FRIDAY, APRIL 24: Alas, I missed Neko Case at the Chicago Theatre. Well, since I’ve already seen her around 10 times, I suppose it’s not that great of a tragedy to miss her this time. But that new album of hers, Middle Cyclone, has really grown on me. I still think it’s not the equal of her terrific previous CD, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, but it will certainly end up as one of 2009’s best records.
So, instead of luxuriating in Neko’s siren vocals, I went Friday night to see ANVIL: THE STORY OF ANVIL at the Music Box. I really knew nothing about Anvil, a heavy-metal band that briefly seemed to be on the verge of stardom in the 1980s. But knowing about Anvil or being a headbanger is beside the point with this documentary, which is one of the best films ever made about what it’s like to be in a struggling band year after year. As other people have pointed out, Anvil is a bit like a real-life This Is Spinal Tap, but even though you laugh at some of the misadventures of these Canadian rockers, you also feel for them. It’s a surprisingly touching film.
The band Anvil was at Friday night’s screening, answering some audience questions afterward. Guitarist-singer Steve “Lips” Kudlow acknowledged that some people come to see the movie for the laughs (as someone in the crowd said). “Let’s face it,” he said. “There’s no way around it. It’s somewhat of a Trojan horse.” Kudlow said the band gave the director, Sacha Gervasi, unfettered access to their lives because he was already a friend and a fan. That complete access shows in this marvelous and honest rock ‘n’ roll movie.
I stopped by THE HIDEOUT after the movie and caught the first jazz set of the night. The Immediate Sound series, which is normally on Wednesdays, was celebrating its third anniversary with shows on Friday and Saturday. It was a little odd seeing a completely different crowd at the Hideout from the folks I usually see hanging out there. The performance was being recorded, so a “no talking” rule was in effect, and the audience did watch and listen intently as Ken Vandermark and Ab Baars dueted with a variety of wind instruments. At times, they made almost ear-splitting and atonal noise of feverish intensity, but I enjoyed their improvisations most when the tones were more mellow and meditative.
SATURDAY, APRIL 25: This was the final day of an exhibit of EDVARD MUNCH’S paintings and prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. I took a stroll through the galleries before the art disappeared. Munch’s Scream has been practically ruined by kitschy merchandising of the image, but his art remains haunting. The pictures that linger in my mind are those men and women connected or nearly connected by strands of hair. The hair is saying things the people cannot bring themselves to say.
For the first time ever, THROBBING GRISTLE played in Chicago Saturday night. This was yet another show originally scheduled at the Epiphany church then moved to Logan Square Auditorium. Unfortunately, just as the line of ticket holders slowly made its way up the stairs into the venue, a cold downpour drenched the Throbbing Gristle faithful. I had a ticket for the early show, but not the late concert, and in retrospect I should have seen both. The late show featured the band playing various songs. The early show was a live performance of Throbbing Gristle’s soundtrack to the experimental Derek Jarman film In the Shadow of the Sun. The four musicians sat at computers while the movie played (computers that they obviously did not have in the early stages of their career), making loud, pulsating waves of sound — a good match for the abstracted images melting into one another on the screen.