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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

April 2008 Archives

Bottom Lounge opening postponed... again

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Once again, the opening of this promising venue at its new location at 1375 Lake St. has been pushed back, with Friday's gig by Urge Overkill and Saturday's MU330 show both postponed. (Rescheduled dates to be announced.)

Said the club's newly hired publicist Angie Mead: "This is a huge project, moving a club from one side of the city to the other, and things just weren't ready."

Still on for the time being: Shows next weekend by the Pnuma Trio and Jon Langford and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts.

Sly cancels on Chicago again

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Rumors of a comeback by the legendary soul pioneer Sly Stone may be a bit... premature.

The leader of Sly and the Family Stone has canceled the performance schedule for Saturday at the Vic Theatre -- "due to health reasons," according to promoters Jam Productions. Refunds are available at the point of purchase.

Students of musical history will recall that another aborted performance by Sly led to a riot in Grant Park in 1970, a few years before the band leader dropped out of the music scene for good in 1975, ending one of the most extraordinary careers in soul, R&B, rock or pop... that is, at least until he can finally get it together for good for the long-awaited second act.

Albert Hofmann, the Swiss chemist and accidental inventor of the twenty-fifth synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide -- a.k.a. LSD -- dead of a heart attack at the age of 102.

As tribute, here is how I told the tale in my musical history, Turn on Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock.

The Roots, “Rising Down” (Def Jam) [3 STARS]

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Long hailed as the best live band in hip-hop, the Roots are different things to different listeners. They’re the Bonnaroo-friendly jam band known for playing three-hour sets. They’re the showcase for versatile producer and drummer Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, who’s worked with artists as diverse as D’Angelo, Erykah Badu, John Mayer and Hank Williams III and who even mastered the shopping-mall anthem with “Birthday Girl,” the new bonus track featuring Fall Out Boy’s Patrick Stump. But most importantly, they’re the unapologetic community activists who’ve now crafted eight powerful if inconsistent albums of musically inventive, lyrically challenging hip-hop.

Portishead, “Third” (Mercury) [3 STARS]

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The collaboration of an unlikely trio of gloomy Brits—sonic wizard Geoff Barrow, jazz guitarist Adrian Utley and hypnotic chanteuse Beth Gibbons—Portishead scored the biggest commercial success of any of the bands to emerge from Northern England in the mid-’90s with the mixture of hip-hop rhythms and psychedelic ambience dubbed “trip-hop,” one of those pointlessly limiting genre constructions so beloved of English rock critics. “Trip hop died on April 29, 2008, in Portishead, North Somerset, England, after a long illness,” an addlepated reviewer recently bemoaned in Salon. “The funeral service has been released in the form of a CD by the band, titled ‘Third.’”

Hannah Montana... sex symbol???

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To be clear, as a professional rock critic and amateur hedonist, I am no prude. But I found the quickly becoming notorious, provocatively posed, semi-nude Annie Liebovitz photo of Miley Cyrus for the new Vanity Fair pretty darn disturbing for the way it sexualizes a 15-year-old whose entire career as Hannah Montana was corporately crafted by the Disney Empire to appeal to other girls that age and much, much younger.

Still, I wanted a reality check to see how this might play to the pop singer and actress' target demographic. Here is the critique of a certain 11-year-old critic and Hannah fan of my acquaintance:

"Oh my god! She looks stupid! I like Hannah Montana and all, but why is she all glammed-up like that when she looks good just being herself? It's like she's trying to look a lot older -- or cause some controversy. I think she must have just had a break-up, and she's looking for attention! She looked a lot better in concert."

Pretty astute observations, one and all.

Demo2DeRo: Trio in Stereo

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Despite what the band name might lead you to believe, there actually are five members of Trio in Stereo -- vocalist PJ McMahon, bassist Marc King, keyboardist Logan Cradick, guitarist Mike Nelson and drummer Chris Kolodziej, augmented at various times by assorted friends on horns and backing vocals -- and they formed when they were all in college at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, then moved en masse to Chicago to build on what they started with their 2005 debut, the “Everyone Here Looks Familiar” EP.

Since then, the band has spent a lot of time gigging around with kindred sonic spirits such as Mary Timony and Midstates, as well as tweaking the impressive mix of vintage ’90s shoegazer guitars and rhythms and endearingly odd Elephant 6-style orchestral pop flourishes on its first full album, “Bury it to Dig it up,” self-released in mid-February, and available for free streaming or paid download on its Web site, www.myspace.com/trioinstereoband.

If the group is half as accomplished onstage as it is on the wonderfully trippy but undeniably catchy recordings of songs such as “The Show,” “She’s not a Robot” and “Jupiter,” it’s primed to claim a spot in the front ranks of Chicago’s psychedelic-pop elite. Judge for yourself at its next gig at Lilly’s, 2513 N. Lincoln, on May 8.

For Local H, breaking up is hard to do

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From Bob Dylan’s “Blood on the Tracks” to Marvin Gaye’s “Here, My Dear,” and from Liz Phair’s “Exile in Guyville” to… well, almost everything in the Rolling Stones’ catalog, rock ’n’ roll has never suffered from a shortage of great breakup records -- those “open your veins and let ’em bleed” chronicles of messy, nasty and profoundly sad romantic splits.

To this list we can now add “12 Angry Months,” the seventh album from those melodic but hard-rocking grunge veterans Local H, and one of the best that guitarist-vocalist Scott Lucas and drummer Brian St. Clair have ever given us.

Taste of Chicago pop music lineup 2008

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Although there are a few highlights every year, the pop music lineup at Taste of Chicago in Grant Park has long since lost its status as major music news. Nevertheless, it oughta be reported -- and I haven't seen it anywhere since the city quietly posted the announcement on its Web site on April 22.

The best thing about Taste is that it remains free -- in keeping with the original mandate that Grant Park "remain forever open, clear and free of any buildings or their obstructions whatever." The lineup follows the jump, with the notable exception of a headliner for the annual WXRT (93/1-FM)-sponsored July Fourth shindig.

Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige tear it up at the United Center

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The idea is obvious: Bring together the top talents in hip-hop and R&B for one triumphant arena tour that raises the bar for the concert experience in both genres. Even better if you can pair one artist who really speaks to the ladies with another who all the fellas emulate.

This isn't a new idea: Hip-hop giant Jay-Z and R&B lothario R. Kelly teamed up for the Best of Both Worlds Tour before it crashed to a halt in the fall of 2004. But that aborted collaboration was stilted, forced and joyless -- in short, a disaster.

In dramatic contrast, the Heart of the City Tour by Hova and Mary J. Blige -- the most successful rapper of all time and the queen of hip-hop/soul -- was a triumphant celebration when it rolled into the United Center Saturday for the first of a two-night stand.

At last: The Pitchfork lineup is complete

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After stringing us out f-o-r-e-v-e-r before announcing the full roster of acts for the fourth annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park on July 18-20, promoters have made the entire lineup and daily schedule public (though rumblings are they still have one more surprise in store at some other point this season).

The verdict: It's a strong bill, but quite obviously suffering from festival glut, that intense, often corporate-funded battle with the new plethora of big-business logopaloozas trying to remake the summer concert season, for better or worse, as chronicled earlier and often on this blog.

The P'fork goods for 2008 follow the jump.

Wayward but still beloved singer and songwriter Chris Mills, a former Chicagoan now based in New York, returns on Saturday to his old stomping grounds at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, in support of his new album “Living the Aftermath,” a more stripped-down and immediate effort than his last ork-pop offering. American Mars opens at 10:30 p.m., and the cover is $12; for more information, call (773) 525-2508 or visit www.schubas.com.

Hip-hop legend Jay-Z was on fire when he performed an underplay at the House of Blues last fall upon the release of “American Gangster,” and if “Growing Pains” isn’t the strongest disc Mary J. Blige has ever given us, the so-called “queen of hip-hop soul” never fails to deliver onstage, where she remains the strongest female voice in R&B today. The two pair up for the Heart of the City tour coming to the United Center, 1901 W. Madison, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $59.75 to $300 via www.LiveNation.com.

Though the U.S. won't get a chance to see the Led Zeppelin reunion this summer (if ever), Chicago fans can console themselves with the knowledge that, a.) That isn't really Zep anyway (it can't be, since John Bonham is dead), and B.) Bruce Lamont, Paul Kamp (of Yakuza and Busker Soundcheck fame, respectively) and the killer rhythm section of Ian Lee and Chris Klein bill themselves as Zep2, and they do as good a Zep as Zep ever did back in the day. They perform at Martry's 3855 N. Lincoln, at 10 p.m. Saturday, playing a similar set to their heroes' at Earls Court in 1975. Buy tickets in advance at http://www.martyrslive.com/ ('cause the show will sell out), or call (773) 404-9494.

My Bloody Valentine: The second coming!

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It's no exaggeration to say that after Nirvana, shoegazer giants My Bloody Valentine have proven to be the most influential guitar band of the '90s, as well as one of the greatest psychedelic rock bands ever, period -- even though Kevin Shields and his three bandmates have not released a new album since their mind-blowing masterpiece "Loveless" in 1991, or performed on stage in this country since July 1992.

Now, at long last, the group will be returning to play in the U.S. in September after a handful of dates in Europe this summer, with at least half a dozen shows coming together on these shores -- including one in Chicago.

Only one Stateside gig has been confirmed so far -- an All Tomorrow's Parties festival in Upstate New York, according to the Daily Swarm -- but as someone who ranks seeing My Bloody Valentine perform live at First Avenue in Minneapolis in '92 as one of the best two or three concerts he's ever seen, you know I'll post the Chicago info the minute I ferret it out.

ALL reunites for Chicago Riot Fest

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The influential, post-Descendents punk-rock band ALL will reunite to headline the annual raucous celebration of Riot Fest on Oct. 10-12 at the Congress Theatre.

Coming together again for the first time in two decades, the lineup will be the one behind the albums "Allroy’s Revenge," "Allroy Saves" and "Perculator," with vocalist Scott Reynolds, drummer Bill Stevenson, guitarist Karl Alvarez and bassist Stephen Egerton.

Together with the annual Hideout Block Party and the Pitchfork Music Festival, Riot Fest is one of the best independently produced celebrations of cutting-edge rock music in the U.S. -- and a welcome reminder that mega-bucks corporate sponsorships ala Lollapalooza aren't the only way to fund a festival. Tickets for this year's concert go on sale at 8 a.m. on April 24 via www.riotfest.org.

Madonna, “Hard Candy” (Warner Bros.) [3.5 STARS]

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Although she’ll turn 50 in August, the mouthful of sweets that is Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie proves with her new album “Hard Candy” that she’s nowhere close to relinquishing her crown as the queen of dance-pop -- or abandoning her favorite role as pop music’s most hot-to-trot coquette.

Surveying the unnamed pack of (much) younger challengers to the throne -- among them Nelly Furtado, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera -- Maddy turns to us midway through the new disc and declares over a Chic-worthy riff that, “She’s not me/She doesn’t have my name/She’ll never have what I have/It won’t be the same!”

Indie rock is where the money's at

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From Business Week, via the music news portal The Daily Swarm:

Business Week on 'Indie Music's Hipster Heaven': Pitchfork advertising 'pulls in at least $5 million a year'...

Pitchfork.tv, like the Web site, is intended to make money. These days, advertisers aplenty drool over Pitchfork’s 18-to-34-year-old demographic. Although many Pitchfork users have a hipster’s disdain for the mainstream and for big corporations, the company has no qualms about selling space to the likes of Toyota Motor™ and American Apparel (APP). Its only rule is that ads cannot distract readers with pop-ups, sound, or interactivity. Net ad consultants estimate the site pulls in at least $5 million a year. Kaskie says only that revenue has grown by an explosive 70% each of the past four years.

On Pitchfork’s 1-to-10 scale, that performance would merit a 9.5.

No wonder Vampire Weekend's old-school money shtick plays so well!

After the long-awaited relocation and re-invention of the Bottom Lounge was first touted in this blog in early March, the inevitable unforeseen delays -- inevitable, that is, when dealing with the city of Chicago -- torpedoed the initial plan to open on St. Patrick's Day.

Now comes word that what promises to be one of the city's best new music venues will finally kick things off at its new location at 1375 Lake St. on May 2nd with a gig by... Urge Overkill.

Not too secret Moby DJ set

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Supporting his fine new album "Last Night," everyone's favorite bald, Vegan techno giant will perform a not-really-very-secret "MySpace Secret Show" from the DJ booth at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark St., beginning at 9 Tuesday night and also featuring DFA Associates Holy Ghost!, Justin Miller and Jacques Renault.

According to the press release, "MySpace Music has organized more than 100 Secret Shows since the franchise launched in February 2006 with artists like Rilo Kiley, Fran Ferdinand, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Ray LaMontagne performing in cities around the world. For more information about the artists and upcoming schedule, visit the official MySpace Secret Shows profile at http://myspace.com/secretshows."

All of that was news to me. I wonder if Rupert Murdoch knew?

"Cape Cod Kwasa Kwasa" and all the rest of it is still making me want to toss my cookies, for all the reasons laid forth here, but now multiplied by 10, since I caught the band playing on "Saturday Night Live" this weekend while channel-surfing, and because I just watched its appearance on Pitchfork TV, playing a stripped-down semi-plugged show in a mansion somewhere near Columbia University.

Notice how the segment starts with pretentious scans of the place, including the oh-so-intellectual titles on the bookshelf. Then try not to gag yourself.

Chicago punk done the way Chicago punk should be

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During the first real heyday of the local punk scene, back in the mid-’80s, groundbreaking bands such as Naked Raygun, the Effigies and Big Black all had certain sonic hallmarks and shared attitudes that, while they were difficult to pinpoint, combined to mark these otherwise unique and dissimilar groups as distinctly Chicago bands.

The phrase “Chicago punk” has long since become so diffuse that it’s almost meaningless: Members of the Smoking Popes, the Frantic and Fall Out Boy may share Zip Codes, but they’re otherwise in different universes. Yet there is one up-and-coming band resonant of “Chicago punk” when “Chicago punk” actually meant something: Shot Baker, which is gearing up to release its second album “Take Control” on the local Riot Fest Records label on June 24.

Demo2DeRo: Sybris

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Formed in 2003, when they took their name from an intentional misspelling of the infamously decadent Greek city of Sybaris, bassist Shawn Podgurski, guitarist Phil Naumann, vocalist Angela Mullenhour and drummer Eric Mahle have been pegged as up-and-comers since their self-titled 2005 debut for the indie Flameshovel Records. Now, with a lot of touring and even a few big festival gigs under their belts, they’re back with an even stronger second disc, “Into the Trees,” out soon on a slightly bigger indie label, Absolutely Kosher.

Dragging things out to the point of melodramatic absurdity -- hey, fellas, Lollapalooza, All Points West, Coachella, Bonnaroo and some 10 other major national music fests have already announced their ENTIRE lineups; what the heck are you waiting for? -- promoters of the fourth annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park on July 18-20 have added a few more names to the list of this year's performers: Spoon, Les Savy Fav and the Dodos.

The other acts announced so far have been reported elsewhere in this blog, and there are still a few to come, chief among them, the third act on Friday's "Don't Look Back" roster, joining Public Enemy (doing "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back") and Mission of Burma ("vs.").

One thing the promoters have confirmed, alas: The third album retrospective will NOT be the Feelies doing "Crazy Rhythms," although those legendary art-rockers are reuniting this summer and performing in Manhattan's Battery Park with Sonic Youth.

See www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com for more info on ticket sales, etc.

Although long-running Australian cult hero Nick Cave has never produced anything without merit, it was hard to imagine how his 14th studio album with the sprawling collective known as the Bad Seeds could top last year’s self-titled disc by his one-off, mostly-for-yucks side project Grinderman, a deliriously grungy burst of blues-rock brilliance. No, “Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!” doesn’t better my choice for the best album of 2007. But it is the strongest Bad Seeds disc since the potent one-two punch of “The Boatman’s Call” and “No More Shall We Part” in 1997 and 2001, and it does find the 50-year-old singer as vital as ever at an age where, as the British newspaper the Guardian noted, “Paul McCartney released ‘Off the Ground’ [and] Bob Dylan was favoring the world with ‘Wiggle Wiggle.’”

Formed in Newmarket, Ontario, these twenty-something indie-rockers garnered major buzz in 2006 with their debut EP “A Lesson in Crime,” which whizzed by in an exuberant rush of 8 songs in 18 minutes. Anticipation has been high for a proper album ever since, though now that it’s here, it’s no easier than before to pinpoint why it’s so endearing. Yes, there are the rollicking rhythms, nicely decorated by the conversational interplay of keyboard and guitar, though none of those sounds are new or unique. And while there are elements of pop-punk, garage-rock, power-pop and New Wave of New Wave, Tokyo Police Club doesn’t fit neatly into any of those genres.

ACL Announced -- and pondering festival glut

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Today’s announcement of the lineup for the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Sept. 26-28 – organized by C3 Presents, the same Texas promoters behind Lollapalooza in Grant Park – offers new fodder to consider a question that many in the concert industry have been posing of late: Is there a festival glut?

The new model of a multi-day “destination festival” packed with more than 100 bands and presumably offering “something for everybody at a bargain price” has increasingly come to dominate the summer months in many markets.

But it’s resulting in a homogeneity of many of the lineups, which are starting to look all too similar – and less special or distinct.

Saul Williams' sonic revolution

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In a twist on the Radiohead experiment, the third album by fiery political poet and rapper Saul Williams was released last November via the Web because no major record company was interested. Listeners could download the music for free as mid-fidelity MP3s, or pay $5 for one of three higher-fidelity formats.

The difference was that while the majority of Radiohead fans are thought to have paid an average of $10, his patron and producer Trent Reznor eventually revealed that only 18 percent of the people who downloaded Williams’ album paid for it. The rest took it for free.

While this may say something about the future of the record industry, it was no reflection on the quality of “The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!” (available via www.niggytardust.com). With a title that cheekily references David Bowie’s concept album “Ziggy Stardust” and complete with a wonderfully recontextualized cover of U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” the disc is a wonderfully powerful merger of industrial rock backing tracks, hip-hop grooves and Wiliams’ impressionistic lyrics surveying the ugly realities of life as an African-American.

I spoke to the artist by phone in the midst of a tour that brings him to Chicago Friday.

Demo2DeRo: Children's Masterpiece Theatre

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At first blush, the name Children's Masterpiece Theatre may bring to mind a BBC TV special, or perhaps another aging rocker trying to revitalize his career with children's music. But there's nothing kiddy about the suburban Chicago group - the vibe is much more tortured teen, as in a combination of vintage '90s symphonic Smashing Pumpkins with Tool or Nine Inch Nails electro-industrial thrash.

Although they were enormously influential—it seemed as if every band during the alternative-rock explosion of the ’90s wanted to mimic the sound of “Pod” (1990), to say nothing of emulating the success of “Last Splash” (1993) and its mega-hit “Cannonball”—the Breeders have not exactly been prolific. Led by 46-year-old twins Kim and Kelley Deal, the group fell apart in a haze of drug troubles in the mid-’90s, and until recently, its four-album discography included only one other disc in the new millennium, the forgettable “Title TK” in 2002.

Head of Femur travels world, sings the big picture

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Long one of the most ambitious bands in Chicago, Head of Femur made a big splash on the local scene with its 2001 debut, “Ringodom or Proctor,” and it spent a year and a half touring the country in support of its second album, “Hysterical Stars” (2005).

“It was when we were touring that a lot of the ideas for [the new album] ‘Great Plains’ came to us,” says band co-founder Matt Focht. “Being in the van and thinking about travel and crossing the plains made us think about being like the early pioneers, not having a lot of money and having to live off the land — or at least park the van and sleep in Wal-Mart parking lots.”

What am I reading?

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I recently responded to that question for the blog Writers Read, which is associated with Campaign for the American Reader, "an independent initiative to encourage more readers to read more books."

My answer is here.

A tribute to Neu!

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A hero to modern rock bands ranging from Stereolab to the Strokes, and from Sonic Youth to Tortoise, Klaus Dinger, a founding member of '70s German art-rockers Kraftwerk and the driving force behind cult legends Neu!, died late last month of heart failure. He was 61 years old.

I offer the following excerpt from my book, Turn On Your Mind: Four Decades of Great Psychedelic Rock, as an overdue homage to one of my favorite drummers ever, the mastermind behind the minimal but undeniable rhythm the Germans called "motorik."

(If you've never heard the genius that was Neu!, here is a live version of "Hero" from 1974, and here are D.I.Y. videos for "Negativland" and "Hallogallo.")

So you wanna see Radiohead somewhere else...

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As it turns out, the much-hailed (and hyped) British art-rock giants are starting their summer tour, their first U.S. visit in three years, at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Aug. 1 (thereby kicking off the festival -- and leaving open the question of who will close it on Aug. 3. Nine Inch Nails? Kanye West?).

The rest of Radiohead's summer tour dates follow the jump. Meanwhile, Time Out Chicago's blog makes some interesting points about local bands (and the lack thereof) at Lollapalooza, now that promoters C3 Presents are becoming an increasingly active part of the concert business hereabouts.

Pepe

Though he has always positioned himself as a futurist, Perry Farrell, founder and designated figurehead for the reinvented Lollapalooza in Grant Park, really hasn't grokked how this much-ballyhooed Inter-Web thang has rendered irrelevant anyone's attempts to carefully manage and market the news -- not that those ever made much difference to reporters of any era who came by a scoop fair and square.

Upset by the story about the headliners and other bands on this blog and in the Sun-Times Thursday night and Friday morning, Farrell lashed out in an interview with Vh1.com and branded this reporter "a stinker... a skunk... Pepe LePew."

All I have to say about that is: 1.) If you're feeling chatty, Perry, I'm still waiting for your response to my open letter last year suggesting ways Lollapalooza could improve its relations with the Chicago music scene and make its ubiquitous corporate sponsorships slightly less obnoxious, and 2.) Wasn't Pepe the one who always got the girls? What the heck is wrong with that?

The full lineup of bands for Lollapalooza 2008 follows the jump. So let the commentary continue: How good a job did promoters C3 Present do in year four? I am eager to hear your thoughts.

Demo2DeRo: Rick Ness

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Sadly unheralded, mostly unsuccessful and largely forgotten also-rans of Chicago's great alternative-era major-label feeding frenzy, Figdish (http://www.myspace.com/figdish) will always have a warm spot in my heart. Few groups have done the drunken, chaotic, ramshackle but insanely infectious Midwestern garage-pop thing better. In that band's wake, Blake Smith pursued more mannered glam-rock sounds with Caviar, while co-founder Rick Ness, displaying uncharacteristic hubris by naming his band Ness, has
followed the connections from heroes such as the Shoes, Cheap Trick and the Replacements to the dustier corners in the British Invasion archives of the Who, the Kinks and the Pretty Things.

In a city graced by a dozen historic marquees, preservationists, music lovers and community activists maintain that the Uptown Theater is Chicago’s crowning jewel.

Designed by renowned architects Rapp & Rapp, the 4,300-seat theater opened at Broadway and Lawrence as a movie palace in 1925. But since a stint in the ’70s when it hosted rock tours by Genesis, Lou Reed, the Grateful Dead and others, it has sat dormant and rotting. Meanwhile, one developer after another has reneged on promises to restore the venue to former glories.

A redeveloped Uptown Theater is seen by many, including 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith, as the key that finally could turn Uptown from a “war zone” into a thriving entertainment district -- the only one in the city where live music is the main attraction. Now the theater itself has become what may be the bloodiest battleground yet in Chicago’s long-raging war between two powerful concert promoters: national giant Live Nation and Chicago-based Jam Productions. And the fight is just heating up.

Lollapalooza 2008 headliners confirmed

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Lollapalooza’s Austin, Texas-based promoters C3 Presents are not scheduled to make their official announcement of the acts performing at this year’s weekend-long music festival in Grant Park until Monday, but the Sun-Times has confirmed through industry sources all of the major artists.

If one were looking to find a band sunk by the weight of all the worst indie-rock traits of the moment -- fey, affected vocals; orchestral filigree applied to mask melodic deficiencies; pointless complexity rubbing up against annoying faux-simplicity and wannabe Ivy League lit professor lyrical allusions -- it would be difficult to find a better candidate than Destroyer, the revolving-lineup art-rock showcase for Vancouver, Canada-based eccentric and songwriter Dan Bejar.

For all of the charges detractors throw at him, from the claim that he can be self-righteously preachy to the oft-repeated criticism that he can’t and shouldn’t sing (a notion I refute), no one has ever accused Moby of trying to appear cool -- not when he was an underground presence on the then-burgeoning techno scene of the early’90s; not when he scored a phenomenal worldwide pop hit with “Play” in 1999 and certainly not now, when he’s returned to his dance roots after two commercially unsuccessful song-oriented albums in “18” (2002) and “Hotel” (2005).

Four decades into one of the most extraordinary careers in rock history, at an age when many are content to rest on their laurels, 63-year-old Ray Davies is performing with the intensity of an artist who still has something to prove.

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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