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By Andy Argyrakis
Andrew Bird Weekend Report: Indie rockers infiltrate Illinois tour
Friday, September 21, 2007
It may not be the size of the currently defunct Intonation extravaganza or possess the varied scope of Pitchfork's annual soiree, but Pygmalion Music Festival corrals over 70 national and regional indie rockers into Illinois. The marathon experience kicked off Wednesday, though the big guns come out this weekend winding around the Champaign-Urbana area, thanks in part to curators from the Nicodemus Agency and Polyvinyl Records. Previous installments of third annual event hosted the likes of Mates of State, Of Montreal and Appleseed Cast (to name a mere handful), while this year is co-headlined by Andrew Bird and Okkervil River.

Bird takes the top spot on Saturday with Dianogah opening, though the day also features the eclectic variations of troubadour Denison Witmer, power poppers The Redwalls and the DJ sounds of ?uestlove (of The Roots fame). Bound
StemsSaturday includes sets by Casiotone for The Painfully Alone, Shapes and Sizes, Yeasayer, Bound Stems, Elsinore, The Foundry Field Recordings, Via Audio, Awesome Car Funmaker and Robots Counterfeiting Money (amongst many others).

Though Pygmalion may not be a household name at this point, it falls a mere week after the acclaimed Austin City Limits Festival and serves as a three week precursor to the CMJ Music Marathon. But aside from tiding over obsessed fans of today's indie darlings, the event is sure to be a launching pad for completely undiscovered talent. In any case, a complete list of the line-up and corresponding concert venues can be found at http://2007.pygmalionmusicfestival.com/.
Black Francis Black Francis is back, Young minus C,S & N tour
Thursday, September 20, 2007
After officially returning to his Black Francis moniker on record with the September 11 release Bluefinger (Cooking Vinyl), Frank Black is following up the effort with an October tour. Though he couldn't corral The Pixies back into the studio for a reunion recording, he's attempting to channel the band's sound on the solo release and will hopefully inject some of its older material in upcoming set lists. "John Lennon and Yoko Ono claimed the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969," muses the singer/songwriter. "The Pixies headlined their first big rock show in Holland in 1988. Herman Brood reclaimed the Hilton for his country in 2001, and now I feel he has even claimed back the Pixies, or at least me, Black Francis."

Neil Young also steps away from the recently reformed Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young for an ambitious new solo album and concert outing. After spending the last few years with protest material, he turns to a more traditional roots rock approach for the October 16 album Chrome Dreams II (Reprise). The disc is slatedNeil Young to include eight new original tunes plus re-workings of two golden oldies, though concertgoers will score a sneak preview of the project prior to the show. With every ticket order (of three seats or less) fans will score a free copy of the CD, while orders of four tickets score two free discs.

Burgeoning indie staple Machine Records just inked the new act Stukenberg (pronounced "stoo-ken-berg"), who recently recorded twelve tunes for the label debut Mountain of Pieces. Expect an array of optimistic lyrics over 60s-inspired pop with occasional Latin-flavored flourishes, strings and piano progressions. Any online orders before October score a signed and limited numbered CD at the following link:
www.machine-inc.com/index_stukenberg_store_direct.htm.
Niva Bringas Rock photographer remembered, Lennox launches solo tour
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The world of rock and roll photographers lost one of its veteran shooters last week when the Chicago-based Niva Bringas passed away at 43. The primary photo editor of Midwest Beat was also the longtime studio and tour photographer for Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and most recently, photographer/tour manager for troubadour Michael McDermott. Bringas' other credits included a secretarial role in the Chicago Professional Photographers Association, along with appearances in the Chicago Sun-Times, Rolling Stone and numerous album covers.

On a brighter note, Eurythmics leader Annie Lennox steps into the solo spotlight again for her first album and tour since co-headlining with Sting in 2004. The singer/songwriter Annie Lennoxdrops the entirely new CD Songs of Mass Destruction (Arista) on October 2, hitting the road this fall for a limited major market tour. The jaunt will play to a series of intimate venues (and are likely to sell out within seconds of going on sale) focusing on the new CD, solo and band hits.

Lennox will also be featured on another forthcoming fall album in the form of Aretha Franklin's Jewels In the Crown: All-Star Duets With the Queen (RCA). The feisty females turn in a vibrant version of "Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves" on the November 13 release, also featuring a slew of heavy hitters from a variety of genres. The diva teams with Keith Richards for a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Jumping Jack Flash," hip-hop heroine Mary J. Blige for "Don't Waste My Time," jazz man George Benson on "Love All The Hurt Away" and the late great Frank Sinatra via "What Now My Love."
PopMart Street Date: PopMart and Cash TV to DVD
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
In 1997, U2 reemerged following a few years off with one of its most outrageous and outlandish phases to date- the Pop album area and subsequent tour. Though the project was somewhat popular, it received mixed critical reviews given its overt commercial leanings and over the top production, as chronicled on the subsequent live VHS documentation PopMart Live from Mexico City (Island/Interscope/UME). From walking out to a remixed version of M's "Pop Muzik" to a grand scene where members popped out of a giant lemon, the project is full of eye candy and spectacle (unlike the band's much more minimalist tours of the 2000s). Faithful fans and newcomers alike can judge period preferences for themselves with this DVD re-release, featured in single disc format as a full concert or a double disc edition with bonus tracks and documentary footage.

The vaults open up even deeper to unearth footage from The Man in Black's famed television variety show. The Best of the Johnny Cash TV Show 1969-1971 (Sony/Columbia/Legacy) chronicles his role as host and primary performer, but also features a cavalcade of vintage guest stars and collaborations. Performers include Bob DylanJohnny Cash ("I Threw It All Away" alone and "Girl From the North Country" with Cash), Creedence Clearwater Revival for "Bad Moon Rising," Loretta Lynn come "I Know How" and the Roy Orbison/Cash tag team on "Oh, Pretty Woman."

Also cut from a similar country cloth, Emmylou Harris turns in a four CD box and one DVD box set covering her expansive, genre crossing career. The self-explanatory Songbird: Rare Tracks and Forgotten Gems (Rhino) includes a cavalcade of special guests including Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Rodney Crowell, Daniel Lanois and Mark Knopfler. All in all, forty years of Harris' favorites and b-sides make for a die-hard's ultimate prize, while also revealing the tunesmith's influence on multiple folk-flavored generations.
Aretha Synth star reloaded, Dream concert
Monday, September 17, 2007
Not only is the stellar soul streaked line-up something out of a dream, but it coincides with the vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his peace keeping efforts. Tomorrow's The Dream Concert features an all-star line-up spearheaded by Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin, alongside guitar wizard Carlos Santana, rappers Usher and Ludacris, piano man John Legend, gospel greats BeBe and CeCe Winans, relative newcomers Robin Thicke and Joss Stone, plus country crooner Garth Brooks. The marathon event hits Radio city Music Hall with proceeds benefiting the National Memorial Project Foundation.

Synth star Howard Jones may not have been as active on the charts as of late, but his concert calendar is chock full of prominent dates. For the UK's World Peace Day celebration on September 21, he'll conduct a choir and at New York City's tribute to Elton John and Bernie Taupin on October 10,Howard Jones he'll perform alongside Lloyd Cole, Aimee Mann, Shawn Colvin and Phoebe Snow (amongst many others). He'll also carve out a full-fledged acoustic run throughout America with guitarist Robin Boult in support of his latest CD Revolution - Remixed & Surrounded.

Fresh off the festival circuit, De Novo Dahl links up with Hot Hot Heat for a tour of the States behind its debut Shout EP (Roadrunner). Outside of its country laced indie rock sounds, the band promises an over the top stage show, complete with flashy fashions. "Rock bands today often don't really put on a show," says front man Joel J. Dahl. "I like it when someone's trying something early Genesis or KISS would do, like wearing costumes or really leaving your mark on an audience that says 'Whoa, this wasn't like the last 50 times I've been to a show!'"

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