The List, July 23-29, 2009 | Soundboard | Chicago Reader

The List, July 23-29, 2009 

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Novalima and Issa Bagayogo, Jack-O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers, Obits, the Dead Weather, and more

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Jack Oblivian

Jack Oblivian

Don Perry

Thursday23

Foreign Born
Novalima, Issa Bagayogo

Friday24

Abe Vigoda
Akron/Family
Big Science
Demi Lovato

Saturday25

Jack-O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers
Obits

Monday27

Matthias Goerne & Christoph Eschenbach

Tuesday28

The Dead Weather

Wednesday29

The Dead Weather
Matthias Goerne & Christoph Eschenbach
Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone

thursday23

FOREIGN BORN Foreign Born serve up a big billowy sound on their recent Person to Person (Secretly Canadian), equal parts anthemic 80s new wave and artsy contemporary indie rock—this Los Angeles four-piece is clearly inspired by the intricate arrangements and opulent harmony singing of bands like Yeasayer and Grizzly Bear. I don't hear the African influences I keep reading about—except maybe the liquid guitar lines on "Early Warnings"—but the melodies are stylish and infectious, the percussion is kaleidoscopic, and the whole dense matrix of sound is meticulously charted. Singer Matt Popieluch oversells many of the tunes with a glammy, melodramatic howl, but the rich, focused arrangements counterbalance his bombast. Veils headline; Foreign Born and Faces on Film open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Peter Margasak

NOVALIMA, ISSA BAGAYOGO When Peru's NOVALIMA formed in 2001, the group's four founding members were scattered around the globe—London, Hong Kong, Barcelona—and shared their ideas via e-mail, cobbling together club-music versions of hypnotic, propulsive Afro-Peruvian songs. Since then they've returned to Lima and put together a proper band—Novalima's live lineup is nine strong—that gives the music's electronic heart a new kind of vitality. The traditional sound the group hybridizes will be familiar to anyone who's heard Susana Baca and Eva Ayllon; Novalima jacks it up not only with throbbing dance beats but also with elements of reggae, Cuban son, funk, and hip-hop. The band's third and best album, Coba Coba (Cumbancho), alternates between original tunes and reimagined folkloric material, balancing guitar, bass, programmed rhythms, and keyboards against thumping cajon, a froth of auxiliary percussion—congas, bongos, timbales, cajita—and the soulful, throaty singing of Milagros Guerrero and Juan Medrano "Cotito."

click to enlarge Issa Bagayogo - JEAN BERRY
  • Issa Bagayogo
  • Jean Berry

Electronic beats provide a backbone for the music of Malian singer and kamele n'goni player ISSA BAGAYOGO as well. His attempts to break into Bamako's music scene in the early 90s earned him little but a drug habit and a job as a bus driver, but when he returned a few years later he hooked up with Yves Wernert, a French producer who talked him into wedding the circular riffs and gruff, bluesy incantations of his Mande songs to electronic beats and textures—a decision that earned him the nickname "Techno Issa" and eventually made him an international star. I especially like his early recordings, with their stark divide between raw, unadorned acoustic instruments and unapologetically artificial electronics; his most recent, Mali Koura (Six Degrees), softens this contrast by making everything pretty slick. He's still a fine singer and instrumentalist, though, and no matter what he does in the studio, his infectious energy comes through just fine onstage.

Novalima headline and Bagayogo opens. Members of Novalima also DJ an aftershow at Sonotheque. 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Randolph, 312-742-1168. —Peter Margasak

friday24

ABE VIGODA On their latest, this winter's Reviver EP (Post Present Medium), LA four-piece Abe Vigoda have forsaken much of the spastic, sparkly ebullience of last year's Skeleton. Michael Vidal's manic yelping has given way to downcast, world-weary singing that wouldn't sound out of place on an early Joy Division record, and the bright, ringing guitars—part of the reason the group used to call their music "tropical punk"—have turned dark and ominous. Even the drumming—by Dane Chadwick, who recently replaced Reggie Guerrero—is less frenetic and more straightforward. But the band's energy and power, though transformed in character, is undiminished in intensity; it's as though the music has settled into adulthood without becoming boring or safe. Talbot Tagora and Reds & Blue open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Peter Margasak

AKRON/FAMILY Pennsylvania's Akron/Family have been a trio since the departure of Ryan Vanderhoof a couple years ago, but they're not necessarily diminished in any other way. On the recent Set 'Em Wild, Set 'Em Free (Dead Oceans) they're still mixing folk rock, psychedelia, and acoustic pop—devoting special attention to elaborate vocal harmonies—and this time around there's even the occasional bit of off-kilter funk or vaguely African groove. There don't seem to be too many styles the group isn't game to tackle, and to their credit they never come off as dilettantes; throughout their career they've remade everything they touched in their own image, becoming a kind of shambling but elegant patchwork beast. The new album opens with "Everyone Is Guilty," whose jaunty, percolating rhythms are probably the hardest-driving thing Akron/Family have ever put to tape, but they soon return to turf that's more comfortable and familiar, at least to them. Icy Demons and Mittens on Strings open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $18, $15 in advance, 18+. —Peter Margasak

BIG SCIENCE The North Atlantic was a hardworking group of dudes you've most likely never heard of who spent years making spiky postrock-influenced posthardcore. Big Science is some of those same dudes making lush, spacey alt-rock that needs nary a "post-" to describe, and though you probably haven't heard of them either they're worth seeking out. Few other bands cite Big Country as frequently as they do, and fewer are able to re-create that group's combination of expansiveness and catchiness. Grand Duchy, the husband-and-wife group of Pixies front man Black Francis and Violet Clark, headlines. 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $12, 17+. —Miles Raymer

DEMI LOVATO If you're not the parent of a tween girl(or a tween girl yourself), you're probably wondering who Demi Lovato is and why she's playing the same size venues as Beyonce. The 16-year-old Lovato is Disney's Hannah Montana 2.0, an icon to millions of girls, and she's already released her second album, the brand-new Here We Go Again (Hollywood). She's also part of a triumvirate of BFFs with Selena Gomez (also of Disney fame) and Taylor Swift—in their gushy and totally heartening Twitter feeds they post about missing one another in between stadium gigs. Lovato's songs are about typical teen concerns—friendship, authenticity, the quest for self, young L-U-V—but there's something about her that makes me believe she's going to turn into a genuinely compelling pop star come adulthood. She doesn't just sing but also plays guitar and piano, she's already been through a metal phase (during which she cited Dimmu Borgir as a favorite live band), and she writes or cowrites most of her own songs. Here's hoping she, Swift, and Gomez join forces—the world could use a new Runaways. David Archuleta and Jordan Pruitt open. 7 PM, Allstate Arena, 6920 Mannheim, Rosemont, 847-635-6601 or 312-559-1212, $39.50-$49.50. —Jessica Hopper

saturday25

JACK-O & THE TENNESSEE TEARJERKERS Given that Pitchfork can fill Union Park with sweating trendoids eager to see a bunch of mediocre indie bands du jour, there damn well better be enough people in this town into real raw rock 'n' roll to pack the Hideout for this Saturday's Jack-O & the Tennessee Tearjerkers show. "Jack-O" is Memphis garage-punk legend Jack Yarber, whose seminal 90s band the Oblivians just returned from a reunion tour with the equally seminal Gories, who also re-formed for the occasion. On his latest LP with the Tearjerkers, this spring's The Disco Outlaw (Goner), he sticks with the no-bullshit trashed-out aesthetic that inspired so much of this decade's garage rock, applying it to a distinctly Memphian combo of R& B, soul, and blues—the roots of rock 'n' roll, which Levon Helm spoke of so lovingly in The Last Waltz. It sounds like an album the Stones might've made between Black and Blue in '76 and Some Girls in '78, if Mick Taylor hadn't quit the band and Mick Jagger hadn't spent so much time in dance clubs with Bianca. Drakkar Sauna and John Paul Keith & the Four One Fives open. 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Brian Costello

click to enlarge Obits - JIM HERRINGTON

OBITS Devoted fans of singer-guitarist Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes) have known about his current project, Obits, since 2006, when the four-piece started writing material. But the band was painfully stingy with teaser tracks and didn't post anything till after a bootleg of their live debut in January 2008 leaked—at which point the Obits hype machine shifted into overdrive. The folks at Sub Pop, apparently frenzied with anticipation, signed the band on the strength of that bootleg, and this spring Obits released I Blame You (Sub Pop), full of angular guitar riffage and the welcome sound of Froberg's nasal, gritty voice. Obits, like Hot Snakes, are pretty open about their love for the Wipers: they play their tightly constructed songs with an urgent pulse that makes them feel much faster than they are, and they favor the kind of glassy, crunchy guitar sounds you can get by cranking the volume of a clean signal. What separates Obits from Froberg's earlier bands is a stronger emphasis on melody, both in the vocals and in the resonant, even eerie guitars. I Blame You isn't the mind-blowing album you might've hoped for after three years of preparation (and all the attendant buzz), but it's still an impressive showing by a guy who's only ever produced excellent balls-out rock. Disappears and Red Eyed Legends (playing their final show) open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10. —Kevin Warwick

monday27

MATTHIAS GOERNE AND CHRISTOPH ESCHENBACH Nobody inhabits the narrative of a song cycle more thoroughly than German baritone Matthias Goerne, though the arresting beauty of his voice can distract the listener from the great artistry behind it. Goerne relishes the sparks that come from shifting between musical partners, and he's teamed with some extraordinary pianists, including Brendel, Ashkenazy, Aimard, and Andsnes. Christoph Eschenbach, every bit their peer as an accompanist, joins Goerne for a three-concert series devoted to the three Schubert song cycles, in which the composer distilled his writing to perfection. First is Die Schöne Müllerin, set to 20 poems by Wilhelm Müller. In Goerne's interpretation the harrowing descent it depicts— from yearning to obsession to suicide—is even darker than Schubert's later song cycle Winterreise (performed at the second concert), and in an enthralling recent recording with Eschenbach he delivers the optimism of the early songs with a hint of instability. This series is a real coup for Ravinia—the only Goerne recitals in the U.S. this year—and an absolute treasure for lied lovers. See also Wednesday. 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$40. —Steve Langendorf

tuesday28

THE DEAD WEATHER If all you had to go on was the press coverage of the Dead Weather, you might forget there's anybody in the band but Jack White—which he must find aggravating, since he's stressed repeatedly that he's merely one member of this collaborative effort. I don't buy his "I'm just the drummer" routine—on Horehound (Third Man/Warner Brothers) his guiding hand is evident in the melodies, arrangements, and production—but he's definitely not the only one bringing something to the table here. Front woman Alison Mosshart, on loan from the Kills and still one of the best female rock singers going, brings an icy-hot sex vibe to the group's dark, greasy blues—for sure more sensuality than White's ever been able to muster as a vocalist—while bassist Jack Lawrence and guitarist and keyboardist Dean Fertita dish out intriguingly skewed, ever-so-slightly psychedelic grooves. Screaming Females open; see also Wednesday. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, sold out. —Miles Raymer

wednesday29

THE DEAD WEATHER See Tuesday. Screaming Females open. 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, sold out.

MATTHIAS GOERNE AND CHRISTOPH ESCHENBACH See Monday. Schubert elevated the art song, making it more dramatic and giving the piano a greater role. His Winterreise, the second of Goerne and Eschenbach's three concerts devoted to Schubert's complete song cycles, is the pinnacle of his writing for voice. This "winter journey" is a cry of anguish, arguably the greatest song cycle ever written. The final concert (Fri 7/31) pairs Schwanengesang—not intended as a cycle by Schubert, it was assembled posthumously by his publisher and contains some striking individual songs—with the transcendent Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, D. 960. 8 PM, Martin Theatre, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Rds., Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$40. —Steve Langendorf

click to enlarge Jessica Pavone & Mary Halvorson
  • Jessica Pavone & Mary Halvorson

MARY HALVORSON & JESSICA PAVONE Guitarist Mary Halvorson and violist Jessica Pavone are two of the most exciting figures in New York's jazz and improvised-music community. They've played heady, rigorous music in ensembles led by the likes of Anthony Braxton and Taylor Ho Bynum, and in their duo—though it's by comparison a relaxed, intimate, and informal setting—they create work of comparable depth and seriousness. They combine elements of jazz with folk and pop without privileging one over the other, like a pair of front-porch pickers who just happen to engage in jagged free improvisation and radical explorations of harmony. Half the songs on their third album, Thin Air (Thirsty Ear), include vocals—simple, straightforward, usually ragged, often in unison—and though you'd be complimenting either woman by calling her a singer, Halvorson and Pavone are definitely bucking a long-standing orthodoxy in improvised music by daring to use sung melodies. The substance of their work is still instrumental, however: stark strumming and coarse double-stops form nuanced but accessible architectures that routinely fall in on themselves, tangling with a knotty harmonic richness worthy of Derek Bailey. Onstage they're charmingly casual, no matter how heavy the music gets. Vox Arcana opens and John Corbett spins. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Peter Margasak

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