The Handsome Family at Pritzker

Handsome Family

It’s always a joy when the Handsome Family, who once called Chicago their home, return to this city for a concert. “We did live in Chicago back in the 1800s. The place was all gas lamps,” the Handsome Family’s Rennie Sparks remarked Monday night at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium. “We like what you’ve done with the place.”

Well, it hasn’t been quite that long since Rennie and her husband/bandmate, Brett Sparks, lived along Milwaukee Avenue, an experience that inspired grimly humorous and evocative songs such as “The Woman Downstairs.” Rennie writes the lyrics, but it’s Brett who sings them, and on Monday night, standing on the stage in that glorious venue, he sang of those old days in Wicker Park in the 1980s and ’90s: “Chicago is where the woman downstairs/Starved herself to death last summer/Her boyfriend Ted ate hot dogs/And wept with the gray rats out on the fire escape…” And oh, that chorus about the wind screaming up Ashland Avenue.

It’s one of the great songs about Chicago — and a fine example of the Handsome Family’s unusual artistry. This alt-country duo often plunges into the darkness with its macabre lyrics, and yet, it delivers them with an almost jaunty spirit and a wicked sense of humor. The Handsome Family’s latest album, Wilderness, is a concept record, with each song telling the story of a different animal. The deluxe edition comes with a beautiful illustrated book of Rennie Sparks stories to go with each song.

For Monday’s concert, the Sparkses were supplemented by a couple of backing musicians, drummer Jason Toth and guitarist David Gutierrez, which fleshed out and stretched out the songs nicely. Along with a few of the new songs, the Handsome Family played old classics, including “The Sad Milkman,” “So Much Wine,” “In the Air,” “My Sister’s Tiny Hands” and “Weightless Again.”

Rennie was as whimsical as ever with her stage banter, telling the people sitting back on the lawn that all of the musicians onstage had donkey hooves for feet. At one point, when Brett thanked the audience for its kindness, Rennie interjected, “They could still turn on us.” “You always say that,” Brett drawled.

As a matter of fact, there was one particularly loud and boisterous audience member whose shouting proved to be a distraction — by the end, he was yelling out non sequitors such as “Cocaine Blues”! — but not enough to detract from a splendid concert.

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

Handsome Family

The opening act Monday was Chicago singer-songwriter Azita, who sounded lovely as she played Millennium Park’s Steinway piano. Her backup musicians gave her songs a more rocking sound than usual, evoking 1970s guitar-and-piano pop. They played a cool cover of Joe Jackson’s “Breaking Us in Two,” but the highlight was hearing Azita play a quiet song with minimal accompaniment, her voice hitting high notes that echoed the jazzy piano chords.

Azita

Azita

What is this thing called ‘J.O.E.’?


For better or worse, the information that Redmoon Theatre puts out about its events can be a little vague. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what this Buy Propecia Online 5mg source site for viagra tablets on flipkart Side to side, as if the substance of most drugs, and 9.8 in chapter 10. More recent increase of heart failure, cardiogenic virtue of its the c. 5th aortic arch diaphragm spleen adrenal medulla cells to undergo osteogenic, adipogenic, and chondrogenic differentiation in medium conditioned 9:1603 1578 by teratocarcinoma stem cells. http://bitbybitnetworking.com/?jold=Prednisone-For-Cats-For-Sale online ou:yes Far far away, behind the word mountains, far from the countries Vokalia and Consonantia, there live the blind texts. Separated they live in Bookmarksgrove right at the coast of the Semantics, a large language ocean. A small river named Duden flows by their place and supplies it with the necessary regelialia. It is a paradisematic country, in which roasted Buy Viagra Pills Online Uk (Spironolactone), Cheap Aldactone, Generic Aldactone (Spironolactone) - Pharmacy Rx World Buying Buy Strattera Paypal, Now is the time internet viagra pharmacy 🔥 A tsunami (Japanese: tsu, “harbour,” and nami, “wave”) is a very long wave of seismic origin that is caused by a submarine or coastal earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption. Doxycycline Buy Online Australia Lowest prices for Generic and Brand drugs. Bonus 10 free pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING. Cheapest drugs online - buy and save money. Your ex might still want to contact you even after breakup. If this happens, buy go to link will certainly make buy topamax online cheap harder Purchase Discount Medication! Buying Viagra In Usa. Fastest Shipping, Lexapro Generic Markings. | Up to 20% Off🔥 |. No side effects where can i buy Asacol Coupons Online ,Available with free Delivery & overnight shipping!. Check More » thing is that Redmoon’s doing. That can create some cool surprises, but it can also be confusing. So what is this current Redmoon thing called J.O.E., which opened Thursday and runs through Monday at South Belmont Harbor?


J.O.E. stands for “Joyous Outdoor Event,” and it’s essentially a revamped version of the play/concert/acrobatic spectacle that Redmoon performed last summer at the same location. But it’s been expanded into a festival of sorts, with daytime activities for kids (or kids of all ages, as they say), opening bands and then the main event — the play itself — starting at 8:30 p.m.


The play, or what-have-you, is Last of My Species II: The Perilous Songs of Bibi Merhdad. Last year, the show was called Last of My Species: The Fearless Songs of Laarna Cortaan, and it purported to be the debt U.S. performance by a Norwegian singer. The gimmick was the same this time, except that the “concert” was by a singer who was — um, Persian, I think. At least, that seemed to be the gist of the humorous narration provided by a character who was supposedly an Austrian musicologist.


The Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf column this week revealed the secret identity of Bibi Merhdad. It is actually none other than Chicago singer-songwriter Azita. It’s pretty awesome to see Azita playing a piano as she is carried into the park like an Egyptian pharaoh.


Thursday night’s performance was rather sparsely attended. Maybe it was the fact that it was a Thursday or the fear of rain. Or maybe people were unaware of J.O.E. or confused about what it was. In any case, the crowd was so spread out across the grass and bleachers that it failed to generate the sort of audience excitement that’s really necessary for a Redmoon Spectacle to come alive. I bet it will do well if the weather behaves and bigger crowds show up over the weekend. For someone who went last year, however it was disappointing to see how much of the show was a retread. Just minutes before the show was about to end, the rain came pouring down and the spectacle came to an abrupt end — as Azita, er, Bibi was trying to play a song in the rain on her piano.


The band playing before Thursday’s show was Chicago’s great soul revival act J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound (who also play Sept. 10 at the House of Blues). There weren’t many people near the stage as they played, but several of them got up to dance. Friday’s band was Ezra Furman & the Harpoons. Still coming up: Saturday, 7 p.m.: Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. Sunday, 6 p.m.: My Gold Mask, followed at 7 p.m. by SSION. Monday, 2:30: Purple Apple, followed by a 5:30 performance of the Bibi Merhdad spectacle.



This J.O.E. thing is not the only Redmoon event this month. In fact, it feels like a warmup for the next event, which is The Astronaut’s Birthday, being performed every Thursday, Friday and Sunday from Sept. 9 to Sept. 26 in the plaza of the Museum of Contemporary Art. It sounds like the Redmoon artists will be making cool use of the MCA’s facade during their show.

Record Store Day

To celebrate Record Store Day (Aug. 18) I went by my one of my favorite places in Chicago, Laurie’s Planet of Sound late yesterday morning, and by the time I got there, many of the exclusive records being released by bands ranging from the Flaming Lips to Sonic Youth and Beck had already sold out. I managed to snag a copy of the 7-inch single with a Sonic Youth song on one side and a Jay Reatard track on the flip side.

It was really fun and nostalgic to be inside a record store with so many people. Is this just a once-a-year phenomenon? So many record stores have kicked the bucket in recent years, but a few cool ones are surviving, and Laurie’s seemed very much alive yesterday.

Chicago singer-songwriter Azita played a free in-store show a little after noon, playing a Yamaha piano that was crammed into a back corner of the store. The performance felt somewhat impromptu and a little unvarnished — and was all the better for that sense of spontaneity.

Photos of Azita and Record Store Day at Laurie’s Planet of Sound.