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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005 06:50 pm

Resident Zinn

Hooking up with a historian and blowing up society, too

Resident Genius
When local indie-rock band Resident Genius formed more than three years ago, its members put working with social activist/historian Howard Zinn on their wish list of band projects. Jason Perry, the band’s singer/songwriter/guitarist, originally contacted Zinn for words of wisdom for a master’s-degree project, then pitched his idea of a spoken-word/music recording. “We traveled eight hours to meet Zinn in person,” says Resident Jason (the group’s members have a curious habit of calling one other “Resident,” followed by the band member’s first name). “He immediately jumped aboard and was very warm to the idea.” That proved the easiest part of the project. Resident Chris (Chris Stroud, bassist on the project), who worked with Perry to sift through hours of taped speeches, had a hard time swallowing the politics of the outspoken Zinn. Because Illinois Times prides itself on being a family paper, we are unable to publish what Stroud has to say on the subject, but we can report that the six-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps (semper fi, Resident Chris) is no longer a member of Resident Genius.
As they say, anything good is worth waiting for, and the finished project is delightful social commentary. The six songs by Resident Genius are strong, singsongy pop with an edge, all with enough political criticism to mix well with speeches by Zinn that have been selected from the archives of Roger Leisner’s Radio Free Maine. The CD, snappily titled You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship, was released nationally on Oct. 11 through San Francisco’s AK Press and Chicago’s Thick Records and is available locally at Recycled Records. Throughout the process, the band stressed a strong local presence and a weak desire to make a buck. Jeff Williams of NIL8, Robbie Kording of the Timmys, and Jimmy Hopper, father of band member Benjamin Hopper, are featured as guest vocalists. Other locals on the recording include founding and former Resident Genius member Trish Anderson and Illinois Symphony Orchestra cellist Abby Eddy. “We turned down an invitation to record at some fancy Chicago-area studio and opted to stay loyal to our buddy Joe Tury at Red Room Recording in Williamsville,” says Perry, “and we’re donating all proceeds to Alternative Radio [Boulder, Colo.] and Radio Free Maine, thus not giving the band a dime of profit — and we’re totally fine with that.”
Resident Genius, along with Red Dress, Electric Snow, and Hannalie, celebrates the release of You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship with an all-ages show at 217 Skate Shop at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22.
You should go see the Cigar Store Indians this Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Underground City Tavern (700 E. Adams St., 217-789-1530). They play danceable songs at a decent volume, keeping it comfortable with a good mix of originals and covers, swaying from rockabilly to swing with an occasional knock-your-socks-off tune. The Georgia natives make it our way about twice a year and are hawking a new CD on this trip north.
The Rock Shop hosts guitar maker Paul Reed Smith at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, in the Illinois Room of the Hilton Springfield. Smith makes some of the most finely crafted guitars in the world and the quality-to-price ratio of a PRS ax is a blessing upon this world. The clinic features a talk by and Q & A session with Smith, who is celebrating 20 years of making Paul Reed Smith guitars.
Just in case you were wondering, yes, Vanilla Ice is performing at Karma Nightclub (625 N. First St., 217-522-1907) on Saturday, Oct. 22. Love him, hate him or whatever him, this is your chance to see the Ice up close and personal. Local entertainer Oz Land opens the show around 9 p.m.
John Hartford, in my humble opinion, was one of the great talents of our generation. And Bob Carlin, who is considered by many as the foremost claw-hammer, Appalachian-style banjo picker living today, was one of Hartford’s dearest friends. They performed together live and played on each other’s albums for many years until Hartford’s untimely death a few years ago. This Friday, Oct. 21, at 6 and 10 p.m., Carlin, along with local musicians, pays tribute to his gone but not forgotten pickin’ pal out at Turasky’s Steakhouse and Saloon on old Route 36 (217-364-5451) in Dawson.
Mr. Opporknockity fans won’t want to miss the release of Mr. Othology, a three-and-a-half hour MP3 CD collection of everything the band has recorded, plus a bunch of live tracks and early versions of songs before Mr. O was Mr. O. The $20 single disk also contains commentary and recording notes on many of the songs. Pick it up at their Friday, Oct. 21, gig at the Forty-Niner Bye-Bye (518 Bruns Lane, 217-787-4937).
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