Friday, July 10, 2009

Great Women Singers

Women vocalists knock me out. I really should do a post on some of the best bands sporting female singers, but in the meantime, here's a few killer CDs that have been issued in the past few months:

Neko Case's Middle Cyclone: Case has come a long way since her debut. She's got this overpowering voice that is hard to support, but she's found ways of doing it. This is her best album yet, and there's no reason to think she won't keep improving. She's gonna be around for a long, long time, which is great for all of us.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs' It's Blitz: Doesn't the egg on the cover look like a weird flower in a punk girl's hand? That just about sums up the disc too. Karen O has pushed her band to the pop-side of punk. It's synthy and disco-dance friendly but it packs a punch. This is the B-52s all over again, but it's made for people who didn't really like the B-52s all that much. Dig the basslines but watch out for those guitars...they bite.

Lal Meri's Lal Meri: Fans of Beth Orton would do themselves a favor by checking out this sterling debut. The group is fronted by Nancy Kaye, a jazz vocalist. Behind her the beats swirl and groove, switching from trip-hop to folk to gentle R& B. You can get completely lost in this seductive music. Perfect for a party, perfect for dreaming the night away.

Bye, Roland. Nice Knowing You...

Roland Burris has decided not to seek a full term in the U.S. Senate when his seat comes up for election in 2010. He could have saved everyone the trouble by not showing up for work in January and insisting he be seated. He was appointed by our infamous former governor Rod Blagojevich, and he forced the issue about joining the Senate rather than allowing the citizens of Illinois to have a say in who filled President Obama's seat. Now that he's there, he is deciding not to come back.

This puts the Democrats at a huge disadvantage since it levels the playing field for the next election. Incumbents always have a huge, huge advantage over their challengers. In 2010, since Burris isn't returning, there will not be an incumbent running.

The only good news is that Republicans in the state of Illinois are worse off than the Democrats. Believe it or not, they also are worse off than the national Republican party. We can only hope they can't resurrect themselves before the 2010 election.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sears Centre Struggles to Survive

Hoffman Estates just can't seem to support a concert venue. Poplar Creek was a huge loss for the region, but it was forced to fold when the World Music Theater in Tinley Park was constructed way back around 1990. The World was and always will be a horrible place to hear music. It's not built for music. It's built for capacity. Yes, Poplar Creek wasn't perfect. But it was one of those old-style outdoor music venues with decent sightlines and a reasonably good sound system. It felt intimate, while The World felt corporate.

Logistically, Hoffman Estates and the World are (no pun intended) worlds apart, especially amongst the traffic congestion of an urban center like Chicago. So, there was no reason to think that the region couldn't support both venues. But the developers that owned Sears new headquarters wanted the space and owned the property, so it shut down Poplar Creek.

Cut to 2004, when these same developers were struggling to get anything going in the area. So, they proposed a new concert and sporting venue. It's actually not a bad place -- a mid-size arena, featuring 11,000 seats or so. In a lot of ways, it's akin to UIC Pavilion.

Unfortunately, according to a story in the Daily Herald, the Sears Centre isn't faring very well financially. The economy probably has a ton to do with it, and at least, at this stage of the game, it looks like the venue will remain open and won't be shuttered. The owners of the Sears Centre are buried in a mound of debt, and the village of Hoffman Estates might have to come to their rescue.

Here's the good news. The village of Hoffman Estates thinks that the Sears Centre ought to hold more concerts. The sports teams that play in the venue have been struggling to attract crowds, but music acts are selling tickets by the boatload. So we may actually get more and better shows up here, if they can steal some artist away from the city. Not a bad deal, and hopefully it will work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Of Missing Fireworks and the 4th of July

Good lord. According to a story in the Daily Herald, a heap of professional-grade fireworks were swiped from an abandoned trailer, apparently by a bunch of lunatic teenagers. One kid had more than 100 of them in his closet. Considering the damage that one of these things can do, there's no telling the kind of destruction that a closet full of them can cause. As I've gotten older, I've gotten more and more nervous about the craziness that happens on 4th of July. When we were kids, we did our share of 'splodin stuff, but we mostly were messing around with bottle rockets and small firecrackers. Yes, we could get hurt, and yes, they can cause harm to people and property. But we shot them off in the middle of nowhere. These days, people living on top of one another in cities and suburbs alike are setting of charges with much greater force, apparently not thinking that they can burn down their neighbors houses. I hope they find these things before someone gets hurt.