Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

April 2009 Archives

Metronome Celebration announces acts, June 6 & 7

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The Metronome Celebration, one of the city's hipper street fairs and an event that benefits the Logan Square Neighborhood Coalition, will take place on June 6-7 at 2000 N. Milwaukee, near Western and Armitage.

The performers for Saturday, June 6, include:

Rock Stage (Empty Bottle Presents): John Vanderslice, Here We Go Magic, Apostle of Hustle, Kid Congo Powers, Rock Plaza Central and Turbo Fruits.

Electronic Stage: Future Rock, Eliot Lipp, Zebo, Willy Joy, Papa G and Kid Color.

On Sunday, June 7, the music includes:

Punk Stage (MP Productions): Deals Gone Bad, the Methadones, the Effigies, the Del Moroccos and Prizzy Prizzy Please.

Folk Stage: Justin Townes Earle, Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, the Giving Tree Band, the Right Now, Majors Junction and Jaik Willis.

Admission is $5 and the fest runs from Noon to 10 p.m. both days. For more information, visit http://www.metronomechicago.com/.

The leading contender for the title of America's greatest living songwriter has been preparing us for some time for the inevitable day when one of the adjectives in that description will no longer apply: "I feel a change coming on/But the last part of the day is already gone," Bob Dylan sings on his 33rd studio album. Yet as he prepares to celebrate his 68th birthday later this month, Dylan is as productive as ever--this is the third self-produced disc in a string of modest but winning efforts that also includes "Love and Theft" (2001) and "Modern Times" (2006)--and in the same tune, he notes, "Some people they tell me/I've got the blood of the land in my voice."

Indeed he does, and while the bard isn't doing any heavy lifting on these 10 tracks--Dylan cedes much of the lyric-writing to Beat poet, non-performing member of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia songwriting partner Robert Hunter, which results in much more romantic fare about loves relished and loves lost--it's a joy to hear the favorite son of Northern Minnesota revel in the shuffling blues he does so well ("Shake Shake Mama," "It's All Good," "Jolene," "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'"), especially with the ideal additions of guitar by Tom Petty cohort Mike Campbell and accordion by David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. In fact, after Dylan's voice, Hidalgo's squeeze box is the most prominent instrument throughout, proving to be the perfect sweet to the infamous sour of that legendary rasping croak.

"Together Through Life" isn't perfect--as on "Modern Life," Dylan veers off the road and into the ditch when he pays tribute to the saccharine pre-rock 'n' roll balladry he also inexplicably loves. (The lugubrious drone of "Life Is Hard" is more than enough to make anyone agree with that statement.) Yet overall, while it may not rank on the list of Dylan's 10 best or most important recordings, it's near the top of any tally of his most fun and accessible.

Leonard Cohen, "Live in London" (Columbia) [3.5 STARS]

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Like Bob Dylan, 74-year-old Leonard Cohen is a musical treasure, the author of some of the most poetic and beautiful songs of the last half-century, and one of the most distinctive voices America has ever produced of the last century. Yet Cohen's catalog of studio albums not only is far less substantial than Dylan's--there are only 11 to his credit between 1967 and 2004--but it also is much less rewarding, often suffering from fussy overproduction completely at odds with the artist's humble monotone rumble of a voice.

Enjoying a (very) late-career resurgence driven in equal parts by a mountain of debut racked up by an unscrupulous manager and his discovery by a new generation of fans celebrating his work via a flood of covers--from Jeff Buckley's signature version of "Hallelujah" to the two renditions of that song by John Cale and Rufus Wainwright that appeared on the soundtrack to "Shrek"--Cohen has made an unexpected but very welcome return to the stage, and this double album chronicles a performance with a big but only occasionally intrusive band at the O2 Arena in London last July.

With gorgeous versions of all of his most well-known songs--"Hallelujah," "Bird on the Wire," "Suzanne" and nearly two dozen more--"Live in London" serves as a much better introduction to Cohen than any one of his studio albums, and an ideal overview of his amazing artistry. Leonard Cohen performs at the Chicago Theatre on Tuesday and Wednesday [May5-6].

Demo2DeRo: Darling

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It's no surprise to see Pavement, Sebadoh and Animal Collective prominently listed among the influences of the Chicago trio Darling: The band crafts hooky, endearing and accessible pop music--somewhat skewed, slightly obtuse and unusually free-associated pop music, but pop music to be sure. And if the group is a bit too obviously derivative of its heroes, well, it's less annoying than it might be given more conventional and straightforward inspirations. (Hard to slavishly imitate any band known for its unexpected twists and turns.)

Formed by guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Jeff Schneider in 2003, after several shifts of its lineup, the group has solidified around Schneider, bassist Nick Voss and drummer Don Ogilvie, and it's celebrating the release of a new seven-track EP entitled "Burned by the Sun" with a show Saturday night at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. (Decibully and Foundry Field Recordings share the bill starting at 9 p.m., and the cover is $8.)

The disc leaves the listener craving a full album, but for now, we can enjoy what it's given us and sample its sounds online at www.myspace.com/darlingchicago.

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We're all familiar with the saying, "I'm not laughing at you, I'm laughing with you."

As her Circus Tour pulled into the Allstate Arena Tuesday night for the first of two sold-out shows, troubled dance-pop superstar Britney Spears seemed to be saying, "Don't gawk at me, gawk with me." But she never succeeded.

To be sure, Spears offered a spectacle-laden 90-minute orgy of eye candy divided into four acts: "Circus," "House of Fun (Anything Goes)," "Freakshow/Peepshow" and "Electro Circ," plus the inevitable encore of "Womanizer," the big hit from her sixth album, "Circus."

There was a state of the art three-ring stage set in the center of the arena. There were clowns, jugglers, acrobats, magicians, martial artists and a dwarf. There were costume changes and videos and fire and undulating dancers in bondage gear.

And, of course, there was more bumping, grinding, strip-teasing and pole dancing than during a busy night at the Admiral Theatre.

So yes, there was plenty to look at--and I say "look at" rather than "listen to" because it's long since become a ho-hum matter of fact that Spears hardly troubles herself to actually sing onstage, instead relying on pre-recorded, electronically-sweetened digital backing tracks. (The fans know it's not about the music, the argument goes, so why should the lip-syncing bother anyone else?)

Yet for all of the flashy distractions, people ultimately paid $150 a ticket ($350 for the "In the Zone" package and $550 for the "Toxic VIP Experience"--in these difficult economic times!) to gape at Generation Y's most infamous train wreck, a woman who, at the still tender age of 27, has weathered two marriages and two divorces, lost custody of her two children and made two trips to the psychiatric ward, in between 2,000 other public embarrassments.

Now here she was in the flesh in Rosemont in the midst of her second comeback attempt, once again staggering zombie-like through a carefully planned, rigidly controlled and relentlessly marketed show based on the familiar commodity she's been peddling throughout her career.

S-E-X.

The set list only reached back once to Spears' pre-2000, post-Mickey Mouse Club days, for a funked-up remake of "... Baby One More Time." Otherwise, it was all about heavy breathing and Hustler magazine-like subtlety: "I'm a Slave 4 U," "Boys," "Toxic," "If U Seek Amy," "Get Naked (I Got A Plan)."

And all of it espoused the same message: Slutty is sexy.

Me, I've never bought that--not as a husband, not as a father and not as a red-blooded but feminist American male. But then I'm not Spears' target demographic, the core of which still is predominantly young (roughly 15 to 22 on Tuesday) and predominantly female.

The fact that so many of these girls either agree with or are happy to overlook Britney's retrogressive, pandering, joyless and ultimately self-destructive vision of sexuality is much, much more tragic than the star's messed-up personal life. Toxic indeed.

Originally known for sponsoring two challenging music festivals in Union Park, Intonation has shifted its focus in recent years toward the Intonation Music Workshop, an after-school program serving at-risk children ages 6 to 18 who have limited access to musical instruments and few opportunities for musical education. The organization is holding a benefit starting at 10 p.m. Friday at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, featuring Horse in the Sea and David Singer & the Sweet Science, two groups that count IMW teachers among their members. Tickets are $10 in advance or $12 at the door; for more information, visit www.hideoutchicago.com.

Though the band employs a startling array of instruments including hurdy gurdy, tabla, sitar, vacuum pipes, banjo and tympani, the otherworldly Japanese combo Ghost probably is best known for the extraordinary guitar of Michio Kurihara, who's also loaned his talents to bands ranging from Damon and Naomi to Boris. The nomadic group is making a rare U.S. appearance on Tuesday, May 5, at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, after openers and Drag City labelmates Baby Dee at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; call (773) 276-3600 or visit www.emptybottle.com.

A six-year-long labor of love, Brian Peterson's Burning Fight: The Nineties Hardcore Revolution in Ethics, Politics, Spirit, and Sound finally has arrived in bookstores, providing the definitive look at the resurgent hardcore-punk underground of the '90s. The author is celebrating its publication this weekend with two shows at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., providing the perfect soundtrack for the scene he's chronicled. Starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 2, the lineup includes Disembodied, Trial, Killing Time, 108, Underdog, Guilt, Ringworm, Betrayed, Damnation Ad, Soul Control, Convicted and Thought Crusade. Starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, May 3, the performers include Unbroken, Converge, Bane, Reach the Sky, Split Lip, Threadbare, Have Heart, Blacklisted, the Killer and Harms Way. Both shows are sold-out, but visit www.burningfightbook.com/blog/ for more info about the book.

Screaming Females: Truth in a band name

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When writing about New Jersey's most hair-raising young punk trio, it may be unfair to focus on Marissa Paternoster: To recast the famous slogan Blondie championed, Screaming Females is a band, and bassist Mike Rickenbacker and drummer Jarret Dougherty are an agile but potent rhythm section.

Yet Paternoster demands the spotlight as an awesome front woman whose rampaging guitar and banshee wail pack more punch than a North Korean nuke. And, well, the band's name does sort of put her front and center.

At a point when the summer concert schedule is becoming ever-more dominated by expensive corporate hypes and city government seems to be raking us over the coals every time we turn around (arrgghh, those parking meters!), the Department of Cultural Affairs is upping the ante once again for quality acts presented for free as part of its "Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays" series in the exquisite setting of Millennium Park.

The big draws from my perspective are the first Chicago reunion show by New Jersey's legendary art-punk/frenetic pop band the Feelies and a showcase for another, local group of reunited heroes, Red Red Meat.

The dates announced so far follow below. For more information, visit the Millennium Park Web site.


"Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays" at Millennium Park

(Admission is free)


Special Headliner and Allá, Monday, June 8, 6:30pm

The Sea and Cake and Dirty Projectors, Monday, June 22, 6:30pm

The Feelies and Icy Demons, Monday, June 29, 7:30pm***

Rokia Traoré and Shearwater, Monday, August 10, 6:30pm

Otto and NOMO, Monday, August 17, 6:30pm

Red Red Meat and Rural Alberta Advantage, Monday, August 24, 6:30pm

The 2009 Lollapalooza lineup (annotated)

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Lolla crowd (8-2-08)

Infuriated that Chicago's newspapers dared to report news of last year's Lollapalooza lineup before they deigned to officially trumpet and hype it, this year, Austin, TX-based promoters C3 Presents tried to make sure that the roster of acts set to perform in Grant Park on Aug. 7 to 9 were more elusive than WMD in Iraq.

It didn't much matter: The Sun-Times, the Tribune and industrious local bloggers reported most of the big six headliners and many of the coolest acts in advance of the Monday night martini-bar unveiling and official early Tuesday announcement anyway.

Here is an annotated look at what C3 is trotting out this year--tickets on sale now, of course, at the current price point of $190 for "an advance three-day pass" via www.lollapalooza.com. (Lolla Lounge VIP access is once again available at $850 per person; private luxury cabanas also are being peddled at "email us to inquire" prices at the level beyond that.)

THE HEADLINERS

Depeche Mode - Inexplicably still popular, aging '80s arena masters of mope.

Tool - Undeniably impressive prog-metal for people who'd never admit they like Rush.

the Killers - Unbearably pretentious Las Vegas glam-rockers.

Jane's Addiction - Nepotism? In Chicago? Never! (Third of fourth go-round by Lollapalooza figurehead Perry Farrell's old band.)

the Beastie Boys - It would be a dream to see these pioneering hip-hoppers play all of the recently reissued "Paul's Boutique." We'll get a slightly updated version of recent arena jaunts, though.

Kings of Leon - Mediocre country-rock for people who'd never admit they like Lynyrd Skynyrd.

THE BEST OF THE SECOND TIER

Lou Reed - Venerable godfather of punk filling the role of Iggy Pop at this fest. It would be a dream to see him play all of the recently reissued "Berlin." We'll get a greatest-hits set, though.

Ben Harper - BOOB (Borrowed off of Bonnaroo; one for the jam heads)

Thievery Corporation - Coffee-shop electronica.

Snoop Dogg - Once edgy West Coast rapper long since become a friendly corporate shill.

Rise Against - Political punk band from Chicago compromising its ideals for a nice pay day.

Andrew Bird - Chicago muso with a big vocabulary and a fondness for whistling who just played two shows at the Civic Opera House.

TV on the Radio - Cool alternative rockers who'd have been better enjoyed at Pitchfork.

Vampire Weekend - Preppy alternative rockers who played Pitchfork.

the Decemberists - Jethro Tull for people who'd never admit they liked that band; this booking is stopping Chicago from getting the two theater shows they're playing at every other major city, with the first night dedicated to the new album in its entirety and the second a greatest-hits set.

Neko Case - Chicago's beloved alternative-country chanteuse; playing a theater gig this weekend.

STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9) - Self-described "post-rock dance music."

Animal Collective - Cool hippie/psychedelic dance-rockers who played Pitchfork.

Band of Horses - Rootsy alternative-rock; could be sleep-inducing in the sun.

Of Montreal - Second-tier Elephant 6 band who played Pitchfork.

Arctic Monkeys - No longer hip but still fun high-energy Brit-pop.

Coheed and Cambria - Progressive-metal for people who DO admit that they like Rush.

Ben Folds - A piano man for women too young for Billy Joel.

Fleet Foxes - Cool folk-rockers who played Pitchfork.

Silversun Pickups - Indistinctive indie-rock.

Kaiser Chiefs - Unremarkable post-Brit Pop.

Crystal Castles - Canadian electronica.

Bon Iver - Sensitive sounds for sensitive souls.

Santigold - Genre-blurring dance-pop.

THE REST

Atmosphere

Dan Auberbach

Cold War Kids

Deerhunter - Freaky psychedelic-pop that played Pitchfork.

Lykke Li - The new Bjork.

Robert Earl Keen

Peter Bjorn and John - Nordic pop band quickly growing tired after its one big hit. First Lollapalooza set was disastrous when the sound went out.

Heartless Bastards

Gomez

Glasvegas

Federico Aubele

Dan Deacon - Brilliant Baltimore electronic musician likely to be overlooked amid all of the Lolla distractions.

Passion Pit

The Raveonettes

The Gaslight Anthem

The Airborne Toxic Event - U2's been dropping their name a lot.

White Lies

Ra Ra Riot

No Age

Asher Roth - Token modern hip-hopper (in more ways than one).

Los Campesinos! - Overly exuberant but moderately charming indie-rock.

Bat For Lashes - Wispy chanteuse who should not be seen in daylight.

Chairlift

Gang Gang Dance

The Virgins

Amazing Baby

Portugal. The Man

The Knux - Actual great modern hip-hop act that deserves to be much, much higher on this bill.

Ida Maria

Delta Spirit

Friendly Fires

Manchester Orchestra

Constantines

Ezra Furman & The Harpoons - From Chicago!

Hockey

Miike Snow

Alberta Cross

Hey Champ

Sam Roberts Band

The Henry Clay People

Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam

Cage the Elephant

Living Things

The Low Anthem

Blind Pilot

Langhorne Slim

Other Lives

The Builders and The Butchers

Eric Church

Joe Pug - Also from Chicago!

Kevin Devine

The Green Cards

Carney

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AND: THE RETURN OF THE RAVE TENT!

Given the animosity of city officials toward electronic dance music (see: the infamous anti-rave ordinance of the mid-'90s), Lollapalooza trademark Perry Farrell was quashed in his attempts to sponsor a rave/dance tent at the earliest incarnations of the revamped Lollapalooza in Grant Park.

This year, the dance component finally has returned in a big way - though it's being billed in a low-key way as "Spinning at Perry's." The DJs are:

Bassnectar

MSTRKRFT

Simian Mobile Disco

DeadMau5

Boys Noise

KiD CuDi

Crookers

A-Trak

Hercules and Love Affair (DJ Set)

The Bloody Beetroots (DJ Set)

LA Riots

Kaskade

The Glitch Mob

Hollywood Holt

Rye Rye

He Say, She Say

Car Stereo (Wars)

Dark Wave Disco

Moneypenny

Yello Fever

Animal Collective (DJ Set)

flag pole

Depeche Mode
Tool
the Killers
Jane's Addiction
the Beastie Boys
Kings of Leon
Lou Reed
Ben Harper
Thievery Corporation
Snoop Dogg
Rise Against
Andrew Bird
TV on the Radio
Vampire Weekend
the Decemberists
Neko Case
STS9 (Sound Tribe Sector 9)
Animal Collective
Band of Horses
Of Montreal
Arctic Monkeys
Coheed and Cambria
Ben Folds
Fleet Foxes
Silversun Pickups
Kaiser Chiefs
Crystal Castles
Bon Iver
Santigold
Atmosphere
Dan Auberbach
Cold War Kids
Deerhunter
Lykke Li
Robert Earl Keen
Peter Bjorn and John
Heartless Bastards
Gomez
Glasvegas
Federico Aubele
Dan Deacon
Passion Pit
The Raveonettes
The Gaslight Anthem
The Airborne Toxic Event
White Lies
Ra Ra Riot
No Age
Asher Roth
Los Campesinos!
Bat For Lashes
Chairlift
Gang Gang Dance
The Virgins
Amazing Baby
Portugal. The Man
The Knux
Ida Maria
Delta Spirit
Friendly Fires
Manchester Orchestra
Constantines
Ezra Furman & The Harpoons
Hockey
Miike Snow
Alberta Cross
Hey Champ
Sam Roberts Band
The Henry Clay People
Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam
Cage the Elephant
Living Things
The Low Anthem
Blind Pilot
Langhorne Slim
Other Lives
The Builders and The Butchers
Eric Church
Joe Pug
Kevin Devine
The Green Cards
Carney
Thenewno2

DJ sets:
Bassnectar
MSTRKRFT
Simian Mobile Disco
DeadMau5
Boys Noise
KiD CuDi
Crookers
A-Trak
Hercules and Love Affair (DJ Set)
The Bloody Beetroots (DJ Set)
LA Riots
Kaskade
The Glitch Mob
Hollywood Holt
Rye Rye
He Say, She Say
Car Stereo (Wars)
Dark Wave Disco
Moneypenny
Yello Fever
Animal Collective (DJ Set)

Still more acts added to Pitchfork fest

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And the acts keep pitching in to this year's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park July 17-19. More bands announced today: Saturday will see performances by Yeasayer, Plants and Animals, and Disappears; and on Sunday, the festival will be adding Blitzen Trapper, Mew, Japandroids, and Women.

To recap the 2009 line-up so far ...

Friday: Built to Spill, The Jesus Lizard, Yo La Tengo, Tortoise

Saturday: The National, Yeasayer, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, F***ed Up, Plants and Animals, Matt and Kim, Wavves, Charles Hamilton, The Duchess and The Duke, Disappears

Sunday: The Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear, M83, The Walkmen, Pharoahe Monch, Blitzen Trapper, Black Lips, The Very Best, Mew, Vivian Girls, Japandroids, Women.

Live Nation: Helping the local economy...

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With minimum-wage jobs as ushers, parking attendants and hot dog salespeople at our local concert venues!

Eager for good publicity in the midst of the drubbing it's taken as it's lobbied for the mega-merger with roundly reviled ticket brokers Ticketmaster, giant national concert promoters Live Nation have put out the following press release about the number of seasonal jobs they creates, boasting that over half of the 3,000 jobs nationally are at Chicago-area venues such as the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre and the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island.

The good news follows the jump.

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Arguably the most underground, cultish and heroic of all of rock's underground cult heroes, influential gender-bending British art/industrial noise-rockers Throbbing Gristle will play its first ever shows in Chicago this weekend as part of an short, select and ultra-rare U.S. tour. The band will perform four sets next weekend at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, after being relocated from Epiphany Church (allegedly because of "the growing objections from the parishioners," according to the band's Web site) at 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, April 25 (both are sold-out), and again at 7 and 10 p.m. Sunday, April 26. (Tickets remain for these shows for $30 through www.emptybottle.com.)

The first of each night's shows will find Genesis P-Orridge and his bandmates playing the soundtrack to Derek Jarman's 1974 film "In the Shadow of the Sun"; the second will feature material from throughout the group's history. For more info, visit www.throbbing-gristle.com.

In the years since he walked off stage at Metro on Dec. 2, 2000, at the end of what was billed as the Smashing Pumpkins' final show, Chicago-born guitarist James Iha has guested with other bands, including A Perfect Circle and the Blank Theory; co-owned an independent label, Scratchie Records, with Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne and tinkered with the long-awaited follow-up to his first solo album, "Let It Come Down" (1998).

Recently, on the same night that his former bandmate Billy Corgan announced that his old band was down to one original member after the departure of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Iha returned to the spotlight for a high-profile gig at the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference with his new band, the power-pop supergroup Tinted Windows, a collaboration with Schlesinger, Hanson member Taylor Hanson and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos that recently unleashed a delightful sugar buzz with its self-titled debut album.

I caught up with Iha as he prepared to bring Tinted Windows to Chicago next week.

Next week: pop bliss with Tommy Keene

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Power-pop fans whose sweet tooth can't be sated by the International Pop Overthrow Festival should experience one of the jangly giants of the genre, Tommy Keene, as he supports his recent album "In the Late Bright" with a stop at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, on Thursday, April 23. Sally Crewe opens at 9 p.m., and the cover is $8. Call (773) 227-4433 or visit www.hideoutchicago.com for more information.

Demo2DeRo: Ramsey Judson

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Asher Roth isn't the only talented, funny, self-effacing white rapper hoping to follow in Eminem's footsteps: Chicagoan Ramsey Judson is a pudgy, bearded, Pitchfork-looking dude who cheerfully laughs at the unusual image he brings to hip-hop in a D.I.Y. video that finds him riding an antique bicycle while dressed in a suit and tie a la "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." But Judson can deftly string twisting rhymes at the mike, and he builds on a Chicago underground hip-hop tradition by doing so over inventive, mid-tempo jazz-inflected grooves.

Biographical info is woefully short on Judson's MySpace page--he claims to have been "born in Siam to a family of humble mule breeders," though he moved to Chicago at age 12 and has since "made several unsuccessful runs at mayor (f---in' Daley!)." But the music speaks for itself, especially his signature anthem "The 7 Beer Itch," which, despite the goofy title, is actually an eloquent slacker statement against gangster nihilism: "Raise your glasses up and enjoy the laughter/I don't listen to those who say that life is a bitch/I treat it like a gorgeous woman with a seven-year itch." Hear it for yourself at www.myspace.com/ramseyjudson.

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Midway through his heavy hyped and much-anticipated debut album, 23-year-old Pennsylvania rapper Asher Roth shrewdly disarms the biggest missile critics will fire his way, directly addressing the inevitable comparisons to Eminem: "Now the masters thinks that Asher wants to be a Marshall Mathers/They say, 'Asher's not a rapper, he's actually just an actor'/'Cause we have the same complexion and similar voice inflection/It's easy to see the pieces and reach for that connection/Every minute, each hour of every day/I'm constantly on the fence defending my own name/Explaining we are not the same."

Sure enough, Roth, who built his buzz via MySpace and went on to sell 800,000 copies of his breakthrough single "I Love College" on iTunes, is much closer to a smart combination of the frat-party Beastie Boys of "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)" and a suburban American version of the Streets. He cheerfully avoids Eminem's misogynist and homophobic streaks and eschews the slasher-porn fantasies, rapping instead with an endearingly self-deprecating sense of humor about what he knows: cruising the strip malls in his mom's Ford Taurus in search of sexy blondes, preferably named Ashley, willing to get high, strip naked and make his Penthouse Forum dreams come true--though the audible wink in his lazy, drawling delivery indicates he's fully aware the night will end on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of Cheetos.

The obligatory roster of big-name cameos, including Busta Rhymes, Estelle and Cee-Lo Green (on "Be By Myself," one of several standout tracks), is both a testament to Roth's commercial potential and a credit to his rhyming talents, since he isn't eclipsed by any of those names. Add to these strengths the impressive productions of newcomer Oren Yoel, who brings a fuzzy, hook-laden indie-rock sensibility to many of these tracks, and you have a winning debut that overall rises above the occasional fart joke and "ain't marijuana swell?" pothead/party hound pandering.

Bat for Lashes, "Two Suns" (Astralwerks) [3 STARS]

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Raised by a Pakistani father and an English mother, Brighton-based singer and songwriter Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat for Lashes, made her recorded debut in 2006 with "Fur and Gold," which was nominated as album of the year for the U.K.'s prestigious Mercury Prize and prompted Radiohead to invite her to open on tour. Her buzz has been building in the States ever since, with critics and fans rushing to crown her minimalist, Steve Reich-inspired sounds as a combination of Kate Bush, Bjork and Tori Amos. But Khan actually has a lot more in common with the less hip Celtic enchantress Loreena McKennitt and the indie-rock cult heroine Mary Timony, both of whom bring a similarly psychedelic witchy/Renaissance Fair vibe to their enchanting brands of folk-rock.

Think Stevie Nicks for the more musically adventurous, with the magick and the air of dark, threatening but nonetheless seductive danger turned way up.

Described as a concept album charting the duality of Khan's "desert-born spiritual self" and her "destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fatale" alter-ego Pearl, "Two Suns" lacks a track as instantly appealing as "What's a Girl to Do," the striking single from her debut, and the grand piano and autoharp-laced tunes verge toward the comatose during the more somber and morose moments. But the singer's voice remains a wondrous, swooping and soaring instrument; she deserves serious props for the closing duet with British cult legend Scott Walker, "The Big Sleep," and there's still more than enough magic in these 11 tunes to cast an enchanting spell.

Warped returns to Chicago on Aug. 1

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Many other tours of its ilk--Ozzfest chief among them--have fallen by the wayside, and the massive "destination festival" of the retooled Lollapalooza has largely eclipsed it. Yet the Warped Tour rolls on in its 15th year, skatboarding into the Chicago area at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on Aug. 1.


Tickets for this year's edition of the day-long teen-punk celebration go on sale Friday, April 17, at 5 p.m. through www.livenation.com or (877) 598-8703. They are priced at $34.25 in advance or $40 on the day of show (with the inevitable, unadvertised "convenience" and parking fees tacked on, of course).

The full lineup for the local tour stop follows the jump.

Lily Allen at the Riv

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Though it has its down sides--like working on Easter Sunday and enduring the frigid temperature inside the Riviera Theatre (which we now know has no heat as well as no air-conditioning)--touring the U.S. must be a welcome break for 23-year-old English singer and songwriter Lily Allen.

Back in the U.K., the sexy, sassy, cheerfully bratty star has reached a level of gossip-column notoriety akin to Paris Hilton on these shores. To be sure, she does her best to keep tongues wagging by frequently acting out and shooting off her mouth. But entertaining as her outrageous behavior may be, it's ultimately a distraction from smartest, most distinctive and gleefully genre-defying pop music of the new millennium.

On her third visit to Chicago since she rose from MySpace phenomenon to selling 2.5 million copies of her 2006 debut "Alright, Still," Allen flashed a bit of hat infamous attitude onstage at the Riv. But the smoking, swearing and flirting augmented rather than eclipsed the music, with the new songs from "It's Not Me, It's You" more than holding their own beside reworked versionns of early hits such as "LDN" and "Smile," and Allen showing much more self-assurance and control as a performer than she displayed at her first high-profile gig here at Metro in 2007.

Trading the tennis shoes and hoodie of her early days for heels and more of a slacker cocktail-lounge ensemble, Allen fronted a sleek five-piece band without the horn section of her last jaunt, and her opening salvo of the druggie anthem "Everyone's at It," the electro-ballad "I Could Say" and the futuristic cabaret number "Never Gonna Happen" underscored her shift away from '60s European café pop toward more modern dance sounds.

After that, though, the star put on a pair of designer sneakers and reached back to the first album for "Everything's Just Wonderful," and for the rest of her 65-minute, she proceeded to effortlessly shift back and forth between albums and styles--all Lily, and all highly entertaining.

Best of all, Allen dared to let the persona slip on occasion for a tender, heartfelt moment such as the tender "Chinese," indicating that there's still plenty of personality she's yet to share. In that light, rather than cause for concern, her final encore of "Womanizer" by Britney Spears was more like a statement that gossip columns be damned, she doesn't intend to end up as anyone's punch line or train wreck.

More Pitchfork acts announced

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New additions to the lineup in Union Park, July 17-19: Matt and Kim, Charles Hamilton, F---ed Up, Wavves, the Duchess and the Duke, M83, Black Lips and the Very Best.

To recap the 2009 line-up so far:

Friday - "Write the Night: Set Lists by Request"
Built to Spill
The Jesus Lizard
Yo La Tengo
Tortoise

Saturday
The National
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
F---ed Up
Matt and Kim
Wavves
Charles Hamilton
The Duchess and The Duke

Sunday
The Flaming Lips
Grizzly Bear
M83
The Walkmen
Pharoahe Monch
Black Lips
The Very Best
Vivian Girls

Tickets are on sale http://www.pitchforkmusicfestival.com.

Andrew Bird at the Civic Opera House

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He's inordinately fond of whistling and old-timey Tin Pan Alley sounds. When his melodies aren't pointlessly complex, they're merely unnecessarily serpentine. And his lyrics are inscrutable and rife with $10 words unknown outside the thesaurus.

Any way you cut it, Chicagoan Andrew Bird is a most unlikely contender in the "American Idol" universe. But a pop star he has nonetheless become, with his new album "Noble Beast" recently debuting in the Top 20 on the Billboard albums chart, and a triumphant homecoming to two sold-out shows at the Civic Opera House.

Strolling onstage in his plaid thrift-store sports coat and tie at the first of these gigs on Thursday, the perpetually boyish Bird did some pizzicato violin-plucking, a bit of high-register yodeling and some low bass humming, using a foot pedal to digitally loop and layer these sounds until they formed the oddly orchestrated backing of his opening salvo.

"When I was just a little boy/I threw away all my action toys/And I became obsessed with Operation," sang the lad who no doubt once reveled in his junior chemistry set and home ant farm, as well as that old board game with the tiny tweezers and annoying buzzer, and things were off and running in their willfully eccentric way.

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The Great Pumpkin has posted a long (more than 2,000 words) screed that could well be considered a manifesto on the band's official Web site. It seems designed, in part, to answer some of the many questions his fans have been posing of late (though there's nothing about tortured chickens, Ticketmaster/Live Nation, or porn stars).

Some choice excerpts follow the jump, though it's worth reading in its entirety.

Chicago celebrates Record Store Day, April 18

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For dedicated music lovers, every day is Record Store Day, but in these times of turbulent change in the music industry, Saturday, April 18, has been singled out by retailers for a special celebration of the sort of independent, mom-and-pop shops that not only stock the great stuff you'll never find in the big-box stores, but which remain invaluable centers of this city's musical community.

Most of the best local indie record stores are planning free in-store performances as well as selling the soon-to-be-collectible special releases issued by many bands to mark the occasion. Among the highlights are appearances by Disappears (5 p.m.) and "a longstanding and well-liked Chicago punk band" at Reckless Records at 1532 N. Milwaukee; Azita (noon) at Laurie's Planet of Sound, 4639 N. Lincoln; Company of Thieves (call 708-456-0861 for time) at Rolling Stones Records, 7300 W. Irving in Norridge, and The Luck of Eden Hall (2 p.m.) at Vintage Vinyl, 925 Davis St. in Evanston.

More information can be found at www.recordstoreday.com, which provides helpful links to all of the local shops that are participating. And a quick scan at that list (which follows the jump) indicates just how lucky Chicago still is when many other towns have seen their last local record store shuttered for good.


Still Handsome after all these years

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Formed in 1993 by vocalist and guitarist Brett Sparks and his wife, bassist and lyricist Rennie, Chicago hasn't been able to claim the Handsome Family as one of its own for some time: The couple moved to New Mexico in 2001 just before the release of its sixth album, "Twilight."

In its 16th year, the group still is going strong, standing as one of the most distinctive in the roots-rock underground, and celebrating the release of its ninth disc "Honey Moon" on the local Carrot Top label. I caught up with Rennie Sparks as she and Brett geared up for a tour that brings them to Schubas for two nights next weekend.

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Metric, "Fantasies" (02. Records) [3.5 STARS]

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It's been four years since "Live It Out," the second album by Toronto-based indie-popsters Metric, and during the long wait, the band's leaders, vocalist Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw, have become much better known as members of the cult-favorite Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene (from whence also came Leslie Feist). But "Fantasies" is a very welcome reminder of their original group's charms, with a buzzing electro-pop energy, an undeniably sassy sex appeal and a sleek, retro/futuristic New Wave vibe that conjures a winning merger of Garbage and Ladytron.

The band's message is never particularly deep: "Did I ask you for attention/When affection is what I need?" Haines asks in "Twilight Galaxy." (It's less embarrassing when she sticks to referencing pop culture, as she does in "Gimme Sympathy," pondering the immortal question: "Who'd you rather be: The Beatles or the Rolling Stones?") But in the end, it's all about the delightful sugar fix of those bountiful hooks, and Metric delivers more sweet treats than an extra-large Easter basket.

Neil Young's ability to get all fired up about current events and quickly churn out a musical statement in protest or homage has always been one of his charms, but it's resulted in as much great art ("Ohio," "Rockin' in the Free World") as awful dreck ("This Note's for You," "Let's Roll") during his prolific, long-may-he-run career. And by no means is this new concept disc about the urgent need for eco-friendly cars among his better moments.

"The awesome power of electricity/Stored for you in a giant battery," Young sings in "Fuel Line," and that's just the first of 100 cringe-worthy lyrics among these 10 tunes. ("You can drive my car, feel how it rolls/Feel a new energy as it quietly rolls," he croons in "Just Singing a Song"; "Where did all the money go/Where did all the cash flow?" he asks in "Cough Up the Bucks," etc., etc., though you do have to admire the line "There's a bailout coming but it's not for me/It's for all those creeps watching tickers on TV" in the title track.) But the lyrics aren't even the biggest problem here.

Recorded last year in between tour dates with his last live band (including pedal steel player Ben Keith, bassist Rick Rosas and his wife Pegi Young on backing vocals), the 63-year-old artist, technology geek and avid car buff resorts to chop-shop mixing and matching of overly familiar elements of the classic Neil Young sound--a little Crazy Horse grunge and stomp here, a bit of "Harvest" folkie harmony there--to leave us with the impression that we've heard all of this before, but done much, much better.

Demo2DeRo: Kid, You'll Move Mountains

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Left at loose ends after long-running local favorites Troubled Hubble split up in 2005, the sibling rhythm section of drummer Nate and bassist Andrew Lanthrum retreated to their native Western suburbs and eventually regrouped with Nate's wife Nina on piano and vocals and Corey Wills and Jim Hanke on guitars to form a new band with an optimistic moniker and an effervescent sound that amply justifies it on their new D.I.Y. album, "Loomings."

Hanke and Nina Lanthrum share the vocal duties like a less punk-rootsy, more emo-New Wave version of John Doe and Exene Cervenka, while their bandmates keep things moving forward with a propulsive urgency that never neglects the classic Midwestern power-pop melodies. In addition to an ambitious schedule of weekend touring, Kid, You'll Move Mountains is gearing up to play one of the secondary stages at Taste of Chicago at 2:30 p.m. on June 26. Meanwhile, you can sample its energetic jangle at www.myspace.com/kidyoullmovemountains or make a worthwhile investment in "Loomings" via www.kidyoullmovemountains.com.

In recent years, even in the underground rock world, the concept of the "destination festival" has become the norm as fans travel to the music. Now in its 12th year, International Pop Overthrow puts a twist on things: This festival travels to the fans.

"What happened was, especially in the last few years, many bands weren't able to get out to whatever city we were doing it in," says festival founder David Bash. "So we decided to bring it where they were. It allows the local bands a chance to play rather than having to spend the money to travel."

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IPO organizer David Bash

Schumer takes on the ticket scalpers

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Continuing to ride the wave of popular support that greeted his outrage at Ticketmaster over sales of tickets for the upcoming Bruce Springsteen tour, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is proposing legislation to crack down on the secondary ticket market/insidious scalping machine and improve fans' chances of buying a list-price seat to major shows.

Billboard magazine reports that the law would impose a two-day waiting period after ticket on-sales before resellers can list those seats at exorbitantly jacked-up prices on the Web. The scalpers... er, resellers... also would have to secure a registration number from the Federal Trade Commission and post it on brokerage Web sites along with seats they're trying to sell.

According to Billboard, Schumer¹s legislation will be introduced when the Senate reconvenes later this month. Yet while the law would seem to be a step in the right direction, something must be wrong with it, since Ticketmaster is supporting it.

"I am very happy to support Sen. Schumer's thoughtful proposal and leadership on this issue," Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff told Billboard. "Ticketmaster recognizes that the ticket resale industry needs far-reaching changes to better protect consumers and ensure fair access to tickets. Staggering the resale process to commence 48 hours after a (sale) is a very important step in reforming the process and bringing transparency to the (sale) process."

Ticketmaster no doubt would love to see secondary market sites such as StubHub and Craig's List out of the game... but only so it could corner the resale market with its own secondary site, TicketsNow.

(P.S. -- A few words about the word "scalping": No offense intended to Native American readers; as a student of history, I am well aware that the nasty act actually began in Europe and that the original residents of this fine land learned it from immigrant settlers, explorers and soldiers. In fact, some historians say the practice can be dated back to that bastion of higher civilization, ancient Greece. But alas, there are no images of Greek scalping anywhere on the Web.)

Support your local heavy-metal burlesque queen!

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DanYell, a.k.a. heavy-metal burlesque goddess Viva La Muerte of the Hot & Heavy shows, is among the 13 women vying to become the second annual "Spooksmodel" for the horror-film Bible Fangoria. Show some local pride and cast your vote in support of her at here.

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Billy Corgan with Tila Tequila.
In the midst of his incredibly busy schedule of insulting his audience, auditioning replacements for drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, towing the Ticketmaster/Live Nation corporate line and being photographed with porn stars and C-list female semi-celebrities, erstwhile Smashing Pumpkins bandleader Billy Corgan has added his voice to one of the most important social issues of our time.

Yes, the Great Pumpkin has come out in ardent opposition to Kentucky Fried Chicken.

To quote the press release from PETA:

Long-awaited Beatles remasters coming in September

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Apple/EMI announced on Tuesday that the much-anticipated digital remasters of the ever-lucrative Beatles catalog will finally be released on Sept. 9, along with two new box sets (selling us the same material for the 99th time) and the Fab Four's edition of the "Rock Band" video game -- though there is still no word about when the music will be available for digital distribution.


The press release follows the jump.

iPod selections for the Queen

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The iPod President Obama gave Queen Elizabeth reportedly was heavy on Broadway show tunes. We thought we'd offer some rock alternatives:

1. "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols. No, the greatest of all punk anthems wasn't an insult! We mean it, man!

2. "Killer Queen" by Queen. Guaranteed to blow your mind, your majesty.

3. "Rock Star" by Prima J. "Tell me what you think you're lookin' at / So I think I'm Queen Elizabeth."

4. "Kings and Queens" by Aerosmith. Didn't Steven Tyler go to kindergarten with you, your highness?

5. "Feel Good Hit of the Summer" by Queens of the Stone Age. Just in time for the coming season!

Jim DeRogatis

Thomas Conner

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

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