Photo: Daniel Meyering
By Lee DeVito
To be fair, none of the parties involved ever actually declared that rock was dead. Yet that sentiment was the takeaway for many earlier this year when The Magic Stick, an iconic Detroit rock club, announced it was switching formats to electronic dance music.
The club—part of a historic entertainment complex that includes The Majestic Theatre and the city’s oldest continuously operating bowling alley, The Garden Bowl—enjoyed its peak as the epicenter of the “garage rock” boom of the early 2000s. Homegrown acts like the White Stripes, the Von Bondies, the Detroit Cobras and the Dirtbombs helped make stripped-down, guitar-based music cool again, resonating with audiences in Detroit and beyond.
For a time, bills stuffed with four or more bands were common, with the second-floor venue’s wooden floors flexing somewhat alarmingly under the weight of up to nearly 600 sweating fans. Hip national acts like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleater-Kinney and Arcade Fire would make stops at the venue in the following years. The White Stripes, by then selling out theaters and stadiums across the world, even considered the venue as the location for an “Elephant”-era secret show, before those plans were thwarted by Jack White breaking his hand in a car accident. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago singer-songwriter Joe Goodkin is perhaps best known as the founder of the local indie band Paper Arrows. But his career took an interesting turn when he wrote a thirty-minute adaptation of “The Odyssey” for voice and guitar, which he ended up touring around the country to widespread acclaim. I’ve only heard excerpts, but there’s an aching plangency in the work that seems to give it a direct connection to the Bronze Age texts. Now Goodkin has emerged on the other side with a new EP, “Record of Life,” that comes across almost as an adaptation of his own earlier work—or more accurately, a commentary on it; a corrective of where it didn’t go far enough—as if all that time spent with Homer has given him the cojones to call bullshit on his previous, more timid self. Read the rest of this entry »
Rock ’n’ roll used to be a force for social change—and if the employees of megabucks retailer Guitar Center have their way, it will be again, goddammit. The workers unionized two years ago, and now find themselves fighting for a fair contract—meaning one that provides a living wage and affordable benefits. They stress how much they love their jobs, but lament that “we often have trouble making ends meet, thanks to low wages and fluctuating hours. We are asked to do many non-selling tasks which hurt our commissions. Sales workers do not receive sick days, health benefits are expensive and part timers are not even offered health benefits.” Read the rest of this entry »
Not sure what it is about the long-awaited arrival of summer in Chicago, but it invariably unleashes the urge to go out, cram oneself into a small club shoulder-to-shoulder with the demoniacally like-minded, and have one’s face melted by an unapologetically balls-out local rock band. Well, June is that month and She Rides Tigers is that band. In case the endlessly extended winter has eroded your belief in just how much noise a mere trio of human beings can make, Joe O’Leary (guitar, vocals), James Scott (bass, vocals) and Matt McGuire (drums) are happy to remind you. Read the rest of this entry »
Nonprofit arts programming collective Homeroom returns with its Songwriter Showcase after a couple of months off. If singer-songwriter open mics tend to be the kind of thing that normally repels you, I urge you to give Homeroom’s take on such an event a try. There’s a lot more diversity than the usual “lone-singer-with-a-guitar” setup, a diversity of styles and genres and an opportunity to hear the artists talk about their songwriting and creative processes. Read the rest of this entry »
Wire / Photo: Marylene Mey
Whether or not you believe Wire to be a seminal punk and post-punk band, you have to admire its insistence on evolution—from its minimalist beginnings in 1976 through its various genre-defying iterations. Which brings us to the new format for the band’s ongoing DRILL festivals: small, curated events built on artistic kinship across divergent musical styles, influences and generations. This version of the festival (with different supporting/collaborating artists) hit London earlier this year, and we have the privilege of being the only other host city on the agenda. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago singer-songwriter Sean Guinan has apparently decided our current cultural moment isn’t Weimar Republic enough. How else to explain Candy Town, the musical troupe he put together five years ago, which has been gleefully trawling Chicago’s demimonde ever since? (Though perhaps seeking to create a Chicago demimonde is more accurate.) Got up in greasepaint, a bowler hat and a backroom croupier’s shirtsleeves, Guinan fronts the band with sinuous glee, flanked by two singers—Maggie O’Keefe and Kristin Srail—who are more often than not dressed in cat suits. Read the rest of this entry »
Rachel Bonacquisti is just a slip of a girl, but she belongs to that mighty tradition of tiny women—Edith Piaf, Dinah Washington, Janis Joplin—who open their mouths and stop the earth grinding on its axis. She’s the vocalist for Burnside & Hooker, who celebrate the release of their new CD, “All the Way to the Devil,” this month at Double Door. The album ranges pretty far afield, pulling in influences from just about every goddamn genre you can name, with the possible exceptions of polka and J-pop; what binds them together is Bonacquisti’s dominating presence. It takes a certain kind of woman to put across lyrics like, “Stop making me the bad guy / Stop making me the fool / Stop saying that I tie you down and lock you up / And then send me back to your room,” and Bonacquisti is absolutely that woman. Read the rest of this entry »
Chicago singer-songwriter Lili K. first galvanized me with the debut single off her new album, “Ruby.” The tune—“Tommy”—is such a polished, pitch-perfect soul ballad, I wouldn’t have been surprised to learn it had come out in the seventies. “I got a man, he’s as sweet as pecan pie,” the singer croons seductively at the outset, against a backdrop of sultry trumpets; and by the bridge (which will get in your brain so deep major surgery may be required to remove it), she’s enlisted a trio of backup singers to help declaim the super-fineness of her guy (“Tommy / You’re like a book of poetry / Tommy / Your words alone excite me / Tommy / Don’t you ever let go of me”). It wasn’t till I saw the video that I got Lili K.’s utterly modern playfulness. Read the rest of this entry »
William and Jim Reid
For thirty years (with the exception of a nearly nine-year hiatus because of a brothers’ spat), The Jesus and Mary Chain have produced an extremely beautiful and powerful mess. It’s hard to hot-tub back to 1985, when dance music was defined by Wham! and classic rock by Foreigner; but that’s when the Jesus and Mary Chain showed up, with a punk ethos, black leather jackets and sunglasses. On top of the image, brothers Jim and William Reid from East Kilbride, Scotland, came fully equipped with a new sound they’d developed—a haystack of feedback, Velvet Underground haze and Phil Spectoresque wall-of-noise, shrouding a pulsing beat and shiny melodies. It’s the sound that launched a thousand shoegaze bands. Read the rest of this entry »