extras. The bounty includes two bonus tracks  - - a cover of the Willie Nelson tune, “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” and the previously unreleased “Blanket In The Park” - - new cover art; liner notes by Chicago Metro owner Joe Shanahan, comedian Kyle Kinane, and musician Matt Skiba; and a collage. A limited edition red vinyl version will be available from the Side One Dummy Records website (although I don’t see any mention of it there yet); and a blue vinyl version will be sold at tour dates throughout October and November. The Chicago-based punk band will be playing the entire Born To Quit album on the tour, and has a hometown gig at Double Door on October 20th.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

CD Review: Love And Rockets - Earth - Sun - Moon

Photo from the Love And Rockets Facebook page.

Here’s a memory from the days when the Illinois Entertainer mailed vinyl records to me in big cardboard boxes. This review appeared in the February, 1988 issue, with writer Jae-Ha Kim’s cover story on the Chicago band Colortone. It also included my interview with singer Jimme O’Neill of The Silencers and Fingerprintz.

The second effort from Love And Rockets finds the former Bauhaus and Tones On Tail members following the successful formula of their debut, Express. There’s an entertaining mix on Earth - Sun - Moon of high-speed dance tunes and atmospheric ballads featuring acoustic guitar. In either case, Daniel Ash’s vocals are consistently engaging (particularly when he harmonizes with bassist David J.) and the band’s complex arrangements frequently have a haunting effect. 

The predominantly slow material on Side Two might puzzle fans who loved energetic songs like “Kick In The Eye” or “Twist,” from Bauhaus and Tones on Tail, respectively. “The Telephone Is Empty” evokes George Harrison’s psychedelic adventures from the Sgt Pepper era. The more active first side kicks off with the guitar-driven and club-ready, “Mirror People,” and also features the fun and catchy anthem, “No New Tale To Tell.” 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

CD Review: Redd Kross - Researching The Blues

Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer.
Jeff and Steven McDonald were barely teenagers when they formed Redd Kross amidst the maelstrom of L.A.’s punk scene in the late 1970s. The band never found commercial success over several years and various lineups, but did build a cult following while influencing countless musicians before calling it quits. The brothers, along with former band members guitarist Robert Hecker and drummer Roy McDonalds, reunited in 2006, and the recently released Researching The Blues, their first CD of new material in 15 years, finds them sounding as potent as ever.

The title track is a wild ride, bringing Jimi Hendrix style guitar playing into the realm of garage rock. “Stay Away From Downtown” and “Uglier” follow suit; creating a trio of hard-hitting songs to lead off Researching The Blues. Singer-guitarist Jeff McDonald’s raw vocals underscore the music’s cutting edge appeal. Things take a less manic tone from then on, as Redd Kross unveils a series of power pop gems with strong melodies and harmony vocals. “Meet Frankenstein” taps into the early Beatles, while “Choose To Play” and “One Of The Good Ones” feel more contemporary. The fun and off-kilter “Hazel Eyes” adds to the already impressive Redd Kross repertoire.


Monday, September 3, 2012

CD Review: Susanna Hoffs - Someday

I hope everyone is having a safe and fun Labor Day weekend. Maybe some of it was spent watching the season premieres of Doctor Who and Sunday Morning Coffee With Jeff.

Please note that I have finally gotten around to updating the info in the Elevated Observations column that runs along the right side of this blog.

Here’s a review of the new Susanna Hoffs solo album, Someday, that I originally wrote for the Illinois Entertainer. I noted that I would have liked the song “One Day” better it had a rougher arrangement. A short time later, Hoffs released an online EP called Some Summer Days with what she called Ragtag Versions of “One Day” and two other songs from Someday. There were also two non-CD tracks. As expected, I liked the Ragtag Versions better.

Hoffs has just announced a tour, including dates in Atlanta, GA; Vienna, VA; Natick, MA; Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY, and Chicago, IL.

In other Bangles side project news, the Psycho Sisters, a duo comprised of Vicki Peterson and Susan Cowsill, who previously worked together in The Continental Drifters, are wrapping up work on their first CD. Now onto the Susanna Hoffs review.

 The Bangles first came together when Susanna Hoffs met Debbi and Vicki Peterson through a want ad looking for musicians into The Beatles. Hoffs turned to the 1960s again while writing songs for her latest solo effort, although the vibe on Someday is definitely more ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” than “Help.” Given the current climate of indie rock, this collection of airy love songs could also connect with younger people who never heard of The Bangles.

“Picture Me” exemplifies Hoffs’s vision for the CD, with a Burt Bacharach inspired arrangement that sounds like it could have sprung from the soundtrack of a 1960’s rom-com flick. “Raining,” which Hoffs wrote with Heartbreakers member Mike Campbell in 1989, and “Always Enough” are also appealing pop tunes. At times, Mitchell Froom’s orchestrated backdrops overwhelm the material, particularly on “One Day,” which otherwise could have had a bitter edge similar to The Beatles’ “I’ll Cry Instead.” Sometimes a song is better off without the extra sweetening.
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