Peter Stampfel | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Peter Stampfel

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You've no doubt heard of the monsters of rock and the dinosaurs of rock; Peter Stampfel is a genuine insect of rock, an amusing, somewhat cartoony little creature who has flitted across more than three decades of American music and provided, along the way, a lot more pleasure than any dinosaur you can name. Half beat, half hippie, he teamed up with Steve Weber in the infamous Holy Modal Rounders in the 60s, creating a loopy but enjoyable legacy of what was then called acid folk. (The "acid" part refers to the performers, the "folk" to the music; Stampfel himself called it "progressive old-timey," which is actually a better term in the way it captures the panorama of popular music influences that pop their heads up, now and again, in Stampfel's music. This is a guy who should be recording on 78s.) Stampfel also helped record the first two Fugs albums and was a key contributor to the famously weird and engaging "Have Moicy" song cycle helmed by another psychedelic folkie, Michael Hurley. (It was recently rereleased on CD on Rounder, and worth picking up.) He reemerged in the 80s as a recording artist with the Bottle Caps, putting together a pair of very funny full-band albums late in the decade, but then disappeared again. He's appearing this weekend at the urging of Chicago's Rich Krueger and his band, the Dysfunctionells, who'll be backing him up. Don't go expecting too much: Stampfel has a crackly, wobbly voice that takes some getting used to, and since he won't have his own band with him he may be a little constrained in his waltzes through the past. (Back in the good old days Stampfel was said to know every song ever written.) But this is Stampfel's first visit to Chicago in six years, and as a bandleader, musician, song interpreter, and pop excavator, he's always epitomized the fact that you can be a rock 'n' roll star and not even play the damn music. Sunday, 9 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Patti Perret.

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