New Year’s Eve Recommended Shows
With only a four-song, fifteen-minute, self-released EP under its darkened wing, Jacksonville, Florida’s Black Kids have created quite a stir in the last year—what started with a favorable performance at the Athens Popfest led to an even better performance at CMJ, garnering the band attention from the New York Times, NME, Village Voice and more. The EP, titled “Wizard of Ahhhs,” got a rave review from Pitchfork, which led to more praise, which led to Rolling Stone magazine naming the band one the top ten artists to look out for in 2008. Usually I’m skeptical when a band receives this much hype so quickly, but the mini-record is pretty brilliant in moments, especially the track “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You,” which is simultaneously funny, annoying, confident and, in the end, eternally sad. It’s not run-of-the-mill indie rock either—the keyboards help a ton, and the slacker-vibe isn’t quite there. Here’s looking at next year. (Tom Lynch)
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
The epidemic of cheesy cover bands that spreads through the city every year on this particular night is nothing a good trombone can’t fix. Even jazz skeptics won’t be able to resist this New Orleans jazz outfit—light years away from the stuff of Kenny G, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is lively, soulful and all about the horns. Taking a note from Marvin Gaye with their latest album, the syndicate let loose with a Shout! Factory release of “What’s Going On.” The title track is interlaced with scat vocals that border on hip-hop, while the horns whine, swing and tell it like it is. Inspired by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, and the inaction that followed, the album reflects a catharsis that could only have risen from a city of displaced musicians, high watermarks and broken communities. There’s nothing like a big pile of brass to start the year right, and the Dirty Dozen is only too happy to oblige. Big spenders can upgrade to a VIP package—a New Year’s steal at only $75—it includes an open bar, great seats, plenty of appetizers and a midnight champagne toast. (K. Tighe)
It’s been ten years since Chicago rock outfit Local H released “As Good As Dead,” a massive breakthrough to the mainstream after debut “Ham Fisted,” which featured singles like “Bound for the Floor,” “Hi-Fiving MF” and “Eddie Vedder.” Two years later the band released “Pack Up the Cats,” a superior record in every way, but it failed to reach the larger audience of yore. After disappearing for a few years, Scott Lucas resurfaced with a new drummer and offered “Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles?” A reinvention album of sorts, Lucas not only proved that he could still bring it, but also that he’s a rather genuine songwriter. A new record is reported to be on the horizon in 2008—it’s only a guess, but expect to hear some new material tonight. Live, Local H has always been ferocious. (Tom Lynch)
Jon Brion & Friends
In what could possibly the be the show of the year—and what is certainly the best offering of the night—producer, multi-instrumentalist and performer Jon Brion plays at the illustrious Harris Theater, with “friends,” whoever the hell that will be. His most recent show in Chicago was at Hideout—an extraordinary performance from start to finish, Brion’s looping of sounds and textures blew the room away (not to mention his ability to conjure any song imaginable). His profile has raised even more in recent years—after making a name as Fiona Apple’s producer and musician for Paul Thomas Anderson’s films (“Magnolia,” “Punch-Drunk Love”), Brion’s moved on to one Kanye West, as he co-produced the hip-hop star’s “Late Registration” and a couple of tracks on this year’s “Graduation.” It’s admittedly difficult to preview this show, as Brion’s rather unpredictable, but it shouldn’t be missed. (Tom Lynch)
Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s, Catfish Haven
Indianapolis’ chamber-pop folksters—maybe the only band I can tolerate that stole its name from a Wes Anderson film—possess that oh-gee Midwestern-ness that could really only come from Indiana, and it works. I’m most familiar with 2006’s “The Dust of Retreat,” a big, steaming debut that showed both the band’s inventiveness and ambitiousness. The sound pop-tarts its way right into your aging, poorly protected teeth—even when the band drifts into somewhat inevitable, ho-hum balladry, the boat stays afloat, or, if you wish, the bomb stays armed. Local alt-country crooner Catfish Haven opens—the Southern-tinged, swampy river-rock is surprisingly soothing and, at moments, even touching. “Down By Your Fire,” off of the “Tell Me” record, will break you in half. (Tom Lynch)
Spoon, The Sea and Cake
The Austin-born indie-rock utensil could be crowned king of the hipster elite for 2007—“Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” even with its go-fuck-yourself title, is one of the year’s best rock records, mixing the elaborate and creative pop systems the band’s known for and the most experimental work the group’s done to date. Songs like “The Underdog,” “You Got Yr Cherry Bom” and “Finer Feelings” are difficult to dislike; the haunting beauty of the piano-based “The Ghost of You Lingers,” with the lead vocals sampled and doubling back over each other, is alternately inescapable. Leader Britt Daniel’s swagger has never been more inebriating. Local heroes The Sea and Cake open—the Sam Prekop and Archer Prewitt-led band released “Everybody” earlier this year, the band’s seventh full-length in all and a more exciting affair compared to the band’s last few records. Opener “Up on Crutches” might well be my favorite Sea and Cake song ever, just for its subtle smoothness, and then the sweetness that bleeds from the chorus. Live, the band doesn’t disappoint, as it’s usually a louder affair than what you hear on tape. (Tom Lynch)
New Philharmonic: Viennese Pops with a Twist
Last New Year’s Eve, conductor Kirk Muspratt was named a “Chicagoan of the Year” by the Tribune on the same day that the New Philharmonic—that he has so radically transformed since taking over its music directorship three years ago into a first-class area orchestra—offered its second annual New Year’s Eve concert. The area’s only classical music offering on New Year’s Eve itself, music and merriment are Muspratt trademarks and this year, mezzo-soprano Viktoria Vizin, who sizzled in the title role of “Carmen” last year at Lyric Opera, joins the festive and family-friendly proceedings by singing excerpts from that role and from Viennese operettas. Dancers from the Chicago Festival Ballet under Kenneth von Heidecke will also be on hand to dance waltzes and can-cans in a concert that will spotlight Viennese waltzes, polkas and American film-music favorites. Note that there is no intermission so that the concert will conclude by 10pm, i.e., in plenty of time for revelers to get to midnight countdowns, dinners and celebrations. (Dennis Polkow) College of DuPage’s McAninch Arts Center, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn, (630)942-4000. 8:15pm. $40-$50.
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