Plastic People of the Universe | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Plastic People of the Universe Critic's Choice Recommended Soundboard

When: Sat., Sept. 20, 4:30 p.m. 2008

Bands who complain in interviews about group infighting and the stresses of life on the road could stand to learn something about adversity from this Zappa- and Velvets-inspired Czech outfit. Formed in the wake of the ’68 Soviet invasion, the Plastic People of the Universe were banned for most of their career, and a couple members spent significant time behind bars. Fans, including Vaclav Havel, risked abuse and arrest just to see them play. The band split up in 1988—a year and a half shy of the Velvet Revolution—and then reunited in 1997 under songwriter and bassist Milan “Mejla” Hlavsa, who’d been exercising his dark humor with the Plastics offshoot Pulnoc, or “Midnight.” (For an idea of Hlavsa’s wicked streak, see the ’98 interview with online rag Perfect Sound Forever in which he recalls playing “Dirty Boulevard” alongside hero Lou Reed at a White House dinner while the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal was in full swing.) Hlavsa died of lung cancer in 2001 and has been replaced, but the Plastics still deal in defiant and surprisingly funky prog rock that’s complex, soulful, and full of life. Sonoi and Jeroen Saegeman open. This set is part of the Hideout Block Party. Plastic People of the Universe also play on Thursday at the Hideout. —Monica Kendrick

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