Friday, August 30, 2013


Pierogi, Stills, Nash And Young. Fans of Tributosaurus are accustomed to seeing the critically acclaimed tribute band at venues like Martyrs’ and Park West, but it has also established a presence at the Copernicus Center in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tributosaurus will be there tonight as part of Taste Of Polonia, taking on the esteemed role of Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young. I have to thank WXRT morning man Lin Brehmer for sharing this info on his show earlier this week because otherwise I wouldn’t have known about it. The show starts at 9:00 PM, tickets are a mere $7 at the festival gate. Taste Of Polonia will feature over 30 music acts through Labor Day, and is located at 5216 W. Lawrence. 

EXPO ‘76, another band that does an amazing job of covering other people’s material, will be at FitzGerald’s tonight, performing with Cannonball, at the Sidebar. Steely Dan tribute band The Bad Sneakers Orchestra will be in the main room.

Saturday Morning With Ralph. Grab a cup of coffee tomorrow and tune in to the pilot for Ralph’s World: Guitar Time Machine at 9:30 AM on WTTW, Channel 11. Ralph Covert has recorded a number of kid-friendly Ralph’s World CDs, and is hoping to eventually go nationwide with this new TV show. Plus, he’s still the lead-singer and chief songwriter for The Bad Examples. 

Remix Chicago, a street festival with an eye toward recycling, takes place this Saturday and Sunday. Neo-psychedelic rockers Secret Colours and the acerbic power pop band Archie Powell And The Exports play at 3:00 PM and 7:15 PM on Saturday, respectively, and Top Shelf Lickers kick things off on Sunday at noon.

As mentioned previously here on BHT, veteran Chicago musicians Ellis Clark and Phil Angotti will be performing together at The Abbey Pub, and Kevin Lee And The Kings will be at Sylvie’s  tomorrow (August 31st) night.

David Drazin was a member of my old comedy group Famous In The Future and has gone on to a successful career playing piano as accompaniment for silent films and with various bands. He’ll be performing at the Chicago Jazz Festival on the Chicago Jazz Magazine Stage with vocalist Gina Gibson and The Jazz Masters from noon until 12:45.

The Cultivate Food, Ideas And Music Festival, sponsored by Chipotle, takes place in Lincoln Park next Saturday from 11:00 AM to 7:00PM. Along with its quest to promote sustainable and healthy food, Cultivate with have appearances by well-known chefs and live music. DJ Chris Golub will be spinning records between sets by Walk The Moon, who have been featured on a series of ads on WXRT this week; Youngblood Hawke; Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.; The Mowgli’s; and Bestfriends.

Hey Joe, Where You Going With That Mic In Your Hand? Theatre Nebula will be staging Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Cutting Hall in Palatine on weekends from September 7th through the 29th.

There’s Starman Coming Here Next Fall. As recently reported by Christopher Borrelli in the Chicago Tribune, the Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago has snagged the popular David  Bowie Is multi-media retrospective for a run here in September, 2014. In the meantime, Bowie fans can check out An Evening Of Davids, which combines the Talking Heads tribute band This Must Be The Place and Sons Of Silent Age David Bowie tribute band in a double bill at Bottom Lounge on Friday, September 20th.

People Get Ready For A Curtis Mayfield Play. The Black Ensemble Theater, which has achieved much critical and commercial success with a series of biographical plays about African American entertainers, has a new effort titled, It’s All-Right To Have A Good Time: The Story Of Curtis Mayfield. Written by founding member Jackie Taylor and directed by Taylor and Daryl D. Brooks, it will star Reggie Torrian of The Impressions, along with newcomer Cecil Jones as the young Curtis Mayfield. Tickets are now on sale.

A Touching Tribute. Jimmy Rane, singer-guitarist for the Chicago-based band The Viaducts, has created a touching tribute to the shooting victims at the Sandy Hook elementary school, that also serves as a call to action. “In Our Time,” written from the perspective of a grieving parent, also features Rane’s impressive guitar playing.   

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Orchestral Maneuvers At The Abbey

It’s likely Ellis Clark and Phil Angotti have crossed paths several times during their past few decades of performing on the Chicago music scene. They’ll be joining forces for the Ellis Clark And Phil Angotti Power Pop Orchestra show this Saturday night, August 31st at The Abbey Pub on the city’s northwest side. Both musicians have new releases to draw material from; Ellis with LP Number One and Angotti with Life And Rhymes. According to a Facebook event notice, they’ll be backed by drummer Dr. Brad and bassist Charlie Short.

Clark’s adventurous resume includes spending time with Epicycle, Social Act, and The Handcuffs, along with his solo outings. He’s also an A and R Director at CAUdog Records. Angotti has pursued power pop since kicking off his career with The Idea, and he’s explored more introspective material on his recent efforts. Both artists have done tribute shows (Angotti is particularly keen on McCartney and The Bee Gees), so who knows what might come up on what the Facebook event description calls “bonus songs.”

Ellis Clark And Phil Angotti Power Pop Orchestra starts at 8:00 PM and will also include a CAUdog showcase featuring MMLB, Hanna Frank, and Liz Chidester.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Four Cheers For The Mary-Arrchie Theatre

Photo montage from the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s Facebook page.

The Mary-Arrchie Theatre and its numerous supporters will gather at the Four Moon Tavern tonight for a celebration of what’s been an eventful 27th season. Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky was honored with a special Jeff Award, while expertly handling lead roles in a Superior Donuts - Remount and Uncle Bob; and The Glass Menagerie, a brainstorm from returning member Hans Fleischmann, was critically acclaimed and exceeded any possible dreams Mary-Arrchie could have had regarding its financial success. Four Moon Tavern will donate a portion of the money from food and drinks ordered between 8:00 and 10:00 PM tonight o help fund the Mary-Arrchie’s coming season.

The event will also be a chance for participants in this year’s 25th Anniversary Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins to do a little post-festival celebrating. It’s always inspiring to see members of various theatre groups continuing that community spirit of Abbie Fest. In related news, Carlo Lorenzo Garcia will be leaving his post as Mary-Arrchie’s producing director after five years. He’s off to seek creative endeavors in Los Angeles. Tonight would be a good opportunity to congratulate Garcia, who’s also heavily involved in various charities, on his accomplishments, and wish him luck. Four Moon Tavern is located at 1847 W. Roscoe in Chicago. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Digital Single Review: Mooner - “Making Americans” BW “Down On Marston Blues”

Mooner’s new single, “Making Americans,” which is available for a name-your-price download on the formerly Portland, now Chicago-based quintet’s Bandcamp page, follows the same off kilter but engaging power pop approach as its 2012 EP, Unpronounceable Name.

A press release acknowledges this new song’s debt to Elvis Costello. That’s immediately evident in the way vocalist/songwriter Lee Ketch mixes stinging lines like, “Soon as you see the light/I’ll break your head on the floor” with an impossibly catchy arrangement that also evokes The Replacements or The dB’s, with an additional hit of classic rock. It’s a mid-tempo, cryptic satire fueled by the guitars of Lee and vocalist/guitarist David Ketch, the rhythm section of drummer Adam Bonich and bassist Taylor Briggs, and augmented by Steve Slagg’s fluid piano work.

On “Down On Marston Blues,” Mooner uses a spare, acoustic arrangement that sounds like it was recorded live in a club. David Ketch’s talky vocal style gives this tale of self-reflection a sort of vintage Neil Young vibe.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


Photo of Kevin Lee And The Kings from the Kevin Lee Facebook page.

So once again I’ve been passed over to play the title role in the next Batman flick. I’ll just have to shake off the staggering disappointment and get on with this week’s Slumgullion.

The Downtown Palatine Street Fest is underway, and while I had every intention of checking out female rockers (three teenagers, one woman) Purple Apple and street festival veterans/recording artists Dot Dot Dot, a late night freelance assignment changed my plans. I was just getting off the train here in Palatine as Dot Dot Dot was wrapping up its set with a rendition of “Hey Jude.”

My wife Pam and I went to the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit at the Art Institute Of Chicago today, so I only was at the Downtown Palatine Street Fest long enough to parade past the WXRT booth wearing one of the station’s vintage diamond t-shirts. A worker at the booth snapped my picture, so I might show up soon on the XRT website.

I’m trying to finish this post in time to check out Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, who have the 10:00 PM slot in Palatine tonight. They’ve recorded a number of CDs and have achieved national success with their vintage swing and rock and roll music. On Sunday, teen rockers Selective Amnesia kick things off at 11:00 AM, followed by the teenage girl band Serendipity at 1:00 PM; 20-something, California-based singer Tiffany Alvord at 2:30; 7th Heaven, one of the more popular club bands in the area at 4:00; and Beatles tribute band, Brit Beat at 6:00 PM.

The guitar-driven power pop band Kevin Lee And The Kings have a gig next Saturday, August 31st, at Sylvie’s on Chicago’s north side. The set list will no doubt include songs from Lee’s most recent effort, the impressive, Breakout, which notched some positive comments earlier on this blog.

Atmospheric synth band Save The Clocktower, whose Carousel CD was also favorably reviewed here on BHT, recently announced it has a show coming up with Porcelain Raft at Schubas on September 12th. Here’s a video for “Like That,” a single released from the band’s 2012 CD, Through The Glass.

The Everly Hillbillies, a Chicago-based covers band led by Mike Cohen and Jeff Janulis of The Abbeys, are one of the acts participating in the 1st Annual Every Brothers & Family Get Together/Concert taking place on September 29th at the 3rd And Lindsley Bar And Grill in Nashville, TN. Other acts on the bill include The Folkups and Bill “Sputnik” Spooner, a  founding member of The Tubes. Concert promoters Turning Point Productions also promise, “VERY VERY, VERY special surprise guests.”

There Goes Improv Performin’ Simon. WXRT air personality Lin Brehmer and news anchor Mary Dixon were talking yesterday morning about musician Paul Simon showing up at Wrigley Field and later getting up onstage to do a song at the Second City comedy club. According to a Chicago Tribune online piece by theatre critic Chris Jones, the shorter half of Simon And Garfunkel spun some humorous tales and performed three songs. 

There have been some recent additions to the Broken Hearted Toy Rock And Roll Library. I’m planning on covering all three of these books more extensively in the future, but for now, here’s a brief preview.

I bought a copy of Rubber Soul from rocker-turned author Greg Kihn at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. His latest novel is set in the 1960s and includes The Beatles among its characters. I’m about about a third of the way through, and it’s fun and imaginative. I also picked up a copy of Clinton Heylin’s The Act You’ve Known For All These Years book about the Beatles in their prime. It’s not a new publiction—it originally came out in the UK in 2007—but it’s filled with fascinating anecdotes from Pete Towshend, Graham Nash, Andrew Loog Oldham, George Martin, and the Beatles themselves.

I just received a copy of college professor and PowerPop blogger Mary E. Donnelly’s long-awaited look at the power pop band, Shoes, Boys Don’t Lie A History Of Shoes. Freelance writer Moira McCormick assisted with the book. At 464 pages, it has loads of info, as well as commentary from several music industry related people, including Material Issue’s Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko; International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash; writers Bill Paige, Cary Baker, Don McLeese, and Ira Robbins; musicians Ric Menck, Herb Eimerman, Mike Galassini, Jamie Hoover, Bill Lloyd, and former Shoes drummer Skip Meyer. Glancing through some of the pages, it looks like Donnelly was able to get informative and straight-forward answers from Shoes founders Jeff Murphy, John Murphy, and Gary Klebe. I interviewed these guys twice for the Illinois Entertainer, and there’s never a speck of hype or dishonesty in what they have to say.

Also, on the book beat, Cherie Colyer, a member of my writers group, has just released her second paranormal romance, Hold Tight, on Omnific Publishing. It’s the sequel to her emotionally powerful and engaging tale of teen witchcraft, Embrace.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Hats Off To Del: A Tribute To Mr. Shannon

Del Shannon having a jolly good time in London. Photo from the official Del Shannon website.

When author Bruce Spizer was a guest speaker at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago a few weeks ago, he talked about how well American singer Del Shannon got along with The Beatles while touring across England with them back in 1963. Shannon recorded a version of their song, “From Me To You,” which actually sold more copies than the original on the U.S. charts. (The Beatles still hadn’t broken over here yet.) Still, he is probably best known for hit singles like “Runaway” and “Hats Off To Larry.”

Now comes word of the Del Shannon Tribute - Songwriter Volume 1 CD, which will feature power pop covers of his songs. Contributing artists include Marshall Crenshaw, Frank Black from The Pixies, The Britannicas, The Rubinoos, Nash Kato from Urge Overkill, Marti Jones, Randy Bachmann, and a duet from Carlo Olson and Peter Case. The Del Shannon Tribute - Songwriter Volume 1 Facebook page has posts and videos regarding the various artists involved, and promises the CD will be released soon. All profits will be donated to the Del Shannon Memorial Scholarship Fund for helping young musicians.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Digital Release Review: Jasko - Thirty Forty

Singer-guitarist Todd Jasko is behind the steering wheel of the New York-based quartet that bears his last name; driving toward good time vintage rock and catchy power pop. With a rough-hewn vocal style, he comes across as an unabashed party boy on Thirty Forty, a six-song EP available for a name-your-price download on the group’s Bandcamp page. Even at just 14 minutes long, it’s still a blast of guitar-driven fun.

Jasko’s knack for depicting questionable behavior is particularly evident on “Blackout Drunk,” an energetic song with echoes of Buddy Holly. “The Memo” finds him on the street ogling beautiful women and boasting, “I’m praying for skirts and a breeze.” He’s more understanding on “A New Start,” where he’s trying to help a woman overcome an abusive relationship, and “Valentine” is positively romantic, albeit with lines like, “I’m glad you’re here to keep my ass in check.” 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Palatine Pops For A National Band

For the first time in a few years, the Downtown Palatine Street Fest will have a national band as its main attraction. In the past, it has been a kick having The Smithereens, Cracker, and Smash Mouth playing just five minutes away from my front doorstep. On Saturday, August 24th, the Eugene, Oregon-based Cherry Poppin’ Daddies will bring their highly animated take on swing era music to the outdoor stage in Palatine at 10:00 PM.

The eight-member band has released a number of CDs since 1990, the latest being White Teeth, Black Thoughts, which dropped this past June. Fans of The Brian Setzer Orchestra are sure find a lot to like about these guys. Here’s a clip of Cherry Poppin’ Daddies performing “Zoot Suit Riot” on The David Letterman Show.

The Downtown Palatine Street Fest kicks off at 5:30 PM on Friday with the band Old School, the first of 17 acts scheduled for the weekend. Next up is Purple Apple, a quartet comprised of three teenage girls and a woman drummer, that has been getting attention on the Chicago club scene. The coed synth band, Dot Dot Dot, has become one of Chicago’s busiest street fest acts through an eclectic selection of cover material and originals, as well as its fun ways of engaging an audience. Serendipity, another teenage girl band that has quickly made a name for itself, has the 1:00 PM Sunday time slot, and the Beatles tribute band Brit Beat wraps things up at 6:00 PM. For the full schedule, check out the Downtown Palatine Street Fest website.

In addition to the bands on the main stage, popular children’s music artist Ralph Covert from Ralph’s World will be performing at the Mariano’s Kid Zone in the Town Square at 3:00 PM on Saturday. Food vendors include Artistic Cuisine, Brothers’ Ribs, Mexico Uno, Photos Hotdogs, and Siri Thai. Also, the Durty Nellie’s, Mac’s On Slade, Lamplighters, and Emmetts Brewing Company restaurants are within walking distance. So come out to Palatine this weekend. The more people who show up for the Downtown Palatine Street Fest, the more likely it will be that we’ll have another national act headlining next year. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


I’m On Fire, And Baby, It’s Cold Outside. There will be a double dose of classic power pop tomorrow night at Reggies on south State Stree in Chicago when Pezband opens for Dwight Twilley. Pezband has a CD of previously unreleased material from its vault coming out later this year.

Paragon’s Virtues. Paragon Studios on Fulton Street in Chicago is holding a combination open house/acoustic concert featuring singer-songwriters this Sunday from 4:00 to 9:00 PM. Ellis Clark, who has performed in Epicycle, Social Act, and The Handcuffs, will be performing at 6:00 PM. He’ll probably be playing songs from his recent solo release, LP Number One. Admission for the Paragon Open House is free. 

On A Sad Note. Several Chicago area musicians gathered at the FitzGerald’s club in Berwyn this past Wednesday night for a memorial to their close friend, Tom "Pickles" Piekarski. The charismatic bass player, known for his work with several artists, including The Bad Examples, John Prine, Famous Potatoes, and Bucky Halter, recently suffered a fatal heart attack. My deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Coma Comes To Town. The San Antonio-based three-woman alt rock band Girl In A Coma will be appearing at the UNISONO en el Zocalo One Sound, One Village event in the Pilsen tomorrow. Mexican Institute Of Sound, Sidewalk Chalk, Fue, and Banda Potrillos will also be performing, and there will be women empowerment workshops throughout the day. In my review of Girl In A Coma’s Exits And All The Rest Cd (see June 11, 2012 in Archives) I described their songs as having rough edges, abrupt tempo shifts, and emotionally charged lyrics.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

CD Review: Gary Ritchie - Drake Near The Alley

Singer-guitarist Gary Ritchie once again taps into the 1960s on his latest collection of power pop songs, Drake Near The Alley. He has logged time with a number of bands over the past few decades, most notably Loose Lips and Mike Jordan And The Rockmatics. Some of that experience surfaces in the lyrics on Drake, and Ritchie also reflects on his childhood and high school years.

“Hum, Sing, Repeat” includes the line, “I spent my milk money on a 45,” and celebrates the rock and roll era of Chicago AM radio station WLS. There’s a nice shout out in the liner notes to the late DJ Art Roberts and his nightly Top Three Songs. The acerbic “Charming Life” depicts a guy who still feels empty even while boasting about all his accomplishments to the girl who snubbed him back in their high school days. Other tracks deal with crumbling relationships, like “Hear My Plea,” which has an easy-going arrangement reminiscent of Chad And Jeremy.

At times, Ritchie’s vocals sound over-articulated, which can throw the song off a bit. He comes across stronger while cutting loose on the harder-edged “Back To You.” Still, fans of melodic pop with ringing guitars are sure to appreciate the approach on Drake Near The Alley, particularly on “Woman, Oh Woman” and “Midnight Lovers.” 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

No Problem With The Handcuffs

Kevin Elwardt photo of The Handcuffs at an earlier concert. From The Handcuffs Facebook page.

The catchy rock songs The Handcuffs have recorded over the course of three CDs came across loud and clear during a performance at Northalsted Market Days. Led by the husband and wife team of singer-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis, the Chicago-based band has landed a number of songs on TV shows, and plays the local scene on a semi-regular basis. On Sunday, The Handcuffs opened with the energetic “Mickey 66” and continued at a relentless pace throughout the hour-long show.

A touch of glam and a consistently hard guitar attack mixed within classic pop melodies makes it challenging to slap a label on this four woman/one man quintet. Plus, chief songwriter Brad Elvis is pretty adventurous when it comes to lyrics. Orwell, a charismatic front person, acknowledged the predominantly gay Market Days crowd from time to time, and dedicated the provocative tale of cross-dressing, “Vinyl Isabella,” to “all the trannies in the crowd.” The song segued nicely into a bit of “Lola” by the Kinks, and The Handcuffs later offered a rollicking cover of Mott The Hooples “All The Way To Memphis.”

Otherwise, it was an impressive set of originals like “Miss You On Tuesday,” “Kiss This Goodbye,” “Dirty Glitter,” and “Jet Baby.” New guitarist Susie Q exuded the mystique of a western gunslinger as she powered each song, and broke free for some extended solos. At one point, Orwell instructed the crowd to chant Q! in the guitarist’s honor. Orwell also had some interactive fun during “Gotta’ Problem With Me?” As she sang, “You gotta a problem with me?”, the audience pointed at her and shouted “We gotta a problem with you!” It takes a lot of confidence to encourage a crowd participate that way.

The Handcuffs have been working in the studio on their fourth release. The two new songs performed on Sunday, “Keep Your Mouth Shut!” and “Fluffer” (I’m guessing at the titles) gave a strong indication that the band shows no signs of slowing down.    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Silver Subversion: Abbie Hoffman Fest Turns 25

Photo of Rich Cotovsky (left) and Famous In The Future member Pat Über-Critic McDonald from McDonalds Facebook page.

The Mary-Arrchie Theatre celebrated the 25th Anniversary of its three-day performing arts celebration named in honor of the late Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman this past weekend at The Den Theatre. On Sunday morning there was an informal reading from Hoffman’s Steal This Book, but otherwise, the tone of the event was more creative than revolutionary. A Facebook message posted by Mary-Arrchie Theatre yesterday neatly summed up the positive vibes generated at this year’s Abbie Fest, and expressed the hope that feeling will exist year round within the Chicago theatre scene.

“Remember throughout the year the spirit of the Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins Theatre Festival. It’s about cooperation, not competition. Live that in everything you do this year. Our sincerest thanks to everyone who performed, attended, or worked the fest this year, you are the best!”

Bringing local performers, writers, and directors closer together has been one of Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky’s major goals since the first Abbie Fest took place in 1989. And it worked just as well in the more expansive space at The Den Theatre as it always has at the Mary-Arrchie’s home base at the corner of Broadway and Sheridan Road. The action was in full swing when I dropped by for a second visit on Saturday evening. The bar area was filled with performers and the people who had come to see them. At times, loud conversations bled into Stage 1 (just as music from the bands playing on Stage 2B could occasionally be heard during the plays on Stage Not 2B) but it felt more like a festive ambience than an intrusion.

Abbie Fest veterans Citizens’ Relief brought their usual engaging stage presence to the cryptic Tennessee Williams work, The Two Character Play. No matter what piece they choose—and they always aim for the offbeat—these two performers are fun to watch. Carla Hayden and James Moeller of Black Forest are also long-time participants with a knack for compelling forays into the avant garde. For Mixtapes, Hayden and Moeller were joined by a dancer who brought her own charm and talent to the production. The three women of Mudgeonsoul Productions brought a sharp edge to Liz Siedt’s gothic comedy, Rebecca Back To Life.

Which brings us to Famous In The Future, and even though I performed with this comedy group for 20 years, I’m going to once again toss aside journalistic integrity and critique their Twenty-FIF: Silver And Mold revue. FIF, the only group other than the Mary-Arrchie itself to have appeared at every single Abbie Fest, experimented with a few new concepts for their silver anniversary. Having a musician play guitar and sing between skits worked well, as Jason Weinberg immediately endeared himself to the audience and had them singing along with his versions of well known rock songs.

FIF opened with a puppet representing Cotovsky’s Swami character in Gas Mask 101, and Abbie Fest regulars loved it. Later, FIF did an amazing job bringing two stuffed bears to life, but the skit didn’t have a strong enough payoff. Some of the better material included a song about an ugly flower, and a hick who claimed to have filmed Jesus visiting his trailer park. Not all the bits were gems, but Famous In The Future is still funny and imaginative after 25 years.

Unfortunately, I had to leave Saturday night before The Abbeys played on Stage 2B, and that was the band I most wanted to see. I returned early Sunday morning and caught two shows that exemplified the Abbie Fest spirit. Cotovsky was in his element as Rex the crazed loner in Matt Borczon’s Wild Dogs. I’ve seen Cotovsky eat a Twinkie off the floor in the opening scene at least 20 times, but he always makes this comic/tragic play a kick to watch. Afterward, Cotovsky gathered some of the younger Mary-Archie staff members together on Stage 1 to take turns reading out loud from Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. The author’s rebellious spirit rages on 25 years after his death, thanks to this freewheeling annual festival.

Monday, August 12, 2013

I’ve Just Seen A Fest 2013

Photo from The Fest For Beatles Fans Facebook page.

You could call The Fest For Beatles Fans a celebration with kaleidoscope eyes. The Chicago version, which was held this past weekend at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, once again offered a colorful variety of ways to look at the most famous rock band in history. The celebrity guests—musicians who performed with and/or were inspired by The Beatles; authors who’ve spent years researching them; and artists and photographers who’ve captured their images—all worked from a different point of view. A screening room showed Beatles-related films, and of course, the fans in attendance all came with their own perspectives.

The wide selection of t-shirts in The Fests marketplace gave fans plenty of choices on how to wear their Fab Four pride, and there were new items to discover. The Record Showcase is a larger-sized frame that simultaneously displays a vinyl  LP’s cover and most of the record itself. The frame provides a UV Inhibitor for protection and can be easily opened to allow the record to be played. Other products emblazoned with The Beatles ranged from blankets to a pair of dice.

The Fest For Beatles Fans also brought artists and authors face to face with the people who would most likely be interested in their work. Rob Shanahan, who is Ringo Starr’s personal photographer, gave an entertaining slide show in the ballroom, and author Bruce Spizer also used a slide show while promoting the digital version of his book, Beatles Records on Vee-Jay. The hard cover version sold out long ago and is difficult to find. Singer-guitarist Greg Kihn autographed copies of his latest mystery novel, the Beatles-themed Rubber Soul, and entertained people in the marketplace with acoustic versions of “The Breakup Song” and “Jeopardy.” Other authors on hand included Larry Kane (When They Were Boys), Wally Podrazik (All Together Now), Jim Berkenstadt (The Beatle Who Vanished), Jude Southerland Kessler (She Loves You), Jorie Gracen (Paul McCartney: I Saw Him Standing There), Judith Kristen (Once Upon A Time In Liverpool), Robert Rodriguez (Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock And Roll), and Gillian Gaar (100 Things Beatles Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die).

Eric Cash and Georgina Flood filled the Heathrow Room at the Hyatt with imaginative Beatles art on prints, t-shirts, and calendars. In addition to being talented artists, they both share an easy-going and genuine rapport with fans. Freda Kelly, the subject of Good Ol Freda, a new documentary about her time as secretary of the official Beatles Fan Club, also charmed the numerous people who came up to talk with her.   

The musical guests were the biggest draw for most people who came to The Fest For Beatles Fans, and unfortunately, I missed a major chunk of the concerts due to having such a hectic weekend. But I did catch Chad & Jeremy’s performance on Saturday afternoon, and their harmonies on hits like “Summer Song,” “Willow, Weep For Me,” and “Yesterday’s Gone” were still amazingly fresh. Other highlights included an acoustic take on the Jimi Hendrix classic “Purple Haze,” which Chad touchingly dedicated to the memory of a young student who took guitar lessons from him, and a gorgeous rendition of The Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back Again,” for the encore. The British Invasion duo also shared humorous tales of being on American TV shows like Batman, The Patty Duke Show, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.

The B.U.I. (Beatles Under the Influence) Musicians’ Forum is always an entertaining if unruly adventure of improv rock and roll. British writer/producer Martin Lewis, who shares interviewing duties with WXRT radio personality Terri Hemmert, assembles a panel of musical guests, feeds them questions about The Beatles and watches them cut loose. This year, the participants were producer/musician Mark Hudson, Badfinger singer-guitarist Joey Molland, singer-guitarist Billy J. Kramer, drummer Liberty Devitto, and bassist-vocalist Chas Newby, who played with The Beatles on four gigs in the early 1960s. 
As always, The Fest For Beatles Fans wrapped up with a Sunday night concert by the tribute band, Liverpool. These four New Jersey-based musicians nail every Beatles song that lay their hands on, and their range of material exceeds most of their competitors. After an hour of bringing the cheering audience to its feet for songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Strawberry Fields,” and “Hey Bulldog,” Liverpool followed its annual tradition of inviting some of the musical guests to join them. I had to leave shortly after Molland drove them through “Dixie Blue” and “Day After Day,” in order to catch the CTA and Metra back home.  I may not have been able to see as much of The Fest For Beatles Fans as I wanted to this year, but even a bit was still quite an experience.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Well, All Right, Den!

Long-time participants and fans alike must have wondered if the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival would lose some of its in-your-face storefront allure with its move to The Den Theatre this year. Then there was the question as to whether regulars would follow Abbie from the Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s home base on north Broadway to its special, 25th Anniversary location on Milwaukee Avenue. If a quick visit to The Abbie last night is any indication, the results have been mostly positive.

Luckily, my fear that a late-night freelance obligation would keep me from not going at all last night didn’t come about, but it did delay my arrival enough to miss Mary-Arrchie Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky portraying Abbie Hoffman in the opening ceremonies. From there, it was a difficult decision to pass up Rush Pearson’s masterful one-man show, Diary Of A Mad Man on Stage 1, in favor of a rapid-fire quartet of of new plays on Stage Not 2B.

Jessica Wright Buha’s Gently Killing Grandma was a dark comedy deftly performed by five women from The Luha Group. Iguana Productions followed with John Weagly’s A Goose Without A Gander, a funny monologue fueled by its dynamic performer, about infidelity and the ill-fated title bird. Value Meal found two burly gentlemen from Big-Big! faced with the challenge of polishing off a line of Subway sandwiches while discussing their favorite food. Paper Bag Void was an entertaining, brief bit of philosophy that climaxed with audience members shouting their appreciation for Abbie Fest and popping paper bags.

Over on Stage 2B, where several bands will be performing this year, whitewolfsonicprincess cast a spell with Get Right With God; indie rock songs laced with  provocative spiritual imagery. Founding members Carla Hayden and James Moeller also front Black Forest, a theatre group with several years of playing the Abbie under its belt.

For the complete Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins schedule, check out the Mary-Arrchie Theatre website. Some of today’s highlights include a series of bands kicking off with Jungle Of Cities at 2:00 PM; Wild Dogs by Mary-Arrchie Theatre at 4:00 PM; The Two Character Play by Citizens Relief at 6:00 PM; Mixtapes by Black Forest at 8:00 PM; Twenty-FIF: Silver & Mold by my former comedy group, Famous In The Future, at 9:00 PM; and power pop band The Abbeys at 10:45 PM.        

Friday, August 9, 2013


If you notice a commotion in Daley Plaza around 2:00 PM today, don’t be afraid to check it out. The Mary-Arrchie Theatre holds a rally there each year around this time to kick off the Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival. Following the rally, Rich Cotovsky, portraying Abbie Hoffman will lead his followers on a march to The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Opening ceremonies (always a highlight of Abbie Fest) are at 7:00 PM, and then the flood gates open for three days of nonstop entertainment. The schedule is now available as a mobile app and a Google Doc on the Mary-Arrchie Theatre wesbsite. 

Northhalsted Market Days takes place this Saturday and Sunday with food, art, crafts, exotically dressed people, and three stages of live music. Andy Bell from Erasure, 10,000 Maniacs, Cherie Currie, Wilson Phillips, and David Cassidy are among the headline acts. The Handcuffs, fronted by lead vocalist-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis, will be performing at 3:30 PM Sunday. Other acts include Girlband, Dot Dot Dot, and 7th Heaven.

International Pop Overthrow recently wrapped up a successful visit to Los Angeles, the city of its birth, and has moved on to San Francisco. Lannie Flowers, the six-piece rock/soul outfit Talk Tonight, and a Paris-based mod band called French Boutik are among the artists scheduled to participate this weekend at Hotel Utah Saloon.

Meanwhile, International Pop Overthrow-Chicago veterans Go Time! will be bringing their hard-edged but melodic tunes to the Gallery Cabaret next Saturday, August 18th at 9:00PM. The venue is located at 2020 N. Oakley in Chicago.

Can’t get enough of that Fab Four stuff? On Monday, August 12th, a day after Fest For Beatles Fans-Chicago ends, Phil Angotti will carry the baton as he and some friends perform Paul McCartney’s Band On The Run album at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue.

This might sound like that 1970s rumor about Alice Cooper being the same guy who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver, but according to the Uproxx website, Peter Capaldi, the actor recently selected to portray the 12th generation of The Doctor on Doctor Who, was once in a Scottish punk band called The Dreamboys. The band’s drummer was Late Late Show host and avid Doctor Who fan, Craig Ferguson. 

James Moeller of Black Forest and whitewolfsonicprincess has a new side project called Broken TV. His first song, “Whizzing By” is a terse number featuring only him on vocals and electric guitar. It’s available on BandCamp

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