The List: June 10-16, 2010 | Soundboard | Chicago Reader

The List: June 10-16, 2010 

Critics' choices and other notable concerts: The Fleshtones, So Percussion with Matmos, Tony Allen, Indian Jewelry, the Thing with Joe McPhee, and other notable shows

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Tony Allen

Tony Allen

Bernard Benant


Rachid Taha


Chico Trujillo
Denny Zeitlin Trio


So Percussion with Matmos
Third Eye Blind
Denny Zeitlin Trio


Ingrid Fliter


Tony Allen


Man Forever


Indian Jewelry
The Thing with Joe McPhee


BOMBAMAN Drum 'n' bass never had much presence in the States outside of raves and car-commercial soundtracks, and its descendant two-step had even less, aside from Craig David's brief popularity. So that evolutionary line, which snaked away from house and techno's four-on-the-floor beats and led to dubstep, largely came about away from American ears, and once dubstep started being imported over here many listeners and clubgoers didn't know what to do with its skittering, shifting rhythms. With his original tracks, remixes, and mix tapes, Toronto DJ and producer Bombaman bridges the gap between dubstep and house, keeping the former style's trademark sonics (like dive-bombing bass and wobbly synth tones) but bending the beats to resemble the latter's. If you're looking to learn how to move to dubstep, consider this set a lesson. DJ C vs. Whoa-D and Ruckus open.  10 PM, Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $8. —Miles Raymer

RACHID TAHA On his latest album, Bonjour (Knitting Factory), husky-voiced French-Algerian singer Rachid Taha downplays his roots in Algerian rai and chaabi in order to adopt an amalgam of international pop flavors. Having parted ways with longtime producer Steve Hillage, he's working with up-and-coming French pop auteur Gaetan Roussel, who gives this slightly stylistically erratic collection a much slicker, more dance-oriented sound. Taha's music retains traces of his past—twangy oud licks, the cries of what sounds like a sampled or synthesized raita—but too often booming electronic rhythms, cloying synthesizer, and outsize bombast overwhelm the arrangements. Several of the better songs, like "Ha Baby" (a play on the Arabic endearment habibi) and the title track, recall the panglobal folk-pop of Manu Chao, but "Ila Liqa" is a sort of cheesy house-ified ballad. What saves the album is Taha's singing, which thankfully still has its rough-hewn soul and swagger. He's a kinetic performer with an old-school rock-star attitude, and if he delivers tonight like he did eight years ago, when he made his Chicago debut at the Empty Bottle, this will be a show you'll still remember eight years from now. Lamajamal opens. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $18, $15 in advance. —Peter Margasak

WRACK Former Chicagoan Kyle Bruckmann has played oboe, English horn, and/or electronics in a wide variety of contexts—the deconstructed rock band Pink Mountain, the electroacoustic duo EKG, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra—but it's still possible to find a single sentence to describe his entire body of his work: he makes creative use of the tension between seemingly irreconcilable musical elements. His acoustic quintet Wrack—with violist Jen Clare Paulson, bassist Anton Hatwich, bass clarinetist Jason Stein, and drummer Tim Daisy—gets its push from the unbridled solos and runaway rhythms of jazz and its pull from the careful contrapuntal structures and nuanced interactions of contemporary chamber music. Wrack are on a short midwestern tour, breaking in new material that they'll record this fall in the Bay Area as part of a project that will also include a collaboration with the ROVA Saxophone Quartet. The excellent duo of saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Frank Rosaly opens. See also Sunday.  10 PM, Elastic, 2830 N. Milwaukee, second floor, 773-772-3616, $8 suggested donation. —Bill Meyer


CHICO TRUJILLO The Colombian-born style called cumbia has been something of a musical lingua franca throughout Latin and South America for decades, even rivaling norteño and salsa on the charts in Mexico, and lately—helped along by everything from the up-to-the-moment electro-cumbias of Argentine club-music collective ZZK to the choice 60s and 70s cuts collected and reissued by crate-digging labels like Soundway or Analog Africa—it's started to go global. Chile's Chico Trujillo, originally a side project of the ska band La Floripondio, have been tweaking cumbia for ten years or so, coloring its shuffling, syncopated groove with fat horn arrangements, jaunty accordion, and generous flashes of surf guitar, ska rhythm, and cocktail-lounge vibraphone. The group's recent U.S. debut, Chico de Oro (Barbes), makes it pretty clear they're a party band at heart, perfectly happy to piss off purists if it keeps the dance floor packed. Grupo Fantasma headlines. 10 PM, House of Blues Back Porch Stage, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $15, $13 in advance. —Peter Margasak

DENNY ZEITLIN TRIO With the exception of his loud patterned shirts, which make Bill Cosby's sweaters look classy, there's nothing too flashy about Chicago-born pianist Denny Zeitlin. The elegant surfaces of his music make it easy to peg him as nothing more than an exceptionally skilled mainstream player, but beneath them is a musical imagination in constant motion. On last year's In Concert (Sunnyside), a superb live disc compiled from shows Zeitlin played with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson over the past decade, he can seem as daring as a tightrope walker, taking the music from a leisurely swing to a mind-melting blur in a single bar. The album combines jazz standards (Cole Porter's "All of You," John Coltrane's "Mr. P.C.") with Zeitlin's sturdy originals, but he likes to break each number up, casually interpolating passages of free improvisation, reharmonizing chords, and playing with tempos—sometimes it sounds like there's a kid hiding backstage and messing with the band's remote control. No matter how breathless and intense the music gets, though, Zeitlin never loses his sense of decorum. He isn't a free-jazz player, but within the confines of postbop he finds an inviolable zone of freedom. He's joined for these two nights by Williams and Wilson. See also Saturday. 8 and 9:45 PM, Club Blujazz, 1540 W. North, 773-360-8046, $30. —Peter Margasak


FLESHTONES Formed in New York in 1976, the Fleshtones have never experienced even a moment of Next Big Thing-ness, and yet they just keep playing. It's like they couldn't stop even if they wanted to. Joe Bonomo's Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America's Garage Band was unputdownable: the people and places who drifted through its pages were memorable, and the story stubbornly refused to stoop to pathos. The Fleshtones have neither been blessed by stardom nor cursed by tragedy—they haven't even had a personnel change since 1990—so to understand the reason for their perseverance you really need to see them do what they do best, which is to play irresistible, timeless fuzzed-up garage-soul. The Australian label Raven Records has just released a collection of their early-to-mid-80s near-hits that should serve as Exhibit A in what a truly great era that was for American rock. The Goldstars, Teenage Imposters, Tomorrow the Moon, and Earth Program open. 7 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15, $13 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

SO PERCUSSION WITH MATMOS Formed in 1999 by four music grad students at Yale and initially devoted to rigorous contemporary classical works by the likes of Reich, Varese, Cage, and Xenakis, New York's So Percussion has since shrugged off the traditional trappings of the recital hall. The performers do without music stands, instead playing from memory, and over the years they've increasingly embraced multimedia presentations; they often write their own material these days, and they've developed a gentle, bright, accessible sound. For the past few years they've been working with eccentric Baltimore-based electronic duo Matmos—they played a concert together at the Chicago Cultural Center in October 2006—and that collaboration has finally resulted in an album, Treasure State (Cantaloupe). So Percussion's pedigree is evident in their dazzling technique and intricate interplay, but the music on Treasure State—all of it written by members of the two groups—covers a much wider range than what most people are used to calling classical. "Treasure," the lead track, collides Martin Denny exotica and gamelan music, bombarding a simmering froth of tuned drums and gongs with soothing bell-like cascades, prerecorded animal sounds, and squealing electronic tones. The perverse influence of Matmos, aka M.C. Schmidt and Drew Daniel, seems to be encouraging So Percussion to look in stranger places than usual for their sounds, and here they make instruments of beer cans, cactus, and bits of ceramic, among other things—though their tones are so heavily processed it's hard to tell. "Water" tops serene Reich-inspired steel-drum patterns with samples of sloshing liquid, surprisingly splashy typewriter sounds, and sputtery trumpet (courtesy of Dave Douglas); "Shard" and "Swamp" (the latter an improvised piece) deliver a kind of dry, dense funk, with the live drummers locked into synthesized grooves. For this performance the musicians will use traditional percussion instruments, electronics, and a variety of unorthodox noisemakers—including bird calls, aluminum space blankets, and of course that close-miked cactus. The program will include deconstructed versions of pieces from the album as well as some unannounced covers. Tiger Hatchery opens. 7:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-397-4010, $20, $16 members, $10 students. —Peter Margasak

THIRD EYE BLIND Last year Stolen Transmission owner Sarah Lewitinn blogged that, to her great astonishment, she'd learned that the members of the Permanent Me, a teenage emo-pop band on her label, considered Third Eye Blind the best band of the 90s. Further conversations with people under the age of 25 revealed that many of them felt the same. Yeah, they seem about as disposable as a burrito wrapper to me too, but go back to their songs and you'll find a lot of shared characteristics with current emo pop: broad, cathartic hooks sung in a high register, exaggerated dynamics, glossy production. The band's been self-releasing records since getting dropped by Atlantic a few years ago, and a recent official video looks like it was shot on a cell phone, but seeing as they're currently touring with some of the biggest names in teen-beloved rock music, I'd say they're having the last laugh. Third Eye Blind headlines the Bamboozle Roadshow main stage; LMFAO, Boys Like Girls, All Time Low, Good Charlotte, Forever the Sickest Kids, and Hellogoodbye open. On the second stage, ending just as the main-stage action starts, are Stereo Skyline, the Ready Set, Cady Groves, Great Big Planes, Mercy Mercedes, Drive A, and the Prices.  1 PM, Soldier Field, 1410 S. Museum Campus, 312-559-1212, $34. —Miles Raymer

DENNY ZEITLIN TRIO See Friday. 8 and 9:45 PM, Club Blujazz, 1540 W. North, 773-360-8046, $30.


INGRID FLITER A poetic pianist who's long specialized in Chopin—last year she released a CD of his complete waltzes on EMI—Ingrid Fliter is also the first woman to win the prestigious Gilmore Artist Award. She earned that distinction in 2006, and since then her career has continued to flourish; today she makes her Orchestra Hall debut as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's monthlong Beethoven Festival. The program includes Beethoven's Sonata No. 18 in E-Flat Major, which Fliter recorded in 2005 for the VAI Audio label; her performance is hearty and exuberant, tempered in the third movement's minuet with the appropriate restraint. The two other works on the program, both by composers I haven't heard Fliter play, make use of the piano's ability to suggest an orchestra's full range of textures, pitches, and dynamics: Schumann's Symphonic Etudes and Bach's Italian Concerto. The Bach is based on the concerto grosso form, where orchestral passages are contrasted with sections for a soloist or chamber-size groups; on solo piano this translates to a big, full chordal sound with reprieves of more intimate music. Its brisk, jubilant outer movements contrast with the pathos of the second, whose lavishly ornamented melody is accompanied by a somber bass-note ostinato and a series of legato chords. The Schumann's 12 studies—variations on the opening theme—range widely in style and difficulty, adding up to a magnificent tour de force, from the profound mournfulness of its opening to the majestic bravura of its finale. Its harmonies are exquisite, and Schumann makes beautiful use of counterpoint and inner voicing—that is, melodic content between the primary melody and the bass part. Particularly striking are the eighth etude, with its sweeping lines and overlapping canonlike structure, and the 11th, with its smoldering accompaniment and haunting two-voice melody in the right hand. Later this week Bernard Haitink will conclude his four-year tenure as principal conductor of the CSO with concerts of three of Beethoven's symphonies: the First and Seventh on June 15 and 16, the Ninth on June 18 through 20. 3 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $16-$74. —Barbara Yaross

click to enlarge Starring
  • Starring

STARRING From the jungles of Brooklyn comes the lush, churning garage prog of this motley quintet's new debut album, Wife of God (Death by Audio). Guitarist and front woman Clara Latham and violist Amy Cimini are bandmates in ork-pop combo the Fancy (you may recall Cimini, a former Chicagoan, from Roommate or any of a zillion avant-garde improvising groups), and drummer Matt Marlin is in Pterodactyl, where he perfected the frenzied, head-over-heels tumble that Starring launches into deep space. The other two members—bassist Sam Kulik, a well-traveled multi-instrumentalist who plays trombone with Talibam! on a forthcoming collaboration, and Skeletons keyboardist Mike Gallope—hail from a prankish faction of the New York improvised-music community that's been doing splendidly terrible things to art-rock. Together they create a kind of hovering engine, powering their combo of eerie sing-song vocals, sensual Farfisa drones, raw shrieks of viola, and wiry Krautrock guitar with deep-sea-drilling bottom end (think Sir Lord Baltimore, except faster). The band is nearly as omnivorous as King Crimson when it comes to genre, and just as good at making all the bits fit together: I think I'm picking up Deep Purple, the MC5, Sonic Youth, Soft Machine, and Devo, all sitting together on the same plate so that everybody's sauce leaks into everybody's meat. It's a heady and beautiful blend. A Tundra opens; see also Monday.  9:45 PM, the Whistler, 2421 N. Milwaukee, 773-227-3530. —Monica Kendrick

WRACK See Thursday. The quintet plays two sets tonight. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested.


TONY ALLEN Fela Kuti died nearly 13 years ago, but the Afrobeat sound he developed seems more ubiquitous than ever—not just in Africa but around the world. And no one keeps the faith like drummer Tony Allen—not only was he Kuti's coconspirator in the creation of Afrobeat's signature groove, he's also true to his old boss's progressive instincts. Over the past two decades he's led Afrobeat through all kinds of mutations—from the electronica-kissed 2000 album Black Voices to the late-aughts rock supergroup the Good, the Bad & the Queen with Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, and Simon Tong—but regardless of the setting, his distinctive playing cuts right through. Allen merges James Brown funk with jazz, highlife, and traditional West African rhythms, and his calling card is a doubled-up kick-drum accent that's weighted like a heartbeat, pinning his grooves solidly to the earth no matter how intricate his syncopations and permutations get up top. Last year he played in a band assembled by oddball Finnish saxist, singer, and composer Jimi Tenor on the surprisingly great Inspiration Information 4 (Strut), almost single-handedly dictating the album's loose, dance-crazy feel—even Tenor's wan falsetto sounded good. More recently Allen and his own killer group—which includes one of his principal collaborators, keyboardist and producer Fixi—cut Secret Agent (World Circuit/Nonesuch), a fluid dose of Afrobeat that emphasizes different elements of the style from one track to the next. It's such a rock-solid sound that its power stands up to every tweak—including the incongruous accordion Fixi busts out on a few tracks. Great Lake Swimmers open. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak

STARRING See Sunday. Paper Mice, Glass Bricks, and Bad Drugs open. 8 PM, Cole's, 2338 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-5802.


MAN FOREVER Before you laugh at the news that Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson staged a concert for canines on the steps of the Sydney Opera House last week, remember that they also laughed at Lou for making Metal Machine Music. Thirty-five years after its release, that landmark double LP of manipulated feedback is still motivating musicians like Kid Millions, who drums for Oneida and leads Man Forever. On Man Forever's self-titled debut LP (released by St. Ives, a vinyl-only imprint of Secretly Canadian) layers of sped-up and slowed-down drum rolls, played on precisely tuned acoustic drums and laced with bass feedback, blur into a richly detailed rush of rough-textured sound—a self-conscious homage to the score for Metal Machine Music developed for a 2002 live performance (released on a 2007 CD) by an all-acoustic 11-piece ensemble from Germany called Zeitkratzer. To perform his music Millions has convened the all-star quartet of bassist Richard Hoffman (Sightings) and drummers Brian Chase (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Shahin Motia (Knyfe Hyts), and Allison Busch (Awesome Color); for this stop they'll be joined by drummers Seth Sher (Coughs, Ga'an) and Dylan Ryan (Herculaneum, Icy Demons). Inferior Amps, Moonrises, and Noveller open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600, $8. —Bill Meyer


INDIAN JEWELRY I'd heard some complaints about Indian Jewelry having "gone electronic" on their new album, which seemed an odd thing to complain about for a band that's always used synthesizers. Then I listened to Totaled (We Are Free) and sort of got it. There are still guitars and drums, but they're mixed low, providing support for electronics far more complex and prominent than anything the band's done before. They've replaced their expansive desert psychedelia with something more claustrophobic, effectively trading the aural equivalent of a bad trip on Spahn Ranch for a bad trip in a seedy German nightclub. Like a lot of their fans I prefer the former, but I'm getting along fine with their new approach. It still sounds deeply ominous (one of the group's best qualities), and having another excellent band, alongside acts like Zola Jesus and Blessure Grave, reviving an aggressively fucked-up strain of goth music is totally OK with me. Chandeliers and Bitchin' Bajas open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Miles Raymer

THE THING WITH JOE MCPHEE Saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Haaker Flaten, and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, aka mighty Scandinavian trio the Thing, have two basic approaches to playing together: they either do covers, by rock bands (the Ex, the Sonics, the White Stripes), jazz greats (Don Cherry, Albert Ayler, Duke Ellington), and the occasional avant-garde composer like Ake Hodell, or they freely improvise epic set-long pieces. Regardless of the format, though, they draw on the musical languages of rock, jazz, free improvisation, and the avant-garde—and they play like they're trying to call down the apocalypse. On last year's bulldozing Bag It! (Smalltown Superjazzz), recorded in Chicago with Steve Albini, five of the seven tunes are covers—the Ex's version of "Hidegen Fujnak a Szelek," Ellington's "Mystery Song," Ayler's "Angels"—and the band distorts and dissects them with raw soulfulness and unhinged ferocity. Occasionally Gustafsson (or sometimes Haaker Flaten) adds live electronics that sound just as nasty as his searing, overblown sax—it's as though the music has worked up such a head of steam that it needs that extra outlet to keep it from exploding. As much as they love flooring it, though, the Thing aren't afraid of quiet: on the live bonus disc included with Bag It! and on Shinjuku Crawl, a recent live album with guitarist Otomo Yoshihide (better known as a turntablist), they cover a huge dynamic range, from quavering tones hovering ominously at the threshold of audibility all the way to high-energy free-form blowouts. For tonight's show they're joined by Poughkeepsie multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, whose recordings with the Thing include the superb 2001 album She Knows . . . (Crazy Wisdom). Nilssen-Love and John Corbett spin records between sets.  9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak

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