Saturday, June 28, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The Woggles, Subterranean, Sunday, June 29

One advantage of interviewing musicians I admire is that they tip me off to bands they like. I discovered the Poster Children after That Petrol Emotion's drummer recommended them. I went to see the Woggles after Palmyra Delran of the Friggs raved about them in an interview. The band work a similar vein of garage/frat rock as the Fleshtones, and like Peter Zaremba & Co. put on an amazingly crazed live show. It's pure entertainment with no advance knowledge of their songs required.

The Woggles play Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago, 773.278.6600 at with Mr. Airplane Man at 9:30 on Sunday, June 29.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

When Mudhoney played the Metro in '99, I made a somewhat deliberate effort to dress like my early '90s self with the intent of braving the moshpit. I'd stopped moshing around '94 when moshpits became overrun with idiots. But the night of that concert it hit me that once I stopped moshing, I started dressing like a girl. I no longer had to dress for defense: no more leather jacket, Doc Marten's, pants with lots of pockets so I wouldn't have to carry a purse.

I had a sociology TA who posited that the social rules for moshing are just as detailed as those for waltzing. Unfortunately, some people at the Buzzcocks show last Friday at the Metro need a refresher course on the rules. Specifically, if you want to crash into other people, go to the  moshpit where, by implied collective contract, others have agreed to be crashed into. Do not be a moshpit unto yourself.

When I become Queen of the World, I will decree that no one can mosh unless their IQ exceeds their body weight. Until then, I'll stick to wearing miniskirts and open shoes and remaining on the fringes of the pit.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Concert Recommendation: The Fall, The Empty Bottle, June 28 and 29

The great thing about real rock and roll is its unpredictability. Big pop lip-synched productions may offer precision- timed choreography and costume changes, but you're going to get the same show every night of the tour. No highs. No lows. But the fun of a genuine rock concert is the gamble: how will the artist feed off the crowd, the venue, their own mood. The Fall have always been a gamble. With frontman Mark E. Smith's dentist's drill-like vocal punctuation and the band's throbbing rhythm, one can see why the Fall are a tough sell. (Someone joked that the Fall never sell any records in the U.S. because anyone who might buy one is already on a record label mailing list.) But when the cantankerous leader is having a good night, the Fall are the greatest band in the world at that moment.  On an off night, they are just dull.

That said, it's been a different kind of gamble with seeing the Fall lately. In just over a year, they have twice booked tours to include stops at the Empty Bottle only to have the tours canceled. There have been claims that they've finally worked out their visa problems (no doubt related to Smith having been charged with domestic assault in New York in 1998 after attacking his girlfriend and Fall keyboard player Julie Nagle). But I won't believe until I see them on stage.

The Fall play the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, 7743.276.3600 on Saturday, June 28 and Sunday, June 29 at 10 p.m. with TV on the Radio.

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Weekend Concert Round-Up

It was like Reading Festival 1990 revisited with the Buzzcocks, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and David Gedge in Chicago this weekend. It's more of a coincidence since many other acts that played the three-day music festival in England have been in town recently or are on their way soon: The Cramps, Wire, the Fall. All we need now is a Pixies reunion, since I'm certainly not hoping to ever see Ned's Atomic Dustbin again.

Buzzcocks, Metro, June 20

I think one of the Ramones said that they didn't think they were doing anything unusual or revolutionary, they were just playing pop songs really fast. The description is even more apt for the Buzzcocks. Their fat-free set was full of sing-along choruses and giddy, revved-up pop songs. Original members Pete Shelley and Steve Diggle are looking a bit paunchy but are still adorable and had a relentless joie de vie throughout the performance.

Opening act Billy Talent was like a second-rate Fugazi tribute band with a pointlessly angry front man. A heckler called out, "Play a good song." They responded with a cover Fugazi's "Waiting Room," a more explicit nod to their most obvious influence. The heckler should have been more specific and requested that they play a good song well.

Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Chicago Theatre, June 21

Nick may be around the same age as the Buzzcocks, but he's as wiry as ever. He and the Bad Seeds delivered a set of intense drama. Highlights included "God is in the House," which sounded like the writings of Dr. Suess if he were southern preacher, and the escalated interpretation of "The Mercy Seat," which started slowly and quietly, creeping up to a frenzied crescendo. They closed with "Babe I'm on Fire," a song so long and densely verbose that he required one Paul (Pall?) Bearer to hold cue cards with the lyrics.

Cinerama, Abbey Pub, June 21

Sally Murrell, Cinerama's keyboard player and backing vocalist, no longer tours with the band. For a band founded on a more orchestral sound to differentiate them from David Gedge's old band the Wedding Present, they sound rather like the Wedding Present in concert, including David Gedge and Simon Cleave's blistering, furious twin guitar attack. They were road-testing new material but mainly focused on their (relatively) better known tunes, including "Superman" and "Quick, Before It Melts." Sally's absence and therefore the absence of her backing vocals could explain why they passed on "Wow," a stand-out song from Disco Volante, but they more than made up for it by resurrecting the Wedding Present song "Kennedy."

Early on, David informally polled the audience about whether they preferred the Abbey Pub or the Empty Bottle, where the band has played frequently in the past. He got a mixed response. Perhaps he should have asked further into the set. Unless one is in the rather limited sweet spot at the Abbey Pub, their sound system is muddy, but the Empty Bottle provides not only better viewing lines with a wider stage but livelier sound throughout the club.

Friday, June 20, 2003

WLUP, 97.9 FM has a billboard in River North that just says, "now MORE PETTY." Yes, there's a picture of Tom of Damn the Torpedoes fame, but didn't it occur to anyone that the phrase means that they are now more focused on unimportant matters?

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Concert Recommendations: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Chicago Theatre; Cinerama, Abbey Pub, Saturday, June 21

My interest in both these artists are the result of personal recommendations. I spent the summer of '88 in London with a boom box and very few cassettes. As a result, I relied heavily on the musical tastes of the strangers with whom I moved in. My roommate, also American, brought along a trove of Warren Zevon tapes. Another flatmate, a musician himself, was a huge fan of Nick Cave. When I returned to the States, I followed up on their musical interests and was turned into a fan of both myself. I was so enthralled by Nick Cave the first time I saw him that I considered driving from Philly to Washington to see the next show on the tour.

Cinerama also has a concerts-in-D.C. connection. In the fall of 1988, I drove down to D.C. to see the Godfathers, who didn't have a Philly show on that leg of their tour. While waiting in line for the last few tickets, I befriended a British guy who was a Congressional intern. He advocated checking out the Wedding Present. I figured anyone who was as into the Godfathers as I had reliable musical taste. So I went to see them when they came to the U.S. the following year. As with Nick Cave, I was immediately enthralled and have been a fan of head Weddo David Gedge ever since. Gedge put that band on hold in 1997 to form Cinerama.

Nick Cave in concert is the personification of intensity. He sings of intertwined love, pain and death as if he were experiencing their throes at that very instant. His world is a mythologized version of the American south as portrayed in traditional blues and folk song, gone through the filter of a reluctant founder of goth.

David Gedge is the consummate love song writer. With both the Buzzcocks-inspired Wedding Present and more melodic, orchestral Cinerama, he shows off an impressive ear for conversational lyrics and an ability to capture the precise emotions in romances, such as the instant of giving in to temptation or the moment of regret when discovering that a new lover has a boyfriend. Cinerama's recorded arrangements may fall near the edge of twee, but he still attempts to saw his guitar in half just with furious strumming in concert. More recent Cinerama tours have also included some Wedding Present selections.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds play the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St., Chicago, at 8 p.m. Cinerama plays the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, Chicago, 773.478.4408, with Parker and Lily and Head of Femur at 10 p.m. Both shows are Saturday, June 21.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Concert Recommendation: Buzzcocks, Friday, June 20, Metro

Wire are coming to Chicago for a couple shows next week. There has been much press hoopla over their reunion. Or maybe it's just a disproportionate share of hoopla from Greg Kot. On one hand, I can understand the excitement. The angular art punk they created with their 1977 debut Pink Flag turns up in lots of "best albums ever" lists. But an important, innovative band is not necessarily a great live band. The Fleshtones are not innovative and they haven't made massive contributions to rock's recorded output, but they are blast to witness in person. Wire, on the other hand, are boring in concert. With all the ink this reunion has been generating, I started to doubt that judgment. I saw them in 1988 and 1990. Maybe these weren't really representative years for their best work. But I mentioned this to a friend who saw them last year, and he confirmed that they are still dull. So I'll just fire up my copy of The Ideal Copy instead.

Which brings us to the Buzzcocks. Their jittery pop punk makes critics swoon just as much as Wire, in part because it portrays a vulnerability in contrast to the aggression of so much other punk. Their influence is heard among young bands who think Green Day invented punk. But, unlike Wire, they're a great live band. They once sang of nostalgia for an age yet to come. The age has come.

Buzzcocks play the Metro, 3730 N. Clark, Chicago, at 9 p.m. on Friday, June 20 with Billy Talent and Serial P.O.P.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Sad news for those in need of indie CDs, Ramones t-shirts or Smiths stickers or those who wish to avoid paying exorbitant service charges for advance sale concert tickets. The Clubhouse, the retail annex of the Metro, is closing June 28. The store, at 3728 N. Clark, Chicago, is having a going out of business sale. Not everything is reduced, but it will be your last chance to buy advance tickets for shows like the New Pornographers or Dismemberment Plan without the Ticketmaster clerks at Carson's giving you odd looks when you utter the band names.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Concert recommendation: Frisbie, Saturday, June 14 at Schuba's

As any fan of Tom Waits can tell you, a pretty voice is not a requirement for being a great rock vocalist. As any detractor of Mariah Carey can tell you, a pretty voice itself is no guarantee of music worth listening to. Frisbie have two fine vocalists in Steve and Liam. They create beautiful harmonies in power pop songs without trying to sound like the Beatles.

Frisbie finally have a second album out, period. The long delay since 2000's The Subversive Sounds of Love was caused by drummer and songwriter Zack Kantor's ongoing struggles with his mental health. New City has a piece on what they went through. The new album features only Steve, Liam and bass player Ed and was recorded live, but it's all Kantor's compositions. They'll be celebrating with an early show at Schuba's tomorrow night. The limited edition CD will be on sale at Saturday's show and at their web site beginning Tuesday, June 17.

Consider this an alternative or a prelude to the garage/mod musical events of Saturday night. The show is early enough to make it to other venues without missing even an opening act.

Frisbie plays Schuba's, 3159 N. Southport, Chicago, 773.525.2508 at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 14.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

In addition to (or conflict with, depending on how you look at it) the garage night on Saturday at the Double Door, ModChicago is running Our Way of Thinking 2: Love's Happening, a whole weekend of mod music, both live a DJed, as well as a scooter rally and Mod garage sale/record swap. Events start tonight at Delilah's, 2771 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, 773.472.2771.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Concert recommendation:  The Fleshtones and the Cynics, Double Door, Saturday, June 14

The press is all over the new kids in the garage. I have nothing against Detroit or Sweden and happen to think the Hives are damn fine band, but the tunnel vision of some music scribes means that they ignore real talent in the garage realm just because it doesn't fit the very tight definitions of what's the in thing. Case in point: the show this Saturday at the Double Door. Neither the Cynics nor the Fleshtones are cute skinny boys in their 20's, the kind that Winona Ryder clamors to date. They are from Pittsburgh and New York, respectively, not Detroit. Instead, they have been roaring since the second wave of garage rock in '80s and both bands are still going strong. But a recent Tribune article on the movement ignored them to tout, among others, the total Dullsville Paybacks just because they're from Detroit.

Two years ago the Fleshtones headlined a show with neo-garageniks the Insomiacs at the Empty Bottle. The youngsters may have had the spiffy haircuts and wardrobe, but they had no spirit, while the Fleshtones ignited the joint the moment they hit the stage, and the party never let up throughout their set. The Cynics give so much to rock and roll that lead singer Michael Kastelic ended up in the hospital for a week after falling from the stage and continuing to perform at a show in Spain earlier this year. Forget the Vines and go see the real deal.

The Fleshtones and the Cynics play the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773.489.3160 on Saturday, June 14 at 10 p.m.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  The Clean, Saturday, June 7, the Vic

At this point, you can take headliners Yo La Tengo for granted. The Hoboken indie rock stalwarts are always touring. But the Clean is really big deal. Before the Datsuns and the D4 were trying to turn New Zealand into the next Detroit or Sweden buzz land of new garage rock, the Clean were the font from which all the jangly and fuzzy and melodic pop from New Zealand sprung. And they haven't toured the U.S. since, like, forever. Bass player Robert Scott, who went on form the Bats while continuing with occasional stints with the Clean, downplayed their significance when I interviewed him about 8 years ago, claiming that more bands branched off from the Chills just because they'd had more members in their ranks over the course of their history.

If you can't make the show, they have a new anthology out entitled Anthology.

The Clean open for Yo La Tengo at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., Chicago, 773.472.0449 at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 7. The show was moved from the Riviera Theatre

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Concert Recommendation:  Electric Six, Double Door, Friday, June 6

For some reason, I can't get my review of the Electric Six show in March at the Empty Bottle to actually appear on my blog. So I'll repeat what I said about them back then:

The most pleasant surprise of the evening was opening band Electric Six. The little press exposure they've gotten already feels like hype. Their semi-hit "Danger! High Voltage" shows high potential for annoyance value, with the lyric "Fire in the disco" being painful so soon after the Great White tragedy. If anything, that songs sells them short. They start from a base of garage, but bring in much more. Singer Dick Valentine recalls Sonics raspy vocalist Gerald Roslie. The throbbing, metallic tinge of the bass and rhythm guitar bring in hints of Gang of Four and Big Black. And somehow a guy with a geometric '80s 'do snuck in with the long-hairs and provides synth lines that match his haircut. Believe the hype on Electric Six, but don't be put off by their budding status as one-hit wonders.

In retrospect, perhaps I overestimated how much hype and one-hit-wonderdom is really generated by a few dozen spins on WLUW. On the other hand, the hyperbole-prone British music press like them, so there is hype-and-backlash potential. Regardless of the high or low hype level, the band is worth seeing, especially on 6/6, such an appropriate date.

The Electric Six play at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, 773.489.3160 on Friday, June 6 at 10 p.m. with the Greenhornes and the Peelers.

Monday, June 02, 2003

I suspect that the tour name was the creation of a marketing department rather than the musicians themselves since neither mentions it on their web site, but Tori Amos and Ben Folds are hitting the road together on the Lottapianos Tour. It'll be like Elton John and Billy Joel but cool. Or Lollapalooza without the token treatment of women or the overly aggressive masculine music aimed at teenage boys insecure about their heterosexuality.