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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The enduring power and soul of bluesman Freddie King

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 05:13 PM

Blues guitarist and singer Freddie King was born and raised near Gilmer, Texas, spent his final years in Dallas, and his nickname was the Texas Cannonball. But between 1950 and 1963 he lived and worked in Chicago, and it's this period upon which his massive reputation rests. The point is underlined in Bill Dahl's liner notes for the recent The Complete King Federal Singles (Real Gone Music), a sprawling double CD that contains most of King's greatest output, including his ubiquitous, eternal instrumental "Hide Away."

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Chicago punk icons Los Crudos reunite yet again

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 03:39 PM

Accounts of the history of punk in Chicago tend to overlook Los Crudos, who arrived on the scene during a period when the most of the attention being paid to the city's musical culture was focused on more commercially appealing indie rock acts, and whose aggressive identity politics could alienate even the largely white, supposedly radical-left hardcore community of the time. (I remember hearing punks at the Fireside Bowl complaining that they couldn't understand front man Martin Sorrondeguy's lyrics because they were in Spanish.) But these days their legacy is arguably more relevant than that of the better known bands—while the north side punk scene is currently typified by the kind of painfully unadventurous bands that my colleague Brian Costello likes to call "ham and eggers," there's a vibrant, innovative (and almost entirely Latino) hardcore scene in Pilsen and Little Village that Crudos had a major role in establishing.

While the group officially broke up in 1998, they've reunited a few times over the past decade. At the moment they're preparing for a tour of South America, and before they head out they're playing two shows on Saturday at Chitown Futbol, an indoor soccer facility in Pilsen. Both shows are all ages, and both offer a slate of opening bands drawn from the aforementioned south side hardcore scene, with the later show featuring a set by Sin Orden, who in many ways picked up where Crudos left off and have subsequently become just as essential a part of that community.

I have no idea what Chitown Futbol's capacity is, but with no advance ticketing and over 1,100 people already RSVP'd via the show's Facebook page it would seem that showing up early would be a good idea. For a glimpse of the beautiful madness that awaits you there, hit the jump for a clip of Crudos playing the 2006 Southkore festival.

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Tomorrow, Reader writers read from new books on sports

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 03:04 PM

Immodesty compels . . .

Two writers long associated with the Reader will be reading from their new books Friday evening at an event the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square is calling Sports Night.

Mike Lenehan, a former owner and editor, will read from Ramblers, his account of the 1963 Loyola Ramblers basketball team that galloped to the NCAA championship, defeating in the regionals a Mississippi State team that defied Mississippi's governor by sneaking out of the state to take the court against black players (Loyola started four), and in the national finals the two-time defending champions, Cincinnati.

And Ted Cox will read from 1001 Days in the Bleachers, a collection of sports columns he wrote for the Reader from 1983 to 2007.

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Uncounted prisoners and the race gap

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 02:35 PM

Prisoners in a dormitory in Vandalia
  • AP Photo/Seth Perlman
  • Prisoners in a dormitory in Vandalia
In most U.S. jails and prisons, inmates are counted several times a day. But surveys used to measure the nation's economic well-being aren't much interested in counting prisoners.

And because the surveys ignore the incarcerated, the data from them "misrepresents the American social condition, especially as it concerns African American men," sociologist Becky Pettit writes in her recent book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress. She says the statistics generally cited overstate the levels of education and the economic status of African-Americans.

When the U.S. was founded, slaves were three-fifths of a free person for purposes of apportionment. Slaves and free blacks were enumerated on household rosters, but little information about them was collected before the 1850 census. This obscured the experience of blacks for much of American history, and "they were hardly considered in the design or evaluation of public policy," Pettit observes in her book.

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Chicago Cinema Society brings Warriors, Fellini, and an exploding head to the Patio this spring

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 02:08 PM

The British indie The Other Side of Sleep screens this Friday and Saturday at the Patio.
  • The British indie The Other Side of Sleep screens this Friday and Saturday at the Patio.
As I noted earlier today, the Chicago Cinema Society will present an archival 35-millimeter print of Walter Hill's The Warriors three weekends from now. But this screening is just one of many that the local programming group has lined up at the Patio Theater. Yesterday the Cinema Society and the Patio announced that they've agreed to an ongoing partnership and released their schedule for the next two months. The programming reflects a growing diversity on the part of the CCS, which has tended towards international genre cinema since they started presenting movies in December 2011. This weekend brings The Other Side of Sleep, a muted psychological thriller from England, and a "25th-anniversary DCP restoration" of Ron Howard's Willow. Other notable upcoming screenings include the local premiere of the Lithuanian sci-fi Vanishing Waves (which garnered plenty of buzz on the European festival circuit last year) and an encore presentation of Miguel Gomes's Tabu, which plays this week at the European Union Film Festival.

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Pink Torpedo brings its sleazy garage rock to Cole's on Friday

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 01:19 PM

Pink Torpedos demo
  • Pink Torpedo's demo
There are a lot of garage-rock bands in Chicago, so it's easy to lose track of them. Over the past couple of years one of my favorites, Pink Torpedo, has kind of flown under the radar, which is too bad, because they're a really great band. Pink Torpedo, like pretty much every other cool band in town, is made up of members from a bunch of other already cool bands (in this case, current and former members of Canadian Rifle, Catburglars, and Meat Wave). They play your typical, punky garage rock, but add a sleazy, dark, creepy edge to it. Their demo, which was recorded when the band first got together, is available to listen to in its entirety on their Bandcamp site. Sharp musicianship meets trashy vibes for an exciting, excellent listen. A few months ago the band took to the stage of the Burlington to perform a set of Stooges covers, and in my eyes, there's no band in town better able to pull that off. Pink Torpedo plays a free show tomorrow at Cole's in Logan Square.

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12 O'Clock Track: Remembering the Fung Wah bus line with Titus Andronicus's "A More Perfect Union"

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 12:00 PM

Titus Andronicuss The Monitor
  • Titus Andronicus's The Monitor
Prior to moving to Chicago I lived in the Boston area for about five years, where I had the distinct pleasure of taking trips down to NYC via the Fung Wah Bus Transportation line, which the feds shut down earlier this week. Riding a Fung Wah bus felt like a rite of passage—the company offered the kind of inexpensive transit experience every cash-strapped college student looking to save a little money eagerly sought, and it could get you to New York faster than most other forms of mass transit. Yes, there was something unsafe about getting from Boston to New York in three hours (or perhaps less), and yes, I'd heard tales of Fung Wah buses filling up with smoke or even catching fire while on the highway, but you generally knew what you were getting yourself into when boarding one of those buses. (The headline for a New York Times story on the shut-down says it all: "Cheap Bus Fare Lures Riders Despite Company's Troubles.")

I figured that Fung Wah would eventually get shut down or run out of business at some point, but even so I couldn't help but feel slightly sad when I heard the news. Call it nostalgia, but the term "Fung Wah" will always remind me of random adventures that took me out of my college bubble. With that in mind I've selected Titus Andronicus's "A More Perfect Union" as today's 12 O'Clock Track.

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Did you read about unorthodox Hasidim, marijuana cannons, and Bryan Ferry?

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 11:05 AM

Bryan Ferry
  • sdfadfdf/Wikimedia Commons
  • Bryan Ferry
Reader staffers share stories that fascinate, amuse, or inspire us.

Hey, did you read:

• Georgetown law professor David Cole's succinct analysis of what's at stake in the Supreme Court's reconsideration of the 1965 Voting Rights Act? Kate Schmidt

• That incarceration rates fell sharply for blacks from 2000 through 2009 while they rose for whites and Hispanics? (The incarceration rate for black men is still more than six times that of white men.) Steve Bogira

• About Brooklyn's unorthodox Hasidim? (One might say they're not on the fringes anymore.) Tony Adler

• About the seized "marijuana cannon" in Mexicali? (The article doesn't say if you can smoke out of it.) Ben Sachs

• That maybe Budweiser isn't watered down after all, which means it's just deceptively devoid of flavor? Gwynedd Stuart

• Foppish dandy Bryan Ferry recounting records that have been meaningful to him (and coercing his interviewer into watching Prince YouTube videos with him)? Tal Rosenberg

• That like the Blackhawks, the White Sox are still undefeated in regulation? Steve Bogira

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Best shows to see: Major Lazer, Branford Marsalis, James Hunter, and more

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 10:30 AM

James Hunter
  • Ruth Ward
  • James Hunter
Of course Reader critics have supplied a wealth of concert recommendations on Soundboard this week, as they always do, but as usual in this forum I'd like to point out some interesting shows that none of us have gotten around to writing about yet.

On Thursday vicious Brooklyn blackened doom-metal band Batillus plays at Ultra Lounge. On Friday Bun B, formerly half of rap duo UGK (RIP Pimp C), performs at the Shrine after a DJ set by Talib Kweli. The same evening the Lonesome Organist and the Black Bear Combo play what's sure to be a whimsical show at Township, and the
Paco Peña Flamenco Dance Company comes to Pick-Staiger at Northwestern.

On Saturday the reunited Los Crudos—a leftist Latino hardcore band from Pilsen originally active in the 90s, when they attracted a devoted nationwide following—play two all-ages shows at Chitown Futbol (on Throop south of Cermak). Also that night, buzzed-about neo-R&B act Autre Ne Veut has a show at Schubas. On Sunday underground house kingpin Derrick Carter performs at Smart Bar, and Ben Harper brings venerable harmonica virtuoso Charlie Musselwhite (subject of an Artist on Artist last June) to the Riviera.

And we're not through yet—five more shows after the jump!

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Revisiting Walter Hill's 1981 quasi-war movie Southern Comfort

Posted By on 02.28.13 at 06:41 AM

Southern Comfort
  • Southern Comfort
Is Chicago on the brink of a Walter Hill retrospective? A month ago Doc Films screened a new 35-millimeter print of Hill's The Driver, and in a little over three weeks Chicago Cinema Society will present an archival print of The Warriors, probably his best-known directorial effort. Bullet to the Head, Hill's first theatrical project in more than a decade, opened in general release earlier this month and left theaters shortly thereafter. Even Hill's fans seemed disappointed by the movie, but they agreed it was good to see him in the public eye again.

Alas it's all too easy to see why Hill's been marginalized for so long. He's a genre director who specializes in action and suspense, but also a quirky, self-conscious artist who tends towards minimalist imagery and pessimistic themes. Like John Carpenter, who also advanced a personal aesthetic through hard-edged genre films in the 70s and 80s, he's the sort of macho pop artist that Hollywood no longer knows what to do with. (This disconnect is evidenced in the generic, uncertain ad campaigns for such recent movies as Joe Carnahan's The Grey and Neveldine/Taylor's Gamer, which can be said to follow in the Carpenter-Hill tradition.)

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