Saturday, March 28, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

Johnny Marr is one of the stars rocking on social media.

Just a quick reminder that The Fest For Beatles Fans 2020 Virtual Fest is taking place this weekend. The event can be viewed via The Fest’s Facebook and Instagram sites, and will feature live performances of Beatles music by special guests and musicians from Apple Jam stage series. A recent email promises Beatles-related authors and experts will also be on hand. Fan participation is enthusiastically encouraged, so check out The Fest For Beatles Fans website and social media pages for details.

Videos Kill The Corona Blahs. Let’s raise a toast to everyone who’s been chasing away our shelter-in-place blues by posting inspirational messages and live entertainment on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In addition to the above-mentioned Beatles bash, we’ve had Graham Nash singing “Our House,” Johnny Marr strumming a fantastic instrumental on his electric guitar, Nick Offerman using his patented dry humor to describe what his typical day is like, current Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker alluding to the corona virus and outer space villains in an optimistic “emergency transmission,” and Romee Strijd, Jasmine Tookes, and other famous models challenging each other to send out positive vibes.

I’ve seen several local musicians posting tunes via The WC Series, and others paying homage to the bands and albums that first inspired them to compose their own material. Phil Angotti offered a brand new acoustic song titled “Shy Violet,” and participated in the Fest For Beatles Virtual event. Chicago actress Roxi Heart has been reading from a novel based on the mythological gods Loki and Thor. For a dose of visual culture, you can follow pretty much every famous art museum in the world, including Chicago Art Institute. Keep up the great work, everyone.

Robyn Hitchcock will be doing a Sweet Home Quarantine show live from his house on April 1 at 8:00 p.m. The eccentric English rocker promises “music, requests, inane banter, cats, [and] technical glitches.”

Also, while we’re stuck inside, remember the Secret Weapon show on the online Woody Radio station offers the best in new and vintage power pop music, as well as a wide range of “Boris” favorites.

Steve Dawson and Funeral Bonsai Wedding have an album release party for Last Flight Out scheduled for May 8 at the Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall. The venue is located 4544 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. In the meantime, the band is offering a Last Flight Out video preview on YouTube. The clip features Dawson and the various artists who help record this enticing collection of classical, jazz and folk music, including the Quartet Parapluie and the Birth Death Breath Singers.

The official Tower Records Instagram page is promising it will be posting some big news in the near future.

The Dream Syndicate’s new single “The Longing” is available on Bandcamp. The song finds the west coast group expertly tapping into its Paisley Underground roots, and serves as an enticing calling card for its The Universe Inside album due out April 10.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Picking Up The Reader

The Reader is currently raising funds to help it stay in business. Chicago’s long-running free alternative weekly is known for its confrontational and critically acclaimed feature stories, performance art reviews, and extensive listings of upcoming events. You can make a straight-up donation via its website or buy the new 52-page Reader Coloring Book in digital ($30) or printed ($45) format. As for the paper itself, the printed version of this week’s Stay At Home issue will have a limited print run, but you’ll be able to grab a copy for $15. The digital version is available for free online. I’ve contributed to Reader fundraisers in the past, and I’m happy to help out now.

It was probably the summer of 1972 when I saw my first copy of The Reader. As a resident of Chicago’s southwest side, I was intrigued by the radio commercials for a free weekly alternative newspaper, but I didn’t have access to it. Back then, as now, The Reader’s circulation was limited to downtown and the north side. On an extended bike ride to the Lincoln Park Zoo with a couple of friends, I saw some copies outside (or maybe inside) a store and thought, Hey, it’s that Reader I’ve been hearing about. Over the years, The Reader would become an essential part of my life.

When I was attending the University of Illinois at Chicago, I would check out the personal ads while sitting in the cafeteria, wondering what the people behind those imaginative pseudonyms were really like. For a while, the Kroozin’ Music record store at 79th and Pulaski would import Readers from the north side, and I’d pick up a copy every Friday after getting off from work at Montgomery Ward. When I worked as a proofreader at various companies downtown, my Thursday ritual involved grabbing a stack of Readers at lunch and bringing them back to my fellow employees. When I moved to Lincoln Park, just around the corner from Tower Records, it was easy to find copies.

Now that I’m living in Palatine and working away from downtown, things have come full circle. Each Thursday, instead of heading straight home after work, I take the Blue Line into downtown to visit the Reckless Records and Graham Cracker Comics stores. And, grab some copies of The Reader for myself and my coworkers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

All Together Now - Virtually

Feeling the current coronavirus situation gave them no choice but to postpone their annual New York Metro Fest at the Hyatt Regency Jersey City, the organizers of The Fest For Beatles Fans found a way to still get some fab four fun into our lives. The Fest For Beatles Fans 2020 Virtual Fest takes place this weekend, March 27 – 29. The event can be viewed via The Fest’s Facebook and Instagram sites, and will feature live performances of Beatles music by special guests and musicians from the Apple Jam stage series.

A recent email promises Beatles-related authors and experts will also be on hand. Fan participation is enthusiastically encouraged, so check out The Fest For Beatles Fans website and social media pages for details. There’s no charge to participate. Having attended Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago for several years now, I’m looking forward to seeing how this will all come together. The actual NY Metro Fest has been rescheduled for October.

Speaking of virtual entertainment, be sure to check out what your favorite musicians, film stars, authors, and friends are posting on social media. Support your favorite local venues by contributing to their online fundraisers, and order takeout food from local restaurants. As the late Neil Innes once told me as he signed an autograph at Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago, “Put a smile on the world’s face.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Sound He Appears To Make

Considering how there hasn’t been much news regarding live performances, it seemed like a good time to experiment with a new feature designed to promote music being released by recording artists around the world. I’ll continue to post full album reviews as well.

This coming Friday, March 27, we’ll see the Gigaton abum from Pearl Jam and Aporia from Sufjan Stevens.

Futureman Records honors XTC in a big way with its 49-track compilation Garden Of Earthly Delights – An XTC Celebration. Most of the acts involved aren’t household names, but they obviously can appreciate and bring to life the simultaneously sophisticated and eccentric allure of the English trio. Among the numerous highlights are “Respectable Street” by Dot Dash; “Life Begins At The Hop” by The Kickstand Band; “The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead” by Chris Price; “Don’t Lose Your Temper” by Derrick Anderson; “Vanishing Girl” by Bepopalula; a “Rocket From A Bottle”/“That Wave” mashup by Plasticsoul; and “Love On A Farmboy’s Wages” by Jason Berk. Garden Of Earthly Delights is available in digital and CD formats; some tracks are digital only.

The Boomtown Rats recently released Citizens Of Boomtown, which is their first album in 36 years.

Ex-Norwegian, a Miami-based band I’ve been following since I heard their irresistible cover of the Bay City Rollers hit “It’s A Game” on a split single from the U.K. vinyl label Fruits de Mer back in 2015, have a new album coming out on June 5. Hue Spotting is now available for pre-order in digital, CD, and vinyl formats on Bandcamp. The song “Bloody Parrots!” from Hue Spotting can already be downloaded, and it suggests Ex Norwegian will be continuing with its quirky power pop/garage rock approach.

The Chicago-based psychedelic band Hushdrops will be releasing its first album in six years, according to a recent post on their Facebook page from founding member John San Juan. Fans can get a preview by checking out the lengthy song “I Had A Room” on YouTube.

Moby’s new album All Visible Objects is now available.

The American Laundromat indie label has been on a roll with tribute albums; starting with Juliana Hatfield honoring Olivia Newton John and The Police on separate releases. Tanya Donelly and The Parkington Sisters have a CD coming out in August with cover songs of The Go-Go’s, The Pretenders, Leonard Cohen, The Kinks, Paul McCartney, and other acts. It’s now available for pre-order on the label’s website. And, American Laundromat is offering Just Like Heaven - A Tribute To The Cure in cassette and CD format. 17 indie acts are featured covering classic Cure material.

Musician/producer Brian Eno and his pianist Roger have collaborated for the first time with their new album Mixing Colours. It came out last Friday.

The digital single “Last One Standing” is the first new music from the Boston-based punk band The Dents in quite some time, and it’s available as a free download on the Rum Bar Records Bandcamp page. The high-speed, guitar-driven arrangement and Jennifer D’Angora’s raw vocals bode well for an EP that’s due out this summer on the Rum Bar Records label.

Gregory Curvey, a founding member of the long-running psych/prog rock outfit The Luck Of Eden Hall, has another release on the way from his side project Custard Flux. Echo is being released on vinyl and will come with a six-song bonus CD. Curvey, who lives in Detroit but travels extensively across the astral plane, drifts easily across exotic songs such as “Holiday” and “It’s Just A Matter Of Time” on the CD.

California-based musician Richard Turgeon’s new single “Higher” is being used in April Abeyta and Kim Nucley’s new sports documentary After The Game. The film will have its premiere at the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland on March 26. Turgeon created “Higher” specifically for After The Game, which studies the positive effects competitive sports have on three athletes over two decades.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Saturday Slumgullion

David Bowie tribute band Sons Of The Silent Age will be at Thalia Hall on May 23.

Best wishes for good health and safety from the coronavirus to pretty much everyone on the planet. It’s safe to assume no one in Chicago is partying in a bar, dining in a restaurant, or rocking out at a concert as I post this. We’re currently practicing social distancing, which will hopefully slow down the spread of the virus.

The financial damage associated with this is particularly devastating to those in the restaurant and entertainment industries, so it’s heartening to see so many fundraisers designed to help out. Many restaurants are staying open for carryout and delivery, and when you order, add a huge tip to your payment. Check out your favorite venues on social media to see where you can send money to help their staff, and buy music like crazy on Bandcamp and your favorite artists’ websites. You love their shows so now show them some love.

Be sure to check to check out Facebook and Instagram for entertainers who’ve posted performance videos. In the past few days, I’ve seen Margot Robbie reading a children’s book; Susanna Hoffs singing “Here Comes The Sun;” Ellen DeGeneres doing comic bits; and Karen Gillan just being goofy. (A fun goofy, though.) Chicago musicians Phil Angotti; Kevin Lee; Michael Steven Cohen; Guy Schingoethe; Ralph Covert; John San Juan; and John Petitt can be seen performing songs. Much better than binge watching TV shows.

Tickets are now on sale for Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings with Dave Mason at the Rosemont Theatre on on June 20; The Box Tops at City Winery on August 23; The Hollies at the Chicago Theatre on July 18; Justin Hayward and Mike Dawes at City Winery on April 20 and 21; Bettye LaVette at City Winery on June 9; and Sons Of The Silent Age and Damiana at Thalia Hall on May 23. Keep in mind that all shows are dependent on whether it’s safe to assemble in public by then.

Friday, March 20, 2020

For The Record - A Tribute To John Wicks

There’s no escaping the bittersweet aspect of For The Record, the impressive but final album of new material from the late John Wicks. As a founding member of the U.K. band The Records, Wicks sang lead on the enduring power pop hits “Starry Eyes” and “Teenarama,” and later moved on to a successful solo career. While battling pancreatic cancer over the course of five years, he co-wrote a batch of songs with Richard Rossi. The duo enlisted Jamie Hoover from The Spongetones to produce an album, but unfortunately, Wicks passed away before he was able to record the vocals. Determined to finish the project in Wicks’ honor, Rossi and Hoover recruited an all-star collection of singers.

Like Wicks, a number of the well-known performers who agreed to help out on For The Record - A Tribute To John Wicks were frequent participants at charity events organized by the California-based Wild Honey Foundation. Wicks and Rossi provided solid material to work with, from gritty character studies ala Warren Zevon—another musician we lost too soon—to messages of strength and inspiration. Most of the songs have basic but catchy, guitar-driven arrangements.

Bill Berry humorously conveys the jealousy of a low-rent doctor who discovers a former friend has become a major star on “1-800-Colonoscopy,” and Jamie Hoover is authentically sleazy as the title character of “Repo Man.” Al Stewart lends his appealing vocals to “The Beltway,” an ironically breezy portrait of corrupt politicians, and Carla Olson has a ball with “(The Sordid Tale Of) Elvis Strange.” Peter Case nails the quick and clever rhymes of “In And Out Motel” while Paul Collins captures the heartache of “Glittering Gold.”

The mood is more upbeat when Ray Paul performs the picturesque “The Sun Sets Over London Town,” which sounds like it was influenced by Ray Davies. Wicks wanted to poke fun at his own legacy with “The Ballad Of Johnny Wicked,” and Chris Thompson gives it a satirical cowpoke ambience. Wicks obviously also had more serious themes in mind, and Nick Guzman brings this tribute to a touching conclusion with a gorgeous acoustic version of “Chasing Angels.”

Friday, March 13, 2020


NOTE: A number of concerts and festivals have been postponed or cancelled in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading. It’s a good idea to check the status of any event you plan to attend to make sure it’s still scheduled. Best wishes for good health to everyone. Please be cautious, considerate, and stay safe.

Director Peter Jackson’s long-awaited documentary The Beatles: Get Back will arrive in movie theaters September 4. It’s widely believed that previously unreleased footage in this film shows John, Paul, George, and Ringo getting on much better than we thought they did during what turned out to be the band’s final recording sessions.

Social Act, El Gato Roboto, The Dry Look, and The Differents will all be rocking tomorrow night at Liar’s Club at 1665 W. Fullerton.

The full schedule for this year’s International Pop Overthrow – Chicago at LiveWire Lounge has been announced and it has a lot of familiar names for long-time fans of this power pop/indie rock festival. The performers include The Bishop’s Daredevil Stunt Club; Phil Angotti; Magnaphonic; Dave Rave; Vee Sonnets; The Walkdown; Mark Watson; Rob Schultz; Ralph Covert; Michael Stephen Cohen; The Jay Goeppner Band; The Jeremy Band; Scott Niekelski from Go Time; The Lilacs; and The Spindles. LiveWire Lounge is located at 3394 N. Milwaukee Avenue.

Tickets went on sale today for Wilco and Sleater-Kinney, with special guest Chicago-based instrumentalist NNAMDI at the Pritzker Pavilion at Millennium Park on August 29; NRBQ at SPACE on May 2; Off Broadway at FitzGerald’s on June 26; Sunshine Boys and Bobbleheads at SPACE on April 30; Snow Patrol at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago on October 16; and Modern English at SPACE on June 26.

The 25th Annual Asian American Showcase will be held April 16 – 30 at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago. The festival will feature film, art, comedy, and music.

Citizens Of Boomtown, the first album by The Boomtown Rats in 36 years was released today. The band’s Facebook page promises, “crunching glam riffs, foot-stamping choruses, and lip-smacking vocals.” I don’t know that Bob Geldof’s singing has ever been described that way before.

Sunny Afternoon, the musical based on the early days of The Kinks and featuring several of their best songs, is returning to stages in the U.K. this summer. The music of Ray Davies is matched to a book by Joe Penhall and the show is directed by Edward Hall. The tour kicks off August 7 in Manchester.

Kathy Valentine from The Go-Go’s has an autobiography titled All I Ever Wanted coming out in April. As a member of the first all-woman band to top the charts with an album they wrote and performed themselves, Valentine no doubt has an interesting perspective on the business of rock and roll. Especially since The Go-Go’s ascended from L.A.’s vibrant punk scene in the late 1970s. Valentine’s book tour is scheduled to bring her to the Anderson’s Book Store in LaGrange, IL on April 27, but a recent Facebook post noted that some of those dates are subject to change due to the coronavirus outbreak.

California-based musician Richard Turgeon’s new single “Higher” is being used in April Abeyta and Kim Nucley’s new sports documentary After The Game. The film will have its premiere at the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland on March 26. Turgeon created “Higher” specifically for After The Game, which studies the positive effects competitive sports have on three athletes over two decades.

Phil Collins, Tony Banks, and Mike Rutherford are reuniting for their first tour in 13 years. So far, all the dates on their Last Domino Tour are in the U.K. and Ireland, but American fans are holding out hope that some U.S. dates will eventually be added.

According to a recent piece by theatre critic Chris Jones in the Chicago Tribune, there’s a live musical version of Billy Wilder’s popular 1950s comedy Some Like It Hot coming to the Cadillac Palace Theatre in 2021. I have a feeling Desiree Burcum, a local writer/performer with the Famous In The Comedy group and The Rut indie band, will be first in line for tickets. I performed with Famous In The Future for a number of years and she was the most avid Marilyn fan I’ve ever met.
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