VON FREEMAN Earlier this summer tenor saxophonist Von Freeman was announced as one of the five Jazz Masters the National Endowment for the Arts will recognize in 2012, the last time the award will be given—he’ll receive $25,000 and be honored in a January ceremony at Lincoln Center. This comes as a bit of a surprise, not because Freeman isn’t deserving—his innovations have had an international influence—but because he’s been a Chicago musician for the great majority of his career. Just about every other recipient of the NEA’s prize has lived in New York at length, working hard to break into the jazz establishment; Freeman stayed put to focus on his craft and on raising a family. As he nears his 88th birthday in October—his weekly jam at the New Apartment Lounge, which went on hiatus earlier this year due to building renovations, is scheduled to resume in August—he’s being honored here in Millennium Park with a concert called Truth Be Told: Celebrating the Legacy of Von Freeman. He’ll
take the stage in the company of current bandmates
as well as disciples from throughout his rich career:
his excellent working trio (drummer Michael Raynor,
guitarist Mike Allemana, and bassist Matt Ferguson) will be joined by trombonist Julian Priester and fellow saxophonists Steve Coleman and Eric Alexander.
—Peter Margasak 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion.
DOLLY PARTON My country-music-loving grandparents frequently babysat me when I was growing up. This was when sequin-encrusted country pop was at its peak, and of all the glamorous ladies who turned up on the country variety shows my grandparents seemed to watch every night, Dolly Parton was the most glamorous and sequin-encrusted. She was charming, gorgeous, hilarious, vaguely naughty (in a wholesome way), and never once hit a wrong note—for a long time I was convinced that she was literally the Queen of America, and I still think if anyone ever deserved that crown, it’s her. Parton has been one of pop music’s most consistent performers for decades, and while she can’t boast about many daring stylistic explorations she also doesn’t have a lot of low spots in her catalog. Her new Better Day (on her own Dolly Records) includes “Country Is as Country Does,” which lists her country bona fides—as if anyone doubts them at this point. —Miles Raymer 7:30 PM, Rosemont Theatre, $58-$148.
BERLIN Aside from a chunk of time between the late 80s and the late 90s, Berlin has been a working band since 1978. Though they haven’t put out a record of all-new material in almost a decade, they’re still making nostalgia tours through casinos and fairs, often with other 80s ‘member-thems. The group has managed to coast on perdurable hits like “The Metro,” “Sex (I’m A . . .),” “No More Words,” and “Take My Breath Away” (with its attendant Tom Cruise brain stain). These days, Berlin consists of an utterly ageless Terri Nunn and some devil-locked 25-year-old ringers in pleather chaps. But judging by recent YouTubes of the band playing gay street festivals, she’s still got it. —Jessica Hopper INXS headlines. 8 PM, the Venue at Horseshoe Casino, $40-$74.50.
RICHARD BUCKNER Richard Buckner‘s bruised and breathy singing, irregular phrasing, and cavalier relationship with written melody can make his music a challenge, and on his first album in five years he doesn’t have a band behind him to force him to toe the line. To make Our Blood, due from Merge on Tuesday, Buckner overdubbed acoustic and electric guitars, drums, keyboards, vibes, and his own harmony singing—steel-guitar whiz Buddy Cage makes three cameos and Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley plays maracas on another song—but the result isn’t solipsistic self-indulgence but rather what might be his most economical album since his 1994 debut, Bloomed. He wraps his pretty postfolk melodies in atmospheres both raw and elegant, and even when he keeps his mouth shut (as on the gorgeously pensive “Ponder”), his music’s balance of cinematic grandeur and stark efficiency conveys his melodic gifts masterfully. Though his lyrics don’t sound too cryptic line by line, it’s usually hard to extract a clear meaning from a whole song—they’re enough to start you thinking, but you can’t be sure where to stop. Still, he just gets better and better at making his lines sound good musically, and sometimes a powerful message comes through almost in spite of itself. On “Confession” he lays bare his scorched-earth romanticism, singing, “I guess I’m the one they warned you about”—he knows he’s trouble, he seems to be saying, but so is everybody. Onstage Buckner has always been less focused than on record, preferring a more spontaneous approach that can border on the crude, and I can’t image that will change with Our Blood. Few artists are as willing as Buckner to fall so flat while reaching so high. —Peter Margasak Cameron McGill opens. 10 PM, Schubas, $14.
DEAD SUPERHEROES ORCHESTRA Symphonic rock is rare on the indie level not just because of indie aesthetics—corralling a large number of musicians into a rehearsal cycle is a lot more difficult when there’s little money and small audiences involved. Dead Superheroes Orchestra front man and principal songwriter Mark Winston gets around this problem by tapping into a network of University of Chicago friends—he’s both an alum of the school and participant in a number of U. of C.-related music programs. Winston leads a revolving roster of classical string players and rockers who translate his gothic-rock-opera ideas into dreamy, sinister-cabaret sounds behind his deep, stylized vocals. This show celebrates the release of the group’s self-released second EP, The Last Superhero, which continues Winston’s preferred themes of death and resurrection; for the occasion the lineup will also include 20 singers from the Russian folk choir Golosá, making for a wall of sound that’s elaborate even by DSO’s standards. —Monica Kendrick My Cold Dead Hand, We Are Hex, and DJs Scary Lady Sarah & William Faith open. 9:30 PM, Abbey Pub, $10, $8 in advance.
MOUTHBREATHERS Straight outta Lawrence, Kansas, Mouthbreathers straddle the line between garage rock and hardcore punk in their no-frills, all-fun songs. So far the most attention the band has gotten came from some album art they posted on Bandcamp—the iconic Minor Threat black sheep, smoking a bong—but it turns out these four kids can make some noise. Mouthbreathers’ self-released debut, a self-titled six-song cassette, includes the fast-paced “Anxiety,” which sounds like early Black Flag if they’d had a thing for reverbed vocals, and “The Creeper,” a barely restrained stomper with just enough echo to make it eerie. Both songs will also be on the group’s forthcoming seven-inch for In the Red—and when it drops, I figure a lot more people will realize the band is just as capable of writing hit songs as joking about hitting bongs. —Leor Galil Sleepovers headline; Mouthbreathers and Outer Minds open. 10:30 PM, Pancho’s, $5. 18+
OMAR S The best Detroit techno always provokes the same images in my mind whenever I hear it: Japanese consumer electronics from when they had actual push buttons, George Clinton-style wraparound sunglasses, and an alternate universe where Kraftwerk decided to rerecord “Autobahn” as a tribute to I-94. Omar S reminds me of all those things with 2009’s Fabric 45: Omar S—Detroit, one of the few mixes commissioned by mega-influential London club-slash-label Fabric that consists entirely of music made by the DJ mixing it. Drawn from the impressive number of 12-inch singles Omar has recorded (many of them on his own FXHE imprint), the songs make the most classical, fundamental elements of Detroit techno sound totally up to the minute, perhaps even a couple of seconds ahead. Earlier this year the Toyota-sponsored Scion A/V label released his retro-inspired remix of the Dirtbombs’ punky cover of A Number of Names’ 1981 techno single “Sharevari,” thus closing a peculiar and altogether highly enjoyable postmodern loop. —Miles Raymer Jordan Bradley opens. 10 PM, Smart Bar, $13, $10 before midnight.
TANGLEWEED This Chicago string band call themselves “forward-thinking reactionaries,” and there’s a whiff of 50s/60s-folkie purism in their strict metholodogy of acoustic playing and live-in-the-studio recording. And purist folkies are absolutely right that there was a sense of democracy and community back in the proverbial day, when for rural folks all music was local music, probably played by someone they knew. Of course, the democratic aspect was disrupted by the fact that certain musicians were always better or more charismatic than others. Tangleweed, who wrap their straightforward country swing and old-time picking in a delightfully clever, self-aware package, are the kind of players people might have traveled from the next county over to hear: fluid, easy, sometimes fiery and sometimes mellow, full of delightful interplay. This is a release show for their fourth album, Please Punch Richard for Me; they’ll also debut their first video, an animated short by Mindy Fisher for their giddy version of the old chestnut “Fox on the Town.” —Monica Kendrick Shotgun Party opens. 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, $15, $13 members, $11 seniors and children. A
LAWRENCE PETERS OUTFIT The Lawrence Peters Outfit‘s name has a double meaning—after all, if you’ve seen much of Lawrence Peters, you know what a “Lawrence Peters outfit” looks like when you spot one on the racks at Alcala’s Western Wear. The fashion plate and man about town has been gracing Chicago stages as a singer, songwriter, drummer, DJ, and electric-washboard wizard for what seems like forever (you might have seen him in the Plastic Crimewave Sound, Tijuana Hercules, the Velcro Lewis Group, the Golden Horse Ranch Dance Band, or . . . well, you get the idea). He’s been playing so long with his own outfit that it’s hard to believe they’re only just now releasing their debut CD, but What You Been Missin’ is well worth the wait. Peters’s passion for Americana in all its forms—heartbreakin’ hard-drinkin’ honky-tonk country most of all—comes through in every note. His voice is affable and smooth, and he knows just when to let it break: on the desolate “Bear Creek,” about his mother’s death when he was a child, he sings in a subdued wail that’s so true to the song you can almost hear the whip-poor-wills. He can lift the mood too, like he does on the gentle hoedown “Dirt on My Hands,” with longtime fellow travelers Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor adding backing vocals. —Monica Kendrick The Velcro Lewis Group headlines; the Lawrence Peters Outfit and Al Scorch’s Country Soul Ensemble open. 9 PM, Hideout, $8.
STEVE GUNN-JOHN TRUSCINSKI DUO Guitarist Steve Gunn and drummer John Truscinski have played some pretty far-out freak-outs in the free-form psychedelic combo GHQ, but the more focused flow of the Philadelphia-based duo’s fantastic debut, last year’s Sand City (Three Lobed), is even more thrilling. On the acoustic “Taksim II” and the electric “Wythe Raag,” they combine the ecstatic lyricism of Tom Verlaine and Richard Thompson with the easy lope and exotic aura that Sandy Bull and Billy Higgins created with the jazz-folk-Middle Eastern fusion of “Blend.” On “B38 Blues” the sighs and groans of Truscinski’s bowed cymbals push the music toward the textural improv of AMM, but Gunn’s fluid picking and strumming firmly guide it to a rustic denouement. Gunn has also recorded some strong solo albums that reconcile the stylistic and structural adventurousness of Brits like Michael Chapman and Roy Harper with a gruff bluesiness rooted on this side of the Atlantic; with luck, he’ll play a couple of those songs too. Local guitarist Matthew Mullane opens; Nashville-based William Tyler, whose gorgeously atmospheric Behold the Spirit (Tompkins Square) was one of the best acoustic-guitar albums I heard last year, plays second; Gunn and Truscinski headline. —Bill Meyer 9 PM, Hideout, $8.
PAUL MCCARTNEY Orthodox Johnists consider Paul McCartney, with his tendency toward poppy treacle and general air of well-adjustedness, to be the Beatles’ weak link for the second half of their career. But that perspective overlooks the fact that Paul introduced the group to experimental composers like Stockhausen and did more than any other Beatle to incorporate nonrock instruments into the band’s recordings. McCartney naysayers should check out the recent Concord reissues of his 1970 solo debut and its 1980 sequel, McCartney and McCartney II; Paul made both albums in a home studio by himself, and they highlight his love for goofy experimentation. The first record, which came out as the Beatles were breaking up, is a shambolic stylistic pileup that sounds like an immensely talented musician getting super stoned and having a bit of a flip-out on tape—which is apparently exactly what it is. The second was McCartney’s means of escape from yet another bloated band, this time Wings—he retreated into solo mode to explore an apparent Devo fascination with the help of a bank of analog synths and what was probably a shit-ton more weed. —Miles Raymer See also Monday. 8 PM, Wrigley Field, sold out.
JILL SCOTT Jill Scott has gone through a lot in the four years since her previous album, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds Vol. 3. She endured a rough parting of ways with her original label, Hidden Beach; she gave birth to a child fathered by her former drummer, Lil John Roberts; and just two years after divorcing her husband, she called off an engagement to Roberts. On the new The Light of the Sun (Blues Babe/Warner Brothers), Scott is alternately defiant, self-assured, angry, inspirational, seeking, and content. That’s hardly surprising—no matter what she’s dealing with in her private life, Scott has always sounded strong on record, even on the most self-pitying material. On certain songs she funnels her powerhouse voice into tightly shaped melodies—like “Blessed,” where her stretched and stuttering syllables sometimes make her singing sound like a hip-hop DJ messing with a soul record, and “So in Love,” a thumping neo-70s duet with Anthony Hamilton—but on most of the album she opts for a looser style, running free over wide-open vamps with phrases that range from languid to declamatory to jazzy. Though this is well-traveled territory for Scott, the new songs are better representations of complex emotions; she makes that especially clear with “Womanifesto,” a spoken-word retort to the objectification of women. —Peter Margasak Hamilton, Mint Condition, and DJ Jazzy Jeff open. 7 PM, Charter One Pavilion, $49.75-$175.75.
PAUL McCARTNEY See Sunday. 8 PM, Wrigley Field, $49.50-$165.
SARAH JAROSZ Texas bluegrass prodigy Sarah Jarosz just turned 20, but she seems to have been born a fully formed singer, songwriter, and musician (she plays mandolin and sometimes guitar). By the time she made her first record at 17, she’d already attracted A-list pickers like Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, and Tim O’Brien, all of whom make appearances on it. Throughout her second album, Follow Me Down (Sugar Hill), Jarosz demonstrates a nonchalant range unbound by tradition—unlike, say, fellow prodigy Alison Krauss—even as her songs remain wedded to uncut mountain music at heart. For “Annabelle Lee” she skillfully turns Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee” into a modern murder ballad, and her cover of Radiohead’s “The Tourist” (where she’s backed by prog-bluegrass heavies the Punch Brothers) is a shimmering meditation that effortlessly balances light and dark. Jarosz is a musical omnivore—country, folk, rock, and pop all course through her work—but her cohesive aesthetic prevents her from sounding the slightest bit dilettantish. —Peter Margasak 8 PM, Schubas, $18. 18+