Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Hip Hop Hooray

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Despite the fact that my roommate had rented the entire first season of Tell Me You Love Me and pizza was on the way, I still managed to peel my rear off the couch last Thursday in time to check out an open mic in Humboldt Park. And despite the fact that I have an unhealthy obsession with Tell Me You Love Me (and pizza, if we’re talking openly here), goddamn am I glad I ditched both in favor of catching the brilliant lyrical stylings of Phillip Morris.
Political and complex with a touch of blistering wit thrown in for good measure, Morris’ brand of hip hop will have you bobbin’ your head on the dance floor…and giving some serious thought to the social injustices featured in his rhymes. Don’t miss his upcoming show, April 4 at Betty’s Blue Star Lounge, where he’ll be taking to the stage with cellist and Tomorrow Music Orchestra member, Lilianna Zofia.

OMG, I just sold shoes to Andrew Bird

And I will feel kinda lame if he ever sees this article about me gushing about him coming into the ol’ shoe store and ordering shoes from our Boston location, but it was kind of amazing. In case you don’t know Andrew Bird lives in Chicago, and was in Squirrel Nut Zippers. I’m not the biggest fan, but he was super nice and totally cute too.

Pitchfork tix on sale Wednesday

The Pitchfork Music Festival is coming back to Union Park this summer — Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20, 2008 — and the tickets go on sale this Wednesday (March 12) at noon CDT. Passes are $65 for a three day-pass, $50 for a Saturday/Sunday two-day pass, and $30 for a single day.

The first announced acts include:

How Many Drummers Does It Take To…

…supply the city of Chicago with drums? Apparently just one. Meet Dave Cohen: Dead-head, drummer, vintage drum dealer, and owner of the coolest collection of drums (and cymbals, and hardware, percussion stuff, and…) that I’ve ever seen.



Dave Cohen and a 24″ ride cymbal

It was a dark and stormy night (really, it was), and I was at the Celtic Knot to see Sexfist. I was looking to buy a couple of cymbals at the time, and I was talking to Gus about how there’s absolutely nowhere in the whole entire city of Chicago to buy drums (Guitar Center doesn’t count). Gus, of course, knows every musician and music-related person around here, and he told me about his friend Dave who has an amazing collection of drums and sells them out of his apartment right up the street. Gus proceeded to call him and tell him that we were coming over. So, at half-past midnight, I was on my way over to some guy’s apartment to bang on a bunch of cymbals.

And what an apartment it is–I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. If you get anything from this post, get Dave’s contact info, and get in touch with him for all of your drumming needs. Whether you’re looking for vintage stuff (read on to see and hear about some really cool vintage stuff), or just reasonably priced non-vintage stuff, he’s got it: 847-UNI-STIK or http://drumshtick.com/drumshtick.html.

But he also happens to be a really cool guy, and he was nice enough to talk to me about stuff like being a founding member of the Dark Star Orchestra, working in the legendary Frank’s Drum Shop downtown, and building this amazing collection. Read on to see the interview, more pictures, and my embarrassing lack of knowledge of Chicago music history.
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"Life’s Too Short Not To Play Music"

Irish Session @ The Celtic Knot 2008-01-22

Folk music isn’t just about some hot hippie chick on a coffee shop stage somewhere singing about candy and flowers and incompetently strumming a guitar.* Sort of like “country”, or “punk” or “I’ll call you”, “folk” means a lot of different things to different people. To me, folk music is about… well, folks. A bunch of folks getting together to play music for some reason other than to perform it.

You may be asking: what’s the point? It’s 2008, and this is Chicago. Am I supposed to go watch this stuff? Do these guys care if I watch it? Why not just stay home and do this instead of making a ruckus at <insert your favorite bar here>? And inevitably: How do I join in? Maybe that last one’s just me…

I’ll be going around and, as long as I can get away with it, talking to the guys and gals that organize this stuff, play it and listen to it. First is Gus Friedlander, a friend of mine who runs the Irish session every Tuesday night at the Celtic Knot pub in Evanston. Gus is a really cool guy who’s been playing music of all kinds for many years around Chicago. He’s got many a great story about many a Chicago musician, past and present, that I can’t print here. But stop by the session some Tuesday, I’m sure he’d be happy to tell you a few. Read on to see what he and some other guys at the Celtic Knot have to say about the session, and some of the questions above.
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Roots Music on Film

I’m sure it’s just coincidence, since it’s just three movies, but I feel like I’m being inundated with roots music documentaries:

Bo Diddly

Electrified is a new documentary about the rise of urban blues out of Maxwell Street and its influence on rock music. The film will premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 25. A companion film, Cheat You Fair, focused on the Maxwell Street Market itself and was shown at the Chicago International Documentary Festival last year. Clips from both movies can be seen on YouTube.

Cannon's Jug Stompers

Chasing Gus’ Ghost is also a new documentary film, about the influence of 1920’s jug band music on the folk music explosion of the 60s and hence on modern rock music. The titular Gus is Gus Cannon, but there’s a whole raft of jug band musicians discussed in the film and plenty of great jug band music. The film will be shown at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Sunday, January 27 as part of a tribute to (and fund-raiser for a grave marker for) jug band musician Will Shade. If you get so excited about jug band music at the showing that you want to try playing some yourself, one of the bands that will be playing at the tribute, the Hump Night Thumpers, is actually a class at Old Town and is open to new members every eight weeks.

Maxwell Street

I grew up reading Daniel Pinkwater‘s children’s books, many of which are set in a thinly disguised Chicago (“Hogtown” and “Baconburg“), populated with eccentric characters of his own creation, like the Chicken Man. Except, of course, that the Chicken Man was real. Man, Chicago’s weird.

(Via a Metafilter post rounding up a ton of Maxwell Street blues performance videos.)

Every Day Is No Longer Halloween

ministry.gifThe wife and I have tickets to see Ministry at the House of Blues on May 8th. It’s the first of two shows in Chicago at the end of the North American leg of the C U LaTour. Frontman Al Jourgensen has stated that the tour and corresponding album, The Last Sucker, will be the final act of Ministry’s thirty-year existence. I mention this partly just to brag about having tickets to the show, but also because it represents the end of an era for me, personally. Ministry is one of the reasons I moved to Chicago in the first place.

I first saw the band in 1992 at Lollapalooza. I remember thinking they were kinda like Nine Inch Nails, only with less whining and more balls. The first Ministry album I bought was Psalm 69, their “breakthrough” record, but I quickly dove backward through The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste, The Land of Rape and Honey, and Twitch. Searching for these recordings I discovered that Ministry and their label, Wax Trax!, had been staples of the alternative music scene in Chicago since the early ’80s.

Coming to Chicago in 1994, I dug into Wax Trax! label-mates like KMFDM, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, and PIG, along with Ministry spin-off bands Revolting Cocks and 1,000 Homo DJs. This was mindblowing music to the Nirvana-listening, flannel-and-Chuck-Taylor-wearing version of myself that existed back then. It was a big enough influence that my wife’s and my first date was a Thrill Kill Kult concert. How cool is that?

So, I’m sad to see Ministry call it quits, but at the same time I know that Al Jourgensen has enough projects in the works to keep me entertained for years to come. And I think it’s fitting that he’s bringing it to a close here, in the city where it all began.

Nerd rock, ahoy!

Jonathan Coulton is coming to town!

He’s the folk rocker you like even though you hate folk rock. All his songs are about super villains, zombies, web coding, and the Kraken. Sound too hipster-y? Well, he doesn’t come off that way. The man’s style is sincere and literate, and he’s recommended by acclaimed humorist, Daily Show regular, and regular collaborator John Hodgman. There’s an endorsement even troubadour-haters can appreciate.

Local Gal Makes Good

Local rapper Kid Sister, aka Melissa Young has been packing them in at various spots around Chicago, many times playing with her brother who is one-half of the DJ group Flosstradamus. The 27 year-old’s “Pro Nails” has been making the rounds at clubs and elsewhere. The song features a few lines from Chicago’s most popular rap star Kanye West, who also took some time out to join in the video shoot.

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