Metro Chicago
Concord Music Hall
Lovers Lane

It’s reining men

| April 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

The forecast calls for precipitation this weekend, and also for a bunch of dudes to come to town. We spotlight Howlin’ Rain (natch), Good Old War, Bassnectar, and Fun.

Howlin’ Rain, the revisionist rock band fronted by Ethan Miller (ex-Comets On Fire), are back with a third album — one that took the group nearly four years to make. With Columbia prexy Rick Rubin in the producer’s chair, I would have thought the group was heading in a more minimalist direction, but, they have in fact, done the opposite.

The result is The Russian Wilds (American),  a rock ‘n’ roll cornucopia of songs that, quite frankly, are all over the place. Not that this is such a bad thing; the classic rock bands of the ’70s that Howlin’ Rain emulate (Zeppelin, Rush, Styx, Creedence) made wildly diverse records, too. You don’t hear that so much anymore, so this record stands out because of it.

“Self Made Man” opens and is a throwback to the Zep/Rush rockers of the mid-’70s. It borrows heavily from Neil Young’s “Down By The River,” but works nonetheless. Miller’s vocals remind me on more than one occasion of early Sammy Hagar, but in the same breath, he performs a gentle read on other songs, so, it is hard to pigeonhole him. “Phantom In The Valley” (which clocks in at almost 8 minutes) plays out as a midtempo rock ballad, and then quickly moves into a  Latin-salsa horn-laden anthem.  Another highlight is the LP’s sole cover: a spacy remake of the James Gang’s “Collage.” Lots of spirit on this disc, but Howlin’ Rain would have a stronger LP had they been reined in a little more. (Saturday@Ace Bar with Buffalo Killers and Broncho.)

— Bruce Pilato

Despite shooter video games, one of our Afghanistan/Iraq incursions’ legacies has been the awful truth of post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m sure Good Old War would hate to have any paragraph about their music open like that, though it seems the old-timey jocularity of their name was chosen with purpose. It’s also an allegory for voluntary relationship mindgames, the kind that get retold with occasionally wounded bereavement on Come Back As Rain (Sargent). Despite the heartache, the folk pop moves like a lithe cousin to The Avett Brothers, but still not agile enough to dodge the storm. (Saturday@Lincoln Hall with The Belle Brigade and Family Of The Year.)

Bassnectar‘s Vava Voom plays like the tale of two bands, while fans of his mixtapes form a third. The official full-length combines relentless jams like the Lupe Fiasco-featuring title track, and scattered throughout are random bits of genius he had to release before a copycat competitor pounced. His Amorphous Music Mixtape Vol.7, however, does him no justice. An excuse to throw in some wobble or a bass drop never passes him, and despite the mix’s disposable intent, it slowly pushes you to the anti-brostep side of the line. Did we really need to drag Blur’s “Song 2” into this? (Saturday&Sunday@Congress Theater with Vibesquad.)

With the fortune of a blockbuster single naturally comes a backlash, people who presume everything you represent can be condensed to the four-or-so minutes of Fun‘s “We Are Young.” Those who do take the Some Nights (Fueled By Ramen) challenge on iTunes samples will get through the first two cuts shouting, “They’re ripping off Queen!” Those fewer who stick around will come to the conclusion that Freddie Mercury would give his left nut to still be alive and have a crack at something like this. Though the electronic and hip-hop tones are more stylistic than intuitive or functional, Fun embrace kitchen-sink spirit and catch themselves going over the top by not going too far over. Each listen is rewarded with something new, even if everything on hand isn’t completely rewarding. But to those who claim the music business now is just full of people who make singles, please allow me to retort. (Saturday@Vic Theatre with Miniature Tigers.)

— Steve Forstneger

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Category: Stage Buzz, Weekly

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