Thursday, July 12, 2018

Blazing Saddles.

It's still one of the funniest movies of all time yet it could never be made today. That makes me a little sad. I'm considering heading out to Wheaton next week to see it on the big screen!

Who's got a car and wants to go?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Billy Corgan may be, erm, problematic, but the first new Smashing Pumpkins single proves he needed to get the band back together.

The song came out a while ago. And when it did I told a friend to listen, and she did with great trepidation having been a huge "classic" Pumpkins fan. Afterward she smiled and agreed that the line-up of the band we missed most (minus one) delivered the goods. Now that the video is out—O.K., it's a few weeks old but I didn't get around to watching until today—I reckoned, why not post it here?

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Want to buy an awesome house in an amazing Chicago neighborhood?

Well, now you can.

It's a 2-minute walk to the Blue Line, and we made a bunch of improvements to the place when we thought we'd be here longer, so all the updates were made with longevity in mind. It's actually a pretty decent steal, so I don't think it'll be available for long. Interested? Call 312-399-0470.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Facebook birthday wishes.

My friend Mike is doing a little experiment based on Facebook birthday posts. I know some view them as "whatever," but IMHO anyone that takes time to even write a quick message is doing you a welcome show of appreciation.

This year, hilariously, I didn't realize until the end of the day that I had set my own Facebook privacy settings in such a way that people could only comment of stuff I wrote, not leave their own stand-alone "happy birthday" posts.* Subsequently I got almost no birthday wishes and, especially after the last year, it was kind of a bummer.** A bummer of my own making—which believe you me, the irony of which was not lost on me—but a bummer nonetheless. It also made me feel a little better once I realized that's why people hadn't been posting on my wall in general!***

So I don't know how Mike's experiment will end up, but I'll keep wishing people a happy birthday since I know that no matter how you slice it, it can only brighten up their day.

Clearly this was based on me changing my settings a few months ago when I particularly needed to get away from negative posts and comments in general, and I just forgot to open posts back in later once everything was in a more positive place.
** Super smiles to the folks that messaged me, or texted me, or sent me belated greetings, once they realize they couldn't post due to my mistake.
*** I was also offline all day and off my cellphone so I missed extremely nice folks like my friend Alison trying to text me that my settings were off early in the day!

Friday, July 06, 2018

Creating a 'Beautiful Future' with Janelle Monáe.

Got invited to see Janelle Monáe play The Chicago Theatre last night and it was mind-blowing. The tickets came last minute from folks at Belvedere collaborating with Monáe on a women's film initiative, A Beautiful Future. Below is a video describing what to expect, but given Monáe's super close attention to detail, countered with emotional performances, I'm expecting her to give her backing to some really interesting project from these filmmakers.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

An unusual 4th.

Spent the day relaxing and watching movies, then watching stand-up and conversing, all the while avoiding the usual holiday tropes of fireworks, beer and BBQ. I didn't even see any explosions in the sky until I was walking home a few minutes ago. One of the parks nearby was obviously still the staging station for yet another "unofficial" Chicago fireworks show. But it was pretty, so I didn't even mind the late night booms.

By the way, I finally watched Dunkirk and now really regret missing it in 70mm. You know where I'll be should a theater run it in that format at some point in the future!

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

I've been bullied for a really long time.

Watched It this morning and while the supernatural monsters didn't scare me, the brief moments of Stephen King's writing about bullies did.

I was bullied from grade school through high school. In grade school I took shit for being smart and weird. In high school I took shit for being smart, and weird, and outspoken. And, jeez, I almost forgot, but in college I took heat for all of the above too.

I was bullied for over half my life. And it had an effect. I grew sharp, and hard, and defensive. And developed a wit that could cut to the core. It made me even smarter. And adaptable.

And, honestly, though it made me into the man I am today, I wish none of it had ever happened.

I was tortured for a very long time. And it did change me. Once I got the upper hand in life, I wasn't always the best person. After years of abuse, I finally felt I was getting my due. But that's not how it should work. Being bullied made me harder. It took away the vulnerable guy who was a good person. It killed the "Ducky" in me. And when I ended up on top of the world, it fed into much of the stuff that killed all the good I had going for me.

Being bullied had a profound effect on me. But I can't even imagine what being bullied nowadays feels like. I feared for my life at times, but I could still barricade myself in and escape. Now? There is no escape. Online bullying never stops. So every time I try to feel sorry for myself I wonder what the new generation of "nerds" has to suffer.

Being bullied made me who I am, for better or worse, but it didn't kill me.

If bullying feels like it's killing you, please tell me. Let's talk. Yes, bullying can screw up your life, but it doesn't need to impact your hold on life.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Sonny Falls are anything but hazy on 'Some Kind of Spectre.'

Hoagie sent me the unmastered version of the album a few months ago, but the new Sonny Falls LP is finally officially coming out next month! I've written about the band a few times (most recently for The Reader, which if you missed it online you might not have seen since the physical column had the misfortune of appearing in an issue that was quickly pulled due to a (thankfully, quickly fired) idiotic senior editorial decision) but here's all you really need to know:

Sonny Falls is awesome. Both one of my favorite Chicago bands and creators of one of my favorite albums of 2018.

Here's a taste of the new stuff. Order the vinyl. I already did.

Oh, and for the visually inclined, here's the video for their first single.

Friday, June 29, 2018

You've been Yorned!

OK, that headline is such a super secret inside joke only less than a dozen people will get. But this surprise cover was shared by a certain musical legend who supplies most excellent background vocals (and, honestly, while no one could ever beat Kim Deal's original take, this artist makes it their own) so I wanted to share this.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

One week ago, I got legally divorced.

Much needed comic relief.
It was supposed to be a procedural hearing and even my attorney seemed surprised I showed up. Apparently lines were crossed and I thought I was supposed to be there, even though I didn't need to be. Good thing I was.

Mich had decided that was the day she wanted everything to be over. Which made sense; it had been almost 6 months to the day since this whole thing started, and in Illinois, 6 months is the earliest you can finalize things.*

So, while I wasn't really emotionally prepared, I did everything I could to reach an agreement, and we did. I kind of wish we had pushed things until July, when the house would be on the market and the majority of the bits we went back and forth on would no longer matter, but she wanted what she wanted and I wanted her to have what she wanted.

So we reached an agreement and the judge legally split us up. There was crying on both sides. And even the judge seemed a little sad. I'm sure he sees this sort of thing a zillion times, but he truly seemed to take what was going on seriously. Which only made us cry harder.

If I'd written this a month ago, it would be filled with juicy details and observations about my take on various parties' involvement, and often obstruction or obfuscation of the process that got us here. And blah blah blah. But I'm different now. I'm clear headed. And I'm tired. And I've lost enough in the last 6 months to last me a lifetime. I've been stripped down to the bone. And the good news is that by being forced to rebuild myself, the guy Michelle fell in love with, and that my friends have probably long been missing, is back. It's ironic that it took the destruction of a relationship and a series of almost comically catastrophic events to put that guy back in the driver's seat, but there you have it.

So, what's next? I guess we'll just see what happens.

*Over the last few months I kept being asked why this was taking so long, but the truth is that everything ended just as early as it legally could. Illinois' no-fault rules are pretty basic, so anyone that tells you things "could move faster" are either lying or don't know what they're talking about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A few simple truths.

Trump isn't going to be impeached. So that's not going to save us.

There's a good chance Mueller's findings will never become public. So that's not going to save us. People misunderstand how these things work.

Tweeting about rising fascism and just how unfair everything is won't save us. It'll make you appear involved, but it's pointless.

Sharing fringe articles that support your tribe's views won't save us. It just makes you even more blind to reality while bathing you in the warm froth of perceived inclusion.

Voting? Getting involved? Running for office? Coordinating resistance instead of tearing resistance apart through either bullheadedness or apathy?

That will save us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Bite into this Giant Peach.

Frances Chang and Mike Naideau of Giant Peach.
Giant Peach comes at you straight outta Brooklyn, but sound like downstate Illinois circa 1996. But You Made Me Such A Beautiful Thing is a noisy, clanging affair, full of bent feelings and sharp guitars.

The songs on this album sound like little journeys that go wherever they feel they need to instead of adhering to any kind of strict structure. But that doesn't mean the music is unfocused; in fact the tunes rock hella hard, even when the melodies turn introspective and walk more delicate pathways.

The band performs as a four-piece right now, but the core songwriters are Frances Chang and Mike Naideau. I haven't a clue how they split the duties of crafting the band's music, since everything sounds like a singular, fully realized vision, but whatever they're doing 100% works.

The band is touring throughout July, and plays a Chicago show at The Burlington on July 21. As usual, you can stream their new album below, and I urge you to throw them some cash and download it if it pulls at your appropriate internal levers.

Monday, June 25, 2018

A secret summer jam from The Melismatics.

It's Monday. It's nice out. Depending on when you read this, you are probably at work right now, or on your way in, or on your way out. Or sitting on a patio preparing to work / wondering why you're not working.

I don't remember quite how I learned of The Melismatics. I'm pretty sure they just sent me a demo or an EP or something when I was booking The Note. They turned into one of my fave semi-regular out of town bands to book, though. By the time the time the album this song was on came out, they had rejiggered their line-up and I really only wrote about music, I no longer worked with bands. Which means I had no excuse to drag them from Minneapolis to Chicago so I've never heard this tune live.

But it kills.

Happy Monday. Hopefully this tune sets your week up to rage in all the best ways.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Do you miss Supergrass? Well, let's scratch that itch!

A few months ago my friend Johnny alerted me to the fact that the drummer from Supergrass, Danny Goffey, had released an album under the name vangoffey a few years ago, and shared a video from the LP with me. I dug the song, but was at work at the time and didn't dig any deeper, and then promptly forgot all about it.

Here's that original video.

Good, huh? Why did I not go back and just stream the whole thing right then and there? Oh yeah. if I remember correctly I had to run into a meeting. Stupid meeting.

Goffey just released a new album, Schtick, under his own actual name and it reminded me of that earlier video. So I did what any rational person would do and immediately downloaded both Goffey albums to give them a listen. The new Gaz Coombes solo release had left me a bit flat, so I didn't have high hopes, but reckoned Goffey's stuff was worth a listen.


Both albums are cram packed with 100% classic Supergrass-type stuff! It was just the kind of thing I needed after a traumatic life-changing event* and 48 solid hours of dreary rain! It's all kinds of "Yeeeeaaaaargh! Whoops of joy! Jump around! Let's dance, motherfuckers!"

Here. Just wait for the chorus.


Don't be dumb like me, give the drummer some and jump on the Goffey train right now and take in both his albums for yourself.

*Still processing and not ready to write about it yet. One benefit of being clearheaded and focused these days is I tend to (mostly) be able to avoid that reactionary writing trap. Thank God for everyone's sake.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Well, that took a turn.

Something I expected to be a routine turned into something far more—well, more—than I was really prepared for. So instead of writing anything about it today (it's all that's on my mind, so there is nothing else for me to even write about) I'm just going to make Pickle the Kitten cuddle up with me and watch the raindrops trail down my family room window as the trees sway with the wind. Let's call it a meditative moment.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Westy can still drum.

I saw Pavement a bajillion times between 1994 and when they finally broke up, and then once again during their brief reunion when they played P4K Fest in 2010. I am certainly in the minority when I say I kind of hope they never regroup again. The reunion show was good fun, and I loved that so many younger fans finally got to see one of the '90s indie legends they had grown up on but never saw live, but compared to the band in its prime it was more a fading carbon copy than a brilliant reenactment of what made the band great.

That said, I do always love mini-reunions like this one: drummer Steve West joining Stephen Malkmus at a Jicks show at The Cat's Cradle to knock out two Pavement golden oldies. No pressure, no build up; just plain fun.

[h/t Stereogum]

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

You ever see a ring tan fade?

The first couple of times I listened to this I was just taking in the vocal melody and sparse backing music, finding the whole thing poignant and affecting.

Then I paid attention to the lyrics. And they are devastating. And a little too close to my own personal experience. The simple line of "you ever see a ring tan fade?" carries a crushing weight that is only made heavier and heavier as the song progresses. The minimalist construction just make the whole thing so much more emotionally powerful. It's like a wrecking ball of ephemeral memories designed to shatter the heart over and over again.

Monday, June 18, 2018

So, I did it!

After all that back and forth ultimately I thought, "Why not cap off a trip out of town with a new haircut and a new beginning?"

Friday, June 15, 2018

Little Junior enters with a boisterous 'Hi."

Photo by Calm Elliot-Armstrong
I wrote about Little Junior a while ago, when they released a video for their pretty excellent Carly Rae Jepsen cover, but I just realized their album is finally out and available to stream and buy on Bandcmp (among other outlets).

This album has grown even better in my estimation since I first listened to it back in March, though I don't really have much to add to my initial write up of their music. It's just damn freaking good, in a totally spazzy, swaying way.

Sadly I missed the band's Chicago stop so I'll just have to content myself with the recorded version of their music for the near future.* The good news is now you too can bop along to their high energy debut all you want!

I have a vacation coming up—I have to get out of Chicago for a spell—and this is just the kind of album I want to blast while hanging in a park, or on the beach, under the summer sun.

I think you'll want to do the same.

*How did I miss that show?! Oh yeah, looking at my calendar I see I was in the 'burbs visiting a friend that night. D'oh!