Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Music Top 5: May 1-May 15, 2016

Top 5 list No Comments »

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HAR MAR SUPERSTAR
(Lincoln Hall)
With his wit, brio and relentlessly infectious hooks, Sean Tillmann is completely rewriting the rules for being a pop star.
May 14 Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: The Season Springs Toward a Close

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »
Ursa

Ensemble Ursa

By Seth Boustead

May is always a busy month for classical music as we wrap up our concert seasons and prepare to adjourn to our summer homes to drink port, abuse the help and shoot defenseless animals.

Sadly though, this year I’ll be stuck in the city as my beloved manor burned down last fall during a regrettable flare-gun duel with an impudent young oboist who questioned my knowledge of French Baroque performance practices. Which admittedly I know nothing about, but still, what the hell? At any rate, here are my favorite upcoming classical music events, sans impudence. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hocico/Beat Kitchen

EDM, Electronic/Dance, Industrial No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

Formed by creepster cousins Erik Garcia and Oscar Mayorga in Mexico City at the peak of the harsh electronica rise in the oh-so-delightfully abysmal nineties, Hocico (pronounced O-see-ko) has endured and evolved where many other bands of its particular penchant for visceral and ethereal industrial and EBM have faded.
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Preview: Martin Barre Band/Martyrs’

Folk-rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

“The thing that pleases me is melody,” says Martin Barre, lead guitarist for British folk-progressive rockers Jethro Tull from their 1969 “Stand Up” LP through the group’s dissolution. “If I can come up with some nice chords and a really melodic top line, that gives me great satisfaction.”

Since that band ceased operations, Barre has taken the opportunity to kick-start his long-nascent solo career. “I didn’t get the opportunity to start doing solo material until 1983, when we all decided to take a year off.” Of going solo full time in 2014, Barre says: “I started to learn very late, but maybe that’s a good thing. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is great. I’m really inventing my career as a musician.’ And I’ve been happy—really, really happy—ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Tip Sheet: April’s Best Bets

Chicago Artists, Classical, Minimalism, New Music 1 Comment »
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Marc Mellits

By Seth Boustead

For nearly twenty years I made my living as a piano teacher and had as many as sixty students at one time. Over the last few years though, as my kale farming business has taken off, I’ve been cutting down on the number of students and these days I’m down to just one.

She’s close to ninety years old and, when she’s not in Paris or Mexico or some other far-flung locale, she drives herself to her lessons and she’s a better driver than you or me or most anyone I know.

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Knowledge Drop: A Gangsta and A Scholar

Hip-Hop No Comments »
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Afrika Bambaataa

By Craig Bechtel

The night before Kevin Donovan turns fifty-nine, he’ll be in Chicago providing a performance as his better known alter-ego, Afrika Bambaataa. The original soulsonic force from the South Bronx, he introduced “Planet Rock” to the hip-hop community and provided rap with its musical motivation. Drawing equal inspiration from disco and electronic rock, he’s been going full-tilt since 1977. Although Bambaataa is known for “Planet Rock,” his positions as “The Godfather” of hip-hop, the “Amen Ra of Hip Hop Kulture,” a forefather of turntablism and the father of “electro funk” are unassailable.

He started as a gang member and leader in the Black Spades, but his story took an amazing turn when he won an essay contest and a trip to Africa. He came back a new man, changing his name to Afrika Bambaataa Aasim (inspired by the name of a Zulu chief) and transformed what was a violent gang into the renamed Universal Zulu Nation, with its aim of spreading peace through music. Bambaataa is one of the originators of breakbeat deejaying, harnessing the breaks of his record collection to propel his beats, and was the first to organize a tour of hip-hop artists outside the United States, back in 1982. He recently completed a three-year stint as the Cornell Hip Hop Collection’s first visiting scholar, after which the university announced that it has acquired his archive of 20,000 records. Read the rest of this entry »

Spins: Two Chicago Jazz Guitarists Strum Their Stuff

Chicago Artists, Jazz No Comments »

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By Robert Rodi

Andrew Trim, a Chicago native, spent most of his childhood in Nagano, Japan; so it’s entirely natural that his style as a jazz musician is heavily influenced by Japanese music—as is Hanami, the ensemble he formed in 2011, and which features Trim on guitar, Mai Sugimoto on alto saxophone and clarinet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet and Charles Rumback on drums. The title of the group’s new album, “The Only Way to Float Free,” is pretty representative of the record’s tone—declarative American swagger blended and tagged with a wisp of eastern spirituality. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Muti on the Mend and on “Falstaff”

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Vocal Music No Comments »

Muti, Riccardo -- 2016 Japanese stamp

By Dennis Polkow

When Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti cancelled two weeks of concerts in February, the only details that were released at the time were that he was recovering from a “hip operation” after a “minor accident.”

The timing was odd, as Muti had just completed a tour of the Far East with the CSO. Given the lack of details, international speculation ran rampant that he had injured himself while on tour or even last fall, but had waited to go home for surgery. Read the rest of this entry »

Knowledge Drop: Magix King Conjures Up a “Sick Summer”

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

MagixKing

By Craig Bechtel

The calendar has just turned to April, but Magix King is promising that “it’s gonna be a hell of a sick summer.” That’s how the hip-hop artist born Myron Ford Jr. on Chicago’s South Side kicks off his next project, “Sick Summer,” due to drop on May 28.

Magix (he says the ‘x’ is pronounced like a ‘c’ both to protect his brand and it makes him easier to find on the Internet) has already released the first single. “Hi There” is a great entrée into his positive message, rapid-fire raps and heavily layered (but never too busy) production. Toward the end he inserts an aside that “I entertain and empower through the sounds of music,” before he raps that while “they sleep, we grind.” Read the rest of this entry »

Liz Phair, Steve Albini & Me: The True Story of 1993, the Greatest Goddamn Year in Chicago Rock History

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Funk, Garage Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Industrial, New Wave, Post-punk, Prog-rock, Rock 6 Comments »
Liz Phair 1993/Photo: Lloyd DeGrane

Liz Phair 1993/Photo: Lloyd DeGrane

By Bill Wyman

Every few years, it comes back.

Back in 1994, I had a weekly music column called “Hitsville” in The Chicago Reader. In early January of that year, I put together a top-ten list of albums from 1993 with an accompanying essay. It was all maybe 700 words. Strikingly, two entries by Chicago acts—Liz Phair’s debut, “Exile in Guyville,” and Urge Overkill’s first record for Geffen, “Saturation”—topped my list.

Steve Albini, then as now, was an iconoclastic music producer on the underground rock scene. He was pissed off by the piece; and in full dyspeptic mode he sent a letter to the paper. It was printed under the headline, “Three Pandering Sluts and their Music Press Stooge.”

The pandering sluts—his words—were the two acts I just mentioned and another Chicago outfit, the Smashing Pumpkins.

I was the stooge!

The letter was long and vituperative and hilarious: “You only think they are noteworthy now because some paid publicist has told you they are, and you, fulfilling your obligation as part of the publicity engine that drives the music industry, spurt about them on cue.”

Back then, the Reader was a huge institution. The paper came out on Thursday, stacked like bricks in walls three-feet high in stores and cafes. “Hitsville” was on the front page of Section Three. Albini’s little missive set off a letters war of seemingly unending scorn and heat that played out week after week in the paper, with rafts of responses, insults, counter-responses and counter-counter-responses.

In later years, after the Internet took hold, the letter was endlessly cited in adoring profiles of Albini, or histories of the Chicago music scene of the time. Ten years later, Ana Marie Cox wrote a hefty piece about it for the Reader itself, and just a few weeks ago—twenty-two years later!—the Reader’s music editor, Philip Montoro, brought it all up again amid news that the Pumpkins and Phair were going out on the road together. (They’re playing the Civic Opera House April 14.). Albini’s letter, he said, had torn me a new orifice. And he concurred with Albini’s judgment that I was there to promote popular bands: “Like many music writers, Wyman clearly considered the size of his potential audience when deciding which artists to cover.”

On examination, I was grateful to se that I had the requisite number of orifices, but even so, Montoro’s column got me feeling all misty. I started to remember what the scene was like back then. Read the rest of this entry »