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Tuning in with Thomas Conner

July 2008 Archives

Demo2DeRo: The Lusties

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Deliciously tuneful sleaze-punk reeking of C.B.G.B. circa '76 without sounding the least bit dated, the Lusties are a Chicago quintet led by bold and brassy former Austinite Edie Lustie--in the great Ramones tradition, the musicians have all take "Lustie" as their last name--dedicated to both tickling and titillating listeners while relentlessly pummeling them old-school-style a la the Ramones, X and the earliest Blondie.

The group is as likely to pay homage to a marital aid, an illicit young love or a B-grade horror flick--as on "RubberMade," "Hi Skool Luv" and "Zombies," respectively--as it is to deliver a startlingly powerful, moving and once again relevant cover of the'50s hit "Soldier Boy," which betrays the sort of mile-wide emotional streak that every true punk hides beneath his or her leather jacket. To date, the group has two self-released EPs available, but I for one am eager to hear more.

You can sample the Lusties' sound at www.myspace.com/thelusties, or better yet, catch them in all their grungy glory as they provide the soundtrack for the Varietease Cabaret at the Lakeshore Theatre, 3175 N. Broadway, on Aug. 9 and take the stage at Reggie's, 2109 S. State, on Aug. 29.

As some familiar with Randy Newman's rich catalog know, when the 64-year-old singer and songwriter croons, "Laugh and be happy/Don't you ever wear a frown/Don't let the bastards ground you down," it's delivered with as hefty a dose of irony as one can cram into a 2:19 pop song. But it's likely that the biggest portion of his current audience--the kids and parents who've only heard him on the soundtracks of Pixar movies such as "Toy Story," "Monsters, Inc." and "Cars"--are unaware that his response to a politically and personally corrupt world is to sneer and laugh. The facts that he's only had one song that approached a mainstream breakthrough ("Short People" in 1977) and has only made three proper albums in the last 20 years doesn't help.

Radiohead was set to make an announcement today about a surprise show at the Chicago Theatre Thursday night. It would have been the official launch of the art-rockers' North American tour, and all proceeds would have gone to charity. The band was organizing the show itself, without the assistance of Lollapalooza organizers C3 Presents or any other local promoters.

The group pulled the plug on the show early Tuesday, however, because singer Thom Yorke has been sick, and he wanted to rest up before the band's big headlining gig in Grant Park on Friday night, according to a spokesman for the band.

The famously anti-corporate Yorke isn't likely to feel any better when he does take the AT&T Stage on Friday and sees the ubiquitous branding for the telecom giant covering the platform. The group famously has fought performing under any corporate logos.

Lollapalooza promoters have insisted that none of the bands performing at the festival have made any complaints about corporate sponsorships -- and that if any of them do remark upon it onstage, the comments won't be censored like AT&T's Blue Room Webcast did with Pearl Jam's remarks about President Bush last year.

Crain's Chicago Real Estate Daily.com is reporting that a group including local concert promoters Jam Productions was the only -- hence, the successful -- bidder at today's scheduled foreclosure sale of the Uptown Theatre, winning the property with a bid of $3.2 million.

The sale must still be approved by the foreclosure court -- and Jam has said it will need city assistance to renovate the beautiful but crumbling venue. The city, meanwhile, has given indications that it would prefer that national concert giant Live Nation restore and program the venue. Stay tuned.

A public auction has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday that may -- or may not -- finally decide which of two Chicago concert promoters will play a role in redeveloping the landmark Uptown Theater and steering its future as the jewel pin of a new Uptown music district that also will include the Riviera Theater, the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill.

The catch: The sale, which is due to take place at the offices of the Judicial Sales Corporation at 1 South Wacker Drive, has already been scheduled several times in recent months. Each time, it's been postponed at the last minute in what seems to be an effort by the first mortgage holder, real estate investor David Husman and the as-yet largely inactive group Broadway for Uptown, to block the second mortgage holder, a group that includes Jam Productions, from taking control of the building and moving forward with the redevelopment

Why would anyone do this? Well, Jam's arch-competitor, the national concert giant Live Nation, is also eager to control the future of the theater, it's been working with Broadway for Uptown and the city seems to favor this team over the Jam-led group.

Stay tuned -- and in the mean time, for more background, check my earlier column here.

A look at Lollapalooza's after-shows

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Obviously hearing some of the criticism from Chicago club land about freezing out the venues that present music here 365 days a year, Lollapalooza's promoters have expanded the number of sanctioned after-shows this year, with a sizable list following the jump.

Still, the controversy remains: Many local club owners, artist managers and fans say Lollapalooza's radius clauses are a major threat to the health of the local music scene for much of the year, ranking second only to the City Council's proposed promoter's ordinance as a threat for stopping the music.

Does one full-to-overflowing weekend make up for a serious hit on the clubs through the rest of the summer? What's your opinion?

Concert Preview: Lollapalooza 2008, planning ahead

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Lollapalooza's promoters are fond of the mantra that the giant music festival, which descends upon Grant Park for its fourth year Friday through Sunday, is a tremendous bargain: "130 bands--a dollar a band," they chant for anyone who'll listen.

In fact, those numbers are a little squirrelly.

This year, there are 139 scheduled performances on eight stages, but if you eliminate the acts that are playing more than once, there really are only 124 bands. With the early-bird special-price tickets long since sold-out, the cost is now $205 for a three-day pass--more like $1.65 per band. But the new math doesn't stop there.

AUSTIN, TX--The conference room at the headquarters of C3 Presents is notable for three fixtures that symbolize the aesthetic of the ambitious promoters who bring Lollapalooza to Grant Park.

There's an oft-used beer keg like you'd find in the basement of a frat house. There's a giant photo mural of Lollapalooza with the Chicago skyline in the background. And there's a huge fish tank.

"Piranhas," C3 co-founder Charlie Jones said as I eyed the murky waters. "I raise them."

Coldplay at the United Center

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Even after several million albums sold, British art-rockers Coldplay are still conflicted about their status as an arena act, and that's one of their most endearing traits.

On the one hand, frontman Chris Martin and his bandmates do everything they can to maximize the big rock spectacle, the grand theatrical gesture and the musical bombast.

This Weekend: Wicker Park Fest, Matmos

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Festival season rolls on with this weekend's offering: Wicker Park Fest on Damen Ave. between North Ave. and Schiller St. tomorrow and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. In addition to all the usual non-musical attractions, this fest offers live sounds from Polvo, Ra Ra Riot, Bishop Allen, Isis, Maps & Atlases and Film School, among others. The suggested donation is $5, and proceeds benefit the Wicker Park and Bucktown Chamber of Commerce. The full schedule and more information can be found online at www.myspace.com/wickerparkfest.

Tired of outdoor festivals and looking for someplace comfy to bliss out? I can't think of anything better than the experimental electronic duo Matmos performing at the Lakeshore Theater, 3175 N. Broadway, in celebration of its new album "Supreme Balloon." Leprechaun Catering opens at 9 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $15; more information available at www.emptybottle.com.

Canasta deals a winning hand in orchestral pop

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For several years now, advertising agencies and Hollywood music directors have had a better track record of championing previously unheralded new artists than the major record companies. So it's no surprise that the widest exposure the local ork-pop band Canasta has had yet is coming from the inclusion of its gorgeous anthem "Slow Down Chicago" in the trailer for the new film "Diminished Capacity."

"But it is totally hilarious to see Matthew Broderick and Alan Alda walking in slow motion to your song," violinist and vocalist Elizabeth Lindau says, laughing.

Demo2DeRo: Modern Chemist

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Earnest young fellows from the south suburbs, bassist and vocalist Daniel Eden, guitarist Kevin Kirchman and drummer Patrick Lewandowski drew on a mutual love of the mainstream punk sounds of Blink 182, Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Alkaline Trio and came together as Modern Chemists in 2006. Now, the band is celebrating the release of its first EP, "Dawn and Dusk," a solid, well-recorded collection of cheerfully melodic, respectively rollicking radio-friendly mall punk.

The group is at its best when it keeps things focused and moving rapidly forward, as on the songs "16" and "Worship You." It strays a bit too far into generic metal with the solos in "Stop the Clocks," but the songwriting is ambitious and sophisticated enough to mark the band as one that may develop into a group to watch.

Modern Chemist performs at the Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, at 6 p.m. on Aug. 28. Meanwhile, hear them online at www.myspace.com/modernchemists.

Held in comically high esteem by a devoted cult following, former Twin Cities, now Brooklyn-based singer and songwriter Craig Finn finally won me over as a live act at the recent Pitchfork Music Festival, where the more annoying aspects of his blue collar poet act took a back seat to the unapologetic, rah-rah-rousing classic-rock bar band appeal of his band's rootsy riffs and rhythms. But the Hold Steady runs into serious trouble on record, where its simple charms are overwhelmed by its leader's artistic pretensions.

Girls, they wanna have fun. Oh, girls just wanna have fun.

Well, that and they're eager to become women--sometimes, parents fear, long before they're ready.

Pitchfork Music Festival Day Three

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Though it's unlikely that most of the 17,000 fans who've attended each day know it, the Pitchfork Music Festival originated as a small concert run by a grassroots group called Interchange formed to register voters before the last Presidential election.

Through its remarkable growth, Pitchfork has retained that activist spirit: Some 70 volunteers have registered more than 1,200 voters from 34 states and the District of Columbia over the course of the festival's fourth year at the West Side's Union Park. But the community spirit is here in other ways, too.

Pitchfork Music Festival Day Two

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The second day of the fourth annual Pitchfork Music Festival kicked off amid a whole lot of mud and a light but steady drizzle that has yet to abate. But the first of Saturday's main-stage acts was anything but soggy.

Titus Andronicus is a distinctive indie-rock band from suburban New Jersey led by bushy-bearded vocalist Patrick Stickles that has at times featured as many as 11 members onstage churning through the most aggressive shoegazer psychedelia you've ever heard--or, if you prefer, the dreamiest hardcore punk you can imagine. For this gig, Stickles was joined by a mere five band mates, but that was more than enough to create an impressive wall of sound, with as many as four guitars churning away at some points.

Pitchfork Music Festival Day One

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"Sun is falling down/Sky is falling down/Seasons falling down/Air is falling down," Boston art-punk legends Mission of Burma sang in "Weatherbox" Friday night, midway through the opening set of the fourth Pitchfork Music Festival, as their guitars, bass, drums and tape loops evoked the fury of bombs falling in the midst of an earthquake during a vicious thunderstorm.

Thankfully, the real downpour stopped not long before the band officially opened the three-day festival in the West Side's Union Park. But it was an ominous message nonetheless, with the weather threatening to dampen souls if not spirits all weekend long at what has become the premier celebration of the musical underground in Chicago and the entire U.S.

Full lineup announced for Riot Fest, Oct. 10-12

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As announced a few weeks back, the reunited punk band ALL will be one of the headliners of this year's Riot Fest. Now we can add ska-punk masters (and very natty dressers) the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to the list, among others (read on for the full roster, though there are still some acts to be announced).

The fest takes place in several venues around town, including the Congress Theatre (October 12), the House of Blues (October 10), and Double Door and Cobra Lounge (October 10 and 11).

Barack Obama to appear at Lollapalooza?

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From the music news Web site the Daily Swarm:

Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has left a slot open in his schedule during the first weekend of August for an appearance at the Lollapalooza music festival in his hometown of Chicago, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing planning and logistics.

No official confirmation from the Obama camp, but the Daily Swarm goes on to highlight several of the senator's connections to artists on the Lollapalooza bill. The festival moves into Grant Park Aug. 1-3.

In case you missed it, on Monday, my transportation reporter colleague Mary Wiz asked if I'd help come up with some lists of "the best songs ever" about the various modes of transit that she covers. It was both an easy task to fulfill -- and an impossible one. But because everybody loves a list, I'll post it again here.

Pitchfork update, and other picks for the weekend

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Well, you did it: You waited too long, and now Saturday and Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival are completely sold out. Some tickets remain for walk-up only on Friday night, but you'd better get there early to be sure.

If you have been shut out of the festival, you still have a chance to see some of the best acts FOR FREE tonight at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The special preview concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and features Fleet Foxes, Extra Golden, Boban Markovic and A Hawk and a Hacksaw.

There is also a free panel discussion this afternoon on the making of Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" with Chuck D., Hank and Keith Shocklee of the Bomb Squad, "media assassin" Harry Allen and rock academic Kembrew McLeod at the Chicago Cultural Center at 3 p.m. E-mail rsvp@pitchforkmusicfestival.com to attend.

And if that still doesn't console you, here are some other shows of note in the next few days.

Demo2DeRo: Jonny Rumble

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"Hey hey, my my/Rock and roll can never die," Neil Young declared, but the Chicago quartet Jonny Rumble begs to differ on the title track of its third album, "Almost Dead." Counters guitarist-vocalist Brian Webb: "There was a man named Neil Young/He said that rock would never die/He was wrong/It's almost there/It got chopped off in a barber chair/No more hair!" (Another problem, according to the band: All the fans have gone off to see the Dave Matthews Band and Nickleback.)

Thankfully, the band's protestations of the sad state of affairs musically, culturally and politically never comes off as downer whining: All of the group's sometimes obvious but not necessarily unwarranted observations are delivered over invigorating and intoxicating short, sharp shocks of pop-punk energy that are a testament to its members' roots. Webb, guitarist Patrick O'Connor, bassist Jeremy Pryor and drummer Seth Thomas are Detroit natives who moved to Chicago and became dedicated members of the local music scene several years ago, and they combine the ferocious energy and unshakeable grooves of Motown's best with Chicago's long-standing love of power-pop; think MC5 jamming with Cheap Trick, but at Ramones tempos.

If that isn't a sign of life, I don't know what is. Join Jonny Rumble as it celebrates its new release on Friday [JULY 25] by headlining at a "Rock Against Recession" gig at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., with the Sapiens, Raised on Zenith and Model K. The show starts at 9 p.m.; admission is free before 9:30 and $5 thereafter. Meanwhile, visit the band online at www.myspace.com/jonnyrumble.

One of the most exciting performers in the electronic music underground--his gig at last year's Pitchfork Music Festival set off a veritable frenzy--laptop composer Gregg Gillis is arguably as significant for his politics as he is for his unbelievably dense, incredibly enjoyable musical pastiches. And the 26-year-old biomedical engineer has topped himself on both fronts with his fourth album, recently issued a la Radiohead as a "pay-what-you-like" download and due for a physical release in late September on the Bloomington, Ill.-based Illegal Art label.

In 1953, a decade after the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann produced his 25th synthesis of lysergic acid diethylamide—better known as LSD-25—British psychiatrist Humphry Osmond was studying its effect on alcoholics in Canada when he coined the word that would name a category of drugs as well as an artistic, musical and social movement in the 1960s.

Humphry seized upon the Greek roots “psyche” (for “soul” or “mind”) and “delein” or “deloun” (“to make manifest” or “to show or reveal”) to form “psychedelic,” and he illustrated its use in a rhyming couplet: “To fathom hell or soar angelic/Just take a pinch of psychedelic.” Since then, few bands have embodied the mind-revealing or soul-manifesting goals of great psychedelic rock as effectively as Spiritualized.

At look ahead to the Pitchfork Music Festival, 2008

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Given the adventurous “you-saw-them-here-first” bookings, the fan-friendly environment of Union Park (under the Ashland Avenue “L” stop at Lake Street) and most of all the inviting communal vibe created by some of the most dedicated members of this city’s musical underground, the Pitchfork Music Festival remains by far the most exciting of any of Chicago’s sonic summer celebrations.

This is not to say that things have gotten any easier for the promoters since the annual concert originated as the Intonation Music Festival in 2005. In fact, the massive undertaking of Lollapalooza, which hits Grant Park next month, has had a very visible and deeply painful impact on Pitchfork in year four as many of the acts it sought were poached by its bigger, pricier and much more corporate competitor.

As a result, Pitchfork 2008 has more second-timers—some of them welcome, others not so much—and way-below-the-radar newcomers, though the latter may only mean that there will be more surprises. The promoters say they’ve worked hard to correct the fest’s two biggest problems in years past—the sometimes dicey sound quality and the overcrowding at the secondary stage/dance tent (this year, that platform, called the Balance Stage, has changed places with the Flatstock poster exhibit)—and, as always, the corporate sponsorships are so unobtrusive as to be invisible, if you aren’t looking for them.

Here is a look at my best bets over the course of this long musical weekend, as well as the schedule for all of the performers on the fest’s three stages.

Demo2DeRo: Tongues

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Though Tongues is a young group just now celebrating the D.I.Y. release of its self-titled debut, the sleaze-rock quintet has a celebrated pedigree, including two former members of punk heroes Apocalypse Hoboken, vocalist Todd Paglialong and drummer Andy Peterson, and a bassist, Erik Bocek, from Joan of Arc. They join impressive dual lead guitarists Sean Shipley and Francis Gilbert to create a hardcore but melodic metal/punk hybrid that seems to have been designed as the perfect soundtrack for the neighborhood biker bar or S&M club (that is, providing you live in that sort of neighborhood).

Thankfully, the only thing heavy here is the music: One look at the titles of endearingly hard-hitting tunes such as “Bukowski Dating Service,” “Meatgum” and “Scatalogically Speaking” is indicative of the group’s sarcastic lyrical take on its favorite debaucheries. “For fans of Roxy Music and Kyuss,” is how one fanzine summed things up, and it’s hard to find a better description.

Tongues perform at Gasthaus, 15 N. Grove Ave. in Elgin, on Monday with the Brokedowns, FIYA, 97-Shiki and North Lincoln and at Cobra Lounge, 235 N. Ashland, on Aug. 28. Visit www.myspace.com/storybookfuneralband for more info and a healthy sample of the group’s unhealthy but delicious sounds.

Nas, “Untitled” (Def Jam) [2 stars out of 4]

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Having spent his entire career trying to live up to the promise of his brilliant debut “Illmatic” (1994), Nasir Jones needed to prove his ongoing relevance more than ever on his ninth studio album, especially after the commercial and artistic disappointment of his last effort, “Hip-Hop Is Dead” (2006). But Nas didn’t do himself any favors by engineering the genre’s biggest non-controversy since the feud between Kanye West and 50 Cent: Regardless of whether corporate politics, congressional threats or a Wal-Mart boycott was to blame in blocking the rapper from titling this disc the “N word” is irrelevant, because it was destined post-Imus to play as a cheap publicity stunt. As Chuck D. says, sometimes that’s the only word that fits, but if you use it, you can’t complain about the fallout.

More weekend sounds

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Finally open and well on its way to earning a rep as one of the best live music rooms in Chicago, the new Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake St, hosts two strong shows this weekend. Tonight, a killer quadruple bill starts at 8 tonight and features the breathtakingly beautiful local ork-pop ensemble the Chamber Strings and the consistently inventive singer and songwriter David Singer, as well as La Scala and Penthouse Sweets; tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. On Saturday at 8, Sufrajett and Lonesome Cougar open for ’90s alternative rock heroes Urge Overkill; those tickets are $16 in advance or $20 at the door. For more information, call (312) 929-2022 or visit www.bottomlounge.com.

If the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Folk & Roots Festival still hasn’t satisfied your craving for those sounds, Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island presents the strong double bill of soul legend Al Green, supporting his strong new album “Lay It Down,” and New Orleans shaman Dr. John, with Soulive opening starting at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35 to $85 through www.ticketmaster.com or (312) 559-1212.

This weekend: The Folk & Roots Festival

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Though it’s probably the least hyped of any of Chicago’s major summer music fests, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Folk & Roots Festival is one of the most inviting and musically rewarding, with a welcoming communal vibe born of the staff’s vital role as educators and eclectic booking that offers something for every taste.

The 11th annual fest takes place Saturday and Sunday at Welles Park in Lincoln Square (Lincoln Avenue between Montrose and Sunnyside), and the music kicks off on the main stage at 12:55 tomorrow afternoon with Special Music by Special People, an ensemble stemming from the Park District’s program for aspiring musicians with developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome and director by Joe Yost and other volunteer musicians.

Read on for an overview of the rest of the offerings.

The (sort of) Pumpkins are (sort of) coming home

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The reunited but reconfigured Smashing Pumpkins have finally announced a concert date in the Chicago area -- that is, if you consider Hammond, Ind. in the Chicago area.

The group will perform at the Venue at Harrah's Horseshoe Casino in Hammond on Aug. 9. Tickets go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. through Ticketmaster -- no word on the price as yet -- according to the band's Web site and email blasts.

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But still can't be bothered to set a Chicago date for a reunited Pumpkins show. What's up with that?

(Don't ask me; I haven't been able to get an answer out of anyone in the band's camp.)

In any event, the release from Fender follows the jump.

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Tom Petty welcomes with open arms last night's sold-out crowd at Chicago's United Center. (Oscar Lopez/For the Sun-Times)

Two years ago, shortly after the release of the invigorating "Highway Companion," his third solid solo effort and the 18th album overall in a long and storied career, Tom Petty announced that he was swearing off large-scale arena tours for good.

But on Wednesday, there he was again at age 57, leading the Heartbreakers through a satisfying two-hour set at a sold-out United Center, and with his laconic charm and trademark nasal twang as oddly endearing as ever.

Eddie's coming home

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Following up on the promise that he'd promote last year's solo album "Music for the Motion Picture Into the Wild" with a handful of shows, Evanston native and moonlighting Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder will wrap up the second leg of his first solo tour with two shows at the Auditorium Theatre on Aug. 21-22.

Tickets go on sale Friday, July 11, at 11 a.m. at the Auditorium box office and through Ticketmaster at $75 each, with a limited number of upper gallery seats at $60. There will also be a special limited ticket pre-sale for active members of Pearl Jam's Ten Club; details at www.pearljam.com.

Liam Finn will open both shows, which start at 7:30 p.m.

Demo2DeRo: Sleep Out

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As historic Chicago landmarks go, Graceland Cemetery is one of the least obtrusive: You’ve probably passed the entrance to this storied burial ground at Clark and Irving a thousand times without even realizing it’s there. Yet the resting place of some of the city’s most legendary politicians and industrialists serves as the inspiration for one of the strongest indie-pop discs to emerge from the underground music scene in the new millennium; as the press materials for Sleep Out’s second album put it, the 11 songs on “Not Even Dust” are “all inspired by Graceland Cemetery, some in more explicit ways than others. Some take the vantage point of a newly interred resident while others depict the thoughts of passersby.”

On his eighth studio album, set for release Tuesday on his 38th birthday, alternative survivor and postmodern poster boy Beck Hansen doesn’t give us anything radically new. “I’d always wanted to do a modern version of a psych-rock record, but I was also wary of rehashed nostalgia,” he recently told the British press. Of course, after various experiments with psychedelic folk on his earlier recordings, he pretty much perfected his take on the genre with the masterful “Sea Change” (2002), and then toured with the Flaming Lips as his backing band to underscore the point.

Though their wardrobe, beards and burgeoning following are all in step with the leaders of the so-called “freak folk” movement, the Seattle quintet Fleet Foxes distinguishes itself from artists such as Animal Collective and Devendra Banhart because its members are much less emphatically stoner or self-consciously eclectic, and because its self-described “baroque harmonic pop jams” have much deeper and more convincing roots.

If you like your Irish music louder, faster and snottier—or you dig your punk laced with a touch of blarney—few bands deliver the goods better than the Dropkick Murphys, and they’re touring with one of the best ska-punk bands ever, the happily reunited Mighty Mighty Bosstones. The show starts at 6 p.m. Monday at the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, and tickets are $31 in advance or $31.50 the day of the show via www.livenation.com or (312) 559-1212.

The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, is hosting a talent-packed benefit show starting at 9 p.m. Saturday for the Chris Saathoff Foundation (www.chrissaathofffoundation.org), which assists groups that provide support for children in need throughout the world. The lineup includes Chin Up Chin Up, the Smith Westerns, Mt. St. Helens, White Mystery and the Victim of Time DJs, with hosts Miss Mia and Ratso from “Chica-Go-Go,” complimentary hot dogs and raffle prizes. The cover is $10; for more information, visit www.hideoutchicago.com or call (773) 227-4433.

Alejandro Escovedo gets animalistic

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At age 57, with a storied solo career and a long history including time with punk-rockers the Nuns and alternative-country pioneers Rank & File and the True Believers behind him, Alejandro Escovedo has never sounded like he’s had more fun recording than he did while making “Real Animal.”

Whether you blame a delayed midlife crisis or the catharsis necessitated by divorce and a near-fatal bout with Hepatitis C—a battle chronicled on his last disc, the downbeat but effective “The Boxing Mirror” (2006)—the Texas musician rocks with a vengeance on his latest, belying the nostalgia of a concept album about his involvement in the early punk era with sounds that are absolutely vital and of the moment.

Crazy Rhythms Redux: The return of the Feelies

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HOBOKEN, N.J. — Back in the early ’80s, in the interim between the first and second acts of the Feelies’ career and at a time when the venerated art-punk band from Haledon, N.J., only performed on holiday weekends once or twice a year, the group’s veteran percussionist, Dave Weckerman, told Jersey Beat fanzine that playing in the band was sort of like living in a mystical pyramid: no one ever got older, and nothing ever changed.

Formed in a leafy suburban of Paterson in the mid-’70s, drawing inspiration from the Velvet Underground, the Modern Lovers and the Stooges and adding their own unique rhythmic undertow and two-guitar interplay every bit as intense as Television, the Feelies first disbanded (or took a long hiatus, as they prefer) a year or two after the release of their brilliant debut album, “Crazy Rhythms” (1980).

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