I've got a whole city to hold down

June 21, 2004

Leo lets 'em peek

Beginning around midnight Saturday and stretching into the tiny hours of Sunday morning, 100 in-the-know scenesters and various other fortunate souls at the Hideout got an early, live preview of Shake the Sheets, the forthcoming fourth album from agit-pop rocker Ted Leo and his thundering rhythm section the Pharmacists.

After a warm-up set by local pop quartet the Changes (whose gear Leo and the Pharmacists borrowed) and a typically raucous introduction from Hideout co-owner Tim Tuten (whose comments referencing the president subbed a middle name with the initials M.F. for the more conventional W.), the paint-peeling power trio played the 11 new Shake the Sheets songs start to finish, then closed with a few back-catalog chestnuts ("The Great Communicator," "Under the Hedge," etc.) and Leo's solo cover of the Pogues' "Dirty Old Town."

The stealthily organized Hideout gig followed a Leo/Pharmacists appearance at the Taste of Randolph Street festival. It was the third down-low Hideout show by a high-profile indie act in recent months, coming a week after the Handsome Family celebrated their wedding anniversary onstage as the Winnebago Skeletons and not long since the Frames commandeered the tiny back room while in town with Damien Rice.

Credit for lining up the secret show goes to talent buyer Chris Baroner of Metro and to Leo's Chicago-based booking agency, Flower. As Disc Jockey CB, Baroner was leading his regular Life During Wartime dance party at the Hideout on Saturday. (Click that link and check 'em out, if only as thanks for the above Ted photo: We borrowed it without asking.)

The secret was well-kept. With the show unmentioned on the club's web site and its e-mail list silent, word spread only through Randolph Street whispers. At the Hideout, confirmation finally came in the form of a hastily printed sign ("Life During Wartime presents the Changes and Ted Leo/Pharmacists") by the door. At midnight, a crowd had gathered there, but the club was full.

Among the lucky few inside were members of the Shins, who played sold-out gigs at the House of Blues on Friday and Saturday and spent the second day recording a soundtrack contribution at Brian Deck's Engine Studios.

The new Leo/Pharmacists disc was finished in early June and is set for October release on Lookout! Records.