Ctrl – Alt - Rock
May Or May Not
at Schubas Tavern (3159 N. Southport)
on Thursday, February 16th, 2006 at 8 PM
Chicagoist.com presents its first live music event, Ctrl – Alt – Rock, at Schubas Tavern on Thursday, February 16th, 2006.
After more than a year and a half of blogging about Chicago's innovative music scene, Chicagoist, in conjunction with Tankboy Productions, joins the fray with a live show featuring three Chicago bands on the rise: The Assembly, May Or May Not and Alphabet.
The Assembly is riding a wave of acclaim thanks to their 2005 album Commencement that combines Brit rock influences with that distinctive Chicago guitar crunch. For fans of shimmering guitars, melodious vocals and wanderlust musings, May Or May Not comes on like lo-fi indie pop that's been making out with the sounds of 70s AM radio. Lastly, Alphabet brings a Bowie-meets-Beck-after-being
-hit-with-Pixies-guitar-lines aesthetic to the evening.
With a name that's geek speak for restarting your computer, Ctrl – Alt – Rock brings Chicagoist's sensibility to Chicago's live music scene. "We wanted a name that would let our readers know that this isn't just another rock show," says Scott Smith, Chicagoist's associate editor for arts and entertainment. "Ctrl-Alt-Rock will be a uniquely Chicagoist event with all of the snarky charm our readers have come to expect from us."
1/27 The Spill Canvas, Hit the Lights @ Beat Kitchen
1/27 Gil Mantera's Party Dream @ Empty Bottle
1/27 Low, His Name is Alive @ Logan Square Auditorium
1/27 Her Majesty's Ship, Bill Dolan (of 5ivestyle) @ Marty's
1/27 Feist, Jason Collett @ Park West
1/28 Treaty of Paris, Quietdrive @ Beat Kitchen
1/28 Healthy White Baby, Bang! Bang!, The Dirty Things @ Double Door
1/28 The Life and Times, The Narrator, The Plastic Constellations @
1/28 Wax on Radio, Hanalei @ Metro
1/28 Mark Mallman, Love Story in Blood Red @ Schuba's
1/28 Radiant Darlings, Notes and Scratches @ Subterranean
1/29 I Can Make A Mess Like Nobody's Business, Owen @ Beat Kitchen
1/29 Jeff Hanson, Southerly @ Empty Bottle
See, there really is no excuse to stay in this weekend. The concert schedule in Chicago is exploding to a summer-like echelon already. And get in line for these upcoming shows. Tickets go on sale Saturday.
Jenny Lewis @ Park West 3/14
Magic Numbers @ Double Door 4/1
Metric @ Metro 4/13
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult @ Double Door 3/4
The Gossip/Comet Gain @ Abbey Pub 3/30
The National @ Double Door 3/24
And in mysterious ticket sale news:
Yesterday the Chicago Reader posted on its Early Warnings page a listing for the Pitchfork Music Festival, July 29-30 in Union Park. The purchase tickets link leads to the Pitchfork site, which has no information whatsoever about the event. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Pitchfork confirmed that last year’s Intonation Fest would be returning this summer under the Pitchfork moniker, and that a lineup would be announced in the coming weeks. Hmm. Might we be jumping the gun? It’s not even Valentine’s Day, people. Guess we’ll have to wait and see how secretive Pitchfork does or does not want to be with this one.
Eliot Lipp: Well, I used what I had to work with and at the time I couldn't afford anything fancy so yeah, most of my music so far has been made on used or borrowed gear.
RFC: What was the hardest thing about making the new album?
EL: Staying seated long periods of time.
RFC: What’s one thing you want people to take away from this record?
EL: A receipt...ha ha. No, I want people to hear the connections I'm trying to make between different styles that don't know each other.
RFC: Where do you feel most comfortable? Live at the club or in the studio?
EL: I feel about the same in both spots. I guess since nobody is looking at me in the studio I'm more comfortable there, but I'm pretty much trying to do the same thing in both places, which is to come up with interesting sounds and create a moment with music.
RFC: How did you become involved with Hefty?
EL: My boy Ray booked me at Danny's and I gave him a CD after the show and he said he wanted to play it for John (owner of Hefty). Soon afterward John called and asked about what I was up to and we really clicked.
RFC: What can we expect from the upcoming Immediate Action
show at Sonothque? Will you be spinning or doing a live set?
EL: I'm doing a live P.A. with two analog synths and
whatever else I can fit on the plane.
RFC: What is/was your New Year’s resolution?
EL: To make it another year with no job. and to play a
shitload of shows. I also want to make another full
RFC: Album you listened to most in 2005:
EL: It's a tie between the analord saga and Elzhi's "witness my growth" mixtape.
RFC: What is the future of electronic music?
EL: Titties, drugs, dance music, Rap, parties, the machinedrum and the monomachine, the 303 and the 606, the 808 and the 909.
RFC: What do you miss about Chicago?
EL: Good beer on tap everywhere. Girls wearing scarves.
RFC: What don’t you miss about Chicago?
EL: The Hollywood Grill and rats.
Eliot Lipp co-headlines Friday night's Immediate Action night at Sonotheque with West Coast experimental hip-hop producer Daedelus. Opening DJ sets will be provided by Six8 the Jah Breaker, Charlie Cooper of Telefon Tel Aviv and Slicker. Show starts at 9pm, cover is $10. Sonotheque is located at 1444 W. Chicago.
Cloud Cult’s bio reads like a Dave Matthews Band script in a perfect world, and I’m sure most people who read it as their introduction to the band never bother giving the music a chance to expound. Those who know the music before the story think that there must be two Cloud Cults roaming America, because the last time we heard a musician talk about his solar-powered recording studio, he finished his lecture by propping his acoustic guitar on his knee, tightening his ponytail and inviting his barefoot life-partner onstage to warble about weeping birds and weeping sunshine and weeping rivers. Surely Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult, who plants trees to compensate for his car’s CO2 emissions and who uses recycled CD jewel cases, cannot be the Craig Minowa of Cloud Cult who samples The Princess Bride and who plays with a drum machine and who sings in robotic rage, “Why you always gotta be pissin’ on me?”
But they are the very same, which is what makes Cloud Cult a manifestation of the fresh air it strives to protect. It’s not unique to complain about the president, but it is unique for a band with a political agenda to truly believe what it says it believes; to trade exposure and money and ease for obscurity and duct-taped guitar straps and hard work; to trade safe, stale, mainstream pseudo folk-rock for an organically electronic, eclectic folk flavor that reeks of quirkiness and innovation.
I would hope that a Cloud Cult show would offer as much surprise and schizophrenia as a Cloud Cult album, but unfortunately the performance in question was tame and lacked the effervescence befitting a band bent on progressive activism. This isn’t to say that the show was ordinary or boring or shoddy; this is to say that the set was skewed towards an acoustic folk sound that didn’t do Cloud Cult’s spectrum-spanning genius justice. For an act that can run in veins with anyone from Animal Collective to the Flaming Lips to Bright Eyes, the show was one-dimensional and modest.
In addition to Minowa, Cloud Cult’s live band consists of drummer Dan Greenwood, cellist Sarah Young, bassist Matthew Freed and a pair of painters who use the music as motivation to create pieces of art throughout the duration of the show. At 11:40 the hobbit-esque Minowa, barefoot in rolled up jeans that exposed his tree tattoo, opened the set with a new tune, which featured him solo on an acoustic guitar, singing in sweet, sad pop fashion, “Someone sing us a song to make us feel like the coolest kid on the first day of school.”
From here the band moved into the up-tempo “Living on the Outside of Your Skin,” and the painters rose from their sitting positions to begin their compositions while Freed jammed coolly on his bass, Young yielded an eerie cello line, Greenwood pounded with harnessed passion and Minowa played happily his wahing guitar and banged lovingly on his keyboard. The performance was not without excitement, but that magical element that makes Cloud Cult’s recorded material so invigorating seemed to be missing.
Simply stated, this missing factor may have been no more than a synthesizer or a laptop. Tunes like “On the Sun” and “Breakfast with My Shadow” lost their eccentric Wayne Coyne-like feel for a more acoustic, epic quality. And other featured songs, including the foot-stomping “Washed your Car” and the bluegrass jam “My Son is Watching” were undeniably exuberant, but contributed to a uniformly folk-country feel. Cloud Cult’s productive drum machine was only invoked on one or two songs, and we didn’t get a good dose of its oddball electronic pop until the closer, “Happy Hippo.” With just four musicians and no electronic gizmos outside a keyboard and a simple console at Minowa’s feet, it was impossible for them to mimic the intricacies produced in their studio. And even though their presence added a layer of eccentricity to the show, I just longed for the painters to put fold up their easels and open up their iMacs.
To belittle Cloud Cult’s show seems unfair and is not the intention of this review. Indeed, the band sounded incredible and exuded a vibe to send the weariest of souls to the upper regions of bliss. The crowd was attentive and showed faithful solidarity by screaming out song titles and ecstatic oh-my-gods. Those less familiar with the band’s studio work were blown away by Cloud Cult’s passionate and familiar-yet-peculiar sound. And those who went into the show frightened they would be subjected to leftist propagandizing shenanigans were pleased by the subdued, carefree tone, the same tone that is at the root of my disappointment. I was probably in the minority, but I wanted rage and proselytizing and outlandish stunts. But mostly I wanted brought from studio to stage the figurative and literal electricity, the beautifully personal, bizarrely poignant neurosis that motivates this band to sample state of the union addresses and babbling babies.
Robert Pollard - From A Compound Eye (Merge)
Bazilionth release from the indie rock veteran, but this one's notable as his first major album since the disbanding of Guided by Voices. True to form, Bob leaves not a note on the cutting room floor and ends up with a 26-song double CD.
Tortoise and Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat)
Tortoise and Will Oldham team up for a unique covers album featuring tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Minutemen, Elton John and Richard Thompson.
Other fine releases this week:
Clearlake - Amber (Domino)
Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control (Kill Rock Stars)
The National Trust - Kings and Queens (Thrill Jockey)
Pearls and Brass - Indian Tower (Drag City)
Saint Etienne - Tales from Turnpike House (Savoy Jazz)
Test Icicles - For Screening Purpose Only (Domino)
Town & Country - Up Above (Thrill Jockey)
Speaking of which, the big news from the basement of Santa Monica College this month is that KCRW has now launched video Podcasts of their popular Morning Become Eclectic live sessions. Available via iTunes, AOL music and KCRW.com, the first video Podcasts featured were past live sessions from Kate Earl and Si Sé. Starting today, last November's session with the Arctic Monkeys will be made available.
Smashing Pumpkins are strongly rumoured to be reforming this summer for live shows - with Coachella touted as their comeback. Singer Billy Corgan has made no secret of the fact he wants to reform his old band, and NME.COM has learned the band are set to make their comeback at the Californian festival on April 30. Writing recently on his webpage, Corgan hinted reformation plans were coming along. "The surprise I have in store for you all will be announced soon enough," he said. "Hold on to your horses. After all, good things surely comes to those who wait....Don't you just love the suspense?"
Tonight (1/20) at Fitzgerald's, 8pm
Jay Farrar, Robbie Fulks, Corky Siegel, Bakelite 78, Devil in a Woodpile and more.
Tonight (1/20) at The Abbey, 9:30pm
New Duncan Imperials, Mr. Rudy Day, Diamond Jim Greene
Sunday at The Hideout
Noon - Kids Show featuring Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan and Nora O'Connor (sold out)
8pm - Califone, Grimble Grumble, Edith Frost and Chris Mills
Wednesday at The Abbey, 9pm
Jeff Tweedy and Devil in a Woodpile (sold out)
Thursday at Martyrs', 8pm
Kelly Hogan, Jim and Dave Boquist & Mike Heidorn, Eric Noden, Sleepydog and Lush Budgett
Next Friday (1/27) at Schubas, 9:30pm
Bottle Rockets, Tijuana Hercules and Great Crusaders
Saturday, Feb 4th at The Hideout, 4:30pm
Freakwater, Jim Elkington and Deanna Varagona
Remember those guys in high school? The ones who never sat in the cool back corner, but always in the neutral zone a few rows in and halfway up? There was the shy, unassuming doorknob guy, only recognizable because he hung out with the other two: the frantic klutz whose adorableness made his geekiness incomprehensible, and the nerd oh-so-aware and unconcerned about his nerdiness that he played into it. They went unnoticed for years. Then at the senior talent show this trio took the stage and it was a minute into their rendition of “Baba O’Riley” before anyone realized who they were. But as recognition dawned across the auditorium the room was filled with and odd surge of excitement because, hey, these guys were actually good. They were fucking cool. They were fucking rock stars! Who knew these nobodies had lives outside of honors freshman bio?
The feeling of this show was a little like that. Keith Murray (guitar/vocals), Chris Cain (bass/moustache), and Michael Tapper (drums) weren’t those guys in high school, they’re those guys right now. Every club they enter turns into a finally-legal birthday basement bash, and they’re the quirky fellows rockin’ out in the corner by the water heater. But their quirkiness really only goes as far as Cain’s goggles, and then it’s all cute, passionate power pop.
The Subterranean isn’t a basement but it possesses a similar charm with the claustrophobia-inducing layout and the spiral staircase that leads from the “backstage” area down to the main stage. The crowd, two-parts rapturous and one-part curious, packed into this room, waiting for their enthusiasm to be vindicated or their skepticism to be confirmed/denied. After teasing us with dangling feet, the Scientists emerged from their secret lair and, once Cain’s protective eyewear was in place, jumped into “This Scene is Dead” with the gusto of quiz bowl champs outwitting an oblivious student council president. From there they went off running through the entirety of With Love and Squalor, plus a few other tunes to get the heads bobbin’, including a perfectly sweet rendition of The Ronnette’s “Be My Baby.”
Murray knew how to find that perfect point between pretentious rock star and delightfully geeky artist that makes for enticing stage presence. On rockers like “Can’t Lose” and “Callbacks” he held onto the mike for dear life, screaming with a seductive hip shake and loose guitar stroke. This suave seduction only held up because it wasn’t impenetrable. His zealous jaunts around the stage caused a few stumbles, and his trek down the spiral stairs for the encore nearly ended with a nosedive into and amp. More than a few times his solid vocals were spiced with giggles that could be interpreted as nerves or excitement, and sometimes he seemed utterly shocked that people actually recognized the songs he was singing, or that anyone was there to hear him sing at all. One of the best moments of the night came during “Textbook,” on which Murray’s voice was endearingly crackling and a touch off-key, when he took his first look up at the balcony and made the slightest flinch and laugh, apparently surprised by the captivated faces he saw there.
But we were all there, even us who admittedly aren’t completely sold on With Love and Squalor. As that freshman bio teacher used to say, we are all scientists, and I’m not sure there was one person in that crowd who wasn’t observing with keen attention and inquisitive lust every move these fellows made. While an animated Murray rocked around the stage, Tapper created a solid focal point as one of the most calm (but by no means listless) pop rock drummers I’ve ever seen, concentrating his passion into every hit. Cain, despite (because of?) his moustache and goggles, was a more subdued, romantic counterpart. When he wasn’t bantering with Murray and the crowd he was eyeing his bass lovingly and singing his harmonies with a debonair enthusiasm to rival any Errol Flynn climax.
We Are Scientists are a conundrum. Their music is sprightly emo appealing to the sixteen-year-old in all of us, yet their live show harnesses this youthful energy to create passion only an older (like, twenty-sixish) crowd could appreciate. If I had seen them when I was sixteen I would have just fallen in love with Keith Murray and that would have been the end of it. I wouldn’t have appreciated the tight sound, the controlled energy exploding like a post-teen yearning anxiously for more time. We Are Scientists have high school hearts in the bodies and minds of college grads, and you aging hipsters can dismiss all you want that their sound is just the next buzz wave of power pop, but when they hit the stage your head’s going to swirl in an addictive giddiness where reminiscence and carpe diem collide, and you’ll wonder why you ever lost faith in the miraculous powers of simple pop rock fun.
If you're not familiar with the project, The Executioner’s Last Songs was a three-volume set of old American "songs of murder, mob-law, & cruel, cruel punishment" recorded with Langford's Pine Valley Cosmonauts and other Bloodshot recording artists to raise support for the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The MCA show will be a "music-theater" performance combining music from the collection with writing and visual art by Langford. The show starts at 7:30pm both nights, tickets are $22. The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 220 East Chicago Ave., for more info visit www.mca.org.
Turns out it was just one guy spinning the whole time, Alexander Barck...at least while I was there. Barck's set was great, but I only stuck around for about an hour because I experienced yet another "curse of the opening band."
The show was listed as 10pm, so as the headliners, I figured that Jazzanova wouldn’t be going on stage until after midnight. However, I was still a little shocked when I arrived and saw the set list on the door that said they’d be starting at 1:30a. It wasn’t even midnight at this point and I had absolutely no desire to see the opening band, Tortured Soul, so we headed next door to the Ginger Man tavern to kill some time.
I walked back over to Metro about 1, but the damn opener was still playing. A trio that “plays live soulful house,” the gimmick of Tortured Soul is that they play dance music with live instruments (drums, bass, keyboards) instead with computers, drum machines and turntables. Practically from their name alone, I knew I was going to hate their sound, and sure enough, they were even worse than I imagined. Two kinds of music that I can’t stand are jam bands and mainstream dance, and Tortured Soul were a torturous combination of both. I almost completely bailed, but opted to loiter in the lobby until it was time for Jazzanova to come on.
Like I said, Barck's set was good, but the long wait and having to endure a bad opener sucked out all my energy so I didn't have nearly as good of a time as I thought I would. The crowd was also oddly thin for a major Metro headliner, as everybody left after Tortured Soul. For the most part, this was a good thing as the Tortured Soul fans were even more annoying than the band was. However, it was kind of weird to see the floor so empty on a Friday night and it dampened the energy of the show quite of bit.