The List: February 17-22, 2011 | Soundboard | Chicago Reader

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The List: February 17-22, 2011

Critics' Choices and other notable shows

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Thursday17

>Critic's Choice< Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Leif Ove Andsnes

Friday18

>Critic's Choice< Beans
>Critic's Choice< 
Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Leif Ove Andsnes
Startless
Wild Nothing

Saturday19

>Critic's Choice< Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Leif Ove Andsnes
>Critic's Choice< Dismemberment Plan
Future Islands
>Critic's Choice< Motorhead
Old 97's

Sunday20

>Critic's Choice< Available Jelly
>Critic's Choice< Dismemberment Plan

Tuesday22

>Critic's Choice< Absu


>Critic's Choice< Available Jelly
Lizz Wright


>Critic's Choice< Thank You

Wednesday23

>Critic's Choice< Available Jelly
Fishbone


>Critic's Choice< Krunchies

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH LEIF OVE ANDSNES In the absence of Riccardo Muti, who fainted and fell from the podium during a rehearsal two weeks ago, fracturing multiple bones in his face and jaw, the CSO has scrambled for replacement conductors. The good news is that the ebullient Gianandrea Noseda takes the reins for this program, though with an unfortunate change away from the unique music of Edgard Varese. Most important, pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will still play Brahms's glorious Piano Concerto no. 2 in B-flat Major. The restraint he brings to the Romantic repertoire—rubato is barely in his vocabulary, and his critics would like to thaw some of his Norwegian reserve—seems very natural and can be quite convincing. Andsnes has called this work "the most joyful thing I've done with an orchestra," noting that he finds "so much chamber music in it." Brahms beautifully weaves piano and orchestra together in this most symphonic of concertos—the soloist's virtuosity is buried in the music. The concert opens with Stravinsky's Divertimento (Suite From The Fairy's Kiss), a lightweight piece drawn from his 1928 ballet homage to Tchaikovsky, which used melodies from that composer's early piano pieces and songs. Next comes Borodin's sensuous Polovtsian Dances, from his opera Prince Igor, whose melodies have seeped into popular culture. Noseda, once a protege of Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg (home of the Kirov Orchestra, Opera, and Ballet), knows just what to do with this music. See also Friday and Saturday. 8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $28-$239. —Steve Langendorf

friday18

Beans - BEOWULF SHEEHAN
  • Beowulf Sheehan
  • Beans

BEANS Brooklyn-based rapper Beans, a sometime member of underground hip-hop group the Anti-pop Consortium, is a lot like KRS-One—they share much more than a clipped, stentorian flow and a tendency to rep the outer boroughs. Both favor proudly uncommercial beats paired with raps that demand—both literally and figuratively—the respect of the biggest, highest-selling MCs in the industry. Beans may reference indie-centric venue the Knitting Factory in his rhymes, but judging by the title of "Superstar Destroyer"—the opening cut off his newest record, End It All (Anticon)—he's aiming his claims of verbal superiority at targets higher up the food chain than the indie-rap scene. And juding by the dexterity and commanding presence he shows therein, that's exactly where he should be aiming them. Beans also coproduced every track on the album, with help from the likes of Four Tet, Tobacco, Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino (under his Sam Fog alias), and beat-making Tortoise side project Bumps. End It All could stand alone, without his commanding raps, as an instrumental set of giddily perverse but highly satisfying electronic experiments. Serengeti, Tomorrow Kings, Skech185, and DJ Uncle El open. 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 866-468-3401, $12, 17+. —Miles Raymer

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH LEIF OVE ANDSNES See Thursday. 8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $28-$239.

STARTLESS The current cassette revolution is, for the most part, a nostalgic exercise in fetishizing old crap, and as such it's worth sitting out. If you want downgraded sound that fits in your coat pocket, there's got to be some kid on your block with an outmoded MP3 player he doesn't want anymore. But Jason Zeh of Bowling Green, Ohio, has found a way to make music out of the cassette's destruction. Live, Zeh stretches tapes, runs handheld demagnetizers over them while they play, and even uses candles to melt both cassettes and players, yielding a rich variety of squelching, clicking, and scraping sounds. Startless is Zeh's project with local noise magnate Blake Edwards (best known as Vertonen), who in this context sets aside his usual electronics to work with playback media, including turntables, tapes, and shortwave radios. The 36-minute piece from their forthcoming debut CD-R, Circulation Decay (C.I.P./Eye Wish Arts), consists of sounds you might call noise, but it's never particularly harsh or noisy. Instead the duo uses remorselessly looped static and cartridge bumps to create a meditative backdrop for a leisurely conversation between shuddering tape flutters and dry, fuzzy hisses. Robert Turman headlines; Olivia Block & Lou Mallozzi, Startless, and Karl J. Paloucek open.  9 PM, Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee, third floor, enemysound.com, donation requested. —Bill Meyer

WILD NOTHING Wild Nothing might sound maudlin, but one-man band Jack Tatum is all in: there's nothing half-assed about his postgoth twee. The 22-year-old's sweet long-player Gemini and more recent Golden Haze EP, both released last year by Captured Tracks, make it clear that for discerning teens there's still nothing more evocative of ennui than the Smiths—the band's chimey/sad combo shall forever be rediscovered and reinvented by new generations of bright young things, and Tatum is near the head of the pack when it comes to channeling that sound. He throws in some muscular reverb and delay, perhaps inspired by Kate Bush or the Cocteau Twins—both have clearly influenced Gemini's feel-good soundtrack to feeling bad. Live, Wild Nothing becomes a four-piece; it's not just one dude behind a keyboard. Abe Vigoda and the Field Auxiliary open. 10 PM, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln, 773-525-2501, $12 in advance, $14 at the door, $18+. —Jessica Hopper

saturday19

CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA WITH LEIF OVE ANDSNES See Thursday. 8 PM, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000, $28-$239.

Travis Morrison of the Dismemberment Plan - FRANCES CHUNG
  • Frances Chung
  • Travis Morrison of the Dismemberment Plan

DISMEMBERMENT PLAN By the time they split up in 2003, after a decade together, the Dismemberment Plan owned their niche: by cross-pollinating the brashly nerdy and the hip cool, they'd popularized a hybrid of quirky, colorful indie rock and danceable postpunk. The D.C. quartet's third album, 1999's Emergency & I, recently got a fancy remastered double-vinyl reissue from Barsuk Records with four bonus tracks from "hard-to-find releases," and for good reason: it's a seminal disc, the Plan at their best, building off the herky-jerky fun of 1997's The Dismemberment Plan Is Terrified and not sweating the mess of confetti and party favors, which the band cleaned up in time for their last proper studio album, 2001's relatively mature and introspective Change. Front man Travis Morrison sasses his way through Emergency & I with a dorky magnetism and lyrics that mix the triumphal with the tongue-in-cheek—epitomized by "You Are Invited," about a mysterious invitation that works for everything, even clubs that turn out to be so exclusive they're boring. The bass, drums, and keyboards create frantic, urgent grooves full of head-fakes and extra beats, enough to get the most sheepish and gangly zit-faced kid dancing shamelessly in the kitchen at a way-too-hip party. The reissue has prompted an abbreviated reunion tour, and luckily Chicago gets two nights of sweaty, sweaty fun. I can't wait to see everybody in Metro lose their shit when the band busts into "The Dismemberment Plan Gets Rich." JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Kid, You'll Move Mountains open. See also Sunday.  9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, sold out, 18+. —Kevin Warwick

FUTURE ISLANDS Before they released In Evening Air (Thrill Jockey) last year, Baltimore trio Future Islands seemed like they'd always be one of those bands that excels onstage but not on record. Live, they pump out energetic New Order-style post-new wave, heavy on the bass and synths, while engrossing front man Samuel Herring—who commits his body totally to the music, as if his bandmates' notes were actually physically striking him, and might leap at any moment from a soulful melody to a gnarly, frazzled croon—directs audience-wide dance frenzies. But that vigor didn't quite come across on some of the band's earlier recordings—their 2008 album, Wave Like Home (Upset the Rhythm), suffers from rinky-dink, underpowered production that's downright distracting. In Evening Air sounds like Future Islands were able to breathe easy in the studio, though, and take the time to get everything right—the album's strong mix shows off their knack for exuberant floor-filling jams as well as mellow synth-pop. It's great to finally be able to hear some of the band's great onstage punch even when they're between tours. Ed Schrader's Music Beat and Wumme open.  10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Leor Galil

MOTORHEAD In Lemmy: 49% Motherfucker, 51% Son of a Bitch, the new documentary about Motorhead front man Lemmy Kilmister, directors Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski break up the talking-head interviews (as if we need alumni of the sleazy 80s Sunset Strip like Nikki Sixx and Dave Navarro to vouch for the man's cool) with a couple disarmingly unguarded scenes between the title character and his grown son Paul Inder. Inder is lucky Lemmy likes him, because Lemmy only likes so many things on this planet—a short list that includes Jack and Cokes, touchscreen video games in bars, and, um, collecting Nazi memorabilia. In his music, Lemmy focuses on a similarly small range of priorities: fastness, loudness, bad-assedness, and, well, not much else. There are moments in Motorhead's discography, including their latest album, The World Is Yours (UDR), where you might find yourself a little blown away by a melodic turn or a brilliant bit of phrasing. But the real lesson of the trio's oeuvre is about doing one simple thing perfectly, and then doing it again and again and again until it kills you. Clutch and Valient Thorr open. 7 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 773-276-1235, $25. —Miles Raymer

OLD 97'S I can't think of a band that's stayed loyal to the alt-country sound longer than Old 97's. This Dallas foursome have used the amped-up shuffle as their calling card since forming in 1993, and on The Grand Theatre Volume One (New West), they turn up the boilerplate Texas twang and ease off on the hookier, less rootsy tunes that front man Rhett Miller brought in while launching his solo career. (A second volume, using material from the same sessions, is due this spring.) Which isn't to say the songs are generic—Miller's a strong writer, and they're full of killer melodies, whether they run at a full gallop ("Every Night Is Friday Night (Without You)") or a relaxed trot ("Love Is What You Are"). And his lyrics are still modestly witty, whether he's rewriting Dylan's "Desolation Row" as "Champaign, Illinois" or conveying the raw spark of budding romance on the title track. Those Darlins and Whiskey Folk Ramblers open.  8:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449, $25, 18+. —Peter Margasak

sunday20

AVAILABLE JELLY The Instant Composers Pool Orchestra, led by pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink, has stood as the epitome of freewheeling Dutch jazz for more than four decades, but Available Jelly, a group dominated by American expats, proved long ago that ICP's brand of wild cross-stylistic experimentation could arise in other countries too. The musicians first came together in the mid-70s as the band for a Utah mime troupe, but on a tour of Europe they stayed behind, eventually taking root in Amsterdam toward the end of the decade as an unhinged jazz band. The Americans in that early lineup included drummer Michael Vatcher and brothers Michael and Gregg Moore; Michael played reeds and piano and Gregg played trombone, tuba, and bass. The raucous, nonhierarchical sprawl on the group's self-titled 1984 debut interrupts original tunes with a Nino Rota theme, a Rolling Stones classic, traditional music from Serbia and Italy, and South African township jazz by Abdullah Ibrahim. In the decades since, the group has thrived (albeit in fits and starts, with multiple shufflings of personnel), and even though it's among the less celebrated combos on the Amsterdam scene, its influence has been far-reaching: Chicago players like drummer Mike Reed and cornetist Josh Berman cite it as a key influence. On Available Jelly's latest album, Bilbao Song (Ramboy), cut in 2004, all of the group's virtues are on full display—Ellingtonian reeds, Mingus-like brass, strong original tunes, improvisational gambits that work like two guys playing chicken in cars, and eclectic source material (traditional music from Myanmar, the title track by Kurt Weill, "Little French Boy" from Burt Bacharach's score to Casino Royale, Hoagy Carmichael's "Baltimore Oriole"). The current Available Jelly lineup features both Moores (Gregg, returning after a long absence, will play tuba for this tour), Vatcher, cornetist Eric Boeren, and trombonist Wolter Wierbos. The first Chicago stop on this rare stateside trip is part of the Hungry Brain's ten-year anniversary series. See also Tuesday and Wednesday.  10 PM, Hungry Brain, 2319 W. Belmont, 773-935-2118, donation requested. —Peter Margasak

DISMEMBERMENT PLAN See Saturday. Maritime and the Forms open. 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-4140, sold out.

tuesday22

ABSU Formed in Plano, Texas, in the early 90s, Absu began as a fairly straight-up blackened death machine, but their metal has grown weirder and more baroque throughout the 00s. Eight years passed between 2001's Celtic-inspired masterpiece Tara and the band's most recent full-length, 2009's Absu (Candlelight), as drummer, vocalist, and mastermind Proscriptor McGovern recuperated from a serious hand injury and replaced key members who'd left—the only major release during those years was the must-have 2005 compilation Mythological Occult Metal 1991-2001. On their latest, Absu take their mythological occultism very seriously indeed—their treatment of Sumerian themes might not be as detailed as, say, Nile's, but their growly and gravid evocations of the chthonic supernatural horrors of the ancient world are wreathed in evil psychedelic vapors and nightmarishly vivid. The band claim that the album they'll record after this six-date tour with Immortal—tentatively titled Abzu, after a word the Sumerians used to attach religious significance to fresh water from underground aquifers—will tap some of the long-dormant possibilities of that most metal of languages, Enochian, allegedly an angelic tongue divinely revealed to English scientist and occultist John Dee in the late 16th century. Because guitarist Aethyris McKay has departed for the chilly forests of Norway, there to join Pantheon I, this will be Absu's first tour as a trio, but I suspect that even the artsiest songs from Absu—reissued last month with a DVD of a 2009 Montreal performance—will translate well to such a stripped-down format. They sound like they have sources of energy they've barely begun to exploit. Immortal headlines. 9 PM, Bottom Lounge, 1375 W. Lake, 312-666-6775 or 866-468-3401, $35, 17+. —Monica Kendrick

AVAILABLE JELLY See Sunday. 12:15 PM, Randolph Cafe, Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington, 312-744-6630.

Thank You. - ANDREW LIANG
  • Andrew Liang
  • Thank You.

THANK YOU Baltimore's Thank You have built a discography filled with raw, primitive tunes, so the joyful ebullience overflowing from the new Golden Worry (Thrill Jockey) comes as a pleasant surprise. A 30-minute blast of amped-up tribal thrum, it trips gleefully from postpunk mayhem to hypnotic quasi-African riffs and rhythms. The trio of Michael Bouyoucas, Jeffrey McGrath, and Emmanuel Nicolaidis (all credited with "everything") builds its songs around wide-open, roiling grooves—usually with drum patterns played mostly on tom-toms. On Golden Worry, they've learned how to vary the foreground action with minimal means: brittle single-string guitar frenzies, rudimentary organ lines, hypertense chord strumming, and dissipated vocal chants. Most of those elements have become ubiquitous in indie rock over the past few years, cropping up in the the work of everyone from fellow B-More band Animal Collective to Brooklyn art-pop act Yeasayer. But by situating them within a delightfully crushing cacophony, Thank You have brought some new life to an increasingly homogenized sound.  9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. —Peter Margasak

LIZZ WRIGHT In her quest to find the style that best serves her rich, powerful voice, Lizz Wright has traipsed through fervent neosoul and sophisticated Cassandra Wilson-esque folk jazz. On her latest album, Fellowship (Verve), she switches things up again, this time trying her hand at black gospel. The record includes a five-song medley of gospel warhorses like "Up Above My Head" and "I've Got a Feeling," but its sound is more like folk rock. The album is also overtly influenced by socially conscious a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock—Wright covers a tune by the group's founder, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Reagon's daughter Toshi produced or coproduced five tracks. Wright sounds as strong and confident as ever, but the recording sinks into Starbucks-soundtrack ecumenicism—the music is forgettable, though it probably sounds nice beneath the hiss of a milk steamer. 8 PM, SPACE, 1245 Chicago, Evanston, 847-492-8860, $32, $28 in advance. —Peter Margasak

wednesday23

AVAILABLE JELLY See Sunday. Members of Available Jelly will play in small ensembles with four local musicians: flutist Nicole Mitchell, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Harrison Bankhead, and vibist Jason Adasiewicz.  9:30 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10.

FISHBONE Fishbone are the only band ever to get H.R. and Donny Osmond on the same album, but they've spent more than three decades being sorely underheard—too many people remember only "Party at Ground Zero" or "Sunless Saturday" (or nothing at all) from their vast catalog. When a band's been around as long as this Los Angeles ska-funk-punk outfit, the personnel changes are bound to get complex, but what you need to know is this: Original member Walter Kibby II (vocals, trumpet) has rejoined the fold, and core players Angelo Moore (vocals, saxophone, funkiest theremin in the west) and John Norwood Fisher (bass) are taking the band's current incarnation into the studio for the first time since 2006's Still Stuck in Your Throat (Ter a Terre/Sound in Color). A 2010 documentary, Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone, captures the band at both high and low points—and the high points are always the live shows, which crackle and burst with enough mad-genius precision and wild energy to remind you of P-Funk in their prime. Rough Cut and Dave Herrero open. 8 PM, Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln, 773-404-9494, $18, $15 in advance. —Monica Kendrick

KRUNCHIES I'm such a big fan of the Krunchies that for about two years in the mid-aughts they were the house band for my defunct live talk show at the Empty Bottle. By now these Chicagoans have been a band for a full decade, and they just keep bashing out the soundtrack to their blue-collar northwest-side lives—a glorious Land Speed Record cacophony. They aren't the most ambitious group: they might release a seven-inch here, a seven-inch there, and their rehearsals are often as much an opportunity to tell fart jokes as an opportunity to work on songs. But that's definitely a big part of their charm, and perhaps the secret to their longevity. What's always set them apart musically from similar loud-fast practitioners are the howling, screaming call-and-response of guitarist Kevin Goggin and bassist Amanda Hohmeier and the somewhat unorthodox drumming style of Matt Hohmeier, who takes the boom-chick of 80s hardcore and spikes it with a sharp, jolting syncopation you don't often hear in music this fast. Onstage they act like goofs, filling their between-song banter with the kind of self-deprecating inside jokes that longtime friends tend to have—but as soon as they start to play again, it's off to the races, and it becomes pretty obvious they're not giving themselves enough credit for how good they sound. Brown Brogues and Dream Teens open. 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8, free with RSVP to rsvp@emptybottle.com. —Brian Costello

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