A day-by-day guide to our Critic's Choices and other previews
ATERCIOPELADOS In the five years since Colombia's Aterciopelados released their last record, the two lead members have gone in different directions. Singer Andrea Echeverri released a solo disc last year that was filled with some of her airiest, most confectionary melodies and lyrics about how motherhood helped her get in touch with her sexuality; earlier this year Hector Buitrago released a much darker album, Conector (Nacional), that favored deep multiculti grooves and moody vocals from a variety of guests. Aterciopelados is back together for a new album, Oye (Nacional), and though they've retained the shimmering and soaring melodies that are their stock-in-trade, they've ditched the electronics that have increasingly dominated their music for a leaner, guitar-driven sound. They don't match the punkish intensity of their early work, but they do sound rejuvenated after the long layoff. DJs Diablo and Nando spin throughout. a 11 PM, Green Dolphin Street, 2200 N. Ashland, 773-395-0066, $35 in advance, $50 day of show. --Peter Margasak
blue meanies, bollweevils The thought of a seven-piece ska-punk band reuniting is generally a mortifying prospect, but old-schoolers the Blue Meanies were angular and artful enough that lumping them in with the rest of the pack is a little insulting. They haven't released a record or played out regularly in over five years (and still won't officially say they've broken up), but if the reports from their late-2004 Metro show are any indication, it's safe to expect the same trademark energy the group had in their prime. --Jessica Hopper
The big stories at this year's reunion-heavy Riot Fest may be the Blue Meanies and Naked Raygun, but don't overlook unsung locals the Bollweevils, who spent most of the 90s bashing out tight, beefy pop-punk with a sharper-than-usual bite. Playing this stuff's gotta be like riding a bike, and good on them for taking two laps around the block this time out: in addition to this pre-Riot Fest show, they'll play the festival proper (as will the Blue Meanies) on Saturday. See page 32 for a complete schedule. --Monica Kendrick
The Blue Meanies headline; the Bollweevils, the Tossers, and Shot Baker open. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $12 in advance, $16 at the door.
Dobet Gnahore See Saturday. Habib Koite headlines and Vusi Mahlasela performs second. a 8 PM, McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, Park and Fawell, Glen Ellyn, 630-942-4000, $36. A
HEARTLESS BASTARDS On their sophomore album, All This Time (Fat Possum), these Ohio indie-blues rockers sound more refined than on last year's Stairs and Elevators, but the power of Erika Wennerstrom's aching, rubbery voice is undiminished. She gets compared to Janis Joplin and Robert Plant, but I hear echoes of the late Gits front woman (and my college schoolmate) Mia Zapata, which sometimes makes it hard for me to listen to them. Like Zapata, Wennerstrom takes command of any song she so much as glances at; the sharper and simpler her slashing guitar gets, the further out on a limb she goes. Telenovela opens. a 10:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $10 in advance, $12 on the day of the show, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
PINEBENDER In the three years since these locals released their last album they've reconfigured their lineup: drummer Stephen Howard has taken over for Matt Clark (now in Ambulette and White/Light) on baritone guitar, making room for Dennis Stacer behind the kit. Chris Hansen still plays guitar and, to use the term loosely, sings. Despite all the reshuffling, they pretty much pick up where they left off on the new Working Nine to Wolf (Lovitt): the guitar frenzies sound like Dinosaur Jr caught in a stinging sandstorm, and though the music is sometimes downright formless, the trio isn't quite brave enough for out-and-out noise rock. This is a release party. Stnnng and Tight Phantomz open. a 10 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $8. --Monica Kendrick
csalome The emotional intensity of Richard Strauss's one-act opera, based on Oscar Wilde's play about the increasingly deranged stepdaughter of Herod, never lets up, and dramatic soprano Deborah Voigt, doing her first fully staged performance as Salome, is incredible. Her acting is wonderful, and her sound is magnificent--gorgeous whether loud or soft and always above the orchestra. She's absolutely riveting in the disturbing final scene, as she kisses and sings to the severed head of John the Baptist, here called Jochanaan. Only the famous Dance of the Seven Veils is disappointing; the weight Voight lost allows her to move more easily, but she still isn't quite comfortable in her body, and the choreography doesn't help. Bass-baritone Alan Held is outstanding as the wild Jochanaan, his enormous voice and physicality just right, and tenor Kim Begley is terrific as the unctuous and over-the-top Herod. The rest of the cast and the orchestra, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, are also superb. Salome hasn't been performed here in a decade, and tickets will fly. See also Monday; through November 21.
a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $42-$179. --Barbara Yaross
cut chemist Long after peers like DJ Shadow and Kid Koala staked out their claims in the land of turntablia with solo albums, Lucas Macfadden--aka Cut Chemist, best known for his work with Jurassic 5 and Ozomatli--has finally weighed in with the new The Audience's Listening (Warner Brothers). Macfadden's west-coast eclecticism comes through strong on his full-length debut, and it's already provoked complaints that he's trying to play to everybody and doing justice to no one. The album does in fact hopscotch from hyperactive big beat to backpacker hip-hop to scratcherific showpiece to finely calibrated jam, but it's held together by a through line of cool whimsy and Macfadden's even cooler hand with the nuts and bolts of the tracks. And there are enough sweet spots--notably the artful Brazilian-flavored ditty "The Garden"--that the album would justify itself as a collection of songs even without that undercurrent. The only lackluster cut is "What's the Altitude," featuring rapper Hymnal--and the voltaic "Storm," with guest stars Mr. Lif and Edan, more than makes up for that. Lyrics Born and Edan & Dagha open.
a 10 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $20, 18+. --Brian Nemtusak
Dobet Gnahore On her debut album, 2004's Ano Neko (Contre Jour), this singer from the Ivory Coast borrows from the musical traditions of the Congo, Mali, Ghana, South Africa, and her homeland to create slick, pop-tinged, mostly acoustic patchworks. She's a strong, soulful vocalist with a dynamic live presence, but the years she spent in France to escape civil strife at home seem to have Europeanized her sound; a promotional DVD for this tour shows her fronting an all-white band that provides some polite, homogenized backing. She's in town as part of the Acoustic Africa package tour assembled to promote the compilation CD of the same name from Putumayo Records--a label that seems determined to reduce international music to a lifestyle accessory. Malian guitarist Habib Koite headlines and South African singer Vusi Mahlasela performs second. See also Friday. a 7 and 10 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, $25, $21 seniors and kids. A --Peter Margasak
gothic archies To commemorate the release of The End, the 13th and final book in Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt (as the Gothic Archies) has released The Tragic Treasury: Songs From a Series of Unfortunate Events (Nonesuch). More a condensed, impressionistic audiobook than a sound track, the album's 15 songs wallow in an exquisitely Gorey-esque atmosphere: the music inspires you to imagine a vampire Cole Porter and a zombie Oscar Wilde having a cocktail-fueled argument in an 80s goth spot over who was the best Dickens orphan. For this show Merritt will be joined by Daniel Handler--who's never really convinced anybody that he was just a "spokesperson" for Lemony Snicket--on percussion. The ticket price includes a copy of The End. a 10 AM, Tivoli Theater, 5021 Highland, Downers Grove, 630-963-2665, $20. A --Monica Kendrick
120 days These Norwegians cite Krautrockers and 60s avant-psychedelicists as their primary influences, but the passion for burbling synths and sonic bigness they display on songs like the nearly nine-minute "Come Out, Come Down, Fade Out, Be Gone"--which opens their self-titled Vice debut--makes me certain they've also had their minds blown by at least one rave anthem. Elsewhere they could pass for an alternate-universe Spacemen 3 who traded in their guitars for vintage keyboards--in other words, exactly like the Verve playing Underworld's song from Trainspotting. Baby & Hide and Presto Descanto open. a 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8. --Miles Raymer
mark trayle & david behrman New York composer David Behrman has long been an advocate of homemade electronic music and interactive computer programs--since the 60s he's been using new technologies to expand the vocabulary of sound. A recent anthology of his work, My Dear Siegfried (XI), is a tour of where those efforts have taken him: on 1969's "A New Team Takes Over," he uses homemade synths to distort off-air comments made at a press conference following Richard Nixon's election in 1968, and on 1998's "QSRL" he uses a pitch sensor to run a musician's playing through a computer, which translates it into abstract sound. He'll be joined by a regular collaborator, California composer and computer musician Mark Trayle; they'll perform solo and together. a 9 PM, 6Odum, 2116 W. Chicago, 312-282-7676, $12. A --Peter Margasak
blue meanies, bollweevils See Friday. This is the main event of Riot Fest, headlined by Naked Raygun. See page 32 for a full schedule. a 12:15 PM, Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-752-6601 or 312-559-1212, $24.50. A
cmittens on strings The members of this "Kentuckiana" collective are firm believers in collaborative songwriting--so much so that they've even designed a flowchart illustrating how they go about it. That approach led to the diversity of styles that popped up throughout the group's early singles and EPs, which in turn flowered into the full-blown schizophrenia of Look Up the Sky!! (Emperor Jones), their full-length debut. There's a swirling, churning, Paisley Underground feel to "G.I. Dirt Races," a dark, hypnotic quality to "The Most Complete Skeleton Ever Found," and a trippy back-porch simplicity to "Enter Mothership." The biggest danger with a band like this is the tendency to fall back on quirkiness once the ideas start running thin, but so far Mittens on Strings haven't taken a wrong step. Like Califone, their jamminess is playful and melancholic enough that the patchwork holds together like a warm and trustworthy coat. Good Stuff House and Zoo Wheel open. a 9:30 PM, Subterranean, 2011 W. North, 773-278-6600 or 800-594-8499, $5. --Monica Kendrick
croswell rudd & the mongolian buryat band On paper last year's Blue Mongol (Sunnyside) seems like an awful mismatch: jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd performs with the Mongolian Buryat Band, whose sound is similar to that of Tuvan groups like Huun-Huur-Tu. But if any jazz musician can adapt to such a radically nonjazz context, it's Rudd. A former assistant to Alan Lomax, a onetime ethnomusicology student at Yale, and a master of both Dixieland and free jazz, he's consistently open to new ideas: for 2003's Malicool he collaborated with Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, finding common ground between Mali's Mande grooves and his own blustery, metallic tone and astonishing improvisations. On Blue Mongol his blubbery, multiphonic trombone duels with Battuvshin Baldantseren's throat singing, creating wonderfully tangled, splinter-toned lines. But more impressive is Rudd's ability to find his way through traditional Mongolian melodies; though harmonically complex and hypnotic, they're more like country songs than anything else, beautifully played on instruments like the horse-head fiddle, zither, and limbe (flute). Rudd's originals sound of a piece with them, excepting the silly "Buryat Boogie." This is the project's Chicago debut. a 7 and 9:30 PM, HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo, 312-362-9707, $15 in advance, $20 at the door. --Peter Margasak
matt bauder's deserts Reedist Matt Bauder was one of the most impressive musicians to move here in the late 90s, when the city's bustling improvised music scene attracted a wave of young players. He has a gorgeous, full-bodied tone on tenor sax, full of a harmonic complexity that recalls Joe Lovano, and he's not just a terrific jazz player but has also mastered more texture-oriented work. On his beautiful 2003 album, Weary Already of the Way (482 Music), he used postproduction computer manipulations to transform long tones into slow-motion elaborations, beginning with pointillistic splatters and ending with complex lines. He left Chicago in 2001 to study electronic music at Wesleyan University and later moved to New York; he's here to debut a new project, named after Edgard Varese's electroacoustic piece Deserts, that features guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Jason Ajemian, and New York violist Jessica Pavone. Bauder says the group's goal is to create "as much variation in texture and timbre as possible from the instrumentation," which suggests a series of sound pieces rather than a jazz concert. Bauder will augment his horns with a laptop, and the other players will use amplification and effects. RSVP required. a 7 PM, Gallery 37, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497. F A --Peter Margasak
cbavarian radio symphony orchestra In 2003 Mariss Jansons took over as chief conductor of the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and turned an already good orchestra into one of the finest in the world. Their 2005 CD of Shostakovich's 13th Symphony won a Grammy for best orchestral performance, and their latest recording, of his 3rd and 14th symphonies, is phenomenal, with stunning playing from all sections--the musicians' sound is remarkably well blended, and they show extraordinary vitality, finesse, and musical depth. Jansons developed his strong connection to Shostakovich while growing up in the Soviet Union, where his father was assistant conductor of the Leningrad Philharmonic under Evgeny Mravinsky, and the highlight of this concert is sure to be the composer's Sixth Symphony, whose long, grippingly dark first movement opens with a spectacular brooding melody. The Bavarians, making their first U.S. tour with Jansons, will also play Sibelius's Symphony no. 2. a 8 PM, Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan, 312-294-3000 or 800-223-7114, $35-$79. --Barbara Yaross
cDRONES, FAVOURITE SONS, DEVASTATIONS On Gala Mill (ATP), the fourth full-length from Australia's DRONES, the tunes move at a patient crawl, buffeted by a storm-tossed sea of seething guitar, their Crazy Horse howl only occasionally quieting to let through a sliver of delicate folk rock. But no matter how punishingly noisy or molasses slow they get, they never feel murky or sluggish; the band creates tension and urgency with a keen melodic sense and cunning deployment of sonic space. And front man Gareth Liddiard sings in a poetic wail that suggests he's survived on a steady diet of top-shelf Australian rock--it's like a cross between the tortured croon of Nick Cave and the psychotic harangues of the Scientists' Kim Salmon. Not to damn them with faint praise, but the Drones are the best rock band I've heard from down under since the Dirty Three. --Peter Margasak
I learned two surprising things from the FAVOURITE SONS tune "No One Ever Dies Young." First, Vice Records is now putting out bands that jack moves from late-era Pavement, and second, I can actually dig stuff that sounds like late-era Pavement--I didn't like the goofy crap on Brighten the Corners the first time around. None of the rest of the Sons' new Down Beside Your Beauty is quite so Malkmusian, but that's probably a good thing. The smeary, Strokes-ish style they work on the other tracks, which combine a loose, hungover swagger with driving protopunk rhythms, definitely suits them better--and it doesn't bring back any of the memories of endless, inescapable conversations with record-store dudes that I've kept comfortably suppressed for the past ten years. Down Beside Your Beauty doesn't go anywhere near uncharted territory, but with new musical subgenres being invented every single day, being able to take something as played out as earnest guitar rock and make it work this well is almost as impressive as inventing a style of your own. --Miles Raymer
The Australian trio the DEVASTATIONS, now based in Berlin, scored a testimonial sticker from Karen O on the cover of their debut, Coal (Brassland), where she calls the record the best thing she's heard all year. The music is smoky, tremulous cabaret of the Bad Seeds variety, though front man Conrad Standish sounds less like Nick Cave and more like Stuart Staples of Tindersticks--except maybe when he's drily dropping inky black lyrics like "My mother / She was a whore." --Jessica Hopper
The Drones headline, the Favourite Sons play second, and the Devastations open. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $10.
csalome See Friday. a 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker, 312-332-2244, $31-$169.
ceric alexander quartet The May-December collaboration between tenor saxist Eric Alexander and veteran pianist Harold Mabern, 32 years his senior, began more than a dozen years ago, and it remains one of the most fruitful relationships in mainstream jazz. (It probably helps that both spent their early 20s in Chicago, absorbing the city's hard-charging, blues-inflected approach to improvisation.) With Mabern's blocky chords and juggernaut swing as their foundation, Alexander's solos explode out of the gate and never flag, piling up inventive melodies as they hurtle to the finish; he's polished his playing over the years, and in the process he's become one of the most consistently satisfying soloists on the instrument. On his latest album, this year's It's All in the Game (HighNote), Alexander stays true to the formula that's worked well on most of his discs, assembling standards like "Where or When," a few of his own compositions, and surprises like the Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway hit "Where Is the Love" and the title track, a breezy staple of 50s and 60s pop into which he pours all of his huge, splendiferous tone. See also Wednesday and Thursday; the quartet's run continues through November 12. a 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20. --Neil Tesser
cmouse on mars, lithops On their new Varcharz (Ipecac), German electronic duo mouse on mars shift gears once again. In sharp contrast to 2004's Radical Connector, their most accessible, pop-oriented outing, the new disc is their most noisy and abrasive--though rubbery synth tones and propulsive, stuttering beats still anchor the tunes, the foregrounds are all unhinged, dissonant slashes and splatters. The roiling, heavily distorted electric bass on "Duul" seems to portend a typical hardcore punk spaz-out, but instead it becomes an in-the-red barrage of jumbled beats and biting electronics that bounces around like a fish out of water. No matter how aggressive things get, though, Mouse on Mars thankfully avoid the militaristic precision of Wax Trax-style industrial music; the tracks on Varcharz never settle into mechanical repetition, instead teetering perpetually on the verge of disintegration.
Mound Magnet (Thrill Jockey), the latest album by LITHOPS, aka Mouse on Mars member Jan St. Werner, doesn't sound as extreme as Varcharz. But the general absence of fixed beats means it lacks a defining element of Mouse on Mars's music; what's left is amorphous, knotty, and jittery, packed with a restless parade of strange electronic sounds and textures.
Mouse on Mars headlines, Holy Fuck plays second, and Lithops opens. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $15. --Peter Margasak
parenthetical girls If you could only see the cover art (two androgynous boys, either twins or clones, snuggling nude on a bed) and read the lyrics ("There's blood between my legs / And in the grass outside your house I came"), it'd be perfectly sensible for you to expect the Parenthetical Girls' Safe as Houses (Slender Means Society) to be a horrible mess. But they don't do the obvious thing and pile on the "difficult" art-rock--instead of abrasive noise or Tinkertoy time signatures they go for "Johnny Angel" glockenspiel parts, which are just as weird but easier on the ears. Like a twee Xiu Xiu, they can take twisted shit--like what seems to be a love song to someone's bisected corpse--and make it come off cute. Light Pollution opens. a 9:30 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8, 18+. --Miles Raymer
ceric alexander quartet See Tuesday. a 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.
crobyn hitchcock & the venus 3 By now Robyn Hitchcock's fans probably know better than to expect much in the way of surprises. The 2004 disc Spooked, a spare, countrified, and diamond-sharp excursion with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, was a nice changeup, but on his "twenty-somethingth" album, Ole! Tarantula (Yep Roc), Hitchcock is back to his usual brand of oddity: his shimmering and infectious psychedelic pop tunes, full of lines and imagery that would stop traffic coming from most people, occasionally seem overly familiar from him now. These days his records have to be measured by how well he's marshaled his uncanny ability to whip out strings of songs that could keep cover-hungry college bands busy for years, and on that front Ole! Tarantula does pretty well: it ranks far higher than other recent discs like Jewels for Sophia or the Soft Boys' fairly flat reunion album, Nextdoorland, though it lacks the graceful eeriness of 1996's Moss Elixir. His new backing band, the Venus 3, includes guitarist Peter Buck of R.E.M. (longtime friends and advocates of Hitchcock's) plus two members of R.E.M.'s touring lineup, bassist and keyboardist Scott McCaughey and drummer Bill Rieflin. Mark Pickerel opens. a 7:30 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $24.50, 18+. --Monica Kendrick
cJOANNA NEWSOM On her debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, Joanna Newsom sang like a 1920s barnstormer, so eager to test the aerobatic limits of her high-pitched, raw-edged voice with dizzying swoops, spins, and dives that she didn't seem to care if she crashed and burned in the process. On its successor, Ys (Drag City), the music climbs to the same spectacular heights as the singing: the five songs total nearly an hour, but their length is more than justified by the richness and drama of the orchestration, courtesy of legendary arranger Van Dyke Parks. The trilling woodwinds and swirling strings seethe behind, surge around, or crowd perilously close to Newsom's elaborate melodies but never quite touch them; her voice and harp hold the center like Homeric champions on a battlefield. And her fanciful lyrics unfold like fairy tales, their themes of vitality and mortality entwined like vines climbing an ancient fieldstone wall. Newsom won't bring an orchestra to this show but rather a six-piece band, which includes guitarist and banjoist Kevin Barker, aka Currituck Co., who recently came through town backing Vashti Bunyan. Bobby Birdman opens. a 7 and 10:30 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $20. A --Bill Meyer
ceric alexander quartet See Tuesday. a 8 and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand, 312-670-2473, $20.
JOHN LEGEND John Legend spent most of his goodish debut, Get Lifted, showing off his pseudo-mature show-tuney piano skills while asking his baby to please forgive his pussy-hound ways. People kept marketing it as the contemporary R & B equivalent of Carole King's Tapestry when it was really the second coming of Philip Bailey's Chinese Walls. The just-released follow-up, Once Again (Sony), is almost esoteric by comparison, touching on alternative rock, wine-bar electronica, and smooth-jazz jizz, but it still falls short of memorable. Robin Thicke opens. a 7:30 PM, Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, 773-275-6800 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out. --Jessica Hopper
the mall My affection for posthardcore bands with keyboards has nearly dried up, but this Bay Area trio manages to warm my heart a little by avoiding most of the usual cliches. The songs on the Mall's debut, Emergency at the Everyday (Discos Huelga), sound like the sort of thing Milemarker would've written for a music box: dorky, puerile melodies plinked out over supple bash 'n' damage rhythms. Totimoshi headlines and Green Milk from the Planet Orange plays second. a 9:30 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, 773-276-3600 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. --Jessica Hopper
tennessee three These days the Tennessee Three--Johnny Cash's old backing band--consists of the duo of lead guitarist Bob Wootton and drummer W.S. Holland, plus two more guitar players and a bassist who weren't around to accompany the Man in Black. Wootton and Holland clearly don't mind being a sort of living shrine to their departed front man--they still use Cash's tour bus and still play his hits, and Wootton's look and voice are tribute-band perfect. But they throw in a few originals too, and they've got living-legend credentials of their own: Holland was the drummer on Carl Perkins's "Blue Suede Shoes," for instance, and played at the "Million Dollar Quartet" session featuring Cash, Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley. a 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, 773-489-3160 or 312-559-1212, $17 in advance, $20 at the door. --Monica Kendrick