The Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, or CIMM Fest, ran April 30-May 1 at several venues around the city, featuring movies about music as well as concerts and other events.

I saw three documentaries, all of them worth seeing:

Joe Angio’s long-awaited Revenge of the Mekons — a compelling, funny and inspiring telling of this great band’s unusual and seemingly never-ending story. Mekons Jon Langford and Sally Timms answered questions with Angio after the sold-out screening at Lincoln Hall, and they even did one Mekons song (“Tina”) a cappella. (See the trailer for the film here.)

Boyce & Hart: The Guys Who Wrote ‘Em — a portrait of the ’60s songwriting duo who wrote many of the Monkees’ songs. The film has a lot of great archival film clips and photos. Bobby Hart (who appeared after the screening) narrates much of the film, which makes the interesting choice of showing no talking-head interviews. Before the screening, a group of local musicians calling themselves the Candy Store Prophets (including Phil Angotti) performed a lively set of Boyce & Hart tunes in the Logan Theatre’s lounge, with dancing by several ladies wearing 1960s-style outfits.

The Winding Stream: The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music — a history of country music’s founding family. It’s a good film on an important topic — including an interview with the late Johnny Cash — but the attempts at turning historic photos into animation are awkward and distracting. Before the screening, Lawrence Peters played a cool set of mostly Johnny Cash songs in the Logan Theatre’s lounge.

Lawrence Peters

Yo La Tengo & Phil Cohran

The CIMM Fest concerts I caught included a strong set by Yo La Tengo at Concord Hall on May 1. In typical fashion, the trio ran the gamut from very quiet folk music to loud droning punk rock. The evening’s opening act, onetime Sun Ra collaborator Phil Cohran, returned to the stage to join in with Yo La Tengo for a Sun Ra tune.  YLT’s main set climaxed with some of the wildest guitar-tossing I’ve ever seen Ira Kaplan do. Following that rave-up, the encore finished with one of my favorite quiet Yo La Tengo songs, a lovely, low-key version of “My Little Corner of the World.” Kaplan said it was a request the band had received by email, noting that it seems like Yo La Tengo has played the song often during its Chicago concerts. Well, that’s just fine with me.

Mary Shelley scores ‘Potemkin’

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Mary Shelley — a trio consisting of Local H’s Scott Lucas, former Smashing Pumpkin drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and bassist Mark Ulery (of Matt Ulery’s Loom) — performed a live score to the silent Soviet film classic Battleship Potemkin at 1st Ward on May 2. The thunderous riffs were truly epic, and the band followed up the film with one bonus song, a cover of Neil Young’s “Like a Hurricane.”

Willis Earl Beal


At the Hideout on May 2, Willis Earl Beal — wearing a Green Hornet mask — showed a short film he’d made, and then he played a recording of some new songs. He asked for the venue to turn off all the lights in the room, urging people not to walk out as his music played in almost total darkness. A few people did walk out, abandoning what turned out to be more of a listening party than an actual concert.

Tim Kinsella sings Marvin Tate songs


Earlier that night, the Hideout hosted a wonderful set of Marvin Tate and Leroy Bach’s songs performed by Tim Kinsella, Bach, Melina Ausikaitis and Ben Boye. Tate himself stood near the stage, watching and listening as his songs were performed — with all of their charmingly oddball poetry and humor, and their almost nursery-rhyme like melodies — but he stepped up to the microphone at the end of the set to offer his thanks. Don’t miss the album of these quirky songs — with the rather unwieldy title Tim Kinsella Sings the Songs of Marvin Tate by LeRoy Bach Featuring Angel Olsen — which was released late last year with very little fanfare.

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These New Puritans

On May 3, the English band These New Puritans headlined a CIMM Fest concert at the Empty Bottle, performing impressive set of its arty rock, blending chamber music with post-punk. This band keeps changing up its modus operandi from one record to the next, but it always remains interesting.

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