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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friday8

c THE EX Much of the attention at Touch and Go's 25th anniversary celebration this fall went to bands that were reuniting, but I was more excited about the Ex, who've worked constantly for 27 years without ever growing soft or complacent. Never afraid to venture outside the postpunk comfort zone, the Amsterdam-based combo recently composed music for a Dutch stage production of A Clockwork Orange (in which they also played antihero Alex's droogs) and collaborated with 71-year-old Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria on the just released Moa Anbessa (Terp). Mekuria's mile-wide vibrato and gorgeously burred tone have earned comparisons to free-jazz icon Albert Ayler, and the band complements his ferocity with rumbling guitars and elemental drumbeats that push the tunes light years beyond typical world-music schlock. But tonight's set will consist of straight-up Ex music. After the departure of bassist Rozemarie Heggen last year the group decided to become a quartet, with Terrie Hessels and Andy Moor switching over to baritone guitars to fill up the low end with percussionist Katherina Bornefeld. The change has renewed the bracing physicality of their songs: with vocalist G.W. Sok barking sternly in front, they sound like an ultra-amplified drum brigade. DJ Rupture and Comorevi-Butter Fly open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. --Bill Meyer

cle mystere des voix bulgares Despite its ancient sound, this Bulgarian women's choir is a modern creation: Philip Koutev established the Ensemble of the Bulgarian Republic in 1951, and the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Vocal Choir, as it's more formally known, followed a year later. Koutev's project was to arrange traditional Bulgarian songs, which combine Slavic, Mediterranean, Turkish, and Iraqi influences, in an ambitious modern style for a large a cappella group (presently the choir has 26 members). The songs are sometimes placid, sometimes rowdy, and always colored with bone-deep sorrow; the arrangements emphasize eerie close harmonies, sung without vibrato at high volume. Courted by 4AD in the mid-80s after Peter Murphy seduced the label boss with a tape, then embraced during the 90s world-music craze, the Bulgarian Voices have outlasted plenty of fads, lending their haunting sounds to collaborations both ridiculous and sublime (Stevie Wonder, Huun-Huur-Tu). They're playing to a hometown crowd of sorts here, at St. John of Rila Bulgarian Church. A rumor's been going around that the shows will be in the church's basement hall, but it ain't so--they'll be in the soaring neo-Gothic sanctuary, where the acoustics ought to be heartbreakingly perfect for this stuff. According to the promoter, they'll sing "new repertoire, old favorites, and some holiday pieces as well," but I'm not expecting "Frosty the Snowman." See also Saturday. a 8 PM, St. John of Rila Bulgarian Church, 5944 W. Cullom, 847-331-7842, $35, $30 in advance, $25 students and seniors. A --Monica Kendrick

Love story in blood red, submarine races LOVE STORY IN BLOOD RED, the stripped-down project of former Means front man Jason Frederick, is one of the best bands in Chicago right now. If Jonathan Richman had continued to milk the Velvets-inflected world-weariness of the Modern Lovers' debut instead of putting his heart on his sleeve, he might have come up with something like the pair of self-titled albums this band has put out. But Frederick's writing is its own beast: he's bitter in a literary and passionate way, and his vocals are stretched across a framework of spindly but grand and gritty rock. Frederick's 2005 solo album, The Last Cannibal (downloadable at the band's Web site), shows off his skills in more restrained and acoustic contexts, but Love Story in Blood Red's Early or Live EP (also a free download), a collection of old and live recordings, demonstrates the band's versatility.

The SUBMARINE RACES, a local trio featuring ex-Ponys member Ian Adams, Steve Denekas (the Countdown), and Paul John Higgins (Red Eyed Legends), got some buzz this summer with its self-titled debut on In the Red Records, and they followed it up with a seven-inch on local label Shit Sandwich (including a cover of the Minutemen's "Party With Me Punker") that proved there was more good stuff where that came from. There aren't a lot of bells and whistles here--just solid, twitchy, clangy, and infectious guitar pop.

Love Story in Blood Red headlines, David Vandervelde & the Moonstation House Band play second, and the Submarine Races open. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $8. --Monica Kendrick

low In retrospect the title of Low's most recent and hardest-rocking album, last year's The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop), seems prophetic. Before 2005 was over singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk had suffered a nervous breakdown, prompting the trio to cancel a string of dates, and longtime bassist Zak Sally had left the band. But they've bounced back with a new bassist, Matt Livingston; last summer they re-created their 2001 record, Things We Lost in the Fire, as part of a concert series sponsored by All Tomorrow's Parties, and they've finished a new album with producer Dave Fridmann, who produced The Great Destroyer. I haven't heard Drums and Guns, which is due in March, but reportedly the band has added loops and drum machines to the in-the-red textures of the previous disc. This performance is billed as a Christmas show--with some of the proceeds benefiting a school that Sparhawk is helping to build in Namuncha, Kenya--so I'd expect songs from 1999's Christmas EP. The Astronomer opens. a 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, sold out. A --Bill Meyer

brad paisley With so many beefcake morons hustling to be the biggest male star in country music, I'm glad for Brad Paisley: he's as mainstream as they come, but his songs display intelligence, good taste, and humor. He's a fine singer and a killer guitarist, and he had a hand in writing every tune on his 2005 album, Time Well Wasted (Arista), where he brings some wit and style to a familiar theme on "Alcohol" ("I've been known to cause a few breakups / I've been known to cause a few births"), cops to his good fortune on "Easy Money," and salutes his heroes on "Cornography," a bit of comedic hokum featuring George Jones, Bill Anderson, Little Jimmy Dickens, and Dolly Parton. He's touring behind a new holiday album, Christmas (Arista). Carrie Underwood and Jake Owen open. a 8 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $44.50. A --Peter Margasak

saturday9

ANITA BAKER In 2004 the reigning queen of the quiet storm returned from a decade-long absence with My Everything (Blue Note), a record that delivered pretty much exactly what you'd expect: unremittingly smooth soul. She's been hitting the road somewhat regularly since last summer; on this current swing she's drawing mainly from her classics and songs off her 2005 holiday album, Christmas Fantasy. a 8 PM, Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, 312-462-6363 or 312-902-1500, $75-$90. A --Jessica Hopper

cLE MYSTERE DES VOIX BULGARES See Friday. a 8 PM, St. John of Rila Bulgarian Church, 5944 W. Cullom, 847-331-7842, $35, $30 in advance, $25 students and seniors. A

MEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD A Go Go, John Scofield's 1998 collaboration with the once jazzy, now jammy organ trio Medeski Martin & Wood, scored the guitarist a bigger audience, though his new fans were mostly folks who tend to smell bad and flop their hair around at shows. Scofield restricted MMW to backing status on that album; on their new disc, Out Louder (released on MMW's Indirecto label), more than half the tracks are the product of studio jams, which makes the record sound funky and organic but also dull and predictable. a 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, $29, 18+, sold out. --Peter Margasak

cpsychic ills, indian jewelry The Brooklyn label Social Registry may owe most of its cachet to the ink spilled over Gang Gang Dance (not to mention some blogger WTF over Jah Division, a dubbed-out tribute to Joy Division), but the real gem on its fast-growing roster of fine narco rock is Psychic Ills. Dins, the band's 2004 full-length debut, was a visceral, bull-by-the-horns entropy mission that could've been some lost Doors session that Jim Morrison missed but Ron Asheton made: two sides of inspired space rock that nose-dived from the asteroid belt into the earth's core, never fading in intensity even in its "mellow" moments. Their newest release, Early Violence, collects the band's two Mental Violence EPs, a cut from a Galactic Zoo Dossier comp, a previously unreleased recording, and a hidden sonic postscript. Overall it doesn't have the smeary continuity of Dins, and the tunes suffer from low fidelity, but the atmospherics are varied and compelling. Plus, it's keen to have a promising band's out-of-print material in one handy package. --J. Niimi

Indian Jewelry haven't stayed in one place for too long since they left Texas a couple years ago, back when they were known alternately as NTX, Corpses of Waco, Turquoise Diamonds, and Swarm of Angels. And though they recently transplanted themselves to Chicago, they seem to permanently inhabit a sensual, raw netherworld where curls of smoke drift before your eyes. While not exactly goth, their sound is dark and sort of organically industrial, a soft, ritualistic dronecore conjured from yawning electronic noise, tumbleweed guitar, and disco beats. It's a growling, prowling, synthetic powwow stomp, glamorous in every sense of the word, but you won't need a sage or a sigil to figure it out. This is tantric, orgasmic, blood-warming, bone-rattling music, and I'd give my firstborn to join their cult. --Liz Armstrong

Psychic Ills headline, Indian Jewelry plays second, Grimble Grumble opens, and the Plastic Crimewave DJs spin throughout the night. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, $8 in advance.

sunday10

JASON AJEMIAN'S DAY DREAM FULL LIFESTYLES See Thursday. The group performs as part of the Ears & Eyes Festival; see Fairs & Festivals for the complete lineup. a 3 PM, Silvie's Lounge, 1902 W. Irving Park, 773-871-6239, $15, $12 in advance (at www.myspace.com/earseyesfestival).

mike pride You can't say New York drummer Mike Pride isn't ambitious: according to his Web site he leads 17 projects and plays in 14 more as a sideman. Some of those bands might have only one or two gigs a year in New York's bustling jazz and improvised music scene, but still. Pride reminds me of Weasel Walter in his Chicago days, with his go-for-broke energy and his punk-jazz aesthetic. (How many other musicians have played with both Anthony Braxton and Millions of Dead Cops?) For his Chicago debut he'll perform in several contexts with a raft of locals. Tonight's three-set blowout begins with Pride's the Ensemble Is an Electronic Device Sextet, followed by a trio including Pride, trombonist Jeb Bishop, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz, and concludes with a 13-member big band. See also Wednesday. a 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. --Peter Margasak

warhammer 48k I like this band's moxie. "We shit all over the country with our mushroom metal psychedelic freakout live show," drummer Juan Turbulance e-mailed me, "with LIVE lights that will make you vomit." (Second drummer Maxwell Stone handles the incandescence.) "We like drugs and shit," he added, "but who doesn't." The recent An Ethereal Oracle--recorded at Pierpont Mothership Conexxxion, Warhammer 48K's woodsy compound near Columbia, Missouri, and self-released in a handmade edition of 500--would make a great soundtrack to The Road, Cormac McCarthy's new postapocalyptic novel. I'm going to go to their show and yell "Your drugs rule!" at them. Voltage, No Funeral, and Tirra Lirra open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi

monday11

cHIDDEN CAMERAS Led by the flamboyant Joel Gibb--in childhood a troublemaker at fundamentalist Christian summer camps, later a semiotics student--this unwieldy Toronto collective tones down its "gay church folk music" on the recent Awoo (Arts & Crafts). It's less overtly political and less sexually provocative (no songs about drinking piss this time), focusing instead on lush, spontaneous-sounding eruptions of orchestral pop that frame Gibb's angelic but sublimely lusty voice. The lyrics on the band's 2003 album, The Smell of Our Own, were unapologetically raw and dirty, like one of Francis Bacon's suggestive swirls of naked musculature, writhing across a mattress under a bare lightbulb. But the new disc makes me think of Kiki Smith and Richard Tuttle's sculpture Bouquet--an 18-karat gold cast of Smith's tongue, cradled like a reliquary in a flowing length of 19th-century purple silk damask. The group's early preoccupation with gay sexuality and gender politics (their name was lifted from Michel Foucault's Discipline & Punish) has been mostly supplanted, in part by whimsy--there's an enthusiastic jaw-harp breakdown in "She's Gone," the rare HCs song about (yikes) a woman. The Zincs and the Born Ruffians open. a 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $12, $10 in advance. --J. Niimi

tuesday12

SEAN LENNON It might be unfair to ask Sean Lennon to step out of the shadows of his parents; they do cast awfully long ones. But it sure would help if he stopped reminding us that he's such a product of celebrity culture--he packaged his first album in eight years with an arty companion DVD featuring the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Asia Argento. Lennon is who he is, though, and on Friendly Fire (EMI/Capitol) he seems almost proud to be playing stubbornly ordinary pop-rock. The standout is the title track, a nakedly conflicted song about betrayal and loss that raises goose bumps. Jim Noir opens. a 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $18.50. A --Monica Kendrick

cpretenders Considering the Pretenders have been around for nearly three decades and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, Pirate Radio, the career-spanning box set Rhino released back in March, might've seemed a tad overdue. But front woman Chrissie Hynde, the one constant in the band's ever shifting lineup, has always been about modesty and understatement: in an interview with Billboard earlier this year she said her only ambitions in life were to have fun and not wind up waitressing in Akron. The last few Pretenders records have been too full of breezy balladry to stand up next to the best of the group's early work, but they haven't been altogether bad, either. And despite being old enough to join the AARP, Hynde, with those vision-obscuring black bangs and that smoky voice, is still very much the same attitudinal punk she was in 1978, equipped with enough cocksure swagger to put the Stones out of business. a 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, $43. A --Jessica Hopper

cMAJA RATKJE & POING I wouldn't have thought it possible for a world-class new-music ensemble to use only saxophone, accordion, and double bass, but that's exactly what Poing does. Since forming in 1999 this Norwegian trio--saxophonist Rolf-Erik Nystrom, accordionist Frode Haltli, and bassist Hakon Thelin--has played more than 40 premieres of works by some of the planet's most progressive composers, particularly from Scandinavia, China, and Japan. Poing's flexibility makes it attractive to young writers: the players have conservatory-honed chops and a fluency with the sort of extended technique you'd expect from improvising musicians. Two of the five pieces on the group's second album, this year's Planet Poing (Jazzaway), were written by fellow Norwegian Maja Ratkje, a dazzling vocalist and noise artist who performs in Fe-mail and Spunk. Her compositions demand that the musicians keep an open mind: "Rondo Bastard Overture Explosion," for example, twists the rondo form to integrate solo practice recordings made on Dictaphones into the live performance, a process that greatly enhances the texture and dynamics of the piece. Ratkje and Poing will perform together at this show, part of a brief U.S. tour. a 8 PM, Bond Chapel, University of Chicago, 1050 E. 59th, 773-702-8670. F A --Peter Margasak

wednesday13

BLOODYMINDED, LOCRIAN Mark Solotroff, former Intrinsic Action power-electronics sleaze and current front man of BLOODYMINDED, has been making vulgar noise in Chicago for more than two decades now. Bloodyminded's latest release, Phases: Two (a limited CD-R on Solotroff's Bloodlust! label), is an abstract phalanx of targeted nastiness. The band applied what Solotroff calls "source control processing methodology" to live material from a recent tour, and the result sounds like a pack of snarling garbage disposals straining against their leashes.

Local duo LOCRIAN specialize in electric ambient improvisation, playing the architecture as much as they do their guitars, old synths, and microphones--the sounds unfold differently in different spaces. They abuse their amplifiers with unusual sensitivity, caressing feedback into lovely musical shapes--one track on the recent self-released Chladni is called "Amps Into Instruments."

Bloodyminded headlines; Locrian, Oakeater, Wilt, Sexual Freedom, and Death Factory open. a 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $7. --J. Niimi

JEREMY ENIGK It's been ten years since former Sunny Day Real Estate front man Jeremy Enigk released his solo debut, Return of the Frog Queen, full of spirituality-infused orch-rock that sounded like what might've happened (for better or for worse) if John Lennon had had the Moody Blues at his disposal. On his second record, the new World Waits (on his own Lewis Hollow label), the instrumentation is still lush, but Enigk's nocturnal epiphanies sound less mannered and more confident, right down to a playful bit of Jim Morrison-ism on "City Tonight." Life at Sea opens. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12. --Monica Kendrick

mike pride See Sunday. Pride plays in Locksmith Isadore, a trio with bass clarinetist Jason Stein and cellist Kevin Davis. A quintet with Mars Williams, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Brian Sandstrom, Kent Kessler, and Frank Rosaly plays the second set; Ken Vandermark spins. a 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $6.

thursday14

JASON AJEMIAN'S DAY DREAM FULL LIFESTYLES Over the past few years Jason Ajemian has become one of the most active bassists in town, thriving as a key member of Triage, Dragons 1976, Mandarin Movie, and Born Heller, among many other ensembles. Yet he rarely presents his own music as a leader--one reason the emergence of this new group is so notable. The other is the personnel: guitarist Jeff Parker, cornetist Rob Mazurek, drummer Chad Taylor, and exciting New York tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, who's worked recently with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian. Ajemian declined to provide me with any information about the project, but considering his quirky aesthetic--which finds a strange common ground between free jazz and hillbilly music--and the killer lineup, I'm happy to take my chances. See also Sunday. a 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. F A --Peter Margasak

REPTOIDS Part of the trick of choosing a good name for your punk band is making it seem like you've been around forever. This local quartet (three women, one man) came together in 2004, but they snapped up a name that should've been taken 20 years ago. They make the music part sound easy too: every song on their second self-released EP, last year's Park a Tiger, slithers with a reptilian cool but still comes down heavy and hard. M.O.T.O. headlines and Das Kapital plays second. a 10 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick

cdale watson Dale Watson's latest album, Whiskey or God (Palo Duro), appeared to be his swan song when it came out in March: in late 2005 the hard-core honky-tonk singer had relocated to Baltimore from his native Texas to be closer to his children, setting music aside and picking up work as a UPS driver. The hiatus appears to have been short-lived--he moved back to Austin this summer and he's playing shows again--but if Whiskey or God turns out to be the last recording he releases, he'll have gone out in style. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Ray Price, Gary Stewart, and other unpolished shitkickers have always been influences on his music, and as usual Watson's best tunes lament the disappearance of old-school country sounds. But as many of the songs reveal, Watson has withstood enough tragedy in recent years to be nobody's pretender; a new documentary, Crazy Again, details how his girlfriend's death in 2000 sent him into a downward spiral that led to a stint in a mental hospital. Chicago's Hoyle Brothers open with a Christmas-themed set that's also their final show with singer-guitarist Jacque Judy, who's moving to Austin himself. Don't be surprised if Watson gets into the spirit and plays a few songs from his fine holiday collection, 2001's Christmas Time in Texas. a 9 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $12. --Peter Margasak

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