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Evanston’s New Music Hall

Chris Schuba got into the magazine business in 1978, heading up Rolling Stone’s midwest advertising office. He left to help the Reader set up its national advertising arm, went back to Rolling Stone for five years, repped other magazines, and finally set up his own company, which currently scouts ads for the Atlantic, Spin, Discover, and a publication called Disney Adventures. In 1989, with his brother Michael, he bought a gem of a brick alehouse on the corner of Belmont and Southport, formerly the site of Gaspars. Five years on, the club–with its friendly front bar and unsurpassedly warm 100-seat rear music room–is the discriminating fan’s house of choice for roots-flecked new-country and rock acts. “Jam contributed mightily to the room,” notes Schuba, referring to the promoter’s well-programmed new-country series. “And a lot of credit has to go to Anastasia [Davies, the club’s booker] and Ray Quinn [her predecessor]; I’m one of the last guys on the list.”

His new project is an old dream: a high-end music room on the North Shore. Last week the Evanston city council gave him the liquor license he’d sought for the old Coronet movie theater, home, until recently, of the Northlight Theatre Company. Schuba envisions the reserved-seat, 500-capacity house hosting everything from country acts that have outgrown Schubas to rock, jazz, blues, gospel, and kids’ music. The Coronet, as he intends to continue calling it, will open in early December. To book the place he’s snagged Colleen Miller, who with her husband Mike brought Biddy Mulligan’s into its glory days in the early 90s.

“We want it to have the same quality, the same production values, that we have at Schubas–a very artist-friendly place to see and hear music,” he says. He sees two audience bases: the potentially large North Shore community that’s lost the impetus to see music shows downtown, and kids from the half-dozen colleges in the immediate vicinity. But the pair say the club won’t be intruding into the contentious alternative-rock scene. “There’s already a lot of places that have the market on that stuff,” says Miller. “We aren’t going to be like some wild and crazy nightclub.” Concerns like that had the city a little worried. “The neighbors were concerned, but they’ll be thanking us,” Miller promises. The new venue’s first bookings include two nice but predictable offerings–Koko Taylor December 9, Loudon Wainwright III December 10–and one coup: bluegrass forefather Bill Monroe December 3. You can call the club at 708-733-0780.

Veruca Salt Grow Up

There are various kinds of fame: the scariest, even when you want it, is the sort that catches you by surprise and makes you grow up in public. For better or worse that’s the sort that’s afflicted Veruca Salt; the consequences will no doubt provide much amusement for both the band’s detractors and its admirers in the months to come. Providing an eerie sound track to this phenomenon is the group’s debut, American Thighs, which turns out to be a damn concept album. Over the course of their girldungsroman, if you will, of twentysomething female pop, Nina Gordon and Louise Post wander through a scarred and not entirely pleasant emotional landscape, taking names and making notes. The record starts off with a disturbing statement of helplessness (“I’m spinning out / I can’t control my car”) and continues, delectable radio candy alternating with occasionally very heavy guitar-washed epics (all scrumptiously recorded by Brad Wood), with the pair fighting their own emotions (“Seether”), howling at the suicide of a friend (“Wolf”), and calculating the toll emotional denial takes over a lifetime (“Celebrate You”). What they figure out in the end is enunciated at the culmination of an epic from Gordon, whose jarring textures and episodic construction nicely capture the desultory nature of youth. The song, “25,” concludes with the beginnings of a sentence (“When I was 25…”) that Post’s piercing solo and the band’s thudding rhythm section finish for her. Perhaps the move sounds trite on the page; on record, after a dozen songs of sometimes naked emotionality, the bravado captures your imagination, and is only illuminated by the headlights of a fame the band didn’t know was coming.


Veruca Salt’s “Seether” video, directed by Chicagoans Jeff Economy and Tim Rutili, hit MTV’s buzz bin last week. That song, Liz Phair’s “Supernova,” and the Smashing Pumpkins’ serene take on Stevie Nicks’s “Landslide” are clustered in the top ten on Billboard’s Modern Rock Singles list. A few weeks ago “Landslide” fueled the number-four album-chart debut–the highest debut ever by a Chicago artist–of the Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot, a collection of B-sides and rarities that sold more than 100,000 copies its first week in stores. The Pumpkins will also take the cover of the year-end Spin as artists of the year, replacing Liz Phair, who settled a dispute between that magazine and Rolling Stone over who would feature her on the cover by choosing the latter. A peeved Spin gives payback by ignoring her in its ’94 wrap-up….Backstage at Metro before the magnificent Hole show two weeks ago, Courtney Love scampered around naked, at one point literally bumping into a startled worker; to others she pointed out a spot where she and her husband had kissed exactly one year before. After the show she hosted a party in her Ritz-Carlton suite, where she rolled on the bed with a female friend as shutterbug National Kato wielded a Polaroid.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Brad Miller.