Music scene heats up with benefits, Langford, Meloy


January 20, 2006


As the sleepy days of January continue in clubland, here are several noteworthy events for fighting the winter blahs and three columns in one: a series of benefits for a beloved Chicago music scene stalwart, a flurry of activity from the Windy City's hardest-working man in show business, and a solo performance by one of the most promising songwriters in the indie-rock underground.


Gary Schepers' name may not be well-known to many local music lovers, but if you've frequented any of the city's coolest rock clubs over the last two decades, chances are you've seen him behind the soundboard and heard the results of his mixing talents.

Schepers has worked as a soundman at Lounge Ax, the Abbey Pub, the Empty Bottle, Martyrs', FitzGerald's and Schubas, and he regularly ran live sound for bands such as Eleventh Dream Day, Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, Material Issue and many others, in addition to playing tuba in Devil in a Woodpile.

Shortly before the holidays, the 48-year-old scenester was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, a disease that probably exacerbated a painful swelling in his foot, which turned out to be a nasty infection that has kept him in the hospital for several weeks. Schepers is facing tens of thousands of dollars in health-care bills, and like many musicians, he does not have health insurance. His predicament has inspired an outpouring of support from a music community that, even by the standards of the always generous Chicago scene, is almost unprecedented.

With the efforts being spearheaded by the folks at Bloodshot Records, eight benefits for Schepers have been confirmed already. These kick off at 9 tonight at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt in Berwyn. Alt-country hero Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) headlines in the main room with Robbie Fulks, Corky Siegel and Bakelite 78, while Devil in a Woodpile, Dolly Varden, Bunker Town, Prohibition Orchestra of Chicago and others play in the side bars. The cover for the main club is $25, with a $10 minimum donation in the side bar. Call (708) 788-2118.

Sunday afternoon from noon to 4 p.m., the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, presents a kids' show with the Blisters, Wee Hairy Beasties (Jon Langford, Sally Timms, Kelly Hogan and Devil in a Woodpile) and Nora O'Connor (adults $10, kids $5), while Califone, Edith Frost, Grimble Grumble and a solo Chris Mills play an adult show starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. Call (773) 227-4433.

The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, is hosting one benefit show at 9:30 tonight with the New Duncan Imperials ($12 at the door), and another starting at 9 p.m. Wednesday with Jeff Tweedy and Devil in a Woodpile. Tickets are $30. Call (773) 478-4408. As always, Tweedy's show is certain to draw the Wilco faithful, who will no doubt hope to hear some of the new songs that are coming together for the new studio album the group plans to release later this year.

On Thursday at 8 p.m., Jim and Dave Boquist, Mike Heidorn, Mark Sheehy and Kelly Hogan perform at Martyrs', 3855 N. Lincoln (tickets, $15; 773-404-9494); on Jan. 27, the Bottle Rockets, Tijuana Hercules and Great Crusades play at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, starting at 9:30 p.m. (tickets, $12; call 773-525-2508), and at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, Freakwater and Jim Elkington perform at the Hideout.

Additional benefits are expected to be announced in the coming weeks -- watch -- and Bloodshot has established the "Gary Schepers Trust" to accept donations at any National City Bank branch or by mail at National City Bank, 1520 N. Damen, Chicago, IL 60622.


While the City Council isn't likely to acknowledge it, this is pretty much Jon Langford Week in Chicago.

The always active leader of the Mekons and the Waco Brothers will be more ubiquitous than ever in the coming weeks as he gears up for the release of his third solo album, "Gold Brick," and participates in a number of multimedia events.

The singer and songwriter will present a 2-hour live multimedia performance of "The Executioner's Last Songs" -- Langford likens it to "Depression-era populist theater," with images compiled by Barry Mills -- featuring a crack band composed of Mekons vocalist Sally Timms, violinist Jean Cook, bassist Tony Maimone and drummer Dan Massey at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Tickets are $22, $18 for members. Call (312) 397-4010 or visit

Langford also will participate in the 10th annual Story Week presented by the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, on March 16 as part of a program called "Fighting Words: Stories of Risk & Rebellion." Admission is free.

As for "Gold Brick," the CD is Langford's first release for the New York label ROIR, and as evidenced by the subtitle, "Lies of the Great Explorers or Columbus at Guantanamo Bay," it's another strong example of the artist's political/sociological wit and wisdom, not to mention exquisite songwriting. The disc will be released on March 9.


Finally, with the killer ork-pop band the Decemberists slated to begin recording their fourth album and first major-label release for Capitol in April, bandleader, singer and songwriter Colin Meloy is undertaking a solo tour that brings him to the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

"We've never been the sort of group that has lived and breathed indie-ness," Meloy told the Pitchfork Web-zine. "Even after we recorded 'Her Majesty the Decemberists' [the band's second album in 2003], it was pretty clear that we would probably be at a point after the next record that we would be moving on to something bigger."

Meloy has hardly turned his back on the indie ethic, however: As part of the solo tour, he has recorded an EP of covers by '60s British folk artist Shirley Collins, which will be for sale only at these gigs. Laura Veirs opens the Park West show. Tickets are $15. Call (773) 929-5959.