The Riviera's stage looked eerily empty with just a keyboard and a microphone set up front and center. A massive, Simba-like illustration of James Bay's face draped the back wall of the stage, indicating the young British singer/songwriter who most of the crowd had come to see. But it was the other young British songwriter opening for him, Frances, who spoke with me yesterday. The 21-year-old is on her first American tour (it's her first time in America, period) and already seems to be on the fast track to success--her most recent single, "Borrowed Time," was co-written with Disclosure's Howard Lawrence, and her standout tracks "Grow" and "Let it Out" have garnered her a wealth of critical praise and the opportunity to work with writers like Jimmy Napes and Iain Archer on her forthcoming debut album. I was interested to see how she'd hold the crowd's attention alone on stage.
You may not know Anthony Pavel's name just yet, but soon it will be everywhere. An accomplished producer and musician, Pavel is about to release his original EP, Windows, and just dropped a unique take on Justin Bieber's coveted new R&B pop hit, "Sorry." I chatted with Pavel regarding his artistry, his upcoming release, and what called him to cover a song by the Biebs.
What pulled you to cover this top pop and R&B ballad, "Sorry," just following its release? Does this song reflect future qualities of your upcoming album, or did it strike a chord as personally meaningful to you?
Bieber has been on a tear lately, making some really great music. It usually takes a bit for a song to really latch on to me and get stuck in my head but this particular song hit me right at first listen. I couldn't stop listening to it and singing along. The song is actually right in my vocal range and it feels really natural to sing the song. I'm a huge fan of taking any good song and flipping it into a cover of my own, and I feel that this cover really does a good job of showcasing my vocal abilities and style!
One of the most interesting facets of Crown Larks' show the last two times I saw them, when they were opening for touring acts at Schubas, was that the band matched the milieu of the evening. Playing before Buke + Gase and Landlady, they allowed complex rhythms to dictate an uneven but sensical flow; playing before Yonatan Gat, they morphed into some raw, primal, shouting beast. So when they headlined The Empty Bottle's Free Monday last night, I knew I'd be hearing a different Crown Larks depending on the tone that had been set by the three preceding bands. But by the time they took the stage, there was no overarching tone, because each band that played dragged the evening in a totally new direction. The only common thread was some measure of devotion to progressive rock.
There is something about English folk singer Laura Marling and Chicago that go hand in hand. The two have such admiration for one another, feeding off each other time and time again. Her beautiful and haunting song of lingering love "David" may invoke the West, but was written in the basement of the Athenaeum Theatre in 2013, the same day it made its debut to the world. That moment of inspiration was met with an exuberant response, much like the one Marling received earlier this year when she performed to a sold out Lincoln Hall in support of her latest album Short Movie. The album is a slight departure from the quieter folk she is well known for in favor of a bigger electric sound. Even with the distinct shift in music her songwriting continued to be complex and emotional, which was incredibly evident live. Every moment of the show felt as personal as it could be, bringing the audience in more as friends than a simple crowd.The show was one of the most loving and communal performances I had ever seen live. Luckily, Marling will be returning to Chicago and giving us another chance to experience her musical talents.
When mentioning women in jazz, certain names like the Empress of the Blues herself, Bessie Smith, may come to mind. But singers like Smith and Billie Holiday aren't the only women in jazz. With singers and instrumentalists alike, celebrating women is the focus of the Music Institute of Chicago's Sixth Annual Jazz Festival.
On Facebook, David Cohen is pretty outspoken, and he's never concerned about being "politically correct." The 27-year-old Buffalo Grove native has figured out a sure-fire formula for his clever statuses, which involve a little self-deprecation, a hint of sarcasm, and a touch of an artist's narcissism.
The result: likes on likes on likes. It's all in good fun, of course. As a part of a generation fueled by their news feed, a healthy serving of honesty in a simmering pot of crass can go a long way.
In person, Cohen puts a pin in his online persona. He isn't shy, just observant. Behind his long dark locks lie a pair of eyes barricaded by square, black-rimmed glasses. An unkempt beard traces his thin lips that wait for the perfect moment to speak. An engineer by trade, he is wired to think critically and respond accordingly.
A month ago, I wrote about The Empty Bottle's Free Mondays as a paragon of everything that rocks about rock music: the rabid energy, the underground feel, the democratic vibe that comes with a free show. The Ukrainian Village bar combines aspects of the DIY aesthetic with the trappings of a professional venue, a line that most of its acts ride sonically. Crown Larks looks at that line, considers how to make it bend, squiggle, and eventually shatter entirely, then goes out on stage and accomplishes that with a jolt of experimental energy that commandeers listeners' wildest trains of thought.
The quartet just wrapped up a quick tour out east in support of its most recent album, Blood Dancer, and now looks to draw a big hometown crowd this Monday at the Bottle. I've had the chance to see Crown Larks live twice at Schubas--once with Buke + Gase and Landlady, and again with Yonatan Gat and The Avantist. Their vicious, spontaneous, almost improvisational style, plus a conversation with frontman Jack Bouboushian about Friedrich Nietzsche, interested me in telling their story. It involves, among other things, a frigid first jam experience, an exploration of Chicago's post-industrial bleakness, and a dead man's baseball references.
"The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, the way you live, the gifts that you give," Rush drummer Neil Peart once wrote. The love and respect with which deceased 8 Inch Betsy frontwoman Meghan Galbraith lived was remarkable. And even in death, she continues to give the world the gift of her music, with her queercore trio set to release its long-awaited sophomore and final album The Mean Days tomorrow in Galbraith's memory.
Below, and exclusively here at Transmission, you can have a listen to "So Dark," the newest single from the album. In context, the title takes on a poignant new meaning--Galbraith howling it over and over at song's end is nothing short of heartbreaking--but for the most part, "So Dark" is full of life, a permanent reminder of the vivacity that Galbraith brought to 8 Inch Betsy. Her voice runs ragged with the sting of betrayal, but she isn't cowed--in fact, she resolves to move forward, backed by sunny but hard-nosed guitar chords and a driving rhythm section that has no time to dwell on the past. It's a beautiful, simple, representative final statement from a woman who left an indelible mark on not just the queer community or the music community, but upon everyone whose life she touched.
I've been to metal shows before, but last night at Bottom Lounge was my first time reviewing one. As it turns out, I had an important lesson to learn: trying to take notes in a mosh pit is pointless. You need your elbows for protection, and anything you attempt to scribble down comes out looking like a kindergartener's worst work. So I'm relying entirely on my memory to recount the events of TesseracT's show--fortunately, though, it was filled with memorable moments.
Yo La Tengo is as known for their covers as their originals. Or at least when performing live, because with an acoustic set at the Vic the New Jersey group rumbled through classic songs, both popular and obscure, with enough twang and noise that their reinterpretations may have created new songs entirely.
The last time I reviewed a show at Thalia Hall, they put me in the back right corner of the balcony. I got a great perspective of how large Noah Gundersen's crowd was but had to squint to see Gundersen himself. I figured that was just the designated media spot, and was therefore expecting something similar last night for the second of Shakey Graves' two sold-out shows. So you can imagine my surprise when I was directed to the lower left opera box, which I shared with Shakey's Chicago friends (pro tip: if you offer lodging to a band when they're playing Schubas and stay friends with them over the intervening years, it pays off). It was the best seat I've ever had for a concert, and I couldn't have picked much of a better show for it, as Shakey Graves put on an enrapturing performance.
The Features knew why the crowd at Subterranean last night was there, and it wasn't to hear them talk. Some bands add substantially to their live performance with quirky asides or preachy messages between songs, but those moments need to be perfect to justify their existence. Maybe The Features don't think they could say anything interesting enough to justify breaking up the flow of their set. So aside from the occasional "thank you," they spent their hour-plus blazing through almost twenty fun songs, letting the crowd's energy provide all the auxiliary aspects of the show--and the crowd was bursting with energy.
Kendrick Lamar and I have history. I was 20 when we first met. He, only 25.
I was new to adulthood, and I had just topped off the last two years of my teens with a list of senseless decisions, unwarranted consequences and only a handful of regrets that I won't admit out loud.
He, on the other hand, was "new" to the rap game. By that time, he had already released Overly Dedicated and Section.80, two mixtapes that secured his spot in XXL's Top 10 Freshman Class of 2011. A closer look, he had already mapped out for me what my early 20s would look like: chaotic, systematic and full of a hell of a lot of good times.
After getting the chance to interviewMars and the Massacre last week and checking out their YouTube material, I was fully prepared for anything as I walked into Subterranean. Anything, that is, except for the show taking place on the ground floor, which only began operating as a stage earlier this year. Lacking the overhanging balconies of the venue's classic stage, the first floor of Sub-T feels less cramped and more casual--one of those spaces that's more like a bar with music than music at a bar. By the end of the evening, though, Mars and the Massacre had done one of the hardest things a band can do at this type of venue: they had lured most of the patrons right up to the stage.
Over the last few years, David Cohen's made a career by staying current and exercising his right to compromise with technology's past. To his fans and Chicago's DIY community, he is known as Diode Milliampere, a solo artist with more than a knack for making music from obsolete hardware.