Antietam | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Nearly every time I've seen Antietam, there's come a moment when guitarist Tara Key and bassist Tim Harris, the husband-and-wife team who've been this Hoboken band's axis for 20 years, stand back-to-back and lean into each other--hard. Inevitably one or both end up staggering across the stage. It sounds corny, but it's a hoot to watch--and an apt metaphor for the taut balance between melody and noise in Antietam's music. Key once admitted to me that she spent her childhood singing Monkees songs into her bedpost, but she grew up to be a punishingly loud and ferociously physical guitar player; her wild onstage acrobatics actually follow a rigorous discipline, with each contortion creating a specific crunch, shriek, or howl. Accordingly, Victory Park (Carrot Top), Antietam's first record in a decade, is overflowing with combustible guitar work and great tunes. Key sings on most of the tracks, in a voice that veers from an intimate warble to a chesty, Patti Smith-like roar; Harris and longtime drummer Josh Madell take the lead for a song apiece as well. Antietam will open for Chicago's Eleventh Dream Day, whose guitarist, Rick Rizzo, recorded an instrumental LP with Key four years ago called Dark Edson Tiger. But the connections here go back further than that: in '97 Key toured as a de facto member of EDD, and in the early 80s, Dream Day drummer Janet Bean played with Harris and Key in an unrecorded Louisville combo called the Zoo Directors. This show re-creates a bill that gave us several fantastic concerts in the early 90s, with the two bands egging each other on to outrageous displays of feedback-laden excess. Sunday, May 16, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.

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