While the musical
component of Taste of Chicago still falls far short of its heyday a
decade ago, when local promoters Jam Productions were relieved of
booking duties and the city took over with help from local radio
stations, the festival has been inching back toward respectability.
There is still an
unconscionable amount of schlock on the bill -- Dennis DeYoung?
Why? -- but there are also a number of highlights among this
year's offerings. And, even during Chicago's extraordinary summer of
festivals -- with Intonation, Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, the
International House Music Festival, the Hideout fest and more --
there's no denying that Taste remains the bargain to end all
Yes, folks: The
music is still free.
The sounds kick
off today and run through July 9 at the always remarkable venue of
the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park. Here is the complete rundown:
today: The powerhouse soul tag team of WGCI (107.5-FM) and V103
generally kick things off with a night of vintage R&B, and this year
they're sponsoring the O'Jays, masters of the smooth Philly
soul sound (though they formed in Canton, Ohio) and the group behind
indelible hits such as "Love Train" and "For the Love of Money."
Opening are two relatively unproven acts, 3PC, the trio some
fans have called "the new and improved Jodeci," and Risque.
Saturday: The Chicago Country Music Festival, the
mini-festival within a festival, starts with the promising pairing
of the legendary rhinestone cowboy, Glen Campbell, and the
Yonder Mountain String Band, the progressive bluegrass band
based in Colorado (though its roots are at the University of
Illinois in Champaign-Urbana).
Sunday: The second night of the Country Music Fest features
headliner Phil Vassar, the Lynchburg, Va., crooner and judge
on "Nashville Star," plus SHeDAISY, the trio of sisters who
could be considered a declawed, Mormon version of the Dixie Chicks,
and Jo Dee Messina, a champion of the fiery country kiss-off
Monday: In keeping with tradition, Radiohead's nemesis the
Grant Park Orchestra will provide the soundtrack for the annual
Independence Eve fireworks display.
Tuesday: The coup of this year's Taste comes courtesy of WXRT
(93.1-FM), who landed legendary Kinks bandleader Ray Davies
to top its annual July 4 bash. Touring in support of his first solo
album in a long and storied career, Davies delivered the goods a few
months back at the Vic Theatre, with a thrilling mix of Kinks
classics and strong new tunes. The openers are the Louisville, Ky.,
alternative-country quintet My Morning Jacket (as seen in
Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown") and the entirely too smug and
annoyingly eclectic Soul Coughing veteran Mike Doughty.
Wednesday: The second of WGCI and V103's Taste shows gives us
neosoul chanteuse india.arie, who just released her new album
"Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship," and Anthony Hamilton,
whose 2005 album "Ain't Nobody Worryin'" marked him as one of the
most inventive male R&B stars since D'Angelo.
Thursday: And now for a night of mainstream pap and blatant
nepotism courtesy of the ever-pandering, Chicago-based Aware Records
label: the bland jangle of Train, who've lately been wishing
they were Maroon 5, and the thoroughly unimpressive Nashville
singer-songwriter Mat Kearney.
July 7: My pick for the second best evening at Taste after July
4 is this show topped by the cheerfully gonzo neosoul/natural R&B
diva Macy Gray, who is guaranteed to fly her freak flag high
as she gears up for a new album called "Big" featuring
collaborations with OutKast, Sleepy Brown and will.i.am. Opening are
Chicagoans Liquid Soul, the jazz/funk/soul combo led by
saxophonist Mars Williams.
5 p.m. July
8: There was a time when the idea of Winnetka native Liz
Phair performing in Grant Park would have meant something, but
that was long before indie-rock's former bad girl left her
self-imposed exile in Guyville for the sun and fun of Hollywood in
an effort to reinvent herself as Sheryl Crow lite. Preceding La Liz
onstage: the gently Beatlesesque jangle of Fountains of Wayne
and the recently reactivated World Party, which is, disappointingly,
really just main man Karl Wallinger performing in
stripped-down fashion without the orchestral pop charms of his old
band during its late '80s heyday.
3 p.m. July
9: Taste of Chicago 2006 sputters to an underwhelming close and
hits its nadir on a final night that offers co-headliners Dennis
DeYoung and the young but rapidly aging blues wannabe Kenny
Wayne Shepherd. Why the disses? Well, Shepherd is an obvious
talent whose lack of taste results in stultifyingly generic music,
while Chicagoan and former Styx leader DeYoung's sins are almost too
plentiful to enumerate -- though "Babe" and "Mr. Roboto," his stage
musical "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," his scenery-chewing stint in
"Jesus Christ Superstar" and his tendency to up the bombast of his
already overblown sounds with 50-piece orchestras and children's
choirs are a pretty good start.
overshadowed amid the hubbub of Taste of Chicago and the July 4
weekend, the annual American Music Festival at FitzGerald's
(6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn) is always one of the high points of the
summer music scene, and this year it's celebrating its 25th edition.
The music starts
today at 4:30 p.m. and includes Jeff & Vida, Lost Bayou Ramblers,
Wrinkle Neck Mules, Jimmy La Fave, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, CJ
Chenier, the always scintillating Marcia Ball Band and Brave Combo.
lineup kicks off at 1:30 p.m. with Anne Harris, the Victory
Travelers/Gospel Show, Heartsfield, Nicholas Tremulis, Jon
Langford's Ship & Pilot, Tributosaurus playing the music of the
Byrds, Paul Cebar, Switchback, Kevin Gordon Band, an encore by Jimmy
LaFave, Pat McLaughlin, the Blasters and the return of Marcia Ball.
Sunday at 1:30
p.m. and features Jim Bany's Men of Note, the John Burnett
Orchestra, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Chatham County Line, Chevere, Webb
Wilder, Jon Dee Graham, Sonny Landreth, Terrance Simien and the
Zydeco Experience and the Blasters.
concludes on Monday starting at 4 p.m. with the Terrance Simien
Family Show, Devil in a Woodpile, Dale Watson, Eric Lindell, Bill
Kirchen with Sarah Brown and Lisa Pankratz, Jon Dee Graham, a
reunion of the Famous Potatoes with Michael McDermott, John Mooney
and Bluesiana and Dave Alvin and the Guilty Men.
Tickets are $25
at the door (no advance sales), and more information is available at
(708) 788-2118; www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com.