Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Jangle Band - “Kill The Lovers”/“This Soul Is Not For Sale”

Australian power pop musician Joe Algeri has worked on a variety of projects in recent years, including his solo work under the name The JAC and being part of the international trio The Britannicas. As a musician and producer, he draws heavily on 1960s pop arrangements and frequently takes an off-kilter view of love and life in general. The Jangle Band is a brand new outfit that features Algeri teaming up with Jeff Baker and Ian Freeman, who are veterans of 1980s Australian bands like The Palisades, Mars Bastards, The Rainyard, and Header.

The trio recruited an additional three musicians as the recording proceeded, and the result is a two-song, download-only single that’s available at no charge on Algeri’s Bandcamp page. On “Kill The Lovers,” which he wrote, Algeri sets the idea of swapping a fading romance for a new platonic relationship to jangling guitars (hence the band name) and a catchy mid-tempo arrangement that recalls “Rain” era Beatles. Like much of Algeri’s previous work, the song offers lush, harmony vocals.

“This Soul Is Not For Sale” is a new composition from Baker and Freeman that adroitly taps into the harmonies and Rickenbacker guitars immortalized by The Byrds. Well-crafted lines like, “I may be weary/This cup of fire drained/But I will never fade away/If this light alone remains” encourage fighting for what you believe in, although the actual crisis taking place in the song is open to interpretation. All in all, The Jangle Band earns its name on both of these tracks.

Algeri is currently producing a solo effort for his fellow Britannica, Chicago area musician Herb Eimerman.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating The 4th With The 1960s

An upcoming 4th of July concert at Lake Ellyn Park in Glen Ellyn by one of my favorite local copy bands just might qualify as an official event in what I have designated as A Summer Of The Hollies. (See last Wednesday’s post.) I’ve heard The New Invaders play Hollies songs on a few occasions, and having exchanged emails with guitarist-vocalist Jimmy Herter, I’ve learned that he’s definitely a fan of Manchester’s finest. He’s logged more time covering The Beatles and The Monkees in other tribute bands, but the man knows his way around “Bus Stop.”

The New Invaders describe their show as taking audiences from the British Invasion to Woodstock, and since all six members (five guys and one woman) sing, there are a lot of harmonies in their approach. Plus, they’re versatile musicians—Herter also plays harmonica, flute, and sax—which enables them to cover everything from Sonny & Cher to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Their eclectic repertoire includes Sly And The Family Stone, The Who, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Fifth Dimension, The Beatles, The Mamas & The Papas, The Monkees, Badfinger, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, and The Animals.

The New Invaders also cover acts that didn’t have too many hits, but whose work played an essential role in the 1960s. This might be one of the few bands that honors The Electric Prunes, The Seeds, The Chambers Brothers, and Iron Butterfly. With that wide of a selection at their disposal, there’s no guarantee that a Hollies song will make it into this Saturday’s 1:00 to 2:30 PM show. But it’s unlikely that any fan of 1960s rock will come away feeling disappointed.

Friday, June 26, 2015


As reported on Chicago radio station WXRT’s website and Facebook page this past Wednesday, Chicago blues legend Buddy Guy joined The Rolling Stones for some extended jamming on “Champagne And Reefer” during their concert at SummerFest in Milwaukee. In addition to forging a guitar triumvirate with Ron Wood and Keith Richards, Guy also took a turn on lead vocals. He and Mick Jagger were both impressive belting out the Muddy Waters classic. In other Stones news, the band recently released its From The Vault: The Marquee—Live In 1971 DVD.

Beat Swap Meet, a traveling event that bills itself as “a celebration of vinyl culture” will feature invited record collectors and dealers from across the country at Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport Street in Chicago tomorrow from 12:00 to 5:00 PM. Attendees will be able to buy, sell, or trade blues, funk, jazz, hip hop, new wave, psych, punk, rap, reggae, ska, soul, and world LPs and 45s while listening to DJs. Admission is free with a donation of a canned good.

Gerry O’Keefe will perform summer-inspired songs by The Beach Boys, The Go-Go’s, The Monkees, The Drifters, The Kinks, Keith, Katrina And The Waves and others from 6:30 to 8:30 PM tomorrow night at the kid-friendly Buzz Cafe in Oak Park.

Kelsey Skutnick, a Chicago-based artist I first encountered on the CTA Redline when she was giving out mysterious strips of paper with her name and an illustration on them, has created an 18 x 24 Grateful Dead 50 print for all the Deadheads who’ll be gathering to catch the band’s final three shows next weekend at Soldier Field. She plans to sell them on the street (I’m not sure which street) so if you buy one be sure to tell her you read about it on Broken Hearted Toy.

A tip of the bowler to English actor Patrick Macnee, who played dapper and deadly John Steed on the British comedy/adventure series The Avengers for several years. He passed away yesterday at the age of 93.

Chicago Tribune rock critic Greg Kot has interviewed U2 on at least a few occasions over the years, and his latest meeting with them has resulted in an informative and fascinating two-part article. Seeing U2 perform in live in Montreal seems to have given Kot a better appreciation of Songs Of Innocence, an album he wasn’t overly impressed with when it was released. Bono meets him halfway, conceding, “If I’m honest, there is something about the sound of the record that is a little too organized. That’s what happens when you’re too long in the studio.” U2 is currently in the midst of a five-date tour of Chicago.

Aimee Mann, Pink Martini, and The Von Trapps will share a triple bill bext Wednesday, July 1st  at Ravinia. Brian Wilson, a hot topic these days because of the Love And Mercy bio-pic, along with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin will visit Ravinia on July 6th. Rodriguez, of Searching For Sugar Man fame, is also on the bill.

The original lineup of The Smoking Popes—including long-absent drummer Mike Felumlee—has sold out its July 30th show at the Elbo Room. One of  Chicago’s more popular cutting edge bands, The Smoking Popes released the teen-centric concept album This Is A Only Test in 2011 to positive reviews. (See Archives, June 6, 2011 for a review.) Their opening act at Elbo Room will be Burnside And Hooker, a theatrical and engaging coed band that recently released its second full-length CD All The Way To The Devil.

The Hollies Official Facebook noted that the band’s optimistic and irresistible single “I’m Alive” reached Number One in the UK charts 50 years ago this week. Just a fun fact to contemplate now that I’ve officially declared this A Hollies Summer in Chicago.

Guitar-driven power pop band The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club has a record release show for their full-length album Rock N Roll Motorcycle Dinosaur at the Bottom Lounge on July 18th. I’ll be reviewing this 12-song effort in the near future.

The Luck Of Eden Hall is heading overseas for a UK tour that will include a gig at the 12-Bar Club with Mark And The Clouds; Emily And Angeline; Mummy; and The Blues Ghosts on July 30th in London. They’ll be back in the States to open for The Psychedelic Furs at the Skokie Backlot Bash on August 29.

The 6th Annual Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival will run July 19–26, with events scheduled at the Cinema Star Grill in Arlington Heights and Cutting Hall in Palatine.

Also in Palatine, the 2015 Hometown Fest over the 4th of July weekend will include performances by Serendipity, a band comprised of five young women who play originals and an eclectic selection of covers, at 5:00 PM on Friday, and the Rolling Stones tribute band Hot Rocks on Sunday at 5:30 PM.

I was disappointed to receive the manuscript for my rock and roll novel back in the mail today with a rejection slip from a local publisher. After venting on Facebook, I received a number of consoling messages from assorted friends. Thanks to everyone who reached out. I’ll be approaching new publishers and agents soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

For Those About To Pay Tribute To The Beatles: We Salute You

Today is Global Beatles Day, an annual online event organized by Faith Cohen that gives people around the world a chance to wax philosophical or just say something pleasant about the most important band in rock and roll history. Musicians have been honoring The Beatles with tribute albums for a long time now. Here’s a look at a few noteworthy efforts.

MOJO Magazine: Beatlemania/Volume 1. The super hip UK magazine always has a free CD stuck to its front cover, although the quality of these collections varies. This one from the September 2004 issue succeeds quite nicely by gathering a variety of American artists to interpret The Beatles in their native genres. Thus you have The Dillards and Charles River Valley Boys bringing toe-tapping Country and Western arrangements to “Yesterday” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” respectively; Detroit Emeralds elevating “And I Love Her” with gospel singing, and Billy Preston offering a funky instrumental take on “Eight Days A Week.” As a power pop/1960s aficionado, I’m drawn to The Posies’ “I’m Looking Through You,” The Cyrkle’s “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You,” and The Cryan Shames’ “If I Needed Someone.”

He Was Fab - A Loving Tribute To George Harrison. The artists on this 2002 Jealousy Records CD tend toward power pop, and they all hit the mark with their tributes to the quiet Beatle. The Drowners’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” gets things off to the a rocking start, and there’s fine work from Chris Richards, Phil Angotti and The Idea, Sparkle *Jets UK, The Lolas, Lisa Mychols, Jamie Hoover, and 13 other artists.

Listen To What The Man Said. Released on OGLIO Records in conjunction with Coming Up! in 2001, this tribute has popular artists like Semisonic, Robin Hitchcock, The Minus 5, Matthew Sweet, They Might Be Giants, Sloan, The Finn Brothers, World Party, and Judybats covering songs from Paul McCartney’s solo career. Tracks include “Band On The Run,” “My Brave Face,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Too Many People,” but surprisingly, “Listen To What The Man Said” is not included.

Coming Up! The bookend to Listen To What The Man Said, this OGLIO Records effort has independent artists like The Jelly Bricks, The Shazam, Starbelly, and The Masticators recording McCartney tunes. It has “Mull Of Kintyre,” “Helen Wheels,” and “Another Day.” “Coming Up,” by the way, is on the Listen To What The Man Said collection. 

Fruits de Mer Records - Various Compilations. This UK vinyl-only indie label excels at bringing in current psyche and prog rock bands to cover classics from the 1960s. That includes mind-bending versions of Beatles songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” by Rob Gould, “Within You, Without You” by Jack Ellister, and If I Needed Someone” by Stay.

Thanks to Faith Cohen for organizing this event; to the bands and record labels that given us the tribute albums; and all the musicians around the world who include Beatles songs in their live performances.

Have A Happy Global Beatles Day.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It’s Officially A Hollies Summer In Chicago

The best souvenirs come from someone special.
My wife Pam painted this Hollies portrait for me when we first started dating.

At the risk of seeming clueless, I’m officially designating the next few months as A Hollies Summer In Chicago. I know. The Rolling Stones just played SummerFest in Milwaukee, which is a pretty quick drive from here. U2 is in town for a series of five concerts at the United Center, starting tonight. The Grateful Dead will play their last three concerts ever at Soldier Field over the 4th of July weekend. Paul McCartney is coming to Lollapalooza in August. Tomorrow is Global Beatles Day. Which is why I’m saying A Hollies Summer, so that it doesn’t prevent June, July, and August from being some other artist or event’s Summer as well. Still, The Hollies?

Two members of that Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame-inducted band are coming to the Chicago area for separate performances in July and August. I can’t remember the last time something like this has happened. Graham Nash will be doing a solo gig at The Arcada in St. Charles on July 28, which is close enough to July 25 to be considered part of my birthday celebration. Terry Sylvester will once again be a guest at Fest For Beatles Fans, when it returns to the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont on the weekend of August 14–16. In a way, the fact that Sylvester’s arrival here follows Nash’s recreates a major point in Hollies history; when Sylvester replaced Nash as the band’s rhythm guitarist-vocalist.

Although Nash seemed to shun his work with The Hollies when he first joined David Crosby and Stephen Stills, later years have seen him embrace his Manchester roots. His sense of pride in the work he did with The Hollies clearly comes across in Nash’s autobiography Wild Tales: A Rock And Roll Life.  When I did a telephone interview with him for the Illinois Entertainer in 2009, (see Broken Hearted Toy archives, December 17, 2009) he was adamant that The Hollies belonged in The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A year later, he would get his wish. So there’s reason to believe a Nash solo show will find him performing some Hollies material.

The last time Terry Sylvester was a guest at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, he was interviewed by The Fest’s MC Terri Hemmert in the Main Ballroom, signed autographs, and performed a few Hollies songs with the tribute band Liverpool. More recently, Sylvester was part of The British Invasion Tour that also included Chad And Jeremy, Peter Asher, Denny Laine, Mike Pender, and Billy J. Kramer. (See Broken Hearted Toy archives, March 9, 2015.) He exudes a one-of-the-guys-at-the-pub friendliness, and seemed happy to accept the Broken Hearted Toy button I gave him at City Winery - Chicago.

Another appropriate way to celebrate A Hollies Summer In Chicago would be to play their songs at home and on your assorted devices. If you don’t own a Hollies album, there are several hundred greatest hits packages available. Nash released a boxed set called Reflections that covers his entire career. The Look Through Any Window 1963 –1975 DVD has TV footage, live performances, interviews, and amazing footage of The Hollies in the Abbey Road recording studio.

Local bands like The Abbeys and The Webstirs that specialize in catchy songs with harmonies could include a Hollies cover in their live sets. Singer-guitarist Phil Angotti could get together with Casey McDonough, Tommi Zender, and the boys and do a Hollies tribute show. (They’ve covered The Bee Gees, The Zombies, and The Kinks very well so far.) The Hollies Appreciation Facebook Area Page is a great place to see rare photos and videos, but you need permission to join. The Hollies official website has tour books, t-shirts, a mouse pad (I’m using mine now) and other merchandise for sale. You can find an amazing variety of vintage Hollies videos on YouTube. So, there are lots of ways to celebrate A Hollies Summer. Let the fun begin.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Power Pop Movie Progress Report

Justin Fielding in one of his many selfies. This time, he’s with Derrick Anderson (left), who has performed with The Bangles and The Smithereens, and Jim Laspesa (right), who can be seen in the Brian Wilson biopic Love And Mercy.

First, a quick reminder that this Thursday, June 25, is Global Beatles Day. The annual online event is hosted by Faith Cohen and she wants people to express their love and admiration all together now for the four lads from Liverpool. Without them, the following post would not have been possible.

Although Boston-based filmmaker Justin Fielding doesn’t plan to release his documentary The Power Pop Movie until some time in 2016, those of us who have been following his posts on Facebook already know a few essential things about it. Fielding plans to explore how a genre that places a premium on irresistible melodies and draws its main influence from classic hits of the 1960s has never been embraced by a majority of rock music fans. He has a keen knowledge of power pop’s history; the artists who helped create it and the ones who perform it now. And he’s willing to travel back and forth across the country to meet with those people. 

A photo on Fielding’s Facebook page today shows him conducting an interview with respected rock critic Ken Sharp, who recently released Vol. No. 2 of his Play On! Power Pop Heroes trilogy in conjunction with Pop Geek Heaven. I’ve referred to Vol. No. 1 several times here on Broken Hearted Toy, and I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of Vol. No. 2 in the mail. Fielding has also interviewed International Pop Overthrow founder David Bash;  journalists Ira Robbins, Cary Baker, Moira McCormick, and John Borack; and radio personalities Chris Carter and Michael McCartney.

As for the musicians who have participated in The Power Pop Movie, they include Todd Rundgren; Clem Burke from Blondie; Debbi and Vicki Petersson from The Bangles;  Mitch Easter from Let’s Active; John Wicks from The Records; Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne;  Lannie Flowers; Derrick Anderson; Jim Laspesa; Jody Stephens from Big Star; Ken Stringfellow from The Posies and Big Star; Dave Gregory from XTC; Ron Flynt from 20/20; Jeremy Morris; and several others. Chicago is well-represented, with Gary Klebe, Jeff Murphy, and John Murphy from Shoes; Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick; Brad Elvis from Screams, The Elvis Brothers, Big Hello, The Handcuffs, and The Romantics; Mimi Betinis from Pezband; Cliff Johnson from Pezband and Off Broadway; and Ted Ansani and Mike Zelenko from Material Issue.

Fielding has created a short video preview for The Power Pop Movie, and it’s likely he’ll be filming more teasers in the coming months. I proudly wore my The Power Pop Movie t-shirt to the Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago this past Saturday. From now through July 1st, the full price of any of The Power Pop Movie t-shirts purchased from the official website will be donated to a fund established by The Wild Honey Foundation to help musician John Wicks in his recovery from pancreatic cancer. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

All Lit Up - Part Two

After a considerable delay due to a number of freelance proofreading assignments (not that I’m complaining), here’s the second half of my look at the Printers Row Lit Fest that was held in Chicago on June 6th and 7th.

It wasn’t always easy to identify what roles the various participants at The Printers Row Lit Fest played in the whole scheme of creating or enjoying books. After an oral synopsis of my rock and roll novel appeared to make a favorable impression on a representative at one of the booths, I asked if they were currently accepting submissions. She explained that they were a book club, not a publishing house. Luckily, I did find a few local publishers who were interested in receiving some sample chapters. If anything develops from those leads, Broken Hearted Toy will be the first media source to break the news. Meanwhile, talking to published authors about their efforts proved to be informative and entertaining.

Artist-writer Verzell James creates graphic novels featuring African-American heroes, with a goal to educate as well as entertain. Earlier this year, he was selling his merchandise and comic books like Reaper and Tough City at C2E2. Author J. Eric Booker told me about his Elysian Dynasty fantasy trilogy of The Swords Of The Sultan, The Reign Of The Sultan, and The War Of All Wars, which center on the adventures of a young thief named Baltor Elysian. C.A. Newsome pursues a canine angle in novels like A Shot In the Bark and Sneak Thief from her Lia Anderson Dog Park Mysteries, and Blake Hausladen’s The Vesteal Series offers tales steeped in magic and set within dark forests.

YA author Kym Brunner, who is the co-leader (with YA paranormal author Cherie Colyer) of the writers group I belong to, was on hand selling copies of her suspenseful Wanted: Dead Or In Love, in which two teenagers are possessed by the spirits of Bonnie and Clyde, and her comedic effort One Smart Cookie. In addition to authors, The Printers Row Lit Fest also featured panel discussions with famous writers, MiSC, which describes itself as a pop culture wonderland for Chicago; writers groups like Sisters In Crime; and vendors selling vintage newspapers, posters, and books. All in all, a great place to dive headfirst into a sea of creativity and imagination.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Next Thursday, June 25, is Global Beatles Day, an annual online event hosted by Faith Cohen, in which people are encouraged to reflect on the significance and all-around fabness of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. 

Art for blog’s sake. People who have gone to The Gold Coast Art Fair in recent years have likely seen the eye-popping work of pointillist painter Tim McWilliams. He creates huge, colorful portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, The Beatles and other celebrities. I mentioned my blog to McWilliams a few weeks back when he was one of the few brave souls who was displaying his work in the teeth of inclement weather at The Millennium Art Fair. He generously offered to give a $5.00 discount to anyone who mentions Broken Hearted Toy when they come to his booth this weekend. The Gold Coast Art Fair runs tomorrow and Sunday in Grant Park.

Go Bohemian on Randolph Street. The Dandy Warhols, whose catchy and guitar-fueled “Bohemian Like You” still reigns as the best satiric song about the indie lifestyle, will be performing at the Taste Of Randolph Street festival tomorrow night at 9:00 PM. Cult favorites Dinosaur Jr. (tonight) and the dreamy pop duo Best Coast (Sunday night) are the other headliners, and there are several indie rock acts scheduled from this evening through Sunday. Food vendors include bellyQ, City Winery, La Sardine, and Wishbone. Admission is $10. 

Tickets are still available for the Squeeze November 27 and 28 acoustic shows at Park West. So you can spend part of the Thanksgiving weekend being grateful for the opportunity to see Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford—one of pop music’s all-time best songwriting-performing duos—in an intimate setting.

If you go to the Custer Street Fair in Evanston this Saturday and Sunday, keep an eye out for Frank Carr from the Famous In The Future comedy group. He’s always loved this event, and was even inspired by it to write a skit about an unusual vendor selling a Twilight Zone sort of figure. In addition to providing comic inspiration, the 43rd Annual Custer Street Fair will have an Eco-Village featuring solar and wind energy technology; organic/Fair Trade food; several vendors; crafts, and live entertainment. Admission is free.   

The hard-edged power band Go Time! will be performing at Phyllis’ Musical Inn tomorrow night on Division in Chicago.

The Secret History Of Chicago Music casts a spotlight on the critically acclaimed power pop band Green this week. Created by the artist/journalist/performer known as Plastic Crimewave, The Secret History Of Chicago Music exists in comic form in the Chicago Reader, and there’s a radio version that can be heard on WGN each Saturday morning as part of Mike Stephen’s Outside The Loop program. Mr. Crimewave concentrates on “pivotal Chicago musicians that somehow have not gotten their just dues.” I have three different Hollies portraits done by Plastic Crimewave from the times he made in-store appearances at the Reckless Records store on Milwaukee Avenue as part of the annual Record Store Day celebration. (For $5, he would draw any band you wanted.)  

At the risk of sticking “Chelsea Dagger” in your head (as if it wasn’t already there these past few days if you live Chicago) I’ll pass along the news that The Fratellis have a gig coming up on September 24 at The Vic. Chances are, fans of the 2015 NHL Champion Chicago Blackhawks will still be in the mood to hear “Chelsea Dagger,” which has been the team’s unofficial theme song for years now. 

U2 arrives in Chicago next Wednesday, June 24 for the first of five gigs (also June 25, 28, 29 and July 2) at the United Center, as part of its iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour. The shows will no doubt prove U2 is still one of rock’s most potent and emotionally relevant acts. And yes, Songs Of Innocence was a good album, no matter what you may have seen on social media.

With all the major events going on around Chicago this weekend, you might still want to find some time to hang out with a time traveler. As reported in this past Wednesday’s edition of Redeye, The Right Brain Project theatre ensemble has created a follow-up its 2013 Doctor Who-inspired show The Timey-Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza (Geronimo!). The new production Who Too runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at The Right Brain Project, 4001 N. Ravenswood .

I can’t say that I’m a regular Lucky Brand customer, but as I passed by their location on the ground floor of the Shops At North Bridge mall on Michigan Avenue, I spotted several Rolling Stones t-shirts  that would be perfect for fans going to see The Stones next Tuesday, June 23, at this year’s SummerFest in Milwaukee.

Other acts scheduled for SummerFest include Stevie Wonder, Neil Young And The Promise Of The Real, Grace Potter, Jane’s Addiction, The Kooks, Pat Benatar And Neil Giraldo, The New Pornographers, The Romantics, Sloan, and The Wind.

Finally, my wife Pam is one of the finalists to be the first woman featured on a $20 bill. Even if she doesn’t nab that honor, be sure to remember that this Sunday is officially Pam Appreciation Day.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Fad - The Now Sound

Back in 1982, The Fad dressed in Star Trek-inspired outfits and embarked on a three-year mission to boldly combine the sound of the original British Invasion with an upcoming genre called power pop. Reportedly, the Philadelphia-based trio’s debut EP was marred by a producer who inexplicably sped up the vocals to an annoying extreme. The Now Sound, recently released on Kool Kat Musik, goes back to the original recordings for that effort, and adds other songs that were done by The Fad during their 1982-85 heyday.

“Lark City” and “Fad Twist,” a pair of instrumentals, along with the title track, “The Swing’s The Thing” and “Fad Theme,” are pure fun in a 1960s Carnaby Street vein. In fact, I initially misread the press release and thought these guys were contemporaries of The Kinks and The Who. The first few listens did nothing to discourage that impression. The catchy, guitar-driven “Where The Colors Are,” “Genie,” and “Countdown” bring in the power pop element, with an emphasis on harmonies and clever lyrics.

On “Broken Hearts,” The Fad incorporate breezy 60s “bop ba ba” vocals into a more modern, new wave arrangement. “I Don’t Like Jets” also has a bit of an edge, and would make a nice segue from The Three O’Clock’s “Jet Fighter” on a power pop playlist. After his work with The Fads, singer-guitarist and chief songwriter Frank Max would go on to form The Beat Rats.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

All Lit Up 2015 - Part One

The Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicagos South Loop this past weekend offered positive signs for the publishing world at a time when book stores are either vanishing or devoting more and more of their inventory to non-literary items like toys. It also helped calm fears that in the very near future people will be communicating exclusively through acronyms. In addition to being fun and informative, the event underscored the importance of the written word across generations, faiths, and nationalities.

Printers Row Lit Fest is also a great opportunity for an aspiring author like myself to have face-to-face conversations with published writers. I’m in the midst of submitting three novels (one rock and roll satire and two Middle Grade fantasies) to agents and publishers. Having the writers (and some illustrators) seated at tables throughout the event was reminiscent of the Artists Alleys at Wizard World Comic Con and C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo). Even if you’re not an artist yourself, the creative energy in the air was exciting. Printers Row Lit Fest, with its many authors, had that same buzz. Here are some of the exhibitors I talked with this year.

The 826CHI non-profit organization aims to introduce students between the ages of 6 to 18 in the Chicago area to the joys of writing. All of its programs are free. Polyphony H.S. is an Evanston-based student-run literary magazine that’s been around since 2004. Teenagers around the globe are encouraged to submit their work. The Mash is a weekly newspaper created by teenagers, and its contributors get paid for their work. It’s not uncommon for some of the teen-created articles in The Mash to get picked up by mainstream media outlets.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Shark Tape - Marathon

Marathon is Shark Tape’s full-length debut, following the 2012 releases of a pair of EPs and a single. It’s available for digital download as well as on multi-colored vinyl. The Philadelphia-based trio takes a big, 1980s-influenced approach with loads of commercial potential without sacrificing its integrity. There’s a lot of fun on this album as well; sounding at times like Supergrass has made a triumphant return to the land of the living.

Singer-bassist Stephen Lorek effectively conveys the well-crafted lyrics whether he’s confessing a secret crush or exuding brash showmanship. “Thank you all for playing, I hope you have a hell of a night,” Lorek sings over the driving beat of the satiric Bronco. On the shimmering techno song “Smell Of Sirens,” he warns, “Don’t lose yourself to the one you love tonight.” Shark Tape, which also includes guitarist-vocalist Niles Weiss and drummer Dylan Mulcahy, adds a touch of glam on the title track, and underscores the dance grooves of “River Runs Deep” with toe-tapping electronic percussion. Marathon gets a bit bogged down toward the end but the final three tracks also offer some of Shark Tape’s most ambitious vocal arrangements.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Ken Mottet - Showmen's Rest

Note: A shorter version of this review previously appeared in the Illinois Entertainer. The June issue of the Illinois Entertainer has my review of The Webstirs’ impressive new CD Now You’ve Really Done It.

Singer-guitarist and long-time rockabilly aficionado Ken Mottet reached all the way back to the 1950s for inspiration while writing and recording the original tunes on his very fun EP Showmen’s Rest. Mottet delivers cornball but period-perfect sentiments via rich, deep vocals, and he’s ably backed by guitarist Scott Ligon, bassist Casey McDonough, drummer Alex Hall, and pedal steel guitarist Pat Keiner. “Whatever It Takes,” featuring The Giardinaires on backup vocals, is catchy and romantic, while Mottet opts for a more raucous sound on his tale of unrequited love “Without You.” Mottet channels Johnny Cash on the unabashedly sentimental “Last October,” a tribute to an aging father who probably won’t make it through another year.

Friday, June 5, 2015


God isn’t the only one who knows how they feel about this flick. Love And Mercy, director Bill Pohlads look at the complicated life of Beach Boy founder Brian Wilson, has been met with rave reviews in Chicago. The Tribunes film critic Michael Phillips proclaims it the best musical biopic in years, while Richard Roeper at the Sun-Times calls it energizing, meticulously crafted, [and] nearly perfect. Both writers praised the performances of actors Paul Dano and John Cusack, who portray Wilson at different times in his life, as well as the films imaginative use of The Beach Boys music. 

The 31st Annual Printers Row Lit Fest takes place tomorrow and Sunday in the south end of downtown. The event will feature over 200 writers, including Elizabeth Berg, Erik Larson, and Tony Fitzpatrick; local media celebrities; cooking demonstrations; publishers; and vendors with lots of books for sale. Some also sell newspapers, magazines, posters, and even relics from old-time printing presses. The Printers Row Lit Fest also gives aspiring authors an opportunity to have face-to-face conversations with published writers.

Once, the musical adaptation of the John Carney-directed Irish movie, wraps up its limited run in Chicago this Sunday at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. If you believe Chicago Tribune critic Chris Jones (and I always do) this is a must-see production.

CAKE, The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo, will be held tomorrow and Sunday at The Center On Halsted. It’s being billed as a “Celebration and Marketplace Of Independent Comics. Special guests include Eleanor Davis, Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez, Keiler Roberts, Zak Sally, Dash Shaw, Jillian Tamaki, and Lale Westvind. Admission is free.

Graham Parker And The Rumour have a 4:00 PM gig at City Winery Chicago this Sunday and an evening show on Monday, June 8th. One of my earliest posts here on BHT was a review of an outdoor concert Parker did on the north side of Chicago. See Archives, August 11th, 2009.

Tomorrow, June 6th, is the Opening Day for The 606, an ambitious, newly created recreation concept that connects the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods via a former railroad line called the Bloomington Trail. The family-friendly event will feature music, interactive art, food, and processions.
The 32nd Annual Chicago Blues Festival takes place next weekend, June 12 – 14, in Grant Park, with performances by Clarence Carter; Taj Mahal Trio; Buddy Guy; and Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues with special guest Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater. On Sunday, June 14, there will be a Willie Dixon Centennial Tribute at 6:20 PM and a Muddy Waters Centennial Tribute at 8:05. A number of blues artists will be involved in both of those shows.

A few weeks back, I mentioned The Hollies’ new five-disc boxed set Changin’ Times - The Complete Hollies - January 1969 – March 1973 that’s about to come out on the Parlophone label. Now the Second Disc, a website that does an amazing job of keeping tabs on all the latest releases from vintage bands, has posted an extended piece on Changin’ Times.

I never promised you a Ramones garden. Marty Scott, a musician known for his work with Liverpool Legends and the power pop band The Critics, recently posted a photo on Facebook of some lawn ornaments that looked like The Ramones. He never said where they came from, and I became obsessed with finding the statues. Now with the help of a first-rate investigator (my wife Pam), I found the source. You can pick up a set of The Ranomes, created by the company Gnomore Heroes, for £79.95 on the UK website Alternative Merchandise website. Unfortunately, Pam has told me they would not be allowed in our garden.

Just a few days after I mentioned Under Coversa new Internet hardboiled detective spoof created by Mary-Arrchie Theatre actor/director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia, the show is in the running for the IndieWire May Project Of The Month. Coincidence? I think so. You can vote for Under Covers at the IndieWire site. 

In last week’s Slumgullion, I mentioned that The Neverly Brothers’ recently released A Magical History Tour will be available separately as Volume 1 and Volume 2 or as a set. They have responded to my request for more information about these CDs. “The Neverly Brothers CDs are a true representation of our live show concept,” the band said via email. Volume 1 has covers of 1950s rock pioneers and Volume 2 has renditions of 1964 British Invasion acts. The package is a throwback to the old gatefold sleeve albums. The discs are currently available at The Neverly Brothers shows and should be offered through their website in the near future.

Soundtrack Serenade, a collective of local musicians who do tribute shows on a regular basis, will perform the music of This Is Spinal Tap this coming Tuesday at Martyrs on Lincoln Avenue.

Music On Stage will be presenting Damn Yankees at Cutting Hall in Palatine through June 14th.

Now that FIFA president Sepp Blatter has stepped down, a familiar face has offered to take the job. As reported by Robert Channick in the Chicago Tribune, ad agency employee/major soccer fan Mike D’Amico has posted a satiric clip on YouTube announcing his candidacy. D’Amico, who worked at the agency where I did freelance proofreading last summer (he’s since moved on), earned fame and the moniker Teddy Goalsevelt by dressing as Teddy Roosevelt at the World Cup Games in Rio. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Shapes Of Things To Come

Photo from the Whitewolfsonicprincess Facebook page.

People in Chicago may have had a hard time getting into a summer frame of mind last weekend due to the unseasonably cold weather, but at least two events offered an encouraging taste of the rewards the next three months have in store. The Millennium Art Festival, at Michigan and Lake Street, is one of the first of the outdoor art shows that spring up around town each year. It was at full force Sunday after a persistent rain had caused many of the exhibitors to close up their tents on Saturday.

Despite the temperature hovering just below 50 degrees, creative types like pop-pointillist Tim McWilliams, photographer Igor Menaker, and new media artist Barry Reithmeier were showcasing impressive work. The warmly dressed folk/psych duo Patchouli was performing intricate and melodic songs on a small stage, with only a few people hearty enough to sit and watch them. In the coming weeks, the Old Town, Wells Street, and Gold Coast art fairs will be held in Chicago. Hopefully, the weather will be bearable by then.

It was a quick ride on the CTA from downtown to the north side where the alt rock band Whitewolfsonicprincess was hosting a decidedly offbeat variety show at The Red Line Tap. Looking at the lineup, I couldn’t help being reminded of Mary-Arrchie Theatre’s annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival. Whitewolfsonicprincess, a musical offshoot of the Black Forest theatre group; The Rut, featuring current and former members of the Famous In The Future comedy group; and the avant garde theatre duo Citizens Relief, are all veterans of Abbie Fest. And they were joined last Sunday at The Red Line Tap by a comedian, a performance artist, an alt rock band, and go-go dancers.

Sunday Afternoon At The Tap, the second installment in what Moeller said he hoped would become an ongoing series, had that freewheeling vibe and camaraderie that makes Abbie Fest so inviting. The Rut kicked things off with a fun cover of The Who’s “Boris The Spider” before moving on to three clever original indie rock tunes. (Full disclosure: I performed with Famous In The Future for several years.) Comedian Elizabeth Gomez drew humor from the emotional minefield of everyday life, and hit her stride with a biting comparison of happy mommies and spiritually crushed mothers. Kc Chronis roamed through the crowd distributing bananas as she spun a rambling tale of how she once mistakenly thought she had acquired paranormal powers after attending a coven with a witch from her apartment building.

Citizens’ Relief donned German folk outfits for a piece about a man’s unfortunate obsession with his vacuum cleaner. The duo’s knack for blending comic and disturbing elements once again proved fascinating. The Revelettes performed a couple sharply choreographed dance routines to old school soul music. Whitewolfsonicprincess has by now fully established itself as a separate entity from Black Forest, and offered an impressive set of new songs and material from its 10 + 1 CD. Singer Hayden and singer-guitarist Moeller took turns on lead vocals while their band kept a steady groove augmented by percussion. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the final act, the local alt rock band Gunnelpumpers.

As Moeller noted, Sunday Afternoon At The Tap is likely to return. Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins returns to the Mary-Arrchie Theatre for its 27th year on the weekend of August 14–16.  
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