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36 Hours in Chicago

Chicago: 2015 #BowieBoozeBlowout

So going to Chicago in January might not have been the BEST idea— but tickets to the final weekend of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s #DavidBowieIs exhibit were too good to pass up.

January 1: Welcome to Chicago (I Can’t Feel My Face)
Afternoon arrival gives me time to drop off my bags in Wicker Park, then head out to explore the neighborhood. I make a beeline for Quimbys—one of the best zine/book stores in the world. …Aaaaand they’re closed. Good for my wallet, but sad for me. I snap a photo of the Closed sign silently taunting me.

Hi, Blue Line.

Chicago Blue Line in winter.

I zip past the Double Door (no music this time, alas), the cutest doughnut shop in the world (Stan’s Donuts) and an elegant La Colombe outpost before zipping up to the Blue Line.

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West Side Revival: The Columbus Theatre

A marquee first lit in 1926 is blazing once more: Providence, RI’s venerable Columbus Theatre Columbus Theatre, which opened when 10¢ matinees were the rage, reopened after extensive renovations in 2012 and has been ramping up its calendar of shows ever since.

Booking is coordinated by a collective that also helms a small recording studio upstairs. So far they’ve brought some heavy-hitters to town — last fall Bonnie Prince Billy, Bill Callahan and Cass McCombs all played in rapid succession — but they’ve also gained a reputation for an eclectic and forward-thinking booking philosophy.

Some upcoming shows that will be worth your while:

TONIGHT, March 22: Rough Francis + Ravi Shavi
ROUGH FRANCIS is a young band with an unusually heavy sense of history. Three of the Burlington, VT-based band’s members — Bobby Jr., Urian and Julian — are the sons of Bobby Hackney Sr., bassist and vocalist of the legendary Detroit proto-punk band DEATH, who crafted a uniquely fiery brand of propulsive rock in the era of MOR disco. (Their amazing story is told in the 2012 doc, “A Band Called Death.” Watch the trailer.)

Although they began as a tribute to Death, the band quickly found their own style — showcased on its rough-and-tumble, gritty debut, “Maximum Soul Power” (Riothouse Records).

Openers RAVI SHAVI kick up a righteous groove too — be sure to show up early!

SUNDAY, March 23: Death Vessel + Purple Ivy Shadows
Joel Thibodeau’s Death Vessel project is as otherwordly and delicate as the moniker suggests. Sometimes the band is just Joel and a rotating cast of guests — but these days the lineup includes Jeffrey Underhill (Honeybunch), Rachel Blumberg (The Decemberists) and singer-songwriter Liz Isenberg.

And be sure to catch a super-rare set from the reunited Purple Ivy Shadows, who released some excellent records on Dark Beloved Cloud and Slow River before calling it quits in the 2002. Do not pass go!

THE COLUMBUS THEATRE | 270 Broadway, Providence, RI 02903
UPCOMING:

Mar 28: Magik Markers with Pixels
Mar 29: Lonesome Leash with Diane Cluck and Orion Rigel Dommisse
Apr 1: Arc Iris Record Release Show with Sugar Honey Ice Tea + Chris Daltry (The ‘Mericans/Purple Ivy Shadows)
May 10: Sharon van Etten

Purchase tickets at Olympic Records, Armageddon Shop, and at ColumbusTheatre.com.

COLUMBUS MARQUEE SHOT BY ROUGH FRANCIS.

Throwing Muses Week: Home Is Where the Heart Lies

Kristin Hersh on the Places that Make Up Throwing Muses’ DNA

Songwriter Kristin Hersh has called Throwing Muses’ new album + book Purgatory/Paradise “a keyhole view of our goofy world.”

It’s also a ramshackle map dotted with places and memories — a kind of Rough Guide to Throwing Muses, or a music-based 36 Hours in…

While the band’s hometown of Newport, RI, is a subtle but pervasive influence, Purgatory’s 32 songs careen restlessly from place to place —to New Orleans, Hersh’s sirensong “Bayou Paris”; down dark Portland highways, into the Palm Desert and across sticky Coke-spattered sidewalks in Providence, RI — but they always, always return to the windswept grandeur of Aquidneck Island.

I asked Kristin to tell me about some of the places that MADE the Muses — and how they continue to influence and shape the band, which is still a beautiful work in progress after 30 years.

How has being from Newport, a tiny town at the edge of a very big ocean, influenced your songwriting?

Kristin Hersh: Everybody from an island has an island-based psychology: you know that you’re essentially safe. All you gotta do is wander around in order to get to where you’re going. Because circles are all you’re meant to move in and god introduced confines and expanses at the same time.

This is kind of metaphysical, but what places give you strength + make you feel like you can accomplish anything?

KH: Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh: you climb a hill past ruins and picnickers and end up moved to tears by heather and yellow wildflowers.

Texas hill country, where the air feels infused with potential.

Forest Park in Portland, OR, sucking down the chlorophyll.

Anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. Sachuest Point nature preserve, here on the island.

And New Orleans: voodoo plus alcohol plus forgiveness.

Purgatory Rd. + Paradise Ave. are an actual crossroad in Middletown, RI. Name 5 other places that are part of Throwing Muses’ DNA.

KH: The Bells, a graffiti-covered wreck of a wreck of a building on Ocean Drive. It’s where skaters and burnouts partied when we were in high school.

The Cliff Walk, in Newport. We’d stumble down the cliffs to hide with our friends by the water, drink beer, and play guitar and boom boxes.

Dave’s parents’ attic, our practice space when we were 14. We left spray painted messages and drawings for each other on the walls. A far as I know, they’re still there.

Second Beach in Middletown. The suffer end is for surfers, the other end is for beached whales. We hang out in the middle.

The Salvation Army on Broadway in Newport. Nobody there has any teeth. It’s where we bought (and still buy) our clothes, furniture and Christmas presents.

Places past, present, loved, hated — go with your gut instincts.

KH: Little Five Points, Atlanta, GA. Where I was born, where my hippie home movies were filmed. Where I got the accent you can only hear when I’m tired, drunk, or both.

Athens, GA, where Vic Chesnutt lived when he lived. His house was my safe house. Can’t say that I really feel that safe anymore.

Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, TN, where my family is from, where my grandparents lived and where I learned all the Appalachian folk songs on “Murder, Misery and Then Goodnight.”

The Living Room!! We opened for REM, X, the Meat Puppets and the Violent Femmes there and played our first headlining show (where they paid audience members a dollar to come in).

Investigate

Read the CD, listen to the book —Purgatory/Paradise lets you determine your own experience. It’s totally choose your own adventure, but I went for the listen first, then listen-and-read, then listen again approach. (And I’m still listening.)

Find your own way of diving in — knowing full well that, no matter how you get there, the rewards will be huge.

Buy Purgatory/Paradise
Throwing Muses on Twitter
Kristin Hersh on Twitter
Lakuna Design
Cashmusic.org
Kristin Hersh

IMAGES: LIVING ROOM (FROM ALLKINDSAGIRLS BLOG) | ATTIC BY PAUL ROBICHEAU, 1985 (SCAN COURTESY OF C. PUFFER) | FIRST BEACH, BELLS STILLS BY JORY HULL

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