Centro-matic at the Beat Kitchen

The Denton, Texas, rock band Centro-matic just released its first record in three years, Take Pride by Your Long Odds, as well as a reissue of its first album, Redo the Stacks, from 1997. A dependable band for the past 17 years, Centro-matic made a welcome return to Chicago on Saturday night for a show at the Beat Kitchen, playing a slew of new songs as well as the classics fans expect. And the encore included a cover of the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.”

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Opening act the Gun Shy
Opening act the Gun Shy

Diarrhea Planet at the Beat Kitchen

First off, it seems impossible to write about the band Diarrhea Planet without commenting on its name. These rockers from Nashville must’ve wanted people to say, “Ewwww,” when they decided to give themselves such a disgusting moniker. The music itself, however, isn’t as subversive as the name suggests. This is basically full-on hard rock music with no less than four guitarists going at it simultaneously. Maybe the “diarrhea” in the name alludes to the outpouring of riffs and solos. In any case, the group barely let up for a minute during its set on Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Beat Kitchen. And the fans, who had crowded into the small club, responded with nearly nonstop moshing.

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Kelley Stoltz plus Sonny & the Sunsets

Sonny and the Sunsets were the headliners Friday (Sept. 24) at the Empty Bottle, but the main draw for me was opening act Kelley Stoltz — a terrific San Francisco singer-songwriter who also happens to be touring now as the drummer for the Sunsets. The Sunsets played as Stoltz’s backup band for the first time at this gig, and it seemed like they already knew his songs well.

Stoltz’s three albums to date have been excellent, filled with lots of smart 1960s-style song craft. His new record, To Dreamers, comes out Oct. 12 on Sub Pop. I haven’t heard it yet, but the songs sounded strong in concert, living up to the description on the Sub Pop website, which says the record “blends a bit more post-punk abandon into its layered everyman pop.” Stoltz turned up the Kinks/garage rock vibe a bit this time, playing songs such as his new single, “Baby I Got News For You” — a remake of an obscure 1965 song by the British singer Big Boy Pete a.k.a. Peter Miller. (Miller plays on Stoltz’s new recording, using the same valve amps and guitar he played in 1965n — here’s the original song. And here’s the new Stoltz song “I Don’t Get That”. Sounds like his ’60s vibe is still intact. www.myspace.com/kelleystoltz

Sonny and the Sunsets are also firmly rooted in the ’60s, and they played an enjoyable set after Stoltz, reprising the summery sound of their show in July at the Pitchfork Music Festival. The set did get a little loose and sloppy at the end, but it had the feeling of a sing-along party. www.myspace.com/sonnythesunsets

Yakuza at the Beat Kitchen


Yakuza is a little unusual for a heavy-metal band — if that’s what you can call it. Lead singer Bruce Lamont also plays sax, an instrument you don’t hear often in metal. It works because Lamont is playing some pretty avant-garde, noisy stuff on that sax. On Saturday night, Yakuza played a show at the Beat Kitchen to celebrate the release of its new CD, Of Seismic Consequence.

If that saxophone wasn’t enough to convince you that this music is maybe a little more prog than your typical metal, there was also the presence of guest cellist Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) on several songs, while Kelly Lamont sang harmony vocals. But Bruce Lamont and some of his bandmates (Matt McClelland and Ivan Cruz) also flung their hair around, with all of the abandon of real headbangers. The one exception was drummer James Staffell, who simply doesn’t have the long locks to fling.

Lamont (who also plays the part of Robert Plant in the tribute band Led Zeppelin II and tends bar at the Empty Bottle) seemed to be possessed at moments, staring intently at his microphone as he sang in a range of styles stretching beyond standard “Cookie Monster” growls. He never let up on the intensity, however. It was an epic performance by Yakuza.

See my photos of Yakuza in concert.

Here’s a promotional video trailer for the new Yakuza album, which comes out June 22 on Profound Lore Records, featuring the band members talking about the album.


The Bottle Rockets at the Beat Kitchen

Those who know me as a fan of alt-country/Americana/roots rock/whatever music may be shocked to hear that I’d never seen the Bottle Rockets, who are stalwarts of the field, until last night (Nov. 26) at the Beat Kitchen. I actually got as far as driving to a Bottle Rockets show maybe 10 years ago, but it was sold out and I did not get in. Many times since then, I’ve planned to see them but one thing or another came up. I had no excuse last night… even with a Jimmy Scott concert earlier in the evening… and I discovered what I’ve been missing.

What a great band. The musicianship was tight, and the banter with the faithful fans in the crowd was fun. The old songs sounded excellent, and the group also played a number of songs from its forthcoming album on Bloodshot Records, which sounded promising. The title of the album is still to be determined, as Brian Henneman explained several times from the stage. Henneman remarked that the Bottle Rockets have been at it for 12 years now, finally reaching the point where they make… $12,000 a year. I hope they stick with it.

As for the opening band, the Siderunners… well, I guess I’m just not in on the joke. They were decent musicians of the rockabilly/twangy roots rock variety, and some of their songs seemed OK, but their sense of humor was just annoying.