In 1967 at the Berkeley Folk Music Festival, the Red Krayola bombarded a crowd that'd gathered to hear Doc Watson and Janis Ian with squalls of feedback, prompting a reviewer for the Berkeley Barb to observe that the band "did nothing but get audiences uptight." He meant it as a put-down, but that embrace of the uncomfortable is what fuels guitarist and singer Mayo Thompson's creativity: nearly 30 years later, the Krayola's sole constant member told writer Richie Unterberger that "we want to be dissidents of the people to whom we should most propitiously belong." Sometimes that approach is disastrous--on the 2000 release Blues, Hollers and Hellos (Drag City), the band deliberately deprives the songs of resolution with out-of-tempo drumming and anticlimactic noodling, and doesn't offer anything to make up for the loss. But the same perversity can also produce brilliant oddities like the 1996 single "Chemistry," which turns a list of medical terms into a queasy comedy by draping it in woozy psychedelia, and the 1981 album Kangaroo?, which uses the earnest singing of Lora Logic (saxophonist for X-Ray Spex) and Gina Birch (the Raincoats) to breathe humanity into its dispassionate analyses. In 1997, when the Krayola recorded the sound track Japan in Paris in L.A. (released this summer by Drag City), its revolving-door lineup included Jim O'Rourke and David Grubbs, and the album's mostly instrumental vignettes range from eerie to erotic; on the new compilation Singles, which covers material from 1970 to 2002, Thompson employs such a variety of collaborators that he's able to set his skeptical lyrics and barbed guitar to jaunty country rock, hyperactive new wave, and fucked-up disco. Here Thompson will be backed by guitarist Tom Watson (Overpass) and drummers George Hurley (Minutemen) and John McEntire (Tortoise). This is the Red Krayola's first Chicago appearance in seven years; Make Believe and Darling open. $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Saturday, September 11, 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600 or 800-594-8499.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Welling.