Posts tagged ‘biased’

Music: The Future Laureates and Todd Kessler & The New Folk at Double Door

FULL DISCLOSURE: My brother-in-law is a member of The Future Laureates. If I write something bad about them, Grandma Helen will kick my ass. I know that too many of my posts are full of disclosed conflicts. I promise we’ll attend something soon where I don’t know anybody in the play or the band or whatever.

As I mention here, our weekly theater allowance is really a live performance allowance. So it encompasses music and whatever other live performance we decide to attend. And on Wednesday, April 28th, we’re going to go see Over The Rhine at Space in Evanston. I’m trying to get Amy to write a guest post on that one… stay tuned.

But as I said, my brother-in-law is in The Future Laureates, and this was their first gig at Double Door. ¿Muy bueno, sí? We were pretty excited to go, and Amy’s parents came into town, too. Most of the bands that were on the bill are members of the Chicago Roots Collective, which is a more diverse group than that name suggests. Todd Kessler & The New Folk played after The Future Laureates. The Shams Band and The Giving Tree Band were also on the bill, but an intersection of other varying priorities prevented us from staying through the end.

We had a great time. The Future Laureates nearly packed the house–quite a feat for an opening act. They’re adapting quite well to a recent line-up change, after losing one of their guitarists. This change appears to have stimulated some healthy pruning and refining of the set list. Some of the sappy love songs written by the former guitarist have been replaced by new, punchier, smarter songs by Danny Surico, Matthew Daigler, James Hyde and Steve Minogue. I hope they keep writing more new songs as good as “Convert Them in Convertibles” and “Nuclear Winter.” I hope their next album is full of songs of this caliber.

I was pretty snarky about Todd Kessler & The New Folk as they were setting up. Kessler has yard-long white boy dreads, and they filled the stage with instrumentalists. I’ve seen other folky bands do this with little positive impact on the music–lap steel guitar as prop rather than valuable musical contribution. But the minute they started playing, my attitude changed. This might be the most orchestral sounding folk music I’ve ever heard; full of rich, vibrant layers of sound, particularly the horns. So, Mr. Kessler, I look forward to hearing you play again.

These bands have their own webpages, their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, albums for sale on iTunes, etc… One easy place to look for all this information is http://www.chicagorootscollective.com/. Something that is hard to find there, unfortunately, is information on upcoming shows. The Future Laureates will be playing at Loyola on April 24th, and at The Bog on April 29th according to their pretty new website. Todd Kessler & The New Folk will be playing at Space in Evanston on May 19th, according to their Facebook page.

Since the theme of this blog is affordable live performance, we paid full price: $10 for each ticket. It was a magnificent bargain, even if the beer is overpriced at Double Door.

Orange Flower Water by BackStage Theatre Company

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m on the Board of BackStage Theatre Company. I’m even the Chair of the Marketing Committee. So you should basically ignore everything I write here, as it is undoubtedly an instance of utterly biased shilling.

OK, so given my involvement, how should I write critically about a BackStage production? My job on the Board is partly to be a cheerleader for the company, after all. I suppose now that the show has closed, I can’t do anything good or bad for this production’s box office or audience reception, but there is always the next show and next season to consider. Maybe the smartest thing to do is simply to keep it honest and brief.

Since I’ve been coming to BackStage productions, I’ve seen two excellent realistic kitchen sink dramas (and zero bad ones). Both were under-appreciated, and both featured Jason Huysman and Tony Bozzuto. The first was On An Average Day, last season at Chemically Imbalanced Theater. Frankly, I can’t think of a better set for that hole-in-the-wall than the disgusting infested kitchen that seemed to grow organically from my friend Heath Hays’ imagination into full realization in every nook and cranny of the Chemically Imbalanced performing space. I really wish more people had seen that show.

For the next one, Craig Wright’s Orange Flower Water, Huysman and Bozzuto were joined by the excellent Maggie Kettering and Shelley Nixon. All displayed a level of real courage and intense focus to be so emotionally bare, in such a very small, intimate space. Intimate is certainly the best word to describe this production. Jessica Keuhnau’s and Brandon Wardell’s simple, effective set, beautifully lit by Jared Moore, consisted of a square rotating platform, with a queen size bed on it, set at a 45 degree angle to all four banks of surrounding seats. Wallpapered walls behind the audience put us all in corners of a bedroom, very very close to two disintegrating marriages. And the cast, directed by New Leaf Theatre’s Artistic Director, Jessica Hutchinson, met this intimate audience with a subtlety of craft that drew us in and wouldn’t let us out. After this production, I would never like to see Orange Flower Water produced behind a proscenium. It would be too disappointingly distant.

I do have a complaint about the costume design, by Laura Kollar. I am not sure why these Minnesotans were wearing Bears and Cubs licensed attire. This and other costume choices were sloppy in an otherwise tight production.

BackStage’s website has a new feature. The page for each show has a comments section, where anybody can share their thoughts or reactions. There are some good ones here and here about Orange Flower Water.

Price: Full price to BackStage productions is $20. Amy and I are subscribers, though, so we got 3 tickets for $45, bringing this cost to $15 per ticket. Naturally, I think this is a great value, and think you should subscribe, too, when subscriptions go on sale later this spring. BackStage’s final show of the season is Edward Albee’s Play About the Baby. It opens tonight!