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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jennifer o'connor For her third album, Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars (Matador, 2006), this New York singer-songwriter has whittled down her arrangements, mostly singing over just a clean electric guitar, bass, and drums. This was a good decision, as it put the focus on her terrific melodies. Though O'Connor's chord patterns are simple, she manages to find elegant shapes within them, making for instantly memorable tunes that have earned her numerous comparisons to early Liz Phair. Lyrically, she's less confrontational than Phair but no less personal, alternating between autobiography and fiction with lost, damaged, or elusive love the common thread. Kevin Devine & the Goddamned Band headline, O'Connor plays third, Koufax goes second, and Pablo opens. a 7 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10. A --Peter Margasak

cP.O.S. Stefon Alexander was a teenage punk bassist when he discovered hip-hop via Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus and cassette releases by the Rhymesayers collective--now a dominant presence in his hometown of Minneapolis. In 2004 he cofounded a hip-hop collective of his own, Doomtree, but he kept his old punk nickname--it stands for "Pissed-Off Stef"--when he released his debut as a rapper, Ipecac Neat. (He still plays punk rock too, most notably as a guitarist and singer for Building Better Bombs.) He was soon picked up by Rhymesayers, which put out his follow-up, Audition, last year. With guest vocals from Craig Finn of the Hold Steady and Slug from Atmosphere and a sound that combines the stuttering, abstract beats of underground hip-hop with the angry urban attitude of radio rap and the brash guitars of punk and indie rock, the album sometimes tries to swallow too much at once--and Alexander's flow is so much like Eminem's on "P.O.S. Is Ruining My Life" it's kinda embarrassing. But as the saying goes, there's a little something here for everyone. And cuts like "Bleeding Hearts Club (Mpls Chapter)" fairly slam. Mac Lethal, Verbal Kent, and Visual & Rhyme Scheme open. a 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $12, $10 in advance, 18+. --J. Niimi

cRETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR The long-lived Duluth trio Low is a big, dreamy beast with a slow metabolism, so when guitarist Alan Sparhawk wants to show his more efficient and carnivorous side he does it via side projects: the Black Eyed Snakes are a garage-blues terror, while the Retribution Gospel Choir specializes in a mournfully anthemic classic-rock sound. A 2005 version of the band was a collaborative effort with the Red House Painters' Mark Kozelek; this time it's just Sparhawk, Low bassist Matt Livingston, and drummer Eric Pollard with an Econoline van full of Crazy Horseisms and spacey guitar solos and oddball covers. Their tours tend to be convened spontaneously, and it shows--both in their occasional sloppiness and in the exuberant energy they unleash. They've recorded two EPs so far: the first one's no longer available, but the second will be for sale at the show and eventually at Low's Web site, chairkickers.com. Pinebender headlines and Artsy Golfer opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick

cSHORTY'S R & B BLUES BAND West- side promoter Henry L. Survillion (aka Shorty) puts together a rotating crew of accomplished blues, soul, and R & B sidemen for this weekly Friday night gig. Many of them have done road work with well-known names, and among them they've got just about every old-school style at their disposal. That's the idea: for the band to be able to effortlessly back an eclectic parade of vocalists, from veteran crooner Still Bill to feisty soul-blues singers like Lady Kat, Miss Jesi', and Z.Z. Hill Jr. (Cicero Blake, an established contemporary soul-blues star, has also been known to make an appearance.) The music and the format are designed to evoke a vintage Regal Theatre revue, but this is no exercise in nostalgia: the commitment and chops of all concerned make everything feel immediate. a 10 PM, Natural Rhythm Forty Plus Social Club, 2000 W. 59th, 773-776-9285, 30+. F --David Whiteis

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cSCOTT AMENDOLA Band Like most jazz drummers, San Francisco's Scott Amendola is usually thought of as a sideman, and over the last decade and a half he's filled that role well for T.J. Kirk, the Charlie Hunter Quartet, and the Nels Cline Singers, among many others. But his albums with the Scott Amendola Band make it clear that he's also an exceptional composer and arranger. The most recent, Believe (Cryptogramophone, 2005), is the best, featuring a stellar cast that interprets his material with remarkable sensitivity and imagination. Guitarists Nels Cline and Jeff Parker make a simpatico team, devising between them an ever-shifting blend of melody and texture, distortion and clarity, space and density; and violinist Jenny Scheinman brings a wonderful rural twang to Amendola's tunes, which draw on country at least as much as they do on bebop. Rounded out by bassist John Shifflett, the band dispenses with the predictable sequence of melody statement followed by a string of solos, instead creating gorgeous ensemble pieces that erupt organically into improvisation, from the Sonny Sharrock-meets-Tortoise acrobatics of "Shady" to the pure Neil Young/Crazy Horse stomp of "Buffalo Bird Woman." a 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10, $8 in advance. --Peter Margasak

the box social This Madison band has gotten a lot of mileage out of Blown to Bits, a 15-minute EP on No Karma--which is fair enough, as there's no reason any of its songs couldn't be a hit in some slightly better world. But playing such straight-ahead rock--like punk with the ungainly edges polished off in a tumbler--broadens the competition: of the songs you can hear on their MySpace page, the one that really jumps out is the Tom Petty cover. The Thin Man opens. a 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Monica Kendrick

camera obscura Camera Obscura have always been likened to fellow Scots Belle & Sebastian, but last year's Let's Get Out of This Country (Merge) made comparisons to contemporary groups irrelevant. They went straight to the early 60s for inspiration, with detail-rich arrangements and soft-focus melodies that, paired with Tracyanne Campbell's honey-sweet voice, suggested an early Phil Spector production featuring Skeeter Davis. The Essex Green opens. a 9:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. A --Peter Margasak

cCHRIS FOREMAN & DAN TRUDELL When Green Mill owner Dave Jemilo bought a second Hammond B-3 last year, he must have had nights like this in mind: the city's two leading jazz-organ men going head-to-head, pedals to the metal. Dueling organs come up a lot less often than almost any other instrumental matchup, since a single B-3 (with its multiple keyboards and timbres) can mimic half an orchestra. But Dan Trudell and Chris Foreman make fine sparring partners. Foreman, anchor of the Deep Blue Organ Trio and Henry Johnson's Organ Express, was inspired by Jack McDuff and Jimmy McGriff, the iconic "second wave" organists who followed the pioneering Jimmy Smith, so his florid lines simmer with blues. That contrasts neatly with Trudell's expansive solos, which emphasize the less ornamented, less bluesy approach of Larry Young and, more recently, Larry Goldings. They'll be joined by Andy Brown on guitar and Greg Rockingham on drums, but I'm guessing those guys will be lucky to get a solo in edgewise. a 8 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway, 773-878-5552, $10. --Neil Tesser

redd kross Looking back on the 90s, it's ridiculous how much time pop-culture commentators spent treating Gen X's obsession with old TV shows and movies as though it were somehow really, really deep. (I chalk it up to not having much of a war to worry about.) But the climate that allowed for all that chin stroking also gave decadent LA glam punks Redd Kross the chance to parlay their lifelong obsession with icons like Linda Blair and Tatum O'Neal into an almost graceful stint in major-label alt-rockdom. After 1993's Phaseshifter they appeared sporadically, releasing just one more full-length in 1997. But the classic late-80s Neurotica lineup has been playing and recording steadily since July, and by all accounts the band's sound has barely aged--hardly surprising, seeing as how it was largely celluloid to begin with. Frisbie and the Hushdrops open. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $20. --Monica Kendrick

cschubertiade chicago Schubert, who died when he was only 31, never lived to hear most of his music played outside the informal gatherings in the homes of friends and colleagues known as Schubertiades, usually with the composer at the piano. To celebrate his birthday, January 31, the Pianoforte Foundation will host a two-day festival dedicated to his music--two separate six-hour programs in its small recital space and, across the hall, a makeshift cafe serving Viennese coffee and desserts. Among the Saturday performers are violinist Rachel Barton Pine (the Rondo in B Minor, D. 895, for violin and piano), violinist David Yonan (the breathtaking fantasy for violin and piano, D. 934), and pianist Alexander Djordevic and his violist brother, Mark, both on the faculty of the Merit School of Music (the moving Arpeggione Sonata). Other works on the program include the Impromptus D. 899, Moments Musicaux, and the song cycle Die Schone Mullerin, sung by baritone Ryan de Ryke; the other performers are Amy Dissayanake, Joel Schoenhals, Alex Komarenko, Micha Yui, and Eugenia Cheng. Visit pianofortechicago.com for more. See also Sunday. a 3 PM, Pianoforte Chicago, Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan, suite 825, 312-291-0000. F --Barbara Yaross

DAVID VANDERVELDE & THE MOONSTATION HOUSE BAND The rock press loves a good growing-up-in-public story, but nothing really gets the buzz machine going like someone who appears out of nowhere and hits the ground running. That's the case with David Vandervelde, who at the age of 22 has spent a couple years as an apprentice at Jay Bennett's studio and dropped a debut that, one week after its release, is already stirring up a lot of blog chatter. Fortunately, The Moonstation House Band (Secretly Canadian) justifies the hype. Recorded with a bunch of Vandervelde's friends from his days in Michigan on much of the same equipment used for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, it's the most enjoyable T. Rex worship I've heard in some time. This is a record-release party. The Soft as Fuck DJs and Hot as Hell open. a 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, $8 in advance. --Monica Kendrick

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cpony up! Now that the Organ has split up, this Montreal four-piece looks like the top contender to become the next all-gal Canadian indie-pop phenomenon. Pony Up! attracted the patronage of Ben Lee early on--he signed the group to his Ten Fingers imprint and in 2004 released a split single with them. Dim Mak, which absorbed Lee's label, adopted the band and released their self-titled mini LP the following year. The first proper Pony Up! full-length, Make Love to the Judges With Your Eyes, which came out last spring, benefits from clean, unfussy production by two big-name indie engineers, Brian Paulson (Slint, Wilco) and Howard Ian Bilerman (Wolf Parade, Arcade Fire), who leave plenty of breathing room for the poignant melodies and dewy-eyed lyrics of front women Laura Wills (keyboards) and Sarah Moundroukas (guitar). The band has a sound that people are more likely to call charming than awesome: the singing misses a note here and there and the drumming is sometimes a bit shaky. But with memorable tunes like "Only Feelgood" and "Dance for Me," Pony Up! doesn't exactly need to worry about ruthless technical precision. We Will Eat Rats to Survive opens. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --J. Niimi

cschubertiade chicago See Saturday. Visit pianofortechicago.com for program details. a 3 PM, Pianoforte Chicago, Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan, Suite 825, 312-291-0000. F

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calvin curran In the mid-60s, American composer Alvin Curran moved to Rome, where he and several collaborators--including Richard Teitelbaum, Frederic Rzewski, Steve Lacy, and Allan Bryant--performed as MEV, or Musica Elettronica Viva, one of the first electroacoustic improvised-music groups and one of the earliest to explore the use of synthesizers and amplified found objects. Since then Curran has maintained a refreshingly wide-ranging approach to composing and making music, keeping up with evolving technology and tapping into the sounds of his childhood in Rhode Island--from 40s jazz to the low-end horn blasts of ocean freighters. He's written for all kinds of classical ensembles, collaborated with jazz players like ROVA and Evan Parker, and engaged in laptop experiments with Domenico Sciajno. He's so prolific and his curiosity so seemingly endless that after all these years his approach remains hard to pin down; he's still wonderfully in flux. Curran doesn't make it to Chicago often, so this pair of concerts shouldn't be ignored. On Tuesday he'll collaborate with members of Ensemble Noamnesia and the AGAM Quartet on works including VSTO, for string quartet, and the electronic piece TransDadaExpress. The following night he'll improvise with Noamnesia founder Gene Coleman, Jim Baker, Michael Zerang, and others at Elastic; see Wednesday's Treatment item for more. a 8 PM, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis, 773-702-8670. F A --Peter Margasak

incubus I always thought a band called Incubus should come off a little dangerous, sexy, and otherworldly, but these guys are so stubbornly, flat-footedly none of the above that I'm almost willing to credit them with deliberate irony. Light Grenades (Epic), released in November, is headed straight for radio: it's reassuring and mundane in the way that only post-Pearl Jam classic rock can be. Albert Hammond Jr. opens. a 7 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, sold out. A --Monica Kendrick

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calvin curran with Gene Coleman, Jim Baker, Michael Zerang, Michael Hartman and

Todd Carter of TV Pow, and Jason Soliday. See Tuesday.

a 10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, 773-772-3616, $7 suggested donation. A

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crhys chatham guitar trio Rhys Chatham's brand-new release, A Crimson Grail (Table of the Elements), is beyond epic. The composition that gives the disc its name was scored for 400 electric guitars and performed only once, in October 2005, under the towering dome of Paris's Basilique du Sacre Coeur, which acted as a resonating chamber to generate huge clouds of sound that swooped and spiraled like an albatross riding an updraft. It's a logical extension of his 1989 composition An Angel Moves Too Fast to See, scored for 100 guitars and staged 20 times to date, but Chatham laid out the basic vocabulary of A Crimson Grail--the use of overtones as melodic material and the combination of classical rigor with rock's wall of amplified sound--30 years ago, in one of his very earliest pieces for the instrument. Guitar Trio is the essence of simplicity. On record it lasts for eight minutes, with three guitarists methodically strumming first one, then three, then six strings to create an enormous tension that's only partly relieved by the myriad overtones that swirl around the relentless pulse of the rhythm section; on this tour Chatham plans to beef up the size of the ensemble and play two 20-minute versions of the piece, one with the drummer on hi-hat only and another employing the full kit. In each city he and guitarist David Daniell will be joined by several local players--in this case Todd Rittman, Robert Lowe, Doug McCombs, Jeff Parker, and Ben and Adam Vida on guitars, Josh Abrams on bass, and John McEntire on drums. White/Light and Good Stuff House open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. --Bill Meyer

RUTHIE FOSTER This acoustic folkie reinvents herself as a gospel-soul shouter on her brand-new fifth album, The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster (Blue Corn Music). Producer Malcolm "Papa Mali" Welbourne successfully updates the classic Memphis sound, and Foster certainly sings like a natural--her knockdown version of Lucinda Williams's "Fruits of My Labor" is hard to resist. But ultimately the record comes off like a well-crafted rundown of mid-20th-century black music for folks who think John Hiatt sounds fresh.

a 8:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $12. --Peter Margasak

LIVEFASTDIE Some of the progenitors of punk and garage rock embraced the image of the guitar-pounding idiot not just to piss off squares but to preempt any criticism that they were actually guitar-pounding idiots. For the miscreants who fused the two into garage punk, though, retardedness qua retardedness became an art form in and of itself--along with misanthropy and debased production values, it's one of the cornerstones of the form. LiveFastDie's Bandana Thrash Record (Dead Beat) has plenty of all three. On "Camero Shit the Bed" singer and guitarist Camero Werewolf repeatedly shrieks the title phrase through the tinniest microphone I've ever heard over a backing track murkier than a fourth-generation cassette dub, then lunges into a way stupid guitar solo that completely kills. As they proudly point out in their bio, the album's named after a song that only comes on the vinyl version--a totally pointless "fuck you" to a big chunk of their fan base that combines misanthropy and retardedness as effectively as their music. The Bold Ones, Canadian Rifle, and the Chicken Livers open. a 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8, 18+. --Miles Raymer

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