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The List: November 26-December 2, 2009

Critics' Choices and other notable concerts: the Big Pink, the Jesus Lizard, Melt-Banana, the King Khan & BBQ Show, Municipal Waste, and more

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The Big Pink, Crystal Antlers
Bottle Rockets
The Jesus Lizard


The Jesus Lizard


Guillermo Gregorio & the Madi Ensemble




The XX


Bebel Gilberto
The King Khan & BBQ Show
Municipal Waste
Jason Stein


Crystal Antlers - JENNIE WARREN
  • Jennie Warren
  • Crystal Antlers

THE BIG PINK, CRYSTAL ANTLERS If all you knew was THE BIG PINK's name, you might reasonably expect this British duo's debut full-length, A Brief History of Love (4AD), to sound more than a little like Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes. But rather than become the gajillionth act to revisit late-60s jangle folk, the Big Pink—aka Merok label head Milo Cordell, who helped break Klaxons and Crystal Castles, and former Alec Empire guitarist Robbie Furze—apparently decided they wanted to sound like a mashup of every good band working in the UK during the 90s. Their songs have shaggy, heavily syncopated beats that remind me of the Happy Mondays, an approach to distortion effects that's almost as liberal as My Bloody Valentine's, and hooky vocal melodies that rival Damon Albarn at his best—most notably on the brain-conqueringly catchy "Dominos." I'm also pretty sure they nicked the main vocal melody on "At War With the Sun" from Ginuwine's "Pony," which makes me like them even more. —Miles Raymer

California six-piece CRYSTAL ANTLERS were riding one hell of a buzz when Touch and Go picked up their stunning debut EP last year. Of course, buzz is hardly a reliable indicator of quality, but this time the zeitgeist nailed it—the band's follow-up full-length, Tentacles, proves the EP was no fluke. The album seethes, churns, whoops, erupts, and on memorable occasions even proudly choogles—it's a messy blend of garage soul and spaceship grease, coarse enough that if you fish around you can pick out bits of influences like the Animals, MC5, Hawkwind, and P-Funk. The one thread I can hold on to all the way through is the snaky organ of Victor Rodriguez, who's since been replaced by Cora Foxx; in the maelstrom of this music it works like the hero's voice-over in an otherwise overwhelming action movie. —Monica Kendrick

The Big Pink headlines; Crystal Antlers and White Car open. 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $13, limited $10 tickets.

Bottle Rockets
  • Bottle Rockets

BOTTLE ROCKETS In "Shame on Me," from the Bottle Rockets' new Lean Forward (Bloodshot), front man Brian Henneman plays the role of repentant boyfriend, rattling off promises to his girl—not to waste any more days, not to lie, not to start fights—that she knows he won't be able to keep. But he knows the score too, and he understands how vulnerable his own fuckups make him: toward the end he sings, "I never want to lose her company / She knows who holds that key." The song's another gem from a guy who's been turning out blue-collar poetry for 15 years now—you can have your Bruce Springsteen. On Lean Forward the band sticks to its long-established formula—a mix of Crazy Horse stomp, ZZ Top choogle, and Nashville twang—and thanks in part to producer Eric "Roscoe" Ambel, who worked on the Bottle Rockets' classic second record, The Brooklyn Side, it's still pretty irresistible. A few songs put a foot wrong: the commentary on war in "Kid Next Door," about a neighbor who's gone off to fight, falls flat, and the Zen optimism of "The Long Way" sounds a little strange coming from a hardened cynic like Henneman. But the simple pleasures of the album win out: "Nothin' but a Driver" is about a valet who gets a kick from very short joyrides in the fancy cars he parks, and "Get on the Bus" is full of sharply observed thumbnail sketches of the faces Henneman encounters. The Giving Tree Band opens.  9:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 866-468-3401, $15. —Peter Margasak

THE JESUS LIZARD Monica Kendrick said something in the Reader's guide to the 2009 Pitchfork fest that turned out to be so spot-on it's worth repeating: "The Jesus Lizard is probably the only act at Pitchfork this year with the potential to be as grab-you-by-the-throat terrifying in front of an audience of 15,000 as they can be playing to a club crowd of 150." The band opened with "Puss," promptly bludgeoning into irrelevance the 11 years that'd passed since their previous Chicago show, and as guitarist Duane Denison ground out the first chords to the next tune, "Seasick," the audience—which I swear was sweating in anticipation despite the mild weather—collectively blew its load. Front man David Yow (showing his Chicago pride with a Hot Doug's T-shirt) lunged from the stage as far as his 48-year-old legs could propel him, hollering "I can swim! I can't swim!," and the crowd not only caught him but bunched up around him as everybody in reach tried to grab a piece. The air was full of pumping fists and sprays of overpriced beer, and it sounded like a few hundred people were singing along. When he stuck to the stage Yow displayed his usual combo of charisma and surliness, a perfect complement to the Jesus Lizard's brutally ugly but absolutely riveting noise rock. These guys were untouchable at Pitchfork—undeniably the highlight of the whole weekend—and I fully expect them to tear the roof off the Metro twice over. They'll be back on New Year's Eve—the band's last scheduled show—but then you'll just have to make do with the Touch and Go reissues of Pure, Head, Goat, Liar, and Down, which came out last month. Model/Actress opens. See also Saturday. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+. —Kevin Warwick



AXEMEN If in the world of classic New Zealand underground rock the Chills' earnest pop represents the north pole and the Dead C's corrosive noise is the south, then the Axemen are the molten center of the earth—their shambling, stylistically promiscuous, and occasionally tuneful postpunk is like a bad case of planetary heartburn. In band histories they claim they formed for political reasons, but the recorded evidence suggests that they just wanted to get up everyone's noses. Their apex—or nadir, depending on your point of view—came in 1992, when they appeared on a children's TV show in drag and plugged a record called Peter Wang Pud. Siltbreeze has reissued two early Axemen albums this year (a third is still forthcoming), and now guitarist Little Stevie McCabe and drummer Stu Kawowski are undertaking their first American tour. They've also got a new split seven-inch with Times New Viking, available only at shows, on which the two bands cover each other's songs. Golden Birthday, Thunderbolt Pagoda, and David Diarrhea open. At 6 PM today the Axemen play a free in-store at Permanent Records (1914 W. Chicago) with Cave side project Bitchin' Bajas opening. 9:30 PM, Rueben's Palace, 1620 N. Fairfield, rear building, $7 donation requested. —Bill Meyer

THE JESUS LIZARD See Friday. Triclops! opens. 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203, sold out, 18+.


GUILLERMO GREGORIO & THE MADI ENSEMBLE Presented by the International Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, the Latino Music Festival spotlights a classical tradition that's usually overshadowed by enormously popular styles like reggaeton and salsa. The penultimate concert of this year's festival, which began in September, is by the Madi Ensemble, a group founded by Argentine composer and reedist Guillermo Gregorio to honor South America's nearly forgotten classical avant-garde, which has historically been aware of but distinct from its European and North American counterparts. The work of artists' collectives like Arte Madi and Arte Concreto Invencion, both formed in the mid-40s, often overlaps in conception with this music, and to underscore those connections, images of paintings, sculptures, and hybrid works will be screened during the performance. Pianist Jeff Kowalkowski will play a solo arrangement of Juan Carlos Paz's "Ten Pieces on a Row in Twelve Tones" (1944) and a nine-piece version of the Madi Ensemble will perform works by Gregorio, Argentinean Gustavo Leone, and Uruguay-born Elbio Barilari. Barilari's contribution uses folk-dance rhythms and celebrates his countryman Joaquin Torres Garcia, whose visual art prefigured Arte Madi in its bridging of the figurative and the abstract. Gregorio's three pieces, with their modular construction and elements of improvisation and musique concrete, reflect his interest in applying principles from architecture and design to music—and tonight's lineup of the Madi Ensemble includes two of his most sympathetic collaborators, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Carrie Biolo. 6:30 PM, Claudia Cassidy Theater, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630. —Bill Meyer

Rempis/Rosaly: Frank Rosaly and Dave Rempis
  • Rempis/Rosaly: Frank Rosaly and Dave Rempis

REMPIS/ROSALY Because saxophonist Dave Rempis and drummer Frank Rosaly are half of the splendid Rempis Percussion Quartet, you might imagine you'd only get half as much music from just the two of them. But the duo format actually affords them more freedom to explore divergent styles and dynamic extremes than they have in the RPQ. "Still Will," from their forthcoming debut CD, Cyrillic (482 Music), starts out so quiet it's barely there, slowly building from tiny rustles and low moans to startling, emphatic cries. On "In Plain Sight," Rempis casts out bobbing, bebop-inspired baritone phrases over Rosaly's shuffling snare beats, then reels in an exquisite sliver of a ballad. And on the album's epic centerpiece, "How to Cross When Bridges Are Out," the two men sustain a circuitous, mutually challenging dialogue of discrete gestures, darting feints, and blistering energy vectors for more than 15 minutes. Though Cyrillic won't be officially released until January, the duo will have copies for sale at this record-release show, which is also the first date of a two-week tour. 10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Bill Meyer


MELT-BANANA Legendary Japanese avant-rock outfit Melt-Banana is, far more than any hardcore or metal band with the mandatory "bad attitude," a parent's nightmare—just in a different way. Imagine a babbling, sugar-crazed toddler who grabs, bangs on, and breaks everything she can reach—and then imagine her staying that way for 16 years and counting. Obviously natural selection favors kids who eventually settle down, but for bands it can sometimes work better to hang on to that frenzied, reckless energy. Melt-Banana's core duo, singer Yasuko "Yako" Onuki and guitarist Ishirou Agata, recently launched a new incarnation, Melt-Banana Lite, but little about its joyously spastic noise-punk is actually new—and this version is only "lite" in the sense that it's a trio instead of the usual four-piece. The chirpy, barking vocals, frenzied drums, and grotty, grinding bass lines are still there (though the bass, triggered by Onuki, is electronic), and Agata replaces his swooping, chittering, howling guitar with synths and samples that do more or less the same things. The new Melt-Banana Lite Live Ver. 0.0 (A-Zap) is as wild as any album they've ever made—which is to say it might mess you up one-tenth as thoroughly as the disorienting and ecstatic barrage of an actual Melt-Banana show. The two versions of the band share tonight's headlining slot; Triclops!, 97-Shiki, and Jewsus open. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $12, 17+. —Monica Kendrick


THE XX Right now a lot of excellent young artists are making records that pose interesting questions about what dance music is and what it isn't. If a track fits comfortably in a dance DJ's set but leans heavily on guitars and, say, some sort of unidentifiable clanging sound, should it be considered danceable rock music or rocking dance music? What about a song that uses beats straight from the dance floor alongside tones and melodies that would clear the room at most clubs? For at least the next 15 minutes the band that's probably most likely to bring these questions to a wider pop audience is the XX, three mopey-looking Londoners whose recent self-titled debut for XL combines a sparse postpunk aesthetic—imagine a sleepy, gently soulful Joy Division with boy-girl vocals—and a pile of postdubstep influences, ending up with something supercatchy and extremely tough to pin down. The Friendly Fires headline. 8 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775, sold out, 18+. —Miles Raymer


BEBEL GILBERTO With the new All in One (Verve), Bebel Gilberto seems to be announcing herself as an international artist, for better or worse, even though her music is still clearly rooted in the sounds of Brazil; though she's lived in Rio, she was born in New York and makes her home there now. It's obvious at this point that she's not interested in settling into a single identity—she brings fizzy buoyancy to the bossa nova classic "Bim Bom" (written by her father, Joao) and taut funkiness to Bob Marley's "Sun Is Shining," and she obviously has a blast covering one of Carmen Miranda's signature tunes, "Chica Chica Boom Chic." Unfortunately the songs that she wrote herself—sometimes in collaboration with Didi Gutman (of Brazilian Girls) and Carlinhos Brown—tend to be gentle ballads that fade into the background, conveying a mood but not doing much else. The advantage of seeing Gilberto live is that she can rescue even such relatively weak material with her sensual, engaging presence. 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage, 773-929-5959 or 312-559-1212, $25, 18+. —Peter Margasak

THE KING KHAN & BBQ SHOW The simple but irresistible garage rock on Invisible Girl (In the Red), the new long-player from the duo of Mark "BBQ" Sultan (drums, guitar, vocals) and Arish "King" Khan (guitar, vocals, cross-dressing), is sometimes boisterously goofy, occasionally unspeakably filthy, and often cut with a sentimental streak a mile wide—in other words, it's a lot like their other records. Not that I'm complaining. Snotty stompers like "Tastebuds" (a puerile fantasy about having taste buds on one's naughty parts) seem scientifically engineered to keep your parents out of your room, and hoarsely tender ballads like the title track could soundtrack a slow dance if they were a hair less trashy—it's an album good for whatever ails you, with the possible exception of anhedonia. The band missed a few dates a couple weeks ago after a run-in with John Q. Law in Kentucky, but they're back on the road—only their tour manager, who's out on bail after pleading guilty to driving with a suspended license and possession of a controlled substance, looks to be the worse for wear. Those Darlins open. 8 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 866-468-3401, $15. —Ann Sterzinger

Municipal Waste
  • Municipal Waste

MUNICIPAL WASTE If you've spent much time in Logan Square or Pilsen lately (or just at the Mutiny, really) you've probably noticed a rash of baseball caps with upturned brims on the heads of young hipster dudes. During the early-80s heyday of the upturned-brim baseball cap, many subcultures laid claim to it, but none were as strongly identified with the style as thrash metal—the illegitimate child of metal and hardcore, embraced by some factions and rejected by others in each of those often competing scenes—and the cap's return is a side effect of an ongoing thrash revival. Municipal Waste were among the first to bring it back, and though the field has grown significantly more crowded since their 2005 album Hazardous Mutation blew open the gates, they're still one of the best going. On the recent Massive Aggressive (Earache) they barrel recklessly through whiplash-inducing tunes that jitter with amped-up comic-book energy. They've always favored the hardcore half of the thrash-metal hybrid—they use shouty skate-punk vocals instead of death growls, for instance, and backbeats intead of blastbeats—and the exuberant adolescent gnarliness of their lyrics and imagery is an effective antidote to metal's creeping self-seriousness. They're impressively dedicated to 80s-appropriate merch too: among the latest offerings in the band's online store are Municipal Waste sweatpants. Off With Their Heads, Phobia, and Cauldron open. 6 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $14. —Miles Raymer

Jason Stein - JOHN STURDY

JASON STEIN As one of the few improvisers to play bass clarinet exclusively, Jason Stein has had to work extra hard—unlike most of his peers, who sometimes switch to a saxophone or some smaller species of clarinet, he has to accommodate the needs of different groups solely by wrangling with his rather unwieldy instrument. Like brilliant German bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, Stein has managed to extend the sound of the horn, giving it the full-bodied feel of a sax in certain contexts. Tonight he celebrates the release of two very different new recordings. In Exchange for a Process (Leo) is an arresting solo effort in which he isolates and enlarges upon specific aspects of his vocabulary, treating them to a kind of microscopic focus that renders the results almost completely abstract. Many of the pieces are clearly linear, but only a few develop melodically; many zero in on breath sounds or tensely knotted phrases that Stein pulls apart with methodical rigor. Three Less Than Between (Clean Feed) is the second album from Locksmith Isidore, his trio with drummer Mike Pride and bassist Jason Roebke; as the two of them flesh out Stein's strong tunes, which routinely dissolve the boundary between composition and improvisation, they do an excellent job switching from bristling swing to tangled outbursts of unmetered free jazz. It's especially rewarding to listen to the trio after the solo record: the different aspects of his technique that he showcases alone are the raw materials from which he shapes his spontaneous lines in the group. Stein opens with a solo set and headlines with Locksmith Isidore; Mitch Cocanig and Andrea Jablonski spin. 9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433 or 866-468-3401, $7. —Peter Margasak


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