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Girlyman Hearts Their Fans

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Photo by Stephanie Richardson and Jeff Steinmetz

John Stamos may be tweeting backstage passes to Beach Boys fans and Lady Gaga personally Facebooking with followers, but in this moment of increasing celebrity accessibility, folk group Girlyman can honestly say they did it first and maybe with more integrity.

Formed in 2001, the band has always maintained a close relationship with their supporters, arguably grounds for their consistently swelling fan base. However, according to band member Ty Greenstein, it was member Doris Muramatsu’s 2010 leukemia diagnosis, that further solidified that unique connection. Now in addition to down to earth post-gig conversations and personally mailed CDs, the girly people have begun openly blogging about everything from body dysmorphia to musical self-doubt.

While on tour, Greenstein spoke with Our Town about Muramatsu’s positive prognosis, recent addition, JJ Jones and why the band will never change its name.

Our Town Most bands say the secret to maintaining a good working relationship is time apart, but Girlyman socializes on and off the road. Why does it work?
Ty Greenstein We really are best friends, soul mates who share a life path. The bond was personal first. Our lives lined up in this incredible way so we get to be in a band together and take our life lessons into our work. That's really how it happened, not the other way around where a band of random musicians gets together and hopes they have some personal chemistry. In some ways the band is a theater where we can play out all our dynamics and work through whatever comes up, which we're all committed to doing. If things feel good in the relationships, the music also feels solid, and if personal revolutions are happening, I think you can hear it in the music or see it in the shows.

OT Recently you added JJ to the group. Was the addition as seamless as it appeared?
TG It really was. I forget she's a newcomer; we all laugh at the same jokes, obsess over good food, and have long conversations about the meaning of life. Her vision for the band is very much in line with ours; we want to keep opening people up in all kinds of ways with music, and basically just have fun and keep growing. But she also has a freshness to her approach and a perspective that having done this for almost ten years, we sometimes lack. Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have gotten this far.

OT You famously have a very open relationship with your fans. Any regrets?
TG After Doris was diagnosed in November, that kind of blew the whole thing open. We were all personally shaken and humbled. I was facing the mortality of my best friend of thirty years, plus the specter of an end to the band and my career. I didn't care anymore about arbitrary divisions between "performer" and "fan," and frankly, the fans helped get us through. They wrote to us, prayed and visualized for us, sent packages and donations and inundated Doris with love. Everyone should have that kind of support network when the sh*t hits the fan. We know how lucky we are, and how special our fans are.

OT How is Doris?
TG She's doing really great, responding very well to the drug she's on. She's active and for the most part, leads a normal life. This is largely thanks to the incredible advances in CML treatment over the past ten years. The drug she's on was only approved as a first-line treatment a month before her diagnosis, talk about being born at the right time. These targeted therapies have turned CML from a terminal disease where people had a few years at most, to a chronic illness that just needs to be managed. At her three-month checkup, Doris went from 100% leukemic cells at diagnosis down to 4%.

OT What was the personal and professional impact on the band?
TG In six words or less, it has put everything into perspective. Doris started keeping a blog about her health on CaringBridge, and then we basically turned our whole website into a blog where we post our thoughts about life in general, in addition to pictures and videos of the band in action and behind the scenes. I think the whole "fame" thing has been transformed in a great way with social networking and real time interaction via the internet. Everyone is just a person now, and we're sharing our lives.

OT What can fans do to help?
TG Please keep coming to the shows. And if you want to make a donation to Doris or to the band, you can do so at http://girlyman.com/donate/

OT Careers in the arts can be rife with disappointment. Any derailing early experiences you could share?
TG Plenty. Before Girlyman, when it was just me and Doris as the Garden Verge, we once played a gig where so few people came that not only didn't we make anything but we had to pay the sound guy his fifty bucks out of our own pockets. Then when Girlyman formed, there were plenty of places that wouldn't book us, even for free. Those early days can be pretty rough. I've blocked out a lot of it. We once played a whole show to one person. That was pretty special.


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Mayer Hawthorne & The County
7:30 p.m. at Subterranean; $17
With his confident onstage demeanor and smooth velvety voice, Andrew Cohen (aka Mayer Hawthorne), has quickly become one of Stones Throw’s most popular artists. Since his first performance in Chicago at the darkroom, Cohen has done a good job embracing the character of Hawthorne, which initially started out as a tongue-in-cheek way to impress close friends. His last performance at North Coast Music Festival was particularly impressive as he displayed a knack for controlling a large-scale crowd without compromising his laidback MO. At this point in his career it seems like fans are ready for Cohen to take things up a notch, and his performance at Sub-T will be a perfect place for him to do so. (J. Min)

Traces
2:30 and 8 p.m. at Broadway Playhouse; $33-$97
"Traces" features several boys and one girl performing acrobatic feats in a grungy faux loft while wearing pinstripe pants and white shirts, as if this is just what they do after they're done being paralegals. Watch out for the male pas-de-deux, which combines sweaty badassery with the kind of homo-eroticism that even straight people can enjoy.

Marshall Krenshaw
8 p.m. at SPACE; $17-$20
The makers of 1987's "La Bamba" were careful to get the music right in their film bio of Ritchie Valens, with Los Lobos supplying the playing for the title character and Marshall Crenshaw doing a spot-on take on Buddy Holly. Nearly 25 years later, Crenshaw remains one of the preeminent purveyors of buoyant, old-school pop with hooks that bury themselves in your head and wry wordplay. Talented local singer-songwriter Phil Angotti opens. (Mike Clark)

3 Things To Do Today

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anders_osborne200.jpgAnders Osborne

Anders Osborn
8 p.m. at SPACE; $20-$34
Born Swedish and transplanted 'Nawlins, Osborne fell for Southern blues in his youth, when '70s soul was seeping into its stream. He can be compared favorably with Springsteen and Van Morrison, gifted with both electric crunch and a clean, bright howl. The singer/guitarist is now housed on Alligator Records, aging like blues-out David Gray in his somber moments, and Ben Harper in his fury. (Gavin Paul)

Taste of Andersonville Dinner Crawl
6 p.m. at Swedish American Museum; $25-$55 (tickets)
Foodies delight in this dinner crawl, which features two different routes with 11 neighborhood restaurants each. Spots include Andies Restaurant, Edgewater Lounge, Fireside Restaurant, George's Ice Cream and Sweets, Piatto Pronto, Charlie's Ale House, The Coffee Studio, Hamburger Mary's, The Wooden Spoon and a bunch more. Get tickets in advance and save 10 bucks. And if you’re feeling extra hungry, you can go on both tours.

Hellsent, Robust, DJ Dallas Jackson
10 p.m. at Subterranean; $7
Long before Chicago broke into the mainstream with the Cool Kids, Kanye, Lupe and post Electric Circus Common, there was the Galapagos4 camp and their intoxicating brand of heady lyricism. Hellsent is a relative newcomer to the label, releasing his solo debut Rain Water in 2006, but his lyrical grit has fit right in with G4's style of play since his early days with the Outerlimitz. His newest album False Profit is a critical analysis of mainstream rap and its inability to separate itself from its monetary roots. His performance at Sub-T will be in celebration of his new album, and label mates Robust and DJ Dallas Jackson will be in full support. (J Min)

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Idris Goodwin, Kevin Coval, Serengeti

8 p.m. at SPACE; $8-$18
With the line between lyricism and poetry being so fine, it's not uncommon to see MCs express themselves in both hip-hop ciphers and academic arenas alike. Idris Goodwin, Kevin Coval and Serengeti are just those types of artists, and their respective bodies of work have done more than change the landscape of hip-hop. Each one is accomplished in his own right, and it'll be interesting to see all three of them share the stage with their own style of wordplay. Idris Goodwin (an NEA award-winning writer) may be the headliner (the show's a release party for his new album, "Break Beat Poems") but openers Kevin Coval (co-founder of Louder Than a Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Slam Festival) and Serengeti (of Anticon) will make this an all-around solid display of lyrical excellence.

What the Hell Do You Know About Afghanistan?
8 p.m. at Hideout; $10 requested donation
Iraq Veterans Against the War presents this series of shorts, skits, stories and performances will provide some background about the country that the U.S. has occupied for over nine years. It can't hurt to get more informed, can it?

The Magnetic Fields
7:30 p.m. at Harris Theater for Music and Dance; $30-$35
Stephin Merritt's infamous indie-pop quartet submits another pared-down performance at the Millennium Park venue tonight. The band's latest, Realism, concludes its 'no-synth' trilogy -- so expect a folky, organic experience. Multilingual Canadian artist Laura Barrett opens.

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You'll be floored by this fiddler. (photo via MySpace)

Sara Watkins
8 p.m. at SPACE; $15-$25
Best known as the fiddler for CMT starlets, Nickel Creek, Watkins hit the solo ground running with the enlistment of John Paul Jones as producer and a barnhouse full of collaborators - from Gillian Welch to Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench. Though she stacks the deck with accessible covers of Jimmie Rodgers, Jon Brion and Tom Waits tunes, Watkins follows up with genuine arrangements that make old-time country feel new again.

Chicago International Movies & Music Festival
7:30 p.m. at St. Paul's Cultural Center, 2215 W. North; $20
The four-day fest kicks off tonight with an opening party featuring Chicago premiere screenings of "Universalove" and "William S. Burroughs: A Man Within" plus musical performances by Thee Majesty and Penny Arcade.

Forgotten Chicago Silent Auction & Giveaway
8 p.m. at Cunneen's; free
Join Forgotten Chicago -- an organization aimed at finding and celebrating the city's lesser known architecture and infrastructure -- in celebrating Chicago's 173rd birthday tonight with an auction of "books, photography and ephemera." RSVP on Facebook.

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