Peter Stampfel, godfather of freak-folk
Ah, Fall is in the air and things are cooling down climactically and heating up artistically as the music moves back into the clubs. My top pick this weekend: a rare local appearance by the legendary '60s musician Peter Stampfel, as good a choice as any for the godfather of freak-folk. After first making his mark in the fertile mid-'60s scene of the East Village as a member of the Fugs -- his voice rises loud and clear from amid the din and clatter of the marathon recording sessions that produced that group's first few albums, and he was the auteur behind such enduring classics as "New Amphetamine Shriek" -- Stampfel founded the enduringly influential Holy Modal Rounders, whose fans included playwright and drummer Sam Shepard, among many others. Eventually, he embarked on a sporadic but fruitful solo career that continues to this day, equally parts pure insanity and deep, knowledgeable homage to American roots music. (Stampfel's many exploits are lovingly charted in this long interview conducted by my friend Jason Gross of the superb Web zine Perfect Sound Forever.) Marc Lipkin of Alligator Records is another fan, and when he had occasion to ask the guitarist, banjo player, fiddler, and singer why he hasn't performed in Chicago in a decade and a half, Stampfel apparently responded that no one's gotten him a gig. That rectified, he will perform at the always welcoming Hideout at 9 p.m. Saturday after openers the Cairo Gang. Tickets are $10.
Tonight, a great way to kick the weekend off with gonzo sounds of a different style and another generation can be found at the Double Door with the Electric Six. I haven't written about the group in a while, but I'm a fan of most of its antics -- especially onstage -- and it tops a strong bill that starts at 9 with Javelins and the Constellations. The cover is $12.
Another option on Saturday is the return of Titus Andronicus, which did ample justice to its stellar recent album "The Monitor" when Patrick Stickles and his bandmates made their second appearance at the Pitchfork Music Festival last summer. Male Bonding and Free Energy start the noise at Metro at 9 p.m., but equally exciting as the headliner is the penultimate act on the bill, noise-pop wonders Best Coast. Tickets are $17 in advance or $19 on the day of the show.
On the local tip, psychedelic noise-rockers CAW! CAW! continue to promote their first full-length album "Bummer Palace," follow-up to a strong 2008 EP called "Wait Outside." They perform at the Empty Bottle on Sunday after Ortolan and We Are Country Mice starting at 7 p.m. The cover is a beyond-reasonable $3. Finally, we come to the shows that will dominate the next week in Chicago: the incredible four-night stand by Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, performing that group's double album "The Wall" on the occasion of its 30th anniversary at the United Center on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Intellectually, I hear and agree with all of the objections: "The Wall" always was at best a guilty pleasure -- a superficial, cartoon version of Pink Floyd at its best; Waters never will be as strong on his own as he is with the band, and while David Gilmour has promised to drop in to one of these gigs, I doubt that it will happen in Chicago; there have been some very bad live versions of the solo Waters "Wall" over the years, including the one marking the destruction of that other barricade of some renown in Berlin; the show is brought to us by the hateful Ticketmaster/Live Nation conglomerate, which is beyond ironic, given that Waters has spent his life railing against the impending fascist state being created by Orwellian mega-corporations; the best seats are priced at an obnoxious $250 each, plus egregious service fees, and, most of all, nostalgia is the worst enemy of great rock 'n' roll, and these shows in 2010 will never and could never be as great as the experience I had as a 16-year-old lucky enough to see one of the handful of original gigs that Pink Floyd played to trumpet the release of the album at the Nassau Coliseum in February 1980.
Emotionally, I can't help myself; I'm stoked. "So you thought you might like to go to the show/To feel the warm thrill of confusion/That space cadet glow"? Heck, yeah: Count me in!