Friday, August 26, 2016

Slumgullion

The Muffs, a fun garage rock/power pop band led by vocalist-guitarist Kim Shattuck, will likely be showcasing their new album Whoop Dee Doo during a gig this Sunday night (August 28) at Empty Bottle on Chicago’s north side. Shattuck has also spent time performing with The Pandoras and Pixies.

The 31st Annual Bucktown Arts Fest will offer loads of art, live bands, poetry, and a kids’ tent this weekend at 2200 N. Oakley Avenue.

I’ve mentioned WXRT’s Garage Sale/Saturday Morning Flashback live broadcast a few times here now. It takes place at Schubas Tavern tomorrow morning from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., with a live concert by The Kickback at 1:00 p.m. I heard on XRT today that the year being featured for the live broadcast is 1974. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens. I wonder if the Garage Sale will have that WXRT blue neon sign from their TV commercials a few decades ago or the Beatles wig Michael Palin wore in another XRT ad.

There will be a Preview Party next Wednesday night, August 31, at The Copernicus Center for this year’s Chicago Fringe Festival. The actual festival will offer a wide range of theatre, dance, storytelling and film through September 11 around Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tickets can be purchased online or at one of the venues involved with the Fringe Fest.

A triple bill of Frisbie, Zapruder, and Mooner are going to be rocking tomorrow night at Martyrs’ on Lincoln Avenue.

Matthew Sweet drops by Chicago in a couple of weeks for a September 9 show at Park West. His opening act will be Material Reissue, which includes bassist Ted Ansani and drummer Mike Zelenko from the original Material Issue, with Phil Angotti replacing the late Jim Ellison on lead vocals. I still remember Material Reissue’s terrific performance at a sold-out International Pop Overthrow showcase in 2011, and of course, I’ll never forget the original lineup.

The Second Disc website is reporting that Concord Bicycle Music, which recently acquired the rights to R.E.M.’s Warner Bros. output, will release a 25th Anniversary Deluxe edition of the band’s 1991 hit album Out Of Time in November. The two-CD set will include the original 11 tracks along with 19 demo versions, and there will be a three-CD set that features a live R.E.M. concert recorded at the Capitol Plaza Theater in Charleston, WV.

Mary-Archie Theatre held its Last Abbie Fest last weekend at The Den Theater, bringing 28 years of Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festivals to and end. I’m still debating how to honor this freewheeling celebration, and how much it meant to me and so many others in the local theatre community. So far, I’ve got comments from Carla Hayden and James Moeller from Black Forest and Frank Carr from Famous In The Future; along with a new song parody I’ve written. If anyone else wants to contribute some thoughts, please feel free to contact me via Broken Hearted Toy.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

1966, A Flashback Auction, and Revolver Tributes

WXRT air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback this Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m at Scubas Tavern. The event is being combined with the progressive rock station’s first Garage Sale, and people willing to get up early on their day off will be able to bid on some interesting stuff. The items include autographed guitars and posters; WXRT CD compilations that are no longer available anywhere else, 2017 Lollapalooza passes, assorted rock and roll memorabilia, and a chance to hang out with one of the dee jays.

The Kickback, a Chicago area band that’s been getting a lot of attention and has released its debut album Sorry All Over The Place, will perform at Schubas at 1:00 p.m.. Their show should be a good way to wrap up this rare opportunity to see Rice working Flashback in person. All proceeds from WXRT’s Garage Sale will go to The Salvation Army's Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

Saturday Morning Flashback, which has been a popular feature on WXRT for several years now, celebrates a different year for each show via music, trivia, news stories, and brief reports recorded by others members of the air staff. It’s well researched, fun, and never fails to bring back a lot of memories. My only complaint is that it’s time for Flashback to go beyond its current range to include at a few years from the current millennium, as well as going back to 1966.

And to that point, The Whatfour, a local band comprising Phil Angotti, Casey McDonough, Scott Ligon, Joe Camarillo and John San Juan, will perform The Beatles’ Revolver album in its entirety next Friday (September 2) at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Angotti has become quite adept at honoring 1960s acts, and performed at the recent Fest For Beatles Fans - Chicago. This year’s Fest also featured the Liverpool Beatles tribute band covering Revolver. The landmark album was released 50 years ago.

The Chicago Tribune recently carried a fascinating piece by Los Angeles Times writer Randy Lewis about 1966 titled Rock ’N’ Roll’s Most Revolutionary Year. In it, Lewis mentions Revolver, Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde, Love’s Love, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Rolling Stones’ Aftermath, and Face To Face by The Kinks. I would add For Certain Because by The Hollies. So, there’s plenty of material if 1966 is ever added to the Saturday Morning Flashback roster.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sidewalk Society - Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon

Anyone who’s been impressed with the cover versions Sidewalk Society has recorded for the vinyl-only UK label Fruits de Mer (most recently The Action and David Bowie songs) should check out the California-based trio’s 2012 debut Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon. That same 1960s vibe runs through Sidewalk Society’s original compositions, and with drummer Jerry Buszek, guitarist Danny Lawrence, and bassist Dan West all singing, the vocals are consistently enticing and adventurous. A lot of the catchy yet complex arrangements feature instrumental passages.

That extended time on the psychedelic “Abbey Chatsworth” allows Lawrence to cut loose with some unbridled guitar playing. On “Nice Boys,” a caustic look at a woman who seems to enjoy the challenge of dating obnoxious losers, the band combines funky guitars with a string arrangement. The well-crafted lyrics sometimes take aim at careless lovers, as in the Beatles-influenced “If Only,” but have more of a political and social feel on “Silent Echo” and “Golden Parachute.” The hard-hitting “Sign Of Evolution” has lines like, “I guess all I need is someone to believe in, but it ain’t you.”

Sidewalk Society goes for a mysterious and psychedelic approach on the mid-tempo “Miss Understood,” which describes a woman who, “comes to me from the dead, to give me an answer.” “I Let Her Get Away” has a vintage Motown town, as well as one if those extended instrumental passages. The title track slips into the early 1970s, with a glam rock groove that recalls the party ambience of T-Rex.

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Sidewalk Society - Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon

Anyone who’s been impressed with the cover versions Sidewalk Society has recorded for the vinyl-only UK label Fruits de Mer (most recently The Action and David Bowie songs) should check out the California-based trio’s 2012 debut Venus, Saturn and the Crescent Moon. That same 1960s vibe runs through Sidewalk Society’s original compositions, and with drummer Jerry Buszek, guitarist Danny Lawrence, and bassist Dan West all singing, the vocals are consistently enticing and adventurous. A lot of the catchy yet complex arrangements feature extended instrumental passages.

That extended time on the psychedelic “Abbey Chatsworth” allows Lawrence to cut loose with some unbridled guitar playing. On “Nice Boys,” a caustic look at a woman who seems to enjoy the challenge of dating obnoxious losers, the band combines funky guitars with a string arrangement. The well-crafted lyrics sometimes take aim at careless lovers, as in the Beatles-influenced “If Only,” but have more a political and social feel on “Silent Echo” and “Golden Parachute.” The hard-hitting “Sign Of Evolution” has lines like, “I guess all I need is someone to believe in, but it ain’t you.”

Sidewalk Society goes for a mysterious and psychedelic approach on the mid-tempo “Miss Understood,” which describes a woman who, “comes to me from the dead, to give me an answer.” “I Let Her Get Away” has a vintage Motown town, as well as one if those extended instrumental passages. The title track slips into the early 1970s, with a glam rock groove that recalls the party ambience of T-Rex.

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Thursday Slumgullion

Poster montage from the Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field! Facebook page.

Slumgullion comes a day early this week due to the fact that I’m going out parading tomorrow night.

The Go-Go’s Farewell Tour comes to Ravina tomorrow (August 19) night in Highland Park. I still have fond memories of seeing The Go-Go’s for the first time at ChicagoFest on Navy Pier and then walking over to a record store on Rush Street (I believe where the Barnes And Noble is now) and buying their stellar Beauty And The Beat debut.

Mary-Archie Theatre kicks off its very last Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins theatre festival tomorrow night at The Den Theater, where it will revel in wild abandon through Sunday night. You can bet this freewheeling celebration of drama, performance art, live music, and comedy is going to go out with a bang.

If you’re looking for a suitably counter-culture place for dinner before going to The Last Abbie Fest, check out the Revival Food Hall. It just opened today at 125 S. Clark Street, with an impressive roster of 15 restaurants, including Union Squared, Furious Spoon, Brown Bag Seafood Co., and Antique Taco Chiquito. With a Curbside Splendor books and record store also on the premises, this just might be the hippest destination in the downtown area.

The highly influential Los Angeles punk band X, with guitarist-sax player Billy Zoom back in the fold, are performing tomorrow (August 19) night at Metro. The show starts at 8:00 p.m.

A video for Graham Nash’s tuneful and introspective song “Myself At Last” is now available on YouTube. The clip consists of stark black and white images of Nash that reflect his twin passions for photography and music. “Myself At Last” is the first single from his recent This Path Tonight album.

Look for Eddie Vedder to be in particularly good spirits when Pearl Jam plays Wrigley Field on Saturday and Monday. His beloved Cubs are having their best season since 1969 and are leading the National League East by double digits. Pearl Jam has commissioned five artists to create posters for the concert. Hopefully, there won’t be any extended rain delays this time.

The weather could also be a factor when Wilco performs at the Jay Pritzker Pavillion this Sunday. The band will likely be showcasing songs from its upcoming album Schmilco, which is due out in a few weeks. Wilco’s opening act on Sunday will be Twin Peaks, a band that’s been attracting a lot of attention in the past few years.

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con opened today at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont and runs through Sunday. This year’s celebrities guests include Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Carrie Fisher Rosario Dawson, John Barrowman, and Norman Reedus.

Theater Zuidpool will bring “Belgium’s greatest rock musicians” to Thalia Hall 2 for its hard rock adaptation of Macbeth this Saturday and Sunday. The production is being presented by Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Thalia Hall. Tickets start at $28.

The Glenwood Ave Arts Fest will offer an eclectic selection of music acts when it takes place this weekend in the Rogers Park neighborhood, just off the Red Line stop. Performers include White Mystery, The Red Plastic Buddha, The Locals, Devil In A Woodpile, Boolean Knife, The Amazing Heebie Jeebies, and Ellis Clark and And The Big Parade with special guests Carla Prather from Poi Dog Pondering and Ary Jeebie from The Amazing Heebie Jeebies. And there’s no admission fee.

Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Ellis Clark, whose impressive resume includes performing with Epicycle, The Handcuffs, and the previously mentioned Ms. Jeebie, recently posted on Facebook that he’s wrapping up work on a new Social Act album. Back when I was a cub reporter for the Illinois Entertainer in the late1980s, I interviewed Clark and his Social Act bandmates after a performance at (if my memory is correct) Park West.

Maybe I could sell some of my Featured Artists cards there. WXRT is holding a Garage Sale next Saturday at Schubas Tavern on Chicago’s north side from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. If that sounds on the early side, it’s because air personality Wendy Rice will be doing a live broadcast of her weekly show Saturday Morning Flashback from 8:00 a.m. to noon. There will also be live music, shopping, and music-related items to bid on. All proceeds will go to The Salvation Army’s Let The Music Begin program, which helps bring music education to Chicago area kids and teens.

It was nice to see so many people show up at Mac’s On Slade in Palatine last Sunday for a benefit to help Shadows Of Knight lead vocalist Jimi Sohns cover some of his recent medical bills. Kevin Lee And The Kings, Soul Patch Monkey, Dream Police, and Dean Milano performed live, and Sohns appeared to be in good spirits as he socialized at the event.

The Nicholas Tremulis Orchestra has an upcoming gig at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on September 3, along with Jay O’Rourke.

Plan Ahead

Muffs - August 28 at Empty Bottle

Matthew Sweet with Material ReIssue - September 9 - Park West

Riot Fest - September 16–18 in Douglas Park

Lush - September 18 at The Vic (Sold Out)

The Buzzcocks - September 22 - The Vic

The Smithereens - September 25 at City Winery

Brian Wilson Celebrates Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary - October 1 at The Chicago Theatre

Nick Lowe with Josh Rouse - October 15, October 17 at Old Town School of Folk Music

Elvis Costello’s Imperial Bedroom And Other Chambers Tour - October 29 at The Chicago Theatre

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Welcome To My (Wizard) World - 2016


Wizard World Chicago Comic Con returns to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont tomorrow and will cast its magical spell through Sunday. This annual convention is a major attraction for self-professed nerds, sci-fi devotees, graphic novels readers, art lovers, and anyone who embraces the more adventurous paths of modern culture. A four-day pass costs $105, and prices for single day tickets vary.

This year, several celebrity guests are assembled in teams. You’ll find Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson from Back To The Future; along with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, and William B. Davis from The X-Files; Norman Reedus, Tom Payne, and Danai Guria from The Walking Dead; Rosario Dawson, Eldon Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elodie Yung, and Charlie Cox from Daredevil; and John Barrowman and Colin Donnell from Arrow.

I would have loved to see a lineup like that from Doctor Who. At least this year’s Comic Con has the very funny Barrowman, who in addition to starring on Arrow, played Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who and Torchwood. Carrie Fisher, Kate Mulgrew, Rose McIver, and Bruce Campbell will also be on hand. 

Wizard World Chicago Comic Con also offers aisle after aisle of corporate and independent vendors selling comic books, t shirts, action figures, and other fantasy/sci-fi related artifacts. In the huge marketplace dubbed Artists Alley, up-and-coming artists and writers compete for attention. If was a high-powered financier from a counter-culture version of Shark Tank, I’d put up funds for several of the worthy projects these people have created.

There’s also a fun, masquerade atmosphere as people dress up in superhero or villain costumes, and gladly pose for photos. Where else are you going to see Batman and Princess Leia sipping 32-oz. Cokes together, or Captain Jack Sparrow and Harry Potter walking side by side. Check the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con website for the complete schedule and prices.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

So Long, And Thanks For All The Freaks

Mary-Arrchie Theatre was a storefront ensemble that exuded a counter-culture vibe throughout three decades of critically hailed productions. That attitude was never more evident than during its annual Abbie Hoffman Died For Our Sins festival, which first sprang from the unfettered mind of Artistic Director Rich Cotovsky in 1989 and has been a tradition ever since. The company closed earlier this year, but will offer one more hippie hurrah as The Last Abbie Fest runs this Friday through Sunday.

The official kickoff will be a rally in Daley Plaza at 2:00 PM on Friday afternoon. As always, the event will bring together veteran and fledgling groups from across Chicago’s vibrant theatre community. Since the building that Mary-Arrchie called home—at the corner of Broadway and Sheridan Road—has been demolished, Abbie Fest will be held at The Den Theatre on Milwaukee Avenue. Cotovsky will resurrect his impersonation of Yippie leader Abbie Hoffman as he oversees a chaotic and virtually nonstop barrage of drama, comedy, music, and performance art that he jokingly concedes he shouldn’t be able to pull off.

But somehow he always does. Mary-Arrchie will perform Arlene Cook’s Gas Mask 101 and Matt Borczon’s Wild Dogs, both of which are annual showcases for the theatre company’s hard-edged approach. Mary-Arrchie ensemble member/director Carlo Garcia will host an Abbie-Okie Karaoke and Cotovsky will rage through a Bitch With Rich session in the wee hours of the morning.

I performed at Abbie Fest for 20 years with the Famous In The Future comedy group, and I’ve continued to go every year since. The participants develop a sense of community among themselves, as well as with the audience members who have become Abbie Fest fanatics. This year, Famous In The Future, which has carried on nicely without me, will present the aptly titled revue of skits and songs The End Of Abbie Road at 5:50 p.m. on Saturday. The always fascinating Black Forest will perform their latest original avant garde piece Shimmerings that same afternoon.

Other Abbie Fest regulars who’ll be back for this one last ride include A Red Orchid Theatre; Rush Pearson; The Plagiarists; Strawdog Theatre, Sense Of Urgency Theatre; Democracy Burlesque; REVOLUTION Theatre; Indie Boots Theatre; and Trained Monkey Productions.

The Closing Ceremonies on Sunday, which feature Cotovsky as Abbie Hoffman railing against the evils of right wing society before being carried off by pallbearers, will be especially poignant. This time, Abbie Fest won't be coming back.

The full schedule is available on the Mary-Arrchie website.

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