Friday, September 30, 2016


The Second Disc website, a fantastic news source for upcoming CD and vinyl releases, reports that a massive box set from The Rolling Stones is on the way. Simply titled Mono, the 15-CD (or 16-LP depending on your choice) will include mono versions of every album the band released from 1964 to 1969. Illinois Entertainer writer Jeff Elbel gives Mono a rating of 10 out of 10 in the October issue. The box set comes with a bonus disc of rare tracks called Stray Cats.

In a separate post, The Second Disc heralds the arrival of the new Aussie label Playback Records and its first various artists release. I Want, Need, Love You!: Garage Beat Nuggets From The Festival Vaults features songs from 1960s down under acts The 5, The Black Diamonds, The Pogs, and Toni McCann.

One of the most iconic albums in rock history will get some time in the spotlight tomorrow night as the Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary tour visits The Chicago Theatre. Wilson, the guiding force for Pet Sounds and much of the Beach Boys’ canon, will be joined by band members Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman on gorgeous tunes like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” and “Sloop John B.”

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s Second Annual Irish American Movie Hooley, a festival of flicks, kicked off tonight and will run through Sunday.

The third annual Beverly Art Walk takes place on Chicago's south side, from 95th street to 111th Street this weekend. Two hundred artists, including my niece Allison, will be showing their work at the event.

Music Box Theatre on Chicago’s north side continues to offer the new Ron Howard documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week–The Touring Years. There are several showings scheduled over the coming this week.

Peter Case, a former member of the highly influential bands The Nerves and The Plimsouls, will be celebrating the 30th Anniversary of his first solo album at FitzGerald's in Berwyn next Wednesday, October 5.

I posted a review this past Monday of The Smithereens' recent concert at City Winery Chicago. In addition to experiencing an evening of classic power pop material like "Blood And Roses" and "House We Used To Live In," I picked up an autographed copy of the two-CD set Esp3cially F0r You. It's a 30th Anniversary celebration of the band's full-length debut that contains live, demo, and acoustic version of all the tracks, plus other rarities. I'm hoping to review it here soon.

Tributosaurus, one of Chicago's best-known tribute acts, will try its hand at Slowhand next Wednesday, October 5, when it becomes Eric Clapton.

Ricky Gervais, in his David Brent character from the original version of The Office TV show, has released an album titled Life On The Road. A full page ad in the October issue of Mojo boasts, "Includes the Brent classics Lady Gypsy, Freelove Freeway, Life On The Road, and Slough." It's available on Amazon.

The current issue of Streetwise is a Fall Festival Guide with listings for several upcoming events in Chicago. Pick up a copy from a vendor in the downtown area or in your neighborhood.

Mike Mills from R.E.M. and Robert McDuffie will perform Concerto for Violin, Rock Band and String Orchestra on November 7 at the Harris Theatre in downtown Chicago.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Handcuffs, Hooley, and Sheer Pop Perfection

The Handcuffs will be performing right about in the middle of a five-act showcase tomorrow (Friday) night at at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. Led by vocalist-guitarist Chloe F. Orwell and drummer Brad Elvis of The Elvis Brothers and Screams fame, the Chicago-based band has released three albums of catchy indie rock, and lands songs on hip TV shows on a somewhat regular basis. Orwell and Elvis previously worked together in the similarly engaging Big Hello. Slim Gypsy Baggage, Waiting For Henry, Brad Peterson, and The Polkaholics are the other acts on the bill. The music starts at 8:00 p.m.

The Gene Siskel Film Center’s Second Annual Irish American Movie Hooley kicks off tomorrow night and runs through Sunday. Also, in an Irish vein, Durty Nellie’s in Palatine is having a Halfway To St. Paddy’s Day tomorrow. The Trinity Irish Dancers perform at 7:00 p.m., followed by music from Bagpipers, Logical Fleadh, and The Ploughboys.

One of the most iconic albums in rock history will get some time in the spotlight on Saturday night as the Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary tour visits The Chicago Theatre. Wilson, the guiding force for Pet Sounds and much of the Beach Boys’ canon, will be joined by band members Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman on gorgeous tunes like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “God Only Knows,” and “Sloop John B.”


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tributes Tomorrow Night

Thursday, September 29 is going to be a night of tribute shows around the Chicago area.

The Arcada in St. Charles will be presenting Space Oddity - David Brighton’s Tribute To David Bowie. Brighton has played the Whiskey A Go Go in Hollywood, CA, and has been featured on AXS-TV’s World’s Greatest Tribute Band series. Tickets start at $29; the concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

The Classic Albums Performed Live series continues at Reggie’s Rock Club on State Street in Chicago with a double bill of Pretenders and Chris Isaak covers. The evening kicks off at 8:00 p.m. with Mystic Moon performing the 1980 self-titled debut by The Pretenders. I wasn’t able to find out anything about this band, other than its choice of cover material shows excellent taste in music. The Pretenders conquered the world with their first effort, fueled by powerful tracks like “Precious,” “Tattooed Love Boys,” “Kid,” and the hit single “Brass In Pocket.” If Mystic Moon has the chops, this will be an exciting gig.

Phil Angotti, a musician who has been performing authentic tributes to The Beatles, Squeeze, The Monkees, The Bee Gees (early Bee Gees, that is) and numerous other acts, follows with a set honoring Chris Isaac’s 1995 Forever Blue album. Featuring the songs “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing,” “Go Walking Down There,” and “Somebody’s Crying,” Forever Blue is regarded as one of Isaak’s best efforts. Dan Ingenthron and Chris Anderson will be joining Angotti. Admission for tomorrow night’s Classic Albums Performed Live is $8.

Liverpool Acoustic will be performing Beatles songs at Mac’s On Slade in Palatine at 8:00 p.m. The Chicago-based trio comprises Rob Lane on vocals and rhythm guitar; Ryan Lane on vocals, lead guitar, and keyboards; and Matt Bednar on vocals and bass.


Monday, September 26, 2016

The Smithereens At City Winery Chicago

Photo credited to Tom L., taken from the Official Smithereens Facebook page.

There was something different about last night’s Smithereens concert at City Winery Chicago, but it took a few songs before I realized Pat DiNizio wasn’t playing guitar. He’s still recovering from surgery on his arm due to a nasty fall he took in 2015. DiNizio obviously knows guitarist Jam Babjak, drummer Dennis Diken, and bassist Severo “The Thrilla” Jornacion can unleash waves of instrumental firepower while he’s belting out The Smithereens’ power pop classics. He also reflected on the New Jersey band’s 36-year history, via funny and informative anecdotes between songs.

Opening with “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” from their 1986 debut album Especially For You, The Smithereens powered their way through “Top Of The Pops,” “Miles From Nowhere,” “The Blues Before And After,” and “Now And Then,” with Babjak, Diken, and Jornacion jamming extensively on each of them. The band spotlighted its 1988 album Green Thoughts by performing the title track, along with “Only A Memory,” and once again combined “House We Used To Live In” with the instrumental “Sparks” from The Who’s rock opera Tommy. It would have been nice to hear more from the 2011 album, but aside from a spirited take on “Sorry,” The Smithereens continue to neglect this impressive comeback effort.

Throughout the concert, DiNizio conducted a guided and irreverent tour through Smithereens lore: The hard feelings between the band and its original label Capitol; a visit from actor Kevin Costner, who wanted to “Only A Memory” for his Bull Durham flick; and being introduced by Tony Orlando on a Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. That last bit somehow morphed into DiNizio leading the audience in a sing-along of “Knock Three Times” and “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ol’ Oak Tree.”

“We’re not just a rock band, we’re entertainment,” DiNizio joked at one point.

There was a much more fervent sing-along at the end of the evening, as The Smithereens led the crowd through “Behind Blue Eyes.” That cover of The Who classic, along with a version of Free’s “All Right Now,” came in the midst of “A Girl Like You.” The high-energy finale also featured The Smithereens blistering their way through an extended “Blood And Roses,” which was the song that started this band’s amazing journey over three decades ago.


Friday, September 23, 2016


EXPO CHGO, The Fifth International Exposition Of Contemporary Art opened at Navy Pier yesterday, and will run through this Sunday. Over 140 galleries from around the world will be presenting their work at EXPO CHGO, which has become one of the city’s most popular and sophisticated art events.

Sound (of) The Alarm. Mike Peters, lead vocalist for The Alarm, has a solo gig tonight at the Old Town School Of Folk Music. The North Wales band started in the late 1980s with Clash-inspired fare like “Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke?” and “The Stand,” and later had hits with “Rain In The Summertime” and “Sold Me Down The River.” Peters will join The Alarm for a U.K. tour starting in November.

Depending on what time you see this post, you might still be able to catch part of the five-act Smorgasbord Of Rock event at the Live Wire lounge on Milwaukee Avenue. Curated by singer-guitarist Michael Mazza from The Collectors, the lineup features an acoustic set by Brian McDowell at 8:00, followed by performances from The Statutes Of Liberty at 8:45, The Cells at 10:45, and Black Cat Heart Attack at 11:50. The Collectors, who’ve played many International Pop Overthrow Chicago gigs, go on at 9:40.

Sire and Rhino Records are releasing a three-CD, one-LP 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Ramones’ self-titled debut, with rare and previously unreleased demos and live tracks.

Whitewolfsonicprincess has a 9:00 p.m. show tomorrow night at Silvie’s Lounge. The Chicago alt-rock band, fronted by vocalist Carla Hayden and vocalist-guitarist James Moeller, released its mysterious and enchanting second album Shadow Of The Marigold earlier this year.

The Dandy Warhols will be feeling bohemian like you when they perform tomorrow night at Park West. Savoy Hotel is the opening act.

Sometimes when people ask me for a definition of power pop, I’m tempted to give a two-word answer: The Smithereens. The New Jersey band, fronted by singer-guitarist Pat DiNizio, will be opening their treasure chest of gems like “Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Blood And Roses,” and “House We Used To Live In” at City Winery - Chicago this Sunday night.

Eric Burdon and The Animals will be at that same venue on Monday and Wednesday next week.

I had a chance to catch the tail end of the second annual Minstrel Palooza, last Sunday at the Home House Of Music And Entertainment in Arlington Heights. Van Go did a high energy set, and it was great to hear my favorite song by them “Three Minutes Are Up.” Cliff Johnson and The Raine closed out the day-long event with a short but classic selection of Off Broadway material.

The Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary tour wraps up next Saturday, October 1 at The Chicago Theatre. Al Jardine and Blondie Chapman will join Wilson for the performance.

Today is the official release date for the reissued Evolution and Butterfly albums by The Hollies on 180g vinyl, with mono and stereo versions of every track. Each two-record set comes with a free download of the songs. Evolution and Butterfly originally came out at the height of the first psychedelic era, and showcased Graham Nash, Allan Clarke, Tony Hicks, Bobby Elliott, and Bernie Calvert at the height of their creative powers. Check out Amazon for more info.

Chicago power pop band Thrift Store Halo will be heading back to Balleydoyle Irish Pub and restaurant in Downers Grove on November 10.

There will be a five-act showcase next Friday night, September 30 at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue. Slim Gypsy Baggage, Waiting For Henry, Brad Peterson, The Polkaholics, and Broken Hearted Toy favorites The Handcuffs will be performing.

The Gene Siskel Film Center is holding its Second Annual Irish American Movie Hooley film festival next Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Also, in an Irish vein, the Durty Nellie’s restaurant in Palatine will be throwing a Halfway To St. Paddy’s Day bash next Friday, September 30. The entertainment kicks off with the Trinity Irish Dancers at 7:00 p.m., followed by performances from Bagpipers, Logical Fleadh, and The Ploughboys.

The Metropolis Performing Arts Center in Arlington Heights has announced its 2016/2017 season, with its current production of the Mel Brooks musical Young Frankenstein being the last offering for this year. 2017 will see Rosencrantz And Guildenstarn Are Dead, Hair, and Peter And The Star Catcher coming to The Metropolis.


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Girls On Grass - Self-Titled

Girls On Grass, a Brooklyn-based quartet composed of singer-guitarist Barbara Endes, drummer Nancy Polstein, bassist Dave Mandl, and guitarist Sean Eden, mixes old school country and western with down-to-earth rock and roll on its self-titled debut. Chief songwriter Endes crafts sympathetic portraits of people on the edges of society or trapped inside frustrating relationships. Her lyrics are to the point and often pack an emotional punch.

After a heated battle with her parents about them buying her a guitar, the young woman in “Father Says Why” views playing music as, “the start of my escape.” It’s one of several songs on the album that includes an instrumental break fueled by Eden’s guitar playing. “Fair,” an acoustic-based country ballad about hanging on to a relationship while longing for someone new, features Endes in a gorgeous duet with guest vocalist Cliff Westfall. There’s a Creedence Clearwater Revival swamp rock feel to “When The Pleasure Ends,” a jab at couples in shallow relationships.

Other Girls On Grass songs find Endes operating in a more optimistic vein. The tomboy of “One Of The Guys” reflects on a lifetime of being accepted for her less than frilly ways, and on “Too Pretty,” the protagonist is pleasantly surprised to find love with a woman she initially thought was out of her league. “Dave” is a foot-stomping bluegrass tribute to a friend (the band’s bassist?), and on “Drowning In Ego,” Endes has a ball lampooning the selfish sea of social media. “Your life is great,” she sings to an impossibly peppy arrangement, “But I don’t care. I used to but you over share.”


Friday, September 16, 2016


A hearty Broken Hearted Toy welcome to everyone in town for Riot Fest this weekend. The annual music event runs through Sunday in Douglas Park with a lineup that includes Sleater-Kinney, Smoking Popes, Fitz And The Tantrums, Bob Mould, The Specials, Death Cab For Cutie, and The Flaming Lips. A number of local publications, including The Reader, The Tribune, The Sun-Times, Redeye, and Innerview offer their recommendations for which acts to check out. New City devotes most of its current issue to its Art 50 cover story, but it does have an interview with Riot Fest participants Bleached.

Music Box Theatre on Chicago’s north side is screening the new Ron Howard documentary The Beatles: Eight Days A Week–The Touring Years this weekend. Reviews have been mixed, with Chicago Sun-Times writer Mark Caro praising the rare footage but noting, “Howard is more interested in wowing audiences with exuberant, hysteria-ridden performances than he is in digging for explanations.”

To the Batmobile, Robin. Chimera’s Comics will be celebrating Batman Day at its Woodridge, LaGrange, and Oak Lawn stores tomorrow. Fans can pick up free Batman comics while supplies last, and visitors to the Oak Lawn location can see the Batmobile from Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman movie.

Feed The Tree at The Vic. The recently reformed Belly, led by Tanya Donelly, will perform tomorrow night at The Vic on Chicago’s north side.

The second annual Minstrel Palooza, honoring the Minstrels music store in Niles, takes place this Sunday at the Home House Of Music And Entertainment on Rand Road in Arlington Heights. Van Go, Cliff Johnson and The Raine, and Cracked Actor are among the acts that will be performing.

The West Loop Art Festival, which made its classy debut last year, runs tomorrow and Sunday on Washington Boulevard between Halsted and Aberdeen.

The Persian Leaps, a St. Paul, MN band whose catchy power pop songs have been favorably reviewed on Broken Hearted Toy, released their fourth EP today. Your City, Underwater includes “Weather,” a deceptively upbeat-sounding single that’s actually about the dangers of climate change.

The Sarasota Springs, NY band Dryer has just released “Green Paper”—its first single since 2002—as a preview of its new EP Bright Moon, Bright Sun.

Lush, the dreamy and consistently engaging U.K. shoegazer band comprising Miki Berenyi, Emma Anderson, and Phil King, has reunited and will be performing this Sunday night at The Vic. The band’s new Blind Spot EP is available on the official website.

The Buzzcocks will be drawing on 40 years of creating melodic, high-energy songs when they perform at The Vic next Thursday night, September 22. The band sprung from England’s punk scene around the same time as The Sex Pistols, and is known for irresistible songs like “Harmony In My Head,” “What Do I Get?” and “Ever Fallen In Love?” Their latest album, The Way, was released in 2014.

The Smithereens will bring their amazing repertoire of power gems (“Behind The Wall Of Sleep,” “Blood And Roses,” and “House We Used To Live In,” to name a few) to City Winery - Chicago next Sunday, September 25. Eric Burdon and The Animals will be at that same venue on Monday the 26th and Wednesday the 28th.

Congratulations to Quimby’s Bookstore on its 25th Anniversary in Wicker Park. Christopher Borrelli had a piece on the store in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune, and Brianna Wellen has a profile in this week’s Reader. Quimby’s offers a mind-boggling selection independent publications.

Tickets for Theatre Nebula’s production of The Rocky Horror Show at Cutting Hall in Palatine are now on sale. I saw Theatre Nebula perform Spamalot twice a few years back, so I’m looking forward to its take on another eccentric musical.

Chicago’s free paper Redeye recently picked up a story from Variety stating the producers of Wicked have created a musical based on the 1980s TV show Family Ties. It's scheduled to open in Dayton, OH in the near future.

Chicago Tribune writer Tracy Swartz recently reported that sitcom veterans Katey Sagal and Judd Hirsch have been cast for a TV pilot of the Tracey Letts play Superior Donuts. Mary-Archie Theatre in Chicago had a successful run with Superior Donuts a few years back.

WXRT is offering listeners who mourned the recent loss of Leslie Witt to ovarian cancer a way to honor the longtime air personality and help find a cure for the disease that claimed her life. The station, working with the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance’s “30 Days Of Teal” campaign, is selling teal t-shirts printed with the WXRT logo for $30 on its website. All of the profits will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fun Alliance.

The Awakenings Foundation will have an opening reception for its Graphic Relief exhibition on October 13 at its Gallery at 4001 N. Ravenswood in Chicago. Curated by Gallery manager Liz Moretti, the exhibition will feature artwork in comic book, graphic novel, and zine formats that addresses the issue of women encountering sexual harassment.

When I saw Donna Vickroy’s Chicago Tribune article earlier this week about items from the Sabre Room going up for auction, it immediately brought back fond memories of Montgomery Ward Christmas parties at that glittering night club/restaurant in Hickory Hills. I worked at the Montgomery Ward store in Evergreen Plaza back in the 1970s, and that annual bash was like senior prom for us employees. It was a chance to mingle, drink and dance. George, one of my good friends from those days, was recently diagnosed with cancer, and I just want to extend my best wishes for his full recovery. Also, best wishes to my friend Ted to be home again soon and watching the Cubs on TV.

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