For their first concert in Northwest Indiana, Chicago rockers The Westies will make a “soft debut” by performing in an acoustic format at 7:30pm this Sunday (4/6) at Chicago Street Theatre (154 W. Chicago Street) in Valparaiso. Tickets: $25 with VIP Couch seats $50.
The idea to form The Westies came about after a casual Nashville recording session by well known Chicago singer/ songwriter Michael McDermott with some friends and producer/session player Lex Price (K.D. Lang, Mindy Smith). McDermott so enjoyed the “band” format of the sessions, The Westies were formed to bring those recorded songs to the concert stage.
The band introduced themselves and their Americana-flavored sound to Chicago hometown audiences via back to back sold out shows at City Winery, an appearance at American Music Festival at FitzGerald’s and a few other local gigs. The reaction was so strong McDermott decided to make it more than a side project.
“The music Michael has written with The Westies is very much McDermott music, but much more raw, stripped down and rootsy. The fact we get to have them play our stage thrills me,” said Valparaiso resident and “One Night Jam” series producer, Paul Braun.
Since the late 2013 release of the EP “West Side Stories,” a full album has been recorded by the band for a late May release both digitally and as a physical CD. Five songs from the “West Side Stories” EP are currently posted for listening on the group’s website, www.westiesmusic.com. The songs can be downloaded via iTunes. McDermott explained the forthcoming album is comprised of a song cycle inspired by the real life Westies – a ruthless gang of Irish mob punks that ruled Hell’s Kitchen in the 1960’s – and by McDermott’s own life experiences.
“I write what I know, and much of what I know, isn’t pretty,” said McDermott. “All I ever wanted to do was to write songs and tell stories, like my grandparents and parents did from a long Irish lineage. With that lineage came a proclivity for drink, for mayhem, and a wee bit of crime. It’s a fire that took some time to temper. The gangsters serve as a metaphor for the dark side that lurks inside of all of us; the unexplained forces that cause internal struggles, destroy relationships and leave us clinging to love as just a memory.”
“The Westies differ from my solo stuff particularly in its presentation,” said McDermott of the differences in performing with the band verses on his own or as a duo with wife/collaborator Heather Horton. “Songs are songs but it's the way we try and communicate them that is different,” he continued. “Thematically there are songs that are Michael McDermott songs and songs that are definitely Westies songs. With the Westies things organically develop, evolve and breathe in a much different way than with the solo stuff, so when the songs took a thematic turn and then took a different musical approach, I just felt they deserved a name other than Michael McDermott on them.” More info: www.ChicagoStreet.org or 219-464-1636.
· Every Tuesday night Redneck Sushi is now being served up fresh at the He Ain’t Here Saloon (2661 Decatur Street) in Lake Station from 8 to 11pm. Redneck Sushi is the name of a new trio comprised of local music mainstays – Travis Fugate (of Jebco Black), Marty Carr (of Shuddup & Drive) and Robbie Stains (of 2 Daze Gone). The trio performs a set of tunes to start things off each week and then open up the stage for area musicians who want to stop in and jam. More info: (219) 962-2074.
· Valparaiso University hosts its 2014 Jazz Fest from April 7 to 12 featuring a lineup of local, regional and international jazz artists, including Grammy Award-winning vocal group New York Voices. “Our commitment to presenting the highest quality professional musicians in concert as well as extraordinary performance and clinical opportunities for students of all ages continues with the 29th anniversary of the festival,” Jeff Brown, V.U.’s jazz studies coordinator and festival organizer. Music begins at 6pm nightly. Tickets available at the Harre Union Welcome Desk. More info: (219) 464-5414 or www.valpo.edu/union.
· The annual “Beatles in the Barn” fundraiser for The Northwest Indiana Food Bank takes place in the big barn at The County Line Orchard (200 S. County Line Road) in Hobart on April 12 from 6-9pm with performances by the full Chris & Lou Band, The Crawpuppies and The Mega-Beatles musical collective. Tickets for the family-friendly, all-ages event are on sale now at the Barn, online at www.countylineorchard.com and will also be available at the door.
Email Tom Lounges at email@example.com