Linksomania: R.I.P., MC5’s Michael Davis; R.E.M.’s trestle; City Winery & more

February 19, 2012

Legendary Detroit rockers the MC5 have lost another of their key members: Bassist Michael Davis died of liver failure on Friday at a hospital in California. He was 68 years old.

Rob Tyner, lead singer of the hugely influential proto-punk band, died in 1991, and guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith, husband of punk godmother Patti Smith, died in 1994. The band, minus those two members, last played in Chicago with Davis, guitarist Wayne Kramer and drummer Dennis Thompson as the DKT/MC5 in 2004. (Here is my review of that show; here is the chat I did with Kramer previewing the gig and here is an appreciation of the band’s timeless debut album Kick Out the Jams.)

After the MC5 imploded, Davis played for a time with the Detroit-area art-punks Destroy All Monsters, joining that band at the request of his friend, Ron Asheton of the Stooges.

Davis lived what the MC5 preached: In the late 2000's, he and his wife Angela Davis launched a non-profit organization called The Music Is Revolution to support music education in public schools. And the Daily Swarm unearthed a telling quote that the musician recently posted on his blog: "As I stand here, looking down the last stretch of my own path, I still see the greatness of being alive. I still see the things that made it an overwhelming mystical trip. That I played in the MC5 was only one part of it, but what a part it was! Music is revolution!"

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Also on the list of links I’ve been meaning to share: Greg Kot got the scoop for the Tribune on longtime and much-loved Old Town School of Folk Music concert booker Colleen Miller landing the gig to present talent at a new concert venue called City Winery Chicago, located in a 3,000-square-foot space in the old Carson Pirie Scott Building at 1200 W. Randolph in the Loop.

Owner Michael Dorf, who booked the Knitting Factory in New York, envisions a unique in these parts mix of fine dining, quality wines and good music—and he and Miller represent another significant team entering the intensely competitive local club scene.

“I hope we’re not seen purely as a competitor,” Dorf told Kot, “but as someone who helps bring some other things to Chicago that maybe wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I hope we add to the pie and not just divide it up.”

Added Miller in an email to this blogger: “The location is… awesome. There’s a covered loading dock and all kinds of artist niceties—shower, bus parking—and the capacity, just 300, is perfect.”

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Who can forget the wonderfully evocative image from the back cover of R.E.M.’s first and best album Murmur? That ancient, kudzu-encrusted wooden train trestle spoke of timeless Southern mysteries, and perfectly evoked the band’s sound in its most rewarding era.

Well, R.E.M. is, of course, now gone, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the trestle will be soon as well. Chicago musician and old-school R.E.M. fan J. Niimi is quoted in the piece advocating that the bridge be saved to preserve a piece of rock history, but the band itself isn’t much interested.

“We have always loved that image and it represented something essential about our band and our town at the time,” the musicians said in a statement, adding, “We have never been on the Save the Trestle bandwagon, so to speak, figuring it might be a bit unseemly to advocate for a monument to ourselves.”

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If, like me, your heart still drops and a frown crosses your face every time you pass the intersection of Clark and Belden, home of the late lamented North Side Tower Records, you might want to stop by Ravens, 2326 N. Clark, between 3 and 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 26, and hoist one with manager Joe Kvidera and former staffers as they gather for a Tower reunion.

“No open bar, no buffet, no band, no goodie bags. Show up, have a drink, bitch about the old days and see the old gang,” Kvidera writes. Let ’em know some of us still miss and love them, one and all.

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Finally, we’re way, way overdue in wishing a happy 60th birthday to another Chicago music-store legend, Ric Addy of Uptown’s Shake Rattle & Read, who also is celebrating the 46th anniversary of the store that’s a veritable historical archive and treasure trove of great rock reading. (You name it, if it was in print, Addy probably can find it or has it somewhere in his endless, dusty but beautiful stacks.)

As corporate blandness replaces more and more mom-and-pop institutions, Chicago is lucky to still have places like Addy’s, centers of musical community that never get their due, but which are as vital as any of the city’s clubs or indie record stores.