Friday, September 28
9 pm | Ely Guerra
Ely Guerra is one of the most original and arresting musicians Mexico has produced since the late 80s, when Spanish-language rock bands began turning to native traditions for inspiration. Her most recent album, the gorgeous Lotofire (EMI, 1999), has inexplicably failed to see release in the U.S., even though it was recorded in New York with a raft of well-known musicians, including guitarists Marc Ribot and Chris Whitley, bassists Melvin Gibbs and Greg Cohen, and violinist Eyvind Kang. The fire of Mexican bolero flickers within Guerra's cool, breathy singing, which reflects the rhythmically breezy Brazilian pop music she grew up with--her father was a professional soccer player and discovered the music through his teammates. Both on record and live (I saw her perform in March at South by Southwest) Guerra likes to keep things at a slow simmer. Beats both acoustic and programmed and subtle electric guitar filigree drop in and out of the mix, making the moments at which she chooses to raise the intensity all the more effective. But her sense of dynamics is far more sophisticated than the Nirvana-esque soft-loud game, with every piece of the instrumentation meticulously arranged to give the impression that the music emanates from her rising and falling emotions. Her songs are filled with surprises, like the way the phrase "lonely nights, lonely nights" appears out of the blue to ride the pretty, slow-drag funk on "Tengo frio" home, or the shift from big rock drumming to shuffling drum 'n' bass-like beats on "Abusar." If an American record company ever gets smart enough to release her music, Guerra will have as much potential as anyone to test how big of a hurdle language really poses for the pop audience.
9 pm | Ilgi
The Hideout ($8, 21+)
Ilgi, a prime mover in the Latvian folk revival, formed in 1981--when embracing one's ethnic identity wasn't too cool with the Soviet brass. The musicians sought out their elders to collect songs, and while their early work was to celebrate their hidden culture, eventually that material became grist for the mill. Two decades later Latvia is independent, and Ilgi's repertoire now features as many rock-charged originals as traditional tunes. In the scant performances I've heard of what seems to be the dominant Latvian trad song form, the short and prosaic daina, the rhythms are rather plodding, so the rock grooves added by drummer Mikus Cavarts on Ilgi's most recent album, Seju Veju (UPE), bring welcome dynamic variety. Bandleader Ilgi Reizniece sings in excited interlocking patterns with his bandmates, who play native instruments like the kokles (a Baltic zither) and the dudas (bagpipes made from sheep, dog, or seal stomachs) as well as violin, guitars, accordion, and percussion.
Saturday, September 29
Noon | Ilgi
Museum of Science and Industry
4 PM | Ely Guerra
Borders Music on Clark
7:30 PM | Ilgi
Old Town School of Folk Music ($10)
7 PM | Slavek Hanzlik & Groovy Lix
In the past Czech bluegrass guitarist Slavek Hanzlik has enlisted some of the music's heaviest pickers--including Bela Fleck, Tim O'Brien, and Jerry Douglas--but he sounds more at home with his new band, the Groovy Lix, with Czech bassist Martin Zpevak, Slovakian fiddler Stano Paluch, and Chicago banjoist Noam Pikelny. For the most part they stick to boilerplate bluegrass, playing classics and Hanzlik originals, but things get a bit more exciting when they tackle Gypsy tunes.
8 PM | Funkadesi
This popular local 11-piece band aims to please all of the people all of the time with a mix of basic Latin rhythms, slick funk accents, Jah-love sentiment, and a variety of watered-down Indian elements.
10 PM | Ely Guerra
Empty Bottle ($10, 21+)S
Sunday, September 30
y, ePtember 3Sunday
4 pM | Azucena Vega
A 12-member flamenco dance group based in Chicago.
7 Pm | Hot Domingos
David Hernandez & Street Sounds are featured in this program of poetry and Latin percussion.
10 PM | Arabique After Party with
DJ Red Lox
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Harari.