It’s strange how I won’t go to a particular concert venue for weeks, and then the place books a bunch of shows in a row that I feel like seeing. Last week, it was the Hideout’s turn. First, I was there on Thursday night (Nov. 15) for a strange, marvelous evening with Baby Dee, the pianist and harpist with a new record coming out in January on Drag City (produced by Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Matt Sweeney). Some of Baby Dee’s songs were comedic cabaret tunes about subjects like grizzly bears obsessed with eating Mormon underwear; others were beautiful classical-sounding pieces with touching and personal lyrics. I’m not sure what the world at large will make of Baby Dee when she starts getting more attention, but she’s definitely unique. The opening act was Gary Higgins, whose 1970s folk-rock recordings were overlooked until recent rediscovery. I especially enjoyed his finger picking in alternate tunings on the guitar.
On Friday (Nov. 16) I was back at the Hideout for one of the best (and, so far, overlooked) groups in Chicago, the Singleman Affair. Led by Dan Schneider, the band has really grown from a lovely one-man recording project to a group with an organic sound that can rock out and create evocative and psychedelic moods. They sounded great on Friday, with a bunch of enthusiastic fans. In fact, the Singleman Affair was just the opening act. The headliners were the Vermont duo MV & EE, whom I had just heard for the first time a day or two earlier. I really dug their new album, Gettin’ Gone, which has some of the raw electricity of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, though it’s a little shaggier and messier than that. I suppose these folks might be lumped into the so-called “freak folk” movement, but they seem more like folkie roots-rock hippies to me. For whatever it’s worth. Anyway, their show was a little lackluster for me. Just the two of them played, and the songs were practically drowned in feedback and reverb. It would have been better with a full band or with more acoustic songs. The room was pretty empty as they droned. Still, I’m impressed with their recordings, and I love their hand-drawn CD and LP covers. I think I’ll be delving more into the MV & EE catalog despite my disappointment with the concert.
On Saturday (Nov. 17), the Hideout hosted a 10th anniversary party for one of the coolest record stores in Chicago (yes, there are still a few left), Laurie’s Planet of Sound. All three of the bands playing were fronted by current or former employees of the record store. Adam Fitz started the night with his rocking soul, followed by the pummeling hard rock of Vee Dee. Headlining was Miss Alex White & the Red Orchestra, were had another reason to celebrate: the release of White’s new CD, Space & Time, a blast of lively garage rock. The show was just as lively as the CD, with a couple of the Mucca Pazza horn players joining the band for a few songs.