Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Love Story in Blood Red

If you liked Devin Davis' Lonely People of the World, Unite! you'll dig Love Story in Blood Red. The commanalities don't end at a mutual love for British guitar pop. Devin employs LSiBR bandmates for his live shows and LSiBR guitarist, Kris Poulin, takes some engineering credit for Davis' opus. Kris is a damn good engineer in his own right so you can be sure that all of Love Story's recordings are crisp ear candy.

I know first hand the excellence of Mr. Poulin's studio handy work. He recorded THE LATEST's album. And when disclexington's Sunken Monastery Studio acquired an 8 track 1/2" reel machine, Kris came over, tinkered with it and showed us how to use it. Turns out he has the same machine in his studio. But you don't have to take our word, Kris has worked with many great bands including Bonnie Prince Billie, the Ponys and the Ancient Greeks.

A great studio band can sometimes be a frightful thing on stage but that is definitely not the case with LSiBR. These guys are solid live with masterful vocal harmonies reminiscent of another great Chicago Brit Pop foursome, the M's. Lead singer Jason Frederick can handle the ballad like he's Joe Jackson or rock it like Mr. Davies.

You can download LSiBR efforts (and I think you should) directly from the band site. Their excellent first album is download-able in its entirety via one big zip file, or individually in mp3 format.

Check them out Friday Night at the Gallery Caberet and come early because the support will be fantastic (and I'm not just saying that because I'm in the opener he he). churchbus starts things off playing four almost brand spanking new songs, followed by the all-girl powerhouse - the Spoken Four.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Nikki Sudden dead at 49 beating his heroes to the punch

Nikki Sudden has plenty of folks to play with in RocknRoll heaven but some of his greatest heroes aren't there yet, such is the tragedy of Nikki Sudden's demise. In fact he just finished an album that many close to him swear is his greatest and he is booked into April.

Pay your respects at his site which has several downloads and what else are you doing this afternoon?

Well Nikki, I hope you brought your guitar. I guess you're just gonna have to pick and wait.

*photo courtesy of Nikki's site. Nikki Sudden playing in Athens, Greece circa 2005

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Houston Indie Post Punk Purple Rain Band playing Chicago Tonight (Friday)

Bring Back the Guns formerly the Groceries from H-town are playing tonight at South Union Arts Center. They're traveling with KillRockStar recording artists Dada Swing (these Italian hipsters have some cool guitar work that reminds me of early Butthole Surfer anti-tuning licks, well it's not quite tBS but they're cuter anyway).

Back when they were only just the Groceries, the now lethal BBtG may have had a few too many epithets thrown at them: post punk, indie, pop...whatever...they were always good and their singer can really belt 'em. I remember a darn good rendition of Purple Rain. I wonder if that is still on the set list?

Late notice, but they're playing tonight at South Union Arts Center - a fairly new and ultra-cool venue on the southside. SUAC is a converted 1880's church complete with a neon cross and a baptismal thingy. I'm going, are you?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wounded in America

Shootings don't just happen on the wrong side of town to bad people, everybody knows that. Yet the collection of first hand accounts of shooting victims, self inflicted and otherwise, accompanied by photographs of the victims that is now on display at Gallery 37 is a compelling and sometimes intense exhibition. Bob Rea's large black and white prints, some of a return to the scene of the crime, show the diversity and often bravery of shooting victims. The collection of narratives gathered by Stephanie Arena is as moving as the prints. I was especially shaken by one victim's story. She survived several point blank shots to the head from her boyfriend who lived in a trailer in her driveway. She had just asked him to leave. He left; came back and shot her more than once; she played dead; he put a pillow over her head and shot her again; and then he remained in the house for hours planning his next moved which apparently from his handwritten notes entailed packing her in his trunk and dumping her some place. Imagining how she survived that could lead people to religion.

As a bonus, Tricia Moreau Sweeney (my lovely wife) has nine prints on display in the adjacent gallery. This is work that recently appeared at Schopf Gallery. If you didn't get a chance to see it then, I highly encourage you to see both shows.

Monday, March 20, 2006

me olde neighborhood

This is kind of cool - a feature about the Queens neighborhood where I spent my early childhood - from 1-8 yrs old. We had chinese tenants in the basement who made cheap jewelry and made the place smell nice. My best friends were pakistani and nordic. For some reason we were steered away from the "spanish." Sometimes it was because, we were told, they had lice.

The irish were all but gone from the 'hood when I came along. In fact us Sweeneys were the last of the bunch at least on our block,l Alstyne Avenue.

I sure heard a great mix of music growing up - the irish songs my grandparents always sang, my mother's german children songs, my father's Saturday morning italian opera belt-outs, the "spanish" music booming down the street, and the spooky rock & roll of the town "hoodlums" who my young aunt knew by name (and that always impressed me).

It ain't Archie Bunker's Queens no more.


P.S. The Flash bit is a quick look.

Friday, March 17, 2006

New Track du Jour - Party Owls

Artist: Party Owls
Track: Spray Coat
Location: Houston
Date: 03-17-2006
Comment: The Party Owls were the most memorable of Houston punk bands not only for their humorous communal shows and house parties but also because their members went on to do interesting things around Houston and beyond. Frontman Rob Rice left the band and the scene first for more verdant if not wetter frontiers in Seattle - he ran a record store there, hitting the town a few years before grunge took that scene to new heights. A few other members went on to form Sugar Shack which made it out of the urban sprawl of Harris County a few times, and had some recording success with the help of Tim Kerr and Estrus Records. JR Delgado went on to run the Axiom, founded in the same building as the second (or maybe third) location of the old Houston punk club, the Caberet Voltaire. The Axiom is still going today as the home of Infernal Bridegroom Productions although it is no longer managed by JR. JR did however have a soon to be legendary 50th Birthday Party over the last winter Holidays where many old Houston punk legends reunited.

I was first introduced to the Party Owls at one of their House Parties in the then creepy area of midtown Houston. I was all of 17 and eyes wide open at the freak fest in front of me. This song "Spray Coat" stuck with me. My band de Schmog covered it when we were honored to play a show with Sugar Shack at Fitzgerald's in the mid-90's.

This is part of a non-linear "Lexington Street" series of Track du Jours. JR Delgado was a long time resident of Lexington. He also worked at the Kinko's across the street (thank you JR!). The Party Owls was a major reason I got into this whole mess of playing shows and what not. They influenced many other Lexington Street musicians, including Johnathan Sage also of de Schmog as well as the Sprawl guys and others.

Thanks to Justin for providing a second Party Owls mp3 which may see it's way to this site down the road.

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour

Thursday, March 16, 2006

a new twist on rock show flyers

Rock show promotions technique has taken a big leap in recent months with the largely effective and widely used internet services of MySpace. One aspect that I appreciate is the ability to make a digital flyer work. Generally I hate digital flyer printouts but if they remain in the digital world they can look pretty good. The only trouble is until recently internet promotion wasn't so effective. It was hard to get people to regularly go to your particular website; and email systems vary so much that formating a fancy flyer in that manner wasn't guaranteed to get to your intended recipients. That being said, now that the internet is a much more viable format for show promotions what's to stop promotions technique from growing and stepping out of the four color silk screen format we all know and love so well? I'm all for seeing more of these (good job Mr. Hawthorne and Linus Pauling Quartet)...

Oh and LP4, Texas Phsychedelic Monstrosity extraordinaire, has recently made available online their second album, for Free! Check it out.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

If I had my d'ruthers I'd be in Austin this weekend.

What would a music blog be this week without a SXSW post?

Sadly, for me anyway, I won't be there this year - too many other trips on the near horizon. At least I get to enjoy an always terrific home cooked meal made by our belgian raised sister-in-law and pop that $60 bottle of irish whiskey I've been saving for the occasion.

Anyway if I was in Austin this weekend, I'd be sure to hit one of these New York Night Train events - one at the Peacock on Saturday and one at the Slinky Whistle Bait on Sunday. Lots of good bands, some good eats, and I believe both events are free.

I'd also run over to the Longbranch Inn on Friday and catch Cococoma early (7 PM) and Headache City later (9:15). You won't be seeing double - Lisa Roe, the Cococoma guitarist, drums for Headache City. She is the most rocking-est librarian you will ever meet and that's saying a lot because I've met quite a few rocking librarians. Mike Fitzpatrick plays the farfisa with Cococoma and guitar with Headache City. Check 'em out - see some Motown influenced Chicago garage rock, meet good people. Headache City also features Dave Head who played with the Motards in Austin back in the day.

I'll be stuffing myself, getting boozey and longing for blue bonnets and rock and roll.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Tuesday Night the Spinns: a message from Roberto

North Carolina garage rockers, the Spinns, play Cal's Liquor tomorrow Tuesday the 14th. They've got stuff out on the NC label Demon Beach Records; you can check the tunes out on MySpace. And if you don't think they can rock the house, here's what Roberto Cofresi of New Town Drunks has to say about them...

"the spinns can groove a rock beat so well that a couple of weeks ago they played a house party and people were so uncontrolably bouncing up and down that the floor support cross beams broke and the hardwood floor sank in. the floor boards didnt break but the whole floor was bouncing up and down like a trampolin, with the band in the middle getting lower and lower with every beat. Even then the crowd didnt stop and neither did the band (even though the girl who lived there kept trying to get people to step out of the living room, but as long as the music was going, it was an impossible task, even I stood there bouncing up and down thinking, this is awesome, the floor is bouncing, but didnt really think of getting the hell out of there before it went. But it didnt go! In the end the floor was separated from the walls by anywhere between 6' and a foot depending where you were, and that was along the edges, in the middle it was more.Anyways, I thought that was pretty amazing. "

*photo courtesy of Demon Beach Records

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Hideout goes L.A.

I had to sit through a lot of crap to get to the good stuff watching the Tonight Show last night. I haven't watched a Late Night Talk Show in a while and seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Larry the Cable Guy, didn't make me feel like I've missed much. Ms. Louis-Dreyfus harkens back to the Gay '90's and Larry the Cable Guy, well...Hee Haw.

Neko Case, on the other hand, is timeless. I wish she could have played more than one song is my only regret (and that the sound was a tad reverb heavy). Her band last night (and for her tour) is made up almost entirely of Chicago players who gravitate towards the Hideout when they're in town. Some of them are accomplished frontmen on their own such as Kelly Hogan who is also a Hideout bartender. Neko's bassist is up at the Hideout every Tuesday with the exceptional "Asylum Street Spanker-esque" Devil in a Woodpile. Jason Creps actually lives in the same building as the Cashiola brothers whose latest project is being recorded at the Disclexington Sunken Monastery Studio. Such a small world. The only player I didn't recognize was Canadian Paul Rigby but let me tell you, that boy can play guitar!

The Hideout is one of my favorite Chicago live venues but I have a love/hate relationship with the place. It is home to many of the city's finest musicians and along with Fitzgerald's out in the western 'burbs it is home away from home for Bloodshot Records, one of Chicago's finest labels. But of late, the club has steered away from the hideout feel and seemingly is trying to go Big Time. The problem is it's a pretty small place and when crowded it is sucky especially in winter and especially post E2/Great White when the city is coming down a lot harder on capacity violations. The venue has also become insular catering almost exclusively to their little nest of musicians. I tried to book the excellent Australian rock-a-billy band Red Hot Pokerdots at the Hideout and they wouldn't hear of it even though two of their respected bartenders put in a good word for the band. Well enough criticism - an awful lot of good things keep crawling out of this scene so let's enjoy it while it lasts.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

New Track du Jour: Sprawl

Artist: Sprawl
Track: Intro-Wages-Opposable Thumbs
Location: Houston
Date: 03-08-2006
Comment: This audio triptych is comprised of tracks from Sprawl's 1993 release The Man with the Yellow Hat. The album is representative of a transitional time in Sprawl's career. Dan Robinson, the original guitarist and a co-founder, left and was replaced by Joey Salinas. Dan's departure further snapped the band's academia roots (the four founding members met while attending Rice University). Simultaneously, Nick's burgeoning infatuation with digital recording found an outlet. Nick was one of the first musicians I knew to work with ProTools (this was back in '93 and I think he was using ProTools 1.0!). Throughout their playing career, Sprawl was met with "poser" criticism. You know, a bunch of upper middleclass white boys jumping on the Funk band wagon. Maybe, but Sprawl consistently demonstrated a love for the music and musicians they emulated. I lived across the street from the Sprawl House for a few years. I can attest to the diversity and depth of their music collections and their passion for various african american music forms. This triptych is unusual in that regard too; it features guest vocal tracks from Houston area soul singers and rap artists. At a time when Houston's rap scene was dominated by Rap-a-Lot and the Geto Boys, Sprawl's collaboration revealed to the suburban white youth a more intellectual (if you will) side to the Houston rap scene.

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

a Message from Kathleen...

Yes, a message from Kathleen...

Hey all-If you don't watch TV, like me, thought I'd let you know in advance about a friends band who'll be on the Tonight Show.

Neko Case (music act - so i think they usually play towards end of show) NBC?s Tonight Show with Jay Leno on March 9

Strangely not only is the band composed of friends, but largely folks I have either lived with or currently live the water in our 100 yr old building responsible for this? I keep drinking it, but my ukelelee playing has yet to improve..?

Here's the Band:NEKO CASE (singer, guitars)

KELLY HOGAN (backup singing) currently plays with a million bands

RACHEL FLOTARD (backup singing) currently plays in VISQUEEN

JON RAUHOUSE (pedal steel, guitar, banjo, hawaiian guitar) has played with too many to list

PAUL RIGBY (guitars) plays with many bands up in CANADA

TOM V.RAY (Stand up bass) currently plays in DEVIL IN A WOODPILE

JASON 'Sandy' CREPS (drums) currently plays in LOW SKIES

I will be on the road w/ the above gang, in support of N.C.'s new CD 'Fox Confessor Brings The Flood', at the below clubs/cities

Maybe I'll see you there?--Yours-Kathleen:


I first saw Neko Case in the goth-operatic setting of the Chicago Theater opening for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. She had a tiny band and looked small on that big stage in front of thousands of people. She wowed the crowd who obviously didn't know who she was. During a moody lull in one of her songs someone cried earnestly from the crowd "who are you?" Neko Case brother!

*photo courtesy of the West End Culture Centre - Winnepeg

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Any musician who has stuck a toe in the chilling waters of a recording studio has felt it - the yearn to make a sonic masterpiece that will become the soundtrack to a thousand lives at least for a half hour or so. And any musician who has put finger to fret or lips to mike in obeyance with the most powerful studio utterance, "rolling," knows that this feat is as easy to pull off I can't say because I've never done it! The worst thing about that is when it is achieved it sounds effortless and graceful, about has hard to pull off as a snowflake's journey to earth. But if you've been in that control room only once, you know what wizardy lies beneath. And when a masterpiece arises from the hand of one man in a Wicker Park basement you can only stare in appreciative wonderment.

Devin Davis is that man and "Lonely People of the World, Unite!" is that album. Just listen to the first song from the album, the song Iron Woman and the very first verse:

"it's hard to live in a basement and not get carried away
when you're a caveman on the pavement in the USA
I lie in bed in the headlights staring temporarily stunned
three whole weeks spent throwing matchsticks at the sun."
It doesn't hurt for this listener that Mr. Davis borrows heavily from Mr. Davies, but also that he doesn't sink so deep into the Brit Invasion hit well that it just becomes another hoot album like we hear so much of these days.
This album was picked up by mp3 blogs such as the Of Mirror Eye. It became a favorite of Deathcab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard. Simply by word of mouth and on the basis of its shear goodness, the album has already sold over four thousand copies. Not bad for a bandless basement dweller.
I saw Devin Davis play the Hideout last Wednesday. It was strange to see him at one point standing in the middle of a swelling crowd being touched by kindly fans on all sides. His curious success from the lonely confines of the internet and his basement was clear and wonderful.
Devin did not have a band that night, although he often is well accompanied. For some reason the saxophone, the back up vocals, the lead guitars, all the stuff that make the album so great, well they just weren't missed because the songs are solid and the commitment so obvious.
*image courtesy of Devin's site.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

New Track du Jour: Stag Party

Artist: Stag Party
Track: Harmonix
Location: Chicago
Date: 03-02-2006
Comment: Stag Party recorded an EP and hoped to have it released on an indie label instead they released it for free to you and to me. It may not be the next big thing, but the EP is well worth a listen and you can download it from their site for Free! If you didn't see Stag Party live, check out this review from the Reader to see what you missed:

"I don't know how I didn't hear of these local drama kings sooner: in a little more than two years they've opened for Interpol, !!!, David Thomas & Two Pale Boys, and Gravy Train!!!!, and now they're headlining the Bottle on a Friday night. They've got the tense, careening go-go guitar and nasal, pissed-off vocals of PiL plus the histrionic creepiness of Nervous Gender, and they're glammy in a way that's halfway between Bryan Ferry and T. Rex. The song structures on their forthcoming debut EP are like unraveling story lines: the melancholy bass tiptoes around the guitar like a cartoon injun stalking a cowboy's timid horse, which gallops off in a panic and leaves a sparkling cloud of disco-scented dust. The schizoid vocals drift into and out of focus--sometimes in hot pursuit of the rest of the group, sometimes distant and detached--and the hi-hat-happy drums chop the whole picture into confetti. Usually when I do a lot of name-dropping to describe a band, it's because they're too boring and derivative to praise on their own terms--and these guys definitely have one foot in the trendy dance-punk camp. The other foot's the one that counts, though. Trust me--Stag Party's shameless affectation is breathtaking. --Liz Armstrong"

click below to listen (requires FLASH)...
track du jour