FINAL EXIT FRIDAY 6/25, NO EXIT Even as faux boho becomes entrenched in the mainstream, the real thing is passing into history. The Rogers Park coffeehouse institution No Exit has seen a lot of geniuses, eccentrics, and just regular folks seeking refuge from the button-down hordes come and go in its 41 years. It's been host to chess games, political brawls, poetry readings, and musical performances and has acquired quite a collection of memorabilia. Its closing is bittersweet, but not tragic: founders Brian and Sue Kozin aren't losing out to the evil mermaid; they're simply ready for their RV. This all-night farewell will include elegant folk songsmith Rose Polenzani, who got her start here, singer-songwriter Chris Parsley, poet and performance artist Noam Gaster, and the bands Chopped Liver Louie and Nautical Almanac. The Kozins' son David, aka Billy Sides, is a staffer at the local Skin Graft label, so younger, louder freaks like former Scissor Girl Azita Youssefi and Weasel Walter (with one of his many bands, Exzoskeleton) will mingle with the graybeards; there's also a performance by the comedy troupe Bang Bang, which has held down a weekly gig at the cafe for years. DUKE ROBILLARD 6/25, BUDDY GUY'S LEGENDS An all-star session man (Dylan's Time Out of Mind) and producer (Eddy Clearwater, John Hammond) and a veteran of Roomful of Blues and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Robillard can play wicked guitar in a variety of electric blues styles. But he almost always comes home to the place where postwar Chicago blues, early R & B, and nascent rock 'n' roll come together. The original tunes on his latest solo album, New Blues for Modern Man (Shanachie), aren't too far above the ordinary, and he's only mildly charismatic as a singer, but his playing is fiery and intelligent and his covers of Charlie Patton's "Pony Blues" and Dylan's "Love Sick" are very much living versions. TORBEN FLOOR 6/25, ELBO ROOM If the adjective "twee" didn't exist, someone would've had to invent it for Carey Ott's mournful vocals and jangly acoustic riffs. His local quartet's mostly four-track debut on the local Waterdog label, Live Music in the Apartment, sounds like the work of very nice guys who don't get out much. Song titles like "Sunk Inside a Drowning Head," "Writer's Psalm," "Storms of Loss," and "Landlord" let you know right off the bat that you're dealing with sweet, sensitive couch-potato rock; the modest guitar effect on "Our Own Way Home" is about as aggro as it gets. VONDA SHEPARD 6/27, HOUSE OF BLUES This won't surprise those of you who've actually seen Ally McBeal, but Vonda Shepard's By 7:30 (Jacket) sounds like a sound track for a sitcom about yuppies and their ironic lives. I never watch these shows--I don't have to, because there are plenty of real yuppies who lead their lives as though they were on TV. I imagine they buy records like this to reinforce that feeling. And hey--what's "Everybody's got their cross to bear / Our Star of David, our dreadlocked hair" supposed to mean? ANGELS OF LIGHT 6/29, DOUBLE DOOR Swans auteur Michael Gira has consistently included lyric sheets with his work, but he might be better served by simply listing an address where fans could write for them after they've heard the record. More than any other songwriter I can think of, Gira writes lines that simply should not work--clunky broad strokes of Grand Guignol self-loathing and redemption--yet when they're delivered amid his sweeping, overpowering arrangements, in a voice that won't consider any possibility but utter intense conviction, work they do, by some hoodoo. (This is, after all, the man who could get a roomful of NYU students to chant, "The sex in your soul will damn you to hell!") New Mother (Young God), the simultaneously delicate and heavy-handed debut of his latest project, the Angels of Light, is the long-awaited expression of his brooding folkie side, which was lurking on the latter-day Swans albums. It's since developed into a nasty country-gothic twang underscored by fiddles and banjos--the climactic chanting in "Shame" sounds like Swans Unplugged. Anyone who ever found that low, dangerous, if-only-Ian-Curtis-had-been-a-survivor vibe irresistible is bound to like this, and plenty of people who never would have considered enjoying the noisy Manhattan-junkie vibe of Swans might well get sucked in too. KEVIN O'DONNELL's QUALITY SIX 6/29, GREEN MILL Signed to Delmark and booked at the venerable Green Mill, this brother band to Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire (which is in fact almost exactly the same band) would do well to lose the collective pomo smirk it wears on the cover of the new Heretic Blues. By any standard O'Donnell is a more than competent trad-jazz drummer, and Bird is a terrific and versatile fiddler (he sticks close to the Joe Venuti tradition here) worth braving the worst of the cute retroisms for. The rest of the players hold up their end and occasionally lift it higher. But if they were more smart and less clever, they'd think twice about the appalling violence they've done to "Stack O'Lee." TODD THIBAUD 6/30, SCHUBAS It's hard to come down too sharply on a journeyman like Thibaud, who had the misfortune to record a roots-rock album for Relativity right before the label decided to release nothing but rap records. But it's even harder to get excited about yet more heartfelt, normal-guy aural mayonnaise--his new Little Mystery plays like Tom Petty without the personality. According to the PR, upon signing Thibaud the head of his current label, Doolittle Records, exclaimed, "I can't believe he's not on a major!" Neither can I. J. DAVIS TRIO 7/1, DOUBLE DOOR This south-side outfit, led by rapper Julio Davis and fleshed out with members of those nutty Baltimores, has started to get national attention with the sleek hybrid of acid jazz and hip-hop on its new J. Davis Trio (Yo Yo Smugglers). Between the slinky grooves are biting rhymes that range from plugs for Fela to rants on the unsightly proliferation of neon fanny packs in Lincoln Park to lucid diatribes on racial politics. It'd be cool if the beer gogglers in the back row could see this outfit's teeth more clearly, but I'm not knocking what they got--a spoonful of sugar can indeed make the medicine go down. This show, with Today's My Super Spaceout Day and the Aluminum Group, is a benefit for abused women.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Simon Henwood.