Gear Up, Emo Kid 

The Smoking Popes announce a concept album and Gauge plays with Haymarket Riot. Plus: Chrissy Murderbot signs to Planet Mu, James Chance likes Snapple, and more

Venerable reunited Chicago pre-emo band Smoking Popes announced a new album and tour over the weekend via Twitter. This Is Only a Test, the band's second full-length of new material since their 2005 reunion, is due March 15 via Asian Man. Staying true to emo form, it's a concept album written from the perspective of a high-school senior. Eli Caterer tells Gossip Wolf that it was recorded a few songs at a time over 14 months with Matt Allison at Atlas Studios.

Venerable reunited suburban emo band Gauge seems to be back in action for real these days. This Saturday tickets go on sale for a March 5 concert at Beat Kitchen with venerable post-Gauge band Haymarket Riot. The show doubles as a 40th birthday celebration for scene fixture/Haymarket guitarist Kevin J. Frank—he could pass for a man one-tenth his age, if you ask this Wolf!

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International guitarist Nathaniel Braddock teaches at the Old Town School, and as Gossip Wolf has already reported, he recently offered a class in SST's greatest hits. His love of the label is hardly confined to the classroom, though: with Paul Kelvington (Freak Magnet), Colby Starck (Head of Femur, Bobby Conn), and vocalists to be announced, he's formed the Minutemen tribute band Econoline. They play their first gig—and possibly their only gig—on February 20 at Lincoln Hall for a Girls Rock! Chicago benefit. (Watch out this spring for Painted Wolfie, our tribute to infrequently remembered SST artist Painted Willie.) Meanwhile, Braddock hasn't stopped teaching the underground to his students; his ensemble class, called Kill Yr Idols, is currently on its third SST session, with 2 Tone and Factory Records to come.

click to enlarge KEITH HERZIK

Honk if you're Horn-y! No wave/dance-punk legend James Chance sent staffers at Chicago's Beauty Bar scrambling to fulfill his tour rider last week. Before his show he requested Bailey's Irish Cream and a few bottles of Snapple peach tea, neither of which are on the bar's drink menu. Mr. Chance's libationary requirements were eventually met, but that wasn't the only oddness regarding the show. For instance, there was the show itself! The dapper dude, resplendent in his trademark pompadour and tuxedo, performed sax parts and vocals to DJ'ed instrumental versions of R&B classics and his best-known songs, including "Contort Yourself," without any backing band. The solo skronk-er even sax-ually serenaded concertgoers by wandering around the venue midsong, honking his way through the crowded room almost to the front door! Gossip Wolf can personally attest to the fact that if you keep the peach Snapple flowing, Chance will keep the no-wave karaoke going!

Amazingly enough, James Chance wasn't the oddest show Gossip Wolf peeped over the holidays. That honor would have to go to Chuck Berry's eldritch engagement at the Congress Theater on 1/1/11, which was more like a Shakespeare play than a mere rock concert. First, there was a plethora of preshow portent: out-of-place skinheads drawn by out-of-place opening band Deal's Gone Bad, a dude in a wicked hand-painted Yngwie Malmsteen jean jacket, and Dick Biondi. Berry's set itself featured often incoherent (and mildly disheartening) performances and a whole lot of Chuck tuning his guitar. About an hour in, things took a turn for the scary when Berry appeared to suffer a collapse while playing the keyboard of accompanist Vijay Tellis-Nayak. Concert promoters called for an ambulance, and Berry was escorted away to be evaluated by medical pros. Though he didn't perform again, he did return to the stage (under a physician's watchful eye) to thank fans for their concern. He even did a bit of his famous "duck walk" to appreciative cheers from those who'd waited around.

Local producer and Sleazetone Records honcho Chrissy Murderbot keeps expanding his dance-music empire. He tells Gossip Wolf he's "starting a new, more juke-oriented label and monthly club night called Loose Squares." Murderbot recently signed to Planet Mu Records, which will release his new album, Women's Studies, in April. Help him celebrate all of this awesomeness at the inaugural Loose Squares event at Beauty Bar on Friday, January 7. Also spinning frenetic footwork jams will be Spinn & Rashad and local blogger Dave Quam. The show is free before 11 PM and $3 after.

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