Franz Nicolay, the Syllable Section, Balkaners | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader
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Franz Nicolay, the Syllable Section, Balkaners 

When: Sat., Jan. 17, 10 p.m. 2009
Price: $8
Franz Nicolay is best known as the grandly mustachioed dude whose piano, organ, and “woah-oh” backing vocals help push the Hold Steady’s songs firmly into the realm of the epic, but he also maintains a couple of steady side gigs—including a role in the theatrical art-punk collective World/Inferno Friendship Society—and has sat in with everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Leftover Crack. Recently he’s added to his impressive CV a solo record, Major General (Fistolo), which applies the Hold Steady’s wide-screen scope to a skewed take on cabaret, klezmer, and Gypsy music—an aesthetic evident in his choice of collaborators, who include members of the Dresden Dolls and Balkan Beat Box. Musicians with stellar reps as backing players are often only good in supporting roles, but Nicolay’s got the songwriting chops and vocal presence to be a front man—and he proves it on tunes like “World/Inferno vs. the End of the Evening,” a Hold Steady-ish ballad that looks at life on the road in a punk band through the fuzzy lens of nostalgia. The Syllable Section and the Balkaners open. —Miles Raymer



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