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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 »

Preview: Jessy Bulbo/Ruido Fest

Festivals, Hip-Hop, Latin, Rockabilly No Comments »



Since the launch of her first acting role in the very visceral 2011 Mexican independent film, “El lenguaje de los machetes” (Machete Language), which also featured one of her poppier—though still altogether subversive— tracks, “Mi Muñequita Sintética” (My Synthetic Doll), we haven’t heard too much from the reigning queen of Mexican indie, Jessy Bulbo. If you know anything about Mexican indie punk music then you’re quite familiar with her often quaint vocals and more furious Riot Grrrl leanings. Her albums range from bassy rockabilly and roaring noise to her more recent experiments with electronic and hip-hop, and in fact her versatility and importance in the Mexican indie world are unmatched by any other artist. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Burnside & Hooker/Double Door

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Indie Rock, Rock, Rockabilly No Comments »

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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 »

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