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Review Sat Apr 27 2013

Review: Hem @ Old Town, 4/19

Hem's been under the radar for a while. They're on their first tour in six years and their latest album comes after a hiatus that most fans presumed would lead to a split. However, Departure & Farewell, while perhaps not the most optimistic title for a band that's recently gone through what they have, is a strong effort highlighted by the smart ethereal folk music that they were built on.

After getting their breakthrough "Half Acre" and latest single "Tourniquet" out of the way at last week's Old Town show, Sally Ellyson casually mentioned that they were moving on to the divorce section of the set list, at which point she not-so-subtly pointed to the band's main songwriters as the ones with the experience to write such songs. Then a funny thing happened for me: a song that, for years, I've heard as sweet took on a whole new meaning as I realized that a misheard lyric and an outside factor (i.e., association with a particular romantic partner) had led me to hearing it all wrong. Strangely, I wasn't nearly as a broken up when the death section of the set list led to a similar revelation.

For a band that'd supposedly been on rocky terrain, they were wonderfully in synch. Ellyson's voice, as always, was sublime. The music carried their usual folky sound, but they dropped in elements of gospel, chamber-pop and country to add a richness that isn't heard on the albums. Ellyson spoke often to add anecdotes about songs or how the band got to a point with their music. Only once did she meander and it led to a fit of giggles interrupting her cue on "Lazy Eye." The requisite Old Town sing-along became a hum-along and the show wound down with a flurry of requests and a rousing 3-song encore that led most in the crowd to think, "This band can't break up. They're killing it."

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JC / April 29, 2013 10:09 PM

Just curious: which song about divorce did you hear so differently?

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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