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Concert Wed Mar 12 2014

Ice Balloons Popped at Empty Bottle

I doubt there is any way to fully describe the evening I had this past Monday at Empty Bottle. It was a collection of dark folk singers and punk madness. It didn't quite make sense to see Coins, Kyp Malone, and Ice Balloons on the same bill. Their individual styles are so different, running off to different sides of the musical spectrum. Nonetheless, it was great to see such diversity in one night. The grouping actually had an escalating effect, starting with calmer sounds before culminating in a frantic and obscenely loud set that straddled the line between lunacy and brilliance.

coins.jpgCoins started the night off with some hauntingly serene soundscapes. The local Chicago duo is quite a sight and sound to behold. Their brand of folk leans toward darker and slower tone, putting out a mesmerizing spell on the audience. You can definitely melt into their songs. Their lyrics are really fun and impactful, whether it's a depressing one about getting stuck by lightning or one about aliens. Angela Mullenhour's voice was strong and full while she gracefully played guitar, which at times dove into more rocking territory. Her laugh emanated through some the verses while Ellen Bunch's gentle keys carried the songs into a surprising sway, making their already likable style overflow. Coins are a great dark folk group that immediately grabbed the audience during their set.

malone.jpgKyp Malone casually walked around the Empty Bottle before coming to the stage with no pretense. He quickly tuned his resonator guitar and strummed a few chords before starting his set. Malone looked like was performing at home, which was no surprise as he recounted his first time playing at the Empty Bottle, opening for The Fall with TV on the Radio on their first tour. He began his set with "Stork and Owl", a song he wrote for TV on the Radio's third album Dear Science. The song was stripped down to its core with Malone belting out the lyrics in his unique voice. In between his impressive guitar strumming, Malone was playful with the crowd. A shout of marry me resulted in Malone stating he's not the marrying type. He joked that he used to say he wouldn't get married until every one could and how it's looking like now he will have to stop saying that or get married. He finished up his solo set with "Give Blood", an energetic song showed off Malone's prowess.

iceballoons2.jpgI'm not sure how many people were familiar with Ice Balloons or their music. I have a feeling that Kyp Malone's presence is what attracted the crowd. After Coins and Malone's sets, the uninitiated may not have expected what Ice Balloons would bring to the table. No genre can truly define them. Ice Balloons is a collaboration of manic proportions, featuring members from Wild Yaks, The FuckEmos, and TV on the Radio. At times they are just punk rockers going completely off the rails, while other times the pop in their furiously loud noise is unavoidable. You just can't expect normalcy from a group fronted by a human fly in blue mariachi suit.
ice balloons1.jpgIce Balloons' set was a nonstop assault of aural and visual insanity. They are a surrealistic painting come to life. Projections of scary dolls, fan dancers, and explosions filled the room as the human fly screeched through a distorted mic. There wasn't a single moment where the noise faltered. The band is hard to get accustomed to. I'm sure a lot people felt it was just noise for noise sake. But the fuzzed out and completely abstract nature of their songs mixed with the half human half fly shaking maracas above his head made for a great show. I'm still reeling from the experience. My hearing has just come back down to normal from the high helium pitch it was after the concert. The band is a genuine strangeness that is unforgiving and astoundingly fun. Their performance brought up a very interesting question: can you have an acid flashback without ever having taken acid? The answer is undeniably Ice Balloons (that's a yes).

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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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  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
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Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
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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

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Alligator Records
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Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
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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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