Dead-right: Jack White’s Dead Weather

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Filed under Featured, Music

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Tuesday and Wednesday at the Vic will bring the debut of Jack White’s third active band, the Dead Weather, to Chicago. Jack White, superhuman, also currently plays in the Raconteurs and the White Stripes.

White, in a rare turn on drums (he did play drums for his first mainstream band, Goober and the Peas), Alison Mosshart on vocals (of Kills fame), Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs on bass and Dean Fertita of Queens of the Stone Age on keyboards and guitar all form this grunge-tinged blues collection–whose first album, Horehound, is available.

The band formed out of an impromptu “end-of-tour”  jam session in Nashville during the Raconteurs last tour, with the Kills opening, respectively. The band members say the birth of their new project doesn’t signify the death of the Kills, the Raconteurs or the White Stripes. Mosshart explains that the Kills are writing their fourth release.

White recently opened a Nashville music complex (Third Man Records) that recalls the setup of old-school labels like Stax: recording studio in back, record store in front, office and performance space on the premises. For the time being, White will be Third Man’s only producer, so his sensibilities will rule–lucky for us.

Horehound, is an electric experience. Mosshart sounds scary and screamy and sexy, while the blues-grunge aesthetic White is famous for, lives and breathes.

Catch the Dead Weather at the Vic, July 28 and 29.

Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays

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Filed under Music

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Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays is a new series bringing new indie/pop artists and groundbreaking rock veterans to the world renowned Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Each concert will be emceed by a performer from the innovative organization Young Chicago Authors. Concerts will take place on select Mondays, June 6—August 24. All events will take place at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion at Millenium Park.

Admission is free and organizers are hoping to attract a variety of music-listeners (and I’m sure they will) as the lineup for the summer event from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs is pretty diverse. Props to the CDCA on this one. It seems like all the good bands for summer concerts are part of corporate sponsorship nightmares like Lollapalooza; so it’s nice to see a killer show at an awesome city venue.

Monday, June 8
Special Headliner and Allá

Monday, June 22
The Sea and Cake and Dirty Projectors

Monday, June 29
The Feelies and Icy Demons

Monday, August 10
Rokia Traoré and Shearwater

Monday, August 17
Otto and NOMO

Monday, August 24
Red Red Meat and Rural Alberta Advantage

All shows start at 6:30 pm

Radiohead: Working on New Album

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Well, god damn. It seems like just yesterday Radiohead released the beautiful and brilliant “In Rainbows,” but it looks like the boys are at it again. Radiohead reminds me in so many ways how bad other bands suck. Groundbreaking, with most steps — musically and business wise — Radiohead pushing out another obviously awesome record is like the goose laying a golden egg.

According to a new BBC interview with bassist Colin Greenwood,  they are working with longtime producer Nigel Godrich, man behind previous Radiohead smashes. “It’s at the stage where we’ve got the big Lego box out and we’ve tipped it out on the floor and we’re just looking at all the bits and thinking what’s next?…It was very noisy and chaotic and really fun,” says Greenwood.

The band have just finished touring with electro pioneers Kraftwerk in South America which Greenwood described as a “brilliant experience”.

“They are one of our musical heroes and it was a real privilege to share a stage with them,” he enthused.

I wonder if we can expect some influence there? Kraftwerk inspired Radiohead songs?

That was all Greenwood really mentioned, no word on release dates, etc., but expct a big to-do.

Sure Thing: Phoenix at Park West 6/13

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Filed under Events, Music

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If you have not heard of French quartet Phoenix, currently on tour promoting new album “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix”, you will be familiar with their catchy alt-pop soon. “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” is the fourth studio record from the alt-rockers, whose music can be likened to French friends like Justice, Air and Daft Punk.

Phoenix is Thomas Mars (who is also married to fellow hipster director Sofia Coppola), Deck, Branco, and Christian Mazzalai.

The band is touring North America as well as Europe through out summer and fall, and recently did a spot on SNL; the new album is set to drop on May 25.

The new music is a mix of their signature late 70’s – early 80’s light rock sound, mixed in with jumpy drums and hooky guitars. Nothing cheesy though, I promise. Listen to: “Fences”.

Currently sold out, expect more tickets to  be released close to the date of the show.

Park West, 6/13/2009

Pitchfork vs. Lollapalooza

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Filed under Events, Music

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The two major musical festivals Chicago offers, Pitchfork and Lollapalooza have released their lineups, and it’s got me wondering which festival is actually “better?”

It is sort of unfair to completely compare the two, since they are not trying to do the same thing…exactly.

First of all, Lollapalooza (Lolla) is massive in every imaginable way. Hundreds of bands and sprawled out across Grant Park. When moving with the herd from one end to the next, the crowd can be atrocious. And it really is something of a trek to go back and forth a few times, particularly in Chicago heat — and don’t let the lakefront fool you, that mother is HOT. Layout and comfort-wise, Lolla loses big time. And don’t even get me going on the porta-potties. However, with the huge selection of bands, there is bound to be something you want to see, most likely a couple things you want to see. Lolla just has so many acts that it’s impossible to see more shows at any other event; Lolla wins the numbers game.

Pitchfork is much smaller and a helluva lot easier to cruise around in. The crowds are very different from one to the next. Pitchfork seemed (last year, imho) to be a little younger, a little more hip. Pitchfork costs $80 for the whole shebang, and Lolla rolls in around 3 x’s that much. As a value, Pitchfork kicks Lolla’s ass. The headliners for each event are different as night and day. Lolla’s are dated and uninteresting (appealing to an older crowd) and Pitchforks are more current and less ‘overexposed.’ I think I actually yawned when I heard Depeche Mode would be headlining Lolla. They are great, but this is 2009. Sorry Lolla, but Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo and Flaming Lips are simply more attractive to music fans.

It also seems that if you miss a band at Pitchfork, you can probably catch them next year at Lolla. Or be irritated you wasted an hour listening to a “buzz band” whose fifteen minutes should have been up already. I guess it all depends how you like it. I think that Pitchfork is the better festival this summer. But last year, I would have not missed Radiohead for the world. Bottom line: they are both great and Chicago is lucky to have both. It just depends on the year.

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Wilco Streaming Entire New “Wilco (The Album)” On Website

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Last night Wilco’s new record “Wilco (The Album)” leaked online and hungry fans started downloading it en masse. To give fans a legal option, Wilco has put the entire album up on their website, where people can stream it in it’s entirety. This is the Chicago bands seventh album.

Wilco the band will take Wilco (The Album) out on tour this summer, highlighted with shows at both Bonnaroo and the 10,000 Lakes Festival. The band is also set to  perform at some minor league ballparks like Brooklyn’s Keyspan Park. The band plans to play older songs as well as the new album and change up set lists for each concert.

Now for the verdict: recorded in their loft space here in Chicago, it is a return to earlier Wilco in some regards (mellow and thoughful songs) to a more experiemental band. Think different instruments and chord progressions you don’t normally associate with Wilco.  I really loved “I’ll Fight” as well as the collaboration with Feist “You and I.” Another highlight is the cheeky “Wilco (The Song), lauded as something of an ode to Wilco fans. Overall, there are a lot of great musical moments on the record. Some of the songs are a little country-tinged and they totally pull it off. Very nice choices on all the keys too.  It’s a beautiful album and front runner in my book for the best album of 2009, thus far.

Listen to “Wilco (The Album)” http://beta.wilcoworld.net/records/thealbum/index.php

OMG: Smiths Cover Band

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Next Friday at Reggies Rock Club the Handsome Devilz will be paying tribute to The Smiths. The 80’s English band originally consisting to Johnny Marr (guitars) Morrissey (vocals), Andy Rourke (bass) and Mike Joyce (drums). Critics have hailed their importance in the alternative rock scene of the 80’s and England and countless other acts have gone on to cite The Smiths as influential. The Smith’s are probably best known for Morrissey’s mopey love tales (and rhetorical questions for lyrics) and Marr’s catchy guitar hooks. The group split in 1987  and no longer plays together citing a variety of reasons, such as “we are not friends.” Ouch! Johnny Marr was the first to leave the group, Morrissey has never really forgiven him for that.

Despite numerous efforts to get the group back together, including efforts by Coachella promoters and VH1 television series, have all been flops.  So, I guess seeing Handsome Devilz will have to do. I guess now would be a good time to explain why I care.

The Smiths were my first “favorite” band when I was about 16. In my small town, The Smiths were not something blasting from the all the Chevy Cavaliers. I think the other kids were listening to “The Thong Song,” seriously. I am not claiming superiority over the other 16 year old’s of the day, but I just loved that music and lyrics. It seemed so real, so personal, so true. (“Burn down the disco–Hang the blessed DJ–Because the music that they constantly play–Its says nothing to me about my life.”) And it was old. And no one knew it. It wasn’t until I went to college that I could really let my Smiths hang loose. I once left a note on someones car because it was covered in Smiths bumper stickers. And not Morrissey solo. No, no, no. The magic, for me, was in that combo. Morrissey and Marr were totally my Lennon and McCartney!

I talked to a few other friends about a Smith’s cover band, and we all agreed on one thing: the bar is high. Almost any band with any loyal following has a cover band or tribute band, whatever. (Or if you are the Grateful Dead, you have 170.) But it seems as though the Smiths fans might be a little more weary and cautious. Or maybe we all just wanted the ship to go down with The Smiths. As for me, I can always listen to Johnny Marr play and Morrissey sing. “I like it here, can I stay?”

Leonard Cohen Playing Chicago

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Filed under Arts and Theater, Music

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Leonard Cohen will play the Chicago Theater next week for two sold out shows. This is the Canadian poet, novelist, and singer-songwriters first tour in 15 years. He also plans to tour major American and World cities including Paris, Berlin and Tel Aviv.

A serious bout of bad luck may have been responsible for Cohen’s decision to tour. Unknown to him, his former business manager stole and spent most of his life savings. While it’s a major bummer for Cohen, it’s pretty awesome for us. Impetus aside, I can’t wait to actually see this icon in the flesh.

Cohen published his first poetry works in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. In 1967 Cohen released his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, after a move to the US in order to pursue his songwriting and singing.

Cohen was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, with Lou Reed describing Cohen as the “highest and most influential echelon of songwriters.” His songs have been covered over 1000 times in different renditions. Jeff Buckley, REM, Pixies, Johnny Cash, Nick Cave and Willie Nelson have all recorded Cohen songs.

The show is said to be a collective of the artist’s stories and songs that span his career. The Decider had this to say about the show’s opening night in New York: “Cohen spent a lot of time singing on his knees, crouched down with his lanky shoulders drawn in and his hands holding the microphone with something like tranquil desperation; it wasn’t clear that Cohen even realized there were thousands of other people in the room with him … The whole show was a triumph for a kind of earned wisdom and slow, creeping staying-power that’s easy to forget the value of these days.”

He will be performing at the Chicago Theater on May 4 and May 5.

Rumors & Lollapalooza

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Filed under Music

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Chicago’s biggest and most anticipated music fest still hasn’t released it’s confirmed Lolla line-up, but the buzz is growing over headliners this summer. Depeche Mode, Jane’s Addiction, and Beastie Boys are expected, but the word on the internets has got everyone from Lou Reed to Tenacious D getting on the bill.

Are there that many Jane’s Addiction fans? Yawn. It just seems a little weak after pulling Rage Against the Machine and Radiohead last year–the supposed top spots could have headlined an event 15 years ago and it would have been a helluva lot more enticing. Just sayin’. Jane’s Addiction and Nine Inch Nails are set to tour together this summer, so don’t count this one out.

Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs and Tool are also said to be performing. Dates: August 7-9, 2009.

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