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.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Tuesday, May 28

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

« Laura Marling's Tour De Ville Ends This Week at Martyrs' Get to Know Anthony Pavel »

Review Tue Nov 17 2015

Crown Larks Lead a Chaotic Rush of Rock at the Empty Bottle


One of the most interesting facets of Crown Larks' show the last two times I saw them, when they were opening for touring acts at Schubas, was that the band matched the milieu of the evening. Playing before Buke + Gase and Landlady, they allowed complex rhythms to dictate an uneven but sensical flow; playing before Yonatan Gat, they morphed into some raw, primal, shouting beast. So when they headlined The Empty Bottle's Free Monday last night, I knew I'd be hearing a different Crown Larks depending on the tone that had been set by the three preceding bands. But by the time they took the stage, there was no overarching tone, because each band that played dragged the evening in a totally new direction. The only common thread was some measure of devotion to progressive rock.

Wishgift took the stage first and began another trend that would define the evening's music--they were players, not performers. Bassist John Paul Glover never even faced the audience as he fused with his instrument to create a bombastic foundation for the music. Singer/guitarist Davey Hart looked out upon the crowd with a sort of dazed gaze, listing off the long, unintelligible title of each song before letting the throttle loose and shouting out unintelligible lyrics (partially due to the bass-heavy mix, but the mania with which he shouted didn't help). But an appreciation of Wishgift's music, thankfully, wasn't reliant on understanding what Hart was saying. The band's musical prowess was evident from their near-constant rhythmic shifts, moving easily from speed punk-type sections to doom metal breakdowns and occasionally throwing in some whimsical, atonal themes that sounded like Schonberg on PCP. If I closed my eyes, I felt like I was an observer in a steampunk torture chamber.


Wei Zhongle took things in an entirely different direction, maintaining the night's experimental feel but channeling it through different instruments--namely John McCowen's clarinet, which thanks to a variety of effects sounded not much like a clarinet. McCowen and guitarist/singer Rob Jacobs excelled at creating myriad textures and tones, ranging from an oscillating tremolo to a synth-like drone. And when Jacobs would sing, his voice functioned as a third atmospheric instrument, his wicked falsetto mimicking keyboard leads when he wasn't producing actual words. The only reason they could conduct so much sonic exploration, though, was the outstanding bass work of Pat Kuehn, who made his fretless instrument blossom and interfaced seamlessly with drummer Phillip Sudderberg to bring a powerful funk groove to each song.

Tweak Bird, originally from Carbondale but now living in LA, shifted the evening's tone back toward the distorted chaos that had been established by Wishgift, but exhibited something much closer to a pop sensibility--at least, as much pop sensibility as was held by the founders of grunge (drummer Ashton Bird wore a Pearl Jam tank). The defining trait of their music was the dual vocals of Ashton and his brother Caleb, who played a baritone guitar that kept the music solidly in the chuggy lower registers. Singing in unison nearly the entire time, they created a manic chorus effect fraught equally with punk angst and trippy escapism. When they did split into harmonies, the music tended to uncoil from its typical tightly wound, distorted fracas, sprawling out into garage-Floydian soundscapes.


After such diverse sonic statements, I was interested in seeing how Crown Larks would play to the new context. As it turned out, the "new" was the context--they played almost exclusively unreleased material, songs they've recorded for their upcoming second album. When I spoke with the band a few weeks ago for a Transmission feature, frontman Jack Bouboushian told me to expect more structure from the new stuff, and he was absolutely right. For as much as Lorraine Bailey utilized her saxophone to craft flowing, improvisational melodies, the music was certainly not jazz. If anything, the increased chemistry between bassist Matt Puhr and drummer Bill Miller kept the songs more tightly locked into grooves, with less of the King Crimson-esque spinouts that populate their debut LP Blood Dancer. That said, Crown Larks' trademark visceral, jarring sounds remained intact, with Bouboushian droning and shouting as he colored the songs with unorthodox chords and Bailey going nuts on the keyboards and saxophone. The emotional peak of the performance came at the end, as it should, with an intense, jammed buildup to the panicky ecstasy of "Satrap," off Crown Larks' EP Catalytic Conversion.

The Empty Bottle puts on its Free Mondays as a paragon of everything people love about rock music: its rebelliousness, its willingness to get crazy, its ability to reach some animalistic part of the soul. In that regard, the four bands who performed last night fulfilled that mission, and showcased the plethora of ways to make it happen.

GB store
GB store

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

GB store


Featured Series


Transmission on Flickr

Join the Transmission Flickr Pool.

About Transmission

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.

Editor: Sarah Brooks,
Transmission staff inbox:



Transmission Flickr Pool
 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15