Saturday, January 14, 2017

Erin Pellnat - Dream In Color

Brooklyn-based singer Erin Pellnat has been involved in a variety of projects, including the indie rock band Caretaker. Dream In Color, released late last year, is her collaboration with Christopher Pellnat. He composed the songs, and she successfully chooses a different vocal approach for each of them.

“Blue Skies And Happiness” draws from the Irving Berlin classic “Blue Skies” but heads in a more somber direction. After discovering she’ll never find the happiness her lover promised, a woman decides to say farewell. Erin Pellnat creates a torch song ambience with her vocals, and also underscores the humor in lines like, “Everyone told me you’re a prince/The thought of you now just make me wince.”

The Pellnats (not sure how they’re related) give “Stay” the feel of a traditional folk song that’s been spooking people for centuries. On the surface, it’s a simple invitation from a lonely woman to come in out of the cold, but Christopher’s lines—and Erin’s delivery of them—suggest something more sinister is going on. “I’m the daughter of my mother and at her behest I’ll kiss your tears away,” she explains, and adds that the guest can remain with her in the house until the end of time.

The more optimistic “Dream In Color” is an acoustic-based call to enjoy the world in all its splendor, and suggests, “Love true, truer than you’re used to.” “Forever Kisses,” set to a chic European arrangement, is another tribute to the staying power of love, even when things don’t work as planned.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Slumgullion

The big news on the Chicago concert front this week was that U2 will be bringing its The Joshua Tree Tour 2017 to Soldier Field on June 3. Tickets go on sale this coming Tuesday.

Tickets are already on sale for the Adrian Belew Power Trio on April 1 at the Old Town School of Folk Music; Cheap Trick and Foreigner on August 9 at Huntington Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island; Ides Of March on March 1 at City Winery; Nouvelle Vague, the coed French outfit that transforms punk classics into enticing lounge music, on March 27 at Metro; and John Sebastian on April 9 at SPACE in Evanston.

Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins’ Gloria, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize, opens tomorrow at the Goodman Theatre here in Chicago. The Evan Cabnet-directed play concerns “twentysomething editorial assistants” working at one of New York’s most prestigious arts magazines. Take out twentysomething, New York, and prestigious, and that could have been about my life at various times.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the impressive, Chicago-based David Bowie tribute band, will be performing his Low album and other songs this Sunday night, January 15, at Metro. The event is part of the 2017 Tomorrow Never Knows festival.

Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir Of ‘60s and Beyond takes place this Sunday at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on Chicago’s north side.

There’s an all-ages, four-band showcase taking place tomorrow, January 14 from 3:00 to 8 p.m. at 2200 N. California. The Hustle, a quartet that includes vocalist-bassist Ted Ansani from Material Issue and Material Reissue, is hosting the event. The other acts performing are The Ex Okays, The Safes (whose CDs have been favorably reviewed her on BHT), and The Differents. Admission is $8.

For a while, it looked scheduling problems would keep the Chicago Cubs from visiting the White House while fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama is still in Office. All that appears to have been straightened out, so Cubs manager Joe Madden will bring his World Series champions to meet the president this Monday. Congratulations to the Cubs on so charismatically brushing aside a century of baseball frustration, and congratulations to Mr. Obama for eight years of effective, compassionate, and classy leadership.

WXRT air personalities Lin Brehmer and Marty Lennartz will team up for a live broadcast  from The Chicago Cubs Convention tomorrow afternoon from noon to 4:00 p.m. Brehmer and Lennartz, who are longtime Cubs fans, will welcome Joe Maddon, National League MVP Kris Bryant, Ryne Sandburg, and Justin Grimm, along with broadcaster Len Kasper and Cubs executive Crane Kenney.

Also on WXRT, overnight DJ Emma Mac kicks off her new show Deep Digs At Dawn show from 6:30 to 8:00 a.m.

Looking ahead: Tomorrow The Moon opens for the Boston-based InAeona trio on February 24 at Live Wire. Psychedelic Saturday takes place the next day at Live Wire, with hosts The Red Plastic Buddha, along with Diagonal, Lord Stanley, and Duende. The George Harrison Birthday Tribute Concert, hosted by Ellis Clark and The Big Parade featuring Ary Paloma Jeebie takes place at Martyrs’ on February 25. Special guests include Mars Williams from The Psychedelic Furs, Carla Prather of Poi Dog Pondering, Phil Angotti, The Handcuffs, Aethereal, Social Act, The Polkaholics and Gunnar Cleermann.

Walk like a comedian. Singer-guitarist Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles will be going for laughs this Sunday when she joins Tamara Yajia and Petra Hayden as part of the 16th Annual SF Sketch Fest in San Francisco.

Happy Birthday to Gary Klebe of Shoes. I interviewed the iconic power pop band on two occasions for the Illinois Entertainer, and Klebe, along with Jeff and John Murphy, was friendly and very informative.

The Experience Hendrix all-star tribute to the legendary guitarist comes to the Chicago Theatre on March 25. Performers include Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, and others.

George Takei, still one of the most popular actors from the original Star Trek, will be at the Chicago Theatre on February 4. Look for Takei to reminisce about his role as Mr. Sulu, and offer some insightful social commentary. The flick Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan will be screened as part of the show.

I still plan to do my annual Big Ideas post, in which I solicit contributions and come up with my own suggestions for what creative types hope to or should accomplish in the coming year. Anyone who’d like to participate can send me a short message with your plan via brokenheartedly@gmail.com. Since I’m so late in starting this, I’ll be accepting contributions through the end of January.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Go Time! - VI

Go Time! gives listeners an earful on its new IV album via 18 hard-hitting power pop tracks. As the title suggests, this is the sixth release from the Chicago-based band, following 2015’s Ratsel. These latest songs carry on the Go Time! tradition of matching lead vocalist-guitarist Scott Niekelski’s distinctive, almost talky delivery to consistently inventive arrangements.

Niekelski wrote all the material, and his outlook is bleak whether he’s describing crumbling relationships or trying to make sense of the everyday work world. “We are sinking fast,” he notes on the edgy but melodic “On The Brink.” Elsewhere, there are lines like, “It all turns to dust,” “The prognosis is rotten,” and “You became a slave.”

As for the music, Niekelski, working with bandmates drummer Steve Grzenia. bassist Mark Market, and guitarist Paul Schmidt, never seems to run out of ideas. “No More Tomorrow” kicks off with Marketti’s slinky bass playing before the band breaks into a full gallop, and there’s a dash of Latin flavor on “Old Habits Die Hard.” The high-speed “Way Out” bristles with a punk intensity that’s reminiscent of fellow Chicagoans The Effigies, and Go Time! adroitly weaves acoustic guitar into the electric arrangements of “Broken” and “Crash Land.”

Go Time! has a record release show for IV coming up in January 28 at the Uptown Lounge. 

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Christopher David - Stereopsis

Stereopsis is the second effort singer-guitarist Christopher David released in 2016. Like its full-length predecessor The Houdini Tapes, this four-song EP is a deliberate departure from Magatha Trysty, the band he formed with his wife Catherine Louise. The acoustic-based arrangements are more subdued and David delves further into his bag of cryptic imagery. There’s also a hint of psychedelia in the way he weaves electric guitar into some of the songs and crafts layered vocals.

The slow and melodic “Scarlet Fever” concerns a search for a new relationship in the wake of one that has disintegrated, while the more enigmatic “The Night Of The Hotel Fire (Hard Sell)” relies heavily on symbolism. “Come Back Home Sometime” serves as a romantic invitation to a woman who once lived across the street, as well as a wistful reflection on the other neighbors who had moved away. “Valley Of Ashes” aligns more closely with David’s Magatha Trysty style, featuring a hard-edged indie rock approach that evokes vintage R.E.M.

Stereopsis is currently available for download on David’s Bandcamp page, and is due out on vinyl this spring. A recent post on his Facebook page promises a major announcement next Monday.

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Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Flat Five - It’s A World Of Love And Hope

All the members of The Flat Five have busy schedules in the music scene, which might explain why this full-length debut has been a long time coming. Kelly Hogan, Nora O’Connor, Scott Ligon, Casey McDonough, and Alex Hall formed the band as a means to utilize their impressive harmonies in Chicago area clubs, and have steadily built a loyal following. While initially known for eclectic cover versions, they found a kindred soul in Scott Ligon’s songwriter brother Chris. All 12 tracks on It’s A World Of Love And Hope are his compositions.

Those original tunes sound like that they could have sprung up decades ago, thanks to vintage vocal interplay and musical arrangements. And like some of the well-known artists of those long-gone eras, The Flat Five relish adding a certain amount of silliness. Still, it’s surprising (and funny) to encounter gorgeously delivered lines like, “Rub a dub a dub, you dirty thing” and “I know it was wrong to hit your mother but she had it coming all the way.” On “Buglight,” which sounds at least partly inspired by The Mills Brothers’ “Ragmop,” there’s the line, “My girl don’t look like Madonna, but she gets hot when she turns on a buglight.”

Occasionally, the humor and quick rhymes feel forced, as on “Blue Kazoo,” but that’s easy to overlook when the album offers treats like the jazzy and sensual “You’re Still Joe” and the off-kilter but enticing techno pop of “Almond Grove.” The easy-going “Florida” taps into The Andrews Sisters, but fans of the more recent sibling act The Roches would also be impressed. The Flat Five are at their best on “This Is Your Night,” an irresistible samba that recalls “Mas Que Nada” by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

Slumgullion

In the event of something happening tonight. Sorry for the late notice, but I only just saw the ad in this weeks’s Reader, and now it’s sold out. Tributosaurus, the Chicago-based collective that meticulously recreates famous music artists, will become The Bee Gees tonight at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. Hopefully, they’ll cover a lot of vintage brothers Gibb stuff and not just the Saturday Night Fever era hits. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

Give me hope, help me cope, give me Chicago-area bands celebrating George Harrison’s life. Plenty of advance notice on this one: Ellis Clark and The Big Parade featuring Ary Paloma Jeebie will be hosting a a George Harrison Birthday Tribute Concert on February 25 at Martyrs’. Special guests so far include Mars Williams from The Psychedelic Furs, Carla Prather from Poi Dog Pondering, Phil Angotti, The Handcuffs, Aethereal, Social Act, The Polkaholics and Gunnar Cleermann all the way from Denmark. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

I’ve gotta get a message to you. The Bangles are promising to provide plenty of information to fans who sign up for the band’s new mailing list. Details and a link can be found on The Bangles Facebook page.

Yes, Sir! Congratulations to Ray Davies of The Kinks on receiving knighthood from Queen Elizabeth as part of her annual New Year Honors list. According to a report by Daniel Kreps on Rolling Stone online, Davies was rewarded for his service to the arts.

The Telepaths, the garage rock outfit that includes James Moeller from whitewolfsonicprincess will be performing tomorrow night at Phyllis’ Musical Inn on Division. Steve Gilpin And Crown Vic Royal are also on the bill. The music starts at 9:45 p.m.

Best wishes to veteran news anchor Kathy Voltmer, who is is leaving her position at WDRV The Drive to explore new adventures. I’m most familiar with Voltmer from her days of working with morning air personality Lin Brehmer on WXRT, but she has many devoted followers from her time at The Drive and other Chicago radio outlets.

Tickets are now on sale for The Wild Honey Orchestra Plays The Band’s Music From Big Pink, The Band And Beyond  at Alex Theatre in Glendale, CA on March 25. The event’s Facebook page promises very special guests will be announced soon and if past Wild Honey shows are any indication, expect a lot of well-known musicians from the California area.

Go Time! has a record release show coming up on January 28 at The Uptown Lounge. Mama YaYa is the scheduled opened act. I’m currently in the process of listening to the new Go Time! album VI for a review on Broken Hearted Toy, and it’s an 18-track collection of hard-edged pop led by lead vocalist Scott Niekelski’s distinct delivery.

Have you seen you wife, Mr. J? There was an unexpected reference to Mick Jagger’s former spouse Bianca in a recent Chicago Sun-Times article on Bob Herguth’s new book Genuflections: Famous Folks Talk About Growing Up Catholic. The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation is devoted to defending human rights and ending violence toward women and girls. Little known fact: Herguth once did a profile on me for the Sun-Times back in the days when I was a matchbook proofreader and performed with the Famous In The Future comedy group.

There’s an all-ages four-band showcase taking place next Saturday, January 14 from 3:00 to 8 p.m. at 2200 N. California. The Hustle, a quartet that includes vocalist-bassist Ted Ansani from Material Issue and Material Reissue, is hosting the event. The other acts performing are The Ex Okays, The Safes (whose CDs have been favorably reviewed her on BHT), and The Differents. Admission is $8.

Sons Of The Silent Age, the Chicago-based David Bowie tribute band, will be performing Bowie’s Low album and other songs next Sunday, January 15 at Metro. The event is part of the 2017 Tomorrow Never Knows festival.

Chicago-based alt-rock band whitewolfsonicprincess is hosting its first Rock ’N’ Roll Circus event on January 29 at The Red Line Tap. Other acts on this eclectic showcase include The Dark Room Men, KC Cronis, and The Hens. Carla Hayden and James Moeller of whitewolfsonicprincess plan to stage The Rock ’N’ Roll Circus (which takes its name from a famous happening led by The Rolling Stones in 1968) on a semi-regular basis, and are looking for all sorts of creative types to participate. Anyone interested can contact them via the new whitewolfsonicprincess website.

Steep Theatre Company will perform Earthquakes In London, Mike Bartlett’s play about a climate scientist and his three daughters coping with global destruction, at its location on Berwyn Avenue starting January 26. Jonathan Berry directs a cast of 15 actors.

Peter Asher: A Musical Memoir Of ‘60s and Beyond takes place next Sunday, January 15 at The Old Town School Of Folk Music on Chicago’s north side.

I still plan to do my annual Big Ideas post, in which I solicit contributions and come up with my own suggestions for what creative types hope to or should accomplish in the coming year. Anyone who’d like to participate can send me a short message with your plan via brokenheartedly@gmail.com. Since I’m so late in starting this, I’ll be accepting contributions through the end of January.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Unswept - Fake It

The Unswept, a trio that comprises cousins Charlie and Ryan O’Brien, along with Liz O’Brien, who might also be a cousin, is probably best known in Chicago for its appearances at International Pop Overthrow. Vocalists-guitarists Charlie and Ryan moved from Sheffield, England to the Logan Square neighborhood in 2013, although their music is more reminiscent of Carnaby Street circa 1965. Their new four-song EP Fake It (which also includes four mono versions) follows in the steps of the band’s previous two off-kilter and infectious releases.

The title track borrows the riff from The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” while describing a working stiff who can only survive his nine-to-five existence by slapping a phony smile on his face. As on all four tracks, bassist-singer Liz O’Brien adds some fetching backup vocals. Lustful intentions are couched in the light, melodic arrangement and cuddly lyrics of “The Boy Who Wants To Wake You Up.”

On the fast and catchy “SALLY,” a guy compares his girlfriend to a supermodel, not because of her looks, but because of her privileged attitude. “She Just Knows It’s Over” is the strongest cut on Fake It, as the band employs a power pop arrangement while delving into the deeper emotions of woman leaving her husband and kids. “It’s hard to believe that all she needs will fit in the boxes she’ll take when she leaves.”

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