When: Mon., Sept. 19, 9 p.m. 2011
It's been 15 years since this English band, who reunited after Kurt Cobain went public with his fandom in 1992, made their most recent album, Looking in the Shadows. In 1993 his love for the Raincoats convinced his label, DGC, to reissue their three Rough Trade albums, and Cobain invited the band to open a UK Nirvana tour that was to start a week after he committed suicide. The band's two core members, Gina Birch and Ana da Silva, have kept a version of the Raincoats going ever since, though till recently live gigs have been rare, usually at big festivals like All Tomorrow's Parties—they played the fest curated by Matt Groening in May 2010 and will return in December for the UK event curated by Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel. They make their long-overdue Chicago debut as part of six-city North American tour that coincides with a new reissue of 1981's Odyshape (We Three), their second and finest album. Formed in 1977, the Raincoats were inspired by punk, but more by its anyone-can-do-it ethos than its loud-fast-and-crude sound. What Birch, da Silva, violinist Vicky Aspinal, and the band's long line of drummers (including Palmolive of the Slits) lacked in skill they made up for with inventiveness, writing wonderfully convoluted songs that seemed to teeter on the brink of dissolution. Their idiosyncratic art-pop lifted ideas from reggae and African music, and because they couldn't reproduce those styles exactly, they ran with their own quirky approximations. This gave the Raincoats a unique sound: technically shaggy, texturally rich, rhythmically jagged, and melodically ripe. The current lineup consists of Birch, da Silva, violinist Anne Wood (who's been with the group since it re-formed), and drummer Vice Cooler (who wasn't even born till 1984, the year the original Raincoats released their last album, Moving). There are few shows this year I've looked forward to so much. —Peter Margasak Grass Widow and Brain Idea open. The Raincoats also do a meet-and-greet at 7 PM at Reckless Records, 1532 N. Milwaukee.