Local Concert Preview for Chicago
June 1-9, 2010

First Appeared in The Music Box, June 2010, Volume 17, #6

Written by John Metzger

Wed June 2, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT

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The Mother Hips - Pacific Dust

6/5 - The Mother Hips - Schuba's - Chicago - 10:00 p

The Mother Hips just might be one of those groups that will always fare better on stage than it will in the studio. Over the years, the outfit has built a small but devoted local following around the intensity of its classic-rock fueled concerts. Like most bar bands, however, The Mother Hips hasn’t been able to convey its captivating presence through its albums. Even a brief hiatus didn’t help. When The Mother Hips returned in 2007 with Kiss the Crystal Flake, the ensemble still sounded like it was trying to squeeze too many ideas into a single album, and none of them were terribly original. The Mother Hips’ latest outing Pacific Dust features more of the same tired musical refrains, though its thematic storyline offers hope that perhaps the collective’s ambitions are still alive. Fortunately, when it feeds off the energy of the crowd, The Mother Hips is able to transcend its deficiencies. In a reprise of its appearance in Chicago last fall, The Mother Hips will return to Schuba’s for a performance on June 5.

Peter Rowan - Quartet

6/5 - Peter Rowan - Old Town School - Chicago - 7:00 p

Peter Rowan’s career has been long and varied. Although he most commonly is known as a bluegrass artist, his output has touched upon everything from rock ’n‘ roll to the blues. He spent most of the past decade collaborating with guitarist Tony Rice, and their partnership spawned a pair of exquisite studio albums (You Were There for Me and Quartet). Rowan doesn’t tend to stay in one place for very long, though. With his latest project, he has returned to his roots, performing in the context of a traditional bluegrass band. In April, Rowan took his outfit into the studio to begin work on his debut for Compass Records. The collection will feature a mixture of standards and original compositions. Some of the material from the endeavor surely will surface when Rowan, mandolinist Jody Stecher, banjoist Keith Little, and bass player Paul Knight perform at Chicago’s Old Town School on June 5. It is likely that classic tracks from Rowan’s back catalogue — such as The Land of the Navajo and Midnight Moonlight — will also get their due.

Peter Himmelman - My Trampoline

6/6 - Peter Himmelman - S.P.A.C.E. - Evanston - 8:00 p

The narrowing focus of commercial radio has caused undue harm to the careers of artists like Peter Himmelman. Once a promising, young singer-songwriter with a major-label contract, Himmelman now has been forced to find his own means of surviving in the cutthroat world of the music business. Over the years, he has made few alterations to his original approach, and often he sounds like he’s walking along the thin line that has separated Elvis Costello from Joe Jackson. To supplement his income and broaden his audience, Himmelman started a second line of releases aimed at children, the latest of which is last year’s My Trampoline. He also hosts a pair of internet-based programs: Furious World and its kids-centered counterpart Curious World. Himmelman’s current swing through the Midwest, which will stop at Evanston’s highly acclaimed new venue S.P.A.C.E. on June 6, is designed to drum up interest in The Mystery and The Hum, which not surprisingly is another solid addition to his discography.

Stars - The Five Ghosts

6/9 - Stars - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 7:30 p

Here are some sure signs that Stars is a band on the rise: Nearly everyone agrees that, over the course of four albums, the outfit has gotten progressively better. In fact, Stars sounded remarkably self-assured on its 2007 set In Our Bedroom after the War. In addition, fans almost instantaneously gobbled up all of the tickets for Stars’ show at Lincoln Hall on June 9. If there are any remaining doubts about Stars’ booming confidence, they should be erased by the fact that it is planning to use the first half of its performance to unveil the entirety of its forthcoming endeavor The Five Ghosts. Just in case, though, attendees were able to use an online ballot to select the songs that will fill the evening’s final set. Stars likely won’t set foot in a venue as small as Lincoln Hall for some time to come, so those lucky souls who succeeded in gaining admission to this concert should consider themselves to be quite fortunate.

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Of Further Interest...

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: May 21-31, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: May 16-20, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: May 7-15, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago / Milwaukee: April 29-May 6, 2010

Local Concert Preview for Chicago: June 1-9, 2009

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