Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Caribbean Classicism: Jamaican Oldies Series Marks Jump Up! Records’ Twenty Years

Ska, World Music No Comments »

Pat Kelly/Photo: Scott Bickford

By Dave Cantor

Chuck Wren’s been toiling.

And it hasn’t been restricted to planning Jump Up! Records’ first installment of Jamaican Oldies with Stranger Cole and Pat Kelly, set for November 16 and 17.

Chuck Wren aired “Everything Offbeat,” first on WNUR and now on WLUW, in the late 1980s, putting him in touch with a then-scattered community of ska enthusiasts. The group ranged from folks interested in the music’s Jamaican inception to British 2-Tone to a nascent American strain, which frequently took more cues from punk than anything else. By his account, Wren was one of the few people spinning ska records on any station in the country at the time. And residing in a cultural hub soon found him as something of the scene’s standard bearer. Thus Jump Up! Records.

But the label began issuing work out of Wren’s frustration, he says. While ska bands like The Toasters and coastal bands of its ilk were getting attention, land-locked acts were glossed over. And for about twenty years, Jump Up! has worked to issue music that has remained even outside fringe culture. 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: Lee Perry/Lincoln Hall

Reggae, Ska No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

It seems that every year a new compilation gets sewn together displaying a unique slice of Lee Perry’s career—and somehow, each is entertaining. There are apparently so many different mixes and unreleased tracks in Perry’s history—even though his Kingston studio burned down and took tapes with it—that the deluge of albums isn’t set to slow. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Voodoo Glow Skulls/Beat Kitchen

Hardcore, Ska No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

When discussing Boston’s illustrious history with hardcore, it’s difficult to leave out Dicky Barrett, best known as the gruff-sounding frontman for The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. That the man’s work with a third-wave ska band is subservient to contributions made to D.Y.S. or Gang Green isn’t too surprising—the music’s been more impactful for a longer period of time than third wave bands. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Pinstripes/Beat Kitchen

Reggae, Ska No Comments »

Photo: Caroline Tompkins

RECOMMENDED

There are places with a deeper connection to Jamaican music than Cincinnati, Ohio. The city, with its downtown area spilling over into Kentucky, feels like the gateway to the South. Doormen at shows can sport significant accents and there’re bound to be more than a handful of folks who eat nothing other than fried foods. Of course, Cincy counts Bootsy Collins as one of its best exports and Mood issued some of the most engaging hip-hop of the Rawkus era, pulling in Talib Kweli and DJ Hi-Tek as accomplices. The Pinstripes, though, sit outside of that history. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chris Murray/Beat Kitchen

Reggae, Ska No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

During Moon Ska Records’ final few years, Chris Murray remained one of the few acts issuing music through the New York-based imprint who retained a unique musical identity. Amid the ska-cum-rock-oriented fare, Murray’s work was anachronistic—predating all the lo-fi nonsense the music press caught onto a few years back. But by the early aughties, the L.A.-based singer and songwriter had so well defined his sound that not having a label signed up to issue his work on a regular basis wasn’t really a problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Fishbone/Bottom Lounge

Funk, Metal, Punk, Ska No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Without Fishbone, Sublime and No Doubt would have wound up being drug-addled SoCal footnotes. Whatever eventually became the American conception of ska music didn’t begin with Angelo Moore and Norwood, but their group’s all-inclusive approach to songwriting influenced a generation of weird bands. It’d actually be reasonably easy to round up Fishbone’s Jamaican-related efforts onto a single disc–the six-minute “Party at Ground Zero” being an epic accomplishment made even more stunning by the fact that the song was issued as a part of the band’s first EP back in 1985. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Aggrolites/Subterranean

Reggae, Ska, Soul, World Music No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Musical quality is ensured when the rhythm section from Hepcat joins your group. At least, it’s been true for The Aggrolites, a SoCal quintet dedicated to vintage-sounding Jamaican music, swinging from rock steady derivations to latter-day Peter Tosh-styled rock-inflected compositions. Beginning life as a pick-up band serving at the pleasure of a variety of touring luminaries, Jesse Wagner and company founded the proper recording ensemble back in 2003 with an ode to skinhead dance music entitled “Dirty Reggae,” the name, perhaps, referring to the band’s penchant for American soul as much as Jamaican sounds. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The English Beat/Evanston Space

Pop, Reggae, Ska No Comments »

RECOMMENDED

Despite the regrettable formation of Fine Young Cannibals subsequent to the English Beat’s breakup, the earlier band became one of the most visible and successful ensembles from the 2-Tone era. Charting in the States didn’t provide for a prolonged career, but the Beat was able to squeeze out three long-players before going their separate ways. The first disc, 1980′s “I Just Can’t Stop It,” worked to incorporate roughly the same musical elements its 2-Tone peers dealt with. But instead of attempting to mash each disparate influence into a single song, the Beat went ahead and recorded some straight ska tunes, some in a reggae vein and even a pair of overtly punky numbers.
“Click Click” clocks in at a minute and a half, sports a frantic bassline and comes off as an effort the Police were aiming for, but incapable of summoning. The song’s pacing matches just about anything from punk’s first wave and is able to deal with burgeoning racism in the UK, particularly relevant to this multiracial band. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sergent Garcia/Chicago World Music Festival

Afro-Cuban, Dancehall, Festivals, Latin, Reggae, Salsa, Ska, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Liberto Peiro

RECOMMENDED

For bandleader Bruno Garcia (who is better known as Sergent Garcia—a nickname taken from Zorro’s clueless foe), music is one of the few mediums that has the power of erasing national borders. Through his career, the French-born guitarist has collaborated with musicians from Cuba, Jamaica and other countries that have influenced his sound. Read the rest of this entry »