Nine studio albums into a career that began in Glasgow, Scotland, way back at the dawn of the '90s, and which provided one of the enduring masterpieces of that decade with the timeless, endlessly chiming, Big Star-inspired power-pop of "Bandwagonesque," it is all too easily to take Teenage Fanclub for granted. (Are they, like, even still around, man?)
Set to take place in the heart of the Texas capital at Zilker Park Friday through Sunday, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is the smaller sister of Lollapalooza -- maximum capacity 75,000 a day there versus 90,000 daily here -- though the success that promoters C3 Presents have had with their hometown shindig since its launch in 2002 is what inspired them to expand to Chicago's Grant Park in the first place in 2005, and to sign a deal that keeps them here through 2018.
However, starting with the great "Dillo dirt" scandal of 2009 -- it turns out that festival-goers were emerging from Zilker Park literally covered in crap, thanks to compost covering the grounds that partly was made of treated sewage sludge -- Austin residents have started to question many aspects of the way C3 does business there, just as Chicago residents are questioning the way it operates here.
UPDATE, OCT. 6: Department of Revenue Spokesman Ed Walsh emailed today with the following correction to my reading of the amusement tax passages in Chicago's municipal code: "The amusement tax percentage you quoted in your posting was incorrect. The percentage is 5% not 9% fo[r] live theatrical, musical, and other cultural performances held in a space with a maximum capacity exceeding 750 persons."
He also wrote that the applicant for the tax exemption under 4-156-020b5c of the Municipal Code was the Parkways Foundation. I had written "Lollapalooza." But C3 Presents and Parkways are in fact partners in presenting Lollapalooza, as the logo pictured above (as well as the 10-year deal with the city) makes abundantly clear.
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Five years into a long-term deal that keeps the massive concert in Grant Park through 2018, Lollapalooza has generated an average of a million dollars a year for a non-profit arm of the Chicago Park District dedicated to park improvements.
But the three-day festival, one of the biggest in the U.S., grossed more than $17 million last August, and politically connected concert promoters C3 Presents have struck a sweetheart deal with the city that exempts them from paying the taxes that any other concert or entertainment event would have to pay.
Altruistic claims in Lollapalooza's press releases aside, the question looms:
Is Chicago really collecting all of the money that it should be getting from the musical Walmart on the Lake -- especially in the midst of what's been called the worst budget crisis in the city's history, with city services being slashed and lay-offs of police, sanitation workers, and teachers threatened?
More Rimshots: From Kill Hannah to Broadway, Peaches Christ Superstar, Wire covers rule, Mellotron lust, and all Eno all the time!Sep. 30, 2010
Continuing the round-up of curious tidbits of local news and hot on the heels of yesterday's Pete Wentz post, we have the headline of another Chicago semi-celeb musician branching out with a different high-profile detour: Mat Devine, leader of veteran glam-pop band Kill Hannah, has landed a role in "SPIDER-MAN Turn Off the Dark," the big-budget Broadway rocktacular based on the Marvel comic, directed by Hollywood heavyweight Julie Taymor, and scored by (insert breathless exclamation here!) Bono and the Edge. According to Wikipedia (so take it with a grain of salt), he's playing the role of Vladimir Kravinoff/Grim Hunter. Er, right, sure"¦ I can see that.
Rimshots: A Fall Out Boy regroups, Riot Fest looms, noise for New Year's, and Girl Talk's Chicago concert vidSep. 29, 2010
The curious tidbits of news of local interest have been piling up in my inbox, and we're long overdue to take a quick look at some of them. So let's dive in!
Pete's the prettier one on the left
Of course I will grant that Ashlee Simpson's significant other and the proud papa of Bronx Mowgli is endlessly annoying with his Twitter-fueled solipsism and fondness for shameless corporate expansionism (the clothing line, the bar, the label, etc.), but what can I say? The music of that erstwhile child of the North Shore suburbs and former Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz remains a guilty pleasure, and I'll argue that in his own way, he has long been as effective at subverting the pop mainstream as, say, Lady Gaga. Plus his punky dance-pop always is catchy as hell.
In any event, Wentz has announced the formation of a new electro-pop band called Black Cards, and he's streaming a weirdly endearing, 1920s-inflected club banger called "Club Called Heaven (featuring Chiddy Bang)" on the group's new Web site. The singer apparently is one Bebe Rexha, who has former band mate Patrick Stump beat in a few ways (if not necessarily in terms of vocal prowess), while other collaborators include drummer Spencer Peterson of Saves the Day and Hidden in Plain View and guitarist Nate Patterson of the Receiving End of Sirens.
The band sets out on a European tour in late October, but no word as yet on a triumphal homecoming. Blogged the now 31-year-old Fall Out Man [many sics]:
"Here is a song for the kids down on the corner," Mac McCaughan sings in that famously trembling and tenuous tenor in "My Gap Feels Weird," one of the most instantly lovable tracks on the eagerly awaited new album from Chapel Hill, North Carolina's veteran indie-rock institution Superchunk. "With a look that tells you you don't even know them/ And you never will."