The thing with spoken word pieces is that you have to sit still and pay attention, and while that can be tough to carve out time for, “God In Chicago” makes it worth your while. “Her mom found her brother, then she found a container wrapped up in a newspaper stuffed in a duffle bag with hockey pads and seven grand in rubber bands.” As far as opening sentences go, that’s a pretty great start to a story. You might be able to guess where it goes from there: she calls the narrator and they drive to Chicago to sell the contents of the container and have a night on the town.
Craig Finn says, “It’s a story about a guy and a girl pushed together to try to fix a problem. In doing so, they push into unchartered territory for both of them. Going to a bigger city without supervision for the first time is a huge moment, no matter how you get there. I was trying to capture that. Also, I wanted to show how easy it is sometimes to take a break, if briefly, from our regular lives.”
I remember being a teenager and driving to the city for the first time. We didn’t have to sell any drugs, thank goodness, but my homie and I got loaded and ate Harold’s chicken with our shirts off in somebody’s University of Chicago dorm room. We listened to Spacemen 3 and Starship Beer and went to a silly hat party. He wore a fez. Good times.
If Greg asks, the show was terrible. Flat, uninspired and certainly not life affirming.
Not in the slightest.
Greg’s my friend who bought the tickets. Just before Japandroids start tuning up, he gets an SOS text from his wife to come home and help with their very newborn son.
Selfless Greg hops in a cab and does his dad duty. (awww, right?)
So let’s please pretend this brilliant Vancouver punk duo didn’t slay the sold-out crowd at Lincoln Hall — at least half of whom are 30-something rocker dads themselves.
The appeal for aging punks is clear. Like no other band, Brian King and David Prowse of Japandroids are aware time is running out. They famously were calling it quits before 2009’s Post-Nothing broke through with the P-Fork crowd. Their label literally had to call them out of retirement to tour.
As a retired rock critic myself, maybe this hit me extra hard, but it’s a second chance the boys don’t seem to expect to last and they throw everything they have into the set.
They open with fuzzy Springsteen ramp-up of “The Boys Are Leaving Town.” Guitarist/singer Brian trembles joyfully on his stick-skinny legs like a mad skeleton. Drummer David dials in his fury, cracking a stick right away.
From there we dive into the new stuff. The songs on Celebration Rock, their just released album, crackle like summer fireworks: brief and radiant. Everyone all knows the shout-along choruses of “Fire’s Highways” and “The House that Heaven Built.”
A mosh pit opens. No really. A big friendly one, well padded with the beer guts of balding guys in thick glasses. It’s a beautiful, silly response that indie acts never inspire anymore.
Maybe we get into it because the Japandroids play facing each other, David’s kit turned sideways on the stage. It’s quirk that sums up what’s to love about this wild, sloppy band. A real human connection trumps everything. They play for their own bliss, not lasting glory. It’s infectious.
They charge through all of Celebration: The fist-pumping abandon of “Adrenaline Nightshift” and the moody build of “Continuous Thunder.” So what if old favorites “Young Hearts Spark Fire” and “Wet Hair” hit slightly harder. These guys are at their peak.
They aren’t the Black Keys, still digging up the blues to make hits. They aren’t No Age, carving out damaged art noise to make something new. They aren’t the sexy slumming of the Kills or Death From Above 1979. They’re charming Canadian dorks, apologizing for playing so hard Brian constantly has to retune his battle-scarred guitar.
Promising they don’t do encores, they close with their reckless, pounding cover of Gun Club’s “For the Love of Ivy.” The place erupts because everybody is acutely aware this is it.
The Heat have already won. Brian’s old fucked Fender is falling apart. Somewhere mighty Greg is cruising around Evanston with his wife and baby sleeping in the backseat.
“It’s this or fucking nothing,” Brian says. If you hold back because the end is nigh, it only goes faster.
Andrew WK at Riviera Theatre Chicago, March 25, 2012
All of the dudes were there, and that was just on stage. Flanked by four wild-haired guitarists, plus a drummer and his black leotard-clad wife, Andrew WK stood in a party line of his own making and flailed, writhed, pumped his fists to the rager soundtrack of ten years ago. This was the I Get Wet tour, featuring WK in all of his lank white denim glory ripping through the record that made him a star with the same heaping helping of gusto he’d brought out on the road in 2002. Clod-stomping metal riffs were kicked up against WK’s own keyboard flurries and supported with double-bass kicks that kept a hard and fast rhythm on two drum heads, each emblazoned with the maestro’s bloodied face. It was the same iconic shot from the I Get Wet cover art and the one that hung over the proceedings like the visage of a master propagandist. This was WK for Vendetta, and the crowd was eating it up.
“We are fortunate to be here tonight, to live here and be alive,” WK enthused to raucous cheers. And later, “Never forget the power of musical joy.” It was the same metal-vational speech he’d spouted between (too long) pauses back at Metro in 2002, and this time around he couldn’t resist playing a bloodied Tony Robbins once again. It was too much talk, not enough rock. The crowd was eating it up, sure, the same way the pit surged to the left and right during highlights like “Party til You Puke,” “Party Hard,” and the title track, hundreds of kids pushing at the stage in a tangled mess of frenzied limbs, following along with every hair whip and judo chop of their fair leader, who seemingly hasn’t aged in the interim. But WK’s shtick, fully invested as he is, still seems like shtick at heart. There’s a gear missing, that extra rev into crazed that turns a rock and roll show into a mirthful murder spree. He had so many guitars at his disposal, and so much hair whip back and forth. He had the ears and fists of the crowd in his hands. So why was the Riviera a stolid line of folks with their arms folded once you reached the sound board level? And why wasn’t that sound ripping hearts out of chests? It felt like an act, not an act of the party gods.
The post-9/11 fatalism that I Get Wet embraced and espoused in 2001 and 02 has its partner in the fuck-it-all, glittered-up party ethos of LMFAO and Ke$ha, and WK has savvily brought the record back to not only celebrate its birth, but indoctrinate a new flock to his projectile rock. And they were down there, eating it up. But just like his strange question-and-answer sessions of a few years ago, or his incessant web cam party patrolling on Twitter, WK’s rings of egoism before it does altruism. No one can question the stripped-to-its-core genius of “Party Hard”; it’s an anthem that wears the animal skins of a thousand other anthems into a battle against boredom. But why does the whole thing still feel like self-righteous zealotry and not visceral release? Why does it ultimately feel as shallow and rootless as LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem”? Maybe that’s the populism innate to the I Get Wet material, though. Like a beer bong or box of fireworks, WK offers a necessary tool kit with which to party, but doesn’t do the real puking or exploding until your neighbor calls the cops. It’s always up to us to never stop living in the red.
Sadly, the story of uninsured musicians is all too common with tales of some going broke from the situation to others trying to barter for needed medical attention. They are among the many casualties of a healthcare system that continues to be debated and alternately labeled as “the best in the world” or “a broken bureaucracy.” And so, another character enters the story. And make no mistake, he’s a character.
Chicago’s own vagabond balladeer, Kevin Junior has written bitter sweet epic ballads with a variety of partners, most notably with The Chamber Strings. His heart bleeds melody and now that heart needs some expensive attention. According to the GoFundMe website set up by “Friends of Kevin,” Junior has a serious heart condition called Endocarditis, which is a bacterial condition affecting heart valves. Treatment includes medication, open-heart surgery and at least two months in a nursing home—all of which adds up to big bucks. A variety of fundraisers are being planned, including one tonight in Chicago. Performers include Dorian Taj, John San Juan, Ellis Clark, Phil Angotti & Carolyn Engelmann, Lou Hallwas and Andy Hansen (Penthouse Sweets) and Kevin Junior himself.
It breaks my heart to leave the city. I’ve got a lot of great reasons for leaving, but it’s still a sad day.
You might not realize that Glorious Noise was actually conceived and born in Michigan. Many drunken conversations at a dumpy Victorian apartment on Portsmouth Place in Grand Rapids throughout the late 90s led to our humble launch on February 6, 2001. By that July I was living in Chicago along with most of the other founders of the site.
I love Chicago. It’s a great city for people who love music. I remember before I moved here, visiting a friend and flipping through the Reader wondering how you even decide what to do when there are so many great shows happening every week.
Glorious Noise grew up in Chicago. Despite the fact that our contributors are scattered around the globe, we’ve always been a Chicago site. Attitude-wise, if not necessarily regionally focused. The Chicago attitude is straightforward and unpretentious, smart and direct, opinionated and funny. We’re tough, but we’ve got heart. Approachable to strangers. Even the prettiest girls in Chicago eat hotdogs and drink beer. What more could you want in a town?
The “new face of Chicago soul” has a brand new single out now on Rabbit Factory Records. This Wilco cover is the b-side. The a-side, “Get It Together,” is a funky original that sounds like it could be a James Brown outtake. Great stuff.
Chicago soulsters JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound cover Wilco‘s “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” live in the studio of KDHX. I like how they throw in a little bit of “Theologians” before the breakdown. Nice touch.
Lollapalooza has become my favorite time of year. The music’s way better than Christmas and the food beats the hell out of Thanksgiving (gotta love that falafel pita!). So it warms my heart to hear that Lolla founder Perry Farrell has inked a contract with the city of Chicago for ten more years of rock and roll and bikini girls.
In this issue, the First Year Anniversary Issue, there is a Ruthless Records feature with segments related to Big Black, Effigies, Naked Raygun and Circle Seven (check out the they goofy inset photo of [Steve] Albini), an awesome piece called “1983’s Favorites Predict the Best Of 1984”, a story about Jonathan Richman, and an Albini-penned profile of Glenn Branca. There are also regular columns like “New Matter”, “Matters Of Fact”, and Albini’s “Tired Of Ugly Fat”. This issue is awesome.
It really is awesome. So cool to be able to travel back in time and check out such a clear snapshot of a scene that no longer exists. Jonathan Richman talking about Prince: “I usually don’t like synthesizer, but he can make the thing talk. But like, why’s he screaming so much about sex all the time?” Albini’s rant on poverty, Boy George (“Shit, that little fart doesn’t deserve the twenty-bucks-a-blowjob he’d probably be making on Carnaby Street if he weren’t such a good friend of Malcolm McLaren“), and Duran Duran (“those overfed Pillsbury Doughstars”) is classic.