Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Robert Gordon/Reggies Rock Club

Rockabilly No Comments »

The rockabilly genre’s pretty absurd—not that indie stuff, punk or whatever else isn’t. But at rockabilly shows, it’s pretty easy to catch furrowed brows, even if attendees aren’t attired in the proper duds. And really, who wants to dress like their fat Uncle Charlie? Attire fit for bowling, Gretsch T-shirts and DAs seem better suited to Jon Favreau movies than daily life. Utter devotion to a style, and a musical genre, that hasn’t changed in sixty years, though, is remarkable. The fact that new groups crop up and are able to tour with relative renown means enough people still care about Elvis and his descendants to pack rooms. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tandoori Nights/Bottom Lounge

Blues, Garage Rock, Rock, Rockabilly No Comments »


Every good theatrical performer benefits from having a partner tuned in to his or her brand of noxious foolery. BBQ has been King Khan’s foil on and off since the mid-nineties, when the pair performed as the Spaceshits, a Canadian garage and punk ensemble. The group served as training ground for the two performers who would continue recording together sporadically in ever-evolving situations over the next decade and change. For Khan, the Shrines, a German R&B group replete with horn section and a dancing girl, next served as his sounding board, holding down a groove for the singer and guitarist to flip out, dance around half-clothed and engorge his public persona with an even greater sense of abandonment. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Guitar Wolf/Bottom Lounge

Garage Rock, Rockabilly No Comments »

Hearing anything recorded by Nagasaki-based Guitar Wolf seems as if it might have been set to tape in the company of Tav Falco or the Cramps. Each of the Japanese band’s endless slew of records could be misunderstood as a thirty- or forty-year-old collection of lost one-off releases. Trucking purely in antiquated tropes, the ensemble isn’t concerned with how garage and rockabilly have been turned into plastic arts, becoming something closely associated with campy kitsch and cheeseball shirts with flames on ‘em.

Beginning its career with a few recordings that didn’t initially make it to the States, Guitar Wolf has been on what amounts to a fifteen-year world tour. Leaving the road every once in a while, the trio sets up shop and cranks out another handful of tunes most listeners would have a hard time discerning the epoch from which it sprung. With such a concise understanding of its work, losing a founding member, bassist Hideaki Sekiguchi, six years back hasn’t slowed the band. Of course, any trio remaining fenced in by conceptions of rock music set up by Hasil Adkins and his ilk, but with a healthful bit of Stones’ swagger added in, don’t have much need to sit around contemplating the direction of their work.

Granted, the door fee for the show this Thursday could just as well get you a copy of any “Back to Grave” compilation featuring ridiculously obscure garage acts. But in lieu of just listening to half-talented players emulate their heroes, you can watch leather-clad foreigners do roughly the same thing. You might even be able to get away with pretending everything’s a Link Wray cover. (Dave Cantor)

May 19 at the Bottom Lounge, 1375 West Lake, (312)666-6775, 11:30pm. $15.

Preview: Wanda Jackson/Lincoln Hall

Country, Rock, Rockabilly No Comments »


Rock ‘n’ roll wasn’t invented in a vacuum. Certainly, blues and revved-up R&B had more than a bit to do with one of the most important American innovations. But as much as Ike Turner and Jimmy Reed came to bear on rock ‘n’ roll, country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers also looms large over the genre. It’s for that reason Wanda Jackson closes “The Party Ain’t Over,” her latest long player, with “Blue Yodel #6,” a Rodgers’ standard.

The song’s nothing more than a lament, its narrator recounting the loss of a lover. Comprising the song’s few stanzas are the daybreak departure, a wish for destruction since the pain’s overwhelming and finally a desire to split town and forget what’s happened. Initially recorded before the Depression, Rodgers yodeled down sorrow and unwittingly helped codify the artful language of rock ‘n’ roll. A few decades on, when Jackson began performing, cherry picking the ripest compositions for inclusion in her own songbook didn’t present difficult choices. Sourcing similar material to a then-unknown Elvis Presley, who Jackson toured with during the mid-fifties, she flitted between country, rockabilly and nascent rock. Charting in any given genre only lasted a few years and by the sixties Jackson turned to more stilted fare and eventually found her faith a decade later. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Killer Diller Record Hop/Simone’s Bar

Rockabilly No Comments »


“Straight from the fridge, dad, that track was really killer diller.” This summer, let’s time travel. Men can go back to slicked pompadours, Lucky Strikes, zoot suits and rebel tats. Imagine all the girls in pointy bras with pin-up hair and precise lipstick. Buy a sexy car and spend time polishing the fins. Become a snappy dancer.

Once a month local DJ brothers Rico and Kiko host the Killer Diller Record Hop at Simone’s Bar in Pilsen, and no jive, they bring the crowd. Everyone is beautiful. The girls breathe heavy, like they might let you go to second base, and the guys all seem like they’re gonna try. It’s the dancing, though, that really makes you stare. They know what to do, and they make it look simple. It’s easy to forget that everyone used to know how to Lindy Hop. Hell, it’s easy to forget that people born in 1992 can legally buy cigarettes. The bar is redolent of the “aw shucks” sex appeal of the fifties, and the jubilation makes apocalyptic oil spills feel far away, at least for the night.

Mostly, it’s just fun, even if you show up after work in jeans and sneakers surprised to find such diligent style at your local bar. The people coming out to dance are easy to chat with, and the excellent beer and occasional Manhattan make even innocent flirtations seem viable. It’s like “Dirty Dancing,” but with less corners, more babes, and better clothes. (Jessica Meyer)

The Killer Diller Record Hop takes place the third Thursday of every month, including August 19, at Simone’s Bar, 960 West 18th, (312)666-8601