Pin It

The List, October 15-21, 2009 

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Lou Barlow, Jemina Pearl, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Dethklok, Converge, Wilco, and more

Converge

Converge

Matt Miller

Thursday15

Lou Barlow
Jemina Pearl
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Tune-Yards

Friday16

Rhett Miller
Meshell Ndgeocello
Kurt Rosenwinkel

Saturday17

Dethklok, Converge
Faust
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Shaky Hands

Sunday18

Kurt Rosenwinkel
Brad Shepik
Wilco

Monday19

Satyricon
Wilco

Tuesday20

Faust

Wednesday21

Sonic Chicken 4

thursday15

click to enlarge Lou Barlow - ERIC FERMIN PEREZ
  • Lou Barlow
  • Eric Fermin Perez

LOU BARLOW Morrissey may be popularly perceived as the King of Sadness Feelings, but his arch melodrama has always struck me as too closely related to handful-of-Tylenol "suicide attempt" drama queen-ism, which is just another way for somebody to say "Look at me!" Serious aficionados of feeling bad know that Lou Barlow is the true master of alt-rock miserablism. His 90s discography covers all the main flavors of depression, from the heartbroken "I could break down crying at any time" prettiness of Sebadoh's "Soul and Fire" to the abject "I haven't left the house or showered in a week" desolation of Sentridoh's "Choke Chain," and his frequent detours into hardcore bong-rip punk are a fair stand-in for manic jags. (Let's not talk about the Folk Implosion.) On his new solo album, Goodnight Unknown (Merge), he sounds more settled and less self-tortured, more expansive and less dependent on minor keys—but he can still write a tuneful, melancholy pop song, and the hushed "I'm Thinking . . . " is as dark as anything he's done. Dinosaur Jr. headlines; Lou Barlow & the Missingmen open. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $25, 18+. —Miles Raymer

click to enlarge Jemina Pearl
  • Jemina Pearl

JEMINA PEARL With her menacing look and her infinite cred—her debut album, Break It Up, just came out on Thurston Moore's Ecstatic Peace label—Jemina Pearl is as punk as teen pop gets. As front woman of Nashville's Be Your Own Pet she was quickly hailed as an ex post facto riot-girl baddie of sorts, but now she's 22 and a new Brooklynite, and according to her blog she just suffered through her first fashion week. Break It Up is all exuberance and pep, Pearl's big bright voice clean and canny against the shredded new-wave songs—if it weren't for the occasional glimmer of Danzig in her phrasing and lyrics (on "So Sick!" in particular), she could be a contender for, say, the corrupting dorm-diva role in High School Musical 4: Freshman Hazing. She'd be the girl who introduces Zac Efron to the joy of whippits and then humiliates him in the quad. Islands headline; Jemina Pearl and Toro y Moi open.  7 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Jessica Hopper

click to enlarge Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel

KURT ROSENWINKEL The dominant jazz guitarist of his generation, Kurt Rosenwinkel has a distinctive harmonic sensibility that's intextricably bound to both his quiet virtuosity and his dense, multidirectional compositions—it's hard to imagine anybody else playing his material from last year's The Remedy: Live at the Village Vanguard (ArtistShare) without radically altering the architectural lyricism at its heart. With the forthcoming Standards Trio: Reflections (Word of Mouth Music), though, Rosenwinkel proves that he can imbue standards with that same essence. On ballads he shapes his solos like a sculptor, using plenty of chords to give his improvisations a three-dimensional feel, and on the enigmatic "Fall" (a tune Wayne Shorter brought to the Miles Davis Quintet) he executes a deft one-man simulation of a quintet performance, flipping continually between resonant single-note phrases and the kind of elaborations on the melody that the rest of the front line might play behind the soloist. The guitarist's holistic approach is best demonstrated by his performance on "East Coast Love Affair" (the lone original piece, it's a Rosenwinkel standard, appearing on his debut album in 1996 and regularly in his sets thereafter). He seems to bridge every statement and gesture with spindly clusters, but nothing ever sounds superfluous or perfunctory—every note is either making a point or connecting two others. He's joined by bassist Ben Street and drummer Rodney Green for this four-night stand; see also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Merrill Garbus, aka Tune-Yards - CHRISSY PIPER

TUNE-YARDS Merrill Garbus worked as a nanny on Martha's Vineyard during the two and a half years she spent amassing the raw material that makes up Bird-Brains, her debut as Tune-Yards, using a handheld digital voice recorder. (She originally released the album herself, but it's been picked up by Marriage Records and will soon get a large-scale reissue from 4AD.) She built the album's lo-fi pop-folk on her laptop, stitching together her voice, her ukulele, and scraps of free-range noise atop layers of rhythmic loops—including rickety percussion, field recordings, conversation, and what sounds like a windup toy, sometimes played backward or distorted with overloaded-microphone crunch. Though her songs tend to wander around—her odd melodies tumble and leap, and her singing switches unpredictably from childlike to strident to goofy to menacing—they still manage to read as songs, sometimes even pretty catchy ones. I don't buy the PR-driven attempts to spin her as an outsider artist, but she's definitely a musician with enough talent and smarts to do without a rule book. Aleks & the Drummer open. 10 PM, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 773-278-1500 or 866-468-3401, $8, limited $5 tickets. —Miles Raymer

friday16

RHETT MILLER Old 97's front man Rhett Miller may be a hopeless romantic, but his latest solo album, Rhett Miller (Shout! Factory), is about a bunch of guys who are hopeless in somewhat different ways. The narrator in "Another Girlfriend" passes on a chance to cheat, but before we have much time to appreciate his restraint, he sings, "Last thing I need is another girlfriend / Two's enough for me." In most of the other songs Miller gives voice to characters who are less cads than clods, rambling starry-eyed about the romance that eludes him: he might sing about changing his ways after it's too late ("Like Love") or simply delude himself into believing that the object of his affection cares about him too ("Caroline"). The album flags a bit toward the end, but it's much scrappier and leaner than its predecessor, The Believer (2006). Miller is one of the finest contemporary writers of silly love songs, crafting wonderfully sweet melodies to help his often bitter words go down easy. Telegraph Canyon opens. 9 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $20, 18+. —Peter Margasak

MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO For quite a few years after her variegated 1993 debut, Plantation Lullabies, Meshell Ndegeocello seemed to have a real shot at commercial success, but rather than reach for the brass ring she's always stuck to her own circuitous path. The singer, songwriter, and virtuoso electric bassist orbits several centers of gravity—rock, funk, soul, jazz, pop, hip-hop—and never ends up in the same place twice. One album might be straight-up jazz, the next a collection of romantically fraught soul-rock ballads. Given that context, the fine new Devil's Halo (Mercer Street), with its unusually stripped-down quartet arrangements and relatively concise songs, doesn't seem like a radical departure, just one more example of her restlessness. The tunes mix and match soul, hip-hop, and progressive rock, and guitarist Chris Bruce contributes kaleidoscopic chords, ghostly atmospherics, and driving riffs, allowing Ndegeocello to concentrate on her rich but unadorned singing. This show is part of the Decibelle Music and Culture Festival. Deep Blue Field opens.  7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $30, $28 members, $26 seniors and kids. —Peter Margasak

KURT ROSENWINKEL See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

saturday17

DETHKLOK, CONVERGE Brendon Small, creator of the Adult Swim series Metalocalypse, is certainly less real in many people's minds than the cartoon death-metal band he invented, but when DETHKLOK hits the road Small is front and center, playing guitar and delivering Nathan Explosion's gullet-scraping vocals. Sure, the live musicians are dwarfed by the projected animations they play along with, but they're the ones doing the work: Small is backed by drummer Gene "the Atomic Clock" Hoglan (a veteran of Devin Townsend's Strapping Young Lad), guitarist Mike Kenneally (a former Zappa sideman), and bassist Bryan Beller (who's played with Kenneally and Steve Vai). The cartoon band has fans at its shows sign "pain waivers," given the high likelihood they'll be mutilated or killed—their faces burned off by huge pitchers of scalding Duncan Hills coffee, for instance, or their bodies torn apart by a Finnish lake troll accidentally summoned by Explosion's lyrics. Such is Dethklok's reputation for mayhem that when a very real electrical fire started during an opening band's set at San Francisco's Fillmore in 2008, many fans resisted orders to evacuate, apparently assuming the fire was a hoax—part of an elaborate joke about the hazards of attending a Dethklok show. This tour is in support of the new Dethalbum II (Williams Street), which contains some songs that go on nearly half as long as the 15-minute episodes of Metalocalypse's first two seasons. Season three, with full half-hour episodes, begins November 8. —Vera Videnovich

click to enlarge Dethklok
  • Dethklok

The word "metalcore" still makes me cringe, but some of the music is amazing—and it was CONVERGE who first proved that to me. With their precisely engineered salvos of cathartic nihilism—no wasted gestures, no lazy repetition—they've earned a reputation so formidable it'd give a lesser band performance anxiety. In 2001 this Boston-based four-piece released one of the masterpieces of the genre, Jane Doe, and since then they've had the unenviable task of living up to it. The brand-new Axe to Fall (Epitaph) rises to the task, though, with chillingly deliberate, face-ripping fury. Right from the opening cut, "Dark Horse," front man Jacob Bannon takes the music by the throat with his indecipherably ragged vocals, tearing at Ben Koller's frenetic drums and Kurt Ballou's intricate, incendiary guitar with heart-attack intensity—a vein-popping tug-of-war between raw energy and rigorous structure that inevitably rips the songs wide open, releasing a triumphant shitstorm of sonic shrapnel. Ballou is easily the highlight of Axe to Fall, augmenting his roaring machine-gun chords with razor-sharp licks that push him further into the foreground than ever, and he doesn't lose a step when the band downshifts from its usual two-minute shotgun blasts into a sprawling, sludgy epic like "Cruel Bloom" (which features Steve Von Till of Neurosis on vocals). Now nearly 20 years along and almost a decade past the album that easily could've overshadowed the rest of their career, Converge are still the best at what they do. —Kevin Warwick

Dethklok headlines; Mastodon, High on Fire, and Converge open. 6:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 773-561-9500 or 312-559-1212, $34.50.

FAUST Lyric Opera's production of Charles Gounod's Faust moves the story from its Renaissance setting to the mid-19th century, when the opera was written. The result is Victorian Gothic—think A Christmas Carol or Sweeney Todd—melodic, archly melodramatic, and thoroughly entertaining. It's perfectly cast, with Polish tenor Piotr Beczala convincing as both the old and young Faust; Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez as his girl in trouble, Marguerite; German bass Rene Pape as an irresistible Mephistopheles; and Ryan Opera Center mezzo Katherine Lerner in the trouser role of Marguerite's young admirer, Siebel. All perform superbly, along with the Lyric Opera chorus and orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis. Robert Perdziola's fairy-tale sets and jewel-toned costumes, richly lit by Christine Binder, transform a background of graystone facades from the old Faust's morguelike laboratory into Marguerite's star-spangled garden and finally a dungeon stairway that sweeps to heaven. They're the perfect complement to Frank Corsaro's smartly distanced stage direction, which in a heavy moment gives the triumphant soldiers' chorus a darkly ironic reading but mostly refuses to take the melodrama too seriously. Through November 7; Beczala will replaced by Joseph Kaier and Pape by Kyle Ketelson in the last three performances. See also Tuesday. 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2249, $46-$207. —Deanna Isaacs

KURT ROSENWINKEL See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

click to enlarge Shaky Hands - MIRANDA LEHMAN
  • Shaky Hands
  • Miranda Lehman

SHAKY HANDS The appealingly frayed indie-rock on this Portland combo's second album, Lunglight (Kill Rock Stars/Holocene), got a real boost from Colin Anderson's twitchy drumming, but a couple months before it came out last fall he quit the band. He was briefly replaced by Nathan Delffs, brother of singer and guitarist Nick Delffs, and then by Jake Morris, formerly of the Joggers. With Morris aboard the Shaky Hands sound a lot more solid on their brand-new Let It Die (Kill Rock Stars), and at first I missed the tension created by Anderson's spasmodic playing. But between the strong, idiosyncratic songs, Delffs's charismatic rasp, and guitarist Jeff Lehman's nicely grotty tone and flailing solos, the Shaky Hands make a familiar sound—upbeat post-classic rock with a touch of Stonesy swagger—feel fresh again. Headlights headline; the Shaky Hands, Pomegranates, and Still Life Still open. 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10 (limited $5 tickets). —Peter Margasak

sunday18

KURT ROSENWINKEL See Thursday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth, 312-360-0234, $20.

BRAD SHEPIK Jazz guitarist Brad Shepik has long borrowed from eastern European and north African folk traditions—he was especially fond of Balkan flavors when he played in Dave Douglas's Tiny Bell Trio and Chris Speed's collective Pachora. These days, though, those sounds are thoroughly integrated into his improvising and composing; instead of switching between languages, he speaks in just one, albeit with an accent from time to time. Shepik's recent Human Activity Suite (Songlines) is intended as an indictment of our role in forcing global climate change, but he can only get so far with an instrumental recording—some pieces have titles like "Carbonic" and "Current," and seven others are subtitled with the names of the continents. Shepik adopts an Ali Farka Toure feel on "Blue Marble," his piece for Africa, and there are a few other instances where he tries to match a sound with a place, but overall Human Activity Suite fares best when it's heard not as a concept album but simply as high-level quintet music. Shepik's tunes cover lots of ground, from the spooky post-Miles atmospherics of "Carbonic" to the off-kilter cyclical grooves of "Blindspot" to the meditative beauty of "Stir," where Gary Versace's long organ tones provide a canvas for the introspective gestures of Shepik's saz and Drew Gress's bass. The guitarist leads the same excellent lineup that appears on the album for these two shows: Gress, Versace, drummer Tom Rainey, and trumpeter Ralph Alessi.  2 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. Also 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

click to enlarge Wilco
  • Wilco

WILCO Jeff Tweedy opens "You Never Know," a George Harrison-esque nugget from the new Wilco (the Album) (Nonesuch), by gently chiding, "Come on children, you're acting like children / Every generation thinks it's the end of the world." He's clearly commenting on the kind of myopic self-absorption that keeps people hung up on the superficial way they're perceived—when they insist they're living in the Last Days, it's just to make them seem special. Tweedy and company have earned this stance by developing a long-range perspective of their own: though audiences seem equally likely to consider their music avant-garde pop or inoffensive "dad rock," Wilco are rooted too deeply in rock history to care what anybody calls them. On the new album, "Bull Black Nova" harks back to the days when Jim O'Rourke's adventurous production earned them an unwarranted reputation as experimentalists—over an unspooling Krautrock groove full of tense dynamic shifts, a murderer straight out of a Coen Brothers movie waits to be caught—but otherwise the songs, not the style, do the heavy lifting. "Wilco (the Song)" pokes fun at overinvested fans, promising that "Wilco will love you, baby" and offering a "sonic shoulder to cry on," but Tweedy's lyrics cut deeper when they grapple with ambiguity, moral and otherwise. The couple in the gorgeous "You and I," a duet between Tweedy and Leslie Feist, accept the disconnect in their relationship because they can still "make something that no one else has," and the soldier in "I'll Fight" taints his heroic martyrdom with self-satisfaction and self-pity. As usual the bedrock beneath Tweedy's uncertainty is the band's combination of sweetly biting melodies and subtly invigorating arrangements, spiked by the inventive leads of guitarist Nels Cline and the unexpected accents and bombs of drummer Glenn Kotche. Tortoise opens. See also Monday. 7:30 PM, UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, 312-413-5740 or 312-559-1212, sold out. —Peter Margasak

monday19

SATYRICON This Norwegian band is nothing if not polarizing. Though singer and multi-instrumentalist Satyr and drummer Frost, Satyricon's core duo, have impeccably blackened resumés, over the years their music has shed the distinguishing characteristics black metal has developed since the days of Venom and Bathory, settling almost comfortably into a classic-metal feel. Their latest album, last fall's The Age of Nero (Roadrunner/Koch), has ear-infecting riffs, broad backbeats, and a hard-to-pinpoint laid-back quality—a combination I'd go so far as to call passive-aggressive, since it might as well be calculated to make black-metal fundamentalists froth at the mouth. At Encyclopaedia Metallum one reviewer called The Age of Nero Satyricon's best in more than a decade, while another ranted, "The band obviously hates their fans and anyone who would actually condescend to give them a chance, because this is just such a huge middle finger to anyone who ever liked this band in the first place." I guess it's pretty metal in a way to do something you know is going to piss off your base, and that makes this album's guilty pleasures—the joyously boneheaded "Commando," the sincerely savage "The Sign of the Trident," the "hit" single, "Black Crow on a Tombstone"—even easier to enjoy. Chthonic, Act of Destruction, and Rosenguard open. 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $17. —Monica Kendrick

WILCO See Sunday. Tortoise opens. 7:30 PM, UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine, 312-413-5740 or 312-559-1212, $39.50.

tuesday20

FAUST See Saturday. 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2249, 7:30 PM, $33-$195.

wednesday21

SONIC CHICKEN 4 The Sonic Chicken 4 use the same four chords and 4/4 beats as the hundreds of other garage bands that seem to have sprung up in the past few years, but this six-piece from Perpignan, France, sets itself apart from the pack by writing songs that display a casual and confounding disregard for where you might expect verses and choruses to go. They know their rock history, and like the tropicalistas in Brazil they have an uncanny sense for picking odd additions from other idioms that really shouldn't work but somehow turn out perfect—swirling White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground guitar freak-outs, Kink Kontroversy big beats, touches of ye-ye. All these elements are in full effect on their newest single, "Surf on a Plane" b/w "Crushed" (Trouble in Mind). "Crushed" is a mid-60s-style pop stomper whose breakdown—just bass and drums and the reverberating thunderstorm noise of a powered-up tube amp dropped on the floor—ought to have Dan the Fan (and everybody else who loves jumping around to great rock 'n' roll) in ecstasy. This is a release party for headliners CoCoComa, whose second full-length, Things Are Not All Right, came out yesterday on Goner; the Sonic Chicken 4 and the Yolks open. Psyched Alex spins. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, $5 with RSVP to rsvp@emptybottle.com before 5 PM, $3 in advance. —Brian Costello

Pin It

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Agenda Teaser

Galleries & Museums
The Beast Hyde Park Art Center
April 13
Music
The National, Daughter Chicago Theatre
April 15

Tabbed Event Search

Right Now On

Popular Stories

Follow Us

Sign up for a newsletter »