GREAT SOCIETY MIND DESTROYERS Since time immemorial (or at least since 1965) the squares of the world have accused the heads of lacking ambition and drive. But it takes a lot of both to maintain a thriving subterranean scene of loft, basement, and backyard shows, especially in the face of city-government busybodies apparently hell-bent on destroying it. The Great Society Mind Destroyers sprang from the local psych undergound, and to help keep it healthy they’ve formed something called the Chicago Metaphysical Circus, whose stated aim is to recapture “the intensity of united psychedelic events like the heady late 60s, Germany’s 70s kosmische scene, the 80s paisley underground, and the 90s shoegaze scene.” Tonight’s Psychfest at the Hideout, curated by the GSMD, offers an all-too-rare aboveground glimpse of the current Chicago psych community, with a lineup of upstarts and veteran bands that proves just how much life the music still has in it—a skeptic might imagine an ersatz Exploding Plastic Inevitable dressed up with go-go boots and colored oil projections, but in fact psych is a wellspring of innovation, producing much more interesting sounds than a lot of younger idioms. The Great Society Mind Destroyers themselves whip up a kind of 13th Floor Charlatans Jonestown Massacre UK frenzy, and songs like “Divinorum” and “Now Riot!” are strong evidence that the band can hear the broader continuum in psych—they’re very much aware that the music didn’t live and die with LBJ’s presidency. Dark Fog headline; Plastic Crimewave Sound, Sadhu Sadhu, Vee Dee, the Great Society Mind Destroyers, and Black Wyrm Seed open. Velcro Lewis spins.
HOYLE BROTHERS Though an open-ended weekly gig is good steady work, it makes it easy for audiences to take a band for granted. Chicago’s Hoyle Brothers have been slinging no-nonsense old-school honky-tonk 52 times a year (or close to it) since 2002—first at the Hideout and then at the Empty Bottle, where for a spell they played not just every Friday but every Sunday—but sometimes I wish it were harder to see them, if only so more people might treat them like something special. Last spring they put out their third self-released album, Don’t Leave Yet, a collection of sturdy original tunes (and a cover of Waylon Jennings’s “Anita, You’re Dreaming”) whose crisp, twangy grooves are embellished by liquid pedal steel and woozy Dobro. Their sound reminds me a bit of the early output of Nashville’s BR549, from before their headlong lunge at the mainstream, and though the Hoyles’ own material would be DOA in Music City, it does just fine as the soundtrack for a happy hour at the end of the work week. See also Saturday.
TOMMIE SUNSHINE Once-local DJ Tommie Sunshine has come a long way from his humble beginnings at cornfield raves. Since the new year began he’s launched a label (Brooklyn Fire), lit up the blogosphere with his remix of the Dead’s “Shakedown Street” (worked into a fine clubbed-up boogie), and toured the Pacific Rim (not a euphemism). Fortunately not much about his style has changed since his epic days (or dawns, rather) on Chicago’s late-90s loft-party scene: he’s as ecumenical as ever, mixing new music with strange oldies and big tracky bits of Euro-trash with forgotten techno treasures, all in one long set of glittery feel-goodness. Traxx and Greg Corner open.
THE ASSEMBLY The best dark synth pop of the past ten years has overwhelmingly come from Europe, particularly Germany, and the bands don’t tour the States too often—so I was pretty chuffed to discover a sterling example of the genre right here in town. The Assembly (not to be confused with Vince Clarke’s short-lived early-80s project) balance Nathan Suh’s complex, soulful keyboard work with nimble but crunchy alt-rock guitar, and they’ve also got the element most vital to successful synth pop: a gorgeous voice, in this case belonging to Dave Suh. He delivers his angsty lyrics in a swooping, sensual baritone that would sound almost languid if he didn’t have such great lungs. Dave is also the band’s main guitarist, and part of me wants him to pack up the ax and turn the front line over to the synths, since it’s obvious Nathan could handle it. But the Assembly’s mix of rock and dance-pop instrumentation gives them lots of ways to change up the arrangements of the slower songs and keep them entertaining—on many keyboard- or sequencer-driven synth-pop records, the tracks can get so repetitive that you wonder if the whole band didn’t just leave their gear playing loops and go out for clove cigarettes. Meqqa, Villain vs. Villain, and Heart-Set Self-Destruct open.
HOYLE BROTHERS See Friday.
TENEMENT It warms my heart to see that kids in Bumfuck, Wisconsin, are still turning to punk rock to convince them there’s some meaning in their frostbitten, crud-job lives—I know that if I’d stayed there, I might’ve followed in the footsteps of that thirtysomething nudist burnout with the ill-kempt mohawk who kept retelling the story about the time he met Devo. The guys in Tenement live in Neenah and Appleton, and they’re exactly the kind of band you’d expect to open for Chuck Taylor-wearing midwestern Ramones clones the Riverdales. These crazy-eyed acolytes take Ben Weasel’s poppy tunes and snotty-voiced shtick and rough ’em up till you forget how tired you’d gotten of the whole package, howling lyrics like “I can’t believe that you can still put up with me”—sometimes so loud it overloads the mike—over nervous guitars and bashed-to-hell drums. Tenement’s first LP, Napalm Dream (on Mandible, 608 Kisses, or BFG, depending on format), is either still forthcoming or so new it’s not in any online catalogs; grab it at the show if you can. The Riverdales headline; Tenement and Sugar Stems open.
Canadian guitarist, vocalist, and producer Devin Townsend is best known for masterminding the omni-metal wall of sound that was Strapping Young Lad, but his wildly varied output could fill three musicians’ resumés. Though his 2007 concept album, Ziltoid the Omniscient, is nominally about an alien searching for the ultimate cup of coffee, it might as well be about Townsend himself—he’s so restlessly productive that he seems to have access to a kind of caffeine unknown on earth. He dissolved his old bands before the birth of his first son in 2006 and has since reinvented himself yet again, shaving off his famous skullet and getting clean and sober. He’s always approached metal warily—his heavier stuff oftens feels like a love letter and a lurid parody at once—and with the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT he’s making his ambivalence about it more explicit than ever. He’s halfway through four albums with the DTP, all on his own HevyDevy label, and so far he’s flouted the unwritten laws of underground metal with detours into quiet beauty and cheesy Euro-pop bombast; last spring’s Ki (taut, meditative) and this fall’s Addicted (stomping, stupid-fun) will form a tetralogy with the forthcoming Deconstruction (dark, chaotic) and Ghost (eerie, ambient). The final two records are scheduled to drop in May, at which point all four will be available as a set.
Between the Buried and Me headline; Cynic, the Devin Townsend Project, and Scale the Summit open.
RAISE THE RED LANTERN It takes some balls to start an album with a seven-and-a-half-minute saga that constantly shifts gears from attacks of galloping guitar riffage to interludes of stoned psychedelia. That dynamic opener, “Ritual,” establishes a template for Raise the Red Lantern‘s sophomore effort, a self-titled album for At a Loss Recordings: this local four-piece goes all kinds of places inside a single song, apparently unconcerned with pointing the whole thing toward any particular destination (the tense two-minute carousel of fretboard tapping in “Ritual” is a prime example of the band’s talent for tangents). Vocalist-guitarist Kris Milkent is judicious about when to sing, often leaving center stage to the guitars as they intertwine like ivy creeping up the shady side of a dilapidated house; when he does open his mouth, his rasping screams complement the prismatic variety of each winding song. It’s easy to compare Raise the Red Lantern to Baroness or Mastodon, but it’d be a mistake to dismiss them as imitators—they’re on track to bloom into something unique, and if you care at all about Chicago metal you’re gonna want to be paying attention when that happens. Chord, Battlefields, and City of Ships open.