Two dangerously catchy local pop legends, Green and the Joy Poppers, celebrate releases new and old | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Two dangerously catchy local pop legends, Green and the Joy Poppers, celebrate releases new and old 

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click to enlarge Jeff Lescher

Jeff Lescher

Courtesy the Artist

When I contacted Jeff Lescher of legendary mod/glam/punk/power-pop band Green to find out what his set would be like for this special gig, he responded quickly and kindly, but added, “One ‘angle’ that I hope you’ll avoid in your reportage is the overworked and untrue ‘Green was a group that should have been big but never were.’” I’ve gotta admit it’s hard to not go there, as it’s a bit of a head-scratcher to me that Chicago bands such as Veruca Salt, Urge Overkill, and Local H got signed to major labels while the beloved Green didn’t (in 1991 the Reader’s Bill Wyman dubbed them “Chicago’s Great Green Hope”). However, we’ll shift focus here, per Lescher’s request. It’s worth noting that Green predated the 90s Chicago alterna-rock explosion (and all the aforementioned bands). They released their first EP in 1984 and their self-titled debut LP in ’86, both on their own Ganggreen label. Lescher continually reinvented the band with an influx of new musicians, and Green’s brilliant second album, 1987’s Anglophilic Elaine MacKenzie (Pravda), featured their second and perhaps most crucial lineup: bassist Ken Kurson (of Circles and later the Lilacs) and drummer Rich Clifton. The raw, jangly 1989 album White Soul and 1992’s gooey, hook-filled The Pop Tarts were stellar too, and Green released their seventh and most recent LP, The Planets, in 2009. The band have soldiered on since then, at varying levels of activity, and Lescher has pursued a solo career as well. In November he dropped his first solo album, All Is Grace—a wildly varied affair that includes mellow acoustic ditties as well as full-on punky glam rock. At this gig, Lescher will focus mostly on solo material, but he says there will also be a “proverbial ‘smattering’ of Green songs, and a cover or two,” with Clay Tomasek on bass, Jason Mosher on guitar, John Holoman on drums, Preston Pisellini on keys, and Mark Durante (formerly of KMFDM and Revolting Cocks) on pedal steel. Opening the show are the similarly underrated Joy Poppers, who’ve been at their brand of sticky-sweet pop since 1993. Their sound recalls power-pop greats such as Big Star, Badfinger, Piper, and Todd Rundgren, and the core of the group is lead songwriter Tom Szidon (who’s also played with Scott Lucas of Local H fame in his band the Married Men, to come full circle) and brilliant percussionist, singer, and guitarist Jason Batchko (who’s played with Lucas, Jonny Polonsky, Caviar, and others). The duo will be joined for this show by Marc Sloboda (guitar) and Dani Malloy (bass), and will focus on the 25-year-old Zoomar! album. It’s a rare treat for these near pop legends to be playing at all, let alone playing a mix of new material and classics, so this intimate gig is not to be missed.   v

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