Formed in Festus, Missouri, in 1992, the Bottle Rockets pretty much perfectly embody the too-rock-for-country, too-country-for-rock career dilemma, but in their fealty to Harlan Howard’s famous definition of a great country song—“three chords and the truth”—they can match anyone making music today. Front man and songwriter Brian Henneman is an unpretentious blue-collar sage who despises racism, religious dogma, and inequality even more than he hates highfalutin phonies, and his lyrics get extra muscle from some of the most satisfyingly hooky country-rock and choogling southern-fried boogie waxed in the past two decades. The Bottle Rockets’ first two albums have long been out of print, so last month Bloodshot Records did us all a big favor, releasing their self-titled 1993 debut and its 1994 follow-up, The Brooklyn Side, in a single package (with bonus tracks and a 40-page booklet that’s packed with testimonials from the likes of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams). The debut is inconsistent, with flashes of genius, but The Brooklyn Side documents the band’s original lineup at the peak of its powers—as does its even better successor, 24 Hours a Day. “Welfare Music” nails dead-end, small-town life (“Takes two to make three, but one ain’t here / Still chasing women and drinking beer”), and “Gravity Fails” is a poignant love song whose oafish narrator pleads for another chance (“Maybe it’s something in my genes / Or maybe it’s something in my jeans”). The Bottle Rockets’ music—a mix of ZZ Top and Crazy Horse, cut with a hefty dose of honky-tonk—sounds just as good today as it did two decades ago, and the band has never been less than killer live. —Peter Margasak Otis Gibbs opens.
Quebec-based technical death-metal band Gorguts (largely the brainchild of front man Luc Lemay) formed in 1989 and have been granted legendary status in the scene thanks to their third album, 1998’s Obscura—it took a quantum leap into a realm of philosophical torment and rhythmic convolution that no one had envisioned in quite that way before. Like the new Colored Sands (Season of Mist), Obscura ended a hiatus for the band, but in that case it was only five years—Colored Sands is the first new Gorguts studio album since 2001. It might not have happened at all if guitarist Steeve Hurdle (whose group Negativa featured Lemay) hadn’t persuaded Lemay to re-form Gorguts for its 20th anniversary. Hurdle died in 2012, and his contributions are sorely missed, but the lineup on Colored Sands is a supergroup of sorts, featuring guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston (both of Dysrhythmia) and drummer John Longstreth of Origin (replacing Steve MacDonald, who committed suicide in 2002). And they take another massive leap with Colored Sands—a concept album about Tibet, more or less, it’s as painstakingly constructed as the sand mandalas it references. (Even the string-ensemble piece, “The Battle of Chamdo,” doesn’t seem gratuitous.) With its relentlessly inventive energy, it sets up a rich, uneasy tension between meditation and mutilation. —Monica Kendrick Origin, Nero Di Marte, Morgue Supplier, and Air Raid open.
The singer-songwriter aims to destroy the spirit of the season by performing songs from her antiholiday album, Fuck That, along with her "cranky carolers." $12
Drummer Hamid Drake was artist in residence at this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival, and I imagine he had a difficult time choosing which of his many projects to bring onto its stages. He didn’t book the DKV Trio (Drake, bassist Kent Kessler, and reedist Ken Vandermark), but Chicagoans have been blessed with annual appearances by the group every December, when these three road dogs come home for the holidays. The trio has been sporadically active over the past few years, yet even when these guys haven’t worked together for many months they can lock in at the drop of a hat, improvising over imperturbable grooves and gritty melodic motifs. The trio is in fine form on Schl8hof (Trost), a scalding live date cut at the Wels Festival in Austria in 2011: on the opening cut, a rigorous, shape-shifting 19-minute epic called “The Building Is on Fire,” the group demonstrates its inexhaustible capacity to build logically developing phrases and structures from scratch without the slightest hesitation. For the rest of the album DKV becomes a double trio with the addition of saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, electric bassist Massimo Pupillo, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, a configuration that cranks up the intensity impressively but can’t help but diminish the razor-sharp intuition that the core group displays on its own. I have no doubt that these two evenings will provide a potent reminder of that power. —Peter Margasak $15
Group show featuring artwork on skateboard decks. Reception Sat 11/16, 6-10 PM.
Photos and paintings by tattoo artist Amund Dietzel, from the private collection of tattoo historian Jon Reiter. Reception Fri 11/29, 5-10 PM.
A monthly musical-comedy game show devised by Reader contributor and Outer Minds drummer Brian Costello and former Baby Teeth front man Abraham Levitan. Each episode features three local contestants telling embarrassing stories, being interviewed by Costello, and then standing helplessly by while Levitan turns their stories into warped covers of popular songs—and the audience gets to judge the whole thing. Costello is intentionally awkward, his straight-faced sarcasm shutting down anxious contestants hoping to yuk it up (which makes the whole thing even funnier), and the supremely talented Levitan uses the interview time to write his lyrics, which he sets to a piano rendition of a tune he's just been assigned by a spin of the great Wheel of Fortune-like "shame wheel." As if that weren't enough, Costello and Levitan also provide their own off-kilter commercials during the breaks between stories. The four-member cast also includes a bumbling intern (Jeanine O'Toole of Bare Mutants) and a stoic life coach (comedian and former Loose Dudes front man Nick Rouley), and they operate like a well-oiled circus sideshow, making quick work of diary-toting contestants who've been, say, devastated by a high school crush, who felt pretty OK stealing and wearing girls' panties, or who made out with Ke$ha. —Kevin Warwick $5