Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

July 2010 Archives

Quick reviews of recent CDs that shouldn't go unmentioned ...

This week's theme: "Yes, they still exist!"

hanson.jpgHanson, "Shout It Out" (3CG) 4 stars -- OK, Hanson wins. They beat all the people (myself included) who ever knocked their sweet hooks, ruddy faces and boy-band hype. The latest from Oklahoma's undaunted trio is a joyous, jubilant cache of near-perfect pop singles. The whole set is one big 1970s AM-radio anachronism, really. Effervescent and ebullient. Download: "Thinkin' 'Bout Somethin'" would make Ray Charles smile wide, and not just because they copied his "Blues Brothers" scene for the video.

Jon Bon Jovi: Stadiums are just what we do

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Jon Bon Jovi performs May 26 at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP)

Jon Bon Jovi is standing up.

The only reason that's news is because he blew out a calf muscle on stage July 9 during a concert at New Meadowlands Stadium in his home state of New Jersey.

"I got another leg," he told the crowd. "I don't need this one."

He hobbled back to the microphone and finished the show with "Livin' on a Prayer."

"The leg's back now, miraculously, with all the rehab I've had," Bon Jovi told the Sun-Times in an interview Wednesday. "If I was a football player, I'd say I'm 'probable' to play. Really I've just nursed all the sympathy I could get at home, and now I've gotta go back to work."

Work is a prominent theme on his latest record, "The Circle." Bon Jovi's job has looked the same for nearly 30 years -- playing one massive stadium show after another. This weekend, he returns to Chicago for two nights at Soldier Field. After that, more stadiums and arenas in 30 countries for the next two years. Again.


7th Heaven from Chicago's suburbs includes drummer Michael Mooshey, singer Keith Semple,
guitarist Nick Cox and guitarist Richard Hofherr. Not pictured: bassist Mark Kennetz.
(Al Podgorski/Sun-Times)

How do you celebrate 25 years together as a local rock band? With a concert at Soldier Field, of course.

The members of suburban Chicago's 7th Heaven, a pillar of the regional festival circuit, have managed to pull off that little anniversary party for themselves. They entered a contest through Bon Jovi's Web site, submitting one of their songs ("Better This Way," lead track to the band's latest CD, 2008's "U.S.A.-U.K.") to a vote by fans. About 3.3 million votes later, the top 20 groups from the United States and Canada were scrutinized by the members of Bon Jovi, and 13 were selected to open several stadium dates on the classic rock band's current world tour. 7th Heaven opens Friday's sold-out show.

"In the end, they wanted to look at video and basically answer this question: Can we play in front of this big a crowd at Soldier Field?" said 7th Heaven guitarist Nick Cox during a recent chat with the band. He shrugged. "We've played bigger."

Smashing Pumpkins raise moolah, rock casbah

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Billy Corgan leads the Smashing Pumpkins on Tuesday night at Chicago's Metro. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

It's a summer for hyped '90s reunions. Pavement was decent at the Pitchfork fest. Next week we'll be suffering through the wholly unnecessary reunion of Soundgarden at Lollapalooza. But will we ever see the Smashing Pumpkins whole again?

Asking those four to reunite is likely as hopeless as expecting the Smiths to put aside all their litigation and bile for one more clunky run through "Reel Around the Fountain." But watching lil' Billy Corgan and his new mates tear through its catalog Tuesday night in a last-minute benefit show made a decent case for a trumpeted return of the rage and the rat cage.

Soundgarden is reuniting for an appearance at next week's Lollapalooza -- but the band has now announced a special concert just before the big Grant Park Festival. They'll be performing Aug. 5 at the 1,400-capacity Vic Theatre.

Wanna go? You'll have to log in or sign up for the band's fan club on the Web site. Do it now -- registration for the ticket drawing ends midnight Thursday (tomorrow night). Winners then will be randomly selected for the opportunity to purchase a ticket this Friday.

Hall & Oates: Are they a '70s duo or an '80s duo?

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(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

There need be no guilt in the pleasure of Hall & Oates.

The innocence of their young-love lyrics, undeniably catchy tunes, alternatingly cool and dorky doot-doot's and whoa-whoa's -- it's a catalog of three dozen Top 10 hits, many of which have somehow emerged from 1980s nostalgia relatively untethered.

For a duo that didn't catch fire on the pop charts until they went new wave -- hooks, bass lines and baggy pants -- Hall & Oates certainly didn't sound like an '80s relic Friday night at the Chicago Theatre. Over the course of a remarkably short (hear, hear) 80-minute set, including two encores, Mr. Feathered Hair and Mr. No Stache worked hard to funkify, coax and otherwise drag their most recognizable tunes back about one decade.

Smashing Pumpkins singer passes out, smashes stuff

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People reports today that Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan collapsed on stage last night during a show in Tampa, Fla.

Corgan, 43, later explained via Twitter: "And for those that saw me fall last night during Bullet, that wasn't a stage move or clumsiness. That was me blacking out and wiping out. ... I have no memory of falling against the drum riser and my guitar cabinet, but I can tell you I've got quite a good bruise + am moving slow."

The Pumpkins are scheduled in Knoxville, Tenn., tonight -- and then at a hometown benefit concert Tuesday at Chicago's Metro.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Beach Boys reunited -- and played a concert on Chicago's North Shore?

It's possible, says one member of the classic pop band. Al Jardine tells Rolling Stone that Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, himself and maybe guitarist David Marks are planning a reunion concert to celebrate the group's 50th anniversary.

"We're definitely doing at least one show -- you heard it first," Jardine says. "It's a big deal. I don't know where it will be yet, but it'll probably be free. Golden Gate Park was mentioned, as was the [National] Mall in Washington, D.C. and the north shore of Chicago by the beach."

Kings of Leon fish for authenticity, album by album

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Who are the Kings of Leon, anyway? Shouldn't we know by now?

In 2003, they were the buzz band of the year, with so much going for them out of the gate -- an alluring, muddy debut CD ("Youth and Young Manhood"), a rich biography full of Pentecostalism, marijuana and rock 'n' roll rebellion, irresistible shyness and bunches of bushy beards to hide behind. They were the swampy Strokes, and it seemed Southern rock might rise again.

The Old Town School of Folk Music has a groundbreaking target for an $18 million expansion at its Lincoln Square site -- complete with classrooms, dance studios and a new 133-seat performance venue.

The planned 27,100-square-foot building -- the school's first new construction in its 53-year history -- will occupy vacant land acquired by the school in 2005 at 4543 N. Lincoln Ave. That's across the street from the Old Town School's primary home, which serves 7,000 students a week and turns away scores of others.

Ground will be broken early next month, and an event celebrating the beginning of the project is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 6, at the new site. The free celebration will feature a group sing-along with the Old Town School's guitar faculty, a Brazilian dance lesson, a jam for stringed instruments and a drum circle.

The Smashing Pumpkins have announced a last-minute hometown show next week at Chicago's Metro.

Billy Corgan and his new support players will perform at a benefit concert, raising money for medical care for another Chicago musician.

I keep getting older, this movie stays the same age

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"Well, all I'm saying is that I want to look back and say that I did I the best I could while I was stuck in this place. Had as much fun as I could while I was stuck in this place. Played as hard as I could while I was stuck in this place. ..."

Part of that survival method, as outlined in the Richard Linklater coming-of-age classic "Dazed and Confused," included getting tickets to the upcoming Aerosmith concert -- and deciding which was more important: a life laid out for you ("sign that paper!") or a life you make yourself ("Aerosmith -- top priority of the summer!").

Catch the film and a discussion of it as part of the Sound Opinions at the Movies series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport. Your hosts for the time travel -- and a chat about one of the best and well-employed rock soundtracks -- are Vocalo blogger Jim DeRogatis and Tribune music critic Greg Kot, both from NPR's "Sound Opinions" show.

Tickets are $9 in advance and $8 for WBEZ members, and are available online. Any remaining tickets will be $10 at the door.

Given the number of big concerts in town this weekend, chances are you were at one of them. Check out our reports from:

Pitchfork Music Festival: Pavement resurfaces

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Stephen Malkmus of Pavement performs Sunday at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Pavement has worn all three tags hung on this music. Here's a band that was serviced to college radio, came to define a certain smoky corner of alt-rock and now is lionized as indie heroes with a worldwide reunion tour and headlining slot at the Pitchfork fest. The band's much-anticipated set couldn't have begun more appropriately -- first with a long, meandering introductory rant by Drag City's Ryan Murphy about the contrasts between this festival and Lollapalooza, among other topics, and then a false start to the opener, "Cut Your Hair." The band that worked hard but looked like slackers is still in perfect non-form.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Major Lazer, Big Boi

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lazer.jpgSaturday evening began with the digital dub attack of Major Lazer, a computerized dancehall project of Diplo -- marking a return to Pitchfork -- and Switch. For an hour they assaulted the adoring crowd with very little music, mostly just bleats and blasts that sound like various industrial park alarms. The noises dodged and moved -- a frenetic mess for the ADHD set -- and Diplo spent most of his stage time shouting the name Major Lazer (at least four dozen times) and begging the crowd for hands in the air.

Big Boi doesn't have to beg.

Strutting on stage with one of his Atlanta MCs, the other half of hip-hop's acclaimed Outkast starting flinging syllables, eventually firing fastfastfast through "Ghetto Musick" over a machine-gun beat. A relentless hourlong set featured several Outkast hits (a snappy run through "Ms. Jackson") and a few guests, ranging from guest singer Neil Garrard for the tuneful "Follow Us" to a trash-talking youngster. The set dragged on and the beats became monotonous, but when he launched into "ATLiens" and hollered, "Put your hands in the air!" it was superfluous. They'd been up for a while.


Big Boi performs Sunday evening at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

Seattle's Fleet Foxes brought beautiful harmonies back to modern music, rescuing three-part tenor singing from the vaults of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But as beautiful as "White Winter Hymnal" can be, the band hasn't yet jumped up and shown any oomph.

Orange County's Local Natives have seized that opportunity, and Sunday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival they delivered a set of exciting, rhythmic music laced with the energy of post-punk as well as those sweet, core harmonies. Much of their music is built around what their voices can achieve, and the fact that they achieved it the brutal July Chicago heat is impressive. But these harmonies have teeth. Kelcey Ayer took charge of most of the proceedings, hitting beautiful high notes while bashing the bejesus out of his small stand-up drum kit. The beats he added to the regular drummer's rhythm -- sometimes Ayer would play keyboard with his left hand and drum with his right -- made songs like "Airplanes" blast like a jet engine. "Camera Talk," the evolving "Shape Shifter," the cover of the Talking Heads' "Warning Signs" -- it was all fleet and (dig guitarist-singer Taylor Rice's stache!) very foxy.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Best Coast is the best

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Sunday's music at the Pitchfork Music Festival began with dessert. Between the dull, thudding chords of Cass McCombs and the first laconic and then tortured feedback of the Girls, a fresh, sunny new pop band called Best Coast held down the Balance stage -- the "small" stage, under the trees -- with a workmanlike attitude and a handful of cheery love ditties. Ultimately unpretentious, Best Coast (Bethany Cosentino and two pals) ran through songs from the debut "Crazy for You" CD, filled with bright major chords and lyrics like "I'll try to make you mine" and "that's just not your deal." The crowd got a big chuckle when she sang, "I lost my job / I miss my mom / I wish my cat could talk." She closed with the trendy single "When I'm With You," the repeated refrain of which is, "When I'm with you, I have fun." So true.

Day 3 of the sixth annual Pitchfork Music Festival, which began in 2005 as Intonation, is under way in the sultry summer heat. A noontime thunder shower moved through quickly, cooling things off for a matter of moments before the sun returned and added the evaporated rain to the day's humidity totals.

Water remains at half price, a dollar a bottle. Still, the line for the free water is longer than that for the bottled variety. Pitchfork staffer (and occasional Sun-Times contributor) Anders Smith Lindall says festival workers are handing out water bottles to distressed concertgoers when the line gets excruciatingly long.

Those who don't mind earning their reward -- and helping to keep the park clear of debris -- can earn one beverage ticket (worth a buck, for one bottle of water) for every 10 discarded plastic cups collected and returned to the recycling booth.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers won't back down

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Tom Petty performs Saturday night at Chicago's United Center. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

My old man was born to rock
But he's still tryin' to beat the clock
-- "You Don't Know How It Feels"

Tom Petty keeps threatening to quit, but he never goes away. At least twice in the last four years the veteran rocker has hinted at hanging up his guitar, but as there are no term limits in rock he just keeps running. He returns to the studio, possibly to make some final career statement, and winds up making yet another formidable rock record (the Grammy-nominated "Highway Companion," the new blues-infused "Mojo"). The tours keep selling. He just won't back down.

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James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. (Erin Drewitz / For the Sun-Times)


So you think you can dance? Asking that question would not be out of line Saturday, the second day of the Pitchfork Music Festival at Union Park. While programming of previous years represented the continued fragmentation of the recording industry, this year showed where everyone's head is at: their feet.

While the slate of artists and bands Saturday all were heavy on the beat, none accomplished unity on a grander scale than LCD Soundsystem, the day's headliner. The reason may be due to the nature of the set itself. The albums come from one man in a studio, but live the music requires seven people. That democratization creates opportunities and resulted in showing this band sounds better outside the club and under open skies.


Wolf Parade was a daytime highlight. (Photos by Erin Drewitz/For the Sun-Times)


Other Saturday performers at Pitchfork -- many of which seemed to have variations of animals for names -- struggled though the beastly heat.

Thumbnail image for panda.jpgNoah Lennox, who performs under the name Panda Bear, performed alone, accompanied by just a synthesizer, sampler and a guitar that was barely played. He is a member of the experimental folk-pop band Animal Collective; their psychedelic collage is bearable in numbers but alone Lennox stretched the limits of self-indulgence. His set was essentially one long trick: With all the music programmed, all he was required to do was vocalize incoherent baby talk into his microphone while arched over his equipment like he was performing surgery.

Best band of Saturday afternoon: Titus Andronicus, a blazing band from Glen Rock, N.J., a location that has allowed them to absorb the best of bombast from Springsteen, the fire of post-punk from New York and possibly even a little Philly soul. "I'm sweating like a pregnant nun talking to the pope," said frontman Patrick Stickles after lurching out of another of the band's nihilistic songs, "No Future, Part 3." But their outlook isn't completely bleak. The song hammers a refrain, "You'll always be a loser!" over and over before concluding: "But that's OK." The quintet was augmented by a few support players, piano and strings and horns; the extra players weren't necessary, but Titus Andronicus songs are multi-level, architectural creations with a capacity for a lot of extra decor. This is band that can write as well as it rocks, and God does it rock. At one moment Stickles is picking a spidery melody on his guitar, next the kinetic Amy Klein is crunching into the tune, and -- as in the sprawling "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" -- it all builds to a triumphant bashing. Near the end the guitars screeched in harmony and hit a northern highlands rhythm like they were Big Country. Then they turn around with the panache and the chops to introduce the band via a jump-bluesy tune, "And Ever." Brutal and friendly, vicious and tender, Titus Andronicus has it all.


The Pitchfork Music Festival has exposed crowds to many different sounds in its six-year history, but when it comes to hip-hop the offerings have been more limited. Clipse, Pharoahe Monch and Ghostface Killah have been the biggest current acts to hit the stages in recent years, but otherwise nostalgia has mainly reigned (Public Enemy, De La Soul, GZA).

This year, things have improved somewhat, with highly anticipated performances from Big Boi and Freddie Gibbs, but it didn't help change Pitchfork's indie-rock rep when two of the few remaining hip-hop-related performers -- Dam-Funk and Raekwon -- were forced to go basically head to head on Saturday afternoon.

Delorean in the summer heat is a weird and wonderful experience. Hitting the stage switched on, they build layer upon layer, loop upon loop -- dreamy synth sounds that build and build and then ease off, one tune blending into another. That has the effect of inducing a dreamy state, which coupled with the blaring sun on your neck could induce a crazy euphoria. Or, like the guy behind me, you could just complain, "They've been playing this same song for half an hour." But listen closely, behind bassist Ekhi Lopetegi's thin vocals, and there are intricate patterns in the sampled piano and the vox humana. Despite the scraggly page-boys and beards, this band is not grounded in rock but draws more from the Balearic house music of their native Barcelona, Spain. Lopetegi's bass, though, and Guillermo Astrain's guitar bring enough vibration to a rock crowd to keep it on its feet. Primal Scream, we hardly knew ye.

California's Dâm-Funk (DJ Damon Riddick) got a late start on the shady balance stage, but in no time he laid down some fat beats and was advising us, "You gotta keep your hood pass intact, y'all." Dâm-Funk (it's pronounced "dame") mostly just turned on sounds and rhythms, then stalked the stage singing like a lost DeBarge. Then he pulled out the keytar and started into his trademark, slow, mostly instrumental jams. Joined by a live drummer and an extra synth player, Dâm-Funk updated '70s and '80s urban soul, and he stayed classy even when the shouts from Wu-Tang's Raekwon intruded from across the park. Since he was late starting, he even cut his set short. "We gotta respect the other bands, y'all," he said, removing the keytar. "We got four more songs, but f--- it. Peace!" Such consideration! Only at Pitchfork.


In many ways, Sonny & the Sunsets is the perfect festival act -- the San Francisco band's summer-friendly '60s beach pop is inoffensive enough to appeal to everyone while reserving enough personality to insist upon being more than background music. Fortunately, the stuff works as well in practice as it does in theory; the quartet ripped through a strong early set at 1:55 p.m., pulling a number of songs from its breakout album, "Tomorrow Is Alright." Beyond standout single "Too Young to Burn" (which got an upbeat treatment, and was described as being "a song about kids smoking pot"), strong performances included "Death Cream," "Stranded" and "Teen Age Thugs." Sonny's offbeat humor came through in his song introductions: "We're not just rough lovers," he noted in advance of the witty "Mondrian." Groundbreaking they're not, but Sonny & the Sunsets made for a breezy way to kick off another sweltering day.

7-16_Stewart_Pitchfork_Fest.jpgSundown slowed down with Broken Social Scene, a sprawling Toronto collective with a few Chicago roots. This band makes a lovely sound, even if the songs don't always gel behind the chiming guitars and palpitating drums.

Thirty-one musicians appear on the band's latest CD, "Forgiveness Rock Record," recorded in Chicago under the guidance of John McEntire from Tortoise and the Sea & Cake. McEntire himself played a second drum set on stage Friday night, adding needed extra heft to gauzy arrangements that tend to sag if not tended carefully.

This loosey-goosey ensemble, which tends to trade instruments among each other, was most engaging when they got the pulse going, rollicking through "Texico Bitches" and the rumbling furnace of "Cause = Time," which featured five guitars. The set ended in a see-sawing riff with strings that evoked the most intense Poi Dog Pondering drones.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Rockin' Robyn!

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Robyn got the Pitchfork party started Friday night. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Who knew the best performer of the day would be a blonde bombshell spinning Euro-disco? Robyn -- another Swede on Friday's bill and a former child star who's fought hard to regain her own artistic control -- came out fighting, throwing punches in the air when she wasn't doing that elbows-high, shoulder-leaning dance all '80s female singers used to do.

Feisty, sexy, spunky Robyn opened with the virtues of being a "Fembot," assured us that love hurts "With Every Heartbeat" and sang flawlessly through new single "Dancing on My Own" in front of a band dressed in all white, twiddling knobs and pounding synth-pad drums. The latter really exploded at the end of "Cobrastyle," with Robyn showing some kick-box dancing. Her Pink-ish feistiness reached its zenith in "Don't F---ing Tell Me What to Do," during which she led some kind of aerobics class (sporting a totally Pat Benatar green beret, too).

Friday's late-afternoon start to the Pitchfork Music Festival was certainly hot in Chicago's Union Park. But it's been hotter, and staff reported no unusual increase in heat-related medical care. Just to be on the safe side, however, the festival decided Friday to cut the cost of water in half. Bottled water is now available for $1, and will remain so throughout the weekend.

"Out of concern for the heat, we're trying to be proactive," said Pitchfork staffer Anders Smith Lindall. This came shortly after an announcement from the main stage that water would be handed to concertgoers pressed against the front barricades, where some fans had already been pulled and treated for heat exhaustion.

Music starts earlier in the day Saturday and Sunday, meaning more time for fans to be under the sun. A high of 90 is forecast each day.

Pitchfork Music Festival: No music, just laughs

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Taking its cue from the Bonnaroo Music Festival, which has successfully included some top-notch comedy acts on its increasingly diverse roster in the past several years, Pitchfork added stand-up performers to the schedule this year. This seemed pretty can't-miss, the only stipulation being that the bookers had to choose comedians that would resonate with the Pitchfork crowd. With the choices of Hannibal Buress (whom some comparison-happy folks have called "the black Mitch Hedberg") and Wyatt Cenac of "The Daily Show" fame, they managed to do just that. Both comedians turned in solid 30-minute sets -- following much "ado" from host Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav. While funny -- the ongoing jokes about fake "sponsors" like Betty Crocker, Mars and Kraft drew laughs -- Harrington's role did go on a little long, especially with an ill-advised marshmallow-eating contest.

Pitchfork Music Festival: El-P takes a spin

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When all else fails, mention Jordan and drop a Tribe beat. That's the tried and true method that El-P and his cohorts turned to about midway through their 4:30 p.m. set. El-P admitted early on that it wouldn't be a "pretty" performance, and that was no surprise given the rapper/producer's penchant for cacophony since back in his days with legendary group Company Flow. But for newcomers to the music (which much of the crowd seemed to be, save for a couple of clearly inebriated dudes behind me), the jarring sounds and rapid-fire lyrics of tunes like opener "Smithereens" can be a little off-putting. Eventually, though, the performers -- El-P was accompanied onstage by several live musicians, in addition to another hype man/rapper -- settled into a serious groove, starting with "Everything Must Go" (off 2007's "I'll Sleep When You're Dead") and moving into high gear with a short homage to A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" (complete with some keyboard-guitar stylings). By the time El-P launched into an a capella version of Company Flow's "Patriotism," including shout-outs to "bleeding-heart liberal drivel," "media-controlled blurb advertising disillusionment" and "Young Republicans," the crowd had definitely begun to warm to his style. It was hard not to, given the sweaty energy onstage.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Believing in the Liars

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Ain't no folkie fest no more.

Angus Andrews, singer for the Liars, is prowling the Pitchfork main stage, shrieking over the band's fractured, stop-start rhythms. The cacophony he's raising is terrible and terrifying. His vocals -- a series of owl cries and electronically distorted yowls -- rise and fall over guitar lines played carefully just a half tone off where they should be, and the bass lurks and dodges in the lengthening shadows. This doesn't sound like a 10-year-old band. The Liars are still throwing in everything and the kitchen sink, like an underpracticed, angry Supergrass, though they've definitely ramped up the intensity of their caterwaul since the release of this year's "Sisterworld." "The devil's in Chicago at motherf---in' Pitchfork!" Andrews shouts. Then, in his lovely British accent, he politely and demurely says, "Thanks so much for having us" and preaches for a second about not throwing water bottles. I knew it was all an act.

Bright sun, water bottles, brooding singer-songwriters -- this must be the sixth Pitchfork Music Festival. The annual hootenanny is now under way in Chicago's Union Park ... and it sounds like a hootenanny. The fest opened Friday afternoon with two fine strummers that made the venue sound more like a folk festival than the go-to shopping mall of indie rock.

Kylie Minogue, 'Aphrodite'

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(Astralwerks) 2<br />
and a half stars

kylie.jpgMy guess is, you're American and you've heard Kylie Minogue referenced here and there on a sitcom or in a movie or maybe even another song (try the Pretenders' "Popstar"), often to reinforce gay character traits. But you have no idea who she is or what her music sounds like. Get this: In Britain and her native Australia, she's bigger than Madonna, with strings of No. 1 singles that would make a Beatle blush. She's just never been able to entice us Yanks. This album, however, wouldn't be a bad time to give her try.

Shortly before the Prairie Home Companion show earlier this month at the Ravinia Festival, Garrison Keillor and Andra Suchy warmed up the adoring audience by singing while strolling the pavilion aisles and into the lawn. "These are the better behaved people here," Keillor said of the outdoor crowd, "ones that can be trusted without adult supervision."

Wednesday night, that wasn't necessarily true.

Near the end of the Swell Season concert at Ravinia, the duo's male half, Glen Hansard, invited people from the lawn to come down to the front of the stage and sing along. Throngs of them took him up on it, bypassing security and bringing the show to a halt while Ravinia officials tried to thin out the mob.

Musicians from Moby to the estate of Nick Drake understand that one of the most effective ways to get your music in front of a large audience these days is via TV commercials. Especially ones that have "hey, you gotta see this!" YouTube appeal.

Even fake bands do well. Case in point: You've seen the band, right? The pirate hats? The Renaissance fair? Funny stuff, but that was a band manufactured (and lip-syncing) for the ad campaign. The next one will be real.

And maybe from Illinois. Rockford rock band The Poets Dance is one of four finalists vying for your vote this summer to be the next band hawking credit services.

U2 reschedules at Soldier Field: 7/5/11

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More from the rescheduling desk: U2 has reprogrammed its return to the States, which was put on hold earlier this year when singer Bono boo-booed his back. The tour was originally scheduled to land (again) in Soldier Field last week, on July 6. It's now rescheduled for one day shy of one year later -- July 5, 2011.

"Feeling strong, feeling confident," Bono says in a video at "I am ready, rebuilt by German engineering. Better design, I'm told."


When Bob Nastanovich, multi-instrumentalist of '90s "slacker" band Pavement, mentions he's in "the larval stages of a pretty massive trip," we can be forgiven for thinking, hey, the old party days are back! But that's not what he meant.

"I just visited a friend in Minneapolis, saw the Twins and the Tigers play, flew back to Iowa and now Denver. I'm now flying 11 hours to Frankfurt and then on and on, to Poland. It's about 28 hours all told." He pauses. "But it's worthwhile just to bring Pavement to the Polish."

Fantastyczne! In its lurching run through alt-rock from 1991 to 1999, Pavement never set foot in eastern Europe. Now, as a reunited nostalgia act, they're circling the globe, taking the lo-fi sounds that defined a certain corner of post-Nirvana rock to audiences that never heard them the first time.

That corner has grown slightly in the preceding decade -- while bandleader Stephen Malkmus crafted a solo career, and Des Moines-based Nastanovich returned to his day job as a chart caller at horse racing tracks (he spends three months each year working at Hawthorne Race Course in nearby Cicero) -- though most people remember Pavement, if they remember them at all, as that quirky '90s band with one moderate hit (1994's "Cut Your Hair"). But the reunion, announced a year ahead of time, has generated hype much bigger than that bio suggests.

Sunday night they bring the reunion to Chicago's Pitchfork Music Festival. Nastanovich talked with the Sun-Times about why such a thing has happened -- and about the mini-reunion that could have been at Pitchfork 2007:

Pitchfork Music Festival schedule and highlights

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The concert industry is struggling this summer, sending lumbering, behemoth tours across the land and charging big bucks for the good seats -- and sales are down. Not at Union Park. For less than $100 over three days, thousands of fans this weekend will enjoy dozens of superb major and indie pop acts at the annual Pitchfork Music Festival -- which mostly sold out swiftly.

But you still want to get your money's worth. Here's the weekend's schedule, spread over three stages, with a few of my don't-miss picks ...

Rained-out Rush show rescheduled

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Pull out that soggy, pulped ticket from last week's rained-out Rush concert -- the show has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Aug. 23 back at the Charter One Pavilion.

The fine print from Live Nation: "All tickets for the previously scheduled performance will be reactivated and honored at the rescheduled date. If fans feel that the barcodes may be illegible, they should ensure they bring picture ID and the credit card which was used to purchase the tickets. Venue parking available - fans will need to show their ticket for admittance to the parking garage. Refunds - if required at point of purchase through August 22nd. Questions can be directed to TicketMaster customer service at (800) 653-8000."

The sound music fans are hearing most of this summer is the -- wanh-wanh! -- sad trombone.

In a flurry within the last few weeks, concert tours have been canceling shows around the country. American Idols Live trimmed seven dates from its original schedule. The reborn Lilith Fair nixed 11 stops throughout the South. Limp Bizkit, Rihanna, Maxwell, even the Jonas Brothers have erased concerts. The Country Throwdown Tour called off shows in Dallas and Houston.

When a country tour tanks in Texas, there's trouble.

The national numbers are, indeed, not encouraging ...

Rush fan files suit over canceled show

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Yikes. One Chicagoan is so angry about Wednesday night's Rush show being canceled after a heavy downpour that he's filed a class action lawsuit seeking reimbursement for the ticket price and his travel expenses.

Crowded House, 'Intriguer'

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(Concord-Fantasy) 2 stars

Thumbnail image for crowded.jpgTwentieth-century Crowded House is difficult to assail -- all those perfect melodies and would-be McCartney tunes. It was dreamy and then -- a decade before the suicide of drummer Paul Hester -- it was over. The re-formed, 21st-century Crowded House, however, has not been as easy to embrace. The melodies are more complex. The songs are still tuneful but unusually dense, not as sticky. Frequently, it pained me to say after listening to "Time on Earth," they've just been dull.

"Intriguer" is intriguing, but in remarkably -- perhaps troublesome -- ways.

Various Artists, "Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse Present: Dark Night of the Soul"
(Capitol) 2 and a half stars

darknight.jpgA year and a half ago I tacked up the new poster for this album. Eagerly anticipated, "Dark Night of the Soul" was billed like a movie, no doubt because of director David Lynch's involvement, a rumored (since 2006) and finally realized collection of songs designed by go-to collaborator and sound swami Danger Mouse, a k a Brian Burton (half of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells, producer of Gorillaz and Beck) and Sparklehorse, a k a Mark Linkous. They're two revered rock producers with totally different styles; when they realized they each had a batch of songs they didn't know what to do with, they opened the microphone to a throng of guest vocalists.

But, alas, the poster curled and came down before the album showed up, stuck in a battle between Burton and EMI. A corresponding book of Lynch's photographs, inspired by the songs, appeared and included a blank CD and a note: "For legal reasons, the enclosed CD-R contains no music. Use it as you will." (Translation: "We hear there are some leaked copies on the Internet. Which someone could download and burn. Ahem." Early this year, Linkous killed himself.

Allegedly all legal disputes have been resolved, and the CD may actually show up on Tuesday as scheduled.

Budos Band.jpg

The Budos Band

The Chicago Folk & Roots Festival returns this weekend with another two-day schedule of scruffy folk bands, world music troupes, the now-requisite hypnotic drones from the Sahara Desert and intelligent kids events (including the Wiggleworms' 25th birthday party).

The Saturday headliner -- an intriguing choice -- is an all-instrumental group. They're called the Budos Band, a large ensemble (ranging from nine to 13 members, depending on availability) from Staten Island that plays the kind of music described with a lot of hyphens: neo-Afro-soul-psychedelic-world-jazz. Their new tunes add hard rock into the mix.

But, uh-oh: "All-instrumental" at a "folk and world music" festival translates as "noodling jams and solos that stretch each song to half an hour," right? Fortunately, the Budos Band is not that kind of band. They care more about your experience, not theirs.

"The one thing that differentiates us from other instrumental bands is that we don't like to jam out," said saxman Jared Tankel. "We don't turn songs into 15-minute meandering exercises in -- whatever. We keep the songs pretty tight. I don't know if any songs go past the five-minute mark. We keep things moving. Things are pretty upbeat and fast-paced. This is basically pop music, even if there are no vocals."

Second Rush show nixed by weather, will reschedule

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Chicago fans of Rush couldn't catch a break Wednesday night. On their way to the band's second concert at the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island (the first show was Monday night, and it was good), some fans were slowed by more lane closures on S. Lake Shore Drive, the result of additional pavement buckling problems (even though the lanes were reopened earlier in the week). After that headache, le deluge. Once at the venue, fans endured a downpour within the hour before showtime -- and then came the announcement from the stage that due to more bad weather on the way, the show would be postponed.

A statement late last night from the concert promoter, Live Nation, says: "Details on a rescheduled date will be available shortly. Tickets holders are asked to keep their ticket to the July 7 show as that ticket will be honored at the rescheduled date. Any questions can be directed to TicketMaster customer service at (800) 653-8000."

Metro opens the vaults for live CD sampler

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Why wait for a round number? For its 28th anniversary, Chicago's venerable club Metro will release a CD -- the first in a series, hopefully -- compiling 10 tracks recorded at the famed venue.

"Metro: The Official Bootleg Series, Vol. 1" is available July 22 and features the following wide-ranging set:

1. "Race for the Prize" -- The Flaming Lips
2. "Fair Touching" -- Guided by Voices
3. "You're No Rock 'n' Roll Fun" -- Sleater-Kinney
4. "We Both Go Down Together" -- The Decemberists
5. "Galileo" -- Indigo Girls
6. "I'll Follow You Down" -- Alejandro Escovedo
7. "Jacking the Ball" -- The Sea & Cake
8. "Along the banks of Rivers" -- Tortoise
9. "Radio" -- Alkaline Trio
10. "Freedom" -- Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlin and Kurt Elling


Billy Corgan plays at the 2003 Waltz charity concert at Metro, which also featured jazz great Kurt Elling.
(Sun-Times file)

Kelly Clarkson backs out of Lilith Fair

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Days after the revived Lilith Fair announced several cancellations (they also axed the Aug. 8 Atlanta show over the weekend), one of its acts has jumped off the bandwagon. "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson says on her blog she's bowing out of her Lilith Fair dates -- including Chicago -- in order to complete work on her next album. She was scheduled to play 14 of Lilith's dates.

Back in 1997, Lilith Fair was the top-grossing concert of the year. The reconstituted 2010 version is certainly struggling -- but musically it's getting good reviews here and there.

(Def Jam) 3 stars

bigboi.jpgDelayed albums wrought with contractual disputes, label changes and a few too many cooks in the kitchen often result in scattered, unfocused music. Not so the long-awaited appearance of a Big Boi solo album. Legal issues kept his longtime partner in Outkast, Andre 3000, from appearing on this record -- but it's a good thing. The tracks leaked years ago and meant to promote this album ("Sumthin's Gotta Give" featuring Mary J. Blige and "Royal Flush," on which Andre 3000 did appear) are not on "Sir Lucious Left Foot." Andre 3000 still has a producer's credit and a guiding hand, but his vocal absence means we finally hear Big Boi all by himself, charting his own course well away from the "Speakerboxxx."

Dave Matthews Band coming to Wrigley

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Elton John and Billy Joel were supposed to be playing Wrigley Field this week, but that quickly imploded. However, it looks like there will be a concert at Wrigley this year, after all: the Dave Matthews Band announced on its Web site this weekend that it's scheduled to play two shows at the ballpark Sept. 17-18.

A semi-regular blog feature in which I discuss a record that's worth noting -- but not new. Because there's life beyond Tuesday, and the cutting edge is usually duller than you expect ...

dico.jpgOK, so Sia's new album is ... meh. She excelled working with Zero 7 and her first solo outings, but there seem to be too many cooks in the kitchen on her new pop CD. Another former Zero 7 vocalist, however, haunts me still. Tina Dico, popular in her native Denmark, two years ago stepped out of her pop-folk arrangements and released a stripped-down trio of EPs in one package titled "A Beginning, A Detour, An Open Ending." This is where I restrain myself from unleashing a torrent of superlatives to describe how these songs continue to stun me. Suffice to say, if this year's regurgitated Lilith Fair lineup included more singers with this much heart, insight and way with a simple tune, I'd be in line already.

Top 20 songs in Chicago this week

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1. (1) "OMG" by USHER feat. WILL.I.AM
8. (7) "OVER" by DRAKE
10. (9) "NOTHIN' ON YOU" by B.O.B feat. BRUNO MARS
15. (18) "RUDE BOY" by RIHANNA
16. (new) "SEX ROOM" by LUDACRIS feat. TREY SONGZ
19. (new) "DYNAMITE" by TAIO CRUZ
20. (new) "LOSE MY MIND" by YOUNG JEEZY feat. PLIES

Number in parentheses is chart position last week.


Lilith is having trouble getting back to the garden. The 2010 Lilith Fair, a reconstituted version of the female-centric fest of old, has canceled 10 more shows. The festival announced it's yanking scheduled dates from these cities: Salt Lake City (7/12), Montreal (7/23), Raleigh (8/4), Charlotte (8/6), West Palm Beach (8/10), Tampa (8/11), Birmingham (8/12), Austin (8/14), Houston (8/15) and Dallas (8/16). Refunds are available at point of purchase.

The scheduled Chicago date, July 17 at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, is still on the books.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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