Chicago / Milwaukee Concert Preview
May 23-June 2, 2011
First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2011, Volume 18, #5
Written by John Metzger
Thu May 26, 2011, 06:30 AM CDT
5/26 - The Mother Hips - Schuba’s - Chicago - 9:00 p
Some bands might take offense at the notion that after 20 years in the music business, they are still playing small clubs such as Schuba’s. The Mother Hips, however, wears its outsider status like a badge of honor. Refusing to cater to anyone’s whims but its own, the outfit continues to churn out albums and perform concerts for its small but merry band of devoted followers. To help celebrate The Mother Hips’ 20th anniversary, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company introduced a new lager (Hips Helles). In addition, photographer Jay Blakesberg compiled his work in a limited edition book (Now We Give It to You) that traces the collective’s evolution. Still touring behind last year’s Pacific Dust, The Mother Hips will be in Chicago for a show at Schuba’s on May 26. The concert serves as a prelude to the group’s appearance at the annual Summer Camp Festival, which will be held downstate over the weekend.
5/26 - Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit - Lincoln Hall - Chicago - 9:00 p
As a member of Drive-By Truckers, Jason Isbell often found himself living in the shadow of its guiding force Patterson Hood. When he left the outfit to embark upon a solo career, most people expected that he would provide some measure of differentiation between his future projects and his contributions to Drive-By Truckers. To some degree, he has. With the 400 Unit, Isbell not only has embraced his country-soul roots, but he also has polished his arrangements much more than usual. Nevertheless, at its core, Isbell’s output still mirrors the general ambience of Drive-By Truckers’ canon. In fact, there are so many commonalities between them that it now is impossible not to conclude that he played a tremendous role within the group. Isbell’s latest set Here We Rest continues this trend. The album is filled with finely honed story-songs that draw heavily upon the Southern experience, making it more apparent than ever that the fates of Isbell and Hood will be forever intertwined. Isbell will bring the 400 Unit to Chicago for a concert at Lincoln Hall on May 26.
5/27 - Arctic Monkeys - The Rave - Milwaukee - 8:00 p
Although its 2009 outing Humbug was generally well received, Arctic Monkeys soon realized that if it wanted to expand its legion of devoted followers, it needed to write songs that could be grasped without requiring much effort. For months now, the outfit has been touting how, on its forthcoming endeavor Suck It and See, it scaled back the complexity of its compositions in order to craft music that was both insistent and accessible. In effect, Arctic Monkeys embraced the hard-hitting, garage-punk aesthetic that long has dominated its live performances. In other words, when the band visits Milwaukee’s Rave on May 27, it won’t have to work too hard to incorporate its new material into its set. If anything, it might find new ways of showcasing Humbug’s dark, textural layers.
6/2 - Teddy Thompson - Schuba's - Chicago - 9:00 p
With five albums under his belt — his latest set Bella hit store shelves in February — it’s still difficult to tell the direction in which Teddy Thompson is heading. Some folks might say that he deliberately has clouded the waters by varying his stylistic approach from one outing to the next. On Upfront & Down Low, he tackled an array of classic country tunes; issued 11 months later, A Piece of What You Need embraced sophistication and texture. With Bella, Thompson aims for expanding his commercial prospects by employing lush string arrangements and polishing his material until it glistens. At the heart of everything he has done, though, lies the ’60s grandeur of Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. Incredibly satisfied with all three of his recent efforts, Thompson likely will lean quite heavily upon their contents when he performs at Schuba’s in Chicago on June 2.
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