Monday, June 23, 2014

Bob Mould/Split Single; June 23, 2014; Pritzker Pavillion

No, he isn't "my Bob," that would definitely be Dylan, but I do enjoy seeing Bob Mould.  That has a lot to do with the company (the friends sitting around me tonight are all huge fans) as well as the band.  Bob has chosen a particularly excellent rhythm section to back him for the last several years.  He's mentioned that this is the longest running band he's had, "probably because we don't drink."  Drummer Jon Wurster has a goofy cool, while bass player Jason Narducy (yes, second Monday in a row seeing him) is absolutely hypnotic, and I find myself watching him the most.  Luckily there was a double shot of Narducy tonight, his band Split Single was the opening act on the Pritzker Pavilion's massive stage.  I was a little late, blame the bus, but I did get there in time to see the lovely Nora O'Connor guest on a couple songs.  Chicago definitely knows how to throw a free concert series.
Split Single

Bob Mould

Friday, June 20, 2014

Guided By Voices/Bobby Bare Jr; June 20, 2014; The Barrymore Theater

Guided By Voices inspires a fandom like few other bands enjoy.  Leader Robert Pollard and his rotating band of merry men disbanded in 2004 but then reformed in 2010, and have continued their hard rocking, hard partying ways.  For this show at the Barrymore, Pollard gave away as many Miller Lites as he drank.  And he drank a lot.  I only wished I was in the front row for a moment before actually noting the swaying, sweating, beer-soaked mass.  Thanks, but I'll pay $5 for a Hopalicious and stay dry.  Bobby Bare Jr's opening set was well-received by a crowd that started thin but grew as their set went on.  Hopefully that enthusiasm will translate to a good turnout next time he plays the house.  His all-star band this time around included a guy from Deer Tick, a mysterious drummer known only as "Sticks McGillicuddy," and a local boy who turned out to be the nephew of the Cafe Carpe's Bill and Kitty.  Small world.
Bobby Bare Jr

Guided by Voices

Monday, June 16, 2014

Robbie Hearts Cheap Trick; June 16, 2014; The Hideout, Chicago

I'm not  huge Velvet Underground fan, but "Robbie Hearts the VU" was one of the best of his longstanding Hideout residency shows that I've seen.  I am a fan of Cheap Trick, so I couldn't wait to see what happens when he "hearted" them.  Turns out that it's really bass player Jason Narducy who loves them most of all.  Though if you follow him on Twitter or are friends on Facebook, you probably already guessed that by the Cheap Trick hoodie he wears constantly.  He not only rocked the bass parts (even pulling out his twelve string bass for one.  Yep, he brought it along for one song), but also sang many of the songs, ones that he had chosen.  But in fact, the stage was full of people who were having a great time playing songs by their Rockford neighbors to the north.  Drummer Gerald Dowd was up to the task of filling Bun E Carlos's seat, and even sang the classic "Hello There" and its partner "Goodnight" to start and end the show.  Steve Frisbie had several excellent turns at the mike, playing the Robin Zander part perfectly.  For his part, Fulks stayed in the background, stepping up to sing only a couple songs.  He may have not played as big a part as he usually does, but he couldn't have put together a more perfect evening.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Eef Barzelay/Trapper Schoepp; June 15, 2014; Kiki’s House of Righteous Music

When Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay played the house last fall for KHoRM’s 100th show I asked one of my favorite local musicians, Dietrich Gosser, to open.  He brought along, as he often does, his avant percussionist Dan Kuemmel.  Since the first time I saw Gosser and instantly became a fan a decade ago, I have also been a fan of Kuemmel’s.  He’s an intuitive player, carefully choosing which of his myriad of noise makers to use next.  Barzelay was similarly impressed, and the two have been working together ever since.  This was the first chance I’d had to see the results of my unknowing matchmaking, and I would say the relationship is going pretty well.  Kuemmel adds a whole new level to these songs that I’ve known for years, reinventing them and taking them new places.  I think that’s just what Barzelay was looking for.

“Is it too early for this one?” he asked rhetorically about the second song on his set list.  “Something Beautiful” has always been one of my favorite Clem Snide songs (first hearing it in Barcelona with opener Andrew Bird accompanying will do that), but tonight it became a different song.  It was slinky and sexy before, the narrator’s reckless behavior seems harmless, “You make me wanna fold the map imperfectly.”  Tonight I heard the darker side, “Sip Lysol from a cup, so clean is hurts.”  Without a full band waiting behind him, he took the time to tell the stories behind some of the songs, whether we wanted him to or not.  He got slightly scatological when describing the route of one of the small picks he used to use after he’d accidentally swallowed one.  He claims he thought about retrieving it, but changed his mind when he realized the whole thing might happen all over again.  He also started using bigger picks.  There were tales of conspiracy theorists, and the battle of “Love Vs Death” in which “death always wins.”  He ended the night with two great covers.  The first I’d heard before and wasn’t surprised when he began Journey’s “Faithfully,” after all, Clem Snide had released a record (a vinyl record that is) of Journey covers a few years back.  His second cover was the heartfelt ballad “All the Way,” made popular by Frank Sinatra.  Barzelay’s humor often seems tongue in cheek, but both of these songs were sweetly serious.

I’ve been seeing Trapper Schoepp play for the last six years, so it’s always a surprise to remember that he’s just 23 years old.  Even so, he (with or without backing band the Shades) have toured with the Wallflowers, Soul Asylum, the Old 97’s and a solo Rhett Miller.  Despite the time spent on those big stages, he’s wanted to play at the house for years.  He played most of tonight’s set solo, but invited his brother Tanner up for several songs which may have been my favorites of the night.  A recent trip out west ended with a broke down van in Ogallala Nebraska, a town name just made for harmony vocals, and a great new song called, you guessed it, “Ogallala.”  After playing “Dear Prospect,” a song he’d written for a friend who had just been drafted by the LA Dodgers, Bill whispered that they should play that song before the Baseball Project show in August.  They had the same thought, and I look forward to having them back.  They also ended their set with a cover, this one as timeless as Barzelay’s final selection.  The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love” is a natural fit for these brothers’ harmony vocals.  And it was gorgeous.  I don’t think I stopped smiling the whole night. 

Trapper Schoepp

Eef Barzelay


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Kurt Benefit featuring Jason Isbell and James McMurtry; June 13, 2014; The Majestic Theater

Last year this pricey benefit had booked the endlessly entertaining Waco Brothers as the headliner for their fundraiser.  It was a small crowd who didn't seem very into the band, and as a volunteer at the Wacos' merch table I couldn't have been more bored.  I didn't expect this year to be much different, but apparently a lot more people were willing to donate to see ascending star Jason Isbell.  After leaving the Drive By Truckers, Isbell seemed to have lost momentum, but he has certainly regained it now, and is arguably even more popular than DBT.  And I'm basing that on the fact that the place was packed full of his fans.  He's worked hard and deserves the praise, but I can't help but wish he'd write something above mid-tempo.  My favorite moment of his set was when Kelly Hogan joined him for a pair of songs.  Back in town for only a couple days during a break from touring with Neko Case, she'd whiped up a vat of homemade banana pudding and come out to the show.

My favorite part of James McMurtry's set was drummer Darren Hess.  I met Darren last summer when he backed Jon Dee Graham for a short Midwest run in August.  He's charming and handsome (not to mention a great singer and songwriter himself).  I was a big fan of McMurtry's 2005 release Levelland, so I was awfully excited to hear the title track.  It seemed better than all the other songs he'd played, but that was probably just because I knew it so well. 

James McMurtry

Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Centro-matic/Vintage Blue; June 8, 2014; The Frequency

Even though Centro-matic lead singer Will Johnson makes it to Madison every 12 to 18 months for an unplugged show in the basement, it's been years since the whole band made the trip.  Perhaps even dating back to the long-gone King Club for a show in 2006 or so.  I worried the Frequency would be too small for the crowd I was expecting, but it turns out Centro-matic had the opposite worry.  "We were afraid no one was going to come out and see us on a Sunday night!" Johnson smiled early on in the set.  And indeed it was a comfortable crowd at the Frequency tonight, and those are two words I don't usually use together when talking about the Frequency.  They were enthusiastic and ecstatic, obviously captivated by the fiery show.  Johnson was like a man possessed, alternately growling and crooning lyrics, while some of the best musicians in the business backed him.  So, yeah, he may have looked a little like a crazy Jesus, but it was Sunday after all, and we were all looking to get saved. 

A great end to a fantastic weekend of music.

Vintage Blue