As you can see from my recent posts, I’ve been seeing a lot of concerts lately at the Logan Square club Township. The venue still feels a bit under the radar, but it has been booking some good shows recently, including local as well as touring bands. On Saturday night (Feb. 16), the Washington, D.C., band Deleted Scenes played — for some reason, as the third of four bands. I caught the last three bands (My Dad, Deleted Scenes and We Love You), and it seemed like each group had its own set of fans, and the people rotated in and out of the room during the evening. My Dad’s two-drummer math rock was ragged but energetic, and We Love You’s pop-punk was pleasant but somewhat generic. Deleted Scenes were the highlight of the evening, playing indie rock with some of the complexities of art rock. It was a strong performance in front of a small crowd in a small bar … by a band that’ll surely be playing bigger Chicago venues in the future.
“Play the Blondie song!” Some guy shouted out that request in the middle of the show by the Paul Collins Beat last Thursday (Feb. 7) at Township. Other people in the crowd groaned. I think most of us wanted to hear that song — “Hanging on the Telephone,” which was originally recorded by Collins’ first band, the Nerves, before Blondie had a hit with a cover version — but this was an unfortunate way to phrase the request. In any case, when Collins and his band got around to playing “the Blondie song” a little while later, it was electrifying.
After the Nerves broke up way back when, Collins formed another band called the Beat — not to be confused with the English Beat. Later on, it became the Paul Collins Beat. In all of these guises, Collins has created some catchy power pop but he’s never gained all that much fame. But the folks who crowded into Township on Thursday clearly knew and loved his music. A fairly young crowd sang along to Collins’ songs, including a few that dated back to the first, self-titled Beat album from 1979, such as “I Don’t Fit In,” “Working Too Hard” and “Rock N Roll Girl.” The audience was on the verge of moshing at times. Now, that’s how you’re supposed to greet power pop royalty, people.
Cross Record — the stage name for Chicago singer and musician Emily Cross — plays an intriguing mix of folk songs with ambient and drone textures on its album Be Good, which you can stream at bandcamp. Songs that might pass for early Cat Power or Sharon Van Etten are embellished with echoes and moody washes of keyboards, or even an epic sense of drama, as on the song “Dirt Nap.” The record sometimes has the sound of a performer who’s playing by herself, with looping pedals as her only accompaniment.
Emily Cross played, with a backing band, on Thursday (Jan. 24) at Township. It was a solid performance, although the music wasn’t quite as spooky or evocative in these live arrangements. Still, Cross’ voice and guitar playing made it clear she’s a talent to watch. For the final song of the night, she switched to clarinet and giggled a bit as she covered the Chris Isaak song “Wicked Game.”
No matter how diligently the media, publicists and bloggers try to tell us about all of the worthwhile concerts happening every night in Chicago, some good ones slip through the cracks. The only reason I knew anything about the show at Township last Sunday (Nov. 4) was that I noticed a friend tweeting about it. (That friend is Heather Copeland, who posts a lot of her concert videos on youtube.) Given how little publicity this show received, it wasn’t surprising that the room was pretty bare when the World Record played, but the 20 or so people in attendance seemed to enjoy it — and I certainly did.
The World Record are a Los Angeles power pop band, led by singer-guitarist Andy Creighton (who has also played with Apex Manor, Papercuts and Foreign Born), and their recently released sophomore album, Freeway Special, is filled with 18 hook-filled songs reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and the Weakerthans. What’s not to like about that? (You can hear the whole record and buy mp3s or FLACs at bandcamp.)
According to a press release, the World Record have “remained one of L.A.’s best-kept secrets, rarely venturing outside of Southern California.” They hadn’t played in Chicago for several years, and unfortunately, Sunday’s gig was below the radar, but I hope they’ll be back soon.