Tag Archives: Spoon

A Lazy List of Things I Learned Because I Attended Lollapalooza in 2010

19 Aug

  1. What the Church of the SubGenius is, thanks to resurgent sci-fi nerd rockers Devo.
  2. That I still like The Strokes’ third album First Impressions of Earth. And that they are immaculate live musicians.
  3. That Mavis Staples is from Chicago.
  4. That Jeff Tweedy‘s son has his own band.
  5. That Jamie Lidell is as captivating a performer as anyone (without even considering that he’s a gangly white soul singer from across the pond).
  6. That concert-goers are willing to dress up like Green Man from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia in 90-degree heat.
  7. That Wavves drummer Billy Hayes didn’t really enjoy playing in Jay Reatard‘s band. And that he smokes weed out of Bud Light cans.
  8. That I should have seen Balkan Beat Box because they are awesome.
  9. That Raphael Saadiq produced D’Angelo‘s “Untitled (How Does It Feel?).”
  10. That if you lend an Australian lass your lighter, she will fill you with vodka-soaked kiwi (this may not be consistent throughout the land).
  11. That the Ike Reilly Assassination is as beloved a Chicago band as…well they are beloved.
  12. That reading people’s band and gimmick t-shirts makes you dizzy until you get to this one…
  13. That the Tribune Tower, the host building of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, includes actual stones from the Taj Majal, The Alamo, Abe Lincoln‘s tomb and Jim Belushi‘s house.
  14. That paying $5 for 12 oz. of beer feels awful. Paying $9 for a lobster corndog feels goofy. Finding Australian girls with vodka-soaked kiwis feels just right.
  15. Between Spoon, The Strokes and Arcade Fire, the state of music is in pretty good hands.
  16. MGMT has in fact become a good live band.
  17. Music festivals are as frustrating for what you miss as they are amazing for what you see.

Lollapalooza 2010

12 Aug

Spread out over 110 acres of downtown Chicago, Lollapalooza 2010 provided concert-goers with three days of indie playlists come alive, eccentric food options, The Strokes first show in America in four years, X Japan’s first ever show in America, Lady Gaga stage-diving nude, Jeff Tweedy playing guitar for Mavis Staples…and Devo. What else happened?


With the 25-acre expansion this year, one common complaint was that the stages were too far apart from one another. The upshot of the expansion for Lolla was the ability to sell more tickets (which they did with 240,000 total folks this year), and for attendees it was the ability to move freely with a little room to wiggle. There was no difference in distance between the two main stages, though the ancillary stages seemed further out of the way and even obscured.


Spearheaded like a taste of a Taste of Chicago, the world’s largest food festival, the food area was bigger and better and drew considerable attention for its creativity. Malnati’s for $3 per deep, delicious slice was the best deal, but more creative choices were available: Chef Graham Elliot’s truffle fries and lobster corndogs were the talk of the town. Elliot curated the operation known as Chow Town, which featured more than 30 restaurants. This didn’t even include the Farmer’s Market, which provided the organics (fruit, cheeses, espresso, breads, pastries, etc.) from select cafes, bistros, farms and bakeries.


California’s lo-fi fuzzpunks Wavves kickstarted the festival with drummer Billy Hayes (formerly of Jay Reatard‘s band along with bassist Stephen Pope) proclaiming, “We smoked out of a Bud Light can before we came up here…I’ve got early onset Alzheimer’s.” Wavves played a focused set filled by Hayes’s hilarious commentary in between songs (for example, spotting a Ben Stein look-a-like, referencing “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” dedicating songs to random audience members). The set included four songs from their debut album and seven songs from King of the Beach, including the title track and “Take on the World.”

Regret seeing: Foxy Shazam, B.o.B., Balkan Beat Box

Immediately after Wavves finished up, Los Amigos Invisibles (David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records) threw a party like they owned the place. For one, they performed at the festival’s most aesthetically pleasing stage known the Playstation Stage. The stage is the only permanent one in all of Grant Park known as the Petrillo Music Shell and is an outdoor amphitheater with amazing sound and history (opened in the 1931, FDR made his Democratic nominee acceptance speech there).

If Wavves didn’t wake everyone up, Los Amigos did the trick. The Venezuelan jazz-funk rockers put on a show that forced every white person in attendance to do what they do most awkwardly: dance. Chulius, a true lead singer, was an energetic showman with a versatile voice, sweating, interacting and getting panties thrown his way. Armando Figueredo manhandled the keyboard and synths (literally, as he finished the set humping his keyboard on the stage) while Jose Rafael Torres maintained the funk on bass. The real highlight was Jose Luis Pardo‘s guitar work, whipping tight solos into shape and playing lightning fast rhythms (very reminiscent of Talking Heads’ riffs). His Sideshow Bob afro was almost as entertaining. For laughs and sincere appreciation, Los Amigos played snippets of 90s dance classics like “I Like to Move It” by Reel 2 Reel and “Get Ready for This” by 2 Unlimited.

Regret seeing: The Walkmen

Mavis Staples, known to many as Martin Luther King‘s favorite singer, known to some as the beautiful woman who helps sing “The Weight” on The Band‘s Last Waltz. Mavis Staples’ voice is harder these days, but still carries the gospel power in each delivered note. Staples’ newest album You Are Not Alone was produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who was called out to play guitar on the title track, which he penned (he was to be summoned once again by crowd chants and then by Mavis herself to play guitar on Creedence’s “Wrote a Song for Everyone”). Tweedy and Staples displayed the diversity and history of homegrown Chicago talent.

To be continued…

Interview: Chic-A-Go-Go’s Jake Austen

8 Jun

The history behind public-access television is almost as interesting as the content it has spawned. Public-access television was created in the late 1960s as a First Amendment response to the dregs and slants of commercial broadcasting in order to cater to true social needs (The Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is not public-access as it is funded by public and private entities). One of those needs is education and entertainment for children. Who knew something as awesome as this would evolve:

Chic-A-Go-Go is the brainchild of Jake Austen and Jacqueline Stewart, a couple whose love for Soul Train and Kiddie-A-Go-Go led to the creation of their hit public-access show. Chic-A-Go-Go is billed as “Chicago’s dance show for kids of all ages,” features adolescent puppet rats (Li’l Ratso is the coolest!) interviewing some of the best artists in music. Previous guests include Lemmy, Fugazi, Pere Ubu, Built to Spill, Sonic Youth, Patti Smith, Spoon, The Slits, and the list goes on forever.

Patti Smith being grilled by Ratso

Each episode includes a dance segment while that day’s guest lip-syncs to his or her song. Jake Austen delivers the goods and tells us about the show’s inception, trekking for weird music in Chicago, why we need to let our “freak flags fly,” which legendary musicians were too afraid to talk to a puppet rat, and gives a brief history lesson on black musicians in punk rock.

Q: Talk a little bit about your musical background since your show resonates with adults just as much as children because of your guests.

Jake Austen: I have collected records since I was a little kid, always going for cheap thrift store stuff and always taking chances on unusual stuff based on cover art or odd names, so I always had a wide variety of (often un)popular music in my wheelhouse. I went to  a high school where people mostly listened to black radio music so I listened to that, and when oldies radio started in Chicago in the 80s I listened to that non-stop trying to learn all the old songs (Wax Trax Records, famous for industrial and weirdo stuff, actually carried old pop 45s at the store and I used to take long bus rides to the North Side to get stuff there). So basically, genuinely liking almost everything makes me a good deejay for a show where we play everything for everybody.

Q: Your wife, Jacqueline Stewart, is a highly regarded film scholar. Explain how the two of you came to create Chic-A-Go-Go.

JA: We were always big fans of dance shows, and always wanted to work on cable access (Jacqueline is a film scholar, specializing in the low budget d.i.y. films by early 20th century black filmmakers, and I think the spirit of cable access relates to her work in her mind). After meeting a couple, the Mulqueens, who did a local children’s dance show in Chicago in the 60s called Kiddie-a-Go-Go we realized this was something for us to pursue.

Q: Given that kids are likely being exposed to indie, punk and non-mainstream
music for the first time, what effect do you think the music has on the children?
JA: I think children respond to rhythm and noise and good music pretty naturally, and even if they think it’s weird, lots of stuff is weird to them, so inherently most kids are cool with any kind of music if you create an open, safe, festive environment. What may have more effect on them is seeing the artists lip sync, especially when they are “deviant” (gender bending, odd dressing, lots of body art, extremely eccentric) because they see how comfortable and fun it is to be around “weirdos.” We hope this makes a good impression, and most kids and parents return, often letting their own freak flag fly (as far as attire) on their sophomore trip, so it seems like it’s working.

Shonen Knife making the kids boogie.

Q: Chic-A-Go-Go is a show for kids and kids will dance to pretty much anything. Is that why there is so much freedom in choosing the artists you do?

JA: It’s not total freedom – it has to be dance music. It’s just that we (and kids) consider almost anything dance music.

Q: Do guests come on expecting the show to be a sort of tongue-in-cheek format, only to find out that the sincerity is 100%? Or is it that they are just as down for the cause?
JA: Most of our guests are are familiar with the show, or if not they realize right off that kids and our kid-like adult dancers are not keen on irony (despite the sarcastic tone of dialogue on shows like Hannah Montana and iCarly…but I think that’s faux attitude rather than actual irony).
Q: Guests don’t always seem as comfortable talking to a puppet as they probably imagined. Were there some instances in which a guest was extremely awkward or completely frustrated?
JA: Both Vanilla Ice and Lemmy refused to speak with the puppet, but agreed to get on camera and explain why they felt that way (Lemmy’s bleeped advice for kids: “don’t talk to fucking puppets”). The Streets only got through a few seconds of his interview before getting so freaked out he had to quit. Later a journalist told us he had the next interview and it had to be cancelled because the rapper was so rattled. Speaking of white Brit rhymesayers, Lady Sovereign bailed as soon as she saw the puppet. Some acts, a 90s garage boogie act called Quadrajets comes to mind, can’t fathom that they are supposed to look at the puppet and just look down at the puppeteer.
Q: The guests have been just as notable as the concept. How are you able to pull in such amazing talent?
JA: Many bands ask to play the show because they like it, but any bands that we approach seem to be inclined to say yes because they never get to do things for kids and they never get to work with puppets. And when we can get classic or hot, current acts into the studio they are often excited to lip sync. Who gets to that these days?
Q: You have a music zine called Roctober in which you did a four-part series on blacks in punk? Outside of the fact that it was extremely interesting (I had no idea that Neneh Cherry was in the Slits at one point), why was that important for you?
JA: In the magazine it was a one-part series, online it’s broken down into four pages. The writer whose idea it was is a black rock fan who (like many of the musicians covered) was always suprised he had to explain himself or feel like an outsider when enjoying music created by African AMericans. Showing the lengthy legacy of black punk rockers addresses this.
Q: Who in that group of black punk pioneers do you think has been criminally overlooked?
JA: ONO is beginning to get some acclaim now that they play several times a month in Chicago, but they are true artists and iconoclasts, and no one is weirder or more soulful than they.


Q: You have a Roctober Hall of Fame, which honors artists wholeheartedly dedicated to entertainment. Wouldn’t you include Chic- A-Go-Go in the Roctober HoF?

JA: It’s more for artists, but Chic-A-Go-Go belongs in the Chicago cable-access dance show hall of fame!

Q: What is your favorite moment to date on Chic-A-Go-Go?
JA: One time a group of actual Hassidic Jewish teens came into the studioand just let loose, mixing traditional Jewish dances with club moves. We didn’t know they were coming and thought it might be a joke (hipsters in costumes, doing schtick) but we soon realized that a great many Hassidic Jewish teens are from…Brooklyn. Meaning they are actually hipsters despite their Orthodox beliefs, and this group had seen the show on video and made a point of coming to the studio during a visit to Chicago.
Q: What was Jacqueline’s favorite moment?
JA: We had one episode where we did all blues music and we had a big group of black adolescents in the studio and they were really into it, totally grooving. It’s often said that black kids of the 2nd or 3rd hip hop generation (or whatever it is now) reject this music, and seeing proof that such belief is fallacy really moved her.