One of Hitsville’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll moments came at a Slugs’ Christmas Pageant show several years back. At the band’s annual holiday bash at Lounge Ax the group’s two brothers, guitarist Dag and bassist Gregg Juhlin, exhibited positively Kinksian tension–and drunkenness–onstage. No blows were actually thrown, but the increasingly bitter and inebriated pair seemed fully capable of mutual fratricide. The show ended with an almost incapacitated Dag Juhlin glaring at the audience. “I’m not leaving until you stop looking at me,” he said. In the wee hours of the morning Hitsville breakfasted with a merry group at Peter’s. Across the restaurant the Juhlins, drummer Mike Halston, and a friend sat quiet in a booth, looking at each other balefully.
Brotherly tension like this might seem the sort of thing that would end the group with a bang. Instead, the Slugs seem to be going out with a simper. “At this point we don’t really have anything lined up,” reports Dag, the group’s main songwriter. “The only thing we’re doing is an audition for some weird Dick Clark Star Search-type TV show. We’re doing it ’cause it’s so kitschy.” Otherwise, he basically confirms what an angry Gregg Juhlin told Hitsville a few weeks back: the Slugs are probably through.
“It’s kind of a weird thing. I haven’t really been hanging out with the guys that much. We had a big meeting at the beginning of the year, after the  Christmas show.” Dag Juhlin sighs. “It was another stormy one.
“They confronted me and said they didn’t want to wait around for me, and I said that I wasn’t the sort of person they should hinge anything on.”
Juhlin’s balancing a couple of other options. At Lounge Ax last Friday, opening for Syd Straw, he showcased some promising new songs, as well as runs at “Everybody’s Talkin'” and ELO’s “Evil Woman,” with a pickup band. Besides the Slugs’ loose-limbed devotion to good times (the titles of their albums, Non-Stop Holiday and Fort Fun, capture their zen nicely), the most compelling thing about the band was the songwriter’s slow but steady development, and this seems to be continuing. He specializes in the unprepossessing and blithe pop tune, chockablock with humalong choruses and eager Costelloisms (“You’re a monkey business major”; “I’m at the end of your rope”). I’m not sure that he’s begun writing classics yet, but he always seems on the verge of doing so. Fans can check him out solo and acoustic at a songwriters’ night at the Beat Kitchen Monday.
Another demand is Poi Dog Pondering. The band’s key members recently relocated to Chicago from Austin, and Juhlin’s their new guitar player. (Maybe they’ll change their name to Poi Dag Pondering.) He’ll record and perhaps tour with the band later this year. In the meantime maybe he’ll perform some more solo shows. Maybe he won’t. “It doesn’t help matters that I’m sitting around the house reading the Brian Wilson autobiography,” he confesses. “He’s the master of indecision.” He will go through with the Slugs’ swan song, the TV show audition. “It’s not something that we would ordinarily pursue,” he says, “but being such big fans of Dick Clark and all….They probably think we’re some sort of fucking alternative band.
“I’m trying to sort a lot of things out,” says the admittedly confused 30-year-old. “I’ve got the Poi Dog schedule, my home life schedule…” He and his girlfriend have a four-month-old daughter, and the pair is looking at a July wedding: “We’ve got to get started planning it.”
Matador Records reports that logistic problems involving the cover are causing the delays in getting Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville into stores. The record’s release date is now “positively, absolutely” May 24, sez a label flack. Odds that the Wicker Park singer-songwriter’s impressive debut might go unnoticed lessened considerably when Billboard editor Timothy White devoted his prominent “Music to My Ears” column to it May 8. “By the end of Phair’s courageous 18-song rite of displacement and restoration, there’s no doubt she’s led alternative rock’s postpunk 90s naturalism to a captivating new pinnacle,” White concludes….As the dailies have reported, Chicago was the test market for an experiment with Lollapalooza ’93–the July 3 show at the World Music Theatre was put on sale before the bands that would play the traveling festival were announced. The show quickly sold out, with 28,000 fans buying on faith. The lineup for this year’s version was announced earlier this month, but was disappointing: like last year, overly testosteroned groups like Primus and Alice in Chains dominate the field. With the lineup public, a second World show was added. So how’s it selling? Neither Jam Productions nor the Lollapalooza office will say. Even bad Lollapalooza is better than most summer concert fare, but Hitsville hopes that it won’t sell out; the World simply isn’t large enough to adequately handle nearly 30,000 rock fans for 12 hours….Speaking of overly crowded outdoor concert facilities, Poplar Creek is announcing a program wherein lawn-seat attendees who get rained on can get tickets to a future show as recompense for the indignity. But here’s the catch: to get the rain check, you have to pony up an additional $2.25 when you buy the original ticket. Hitsville will back the idea if all the money separated from credulous fans is put into a fund to build concert facilities with roofs….The Gin Blossoms are playing a free show Monday night at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Yael Routtenberg.