Last month, Eagle Rock released Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones’ Checkerboard Lounge Live Chicago 1981 CD/DVD combo, a thrilling document of the pair’s secret local gig when the Stones were in town on tour.
The three-camera spectacle even begins anonymously, as Waters’ band warms up without him on a typical night, and slowly the audience – in what doesn’t even seem to be a packed house – realizes who’s sitting near the stage.
Once you get over the fact that people are smoking in a public place, and the lenses don’t have to peer through a thicket of cameraphones and concertgoers furiously tweeting their situations, the show’s really good for a laugh. Waters, two years shy of his death, avuncularly runs the stage while a fidgety Mick Jagger – wearing a ridiculous red tracksuit with a velcro kangaroo pouch – tries to contain his compulsive duck-flapping. The setlist contains nothing but Chicago blues classics, and the brawn of the band never overwhelms the club, despite the number of musicians crammed on the tiny stage.
THE COAST WITH THE MOST
Driving south on Route 31 in Michigan on July 2nd, I was struck not by the number of Illinois plates heading the same direction – such is normal after long, summer weekends – but by how many of those cars were encased in mud. It turned out that the Electric Forest electro/jam/rock camping festival was emptying out, and these people – packed five to a sedan – looked tired and desperate to bathe. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Boasting a roster of similarly minded acts, the North Coast Music Festival hits Union Park for three days beginning August 31st, teeming with public-transit options and running water. Pretty Lights, Girl Talk, STS9, and Umphrey’s McGee headline a wild bill that also features Steve Aoki, Paul Oakenfold, Outkast’s Big Boi, The Rapture, Felix Da Housecat, Dan Deacon, King Khan & The Shrines, and scads more. While something needs to be said about another homegrown festival ignoring metal bands – of which dozens of the doom variety would kill at a place like North Coast – we do like the fact that an event of this size can sustain itself without using dinosaur acts as a walker. It’s not too loud, and no one’s too old.
Despite the pervasive decay that gutted New York City and Detroit in the ’70s and ’80s, no one in their right mind would equate their plights with Apartheid in South Africa. Yet, this summer we’re asked to look at codified racism through the lens of the Big Apple and Motor City via the 25th-anniversary reissue of Paul Simon’s Graceland, and the documentary Searching For Sugar Man about obscure folkie Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.
The expectation that everyone owns Graceland clearly factored into Columbia/Legacy’s decision to focus on the controversy surrounding its original release, brought forth by an exhaustive book and two-DVD documentary, Under African Skies. Simon still clings to his artistic right to have gone to Johannesburg to record, despite breaking an international cultural embargo and defying the wishes of the African National Congress. He even sits for an interview with a former anti-Apartheid activist – using an unfortunate analogy in the process – where the two make their opposing cases.
The Sundance-winning Sugar Man (which debuts in Chicago on the 3rd) attempts to trace Rodriguez’s story from a South African viewpoint, and determine how a Donovan-esque pseudo-mystic faded into Western oblivion but provided an unlikely score to Soweto’s mbaqangwa-filled ghettos. The soundtrack – combining Rodriguez’s two albums – is an alternately kooky and streetsmart blend that deftly represents the end of the hippie dream at the beginning of the ’70s. South Africans were onto us, long before we were into them.
This issue marks my final one as Editor of Illinois Entertainer. (Please, hold your applause until the end.) Beginning this month, my sheathed red pen will be picked up by Janine Schaults, who worked for us between 2005 and 2008, and still contributed while on a journey that took her to the Chicago Tribune and a spell at the recently disfigured 101.1-FM news station. She is a dyed-in-the-wool South Sider (whose mother’s chief personality classifications are whether you’re “a Cubs” or “a Sox”), with a commitment to local institutions – particularly St. Xavier radio – as well as the annals of Western pop music. I think you will find her approach invigorating, and certainly refreshing after the seven-year siege of her predecessor. Personally, I couldn’t be prouder or fonder of my days at the IE helm: it remains my opinion that this magazine is a vital part of our local fabric, a piece of what distinguishes Chicagoland from any other music hub in the world. Most of us have read it since we were kids, and plan to stick with it for the second 38 years. And now, Ms. Schaults, if you will . . .
– Steve Forstneger
About the Author: