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Review Tue Jun 18 2013

Taste of Randolph: A Weekend in Review

For those of you who didn't make it to Taste of Randolph Fest this year, you should probably consider going next time it rolls through town. As a first-timer to the fest, my limited expectations were expanded beyond their belief. The delicious food I encountered (those Belly Q tacos were basically life-changing) was further enhanced by the stellar lineup of musical acts that brought the talent all throughout the weekend, creating beautiful noise in an otherwise industrial space as the city skyline glittered in the background.

Friday

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Photos by Sarah Brooks

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound
Friday evening brought out high-caliber acts straight from the get-go, as the fest began on an extremely energetic note. If you are from Chicago and haven't heard of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound yet, you're in for a real treat when you take your first listen. I first caught onto the group in 2011 when they released their first full-length album, Want More. The opening chords of the title track immediately hooked me. I did want more: more of the tight rhythms, the Motown spirit, and JC Brooks' crystal-clear voice. Unique soul music infused with retrograde funk, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound create music that you simply need to move to. At their live shows, it's even more apparent; it's actually quite impossible not to tap your toes, sway a little, or completely break it down like many members of the crowd were doing the second the first beat rose from the speakers. From the toddler with the oversized knit sweater twirling his sleeves to the funky beats, to the couple mouthing every word and jumping up and down to basically every song, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound have created quite the following for themselves, that is only going to continue to amass over time.

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Opening with the title track from their recent release, Howl, JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound showcased their growth as a group during their set. Their stage presence was even more on point than I've seen in the past, each member of the group blissfully jamming out together for a packed crowd. "Married For A Week" brought out the moves from the crowd and JC Brooks himself, as he moonwalked and grooved all across the stage, much to the delight of fans. The group was able to cultivate a fine balance of playing their most danceable hits, from the singalong session of "Want More," and juxtapose them against soulful ballads such as "River." A few covers were thrown in the mix: "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, and "No Diggity" by Blackstreet, which proved JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound as a versatile, growing band that is here to stay, and will continue to gain much adoration from their Chicago fans.

Divine Fits
Divine Fits garnered a crowd fairly quickly after JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound stepped off stage. The masses flanked all sides of the stage to see this side project of Britt Daniel, most notable for being the lead singer of indie rock band Spoon. I won't lie, that was my main draw in seeing this group. After listening to Kill The Moonlight far too many times, this set was to serve as a nostalgic time machine for me, as I'm sure it was the same way for many other fans as well. Daniel's voice is truly unique; raw, yet powerful, it turns a simple song into a grittier tune packed with punch all its own. There's no voice I've heard that's quite comparable. Not only does this group have Daniel, but it also has the voice of Dan Boeckner, whose deep, darker sound is found within indie group Wolf Parade. In concert with each other, Divine Fits emerges as an indie supergroup with a sound all its own.

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"This is the kind of show that I was hoping we would be doing," Daniel stated, grinning at the crowd. Clearly in their element in a festival setting, the group shined during their expansive set. Playing tunes off of their lone LP, A Thing Called Divine Fits, such as crowd-pleaser "Would That Not Be Nice" and "Is Love Real," the group also surprised the audience with covers such as Frank Ocean's "Lost," with a rock spin. As dusk settled over Chicago, this was the perfect set to finish out the evening.

Saturday

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Kisses
One major source of joy from music festivals is going to see a band you're completely unfamiliar with, only to be pleasantly surprised as you find a new group to love. This came for me with group Kisses, hailing from Los Angeles with a free spirited, beachy vibe that permeates into their sound. Fans of Bombay Bicycle Club and Two Door Cinema Club will rejoice in their indie rock sound punctuated with crisp rhythms and vintage beats. Lead singer Jesse Kivel's voice proved to be commanding and tenacious during the set, complimented by the vocals of keyboardist Zinzi Edmundson. Creating an effortless summery sound, the group kept the crowd going despite misty, humid Chicago weather. If you're new to the group, take a listen to "Funny Heartbeat," which was a crowd-pleaser during Saturday's set.

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Sabers
Sabers is a group whose sound definitely opposed that of their indie pop set predecessor. Grittier garage rock composes Sabers' signature sound, perfect for sitting out in the sunshine on a Saturday afternoon. Their darker sound is percussive and extremely rhythmic. Their first song of the day began with psychedelic riffs that transformed into heavy rock. The vocals are light and refreshing, gliding atop the mesmerizing instrumental layering in the background. "Armchair Warrior" set the stage for the group's fresh sound, perfect to groove to for the duration of their set.

Sunday

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Matrimony
Matrimony is the second group that completely surprised me this weekend. The name signifies its true meaning; lead singers of the group are husband and wife duo Jimmy Brown and Ashlee Hardee Brown. Formed in Charlotte, North Carolina, the group has honed their folk sound with exquisite harmonies, instrumental layering and shining vocal solos. Originally from Ireland, lead singer Brown was introduced to Ashlee by her brother, fellow bandmate Jordan Hardee. Ashlee and Jimmy wrote a song together upon their first meeting, and eventually decided to entwine their musical careers, and lives, together.

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Matrimony has cultivated the art of developing emotion-laden tunes, releasing their first EP The Storm and The Eye in 2010, and their first full-length album, Montibello Drive, this year. The group is charming in a live setting, clearly demonstrating both their musical and personal connections to their audience, completely in sync with each other. The group created the perfect soundtrack for Taste of Randolph on Sunday, as the crowd that formed grew larger and larger. Ending with a cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," the group left the audience in awe of their spotless harmonies and flawless execution of their music.

Van Ghost
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Van Ghost continued the theme of carefree, summery rock on Sunday afternoon. Their sound is literally created for summer; one listens, soaks in the sound, and it can't help but put a smile on your face. Formed in Chicago, producer Michael Harrison Berg joined forces with Jennifer Hartwick, and others following, in order to create a group committed to crafting unique alternative rock. Their sound is comprised of elements of blues and funk, adding an interesting element to their tunes.

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"Can I Call You Karma" is one new track they previewed from their similarly titled third album, which got everyone moving along for the rest of their set. Hartwick's voice had gone out that very morning, but never faltered once. We only knew that her voice had been compromised earlier in the day when she gave a shout out to her chiropractor, for bringing her voice back to its regular condition. The audience couldn't tell, however, as she wailed out each tune and added instrumental flair with frequent brass solos. A notable highlight of the set was Mayer Hawthorne's "The Walk," covered in an alternative rock light, the perfect refreshing song to convey the vibe of the day: light, carefree, blissful.

Lord Huron

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Lord Huron was my most anticipated set of the weekend. Hearing their first single, "Time To Run," one year ago completely captivated me with its jangling Americana feel, producing a soundtrack for wanderlust, restlessness and dreams waiting to be fulfilled. Their only album, Lonesome Dreams, showcases both gritty folk tunes interspersed with dreamy ballads such as "I Will Be Back One Day." Their lyrics put our thoughts into words time after time, making us think deeply as we feel the sounds that they create.

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"What point is there in living the life you've been given if you only stand in one place?" Ben Schneider crooned with a grin on his face as "Ends of the Earth" built momentum and hooked the crowd instantly. Their aim during their set was not only to introduce the audience to their gentle lyricism and rugged rhythms, but also to create a folk music party in which all of Taste of Randolph had a free invite. They looked like they were having the time of their life, unstoppable with wide grins plastered to their faces for the duration of the set. The crowd was the most massive I had seen all weekend, with audience members frequently drawing in to see what the commotion was about, and remaining planted for the remainder of the hour. Schneider first began writing solo music, which erupted into Lord Huron's creation in 2010. Ever since, they have been steamrolling into fandom, and for good reason. Watching them have the best time on stage inspired all of us to have the best time, too.

Milo Greene

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Opposing the sounds of Lord Huron, Milo Greene's music is bold, layered and poppy, but I don't mean that with any sort of negative connotation. Their pop sound is dreamy, ethereal and languid. Creating a landscape of effortless harmonies winded down the festival to a close, as they showcased their sound with signature ballads such as "1957" and "Don't You Give Up on Me."

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"Cutty Love" was an especially notable moment in their set. The vocals echoed out with a crooning harmonized backdrop, and layered melodies throughout, creating a perfect evening atmosphere. Recent to the scene, Milo Greene only has one album, released back in 2012. That didn't stop them from garnering a large following, attracted to their sound akin to predecessors Stars and The XX. Their breathtaking vocals rolled out into the city landscape and beyond, illuminating the West Loop with shimmering sound to last until the start of next year's fest - the countdown begins now.

 
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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.

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