Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Raw Material: Indie Music Gears Up for Spring

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Cameron McGill, Angela Mullenhour

By Keidra Chaney

It’s hard to believe we’re already four months into 2015. It’s particularly unbelievable that—at least to me—it’s so far been a pretty uneventful year for indie music, local or otherwise. Of course the weather’s been in a pretty soul-killing state until very recently, which has made going out for live music a bit more of a chore, but there’s also been something of a demo drought in my neck of the woods. There’s plenty of time to catch up, and Chicago tends to be at its best in spring and summer, so it’s my hope that the next few months will make up for a rather barren winter of music news and events.

That’s not to say that there’s not some good live music to check out in the next few weeks. I mentioned the Gapers Block-sponsored “Stars Align” series several columns ago; it features two musicians from different local bands collaborating for a one-night-only live performance. This month’s show, on April 16, promises to be a special one, because instead of performing covers or each other’s tunes, singer-songwriters Cameron McGill and Angela Mullenhour (of the band Coins) will perform newly co-written original songs at GMan Tavern (3740 North Clark). The show’s free, as usual for the series, and starts at 7:30pm. Read the rest of this entry »

Marc Ruvolo Sells Out: Johann’s Face and Bucket O’ Blood Owner Plans to Play the World

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MarcRuvoloBy Craig Bechtel

Although Marc Ruvolo has toured a fair bit, he’s lived in Chicago all his life. From a couch in the Logan Square apartment he shares with his partner, Ruvolo, the forty-seven-year-old former lead singer for punk rockers No Empathy, and more recently of Das Kapital and The Fur Coats and owner of record label Johann’s Face, explains what has prompted him to sell most of what he owns and embark on a global adventure.

Up until two weeks ago, Ruvolo was also the owner of Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records in Logan Square, but now he’s sold the store he built from the ground up over three years to some longtime customers. Selling the store had always been part of his plan, although at the beginning he didn’t know whether it would be a success. “I like challenges,” he says, and given he had never worked in retail before, he knew he would have to “work hard and bust ass… I put all my energy into it, in the hopes that I would sell it and then head out and travel the world and play music.” Read the rest of this entry »

DVD Review: “Last Shop Standing” and “Brick and Mortar and Love”

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I remember one afternoon (I think it was in the late eighties) walking into a record store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where I went to purchase a Kate Bush album (I have been a huge fan of the reclusive singer-songwriter for the longest time), and as I made the purchase, one of the employees there put on a record by a blues guitar player I had never heard about before. It was a raucous guitar followed by a powerful voice backed by a tight rhythm section.  The song was “Love Struck Baby,” the opening track of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut LP “Texas Flood” (Sony, 1983). I was immediately hooked, and was saddened when just a few years later I heard about his untimely death following a concert in Alpine Valley, Wisconsin.

A story like this one would be far less likely to happen today, because record stores are increasingly a rarity thanks to download sites and big-box stores that offer music at a discount that independent owners are just unable to match. New music is still discovered in interesting ways today (like I found out about Guatemalan singer Ricardo Arjona via—you guessed it—a free download from iTunes), but the culture has completely shifted since that day so many years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

The Record Store Issue 2012

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We had so much fun creating a Record Store Issue in conjunction with Record Store Day last year that we decided to do it again. Where last year brought about an updated Chicago Indie Record Store Guide, this year we decided to go deeper into the stories of a couple of stalwarts of the business, Jazz Record Mart and Val’s halla, along with some personal takes on how record stores affected writers’ lives. ‘Cuz record stores are one thing we definitely take personally.

Record Store Day: The Greatest Hits of 2012

Jazz Record Mart: Jamming for More Than Fifty Years

Still Reckless

Val’s Hallowed Past

Reminiscences from Russia

The Power of Tower


Record Store Day: The Greatest Hits of 2012

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By David Anthony

For the past four years, the third Saturday in April has signified more than just the changing of the seasons: it is Record Store Day. Growing steadily each year—with an estimated 300 releases being unleashed this April 21—the event has gone from being a small, niche event to a monolithic enterprise.

“I think if you’d have asked me the first year if it would be what it has become, I would be shocked. The first year was just a busy, regular Saturday, but it’s become a whole other entity,” says Dave Crain, owner of Dave’s Records in Lincoln Park. Dave’s Records is vinyl-only and proud of it, and the first Record Store Day didn’t exactly fit into the store’s wheelhouse. “The first year there weren’t as many releases, partly because it was a new thing and partly because the first year there was more focus on the CD stuff and not the vinyl stuff,” says Crain. Read the rest of this entry »

The Record Store Issue: Still Reckless

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Photo: Matt Jencik

I went to high school in the mid-nineties, during the heyday of Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins and Pearl Jam—and I didn’t care. My interests were much, much less cool: The Beatles, The Stones, The Doors and Tom Petty. So, yes, while my classmates were rocking out to The Beastie Boys, Flaming Lips and Green Day at Lollapalooza ’94, I was watching the reformed Lynyrd Skynyrd knock out a killer sixteen-minute rendition of “Free Bird” at the old Rosemont Horizon.

I grew up just blocks away from the old Reckless Records on Broadway and, as much as the preferred narrative here would be how I was introduced to a nascent indie culture by proto-hipster record-store clerks spinning “Wowee Zowee” and “Bee Thousand,” I was probably ignoring all that playing in the background with “Steve Miller Band’s Greatest Hits” on my Discman while rifling through their CDs looking for a used copy of The Beatles’ “Anthology 1.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Record Store Issue: Reminiscences from Russia

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Elena Rodina

In Soviet Russia it was hard to put your hands on any decent vinyl records, so you pretty much bought anything you could get, be it folk songs, classical concerts or speeches of our revered leaders recorded at some party session.

When Indira Gandhi was prime minister of India in the 1980s, our countries became friends and Bollywood movies gained tremendous popularity. Soundtracks to them were some of the most desirable vinyl recordings around. My mom, who worked at a radio station at the time, managed to get quite a collection. As a result, I spent a big chunk of my childhood wrapping myself in a blanket and dancing around our apartment, doing the moves of what I thought were Indian dances and listening to the sentimental lyrics sung by Bappi Lahiri and Mahendra Kapoor. Read the rest of this entry »

The Record Store Issue: Val’s Hallowed Past

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Shayne Blakeley, manager, and Val Camilletti, owner of Val's halla Records

I first met Val Camilletti in 1983. That was back when I sold audiophile recordings through the mail and we talked about putting some of those newfangled compact discs onto her shelves on consignment. Her shop, Val’s Halla, was already an Oak Park institution. Two years later, I opened my own compact disc store about a mile away. But despite my ability to persevere through the rise and fall of the compact disc, I am always going to be jealous of her fame, longevity and commitment to musical recording. Read the rest of this entry »

A Vintage Year: Indie shop Saki celebrates its first birthday

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“Saki is not just your typical record store,” says manager Adam Hirzel. “This place is built to host bands and artists.” At most in-stores, band and equipment are crushed into a corner while audience members vie for space between rows of records, but Saki has a stage and pushes its magazine shelves aside to make room for fans. Last weekend, Saki took advantage of these resources to celebrate its first year, with beers, bands and birthday cake. The two-day event attracted both long-time supporters of the store, chatting with bandmembers and employees, as well as new customers, wandering the aisles and wondering why they had never ventured this far west on Fullerton. Outside, people smoked cigarettes and petted dogs. Inside, locals Tiger Bones, sweaty and serious, played dark psychedelic-tinged garage rock as a child danced around. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking Ground: The owner of Record Breakers offers South Loop’s Reggies

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By Sean Redmond

In October 1988, Robby Glick opened a humble little record shop in Hoffman Estates, a northwestern suburb with a population of about 50,000. With it, he found success; the shop grew, and grew once more. Glick even made the effort to book bands to come play in the space, moving CDs and T-shirts to create room for the shows. And, in the face of any trends to the contrary, Glick and his store, Record Breakers, continued to thrive.

In all likelihood, the story probably could’ve ended there: Glick continuing his store’s operations, bringing in bands and servicing suburban kids with merchandise and music until he felt ready to retire, at which point Record Breakers would either pass into someone else’s hands or maybe just close its doors amidst nostalgic reflections on a good run. But Glick wasn’t ready to let the water carry him ashore under the setting sun of his previous accomplishments. Rather, he had his eyes set on a still bigger wave: the wave of urban life, and the prospect of relocating to the larger cultural ocean that is Chicago. “To get the bands we wanted to have, we needed to be in the city,” Glick iterates. So on October 20, 2006, he closed Record Breakers and initiated the great migration south. And about a month and a half ago, Reggies opened its doors.
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