number 15    SUMMER BREEZE 2003




by Larry "Fuzz-O" Dolman (except the second one, by Ms. Mary Glitter)


in chronological order:

Bobby Conn, The Eternals, Spires That In The Sunset Rise. Sunday February 23, Empty Bottle. This was really a varied feel-good kind of night. Gotta give props to Spires That In The Sunset Rise, who are Chicago's premiere freak-folk band. In fact, I don't think there's a single other band in Chicago even remotely like 'em. One of my main gripes with not just the Chicago scene but basically all bands everywhere is that all of 'em, even the good ones, sound like before they even had their first practice or wrote their first song, they decided what 'genre' they were going to be, whether it's Garage, or No Wave, or Dance Punk, or Tortoise-y, or Space Rock, or Alt Country, or what the hell ever. Sure, Spires might've filled out "freak-folk" when they got to the "state intended genre here" blank, or they might've filled out "all-girl Comus," but it doesn't matter because they're just that good. Sometimes the songs start out a little too "Oh my gosh, how wyrd we bee" but give the songs a couple minutes to build and the music will be lurching and swaying and jabbing in this intoxicated sexual way that is frankly a little scary. This is the band that should've opened for the Sun City Girls.
      The Eternals were next. Years ago I always thought Trenchmouth rocked when they came to Lincoln, Nebraska on their many tours, but it took me two years of living in Chicago to ever catch this, the new band of singer Damon Locks and bassist Wayne Montana. I had heard that now was the time to see 'em because they'd really kicked themselves in the ass by adding new member/ringer John Herndon on drums, and as much as Tortoise makes me yawn, the guy was killer, funky and really aggressive. Montana is almost TOO good at playing those perfect rubbery dub bass lines and Locks was crooning, falsetto-ing, and dancing really well. The crowd was dancing really well too -- possibly the most dancing I've seen from a crowd at the Bottle.
      And then the Bobby Conn band took the stage and the show into yet another direction. I can't say enough about the presence of Marc Ruecker on lead guitar in this band -- he puts the APOCALYPSE in Conn's apocalypse glam rock. Just a huge insane sound that really brings out the Black Sabbath undertones that always lurked in Jesus Christ Superstar. I haven't always fallen in love at Bobby Conn shows, but this was too heavy not too. Best I've ever seen him.

I couldn't find a picture of Spires That In The
Sunset Rise, but you know, this is just as good.


My Name Is Rar Rar/Hair Police/Monotract/Burning Star Core/What Now My Love. (Prodigal Son, March 22, 2003.)
So Dolman sees me at the Hair Police/Monotract/Burning Star Core show and says, "You have to write a review of this show, Blastitude needs girl writers, and you're a girl and you're at the show and that way I don't have to write about it cuz I got too much shit to do." Seriously, that's exactly what he said, I've got it on my walkman bootleg I made of the show.
      Alright, so no problem, here's how the night went: I missed the very first band What Now My Love due to 1) my habitual unfashionable lateness and 2) the last time I went to a show at the Prodigal Son I got there a half-hour after the announced time, thinking I was being habitually unfashionably late, but still had to wait a whole hour before music started and, like, talk to people. So this time I made myself leave a little later but I guess the show started more on time because there was a lot of bands. Oops.
      And double oops, in that I really wanted to see that cutie C. Spencer Yeh throw down as Burning Star Core, but I didn't count on the Prodigal Son being in the heart of DePaul University Village/Lincoln Fucking Park and it being a Friday night and me having to drive around for 30 full minutes looking for a parking spot. It really was 30 minutes, I kept track on my dashboard clock. Can you believe that shit? So when I finally got into the venue and paid my money, BXC had finished. I had heard it was 7 minutes of Spencer like standing ON his laptop, or at least standing on a chair and, while his laptop made foreboding sounds, whispering into a mic in that new black metal whisper style he's been using. I think one person described it as "Spencer as Satan" or something like that.
      I was excited to see Monotract. Saw 'em when they came through Chicago a couple years ago, and they only played for 4 minutes so I wanted more. I was wondering if they were even gonna have guitars this time, 'cause I'd heard that not a single guitar was used on their new Pagu album. (They should've put "No guitars!" in the liner notes like Queen used to put "No synthesizers!") Well Roger and Nancy did play some guitar live, but the show was definitely dominated by electronics, but even more dominated by the band's "SPRING BREAK!!!" concept. Let's just say a lot of cans of PBR were spilled. They were great, though. Heavy and fun.
      Of course not as heavy and fun as the Hair Police, because I don't think anyone is that heavy and fun. I was a little curious to hear them as a trio, without that extra guitar by Matt Minter to really fill up the huge insane-ness, but Connelly has switched from bass to guitar and Robo's working the electronics and oscillators heavier than ever. Either way, none of that really mattered because the Police just broke it down 'prayer revival' style, ending the show with a good five or ten minutes of shout-outs to local peeps in the audience like No Doctors, Panicsville, Pod Blatz. This mag you're reading right now even got a shout-out, but then again so did The Bernie Mac Show. Drummer Trevor Tremaine kept triumphantly shouting "WE DID IT!!!! WE DID IT!!!!" It was a blast. Afterwards T.T. told me the Hair Police philosophy: "Every show has to be like New Year's Eve." Amen to that.
       Unfortunately for My Name Is Rar Rar, they had to follow that. They're always a bracing blast of weirdness, but in comparison to the Hair Police they seemed more clinical and studious and humorless -- more quirk than soul, as Dolman would have it. They still could've hung in there -- the first couple songs pretty much ripped -- but they had some technical difficulties that put the front-man in the inappropriate position of 'crowd control.' He tried to crack wise a bit, but after the Hair Police's prayer revival the audience wasn't really having it, and the band didn't really recover. -- Mary Glitter

A very sedate moment by Hair Police standards. Live in Oakland, CA. Photo by Virgil Porter.


Aislers Set/Hella/Quails/Tim Kinsella. (Fireside Bowl, April 5, 2003.) Tim Kinsella started off the night with a solo set but my crew and I were too fashionably late and arrived during the Quails set. Quails is an excellent band name, but they kind of sounded like Sleater-Kinney. I don't know, I didn't try much harder than that -- it's too easy at the Fireside to just hang out in the Hammertime Lounge. There's not a single comfortable spot in the whole damn main room and, if the room's crowded, the sightlines are terrible ("oh, I think I saw the bass player's hat!"). If the band isn't absolutely sonically riveting it's pretty hard to not retire to the room where the beer is served, even if the band is pretty good it's hard not to, especially if you're jaded. (I'll be 33 in two weeks, you?) Not that any of this has too much to do with the Quails. They weren't a bad band by any means, I just didn't stay riveted enough to be able to say anything to you now other than "they kind of sounded like Sleater-Kinney."
      Next was Hella, who I definitely wanted to see. I was listening to WNUR one night a couple weeks before and the DJ played a Hella song back to back with a track from Are You Glad To Be In America? by James Blood Ulmer, after which he commented "I think maybe Hella were influenced by James Blood Ulmer." This was some good dee-jaying, because I agreed with his point and it made me really look forward to the upcoming Hella show. Well, the set was pretty good and they definitely seemed, as the second-to-last band often does, to capture the 'peak crowd interest' of the night. For the first few jams I was fascinated, in fact. I liked the guitarist's unpretentious 'intelligent & friendly hessian' demeanor, and the way his licks and vocabulary seemed to actually be almost straight-up country & western (Sacramento is a hick town, right?), with just the barest whiff of metal & fusion to ease the music into the no wave scene. As for the drummer, well, his technique is dazzling and blinding, and J. Hischke thinks that he's perhaps literally the greatest drummer in the world. Yeah, I was blown away too, but the set was too damn long and about halfway through, the drummer's ability/need to play his perfectly stuttering 'endless fill' patterns in lieu of any kind of actual ROCKING OUT started to really make me nervous. In fact, a couple weeks after the show I heard Hella on the radio again, recognized the drummer's technique instantly, and instinctively turned the radio off in order to stave off a panic attack. I'm actually serious! The drummer's constant display of anti-rock technique really does make me quite nervous. Of course, this may be exactly his intention, and that's what makes him No Wave, in which case, I say "Do you what you gotta do."
       Finally came the Aislers Set. Because they employ such archaic concepts as an "indie pop sensibility" and "a backbeat," none of my no wave friends had any interest in them, but my WHPK friends did, and I did. They were great. The main girl Amy Linton has this really cool slightly crust-punk demeanor and she plays this big-ass 12-string electric. Then, the bass player is just as cute as a button and they sing together really well. Of course it doesn't sound like Phil Spector live, it's quite a bit more punky, with the voices over the top rubbing against it (the punkiness) sweetly. They played a totally concise 30 minutes or so, and left the audience wanting more but not a whole lot more (afterwards the crowd in general seemed to have that semi-crackling 'we just saw a good night of music' buzz).

I couldn't find a picture of Hella, so here's the bassist from The Quails. Not the Chicago show.


Evan Parker & Joe McPhee. (Chicago Cultural Center, April 26, 2003.) Here's two names I'm sure you've heard, at least if you're a regular reader of Cadence, The Wire, or Opprobrium. Even though my 'free improv years' are pretty much over, when these guys were scheduled to play a Saturday matinee performance at the stately Chicago Cultural Center, and the ticket price was ABSOLUTELY FREE, well, I just figured "let's do it." Well, if I had thought that my free improv years were "pretty much" over, this show was the nail in the coffin: seeing two absolute titans of the form playing together, and, even as the runs dazzled, coming up with very little that fired my imagination in a way it hadn't already been fired years ago.
       Maybe it's just the duo form that I'm tired of -- it seems like every duo performance I've seen since I moved to Chicago ends up over-using what I call the 'tail-chasing' style, in which the musicians just run up and down and all over all kinds of scales, and while it can be amazing how synced up they can get all those notes, they are still just collectively chasing their own collective tail, which means all they're actually doing with all those notes is sitting in one single spot and going around in circles. For example, there was one moment at this concert when McPhee stopped playing for a second to get some saliva out of his horn, leaving Parker alone as he softly ground out a single high tone. It sounded fabulous, and I thought for sure McPhee was just going to stand there and listen for at least three or four minutes while Parker worked on this gloriousness, but no. In what seemed to my critical ears to be a COMPLETE MISTAKE, as soon as he got the saliva out he just started playing again, which almost immediately led to more high-speed tail-chasing. It's not the duo form, it's the tail chasing. I just reviewed the new Jack Wright & Bob Marsh duo CD on Public Eyesore, and I thought it would bore me too, and it didn't, because they weren't tail-chasing.
       Hmm, maybe it's that I'm tired of seeing improv music live. Maybe if I had seen Wright & Marsh play their record live I would've been checking my watch and looking for the door. At the Parker & McPhee show, here I was stuck in a chair surrounded by all these quiet and serious people staring at these two completely unswaggering guys standing stock-still, never saying a word to the audience, and never varying the 'chasing each other tails' approach to high-speed high-pitched duo playing. I just couldn't help but think, "Man, it's a beautiful afternoon outside and my eight-day old son is at home and I miss him," so I left and walked out into the sun and the bustling city, and believe me, THAT'S when I felt "free." I think the choice of venue also had a lot to do with it. Here it is, a sunny Saturday afternoon in the spring, and they put us all in this little theater tucked away in the corner of a building, with no windows. The first time I saw jazz at the Chicago Cultural Center, the band (Instant Composers Pool) played underneath the big glorious rotunda in the middle of the building, with huge windows on either side. That's what this show needed -- the slow change of light, the glory of architecture, the reminder of the magic of the four seasons. With stoic free improvisation, something else needs to comment on the music. I'm hoping the presenters didn't have a choice between the theater and the rotunda, because if they did they made the wrong one. (I actually took off my coke-bottle glasses and watched for awhile to see if that would make things more interesting. It was cool at first because it made Parker & McPhee look like these two blobs of light producing all these sounds, but even as luminous supernatural blobs they had no stage presence.)
       Don't get me completely wrong here, though; I believe I counted THREE moments that were stunning. The 'chasing each other's tails' approach would suddenly give way into a big huge duo-grind vista, or it would suddenly pick up in intensity when you already thought it was intense and get into a heavy-metal cat-fight at 20,000 feet above the earth's surface, you know, those kind of things. But even those kind of things aren't anything new to a dedicated listener of free improvisation music.

Evan Parker demonstrates all four of his performing positions.


Major Stars, L.A. Drugs, Life Partners, Heathen Shame. (Fireside Bowl, Sunday May 26.) I mainly wanted to see Heathen Shame and Major Stars, and miss L.A. Drugs and Life Partners. I just had a feeling the latter two were the 'trendy no wave spazz rock' portion of the show and I wanted to see the 'un-trendy old people who actually play guitar solos and shit' portion of the show. The show listing made the order look like Life Partners, then L.A. Drugs, then Heathen Shame, and then Major Stars, so I figured perfect, I can totally chill out, put the baby to bed, and miss the first two bands.
       By 10PM the baby was asleep and I started to think, "Hmm, the first band is probably actually starting about now, and somehow I doubt that Wayne and Kate are going to play back-to-back sets. Maybe I should just go now -- something fishy about that listing." So I walked the 4 blocks from my apartment over to the Fireside, where a certain world-renowned 'noise/improv' musician was standing outside. The first thing he said was, "You just missed Heathen Shame. And they were really good." I said "Fuck." Worse yet, I was just in time to see the two spazz bands I wasn't in the mood for. It seemed like a sparse crowd and the wait seemed endless, with no one seemingly in too much of a hurry to do anything. "What are you doing here?," I asked myself. "You're going to have to drink like 5 beers just to get through these waits."
       Well, the waits might've seemed endless, but the bands that finally played seemed....killer! And I'm always in the mood for killer. The show was so much fun that I only drank 3 beers. I couldn't really describe the music other than 'spazzy,' 'noisy', 'rockin,' 'thug-dancey,' you know, trendy no wave, but the atmosphere was actually exciting for once. When Life Partners were finally ready to start their set (keyboardist and guitarist plugged in and making farting warm-up sounds, drummer wearing a dress) quite a few people seemed to literally appear out of the woodwork and crowd the area of the floor where the band had set up. The unaffectedly Lisa Loopnerish girl on keyboards sang the first song, and then introduced "this guy who's been following us around on tour," who came out to the mic (even though I didn't see him for a couple more songs because he was short and they were set up on the floor) and ended up being the band's great frontman, a short little nerd golfer guy with glasses, no shirt, and big furry animal pants, who just freaked out. Watching him and Lisa Loopner, I realized that Life Partners were perhaps the most explicit practitioners of the Nerd Rock Music tradition since it was first brought into the spotlight by Donald the Nut fronting Three Day Stubble, over twenty years ago in 1980.
         What's more, this New Nerd Singer was seriously going in and out of the audience who had gathered, especially antagonizing two or three certain folks. I was impressed, but after a while figured they were a couple "plants," and sure enough they ended up being members of L.A. Drugs. They did a few great bits together, most notably when one of the "plants" finally picked the New Nerd Singer up and carried him as far away from the 'stage' as possible, depositing him on one of the old bowling alley benches. I watched Fireside talent buyer Brian Peterson coolly snatch the microphone out of the singer's hands as he was carried past, which led him stumbling, in all his shirtless & animal-pantsed glory, still in a tranced-out freaked-out state after being dumped on the bench, blindly and instinctively back towards the front of the 'stage', where Brian held out the mic for him just in time for him to launch right into the next verse. Good shit!
      L.A. Drugs were next and were musically similar with spastic guitar and keyboards and spazz-dance beats, but they had an icier tone to the music, thanks most apparently to their frontwoman, who kind of stalked around in a dress and sang deadpan lyrics about, well, drugs, and other illicit subjects. This made 2 bands in a row where I didn't see the lead singer until 3 or 4 songs in. The drummer ended one song by carrying his snare to the opposite end of the audience and pounding the shit out of it, sort of like you could imagine the coda of "T.V. Eye" being played. It seemed like the guitarist switched to keyboards for a cover song that brought down the house, but details are fuzzy. (I am sure about the "brought down the house" part, though.)
      After all that came Major Stars, who, like Nerd Rock Music, have been more or less 'together' for 20 years themselves, and had some guts to ask all these whippersnappers half their age to open up for them for an entire tour. They started up their classicist heavy-groove big sky feedback thunder, and it seemed like they were easing into it a bit, like doing a good 10 minutes of calisthenics before the really heavy workout. Kate Village/Biggar was aware of this and, after the song, congenially announced into the mic: "Sorry we're so old that we play ON the stage. And we don't drink Pabst, we drink Rolling Rock. That's just the punk rock life vs. the rock 'n' roll life." See, no wave vs. free folk AGAIN! The reason she could be so friendly about it was because she knew that when her band got going, none of these things mattered. They're above and beyond trends and categorizations. I suppose you could pigenhole them as playing classic freak-out higher-bound loud/heavy psych raga, but it only seems old and outdated and pigeonholable for about 2 minutes, and then it was all Biggar kissing heads with waves of melodic guitar fuzz while Wayne Rogers paced the stage and did the same with big-sky heaven-leads. Only one song had vocals. And, the set was 35, 40 minutes at most, with no encore -- this is clearly a band of veterans.

This is the Major Stars. They're much huger live.


Numbers, Magas, Sightings, Lovely Little Girls. (Fireside Bowl, July 10, 2003.) Pretty hot line-up here. I was excited to see Lovely Little Girls again, and they blew away their last set, which had already been pretty great. They've added some horns, every move of the set seems extremely thought out in a very effective way, and they've gotten heavier, almost like METAL. Scatological and goofy and, yes, "gender-fucked," they somehow hit at a perfect balance between pretentious-as-hell art-faggotry and hilarious self-deprecation. And their new bass player is the drummer from Caroliner! But don't get too excited, he's a "fill-in."
       Next up was Sightings who I was also excited to see again, especially after digging their new album Absolutes quite a bit. Well, shit, they BLEW me away, and not in any way like they did when I saw them a year ago, and not even really in an Absolutes way either. These guys are seriously advancing. The old blast-and-rant 'punk rock' approach is almost completely gone, but they're still very heavy and tough as nails and Mark Morgan still sounds like he's playing a giant amplified piece of tin-foil instead of a guitar. The differences are that Morgan's vocals have chilled out quite a bit; now he's pretty much whispering and moaning and sparsely chanting. Also, they're incorporating all the usual Wire-approved influences like dub, hip hop, tribal, and even fucking IDM, but are somehow making all these tired poseur faves sound INCREDIBLE. The press sheet said "Autechre inside a lawnmower" and it's TRUE. They even reminded me of the No Neck Blues Band at times, the way they would take a terrifying sound and then stretch and spread it all the way out until it fucking CHANTED all by itself.
       After that I needed a break and repaired to the Hammertime Lounge. Even hearing the pulse of Magas eventually coming from the other room didn't drag me away from my bar stool. I've seen him a good 5 or 6 times and so had the people I was jawing with, but we all decided to go check it out and when I got in there he was KILLING. The crowd was big and rocking and Magas's bass was sick and thick, right up there with Ziegenbock Kopf records.
       I had to leave right after Magas because I have a baby at home. I really, really should have stayed and watched Numbers but I've already assumed that they're too predeterminedly neo-retro for me. I'm not sure if this is true because I've barely even heard their records, only a couple minutes' worth. I apologize to all the people who like them because they're great, but not to those who like them because they think someone else thinks it's the right thing for them to do.

This is the Lovely Little Girls, live in Chicago, but I wasn't at this show.


Neil Hamburger, Canned Hamm. (Empty Bottle, July 12, 2003.) I'm a little leery about tackling this one because Cimarron Weekend once printed that "Some of the worst writing in the world of music journalism occurs when someone tries to review this shit." I'll try anyway just because seeing this shit in the flesh is one of the biggest events of my life. First, opening act Canned Hamm: they were NOT cynical. I'll admit it, this is a makeup call (see my Andrew W.K. review a few issues ago), but it's the correct call: they are splendid entertainers. Highlights are the "Who needs a hug??" song, when they go "Line up! Line up!," so they can give everyone a hug. (No one does because, yes, indie rock audiences are lame. So are politicians and cops. If you need any other shocking information, just ask, I'm right here for you.) Another highlight is them closing their set with a song about the headlining act, Neil Hamburger, and while the song is still going, Neil walks out to start his act! Now that's entertainment: keep things moving! None of this "37 minutes between sets and then come out and tune for 15 minutes while nursing a beer and did you notice my creative new facial hair, well get a good look, because when I'm done tuning I'm gonna leave the stage again for another 15 minutes before finally starting the set" bullshit.
       Well, I'm still not going to say TOO much about Neil's act. But it was great. Sure, the schtick is that he's a failure as a comedian, but this is merely a camouflage for the fact that he's one of the more creative and funny comedians working today. I've been listening to him for a good 5 or 6 years straight (and a couple of years that WEREN'T so straight, but we won't get into that) and this fact is only now starting to blossom for me. I suspect it will continue to do so until it reaches nearly overwhelming levels of truth, because Neil's style is like that. Layers upon layers of commentary via real jokes within anti-jokes within dirty jokes within dumb jokes. I will share just one short stretch of humor, coming at you in real time: "Is it just me, or is George Bush the worst president we've ever had? [cheers, applause, hearty agreement] Which makes it all the stranger that his son, George W. Bush, is the BEST president we've ever had!! No, but seriously folks, about ole Dubya, maybe it's just me, but I thought that when a president took office in our fine country, they made him lay his right hand on the bible [holds up left hand] and say in a strong clear voice, 'I do solemnly swear .. . TO LAY OFF THE MOTHERFUCKIN' COCAINE!' No, but about Britney Spears . . . why didn't we just drop THOSE on Iraq?? Talk about biological weapons! Although, I guess in her case they'd be CHEMICAL weapons." See, now read that back and tell me it isn't funnier than 99.9% of comedians working today. Not ironically funny, just plain funny. The records are so meta-meta-ironic, highly and artfully constructed, but when you see him live you realize that they're masterpieces of theater, not of documentary. When Neil's in front of a real live crowd, people actually laugh, because A LOT of the jokes are legitimately funny. Sure, he got a lot of confused looks from the Jimmy Kimmel audience, but he got a lot of belly laughs from 'em too. In front of a real audience, he's still pathetic, but it's more obviously a ruse, and he expertly uses it to tell a whole bunch of funny one-and-two-liner jokes without having to resort to such standup comedy cliches as "working the audience" by "nailing the segues." Except that in his own way, he does those very things better than anyone else I can think of.

This is Neil Hamburger as a guest on the Jimmy
Kimmel Live show (ABC). I wasn't at this show
either, but I watched it on TV.


Animal Collective played at the Empty Bottle tonight (Sunday August 3rd). I saw them when they toured in April of 2002 as a quartet (bonus points if you can name all four members on that tour, answers at the end of this page), and they put on an astounding show, so I was a little nervous when they set up as a duo at this one. I mean, is a duo really a collective? At least it was the original two setting up: Avey Tare and Panda Bear. And any worries went away pretty quickly as the two eased into their first song, both fast-strumming out a single rough-sketch low chord on their respective guitars and moaning/droning/throat-singing into the mic. Treated vocals and an immediately trippy vibe made me realize that these guys were gonna go for broke no matter how many people were onstage with 'em . . . and even that didn't end up being the half of it. Soon these moans broke into freaked-out unison vocals that sounded like satanic back-masking and then sounded like regular forward vocals about doggies and then sounded like ancient Native American hymnals and then they'd scream and the mics would peak and my ears would peak and it sounded like some lowest-phi Jack Smith phantasy phreak-out. As happened last time, songs ran together and this song blended into another song and that song blended into a chant-fest for which they put down the guitars and danced around like goofballs while beating on a big floor tom. Then they finally stopped . . . and the audience freaked out. They played more songs in which joyful acid vibes and terrifying acid vibes have blended like never before . . . and the audience freaked out. They did an encore of maniacal nonsense that ended with a sudden crystal clear line, "YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE" . . . and the audience freaked out (and agreed). I freaked out too and I want to own all their albums because I've been looking for a good soundtrack to the New Psychedelia and I've found it. (By the way, the New Psychedelia is Everything. Everything is the New Psychedelia.)

This is the best I could do for a live shot of the Animal Collective. But the background tile is the front cover of their new album, Here Comes the Indian, on Paw Tracks.


That's it! The last page of this issue! You are now officially sad that's it over. But you can start again, right from the top: