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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Pop Making Sense
by David Byrne with Tony Peregrin
2013-07-09

This article shared 3414 times since Tue Jul 9, 2013
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New York drag fixture Lady Bunny is best known for her sharp wit, organizing the festival Wigstock and having hilarious cameo appearances on RuPaul's Drag U. Few know that the leggy blonde is a DJ as well as a singer. The legendary Bunny just released the summer anthem "Take Me up High."

Here, Bunny shows off a soulful, raspy voice over some big, funky beats and a catchy chorus that will spice up any party or playlist. Remixes are available from Edison Pride, True2Life and Wayne Numan. The fun, funk feel of "Take Me up High" should be no surprise, as the icon once covered Shirley & Company's classic "Shame, Shame, Shame." Bunny also sings on RuPaul's "Lick It Lollipop." "Take Me up High" is available now via Amazon and iTunes.

Being of the MTV generation, I really love a good storyline music video. Enter Steve Grand's "All-American Boy," which depicts the familiar tale of a gay kid with unreciprocated feelings for a straight friend, but this time at a rural bonfire party with whiskey in a flask. And how times have changed; just compare the ending of this clip to its British predecessor "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat.

"All-American Boy" marks the first single for the openly gay country singer-songwriter. There is enough of a pop flavor to garner crossover potential, just as Taylor Swift proved possible with her many multi-format hits. Grand's good looks and the accompanying video solidify the song's appeal. "All-American Boy" can be purchased at stevegrand.bandcamp.com .

Prior to the release of her first outing with Warner Music Nashville, Sheryl Crow is coming Ravinia on Friday, July 19. As a teaser for the upcoming album Feels Like Home, the Grammy-winner issued the feel-good single "Easy." A jump to country is not a far cry for the talented breast cancer survivor. Crow's breakthrough Tuesday Night Music Club features "Strong Enough" and "No One Said It Would Be Easy," which suit country and pop genres alike. Feels Like Home is due out in September.

Empire of the Sun returns with Ice on the Dune. The Australian twosome holds on tightly to its '80s inspirations with its blend of synthesizers, pop hooks and uplifting choruses, as heard on "DNA," "Alive" and "Celebrate." Never short on theatrics, Empire of the Sun performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live with spectacular headpieces, war paint, gold alien dancers on top of its sci-fi influences to the crowd's delight. Fans of MGMT and Scissor Sisters should check out Ice on the Dune.

Burlesque revivalist Dita von Teese oozes sexuality. The Michigan-born artist is bringing her Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray! Variety Show to House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., for four performances over the course of three nights starting Thursday, July 11. The stunningly beautiful von Teese has appeared in music videos, most notably "Up in the Air" by 30 Seconds from Mars and "mOBSCENE" by her ex-husband, Marilyn Manson. She even lends her vocals and stars as an emotionally-confined housewife in the clip "Disintegration" by French electronic duo Monarchy.

Female indie rock band Savages reached the top 20 in its native Britain with its debut, Silence Yourself. This is not cute, glossy rock by any means, Silence Yourself is very post-punk influenced and gruff. Comparisons to Joy Division are undeniable upon listening to "She Will," just as "No Face" and "Husbands" recall early Siouxsie and the Banshees. Savages will be at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., for two nights, but with different supporting acts at each concert. On Thursday, July 18, Savages will be joined by Parquet Courts and on Friday, July 19 the quartet will be with Sky Ferreira and Johnny Hostile.

As an alternative to Chicago's many music festivals, I returned to Festival International de Jazz de Montreal. The 10-day celebration draws masses of spectators and most of the performances are free to the public. I bopped around the blocks closed off to traffic, taking in a variety of acts with unique styles.

Canadian blues rocker David Gogo was promoting his latest Come on Down. Right from the start I was smitten with his ZZ Top-meets-George Thorogood sound, as he united guitar riffs with a heavy-hearted organ. Gogo delivered fantastic covers like Ray Charles's "Let's Get Stoned" and the James Brown classic "It's a Man's World." But he surprised me most with a bluesy spin on Michael Jackson's pop hit "The Way You Make Me Feel."

After Gogo's set, I could hear a woman from afar singing her tail off. It was rising Broadway star Morgan James, who just did a live tribute album to Nina Simone last year. Her set was highlighted by new arrangements of Simone's "I Put a Spell on You," a cover of Aretha's Franklin's '60s gem "Save Me" and Prince's "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore." James also previewed new material like "Drowning" to her massive audience.

Even though I was far from the Windy City, I also caught the Chicago collective Mucca Pazza. With more than 20 people on stage, the instrumental set was full of marching band and cheer squad humor. The audience enjoyed the physical comedy, so it was very Revenge of the Nerds indeed. Other artists at Festival International de Jazz de Montreal range from quirky alternative pop duo She & Him to soul veteran Bettye LaVette.


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