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Under the Sonar

| September 9, 2010

If Sonar Festival represents the future of music this weekend, we have a pair of acts playing Friday night for those of you who fear change.

Of course, Billy Bragg would probably have us hung from a yard arm if he heard us calling him a retro act. The firebrand singer/songwriter has worn a lot of hats since he began wagging his fist in the late ’70s (ironically searching not for a new England, just another girl). Chicagoans are familiar with his Wilco dalliance that yielded two albums’ worth of new music set to unused Woody Guthrie lyrics. Since the release of 2008’s Mr. Love & Justice, he’s been involved in a movie, a play, and a bank-bailout protest. Australian Darren Hanlon opens, supporting his September 21st debut, I Will Love You At All on Yep Roc. (Friday@Dominican University with Darren Hanlon.)

The Strawbs mark their return to Chicago by playing acoustically. The Brits distinguished themselves in ’70s prog circles by developing most of their material through folk pop anyway (the started in bluegrass, which didn’t work out as well as the plain blues did for their peers), so while aesthetically it seems like a major draw-down it’s not. Tellingly, they worked with producer Tony Visconti, who turned T. Rex from a folksy dreamer into a glam juggernaut. The Strawbs also dabbled in glam, but progressive rock held the keys to the kingdom. Their biggest hit, “Part Of The Union,” is a sublime mix of the two, and could probably be mistaken for a modern Blitzen Trapper ode to labor. (Friday@Abbey Pub with Sir Plastic Crimewave.)

– Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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