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BENT NIGHTS Looking back at 2013, Part Two
MUSIC Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester

This article shared 5732 times since Tue Dec 31, 2013
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Here's the continuation of the best and worst of music in 2013:

—Best book of the year: Bettye LaVette, A Woman Like Me ( with David Ritz, Penguin Books ). Just damn—this book is a madhouse cyclone ride hosted by a hard-headed, driven diva smacked up on attitude and foul language. LaVette has a voice for the ages and her memoir is every bit as thrilling as her music.

Runner-up: Cyndi Lauper, A Memoir ( with Jancee Dunn, Atria Books ). I regret that Lauper's Broadway triumph Kinky Boots snatched all the attention since her memoir is just as unique, candid and engaging as the lady is herself.

—Worst book: Rod by Rod Stewart ( Crown Publishing ). I've always wanted to like Rod Stewart as a person but this book justified why I just can't. The sections early on where he recounts his roots singing in London dive bars with unknown contemporaries like Reggie Dwight and the forgotten out legend Long John Baldry have the allure of mythology. ( You can smell the sweat and beer caked on the walls. )

But after a weightless pass through his classic Jeff Beck collaborations and the massive hit "Maggie Mae" turned him into a star, Stewart morphs into the kind opportunistic horndog you couldn't expect he wasn't. More hit singles, packed arenas, wads of cash and palatial homes as well as blondes, blondes and more statuesque indistinguishable blondes turn out to be the focus of the book. Stewart emerges as the kind of oily creep who stands behind women on packed elevators and whispers in there ear, "I smell you..."

—Event of the year: There were so many that it wouldn't be fair to pick just one. Two in particular will hopefully become Chicago traditions: Redmoon Theater's Boneshake" ( which gave All Hallow's Eve a brand new saucy flavor ) and the Slo-Mo Spectacular ( a yuletide benefit soul/funk jamboree in support of Fierce Chicago ). If anyone had any doubt that Chicago is where the action is then clearly they didn't make it to any of the major events listed above or below.

1. ) The Hideout Block Party, Sept. 6-7. With so many massive music festivals popping through in the warmer months, The Hideout Block Party always sticks out and this year was no exception. In partnership with the AV Club, Tim Tuten and company hosted a two-day bash of diverse indie and old-school talent ( Neko Case, The Walkmen, Nude Beach, Young the Giant, Mavis Staples ) on a personable but large scale. This was the festival that was so friendly you could take your mother, and many did.

2. ) Riot Fest Chicago, Sept. 13-15: Lollapalooza may have had the hype but this year's line-up was undeniably blah ( The Killers, The Cure, Imagine Dragons ) and Perry Farrell's personable vibe was replaced with a faceless corporate coldness.

By comparison, the Chicago edition of Riot Fest kept its personality and the line-up ( Saul Williams, Pennywise, The Violent Femmes, The Pixies, Fall Out Boy, and the must-see attraction of The Replacements' reunion ) smoked, but there was something else: goodwill toward humanity, including the LGBT community. It was hardly a coincidence that Williams ranted about queer inclusion, that out rockers Bob Mould and Joan Jett had showcase sets, or that Laura Ann Grace of Against Me! made her Chicago debut after transitioning from being Tom Gable.

For such a huge festival ( 84 acts on five stages ), Riot Fest was not only inclusive, with more female performers ( Debbie Harry, Alex White of White Mystery, Pauline Black of The Selecter, Xene Cervenka of X, and newer faces Dessa and Kitten ), queerness ( Mould, Jett, and gay fave Blondie ) and musicians of color ( the Japanese Peelander-Z, Public Enemy, Williams and The Selecter ) but it managed to be everything for everybody without showing a strain—and, yes, it sold out.

3. ) Market Days 2013, Aug. 10-11: As someone who had grown bored with the traditional close of gay summer known as Market Days, I have to admit that the last two have forced me to change my opinion. This year the weather behaved ( so there was plenty of eye candy ) and, though I sniggered at portions of the line-up ( David Cassidy? Aaron Carter? Wilson Phillips? ), other sections were revelations. There were Cherie Currie of The Runaways ( still hot and blunt ), Aiden Leslie ( ditto ), junior-league divas Kat Graham and Alexis Jordan ( saucy and brisk ), Andy Bell ( gay royalty at its finest ) and, ahem, Cassidy ( charming and fun ) and Carter ( goofy and animated ). I missed Branden James and Steve Grand but I had so much fun with what I did see that I didn't care. Market Days seems to get better and better as the years go by.

4. ) The Department of Cultural Events: If I acknowledged the 2013 Chicago Blues Festival, the Monday Music Series, Chaka Khan's birthday bash or 2013s A Taste of Chicago, individually they would consume both parts of this article. That the city, despite ongoing fiscal woes, could find a way to present high-quality live performances not once, twice, or once in a while but weekly says something grand about this town.

Of course, I couldn't see everything but what I did see will stay with me forever. Shemekia Copeland tearing into the blues with giddy delight ( Blues Fest ); Genevieve Schatz of Company of Theives hurling herself into a rapture; Little Ed ripping through a set of traditional South Side blues with the glee of a 6-year-old ( both at Taste ); Glen Hansard drugging his SRO audience with a powerhouse performance of his "Mind Made Up" ( the Monday Series ); and fun. furiously stomping through a merry sing-a-long of "We Are Young" as if the fate of the Western Hemisphere depended on it ( Taste ).

But there was more, much much more. Jill Scott's performance radiated pure joy, The Mowglis' spontaneous set had the audience romping in the aisles, Kelly Hogan wove a spell of heartbreak and desire in the early setting sun, Robin Thicke celebrated his ascension as the year's stud muffin ( all three were at Taste ) and Chaka Khan reclaimed the title of "diva" with a stiletto-edged vengeance.

Sure, the parking-meter deal is a sham, the school system is fucked, the mayor is despised, the cost of living here is tilting upwards, public transportation is a mess and although the murder rate has dropped dramatically, it's not a done deal. Thanks to Cindy Gatziolis, Mary May and Erin Bauer of the Office of Special Events, Chicago is still a hell of a town.

What I listened to in 2013:


1. ) "Skyfall"-Adele

2. ) "( Gimme the ) Drugs"-LoveHammers

3. ) "Love Kills"-Her Bright Skies

4. ) "The Boys Are Back"-Dropkick Murphy

5. ) "Mirrors"-Maston

6. ) "Retrograde"-James Blake

7. ) "Would that Not be Nice?"-The Divine Fits

8. ) "Ain't It Fun?"-Paramore

9. ) "Still Into You"-Paramore

10. ) "Blurred Lines"-Robin Thicke

11. ) "All American Boy"-Steve Grand

12. ) "I Go to Sleep"-Maston


1. ) Shadows-Maston ( Trouble in Mind Records )

2. ) Set Fire-LoveHammers ( REEP Records )

3. ) Signed and Sealed in Blood-Dropkick Murphy ( Born and Bred Records )

4. ) Nothing Was the Same-Drake ( Universal )

5. ) A Thing Called Divine Fits-Divine Fits ( Merge Records )

6. ) The Life of Pi film soundtrack ( Sony Masterworks )

7. ) The Diving Board-Elton John ( Capitol/Mercury )

8. ) Nomad-Omara "Bombino" Moctar ( Nonesuch Records )

9. ) The Next Day-David Bowie ( ISO Records )

10. ) Play Nice-Donora ( Rostrum Records )

11. ) For the Baby Doll-Nick Tremulis ( 52 Recordings Records )

12. ) Paramore ( Fueled by Ramen )

This article shared 5732 times since Tue Dec 31, 2013
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