Taste's pop roster an eclectic mix


June 29, 2001



In this summer of high-priced, top-dollar corporate rock concerts, there is an alternative, and it's as free as the breeze wafting in off Lake Michigan.

Coming on the heels of one of the most memorable Blues fest lineups in the last decade, the city and assorted radio sponsors have booked a handful of great shows over the next week on the main stage of the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park.

Traditionally, the annual Taste of Chicago festival can be a hit-or-miss affair, musical talent-wise. But this year's pop calendar kicks off in high style at 5:30 this afternoon with a contender for what has to be considered one of the best live bands ever-- Parliament/Funkadelic--presented by WGCI (107.5-FM and 1390-AM).

There ain't no party like a P-Funk party, goes the familiar chant, and George Clinton's fat-bottom grooves are likely to turn the great lawn into one giant, sexy orgy of free-your-mind booty shakin'. Bluehairs are advised to stay well out of range, lest the funk corrupt their delicate sensibilities.

The second major Taste highlight comes courtesy of WXRT-FM on July 4, with a headlining performance by Chicago's


* Wilco. Jeff Tweedy and his newly reconfigured band (Glenn Kotche has replaced Ken Coomer on drums) are gearing up for the September release of their fourth Warner Bros. album of new material, the eagerly awaited followup to 1999's "Summer Teeth."

The band has been working with avant-garde mainstay Jim O'Rourke, which holds the promise of another musical departure as dramatic as the one that followed "Being There." The group is sure to premiere some of its new music on Independence Day, and it will be a fitting way to launch what could be its biggest album.

Opening the show at 3 p.m. are fractured blues upstarts the


*North Mississippi Allstars and Minneapolis' blandly tuneful


*Semisonic, who'll provide a good opportunity to go and grab a red hot or some cheese fries.

The most curious but potentially interesting show is on the bill at 5 p.m. July 5. The Drive (97.1-FM) is presenting something called


*"A Walk Down Abbey Road--A Tribute to the Beatles," which is basically an all-star Fab Four revue.

The unlikely cover band is composed of powerhouse Heart vocalist


A. n Wilson, Who bassist


*John Entwistle, producer and longtime Beatles fan


*Todd Rundgren and


A. an Parsons, a veteran of Abbey Road Studios who worked with the lads from Liverpool, recorded Pink Floyd's "The Dark Side of the Moon," and led his own group, the Alan Parsons Project.

This could be great, or it could be a step above a garage band's Beatles set. But it's free, so waddya want? Take a chance!

My last don't-miss recommendation is for 5 p.m. July 7, when the Zone (94.7-FM) presents reunited power-pop legends the




The Los Angeles quintet is touring behind "God Bless the Go-Go's," a crackling collection of chiming guitars, layered harmonies and bubblegum hooks that does their legacy proud. And of course they'll trot out older hits such as "We Got the Beat" and "Vacation."

As for the other big Taste concerts, I promised the editor of WeekendPlus that I would refrain from snarky comments about the performance by Mr. Las Vegas


*Wayne Newton, at 5 p.m. July 2. (She's a big fan.)


*The Whispers perform at 5 p.m. July 6, and


*KC and the Sunshine Band co-headline with


A. erica at 3 p.m. on July 8.

Also worth noting are a couple of shows by some of Chicago's best up-and-comers on the smaller Goose Island Summertime Stage. Power-popsters


*Frisbie perform at 5:30 p.m. July 3, while art-rockers the


*Fire Show play at 12:30 p.m. July 4. If you're in the park, don't miss them.

* * *

The other rock highlight over the next few days is an appearance by the Fire God himself,


*Dave Wyndorf, leader of the viciously hard-rocking *Monster Magnet. Unfortunately, when the group takes the stage at the House of Blues tonight(329 N. Dearborn, 312-559-1212) and the Congress Theater (2135 N. Milwaukee, 312-559-1212) Saturday night for the pricey sum of $32.50 a ticket, it's as part of a package tour with two other incredibly lame acts: Chicago's bubblegum-industrial bozos, Stabbing Westward, and reunited hack-rock blowhards the Cult.

Hey, Dave: Don't we diehard fans deserve a headlining show instead of these misguided attempts to connect with the broader rock masses?

Ah, well, it's hard to hold it against the group. Monster Magnet has made the strongest album of its career, "God Says No," and it deserves to reign supreme in these rock-starved times. But the favorite sons of Red Bank, N.J., are still valiantly trying to expand their audience beyond a core following of stoner-rock faithful--to sell more records without selling out.

I spoke to Wyndorf a few months back, shortly before the new album's release.


Q. "God Says No" is a real left turn after 1998's "Powertrip." The last album felt like, "We're gonna hone in, focus on the songwriting, and try to sell a whole lot of records!" The new one seems to be reaching back to more of the psychedelic weirdness of the first few albums, but keeping that massive tunefulness.


A. Every time I do one thing, then the next thing has to be a reaction to that previous action. I didn't want anybody to think that that's all we were, like, "This is the new Monster Magnet and that's the way it's gonna be forever. Devil horns in the air and rock, rock, rock!" There's gotta be some psychedelic subtleties, too.


Q. Stoner rock has really blown up since "Powertrip." Are you encouraged by this movement? So many of these bands cite Monster Magnet as an influence.


A. That's the biggest compliment that I could ever receive. Some of it I'm digging, and some of it I'm not. I just wish there was more singin' goin' on. That's my thing--I like singing. Between you and me, if you took the "stoner" out of "stoner rock," it would be a lot better. At this point, it's getting dangerously close to grunge. You have to care--there's got to be a little ego in there. But having said that, anybody that uses a cow bell and wants to do a Groundhogs drum fill is OK by me!


Q. Tell me about the concept behind the title "God Says No."


A. It's really simple: It's about God not being the Big Guy upstairs but being a Hollywood and advertising culture in the United States. It kind of bugs me out sometimes, and if it bugs me out, it's gotta bug other people out. It gets to a point where there is almost no cool anymore. The subversive effects in our advertising and lifestyle culture get under your skin and make everyone feel just a little inferior.

It would make sense why so many people want to be on TV and why they worship movie stars: Everybody wants to be loved and accepted, and there just isn't enough of that to go around. The media does not help that at all. It offers up these amazingly dark ads, and the dot-com lifestyle thing is even more evil. These poor suckers don't even realize what real rebellion is.