The Pine Valley Cosmonauts make Tom Waits’s 1973 debut feel relevant for our times | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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The Pine Valley Cosmonauts make Tom Waits’s 1973 debut feel relevant for our times

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Led by Jon Langford of the Mekons and the Waco Brothers, Chicago alt-country band the Pine Valley Cosmonauts have covered plenty of ground in their quarter century or so of existence: they’ve made tribute albums for icons such as Bob Wills and Johnny Cash, spearheaded a series of death-themed covers compilations called The Executioner's Last Songs, and provided backing for solo musicians, including Chicago folkie Kelly Hogan and Chumbawamba cofounder Danbert Nobacon. The ensemble’s latest endeavor is The Closing Time, a track-by-track interpretation of Tom Waits’s 1973 debut, Closing Time. In the Pine Valley Cosmonauts’ hands, the album’s melancholy ballads of reminiscence and regret feel like the perfect memorial for the times before the pandemic, and their evocations of lonely late nights and community arrive as a balm after more than a year of isolation. (I know what the Hideout, which is hosting these shows, smells like at 6 AM—and I appreciate that knowledge more now than ever.) The Closing Time reminds us of some of the things we've been missing since venues were forced to close last spring: camaraderie with folks you don't know well but keep seeing at shows, for instance, or the experience of having an intimate conversation with someone you’ve never seen in daylight, so that you don't recognize them in the supermarket. Tom Waits was only 24 when he made Closing Time, and it’s been argued that he hadn't yet accumulated the weight of life experience to sing about what he did on that album. But the brilliant barfly talents present on this record certainly have put in the years, and not just collectively—joining Langford is a cast of alt-country and folk-rock royalty that includes Andrew Bird, Sally Timms, Jeff Tweedy, Rosie Flores, and Janet Bean. These shows, which will feature Langford, Bean, Timms, Bethany Thomas, John Szymanski, Rick Cookin' Sherry, Nora O'Connor, and Dave Crawford, are benefits for the Chicago Independent Venue League (CIVL). Langford will also moderate Q&As with the show’s coproducer, Gregory Hall of Virtue Cider.  v

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