A day-by-day guide to our Critic's Choices and other previews | Essay | Chicago Reader

A day-by-day guide to our Critic's Choices and other previews 

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friday13

cchin up chin up, make believe, the oxford collapse The members of Chin Up Chin Up seem to have recovered from the loss of bassist Chris Saathoff, killed by a car in 2004, as well as anybody ever recovers from that sort of thing. The winsome, uncluttered art-pop on their full-length debut, We Should Have Never Lived Like We Were Skyscrapers, felt almost militantly upbeat, but their follow-up, This Harness Can't Ride Anything (Suicide Squeeze), has a resolve that's more relaxed, as though they've settled in for the long haul. The music's richer too--they drape shivery vocals and echoing, spacey guitars across idiosyncratic song structures, where they blow around like streamers in a gale. There's a touch of frost in their tunes, both sonically and lyrically (the gray northern sun in "Blankets Like Beavers," for instance, or the blizzard in "Stolen Mountains"), but they're obviously the sort of people who find the cold invigorating. --Monica Kendrick

I don't know why anyone would go into the prophet business these days. The pay's shit, the benefits package barely exists, and the prestige of the profession is at an all-time low. But none of that seems to concern Tim Kinsella. Ever since he returned from the desert of mannered experimentalism (read: tedious dicking around) with 2004's Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain, he's been coming on like he's divinely inspired--and seriously pissed, like any good prophet. The high-profile jeremiads he's loosed against the unrighteous--in a single WBEZ interview he predicted the apocalypse and offered to fight everybody at Pitchfork Media at once, and in the August '06 Alternative Press he wrote a piece commanding every band in the issue to break up for the good of music in general--aren't just publicity maneuvers, though they work fine as that. They're a little bit like Jesus flipping over the merch tables at the Warped Tour. Listen to MAKE BELIEVE's new Of Course (Flameshovel) and you'll hear a band playing like the future of civilization depends on it: Kinsella howls about the evildoing of powerful men (and of men who wish they had more power), and everybody else throws down post-rock jazz-punk that's so far beyond anything the mascara-and-bedhead clones can pull off that it's almost rude. --Miles Raymer

For a while I really thought THE OXFORD COLLAPSE had moved to Chicago--they were playing in town more often than Catfish Haven. It turns out they were just on a never-ending tour, and apparently getting awesome along the way. Their new Remember the Night Parties (Sub Pop) is a mass of solid riffs that sound like Sonic Youth goofing on classic rock and astringent vocals that rip off Eno. It'd be a classic already if it'd come out 15 years ago, and it doesn't look too shabby compared to the competition in the here and now. --Miles Raymer

This is a release party for both Chin Up Chin Up, who headline, and Make Believe, who play second; the Oxford Collapse opens. Illusionist Ryan Williams will perform before the music. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10.

cevens The Capitol dome casts a long, dark shadow across Get Evens (Dischord), the forthcoming second album from the D.C. duo of Amy Farina and Ian MacKaye--it's filled with contemporary protest songs about American apathy and the worldwide horrors wrought by the Bush administration, rippling with bafflement, disgust, hope, and discontent. But it's nonetheless a bare-bones affair. Farina's slight, fanciful drum rolls tumble with MacKaye's stark, dry strumming--he totally outs himself as Fugazi's rhythm player--and while there are points when it sounds like the Evens want to rock out, they make sure they don't do anything to disturb the neighbors. The vocals are the centerpiece: neither of them has superstar pipes, but when their soft, unaffected voices lilt together it's strangely deep and soulful, like Richard and Linda Thompson recast as punks. a 8 PM, Pulaski Park field house, 1419 W. Blackhawk, 312-742-7559, $5. Tickets can be reserved by e-mailing evens@ripco.com. A --Jessica Hopper

gravetones Chicago's Gravetones are celebrating the release of their debut full-length, Dig It!, on the local Criminal IQ Records. Its 14 tracks of repetitive but satisfyingly cackling-evil tunes push all the usual psychobilly-punk buttons, but the music's so over-the-top it begins to brush the fringes of dadaism. The Sleepers and Irock Z open. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick

stefon harris quintet Stefon Harris emerged in the mid-90s as the most important new voice on jazz vibraphone, thriving in mainstream settings as a sideman and, within a few years, as a leader. He's spent much of this decade exploring new contexts for his music, releasing discs like 2003's music-as-physics concept album The Grand Unification Theory and 2004's R & B-driven Evolution. He shifts gears yet again on his new album, African Tarantella: Dances With Duke (Blue Note), which features interpretations of selections from two Duke Ellington suites and three selections from one of his own suites, The Gardner Meditations. Harris boldly rearranges the Ellington tunes for a strangely configured nonet--cello, viola, clarinet, trombone, flute, piano, and a standard rhythm section, plus his own vibes and marimba--putting the music in a more contemporary light without diminishing its melodic core. Harris tends to stick to basics live, and the fine group he leads this weekend--pianist Marc Cary, bassist Earl Travis, drummer Terreon Gully, and alto saxophonist Casey Benjamin--ought to highlight his deep talent as a pure improviser. See also Saturday and Sunday. a 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. --Peter Margasak

cTRIO M In 2000 pianist Myra Melford went to India on a Fulbright scholarship to study the harmonium, a free-reed instrument (akin to the accordion) that's common in Hindustani music. You'd never mistake anything on The Image of Your Body (Cryptogramophone), the new album by Melford's group Be Bread, for Indian classical music, but her experience abroad is plainly audible in its long, winding melodies. She composed the pieces on melodica, which as its name suggests wasn't designed for playing chords, and the emphasis here is on lines rather than changes. Guitarist Brandon Ross and trumpeter Cuong Vu join Melford on alternate tracks; their ethereal, lyric interplay is given rigorous counterpoint by bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee. For this fairly rare local gig, Melford returns to the piano-trio format where she made her name in the early 90s. Among the Evanston native's first teachers was Chicago boogie-woogie great Erwin Helfer, and tonight's muscular and flexible rhythm section, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson, is likely to bring out her bluesier roots. Reedists Keefe Jackson and Guillermo Gregorio and drummer Steve Hunt play first as a trio. a 10 PM, Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee, 312-243-9088, $15 suggested donation. A --Peter Margasak

saturday14

ADEM Adem is the nom de band of Adem Ilhan, bassist in the British electronic/post-rock combo Fridge, a group that also includes Four Tet's Kieran Hebden. On his second album, the new Love and Other Planets (Domino), he sings melancholy pop-rock tunes in the vein of Rufus Wainwright, but he shares Fridge's and Four Tet's penchant for hypnotic rhythms. The opening track, "Warning Call," casts its lyrical drama on guitar arpeggios accented with delicate percussive glimmers, building toward an enveloping tapestry of vocal harmony; "Launch Yourself" is similarly founded on a fuguelike wall of voice. But on the title track Ilhan dispenses with mesmerizing rhythms in favor of baroque violin lines and organ drone in a sweeping arrangement reminiscent of one of John Vanderslice's studio epics. Juana Molina headlines. a 10:30 PM, Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, 773-472-3492, $15 in advance, $18 at the door. A --J. Niimi

barrelhouse chuck In 1979 Barrelhouse Chuck (aka Charles Goering) arrived here from Florida determined to study blues piano, and so he did, learning from such innovators as Little Brother Montgomery, Pinetop Perkins, and Sunnyland Slim. As a result, his playing style is marked by rocking rhythms, powerful melodies doubled in octaves, and the well-placed showy blues arpeggio. On his strong new disc, Got My Eyes on You (The Sirens), Chuck steps back to showcase blues savants like harp man Kim Wilson and longtime Muddy Waters bassist Calvin "Fuzz" Jones; you almost have to crane your neck to hear Chuck's piano fills, but they're there, holding everything together. For this release party he'll be joined by his band, the Chicago Blues Cats--starring guitarist Eddie Taylor Jr., whose solos sparkle on the new disc--and the always popular "unannounced guests." See also Wednesday. a 10 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, 773-342-0452, $10. --Neil Tesser

beck Beck Hansen sounds pretty bummed on his new album, The Information (Interscope); most of the tunes are about how lost he feels in today's disconnected world. On "1000 BPM" he angrily raps, "Telemarketing people / With cellular headsets on their skulls / Selling you wisdom from a Plexiglas prism," and on "We Dance Alone" he laments a failed relationship, groaning, "Caught up in the future that was coming to pass / Now looking for a place where the lights unravel." The album was produced by Nigel Godrich, who worked on Beck's non-sample-based records, Mutations and Sea Change, and musically The Information splits the difference between plastic and organic, with references to loads of 60s rock layered over lethargic hip-hop breaks and a detail-rich carpet of sound effects and acoustic instruments. It's among Beck's most accomplished albums, but the music matches his dour lyrics--only a handful of songs hint at the ebullience of his past work. Spank Rock opens. a 8 PM, UIC Pavilion, 1150 W. Harrison, 312-413-5740 or 312-559-1212, $35. A --Peter Margasak

stefon harris quintet See Friday. a 9 and 11 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

madeleine peyroux On her latest album, Half the Perfect World (Rounder), Madeleine Peyroux updates her repertoire: instead of the half-century-old blues and country songs she sang on her previous discs, she mostly interprets tunes of more recent vintage by Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Serge Gainsbourg, and others, along with her own material. But her sound remains largely the same: her smoky, wounded warble (part Billie Holiday, part Edith Piaf, more ethereal than either) is set to a soft-focus amalgam of cabaret, jazz, and rock, delivered by an excellent cast of supporting musicians. She's a subtle singer who can bring many shades of anguish to a lyric, even on a timeless song like Charlie Chaplin's "Smile." Jonas Smith opens. a 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $37. --Peter Margasak

gilberto santa rosa Things start with a bang on Directo al Corazon (Sony International), the latest from this veteran Puerto Rican salsero: he jumps in hard on the driving "Locura de Amor," cutting against and gliding over its imperturbable groove. But then the treacly slow stuff takes over, and though Santa Rosa knows how to work a ballad he can't overcome the subpar material and synth-stuffed production. Luckily, he also knows how to please a crowd, and I'd guess he'll focus on the dance floor favorites tonight. a Midnight, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $45-$65, 18+. --Peter Margasak

cHubert Sumlin Guitarist Hubert Sumlin, whose slash-and-burn leads and chording helped define Howlin' Wolf's sound in the 50s and 60s, needs structure and discipline when he fronts his own group--the anarchic impulse that fueled his best work with Wolf can sometimes spin out of control. Too much support can also be a problem, though: on his most recent album, the 2005 Muddy Waters tribute About Them Shoes (Tone-Cool), Sumlin sounds cowed by guests like Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and David Johansen. For this show he'll be joined by a local ensemble anchored by veteran bassist Bob Stroger and longtime Muddy Waters drummer Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, a pair of conservative players who should keep Sumlin from flying off the edge. Their nonaggressive style risks making things too safe for Sumlin, but you never can tell with him--he can segue from chaotic flailing to inspired chaos in a heartbeat in any context, which makes catching his show an exercise in both anticipation and forbearance. Little Arthur Duncan opens. a 9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 W. Wabash, 312-427-0333, $10. --David Whiteis

trilobite The self-released, self-titled debut from this Albuquerque trio has been appropriately tagged "rural gothic," but Trilobite's songs are more subtle than most of that ilk. Fronted by Mark Ray Lewis, an award-winning fiction writer, the group brings in a truckload of mostly acoustic instruments to bolster his calm delivery, and the songs are sturdy enough to weather random attacks of trombone and mandolin. Freakwater headlines, and DJs Jeff Parker and Josh Abrams spin after the show. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $12 in advance, $15 at the door. --Monica Kendrick

verbal kent Verbal Kent, the best-named rapper ever, may look like some honky you'd see studying for his MBA night classes at a Lincoln Park Starbucks, but he can drop fatness like a sumo wrestler. His tight rhyme style is on full display on Move With the Walls (Gravel), the follow-up to his 2004 debut, What Box, but in person the guy is a superstar and a wickedly funny freestyler. This show is an album-release party; One.Be.Lo headlines, Wordsworth, Verbal Kent, Earatik Statik, Cypher Bullies, MoodSwangz, and Thesis open. DJ Pickel and DJ Once-a-Month spin throughout. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, 18+, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --J. Niimi

sunday15

cJOHN DOE John Doe will always be best known for skinning punk alive as front man of the inimitable X, but unlike so many other elder punx, whose second acts consist of some pitiful reunion-circuit hustle, he's never stopped working. Twenty-plus years have passed and the guy's making solo records that can stop your heart, apparently oblivious to whether anyone's listening. His voice has changed very little: it's the same forceful but impossibly tender croon you know from "Adult Books," but instead of pitching duets with Exene he's hooking up with singers like Neko Case and Cindy Lee Berryhill. Forever Hasn't Happened, from 2005, is his best so far, a distinctive, sweeping, punk-stained slab of Americana. An expanded reissue of the 1998 EP For the Best of Us (Yep Roc), recorded with some folks who were then backing Beck, came out a few months ago, but Doe's not touring behind it--this Chicago show is a one-off. Nora O'Connor opens. a 7 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $20, $16 seniors and kids. A --Jessica Hopper

stefon harris quintet See Friday. a 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.

TATSUYA NAKATANI Improvisational percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani has an instinct for exquisite accentuation that helps make other musicians sound great. His stark, muffled beats create an aura of tragedy on "31/1," a standout track from Lovely Hazel (Public Eyesore), the latest CD by introspective brass trio Blue Collar. Using coarse scrapes and elaborate figures, he brings coherence and drama to the jousting match between Israeli free-jazz reedist Assif Tsahar and an improvising string quartet on Tsahar's Solitude (Hopscotch). And his slightly offbeat bell tones lend an appealingly disorienting air to the otherwise straight bossa nova re-creations of his group Yukijurushi. But the solo performances on his self-released "Green Report" series reveal a sense of narrative and a textural imagination that make him sound pretty fine on his own. Tonight Nakatani will open with a solo set, then play in a trio with Blue Collar trumpeter Nate Wooley and local vocalist Carol Genetti, and finish with a quintet co-led by Milwaukee-based percussionist Jon Mueller, rounded out by cellist Kevin Davis, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and electronicist Brian Labycz. See also Monday. a 8:30 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $5 suggested donation. A --Bill Meyer

vagilased This sextet--its name means "the mighty"--was formed in 2000 by students at the Viljandi Culture Academy in Estonia to preserve and update the country's traditional music. One particular influence is the runosong, an ancient Baltic form historically sung by women, and the two female players in Vagilased, fiddler Meelika Hainsoo and bagpiper/flutist Catlin Jaago, contribute the high, keening harmony vocals here. Instrumentally, the band's sound features brisk dance rhythms and frenetic riffing on accordion and strings; jazz and pop touches on their recent album Ema Opetus (Eesti Raadio) leave the arrangements overly slick in spots, but they're clearly capable of kicking up some serious dust. This is their Chicago debut. a 3 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. F A --Peter Margasak

monday16

LILY ALLEN Most of the stories about British pop singer Lily Allen focus on how she used her MySpace page to promote her music, making her a paradigm-shifting overnight sensation. It's too bad that her delightful music tends to get ignored amid all the tech chatter. Her debut album, Alright, Still (Regal), was a hit in the UK (Capitol will release it here early next year), and it's easy to hear why: her breezy mix of Caribbean grooves, sublimely catchy melodies, and pure sass is pretty irresistible. Allen inventively disses one ex after another in her songs, and between her salty language (she drops F-bombs the way most people say "uh") and clever manipulation of prosaic details, they're appealingly conversational: "Oh Jesus Christ almighty / Do I feel alright? No, not slightly," she sings on "Everything's Just Wonderful." Domino, DJ Mark Ronson, and Aaron LaCrate open. a 8 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. --Peter Margasak

cbonnie "prince" billy The Letting Go (Drag City), Will Oldham's latest effort under the name he's held onto longer than any other, isn't overwhelming at first; like Tupelo Honey and Desire, it sits quietly in a corner, and only once your mind starts to wander does it gently unfurl and wrap itself around you. Recorded in Reykjavik with Valgier Sigurdsson, who through his work with Bjork has gained some experience in giving an inspired weirdo enough room to move, the album features a backing band--guitarist Emmett Kelly, bassist Paul Oldham, and drummer Jim White--with a keen sense of when to step in and when to step back. But the major goose-bump producer here is Faun Fables front woman Dawn McCarthy. Her voice--a bit like a young, untamed Joan Baez--does for Oldham's songs what Merry Clayton's did for "Gimme Shelter" and "Sweet Home Alabama." For this show Oldham will be joined by Kelly, Azita Youssefi, Alex Nielson, and Aram Stith. Dreamweapon opens. a 8 PM, Portage Theater, 4050 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15 in advance, $18 at the door. A --Monica Kendrick

tatsuya nakatani See Sunday. a 7:30 PM, Myopic Books, 1564 N. Milwaukee, 773-862-4882. F A

tuesday17

MIHO HATORI Miho Hatori, best known as the lead vocalist in Cibo Matto, was born and raised in Japan and still has an odd way with English after years in New York: "My clock is now letting time go / And green in forest starts breezing," she sings on the title track from her forthcoming solo debut, Ecdysis (Rykodisc). But there's no arguing that she handles multiple musical languages just fine: her miniature-sounding pop songs carefully layer polyrhythms that evoke Brazil, Africa, and Indonesia, and their tonal palette is even wider. She commands the foreground of each delicate sonic bricolage with her pretty, cooing vocals, delivering lullaby-worthy melodies with a mix of sweetness and wide-eyed wonder. Cary Brothers headlines; Joshua Radin, Matt Costa, the Weepies, Charlotte Martin, and Hatori open. a 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $18.50. A --Peter Margasak

trivium I'm not convinced this is the best time in world history to call an album The Crusade (not that there's ever been a terribly good one), but I'll give these Florida metalheads the benefit of the doubt--they seem like the type to think things through. On their previous two full-lengths, Ember to Inferno and Ascendancy, they put an elaborate spin on their thrash roots, and on songs like "A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation" they splatter some intellectual playfulness on the usual wall of grim. The further you get into The Crusade the clearer it becomes that these guys are really on one, and their political rage--the Bush hate is strong in them--is focused right where it belongs. The Sword and Protest the Hero open. a 6 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $18 in advance, $20 at the door. A --Monica Kendrick

wednesday18

baby dayliner Baby Dayliner is Brooklynite Ethan Marunas, an indie crooner with a deep vibrato whose sleek new tour de force, Critics Pass Away (Brassland), has earned him comparisons to Morrissey and Serge Gainsbourg. It's not ordinarily much of a compliment to call electronic pop much sexier than the norm--the norm is about as sexy as a silverware tray--but Critics is a make-out record that'll boil a stick of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! from across the room. Fuck to this, now. The Mobius Band headlines and Charlene opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --J. Niimi

barrelhouse chuck See Saturday. a 9 PM, Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage, 773-342-0452, $7.

PAMELIA KURSTIN The theremin has historically been banished to roles in campy sci-fi flicks and spacey rock bands, but it's always inspired a handful of devoted advocates to resist that gimmicky typecasting; Barbez, tonight's headliner, has the virtuosic Pamelia Kurstin. Her live "theremin orchestra," which opens the show, is actually just her, playing with loop pedals and samplers to create complex, multilayered sounds that are part Bach, part alien communication. She's working on a disc for John Zorn's Tzadik label. a 9 PM, South Union Arts, 1352 S. Union, 312-850-1049, $10 suggested donation. --Monica Kendrick

ctomasz stanko quartet Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko has spent the past two decades assembling and refining a music that is spare, romantic, lyrical, and cool, with brief forays into free-form rhapsody; his band practically embodies the aesthetic of ECM, the label for which he records. On this year's Lontano, as on previous albums, he employs a breathy, mournful tone that's equally indebted to Chet Baker (circa 1955) and Miles Davis (circa 1968, in his early fusion ballads). But Stanko strips away the pathos in Baker's playing and only nods at the eerie wonder of Davis's; instead his laconic, contemplative music sketches a bleak and beautiful urban landscape. (It's a sound that stands in contrast to most Polish jazz, which bristles with energy in the hands of players like Michal Urbaniak or Adam Makowicz.) At 64 Stanko is one of Poland's elder jazz statesmen, and he's passing the torch--his band consists of three simpatico acolytes, all under 32, who've performed together for years as the Simple Acoustic Trio. (That group's albums, unsurprisingly, have also come out on ECM.) a 7 and 10 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $10 in advance, $12 at the door. --Neil Tesser

thursday19

cchicago symphony orchestra Mahler wrote his Third Symphony over two summers in his mountain cottage near Salzburg, and during that time he said it had almost ceased to be music--he was overwhelmed by the flow of elemental forces into his "monster," which strained the boundaries of compositional form. The six movements, divided into two parts, are wildly evocative, with breathtaking instrumental writing, including some extraordinary brass solos. The unwieldy but gripping primordial awakening of the first movement is sometimes menacing, sometimes uplifting. It's followed by shorter, more focused movements that conjure up meadows, summon forest animals, and explore the vastness of human emotion. Mahler wrote the first movement last and saw it as a summation of what followed, but it's the enveloping final-movement adagio that really sears the listener. These three concerts mark the beginning of Bernard Haitink's reign as principal conductor of the CSO; he's never flamboyant and at his best gets out of the way of the composer, delivering beautifully balanced and natural performances. It promises to be a glorious weekend. With mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung, the women of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and the Chicago Children's Choir. The same program will be performed Friday and Saturday, October 20 and 21. a 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $19-$119. --Steve Langendorf

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