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The List: January 6-12, 2011

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Generationals, Weezer, Pieta Brown, the Vulgar Boatmen, Agogic, Houses, and more

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>Critic's Choice< Weezer


>Critic's Choice< Samuel Blaser & Bobby Avey
Pieta Brown
>Critic's Choice< Vulgar Boatmen
>Critic's Choice< Weezer






>Critic's Choice< Generationals
>Critic's Choice< Houses


CHAPERONE Cripple King, the self-released debut EP from local sextet Chaperone, stands out from the sprawling pack of records that combine the Arcade Fire's sweeping pop Americana with Neutral Milk Hotel's orchestral twee. I can't even hazard a guess as to how many bands are attempting that sound in Chicago, never mind globally—their interchangeability makes keeping track of them a bit of a waste of time, though they're certainly cherished by manufacturers of toy pianos, glockenspiels, and musical saws. Two songs on Cripple King account for much of its distinctiveness: the taut, nervy "Fed on Coal," which opens the disc, and "Letter to Home," which is one of the rare "rootsy" indie-rock songs you could imagine being performed by a real country singer. Ami Saraiya and Transmontane open. Chaperone main man Shaun Paul and a couple other members of the band play an acoustic "Dirtroom" show at Double Door on Tuesday, January 11; it's at 8 PM and it's free.  9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Miles Raymer

  • Weezer

WEEZER Future pop historians may discover that Weezer's late-career Horrible Period, defined by egregious Dr. Luke-isms and brutally inane lyrics, was just Rivers Cuomo pulling a perverse prank on fans who expected him to carry on as a power-pop auteur and not become the creepy, older, male Avril Lavigne. (His line about "messing with the journalists"—from the awful "Memories," on Weezer's awful Epitaph debut, Hurley—could be a clue.) The group's decision to climb aboard the "classic albums played in their entirety" bandwagon and tour behind its first two records represents either an unspoken truce with long-suffering Classic Weezer diehards or a crass cash-in, but it kind of doesn't matter which. The near perfection of both the "Blue Album" and Pinkerton has resulted in their elevation to respectable positions in the rock canon, where they're safe from Cuomo's hijinks. Tonight's set will include the former from top to bottom; see also Saturday. 7:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 773-561-9500 or 866-448-7849, sold out. —Miles Raymer


SAMUEL BLASER & BOBBY AVEY Swiss-born trombonist Samuel Blaser, who studied in New York and now lives in Berlin, doesn't use the brawny, raucous sound most people associate with his horn. His tone is smooth, almost serene, and his improvisations are fastidiously precise—but this restraint and control doesn't mean he plays it safe, and his sound is far from conventional. He can reference the spectral trombone multiphonics pioneered by Albert Mangelsdorff, but he's not ostentatious about it—instead the technique serves the elaborate development of his melodies as just another tool. On the 2009 quartet album Pieces of Old Sky (Clean Feed), he and guitarist Todd Neufeld form a wonderfully loose front line that seems to pivot to approach Blaser's simple, elegant themes from multiple angles, while bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Tyshawn Sorey support their patient explorations with a taut but airy net of rhythms. On this year's Vol a Voile (Intakt), a duet with Swiss drummer Pierre Favre, Blaser demonstrates a rapport even more intense than the one he has with Neufeld, masterfully drawing out the lyricism in Favre's richly considered tom patterns. For his Chicago debut, Blaser performs duets with young pianist Bobby Avey, who made his recorded debut on the 2006 album Vienna Dialogues (Zoho) as the handpicked partner of one of his mentors, saxophonist David Liebman. Liebman also appears on Avey's impressive debut, A New Face (JayDell), whose bracing postbop balances a broad romantic streak against angular melodic shapes and jagged rhythms. Bass clarinetist Jason Stein headlines with a trio that also features keyboardist Jim Baker and drummer Charles Rumback. 10 PM, Heaven Gallery, 1550 N. Milwaukee, second floor,, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

PIETA BROWN Languid and sublime, Pieta Brown's One and All (Red House) is the Iowa-born singer's supposed breakthrough album, but whether or not it ever actually breaks through to somewhere or something, it's the purest, most perfect version of her work yet. Brown, daughter of folk musician Greg Brown, ambles along the verge of country, and though she never does more than toy with the genre—using fine instrumental details like, say, a touch of lap steel—its loneliness comes through clearly. Her sweet, breathy voice carries shades of her stepmother, Iris DeMent, and of Rickie Lee Jones at her most focused, and the songs float over and around it—making the record feel like a gentle, ephemeral dream. Musikanto opens. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $15, $12 in advance. —Jessica Hopper

Pieta Brown
  • Pieta Brown

VULGAR BOATMEN I've never heard of another band that operates like the Vulgar Boatmen. Formed in Florida in 1982 by Walter Salas-Humara (now with the Silos), the group evolved into two semi-independent units with the same name. The Boatmen ended up with guitarist Dale Lawrence in Indiana and guitarist Robert Ray in Florida; they wrote songs together by exchanging tapes, and each led his own local version of the band. Over the years Ray's combo, responsible for the Vulgar Boatmen's recordings, has become less and less active—the most recent album of new material came out in 1995, and never got a formal release in the States. But Lawrence's Indiana branch, more oriented toward gigging, has become a bona fide midwestern cult band, and can usually be relied upon to roll out its engaging folk rock and indie-pop, built on a foundation of Buddy Holly and deepened with a layer of melancholy, for at least one local show a year. Since 2008 filmmaker Fred Uhter has been shadowing the group to produce the hour-long documentary Drive Somewhere: The Saga of the Vulgar Boatmen, which premiered at the Naperville Independent Film Festival this September. Named after one of the VB's prettiest and most wistful tunes, it purports to follow the band to its last gig (which of course wasn't) and offer a eulogy to something beautiful, rare, and not quite dead. VB fans Alejandro Escovedo, Greg Kot, and Richard Buckner also add their insights to Drive Somewhere, which will be screened before the show. The Injured Parties open. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, $10 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

WEEZER See Friday. At this show the band will play Pinkerton in its entirety. 7:30 PM, Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, 773-561-9500 or 866-448-7849, sold out.


AGOGIC This August, when Nate Chinen wrote about the emergent jazz scene in Seattle for the New York Times, he gave special attention to trumpeter Cuong Vu, who's become one of its key catalysts and mentors since leaving New York to teach music at the University of Washington in 2006. A Vietnamese refugee who fled the country with his family in 1975, when he was six years old, he grew up in Seattle, then moved to NYC in the late 80s; over the next decade he made his name as a musician, earning especially wide notice as a collaborator of guitarist Pat Metheny. Vu has developed a distinctive, muscular aesthetic—it collides rhythmic ideas from electronica, extended swathes of free-jazz blowing, and the roiling grooves and stark, parched trumpet lines of early-70s Miles Davis—and he's found players in Seattle who can bring it to life just as vividly as his east-coast comrades could. His new group Agogic includes drummer Evan Woodle and electric bassist Luke Bergman, both relatively young musicians, and if he'd stopped there the setup would've mirrored that of his long-running New York trio. But Agogic is a quartet with extroverted reedist Andrew D'Angelo, a Seattle native (and New York resident) who's played in Human Feel, the Matt Wilson Quartet, and Tyft, among many others. D'Angelo's raucous abandon counterbalances Vu's precise control, which he maintains even when he's playing abstract, striated smears and sour blurts. The group ranges from complex, off-kilter funk to pensive, lyrical balladry—Woodle and Bergman can rumble like a rock band, but they know when to cool it—and it's capable of impressive concision and knock-down energy. This is the band's Chicago debut as well as the first show in a monthly series that celebrates ten years of the Hungry Brain's Sunday Transmission concerts. The series runs throughout 2011 and includes Available Jelly, Misha Mengelberg, Han Bennink, John Tchicai, Tony Malaby, and Lotte Anker.  10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-709-1401, donation requested. —Peter Margasak


DISTRACTIONS Local indie-rock outfit Distractions has come up with a great sound, made from roughly equal parts classic psychedelic pop, hazy garage rock, and tweaky lo-fi experimentation. Having accomplished that, this brainchild of local singer-songwriter Tom Owens needs to figure out what to do with it. The band seems content to let the music meander as it pleases, and while this works as a strength when it brings to mind the addled discursions of some of underground rock's most cherished four-track weirdos, more often than not it's just frustrating. "We Were Better Off in the Rain," from an upcoming single on Two Syllable Records, seems like a really nice middle-eight bridge searching for a song to partner with, but it's just left wandering in circles. Sleeping in the Aviary headlines; Nothingheads and Distractions open.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600. —Miles Raymer


GENERATIONALS Generationals are from New Orleans, but they sound a lot like a band Chicagoans knew as locals before their viral-video path to fame: OK Go. The two groups follow similar formulas to make their simple, catchy rock, and in both cases it comes out clever, saccharine, effortless sounding, and almost dancey. But Generationals have slightly less polish, so you don't feel like such an easy mark for enjoying them—which made the duo's 2009 hit "When We Fight, We Fight" not unwelcome in its omnipresence. Tastefully appointed with electric piano, samples of throwback soul, and the tender sha-la-la-ooh of a man who sings of love in the manner of a young girl, Generationals songs scream to be danced to in a Gap commercial for madras shorts—a triumph that's surely in the band's future. The Magic Kids headline; Generationals, Pet Lions, and In Tall Buildings open. This show is part of Tomorrow Never Knows. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $15, 18+. —Jessica Hopper

Houses chicago band
  • Houses

HOUSES Chicago duo Houses formed in May and dropped their debut record, All Night (Lefse), in October; they made their live debut at CMJ in New York the day after the release, and now, almost three months later, they're finally playing their first hometown show. Multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Dexter Tortoriello and vocalist Megan Messina keep things simple onstage, augmenting their singing with a melodica, a tambourine, a MIDI keyboard controller, and a couple MacBooks. It's not a lot to look at, but Houses have never been about overwhelming their audiences—as All Night makes clear, their music is about creating an inviting atmosphere from lush, airy electronic melodies, hypnotic beats, and the softly cooed vocal harmonies of a lovestruck young couple. With help from visual artist Alan Jensen, whose dreamy video projections will provide a backdrop to the band's live set, Houses should make Lincoln Hall feel at least a little bit warmer. Helio Sequence headlines; Sun Airway, Houses, and California Wives open. This show is part of Tomorrow Never Knows. 8 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $15, 18+. —Leor Galil

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