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Monday, March 12, 2018

Grateful Dead alumni Bob Weir and Phil Lesh closed out a tour last night at the Chicago Theatre

Posted By on 03.12.18 at 02:34 PM

Bob Weir and Phil Lesh - BOBBY TALAMINE
  • Bobby Talamine
  • Bob Weir and Phil Lesh

It’s a good time to be a Grateful Dead fan. The stigma of being a Deadhead has faded over the years, and the surviving members’ current projects are more visible than ever, hitting the road frequently since 2015’s 50th-anniversary shows.

This late-career renaissance has given us three summers of Dead & Company (with John Mayer, of all people, filling in for the late Jerry Garcia), a Bob Weir solo record and tour, Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Family Band with his son Grahame, and now the Bobby & Phil duo, the latest alumni endeavor, which wrapped up a tour Sunday at the Chicago Theatre. Two founding Grateful Dead members, singer and rhythm guitarist Weir and singer and bassist Lesh, took on the band's catalog with delicate, acoustic simplicity.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The writer-director of White Men Can’t Jump returns to put you to sleep

Posted By on 12.12.17 at 03:27 PM

Just Getting Started
  • Just Getting Started

If nothing else, Just Getting Started (currently in commercial release) tells the world that writer-director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump) enjoys being an old man. The film, an amiable and instantly forgettable comedy, offers an idealized picture of semiretirement, with sexagenarian and septuagenarian characters enjoying easygoing lives filled with sex, golf, and gambling. It takes place at an upscale gated community in Palm Springs, California, and for the first half hour, Shelton does little but bask in how nice it is to live there. To call Just Getting Started laid-back would be an understatement; the movie is a slow golf cart ride into complacency. At the screening I attended, one man in the audience stretched out on three chairs (his row was empty) and proceeded to take a nap. I think he had the right idea.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Buying a thrill with Steely Dan at Northerly Island

Posted By on 06.14.16 at 06:01 PM

Walter Becker does a stream-of-consciousness monologue during "Hey Nineteen." - APRIL ALONSO
  • April Alonso
  • Walter Becker does a stream-of-consciousness monologue during "Hey Nineteen."

"Northerly Island" may sound like the name of some obscure Steely Dan demo, but the venue is not an ideal place to see the band play. That would be Ravinia, where I took in the Dan last summer in appropriately bourgeois fashion: while sitting on a blanket spread over a patch of Highland Park grass, sipping a white wine, and grazing leisurely from a spread of cheese, meat, and olives. Unlike the ticketed audience seated in the covered pavilion, I had no sight line of the stage—but that didn't detract a bit from the evening. You can watch Steely Dan, however you won't really see much of anything: Donald Fagen, perpetually wearing sunglasses, looking ever more like Ray Charles, pawing and pecking at the keys of the grand piano; Walter Becker, stiff and moored, picking out the occasional guitar solo. Yet there's little doubt that Fagen, Becker, and their murderers' row of ace players are going to be precise. And that's why the location of a Steely Dan show takes on outsize importance: enjoying them live is dependent on almost every element other than the quality of the musicianship.

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

What's the right nickname for Schwarber? Vavoom!

Posted By on 10.18.15 at 05:10 PM

Schwar Machine?
  • Schwar Machine?

The Cubs' Kyle Schwarber is the sort of instantly identifiable and prodigiously talented phenom who just seems to demand a nickname. Sun-Times sports columnist Rick Morrissey recognized as much earlier this summer, when he called out for submissions from fans. Yet the dozens of suggestions he got from readers were, by my way of thinking, pedestrian, foremost among them: the Hulk, Smash, Schwar Machine (Morissey's favorite), the Hoosier Hitman (which at least has a classic feel), and Bamm-Bamm, which is actually somewhat akin to what I've been calling the Cubs' slugging catcher-outfielder for a while now.

Vavoom.

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Friday, October 16, 2015

Strap on your dancing shoes for the Chicago Square Dance Summit

Posted By on 10.16.15 at 01:00 PM

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New Orleans string ensemble Broken Down Gamblers were plotting a tour with dance caller Sarah Gibson and reached out to local rootsy singer-songwriter and recent Bloodshot Records signee Al Scorch to find a place to play in Chicago. Scorch decided to just organize a show himself with some help from his pals in Old Lazarus' Harp, a young folk-music collective that includes groups such as Can I Get an Amen, Spitzer Space Telescope, Glass Mountain, and Honey Hole Johnson; Scorch roped in Can I Get an Amen and Mulefoot for the show, and put himself on the bill too. And then Scorch set his sights even higher. "I was thinking, 'Man, if I bring in one more string band this will be a fucking thing,'" he says. So he reached out to Columbus outfit Donkey Nation and put together the Chicago Square Dance Summit, an afternoon dedicated to string bands and dance at the Empty Bottle; it kicks off at noon on Sunday.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Catching up with Tavi Gevinson, Rookie of the year

Posted By on 10.15.15 at 12:30 PM

Tavi Gevinson, the head rookie herself - PETRA COLLINS
  • Petra Collins
  • Tavi Gevinson, the head rookie herself

At 19, Oak Park native Tavi Gevinson has experienced more than most people do in a lifetime—but that doesn't mean she's going to slow down anytime soon. The teen blogger continues to run Rookie magazine, is gearing up to star in The Crucible on Broadway, and just released Rookie Yearbook Four

I chatted with Gevinson over the phone from her office in New York ahead of her return home to Chicago on her upcoming book tour, and we talked about growing up, the Music Box, and her current pop-culture obsessions. 

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Is The Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot the final flush for Captain Underpants?

Posted By on 08.19.15 at 03:00 PM

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The twelfth installment of the Underpants series, Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot, in which our hero battles the evil, mind-controlling gym teacher Mr. Meaner, comes out on August 25. It's surprising, simple, and wholly enjoyable. It might not be the best book or the funniest book in the series, but that's OK, because as it turns out, Stinks-A-Lot is a very important Underpants book. That's because it's probably the last one.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Terminator Genisys didn't have enough Arnold Schwarzenegger? Then go see Maggie!

Posted By on 07.17.15 at 02:30 PM

Arnold Schwarzenegger in Maggie
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger in Maggie
Terminator Genisys, which is currently in theaters, is heavy with self-knowing camp, especially when Arnold Schwarzenegger's onscreen. His performance registers as one long, self-effacing joke, his dialogue touching on how he's too old to be an action star anymore and how limited he's always been as an actor. (One running gag involves him struggling to smile in a realistic manner.) And yet the film inspires a certain sympathy for his character, a killer cyborg reprogrammed to be a loving parent. The younger, blander heroes refer to him endearingly as "Pops," and the plot hinges on several acts of self-sacrifice he performs on their behalf. As in the Ivan Reitman comedies Kindergarten Cop and Junior, the big joke here is that Schwarzenegger, despite his gladiator appearance, is actually a sentimental papa at heart. That's still funny, right?

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Al Pacino demonstrates the magic of Method acting in the 'naturalistic fairy tale' Manglehorn

Posted By on 06.30.15 at 01:00 PM

Manglehorn
  • Manglehorn

Al Pacino is so famous for going overboard that you can easily forget how good he is at conveying quiet resignation. In The Godfather Part II, Donnie Brasco, The Insider, and large parts of Carlito's Way, Pacino beautifully embodies a type of wounded masculinity, playing characters who aren't happy with how their lives have turned out but whose integrity demands they sleep in the bed they've made. The actor can communicate years' worth of disappointment with a sigh, drawn-out line reading, or downcast expression. Guilt seems to exert physical force on his sadder characters, who go about their business as if in constant, aching pain.

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Friday, June 26, 2015

Revisit The Decline of Western Civilization this weekend

Posted By on 06.26.15 at 01:30 PM

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Director Penelope Spheeris began filming The Decline of Western Civilization, a documentary about LA's raucous punk community, in 1979. That film, released in 1981, spawned a trilogy connected by name, location, and music, but the songs that play in each film don't exactly mesh. The first follow-up, 1988's The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, focuses on the glam-metal scene that turned the Sunset Strip into a magnet for gaudy hairballs; the final chapter, 1998's The Decline of Western Civilization III, lightly touches upon politically conscious hardcore bands, but mainly focuses on the lives of a gaggle of teenage crust punks as they panhandle and get wasted.

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