2015 Blackout Fest

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Blackout Fest, an annual showcase of garage, punk and power pop music curated by Chicago’s HoZac Records, returned to the Empty Bottle May 15 and 16. It wasn’t quite as raucous as these shows have been in some past years, but both nights had solid lineups of bands both old and new.

The headliners fell into the “old” category — both were groups with cult status from the 1970s. On Friday night, it was the Real Kids, a Boston punk and power pop band led by singer-guitarist John Felice, who was also an original member of the Modern Lovers (alongside Jonathan Richman) and a Ramones roadie. Somewhat surprisingly, the Real Kids started their Blackout set with their best-known song, the super-catchy “All Kindsa Girls.” But the band had plenty of other great tunes to play during its set, including some from last year’s album Shake … Outta Control and a cover of the Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That.”

The headliners on Saturday were the Avengers, a San Francisco punk band that made its recording debut with an EP in 1978. The group didn’t last for long after that, but founding members Penelope Houston and Greg Ingraham reunited in 2004. They were in top form during their charged, energetic Blackout show.

The early acts on Friday night were Chicago’s MAMA and Milwaukee’s Platinum Boys — both playing power-pop songs with classic-rock-style guitar riffs — and Cozy, a group from Minneapolis with a giddy glam songs and a playful attitude to match.

On Saturday, the night started with another string of bands playing lively guitar rock: Gross Pointe, Thing and Nervosas, followed by Sweet Knives, a Memphis group featuring members of the Lost Sounds, a band that featured Jay Reatard, playing new versions of that group’s old songs. The riffs barely let up all weekend.

MAMA

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Platinum Boys

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Cozy

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The Real Kids

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Gross Pointe

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Thing

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Nervosas

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Sweet Knives

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The Avengers

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HoZac Party at Virgin Hotel

On Thursday, May 14 — the night before Blackout Fest began at the Empty Bottle — HoZac Records held a kickoff party at Virgin Hotel. A mosh pit briefly formed on the 25th floor of this downtown hotel as Flesh Panthers and Sueves rocked.

Flesh Panthers

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Blackout Fest 2014

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Blackout Fest was back this past weekend at the Empty Bottle, and once again, Chicago’s HoZac Records delivered a fun package of garage rock, punk and power pop. I missed the first night on May 15 (an art show and opening party), but I was there the following two nights.

The Boys

The headliners on May 16 were a pretty big deal: The Boys, a legendary British punk band from the 1970s, played a Chicago gig for the first time — and amazingly, it was only the fourth time the Boys had ever played in the U.S. As these older blokes ripped through their old tunes (including a bunch of memorable shout-along songs, such as “Brickfield Nights”), a bunch of young garage-rock lovers packed the dance floor in front of the stage, moshing and bopping up and down with reckless joy.

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Friday’s lineup also included the Man (I showed up too late for their set), the fuzzy guitar riffs of 999999999 (apparently pronounced “all nines”) and First Base, a Toronto band with a slew of sweet and catchy songs. They even did a cover of the ABBA song “Mamma Mia.”

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First Base
First Base
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First Base

The Dictators

The headliners on Saturday, May 17, were another band that started back in the mid-’70s punk explosion: The Dictators, from New York City. Maybe the Dictators are actually a kind of proto-punk, since they formed all the way back in 1974. And on Saturday, as the current lineup played old Dictators songs as well as covers of songs by bands like the Flamin’ Groovies, they jammed more than you’d expect from punks. The frontman, Handsome Dick Manitoba, insisted on telling stories to the audience in his gruff New York accent, which slowed down the pace of the gig a bit, but still proved pretty entertaining. He’s quite a character. For the most part, the crowd ate it up.

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The rest of the lineup on Saturday was solid, with three bands playing the kind of straight-ahead, no-frills rock that HoZac is known for: Rainbow Gun Club, A Giant Dog and — my favorite of the bunch — Shocked Minds.

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People’s Temple, Radar Eyes and Outer Minds at the Bottom Lounge

People's Temple

Three bands that excel at trippy garage rock reminiscent of the 1960s played Feb. 6 in the Volcano Room, upstairs at the Bottom Lounge. The headliners, People’s Temple, have a new album, Musical Garden, out on Chicago’s consistently marvelous Hozac Records. The same label also just put out a new 7-inch by one of the other bands at this concert, Chicago’s Radar Eyes. The night also featured another outstanding Chicago band, Outer Minds. It was a solid night of great songs, though it seemed to fizzle out at the end, when some technical difficulties resulted in People’s Temple playing without drums for a couple of songs. Despite that anticlimactic ending, People’s Temple had sounded great when they were jamming out at the start of their set.

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Radar Eyes
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Heavy Times at the Empty Bottle

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It seems like most of my friends who are regular Chicago concertgoers have seen the local band Heavy Times a bunch of times. Somehow, I’d missed every opportunity to see Heavy Times — until Tuesday night (Aug. 20) at the Empty Bottle.

I thought I might have blown my last chance to see this group, which has put out some excellent records on the local Hozac label. Back in May, the Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf column reported that Heavy Times  “broke up onstage after more or less playing at Quarters Rock ‘n’ Roll Palace in Milwaukee on April 27” — and this was just a few weeks before the band was set to release its third album,  | Best Buy🔥 |. coupons 75% off Buy Online Zoloft ,Price is special in this period.. Check More » | FREE SHIPPING 🔥 |. Available with free Delivery & overnight shipping! http://coolsculptingofsandiego.com/?buynow=Buy-Viagra-In-India-Mumbai&716=6f,We have special offers for you.. Buy Now » | Best Deals🔥 |. coupons 50% off Buy Doxycycline Online With Mastercard ,best choice! 100% Secure and Anonymous.. Check More » Priligy Buy Online Ireland >> 24h Online Support, Absolute Anonymity. Our seasonal dinner menu and bar menu are listed below. Our lunch and dessert 🔥 | Discount | ☀☀☀ Buy http://tabifa.com/?sdsw=Buy-Clomid-At-Gnc ☀☀☀. coupons 75% off. Buy Cialis Online Sydney Free pills with every order! Free shipping cheap cymbalta canada Viagra Prescription Cost Walgreens cymbalta duloxetine hcl uses cymbalta 120 mg generic cymbalta price walmart http://sacramentoairportshuttle.org/?mapl=Celebrex-Coupons-Discounts - Discover our affordable prices for medications and fast delivery. Buy affordable drugs in a minute. Effective and here - no prescription needed, order Sildenafil (viagra) with discount 15% - low prices for all ED pills, support 245, Canada http://themaass.com/?pills=Norvasc-Discount-Card-Philippines TrustedDrugstore. Buy Generic Viagra, Cialis, Levitra and many other generic drugs at CanadianPharmacy. Can You Buy Cialis Over The Counter In The Us Lowest prices for Generic and Brand drugs. Fix It Alone. But as Gossip Wolf subsequently reported, Heavy Times ended up losing two of its members and recruiting some new players to fill out the lineup. That’s a strange situation for a band to go through just as it’s releasing a new album, but Heavy Times seems to have made it through the turmoil.

As a group on the Hozac label, it’s natural for Heavy Times to get lumped in with other “garage rock” bands. It’s a genre label I use often myself, and Heavy Times seems to fit somewhere within the loose boundaries of garage. Like a lot of garage rock, this music is essentially punk, and Heavy Times plays it with serrated edges and a sharp focus. The songs are quite tuneful, with riffs and vocal melodies that stick in your mind, but there’s nothing ingratiating about the way frontman Bo Hansen sings those hooks. Each song is a short, tense burst. Tuesday’s set was a rapid-fire series of these blasts.

My photos of Heavy Times:

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Heavy Times was the middle band in a lineup of three groups playing Tuesday at the Empty Bottle. I confess that I did not stick around for the headliner, Survival. (I would’ve stayed, except for wanting to get some sleep.) The first band of the night was another local band, Vamos — who put on a fun, energetic set of punk rock.

My photos of Vamos:

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Blackout Fest

Hozac Records’ Blackout Fest was back this past weekend for another round of garage rock, power pop and other mostly raw and raucous music. It stretched out across four days at the Empty Bottle; I was there for the last two nights: Saturday, May 18, when Chrome headlined; and Sunday, May 19, when Dwight Twilley had top billing.

For my money, Sunday was the much better of these two nights — partly because Sunday’s lineup leaned more heavily to the power-pop end of the spectrum, which was to my liking. As for Saturday … Well, Saturday had its moments, too, especially the powerful music of Chicago’s Verma, with wordless singing (or is it merely incomprehensible?). Wizzard Sleeve, with Quintron on percussion, were another highlight, with a number of catchy choruses.

But when Chrome took the stage for the headline act of the night, everything ground to a halt. Original Chrome member Helios Creed encountered one technical difficulty after another, struggling to tune his guitar or to get his pedals working, even as he kept making boasts such as, “We’re going to blow you away.” It seemed like a rehearsal with a newly assembled band more than an actual concert. The band sounded all right once it got started playing songs, but there was an uncomfortable vibe among the players. At several points, Creed abruptly halted songs by waving his arms at everyone else in the band, giving them a not-so-subtle signal to stop playing. Maybe this is just the way Creed functions on stage, but it seemed more like malfunctioning.

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Sunday got off to a damn good start with The Sueves, a Chicago band with jagged guitar riffs and vocals — the best discovery of Blackout Fest for me. The second band of the night was one that I was already familiar with, Games, who put out a strong album of ’60-influenced garage rock/power pop on Hozac late last year. The songs sounded even more bracing in concert than they do in the studio versions.

Then came what amounted to a double dose of power-pop headliners: Oak Park’s Pezband — a trio that originally formed around 1971 and still knows how to rock, demonstrating that they should play far more often than they do — followed by Dwight Twilley. The Tulsa, Okla., singer is most famous for his two hits, “Girls” and “I’m on Fire,” but he has a cult following of fans who clearly loved hearing Twilley play other songs from his old records — as well as the news that Hozac is releasing the first official record of Twilley’s 1975 song “Shark (in the Dark).” Twilley closed out the Blackout Fest in style.

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Blackout Fest 2012

Roky Erickson

Chicago’s terrific HoZac Records brought its annual Blackout Fest to the Empty Bottle this past weekend, May 18-20, for three long nights filled with lots and lots of rock music — mostly garage rock, with a bit of punk, power pop and classic ’60s psychedelic music thrown in for good measure. Many, but not all, of the bands are on the HoZac label, and nearly all of them shared a similar spirit of banging out scrappy yet tuneful songs with enthusiasm.

This was the sort of festival where an audience member would boo (jokingly, I think) at the very sight of an acoustic guitar. That was during Friday’s set by Cozy, but haters of mellow music had nothing to worry about — the band strummed a few acoustic chords before jumping back into the rock. And while some of the musicians swaggered and flailed with punk attitude, many of them were more nonchalant in their stage manner. The Ketamines set the tone by dryly announcing: “We’re going to play 12 songs and then we’re going to stop.”

The festival’s two biggest names were Saturday headliners Redd Kross and Sunday’s closing act, Roky Erickson. Redd Kross is getting ready to release its first album in 15 years, Researching the Blues, which will come out Aug. 7 on Merge Records. Judging from the title song (download it here), Redd Kross’s new music sounds much like its old — power pop with a hard edge. Saturday’s set started off with a complete performance of the band’s 1981 album Born Innocent, which provided some raucous fun — although personally, I would have preferred to hear a full run-through of Redd Kross’ 1993 record Phaseshifter. The band did play some songs from that album later in its set, as well as a cover of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.”

Erickson, the legendary former leader of the 13th Floor Elevators, has been back on the concert circuit for a few years now, recovering from a long absence due to legal problems and mental illness. Erickson seemed to be in a good place Sunday night, smiling as he sang and played guitar, backed by a strong and hard-rocking band. The audience in the sold-out venue sang along to many choruses and was rewarded at the end with the 13th Floor Elevators classic, “You’re Gonna Miss Me.”

There were many other fine performances throughout the weekend. My favorites included Barreracudas, who played head-bopping pop-punk; Far-Out Fangtooth, who delved more into dark psych sounds reminiscent of the Black Angels; Fungi Girls, who sound like the house band at some mysterious road house circa 1966; and Bare Mutants, who grooved to a Velvet Underground-style beat.

Cozy

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Medication

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Estrogen Highs

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HoZac Blackout Festival

The Spits

I never saw any of the old Blackout Festivals in Chicago, which now seem to have grown legendary. After a hiatus of several years, the festival returned this weekend, sponsored by the same folks who run the HoZac record label — more or less the headquarters of Chicago’s burgeoning and fertile garage-rock scene. HoZac’s responsible for putting out a lot of roughly hewn, rambunctious and sometimes surprisingly catchy rock music. (The new LP by Chicago band Mickey is a great example of all that.) The two-day festival, held in a makeshift warehouse-like space dubbed the Velvet Perineum, was a showcase for HoZac’s bands as well as other likeminded groups. I caught almost all of it (other than the opening-night art show, and a couple of bands on Saturday, when I had to duck out of the Velvet Perineum to get some foods).

It was quite a fun time overall, with a lot of lively performances. The audience ebbed and flowed through the weekend, coming and going in between sets and acting somewhat manic-lethargic (moshing with reckless abandon for some bands, not even bothering to clap for other bands). The groups that inspired the most moshing on Friday (May 28) were the aforementioned Mickey, the Brides (who had the funniest stage banter) and the Spits (who started out their set wearing Ronald Reagan masks). Saturday’s biggest mosh moment came during the set by Nobunny, who (as expected) removed his pants halfway through the set, while continuing to wear his mangy, leporine headgear. Hearing Nobunny’s fans sing along to his songs, however, it was clear that his music connects on a melodic level, not simply as an excuse to slam bodies against one another.

Other highlights for me: Another Chicago band, Outer Minds, continue to impress me with their ’60s-flavored nuggets. Radar Eyes showed some impressive energy at the end of their set. Reading Rainbow played catchy songs with female-male harmonies and a good dose of buzz, too. Puffy Areolas played out on the floor, a bit like the Monotonix do, revving up the crowd with the relentless attack of their punk-rock feedback and saxophone. Closing out the fest on Saturday night, the legendary early ’70s band Nervous Eaters sounded best at the very end of their set, as they played the protopunkiest of their songs, including a fine version of “Loretta.” I was feeling pretty tired by that point, and I got the feeling that others were, too. The garage-rock marathon finally came to an end. But the music plays on, as I spin that new Mickey LP and write up my wish list for other HoZac records.

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The Happy Thoughts

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The Brides

Audience during the Brides

The Spits

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Audience during the Spits

Nones

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Outer Minds

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Radar Eyes

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Radar Eyes

People's Temple

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Reading Rainbow

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Idle Times

Puffy Areolas

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Puffy Areolas

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Timmy's Organism

Timmy's Organism

Nobunny

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Nervous Eaters

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Nervous Eaters