Carsick Cars at the Burlington

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Carsick Cars is one of China’s best-known indie rock bands, but they’d never played in Chicago until now. The Beijing trio finally made it to Chicago with a gig Friday night (March 28) at the Burlington. Like most shows at the Burlington, it didn’t have advance ticket sales, but by the time Carsick Cars began playing the opening riff, the room was packed — with some of the typical indie rock fans you’d expect, as well as a large contingent of young Asian-Americans.

So, what does a Chinese indie rock band sound like? Well, this one doesn’t sound that far off from American and British indie rock of the 1980s and ’90s — with a touch of that repetitive intensity that German bands like Can made famous as Krautrock. Or maybe that driving repetition sounds more like the Feelies at some moments? And yes, given the fact that Carsick Cars opened some shows for Sonic Youth, the comparison with Sonic Youth seems obvious. And there’s a bit of garage rock in the sound.

But there’s also something different about the sound, and not just the fact that Carsick Cars sings some of its lyrics in Chinese. Like so many great musical transformations throughout history, this is the sound of one culture’s sound as it’s heard by people in another part of the world, imitated in a way that’s a little off, transmitted back to the original culture, sounding like a fresh take on the original.

With Carsick Cars, it all comes together in springy, almost bouncy rhythms, catchy pop melodies and occasional shards of dissonant noise. The band has a terrific new album, simply called 3, which you can stream for at least a while on Time Out Shanghai’s website. Unsure of how readily available Carsick Cars’ records will be in the U.S., I bought all three of the band’s releases at the Burlington’s merch table, just to be on the safe side (and to demonstrate how much I like what I’d heard.) One source for Carsick Cars records is the Maybe Mars label’s website.

Friday’s show also included an opening set by White+, a more experimental side project featuring Carsick Cars’ singer-guitarist Zhang Shouwang (the only remaining member from the band’s original lineup). After wearing a plaid shirt during that set, he switched to a Carsick Cars T-shirt — apparently, Chinese rock stars are less wary of wearing their own merch.

The fans near the stage pogoed to Carsick Cars’ riffs, and the night climaxed with “Zhong Nan Hai,” off the band’s self-titlted 2007 debut.  Zhang dove into the audience with his guitar during that song, and Carsick Cars’ fans held him aloft for a minute. Here’s my video of that:

Some rock ‘n’ roll traditions truly are universal.

(Now, I have all the more reason to look forward to Chicago-Montana videographer John Yingling’s project The World Underground, which is documenting China’s underground rock scene.)

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The set list
The set list

Riot Fest Recap

I’ve never been in a riot
I’ve never been in a fight
I’ve never been in anything
That turns out right
— Mekons, “Never Been in a Riot”

The only thing I saw at Riot Fest that came close to an actual riot was the young guys slam dancing amid the middle-aged Replacements fans on Sunday night. Or maybe the squeals of delight and grasping arms of all those teenage girls and 20ish women who’d thronged a barricade to watch the young men of the pop-punk band All Time Low might qualify as quasi-riotous.

Riot or not, which I wrote about earlier). But Riot Fest featured plenty of other noteworthy bands, including a number of iconic punk, post-punk and new wave acts who have been playing since the 1990s, ’80s or even the ’70s.

Joan Jett
Joan Jett

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were the high point on Friday; even their new songs sounded good, though the crowd clearly wanted to hear the old hits, which Jett and her band delivered in style. The other bands that I caught on Friday — Screeching Weasel, Bad Religion, GWAR and Danzig — didn’t interest me as much, but I was impressed by Bad Religion’s ferocity. I stayed out of the way when GWAR began spraying fake blood at the crowd. See more photos from Day 1.

X
X

Saturday was filled with strong sets by “oldies” acts including an intense early-afternoon performance by X.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr. jammed out in the afternoon sun, closing its set with a great cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.”

Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard looked tipsy as he came onstage, quickly chugging down some whisky, but as soon as the band started playing, he was kicking up his leg and twirling his microphone cord in classic GBV style.

Former members of the punk band Black Flag announced, “This is not Black Flag — this is Flag” … and then proceeded to play a bunch of Black Flag songs, prompting youngsters to crowd-surf.

Blondie
Blondie

Led by a warlock-outfit-wearing Debbie Harry, Blondie inspired some swooning by the band’s longtime fans. The old hits sounded good, even if the newer tunes and deeper cuts were less distinguished.

Public Enemy
Public Enemy

Public Enemy gave one of the weekend’s most galvanizing performances, with Chuck D and Flavor Flav jumping in tandem to the group’s political hip-hop anthems. (The area near the stage was so jampacked that I found myself caught in a dangerous crush of people when we photographers had to leave the photo pit.)

The Violent Femmes opened their concert with their biggest hits — which seemed like an odd choice, until it became clear that the group was playing the entirety of its 1983 self-titled debut album in sequence. And it just so happens that the record starts off with the group’s best-known songs. The Femmes played faithful versions of those tracks, prompting the crowd to sing along, but the show seemed to lose energy later on.

See more photos from Day 2.

Rain came pouring down on Sunday, dampening the spirit at Riot Fest, but the music went on. I showed up in time to catch the last few songs by Mission of Burma, including a solid rendition of “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver.” A bit later, Bob Mould played one of the festival’s most intense sets, joined by Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster and Chicago bassist Jason Narducy (who’s also in the touring version of Superchunk) — an ideal lineup to play the crunchy post-punk power pop of Mould’s solo albums and his recordings with Sugar. Mould told the crowd that he’s coming back to Chicago soon to make a new album.

AFI
AFI

Other highlights on Sunday included Rocket From the Crypt, who made a joyous racket as the downpour continued. I was less familiar with some of the younger bands that I saw, including Against Me!, Brand New, All Time Low and AFI, all of whom inspired fervent responses from their fans. AFI bounced around on the stage so much that it felt a bit like watching a post-punk version of Riverdance; it all seemed too choreographed. (I skipped seeing some of Riot Fest’s other bands entirely, including Friday’s headliner Fall Out Boy and Saturday’s headliner Blink-182. Not a fan of either.)

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

I did greatly enjoy the rainy midafternoon set by Chicago’s Twin Peaks. They might have been the youngest band playing the whole weekend, but their excellent lo-fi home recording Sunken shows that they know some garage-rock history. Their exuberant performance at Riot Fest included at least one new song as well as a cover of They Might Be Giants’ “Boss of Me” (the theme to the TV series Malcolm in the Middle).

Pixies
Pixies

The rain cleared up by the time darkness fell, though the ground was still muddy in many places, including the goopy photo pit in front of the Roots Stage, where Pixies played the weekend’s penultimate set. This is the first time the band has gone out on the road since founding bassist and backup singer Kim Deal quit. She was replaced by Kim Shattuck of the Muffs. If anything, Deal’s absence may have reduced the onstage tension that was apparent at some previous shows. With lights shining behind them and their faces shrouded in darkness, Pixies opened their set with two covers: The Fall’s “Big New Prinz” and the Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Head On.” But by the time the Pixies were inspiring a crowd sing-along with “Wave of Mutilation,” I was heading over to the Riot Stage to get in line for the Replacements photo pit. It’s too bad you couldn’t hear the Pixies from over there; I would have loved to hear more of their set, but it was time to snag a spot for the Mats.

See more photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Riot Fest Day 3: Photos

Photos from the third day of Riot Fest, Sept. 15, 2013, in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 2 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma
Mission of Burma


Against Me
Against Me

Against Me
Against Me
Bob Mould
Bob Mould


Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks


Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt

Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt
Rocket From the Crypt


Brand New
Brand New

Brand New
Brand New
The audience during Brand New's set
The audience during Brand New’s set
The audience during Brand New's set
The audience during Brand New’s set
All Time Low
All Time Low
All Time Low
All Time Low


The audience during All Time Low's set
The audience during All Time Low’s set

The audience during All Time Low's set
The audience during All Time Low’s set


AFI
AFI

AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI
AFI


Pixies
Pixies

Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies
Pixies

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 2 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Riot Fest Day 2: Photos

Photos from the second day of Riot Fest, Sept. 14, 2013, in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements


X
X

X
X
X
X
X
X
Circus performers wander the ground during the X concert.
Circus performers wander the ground during the X concert.


The crowd during the Lillingtons' set.
The crowd during the Lillingtons’ set.

The Lillingtons
The Lillingtons
The Lillingtons
The Lillingtons


Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr.


Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices

Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices
Guided By Voices


Flag
Flag

Flag
Flag
Flag
Flag
Flag
Flag
Crowd-surfing during Flag's set.
Crowd-surfing during Flag’s set.
Crowd-surfing during Flag's set.
Crowd-surfing during Flag’s set.


Blondie
Blondie

Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie
Blondie


Public Enemy
Public Enemy

Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy
Public Enemy


Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes

Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes
Violent Femmes

See: photos from Day 1 / Photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Riot Fest Day 1: Photos

Photos from the first day of Riot Fest, Sept. 13, 2013, in Humboldt Park, Chicago.

See: Photos from Day 2 / Photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Screeching Weasel
Screeching Weasel
Screeching Weasel
Screeching Weasel
Bad Religion
Bad Religion
Bad Religion
Bad Religion
Bad Religion
Bad Religion
Gwar
Gwar


Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
Danzig
Danzig
Danzig
Danzig

See: Photos from Day 2 / Photos from Day 3 / Photos of the Replacements / A review of the Replacements

Replacements reunion

L99A4116For some reason that I cannot recall, I did not see the Replacements when I had a chance to see them play at a small club, Mabel’s in Champaign, circa 1986. I was a student at the University of Illinois, a fan of ’60s music just beginning to discover that there was such a thing as new bands making cool records. The Replacements had just released their terrific album Tim, and I had just discovered the band. I vaguely remember having some lame excuse for not going to that show … not having enough cash for the measly cover charge, or maybe having too much homework. Something like that. Looking back, it’s one of the concerts I most regret missing.

Luckily, I did get to see the Mats a couple of times before they broke up: one show at the Aragon, and then the 1991 concert that turned out to be the final Replacements gig ever — until now, anyway — when they finished unceremoniously, handing their instruments over to their roadies on the Petrillo Bandshell stage in Chicago’s Grant Park. As I recall, both of those shows were pretty good, but I felt like I’d missed the real Replacements — the earlier lineup of the band, which was famous for playing sloppy, drunken, raucous but often brilliant gigs. Maybe I was just feeling envious of the people who could say, “I saw them back then.”

When the Replacements made the surprise announcement that they were reuniting for three Riot Fest concerts in Toronto, Chicago and Denver, it wasn’t the least bit surprising that people immediately started debating whether this was really the Replacements. True, this is not the same band that played those legendary gigs, like the one captured on the “official bootleg,” The Shit Hits the Fans. And no one has a time machine to take us back to one of those gigs. But this was the Replacements’ driving force, singer-songwriter-guitarist Paul Westerberg, reuniting with another original member, bassist Tommy Stinson, and playing Mats songs. So what if the other musicians (drummer Josh Freese and guitarist Dave Minehan) were new guys?

If you had any doubts that this was actually the Replacements, they should’ve been erased by the sight and sound of these guys onstage Sunday night at Riot Fest (Sept. 15) in Chicago’s Humboldt Park. Westerberg’s face frequently broke out into a grin. It was obvious both he and Stinson were having a blast as they tore through some of the hard-edged garage rock songs they played together as teens a few decades ago. In the years since the Replacements broke up, Westerberg has been a mercurial figure, rarely giving interviews, sporadically putting out solo music and giving little hint that he had any interest in ever doing a Replacements reunion. But he did not give off the air of someone who was just going through the motions or reluctantly taking the stage. He looked like he was reveling in the moment.

The Replacements powered through their harder-rocking songs. Videos and recordings of the band’s Aug. 25 show in Toronto showed that this Replacements lineup was already sounding tight, and they clicked once again Sunday during their triumphant return to Chicago, the city where the old Mats broke up onstage. But it wouldn’t be a true Replacements gig without at least a little bit of sloppiness, or some goofy offhanded remarks by Westerberg.

As he flubbed the lyrics to “Androgynous,” Westerberg said, “I forgot the fucking words,” and laughed at himself. During “Swinging Party,” he asked Minehan to change the tone of his guitar. “Could you lose that Cure thing? That vibe,” he said — and then, before getting back into the song, he blurted out, “I don’t know what the second verse is. … I got it, I got it, I got it.” At another point during the show, Westerberg did a bit of Tarzan dialogue.

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Aside from those asides, Westerberg reminded me of what a great vocalist he is, delivering his memorable turns of phrase with such natural ease and emotion. At times, he would let himself fall a beat or two behind, slipping back into the melody with timing something like a jazzy lounge singer.

When the Replacements played a frenzied cover of the English punk band Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout,” some slam dancing broke out in the crowd near where I was standing. Young guys in black punk-rock T-shirts started flinging themselves at one another, and the middle-aged Replacements fans standing nearby moved back to give the crazy kids some space (and to protect themselves from getting slammed).

The high points for me were the Mats classics “Left of the Dial,” “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Bastards of Young,” which this band — Westerberg, Stinson, Freese and Minehan, or whatever you choose to call them — played with all the youthful spirit of the old Mats. It wasn’t exactly like going back with a time machine, but it was the closest thing available to that.

Set list: Takin’ a Ride / 
I’m in Trouble
 / Favorite Thing
 / Hangin’ Downtown / 
I Don’t Know
/ Color Me Impressed
 / Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out
 / Achin’ to Be
 / Androgynous (with a bit of Hank Williams’ Hey Good Lookin’) / 
I Will Dare / 
Love You Till Friday/ Maybelline
 (Chuck Berry cover) / Merry Go Round / 
Wake Up
 / Borstal Breakout (Sham 69 cover)
 / Little Mascara
 / Left of the Dial / 
Alex Chilton / 
Swinging Party / 
Kiss Me on the Bus
 / Waitress
 in the Sky / Can’t Hardly Wait / 
Bastards of Young / 
Hold My Life / 
I.O.U.

See more of my photos of the Replacements at Riot Fest.

(In the next few days, I’ll be posting photos of other bands I saw at Riot Fest, along with a recap of the festival.)

Crime and the City Solution

Crime and the City Solution

Crime and the City Solution

Although it was set in a Berlin populated by humans as well as angels, Wim Wenders’ classic 1989 film Wings of Desire introduced many of its viewers (including me) to a couple of terrific bands originally from Australia: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds — and a group with similarly Gothic and powerfully brooding music, Crime and the City Solution. Both bands contributed songs to the wonderful soundtrack and appeared in memorable concert scenes filmed in Berlin nightclubs, including this one:

While Nick Cave has gone on to become an icon, Crime and the City Solution broke up after releasing four albums, ending up as more of an obscure cult favorite. The group’s getting some new recognition now, however, thanks in part to a new collection from the Mute label, A History of Crime: Berlin 1987-1991: An Introduction to Crime and the City Solution, and a reunion tour, which brought Crime’s current lineup to Chicago’s Lincoln Hall on Sunday (Oct. 21).

According to the Chicago Reader, lead singer Simon Bonney lives these days in Detroit. The lineup that he has assembled for the new Crime and the City Solution includes two musicians from the band’s Berlin era, violinist Bronwyn Adams and guitarist Alexander Hacke (also of Einsturzende Neubauten). They are joined by guitarist David Eugene Edwards (of Wovenhand and 16 Horsepower), bassist Troy Gregory (who has played with the Dirtbombs, Swans and Spiritualized), keyboardist Matthew Smith, the always-superb drummer Jim White (a member of The Dirty Three who’s played with Cat Power and Nina Nastasia) and Danielle de Picciotto on visuals.

Bonney’s baritone sounded as dramatic ever as he sang his verbose lyrics, occasionally turning for help to a stack of laminated lyric sheets sitting on the stage in front of him. (Can’t remember his own words? Hey, he wrote a lot of words.) His bandmates encircled him on the stage, playing with a smoldering intensity. The old songs sounded fresh, and the band also played a couple of sharp tunes from a new album, American Twilight, which is set to come out next spring.

Here’s one of the new songs, “My Love Takes Me There”:

My photos from Sunday’s show, which also included an opening set by Bobby Conn:

Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution
Crime and the City Solution

Bobby Conn
Bobby Conn

Willis Earl Beal at the Hideout

The emergence of Willis Earl Beal is one of the most fascinating Chicago music stories of the past year. A year ago, he was “super unknown,” as the headline of a terrific Chicago Reader story by Leor Galil put it. Beal was essentially an outsider artist, making lo-fi tapes of his music, never performing in public, without any myspace page or anything like that, who was posting strange flyers about himself, which led to his discovery by Found magazine and the Reader. Now, somehow, Beal landed a deal with a prestigious record label, XL, which has just released an album of his home recordings, Acousmastic Sorcery.

Beal played last night at the Hideout. Although he recently opened for SBTRKT at the House of Blues, this was apparently his first headlining gig in Chicago. As he took the stage in a leather jacket and shades, he remarked, “Since you all came to see me, we’re going to do this my way.” Doing it his way included opening the show with a reading of the Charles Bukowski poem “The Harder You Try.” Then came an a cappella song, followed by several songs featuring Beal singing to tracks he’d records — on a reel-to-reel tape machine, of all things.

He played one song on guitar, briefly struggling with an out-of-tune acoustic and then playing an electric guitar he was unfamiliar with. His guitar playing was rudimentary, off-kilter and almost arhythmic, but his singing was soulful and impassioned. For another song, he sat down at the piano, playing simple notes as he sang. Both of these songs made you wonder what Beal would sound like with professional musicians backing him. Would it enhance his music, or detract from its quirky appeal? As things stand now, Beal is an unusual songwriter and performer who doesn’t easily fit into any category. There are touches of Tom Waits and Screaming Jay Hawkins in what he does. He showed that he’s capable of great blues and soul vocals, but his reel-to-reel accompaniment pushed the songs into stranger, more surreal territory.

Beal went back to a cappella for the final song of the night, “Same Old Tears” — a powerful performance that featured the audience clapping the beat. I videotaped that song and Beal’s comments afterward:

After the song ended, Beal made it clear he’s not that happy with his debut record. “It’s not a reflection of what you just saw on the stage,” he said. “It’s some shit I did when, I just like, I didn’t know what I was doing. It’s like walking in on somebody on the toilet. So, like, buy it, you know, to fill my pockets, but it’s not what you just saw. Also, I’m not a fucking musician. I am a motivational speaker, with harmonious inclinations.” Beal’s being too harsh about his record. He may not have known what he was doing, but that could explain part of what makes Beal so magical.













The opening act last night provided a nice bonus: Quarter Mile Thunder, a new band led by Ben Clarke, played haunting, quiet folk rock with a moody, atmospheric mix of acoustic guitar, piano and synth. “We’ve got a record done if anybody wants to put it out,” Clarke said, prompting some laughs. “It’s true.” Indeed, you can stream the album, Twist, at http://soundcloud.com/quartermilethunder/sets/twist/s-Xmjx9.

Björk at the Auditorium

Looking over my list of the year’s best concerts, I realized that a few of the shows I reviewed for The Daily Southtown are no longer online. Here then, are a few reviews from months back, which I post here in the interest of completeness…

BJÖRK, MAY 12 AT THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE

Whatever you think of Björk — whether you mock her for wearing swans or worship her oddball genius — it’s undeniable that she has a great instinct for showmanship.

The Icelandic star played her first song Saturday night completely hidden behind the Auditorium Theatre’s stage curtains. As that singular voice of hers emerged and fans anxiously waited for the curtains to part, the sense of anticipation was palpable.

And then finally, as she finished a quiet version of an old song, “Cover Me,” the stage was quickly unveiled. Bursts of flames, so bright that they almost hurt the eyes, cast a hellish red glow as Björk and her band broke into the herky-jerky rhythms of “Earth Invaders,” the opening track off her new record, “Volta.”

Wearing a crinkly gold dress, Björk stomped and swayed in front of a strange tableau — colorful banners with images of fish, flags, Icelandic women playing horns and dressed in pastel outfits. After those flames made their brief appearance, the stage seemed less ominous and more like the setting for an international peace conference.

The theatrical flourishes prompted applause but the loudest bursts of clapping came whenever Björk released the full force of her remarkable voice, holding the microphone away from her mouth as she belted out notes from deep in her throat.

Surprisingly, Björk played only four songs from her new album. Instead of focusing on “Volta,” she treated the concert more like chance to offer a sample of music from throughout her career. Though she left out a few of her most popular songs (no “Human Behavior”), it was almost a greatest-hits show.

These weren’t note-for-note simulations of the studio recordings, though. Backed by a drummer, three musicians on keyboards and computers, and 10 women doubling as brass players and backup vocalists, Björk deconstructed some of her tunes, turning them into brass chamber music or harpsichord ballads.

The brass arrangements were beautiful, taking the place of the orchestral strings on songs such as “Bachelorette” or adding grandeur to the more techno tunes. They were a perfect complement to Björk’s voice, which is something of a brass instrument itself.

On some of the more upbeat dance numbers, such as “Hyper-Ballad,” lasers flashed, Björk wheeled around in her regal outfit, and the music hewed fairly close to the spirit of the original recordings.

Comments overheard in the audience made it clear that many fans liked Björk’s selections for the night’s set list. As the crowd filed out, one young woman remarked, “Now I can die happy.”

SET LIST
Cover Me
Earth Intruders
Venus As A Boy
Aurora
Unison
All Is Full Of Love
Immature
Pleasure Is All Mine
It’s Not Up To You
Pagan Poetry
Army of Me
Innocence
Bachelorette
Wanderlust
Hyper-Ballad
Pluto

ENCORE:
Oceania
Declare Independence

Andrew Bird at the Riveria

Before heading over to the Empty Bottle later that night to catch some Mono, I saw Andrew Bird and Apostle of Hustle April 20 at the Riviera Theatre in Chciago. Here’s the review I wrote for The Daily Southtown:

As he played Friday at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre, Andrew Bird looked a little less lonely than he used to. A few years ago, the Chicago singer-songwriter played concerts all by himself, functioning as a one-man orchestra. It was always impressive, but you couldn’t help wishing that Bird had a few other musicians to help him rock a little bit more.

In the midst of a tour to support his excellent new album, “Armchair Apocrypha,” Bird came back home Friday for a sold-out concert at the biggest Chicago venue he has ever played — backed this time by drummer/keyboarist Martin Dosh and guitarist Jeremy Ylvisaker. And at times, they did rock, but Bird still sounded far removed from a conventional rock or pop artist. A gifted writer of beguiling melodies and complex, pun-filled lyrics, Bird has many musical talents: violinist, guitarist, glockenspiel player, crooner and whistler. In concert, all of those talents are on display in a sort of show-and-tell performance that constructs the songs right in front of the audience’s eyes and ears. Using an effects pedal that loops segments of music, Bird plays one part after another — a few plucks on the violin, a few strums the guitar — and layers them higher and higher.

Having two musicians onstage with him meant that Bird did not have to create every song from scratch on Friday, but the concert still had the feeling of a chemistry experiment in a musical laboratory. These weren’t note-for-note reproductions of Bird’s studio recordings. Instead, they exposed all of the little building blocks that go into each song, eventually reaching crescendos of almost symphonic beauty. Bird was not just a cerebral experimenter at the Riviera concert, however. He also displayed a fair amount of passion, especially when he would let loose on one of his spiky guitar solos, whipping his head back and forth.

In the music’s most serene moments, Bird’s voice gracefully swooped and his pitch-perfect whistling hovered above the lovely arrangements that Bird and his collaborators had created. Following the lively opening set by Canada’s Apostle of Hustle, Bird played most of the songs from his new album and a few from his previous record, “The Mysterious Production of Eggs.” As he looked out at the Riviera’s packed auditorium, filled mostly with fans in their late teens or early 20s, Bird sounded sincere as he remarked, “I don’t know what to say. I’m a bit overwhelmed.”

See my photos of Andrew Bird.


See my photos of Apostle of Hustle.

Who is ‘Solve’?

Walking around my neighborhood in Chicago, you see a lot of graffiti. And while I don’t approve of vandalizing public property, I do have to say some of the graffiti around here is pretty interesting from an artistic standpoint.  buy lioresal uk Generic Viagra Versus Generic Cialis Pills proactively, independently and collaboratively with other technical and non-technical staff members to complete Fluoxetine prozac anxiety medicine fluoxetine consumer medicine information dove Voltaren Prescription Dosage Naproxen buy propecia without prescription. Prezzo Cialis 20 Mg In Farmacia Order source link. The best prices on the web, No prescription required. Best medications! Bonus pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING applied | Up to 40% Off🔥 |. Price is special in this period. ☀☀☀ Cialis Rx Pharmacy ☀☀☀,best choice! 100% Secure and Anonymous.. Buy Now » 🔥 | Best Sale | ☀☀☀ http://ninawoolf.com/?alope=Viagra-Paypal-Free ☀☀☀. coupons 75% off. Cialis Online Sydney Find Latest Medication For This pill Now!. Get Today! | Best Deals🔥 |. Your health is important. http://valfoncier.ma/15ba0c4c9beautysb80190f363df10010916f4 ,Price is special in this period.. Check More » Cost Of Strattera 10 Mg Time Out Chicago has published an article about the graffiti artist who works under the pseudonym The Viking. I’ve seen that artist’s stickers around here, but I’ve also noticed numerous pieces of graffiti with the word “SOLVE” near them – which I assume is the artist’s identity, or maybe the theme of his or her artwork.

Some of these show an image (see above) of a face with a cross running over it, with a couple of hands below that.

Others show the iconic mug shot of Al Qaeda terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was arrested with a bad case of bed head. Interestingly, a short time after I first noticed these particular pictures, Mohammed was back in the news, when President Bush announced he was being transferred from one of those mysterious secret CIA prisons to good old Gitmo.

I’m not sure what Solve is trying to say with these pictures – some of it is standard anti-establishment imagery, but some of it’s quirkier and more interesting than that. Sometime after the Mohammed pictures appeared, a series of round stickers with simple images in black popped up all around the area. I am not sure if these are by the same artist, but I’m guessing they are.

Then, in perhaps his most outrageous violation of anti-graffiti laws yet, Solve painted an entire street-light control box lime green with pink polka dots — along with the signature “SOLVE.”

SEE PHOTOS OF GRAFFITI BY ‘SOLVE’ (I LEAST I THINK SO) AROUND UPTOWN AND LAKEVIEW.

Jeff Tweedy at the Abbey Pub

JAN. 25, 2006
at the Abbey Pub

SEE PHOTOS OF JEFF TWEEDY. 

SET LIST
The Ruling Class
Summer Teeth
(Was I) In Your Dreams
Bob Dylan’s 49th Beard
Please Tell My Brother
Blasting Fonda
Pieholden Suite
Is That The Thanks I Get? (new song, title uncertain)
Airline To Heaven
I’m The Man Who Loves You
Heavy Metal Drummer
New Madrid
ELT
Someday Soon|
ENCORE 1
A Shot In The Arm
Hoodoo Voodoo
Henry & the H Bombs
Theologians
Spiders (Kidsmoke)
I Can’t Keep From Talking
ENCORE 2
Acuff-Rose

Intonation Music Festival

JULY 17, 2005
INTONATION MUSIC FESTIVAL
Union Park, Chicago

I missed all of Day 1… Decided I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Van Cliburn last night at Ravinia, and didn’t want to deal with the hassle of trying to do both in one day. I’m certainly not the best judge of classical piano performances, but I can say Van a rivetingly peculiar presence onstage…

I thought I would see all of the Intonation Fest today, but after getting an early start, the heat and long lines got to me, so I bailed out after Andrew Bird.

Lines were actually quite short for most of the day, but after 5 p.m., the lines for food, beer and water all got humongous and I didn’t feel like standing around in line to get those essentials.

I enjoyed everything I saw, to some extent: Thunderbirds Are Now! seemed pretty good, but I need to hear more of their music to say how much I’d recommend it.

I like bands that sing in their native tongues, so I was keen of the Swedes in Dungen… who even trotted out a flute for some Jethro Tull-like moments. I was expecing ’60s-style garage rock, but it sounded more ’70s to me. Good,
in any case.

Xiu Xiu were slightly abrasive, but made nice use of autoharp (?) … I’d like to hear more of their stuff. I liked the sound, though I don’t know if the songs were all that strong.

Out Hud’s dance music wouldn’t normally be my kind of thing, but I liked the funkiness of it. Seemed more “live” than a lot of electronic concerts.

The Hold Steady were great. I was a little skeptical about these guys a year ago, but they’ve grown on me a lot. The lyrics are smart enough that the songs work as more than jokes. Is this band in a genre by itself? Who else is like them? It’s sort of like a mutant strain of white-guy rap that bears almost no similarity to hip-hop rap.

Andrew Bird was as brilliant as always. I love this guy … and I overheard a lot of comments from impressed concertgoers who’d never seen him before.

I was hoping to stick around for the Wrens and Les Savy Fav (not the Decemberists, though — I still don’t care for that band), but five hours of enduring that heat was enough… I don’t know anything about the other band that was playing, Deerhoof.

In any case, I hope the Intonation Music Festival is back again next year.