Chicago music scene heats up during break

By Phil Collins

Just when you thought you were safe, it’s midterms season again. Rediscovering the library for the 15th time might be lacking some good old-fashioned raucousness, but in one short week, spring break begins: an entire week without classes, without anything due and hopefully without anything to worry about. While some students will be taking off to distant locations to warm up, double down, shake, stir or all of the above, plenty of us will be clicking our heels back to Kansas. I’m a suburban kid, so I’ve spent a few spring and summer nights sitting around with friends scratching our heads wondering what we could possibly do. I’m telling you right now: Get into the city because you’re going to run out of options by Monday in the suburbs. There are many concerts going on in Chicago during the week off, so if Kansas is the Chicago area for you, read on to find some cool bands and venues in your area. If you’re actually from Kansas, you should probably find somewhere to crash in Chicago instead.

Cameron McGill at The Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave., Friday, March 21 (18+, 9 p.m., $8 in advance).

As much as I love Irish sub-genres, let’s move on to indie. Chicago’s own Cameron McGill will play with a full band, including Noah Harris of The Elanors on piano. Harris was part of the band that played on McGill’s latest album, “Hold on Beauty.”

“Noah Harris and I, I feel like are just at the tip of the iceberg of what our collaboration will be over the years,” McGill said.

“Hold on Beauty” was put out through the CU label Parasol Records. McGill and his band are now on a tour that includes dates at the legendary South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

“This tour for March, we’re going to be playing songs from (“Hold on Beauty”) as well as a record that will probably be coming out in the summer,” McGill said.

He said that new record is also a full band effort and will be mostly live recordings. With his next couple albums already planned out, McGill is sure to be busy between recording and touring for quite a while.

Tally Hall at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Thursday, March 20 (18+, 8:30 p.m., $12) and Friday, March 21 (all ages, 6:30 p.m., $12).

Tally Hall is the next big thing, or at least the next medium-sized thing. They’re a funky five-some from Ann Arbor, Mich., that switches genres faster than the Daniel Street Duo were shut down last weekend. Their quirky album “Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum” will be re-released on Atlantic Records, April 1. The band touched up some tracks and entirely re-recorded others for next month’s release.

“When we first recorded it we were somewhat limited in really finding the sounds that we wanted; we got close but we didn’t really (get all the way there),” said Rob Cantor, guitarist and vocalist for Tally Hall.

You can hear the difference in the new recordings of “Good Day,” “Just Apathy” and “The Bidding,” which are posted on the band’s MySpace page. Tally Hall will be busy touring and supporting this album for a while, so although they have some new material, it likely won’t be released for some time.

The Tossers at The Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., Friday, March 14 (18+, 7:30 p.m., $16).

For those of us who can’t get enough Irish-punk, The Tossers will also get down on the first weekend of break. Songs from their 2005 album “Valley of the Shadow of Death” laced my Unofficial playlist, which went down a lot smoother than the alcohol.

The Chicago boys just released a new live CD/DVD called “Gloatin’ and Showboatin’,” featuring songs such as “No Loot, No Booze, No Fun,” “I’ve Pursued Nothing” and “Seven Drunken Nights.” The show was recorded at The Metro on St. Patrick’s Day in 2006. Will they be recording the show again this year, three days before the greenest holiday? The odds are against it, but you can bet on being tossed around on one of the craziest floors in the city. Songs like “Goodmornin’ Da” and “A Criminal of Me” take no prisoners in their rapid fire instrumental backing.

The band is coming straight off a tour in Europe stretching through Germany, France, England, Scotland and Ireland. This will be their first show back in the States, so give them an energetic welcome.

Les Claypool at The Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave., Saturday, March 22 (18+, 8 p.m., $28).

Les Claypool, also known as the singer and bassist for Primus, will perform with a touring band. Claypool has recorded several solo releases in addition to his work with Primus. In 2006, he made his feature film directorial debut with the mock-umentary style “Electric Apricot: Quest for Festeroo.” National Lampoon picked up the film, which follows the band Electric Apricot on their road through the jam band scene. The film will be released on DVD, May 13.

Gaelic Storm at The House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Saturday, March 15 and Sunday, March 16 (18+, 7:30 p.m., $32.50-$35).

Maybe you’re looking for something a little more … Irish. Los Angeles-based group Gaelic Storm comes through town during the first weekend of break. They’ve been on the Irish-punk scene for at least a decade. They take on a slightly more traditional feel than some of their genre counterparts (Flogging Molly, Dropkick Murphys), but they can still play pretty fast. Their last album called “Bring Yer Wellies” was released in 2006, but this year may see a new release from the group.

The first time I heard of Gaelic Storm was when I saw them at Irishfest in Chicago a couple years ago opening for Flogging Molly. Most people were there for the headliners, but it was easy to get into Gaelic Storm’s take on the Irish style. They tore the place up and got the crowd into it.

Fun fact: You may have seen these guys as the party band in an obscure 1997 film called “Titanic.”

Antigone Rising at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Saturday March 15 (21+, 8 p.m., $12).

If you’re a coffee drinker, you may remember seeing Antigone Rising’s album on display in Starbucks. The all-female group abandoned a contract with Atlantic Records in favor of a situation that gave them more control in the recording process. Antigone Rising does not have a contract with Starbucks, the corporation simply acts as the distributor for their album. Check out their MySpace page for a song from their yet-to-be-released album “Tales From Wonderland.”

The Flatliners at Reggie’s Rock Club, 2109 S. State St., Thursday, March 20 (18+, 10 p.m., $6).

The Flatliners are on a mondo tour around the country that will take them through the South by Southwest festival, the Midwest, over to the West Coast and out to Europe. They released the album “The Great Awake” last September, and also brought their punk sound to the “Ska is Dead” compilation. The four piece from Toronto is sharing the stage with NOFX and No Use For a Name. The Flatliners will headline the show at Reggie’s Rock Club with Cobra Skulls opening.