Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Book Review: “The Empty Bottle” edited by John Dugan

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Indie Rock, New Wave, News and Dish, Pop Punk, Post-punk, Post-Rock, Prog-rock, Protopunk, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock, Rockabilly, Shoegaze No Comments »



I didn’t have high expectations for “The Empty Bottle: 21+ Years of Music / Friendly / Dancing” (especially with that grammatically awkward subtitle; yes, those are the famous call-outs emblazoned on the club’s awning, but in print they look like something translated into Mandarin and then back again). Histories of entertainment venues tend to skew either toward brain-numbing listicles or institutional hagiography. But in fact “The Empty Bottle,” edited by John Dugan, is pure delight; it’s a compendium of short tributes and memoirs by close to two dozen people who have worked, played or hung out at the club, and whose voices are wonderfully varied and engaging. Yes, there are the obligatory recollections of early dates by Nirvana and Arcade Fire, but the cumulative result is something much greater—in fact, a genuine and consistently beguiling social history. Like, if Studs Terkel had been born in 1980. Read the rest of this entry »

Past Punk in Present Tense: HoZac Harnesses History

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Post-punk, Protopunk, Punk No Comments »
The Boys

The Boys

Relative unknowns and underground royalty: this is the balance that people have come to expect from the HoZac Blackout Fest, and 2014 delivers. Running from May 15th through the 17th at the Empty Bottle, the weekend showcases some up-and-coming acts like Shocked Minds, Toupee, First Base, and 999999999, while also boasting punk icons The Boys and The Dictators. The festivities open with the third art show that HoZac has included in their proceedings, with seventies punk photographers Paul Zone and Brian Shanley showcasing snapshots spanning decades.

Blackout Fest, especially this year, exists at a remarkable point on the timeline of punk. The parallels between 2014’s headliners and the other acts featured are undeniable in a way that should be embraced. HoZac co-founder Todd Novak explains, “These ideas of music and art aren’t new, but they’re timeless. They’re always going to be good ideas and it’s mind-blowing to see them be carried on.” Read the rest of this entry »

Marquee Men: Television Lives Their Legacy

Post-punk, Protopunk, Rock No Comments »
Tom Verlaine

Photo: Bart Lazar

Don’t call Television a punk band, OK?

It is true that forty years and about a month ago, Television played the first show at a newly reopened country, bluegrass and blues club on New York’s Bowery and changed the course of music history. CBGB’s became the spring that spat out punk rock, and Richard Hell—the band’s bassist, and co-founder with Tom Verlaine—the prototype punk emulated by the Brits.

Originally, Verlaine and Hell were angst-ridden best friends with an “us against the world” contemptuous attitude who wrote and published poetry as one entity. But Verlaine’s interest in control and perfection prevailed over Hell’s chaos, and the chiming, precise, intertwining of Verlaine’s compositions ultimately became the dominant fabric of the band, leading (perhaps aided in part by Verlaine’s relationship with Patti Smith, who encouraged him to take charge) to Hell’s departure in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »