Monday, June 14, 2010

The Futureheads @ Lincoln Hall (6/12/10)

The Futureheads concluded its first U.S. tour in four years with a blasting show at Lincoln Hall in support of their fourth album The Chaos. The quartet hammered out a set that delivered song after song at a breakneck pace that left the crowd little time to catch its breath. It was a night of catching up with the band from Sunderland, England rather than becoming reacquainted after so long. The band and its fans were certainly happy to see each other again.

Having gone through the down time caused by singer/guitarist Barry Hyde’s tendonitis, which led to the band pulling its U.S. tour in 2006, and the eventual split from its record label, 679 Recordings, The Futureheads walked on stage with confidence and joy. There was a sense that this band, still relatively young in its career, had a strong grasp of its identity and direction.

Launching into songs like “Walking Backwards” and “Heartbeat Song,” the band left no note unturned. The jittering stop-start motion of the songs immediately captured the crowd as their bodies matched each tempo. The floor of Lincoln Hall resembled ocean waves crashing into one another. The level of fun the band was having on stage wore off on the crowd more and more throughout the night. Ross Millard wrestled and steered his guitar like a wild bull while pounding out chords that sounded like one hundred buzz saws. Drummer Dave Hyde and bassist David “Jaff” Craig kept the band’s high speed attack on course, creating an underlying weight that added to the songs’ punch.

Barry Hyde’s charisma behind the microphone showed how far he had become as a frontman while still maintaining some fun on stage. His constant engagement with the crowd broke down the stereotypical wall that sets the band apart from the audience, reducing the fans to mere spectators and not participates in the music. The Futureheads concentrated heavily on the latest album while spreading out much of its backlog like “Back To The Sea” from News & Tributes and “Carnival Kids” from the self-titled debut.

From the first second the band produced a note to the final fading sounds of feedback, The Futureheads’ energy on stage never let up. What was equally impressive was the musical progression the band showed in its latest songs. Although speed still plays a part in their music, The Futureheads have learned how to build the substance behind the mad rush. In the songs “Sun Goes Down” and “Jupiter,” mood and structure showed new dimensions in the band’s sound that perhaps some never thought the band could achieve. The performance at Lincoln Hall was by no means a pivotal moment in the band’s career, nor was it a turning point in gaining a larger audience in the U.S. The performance was simply a band doing what it continues to do best…play music.

As The Futureheads bashed out an extended encore that included “Le Garage” and “The Connector,” the crowd had found its stamina to keep up with the varied marathon speeds of the songs. The final show on the band’s return to the U.S. ended with smiles and hugs. If there was only one statement to take after the show, it would be that The Futureheads are back in gear.

Photo Courtesy of The Futureheads/MySpace Page

Saturday, June 12, 2010

50 Years of The Bunny & The Party

Hugh Hefner celebrated the 50th anniversary of his beloved Playboy Club the only way he could possibly do it…with a party. But having one party is like committing to one woman to Hefner. On June 10, fifty parties were held in fifty cities across the world to honor the half century mark of the club. So, why was I in Hammond, IN?

Ever since the first published issue of Playboy hit the newsstands in 1953 with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, Chicago has been the magazine’s home. “I think it’s an amazing thing that a guy took his dreams and made them into an amazing business, a global business,” said James Heeren (Madison, WI) of James Todd Productions, who still owns his copy of the very first issue.

As the founder, Hefner could have easily packed up Playboy and based it solely in the two media pillars of this country: Los Angeles and New York. Instead, the Midwest guy didn’t ignore his Midwest roots and allowed his business to stay centralized in the city where he was born. By 1960, the first Playboy Club opened in Chicago and lasted another twenty-six years before the last Bunny hopped along.

That said…the designated Chicago party was held at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, IN (or Whiting, IN). Now, being from the very edge of the southeast side of Chicago (literally a 5 minute drive to the casino), it was somewhat surreal to have an event such as the Playboy party just minutes from such area highlights like the vast industrial grave yard that was once Wisconsin Steel Mill, gangs, semi-cheap gas on the Illinois/Indiana border, and the fantastically named Big, Cheap, Bombs storefront (which actually blew up some time ago and is now open again adjoined to a Shell gas station).

Based inside Horseshoe’s new Venue, the often concert tailored facility was transformed into a club setting. The main floor was sandwiched between the main stage and the VIP lounge. The chosen few to be a Playboy Bunny for the night walked the grounds, posing for photos or occasionally showing off a dance move to the ultra bassed-up beats provided by DJ OB-One.

Attendees ranged from the club hopper to the khaki short wearing guy just interested in trying to cop a feel or two, often making the females working as Bunnies a tad uncomfortable. The main video screen would flash images of past Playboy Bunnies along with video from the Playboy Club days. I wondered how many of the men present would have even been allowed to look at the front door of the old Playboy Club. Certainly, fifty years hadn’t really changed the urges of the male species.

The evening’s main event was the final result of who would be named the winner of Playboy’s Chicagoland Bunny search. The final ten contestants, all chosen from various night clubs in the area, worked the crowd for cheers and votes (tallied by text messages). The emcee was Q101 DJ Steve Tingle, and he was joined by a panel of judges, which included Bridget Marquardt and Bears linebacker Lance Briggs (good to see he was enjoying his off season). In addition to Marquardt, the other Playmates in attendance were Crystal McCahill of River Forest, IL (Miss May 2009), Ida Ljungvist (Miss March 2008, Playmate of the Year 2009), and Candace Collins Jordan (Miss December 1979, Playboy Bunny of the Year 1976).

It wasn’t until well past midnight that the winner, Stephanie Miceli of V Live in Chicago, was announced to the crowd. Miceli earned the chance to be featured among other winners on Her photos will also go through a review process with Hefner for possible entry into a future issue of the magazine. As another Bunny earns her cottontail, another face is added to the Playboy Club history…fifty years and still going.

Photos By: James Heeren

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Extra! Extra!

The June issue of Chicago Innerview has been published online. In this month's issue, I contributed a feature article on The Futureheads. A direct link is below:

Chicago Innerview - The Futureheads Feature