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The List, July 30-August 5, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable shows: Goatwhore, the Mekons, Baby Teeth, Gucci Mane, and more

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Thursday30

Goatwhore
Mekons

Friday31

Weasel Walter

Saturday1

Baby Teeth
Brokencyde
Gucci Mane
Serpentcult
TV Pow

Sunday2

Jay Electronica

Tuesday4

Casiokids

Mike Reed's People, Places, & Things

Wednesday5

Lisa De La Salle, Olga Kern, Joyce Yang
Mike Reed's People, Places, & Things
Wand

thursday30

GOATWHORE Founded by former Acid Bath guitarist Sammy Duet, this New Orleans metal band—which also includes Soilent Green front man Ben Falgoust and Nachtmystium drummer Zack Simmons—has seen its share of adversity. Goatwhore suffered through Katrina along with the rest of the city (the storm killed one of Falgoust's former bandmates from Soilent Green), and in 2002 Falgoust was temporarily confined to a wheelchair after breaking both legs in a van crash. But that's not why the group has tended to go three years between albums—rather Falgoust is determined to prevent either of his bands from becoming a mere side project, and splits his time pretty equally between them. (Soilent Green put out a record last year.) At any rate, Goatwhore's fourth full-length, the new Carving Out the Eyes of God (Metal Blade), would've been worth a much longer wait. Though you'll hear the band called "blackened death metal" (the kind of description necessary to placate the scene's finicky taxonomists), to these ringing ears the new album sounds like a furious blast of satanic majesty from the heroic age before metal was overrun by niche-marketing hairsplitters—the days of Celtic Frost and Venom, when all that mattered was who sounded the most fucking evil. Goatwhore have some of the grandeur of black metal (without the keyboards) and some of the architectural sweep of art-metal (without the epic-length songs), but at bottom they're all about badass rock swagger and old-school rib-cage rattling. Abigail Williams headlines; Goatwhore, Daath, Abysmal Dawn, and Success Will Write Apocalypse Across the Sky open. 6 PM, Pearl Room, 19081 Old LaGrange, Mokena, 708-479-5356 or 312-559-1212, $13. —Monica Kendrick

Mekons - DERRICK SANTINI
  • Derrick Santini
  • Mekons

MEKONS In "Perfect Mirror," the song that closes their most recent album, Natural (Quarterstick), the Mekons invoke a looming mountain, unchanging and unconcerned with human affairs, as they ponder ancient pagan ceremonies that have lost their meaning. With 32 years of history as a band, they have plenty of practice taking the long view, and they've needed it. They've been ill-handled by record companies big and small, and even the shelter of scout's-honor-honest Touch and Go has proved impermanent—this spring, when the label downsized its operations, their almost-finished new album was orphaned. But despite their utter failure as a business, the Mekons have always cheerily carried on—they were founded as an art project and function like a family, so they've never expected to make any money. And they've always rocked—YouTube videos of an English gig in April provide the most recent evidence. Elements of country, folk, and reggae color their songs, and their lyrics (accompanied in print by quotes from the likes of Isaac Newton and Ben Hecht) challenge the status quo, but it's the way the band's singers swap places over big blasts of cranked-up punk guitars that makes me want to dance around the old stone idol one more time. One of those singers, Tom Greenhalgh, won't make it to tonight's show—likely the Mekons' only Chicago date this year—but Jon Langford and Sally Timms will lead a host of old hands and special guests in a set they promise will include songs from the new record. Mar Caribe opens. The Mekons also play a free in-store at Raffe's Record Riot (4350 N. Cicero) at 3:45 PM. 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $20. —Bill Meyer

friday31

Weasel Walter
  • Weasel Walter

WEASEL WALTER, MIKE FORBES, AND ANDREW SCOTT YOUNG Since Weasel Walter split for the Bay Area in 2003, his output has exploded. Though he'd largely abandoned free jazz during his final years in Chicago, since the move it's clearly energized him: he's made blistering recordings with a continent-spanning crew of top-notch musicians that includes Peter Evans, Marshall Allen, Lisle Ellis, Marc Edwards, Mary Halvorson, Greg Kelley, and Henry Kaiser. (In a 2006 interview with Paris Transatlantic, he described leaving Chicago by saying "I felt like sandbags had been lifted from my psyche.") Though Walter has certainly matured—he's gotten much better at the give-and-take that's necessary in collaborations, for instance—that's done nothing to soften the violence in his music. One recent case in point: his scalding new album American Free (UgExplode), cut this March with young Chicagoans Mike Forbes (saxophone) and Andrew Scott Young (bass). Though the kids bring some impressive firepower—Forbes spits furious barrages of split tones and upper-register squeals with an intensity that reminds me of early Peter Brötzmann, and Young roils and grinds with both power and cogency—Walter's drumming is what turns the music into something more than neo-free jazz. His high-velocity clusters of kick-drum impacts and nearly incomprehensible across-the-kit flurries make him sound almost inhuman, but despite its blinding speed his playing not only makes sense but expertly complements the rest of the trio. Eli Keszler headlines; Ashley Paul, Walter's group, and Wummin open. Walter will also improvise with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and trombonist Jeb Bishop on Tuesday at Elastic. 9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, 773-772-3616, $5 suggested donation. —Peter Margasak

saturday1

BABY TEETH This is a release party for Hustle Beach (Lujo), Baby Teeth's third full-length, and these local boys throw down the gauntlet with the opening track—"Big Schools," an unabashedly straight-faced first-person story told by a guy who meets his future wife at a frat party and goes on to "live the dream," has already given a Pitchfork reviewer an attack of the vapors over liking something he's not supposed to. I consider discomfiting Pitchfork reviewers to be a public service, but Baby Teeth have never been a band with a mission, unless that mission is pop—they're still the Chicago outfit most likely to return you to that glorious feeling you had when you first heard ELO, back in the days of your innocence when they were a guiltless pleasure. I hope they get rich enough someday to afford the disco-era light show they clearly need. Hustle Beach is an outgrowth of 52 Teeth, a blog project of front man Abraham Levitan (he posted a song every week for a year), and while it could be said of that experiment that Levitan's commentary was often more interesting than the songs, the album is downright fascinating, saturated with a heady blend of gleeful triumph and existential nausea that's much more powerful than the sum of its parts. Brilliant Pebbles and Sonoi open. 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $10, 18+. —Monica Kendrick

BROKENCYDE So it looks like screamo scene kids have discovered hip-hop, and the results are worse than anyone could've imagined. The common ground between post-Hot Topic metalcore and mainstream rap—staked out by the likes of 3OH!3, Hollywood Undead, and Albuquerque crunkcore outfit Brokencyde—seems to consist largely of retrograde gender stereotyping, fervent consumerism, and an inexplicable enthusiasm for sex with people you don't like or respect. But though metalcore and mainstream rap occasionally produce non-terrible music, I doubt crunkcore ever will. Brokencyde's best-known song, "Freaxxx," is a generic Black Eyed Peas-style beat topped with Auto-Tuned singing, metalcore shrieking, and whiny sub-Eminem rapping, a combination only slightly easier to swallow than the misogyny in the lyrics. Even critics who are usually eager to defend popular music from the supposed snobbery of the tastemaking elite have had no luck finding a single redeeming quality in this dog shit. This show is part of the Warped Tour. Set times will be announced the day of the show.  Noon, First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre, I-80 and Harlem, Tinley Park, 877-598-8703, $40, $34.25 in advance. —Miles Raymer

GUCCI MANE When Gucci Mane appeared on the mainstream hip-hop scene in 2007 with his Rick James-referencing single "Freaky Gurl," there didn't seem to be much setting him apart from any other Atlanta rapper—maybe just the hint of sinus congestion in his voice. But over the past year or so he's turned into a rap monster, releasing so many mix tapes and random tracks and making so many cameos that a collection of the top 30 Gucci Mane songs of 2008 compiled by the blog We Eat So Many Shrimp only scratched the surface of his output. He's more than a little like Lil Wayne these days, not just in his insane prolificacy but in his tendency to put an extremely berserk spin on any subject he touches, even if it's something as played-out as trap-house rhymes ("I count a hundred grand / Then I ate some cereal / Stuff a half a brickie in a box of Cheerios"). And unlike the many talentless MCs aping Weezy's hustle and flooding the Internet with garbage, Gucci makes songs that not only stand up to but basically demand repeat listens. Nicki Minaj and OJ da Juiceman open. 7:30 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 773-826-5000, $60, 18+. —Miles Raymer

Serpentcult - ANTON COENE
  • Anton Coene
  • Serpentcult

SERPENTCULT This Belgian doom-metal quartet rose from the ashes of a band called Thee Plague of Gentlemen, who were working on a record provisionally titled Serpentcult when their front man was arrested for—and confessed to—raping several children. But Serpentcult would've needed a new name even if they hadn't been in such a hurry to dissociate themselves from their old bandmate; their current singer, Michelle Nocon, is hardly a gentleman (or even a man). Their full-length debut, Weight of Light, released last year on Rise Above, is a simple but surprisingly compelling combination of elements: post-Electric Wizard boiling sludge, percolating with almost groovy rhythms and fronted by a banshee rather than the usual troll. Nocon's clean, cutting vocals mean you can't quite nod off—though the music has plenty of stoner rock's muddy, narcotizing buzz, she'll keep startling you awake and leading you off the path. This is the band's first U.S. tour. Zoroaster headlines; Gates of Slumber, Serpentcult, and Ganon open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Monica Kendrick

TV Pow
  • TV Pow

TV POW A few years ago, after I'd referred to Chicago's TV Pow as a laptop trio a few times, they got in touch to politely ask me to stop. I'd often seen the group use computers onstage, but there was also a lot I didn't see. On their new download-only album, Neighborhood Watch: July 2009 (available at kuronekomusic.com), Michael Hartman, Todd Carter, and Brent Gutzeit employ a dizzying variety of sound sources—synthesizers, drums, field recordings, guitars, tape collage—and nearly as many techniques, from live improv to digital manipulation. Dating back to 1997, its 39 short tracks (31 of which the band has given away online) cover a lot of stylistic ground, shifting so rapidly they're hard to get a handle on. Many passages—some of which feature guests like saxophonist Boris Hauf and pianist Dudley Bayne—sound like the work of an outre jazz combo, but others combine blasts of harsh, squirrelly electronics with found sounds or bits of conversation. You can hear the voice of former Chicagoan Weasel Walter on the ambient vignette "Traveling Without Reservations," and on "A Real Genius Can Affect an Entire Community" a traffic report describing what was soon discovered to be the self-immolation of activist and archivist Malachi Ritscher is buried by an avalanche of noise. Needless to say it's hard to predict what TV Pow will sound like at any given show—they're only making plans for part of their set here, and hadn't finalized them at press time—but that's one of the things that makes them so compelling. Bradley Parker-Sparrow & Joanie Pallatto open. 6:30 PM, Katerina's, 1920 W. Irving Park, 773-348-7592, $5. —Peter Margasak

sunday2

JAY ELECTRONICA J Dilla died right before the generation of producers who grew up on his work started coming into their own. Among the few with a rightful claim to the master's crown is Jay Electronica, who worked alongside Dilla during a stint in Detroit and continues to follow in his footsteps, making hip-hop unconstrained by any of the countless rules the style has accumulated over the years. Electronica's MySpace—one of the few reliable ways to hear his music, since he's never released an album or even a single—hosts a rotating selection of songs that frequently highlight his spacey lyrics and only occasionally contain anything as traditional as an actual beat. Mos Def headlines. 7:30 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn, 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212, $25.50-$27.50, 17+. —Miles Raymer

tuesday4

CASIOKIDS Norway's Casiokids make inventive, elegant old-school pop electronica that they sometimes present onstage as though it were a silent film, using shadow-puppet plays and digital light shows to say the things the music can't. On their first full-length, 2007's Fuck MIDI (Karisma), they rarely sang, and when they did it was of course in Norwegian—though I get the feeling that their lyrics are mostly placeholders even for people who speak the language. The album's one song in French, "Il Fait Beau," sounds like Eddie Izzard parodying his French teacher ("I'm the commander of the great castle . . . I want cake!"). But the tunes make you feel too irrationally cheery to begrudge them their whimsy, and the band's live shows are allegedly a party and a half. Since late last year the Casiokids have released a string of singles via UK label Moshi Moshi, which is sending them to tour the States as part of its tenth-birthday celebration. He Say She Say opens. 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508, $12, $10 in advance, 18+. —Ann Sterzinger

MIKE REED'S PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS See Wednesday. 5:30 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660.

wednesday5

LISE DE LA SALLE, OLGA KERN, JOYCE YANG At this concert three remarkable pianists will perform the first concertos of three 20th-century Russian giants: Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Shostokovich. Prokofiev's relatively brief Concerto in D-flat Major, op. 10 (1912), played by 21-year-old Ravinia debutant LISE DE LA SALLE, is usually viewed as a single movement, though given the clear distinctions between the broad, sweeping Allegro Brioso, the darker Andante Assai, and the lively Allegro Scherzando, one could make the case for three. De la Salle has had a meteoric rise since winning two major competitions—the European Young Concert Artists in 2003 and the Young Concert Artists International Auditions in 2004—and among her releases on the Naive label is a recording of this Prokofiev concerto, which combines lightness with the necessary bravura. Russian-born OLGA KERN, who seems to have bravura in her blood, will play the Rachmaninoff, a fitting choice since she's had so much experience with his work—she won the Rachmaninoff International Piano Competition at 17, tied for first place in the 2001 Van Cliburn performing the infamous "Rach 3" (becoming the first woman to win gold in more than 30 years), and recorded his massive Sonata no. 2 for Harmonia Mundi. Unfortunately, the composer's Piano Concerto no. 1 in F-sharp Minor, op. 1 (1891), is not his best—he was just 19, and though interesting in parts it's generally just too schmaltzy. Another Van Cliburn winner, JOYCE YANG (she took silver in 2005), will play Shostakovich's Concerto in C minor, op. 35 (1933). Yang's strong, expressive style and gift for collaboration (she performs regularly with the Takacs Quartet) should be a good fit for this incredible piece, with its haunting second movement and profound emotional depth. Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal trumpeter Chris Martin joins Yang on the Shostakovich; James Conlon conducts. 8 PM, Pavilion, Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook, Highland Park, 847-266-5100, $10-$25. —Barbara Yaross

MIKE REED'S PEOPLE, PLACES & THINGS This excellent quartet—drummer and bandleader Mike Reed, bassist Jason Roebke, and saxophonists Greg Ward and Tim Haldeman—began with a clever hook, playing unjustly overlooked postbop tunes written in Chicago during the late 50s. But with their fiery live gigs and last year's superb Proliferation, they quickly proved they were much more than a repertory band. Their forthcoming second album, About Us (482 Music), shifts toward a contemporary repertoire, including material by the band and by three local stalwarts—trombonist Jeb Bishop, saxophonist David Boykin, and guitarist Jeff Parker, each of whom guests on the song he contributes. That said, the sound of People, Places & Things hasn't changed much: it still combines the bluesy brawn of Chicago's postbop past (especially on pieces like "V.S. #1" and Boykin's "Big and Fine") with thoroughly present-day improvisational vocabularies and a whole-band style of interaction that's worlds apart from the traditional solo-and-vamp approach. They remain my favorite jazz group in town, and though Haldeman recently moved to Ann Arbor and Ward's leaving for New York in the fall, they plan to keep playing. They've also got an octet record on deck, with the core group augmented by Bishop and three Chicago vets who were on the scene in the 50s: Ira Sullivan, Art Hoyle, and Julian Priester. About Us won't be commercially available until the fall, but everyone who pays tonight's cover will get a copy. People, Places & Things play two sets; Matt Lux spins. See also Tuesday. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $12. —Peter Margasak

Wand
  • Wand

WAND James Jackson Toth's fans manage to keep up with his prolific output despite his habit of releasing records under a bewildering array of names, but someone ought to convince the Entity Formerly Known as Wooden Wand that he'd be a bigger deal if he could pick just one nom de freak and stick with it—maybe Michael Gira will manage to do that, now that Toth is signed to Young God. Toth has two newish releases under the Wand name, the very-limited-edition vinyl Born Bad (Mad Monk/People in a Position to Know) and a collection of home recordings and demos called Hard Knox (Ecstatic Peace). A small group of consistent collaborators helped him settle the eerie, free-flowing, darkly romantic blues on Hard Knox into a focused and forceful form, but he parted ways with many of them in 2008, including his wife, Jexie Lynn—one of a series of private calamities that helped produce the grim, skeletally bare tunes on Born Bad. Speck Mountain and Scott Tuma & Mike Weis open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Monica Kendrick

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