That Lollapalooza lineup is looking better and better. When Phoenix and Vampire Weekend were first announced, my initial thought was, Them again? But damned if the two haven't released my two favorite pop albums of the year. So far. Until next week. Both singers have a way with an exotic place name and take different shots of the upper class. Thomas Mars writes with an extra dry wit. He's French. Ezra Koenig thinks a lot about death amid the Upper West Side. Death creeps into every new Vampire Weekend track. Which is not to say it isn't a blast. Read my album review.
It's National Bike to Work Week (Chicago's own celebration is in June)—just in time for the weather to stop acting a fool. If you're inspired by all the cyclists you see taking to the streets this week but you're not quite ready to go all hardcore Critical Mass, consider joining these local cycling clubs, which have some awesome-sounding rides this week and weekend.
Tuesday Night Thing The Annoyance assembles an explosive amount of talent for this new weekly improv showcase. Performers include Tom Blandford, Bill Boehler, Chris Day, Nancy Friedrich, Beau Golwitzer, Noah Gregoropoulos, TJ Jagodowski, Jared Larsen, Beth Melewski, Linda Orr, Mark Piebenga, Jim Scheidhauer, Rebecca Sohn and Rich Sohn. Annoyance Theatre. 9:30pm. $8.
Cremaster 1 + Cremaster 2 Dir. Matthew Barney. Barney's five-part, six-and-a-half-hour film cycle is about, among other things, gender, the nature of creativity and the amazing versatility of Vaseline. Shot out of sequence (4, 1, 5, 2, 3) over ten years, the cycle has been compared to everything from Star Wars to Wagner. Barney has called the Cremaster cycle a "narrative sculpture," so watch them in any order and look for visual motifs. In 2 (1999, 79 mins) Barney uses the Columbia Icefields (a glacier in the Canadian Rockies) as a piece of sculpture or character in the film, and its creamy, textured surface resonates with the molten Vaseline that Richard Serra scoops and splatters in 3 (2002, 182 mins). In 5 (1997, 55 mins), the rising white doves tethered with ribbons to Barney's testicles (in one of his many guises) chime with the Y-shape of American football goalposts in 1 (1996, 40 mins). Gene Siskel Film Center. 8pm. $11, $7 students, $6 members, $4 students and faculty of the School of the Art Institute, and staff of the Art Institute.
When I asked David Axelrod a few months ago if he would be assisting Rahm Emanuel in a 2016 presidential run, Axe was adamant his old buddy would be "running for reelection and nothing else." Rahmbo recently said as much in a sit down with the Sun-Times's Fran Spielman: "I’m running for re-election, and I’m gonna serve out the term. And for the third time with you, I am not running for higher office—EVER. Done. ... I want Hillary or Joe [Biden] to run, and I will support either one. Whoever decides." Gee, sounds like he really means it. If only the memories of Rahm making similar remarks about not running for Chicago mayor weren't so fresh. Just as hard to believe: Thursday marks the midterm of Emanuel's reign, a trying pair of years that have included a Chicago Teachers Union strike, a school closings plan and high-profile spikes in violent crime. Two years in, what have we learned about the man who calls himself our mayor? We thought of a few things in this misty, water-colored midterm look back. Cue "The Way We Were."
The goofy young comic Bo Burnham, known for gaining YouTube fame as a teenager with his self-recorded satirical songs, is 22 now and starring in a new MTV series, Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous. Burnham brought his keyboard along for Friday night's stand-up show at the Vic Theatre. Check out our photos from his set.
Following her doctor's orders, Aretha Franklin has pulled out of the CSO's 24th annual Corporate Night on Monday, May 20. Those are big shoes (and hats) to fill. But kudos to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for pulling a space ace out of their maestro's sleeve. Atlanta-based future-soul darling Janelle Monáe will step in, hot off a monster fun. collaboration (that you can't really hear her in), "We Are Young," and a fresh new jam with Erykah Badu, "Q.U.E.E.N."
She's not the Queen of Soul, but Symphony Center just got way hipper on the blogs. We have been huge Monáe fans for a while and could not think of a more exciting substitute. The 27-year-old sci-fi concept album The Archandroid was dripping with cinematic strings, so this is going to work wonders. Show times and prices will not change.
Vernon Chatman's new book, Mindsploitation: Asinine Assignments for the Online Homework Cheating Industry ($12.95, Sevenfooter Press), is the funniest book we've read all year on our commute to work—and maybe the funniest we've read, period. In the intro, Louis C.K. echoes this sentiment (sort of): "This book is awesome, it's entertaining (I haven't read this book) and hilarious."
The premise, like many Chatman projects, is funny in and of itself, but the execution is what has us ROTFL...BTFOTT…SAGF (Rolling On The Floor Laughing...But The Floor Of The Train…So A Gross Floor). Chatman—co-creator of Wonder Showzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel, as well as the voice of Towelie (the weed-smoking talking towel on South Park)—contacted online essay-writing companies, asking them to take on various assignments: everything from crafting a slogan for a 16-foot chicken nugget to writing a sentence "scary enough to raise precisely one goosebump on the reader." Mindsploitation reprints these real email exchanges, as well as the actual assignments in all their error-riddled, idiom-mangling, misspelled glory. I recently corresponded with Chatman about the book. Our real exchange:
1. Comic Relief Zero: An Everything Is Terrible! Stand-Up Special The Chicago-based video collective Everything Is Terrible!, which mines found VHS tapes and turns them into WTF-flavored viral magic, debuts a new hour-long collection of awful stand-up comedy footage at this live show. UP Comedy Club. Thu 8pm. $15.
2. Fight Girl Battle World Qui Nguyen's She Kills Monsters, about a woman working through her younger sister's death by playing the RPG module she wrote, was the breakout hit of this year's Garage Rep at Steppenwolf. Now InFusion Theatre Company stages another of Nguyen's poptastic plays, a sci-fi comedy about the last human woman in the galaxy. Theater Wit. $25, students and seniors $15.
3. HoZac Blackout Festival The grand garage-rock fête returns, stuffed with ripping psych, crusty bubblegum and power-pop legends. Let's start with the legends. Dwight Twilley cut a forgotten classic of skinny-jeans yearning in 1976, Sincerely. If he plays his baby-Big-Star "I'm on Fire," and he must, you will be happy. Oak Park's Pezband kicked around on the fringes of major-label fame in the Carter era, scoring an indelible hit with "Baby It's Cold Outside." Catch them both on the closing night, May 19. Saturday is for those who want the harder stuff. Chrome, another cult '70s act, revive their killer, screeching, kinda-kraut pysch-punk. Be prepared to party: They don't call it the Blackout for nothing. We're giving away free tickets! Empty Bottle. May 16–May 19 at 8pm. Daily entry $10–$25, four-day pass $70.
4. Masaki Batoh's Brain Pulse Music We're not exactly sure how this is gonna work, but we'll try to explain. Batoh leads Japanese psychedelic king Ghost. He also runs an acupuncture clinic in Tokyo. Last year, the neurologically fascinated experimentalist released the Brain Pulse Music Machine via Drag City. Consisting of a headset and "motherboard," the four-knob device (just a cool $700) picks up brain waves and converts them into sound. It supposedly helps with depression and Asperger's and with touching the wet green tongue of God or whatever. How does all that translate into a concert? Best guess: electronic droning. Bonkers droning. Empty Bottle, Tue 9pm. $15, advance $12.
5. Music + Movement Festival Showcase The Auditorium racked up quite the lineup for its inaugural music and dance fest, which couples live music with original choreography from the city’s best, including last month’s Cuban-inspired collaboration between River North Dance Chicago and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. What began with 11 companies has been whittled down to six, a best of the best, so to speak. Catch the sextet, with a special finale from Giordano Dance Chicago. Auditorium Theatre. Wed 7:30pm. $20, student $15.
6. Vintage Garage Shop 100 vintage vendors selling everything from furniture to clothes in a six-story parking garage in Uptown on the third Sunday of every month. The theme for this one is Vintage and DIY. 5051 N Broadway, Sun 9am–5pm. $3.
7. Chicago Symphony Orchestra: Beethoven 6 Those unfamiliar with Toru Takemitsu's oeuvre should track down a copy of the 1964 film Woman in the Dunes to get a taste of film-scoring genius…and then grab a ticket to the CSO's performance of his riverrun. Beethoven's 6th, Villa-Lobos's Amazonas and Smetana's The Moldau, No. 2, are all wonderful listens, but to witness Peter Serkin, the pianist for whom riverrun was written, at the keys is the reason to rush to the Loop. Symphony Center, Thu 8pm; Sat 8pm; May 21 Tue 7:30pm. $24–$208.
8. Cremaster 1 + Cremaster 2 Dir. Matthew Barney. Barney's five-part, six-and-a-half-hour film cycle is about, among other things, gender, the nature of creativity and the amazing versatility of Vaseline. Shot out of sequence (4, 1, 5, 2, 3) over ten years, the cycle has been compared to everything from Star Wars to Wagner. Barney has called the Cremaster cycle a "narrative sculpture," so watch them in any order and look for visual motifs. In 2 (1999, 79 mins) Barney uses the Columbia Icefields (a glacier in the Canadian Rockies) as a piece of sculpture or character in the film, and its creamy, textured surface resonates with the molten Vaseline that Richard Serra scoops and splatters in 3 (2002, 182 mins). In 5 (1997, 55 mins), the rising white doves tethered with ribbons to Barney's testicles (in one of his many guises) chime with the Y-shape of American football goalposts in 1 (1996, 40 mins). Gene Siskel Film Center. Tue 8pm. $11, $7 students, $6 members, $4 students and faculty of the School of the Art Institute, and staff of the Art Institute.
9. Wed Local Expo There's local meat, local cheese, local veggies...and now, local weddings. The Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce is hosting this expo to encourage brides and grooms to get their flowers, dress, cake and more from area artisans, and to book their venues in the neighborhood. Vendors include Big Star, Momoko Photography, Pistil & Vine, Alliance Bakery and Salon Blonde. In keeping with the venue, a DJ spins while you peruse the goods. Double Door, Sun 11am–2pm. $10.
10. Marcus Samuelsson Samuelsson visits the Merchandise Mart's Snaidero Showroom with his new memoir, YES, CHEF, about food, family and reality TV (among other things). Ticket includes a reception and copy of the book. Merchandise Mart, Sat 4pm–Sat 6pm. $50.
On Sunday, the CTA will shut down nine Red Line stops south of Roosevelt for a five-month reconstruction project. That's right: You Loop workers can no longer hop on the El for a quick ride to Chinatown for lunch, and all those boisterous Sox fans are going to have to find other means of getting to the Cell. Here's what else you'll be missing.
Something I read on a message board bummed me out. Okay, that's not surprising in any way, but this particular comment really got my goat. Some dude was giving his knee-jerk review of the new Daft Punk, Random Access Memories, our most anticipated album of the summer (well, of the decade, perhaps). The guy said the record was a melting pot of "uncool music" from the '70s. Are we still not over the jockhead mentality of "disco sucks"? Did LCD Soundsystem not fix this? Disco pushed pop forward; Disco Demolition Night set culture back.
Random Access Memories is indeed a Naugahyde-upholstered rocket back to the era of Star Wars and Saturday Night Fever. The decade ran far deeper than the Bee Gees. Daft Punk has already unearthed nasty gems like Breakwater for modern ears. Sci-fi and funk were the rage, often melding in amazing ways, and not just on novelty records by Meco.
To prove my point, I've put together a mix of my favorite trippy disco and cosmic keyboard excursions from the 1970s. As you'll hear with Cerrone and Les Rockets, Daft Punk were hardly the first Frenchmen to add a splash of space to hard dance tracks. Nothing is uncool. Well, Limp Bizkit. Definitely not this. I hope you enjoy. It will tide you over until R.A.M. (probably) streams later today.
Be sure to check out our playlist of space jams from the composer behind Adler Planetarium's upcoming "Cosmic Wonder," too.