Intonation, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago House Music,
Pitchfork and Lollapalooza bashes, Chicago's extraordinary summer of
festivals comes to an end this weekend as two venerable and
much-loved local institutions celebrate milestone anniversaries with
an incredible weekend of diverse sounds.
For 10 years,
everyone's favorite Chicago dive, the Hideout, has ushered in the
fall with its fan-friendly block party, providing music, food and
plenty of distractions for the kids, while for the last
quarter-century, Touch and Go Records has been one of the most
consistent and adventurous independent labels in the world.
Needless to say,
it's great to see the two joining forces for three days featuring 31
remarkable performances outside the club at 1354 W. Wabansia, just
off Elston Avenue -- a classically gritty and urban Windy City
setting that practically screams "Touch and Go" -- for the bargain
price of $35 for a weekend pass/$15 per day in advance or $45/$20 at
the door (providing the event hasn't sold out in advance). Much more
information is available at www.tgrec.com/links/tg25
(including audio clips of all of the bands) or
www.hideoutchicago.com, but here is my quick hour-by-hour
overview. All sets are an hour long, unless otherwise noted.
News, 5 p.m. With a name taken from the novel by E. Annie Proulx
and its key members first coming together to record music for
Chicago Public Radio's "This American Life," it should come as no
surprise that the Louisville band specializes in brainy, atmospheric
art-rock, though its sound is much more inviting than that
description might suggest.
6 p.m. Gleefully mixing dance and worldbeat rhythms, textures,
punk energy and hip-hop textures, the New York quartet is riding
high on the recent release of its second Touch and Go album, "A
Boys, 7 p.m. For a moment in the late '90s, Scott McCloud's
post-Fugazi punk band was hyped as "the next Nirvana." But the
multi-platinum success never came, and its albums for Geffen Records
were never as good as the earlier Touch and Go recordings,
especially 1993's "Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby." Officially on hiatus,
this gig brings the band back together for a rare performance by the
lineup that recorded that album.
Ted Leo + the
Pharmacists, 8 p.m. Ultra-earnest, socially conscious
punk-rocker Ted Leo literally bled for his art at the Pitchfork
Festival when he cracked his forehead open on a mike stand.
Hopefully, he'll deliver the goods without needing any sutures this
!!!, 9 p.m.
This seven-piece California dance-rock band -- whose name is
pronounced as three percussive syllables (i.e., "chk chk chk") --
pursues an invigorating mix of layered percussion and noise-rock. It
signed to Touch and Go for its wonderfully titled 2003 album, "Me
and Giuliani Down by the School Yard (A True Story)."
The New Year,
noon. The new but similarly dense and brooding band that rose
from the ashes of the late, lamented Bedhead, the New Year has
released two albums for Touch and Go, including 2004's "The End Is
p.m. Led by captivating vocalist Giovanna Cacciola, these
uncompromising Sicilian noise-rockers took a break in the late '90s
but returned to their musical vendetta earlier this year with a new
album called "Stella," recorded by Steve Albini.
p.m. A Chicago treasure, it was a sad day in 2000 when John
Hagerty disbanded his post-Naked Raygun anthemic punk quartet, but
for one day, at least, Hagerty, vocalist Larry Damore and the boys
will be back in action. The only thing better than this and the Big
Black reunion would have been the return of the Jesus Lizard.
and Andy Cohen, 2:35-2:50 p.m. The art-rock band Silkworm came
to an end when drummer Michael Dahlquist was one of three Chicago
musicians killed in a car crash instigated by a woman trying to
commit suicide. This 15-minute set by the band's bassist and
guitarist should be a fitting tribute.
The Ex, 2:55
p.m. Long-running cult favorites, these Dutch activists and
sonic alchemists refuse to be defined by any one adjective, unless
you count "intense."
3:50 p.m. Disbanded since 1996, these Madison, Wis.
noise-rockers were one of the groups that defined the abrasive,
industrial-punk sound of the late '80s and early '90s, and they were
never less than incendiary onstage.
Jon & Kat,
4:35-4:50 p.m. It wouldn't seem like a real Chicago shindig
without an appearance by sometime Mekon, Waco Brother, Pine Valley
Cosmonaut, etc., Jon Langford. Here, he'll be joined for a short set
with the drummer from the Ex.
4:55 p.m. Another of the festival's remarkable reunion gigs,
this one tempts the exuberant Rick Sims away from his recent work in
the theater long enough to go back to the unrelentingly high-energy
punk of his misspent youth.
5:40-5:55 p.m. Initially formed by the rhythm section of the
Laughing Hyenas and former Wig frontman Long, this country-punk
combo released two albums for Touch and Go in the late '90s, came
back for 2003's "Remembered," but is once again officially
Approach, 6 p.m. One of Touch and Go's earliest hard-core punk
bands, Negative Approach was led by John Brannon, who would go on to
form Detroit's legendary Laughing Hyenas.
6:30-6:45 p.m. Chicago's other favorite Mekon checks in,
acknowledging her debt to the label that released her stellar 2004
solo album, "In the World of Him," a concept effort that found her
singing entirely from the male point of view.
6:50 p.m. Another of the groups most associated with the Touch
and Go sound of the late '80s, members of this hugely influential
Austin, Texas, band would go on to play key roles in Rapeman and the
Jesus Lizard. Vocalist David Yow remains one of the greatest front
men in rock history, period, second to few besides Iggy Pop.
Man ... Or
Astroman?, 7:45 p.m. Surf music never died, and it was never
limited to some bands' narrow definitions of the genre ... at least
not on the many recordings and always celebratory live sets of this
prolific Alabama combo.
p.m. Steve Albini has done his best to downplay expectations for
the reunion of his phenomenal '80s trio, noting that it will only
perform a couple of songs, and the lineup will be the one on its
first EP, "Lungs," instead of the band that made the 1985
masterpiece, "Atomizer." It doesn't matter: It's still the most
anticipated set of the festival, and the fact that it will be
followed by an increasingly rare local appearance by his current
band with monster drummer Todd Trainer and bassist Bob Weston only
adds to the excitement. Shouted Big Black requests ("Cables"!
"Jordan, Minnesota"! "Kerosene"!) will probably make Herr Albini
very angry, hence they are highly encouraged, since that will make
Shellac kick harder than ever.
noon. A Minneapolis trio, Arcwelder formed from the remains of
Tilt-A-Whirl in the late '80s and proceeded to carry the classic
Touch and Go noise-rock sound well into the '90s.
Quasi, 1 p.m.
For many fans, the only good news about Sleater-Kinney splitting up
is that drummer Janet Weiss will have more time to devote to this
avant-pop duo with keyboardist Sam Coomes.
Monorchid, 2 p.m. A late addition to the bill, this guitar-heavy
quintet split up only weeks after releasing its second album, 1998's
"Who Put Out the Fire?" It is reuniting for the first time since for
Enon, 3 p.m.
Slimmed down to a trio, these Brooklyn musicians, veterans of
Skeleton Key and Brainiac, could loosely be categorized as another
New Wave of New Wave revival band, though their electronic pop is
never quite so easily pigeonholed.
Pilot, 3:55 p.m. Part progressive or math-rock, part punk, Three
Mile Pilot formed in San Diego in the early '90s and would later be
eclipsed by its members' other bands: the more Bad Seeds-styled
Black Heart Procession and the ambitious indie-pop band Pinback,
both of whom are also appearing later today.
ONeil, 4:40-4:55 p.m. One of many acts providing testament to
the fact that Touch and Go (and its sister label Quarterstick) were
never all about the noise, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and
painter ONeil is responsible for some of the gentlest and most
beautiful music the label has ever issued, from 2000's "Peregrine"
to the recent "In Circles."
Seam, 5 p.m.
One of the most sadly underrated guitar bands of the '90s, Seam
hasn't appeared on album since 1998's "The Pace Is Glacial, and
though there's been talk of an ongoing reunion, main man Sooyoung
Park is also busy these days with a new group called ee.
Cake, 5:45-6 p.m. One of the only disappointments of the fest is
that Shellac drummer Todd Trainer is being limited to 15 minutes to
perform in his solo/home-recording guise, which has produced only
three albums between 1991 and 2002, though each was a winner.
Heart Procession, 6:05 p.m.; CocoRosie, 7 p.m. Sisters
Sierra (vocals, guitar and flute) and Bianca (vocals and percussion)
Casady have merged elements of hip-hop and electronica with more
acoustic sounds, winning a growing following in the freak-folk
movement, thanks to three albums to date, including 2005's "Noah's
p.m.; Calexico, 9 p.m. The first time I saw Calexico perform was
at one of the Hideout's big outdoor barbecue shindigs at South by
Southwest, where the club-owners were thrilled to be presenting the
group, so it's fitting that the hard-touring, ever-changing,
genre-defying southwestern rockers are closing out the festival, as
well as celebrating their latest Touch and Go disc, "Garden Ruin,"
released last April.