You'd think that the July 4th holiday weekend would be prime time for concert-going, but whether it's a result of Lollapalooza and other festivals taking their toll in slowing down the rest of the city's music scene, or promoters writing the next couple of days off to people staying home and listening to tunes in their backyards as they fire up the grill, things are pretty slow -- with a few notable exceptions.
The Silversun Pickups
Sure to be vastly preferable in terms of the surroundings to both their last local show, opening for the dreaded Muse at the United Center last March, and the one before that, playing in the sun at Lollapalooza 2009, Silversun Pickups come back to Chicago for a proper indoor gig in the sweaty, crumbling, but always somehow charming confines of the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence, tomorrow (Saturday, July 3). I was a late convert to the modern psychedelic swirl/shoegazer revival sounds of this Silver Lake quartet, as I confessed when I interviewed main man Brian Aubert earlier this year. But the records finally sucked me in, and the group is even more impressive live. It headlines over Against Me! And the Henry Clay People starting at 6:30 p.m., and tickets are $30 through the dreaded Ticketmaster (or without the egregious service fees at the door).
One can never complain about the price at a Taste of Chicago show: It is, of course, free. But just about everything is less than ideal: the throngs of tourists filling Grant Park, the dicey sound issuing from the Petrillo Bandshell, the smell of corndogs thick in the air, and the self-promotional hoo-ha that accompanies all of these corporate-radio-sponsored, city-run gigs, and none more so than the annual July 4th concert brought to you by WXRT. But Alejandro Escovedo, one of American roots-rock's most enduring treasures, is famous for rising to any occasion, and he's on fire as he tours in support of his recently released 10th studio album, "Street Songs Of Love." Alas, he is third on a four-band bill, after Carney gets things started at noon; Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Passion Pit close out the day.
The Great Marcia Ball
Celebrating its 30th anniversary as one of the truly great Chicago musical celebrations, FitzGerald's annual American Music Festival actually got underway yesterday, but it continues throughout the holiday weekend at the always friendly, superior-sounding, family-run club at 6615 Roosevelt Rd. in Berwyn (call 708-788 2118, or visit the club's Web site for more information), as well as in the outdoor tent erected for the occasion. The music starts at 4:30 p.m. today and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (July 3 and 4).
Some of my choices for sure bets in the packed FitzGerald's schedule include:‚ today: Wayne "the Train" Hancock (6:15 p.m.) and the Marcia Ball Band (10 p.m.); Saturday: Tributosaurus becomes Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (3 p.m.), Webb Wilder (4 p.m.), Dave Alvin and the mighty Blasters (7:30 p.m.), and the Joe Ely Band with Rolling Stones saxophonist Bobby Keys (10:15 p.m.), and Sunday: Susan Cowsill (4:30 p.m.), Brave Combo (6:45 p.m.), the Waco Brothers (8:45 p.m.), and an encore performance by the Blasters wrapping things up at 11 p.m. Admission is $30 today, $35 tomorrow and Sunday with an early-bird discount of $5 off for the first hour of each day.
Hey, it meant something when I was 16
Finally, though it a.) pains me to ever recommend a Ticketmaster/Live Nation show as overpriced as this one, and b.) it slightly embarrasses me to admit I'm actually sort of kind of excited about the concept (though not nearly as much as I'd be by a touring in which the band performed "2112" or "Hemispheres" in their entirety again), that enduring Canadian art-metal trio Rush comes to the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island at 7:30 p.m. Monday and Wednesday (July 5 and 7) as part of its Time Machine tour, which will find if playing all of the 1981 album "Moving Pictures," among other things.
As a drummer, albeit one of a very different stripe, I am drawn to any opportunity to watch Neil Peart perform; it's hard to argue against the fact that he's the most influential rock drummer since the late, great John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. But -- gawd!--these prices: The best seats top out at $125, the supremely uncomfortable and poor-sounding bleachers are $40. Hey, at least this is a "No Service Fee Show" -- though Ticketmaster/Live Nation still hoses you down for a $9.50 per person (not per car) parking charge. Big a fan as I am, I just don't know if "Red Barchetta" live is worth that.