Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Christopher Owens/Park West

Singer-Songwriter No Comments »

christopher-owens-2-640

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Girls frontman Christopher Owens is releasing his second solo album, “A New Testament,” on September 29. A product of the Children of God cult, this graceful gender-bending San Francisco songwriter penned irresistible rock ‘n’ roll songs that moved between tender folk, hazy, thick guitar solos and peeping, unassuming vocals with Girls before releasing his first solo album, “Lysandre,” in 2013. “Lysandre” was a completely acoustic project that was hard to digest, but is full of beautiful songwriting and a universal narrative that is true to Owens’ form. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Raveonettes/Double Door

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »

raveonetters

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Sounding a bit like their name, the Raveonettes channel a variety of influences from fifties groups the Shangri-Las and the Everly Brothers to hazy feedback noise like the Jesus and Mary Chain. This is not surprising in that the band is produced and managed by Richard Gottehrer—a seventy-four-year-old writer/producer/impresario who, among other things wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and produced Blondie, The Go-Go’s and The Dum Dum Girls. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ty Segall/Thalia Hall

Alt-Rock, Rock 1 Comment »

TySegall

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California garage-rocker Ty Segall has been recording music at a manic pace ever since his debut in 2008, almost as frantically as he runs his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar. His latest record, “Manipulator” (Drag City), is something like his eleventh album, depending on how you count them. He reportedly spent more time than usual making this one, and it shows. Read the rest of this entry »

A Neighborhood Celebration of Sound: A Preview of the Englewood Jazz Festival

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Jazz No Comments »
Ernest Dawkins

Ernest Dawkins

By Corey Hall

For fifteen consecutive years, Englewood resident Ernest Dawkins has coordinated a free, six-hour outdoor celebration of sound as a contribution to his community. This celebration, officially called the Englewood Jazz Festival, is sponsored by the Live the Spirit Residency, a nonprofit organization Dawkins founded in 2006. He presented the first three Englewood Jazz Festivals through a grant from nonprofit Meet the Composer (now called New Music USA) and, when this grant ended, Dawkins supported the next three festivals with his own funds before establishing Live the Spirit.

“This community has multiple economic difficulties and has been ignored by the arts community for too long,” Dawkins said in a recent conversation. “I did this festival to try and institutionalize the music and arts in this underserved community and, in the future, I plan to branch out to Roseland or the West Side. I want this to get bigger.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Cymbals Eat Guitars/Schubas Tavern

Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
photo: Eric White

Photo: Eric White

RECOMMENDED

“Lose,” the latest LP from Cymbals Eat Guitars—a band name culled from a Lou Reed quote describing the Velvet Underground’s blaring sound—begins with a carnivalesque run of keyboard notes and a reference to Klonopin taken to deal with relationship angst.

Singer Joseph D’Agostino carries a classic emo croon into territory more textural and measured than the genre his lilt suggests. The juxtaposition between CEG’s teensy energy and their adult knack for a barn-burning, shape-shifting, category-blurring number is what makes them compelling. D’Agostino screams primal things from each nook of the pristine, thoughtfully produced landscapes his band creates. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Shonen Knife/Bottom Lounge

Pop Punk No Comments »

shonenknife
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I do not think any band can put a smile on anyone’s face more than this Japanese power pop punk trio. Naoko Yamano and her bandmates have played rudimentary two-to-three-chord songs sung in rudimentary English. They’ve been going strong for more than thirty-two years and recently performed their 1,000th live show. While they may appear to be unassuming, don’t underestimate them; these ladies are simply exhilarating. We are talking about fast catchy riffs that engage, entertain and (make appropriate two-fisted hand gesture here) ROCK! Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Pomplamoose/Lincoln Hall

Pop No Comments »

pomplamoose

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San Francisco multi-instrumental duo Pomplamoose is an acquired taste, depending on your interest in adorable lo-fi jazz-pop. They’re best known for their YouTube series where they do inventive, split-screen covers and mashups of the latest pop hits (ex. Nicki Minaj’s “Superbass” and Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”) and for their earworm holiday commercials for Hyundai back in 2010. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project” by Ann Hampton Callaway

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Vocal Music No Comments »

callawaysassy300RECOMMENDED

On her live tribute to Sarah Vaughan recorded at New York’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, the Chicago-born singer, composer and arranger (known by the general public for the theme of the popular sitcom “The Nanny”) assembled a topnotch band formed by  Ted Rosenthal (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), Tim Horner (drums), Randy Sandke (trumpet and flugelhorn) and Dick Oatts (saxes and flute). The repertoire included tunes that Vaughan recorded throughout her long career.

The disc opens after a brief introduction with a lively rendition of Al Hoffman’s “I’m Gonna Live ‘Till I Die,” which features a lengthy, highly inspired solo from Sandke (incidentally, Hoffman was the composer of “Bear Down, Chicago Bears”). Steven Sondheim’s “Send In The Clowns” is played with great dramatic flair, a little reminiscent of Barbra Streisand’s version. Also notable are Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Wave” performed in a downtempo bossa style and Adler/Rose “Whatever Lola Wants,” a sexy blues-tinged number that showcases the vocalist’s improvisations, while George Gershwin’s classic ballad “Someone To Watch Over Me” features its often-ignored introduction. Read the rest of this entry »

Orchestral Maneuvers: Riccardo Muti and the CSO’s New Season

Chicago Artists, Classical, Orchestral No Comments »
Photo: RiccardoMutiMusic.com

Photo: RiccardoMutiMusic.com

By Dennis Polkow

On the final day of his summer residency, a sunglasses-clad, informally dressed Riccardo Muti is standing in his hotel lobby texting on what he calls a “prehistoric” cell phone. “This is very old: Neanderthal man used this,” he says. “I received a smart phone from my children, but every time I touch it, it does different things and whatever I am doing, disappears. It was a disaster.”

As it turned out—but not revealed at the time—Muti had just met with Jeff Alexander, the man who would be named the new Chicago Symphony Orchestra president, and was in a very upbeat mood.

That Muti, who turned seventy-three in July and who is beginning his fifth season as music director—the last of his original contract—has signed a second five-year contract that will take his music directorship through 2020 is, of course, a huge coup for Chicago. “I have changed [the orchestra], but they have also changed me! We still have a lot to do. They have changed their spirit. It is so wonderful to go to a rehearsal so relaxed and happy.” Read the rest of this entry »

Still Punk and political: A Conversation with Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers

Festivals, Punk No Comments »

stifflittlefingers
By Bart Lazar

Stiff Little Fingers is a punk band originally from Belfast, Ireland that has been around since the second  UK punk wave—they formed just six months after the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Damned.  Some of SLF’s best known work—”Tin Soldiers,” “Nobody’s Hero” and “Alternative Ulster”—-contains lyrics that hate hate:  advocating against war, violence, oppression, racial prejudice and class hatred.  Stiff Little Fingers’ influence lives on in more commercially successful descendants such as Green Day, The Offspring and Bad Religion.

Today, the band still exists with two of its four original members and recently released “No Going Back,” its first album in eleven years. The album just hit the charts in the UK at number fourteen, the band’s best performing material since the early eighties.

Jake Burns, the original snarling/shouting lead singer is now a Chicagoan–making the band twenty-five-percent local.  He discussed  the band’s history, relevance today and playing at Riot Fest in a recent interview.

How would you describe SLF to someone who is going to Riot Fest, and has never heard of you or your music?
We are a punk band that’s been doing it for thirty-seven years. We have always tried to play music that entertains, but means something in terms of social commentary.  Sometimes we are called a “Political” band, but I would say “political” with a small “p.” Certainly, we don’t play a lot of love songs.

Have the driving themes of your music changed over the years?
The themes we focus on—class distinctions, caring for one another, racism—are consistent. Those are the things that concern me most and those are the things that we can change. We can’t cure cancer. We live in America, where there are people sleeping in cardboard boxes. They are all things that offend my sense of justice. This is fixable!

Are you more optimistic about the world than you were back in 1978?
I don’t think so to be honest. People really are polarized. People that have things want to hold on to them.The “Greed is Good” mentality has come back again. That kind of selfishness is pretty dismaying.

You have seen touring bands that you influenced—Green Day, Offspring, Pennywise and Bad Religion. How does that feel?
It is very flattering. Green Day had us open their tour in Australia, and it was amazing to see them standing on the side of the stage watching our whole show. One of the guys from Pennywise told us he got his first fake ID so he could get into one of our shows. That’s some kind of influence.

What can old punks teach new generations?
When we started, the music was seen as outside of the mainstream, sort of “rebel” music, and we were not all about pleasing the public or selling anything.  Now punk rock, for better than not, has become part of the entertainment industry. And most “punk rockers” today are more about making party songs. At the end of the day, we are there to entertain people, we are not university lecturers—ultimately. But we can show people that the words are more important and older punks are not shy about saying things.

What can you say about the longevity of punk rock?
As the Clash said in “Complete Control” about what was said about punk and them—”They Ain’t Gonna Last.” One truism we’ve discovered is that it [punk] never goes away. Punk rock really does seem to be a life choice. It’s not just another t-shirt. You are buying a whole set of principles, and after you get past the outward appearances, I have found “punks” to be some of the most honest, gentle, solid, nice and polite people you will ever meet.

With a new record out, at Riotfest should we expect to hear the new album or your punk standards?
Riot Fest is one of the best festivals, and I am glad to play again before a hometown crowd. Because it is a festival it is more of a celebration, sets are shorter and although some may have come to see us, people are not necessarily coming only to hear us play and some may not even be aware of us at all—so it is not the platform to play the new record. We may play one new song, but we will focus on the Riot Fest theme and play more of our older material.

Stiff Little Fingers performs at Riot Fest in Humboldt Park and an aftershow with Cock Sparrer at Concord Hall at 9:30pm on Friday September 12.