Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

October 2010 Archives

dylanmug.jpgPeople play music for a lot of different reasons. Bob Dylan's reasons have always been his own, for good or ill, and we've been guessing (largely unsuccessfully) at what those are for half a century now. The Dylan who showed up Saturday night at the Riviera Theatre seemed driven by the same reasons that fueled him on Halloween weekends in 2009 and 2007. He plays music now because he apparently just can't stop.

Old Town School looks at founding through prism of 1957

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Michael Miles has done this before, staged musical variety shows that chronicle the sounds and history of one particular year. But not like this year.

"1941 was the first one, with everything leading up to Pearl Harbor. Then I did 1968, which had the assassinations and Vietnam and the election of Nixon," he says. "1957 doesn't seem to have the same drama. But then, everything that happened in the '60s was being baked in 1957."

"America 1957" is a stage show featuring musicians, actors and video showcasing the news and culture from that fateful year -- which also happens to be the year Chicago's Old Town School of Music was founded.

New-chevelle.jpgWhen we caught up with Pete Loeffler (right), the singer-guitarist for the modern rock band Chevelle was kicking back at his house in his native Grayslake, enjoying some unseasonable warm fall weather. But he was feeling a little guilty.

"I pulled a fast one on everybody," Loeffler said. "We just finished this long tour, and everybody was glad to get home to Chicago and rest. But I started writing -- and it's going really well. So now I want to get an album out as quick as we can. We've got some Christmas shows coming up, after the Metro dates, and people have expected us to go right back out [on the road]. But I don't feel like it. I want to see where this new music goes."

The break and the creative energy comes after several months of looking backward. Even though Chevelle (the trio includes Sam Loeffler on drums and Dean Bernardini on bass) has been a working band in Chicago almost twice as long, they've just celebrated 10 years of making records with a "Ten in 10" greatest-hits tour, highlighting their downtuned, heavy-guitar hits from the band's five albums, songs like "The Red," "Send the Pain Below," "Closure," "The Clincher" and "Vitamin R." This weekend, they bring the tour back home, with two shows at the Metro.

Reading a lot into the Books' use of hypnotherapy tapes

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Nick Zammuto (left) and Paul de Jong are The Books.


The new album from the Books, the first in five years from this sound-collage duo, begins with a pleasant male voice promising a new beginning. "On this recording, music specially created for its pleasurable effects on your mind, body and emotions is mixed with a warm, orange-colored liquid," he says, calmly and matter-of-factly, as a rhythm of plucked guitar harmonics builds behind him. "Your body is now a glass container. You can smell the orange-colored liquid."

"We cut into our sources a lot," says the Books' singer-guitarist, Nick Zammuto. It's not his voice promising peace and fluidity. It's one of the Books' many found recordings, spliced and diced. "That's part of the fascination we had with the amount of hypnotherapy material we used on this new album. They speak so slowly and clearly on these old tapes. So it's easy to take the beginning of one sentence and cut it with the end of another sentence, creating this seamless thing that wasn't there before. It pulls the material in a more interesting direction, switching subjects and objects. ... It's always interesting to see how meaning can be broken and re-formed."

Bon Jovi returning to Chicago in 2011

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Bon Jovi brought his massive tour to Soldier Field in July, and he's bringing it back next spring. Another leg of U.S. dates announced today includes March 8 at Chicago's United Center. Tickets expected on sale here next month.

ryuichi.jpgIn September 2008, a crew of 40 artists, poets, architects, actors and musicians boarded a science vessel and set sail for Greenland. Their destination -- apropos for the musicians, which included Laurie Anderson, Robyn Hitchcock, Jarvis Cocker, Martha Wainwright, beatboxer Shlomo and others -- was Disko Bay.

The journey was part of the Cape Farewell project, an organization that puts artists and scientists together, hoping the latter will be inspired by the out-of-the-box thinking of the former. Really, though, the goal is to get the artists to "communicate on a human scale the urgency of the global climate challenge."

"What I saw was a gigantic world of ice and water," says Ryuichi Sakamoto, another participant in the Greenland voyage and a pianist who operates in both rock and classical worlds. "The landscape, the wild nature -- it just blew my mind. Giant chunks of ice crashing into the sea. We saw much, we learned much.

Taylor Swift, 'Speak Now'

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(Big Machine) 2<br />
stars

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Taylor Swift buys a copy of her own CD, "Speak Now," this morning in New York. (AP)


taylorspeakcd.jpgShe eulogizes her brief relationship (or was it just friendship?) with "Glee" star Cory Monteith. She excoriates John Mayer (hallelujah), and lets Joe Jonas have it (again). She delivers a tearful apology to "Twilight" star Taylor Lautner. She lashes out at music critics and the media (ahem), and then there's the whole dreary thing about Kanye West.

Is this an album or somebody's Facebook wall?

Taylor Swift's highly anticipated third CD, "Speak Now," out today, is a fishing expedition for Us magazine readers and anyone playing Match the Song to the Jilted Jerk. It's also a carefully crafted album of mostly well-written pop tunes that music moguls are watching this week, hoping it sets a sales record for a sluggish industry.

Swift's 2006 self-titled debut sold 4 million copies. The follow-up, "Fearless," moved 592,000 discs in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, on its way to more than 6 million sales. "Mine," the first single from "Speak Now," sold 1 million downloads. Big Machine Records hopes "Speak Now" will sell a million copies this week -- which no one's done since Lil Wayne's "Tha Carter III" in June 2008 -- and has put 2 million copies into circulation, so you won't have trouble finding it if you're looking.

If you are looking, what you'll find is a tuneful diary of Swift's love life during the last two years -- lyrics about events so fresh in Swift's mind (and heart) she hasn't even finished processing what they mean. "I write songs about things that really intensely, emotionally affect me at the time I'm going through them," Swift, 20, recently told MTV News. "I sort of write as life is happening to me, so all of these songs are snapshots of what I was feeling at that moment."

What she feels in each moment is regret or revulsion for a particular fella -- a different one in each song.

Bryan Ferry, 'Olympia'

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(Astralwerks) 2 stars

ferryolympia.jpgNews that the original, glam-era lineup of Roxy Music would reunite for singer Bryan Ferry's latest solo album caused heart palpitations among the faithful. Ferry and Brian Eno haven't shared a studio in more than 35 years. On Roxy Music's first two albums, beginning in 1972, the creative tension between them -- Ferry's penchant for American soul, Eno's flashy experimentalism -- created music that was hugely influential if not terribly commercial. The two parted ways; Ferry turned Roxy Music into an intelligent adult-contemporary band, while Eno pioneered electronic music and became the go-to producer for the zeitgeisty bands. The fact that Eno's back on the lengthy guest list at another of Ferry's studio soirees, however, doesn't mean he's the life of this particular party. If you listened to "Olympia" without hearing any of its preceding hype, you'd likely never know he was there.

THE MAX WEINBERG BIG BAND
Max Weinberg and his wry grin followed Conan O'Brien from late night to the "Tonight" show as his bandleader, but he won't be sticking with Conan for his upcoming cable run. Instead, Weinberg is embarking on chapter three of a storied career (chapter one, still in progress, is his longstanding membership in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band), leading a classic big band, playing standards. Loyalists can check it out at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. Tickets, $34-$38. Call (773) 728-6000; oldtownschool.org.

EZRA FURMAN
Whatever happened to the happy sneer of bands like the Violent Femmes? Try Evanston-raised Ezra Furman, who begins a weekly residency next week as part of the Practice Space series at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport. He'll be playing solo acoustic, sans band (the Harpoons), beginning at 8 p.m. Monday and each Monday after that through Nov. 15. Tickets, $6. Call (773) 525-2508; schubas.com.

DEADMAU5
Remember the DJ at the MTV VMAs last month, the guy with the LED-flashing Mickey helmet? That's Deadmau5. He mixes house music right on the border of dance and hip-hop. With Halloween on the horizon, maybe he'll redo "Ghosts N Stuff" during one or both of his shows this weekend, at 7:30 tonight and Saturday night at the Congress Theatre, 2135 N. Milwaukee. Die Antwoord opens tonight, Booka Shade on Saturday. Tickets ($42) are available for tonight's show, while Saturday is sold out. Call (773) 598-0852; congresschicago.com.

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The current lineup of Green is Eddy Ulm (from left, bass), Jason Mosher (guitar),
Mike Zelenko (drums) and Jeff Lescher (vocals, guitar).
(Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)


Green is one of those bands that should have disappeared long ago. For most of you, they did -- if they ever appeared to begin with.

Fame has been conspiring against Green for 25 years, blockading the band's genre-hopping rock from the business opportunities that could bring wider, non-hipster acclaim, keeping Jeff Lescher and his mates on the wrong side of the velvet rope. But here they are again, the stubborn sons of guns, headlining another local show. How do they still do it? Answer: God bless the Internet.

"The music business used to be very restrictive," Lescher says during a conversation last week at a Wicker Park pub. "If you didn't get the big record deal with one of the big companies, all bets were off. You might subsist for a while but you'd go nowhere. Now it's great when you have direct access to every home in the world through the Internet."

Kings of Leon, 'Come Around Sundown'

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(RCA) 2 and a half stars

leonsundown.jpgTo their credit, even Kings of Leon realized how awful a song their big hit "Sex on Fire" was. In a teleconference with the band earlier this year, they were asked how they felt about certain covers of their songs, like Nick Jonas performing "Use Somebody." Kings of Leon singer Caleb Followill concluded his answer by saying, "It's definitely better than if they were covering that piece of sh-- 'Sex on Fire.' " Publicists were quick to jump in and insist he was kidding. Caleb held his ground, later sneaking in, "And I wasn't joking about that 'Sex on Fire' thing, don't let them convince you of that."

Whether he was kidding or not, his band has made a record that clearly struggles against that very kind of cop out -- and loses.

The rap on alderman races: Rhymefest runs!

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The next municipal election is really getting interesting. After considerable speculation and rumor, Grammy-winning rapper Che "Rhymefest" Smith is set to announce this week he's running for alderman in the 20th Ward, which includes parts of Back of the Yards, Englewood and Woodlawn.

He'll be up against incumbent Willie Cochran. Rhymefest co-wrote "Jesus Walks" with fellow Chicago rapper Kanye West.

As this video advertises, Rhymefest's first campaign event will be 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Exclusively Yours Auto Spa, 5820 S. State.

'Yellow Submarine'? No, Dwight Twilley's 'Green Blimp'

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Writing about these power-pop gods, it demands two posts each time. You need one for the guys -- and they're almost always guys -- who actually know who you're writing about. That's usually, let's see, you, you and definitely the guy in the back with the jean jacket and Chuck Taylors. Then you need one for everyone else, the one where I try in vain to inform without proselytizing and wind up practically berating you, dear reader, for not having discovered this genius before, you slacker.

Rock is littered with underappreciated pros, from Shoes and the Spongetones to Jason Falkner and Brendan Benson, and power pop is its landfill. Dwight Twilley is a name you might even have heard of, once upon a time. Try his biggest hit, 1975's "I'm on Fire" ("and you ain't, you ain't, you ain't got no lover!"). Or his next one, 1984's "Girls," with Tom Petty singing backup. Album after album of this stuff continued well into the '90s, beautifully crafted post-Beatles guitar pop with the consistent affectation of a rockabilly slapback on the vocals.

Elton John and Leon Russell, 'The Union'

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(Decca Records) 3<br />
stars

union.jpgWriting in the liner notes of his new CD collaboration with Leon Russell, his musical hero, Elton John details his U.S. debut in 1970 with Russell in the audience, how the two of them struck up a kinship, toured together and enjoyed initial parallels of fame as rock 'n' roll pianomen. "Anyway," John writes, "then I lost touch with Leon and our paths kind of went different ways."

That's an understatement. By the mid-'70s, all the world knew of John's crocodile rock. His body of work, it was announced last week, has earned him an entire Elton John channel on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Russell, meanwhile, served as maestro of Joe Cocker's notorious Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour, had a big hit with "Tightrope," knocked everyone out with a fiery performance at the Concert for Bangladesh -- and then almost all of us lost touch with Leon. He took a hard right and recorded a straight-up country album ("Hank Wilson's Back," 1973), then turned left for some avant-garde self-exploration ("Stop All That Jazz," 1974). He never stopped recording or touring, but while John eulogized princesses, became the belle of Broadway and sold out in Vegas, Russell was rolling his broken-down bus into tiny bars in small cities.

After a personal revelation last year about how deeply Russell influenced his music, John sought him out after 40 years. They reconnected, made plans to record. It could have been just another hokey duets album for John, 63, but to his credit "The Union" (out Tuesday) reunites the two piano-pounders under his stated and restated intention of injecting Russell, 68, back into at least a tributary of the mainstream.

Liz Phair, 'Funstyle'

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(Rocket Science) 1 star

phair.jpgI refuse to hate Liz Phair. For now. Largely just because so many do, for preposterous nostalgic reasons, but also because she often makes it perilously easy. Hating on Liz is like punching a clown.

"Funstyle," the left-field collection of new songs that Phair released digitally in July (and sees an official CD issue on Tuesday), is a batch of occasionally wacky and frequently uncomfortable songs, full of lyrical in-jokes and sonic experiments. No one knew she had new music; she slipped it onto her website quietly, and for weeks the new songs, particularly the daffy "Bollywood," were roundly bashed, usually in 140 deeply insightful characters or less. It's pretty bad stuff, don't get me wrong -- much of it sounding unfinished, poorly arranged, tossed off -- and probably shouldn't have seen the light of day. But since we got the glimpse of, I'll say it, an artist in progress, I can't help but admire the open-minded moxie of this chick.

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Scott Lucas (right above), to my surprise, is talking about Tom Jones. With more than a little awe.

"Have you heard that new Tom Jones record?" he asks, hopeful, brows raised. "You can see some of what we're talking about in this record. You can see an artist, even at his level, trying to propel himself in a new direction. I saw him on Letterman, doing that Black Keys kinda thing -- with a two-piece!"

What we're talking about: the motivation behind the new Local H album, "Local H's Awesome Mix Tape No. 1" (out on Tuesday), a set of covers. Jones' new album, too, is a rootsy set of spiritual covers, one of which (John Lee Hooker's "Burning Hell") he performed on "Late Night With David Letterman" late in September backed only by a wicked guitarist and a drummer. For 15 years, Local H has been a stalwart fixture of Chicago's bar scene, a two-piece featuring Lucas at the mike and on guitar, paired with drummer Brian St. Clair.

And after all those years writing and performing some truly inspired rock gems (one hit, "Bound for the Floor" in 1996, other greats like "California Songs" and "All the Kids Are All Right," 2008's brilliant breakup album "12 Angry Months"), why did the two succumb to the covers-album cliché?

MASSIVE ATTACK
The electronica duo are about to launch a coast-to-coast tour with Thievery Corporation (which on tour includes Poi Dog Pondering's Frank Orrall on percussion). But before all that, Massive Attack plays a show here without them, supporting the tepidly received new "Heligoland" CD. Opening here will be trip-hop vocalist Martina Topley Bird. 8:30 tonight at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine. Tickets, $40; etix.com.

DEVOTCHKA
Has it been a year already? Chicago's spiffy new venue named for its location, Lincoln Hall, celebrates its one-year anniversary in business this weekend with DeVotchKa, the ear-bending vocal and instrumental ensemble that worked hard for years before you caught up with them on the "Little Miss Sunshine" soundtrack. Also on the bill: Angus & Julia Stone and Chicago's Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. At 8:30 tonight and Saturday at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln. Tickets, $25; lincolnhallchicago.com.

JON LANGFORD'S SKULL ORCHARD
Our Town's omnipresent rascal is back with a new disc, "Old Devils," and is staging a "pre-Halloween party" called the Old Devil's Ball to celebrate. He'll play with his thundering band, Skull Orchard, along with Andre Williams & the Gold Stars, Sally Timms and MC Danbert Nobacon. At9 p.m. Saturday at Martyrs, 3855 N. Lincoln. Tickets, $12; martyrslive.com.

Drake brings the fireworks to the Chicago Theatre

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Drake opens his concert Wednesday night at the Chicago Theatre. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)


It's not supposed to go like this. Rappers are supposed to rise from the inner city and spin tales of thugs and drugs. They're not supposed to stay clean and debut at No. 1, especially when they come from Canada and the Nickelodeon channel. That's practically Justin Bieber's biography.

But it's also sort of Will Smith's biography. So after starring as a basketball player in 138 episodes of TV's "Degrassi: The Next Generation," Aubrey Drake Graham returned last year to his real love: making music. After numerous acclaimed cameos (with the likes of Kanye West, Eminem, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, signing with the latter), and after dropping his first and last names, Drake emerged as the new fresh prince of hip-hop and R&B. His first album this June, "Thank Me Later," debuted at No. 1, and now he's trotting the country on a small theater tour just to show us he's got the goods. He does.

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A month ago, Roger Waters was in Chicago rebuilding Pink Floyd's "The Wall." One of the many themes in that show and its 1979 concept album is the barrier between artist and audience. Waters erects that barrier, building a 30-foot, white-brick manifestation of theater's "fourth wall," behind which his band continues to play. On the other side, the audience is left to watch synced animation projected onto the wall. It's true musical theater.

The Gorillaz ape a similar theatrical approach. A band of cartoon characters, created a decade ago by Blur singer Damon Albarn and "Tank Girl" creator-illustrator Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz presents its live music the way the Wizard of Oz presented his edicts: A screen, sometimes a holographic projector, depicts the larger- and loonier-than-life animated players, and we're to pay no attention to that band behind the curtain making the actual music. Like Waters, the whole conceit began as a way to separate sender and receiver to make a statement about the consumption (or not) of music.

Sufjan Stevens, 'The Age of Adz'

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(Asthmatic Kitty) 2 stars

sufjanadz.jpgWell, c'mon, you knew he wasn't going to stick to the whole "50 states" project, making an album about each one in the union. For that, we'll probably have to settle for Sufjan Stevens' "Michigan" and "Illinoise" albums, plus "The BQE," (which probably qualifies as his New York album). With this eagerly awaited follow-up, after years of distractions (Christmas songs, outtakes, classical forays and more), Stevens faces his considerable tunesmith talents without a gimmick, no high concept to hide behind. He's a free agent, artistically speaking. "I felt burdened by the conceptual weight of my previous records," he recently told The Irish Times. "I just wanted to be straightforward, and it was necessary for me to shake it up a little bit. ... I was getting tired of that self-conscious, rambling psychobabble. I got really sick of myself and my own flawed, epic approach to everything."

Antony & the Johnsons, 'Swanlights'

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(Secretly Canadian) 2 and a half stars

antony.jpgDear, delicate Antony Hegarty -- such a tender boy, still trembling before the spectre of death. On previous albums, he's used his sweet, restrained voice to lament that "His Eyes Are Underneath the Ground" and to wail, beautifully, the woes of being alone when you pass. For "Swanlights," out today (with a corresponding book of Hegarty's visual art), he eventually returns to the same subject but with (whew!) at least a lighter tone.

Also: Solomon Bruke R.I.P., OK Go, Chrissie Hynde

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Sun-Times columnist Dave Hoekstra remembers "the best soul singer of all time," Solomon Burke, who died this weekend in an airport at age 70.

OK Go was in town last night. Yes, they can perform a show without YouTube videos.

Chrissie Hynde was back here last night, too, with her new side project JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys. (It's her third visit after last spring's chat and summer's Lollapalooza stint.) But Chrissie was in a mood.

P.S. Anyone expecting to see the Godsmack show this Friday should keep reading ...

Power to the people: Atlantic Records has scheduled a March 8 release date for Lupe Fiasco's long-delayed third album, "Lasers."

The scheduled fan protests -- organized last week, when the record label still seemed to be stalling on releasing the album two years after Fiasco said it was ready -- will still take place this Friday in Chicago and New York City.

"We're turning it into a victory march," said Chicago protest organizer Dan Winchester on Monday morning, "both celebrating all the hard work and pressure we put on Atlantic and also showing them what it will look like if they try this again -- protesting the two-and-a-half years they basically played around with Lupe's career. ... Luckily for Atlantic, they caved in."

Lupe was explaining the situation last week. Details on the local march here.


The Walkmen do whatever it takes to make a song work

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Much has been made of the retro sound of the Walkmen, sometimes to the dismay of the band. "We do everything we can to sound modern," insists singer Hamilton Leithauser. "It's nobody's intention to sound old-fashioned."

But this goes back further than Leithauser ...

Lupe Fiasco v. Atlantic Records, and a Chicago protest

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The career of Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco is rapidly becoming something like his namesake. After an auspicious debut in 2006 with "Food & Liquor," followed by "The Cool" in 2007, Fiasco fans have waited and waited for the third record. First, it was going to be called "LupE.N.D.," a sprawling three-CD affair. Then we heard, nope, just one album titled "The Great American Rap Album." By the end of 2009, it was to be called "Lasers," and according to Fiasco, it's in the can.

But Atlantic Records is sitting on it. Fiasco has begun speaking publicly against his record label, complaining about the stalemate and offering the usual kafkaesque explanations of the music-industry machinations that frequently stymie an artist ...

In this video, posted this week -- terrible quality, but I promise that's Lupe speaking at that distant podium -- Fiasco is speaking at the Second Regional Academic and Cultural Collaborative in Dayton, Ohio, explaining the "360 deal" now common in the industry, and why he refused to go along with it.

3 shows for the weekend

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RIOT FEST
This week's sixth annual Riot Fest, a citywide punk celebration, blares into the weekend after the opening shot from Naked Raygun with shows at the Congress Theater (Bad Religion headlines tonight, Mighty Mighty Bosstones on Saturday), Subterranean (the Toasters tonight!) and Double Door (catch OFF! on Saturday). But the show to see, if you can secure a ticket, is the Saturday bill at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, featuring another round of the Smoking Popes and the allegedly last Chicago show ever of emo-punk heroes Cap'n Jazz. The band reunited after 15 years earlier this year, but now insists via Facebook and MySpace ("Forget who we are!") that they're wrapping up for good. Music starts at 7 p.m. Tickets: $20. Festival info and tickets: riotfest.org.

JP, CHRISSIE & THE FAIRGROUND BOYS
Chrissie Hynde, the babe with the bangs from the Pretenders, has collaborated briefly with numerous names big and small. But it took a handsome Welsh rascal (JP Jones) to nail her down for a full album, her first full-length project outside the Pretenders. The result is JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys, an album's worth of rootsy songs about star-crossed love and cross-generational heartbreak. Concerts have included some intriguing covers (Bon Iver!). Amy Correia opens. 8 p.m. Sunday at Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Tickets: $25, parkwestchicago.com.

BELLE & SEBASTIAN
Scottish indie-rock darlings Belle & Sebastian return stateside for a 14-city tour, supporting a new album, "Write About Love," which is either a cute pun or a job description. If you haven't caught up with them since their enchanting, melancholy beginning, B&S 2010 is remarkably chipper and cheery, worth rekindling the love. 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets: $42.50, ticketmaster.com

What's the latest buzz word in rock? 'Yo Gabba Gabba!'

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Darryl McDaniels from Run D.M.C. performs live with the "Yo Gabba Gabba!" crew.


Once MTV started cutting out a lot of the M, pop bands began looking for other ways to gig on the small screen. Late-night variety shows sometimes fit the bill, though a guest shot or at least a song placement on "The O.C." or "Beverly Hills, 90210" was better. Today, one of the hottest spots for bands, especially indie-rockers, is Nick Jr.'s "Yo Gabba Gabba."

Now in its third season, the colorful children's show features regular segments from Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh ("Mark's Magic Pictures") and old-school rapper Biz Markie ("Biz's Beat of the Day"). The host is DJ Lance Rock, the orange-clad human overlord to rubbery creatures Muno, Foofa, Brobee, Toodee and Plex. The electric musical company on the show has included the likes of Smoosh, Mark Kozelek, Low, Cornelius, Dean & Britta, the Shins, Tahiti 80, Jason Falkner, the Ting Tings, the Clientele, Hot Hot Heat, Of Montreal, the Bird & the Bee, MGMT, on and on. Just this season, "Yo Gabba Gabba" has featured "Weird Al" Yankovic," Mates of State, Weezer, Mos Def, Solange Knowles and Dr. Dog.

This weekend, the stage version of "Yo Gabba Gabba" returns to Chicago, complete with Biz, Lance and a special guest or two. In theaters, "Yo Gabba Gabba" is more concert than kiddie show. Co-creator Christian Jacobs describes it this way: "It's more like a Flaming Lips concert with potty break in the middle."

Hot Chicago: 10 local bands on the rise

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Chicago is always a hot music town. There may no longer be an easily identifiable Chicago sound, but here's to that. Who wants to hear the same kind of music blaring out of every barroom doorway?

Here are some rising local acts worth checking out -- five (plus five more) working bands poised to not only grab the brass ring in the next few months but maybe even cash it in. These bands are making great new music and minting fans. You should become one of them.

Who should play at Lollapalooza 2011?

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Through Thursday, the folks organizing Lollapalooza are taking your suggestions for which bands they should be booking for next year's annual music fest, scheduled for Aug. 5-7 in Grant Park. This will be the event's 20th anniversary as an entity.

Just click here, fill in up to three names of artists you'd definitely pay the ticket price to see, and let 'em have it. Who knows? They might not only listen but pull it off. (Unless you're after a Smiths reunion ...) Apparently, they have plenty of dough.

Bob Dylan sets Halloween weekend show at the Riv

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Bob Dylan has announced an intimate Halloween-weekend gig here in Chicago: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Riviera Theatre (original post mistakenly said the Vic, but that's a ticket location!).

It's Bob and his band, still on the road like wheezy lil' battery bunnies. Halloween's enough to celebrate, though he's also got the new "Bootleg Series Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos," a collection of Dylan's mid-1960s submissions. (Dig the free download of the "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" demo at Amazon.)

Tickets for the Oct. 30 show are $61 general admission, on sale at 10 a.m. this Saturday (10/9) through etix.com, by calling (800) 514-ETIX, or at the Vic Theatre box office, 3145 N. Sheffield.

Riot Fest: Naked Raygun reloads with Santiago Durango

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sant.jpgSantiago Durango left punk rock to become a lawyer. Riot Mike ditched a law firm to bring guys like Durango back to punk rock. At least for one night.

"I lead a totally different life now. My kids are in school, I have a job. That was my youth and I've moved on," Durango says of his punk rock days. He's speaking from his office in Ottawa, where he's an assistant public defender for the Illinois State Appellate Court. In some ways -- but maybe not in others -- it's a long way from that youth, when he was the founding guitarist for influential Chicago punk band Naked Raygun.

Most of Raygun's original 1980-'83 lineup reunites this week to play one show kicking off the city's sixth annual Riot Fest, a five-day, multi-venue celebration of punk's past and present organized by Riot Mike, a k a Michael Petryshyn, and Cobra Music's Sean McKeough. The band will feature Durango, singer Jeff Pezzati and bassist Camilo Gonzalez. (Original drummer Jim Colao took a bad spill on his bicycle a few weeks ago and can't play; current Raygun drummer Eric Spicer will be behind the kit instead.)

"Personally, I never thought this would happen," Petryshyn says of the Raygun reunion during a separate interview. Durango is just as surprised: "I tell people it's like 'The Godfather,' when Michael says, 'Just when I think I'm out, they grab me and pull me back in!'"


Pictured: The return of Santiago Durango (Photo by Edwina Hay)

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