I’m not sure what existential forces are at work here but we’ve now come to the age of the “Credit Union 1 Center,” an ampitheatre in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park operating under the tenuous premise of providing meaningful experiences to anyone. It’s no big deal — it’s just the main venue I grew up going to and there watching musical performances that actually meant anything to me, like Eve 6. Hey, don’t underestimate Max Collins’ sense of humor — at the 2000 Q101 Jamboree he could be seen traipsing around the stage in a white, spandex shirt and red, leather pants, in the hot sun, asking, “Does this outfit show off my figure well?”
And at this point in time the venue was known as the “Tweeter Center”; its second name in its history and probably fourth-to-last, or so, at this current time of 23 years later. Tweeters, as it were, are actually an entity which has to do with music, so the whole operation was just a little easier to sell to an unwitting autonomous. And now unlike in the case of the Ruoff Music Center in the Indianapolis suburb of Nobleseville, which, formerly the “Ruoff Home Mortgage Center,” has subsequently actually made any strides in assembling some artistically-minded innocuousness, the curators of the “Credit Union 1 Center” seem to actually take a sick pride in letting loose a conspicuous “corporate America stink bomb” on the proceedings, more or less. It’s like, ok, I think my spirits have been sufficiently vanquished, white men in black suits. Someday somebody will care that you act all glib and fast-paced, I promise.
So it’s time to “rage against the machine” and maybe do so in a way that’s at least somewhat rife with melody and not reliant on a veritable slew of curse words for validation. One band I ALMOST put on this list was Third Eye Blind, whose lead singer Stephan Jenkins, in a maneuver which could have probably landed on Dave Chappelle’s famous “hater olympics” skit, hoarded all the band’s money through legal loopholes and then fired Kevin Cadogan, their original guitarist, the epitome of a genius who wrote the riffs to “God of Wine” and “Wounded.” As their musical output since his firing will obviate, he was the catalyst behind the most important material of their career. Another band I ALMOST put on this list is LIVE. Now, I happen to know a dude in Chicago who hates LIVE. And he’s got all these ridiculous opinions like that they should get rid of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as if it’s going to magically be replaced in Donald Trump’s Midwest by a genus if immaculately humble, artistically edifying and droll little figurines which are like endlessly entertaining and magically able to never make you jealous. Believe it or not, anyway, there is something I’m talking about here, with this “spirit of Tinley Park” crap. There’s always been a sort of heathen tinge to the proceedings, as, despite nominally being wedged in endless, faceless suburbia, its locale is in close proximity to a nature preserve, making for some big night skies to view, typically, on your drive home, particularly if you’re heading back to the suburbs east of there. But more to my point about LIVE, people around here like their music to have a certain rebellious tinge to it. That dude I was talking about is very “punk,” or at least he tries to be. It’s very white, see, otherwise I would have included more black artists on this list. It’s got this white element of boredom and of constantly seeing the big picture and perceiving foul play in the powers that be, hence germinating the “punk” aspect. LIVE’s music is more holistic, more comfortable in its skin, almost like a spiritual experience, really. And this, sometimes, while indeed being conducive to ticket sales as well as generally being really awesome, does offend some left-brained snips prone to jealousy and wanting more of an underdog figure to listen to in rock (similar to how people like to elect dumb presidents because it makes them feel smarter by comparison). Anyway, I hope the shows don’t suck. Or maybe the Taste will be rockin’ next year.
Band of Skulls
This is a kind of White Stripes/grunge brainchild that I don’t think ever really got the respect it deserves — the Southhampton duo on their best album Baby Darling Doll Face Honey (2009) declaim “Come on get up Romeo / Do you know what time it is? / It’s the fall of rock ’n roll / That’s what the news says”. They then go on to obliterate that hapless notion with some fiery, juicy power chording and a midtempo ballad that packs way more of a punch than it has any right doing.
Better than Ezra
This band has put out an album as recently as 2014 so a reunion probably isn’t out of the question. And I don’t like those “album anniversary tours” but Deluxe (1995) would likely be the benefactor of lots of songs they’d do, like the ubiquitous hit single “Good” and countless other hummable mid-’90s alt-rock tunes delivered in Kevin Griffin’s stellar, crystal-clear voice, no less.
This is pretty much the classic band that got chastised in the ’90s for being a grunge “ripoff” and then worshipped frantically by all the dullards who cottoned onto them 20 years too late. I’ve actually seen them at the Tweeter Center and it kicked a** and yes they’re even still putting out new albums and yes those albums are even pretty decent, usually, typically lassoing in one new influence (Queens of the Stone Age, et. al.) per.
Over the years Sheryl Crow seems to have always added just enough energy and heart to her music to make it enjoyable and a concert of hers would be interesting too for the humanistic tinge of her being sort of a healing guru, of sorts, if not always a successful one. All the stuff on that’ 93 album has a vibe, anyway, and “Soak up the Sun” and “Love is Free” would be cool singles to hear.
Echo & the Bunnymen
Kind of the prevailing elder statesman in Brit pop, Echo & the Bunnymen, while having giving us “The Killing Moon,” which Pavement covered (for the record I’ve seen Pavement in Chicago and it was pretty low-energy), happened to release a complete classic album The Fountain in 2009, full of gorgeous pop gems tinged with a sort of spooky majesty which would do great in Tinley Park. Judging by “Drive Time,” though, the blokes might be a little weary of the road.
Along with Max Collins’ heartwarming fashion show, the music in Eve 6’s set was great at the Jamboree, true to form, and their best album wasn’t even out yet at the time — It’s All in Your Head (2003). I heard about them rocking Milwaukee’s Summerfest pretty recently so a contemporary pit stop in Tinley Park probably isn’t too out of the question.
I’m probably teetering on the edge of disaster with this one as singer Art Alexakis can certainly veer toward the melodramatic and relationship-centered, two cardinal sins in the punk world. This band undeniably has its fans in Chicago, though, and, as personally a lifelong devotee of them, I’ve always appreciated the way they started out producing their own albums, for that fierce, sharp grunge sound.
Fastball suck, dude! Hey Fastball, can we use your song “Out of My Head” and turn it into a mega-hit? Well, sure… I mean, you deserve credit for finding a Fastball song that doesn’t suck, after all! For what it’s worth, there’s not a bad song on All the Pain Money Can Buy (1997) and this band’s sense of humor is an A+, turning “Charlie the Methadone Man” into “Charlie the metronome man” upon reference to his drumming in a bar band.
This young band from Philadelphia completely blows me away with their punk-rock sneer, full sound, tight grooves and ebullient Green Day influence emanating from their work. Of course, I might make Chicagoans jealous with this pick, and that’s never a fun thing to do.
No matter what your opinion is on any Green Day material, I could perennially come back with the point that at this point in their career their body of work is just completely undeniable. They completely saturated the pop world with punk rock, more or less, making it so any shmo can pick up a loud, fuzzy guitar and perform under bright lights. Their last album Father of All… (2020) is freakin’ packed, too.
This selection is kind of meant in tandem with Porno for Pyros, which originally featured the singer (Perry Farrell) and drummer (Stephen Perkins) from Jane’s Addiction, and were formed in reaction to two Jane’s members being in rehab. PFP are planning a tour for their 30th anniversary, I’ve heard, but I’ve seen Jane’s Addiction as recently as 2009, at a Lollapalooza, and although it was kind of low-energy, it might have just been because it was at the end of a three-night set at Lolla, the festival Ferrell curates. It would be impossible to imagine a Chicago Jane’s Addiction date not being an explosive, combustive monsoon of rock, as even Live in NYC will attest.
Billy Joel just has to be considered an artist who’s more the sum of his parts — his hit songs have a way of being distinct and apart from each other, like separate constellations that never overlap, and everyone always seems to forget how great of a song “The River of Dreams” is. I’ve seen him rip through a delightful cover of “Werewolves of London” on a YouTube concert video too — he’s a born showman.
Long Beach Dub Allstars
Amusingly enough, I’ve actually seen the Dub Allstars at this exact venue — actually, the performance didn’t make much impression and the sound seemed drowned in programmed sounds and “dubs,” which I guess makes sense but doesn’t do much to pump up a festival crowd. These days, they’re anchored by original drummer Marshall Goodman, so groove is their calling card, if you will, and original singer Opie Ortiz delivers some earnest, from-the-hip poetry on the mic.
Built on Southern “crunk” culture, candy cars and thick hoes, Ludacris’ diction also veers refreshingly toward the primal and basic, with straight-ahead anthems like “What’s Your Fantasy” and “Get out the Way” infusing the proceedings with plenty of authenticity and rustic machismo. A video backdrop of music videos, i.e. the one for “Get back,” would do plenty in illustrating his sense of humor, to boot.
Pantera is generally known from the 1990s as a bada** metal band that took the volume and attitude of Metallica and expanded the song structure aspect to something that, if not quite the expansiveness of TOOL, at least effectively said “Fu** you” to radio and facilitated the enterprises of two-hour lawn concerts. They’re best known for “Walk,” an invincible kiss-off anthem, but I used to rock out to the whole album Far beyond Driven, which bludgeoned along with just the volume and a little more complexity. According to Wikipedia, Dimebag Darrell died in ’04 but the band is indeed still technically together.
Driving around Indianapolis, I used to see a decent amount of Phish bumper stickers, but the Windy City seems a little less placid before their beacon and indeed Phish would always skip the Tinley Park venue on their summer tours, going straight from Deer Creek (or whatever the Heck it was called at the time) to Alpine Valley up in Wisconsin. So consider me that annoying parent who’s dragging these two kids by the respective ears into forced reconciliation — this band’s shows are completely rad, as the “The Divided Sky”/“I Didn’t Know” segue on the St. Louis ’93 boxed set will obviate.
Maybe I’m weird because I seem to be the only person on the planet who’s always preferred Malice, Pusha T’s biological brother and other half of rap group Clipse, to the aforementioned, who seems to get all the accolades and collabos with Kanye, Jay-Z and Kid Cudi. Lately, though, T seems to be slowly building enough street and even industry cred and star power in beats and tandems to harness a really killer live show. I mean, the hype alone would sell a lot of tickets, at least, you’ve gotta admit.
Liz Phair is kind of like a rotating tetrahedron, or whatever — your opinion of her, and your conception of what she does, probably depends a lot on at what point in time you first encountered her. For me, she’ll always be the queen of indie rock, belting out thick, lush chords on that red Fender Mustang (behooved considerably by the excellent production of Brad Wood), and beholden to the synth gem “Headache” on later album whitechocolatespaceegg, which might be better suited to the ampitheatre sound.
Of course, R.E.M. is disbanded and has been for many years now, but come one, it’s impossible not to imagine a reunion, and Chicago, I would think, with its centrality to the “music critic” world (it’s the birthplace of Pitchfork) would be a logical stopping point. Again, there’s many different ways to slice this thing, but their R.E.M. Live album would be a good tutorial of what to expect — fresh, unexpected setlist choices delivered in amplified, homogenized clarity and power. Oh, they could get arena rock when they wanted to.
This is sort of a funny selection because I have to say my least favorite Radiohead album is probably the live album. Anyway, I have heard accounts of their concerts kicking a**, and, you have to admit, they’ve never really put out anything that sucked (to say nothing of Blur, PJ Harvey and Pearl Jam, as it were), so I’m going on a priori grounds here to say it would furnish a solid rock concert. I mean, I’d go just for the name alone — they’ve earned that, to me. And He**, maybe they’d play “Myxomatosis.”
Though I’ve never seen them outdoors, I have caught these cats three times in concert and it never disappointed, with Julian Casablancas’ drunken stage banter certainly not hindering the proceedings. The first three albums alone provide more than enough quality material for a quality show and the band get deliciously virtuosic on the underrated “15 Minutes” from First Impressions of Earth (2006), cycling through all 12 major keys within about half a minute. Oh, and they did a bunch of drugs, and stuff, too.
The Suicide Machines
I guess I’m just preternaturally thinking back to that Q101 Jamboree in 2000 — it really was a pretty rockin’ good time and these guys put on a great show, even throwing in the line in stage banter that “If I still smoked pot I’d sit around all day playing Tony Hawk and listening to the Long Beach Dub Allstars.” This pithy pop-punk unit is known for great variety, with a ska-punk album, a pop-punk album and a hardcore album all in their discography, and they hail from right up the road in Detroit, which is maybe not important but kind of cool if you’re a kid from South Bend, Indiana like me and like seeing these celebrity musicians wield a kind of rude, abrupt sense of humor.
Surely the biggest “long shot” on this list as this Scottish duo aren’t quite superstars and British bands seem to loathe touring the states by van, these guys still wrote killer songs like “Slow Fade” and “Cellz” which the true music fans would enjoy and the wannabe punks would hate so much for being “pu**y” that it would make for an entertaining spectacle in its own right.
This selection really needs no introduction and I’m almost kind of glad that the Beastie Boys pulled out of the 2009 incarnation of Lollapalooza because it gave me a chance to see what’s probably my favorite metal band in concert. Their last album had been 10,000 Days from 2006 and I’d purchased that CD I think the day it came out, my favorite two tracks being “Jambi” and “Rosetta Stoned.” I’d also be fishing for “Swamp Song” and “Sober” inclusions in the setlist.
Sharon Van Etten
Slowly, over time, Sharon Van Etten has been making a name for herself in the indie world, issuing several albums since 2010 and even making Jeff Ament’s year-end list with the masterful Remind Me Tomorrow (which is also Dolby Disaster’s #1 album of 2019, for what it’s worth). My age-old take on Van Etten is that “She’s operating at an R.E.M.-level of songwriting” — think Up-era, when everything was careful, pristine and surreal, with ever-present chord changes and undulating textures making for a constantly rewarding, wild ride. And her voice could really fill an outdoor venue, too.
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