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Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011 03:01 am

Wacked out Waco Brothers

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The Waco Brothers perform Sat. Jan. 22 at Bar None.

By any estimation the Waco Brothers are considered one of the finest purveyors of punk and country, folk and rock, tradition and innovation, performing on the American scene today. Many critics and fans alike rave and rail about the band as “the best live rock band on the planet” and “a force to behold live” and admit to being taken to “rock and roll nirvana” by their live performances. The group, based in Chicago, consists of lovely ne’er-do-wells Jon Langford (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Steve Goulding (Mekons, Pine Valley Cosmonauts, Graham Parker & the Rumour), Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones), Deano (Dollar Store, Wreck), Tracy Dear (World’s Greatest Living Englishman) and Marc Durante (KMFDM) and simply revels in churning out raucous and raw renditions of anything from anywhere, but stay focused on pumped up roots music from the folk and country canon.

Spearheaded by Langford, an Englishman by birth, a revolutionary by trade and an artist by actions, the band dwells in that special land of artist devotion ruled by intentional debauchery to fuel the emotions, driven by desire to be different while walking the edge of spontaneity, planning for a few falls in order to scale the heights of improvisational beauty. But that’s not to say everyone’s a fan. Do not come prepared to see a highly polished, finely tuned machine of music industry and show business. In fact the opposite is in order as the Waco Brothers thrive on the miraculous moment of novelty creating a practiced session of inventiveness bordering on the ludicrous with a heavy leaning of ridiculousness, but always backed by fine musicianship, as silly as that may sound.

Signed to independent label Bloodshot Records of Chicago, the group released several recordings since its inception in 1995, with the most recent The Waco Express, a 2008 live set from Schuba’s, a heralded, small but mighty, venue on Chicago’s north side. The band could be considered a collective as each member performs in several different groups and participates in other outside endeavors. The term fits as well into their revolutionary approach to life and culture, of using the sense of art as more than expression of emotion, reaching beyond to a way of being that considers living a springboard for enrichment of the soul and betterment of the planet. Song subjects of the Waco Brothers give away this sentiment with objects of their attention including right-wing radicals, the Bushes, commercial music radio and other favorite notions sure to delight hardcore punkers and left-leaners everywhere. Politely they infuse this with danceable rock to make it palatable to those who care not for the lyrical content, but come to boogie-woogie.

That should be enough to entice those few poor souls unaware of the Waco Brothers legacy to come for a listen and an experience when they plop into Bar None on Sat., Jan 22 for a late night show. Cover is $15.

In other interesting news about town, we find Jeff Williams, the singing, guitar-playing, songwriting brother in Nil8, Springfield’s longest running, most popular, original band, set to unveil his latest collection of artworks at Robert Morris Gallery downtown on Adams. The showing, cryptically titled Autonomatonophobia, opens on Jan. 25 and runs through March 18. Take a stroll through the Hilton this weekend for a good probability of bumping into an Elvis look-alike in town for the Midwest Tribute to the King competition. I recommend taking someone along without warning of the sightings ahead and watch for that look of confusion and surprise at seeing so many grown men wearing jumpsuits in adoration of Elvis Presley. Truly a mid-winter thrill similar to watching migrations of birds and noting the time of year, it’s a powerful rite of passage in central Illinois for quite some time now.

Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.

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