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Bucktown Arts Fest Snags "The Best Band In America" For Saturday Headliner

By Kim Bellware in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 22, 2012 7:30PM

Wussy riot. (Photo by Jay Brown/

If you take the "Dean of American Rock Critics" Robert Christgau at his word, the Cincinnati-based quartet Wussy is the best band no one's heard of. And if you're looking to change that, the group makes a rare stop in Chicago at this weekend's Bucktown Arts Fest.

Christgau praised Wussy as "the best band in America" while lamenting their stubborn obscurity (and bitterly noting that Pitchfork has yet to mention the band once in its digital pages). In his March column, Christgau mostly sidesteps rock critic snobbery (save the "my friends and I are the only ones who know about these guys" bit) to get at what's important: Why Wussy is a great band, and yet fails to make waves with a larger audience.

Fronted by singer-guitarists Chuck Cleaver and Lisa Walker, the duo's alternately sweet and shaggy harmonies are the tentpole of Wussy's charm. Both are fine singers, though Walker's winsome voice is the more affecting of the two, even when singing about pizza or asteroids.

Vaguely roots-rock at the core, Wussy's music tends to unravel—marvelously—into shaggy, scuzzy drone when it breaks from the melodic fingerpicking and folk-shaded style. Wussy handles acoustic numbers as handily as it does experimental-sounding drone guitar, sort of like a band with dissociative identity disorder harmoniously fusing Sonic Youth, R.E.M. and Neil Young into one functional entity.

Whether or not listeners put stock in Christgau's words, his 2,000+ word valentine certainly stokes curiosity in the band. And of course, superlatives like "best band in America" are tempting; if summer festival fatigue hasn't set in yet, Wussy's Saturday headlining slot in the Bucktown Arts Fest will be the only chance Chicagoans have for a while to hear the group before they depart for their European tour.

Wussy plays 6 p.m. Sat. Aug. 25 at the Bucktown Arts Fest, Senior Citizens Memorial Park (at Oakley and Lyndale)