Photo from the Official Shoes Facebook page.
When The Smithereens play The Arcada this Saturday night with opening act Cliff Johnson and The Raine, it will the second power pop showcase at the St. Charles venue in the past two months. Also coming up, WNUR radio personality Kirk Fox will host his second Power Pop Shoppe Showcase on October 20 at the Elbo Room on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. The Bishops’ Daredevil Stunt Club, The Addisons, The Peeves, and The Mark Watson Band will be performing.
In that vein, here’s a long overdue look at the August 11 triple bill of Pezband, Shoes, and Dwight Twilley at The Arcada.
Some bands hate being labeled as power pop, believing it suggests a lack of originality or confines them to a bygone era. The kiss of death in terms of marketing. Other acts, as well as their fans, see power pop as a simple equation: melody + energy = fun music. To be sure, its main inspiration comes from the mid-1960s, but in the right hands, power pop holds up as well as any current type of music.
A recent event at The Arcada Theatre in St. Charles featured three bands that have been flying the power pop banner for decades and are still among the genre’s most vital practitioners. The Chicago-based Pezband performed “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” “Please Be Somewhere Tonight,” and “Close Your Eyes” from a 1977 self-titled debut that helped put power pop on the map. Vocalist-guitarist Mimi Betinis, bassist John Pazdan and drummer Mick Rain also rocked through the melodic gems “Stop, Wait A Minute,” and “Lovesmith.” It was a pleasant surprise to see Betinis cutting loose on guitar on a number of songs.
After opening with the hard-driving and sensual “Animal Attraction” from their 2012 Ignition album, Shoes proved they’ve lost none of their pop instincts. The band’s set list stretched back to “Okay” from their self-released Black Vinyl Shoes in 1977 to the exquisite “Heaven Help Me” and the swaggering fun of “Hot Mess” from Ignition. Other highlights included “Too Late” and “Tomorrow Night” from their Elektra debut Present Tense, “Burned Out Love” from Tongue Twister, and the dreamy “Summer Rain.” Their final encore was a blistering take on “I Don’t Miss You."
Dwight Twilley is best known for the hits “I’m On Fire” and “Boys,” and his knack for melodic and energetic songs has influenced several musicians. He also worked extensively with Tom Petty for a while. At The Arcada, he was joined by special guest Ron Flynt from 20/20, the Los Angeles-based band that created power pop gems like “Remember The Lightning.” Twilley has an amiable, funny stage presence, and he spun interesting tales between catchy tunes like “Some People Have All The Luck” and Playing With Fire.” He brought this evening of classic power pop to a rousing finale with an extended performance of “Girls.”