As of January 1, 2016, Gapers Block is on indefinite hiatus. The site will remain up in archive form while we evaluate our options, which may include a redesign or sale. ✶ Thank you for your readership and contributions over the past 12-plus years. ✶
The Old Town School of Folk Music and Chicago's PBS affiliate WYCC have teamed up for a brand new live concert television program focused specifically on bringing world music to U.S. audiences.
"Musicology: Live from the Old Town School of Folk Music" will debut Friday, April 19, at 9pm on WYCC Channel 20, immediately following the legendary, and similarly-themed, live music program "Austin City Limits." And much like "Austin City Limits," "Musicology" will present 45 minutes of pure live music taped in Chicago at The Old Town School's own Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall, in addition to interviews and other cultural, historical, and musical context from the artist.
As digital music releases grow more and more prevalent, the process of composing an actual album -- designing the packaging art, arranging the track list, etc. -- seems to fall by the wayside. Even the title of a release is a key element.
Primary member and songwriter of Chicago four-piece Many Places Kevin Rieg seems to get that. The title of his band's new EP Home + Departed is an apt description of the five tracks on the release. Recorded in just two days, Home + Departed has the comfortable, homestyle appeal of many Midwestern indie/folk acts, however there is a decisive feeling of sadness, perhaps even withdrawal, in these songs.
Scratch DJ Academy instructor Fabian Antonio sets up the DJ booth for the prospective students to play on. (Photos by Brianna Kelly)
Conceived of in New York City in 2002 as the brainchild of the late great Jam Master Jay, Scratch DJ Academy has opened locations over the past decade in Los Angeles, Miami, and most recently in Chicago, at the SAE Institute of Technology, 820 N. Orleans St.
Scratch DJ Academy's aim is to educate people in DJing and music production. With its copyrighted curriculum, each year Scratch trains more than 50,000 aspiring DJs who begin with varying pre-existing knowledge of the art form. They offer a DJ certification program and a music production certification program, through six six-week-long courses for beginning, intermediate and advanced skill-levels. Scratch aims to mold its students into performance ready DJs, no matter at which level they begin their training. "Now-a-days [...] technically anybody can call themselves a DJ, right? What we aim to do with the certification program is to actually put some structure to it and create a baseline," said DJ Hapa, National Brand Director of Scratch DJ Academy.
State of the art DJ equipment is readily available to students for completing assignments and practicing their craft. It not only teaches the skill sets of the art form, it also prepares the DJ for the industry and potential challenge he or she may face. Students learn the tools of the trade from local, "premier DJs" who are already well established in their own local music scene.
Hong Chulki and Choi Joonyung, performing two Saturdays ago as part of the Winter/Spring 2013 Lampo series, created a rare moment in modern experimental music, the type of things we read about and hope to witness naturally one day: a genuine split of opinion.
My first clue that friction was coming was the unusual crowd, stuffed beyond comfort. The Graham Foundation's ample upper-level auditorium room, though usually fully accommodated, has never (that I've seen) been packed to standing-room only. Given that the city's academically-inclined experimental music community likely hasn't doubled in the past few weeks, Chulki and Joonyung were clearly going to be playing to people other than the choir. These days, experimental music belongs to the converted, or at least those at least willing to try to be converted. Say what you like about your roommate that rolled his eyes when you dragged him to see Prurient or your parent who blanched when you played them Masonna: most audiences for avant garde music are, for good or ill, either in on the game or not ready to give the roars of disapproval once afforded Charles Ives, Edgard Varese, or the Berlin Dadaists. Yet who of us, having witnessed their 23rd straight performance of heroic, virtuosic free improvisation, hasn't yearned to see someone get so agitated that they tore their own clothes or threw a chair?
Glen Hansard has traversed the musical landscape far and wide to make a name for himself. As a teen, this Irish musician dropped out of school in order to follow his dream, serenading his Dublin streets with his lilting guitar-playing and distinct, smooth vocals that pack a punch. Lead singer in group The Frames, and then later joining forces with songstress Marketa Irglova to form The Swell Season, Hansard gained more exposure, leading to his acting and musical role in the emotionally turbulent film Once. Hansard released his first solo album in 2012, Rhythm and Repose, which showcases Hansard's ability to compress vast amounts of raw emotion into finite pieces of music.
It's with great joy that Hansard has been announced as a part of the Metro's 30th Anniversary Show, occurring on Sunday, June 9. This will be part of the Metro's 30th Anniversary series, celebrating the venue's revered place in the Chicago music scene. As he is an infrequent performer for this city, last appearing in September of 2012 at the Hideout Block Party, I can attest to the fact that Hansard's shows are lively and magical, and my description doesn't do them justice - there's a reason his returns back to our city are so celebrated. Tickets go on sale at noon tomorrow, and will feature some of Hansard's bandmates from The Frames as well as a horn and string section.
Electronic music seems to be the current musical lingua franca, if one follows the business very closely. Acts like Skrillex and the Swedish House Mafia are playing arenas rather than basements, and the dance beats and synth-reliant riffs are truly becoming mainstream. Amidst the tide of new electronic music, it's easy to overlook the fact that, in many ways, this generation's electronic artists are kind of just reinventing the wheel. Fair enough, but Chicago is in for a treat next week, as CHIRP welcomes German IDM/Electronic duo Mouse on Mars to the Mayne Stage Theater in Rogers Park as part of their first U.S. tour in six years.
Formed in 1993, Mouse on Mars consists of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma. Over a nearly two decade career, the duo has specialized in a very Krautrock-tinged version of IDM, often somewhat herky-jerky, occasionally challenging, but always thoughtful and well-composed. The result is often a kind of musical pointillism, somewhat disjointed in its individual components, but cohesive when appreciated in its entirety. The band itself released material on Chicago's Thrill Jockey records, and St. Werner has continued that relationship releasing material under the name Lithops, and has collaborated with fellow German avant-artist Oval.
If you missed the Matmos show at the Empty Bottle Friday night, you can at least get a sneak peak into the making of The Marriage of True Minds, the band's newest album, which comes out today on Thrill Jockey. The erudite electronic duo break down the psychic session that became the song "Aetheric Vehicle" for the Organist, the brand new podcast from The Believer magazine and LA radio station KCRW. The inaugural episode is available here and also features an interview with inimitable author George Saunders, five-word album reviews by Brandon Stosuy, and a behind-the-scenes look at the sound design of Nobody Walks, last year's Sundance winner from Lena Dunham and Ry Russo-Young, which is, in part, actually about sound design.
Great news for anyone who has a large living room, basement or loft, has chill neighbors, and likes the band Califone.
The Chicago-based experimental folk band, led by Tim Rutili, is embarking on a living room tour of North America this spring in anticipation of the band's upcoming follow-up to 2009's album/film soundtrack All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. Rather than playing small clubs and venues, the band is soliciting offers from anyone interested in hosting the band in their own home. Califone has a Chicago date scheduled on May 17 and is looking for a good host.
Marissa Nadler's self-titled 2011 album and last year's The Sister are both folky, steeped in Americana and highlighted by her knack for drawing up memorable scenes and characters. The self-titled album was Kickstarter-funded and a little outside of the comfort zone Nadler had carved out over her previous few albums. The Sister has a gorgeous sparsity (barely more than a guitar for instrumentation on most songs) that gives her deceptively powerful voice room to shine. Put her in a good room (like Schubas or the Hideout, where I've seen her before) with a respectful crowd and it's a pleasure.
Marissa Nadler headlines Schubas on Tuesday, the 19th. Jesse Skyes & Phil Wandscher open at 8PM. The show's 21+ and $12. Schubas is at the corner of Belmont & Southport.
There are so many ways to describe Chicago using the "descriptor + town" formula, that it's almost a pointless cliche to even try. Chicago is a blues town, it's a jazz town, it's a comedy town, it's an anything town. We get it. But get specific enough, and things start to get a little more interesting. Did it occur to anyone, for example, that Chicago is also a thriving harmonica town?
Well, it is, and there's a concert this Sunday at The Hideout to help you understand why.
Here's a Valentine's Day story. In the mid-1990s, Martin "M.C." Schmidt and Drew Daniel met at a gay club in San Francisco, Daniel a dancer, Schmidt a patron, and both of them interested in new genres — of music, literature, sexuality, philosophy, you name it. Their meeting was, to nab the title of the pair's latest album, a marriage of true minds. They lived happily ever after. It may not be your typical fairy tale — the homemade fish-head G-string Daniel reportedly was wearing won't feature in a Disney film any time soon — but the couple has been together for twenty years, and their musical collaboration under the moniker Matmos has persisted nearly as long, resolutely challenging our perceptions of sexuality, and, inevitably, love. But the pink-and-red heart-shaped holiday won't play a role in what Matmos is bringing to the Empty Bottle this Friday, Daniel says over the phone from his and Schmidt's house in Baltimore, the house where, for four years, the two conducted the experiments that served as the raw material for their new album, The Marriage of True Minds, which comes out Tuesday.
The Empty Bottle was already packed by 7pm last Saturday night when Trin Tran, a ski-masked fellow and Drag City one-man garage band/disco curiosity, played his first song with the help of no less than two synth pads, a guitar, an electronic kick pedal and a homemade snare pedal that looked something like a baseball bat hitting a go-kart steering wheel. The fact that he was doing this all by himself made the crowd slightly less anxious to be listening to his baffling blend of deconstructed basement jams, riding both sides of the line between perfect pop and fried-out chaos. This wasn't Trin Tran's party, to be fair, though he seemed perfectly content to be crashing it. The audience, who was still trickling in, seemed perfectly happy to share in his reverie. It was a great warm up to what was sure to be a lights-out night of tunes. And everyone knew the night really belonged to Ty Segall, reigning garage-rock wunderkind, who would play a few hours later (and then a few hours later after that.) This was only the early set for Segall's twice-sold-out stand of two shows (early and late) at the Bottle, his first time in Chicago since the last time we saw him, but everyone seemed plenty awake.
Segall is already somewhat of a legend in certain circles due to his prolific output in recent years and ascendant songwriting muse (having one of the best working garage bands around doesn't hurt things either). So it turned some heads when Segall opted to produce the debut LP for Memphis punks Sex Cult last year. A quick burst of sessions in San Francisco, a cease-and-desist letter prompting a name change to Ex-Cult, and a little over six months later, they had an album. And, now, they also have a tour: The Memphis punks have been on the road with Segall and his band since mid-January, criss-crossing the States and putting in some serious miles both on-stage and off. And when Ex-Cult hit the stage next, you could tell they were battle-tested.
On stage, Ex-Cult frontman Chris Shaw is a dead ringer for Ron Reyes or even a younger Glenn Danzig, and it suits the band's hybrid of classic California hardcore and Oblivians-obsessed Southern punk well. Combing through tracks from their Segall-produced LP, Ex-Cult, the band was locked-in from the start, shooting out blasts of sound across their well-honed and worn-in hardcore tunes. It was a throwback sound (and temperament, if anything can be assumed by their classical-style hardcore band logo), to be sure, but blended in the space-chamber dinginess of modern-day San Francisco acts like Thee Oh Sees and The Fresh & Onlys nicely. More importantly, it became immediately clear that these guys were the real deal and had no problem demonstrating that to everyone in the room. The crowd, few of which seemed to be familiar with the group before their set, was converted in no more than 30 minutes. Ex-Cult killed it, and they knew it. And they'd be back a few hours later to prove it again.
Ty Segall took to the stage moments later, unassumingly testing out his guitars with the band for minutes on end before his set while people hung out in the front rows looking up at him. Once the band was assembled and a few line-checks were made, Segall said hello and cranked into a hopped-up version of Twins standout "Thank God For The Sinners". The band, which includes ascendant garage peer Mikal Cronin on bass and the perpetually badass Emily Rose Epstein on drums, sounded red-hot, blasting through tunes from across Segall's already vast catalogue. Mostly, they focused on standout tracks from his more recent albums, playing fan favorites like Slaughterhouse's "Wave Goodbye" and "I Bought My Eyes" or Twins' "The Hill". Throughout the hour-plus set, Segall proved again his effortless knack for writing inspired past-leaning and playful songs and even made a serious case for his skills as a guitar player, no doubt. Minor technical problems aside (a bum cable or two), Segall was a true showman, mostly all business if not noticeably quite polite and seemingly happy to be there. No encores here, though — the guy has to remember to save at least some of his energy for the next set.
Lady Gaga announced today the cancellationpostponement of her concerts in Chicago on Feb. 13 and 14, as well as shows in Detroit and Hamilton, Ontario, citing a case of synovitis, a painful inflammation of the membrane lining the joints. If you have tickets, hold onto them, as they'll be honored at rescheduled dates.
There's an unfortunate announcement coming out right now, concerning myself and the Born This Way Ball. Im so sorry. I barely know what to say. I've been hiding a show injury and chronic pain for sometime now, over the past month it has worsened. I've been praying it would heal. I hid it from my staff, I didn't want to disappoint my amazing fans. However after last nights performance I could not walk and still can't.
To the fans in Chicago Detroit & Hamilton I hope you can forgive me, as it is nearly impossible for me to forgive myself. Im devastated & sad. It will hopefully heal as soon as possible, I hate this. I hate this so much. I love you and Im sorry.
Like every classical art form, the avant garde has a canon. It seemed unlikely in their early lives that composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen would eventually be an accepted form of entertainment (or, if we shrink from that word, let's say emotional and intellectual stimulation) for a respectable, concert-going crowd. But goalposts, they do move. In any city that of a certain size and cultural infrastructure, you can support a new music group that can play "repertory," and make a return on investment. But even with the most open-minded audience, what's hard then, now, and always is bringing a crowd out for untested talent.
For the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the thrill of the new is always the most important, but introducing crowds to the true unknown is the most important of all. It's why over half of every year's ICE events are given over to young composers. "People come for one fundamental reason: they want something unexpected to happen," says Claire Chase, flutist and artistic director of ICE. While it's fundamentally easier to fill an auditorium with promises of seldom-performed Xenakis pieces or interlaced programs of octet music by Franz Schubert and George Lewis, Chase says ICE is equally drawn to attacking the problems burdening young composers, namely lack of stage time. "It's one of the most optimistic things we can do as humans," says Chase.
It's not your by-the-book Valentine's Day event, but your heart might just melt at this benefit show at Schubas Thursday night. Come out for the guitar-and-drum-fueled fury of White Mystery, and show your Valentine you Choo-Choo-Choose to rock.
White Mystery will perform their ginger-haired brand of rock this Thursday fresh off of their European tour. And what better way to welcome this brother/sister team back to Chicago than with a rollicking show at Schubas on a February night? Forget all that lovey-dovey stuff, and let White Mystery warm your body from your ears on down.
A turntable without a needle...a turntable without a needle...what the hell good is a turntable without a needle!?
I pondered this in my mind (figuratively, of course...I may have only spun 38 times round the sun, but I know from Cartridge Music), the benefits of using a turntable without a needle to generate sound. The turntable's tonearm, of course, is still an amplified, resonant objects, and vibrations sent through it by cyclical friction will still produce interesting results, if not crisp, His Master's Voice-level precision. And maybe that's music to your ears. It is to mine.
This is the hook provided for the work of Hong Chulki, one-half of a performing duo performing this Saturday, hosted by Lampo at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago). Along with Choi Joonyung, who plays "playback devices such as CD-player, MP3-player, tape player, VCR, or loud-speaker," while "push[ing] an amplifier in and around the audience as if he were a noise vendor," Chulki creates an especially unconventional duo. Joonyung, similarly drawn to non-musical non-event based experimental music, has also published several albums manipulating damaged CDs. (One is cheekily titled I Am Scratching A CD In A Room.)
The pair founded South Korea's first noise group, Astronoise. But that was a long time ago -- the last release I can determine comes from 2006. Since then, Chulki and Joonyung perform solo, in a duo with each other, or in collaboration with others. Chulki and Joonyung have released a dozen or more collaborations on their Balloon & Needle label, collaborating with other South Korean improvisors/noise musicians, but also with international stars like Jason Kahn and Zbigniew Karkowski.
The event begins at 8 p.m. and is FREE with RSVP. You can do so here.
Here's the pair in trio, with Ryu Hankil on, er, typewriter.
Edgar Allen Poe lived — and died — in Baltimore. The Baltimore Ravens are named after Poe's famous poem. To celebrate the Ravens winning the Super Bowl, check out Chicago Opera Theater's production of The Fall of the House of Usher. My prediction: it will scare the bejesus out of you, but there won't be any confetti.
It's time once again to survey the SXSW Music Festival schedule for Chicago acts to catch if and when you're down in Austin, TX March 12-17. There's a good range of local artists heading down this year, representing everything from hip hop to folk to retro soul. We've also rounded up acts from neighboring states, to give an idea of the attention given to the broader region. Special Thanks to Eamon Daly for technical assistance putting together this list.
The bio on Angela James' website reports that she first started learning country music songs off the radio sometime in the '80s, "when country wasn't cool."
That right there, ladies and gentlemen, is proof that it's been a very, very long time since country music was ever "cool". Whatever happened exactly that made country music so uncool--or whether or not it even was cool to begin with--is up for debate, but something definitely happened. Nowadays, it seems like its mostly the "alternative" country music that's holding on the strongest to its own roots.
Here's what I knew about Big Freedia upon walking in: She's actually a he -- real name Freddie Ross. She's the biggest face in New Orleans' "bounce music." The genre is best explained during her NPR interview but, essentially, it's a bass heavy, booty-bouncing-inducing, lyrically minimal, quick tempo-ed version of rap. I also, realized that i would probably be making a fool of myself dancing along -- but new experiences are better when embraced.
The annual festival in Union Park announced this morning some of the acts playing the festival, and the list is already impressive with the three acts added to the bill. Chicago's R. Kelly tweeted this morning that he'd be playing Union Park in July, and sure enough Pitchfork confirmed it. Also playing the festival is Björk and Belle & Sebastian. Belle & Sebastian is a perfect fit for the type of acts popular at the festival. And getting Björk as a headliner might give Pitchfork an advantage over Lollapalooza this year. It's a very impressive artist to scoop up from a larger festival.
Personally the addition of Björk and R. Kelly has me over the moon. Two artist I haven't had the pleasure of seeing yet, and getting to see the over the top R. Kelly on his home turf shall be something special to witness. Now excuse me while I go listen to Björk's Post on repeat until July.
Tickets are on sale now here. Get them before they sell out.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, in a move to continue its hot streak of cold-month showcases in recent years, will be featuring Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) in upcoming events on the museum's Streeterville premises. Mr. Hook will be appearing on Tuesday, February 5 via special invitation courtesy of the MCA, while Ms. Gordon will be appearing on Tuesday, March 26 as part of the famed, worth-its-weight-in-weirdness series known around these parts as Face The Strange.
Mr. Hook will be appearing to discuss his new career retrospective, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, which is described as offering "fascinating insight into the larger-than-life characters that formed a vital part of the Joy Division legend." Lots to chew on there, folks! He'll be appearing with Metro Chicago main-man Joe Shanahan, who will lead the conversation and hopefully provide fond anecdotes of New Order's first Chicago appearance at the Metro thirty years ago. Memories, make no mistake, will be the focus here — and lots of 'em!
Ms. Gordon will be appearing with Chicago psych-droners White/Light, whose members Matthew Hale Clark and Jeremy Lemos help coordinate the MCA's series (and who can also, most importantly, call up Ms. Gordon to sit in for one of their sets.) For those counting, this will be the second appearance by a member of (the late?) Sonic Youth for Face the Strange; drummer Steve Shelley appeared with kraut/drone locals Disappears and White/Light when he was still a member of the former in March 2011. White/Light, it should perhaps also be noted, is a current member of the Smells Like Records roster run by Shelley. So, really, it's all in the family.
Tickets for Mr. Hook's event are $10 at the MCA box office to reserve a seat, and the price of admission will be deducted from any audience purchases of Unknown Pleasures, which Mr. Hook will sign following his talk. Tickets for Ms. Gordon's Face the Strange showcase with White/Light are free for Ilinois residents or with suggested museum donation for all others. Capacity is very limited for both events, but you probably already knew that.