• Bono Does America Again

    Posted 06/06/2017 by cal

    Bono has had a thing for this concept that he calls “America” ever since U2 first visited here in 1980. I grew up in the ‘80s myself, and where I lived, patriotism was incontrovertible. As far as I knew, everyone in the world saw the U.S.A. as the land of opportunity, freedom, all that shit. I can’t really say if it was still true in the ‘80s or not. I assume that it was a truth for some segment of the population at some point in the past 240 years.

  • Post-Fare Thee Well Thoughts

    Posted 07/12/2015 by cal

    After listening to the three Fare Thee Well shows from 4th of July weekend--y'know, members of The Grateful Dead plus Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti and our old pal Trey playing the Jerry role, sort of--I basically agree with the vague consensus I've found online and amongst Deadhead friends, which is that they were as good as they could possibly have been. It seems like everyone got what they needed out of that weekend; I couldn't help feeling giddy about the collective goodwill that was powering the sea of humanity in Soldier Field, and also a profound sense of relief having decided to skip it.

  • U2: iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Chicago

    Posted 07/04/2015 by cal

    Last December, I received an email from Bono. Okay, not really; it was a U2.com subscriber email, but in it, Bono talked about the upcoming iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour, which would be a series of two-night stands, and this quote got me a little jazzed up: "We are going to try to have a completely different feeling from night one to night two."


  • King Crimson: The Vic, 9/26/2014

    Posted 09/29/2014 by cal

    In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a prog-nut from way back. Yes started me down the road, but it wasn't long before I became almost as obsessed with ELP, and since Greg Lake had been in King Crimson prior to forming that band, it was inevitable that I'd find my way to In The Court Of The Crimson King (as if the cover art alone weren't enticing enough). Crimson is different from all the other 70s prog giants in that over the course of its nearly half-century of on-and-off existence, it has never become an utterly lame anachronism. Robert Fripp has always been mindful of the Crimson legacy. Still, each successive reformation of the project brings an increasing threat of tarnish. For the few of us who care about such things, anyway.

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  • Phish: Midwest Run 2014

    Posted 07/23/2014 by cal

    Reviewing Phish is quite a different undertaking than reviewing other music. For one thing, there's a whole dictionary of jargon and mythology that's taken for granted, making the critique virtually unreadable to the uninitiated, but going about it any other way would make the review tedious for almost anyone who might be interested in reading it. Also, rather than just take into account the experience of a single show, it's important to put it into a thirty-plus-year context and assess where it stands in the pantheon of live Phishdom. There's also a lot of puzzling over the intentions of the band, particularly Trey, and conjecturing about how much effort he's putting in and what sort of statement he might be making--mostly by people who've never had a conversation with the man himself.

    I didn't feel like thinking about all that crap on my birthday weekend this year. I just wanted to relax and enjoy myself. In the long run, though, I have a lot of thoughts about the Midwest run, and I can't keep them all to myself. So here are some of them. Read more... Pre-Disqus Comments (2)
  • Mogwai: The Vic, 5/16/2014

    Posted 05/19/2014 by cal

    Mogwai bears the burden of perfecting its own style of music simply by inventing it. The movement carries on, and Mogwai with it, in varying degrees of dilution. Everything that has come after, say, 2001's Rock Action hasn't quite stacked up because it had already been done, and not just by Mogwai but by its innumerable imitators as well. Happy Songs For Happy People and Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will are great albums, but along the way were plenty of retreads and awkward sidetracks. Mogwai essentially drifted through a decade in a relative creative stasis before releasing Rave Tapes earlier this year, which is proving to be the first significant evolution in the band's sound in ages. I've felt for years that Mogwai isn't the same band that changed my life when I first experienced it live at The Vic in 2001. Friday night at The Vic, this was no longer a bad thing.

  • Umphrey's McGee: Riviera, 2/22

    Posted 02/25/2014 by cal

    Sadly, this is going to turn into one of those meta-review-type situations that I sometimes frown upon. The fact that I keep getting into these mental quandaries with Umphrey's suggests that either they're one of my favorite bands, or that I should quit going to see them altogether, but neither of these is actually the case. Argh. My apologies if you've heard or read some of these points before.

  • Anathema: Reggie's Rock Club, 9/21/2013

    Posted 09/22/2013 by cal

    It’s hard not to get a little depressed thinking about the precipitous downfall of Milwaukee Metal Fest. Once upon a time, our town was the unofficial U.S. capitol of metal, and every year we’d get a chance to see performances by all the European masters who would never otherwise set foot in Wisconsin. One such year was 2001, when the burgeoning fest was on the brink of disaster but none of us fans had any inkling of it, and Anathema played its first U.S. show ever on the heels of its masterpiece of melodramatic ambient prog, Judgement. The magnitude of the event was lost on me at the time, but from the opening notes of “Airbag” (a brief introductory tease of the Radiohead tune) to the rousing “Comfortably Numb” closer it was one of the most magnificent sets of live music I’d ever experienced. Naturally, the band never managed to build up enough of a following Stateside to justify a tour here, so I assumed my chances of ever seeing Anathema live again were slim, but apparently last year’s excellent Weather Systems garnered just enough of a response; 23 years into its career, the band launched its first U.S. tour ever. No Milwaukee date obviously, but Reggie’s Rock Club was a sellout, and justifiably so.

  • Four Days And Seven Nights In Illinois

    Posted 06/02/2013 by cal

    At some point in the future, Honest Tune might get around to publishing my review of Summer Camp.  If not, I don't really care.  It's a load of crap that required only slightly more energy as the staff at Honest Tune put into helping me set it up, and it's not like it was going to garner me any pay.  But I couldn't leave it at that, so here's what actually happened during my end-of-May marathon seven-of-eight consecutive nights of live music in Illinois.

  • Phish: UIC Pavilion, 8/17/11

    Posted 08/22/2011 by cal

    UIC Pavilion is one venue that Phish has only played sporadically but each time will go down as legendary.  It has the dubious honor of hosting the first known glowstick war in the fall of 1994, but musically, the most talked-about highlight (at least, prior to 2011) was probably the beastly “AC/DC Bag”>”Ghost” from November of 1998.  “AC/DC” has remained firmly IN the bag since Phish returned in 2009, and the specter of a big “Ghost” loomed large over this final night of tour, so in a sense, even though everything after Monday night was essentially gravy, hopes were exceedingly high for some sort of further madness to keep the scene abuzz for two weeks until the quasi-festival in Denver and during the long wait for more Phish in 2012.

  • Phish: UIC Pavilion, 8/16/11

    Posted 08/22/2011 by cal

    With the bar set impossibly high the night before, Phish came out on night two with a trio of tunes that just happened to be exactly the kind of opening I dream about.  I don’t know what it is about “Dinner And A Movie”; it has always just been the most hilariously sinister song in the repertoire, and the little part of me that still cared about the novelty of hearing Phish play short bursts of geek-satisfying awesomeness that I thought I might never hear was suddenly and permanently satisfied when I heard Trey scruff his strings with a taste of that opening chord.  Same kind of excitement, though not as ecstatic, for “Ha Ha Ha”.  And then another tune that’s finally back in the saddle this year, “Chalk Dust Torture”, screechingly intense guitar picking by yer man Trey.  Absurdly, this beginning was my favorite part of the show.

  • Phish: UIC Pavilion, 8/15/11

    Posted 08/19/2011 by cal

    Phish tends to open runs in Chicago with statements.  Last summer it was the barn-burner “Down With Disease” at Toyota Park to begin the tour, at a time when everyone complained that first shows of tours were always rusty and dull.  Fun fact: the band took three days just prior to that show to rehearse in a dingy shed known as the UIC Pavilion.  This year, Chicago ended the tour, but once again fans knew from the opening jaunt of “Back On The Train” on the first of three nights back at UIC that Phish meant business.

  • Scattered Trees: SYMPATHY

    Posted 05/24/2011 by cal

    Chicago’s Scattered Trees started up years ago, splintered apart and then reconvened to record Sympathy, a dedication to the memory of frontman Nate Eiesland’s father, whose death inspired Eiesland to write this collection of songs.  Listeners will have no trouble picking up on the mournful pathos and occasional bitterness that permeate the record; even the songs that don’t directly address mortality evoke a feeling of loss, making for a cohesive album that’s not as depressing as it could justifiably have been.

  • The You-Phoria Guide To Festivals, 2011

    Posted 03/09/2011 by cal

    Now that festivals are big business again, even the hippies have gone hipster, and every year is a PR race to announce the most diverse and crowd-pleasing lineup.  The sense of community is all but gone now from the major three-day parties, and the pioneering spirit that created Bonnaroo is nowhere to be found.  This is already causing a decline in festival attendance and the cancellation of several formerly big names (10,000 Lakes and Rothbury spring to mind).  Still, for the music lover with eclectic tastes, there is an incredible bounty to be had.  Events succeed because with the demise of making records as a career, more and more bands are learning that they must be able to draw crowds playing live if they ever want to quit their day jobs.  Thus, while the big festivals may be on the verge of going dormant again, we concert-goers win by packing as much music as possible into the bulk ticket price.  But which ones are worth the hassle that IS festival life?  Just in case you’re still mulling things over for this year, here’s a handy guide.

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  • Trey Anastasio Band: Riviera Theatre, 2-27-11

    Posted 03/02/2011 by cal

    And the cries rang out: “MORE JAMS!”  Not just on Phish tour any more; now Trey Anastasio’s solo project elicits the same pleas from his legions of fans.  So when he started trotting out an hour of solo acoustic, mostly Phish tunes for the first set of his 2011 tour, many fans called it a snoozefest.  Most might’ve been satiated if only the electric, full-band portion of the show featured more lengthy excursions à la TAB tours of old, when a 45-minute “Night Speaks To A Woman” was always on the table.  Silly me, I left my stopwatch in my other pants and managed to have a fantastic time at The Riv Sunday night, despite the suffocating heat in the balcony.

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