Music » Soundboard

The List: September 30-October 6, 2010

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: Swans, Eels, Prince Rama, the Clean, Atari Teenage Riot, and more

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Thursday30

>Critic's Choice< The Clean
Chris Potter

Friday1

Atari Teenage Riot
>Critic's Choice< Eels
Chris Potter

Saturday2

>Critic's Choice< Bettye Lavette
Moon Duo
>Critic's Choice< Charlie Musselwhite
Chris Potter

Sunday3

>Critic's Choice< Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Lover
Chris Potter
>Critic's Choice< Prince Rama

Tuesday5

>Critic's Choice< Swans
Teenage Fanclub
Wee Trio

Wednesday6

>Critic's Choice< Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms
>Critic's Choice< Bobby Bare Jr. Update: 10/6 show canceled, 10/7 still on
Teenage Fanclub

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THE CLEAN "The Clean," quipped guitarist and keyboardist David Kilgour in a May WFMU interview, "is a no-plan band." This is key to the trio's longevity as well as to its creative process. The Clean's place in rock 'n' roll history is indisputable; their cheaply recorded, exuberantly performed early-80s recordings for Flying Nun kick-started an underground-music explosion in their native New Zealand and set the template for legions of indie-pop combos on the other side of the world. But Kilgour, his New York-based drummer brother Hamish, and bassist-keyboardist Robert Scott (everybody sings) have never treated the band like a career. The Clean often lies dormant for years, convening only when circumstances and inclinations align, and this helps explain how the three of them have sustained their music's giddy buzz for so long—"Moonjumper," a hurtling organ-and-viola duel from last year's Mister Pop (Merge), sounds just as fresh and rambunctious as their 1981 debut single, "Tally Ho." And when they finally get onstage—this is only their second Chicago appearance—the Clean play with a mercurial spirit that can turn a breezy pop song or a throwaway instrumental into a wild, psychedelic ride. Mannequin Men open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $15, 17+. —Bill Meyer

CHRIS POTTER When I saw guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel at the Jazz Showcase last year, the large audience was dominated by young men, many apparently accompanied by their fathers; I figured most of them were aspiring jazz guitarists, and they were clearly in awe of Rosenwinkel's masterful technique and resplendent harmonies. Chris Potter is an equivalent idol for young reedists, so I expect similar crowds for this trio engagement. On last year's rugged Ultrahang (ArtistShare), a live disc of rock- and funk-driven jazz with his electric quartet, Underground, Potter exhibits stunning control of his tenor saxophone, constructing his improvisations with great intellectual rigor, and his shape-shifting band—keyboardist Craig Taborn, guitarist Adam Rogers, and drummer Nate Smith—moves as an exceptionally agile single organism. The group has a surplus of power but keeps it under confident control, which may be part of the reason the music leaves me a little cold. Given this context, Potter's performance on Lost in a Dream (ECM), a beautifully restrained trio session led by drummer Paul Motian, is especially striking; supported harmonically only by pianist Jason Moran, Potter walks his tenor across Motian's elegant architecture of cymbal work as though it were a tightrope, summoning a tenderness and vulnerability typically masked by bluster and firepower when he plays in Underground or even in the Dave Holland Quintet. His promising trio here includes bassist Larry Grenadier and phenomenal drummer Marcus Gilmore. See also Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $20. —Peter Margasak

friday1

ATARI TEENAGE RIOT One of the great tragedies of the late-90s electronica boom was the number of badtronica hybrids it spawned—some misguided artists mistook the fact that it'd become easy to add trance synths to AOR pop or drum 'n' bass beats to mook rock as a green light to actually create such abominations. But the crossover between techno and punk made sense; once happy hardcore and gabber blew past the 140-BPM mark, the only nonelectronic genres that could keep up were hardcore and thrash metal. Founded in 1992, Atari Teenage Riot were the leading name during the heyday of "digital hardcore," and their clenched-jaw collisions of bee-swarm guitars, hyperfast breakbeats, and half-rapped, half-shouted slogans provided many of the form's most sublimely punishing moments. For these reunion shows (and the new single "Activate!") founder Alec Empire and late-90s member Nic Endo are touring with a new MC, CX Kidtronik. Aluminum Babe and Caustic open. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $18, $15 in advance, 17+. —Miles Raymer

EELS Writer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Oliver Everett, aka E, has often found his family involved in history both sublime (his father was famed quantum physicist Hugh Everett III) and horrific (a cousin was a flight attendant on one of the 9/11 jets). Always prolific, he's woven as many threads as he can into the ongoing autobiographical work that is the Eels' discography, which he supplemented in 2008 with an autobiographical book, Things the Grandchildren Should Know. Supported by a well-connected cult of fans, some of whom have placed his music in movies and TV shows ranging from Shrek to True Blood, Everett has maintained an emotional nakedness in his songwriting throughout his career. This is Eels' first tour since 2007, and it comes on the heels of three albums released over the past 16 months. Each loosely represents a stage in the cycle of love: desire (Hombre Lobo), loss (End Times), and acceptance (Tomorrow Morning). Listening to them, you might initially feel a little creeped out, but once you get comfortable with how much Everett is willing to share, you can travel with him to enlightenment and even peace. Jesca Hoop opens. 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, $26, 18+. —Monica Kendrick

CHRIS POTTER See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25.

Bettye LaVette
  • Carol Friedman
  • Bettye LaVette

saturday2

BETTYE LAVETTE The two previous albums from Detroit soul veteran Bettye LaVette brought together unexpectedly simpatico covers of songs by a wide range of female singers (the Joe Henry-produced I've Got My Own Hell to Raise, from 2005) and a group of custom-built originals (2007's The Scene of the Crime, produced by Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers), all in scrappy yet elegant arrangements. With her new record, though, she proves that she can sing just about anything and make it work. Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Anti-) is a collection of hoary radio classics—Beatles, Zeppelin, Moody Blues, et cetera—that have been radically revamped as slick, torpid blues-rock. It's hard to imagine why LaVette would bother with these tunes, especially since the new versions are bound to invite unflattering comparisons with the originals, but she consistently salvages the mediocre music, giving songs as worn-out as Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" and the Rolling Stones' "Salt of the Earth" transfusions of fresh, fierce emotion. Needless to say, she deserves much better than this obvious attempt to attract clueless boomers. I'm sure she'll play some of these songs here, but this is one occasion when even the lesser set pieces of her road-tested live show will come as a welcome relief. The Right Now opens. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $38, $36 members, $34 seniors and children. —Peter Margasak

MOON DUO There are undoubtedly lo-fi musicians who are into it because it's fashionable, and then there are the ones whose music has a slightly crazed edge that might not survive the structure of a studio session. Moon Duo, aka Ripley Johnson of San Francisco's deeply psychedelic Wooden Shjips and partner Sanae Yamada, sound like a Summer of Love-era garage band who went back to Humboldt County, started growing their own weed, and ended up (in a bit of convergent evolution) inventing their own slightly feral version of Krautrock. There's a wildness in their droning, tape-hiss-saturated jams that I hope they never ruin with high fidelity. This is a fourth-anniversary party for Permanent Records, and all the bands have releases on the store's label; Umberto, Heater, and Brain Idea open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, $5 in advance. —Miles Raymer

CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE Charlie Musselwhite's last few CDs have included plenty of alt-country-style brooding, and a glance at the harmonica-playing bluesman's craggy face on the cover of The Well (Alligator)—not to mention titles such as "Dig the Pain," "Hoodoo Queen," and "Sorcerer's Dream"—makes it seem even grimmer than usual. But most of The Well is upbeat, driving, and ebullient; Musselwhite's tone is robust, as is his famous ability to maintain it through dauntingly long phrases, and he mines unexpected optimism from even foreboding subjects. The hoodoo songs sound like funny-scary Halloween yarns, "Dig the Pain" is a lightly swinging, jazz-tinged workout laced with sardonic irony, and the title track tells how Musselwhite beat alcoholism in 1987—inspired by the bravery of Jessica McClure, the 18-month-old Texas girl who'd gotten trapped at the bottom of a well, he vowed not to drink till she was rescued. The disc's centerpiece, "Sad and Beautiful World," is a heartfelt testimony of redemption that Musselwhite wrote after his mother was brutally murdered in her Memphis home in 2005, lifted further by the gospel fervor of guest vocalist Mavis Staples. Tail Dragger opens.  9:30 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 700 S. Wabash, 312-427-1190, $20. —David Whiteis

CHRIS POTTER See Thursday. 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $25.

sunday3

ELIZABETH MITCHELL & YOU ARE MY FLOWER Like Dan Zanes and a handful of others, Elizabeth Mitchell has bridged the gap between independent rock and postcradle kiddo-core. On Sunny Day, her second album for Smithsonian Folkways, her point of stylistic departure is her band Ida; the music is as hushed and gorgeously lucid as anything Ida has recorded over the past two decades, and the lyrics are nowhere near as depressing. Accompanied by her husband and Ida-partner Daniel Littleton and their ten-year-old daughter, Storey, Mitchell playfully recasts some classic gr'ups material for little ears. A serious-sounding Storey sings Augustus Pablo's "Reggae in the Fields," and Mitchell manages to sweeten Bill Withers's "Lovely Day." Mitchell's live shows bring the audience into the mix with call-and-response sing-alongs of children's favorites as well as the occasional Velvet Underground tune for discerning 'rents.  Noon, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000, $15, $13 members. —Jessica Hopper

CHRIS POTTER See Thursday. 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 806 S. Plymouth Ct., 312-360-0234, $20.

PRINCE RAMA At South by Southwest this spring I got stranded at a punk parking-lot show in the middle of nowhere just in time to accidentally catch three songs by psych-blitz trio Prince Rama of Ayodhya (who've since chopped their name in half). Prince Rama, as they're now known, create a winningly weird combo of thundering beats and warped, deep-space synth scuzz, and the vocals lean heavily on mystical chanting, loops, and reverb. Though their first formal full-length release, the new Shadow Temple, is on Paw Tracks—the ne plus ultra of hipster-hippie labels—the band's inspirations are way more credible than those claimed by the rest of the Brooklyn unwashed. The trio met at a Krishna commune in Florida, and that background informs their aesthetic, right down to the song titles they borrow from Hindu devotionals. Light Pollution headlines; Prince Rama and Fielded open. 7 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Jessica Hopper

Swans
  • Swans

tuesday5

SWANS As recently as 2006 Michael Gira, front man and songwriter of Swans, was still swearing that the seminal band he'd led from 1982 to '97 was gone for good. But zombies are all the rage these days, and this winter he flip-flopped spectacularly: 12 years after the release of the double live album Swans Are Dead, Swans are, well, undead. The new six-piece lineup includes three Swans veterans—guitarist Norman Westberg, who debuted with the band on 1983's unspeakable Filth, percussionist Phil Puleo, and guitarist Christoph Hahn—and three members of Angels of Light, the band Gira has led since 1998 (Hahn, Puleo, and percussionist Thor Harris, also of Shearwater). Earlier this year Gira released I Am Not Insane, a collection of acoustic songs, to help fund the recording of the first Swans studio album in 14 years, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky (Young God). Rather than return to the furious brutality of their early work, it picks up roughly where the last Swans record, 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind, left off. Jarboe's feminine touch is notable in its absence, and the new songs reflect the influence of Angels of Light's dark, spiritual neofolk and yearning psychedelic rock, which is heavy in its implications rather than its declarations. But Swans still operate on an apocalyptic scale that's all their own: equally huge whether they're whispering or thundering, they sound like holy ecstasy and divine wrath, delivered in the same bolt from on high. Baby Dee opens.  9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $25, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

TEENAGE FANCLUB Scottish pop-rockers Teenage Fanclub have been a band for more than two decades, so it was practically a given that their three singer-songwriters—Norman Blake, Gerald Love, and Raymond McGinley—would eventually contemplate growing old on record. There's a lot of that kind of reflection on Shadows (Merge), the quintet's first album in five years. On "Shock and Awe," Love expresses benign ambivalence about a world in turmoil ("Wake me when the conflict is over / I aim for a peaceful life"); McGinley's "The Fall" meditates on fleeing modern stresses in favor of a more rustic life. The lyrics are hardly profound, but they work fine attached to the band's hooky, slightly predictable post-Big Star melodies, beautiful harmony singing, and warm, strummy grooves. Sometimes Teenage Fanclub get stuck in midtempo torpor, but their unerring tunefulness always pulls them through. Radar Brothers open. See also Wednesday. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $20. —Peter Margasak

WEE TRIO Taking a big cue from the Bad Plus, the bicoastal Wee Trio distinguishes its take on jazz with crisp rhythmic energy and concise tunefulness—to say nothing of likewise covering Aphex Twin. On the recent Capitol Diner Vol. 2: Animal Style (Bionic), drummer Jared Schonig provides a snappy, powerful backbone to support vibraphonist James Westfall, who rattles off his percussive melodies with a dry clarity; despite some distractingly cloying synth their playing maintains a laserlike precision and poppy pithiness. The feel is usually more rock than jazz, though Schonig, Westfall, and bassist Daniel Loomis swing here and there, but the music isn't slight or predictable—even when Schonig sticks to a very unjazzy backbeat it develops in surprising and spontaneous ways. The players have an impressive rapport and can repitch any given performance of a tune at will. Spare Parts headline; the Wee Trio and Crawl open. 8 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494 or 800-594-8499, $7. —Peter Margasak

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JASON ADASIEWICZ'S SUN ROOMS Chicago vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz got his start as a drummer, and he makes it impossible to forget that the vibes are a percussion instrument—he hits harder than any vibist I've ever heard, often setting the keys ringing so vigorously that their tones buzz and distort. Far from a basher, though, he's a gifted and thoughtful melodist, capable of great nuance: during the slowly rippling decay of one of his shimmering chords, for instance, he might add new notes to the mix, producing unusual harmonies that hang in the air like twists of smoke. In his fine quintet Rolldown, the two frontline horns can make it hard to hear this kind of subtlety, but on Sun Rooms (Delmark), his terrific new trio album with bassist Nate McBride and drummer Mike Reed, the beautiful delicacy of his playing—not just the ferocity—comes through. On an original composition like "Life" his darting, tuneful solos veer in and out of the billows of sound he leaves in his wake, and when he cedes the spotlight to his bandmates—who occasionally serve up fat-free improvised morsels—he adopts a pianist's role, subtly comping or prodding them with vaporous asides. Adasiewicz's original pieces give the band plenty to work with, from the Monkish theme of "Stake" to the atmospheric elegance of "Rose Garden," and the album closes with three well-chosen covers: "Off My Back Jack," by mysterious pianist Hasaan Ibn Ali (from his sole album, a 1964 trio session with Max Roach), a rumbling, aggressive version of Sun Ra's "Overtones of China," and a gorgeously direct take on the Duke Ellington number "Warm Valley." Mars Williams spins.  9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $7. —Peter Margasak

BOBBY BARE JR. On A Storm—A Tree—My Mother's Head (Thirty Tigers), his first album of original material in four years, Bobby Bare Jr. finds a nice balance between wry absurdity and earnest songcraft. Setting his slack-jawed vocals to rootsy, slightly overdriven pop-rock, he serves up equal parts deadpan wit and sharp heartbreak, though sometimes you have to dig around to locate his heart. On "One of Us Has to Go," an acoustic murder ballad he wrote with his father, he makes light of manslaughter, shaking off the idea of suicide in favor of offing the lover who spurned him with an onomatopoeic gunshot, and on the steel-guitar-kissed ballad "Don't Want to Go to Chattanooga" he fears leaving his love for a stint in jail. The title track, based on his mother's near-death encounter with a 100-year-old tree that crushed her house, paints a withering portrait of humans as helpless in the face of nature. Elsewhere, though, he lets playful silliness overtake the darkness: in "Rock and Roll Halloween" he describes a debauched costume party ("I saw Elvis make out with Jesus in a yellow limousine"), and in "The Summer of '93" he begs to buy a Jesus Lizard T-shirt ("The singer spit while he screamed"). Bare also plays Thursday, October 7, same time, same place. Blue Giant opens both shows. Update: Tonight's show is canceled. The 10/7 show will go on as planned. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $14. —Peter Margasak

TEENAGE FANCLUB See Tuesday. Radar Brothers open. 9 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $20.

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