Thursday, December 29, 2011

Midwest Hype creating fresh buzz through its music


Midwest Hype is an appropriate name for a band that is creating a fresh buzz through its eclectic mix of funk, reggae, rock, jazz and hip-hop.

The seven-piece LaPorte, Ind. band,, will perform Jan. 5 at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, to celebrate the release of its new EP, "Dayglow."

The band Otis is also part of the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to talk to Midwest Hype drummer Max Kepler about the band and its activities. 

Q - The band's sound has been described in many different ways. How would you describe the band's sound? What made you want to create the sound the band has?
Yeah, lots of people describe our sound differently. The best way I think to decide is to see the live show. When I am telling people about it, I say a combination of funk, rock, reggae and hip-hop. We have coined our sound "Urban Garage Jazz" or "Urban Garage Rock." 

We have always listened to lots of different music from both coasts and had an uniquely Midwest experience growing up by the beach (Lake Michigan). We wanted to write songs that combined a lot of sounds from the artists that we listened to including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Steely Dan, Dr. Dre, Sublime, A Tribe Called Quest, Bob Marley and many others. 

I think that we achieve that with Midwest Hype because I don't think anyone really sounds like we do.

Q - What was it like opening for the Wailers? Do you consider them a big influence?

Opening for The Wailers was amazing. They are such a good act and we were honored to share a stage with them. 

We have been listening to Bob Marley, Toots and the Maytals and lots of other Island artists since we were all young. Playing with them made us realize how much of a rock band we are compared to them. We use use reggae elements, but what they do is so authentic and it was amazing to watch.

Q - You have a new EP, "Dayglow." What should people expect from the album? How did you hook up with  Steve Gillis?

The Schuba's release is going to be amazing and we can't for people to hear the EP. We met Steve through the band How Far To Austin. They have been great friends and opened a few doors for us. Steve was finishing their record when we started recording "Dayglow" a year ago.

Q - What was it like to be named last year as the "Best Band About To Make It Big." Did it put additional pressure on the band?

It's always nice when people recognize something you create and respond to it positively. We try not to get too caught up in expectations and always just try to write the best songs possible and have a great live show.

Q -
Are you pleased with the impact the band has made so far? What do you think the band adds to the music scene in Chicago and Indiana?

We are pleased with what we have done so far. Opening for the Wailers and Girl Talk, and playing slots at Summer Camp, North Coast and the Indy 500 are pretty big accomplishments for any band. 

I think that having Midwest Hype on any bill always adds a bit of fun. We always have a good time and hope that everyone else is having a good time too. We don't take ourselves too seriously, but we are serious about our music and how we create it and show it to people. 

As long as we continue to have fun with this I'm sure we will grow and build. "Dayglow" is going to be a big next step.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Van Halen to play Feb. 24 at United Center in Chicago

Van Halen, with David Lee Roth back in the fold, will perform Feb. 24 at the United Center in Chicago. Tickets for the show go on sale Jan. 14. Read more:

Enhanced by Zemanta 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chicago band The Buddies bringing new energy to scene


Most bands can't reproduce their live sound in the studio.

But Chicago band The Buddies does so in scorching fashion on its latest CD, "F*** The Buddies," released in August.

The band,, will take its unbridled sound to The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago, on Dec. 22. Dirty Pigeons, The Canoes and Ed Jurken also are on the bill.

The show starts at 9:30 p.m., and tickets are free to those who RSVP. More information is at

I had the chance to talk to The Buddies lead singer Coley Kennedy about the band and its activities.

Q - The band's sound has been described in numerous ways. How would you describe the band's sound?

Someone once described our sound as "a southern rock version of The Clash." I'll take that.

Q - You dropped Candy Apple from the band's name. Why? Do the members of The Buddies see each other as friends both on and off the stage?

Candy Apple was more of an inside joke among the members. We kind of got sick of having people ask us why we were called Candy Apple & The Buddies.
Also, we and our fans have always referred to the band simply as The Buddies. It just seemed to make more sense. Not that The Buddies is any less of a terrible name than Candy Apple & The Buddies. 

Do we see each see each other as friends both on and off the stage? Yep. We were friends long before The Buddies started to make music together.

Q - Of course, The Buddies is comprised of members from Welcome To Ashley and Pale Blue Dot. How did the project come about in the first place? Was it a seamless transition? What was the goal in forming The Buddies?

I had several songs that I'd written in WTA that weren't quite WTA's style. I sent the Collins' (members of Pale Blue Dot) a tape of the songs, hoping they'd come up with some nice, mellow, roots-y instrumentation - banjos, mandolins, pedal steel, etc...and then we'd record the songs. I then flew to Nashville (along with Pete Javier from Welcome to Ashley), eager to record a "country" record. We tracked eight songs, unrehearsed, live and drunk, in 2 days - in the Collins' living room. It couldn't have been less country, (but) we called the album "Country Record."

Q - In sitting down to record "F*** The Buddies," what did you set out to do? How do you think it stacks up to your previous efforts? Did the finished product meet your expectations?

We set out to make a great record, and we did. And as far as the recording, it's about as real as it gets. We tracked all 12 songs in three days.

Q - Judging from the band's concert videos, it looks like you guys try to put a lot of energy into your shows. Your latest CD also has a live feel to it. Were you trying to capture the band's energy on the CD?

Yep. And it wasn't difficult to capture the live feel, because it was recorded live.

Q - Who are your biggest music influences and how do they fit into the band's sound?

The Buddies influences are The Pogues, The Replacements, The Faces and The Stones.

Q - What are the band's goals for the next six months?

We're making a video for "All The Beer Is Gone" in January in NYC. Aside from that, we will continue to tour, write songs and hopefully make another great record in  spring, 2012.

Q - Where do you see yourself fitting into the Chicago music scene? What do you think the band adds to the scene?

I don't know where we fit in the Chicago music scene, and I'm not sure what we add. I'd like to think that The Buddies add everything great that's been missing from the music scene for a long, long time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Benefit set for blues great Hubert Sumlin at FitzGerald's

Best known for his work with Howlin' Wolf, blues guitarist Hubert Sumlin was an inspiration to the likes of Keith Richards, Frank Zappa and countless other musicians.

Sumlin passed away on Sunday at the age of 80. Many of the musicians who shared the stage with Sumlin over the years will perform at 8 p.m. Dec. 13 as part of a benefit at FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn.

Donations will cover a portion of the expenses for his funeral and the rest will be donated to the Blues Foundation Hart Fund,

More information is at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chicago music scene in spotlight at Chicago Roots Collective Festival


The Chicago music scene is filled with adventurous bands making fresh, original music.

Lucky for us, many of those bands will share the same stage when they perform Nov. 18 and 19 as part of the third annual Chicago Roots Collective Festival at The Elbo Room, 2871 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago.

Music starts at 8 p.m. both nights, and tickets are $10 for a single-day pass, $15 for a weekend pass, available at Festival-goers will be pleased to know that 25 percent of all proceeds will benefit Old Town School of Folk Music.

A full schedule of bands is available at

I had the pleasure of talking to Danny Surico, president of Chicago Roots Collective and frontman of The Future Laureates, Trevor Jones, of the Chicago band Molehill, and Brian Wise, of Chicago band Jackpot Donnie, about this year's festival.

Q - This is the third year of the show. What have you learned from past shows and what were your goals for this year's show?

Danny - At a fundamental level we have learned all about logistics. Getting three bands to put on a show is tough enough let alone 10 + acoustic acts, so learning how to get everyone on the same page is something that has got better with each festival.

We are playing in the Elbo Room again this year because we realized after last year's festival that the Elbo Room is a great set up for something like this with the split levels that can accommodate full bands and acoustic acts.  

Incorporating acoustic acts was a great idea by Donnie Biggins from The Shams Band and it involves even more artists in the festival.  Also, the CRC has included artists from other disciplines which really helps give the Festival a community feel. 

Trevor - For this year's fest we have kept a similar model including full bands, acoustic acts and other artists, but we have also involved a great institution in Chicago - the Old Town School of Folk Music. The CRC is donating 25% of all proceeds to this organization. Our goal is to always have a great vibe at our shows and provide friends and fans with great music to listen to. Each year gets better and better.

Q - How did you go about choosing the lineup for this year's show? What are the standout bands in this year's festival?

Danny - The thought that went into booking this year’s festival, first and foremost, was finding bands that fit well together musically. If you listen to the acts playing this year’s fest, there’s enough diversity to keep fans interested from act to act, but there’s also enough continuity among acts that it doesn’t just seem random.  

Eight bands who are current (and founding) members of the Chicago Roots Collective are playing downstairs on both nights of the fest. In addition, we’ve gotten some new up and coming acts like Dan Tedesco and Tree in the mix on both nights downstairs.

These are bands that we’ve seen over the past year that are quite talented musically and hard workers. Those two qualities were important to the CRC bands when deciding which new bands to bring into the mix for downstairs.

As for upstairs, the acts are all acoustic, which will provide a nice change of pace to the bands playing downstairs. Some of the upstairs acts are solo artists and some are acoustic versions of full bands that play regularly in Chicago.

All the upstairs acts are excellent musicians that have been connected with the Chicago Roots Collective in some capacity over the past year. In some cases, the acoustic acts played on a monthly Chicago Roots Collective showcase; in other cases, they attended our recent networking event, or were referred to us by friends of the Chicago Roots Collective.  

We believe the fact that a lot of the bands know each other and have performed together previously is definitely a positive thing. That sense of support and community among bands is a vibe that we hope will carry over easily to our fans in the audience.  

If last year’s festival is any indication, the result should be a friendly, fun, and supportive environment for everyone attending and playing the fest.

Q - How does the show fit into the mission of the Chicago Roots Collective? What success stories have the Chicago Roots Collective had? What is the group planning to do in the future?

Brian - The CRC Festival is the product of our mission statement. We set out to be a group of musicians that work together to get our music heard. In this instance, we have upwards of 100 Chicago musicians playing together over two nights.  

Last year there was such a positive vibe at the festival. I anticipate more of the same this year. We had CRC bands covering each other's tunes which helped fans of bands come to appreciate some of the other acts. 

It's easy to say you want to create a music community, but it's rare to actually carry that out nowadays.

There is a real sense of community, and that's all that we've ever wanted. The bands in the collective support one another, and that carries over to the fans. We've been playing together for three years now, so each band has had opportunities for exposure they never would have.

The music industry can be very dog-eat-dog, but when you have people working together, everyone goes further. 

I think the future of the CRC will involve expansion to include even more Chicago musicians. Last summer, we had our first networking event that was open to the public, and we had a great turnout. 

Many of the musicians that showed up to the event are playing this year's fest. People see the great work we're doing and they want to be a part of it. The more the merrier!

Q - How does the Chicago music scene compare with other music scenes?

Danny - I’ve heard comments from a number of out-of-town bands who have come to play in Chicago, especially on a Chicago Roots Collective showcase, that there are two things that stand out to them when they play here. 

First, the bands on our showcases all seem to know each other and fit really well together musically. Secondly,  the bands here operate with a level of organization that is different than their home market.  

We do things like backline drums and amps for an entire show (which makes for quicker set changes), coordinate our promotion with one poster design and one Facebook event for all the bands playing that show, and display transparency and fairness with payout at the end of the night. 

These are things we’re doing in Chicago that are appreciated by out-of-town bands, quite simply because these practices are not the norm in their home city.

The truth is that in many cities across the country, there is an amazing array of talented, independent bands grinding it out on “the journey.” However, what makes Chicago, (and specifically the Chicago Roots Collective) unique is our ability to recognize that it’s really not a competition or race among bands to be successful.  

Instead, we take a community-minded approach, believing that shared success, at the end of the day, is still success. Our interaction and perception of other bands isn’t so cutthroat, and when you see a bunch of bands actually giving a damn about and rooting for the success of their peers, it creates a win-win environment for bands, venues, and fans.

Our fans especially notice when the band they came to see openly supports the other bands playing that same night. For more than three years, the Chicago Roots Collective has been trying to cultivate that type of scene here in Chicago, and the community that has formed is a result of that intentionality.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"American Idol" finalist James Durbin continues musical journey with upcoming release of debut album


James Durbin's hard rock swagger on this season's "American Idol" landed the California native in fourth place on the show.

Durbin will continue his musical journey this year with the Nov. 21 release of his debut album, "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster."

I had the chance to talk to Durbin about the album and his "American Idol" experience.

Q - I understand that you wanted "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster" to really represent you and the experiences you have gone through.

Some of the songs deal with being picked on and bullied. One of the songs, "Screaming," talks about just wanting to scream at the world. I was picked on and bullied from elementary school all the way through high school. I know fans of mine have gone through similar experiences.

Q - Howard Benson produced "Memories Of A Beautiful Disaster." Why did you want him to produce your album?

When I was getting bullied, one of my favorite bands I listened to for hope was My Chemical Romance. He produced their major label debut, "Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge," and he really helped them to find their sound.

I loved the sound he put to "Memories of a Beautiful Disaster." I am completely happy he produced it.

Q - You placed fourth on "American Idol." Were you happy with how you did?

I was thrilled. I didn't have any aspirations. My whole goal is doing what I love to do. I just wanted to be a working musician. I got a lot more than I bargained for.

Q - Simon Cowell left the show right before season 10. Are you glad you didn't have to face him?

I don't think he would have liked me. I auditioned for season 8, and didn't make it. I knew in my heart I had a better chance with someone like Steven Tyler.

It was a real eye-opener. The producers gave me a lot of time to shine, and let me go crazy on the stage.

Q - What was it like performing in the season 10 finale with Judas Priest?

I was way into Judas Priest, especially in high school. It was unbelievable. It was a dream come true.

Q - Besides your album coming out, you're getting married this year. It's going to be a small wedding, I understand.

My fiancee, Heidi, she ordered a dress online, and I'm going to wear a suit from my closet. I didn't see the point of going huge and all out.

Q - The two of you have a son. Does he like your music?

Hunter is 2 1/2. He loves it. He knows all the words to all the songs I sang on "American Idol." He's a human jukebox.

He's already showing a major interest in music. He can't pick up the guitar unless he has a pick in his hands.

Q - You want to tour next year, right?

We're looking to do a nationwide tour in January and early February.

Q - Hopefully you'll get to Chicago.

Chicago is a big rock 'n' roll city. I was at Lollapalooza this summer. It was a blast.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Morrissey's show in Chicago postponed

Because of a visa administration error, Morrissey’s lead guitarist is unable to perform in the U.S. this week, which has forced the postponement of Thursday’s sold out concert at the Congress Theatre in Chicago. The show has been rescheduled for Dec. 17.

Tickets for the Nov. 10 show will be honored at the Dec. 17 show.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus Comments on Passing of GWAR Guitarist Cory Smoot AKA Flattus Maximus and the Status of GWAR

Shocking, especially in light of the fact GWAR performed Halloween night at the House of Blues in Chicago:

After a restless night spent hurtling through the desolate Canadian wilderness, I crawled from my bunk on the tour bus to face reality, grudgingly aware that the the dark dream that gripped us would not fade with the day. We have lost a brother, a husband, a son, and one of the most talented musicians that ever slung an ax. Cory Smoot, longtime lead guitar player for the band GWAR, has passed at the age of 34.

As the singer of GWAR and one of his best friends, I feel it is my duty to try and answer some of the questions that surround his tragic and untimely death. I know the sense of loss and pain is far greater in scope than in the insulated environment of a band on tour, and I will do my best to provide what clarity and comfort I can.

The most glaring question is how? And unfortunately that is the hardest question to answer. The truth will not be known until the medical officials have finished their work. All I can do is relate what we saw with our own eyes.

The last time I saw Cory was after our show in Minneapolis on Wednesday night. It was a great show at First Avenue in Minneapolis, one of our favorite places to play. Cory was happy. He was excited about the band and especially the new studio he was building in the Slave Pit back in Richmond. He was deeply in love with his wife, Jamie, and was busily planning their family and future in the beautiful home they had. As usual, after some autographs and banter, I was probably the first person in their bunk as we got ready for a big drive into Canada, and Cory and the rest of the guys were not far behind. As I fell into the slumber that only playing GWAR shows can induce, everything seemed right in the world.

We found Cory the next morning as we collected passports for a border crossing. He was in his bunk, unresponsive, and it quickly was clear that he was dead. It was without a doubt the most horrible moment of my life. That's all I can say about it.

Within moments everybody was off the bus, standing in a wind-swept parking lot in the middle of nowhere, trying to come to grips with the shock of it. First the ambulance arrived, and then the police, but there was nothing that could be done other than fully investigate the scene and remove Cory with care and respect.

We are completely devastated and shocked beyond belief. One night we had our friend and colleague, happy and healthy in the middle of our best tour in years- and the next morning, so suddenly, he was gone. Never have I seen starker proof of the fragility of life.

Cory will be transported home to Richmond over the next few days, and an announcement regarding services will be made soon. We ask everyone to respect the families wish for privacy, and especially to keep his wife, Jamie, in your thoughts and prayers.

As we work our way through these difficult days the question is -- what will GWAR do? After a lot of consideration, we have decided to carry on with the tour. Although the great temptation would be to return home, curl into a fetal position, and mourn, we can't do that. First off, Cory wouldn't want that. He would want us to go on and would be pissed if we didn't. Plus we know the fans don't want us to quit. They are going to want a chance to come to grips with their loss, and there is no better place to do that than at a GWAR show. Though it's hard to believe, I think we all would feel a lot worse if we stopped. For better or worse we have to see this through.

That doesn't mean that Cory will make his final journey without us. When the arrangements have been finalized, Cory's best friend and GWAR's music tech Dave "Gibby" Gibson, and myself will return home to attend the services and pay the proper respects to our comrade.

Out of respect to Cory, we have officially retired the character of Flattus Maximus. Flattus has decided to return to his beloved "Planet Home", and will never return to this mudball planet again. And this is a sadder place for that.

Just the other day I heard Cory tell a story about how some 20 years ago he was fourteen years old, at his first GWAR show, grabbing at the rubber feet of our then- current Flattus, and how blown away he was at the fact that now HE was the one getting his feet pulled by the same kid that he used to be. Cory was always in awe of the patterns of life and went through it with a wide-eyed amazement that translated through his playing. I've never known anyone who could pick up literally any instrument and rock it the first time he touched it, and more than that make it look easy. Behind that rubber monster outfit, and sometimes even obscured by it, was one of the most talented and beautiful people I have ever known. I know everyone who's life was touched by Cory truly loved him, as do we, his bandmates and brothers.

There should be some kind of announcement soon regarding services, etc. It would be great to have a memorial show at some point soon, where some of the bands that Cory worked with could come together and show their love for this truly amazing man who left us all too soon and will be sorely missed by many, many people.

Dave Brockie, Nov. 4, 2011

Chicago band The Bad Examples to celebrate 20th anniversary of pop masterpiece


Twenty years ago, Chicago band The Bad Examples released its power pop masterpiece, "Bad Is Beautiful." Chock full of catchy hooks, the album also captured a bigger audience for the band with the hit song "Not Dead Yet."

To celebrate, Ralph Covert and the band (Tom O'Brien, Steve Gerlach, Larry Beers, and Pickles Piekarski) will perform the entire album and other songs Nov. 26 at FitzGerald's, 6615 W. Roosevelt Road, Berwyn. Founding drummer Terry Wathen will also sit in on a few songs. 

The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, available at

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicago label Alligator Records signs blues great Joe Louis Walker, album set for release in January

Chicago-based record label Alligator Records has signed Grammy and W.C. Handy award winner Joe Louis Walker. His Alligator debut will be released in January 2012.

"Joe Louis Walker is one of the most exciting and passionate bluesmen of his generation,"' Alligator president Bruce Iglauer said in a statement. "He's a major talent whose music speaks to both blues and rock fans. We're excited to help bring his music to a larger audience than ever."

The feeling is mutual.

"Alligator has clearly been one of the most important blues labels of our time and I am proud to say that I am an Alligator artist. I look forward to being part of the Alligator family," Walker added.

In his 27-year career, Walker has released 24 albums and toured worldwide. He won four Blues Music awards (formerly the W. C. Handy awards), including the 2010 "Album Of The Year" award for "Between A Rock And A Hard Place," and has been nominated for 43 more. 

He's also recorded as a guest with some of the blues world's best-known artists, including appearances on Grammy-winning records by B.B. King and James Cotton.

The Dirty Heads continue on tour; will play Nov. 2 in Chicago

Southern California reggae rock band The Dirty Heads will continue to headline the Nov. 2 show at the House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, after co-headliner Gym Class Heroes had to bow out of the remaining dates on the tour because frontman Travie McCoy is ill.

Wallpaper also is on the bill. The show starts at 6 p.m., and tickets are available at

The Dirty Heads will continue to play the rest of the dates as scheduled, and the band made the following statement in regards to Gym Class Heroes cancelling:

“While we hope Travie gets better soon (nothing worse than being sick on the road), the last thing we wanna do is cancel the whole tour.  So no matter what happens we wanna stay out and keep playing music and putting on the best shows we can for you guys. Whether it’s playing for 2 people, 20 people or 2000 people we are staying out. Thank you guys for your continued love and support. We love you peace!!!!  And it’s the first time we are playin’ some new songs!! Hope you enjoy.”


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Adele cancels tour dates because of upcoming throat surgery

Acclaimed singer Adele has to cancel her remaining concerts for the year because she needs throat surgery. Read more:
Enhanced by Zemanta

Children from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" to reunite at Naperville, Woodridge theaters

Ask Denise Nickerson what is was like to turn into a blueberry when she and others from the cast of "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" reunite during showings of the beloved movie Dec. 9-11 at Hollywood Palms in Naperville and Hollywood Boulevard in Woodridge.

Joining Violet Beauregarde will be Peter Ostrum (Charlie), Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee) and Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt).

More information is at

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning: coroner

Singer Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning, a coroner testified today at an inquest in London. Read more: 

Amy Winehouse five times drink limit (
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Acclaimed "Boy Wonder" movie coming to AMC in Chicago


"Boy Wonder," the feature film debut of Michael Morrissey, has captured the acclaim of both critics and the public.

After being screened at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo in March, "Boy Wonder" will open Oct. 28 at AMC River East 21, 322  E. Illinois St., Chicago, and will be at the theater until Nov. 3.

The psychological thriller stars Caleb Steinmeyer (from HBO's "True Blood" and ABC's "Lost") as a 17-year-old loner who as a young boy witnessed the murder of his mother during a Brooklyn car-jaking.

For a second time, I had the pleasure of interviewing Morrissey about the movie and the reception it has received.

Q - The fact that the film recently screened at the New York Comic Con and was shown at the AMC Village in New York, were those extra special experiences for you since you grew up in New York?

I tell you it was nerve racking. In Chicago no one knows me, so I could slink in to the shadows if I got booed but in New York, I was on home turf and had no where to hide. 

It was great though, really. NYCC was amazing, the response was overwhelming. I really can say that I could not have had a better screening there, we put some of the reactions to the film online and they are just amazing.

Screening in a real theater with AMC was great as well, seeing "Boy Wonder" up on the marquee was pretty cool. Dream come true.

Q - "Boy Wonder" will be shown at the AMC River East 21 through Nov. 3 before it goes to DVD on Nov. 8. Has the film done everything you set out to accomplish?

I am really happy with how the film came out, but in regards to distribution, I wish things went better. It is so hard to get your movie to be even considered for distribution unless there is a big cast.

The movie being a quality product is an after thought. They really don't care what they sell just that they can sell it. But I am ready for the long hard fight and hopefully we will find our audience.

Q - The film has generated plenty of critical acclaim, including many film festival awards and accolades. Were any of the awards a surprise to you or especially meaningful for you?

Every award is a shock to me. From the big festivals to the small, I am always overwhelmed when they call and say, "Hey, you won best picture." I'm always thinking "Really?"

And that is not me being modest. I just feel like it is amazing luck to be thought of as the best movie out of 10 to 30 films. 

People have different tastes. Some of the judges could have had a bad day, you never now. It always surprises me.

Winning the Vail Film Festival was a big shock to me, there were some big movies in that one, star driven movies. I felt so insanely out of place there as well. People at the festival were extremely nice, but I just felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I actually got good and drunk during the screening and went home halfway through the movie. When I saw online that we won "Best Picture" at Vail, I was floored.

Q - I understand you want to now start on a horror/thriller called "Mother." What appeals to you about this project? Are you considering using any of the cast from "Boy Wonder" in the movie?

I always like the magical connection that exists between family. As a parent myself, I love my kids so much that I would die for them and they will never be able to understand that until they have children. 

Of course in my film, "Mother," I distort that connection until it is horrible and twisted and it becomes almost like a physical horror that you can relate to. My third movie is going to be a happy buddy movie or something, or people are going to think I am a lunatic. 

In regards to casting, I will use who is best for the film so the door is open for everyone, including the cast from "Boy Wonder." I love them, they are like family and all very talented, but I don't want to start with someone in mind for a character. 

Character will come first and then it will be the actor's job to become that character.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Detroit band Electric Six bringing genre-busting sound to Chicago's Double Door


Innovative Detroit band Electric Six is fully plugged in on its new album, "Heartbeats and Brainwaves."

On the band's eighth studio album, enigmatic frontman Dick Valentine (real name Tyler Spencer) leads the band through an eclectic mix of new wave, dance pop and a host of other musical genres.

Electric Six,, will perform Nov. 4 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

Kitten and Andy D also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets range from $12 to $15, available at

I had the pleasure of interviewing Valentine about the band and its new album.

Q - The band is touring from now until the end of the year. Is that how the band likes it? Is that where the band lives, on the road?

From September to December, yes. We're a very cyclical band. That's the way we kind of do it.

We work real hard these four months, and kind of phone it in the rest of the year.

Q - Of course, you are touring with your new album, "Heartbeats and Brainwaves." In sitting down to make the album, what specific goals did you have? What did you want to accomplish with the album?

We wanted it to be very synth-heavy. And we just wanted it to sound different from anything we've ever done. And we've done both.

Q - How long have you been working on it?

Well, we started it in January, and we turned it in at the end of June. You don't work at it every day. You just kind of work on it at your own pace.

But we usually get started around January, and have until the middle of the summer to finish it.

Q - How do you think the band's sound has changed since you guys formed as The Wildbunch?

The songs are a bit more complex. We don't rely on a two guitar attack as much, even though our live show generally tends to fall to that.

There's a lot of songs that we can't play because it's more complex. You take a song like, "We Use The Same Products." I don't know how we're going to do that live, but it will be fun to try.

Q - And of course you guys have had a changing lineup over the years. What do you think of the current lineup? Does it compare favorably to previous lineups?

Musically and personality wise, it's the best. The original lineup was not built to remain together for a long time, especially when we got busy.

The lineup you see now pretty much originated in 2003 with a couple of exceptions. I just think we have very like-minded people in the band at this point.

Q - The band was trying to keep it secret the fact that Jack White put in an appearance on your song "Danger! High Voltage." Why did you not want to bring that out in the open?

Well, it was kind of mutual. He didn't want to necessarily be directly associated with us, and we didn't want to look like we were milking it.

But it wasn't any big deal. I don't think either of us denied it at the time.

Q - How did you meet Jack White?

Well, Detroit is a pretty small scene. All the bands knew each other, and played a lot of the same venues at that time.

I don't even think our two bands played together at any point on the same bill, but we'd always see them around at our shows, and we'd go to his shows. I also thought of him more as an acquaintance and not so much a friend, but he was always a nice guy when I met him.

Q - Electric Six's cover of the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga" caused a little stir. Did people not get what you guys were trying to do?

I think that any time you cover a song like that from a band that has such a rabid fan base, and you throw in a guy that's deceased, I think every now and then a few feathers will be ruffled.

But that was not the intention, and it was a long time ago. It's not an issue any more.

Q - I know you have been involved in different side projects over the years, such as Evil Cowards. Does the band plan to release a second album any time soon?

It's more or less tracked. He and I are both very busy with our main projects, so we're not going to put it out until we each have some free time to promote it and do some shows around it, which we haven't had yet.

Q - So do you think in the future you might drop Dick Valentine and just go with your real name? 

Probably not.

Q - All of the band members use pseudonyms. Do they reflect your personalities at all?

No, not at all. There's no deeper meaning to it, other than we were probably drunk one night and thought it would be interesting to have stage names. That's all it was.

Q - And the name Dick Valentine has grown on you over the years?

It's grown on people who are interested in the band. It hasn't grown on me, let's put it that way.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New DVD puts spotlight on influential Chicago show, "Jubilee Showcase"

Sid Ordower interviews the Rev. Jesse Jackson on "Jubilee Showcase."


Some of the most renowned gospel artists of all time - including James Cleveland, Albertina Walker, Andrae Crouch and the Staple Singers - were given a stage for their music on "Jubilee Showcase," which aired on ABC Chicago affiliate Channel 7 from 1963 to 1984.

The Emmy Award-winning show was produced and hosted by Sid Ordower, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 82. Fortunately for all of us, his son, Steve Ordower, has preserved the show's electrifying and iconic moments through a new DVD, "Classic Moments In Jubilee Showcase," available at

The DVD contains four episodes of the show and features stirring performances by gospel greats Andrae Crouch, Inez Andrews, Jesse Dixon, The Staple Singers and others, along with interviews and other special features.

I had the honor of interviewing Steve Ordower about preserving this important part of Chicago music history.

Q - You've actually been working on this project for a few years, right?

What I've been doing is interviewing several of the artists who have appeared on "Jubilee Showcase," a couple of whom unfortunately have passed away quite recently.

I've interviewed Albertina Walker. I interviewed a couple times Jessy Dixon, who recently passed away. I've interviewed Otis Clay and others who appeared on the show as well.

I'm just continuing to gather interviews, and it's critical right now, particularly because of the age of the performers that appeared on "Jubilee Showcase."

Q - Is it important to have those interviews as part of the documentary, to show the artists now and their remembrances of "Jubilee Showcase?"

Oh, absolutely. The interview with Mavis Staples was incredible. We talked about so many things. One of the things that I get to learn about is my father, and what he was like during that time. 

I wasn't an adult when he was doing all this, and it's a different perspective hearing about the show and him from these people.

Q - Of course, the show ran through 1984. Did you ever get to watch the show when it first ran?

Yeah. I used to sit with my father, and watch it Sunday mornings. Those were some really good times that I spent with my dad. I vaguely remember going to the set here and there, but I was so young.

Q - Was that your introduction to gospel music?

Oh, absolutely. Not only that, my father was heavily involved in the civil rights movement. He was very involved in the church community because that was a main organizing apparatus for the civil rights movement.

So I was in quite a few churches when I was a kid. He just exposed me to this whole side of life that someone of my background might not experience in a typical way.

Q - So you got to meet some civil rights leaders?

Yeah. When I was a kid, I remember being at Rev. Jesse Jackson's home. My father was also instrumental in getting the first black mayor of Chicago elected, Harold Washington. 

I interviewed Mayor Washington for my high school newspaper. That was an amazing experience. And the reason I got to do that is because my dad set it up.

Q - What high school did you go to?

Kenwood Academy. It was a pretty unique institution. What's ironic is that the choir director, Lena McLin, is the niece of Thomas Dorsey, who is the father of gospel music.

She was not a normal choir director by any stretch of the imagination. She was quite extraordinary and had an incredible choir at the high school.

The people that came through that choir, Chaka Khan came through that choir before me. The artist known as R. Kelly, I sang with him in the high school choir. I knew him as Robert, but now he's known as R. Kelly.

Q - Did you ever imagine that he would become this superstar? How was he in choir?

He was an extremely nice person. We got along really, really well. Everybody knew he was talented. But there were a lot of talented people in the choir.

We recognized that he had a range. It's not totally surprising that he got noticed. But there's a lot of talented people out there that really don't reach this level of stardom that he has.

Q - You've had some amazing experiences, it sounds like.

Not typical for a white Jewish kid from Hyde Park.

Q - It seems like the artists on "Jubilee Showcase" really appreciated what your father did in hosting the show.

For Albertina Walker, "Jubilee Showcase" allowed her to be seen and heard for the first time as a solo artist. And he made that happen.

It's not that he cultivated her talent. That was already in place. What he did was he set the stage for the talent of all of these wonderful artists to be experienced by the public, and made a huge impact on their careers.