Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

November 2008 Archives

Six months after releasing the sadly underrated "Red Album," prolific Weezer singer, songwriter and auteur Rivers Cuomo is giving us a second installment of his considerable archive of outtakes and demos, along with some heartfelt, soul-sharing liner notes that are as entertaining as the music.

The Killers, "Day & Age" (Island)

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The fine folks at the Las Vegas Weekly asked me to review the latest from the Killers for their hometown newspaper. Here is the link.

Smashing Pumpkins just won't go away

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After a year and a half of avoiding Chicago following their first reunion gig in Paris, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and the hired hands just can't get enough of the Great Pumpkin's old stomping grounds.

The band has added a final show to its Chicago run, performing at the Aragon Ballroom on Sunday Dec. 7, the day before its Dec. 8 rescheduling of the Auditorium Theatre "White Crosses" show that the group canceled last Saturday because Corgan was feeling ill.

Promoters Jam Productions say the Aragon gig will break from the alternating two-part "Black Sunshine"/"White Crosses" set lists to deliver "a real barn-burnin' close-out of their 2008 tour" with "a unique stand-alone mix of songs."

No word on whether or not Corgan will include one of his performance-art monologues berating the paying customers and longtime fans.

General admission tickets for the Aragon show go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday at $45 each plus the usual egregious Ticketmaster convenience fees through www.ticketmaster.com or (312) 559-1212.

Um, William, if you were trying to make good to your most loyal fans for the canceled show and the conceptual harangues that nobody understood (and which some people took very personally), doncha think it would have been a more moving gesture to play a free show like the one at the World way back when?

Oh, well -- Happy Thanksgiving.

This weekend: Turkeypalooza, Boris

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College radio station WLUW (88.7-FM) is presenting what it hopes will become an annual post-Thanksgiving celebration Saturday at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. "Turkeypalooza" starts at 10 p.m. and includes local music scene favorite Time Bomb Symphony, the Handcuffs, the Elms and Kevin Junior of the Chamber Strings, all guaranteed to shake you from your tryptophan stupor. Tickets are $6 in advance or $8 at the door; for more information, visit www.abbeypub.com or call (773) 478-4408.

One of the standout acts at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival--and not only because their earth-shaking volume and the giant gong--Japanese noise-rock/doom-metal mavens Boris return to the States to headline a strong bill starting at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. Clouds and Poison Arrows open, and tickets are $15. For more information, call (773) 276-3600 or visit www.emptybottle.com.

The Revelettes' go-go good times

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Though it's often an unheralded part of the scene, if you ask any musician for the biggest compliment someone can give, they're likely to say it's that the music made people dance. So imagine being a band whose sounds inspires a whole troupe of dancers--white boot, false eyelash and miniskirt-wearing go-go dancers. Now that's a kick.

"We danced with [local power-pop band] Frisbie, and with Susie Gomez, and that was such a rush: It's just really fun being up there," says Kaara Kallen, one of the founders of the group that proudly bills itself as "Chicago's finest go-go troupe," the Revelettes. "The whole thing is just so much fun, and that's really the biggest part of why we're doing it. You have these ridiculous costumes, the boots and fringe things and big eyelashes, and go-go can really be danced to any poppy beat; we're not constrained at all by any musical genre or era."

Smashing Pumpkins postpone final Auditorium Theatre show

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Ending their controversial four-night Chicago homecoming with neither a whimper nor a bang, the Smashing Pumpkins have canceled tonight's show at the Auditorium Theatre "due to illness," according to promoters Jam Productions.

The show has been rescheduled to Dec. 8 at the Auditorium, when the band will play the same "White Crosses" set that had been planned for this evening, and fans will be able to use the same tickets they held for tonight. No word yet on a plan for refunds. Jam has announced that ticket-holders who are unable to attend the new date can obtain a refund at the original point of purchase (though thanks to Ticketmaster's egregious "convenience fees" practices, it will be the face value only, not those tacked-on costs).

The bestselling alternative era band's much-anticipated and long-awaited return has generated more controversy than any concert here in years, rivaling Creed's infamous self-destruction at the Allstate Arena.

Advertised as a "20th Anniversary Tour," many fans expected a career overview from the reunited group. Instead, bandleader Billy Corgan gave them a conceptual performance that few seemed to understand, featuring some old hits, a lot of new material, an odd collection of rarities and monologues that apparently were part of the show but which many concertgoers heard as bitter eruptions of anger at the fans and/or onstage melt-downs.

The band's boosters said the first and second nights, "Black Sunshine" and "White Crosses," both had to be seen to understand what Corgan was attempting to do. Now fans who caught only the "Black Sunshine" night will have to wait two weeks to figure it out--if they still care at all.

Although it's yielded several game contenders, hip-hop has yet to produce a dark night of the soul masterpiece or brilliant, introspective musing on the fleeting nature of life to match rock classics such as Neil Young's "Tonight's the Night," Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks," the Flaming Lips' "The Soft Bulletin" or the third albums by Big Star and the Velvet Underground.

Arriving in stores Monday, "808s & Heartbreak" by multi-talented Chicago chart-topper Kanye West doesn't rise to that level. But despite some flaws, it is a fascinating attempt.

Some thoughts on Corgan's show-closing melt-down

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UPDATE: Pitchfork posts some video of Tuesday night's finale HERE. AND: Mark Guarino reviews Wednesday night's "White Crosses" show.

By far the most controversial part of Tuesday's night Smashing Pumpkins show at the Chicago Theatre was the long psychedelic freak-out on Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," which ended the set proper, followed by a begrudging non-encore of the wicked campfire singalong "We Only Come Out at Night" (which would have been perfect for a Tim Burton soundtrack) and the kazoo-driven sarcastic massacre of "Everything is Beautiful."

As numerous correspondents to this blog have reported in comments below, in between, Corgan went off on a bitter, somewhat demented tirade--the old Billy of "everyone is out to get me, you don't love me, I'll hate you even more than you hate me, so there!"

As I noted in my main review (which my deadline required me to file in the midst of this night-ending mess), I've long since given up trying to make sense of the Great Pumpkin's antics. But if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say it was all part of the show, folks. Nothing spontaneous--or personal--about it.

Smashing Pumpkins at the Chicago Theatre

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Just shy of eight years after what he said was the band's last show ever at Metro in December 2000, Billy Corgan finally brought the Smashing Pumpkins back home to Chicago Tuesday, marking the return of a key band of the alternative era and one of the best-selling groups this city has produced.

Night one at the Chicago Theatre was billed as "Black Sunshine," while Wednesday's return engagement is labeled "White Crosses." (Friday at the Auditorium Theatre is "Black Sunshine" again, while Saturday there is "White Crosses." All four shows sold out.)

After the opening night, I still don't have any idea what "Black Sunshine" means. But like many devoted fans, this veteran chronicler of the Great Pumpkin long ago gave up trying to discern the now 41-year-old singer and songwriter's motives, methodology or psychological well-being.

Jim DeRo's partial Pumpkins primer

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In honor of this week's long-awaited homecoming by the Smashing Pumpkins, for those who really have absolutely nothing better to do, following the jump, I've posted Chapter Four of my best-of-the-'90s anthology, MILK IT: COLLECTED MUSINGS ON THE ALTERNATIVE MUSIC EXPLOSION OF THE '90s (Da Capo, 2003), which chronicles--you guessed it--some of my assorted writings on Billy Corgan and his mates, under a chapter title drawn in part from the band's epic double album, and in part from a very funny phrase that Courtney Love once used to describe her former paramour to me.

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Warning: It's long (and this isn't even everything I've written about the band, only my favorite pieces!). But parts of what follows are entertaining and, especially with the passage of time, even revealing at times.

With the very rarest of exceptions, rock 'n' roll is a dish best served steaming hot, with as little delay as possible between the inspiration of the creative oven and the final garnishing of the finished album. Even some of its most celebrated epics--"Led Zeppelin IV," "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" by Genesis or "The Dark Side of the Moon" by Pink Floyd--had relatively quick, no-muss, no-fuss origins. So even if many of their diehard fans argue that the long-, long-, long-awaited sixth studio album by the corporate enterprise that 46-year-old Indiana native W. Axl Rose still calls Guns N' Roses should be judged only on the merits of its grooves, the back story must be mentioned.

The rock world, or at least a significant and still proudly mullet-wearing portion of it, has been waiting 17 years for this album, which already had racked up production costs of $13 million by March 2005, prompting the New York Times to call it "the most expensive album never made." Now, with 14 studios and dozens of hired hands listed in the credits--none of whom, save Rose, were members of the group that released the phenomenal, 28-million-selling "Appetite for Destruction" in 1987--"Chinese Democracy" is finally here... or rather, it's waiting at the nearest Best Buy, which, in another of the currently in vogue slaps in the face to the struggling survivors among the mom-and-pop record stores, is the only retailer that has been authorized to sell it.

Demo2DeRo: Bible of the Devil

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When the Chicago quartet Bible of the Devil first surfaced on the scene about six years ago, it was hard not to hear the musicians as a well-intentioned but nonetheless tongue-in-cheek goof on metal, given the band members' pedigrees in other non-metal local groups, the over-the-top band name and cumbersome indie album titles such as "Firewater at My Command" (2002) and "Brutality, Majesty, Eternity" (2005). But guitarist-vocalists Mark Hoffmann and Nate Perry, drummer Greg Spalding and bassist Darren Amaya are the real deal, synthesizing a wide array of classic-metal influences, attacking them with a modern stoner-rock/doom attitude and delivering the head-banging goods stronger than ever with songs such as "Hijack the Night" and "The Turning Stone" from the new album "Freedom Metal."

"This isn't the perverse concept of 'freedom' in Dubya's sense," Hoffmann says of the new disc's moniker. "We're talking about 'freedom' in the purest, Hobbesian sense: 'A free man is he that is not hindered to do what he hath the will to do.' And metal." And metal, indeed: Sample the gleefully clangorous twin-guitar clamor for yourself at www.myspace.com/bibleofthedevil, order the new disc through the group's Web site at www.bibleofthedevil.com or join it to celebrate the release at a free show at the Cobra Lounge, 235 N. Ashland, starting at 9 p.m. on Dec. 6.

Robyn Hitchcock dreams of trains once more

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When it comes to stage patter, there's perfunctory, there's innocuous and then there's Robyn Hitchcock.

One of the psychedelic troubadour's many talents is the ability to spontaneously unleash great gushing torrents of free-associated surrealism in between songs, playing with language the way a great bebop improviser plays fast and loose with melody.

Early in his solo career, before he'd settled into the security of his enduring cult-hero status, these absurdist monologues were a mainstay of Hitchcock's shows. He's given us many fewer in more recent years, but it was fitting that he returned to them with abundant glee during the first of two sold-out shows at the Old Town School of Folk Music Saturday night, since the tour was devoted to revisiting "I Often Dream of Trains," the brilliant 1984 album that stands as the most introspective of his ample catalog.

The Chicago quartet Rise Against doesn't fit neatly into any pigeonholes. As ultra-melodic hardcore punks with a serious political consciousness, the musicians never were part of this city's vibrant pop-punk scene or its venerated art-punk tradition.

For that matter, the foursome always has been more underground than many of the acts it's shared a stage with on the Warped Tour, even though its last three albums have been increasingly popular major-label releases, and some peg the group as the next local band destined for the multi-platinum success of Fall Out Boy.

"In the weird musical landscape we have found ourselves existing in, we've always felt like a fish out of water," vocalist Tim McIlrath says. "We're a Chicago punk band that is all of a sudden thrown into the cage with all of these mainstream bands that we have nothing in common with. The more we ventured into that territory, the more we realized it was uncharted territory for us, and I felt like we should hold tight to the friendships that we made on the way."

To that end, the group decided to record its recently released fifth album "Appeal to Reason" with producers Bill Stevenson and Jason Livermore, the same duo that helmed "Siren Song of the Counter Culture" (2004) and "The Sufferer & the Witness" (2006). And though the new album is by far the most tuneful of the band's career, rather than a conscious attempt at reinvention, it's more the dedicated honing of a sound that's been in place since McIlrath and bassist Joe Principe first formed the group in 1999. (The two have been the only constants through several personnel changes, and the current lineup is completed by drummer Brandon Barnes and guitarist Zach Blair.)

Demo2DeRo: The Avatars

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It seems as if the power-pop torch will never be extinguished in these parts, and that's a good thing, at least when bands like the Avatars can make that familiar Big Star/Cheap Trick/Material Issue/Matthew Sweet formula of huge guitars, massive choruses and thundering drums sound as fresh and vital as it does on songs like "Oh Denise" and "Clockwork," a cautionary (or is that celebratory?) tale of "another Midwest love affair," just two of the gems that can be sampled playing on the band's MySpace page (http://www.myspace.com/theavatarsus).

Initially formed as the Omega Battalion, the Avatars--guitarists-vocalists Ian Zander and Mark Gustafson, bassist-vocalist Scott Ford and drummer Dustin Copeland--have been working hard on the edges of the Chicago scene for at least three years, driving in from their home base in Rockford. Rockford, Zander--yes, there's a Cheap Trick connection (Ian is Robin's eldest son), but the quartet gets no points for that nepotistic connection in this corner: They've earned the accolades for themselves with their recently released self-titled debut album, and they more than deserve their slot opening for Cheap Trick at the Vic Theatre on Dec. 10, WXRT (93.1-FM)'s Holiday Concert for the Kids.


The Smashing Pumpkins, back when "Today" was the greatest -- live at Chicago's Metro in 1993, via YouTube.

During its intoxicating heyday in the mid-'90s, "alternative rock" was an ambiguous term for a wide variety of idiosyncratic bands that never subscribed to any one style, coherent aesthetic or single way of doing business.

"Alternative to what?" was the question some asked, and it was a good one. But there was one similarity to the many groups that stormed the pop charts after the phenomenal success of Nirvana's "Nevermind" (1991). The alternative rockers mostly were members of Generation X, that proudly defiant group of 17 million born between 1964 and 1979, the majority of whom were sick of hearing their Baby Boom elders waxing nostalgic about the sounds and spirit of their own golden youth.

"Hate Haight, I've got a new complaint / Forever in debt to your priceless advice," Kurt Cobain roared, and though Nirvana's leader insisted he wasn't a spokesman for anyone but himself, he did smile broadly in 1993 when I told him that I heard "Heart-Shaped Box" as the expression of his generation's disgust at pop culture's endless mythologizing of those halcyon '60s, from Beatlemania to Haight-Ashbury via Woodstock, Vietnam, Grant Park '68 and all the rest.

Whatever mistakes they might make -- and there would be plenty, starting with Cobain joining what his mother called "that stupid club" of dead-before-their-time rock icons Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison -- from the perspective of the mid-'90s, it was hard to imagine the bands of the alternative moment ever becoming the artistically stilted, cash-hungry or pathetically reactionary dinosaurs that preceded them.

Sadly, the argument can be made that that's exactly what's happened.

What to expect from next week's Smashing Pumpkins shows

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Though Billy Corgan has almost always been eager to talk in the past--in fact, many times, it was hard to shut him up--the always enigmatic leader of the Smashing Pumpkins has declined numerous invitations to speak to the Sun-Times dating to well before the release of "Zeitgeist" in July 2007.

What, then, can we expect from the band's four sold-out homecoming shows next week? Corgan offered some cryptic clues, as well as some insight into his feelings about his old bandmates, in a recent posting on his blog. He wrote:

"If anyone comes to this tour expecting a hand-holding, teary-eyed tribute to a dead band, forget it. That is long gone. Outside of nine shows in 1999, that band hasn't existed whole since 1996.

A sibling duo forced to relocate from New Orleans to Los Angeles in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Kintrell "Krispy Kream" and Alvin "Rah Almillio" Lindsey, aka the Knux, have been pegged along with fellow travelers such as Chicago's Cool Kids and Kidz in the Hall as part of a new school of "meta-rap" devoted to self-consciously reviving the sounds of hip-hop's pre-gangsta-domination "golden era" in the late '80s and early '90s, not unlike any of rock's numerous garage revivals emulating the fabled "Nuggets" period. But the retro nods to vintage fashion like Adidas and gold chains or a particular fondness for now-antique drum machine sounds are superficial trappings, and on its debut album, the much deeper inspiration that the Knux takes from heroes such as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, the Beastie Boys of "Paul's Boutique" and early Outkast is the wildly adventurous disregard of genre boundaries, a wide-open spirit of invention and playful imagination and uniquely psychedelic love of sound for sound's sake.

The brothers' instrumental and production talents are much more impressive than their rapping--Krispy Kream has a particularly annoying quirk of introducing himself before almost every rhyme he spins--but their sheer exuberance and unashamed dedication to being their geeky selves carries the day. (Few and far between are the rappers brave enough to make a Starbucks metaphor of their sexual desires, yet here's the Knux repeatedly telling us, "I need a fresh cappuccino with a mocha twist/Fresh fresh cappuccino with a mocha twist/Hey, hey, miss!" in the breakthrough single "Cappuccino.") And despite a few missteps--chief among them "Pea Knuckle," a shallow skit starring a vulgar British drug dealer--the intoxicating and always surprising collages of gurgling analog synths, classic-rock guitar riffs, clattering percussion, lovably cheesy beat-box grooves, gleefully melodic hooks, gonzo sound effects, Valley Girl voiceovers and a thousand other ingredients (plus the kitchen sink) all combine to mark "Remind Me in 3 Days" as one of the most joyful and refreshing hip-hop debuts of the new millennium.

Hitting consumers in a bewildering array of formats--including a standard version with 11 tracks and a "deluxe edition" with 16, both spread over two discs--the complicated marketing plan for the third solo album by wayward Destiny's Child Beyoncé Knowles threatens to overshadow the music. You see, Sasha Fierce is Beyoncé's new alter ego, the hard-strutting, hyper-sexual diva, which the singer helpfully defines for us: "A diva is a female version of a hustler." Sasha tackles the second disc, heavy on the electro-R&B club thumpers, while plain ol' Beyoncé, the sensitive and vulnerable artiste, holds forth on the first, a set of romantic, pseudo-confessional ballads, though real emotions remain elusive from this enigmatic cover girl, actress, singer and half of one of pop music's most lustrous power couples.

This weekend: Ben Weasel, Titus Andronicus

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Energizing and encouraged by his two-night stand at the club in August, recovering agoraphobe, irascible radio personality and founding father of pop-punk Ben Weasel returns to Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, for two more rare live shows this weekend. The Girls and the Challenged open at 5 p.m. Friday and the same acts take the stage again at 2 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15; call (312) 949-0121 or visit www.reggieslive.com.

The Los Angeles indie-rock duo No Age is riding the bigger underground buzz, but for my money, New Jersey art-punks Titus Andronicus, one of the standout acts at last summer's Pitchfork Music Festival, is the real draw at a special free show at Reggie's Rock Club, 2109 S. State, starting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, to celebrate the launch of something called the ShockHound website. (www.ShockHound.com). Concertgoers must register for tickets in advance at http://www.shockhound.tickets.musictoday.com/Shockhound/calendar.aspx.

Deerhunter: Two great albums for the price of one

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In a brave new media world where most underground rock bands would kill to garner the sort of Internet buzz that greeted "Microcastle," the third album by the Atlanta, Ga. avant-pop quintet Deerhunter, bandleader Bradford Cox had a very different reaction when the music leaked last May, several months ahead of its official release.

"There was a really positive vibe coming out of the sessions: 'We were all high-fiving each other and going, "Man, that sure was easy," and I don't think we've ever been so focused, and then suddenly I got this email that this record leaked two days after it was mastered,'" Cox recalls in a typically hyper-energetic torrent of words. "It's a really annoying situation you're put into, because there isn't much you can do. I'm not the kind of person.... I'm not a victim, and I never have been. I'm not a conventional person, but I've never let that stop me. To have some person say, 'Hey, your record is leaked and you can't do anything about it,' to me, that's like, 'Oh really? Let's see!'

"My response has been misunderstood: People are quick to rush and judge. Everyone kind of assumed that I was being really fascist and anti-music fan. I understand that people honestly feel that they should be entitled to download whatever they want and that the music is free. I understand that's the climate now, but what irritates me is the fact that the record was not ready. At that point, I was already fielding questions from people about the specific elements of the record that they shouldn't even know about, and that irritates me! I'm talking about it in May when it was recorded in April, and it's not supposed to be out until October. I was forced to talk about it so early that by mid-summer, I was like, 'OK, time for the next record!'"

Demo2DeRo: The Handcuffs

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Fronted by sultry vocalist Chloe F. Orwell and powered by irrepressible drummer Brad Elvis, the Handcuffs came together several years ago as a duo, forming from the ashes of the local power-pop band Big Hello and drawing on a range of glam and cool pop influences from David Bowie to Blondie to Britpop. The group eventually expanded to become a quartet with the addition of bassist Emily Togni and guitarist-keyboardist multi-instrumentalist Ellis Clark, and at long last, they're celebrating the follow-up to their debut album "Model for a Revolution" with the release of their new disc "Electroluv."

Hot off a number of shows at the College Music Journal Conference in New York last month and riding the buzz created by the selection of the effervescent new song "Gotta' Problem with Me?" for Margaret Cho's new VH1 series, the band is celebrating with a record release show at the Abbey Pub, 420 W. Grace, on Friday Nov. 14. Turn out to hear the group's new songs live, or sample the band's music on the Web at www.myspace.com/thehandcuffs or www.thehandcuffs.com.

By Andrew Herrmann and Jim DeRogatis

Staff reporters

Days after C3 Presents staged the election night celebration here for Barack Obama, officials announced Thursday a plan to allow the Austin, TX-based promoters to continue the three-day Lollapalooza music festival in Grant Park for at least 10 more years.

Chicago Park District Supt. Tim Mitchell said the proposed contract calls for festivals from 2009 to 2018. But if Chicago is picked to host the Olympics in 2016, Lollapalooza will be cancelled and the concert organizers will then be able to add additional concerts to the end of the contract.

The new deal, likely to be approved by the district board Nov. 12, gives the park district a bigger cut of some revenues, Mitchell said.

C3 currently is two years into a five-year contract for Lollapalooza, signed in 2006, in which C3 was represented by attorney Mark Vanecko, a nephew of Mayor Daley. Asked if Vanecko played any role in negotiating the new extended deal with the district, Mitchell said, "absolutely not."

Neither Vanecko nor C3 executives responded to requests for comment.

The increasingly powerful promoters also won a city contract last year to bring a wide range of events to Soldier Field during the Bears' offseason, though they have yet to deliver anything. Additionally, they forged an agreement to book acts at the Congress Theatre; have expressed interest in bidding to host concerts at Northerly Island when the current contract with Live Nation expires next year, and have said they hope to play a major role in staging events for the Olympics if they come here in 2016.

Under the current Lollapalooza agreement, which runs through 2011, the park district gets 8.5 percent of revenues, including sponsorships, or a minimum fee (this year it was $950,000), whichever is higher. This summer the district made $1.6 million.

Under the proposed extended deal, the district will get 10.25 of gross revenues, such as tickets and beer sales, but its take on sponsorships will remain at 8.5 percent. The minimum next year is $1 million, and it will increase by $50,000 each year after that, Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the district and C3 Presents made the new deal because both sides have been happy with the festival, which began its exclusive Chicago run in 2005. Mitchell said he suggested making the contract longer when Lollapalooza presented the district with a $1.6 million check several months ago.

"[When] we saw how successful it's been, I said to [C3 partner] Charlie Jones, 'Why don't we do a longer deal? I'd be willing to do a 10-year deal,'" Mitchell said. "I've been very happy not only with how professional they've been but also very happy with the results."

The agreement does not change the length or size of the festival, which drew about 225,000 people last August, Mitchell said. He added: "The fact that they did Lollapalooza was part of the reason that the Barack Obama rally was done by them. The Obama people wanted to have a huge festival on a grounds where these people have staged a very successful event for years."

Many local Chicago concert promoters and venue owners have expressed frustration about the way Lollapalooza has impacted the local music community, signing exclusive radius clauses prohibiting the acts it books from playing anywhere else in the area for a total of as much as six months before and after the festival. Promoters also have criticized the city for not putting the Grant Park rock festival out to bid.

Mitchell said the district was not obligated to solicit bids from other companies. "We don't have to bid this out: it's a three-day festival. There's 25 more weekends someone can come and say we want to have a festival. Anyone can do a concert in Hutchinson Field if they pay a $250,000 fee."

Mitchell said the district bottom line is "we've negotiated a larger percentage of ownership" under the Lollapalooza agreement. In the event the festival becomes less popular, C3 will still be required to pay the district the minimum fee, Mitchell said, though he didn't think Lollapalooza would lose its luster.

"Chicagoans seem to like festivals. Music is always changing," he said.

The extended deal has the support of the park's citizen watchdog group, the Grant Park Conservancy. "This will mean that over $15 million will be generated and used for park projects around the city," said the group's Bob O'Neill, though he granted that residents in the area have complained about noise and congestion caused by the concert.

"The only way we can mitigate the tension with residents is to show them the improvements to Grant Park that come directly from Lollapalooza," O'Neill said. "At the same time, we need to balance the large crowds and make sure this is done like it was this week [at the Obama celebration]. We need to continue to reduce the tension from crowds on residents by improving the park and making sure that those who use it respect it and take pride in it as Chicago's front yard to the world."

The Grant Park Conservancy released the following information about a meeting Monday to discuss the new Lollapalooza deal:

Eyes around the world are on Grant Park:

Lollapalooza proposed ten-year contract.

Meeting Details:

When: Monday, November 10th, 2008 at 6:30pm

Where: Daley Bicentennial Plaza - 337 E. Randolph just east of Columbus Drive in Grant Park's fieldhouse.

We apologize for the short notice.

SOUTH SIDE IS IN THE HOUSE

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Whenever I'm asked to speak to high school or college journalism classes about my position as the pop music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times--quite simply, the greatest job in the world--I always make the point that I am not only covering music for the paper.

My beat actually touches upon every aspect of life today: politics, religion, sex, the environment, the economy, technology and the law, to name a few. Music is simply the connective thread, because there is absolutely no aspect of life that doesn't involve music.

If there was one disappointing element to the historic spectacle of Election Night in Chicago from the perspective of the pop music desk, it was that music was almost non-existent. With the problematic Austin, TX-based promoters of Lollpalooza, C3 Presents, staging the festivities in Grant Park, and with the local and national music communities having played such a large and enthusiastic role in the election of Barack Obama, it seemed inevitable that music would be part of his victory celebration. But the city and the campaign said that wouldn't be the case, and, sure enough, it wasn't.

The only memorable music in Hutchinson Field on Tuesday night was the poetry of President Elect Obama's words.

Sure, there were some canned party tunes piped into the field not long before Obama spoke, including--dreaded cliche of Windy City cliches!--"Sweet Home Chicago." Somewhere on the new President's agenda, there really should be a proposed law banning that song within the confines of Chicago from here through eternity... though even that was better than the angry redneck country acts that played at the McCain wake in Arizona.

The lack of a live soundtrack to this historic moment seems to have been both an aesthetic and a practical decision by the Obama campaign, and in the end, it may have been a wise one: There was no reason for him to share the stage; no need for any distraction from a speech echoing Lincoln, F.D.R. and Kennedy; no star power that could top his own at that moment--not even Oprah's. Plus, who needed a couple of thousand more Springsteen fans flooding the streets already overflowing with Obama supporters?

In the end, Grant Park was all about Obama and the people who elected him. And that was as it should have been.

That having been said, let's hope that the new president delivers on the promise of a truly festive and musical Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, because nothing unites people like great music--and uniting people is, after all, the central goal that has brought Obama to he highest office in the land.

Who should perform at the inauguration? This will be a fun game that music fans will play non-stop until late January. But for my money, the list absolutely should include:

* Chicago soul legend Mavis Staples, one of the great unsung heroines of American music, and the voice of the civil rights movement.

* Wilco, the Chicago band that tirelessly criticized the current administration and worked hard in support of Obama, and a group that is as dedicated to breaking down boundaries as the next president.

* Chicago rapper Kanye West, with his mentor Common (who hosted his own private Obama victory party Tuesday night) and their proteges Lupe Fiasco, Rhymefest and Kid Sister. Together, these diverse voices constitute one of the most inspiring movements in popular culture, steering hip-hop away from the limiting and often nihilistic constrictions of the gangsta movement toward something much more powerful, open-minded and positive--a force that is, in the music world, not unlike what the Obama campaign has been in politics.

All due respect to the Boss, but Springsteen is very much a hero of a different time and another generation, and a bit too reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac at the Clinton inauguration. If the political pundits on Wednesday morning agreed on anything, it was that we have entered a new era. And it deserves a new soundtrack.

Obama told my friend and colleague Abdon Pallasch, the Sun-Times' man on the campaign, that his favorite artists while attending Columbia University in the early '80s were Van Morrison, the Ohio Players and Bob Dylan. Great choices, one and all, but not exactly cutting-edge or resonant of the place and time that gave birth to hip-hop and the full flowering of punk via New Wave. But no one can be an expert in every area.

With that in mind, Mr. President Elect, if your administration is in need of any pro bono advice for sorting out any and all issues musical, there are plenty of experts standing ready and willing to lend an ear in the Chicago music scene.

Who do you think should perform at the Obama inauguration? Post your thoughts here.

Q-Tip, "The Renaissance" (Universal/Motown) [3.5 STARS]

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Q-Tip's hometown paper the Daily News has called the influential New York rapper and producer "the Axl Rose of rap." The artist--real name Jonathan Davis, though he became Kamaal Fareed when he converted to Islam, and he's also worked under the stage name the Abstract--helped expand hip-hop's horizons in the '80s, steering it away from gangsta cliches and embracing jazz and a wider musical pallet with A Tribe Called Quest, peers in the Native Tongues posse with De La Soul, the Black Sheep and the Jungle Brothers, and an inspiration to artists such as Common, Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.

Alas, A Tribe Called Quest split up in 1998, and Q-Tip seemed to be unable to follow up his disappointing 1999 solo bow, "Amplified," either abandoning one finished studio album after another, or having them rejected by his label. Now, after nearly a decade in the shadows, the 38-year-old enigma has returned to the spotlight, reuniting his old crew for the Rock the Bells tour last summer, and finally unleashing his sophomore solo album, optimistically but appropriately entitled "The Renaissance."

Contenders for the most stylish band in Chicago, the ska-pop Sapiens are still riding high on the release of their "Rind" EP, performing in the middle of a bill with JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Reds & Blue starting at 10 p.m. Friday at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. The cover is $8; call (773) 276-3600 or visit www.emptybottle.com for more information.

The local music scene is pulling together in support of an old friend, singer and songwriter Diane Izzo, starting at 7 p.m. Sunday at the School of the Art Institute Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan. Izzo recorded and performed here for many years before relocating to New Mexico, where she is now battling a brain tumor. Among the artists performing to help raise money for her medical bills are Robbie Fulks, the Waco Bros with Sally Timms, Califone, Vernon Tonges and Beau O'Reilly and the Crooked Mouth String Band. Tickets are $20; for more information, call (773) 508-0666.

Thomas Conner

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

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