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Cap’n Jazz: Catch them before they split once again into ‘individual pieces’

Cap’n Jazz is back from a long hiatus, which is good news for their devoted fan base, as well as you, the interested Pygmalion Festival attendee or broke musical fan trying to live vicariously through your friends with wristbands. No matter what category you fit into, there’s no good excuse for you not to go see them, because the show is completely free.

The Chicago-based quintet has played only a few dates over the past year (with only a few left to come) but they will be on stage in the lobby at the Krannert Center this Saturday at 10:30 p.m. They’ll be playing what’s dubbed as an “Afterglow” show, part of a big night at Pygmalion, which starts off at 7:30 p.m. with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, followed by Roky Erickson with Okkervil River at 8:45.

Brothers Tim and Mike Kinsella originally formed Cap’n Jazz back in high school in 1989, along with Sam Zurick and Victor Villareal. Tim and Sam were both a part of their high school literary magazine, Circus, where Tim wrote poems about being beaten up for being an “art fag,” wrote little stories for Sam, and drew the first Cap’n Jazz t-shirts (none were actually printed until this year).

Cap’n Jazz underwent several changes over the years, including name changes, and added guitarist and vocalist Davey von Bohlen in 1994. The band released their only full-length album, Burritos, Inspiration Point, Fork Balloon Sports, Cards in the Spokes, Automatic Biographies, Kites, Kung Fu, Trophies, Banana Peels We’ve Slipped on and Egg Shells We’ve Tippy Toed Over (also referred to as the easier to remember, yet less fun, Shmap’n Shmazz) in 1995 before they broke up shortly after in July of 1995.

The reunion came in January 2010 as part of Joan of Arc’s Don’t Mind Control Variety Show. Their first official reunion show was in Louisville at the Forecastle Festival this past July, followed by a couple of shows in Chicago in support of the vinyl re-release of Analphabetapolothology, a compilation of their complete recorded works. Even after all that time, the decision to play together again was not one that was highly discussed.

“I got a phone call, and that seemed to be that. Fans have been really excited and great, so it helps us have fun with it,” von Bohlen said.

The band has been busy in preparations and, according to von Bohlen, he hasn’t even had much time to even think about the show. “[There are] no expectations for us. We will play all the songs we have. They are two minutes long, so it is easy to play a lot of them,” he said. “Festivals always have a slightly different feel, so at the very worst, they are a new experience. I don’t think about it that hard, mostly I enjoy playing any show.”

If you’re not familiar with Cap’n Jazz you may have heard of one or more of the bands that swirl around the Cap’n Jazz universe. Band members have also been responsible for a variety of other acts and sounds over the past couple of decades, including Joan of Arc, Make Believe, Owls (comprised of all of Cap’n Jazz’s members except von Bohlen), Owen, Ghosts and Vodka, American Football, and the von Bohlen founded The Promise Ring, as well as Vermont, an acoustic project fronted by von Bohlen. These acts brought an eclectic mix of sound, going from the louder punk-pop rock of Cap’n Jazz, to the sparse art rock of Joan of Arc, and the upbeat pop of The Promise Ring

“I always thought that our bands after Cap’n Jazz were the individual pieces, that if put back together would form Cap’n Jazz-ish. It makes sense to me that after Cap’n Jazz came Joan of Arc, The Promise Ring, American Football, Owen, Ghosts and Vodka, etc,” von Bohlen said. “We realized that there might be something to revisiting [Cap’n Jazz], and putting a slightly better finish on it. We aren’t teenagers, so naturally we work together better,” he added.

If seeing the show on Saturday doesn’t quite fulfill your Cap’n Jazz need, you can also catch Mike Kinsella’s side-project, Owen, today at the Krannert Art Museum at 9:45 p.m.

According to von Bohlen there are no plans for another Cap’n Jazz album, so it’s best to get all you can while you still have the opportunity. “We wanted to do a handful of shows, so when they’re over I suppose so will we be,” he said.

Did I mention that the show is FREE?

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