Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Concert Preview: Ultra Violet Petting Zoo

Tom Schraeder is, by all accounts, a busy dude. Besides being the driving force force behind the band Tom Schraeder and His Ego, he's made films,  and even hosted his own prom. But it's hard to find a better use of his time than helping to curate the Ultra Violet Petting Zoo for this, his second year in a row. Co-hosted last year by the wonderful people at Chicago Mixtape and this year by, Ultra Violet Petting Zoo is party of the Boys and Girls Club Carnival which is the main fundraising event of the year for the Boys and Girls Club in Chicago. It all goes down this Sunday, July 1st at 2501 W. Irving Park Road (which is Irving, just west of Western for those who can't count) from 2 to 10pm.

Don't kid yourselves people, between the Republican House, the largest state budget deficit in the country and a mayor more likely to send tax dollars to development corporations than public schools or social programs, our city's youth are in dire, dire need for programs like those provided by the Boys and Girls Club. I don't exaggerate when I say that it's hard to find a better way to spend a dollar than by investing it in a child's development.

So what can you do? For five dollars, less than the cost of a (good) beer (plus tip, cheapskate) you can come out, experience twelve great local bands, food, drinks and, of course, rides to ensure that those substances don't stay in your stomach for long. Considering the estimated 400% return rate on investments in the Boys and Girls Clubs, that's like giving $20 to charity yet still having $15 left for beer! There's no Hold Steady or Dinosaur Jr. to distract you so come rock some Chicago tunes and help make your city a better place. Below, I've got a little bit of what you can expect to hear on Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Concert Review: Billy Bragg at Old Town School Of Folk Music, June 22nd 2012

Billy Bragg came to town Friday night to play the first of his two sold-out shows at the Old Town School Of Folk Music and I was excited. It's not often that the old Brit makes his way out to Chicago and, my personal financial situation had been massaged, money saved in advance, to swing the $40 asking price for a ticket. I feel like I'm not alone in this - especially in America he's one of those cult artists you either connect very personally with or mostly ignore. It's a tough situation for an artist to live up to such projections but Bragg's reputation as a charming and skilled live performer had me heading in with high hopes.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Concert Review + Pictures: JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Millennium Park, June 21st 2012

I've always romanticized the idea of the local band. There's something about giving your heart to the local group that's so liberating. You never know what's going to happen. You could be like Liverpudlians in the Cavern Club watching the Beatles on their lunch hour or Floridians grooving on Petty before her made it bid. Alternately, you could be pledging allegiance to a group that will never really make it out of your town or state or region, a group whose star is destined only to shine for those who know them. You might well spend many nights of your future waxing on about that group that never quite found its national audience to fellow bar-goers who nod politely and then leave when there's a convenient pause in the rant.

As I took in my fourth JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound performance of the last year at Millennium Park tonight, I couldn't help but think how fortunate I was that THIS was one of those local bands that I get to champion, because I know it's not just me who thinks that they're the real deal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

"Jeff Davis County Blues" - Mountain Goats

I'm sweating as I write this. Even sitting next to my propped-open window as it clamps down tight to cradle a humming box fan, I can still feel the day's trapped heat leaking out of streets and sidewalks. Living with heat like this wasn't a skill I learned growing up, as I was always ensconced in the artificial chill of air-conditioning at home or school. It wasn't until I started driving in high school that I really began to dig the heat. I'd drive to my baseball games or, later on, home from work on a grounds crew and, even though I was already soaked with sweat, I'd leave the windows down. After a while I would start to thrive on the heat, enjoying the way it surrounds you like a physical medium and how it allows you to live intensely in the moment.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

On Warmer Music's Summer 2012 Mix

Now the thing about summer mixes is that no matter what you chose, you're guaranteed to have more good songs that you had to leave off than you could include. For someone like me, this can be vastly frustrating unless you can make yourself see it as ultimately liberating - no matter what you're gonna have to skip things so you might as well just pick what you like. It's an incredibly rich vein from which to mine pop culture as youth, America, writers and nostalgia all tend to trade strongly in summer images. Everyone loves either reliving their past glories or just reveling in the warm bounties of their present situation.

Within this mix you will hear: an "r" rolled for over five seconds, complaints about work, an ode to insects, more horns that you might expect, a great Irish song called "Dancing In The Moonlight" NOT by Van Morrison, a mind-blowing unreleased Mountain Goats song, Wilco get raunchy(ish) and probably some people expressing fondness for increased amounts of sunshine. Enjoy!

Monday, June 11, 2012

"It's A Bit Complicated" - On Art Brut And Aging

I have a depressingly bad memory when it comes to moments in my life that I really should be able to recall. Ask me about a meaningless baseball game from over a decade ago there’s a good chance I can give you the particular. However when I try to think back to the night of my first kiss or what I was thinking the first time I ever went to a funeral, I could only give you the broadest generalities. But for some reason, this night I remember well.