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Review Tue May 26 2015

Lincoln Hall Took a Swim with Surfer Blood and Alex Calder

surferblood2.jpgIf you're a fan of Surfer Blood, it can hard to get past the troubles that come along with the band. After their first amazing and still catchy album Astro Coast, Surfer Blood was signed to Warner Bros and released Pythons in 2013 to mixed reviews. Their shift to a major label didn't work out as well as they were dropped later that year. But the issue that has been most problematic is lead singer John Paul Pitts arrest for domestic battery in 2012. I don't mean to riddle this review with ethical dilemmas of separating the art from the artist, but I would be remiss not to mention the arrest and subsequent dismissal of the charges. Pitts, too, understands that this incident will follow him throughout his career. I will say, when warranted, I prefer to advocate against such abuses with an inclination toward rehabilitation rather than a complete ostracization.

Surfer Blood returned to the rawer DIY nature of their beginnings in hopes of finding themselves again with 1000 Palms . It sounds as though they succeed, creating songs that feel a lot closer to Astro Coast than Pythons. A few weeks before the release, Surfer Blood suffered another devastating hit in the form of a sarcoma diagnosis for guitarist Thomas Fekete. The tour for their album became a sounding board for their bandmate and friend as they began collecting donations for his treatment at the merch booth, which would unfortunately be stolen from their car while in Schaumberg the evening following the concert. Despite all the dilemmas, it seemed that everyone at Lincoln Hall this past weekend was able to find some good in the band's set.

alexcalder2.jpgThere is no way around it; opener Alex Calder is as weird as he is talented. I didn't know much about him back when I saw him open up for No Joy in 2013, but after hearing him play I was instantly a fan. Calder's laid back demeanor on stage presence and his similarly easygoing sounds are hard not to love. I instantly followed him on every social media outlet I could and began to see the strangeness emerge. He has retired from music countless times to pursue cooking, ghost hunting, and full time lizard manning on Instagram. Thankfully he seems to always return music, releasing his new album Strange Dreams and a collection of older songs from his Mold Boy pseudonym this year.

alexcalder.jpgHis set was just as cool and impressive as the first time I saw him, but his guitar work was grand and the off stage oddities were now core to his show. "Suki and Me" drifted over the nicely packed Lincoln Hall, easily infecting very ones ears with its lovely laziness. He certainly had the crowd grooving as they clapped along to "Carlito" without any direction from Calder.Strange quips between songs and whoo-ing out at the crowd didn't frighten them away, instead it brought them closer. He finished of his set with one more act of abstract genius by inviting fellow musician and basketball trick extraordinaire Jimmy Whispers up on stage. Calder and his band played on as Whispers took the spotlight, spinning that basketball like no one ever has before. For the uninitiated this came out of nowhere, but for fans of Calder it was the only way to end his set.

The screen at Lincoln Hall had prematurely risen, giving everyone a false alarm of excited that turned into anxiousness to see the sunny sounding band. A mix of friends of the band and fans with unconditional love for the group made up the audience and as Surfer Blood stepped out for their set, the animated crowd was absolutely ready for them. It seemed like Surfer Blood could tell as they went right to work, starting off their set with the instrumental track "Neighbor Riff". John Paul Pitts was resolute in his guitar playing, ripping into the familiar song as the ornate flashing lights visually captured Surfer Blood's energy.

surferblood3.jpgDespite having just released 1000 Palms, Surfer Blood's set list was equally distributed amongst all their albums. It honestly wouldn't be a Surfer Blood show without fan favorites like "Floating Vibes" and "Swim". Both of these songs were preceded by newer tracks, "Grand Inquistor" and "Dorian" respectively. The new songs flawlessly flowed into the old, validating Surfer Blood return to their roots. The songs sound so good together that it wouldn't be hard to think they were always meant to be heard that way. Although, I think there is something illustrious about the new songs. "Grand Inquisitor" in particular manages to achieve the fun spontaneity while still having an epic quality to its sound.

surferblood.jpgThat sense of epic-ness was carried on by Pitts as the stage was simply not enough for his liveliness. Before going into "Take It Easy", which he called his favorite song, Pitts invited a friend from the crowd to play guitar as he sang through the crowd. It took no time before Pitt jumped down and off the stage. He must have traversed every bit of the floor as he trudged through the crowd, hugging fans and singing into the faces. Pitts jumped up on speaks and looked out into the packed venue before eventually belting out the chorus of "Let's take it easy" atop the Lincoln Hall bar. His trek amongst the crowd filled with friends and adoring fans could not be stopped as he continued through what he announced as his second favorite song, "Feast/Famine". Again, this connection between the old and new felt like it was meant to be.

Surfer Blood returned for the encore with smiles on their faces. The crowd was still hooked in for their final two songs, "Gravity" and "Anchorage". While the hopeful cheers from some vocal fans of "Christian Pagans" were not answered, it was ok. The crowd still moved along to the strained love songs, full of the same energy the whole night had been based in. When the final chords were strummed and Surfer Blood departed, it was obvious that everyone left the show with a little gem from the evening.

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ARGO_SUPREME / May 29, 2015 9:09 AM


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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


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Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
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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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  & Shops:

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Dave's Records
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Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
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Numero Group
mP Shows
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Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records

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