Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Monday, December 4

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Review Thu Jun 06 2013

Sharon Van Etten Teaches us to Love More @ Millennium Park, 6/3

Monday evening at Millennium Park brought about Chicagoans looking to experience the Downtown Sound series for the first time this nice(r) weather, that is. The first installment the week prior featured gloomy weather that seemed unshakeable. The sunshine and temperate climate on Monday brought out herds of Chicagoans looking to experience Speck Mountain and Sharon Van Etten's music in this beautiful city we call home.

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Photo by Kirstie Shanley

Speck Mountain opened the show with a relaxed yet emotive set, perfectly staged with a city skyline backdrop. Their fuzzy space rock and slight shoegaze style echoed out into the crowd, furrowing into our senses as the chords reverberated beautifully from the guitar and vocal conversations. Emerging onto the scene in 2005 and playing many songs off of their recent album Badwater, Speck Mountain has an interesting quality of blending dreamy female vocals with an atmospheric background. Both combined create an amalgam of an ambient landscape, serene and visionary. Evoking a different era, their psychadelic riffs were the perfect way to open up Monday's Millennium Park show, as the sun sunk below the buildings we faced. It almost felt like I was in a mesmerized state, listening to the soundtrack of a hazy dream. A local group as well, hailing from Brooklyn but settling in Chicago, Speck Mountain has made quite the name for themselves in this city, and will only continue to develop with time.

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Photo by Kirstie Shanley

Sharon Van Etten emerged to her crowd of reverent listeners clad in a jean jacket and subtle white dress. While initially addressing the audience with a "hello, Chicago" with gusto, her voice was meek and subdued, brimming with innocence and sweetness. However, when she began singing the first notes of "Peace" her powerhouse voice emerged, rumbling out from Millennium Park and beyond. Her music is much like a fine wine; at its first chord and initial onset, the song is sweet and subtle. However, over time, with more sips, the music becomes more and more developed, cultivated, and rich. It lingers not only in our senses, but seems to reach into our soul.

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Photo by Kirstie Shanley

The songwriter is wise beyond her years. Lyrics telling tales of heart-wrenching emotions, our deepest desires and fears, and the struggle of simply being human blending with the perfect backdrop can melt away all of our sorrows. Hearing her music in the Millennium Park setting only aids the emotive response that it produces - watching the glittering skyline in the background, looking around at the smiling faces intently watching the songstress effortlessly croon songs full of depth and heart could make the coldest heart defrost in the evening light.

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Photo by Kirstie Shanley

The set wound through material from her full-length albums in a cohesive fashion, spanning both 2010's Epic and 2012's Tramp. Watching Sharon transform from gently smiling and waving at the massive crowd seated before her, to sinking into the music and leaning into the microphone with such urgency as her voice trails out into the distance was such a dichotomy, as she truly is in her element when she sings and shares her ballads with the world.

"This song is about not being perfect," she stated prior to the first opening chords of "All I Can." Sharon's music truly presents us with our greatest triumphs and defeats, and how to pick ourselves up in between the two. After her last tune, Sharon stepped off stage, and individuals in the audience flooded the spaces directly in front, awaiting her return. She delighted the crowd of doting fans to both "In Line" and "Love More." I can't quite explain it, but the feelings that "Love More" evokes could truly make one see the beauty of life and those around them in this world. The accordion lulling softly in the background in concert with Sharon's voice building tension and being joined by more voices and instrumental feedback created the perfect soundtrack for a blissful night in Chicago.

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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...
Please see our submission guidelines.

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