Pop goes the Abbey
May 25, 2001
BY JIM DeROGATIS POP MUSIC CRITIC
Coming to town only two weeks after the more heavily hyped Noise Pop festival, a
smaller though no less rewarding event dubbed the Chicago Indie Pop Festival is bringing
an impressive three-night lineup to the Abbey Pub, another venue that has stepped forward
in recent months to fill the void left by the demise of Lounge Ax.
Located at 3420 W. Grace, just off Elston Avenue, the Abbey has been a favorite spot
for traditional Irish music, food and drink since 1973. Owner Pat Looney, a Chicago
firefighter who inherited the pub from his father, has been looking to expand the palette
of musical offerings, and in January, he recruited booker Sean Duffy, a former Jam
employee, fanzine editor (Last Rites), band manager (Loudmouth, Wickerman) and promoter
for Dreamerz, Medusa's, Exit and other local venues.
Duffy's first step was to tap into Chicago's thriving insurgent country scene,
presenting acts such as Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, the Waco Brothers and Anna Fermin's Trigger
Gospel. Now he's branching out to other genres, with a cool evening of garage rock on June
29 (including Cigar Store Indians and the legendary Plan 9 From Outer Space) and the
Chicago Indie Pop Festival, the brainstorm of local music maven Adam Jacobs.
The pop fest kicks off at 9 tonight with Chicagoans Beauty Pageant, followed by
the Salteens from Vancouver, British Columbia; Australia's Lucksmiths, and
headliners the Apples in Stereo.
Keeping busy in the interim before recording the follow-up to last year's psychedelic
pop gem "The Discovery of a World Inside the Moone," the Denver-based Apples
recently released an Internet-only live album recorded in Chicago in January 2000. (It's
available via www.emusic.com,and it's worth the $8.99 to download if only for the
effervescent cover of the Beach Boys' "Heroes & Villains.")
The Apples also scored with the video for "Signal in the Sky (Let's Go)," a
tune from the Rhino tribute album for "The Powerpuff Girls." The Cartoon Network
frequently shows the clip (a witty spoof of Japanese monster movies) in between shows
starring the crime-fighting kindergartners, bringing the band's music to a whole new
demographic, median age 4 or 5.
Saturday's indie-pop lineup features the Buddyrevelles; a solo set by Kid
Million's David Singer; Chicago's legendary, long-running Slugs; Swag, a
Nashville band that features Tom Petersson of Cheap Trick, and Chicago sensitive-guy
songwriter Archer Prewitt.
On Sunday, all the bands on the bill hail from Chicago, and the show is open to 18 and
over. The evening starts at 8 p.m. and includes Happy Supply, the Hushdrops,
M.O.T.O., Kleenex Girl Wonder and Frisbie.
(Tonight's cover is $12; Saturday and Sunday night, $10. For further information, call
As for the future rock potential of the 500-seat Abbey, Duffy is optimistic.
"I think we can definitely fill a niche," the promoter says. "We'll
never be Lounge Ax; nobody can be. But we have great sight lines, parking is not a problem
for us, and I think that we can do cool bands and not make it painful for people to come
and see them."
For a calendar of upcoming gigs, check the Abbey's Web site, www.abbeypub.com.
* * *
Speaking of indie pop, an entrepreneurial legend of the genre is coming to Chicago to
spin his favorite music at Smart Bar, 3730 N. Clark (773-549-4140), at 10 p.m. Saturday.
As the founder and chief auteur behind England's Creation Records, Alan McGee
spearheaded the lush dream pop/shoegazer movement of the early '90s, releasing hugely
influential (and occasionally commercially successful) discs by the Jesus and Mary Chain,
Primal Scream, Ride, My Bloody Valentine, Oasis and others.
Creation closed its doors for good last year, but McGee has been keeping busy with a
new Internet-based label called Poptones (www.poptones.com) and frequent club
nights in London. Dubbed Radio 4, these evenings are devoted to answering the musical
question, "Who said you can't mix the Wu-Tang Clan into Joan Jett?"
Now McGee is branching out to other U.S. cities as well as Europe and Japan. "I'm
sick of clubs that have these `indie nights' with weak draft lager and reference points
that stretch all the way back as far as `Girls and Boys' by Blur," he told the Los
Angeles Daily News a few weeks ago before a Radio 4 night there.
"That's all well and good for some, but it's just not good enough for us. Radio 4
came about because we're sick of not having anywhere to go to hear the kind of music we
like played really loud."
Expect to hear some fine tunes, but don't be surprised if McGee skips the Oasis.