Spot, Granpa's Ghost | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Spot, Granpa's Ghost 

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SPOT, GRANDPA'S GHOST

These two acts are part of a traveling showcase for Upland--a rootsy, more cerebral subsidiary of Owned & Operated, the Denver-area indie started by the band All and run by Joe Carducci. Grandpa's Ghost, from Pocahontas, Illinois, are the least known of the gang, even in these parts, but they shouldn't be. On their first CD for the label (which is their fourth overall), Il Baccio, they prove themselves a startlingly good psychedelic roots-rock band. Building and droning, skittering and chugging, and occasionally moaning J Mascis-style, they're willing to stretch out over as many tracks as it takes to get out there; like Giant Sand, they understand that being from the boonies means a better view of the stars as well as the dirt. The best-known act on the tour is Spot, who worked with Black Flag, the Minutemen, Husker Du, and the Meat Puppets as house producer for the SST label back when Carducci ran it. He was a legend before he ever played an instrument into a microphone, and now, on his first full-length, he plays a lot of them--including guitar, mandolin, banjo, bass, bass clarinet, and "fiddola," a viola played like a fiddle. Unhalfbaking (a nod, I suspect, to the Fairport Convention classic Unhalfbricking) is a genius punk-folk record, sweaty and funny and totally unpretentious. Spot doesn't overload the record with his presence: many of the tracks are hopping instrumentals, and when he does decide to sing, he doesn't go all po-faced like so many alt-rockers turned folkies. Instead he heads down the eccentric-post-Beat path (a narrow one, through dark woods) taken by the likes of Michael Hurley and Peter Stampfel. Musically he's even weirder than they are sometimes: fiendish distortion is mixed low under wandering tin whistle and pretty guitar on "Satin Sheets," and distinctly stoned-sounding flourishes mark even the loveliest, most straightforward tracks (the guitar instrumental "The Waltz From Orsa," the Celtic stomper "The Ministry of Funny Dances"). Proof that the elusive grail of "tradition" is as much in the individual vision as it is in the cliches. The other bands on the bill are Drag the River, which features All's Chad Price and Karl Alvarez, and sometime Holy Modal Rounder David Lightbourne and his band the Stop & Listen Boys. The order, according to O & O, will be determined by "bitter Darwinian combat." Wednesday, 9:30 PM, the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia; 773-227-4433. MONICA KENDRICK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/George Bradnard.

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