A neighborhood dispute in east Wicker Park has ended up being the catalyst for a new record store. Over its five-year existence, Tim Adams has always run Ajax Records--a one-man label and national distributor of much hard-to-find stuff--out of his apartment. Recently, some city inspectors showed up at Adams's door; he was informed that there'd been reports that he's been running a business out of his home, and by the way, did he have a city business license? Adams doesn't know for sure, but he suspects the visit may have had something to do with an ongoing disagreement between his landlord and a local bar owner. Turns out Adams didn't have the license and that he was in a noncommercially zoned area to boot. His response: Ajax goes legal, and retail. The location is 2156 W. Chicago, next door to the Soul Kitchen restaurant. Adams's lease begins November 15; he's talking about a November 22 opening.
The Mekons are holding a record-release party for their new album, Mekons Love You, on Touch and Go records, at Lounge Ax on Tuesday. Musical entertainment, says Jon Langford, will be provided not by the band but by, um, Iggy Yoakam & the Pogo Ponies.
The Empty Bottle, the friendly bar on the western outskirts of Wicker Park, is expanding to include a live-music venue one block down the street. Owner Bruce Finkelman says he envisions a club with Lounge Ax-quality acts and amenities. The opening weekend lineup includes Shorty and Mama Tick Thursday (October 28), and continues tonight with a show by ex-Shrimp Boater Ian Schneller's new band, Falstaff, along with Squash Blossom and Howards. Scrawl, Canteen, and Slow Worm play Saturday. All the shows are free. What else is coming up, Bruce? "I think we're going to leave that up to the imagination for a while," he replies enigmatically. The new club, at 1035 N. Western (the phone is 276-3600), will be open nightly; the old one will stay open as well for the time being. "We have a new plan for the old space," he says. What's that? "I'm not telling."
WXRT's treasure trove of recorded shows has been raided for a new album, On XRT: Live From the Archives, Volume 1. The 14 tracks include everyone from Melissa Etheridge to Los Lobos, culled from live shows and in-studio performances. Highlights: the Replacements doing "I Will Dare," from the band's 1991 Fourth of July show in Grant Park, their last ever; a three-song medley (including "Senses Working Overtime") by XTC, from an on-air appearance in 1989; and Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians doing "Railway Shoes," also live in the studio. Proceeds go to Chicago House, an AIDS support group, and the Jam Productions charity, Christmas Is for Kids. It's available November 16.
Hitsville would like to plug as perfunctorily as possible the fact that he now cohosts--with Jim DeRogatis of the Sun-Times--a weekly music talk show. It's on the Loop FM, Sundays from 4 to 6 PM.
Nirvana's epochal appearance at the Aragon last Saturday had two interesting features. First, there was an unprecedentedly decent sound mix at the notoriously echoey Aragon. Some Chicago lifers contend that in its salad days the Aragon had OK sound, but attendees nowadays know that bands rarely make the effort. Good sound is the artists' responsibility, no one else's. Nirvana, who brought along their own sound system, took the time to make it work. The result wasn't pristine--just decent--but it was sufficient to work the crowd up into an unbridled frenzy when necessary. Second, there was the show's pacing: hard (very hard) and soft (down to acoustic guitar and accordion), back and forth throughout the night, by turns scary and hushed. In-concert moves of this nature--exhibiting maturity, growth, care for the audience, stuff like that--are the things that put you in the history books long after Time magazine cover fodder like Pearl Jam are forgotten.
The Smashing Pumpkins are the musical guests on Saturday Night Live this week.
Michael Corcoran update: The former Sun-Times writer, who scampered off to Dallas to write about country music for the Morning News, continues to outrage the locals by twitting heroes like Garth Brooks (who played four sold-out shows at Texas Stadium earlier this month) and Billy Ray Cyrus. Of an interminable two-and-a-half-hour concert by the latter, Corcoran wrote: "This guy pulled out all the stops except the one marked 'stop.'" The Dallas Observer, the local alternative weekly, named him "best reason to read the Dallas Morning News" in a recent best-of-Dallas issue. Corcoran and wife Victoria Gaumer, who married in February, just ten days after their first date, are expecting a child in spring. "Tomorrow we go looking at tract housing in North Dallas," Corcoran reports, perhaps seriously.
The October 15 issue of the Grey City Journal, a student newspaper at the U. of C., contains strange testimony to many things: Urge Overkill's musical assault on indie politics, the irrepressibility of college radio, the tortured soul of Ken Kurson. "Urge Overkill & WHPK: An Annotation," an article by Kurson--onetime Lilacs frontman and current U. of C. student and staffer at 'HPK, the campus radio station--is a hysterical rundown of the comments from DJs collected on the back of Urge's Saturation album. Each comment is reprinted in full, complete with Kurson's lengthy glossings of the indie philosophies and personal animosities that inform each one. The piece ends with Kurson's own submission on the record, a sobering account of the death of one rock 'n' roll fan's idealism. Want a copy of it? Send Hitsville an SASE.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yael Routtenberg.