Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Alex Chilton's Birthday Bash (Bday Boy NOT in Attendance)
Larry O. Dean of The Injured Parties loves Alex Chilton so much, he throws him a birthday party every year and doesn't even expect that Alex will show up.
The way it goes, Larry invites a bunch of Chicago indie bands, who normally may or may not have Chilton covers in their repertoire, to play Big Star, Box Tops, and the Chilton solo material of their choice, while making sure no song is played twice during the night.
Good Apples and our friend Elliott Conley (of Sewing Machines and Green Grocer) covered "The Ballad of El Goodo," "You Can't Have Me," and "Rock Hard." Elliott stepped out of his comfort zone and sang lead, while playing guitar, for "The Ballad of El Goodo," his first time singing in front of people. Gutsy! We managed to practice with Elliott just a handful of times, but he sounded like a bona fide Good Apple. I sang lead for the other two songs, and Elliott was on saxophone for "You Can't Have Me" and guitar for "Rock Hard." Pete played rhythm and lead guitar with his signature gusto, while Dillon and Gabor held it all together on drums and bass, respectively. Dillon and Gabor are yin and yang of the band, I'm convinced, by which I mean that Dillon is ecstatic and upbeat, all smiles and outgoingness, while Gabor is our brooding genius (with a heart of gold, of course); they complement one another perfectly.
Luckily for us, we appeared as the sixth band that night. By then (10:30) the club was no longer empty and chilly, but almost swinging! It helped that Empty Bottle doesn't charge a cover on Mondays and on top of it offers very reasonable drink specials. The staff is friendly and professional, and the sound is great, especially for a somewhat oddly L-shaped space. The absence of tables and chairs encourages people to mingle, and another nice detail is an abundance of simple coat hooks on the walls, so no one has to carry their heavy winter gear around or be forced to leave it on the floor. It's the simple things.
A lot of our friends came out and even brought their friends, and with them came a genuine birthday bash feeling. Ana came from Massachussetts, her brother Jacob from San Francicso, and her friends from Berlin via Pennsylvania; Nevena came from Belgrade, Serbia; Larisa brought a friend from Sarajevo via Ohio; Elliott's brother Chris came from Peoria, IL; Una brought a friend from New York--okay, they all happened to be in town for the holidays, they didn't come especially for the show, but still.
All the bands were a lot of fun to listen to. Those who stuck out to me are Letterbomb for hitting the right rawk'n'roll note for the night ("Blue Moon" ain't so gentle a ballad anymore), Tridge for demonstrating the solid indie pop-rock indebtedness to Big Star ("Thirteen," anyone?), and Injured Parties for remaking "Holocaust" into an almost power pop tune--who would have though that was possible! It's on their record, check it out if you don't believe me.
I do wonder who went up on stage to play "Thank You Friends" at the very end of the night! Good Apples were in the photo booth next door goofing off with Kristy after Go Time ended (we thought) the night, so we could hear that the song was being played, but we couldn't see by whom. Dorian Taj opened the night with a keyboard-and-voice version of "Thank You Friends," but I wonder who else jammed it. Maybe DJ again, joined by a few others? Or maybe it was a recording?