Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Filmage/Lincoln Hall

Hardcore, Pop Punk, Punk No Comments »

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As much as anything else, this is the story of Bill Stevenson. He’s a drummer. And from all the praise dropped at his feet during this newly released ninety-minute film, it would seem that he’s a pretty good one. If Descendents isn’t a familiar name—and it should be—maybe Black Flag summons some sort of recognition. If not, “Filmage” has all the talking heads one’d need to get informed. Keith Morris crops up. Mike Watt, too. And it would seem that Dave Grohl is becoming the new millennium’s Ian MacKaye, replacing that D.C. stalwart in punk documentaries. Watching those famous faces flit across the screen narrating the development of Descendents doesn’t get tiresome, though. The issue with films like this is that frequently the story winds up being more gripping than the music. No pop punk resurrection is set for the immediate future, yet early cuts from Descendents—with Milo Aukerman on vocals—isn’t surpassed by too much else in the music world. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Pony Time/Township

Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Power Pop, Rock No Comments »
Pony Time 2

Photo: Sarah Creighton

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Seattle garage-rock duo Pony Time first popped up on my radar about a year ago when singer/guitarist Luke Beetham was featured in The Stranger’s tongue-in-cheek “Men Who Rock” feature skewering gender stereotypes in music writing. Beetham’s willingness to poke fun at both himself and rock-bro sexism impressed me, and I was equally impressed with Pony Time’s bouncy, buzzy single “Lori + Judy.” As a two-piece, Pony Time manages to use the minimalism to their advantage with short songs that play up Stacy Peck’s pulsing drum work and Beetham’s nasal, sneering vocals, like a Fred Schneider who can actually sing. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Riot Fest/Humboldt Park

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »

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Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “I Hate Music” by Superchunk

Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Power Pop, Rock No Comments »

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It might seem weird for Superchunk, an influential indie rock band that has released nine revered albums in twenty-four years, to title their tenth record “I Hate Music,” but time will do that. You grow older, problems get more complicated and a trip to the record store no longer really solves them.

“I hate music,” Mac McCaughan sings on the lead single, “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” “What is it worth? It can’t bring you back to this earth.”

If that sounds excessively pessimistic, don’t worry. In a breezy thirty-eight minutes, Superchunk delivers the catchy hooks and clever lines that have made them so great since their brilliant 1990 self-titled debut. But the band’s unique magic has always rested in their ability to blend upbeat, high-energy indie rock with down-in-the-dumps lyrics, and that duality is even more pronounced on their newest effort. Everyone in the band is growing older, well into their forties, turning this into an affair about aging. What sets this effort apart from similar works is the way the wintry theme is set to music that rocks with the rushing exuberance of youth. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Riot Fest/Congress Theater & Humboldt Park

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Pop, Pop Punk, Punk, Rock, Ska No Comments »

Riot Fest limps on for another year, turning its focus to expanding in other cities, booking bands like Rise Against or the Offspring to fill out time between Iggy and his geriatric Stooges. Even Andrew WK, who has apparently insinuated himself into the NYC underground by sponsoring a well-thought-of venue, is slated to make an appearance. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Redd Kross/Empty Bottle

Festivals, Garage Rock, Hardcore, Pop Punk, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »

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HoZac’s Blackout Fest returns for another year of unrefined rock ‘n’ roll. And each evening’s headliner represents a different portion of underground weirdness: The weekend’s festivities run the gamut from psychedelia to South Bay hardcore and garage. Davila 666 sound like every other garage band you’ve heard—there are just more dudes in the group than most would find necessary, and the whole thing’s dispensed in Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Yolks/Burlington

Garage Rock, Pop Punk No Comments »

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The difference between The Yolks’ pair of singles from 2008 and their long-player from a year later is pretty distinct, with quality of recording and songcraft varying wildly. The Yolks, a local trio drawing from the tepid pool of punk and garage, haven’t hit upon any significant music revelations. But with so little to screw up during the ensemble’s three-chord rants, there’s not much to take issue with. Folks seem smitten with “Mob City Hustle,” a cut from one of those releases. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Cute Lepers/The Beat Kitchen

Pop Punk, Punk No Comments »

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Tied to grunge in perpetuity, Seattle and the Northwest still deal in a wealth of revved-up pop music angled at punk updates. Detached from all recent Sub Pop singer-songwriter nonsense and faux-cowboy rock, the Briefs arrived around the turn of the millennium to dispense punk’s properly composed sucrose. After a few albums, the last couple on BYO, the band took a break. Pretty quickly, though, any given weekend night the Cute Lepers, a group headed by Brief’s honcho Steve E. Nix, might be found running through sets at the Comet or some other local dive. A handful of singles followed, and less than three years after the Briefs called it a day (temporarily?), “Can’t Stand Modern Music” was released.

The aural distance between the Lepers and the group that spawned it seems minimal at best. Over the course of the newer ensemble’s first album, though, a wider range of spunky Brit rock crops up; “Prove It” could pretty easily be passed off as an Elvis Costello outtake dating to 1977. “Adventure Time,” released this past spring, finds the Lepers embracing a larger ensemble sound with the inclusion of piano and sax. Read the rest of this entry »

Soundcheck: Lucky Boys Confusion are still on a roll

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop, Pop Punk No Comments »

Around the beginning of the new millennium, anyone listening to the radio would hear the explosion of pop-punk songs flooding the airwaves, the equivalent of new wave hits in the eighties or alternative rock in the nineties. Most bands were one-hit wonders, dropping a catchy song that might be in rotation for a year, tops. The bands that lasted the fallout fell through the cracks. Chicago’s Lucky Boys Confusion, with their brand of ska-punk infused hip-hop, can attest to that as this year marks their fourteenth anniversary.

Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav, vocalist and guitarist, recalls, “A lot has changed. It seems like a lot of the bands making waves these days are older and been through the grind.”  LBC embodies this, as their experience has given them the perspective of what it takes to maintain longevity. When playing locally, they still pack in clubs, much as they had done throughout their career, regardless of how the music landscape has changed. “I wish there was as much solidarity as there was when we first started,” says Pandav. “I think that takes some band that is doing well to take the reigns, like LBC, the Dog and Everything and the Plain White T’s did for our scene.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Windy City Sound Clash/Subterranean

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Pop Punk No Comments »

Chixdiggit

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With Chicago the spawning ground of the likes of the Smoking Popes and Screeching Weasel, annual pop-punk festival Windy City Sound Clash feels right at home.  “Chicago offers a nice central location, dedicated scene and plenty of other activities to do to keep everyone occupied,” founder and curator Jeff Wegner says.

The festival showcases local bands like Vacation Bible School, alongside well-established touring acts such as Kepi Ghoulie from California and Canada’s Chixdiggit. “I think it’s important to have a showcase in Chicago,” Wegner says. “Some of these bands may only play to a crowd of twenty people if they came through on their own, but this way they can play to a couple hundred people.”

Planning a festival is no easy task. “Every year has been self-funded. It’s all a learning experience,” Wegner says. “It really does make me feel good when someone comes up and says that they can’t wait until next year.”

The festival is only in its third year. “I do Windy City Sound Clash so that everyone can have a good time,” says Wegner. “Seeing people smiling, drinking, partying and screaming is really the only motivation I need to keep going.” (John Wawrzaszek)

May 28, 4:30pm, $12, all ages; May 29, 3:30pm, $10, 17+ at Subterranean, 2011 West North.