Byron Coley nails it in his liner notes for the reissue of Eleventh Dream Day’s Prairie School Freakout (Thrill Jockey) when he says that it sounds “rough, ready, and standing on the verge of flight into what seemed like a future of impossible promise.” When the record was first released in 1988, EDD was the brightest light in Chicago’s underrated indie-rock scene. Much as Marquee Moon had done for Television (an obvious influence), Prairie School Freakout revealed the extent of the band’s songcraft in a way that its live sets, however exhilarating, did not. Rick Rizzo sang with perfect desperation about colorful characters leading (or ending) disastrous lives, and you could finally hear drummer Janet Bean’s country-tinged backing vocals over Rizzo and Baird Figi’s guitars. The album was recorded in a single night and mostly live, a strategy that captured the guitarists’ uniquely volatile chemistry: where Television’s Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine took turns, Rizzo and Figi often soloed together, generating glorious explosions of molten fuzz and rootsy snarl. The band went on to sign with Atlantic, then got hung out to dry in the usual boring major-label way. Figi left in 1992, and since ’94 the band has been a very part-time affair: bassist Douglas McCombs is busy with Tortoise and Brokeback, Bean with country duo Freakwater and a solo career, and Rizzo with his job as a public-school teacher. For their infrequent concerts EDD have drafted some excellent guitarists, including Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan and Califone’s Jim Becker, but they’ve never revived the double soloing, or sounded quite as explosive–which is why it’s so exciting that Figi has been coaxed out of retirement for this gig celebrating the rerelease of Prairie School Freakout and its companion EP, Wayne. Sam Prekop (of the Sea and Cake) and Dump (a side project of Yo La Tengo’s James McNew) open. Saturday, November 22, 9:30 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.