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Lupe Fiasco talks Chicago violence, his own future

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Rapper Lupe Fiasco in a moment of thought during an interview
Oct. 1 in the Sun-Times offices.
(Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)


Lupe Fiasco was in town last week -- for some promotional events around the release of his latest album, "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Part 1" -- and he stopped on a street corner to snap a photo with his phone. A mother recognized him and approached him, he says, telling him she encouraged her son to listen to Fiasco's hip-hop because of its positive messages.

Then she added that a teenage boy shot and killed the previous weekend was her son's best friend, and the boy died in her son's arms.

"That was this morning. I wasn't asking for that ... I didn't go out reaching out for that. I didn't go on Twitter and say, 'Tell me your saddest story that happened to you this weekend.' I was in the road taking pictures," Fiasco says. "So it's that visceral."

SCrunner.jpgThe Sea & Cake, "Runner" (Thrill Jockey) 4<br />
stars -- The Sea & Cake is the sound of 21st-century Chicago. In a metropolis slowly but surely evolving beyond its big-shouldered blues legacy, this artful, deceptively easygoing quartet remains a big tent of influences (plus rich collaborative resum├ęs) while remaining relentlessly consistent; regardless of how they may color their edges, the Sea & Cake always sound like themselves: crisp, clean, humble, utterly modern. Technically, yes, they're post-rock, but without the sonic cubism common to bands usually saddled with that hyphen. "Runner," their ninth full-length (and a swift follow-up to last year's expressive EP, "The Moonlight Butterfly"), is another cool lake breeze -- 10 more songs worthy of careful listening (each player is vital, inextricable, wholly present in the mix) or just as easily employed as zone-out music on the L. Supple grooves, subtle electronics, guitar artistry, singer Sam Prekop's long, sweet sighs -- the city's perfect band.
In concert: The Sea & Cake is scheduled Oct. 29 at City Winery.

Video: Wilco's Jeff Tweedy learns ... Jeff Tweedy

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Like any musician, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy has his pre-show rituals. In the case of this video, they involve learning a bunch of his old songs he's about to play on stage.

"Rituals" (subtitle: "What Do People Do Before Their Big Moment") is a new series of brief video documentaries from Thrash Lab, part of Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Network, showcasing musicians in revealing moments on and off stage. The latest piece catches up with Tweedy in March at the Vic Theater, preparing for his annual youth scholarship benefit show.

Contest song not out to replace 'Go, Cubs, Go'

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Relax, sports fans. Steve Goodman's iconic Wrigley Field anthem isn't about to go, Cubbies, go.

A WGN Radio songwriting contest this spring "in search of the next great Cubs anthem" panicked certain die-hard Chicago Cubs fans, who assumed the radio station was out to replace Goodman's ballpark classic, "Go, Cubs, Go."

Chicago's Kickback is a pop bribe worth taking

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Billy Yost has a lot to live for, but he sure thinks about death a lot.

His band, the Kickback, has been toughing it out on Chicago's scene for a few years now, earning word-of-mouth raves and landing at least one worthwhile prize: On Monday the Kickback starts a monthlong, weekly Practice Space residency at Schubas. The gigs will serve as something of a honeymoon -- two days before the residency begins, Yost is getting married.

Yost, however, talks like the Woody Allen of Chicago indie rock.

"I was in the shower one day and I just had the realization that I was going to die," Yost says. "I watched Warren Zevon on David Letterman's show talking about how he was going to die when he had cancer, and something just clicked -- these waves of massive panic. I don't want to not be alive. It seems hilarious to bring up in polite conversation. I haven't been able to find a way to deal with that. It's definitely informed the music of late."

Canasta hoping for winning hand in Mongolia

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canastaclothes.jpgSome bands say "world tour," and it means they've booked Vancouver immediately after Seattle. Chicago chamber-pop band Canasta is taking their show overseas -- to Mongolia.

The excursion is part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Arts Envoy Program. The tour begins Feb. 3 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's capital, and continues to Sainshand and Dalanzadgad before returning to Ulaanbaatar a week later.

Via Chicago: Secret Colours, 'EP3'

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coloursep3.jpgBy a certain age, hearing wide-eyed kids making "trippy" music begins to fray one's patience. But then comes the occasional band with real smarts lurking and maybe smirking behind the smoky haze and glassy-eyed gazes. Chicago's Secret Colours is one of those. The sextet's latest "EP3" (3<br />
and a half stars), a fine five-song follow-up to its 2010 self-titled debut, drones seductively with hallucinogenic grooves but enough comfy pop hooks to keep us from slipping into a bad trip.

First-ever video from Umphrey's McGee, 'Booth Love'

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Chicago jam band Umphrey's McGee has been around more than 15 years and recently released its 12th album, "Death by Stereo," and first for Dave Matthews' ATO record label. In all that time, the sextet has developed a visually arresting stage production -- but they've never made a video.

Until now. Today the band premieres its first video -- for "Booth Love," one of the first singles released ahead of "Death by Stereo." The video, directed by Travis Rime Brooks, showcases a glorious summer day in Chicago, following three roller-skating sirens through the city, complete with champagne at Wrigley Field.

See the new video here ...

Acclaimed Diane Izzo remembered in tribute concert

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6715.jpgDiane Izzo is still speaking. Call her partner, Marco Zas, and if he's not home, the voice of the late Chicago singer-songwriter still invites you to leave a voicemail message.

"I don't know how to change it," Zas chuckles, then stops. "Even if I did, I probably still wouldn't do it."
Izzo died in February after a grueling battle with cancer, but her voice -- and her acclaimed songs -- still resonates with fans and especially musicians throughout Chicago and beyond.

As part of the announcement of this weekend's First Annual Diane Izzo Memorial Concert -- subtitled with a line from one of her songs, "Venice": "Yeah We're Pitiful but We're Gods!" -- local luminaries chimed in with memories and praise for Izzo's underappreciated talents.

(Photo by Jim Newberry)

(Wind-Up) 2 and a half stars

company052411.JPGLiz Phair's comeback didn't exactly stick, Sarah McLachlan's revival of Lilith Fair tanked and Sheryl Crow's pretty much gone country. What's a fan of strong '90s women in rock to do? Check out Company of Thieves, a Chicago band led by Genevieve Schatz, a small woman and a big voice.

With the lungs of Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde) and the lilt of Dolores O'Riordan (the Cranberries, but without her trademark falsetto break, thank heavens), Schatz is a dynamo on record and on stage belting in front of this basic but bold rock band. She writes the literate lyrics, too -- the popular single from 2009 debut "Ordinary Riches," after all, was "Oscar Wilde" -- and the new single "Death in Communication" frames a miserable relationship with some keen allusions ("Honestly, my honesty was always what I gave for taking your bread / I never thought you would have hung it high above as you did over my head").

Thomas Conner

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

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