Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

October 2008 Archives

AC/DC at the Allstate Arena

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AC/DC blasts into concert Thursday night at Allstate Arena. They're back there Saturday night. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)


Go ahead and scoff at AC/DC, if you feel you must.

Accuse the veteran Aussie hard-rockers of milking one idea for 35 years. (No two ways about it: They have. But it's a very good idea.)

Call them old (they are--the Young brothers, Angus and Malcolm, are 53 and 55, while vocalist Brian Johnson is 61) and more than a little bit silly (even at 53, Angus still won't give up that schoolboy uniform--or the obligatory mid-set strip tease).

You can even charge the band with distasteful business practices worthy of Wall Street at its worst for only selling its new album "Black Ice" at one retail chain--because as good as the disc is, it's hard to justify being forced to buy it at Wal-Mart.

None of that matters. On Wednesday, "Black Ice" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard albums chart, selling more than 780,000 copies in its first week and muscling aside no less a contender than that phenomenal teen-pop sales juggernaut "High School Musical III." Better yet, on Thursday, during the second night of its U.S. tour and the first of two sold-out shows in Chicago, the quintet rocked as righteously and as mightily as it ever has, or as any group could.

Talking "I Often Dream of Trains" with Robyn Hitchcock

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After splitting from his influential band the Soft Boys, English psychedelic rocker and surrealist folk troubadour Robyn Hitchcock launched his solo career with a fine album called "Black Snake Diamond Röle" (1981). But then something went wrong.

Hitchcock found himself sucked into a disastrous and misguided bid for pop stardom with "Groovy Decay" (1982) as producer Steve Hillage (a veteran of progressive rockers Gong) buried his songs under obnoxious horns, synthesizers and disco grooves. "Hillage had justly got into his sort of 1980's Kings Road suits and was trying to be anything but psychedelic," Hitchcock told me years ago. "He was into club mixes and all that sort of stuff, and I was really lost and getting loster."

That spectacular failure prompted the singer and songwriter to withdraw from music and reassess. He kept himself afloat by writing lyrics for Captain Sensible of the Damned, but his own songs eventually began to accumulate again, and he finally returned to the studio after a three-year break to craft what many fans consider his best album. "I Often Dream of Trains" (1984) is a quiet, introspective and "wonderfully autumnal" effort driven by acoustic guitar, piano and vocals--"It's like wanting to see what you're like when you take everything else away"--and it includes moving and intensely personal songs such as "This Could Be the Day," "Sounds Great When You're Dead" and the title track.

Now, nearly two and a half decades later, Hitchcock is performing this classic live on a tour that includes two shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music. We recently talked about the recording and his decision to revisit it from his home in England.

Halloween Rock in Chicago

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The Chicago rock scene has a long tradition of pulling out all the stops on Halloween, whether it's local bands donning the look and sound of some of their musical idols for special one-off cover sets, or local venues booking the most frightening sounds from across the country in honor of our scariest holiday.

Here is an alphabetical look at the very best tricks and treats in club land commemorating All Hallows Eve, 2008.

Burning down the (Civic Opera) house

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The stage at the Civic Opera House on Sunday was a blur of rhythmic motion, with four musicians, three backing vocalists, three dancers and, of course, the reason for the sold-out crowd: venerated art-rocker David Byrne.

Byrne's collaborator on the recent album "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today"--as well as on the 1981 release "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" and the three most wildly inventive albums by his old band, the Talking Heads--was nowhere in evidence among all of those white-clad bodies gyrating on the stark black stage.

Nevertheless, the influence of Brian Eno loomed large on nearly every note throughout the generous evening, both in the obvious way that the producer first inspired Byrne to explore and incorporate fluid African polyrhythms on the albums "More Songs About Buildings and Food" (1978), "Fear of Music" (1979) and "Remain in Light" (1980), and in a harder to pin down sense of oblique melody that the two honed as collaborating songwriters.

Call it "Obamapalooza."

C3 Presents, the Texas concert promoters who bring Lollapalooza to Grant Park each summer, have been tapped to stage the massive celebration that the Obama campaign is planning to hold in Grant Park on election night.

Although the company is based in Austin just blocks away from the Texas Capitol that launched the political career of President Bush, C3 is becoming an increasingly powerful player on the Chicago scene, with close ties to Mayor Daley.

Though several sources connected to the production confirmed C3's involvement, city officials said they could not. "We don't actually have an application from the Obama campaign yet, though we expect one this week," said Chicago Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner. "I don't have any information on any involvement by C3."

"We will not be commenting on this," said C3 spokeswoman Shelby Meade.

A spokesman for the Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Twelve hours after he was first asked to confirm C3's involvement in the event, Obama spokesman Justin DeJong replied with a two-word email: "Declining comment."

C3 is midway through a five-year contract for Lollapalooza in Grant Park that was negotiated by its attorney, Mark Vanecko, a nephew of Mayor Daley. The festival paid the city $1.6 million for use of the park last summer.

The promoters also won a city contract last year to bring a wide range of events to Soldier Field during the Bears' off season, beating out the Chicago office of giant promoters Live Nation, though C3 has yet to deliver anything. And C3 officials have said they hope to play a major role in the Olympics if Chicago succeeds in its bid for 2016.

To date, the promoters have had little experience coordinating major political events. The company hosted several relatively modest Obama rallies in Texas during the campaign, including one that drew 20,000 people to Austin's Auditorium Shores during the primary. But election night is expected to bring at least 100,000 people to Hutchinson Field in the southern end of Grant Park, and possibly many more, Chicago officials say.

In its most successful year so far, Lollapalooza drew about 75,000 people to Grant Park per day for three days last August.

Mayor Daley said Thursday that the approximately $2 million tab for the Obama celebration would be paid by the campaign. The Nov. 4 event will be free and open to the public, but the campaign has drawn criticism for plans to charge media organizations hefty fees for close access to cover the candidate's victory or concession speech.

News outlets would have to pay $935 for a seat and high-speed Internet access in a heated tent not unlike the "luxury cabanas" that C3 sells to high rollers at Lollapalooza.

The Obama campaign has won widespread support from Chicago's music community, ranging from grassroots fundraisers at small rock clubs such as Schubas and the Hideout to major benefits such as a concert headlined by Wilco at the Riviera Theatre and promoted by Chicago-based Jam Productions. Many of these same local music promoters have complained that Lollapalooza has had a devastating effect on the local summer concert season because it restricts any artist who performs there from playing at another local venue for a total of as much as six months before and after the festival.

Lollapalooza also became the center of a political controversy in 2007 when Pearl Jam charged that one of its sponsors, Texas-based AT&T, had censored its Webcast of the Seattle band's performance because singer and Evanston native Eddie Vedder made comments critical of President Bush.

This weekend: Byrne does Eno, the Rumble Strips

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Touring in support of his widely hailed collaboration with Brian Eno on the recent album "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," David Byrne, erstwhile leader of the Talking Heads turned global music champion, offers and evening of "The Songs of Byrne and Eno" (though minus Eno himself) at the Civic Opera House, 20 N Wacker Dr., at 8 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are sold out.

One of the latest projects by much-buzzed producer Mark Ronson, who's earlier brought us Chicago rapper Rhymefest and British chanteuse Amy Winehouse, the remarkable British soul singer Charlie Waller and his horn-heavy band the Rumble Strips are garnering considerable excitement for their debut album "Girls and Weather." The group comes to the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, after openers Time Bomb Symphony and Birdmonster starting at 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $12 in advance or $14 at the door for this 18 and over show; call (773) 478-4408 or visit http://abbeypub.com/ for more information.

"Progressive rock" and "psychedelia" are words that get tossed around a lot when critics write about Yeasayer. The acclaimed Brooklyn quartet doesn't exactly repudiate these labels, but it doesn't really embrace them, either.

"'Psychedelia' is such a broad term," keyboardist and vocalist Chris Keating says. "I hate the notion that the music gets labeled and then all of the sudden it's 1967 and Haight-Ashbury, headbands and tie-dye. I look at Public Enemy as a pretty psychedelic band--just the ideas behind where they're coming from, and sonically, the way they were mixing their records and piecing things together."

Similarly, while Keating admits that he loves some albums by Pink Floyd, Genesis and King Crimson, he notes that he and his bandmates--guitarist-vocalist Anand Wilder, bassist Ira Wolf Tuton and drummer Luke Falsano--are hardly virtuosos on the level of those prog heroes. "I'm not even a real instrumentalist," he says. "My outlet, since I was a teenager, has been using samples and the synthesizer to create a sonic environment.

"If we're talking about trying to create an environment, that's something we certainly try to do--being more inspired by the ideas you hear in everyday life, rather than the sound that comes from a guitar when you just plug it in. And that's something all my favorite bands tried to do," however you want to label them.

Demo2Dero: Les Voyeurs

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Old-school punk in the grittiest, rawest, loudest and snottiest tradition--and I mean all of those adjectives as compliments--the members of Les Voyeurs bring a long history of knocking about the local scene (with previous connections to Piehole, Hot Action and Ministry, among other groups) to a fresh combination of drunken, energetic chaos a la Pegboy, the Circle Jerks and Rocket From the Crypt and a slightly artier edge in the tradition of Killing Joke and early Pere Ubu, most notable via the occasional theremin decorating its raucous debut, "The ABC's of Walking Wisely," recorded by Steve Albini and digitally released last June via Digstation.com and CDbaby.

The fancifully pseudononymous musicians--vocalist RottenFinko, drummer Vic, backing vocalist and theremin player T. Sabrina 2.0, guitarist Oi Harrison and bassist Ty Coon--may not be pretty to look at, but the ugly noise of songs such as "Losing Control," "Sick Religion" and "The Gripper" is simply gorgeous. Sample the din at www.myspace.com/voyeurschicago, or better yet, make a road trip out to Damaged, 11234 Southwest Highway in Palos Hills, to see the group open for the mighty Effigies on Nov. 8. (Call 708-974-1414 for more information.)

Pink, "Funhouse" (La Face) [1 STAR]

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The history of popular music boasts a long tradition of musically inspired and emotionally complex albums about divorce, including such classics as "Blood on the Tracks" by Bob Dylan, "Here, My Dear" by Marvin Gaye and "Shoot Out the Lights" by Richard and Linda Thompson.

With all due respect to the pain and suffering she's feeling in the wake of her split last February from motocross celebrity Carey Hart, no one ever will mention the fifth album by the former Alecia Beth Moore in the same breath as those discs--though to be sure, divorce informs every syrupy note. (Arriving in stores next week as "Funhouse," Pink's original title of "Heartbreak is a Mother------" was nixed by her record company, though at least it offered truth in advertising.)

John Legend, "Evolver" (Columbia) [1 STAR]

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When singer and songwriter John Legend first hit the scene with his 2004 debut "Get Lifted," proudly brandishing the endorsement of his friend, champion and sometimes collaborator Kanye West, he seemed poised to do for R&B what West was doing for hip-hop: reconnecting with the music's old-school roots while adding his own unique and modern musical aesthetic, and replacing the sexual braggadocio and thug life posing with a smarter, deeper look at the African-American experience.

Dethroning Usher and R. Kelly was a tough goal, but a fight worth fighting. Unfortunately, on his third album, the 29-year-old University of Pennsylvania graduate has taken off the gloves and forfeited, choosing to take the far easier and perhaps more lucrative path of churning out bland and soulless easy-listening dross.

Alright, here it is, again: Wire at Metro

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Graham Lewis; photo by Oscar Lopez for the Sun-Times

Alone among their peers from the punk explosion of the '70s--or, really, the great bands of any style or era that carry the weight of more than three decades of history--legendary English art-punks Wire fight nostalgia as if it is the enemy of life itself, a soul-sapping disease that leads only to misery, decay and death.

Certainly the history is there to exploit. The three masterful albums from the quartet's original incarnation--"Pink Flag" (1977), "Chairs Missing" (1978) and "154" (1980)--have been cited as inspirations by bands as diverse as Minor Threat and R.E.M., My Bloody Valentine and Big Black, Elastica and Yo La Tengo, and those are just a few of the groups that have recorded Wire's songs. A tour heavy on the cult favorites would surely draw large crowds and sizable paydays, and yet the group refuses.

Band members say they turned down a lucrative offer to play the All Tomorrow's Parties night at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival because they had no interest in exclusively performing one of their older albums. Indeed, during their first ever tour of the U.S. in 1987, they refused to play any older material at all. Instead, as part of a surreal joke that many never understood, they hired a New Jersey cover band to do it for them (and in the interest of journalistic disclosure, I should note that I was a member of that group).

Facing a worshipful crowd at Metro on Saturday during the last night of the American tour in support of the recent "Object 47"--the band's 11th studio album and "47th object" overall in its discography--Wire did reach into the back catalog from time to time, as with a haunting version of "Being Sucked in Again" early in the set. But it did so on its own terms.

Officially labeled as Vol. 8 of the rewarding "Bootleg Series," Bob Dylan's latest installment feels much more like a new album than a collection of odds 'n' sods for super-geek collectors. Culled primarily from the recording sessions for "Oh Mercy" (1989), "Time Out of Mind" (1997) and "Modern Times" (2006), the two discs include several unreleased gems, chief among them the gorgeous "Red River Shore," one of the most nakedly emotional songs the master has written. But the heart of the collection is alternate takes of album tracks such as "Dignity," "Mississippi" and "Can't Wait."

AC/DC, "Black Ice" (Columbia) [3.5 STARS]

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Thirty-five years and 17 studio releases into a career that has sold 200 million albums worldwide, Australian hard-rockers AC/DC aren't about to mess with the formula, but they don't need to, since the formula never grows old. The combination of a relentless rhythm section, simple but melodic riffs, bluesy leads and massive, chant-along choruses celebrating the timeless joys of adolescence--sex, booze, rock 'n' roll and, um, more sex--is a bottomless well of inspiration in the hands of guitarist brothers Angus and Malcolm Young (aged 53 and 55, respectively) and vocalist Brian Johnson, still packing an unnaturally high register even at age 61.

As Angus recently told the New York Times, "People say it's juvenile music, but pardon me: I thought rock 'n' roll was supposed to be juvenile."

Demo2DeRo: Caw! Caw!

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The oddly named trio of vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Tim Tsurutani, drummer Evan Burrows and guitarist Steve Kozak has been kicking around the Chicago music scene since 2001, but it's evolved quite a bit from its earliest incarnation as a high-school punk quartet to become the gleefully tuneful, ceaselessly energetic and at times willfully naïve indie-pop outfit showcased on the new EP "Wait Outside," recently released on the independent Slanty Shanty Records.

Tunes such as "Organisms," "Escape the Red Giant" and "Wrapped Up Neat in the Bible" evoke a middle ground between those preppy popsters Vampire Weekend and the enduringly inspirational art-rockers Radiohead, though without any of the pretensions that might connote. Currently in the midst of an ambitious Midwestern tour, the band returns home for next local gig at the Abbey Pub on Dec. 11. Meanwhile, check them out on the Web at http://www.myspace.com/cawcawmusic or http://cawcawmusic.com/.

My Morning Jacket reschedules Chicago Theatre concerts

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From promoters Jam Productions:

New Dates: Saturday & Sunday, Dec. 27 & 28, 2008

The Thursday, October 9 show has been moved to Saturday, December 27.

Tickets purchased for the October 9 show will be honored at the December 27 show.

The Friday, October 10 show has been moved to Sunday, December 28.

Tickets purchased for the October 10 show will be honored at the December 28 show.

Previously purchased tickets for these events are good for the respectively rescheduled date only. There is no need to exchange your tickets. For those unable to attend the new dates, refunds will be available at point of purchase.

Tickets For Both Shows Are Available And On-Sale [through Ticketmaster].

Talking with TV on the Radio

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In a review on BlogCritics.com of "Dear Science," the third album by the genre-blurring New York art-rockers TV on the Radio, Nik Dirga wrote, "I don't know if [they] set out to create the soundtrack to the Bush years, but the push-and-pull of anxiety I get from their albums makes as good a background music as any."

This assessment prompts a slightly pained chuckle from vocalist Tunde Adebimpe. "I hope that people will be able to listen to these records in the future without thinking of George Bush at all," he says. "I hope that they'll provide solace for whatever is going on--and I just don't want that guy's name in my mouth anymore."

Nevertheless, Adebimpe agrees that the group's music has been a product of these disorienting and troubling times, both with the dark edge of many of the lyrics, and with the sense of optimism that often acts as a contrast in the music.

Guitarist Bruce Gilbert is no longer touring with the band, but the legendary British art-punk band Wire remains one of the most potent live groups the genre has ever produced, and its recent album "Object 47" is every bit as propulsive as the last disc Gilbert made with the band, "Send" (2003). New touring member Margaret Fiedler McGinnis, a Chicago native who's also played with Moonshake, Laika, Ultra Vivid Scene and PJ Harvey, joins veterans Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Gotobed after openers Disappears starting at 8 p.m. Saturday at Metro, 3730 N. Clark. Tickets are $20; call (773) 549-4140 or visit www.metrochicago.com.

Laurie Lindeen, former leader of '90s punk heroines Zuzu's Petals (subject of the recent best-of compilation "Kicking Our Own Asses"), MS survivor, significant other to Paul Westerberg and author of the recent memoir Petal Pusher will read from that book recounting her adventures with her Minneapolis trio at Quimby's, 1854 W. North, at 7 p.m. Friday. Admission is free; for more information, call (773) 342-0910.

Christmas in October? It may seem like the wrong holiday to celebrate this month, but really, every day is Christmas for the famed psychedelic-pop collective Elephant 6, and several key members of that collective are bringing their Holiday Surprise Tour to the Bottom Lounge, 1375 W Lake St, on Tuesday, Oct. 21, to celebrate their forthcoming album "The Singing Saw at Christmastime." Expect performances by Julian Koster of The Music Tapes and William Cullen Hart of the Olivia Tremor Control, a showing of the film "Major Organ and the Adding Machine" and what participants promise will be "a big orchestra, variety show, silly happy thing." Tickets are $12; for more information, call (312) 929-2022 or visit www.bottomlounge.com.


Jack, Alicia and Bond... James Bond

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The pairing sounds like one of those fantasies rock critics conjure when lamenting an obvious talent sunk by mainstream pandering and overly polished production values:

"With her undeniable keyboard virtuosity and soulful, sultry vocals, it's a shame to hear Alicia Keys continually drowning in a sea of mainstream R&B gloss. How powerful could that voice and those keyboards be if they were backed by a real flesh-and-blood, dirt-'n'-grime blues band like, say, the White Stripes?"

Well, now we know. And, sadly, instead of Detroit's platinum-selling garage-blues auteur elevating the Gap ad R&B queen, Keys simply succeeds in making Jack White sound like a mediocre retro-rocker much like Lenny Kravitz or Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes.

Oasis fans are nothing if not a loyal lot

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So my review of the new Oasis album "Dig Out Your Soul" was posted to a fan Web site here, and it's generating a lot of email.

No jokes about being surprised that Oasis fans can write, please. They deserve their say, and it follows the jump.

My Morning Jacket postpones its Chicago shows

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The popular alternative-country rockers were set to perform two sold-out shows at the Chicago Theatre Thursday and Friday, but My Morning Jacket guitarist and vocalist Jim James hurt himself when he fell from the stage about 30 minutes into a concert at the University of Iowa in Iowa City on Tuesday night, cutting the show short.

James was taken to a local hospital, treated and released.

Neither local promoters Jam Productions nor the band's publicists could provide details about when the concerts will be rescheduled, but the latter released the following statement from the band:

"As some of you may have heard we had to cancel our show last evening in Iowa City. We were finishing up the last few bars of 'Off The Record,' and just like any other night we were all having a great time. Jim went to get closer to the audience on his side of the stage, and as he moved forward to step onto the sub-woofer the lights darkened, and he inadvertently stepped off the stage. Upon falling, he suffered traumatic injuries to his torso, and was immediately taken to the hospital. Per the doctor's orders, Jim will be off the road and recovering from his injuries for the next two to three weeks. Sadly, we must postpone the two shows in Chicago on Thursday and Friday until further notice.

For those who attended the Iowa City show, we would like to extend our gratitude for your understanding and cooperation. We take our fans and performances very seriously, and would never cancel a show unless it was absolutely necessary. Please know that we will be making every effort to return to your fine city.

Thank you so much to our fans for the kind sentiments and well-wishes on Jim's behalf. We hope for Jim's quick recovery and to be back out on the road soon.

With Love,

My Morning Jacket"

On his last album, "T.I. vs. T.I.P." (2007), self-proclaimed "King of the South" Clifford Harris Jr. wasted a promising concept--the battle between the two sides of his personality, calculating businessman T.I. and tough-talking street thug T.I.P.--with an uninspired production and rhymes that never dug deep enough into this internal conflict, which is one he shares with a lot of hip-hop chart-toppers. Since then, the thug has prevailed: Feeling paranoid after the May 2006 shooting death of his friend and personal assistant, Harris, who already had one conviction for a crack charge in the late '90s, was caught in a sting when he bought several unregistered machine guns and silencers from a federal informant in the parking lot of a Walgreens last October, four hours before he was to be honored at the BET Awards.

"My life, your entertainment/You watch it while I live it," guest crooner Usher sings in one chorus on T.I.'s sixth album "Paper Trail," which was crafted while the rapper was under house arrest and preparing to serve a year in prison. That's no idle boast: Before heading off to jail next spring, T.I. has to serve 1,000 hours of community service, and according to Variety, he's struck a deal for an MTV reality show chronicling those efforts.

Oasis, "Dig Out Your Soul" (Reprise) [1.5 STARS]

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Q.) What's the difference between Oasis and Lenny Kravitz?

A.) A Mancunian accent.

Wait, that's a bit unfair: America's hippie-dippy retro-rocker never wrote a classic-rock rip-off/homage as powerful as those on "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?," the 1995 album that, it has long since become clear, is the best main man Noel Gallagher will ever give us. But neither Noel nor Lenny is the least bit concerned with stretching his artistic horizons. "It's a working-class thing... I'm not an experimenter," Noel said in one recent Gallagherism, while in another, he noted, "I'm trying salmon, that's as far as my interest in new things goes."

Demo2DeRo: Red Eyed Legends

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The Chicago quartet Red Eyed Legends has hardly been prolific--the group doesn't gig out a lot, and it hasn't released anything from the recording studio since "Mutual Insignificance," its debut EP in 2004. To date, it's been most noteworthy for its members' indie-rock resumes: Vocalist Chris Thomson is a veteran of Circus Lupus and Monorchid and guitarist and Farfisa organ player Kiki Yablon did time in the Dishes. (Bassist Ryan Weinstein and drummer Paul John Higgins are also scene stalwarts.) But the band deserves both a higher profile and a name of its own thanks to the release of its new album "Wake Up, Legend."

Dominated by Thomson's deliriously snotty vocals, which fight an ongoing death match with the rollicking rhythms and guitar and organ riffs so steeped in the garage aesthetic that you can smell the Valvoline, keepers such as "Don't Make It Go Too Fast," "Felt Like Being a D---" and the lead-off track "Monsters" comprise the sort of timeless punk that could hail from any era or locale--San Jose in the '60s a la the Count Five, Cleveland in the '70s like the Dead Boys or Boston in the '80s like the Lyres. The band's sounds can be sampled on the Web at www.myspace.com/redeyedlegends and onstage at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, when it plays a record release party on Saturday Oct. 18 on a bill with Mountain High and Headache City starting at 9 p.m. (The cover is $10; for more info, visit www.hideoutchicago.com.)

There's a Riot (Fest) goin' on!

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Riot Fest founder Michael Petryshyn. Photo by Jeff Callen.

In 2005, Michael Petryshyn was toiling away at a 9-to-5 job when he had an idea: "I was bored at work one day and thought it would be really cool if I tried to get all of my favorite bands together to play one show."

A Buffalo native, Petryshyn relocated here in late 2002 to attend graduate school at Loyola University, though as a devoted fan of punk and ska, he confesses that "the real reason I moved to Chicago was that it was the home of bands like Big Black, Naked Raygun and Screeching Weasel." He had promoted a few club shows back in New York--"nothing big; smaller rooms the size of Double Door"--but from year one, Riot Fest was much more ambitious.

This weekend: Stereolab, Fleet Foxes

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Seemingly reinvigorated after a lengthy break, long-running indie-rock heroes Stereolab are touring in support of their strongest album in years, the recently released "Chemical Chords," which returns to the entrancingly melodic, relentlessly rhythmic sound of early masterpieces such as "Peng!" (1992) and "Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements" (1993). Le Loup and Monade open starting at 8 p.m. Friday at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield. Tickets are $23; call (773) 472-0449.

With their fragile dynamics and intricate, layered harmonies standing as a highlight even in the sonically unforgiving setting of the Pitchfork Music Festival last July, Seattle's psychedelic folkies Fleet Foxes have proven they can bring the exquisite sounds of their self-titled Sub Pop debut to an even higher level onstage. The group should excel at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, when it headlines over Frank Fairfield starting at 9 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $14; for more information, call (773) 549-4140 or visit www.metrochicago.com.

Tickets for the four reconstituted Pumpkins shows in November go on sale to the masses at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13 -- prices $47 to $62, with nearly $15 in tacked-on fees -- through the egregious Ticketmaster. (Remember when Billy Corgan tried to control his own ticket sales? Those days are gone.)

There is, however, some sort of privileged American Express credit-card holder presale already underway on Ticketmaster, which means you can buy your tickets now if you happen to have that piece of plastic in your pocket. (There were no details about that from the band or the promoters; I just stumbled upon it.)

The roster of the band's long-awaited "homecoming shows" is:

Tuesday, November 18 at The Chicago Theatre ("Black Sunshine")
Wednesday, November 19 at The Chicago Theatre ("White Crosses")
Friday, November 21 at The Auditorium Theatre ("Black Sunshine")
Saturday, November 22 at The Auditorium Theatre ("White Crosses")

Diddy, Mary J. and Jay-Z want you to vote

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The following is an "open letter" released this morning -- a fine message, even if you do not agree with the partisan politics portion of it. (And I believe I heard on Chicago Public Radio this morning that the deadline for registering in Illinois is TOMORROW.)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE AN OPEN LETTER TO YOUNG AMERICA FROM DIDDY, SHAWN "JAY-Z" CARTER, MARY J. BLIGE AND KEVIN LILES

WE ARE IN A STATE OF EMERGENCY! YOU MUST REGISTER TO VOTE TODAY, MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2008. WE ARE ONLY 30 DAYS AWAY FROM THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION IN OUR LIFETIME. MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2008 IS THE DEADLINE.

We are at war, banks are closing, people are losing their jobs and houses every day. It is our responsibility to protect our futures. Time is running out. You must register by Monday, October 6th. Barack Obama cannot win this election on his own; he needs our help. This election is about us. This election is about our children's future. If you have not registered to vote, you are disrespecting everyone that sacrificed their lives for you to have the right. You are also disrespecting your future. The time is NOW for us to use the voices with which God has blessed us. We need you to do all you can. Here is what we need to do:

· Register to vote By MONDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2008
· Get as many people as you can to register with you
· Go to the poll and vote on November 4th

Barack Obama said it best, "Eight is Enough." No longer will we stand by and follow leadership with no regard for us and no accountability to us. We can be the deciding factor in this election, but you must register to vote to make your voice heard. Who are we? We are young America. This is our moment of truth, Are you registered for change? October 6th is here. Make sure that on November 4th, we are able to say that we did everything in our power to make sure that Barack Obama becomes the next President of the United States. We owe this to our children, our parents, our grandparents and ourselves. We need you to become a part of Team Obama.

This is the most important election in our lifetime. REGISTER TO VOTE ON TODAY, MONDAY, OCTOBER 6TH and VOTE TO MAKE HISTORY ON NOVEMBER 4TH!

VISIT www.VoteForChange.com to register to vote TODAY! It is our duty to make our voices heard. STOP what you're dong right now and let's REGISTER TO VOTE. Time is running out!

God Bless,

Sean "Diddy" Combs
Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter
Mary J. Blige
Kevin Liles

Vegas loves Bono (for the Nobel Peace Prize)

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Dave Wadley, a big fan of "Sound Opinions," writes:

"While surfing some on-line gaming sites Sunday I noticed that you could also wager on the Nobel Peace Prize! The odds on a few of the nominees are:

Bono: 65 to 1

Green Peace: 50 to 1

Nicholas Sarkozy: 80 to 1"

Fascinating stuff, and thanks, Dave, for passing it along. But you know, the first step may be admitting you have a problem...

Beck plays the punk in fierce, raw set

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Beck performing in concert Thursday night at the Aragon Ballroom. (Marty Perez/For the Sun-Times)


BY MARK GUARINO

Beck took off his lavender floppy hat and serenaded the crowd just once Thursday, the first of two sold-out nights at the Aragon. Affecting the seductive gait of a ranchero singer, he crooned in a bit in Spanish (on the song "Que Onda Guero"), then plopped the hat back on his head under which he hid for the rest of the night.

Hide under a hat, speed through the songs, barely recognize the audience -- Bob Dylan did this once, at a time in his career he later said he was creatively lost and bored with himself, night after night. The same might be suspected of Beck Hansen, the 38-year-old chameleon whose shape-shifting body of work has successively crafted dark themes with disparate pop elements such as folk, blues, hip-hop, arena rock and ranchero.

At the Aragon however, he made the choice to destroy all expectations and flog his songs until there was blood. The four musicians backing him up played as if set on overkill: Loud, messy punk versions of songs including "Girl," "Loser" and "Timebomb" were pushed much further than their recorded counterparts. Faster, fused with a distorted bottom, and played with a profound urgency to race back to the hotel room to see who won the vice presidential debate, the songs were stripped of their whimsy and instead became gnarly and mean.

Weezer at the Allstate Arena

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Weezer in concert Thursday night at the Allstate Arena. (Oscar Lopez/For the Sun-Times)


While long-running alternative rockers Weezer have at times flirted with becoming an arena-rock parody of themselves -- and never more so than on "Maladroit" (2002) and "Make Believe" (2005) -- critics and fans who've tuned out their recent self-titled "Red Album" are missing some of the most intricate pop songwriting since the group's 1994 debut, as well as a measure of the raw, naked emotion that made "Pinkerton" a cult classic.

On the other hand, Rivers Cuomo and his bandmates didn't do themselves any favors by choosing to play the Allstate Arena on Thursday night -- and barely filling half of it -- when a buzz-building club show or a more intimate and superior-sounding theater gig would have done much more to remind the rock world what's great about this band.

Still, as arena-rock spectacles go, Weezer delivered plenty of whiz-bang without detracting from the music. Cuomo, bassist Scott Shriner, drummer Pat Wilson and guitarist Brian Bell changed costumes (matching white, red and finally blue uniforms), swapped instruments, jumped on a trampoline and eventually trotted out 30 young contest winners and aspiring musicians who formed an ad-hoc orchestra complete with oboe, accordion, melodica and didgeridoo to power through "Island In the Sun" and "Beverley Hills" (and it was a rare example of the latter actually sounding good).

Thomas Conner

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

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