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Tenth Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash

Sun 12/28, 8 PM

It’s the tenth year for local poet-musician Larry O. Dean’s shindig celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Alex Chilton. And again a slew of local bands will gather to belt out interpretations of songs written or cowritten by the cofounder of cherished Memphis power-pop outfit Big Star and blue-eyed-soul act the Box Tops. The idea began as a lark when Dean realized all of his musician friends not only worshipped Chilton but could cover any number of his tunes at the drop of a hat. It became a true tradition after the idiosyncratic songwriter passed away in 2010. Expect favorites such as “September Gurls” and “When My Baby’s Beside Me” as well as esoteric offerings from Chilton’s spasmodic solo career—songs that range from the charming “I Wish I Could Meet Elvis” to the befuddling “Lost My Job.” There are two exceptions to the parameters: the Replacements song “Alex Chilton” and the Box Tops hit “Cry Like A Baby” are fair game (the latter momentarily propelled Chilton to the ranks of teen idol in 1968). The night’s good fun and a way to remember perhaps the most underrated songwriting talent of our time. As Paul Westerberg famously puts it: “I never travel far / Without a little Big Star.” Performers include the Injured Parties, Certain Stars, Ego & the Soul, Roxy Swain, and the Van Goghs, among many others. —Erin Osmon $10

Empty Bottle (map)
1035 N. Western Ave.
Ukrainian Village/East Village
phone 773-276-3600
Tenth Annual Alex Chilton Birthday Bash

Tools

Astrobrite, Staring Problem, Carbonleak

Tue., Dec. 30, 8 p.m.

The only way to describe Astrobrite without invoking My Bloody Valentine is probably to never have heard My Bloody Valentine. This Chicago noise-pop project, begun in 1993 as the four-track bedroom baby of Michigan expat Scott Cortez (also of Lovesliescrushing), attempts a modest, homemade answer to MBV’s famously lush and fussed-over aesthetic—dreamy, faraway vocal melodies, mellow metronomic rhythms, and of course an all-encompassing incandescent fog of processed guitar, streaked with tremolo-bar swoops. The 2012 collection All the Stars Will Fall, the most recent Astrobrite CD that’s not a reissue, unfocuses this sound into a swirling, oceanic drone, with minimal electronic percussion adding a subliminal throb and the only clear structure arising from the placement of barely audible vocal phrases. In comparison, this summer’s Glittered Exploder EP sounds almost like conventional rock music. Its fuzzy, pulsating riffs, relaxed but implacable beats, and sleepy, playful melodies won’t exactly raise your blood pressure—listening to these songs feels like slowly and painlessly dissolving—but they arrive in easily identifiable verses and choruses, with twisting braids of effervescent guitar noise soaring overhead, as detached as the weather. The Glittered Exploder tracks are demos for the upcoming Deluxer LP, much of which Cortez wrote with full-band performance in mind; his new live lineup, consisting of guitarist-singer Sophie Leigh Nagelberg and drummer Sarah Sterling (both from Videotape), will accompany him at this show, playing mostly Deluxer material. Chicago label BLVD Records, which in 2011 reissued Astrobrite’s debut album, Crush, plans to release Deluxer (as well as vinyl versions of All the Stars Will Fall and Pinkshinyultrablast, a collection of mostly mid-90s material that last came out on CD in 2005), but it hasn’t yet set a date. —Philip Montoro $8

Hideout (map)
1354 W. Wabansia Ave.
West Town/Noble Square
phone 773-227-4433
Astrobrite, Staring Problem, Carbonleak

Tools

Bilal, Kentrell

Thu., Jan. 1, 8 p.m.

It’s curious that many of the same people currently hailing D’Angelo’s Black Messiah were silent when R&B singer Bilal released his last two albums, 2010’s Airtight’s Revenge (Plug Research) and 2013’s A Love Surreal (eOne). Like D’Angelo, Bilal was a member of the Soulquarians—a loose collective of like-minded hip-hop and R&B artists that included Erykah Badu, Questlove, and Common—and took a long time to follow up a critically well-received album (2001’s 1st Born Second). And though he’s a distinctly different kind of singer than D’Angelo—more Terence Trent D’Arby or Maxwell than Sly Stone or Bobby Womack—he’s no less adventurous (and maybe even more sophisticated). On both albums Bilal frequently uses knowing wordplay to sing about personal turmoil: Airtight’s standout track, “All Matter,” goes for the kind of imagery that Brian Wilson used on “Til I Die” with the lyrics “Like pollen in the spring breeze / A speck of dust / In this vast universe.” And he attacks bent rhythms and usually live instrumentation with vocal melodies that dive and somersault. Bilal puts the “adult” in adult contemporary, but his music is far from contemporary—it’s deeply aware of the past while signaling R&B’s future. Bilal also plays at City Winery on Fri 1/2. —Tal Rosenberg $30

Buy Tickets Buy Tickets
City Winery (map)
1200 W. Randolph St.
Near West Side
phone 312-733-9463
Bilal, Kentrell

Tools

American Football, Braid

Tue., Dec. 30, 9 p.m.

On “Honestly,” one of my favorite songs off the 1999 self-titled debut from downstate emo outfit American Football, front man Mike Kinsella coos, “Honestly I can’t remember (teen dreams) / All my teenage feelings.” Kinsella was a few years out of his teens when American Football was released by Polyvinyl Records, and with its gentle, sparkling, and autumnal music—and Kinsella’s near-whisper singing—the album evokes all of the indefinable, heavy feelings that stick with you beyond the age of 20. Songs such as “Never Meant” and “Stay Home” are intimate reveries, forged in a stew of second-wave emo locomotion and Steve Reich minimalism. American Football called it quits in 2000, but year after year legions of newcomers fall for its warm embrace—the band’s postbreakup reputation and influence have grown to a mythic, Velvet Underground-like size for those fourth-wave emo outfits who want their music to feel like a moment of clarity. Tonight is the first of four reunion shows in support of Polyvinyl’s deluxe reissue of the debut LP. And if the group’s marvelous Beat Kitchen surprise in August was any indication, you might want to get tickets for multiple shows. —Leor Galil American Foootball also plays on Wed 12/31, Thu 1/1, and Fri 1/2. $25

Bottom Lounge (map)
1375 W. Lake St.
West Loop/Fulton Market
phone 312-666-6775
American Football, Braid

Tools

Chandeliers, Onyou

Fri., Jan. 2, 10 p.m.

This local band is an underappreciated treasure, but maybe it likes it that way. Originally the studio project of engineer Stan Wood and guitarist Jamie Drier (Planes Mistaken for Stars, Swan King), the group has expanded over the years to include a much larger cast and a fairly active calendar of live performances. Yet the members like to keep things small and personal, dropping their releases on the tiny, formerly Chicago-based Captcha label—and every album is a beautiful thing, with colored vinyl, handmade artwork, and individual touches. Onyou’s multifaceted music both builds on a solid foundation of eerie, trance-inducing Krautrock and plays freely with ambient, industrial, and metal flourishes. Tonight is a release party for Ultimum Photon, which might be the group’s best yet. This one draws heavily on the “rock” side of progressive rock and features shimmering, silvery layers of shrieking guitars that rise and fall alongside a double-drumming percussion build that calls to mind the best of Psychic TV’s performances, or a more refined and complex Crash Worship. The delirious continuity of “Finding the Wronskian” into “The Wronskian” should alone be enough to induce levitation in some sensitive souls during an Onyou live performance. —Monica Kendrick $8

Hideout (map)
1354 W. Wabansia Ave.
West Town/Noble Square
phone 773-227-4433
Chandeliers, Onyou

Tools

American Football, Pele, S. Carey

Wed., Dec. 31, 9 p.m.

On “Honestly,” one of my favorite songs off the 1999 self-titled debut from downstate emo outfit American Football, front man Mike Kinsella coos, “Honestly I can’t remember (teen dreams) / All my teenage feelings.” Kinsella was a few years out of his teens when American Football was released by Polyvinyl Records, and with its gentle, sparkling, and autumnal music—and Kinsella’s near-whisper singing—the album evokes all of the indefinable, heavy feelings that stick with you beyond the age of 20. Songs such as “Never Meant” and “Stay Home” are intimate reveries, forged in a stew of second-wave emo locomotion and Steve Reich minimalism. American Football called it quits in 2000, but year after year legions of newcomers fall for its warm embrace—the band’s postbreakup reputation and influence have grown to a mythic, Velvet Underground-like size for those fourth-wave emo outfits who want their music to feel like a moment of clarity. Tonight is the first of four reunion shows in support of Polyvinyl’s deluxe reissue of the debut LP. And if the group’s marvelous Beat Kitchen surprise in August was any indication, you might want to get tickets for multiple shows. —Leor Galil American Foootball also plays on Tue 12/30, Thu 1/1, and Fri 1/2. $45

Bottom Lounge (map)
1375 W. Lake St.
West Loop/Fulton Market
phone 312-666-6775
American Football, Pele, S. Carey

Tools

Bilal, Nola Ade

Fri., Jan. 2, 8 p.m.

It’s curious that many of the same people currently hailing D’Angelo’s Black Messiah were silent when R&B singer Bilal released his last two albums, 2010’s Airtight’s Revenge (Plug Research) and 2013’s A Love Surreal (eOne). Like D’Angelo, Bilal was a member of the Soulquarians—a loose collective of like-minded hip-hop and R&B artists that included Erykah Badu, Questlove, and Common—and took a long time to follow up a critically well-received album (2001’s 1st Born Second). And though he’s a distinctly different kind of singer than D’Angelo—more Terence Trent D’Arby or Maxwell than Sly Stone or Bobby Womack—he’s no less adventurous (and maybe even more sophisticated). On both albums Bilal frequently uses knowing wordplay to sing about personal turmoil: Airtight’s standout track, “All Matter,” goes for the kind of imagery that Brian Wilson used on “Til I Die” with the lyrics “Like pollen in the spring breeze / A speck of dust / In this vast universe.” And he attacks bent rhythms and usually live instrumentation with vocal melodies that dive and somersault. Bilal puts the “adult” in adult contemporary, but his music is far from contemporary—it’s deeply aware of the past while signaling R&B’s future. Bilal also plays at City Winery on Thu 1/1. —Tal Rosenberg $30

City Winery (map)
1200 W. Randolph St.
Near West Side
phone 312-733-9463
Bilal, Nola Ade

Tools

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