If 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.
Before this concert, I have missed every Torres show she's had in Chicago. Various goings on and last minute changes prevented me from seeing Mackenzie Scott perform songs off her first album and I was always devastated. Scott's lyrics and guitar work is incredibly affecting and instantly hypnotic. i could only imagine how great she would be live. Then she released "Sprinter" and my mind was made up. I needed to see her perform these new more elaborate songs. After seeing her this past week, I severely regret having missed those previous shows. Scott had a performance that every rock singer should aspire to put on at the Empty Bottle. It was a raw and powerful show that resolidified Scott as an amazing musician.
If you haven't heard Towkio's fresh beats, now is the time. A member of the talented, much-loved SaveMoney crew alongside Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa, 21-year-old Towkio's eccentric musical stylings are drawing listeners into the unique world he is able to curate. Seamlessly blending hip hop and electronic dance genres, Towkio's music keeps listeners interested and engaged, as well. Adding layer upon layer of production, rhythmic effects, and one-of-a-kind phrasing, Towkio's tunes make us want to dance and stop to listen to his rapid fire lyrics, all at the same time. The beats comprise a sensuality that allows each ballad to contain a rampant emotional tone, which seeps into the production of his newly released album, .Wav Theory.
Take a listen to his new album below, and if you enjoy what you hear, Towkio will be performing for a packed house at The Metro on May 16. My personal favorite? Free Your Mind, with its summery vibes and horns by Donnie Trumpet. A part of Chicago's strong hip hop scene, Towkio is sure to impress during his upcoming hometown show.
Towkio will be at The Metro on Saturday, May 16, with Kehlani and DJ Spinn as support acts. Tickets are $18 in advance, and $21 at the door for this all ages show, with sets beginning at 7pm and doors opening at 6pm. The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark St.
Recently I've seen my fair share of minimalist musicians in a live setting and every time I'm blown away. The transition from the studio sounds to the live in person experience is massive. There is an added expansiveness to their sound, making the already emotive experience all the more affecting. Young Ejecta and Shy Girls were no exception at their Schubas show this past weekend. Both bands were completely different from what I was expecting, with Young Ejecta delivering more with fewer members and Shy Girls creating instant R&B classics with relative ease. They were a fantastic pairing that fed on the audience's energy, putting together a passionate show.
The Mountain Goats Regional Heat Tour Poster "Werewolf Gimmick" by John Keogh
There is a certain level of trust gained after two decades and over a dozen records, and John Darnielle knows that. Halfway through his set this past Saturday at the Vic he remarked that very sentiment in regards to Beat the Champ, the grappling concept album that marks his 15th under the name The Mountain Goats. I doubt many artists would be able to get away with an album devoted entirely to wrestling, particularly the '70s and flashy '80s that Darnielle has set his focus on. Even fewer could find the emotional resonance and beauty within those songs. Darnielle noted that the album were not as universal as his previous efforts, but I think that The Mountain Goats were able to dig down and show off the ubiquitous depths of those songs and gave the audience at the Vic a good look at what wrasslin' can offer.
There something incredible in the simplicity of a beautiful voice imparting a story through a song. It may seem like an obvious observation, but when this deed is accomplished with as much passion and sincerity as José González and Ólöf Arnalds did this past Wednesday, it becomes a revelation. These two musicians craft their infinitely loving songs with full regard of their emotions; wearing them right on their sleeves and letting the listener take them in. They had a two sold out nights at Lincoln Hall and I was lucky enough see one of their performances that were completely filled with grace and life.
When this show was first announced it was only the pairing of Collen Green and Upset, who had just released I Want to Grow Up and '76 EP respectively. The lineup for this show at Beat Kitchen slowly grew larger as the date crept up. Two local acts, Sam Vicari and Impulsive Hearts, were added to the already worthwhile show. Little did I know that I would walk away from this show with a couple new bands to follow and a greater appreciation of the ones I already loved.
Sam France is a maniac. In a good way, that is. If you took the antics of Matthew Shulttz of Cage the Elephant and combined it with a little paisley, you might have something close. Or, even more accurate a Kevin Barnes in the height of Of Montreal's career. At the same time, there are also some heavy glam influences within the set, recalling the unpredictable energy and theatrics of a Rocky Horror Picture Show or Hedwig and the Angry Itch sort of feel with a combined drama and music and choreography from three energetic dancing ladies AKA Star Power.
The four-piece Californian Foxygen is coming back to Chicago this week to play at the Metro! For anyone who has ever witnessed the unpredictable antics of lead singer Sam France live, you'll know that the band is exceptionally intriguing to see live as literally anything can happen. Their melodious poppy psychedelic sounds are always pleasing to the ear and with their stage presence, each live show is definitely memorable!
Foxygen is playing an 18+ show at the Metro this Thursday. Tickets are $17 and you can purchase them here.
There is something really special about Ibeyi. Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz imbue an abundance of culture into their music, finding just the right words to sing in English, French, and Yoruban. Their self-titled debut is a gorgeous collection of songs that cling to a beautiful and devastating history, looking at personal and universal conditions without ever faltering to platitudes. This past weekend Lincoln Hall was treated to an incredible performance by Ibeyi and Flo Morrissey, a singer-songwriter from the UK. These three performers are wise beyond their years. That seems like an overused descriptor of young and talented artists, but I assure you it applies to these three musicians.
Riding off the explosive release of his dynamic debut album Doris, Odd Future's rambunctious MC Earl Sweatshirt abruptly abandoned his worldwide tour, citing a "lack of self-maintenance" and confessing he wore himself down — physically and mentally — to the end of his rope.
Emerging from the shadows eight months later spiraling in bleak sincerity, Earl launched his introspective sophomore effort I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside on March 23. Now he's embarking on a colossal tour, aptly titled "Not Ready 2 Leave," which stopped at Chicago's Concord Music Hall on March 29.
The crowd received a fervid opening act from Chicago newbie Remy Banks — who proclaimed he was "too high" to perform (an irony not lost on audience members who were unable to sneak a puff of anything unless they wanted to be ejected by beefy security guards). He was followed by West Coast MC Vince Staples, who was unable to keep the energy burning, even in a Metallica T-shirt. That is, until Earl appeared.
"Y'all ready to have some fun?" A bulkier, khakied and afroed Earl invited the audience, "Cuz we 'bout to take it the gangsta route."
After the crowd settled in, Earl began to clear his throat as he hesitated to introduce his new material. As he admitted in recent interviews, I Don't Like Shit is the first album that he feels fully confident in its truthful expression. It's dark stuff, hollowed and empty, slowed flow and scratching self-production, but juxtaposed against his earlier, more commercial tracks, he's beginning to take off the mask and let us in.
Benjamin Booker is both incredibly talented and quite charming in his honesty and sincerity that seems quite evident as he performs. What could be a very simple set up of guitar bass and drums (with occasional mandolin and fiddling from band mates) becomes more complex when you think of all the influences responsible for this greatness. Throughout the hour long set, one could decipher an intriguing mix of garage rock, soul, bluegrass, and blues that seem to all come together, with one or another genre emphasized more in some songs. It's exciting that Booker is so young when you think of what he'll continue to do with all of these genres in a hopefully long career ahead of him.
TV on the Radio have been around for a little over a decade and they have been releasing the most unique albums I've ever heard. Their music grabs inspiration from such varied sources and are brought together in such innovative ways, it seems like they are forever destined to be ahead of their time. Last year they released Seeds, their first album since Gerard Smith's passing. As a huge fan of TV on the Radio, Smith's passing came at a time where it affected me greatly. It was a loss that certainly could have stopped TV on the Radio in its tracks, but instead it strengthened and encouraged the band to continue creating. Seeds feel like a beautiful tribute to Smith, featuring some of the brightest songs the group has written. It's a testament to their ability and fortitude to strive forward without forgetting of their past .This past Monday, TV on the Radio stopped by the Metro and showed their resilience and amazing showmanship to a sold out audience.
Craft Spells, primarily the project of Justin Paul Vallesteros, started out with some instantly great electronic pop. But in the three years between his debut Idle Labor and last year's Nausea, there was a shift to a more organic sound. Vallesteros produced a more mature tone than his first album by bringing in live instrumentation and writing songs for the piano. It was a change that showed just how diverse Craft Spells and the genre he operates in can be. Last week, Craft Spells was joined by The Bilinda Butchers and Tiny Fireflies at Schubas, where the three bands showed off how varied and interesting dreamy pop can be.
This Saturday is going to be a very special one at the Metro in Chicago. Musician Benjamin Booker will be playing an XRT sponsored show with Olivia Jean as his opener. I caught Booker's set at last year's Lollapalooza and he had an honest and urgent energy that did not disappoint with the stellar songs to back up his stage presence. His self titled album earned him plenty of deserved accolades and it's always exciting watching a young musician come into his own sense of self and artistry.
This show is sold out but you might be lucky enough to win XRT tickets. It's an 18+ over show and doors open at 8pm.
It's been quite a while since Brazilian Girls have released an album together. Last year we got a little taste of the band through lead singer Sabina Sciubba's solo debut Toujours. But it's coming on seven years since New York City, the last album Brazilian Girls released together. It's strange not having the group's eclectic dance music buzzing around or a steady stream of their unbelievably fun live shows. Sciubba has a knack for combining theatrical antics to Brazilian Girls' performances. After years of random appearances, Brazilian Girls have finally returned in earnest. Last week, they foursome made a stop in Pilsen at the magnificent Thalia Hall with a few new songs and a promise in tow.
The first day of Levitation Festival kicked off with both it's share of awe inspiring and tumultuous moments. One thing that this Chicago showcase does that Austin Psych Fest in Texas also succeeds at is bringing forth a somewhat eclectic mix of psychedelic music from the genre without diverging too much from the ultimate path. This leads to greater active listening on the part of the audience, who will experience each band a little differently but never feel let down or bored with it all. It takes a great deal of planning and inspiration to make any festival lineup work out this well so great thanks are in order to those who planned and booked the event.
Mark Panick, best known for his work in seminal post-punk outfits Bonemen of Barumba and Chac Mool, writes with his industrial rock roots planted firmly, but don't be fooled: he may be a composer entranced by the darkness of the human condition, but he isn't one to be pigeonholed. His recordings are rife with unabashed sexuality, gutter-punk abandon and tasty grooves.
His latest projects include Razorhouse and their industrial unplugged offshoot, The Black Friars Social Club, who as luck will have it are performing Saturday, March 14 at The Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace St., at 8pm. Tickets are $5.
Joining him are a distinguished group of Chicago music veterans/reprobates in the likes of David Suycott, Jim DeMonte, Danny Shaffer, Rob Roberts, and me, Alan Lake. Collectively they've played with Ministry, Stabbing Westward, Insiders, Bryan Ferry and more.
Says Panick, "I'm just doing what I've always done, building forts and looking for others who wanna play."
Austin Psych Fest, now known as Levitation Fest, is one of the finest festivals in the world. For any fans of psychedelic music, this is quite possibly the most highly recommended festival one could attend. The festival features a whole range of both experimental, slightly ambient to more jarring and also more well known standard examples of psychedelic music for fans who are curious about what is being created nationally and internationally as well as to relive previous moments of psychedelic grandeur.
This year, Chicago is extremely lucky to have a smaller showcase of this wondrous event right at Thalia Hall, which covers some of the fantastic bands playing the festival and will definitely be two nights local psychedelic music fans will relish in. In case you cannot attend the entire Austin Psych Fest in Chicago or, like this reviewer, you just can't get enough of this genre, this weekend at Thalia Hall is not to be missed! The festival kicks off Friday, March 13th at 7pm and continues Saturday March 14th at 6pm. This local festival features amazing bands such as Lumerians, Viet Cong, Swervedriver, Noveller, and The Pop Group!
It's not quite St. Pat's but you can still get your Erin go Bragh on this Saturday, March 7, at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) with local favorites, The Tossers. Southsiders by birth, the band makes it's annual pilgrimage to Wrigleyville this weekend with an action-packed night of music and general Irish-themed musical merriment. Seriously, if you can't get to a pub in Ireland this year, this is the next best thing (even if you're not too sure about that pennywhistle, just go along for your own sake). No green beer, no pinching, just old fashioned good times.
But that's not all! We've got two pairs of tickets to giveaway. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Tossers!" and we'll pick two winners at random at 3pm today. Must be 18+.
Here's a great Tossers tune, complete with some classic Chicago scenes. It also happens to be the title track of their latest album from 2013.
Tomorrow night, Erik Hall's diligent efforts will pay off with a hometown album release party at Schubas. His latest work as In Tall Buildings, Driver, is his sophomore album but it's sticking to the same formula (home recording) that served him so well with his self-titled debut in 2010. His textured pop vocals and intriguing synths prove mesmerizing. In Driver, there's raw sonic qualities of mellow singer-songwriters like Beck or Bon Iver. Hall's songs are great for walking deserted Chicago streets during a snowstorm, or daydreaming on the beach. Generally, they're something perfect for getting you through the last blast of winter and into the warm embrace of spring.
Erik Hall (aka In Tall Buildings) Photo by Caleb Condit
In Tall Buildings performs at Schubas (3159 N. Southport) on Thursday, March 5th. Fred Thomas (of Saturday Looks Good to Me) and Elliot Bergman (of Wild Belle) open. Music starts at 9pm. Tickets are $12 and the show is 21+.
My cousin and I have been to dozens upon dozens of concerts and we have noticed something about Chicago crowds over the years. There was a time where the overarching generality about Chicago audiences was that we were a somber bunch, quietly dancing in place no matter how intense the band was. Recently, we've seen an upswing in energy. The tides have been changing. There is still reverence for shows when appropriate, but the rowdiness factor has certainly risen. There's more dancing, jumping, pushing, and people just let go to the music. An animated group of people can affect an experience, giving the atmosphere a more raucous note for better or worse. Luckily the wild mood of the crowd leaned towards the better for The Growlers and BRONCHO during the last night of two sold-out shows at Lincoln Hall.
It's incredibly hard to prepare for a Swans concert. It makes no difference whether you're familiar with Swans' leader Michael Gira and his experimental post-rock or not. Their live show is consistently visceral experience that tests the very idea of the band and the creation of music. Swans' songs have never been easy to take in as they dredge down to some very scathing and torturous sounds. Despite the inherent harshness, there is a longing for love underlining their existence that somehow become incredibly rewarding the more you listen. It's a tumultuous back and forth that makes the band all the more interesting.
The closest one can get to being ready for a Swans show is to listen to their latest work. Their last two albums The Seer and To Be Kind clocked in over two hours a piece, indulging further into Gira's dark and inviting noises. These albums are the height of Gira and his current bandmates impressive collaboration. This weekend at Thalia Hall, Swans performed about six songs during their near non-stop two hour plus performance. It was one of the loudest and most transcendent concerts I've had the pleasure of attending.
Back in 2006, Sleater-Kinney announced an unelaborated and indefinite hiatus, leaving their fans with little to no hope of seeing the band together again. It may seem like an overreaction but that is at the very least how I felt as a burgeoning adult losing one of his favorite bands. Granted in the following years all the members continued making amazing music. Corin Tucker released a couple of albums that I gravitated to immediately. Drummer extraordinaire Janet Weiss played with nearly every other band I like including the Jicks, Quasi, and the Shins. Carrie Brownstein added writing and acting to her repertoire, all the while making more and more music. When Weiss joined Carrie Brownstein on Wild Flag, it was the closest thing to a Sleater-Kinney reunion most fans could clear see at the time.
Thankfully, with the release of their box set Start Together last year, new music emerged and a fully formed concept of the band returned. No Cities to Love, their first album in a decade, doesn't feel like a simple reunion album. I don't think Sleater-Kinney is capable of that. Every song on the album is a new classic that makes it seem like they never actually left. That was definitely the feeling at the Riviera, where the crowd jumped and sang along with Sleater-Kinney in an amazing show.
The post-punk band Gang of Four have a new album, What Happens Next, which is being released on Feb. 24. It features collaborations with Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Gail Ann Dorsey, German superstar Herbert Grönemeyer and Japanese superstar Hotei. The band is coming to the Park West March 13; I reached frontman Andy Gill over the phone last week to ask a few questions about the upcoming show.
I had a chance to listen to the new album a bit, and each song is distinct, giving it a sound like a compilation album. I'm curious if one of these songs is going to be the new GOF sound, or if the new sound of GOF is collaborating with other artists.
I think you kind of take it one step at a time... I always felt that when working on a new record it is like starting from scratch. I know there are some bands that kind of plowed their furrow and they're gonna stick to it -- they've got their sound and the way they do things, and stick to what they do. Right from the beginning GOF was different with every record. It's like if you're asking similar questions but coming up with different answers. To me time moves on, I move on, I'm not exactly the same as I was four years ago, and when I was 27 I wasn't the same guy as when I was 22. Time moves on and you come up with some different answers to the way to proceed and the way to make songs and the way to make records. I think with this record I think even more so because Jon King who's been on previous records is no longer in the project, so that makes it even more the case of reinventing the wheel.
Doing the collaboration thing was something that I had felt like doing for quite a long time, it's something that's quite common in hip hop bands and I think that's quite healthy -- you can do some things that perhaps might surprise you. In terms of defining the GOF sound, the next record -- for which I have ideas and songs, will probably involve collaborations. Beyond that can't say where it's going, with each album I didn't know quite where things were going, once you've got four or five songs on the go you start to see what direction its taking.
Kaki King has been creating beautifully intricate songs for years. Her work is mostly wordless, letting her guitar work to speak for itself save for a few lovely lyrics in songs here and there. Recently she has taken this instrumental focus to a marvelous extreme with her multimedia art piece The Neck Is A Bridge To The Body, which King performed this past Wednesday at Lincoln Hall. The art piece is a collaboration between King's complex guitar work and Glowing Pictures' visual artists including Beth Wexler who was in control of the visuals. The whole production centers around King's white guitar as it transforms itself into a unique canvas for the ever evolving video art. The kaleidoscope of imagery was as strange and wonderful as it sounded coming through King's guitar.
Long-running Chicago experimental arts and music organization Lampo soft-launched its Winter 2015 season with a very surprising and exciting opener. This Saturday at 8 p.m., the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl.) will host the legendary composer Arnold Dreyblatt. Dreyblatt will perform two pieces; Spin Ensemble (2011), a piece created with recordings of an MRI machine, and a live performance of his best known piece, Nodal Excitation (1979).
If you are of a certain age, you might remember Dreyblatt from his CD on John Zorn's Tzadik label (Animal Magnetism, 1995). If you're a bit older, you might remember the Nodal Excitation LP on India Navigation (or its reissue on Dexter's Cigar). He's best known for his shimmering, overtone-rich pieces involving taught strings and wires set to vibrating by plucking, bowing, or hammering. The opening piece sounds equally intriguing: "In Spin Ensemble (2011), Dreyblatt creates a palette of acoustic signals and patterns from recordings of an MRI machine (specifically the "Siemens Magnetom Symphony Maestro Class") in the Martin-Luther-Hospital in Berlin. He considers the device something like a giant Tesla coil, in which the alignment and resonances of a powerful magnetic field are gradually altered by rotating radio frequencies. Under Dreyblatt's direction, Siemens technicians operated the machine expressly for these recordings, searching for software settings to generate a desired sound. Later he analyzed the audio segments, and grouped them by pitch, rhythm and density. For the resulting composition, these files have been combined and fused, but they have not been digitally treated in any way."
Tickets are FREE with RSVP. Click here to reserve. (update: tickets are sold out, but it might not hurt to wait around to see if any claimed tickets open up.)
Faith No More have always reminded me of PiL on steroids. Amp PiL's post-punk sound to hardcore and metal, throw some rap, funk and R&B in the mix and have a jack-of-all-trades vocalist (Chuck Mosley & Mike Patton) who can sing as well as scream. For years FNM made some awesome music and seemed to always be doing something different. After a long break, the band got back together in 2009 and have done shows here and there (mostly there) since. In May, they'll return to Chicago for the first time in a while.
Faith No More headlines Concord Music Hall on Thursday, May 7. Tickets are on sale this Friday. It's 18+ and $44.50. Concord Music Hall's at 2047 N Milwaukee.
For the band's 50th anniversary, and apparently their swan song, legendary musical psychonauts The Grateful Dead today announced a series of three shows at Chicago's Soldier Field — scene of the group's last run before the death of frontman Jerry Garcia in the summer of 1995. Dubbed "Fare Thee Well," the three shows — July 3, 4 and 5 — will feature guest musicians Trey Anastasio, Jeff Chimenti, and Bruce Hornsby, all artists with a history of collaborating with the Dead or its various members' post-Grateful Dead projects. The shows will apparently mark "the surviving original members' last-ever performance together."
The crowd cheers at the Metro. Photo: Jim Vondruska
Thank you to everyone who joined us for our 2014 Holiday Show at the Metro. It was a great time, and we were blown away by Pop Goes the Evil, the Kickback, Archie Powell & the Exports, and MUTTS.
It was definitely a family affair for the bands, with them all coming together for a finale of Paul McCartney's "Monkberry Moon Delight." It was also a big moment for MUTTS as they released their latest album, Fuel Yer Delusion vol. 4.
Whether you were there or not, here are some photos, videos, and reviews of the night.
Four years ago, Lampo hosted composer and installation artist Tristan Perich as part of its fall series, where he performed his composition "One-Bit Symphony" (2010), accompanied by visual accompaniment of his on-the-spot pattern generation across five black and white TVs. You can see my review of the event here. It was a hell of a thing, that night. Perich's composition, small enough to fit on a small circuit mounted inside of CD jewel case with a headphone jack, created its rising and falling patterns out of endless 1s and 0s, yet like Nancarrow's ultra-complex player piano work, the music was soulful and heartbreaking and lusty and vivacious, despite (or because of) its adherence to a restrictive medium.
Perich returns this Saturday (December 13) at 8 p.m. to the Logan Center for the Arts (915 East 60th Street, performance penthouse 901) to present "Noise Patterns," the next development in his one-bit music. Admission is free with RSVP.
MUTTS will be celebrating the release of their latest album, Fuel Yer Delusion, vol. 4, which is dedicated to anyone who's chasing a dream. It's something MUTTS knows plenty about, traveling across the country to play their heavy, bluesy rock at over 100 shows in the past year.
The past couple years have been good to Allah-Las. They have gotten better and better with every passing performance, honing their skills and building up a reputation of great shows. Their latest album, Worship the Sun has the band completely submersed in their music, becoming more than just another simple 60s psychedelic revival. Allah-Las embody the sound so well they seem displaced in time and we in the present are all the better for it. This past weekend Allah-Las returned to Chicago and took Lincoln Hall on a very satisfying musical journey.
There is nearly a ten year gap between Death From Above 1979's You're a Woman, I'm a Machine and their second album The Physical World. One would think that with so much time having passed that Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger would have lost a step or at the very least drifted to far from their initial sound. It's a fair concern considering how different the two member may be. Luckily, these notions could easily placed aside with the release of The Physical World. DFA1979 continues right where they left off by elevating the melodic undertones of their sound to the forefront while maintaining the heavy rock.They have been touring in support of their reformation and made their way to the Riviera last week for one of the loudest shows of the year.
The first thing I think of when I hear Of Montreal is the rich imagination of Kevin Barnes. He has managed to create a dozen records filled with a surreal psychedelic pop that transport you increasingly magnificent locations. It was no surprise then when Barnes spoke and performed at Museum of Contempory Art Chicago for their David Bowie exhibit last Thursday. It's a combination that seems to have been made in heaven. Judging by his music and stage presence with Of Montreal, you can see the direct lineage from Bowie to Barnes. They both exude otherworldly attributes that enlighten and elevate you to their level. Even as Barnes was toned down from his exuberant theatrical Of Montreal persona, he was still able to invoke a powerful presence while performing a tender and intimate set for his astoundingly loyal fans for a sold out show at Schubas this past weekend.
Since their inception, Run the Jewels seems incapable of doing any wrong. This year is no exception. The group is a meld of two substantially different rap styles, one coming from El-P 's New York flow and production and Killer Mike's dirty south genius. They just released Run the Jewels 2 which continues the pair's utterly crazy verses and impeccable production. The songs are outlandish, clever, filthy, complex, willfully ignorant, and infinitely referential all in the name of entertaining rap. It's the perfect combination of unabashed grandstanding and pure skill. If you aren't having fun listening to these guys throw down, then you need to consider not taking everything so seriously. Run the Jewels certainly have found the balance between seriousness and enjoyment considering their offer of a meow-mix of the album. Thanks to a Kickstarter campaign they will be releasing Meow the Jewels. Only Run the Jewels have the audacity to run with something so ridiculous.
Saturday may as well be Run the Jewels Day in Chicago as they will be all over the city. El-P and Killer Mike will be signing copies of the new album at the Reckless Records, 3126 N. Broadway, from 2-3pm before doing two shows at the Metro . Run the Jewels will be joined by New York rappers Despot and the group Ratking, the latter of which had an amazing head busting set at Lolla earlier this year. The late show, which will also feature David Ruffin Theory, is sold out but somehow there are still tickets available for their early show at 5:30. Don't miss this show.
It's always good to see the Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys up to anything, even if it isn't involving a proper Super Furries show. Showcasing his newest solo release, American Interior, his imagination, wit, and intellect again made for a rare treat to the midwest crowd. Hailing from Wales, Rhys was all about Welsh pride in his two hour-plus alternate history of how Prince Madoc and John Evans help discover America (instead of Columbus) and how some of the First Nation ended up speaking Welsh.
Unwound never really died. Yeah, the band called it quits years ago and everyone involved left to embark on all sorts of new adventures, but the legacy of Unwound lives on. The latest manifestation of Unwound's legacy is a band playing at Subterranean this coming Friday: Survival Knife.
I didn't give Δ, pronounced alt-J, a fair chance when they released their initial EP and subsequent album An Awesome Wave. It was more than likely a combination of something just not clicking with the songs I had heard. Maybe it was the convolution of their name, the Mac key sequence to produce the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet that indicates change in mathematical equations. Whatever the reason, it wasn't until my sister Kayla insisted that they were indeed a good band and that I should take a second listen. My resistance to the band would ultimately not make sense considering how strange and inventive they turned out to be.
Since then I've been an advocate of John Newman's weird warbling voice and the band's complex compositions. Δ came to the Riviera this past weekend and reaffirmed my sister' assertions of quality. They played and 18-song set, touching upon everything one would hope for, and it was breathtaking.
Slowdive made their return to music after nearly 20 years of absence. It says a lot that a band with only three albums to their name has ad as much attention and fervor associated with their reunion. You could chalk it up to nostalgia of a better time, but their sound has a much more eternal quality. I am almost certainly on the younger end of Slowdive fans considering my newborn status at the time of their formation, nonetheless I've been enchanted by their dreamy sound for years. Their return fills me with unfettered joy and stands a chance for their songs to get the due they richly deserve.
The reunion tour has placed Slowdive with a really apt pairing, placing Low's softer and mellower music as a lead in to Slowdive's more expansive wave of sound is one of those perfect transitions. This past week's show at the Vic was Slowdive's second time playing in Chicago this year, following up the amazing performance at Pitchfork Festival this summer. With a closed and more sound-pleasing venue, Slowdive simply couldn't, and didn't, disappoint.
As I left my apartment to see Ben Frost the other day, the weather shifted. The sky changed to a ominous shade of black. An inescapable coldness filled the air as flakes of snow fell from the sky, their luminous white color in stark contrast of the overwhelming darkness around them. It was beautiful.
Sometimes it's better not knowing much about the musical acts you're going to see. It's an incredibly great feeling to be surprised and turned into a genuine fan of musicians that you were unfamiliar with. Such was the case this past week at Schubas, where I was met with an diverse and all around fantastic collection of local musicians. Originally I was expecting to see Gemma Ray, but her cancellation came far in advance and I was ready to experience what the Chicago music scene had to offer. Turns out I got way more than I was expecting from all three acts. The groove-able sounds of Brash Flair, the darky mystical Rasplyn, and the electronically inclined rock of Dial In delivered a great eclectic night of Chicago musicians at Schubas.
The duo of Kristin Johnston and Joshua Wentz started off the evening as Brash Flair and they really impressed me. Their sound is really a complex assortment of beautifully arranged beats and keys cast beneath Johnston's unwavering voice. The music and vocals never fight for attention, rather melding together in a sonically satisfying array. Their songs are ambient electronic music that often finds itself spread across genres. There elements of glitch sewn into some song that end up experimenting with an almost modern hip hop beats. They created lush and dense soundscapes that rise up to these intricate highs that transcend the sum of the parts. "Good Morning" was a particularly powerful stand out in their set, showcasing Johnston's voice prominently. Johnston and Wentz continuously switched places behind their setup, taking control of every aspect of their flowing sound with an effortless grace. They ended their set by building up a song on the fly, a beautiful expression of how well the duo work together.
Stephin Merritt's range as a musical artist knows no bounds. Merritt may be best known for his extensive catalog of magnificent pop music as the head of The Magnetic Fields, but this barely scratches the surface of his work. He has found himself working within musical theater, contributing fantastic original music to audio books, creating film soundtracks, and as part of the multitude of side projects including The Gothic Archies, The 6ths, and Future Bible Heroes. There are very few writers than can be as introspective and genuine as Merritt when it comes to songs about something as delicate as love. Merritt has managed to infuse every project with his lovely and always entertaining songwriting along with his intoxicating bass voice. His prowess doesn't end with his musical talents. He has recently released his first book, 101 Two Letter Words, a collection of poetry accompanied by illustrations by Roz Chast. It would seem as if Merritt's reach knows no bounds, expanding into every realm his vast talents will take him.
Stephin Merritt will in Chicago for two very special events. On Nov. 7 he will be speaking with Peter Segal as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival. Tickets for this event are $12. The following evening, Nov. 8, Merritt will be performing an intimate solo set at the Old Town School of Folk Music. This rare event will have Merritt performing pieces from his massive oeuvre in alphabetical order. Advance Base, a solo project of Owen Ashworth, will be opening for him. Tickets are $30 for the general public, $28 for members.
There are many names for alternative rap, the spectrum of hip hop that looks deeper into the craft of the verses and beats. Open Mike Eagle calls his version of the genre Art Rap and I couldn't imagine a better way to describe it. Eagle, along with Serengeti and Jeremiah Jae, create wordy and ultimately more fulfilling tracks, putting emphasis on characters and message while still putting up memorable tracks. Eagle's Dark Comedy and Serengeti's Sisyphus project and his forthcoming Kenny Dennis III are easily shaping up to be the best alternative rap albums of the year. This past week, the three rappers stopped by Empty Bottle and put on a solid rap show.
This past Friday I was supposed to go see Haley Bonar at Schubas. Earlier that morning on her Facebook page she announced that she would not be able to perform that evening due to laryngitis. With an upcoming tour in Europe, it made sense for her to rest up. While such news is usually a downer, Bonar had luckily announced that the show was going to be carried on by her opener John Mark Nelson and Kara Laudon. I was only slightly familiar with Nelson and Laudon's music, but after a second or two of hearing them perform I knew that Bonar had left Chicago in the amazing hands of two wonderful musicians
Years ago I was given a copy of Frightened Rabbit's first album Sing the Greys and instantly knew that Scott Hutchison's songs would be something I would want to seek out. When The Midnight Organ Fight was released, it cemented Frightened Rabbit and Hutchison in my mind as one of the best modern bands. Every song simply grabbed me, leaving me aching for the same reason they ached. Hutchison's ability to capture little idiosyncratic moments into a universal understanding is uncanny. This past Wednesday Hutchison performed a lengthy set under his solo moniker Owl John at the Bottom Lounge, further showing his ability to captivate with his songs.
Chicago's Wedding Dress opened the night up quite well. The group is a nice collection of other Chicago area band including Maps & Atlases, Joan of Arc, and Suns. Together they create a dreamy indie rock sound that is accented with some interesting features. The slow and atmospheric build up to "Dangerous Living" had an almost post-rock quality to it before it submerged itself into the band's more identifiable sound. That's not to say that their music isn't filled with surprises, though. There is a bit of experimentation happening throughout their songs, particularly in when group blends in some interesting drums and keys into their work. The cover of Wild Beast's "The Devil's Crayon" fit the band quite well, really making it their own especially through Erin Elders vocals. They ended their set with "Simple Cords," which has the band at their most entertainingly folky.
The Districts may have only played 35 minutes in their opening set for Temples Thursday night but it was none stop energy. The Pennsylvanian four piece is composed of two guitarists which helps emphasize the melody lines and enhances the energy of the rifts and pedal effects. Additionally, a bassist, and bombastic drummer add to the overall effect. At any given point, all members except the bassist may be providing vocals but all four seen strongly invested, especially their lead singer, Robby Grote.
It's no surprise that three piece Canadian trio Rural Alberta Advantage keep playing larger venues. The packed Tuesday night crowd huddled in the rain to gladly see one of their favorite bands again play for a near 90 minute long set. The band's live performance only grows more heightened with a sense of the songs coming into their own greatness with lead singer Nils Edenloff's ability to project his voice even in more expansive spaces increasingly apparent.
Hardly ever the type to be conventional, Foo Fighters have announced that they'll play Cubby Bear on Friday, the 17th. The Dave Grohl-directed Sonic Highways series is about to debut on HBO and their new album of the same title comes next month. The band will play after screening the first episode from the series. The new album, which they'll likely play in full on Friday, was recorded over the last year in eight US cities, including Chicago, of course.
Foo Fighters headline Cubby Bear on Friday, October 17. Tickets will be available Wednesday at 10am from here. There's a 2-ticket limit and they're doing everything they can to eliminate a second market. It's 21+ and doors open at 8:30PM. As of Tuesday morning, a price hadn't been announced, but it probably doesn't matter to many people. The Cubby Bear's at Addison & Clark.
This Saturday (October 11) at 8 p.m., experimental music organization Lampo begin their Fall 2014 season with the first of four free performances around Chicago. With the help of their long-running collaborators at the Graham Foundation, The Smart Museum of Art, and the Logan Center for the Arts, Chicagoans will have architecturally complimentary environments in which to experience a wide variety of unconventional, often abstract sounds and compositions.
The fall schedule is as follows: October 11: Rene Hell November 8: Robert A. A. Lowe November 22: Lucky Dragons December 13: Tristan Perich
Saturday's performance (which is free with RSVP, and takes place at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Pl.) will include a performance of a new composition by Jeff Witscher (aka Rene Hell), titled "Bifurcating a Resounding No!" The piece draws from years of recorded sounds (acoustic instruments, field recordings and voice), collected in cities across the U.S. and shaped with various digital techniques into a new long-form work.
If you don't know Jeff Witscher by name, you may know him by one of many others. From 2004 onward, Witscher has morphed into and between numerous guises and musical approaches, from harsh noise (Impregnable) to forlorn ambient soundscapes (Marble Sky) to anguished power electronics (Secret Abuse), releasing music through his Agents of Chaos label and many others channels. But most revered and, truthfully, the most mysterious of them all is his flagship project, Rene Hell.
England's Kasabian has yet another hit album with 48:13 and easily sold out the Metro with fans who danced and knew every word. As this photographer/reviewer was walking into the Metro, she overheard someone explain."Kasabian is like Oasis only with.a better sense of humor" and there is some merit in that. They write and rock out with the kind of songs people feel good dancing in a club to with all of their friends and they aren't about to let their presence be weighted down by a bunch of heavy ballads.
Originally, Why? was the solo project of Yoni Wolf, but with the release of the Sanddollars E.P. and Elephant Eyelash, Why? became a full band project. The music became cohesive melding of hip hop and indie rock, always moving between the two without being held down by either of them. His songs are colorful and verbose, creating intense imagery that never fails to impress. Why? came to Lincoln Hall this weekend for a two night stint, which he announced would be made up of two completely different set lists. I had the opportunity to see him on the first night and was blown away.
I can still vividly remember walking into a big box store and purchasing a CD of Get Away From Me, the amazing double album debut of Nellie McKay. I had seen the album online on some random message board thread heralding the best albums of 2004. The cover's unlikely combination of visuals grabbed me. McKay, with her golden locks spilling out of her red hooded coat, looked completely out of place in front of the graffiti packed brick wall. Toward the bottom left corner of the cover laid the stark parental advisory warning. I couldn't understand how all these elements came together, but I needed to find out. I quickly walked out of the store and began playing the album in my father's car. I fell in love with the brilliant storytelling, beautiful instrumentation, and rapping ability of Nellie McKay. A mix of jazz, hip hop, blues and countless other genres appeared on McKay's oeuvre over the next decade and every one of them was gracefully mastered by her voice. This past weekend, Nellie McKay came to SPACE and showed every bit of her mastery.
Tobacco is weird. Luckily, it's the kind of weird that offers up one of the most entertaining and abstract musical artists today. Thomas Fec, the man behind Tobacco and head of the psychedelic Black Moth Super Rainbow, has built an irreverent lore around himself. It's a haze of b-movie shocks, fuzzy statements, and recently some beard rubbing. Take the Nickelodeon commercial incident, where Fec feigned interest about his music being used without permission. That event actually had Fec reveling in the silliness surrounding it by using Nickelodeon-esque visuals for online promos and inserting the word scrote into the vernacular of his fan base. The half serious, half joking oddities revolving around his electronic pop fused with gnarring sounds enhance the experience of Tobaxxo, as its occasionally stylized. This week, Fec along with BMSR cohort The Seven Fields of Aphelion, Maureen Boyle, put on an amazing show at Lincoln Hall.
Experimental hip hop has on the rise recently; bringing influxes of strange and often thought to be counterintuitive elements into the hip hop world with great results. The experimentation with beats and flows has been reaching an tremendous peak over the last few years, with Shabazz Palaces being very close to the top. The group, consisting of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire, meshes incredibly dense verses while reaching out for more obscure sounds from a number of genres including jazz, funk, and tribal music. The combination is at times off-putting, making more artistic hip hop than the usual party anthems. Shabazz Palaces fights their way through the norm and emerges with a complexity that few are capable of achieving. They put this complexity on full display at Lincoln Hall this past weekend.
Chicago's own Chandeliers set the tone for the night with their entrancing electronic sound. The songs they played had an impressive depth, layering both synthetic sounds and a live drum into the set. I wouldn't be surprised if a rapper repurposed Chandelier's compositions as beats they have an inherent hip hop quality, blurring the edge between the more ambient moments and the bass intense sections in their tracks. The trio, Chris Kalis, Harry Brenner, and Scott McGaughey, performed in a facing one another in what looked like a trance. Projected above them were equally absorbing visuals, reminding me of an endless tracking VHS copy of the stargate scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was easy to just let go and groove along with the band as they embodied the epitome of a late night vibe.
There is rarely a year where Jad Fair isn't a prolific and mesmerizing artist. 2014 is no different, seeing how he has released a new Half Japanese album Overjoyed and was named Joyful Noise Recordings' "Artist in Residence", which has Fair collaborating with four different artists to release four full length albums throughout the year. The most recent release, Solid Gold Heart, was made in conjunction with Daniel Smith of Danielson and the incredible Kramer. The album itself is a product only this grouping could make. It's a big and energetic display of pop songs at their most entertaining. They came to Schubas earlier this week to share the album with the Chicago crowd.
The show started with Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough, members of the long running NRBQ. They both are great musicians with a wonderful handle on their instruments, which included a kazoo Ligon pulled out for a song or two. That being said, it was a bit surprising when they noted it was McDonough's first time playing the upright bass in public. There was no indication in his performance which was virtually flawless. The songs were a mix of NRBQ songs ad covers from a variety of artists including The Delmore Brothers and Roy Orbison. They even asked for a request, which came in the form of "Walk Right Back", originally recorded by The Everly Brothers, whose songs were covered quite a few times. "Bottom Buck", a song Ligon wrote with his brother in mind, was a nice bright spot of the set, which ended with a compassionate rendition of "Don't Blame Me". The duo garnered the approval of the audience and Jad Fair, who sat off to the side tapping his foot and applauding along with crowd.
Califone is a wonder of a band. They have managed to create music that finds itself progressively experimenting with the past; creating a large collection of songs that are as new as they are familiar. It's a modern Americana that Califone plays, one filled with the resonances you'd expect but brought to light in a fascinating way. Tim Rutili, the band's constant visage, combines his meditative lyrics with soundscapes that have ranged from synthesized sounds to organic hums. The band's latest album Stitches favors the latter, featuring more natural acoustics amidst the ever evolving structures of his songs. Rutili has guided the band's sound for over 15 years, never ceasing to find new ways of improving on his never ending experimentation.
This week the band X, who rose to punk rock fame in LA in the late '70s, will be performing their first four records (Los Angeles, Wild Gift, More Fun in the New World, and Under the Big Black Sun) at the City Winery. I spoke to X co-founder John Doe as he and his fellow band members wrapped up the New York leg of their tour.
X was influenced by country and blues from the '40s. The amount of time that's passed between the era of the music that influenced X and when X began performing is about the same amount of time that's passed between when X started and now. Is there a detachment from playing your own work over time, or do you feel more connected to it?
Well, you lose the immediate connection, but it becomes so engrained to how you play and the way you play, and it's always evolving.
Does it ever feel like you're playing a cover of your own song?
It's been four years since The Dutchess and The Duke, Kimberly Morrison and Jesse Lortz, were at the Empty Bottle for an epic and legendary show filled with stories about cowboy kisses and bar top dancing galore. A little after that the same year the duo called it quits, leaving behind two incredible albums, She's The Dutchess, He's The Duke and Sunset/Sunrise, drenched with warm memories of their lovely voices. Luckily the duo reunited this past Wednesday with a full band for a pair of Midwest shows, returning to an adoring crowd at the Empty Bottle.
Opening up the night was Brian Case of Disappears with a particularly interesting set consisting one uninterrupted study on sound. It definitely wasn't or everyone, but it's the sort of experimentation that I eagerly enjoy. Case played a slowly evolving drone, keeping it low and haunting as the deep bellows of the guitar would occasionally rise out, seemingly without warning. It was a very atmospheric performance, with Case's meditative rocking edging on transcendence, gently shifting the hum of his guitar for nearly 20 minutes.
The second opener diverged from Case's long dirge to incredibly short poppy songs of The Lemons. I would be surprised if any of the songs they performed clocked in longer than a couple minutes, which was really part of their charm. You know you're in for a treat with citrus centric stage names like John Lemon and Chris Twist are commonplace. The Lemon's rapid fire set was filled with just enough goofy cartoon voices from their drummer Juicy James and self-deprecating humor. "Is this our worst show?" they quietly quipped between some of the most enjoyable bubblegum pop I've heard in sometime. Their songs were danceable and instantly catchy, from the super sweet "My Candy Girl" to the cheerful "Best Day" that ended their set.
There is a pretty good chance you know Jeff Daniels from his acting roles. He has endlessly shown his acting proficiency, whether it's the nostalgically classic comedy Dumb and Dumber, his more serious turn in The Squid and the Whale, or roles that straddle the line between the two like in The Newsroom. What you may not know is that he is a very talented musician, playing guitar in a variety of genres including blues, jazz, folk, and a little bit country. He's been doing so for over well over a decade, taking his career as a musical artist as seriously as his acting. His ability to entertain as an actor spills over greatly into his music, making him even more of a storyteller than he already was. This past weekend, Jeff Daniels returned to SPACE for a sold out show.
Right off the bat one could tell the Jeff Daniels is incredibly comfortable on stage. He and his son's group, The Ben Daniels Band, began the show with a couple of songs before coming to Daniels first story of the night. It was the beginning of a great pattern, seamlessly transitioning from tales of his life to his wonderfully sincere songs. Through out the night he spoke of encounters with Jack Lemon, local pastors, and overstressed moms at malls with the same zeal. There was no pretense during his singing or storytelling. His performance honestly felt like it came from a different era, where a musician's relatability wasn't faked as it simply was cultivated by genuineness. It made the room feel like an inviting home with Daniels at the head of the table.
Consider it a sign of the times — modern rock band City of the Weak found their band through a text message conversation. As Stef Huschka (vocals) explains it, "A former member and I were texting each other trying to decide between 'Conquer the City' & "Day of the Weak." I got a text back combining them that said 'City of the Weak,' and we all were like, 'that's it.'"
City of The Weak (COTW) is a young band with some serious sound. They're able to combine a modern rock 'n roll overtone with catchy pop melodies, rhythmic riffs and moving bass lines. Stef ("with an F") founded the band after she moved from Montana to Minneapolis. "I moved specifically to start a band," she said. In 2011 at McNally Smith College of Music, Stef said she "jammed with different groups of people at the school, stuck with what I had, and rotated our lineup when needed." Joining Stef is Jackson Weyrauch (backup vocals/guitar), Brent Lindblad (guitar), and Cody Hoffman (bass).
The Polyphonic Spree is a really big band. They often are made up of more then twenty members playing an impressive range of instruments. Although the band was pared down to around fifteen members for this showat SPACE in Evanston, it was very clear that the energy and talent was not scaled back at all. With no opener, The Polyphonic Spree played for a spectacular hour and forty five minutes. SPACE turned out to be the ideal venue for the band, big enough to house their still large numbers and enthusiasm, but intimate enough to create the perfect atmosphere for everyone at the show.
It was near impossible upon entering the venue not to immediately notice the large white partition separating the crowd from the stage. It spanned across the room, attempting to obscure the plentiful colors and shiny streamers of the set display. Audience members, most of which were obviously die-hard fans of The Polyphonic Spree, would sneak glimpses from both ends of the divider, feeding their anticipation. That wait was infectious, spreading throughout Space till the moment the house lights went down and the soft blue beams lit up the opaque cloth followed by a steady plume of smoke. The wonderful droning of instruments was accompanied by faint hiss of a spray paint can that rose from behind the canvas, producing a decree written in reverse from the band's leader Tim DeLaughter. Every letter that appeared prompted a louder response than the last, ultimately convening the message: MAKE SOME ILLINOISE. The partition was brought down in quick flash, revealing the members of the night's Polyphonic Spree.
"It's so intimate in here. I can see everyone's faces. Does anyone have any questions?" asked OK Go vocalist Damian Kulash to a sold out crowd at Lincoln Hall last week. "Where the fuck have you been?!" someone from the crowd playfully shouted. "Dude. It takes us six months to make a video. I just wish we could make videos faster."
Flanked by a constantly evolving and intricate set of visuals which rivaled their infamous music videos, OK Go are currently on tour in support of their upcoming new album Hungry Ghosts. Singles such as "The Writing's on the Wall" ooze with New Order and Prince influences. "I Won't Let You Down" sounds like a b-side for Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb On Me" while "Turn up the Radio" sounds like a love letter to acts such as The Cars.
Throughout their performance, the band was charismatic as ever as they unleashed a literal torrent of white confetti which glimmered in the lights and visuals during many of the songs. They also waxed poetic of their time living here in Chicago. At one point, Damien came into the crowd to perform an acoustic version of "New Leaf" after which some equipment failed and the band sang a passage from Les Misérables as it was repaired.
"In the end, maybe it's better we focused on videos instead of posters. Cops don't hate us nearly as much as they used to," Damien mused out loud before ending with an encore of "Here it Goes Again" as more white confetti fell to the ground, finding color in the idiosyncratic visuals and lights.
Although they hail from Boston, folk trio The Ballroom Thieves exude soulfulness from the Delta south. Martin Earley strums his guitar with feverish finesse as Devin Mauch rattles away with his diverse percussion with Calin Peters' filling out the band's sound with the tender rhythm of her cello; all the while weaving their voices together in wonderful harmonies. The band manages to imbibe a hearty sense of rock into their music and still maintaining a gentle sincerity. Their songs are personal and earnest about their themes, whether it is the anguish of defining oneself in "Coward's Son" or delving into bad relationships by way of metaphor in "Vampires".
The Ballroom Thieves will be playing at Evanston SPACE, 1245 Chicago Ave., Evanston, this Wednesday, August 13, at 7:30pm. They will be joined by Humming House, a collection of musicians who've gather influences from Americana, bluegrass and traditional Irish music.
Tickets for this sure to be fantastic show are just $10, but you also have a chance to win a pair of tickets! Just email us at email@example.com with the subject line "Ballroom!" and we'll pick a lucky winner at random. Email by 5pm today! [Update! We have a winner! Congrats to Joseluis!]
It's always an exceptional thrill to see a band of the caliber of Echo and the Bunnymen play The Metro because their sound is quite massive and has become the stuff of legend. For 36 years now, Ian McCulloch's vocals alone have helped inspire countless other bands and served as a soundtrack to the childhood of anyone who grew up in the '80s and early '90s. Today, McCulloch's voice still keeps quite a bit of its range and distinctiveness while the backup band makes the songs sound impressively close to their original recordings.
For those who may not know, Lil Bub is a very special female cat from outer space who has special needs. Lil Bub and her dude, Mike Bridavsky, have helped raise over $100,000 for animal shelters. Typically, Lil Bub's shows which have featured everyone from Whoopi Goldberg to Andrew WK to Amy Sedaris happen in a more controlled studio so Chicago was lucky to behold Bub in all her feline glory at Cabaret Metro.
In 1998, an English pop-rock band released their first album. You probably didn't hear about it. It came out on a very hip indie label, but remained mostly unknown on this side of the Atlantic. This was back in the day of listservs — run off of obscure university servers and beloved by the internet's earliest adopters. On one such listserv a guy named Spencer insisted that we all had to listen to this band Hefner.
Many years later, I rank Hefner's debut album, Breaking God's Heart, as one of my top ten albums of all time. It contains brilliant pop songs, mostly about relationships and their attendant failures. The subject matter seemed universally familiar even while totally off the wall. Nobody else was writing breathtaking love songs about witches and librarians, all while bemoaning the state of British politics. The tenderness in the first song, "The Sweetness Lies Within," slams against harried guitars, creating not a strange juxtaposition but instead the appropriate sonic context for how insane it is to be young and single and not single and single again. At times it was like finally hearing what everybody else had to have been thinking all along.
Missed out on tickets for Lollapalooza? Can't afford tickets for Lollapallooza? Pining for the good old days when Lolla hosted legitimately frightening acts like The Boredoms and Nick Cave and the Jesus Lizard? Don't like walking/daylight/the outdoors/Skrillex fans?
This Thursday through Sunday, The Burlington (3425 W. Fullerton Ave.) has your alternative as they host the 2014 Neon Marshmallow festival. With 16 acts for $30, you're unlikely to find a better jams-to-buxx ratio this weekend, with styles ranging from day-glo to funereal, garage-tastic to grave-shufflin'.
Weekend passes will be sold through Wednesday. They include access to all four days' worth of acts (four per night), an unreleased track by festival regulars Telecult Powers, and an hour of free select Stoli beverages each night. (Individual night tickets will be available at the doors as well.)
Below the jump, a night-by-night guide to everything.
Yoshimi Yokota is no stranger to the creative Japanese music scene having been a pivotal member of Boredoms with Yamatsuka Eye. Fans and critics alike have experienced a challenge in terms of describing OOIOO. Their sound varies from the tribal to the psychedelic. With six band members, they create compositions that are complex and would be chaotic if they weren't incredibly tight.
To round out the weekend at the Taste of Chicago (after a sad cancellation Saturday due to weather, which included performances by Jeff Tweedy and Lucinda Williams) we needed something mellow and sweet. Thankfully, Aloe Blacc and The Wailers were there to provide just the right send-off. Our photographer Amanda Koellner was there to capture the action.
Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings (Photos by Katie Hovland)
Since her debut album Revival, Gillian Welch has constantly had her musical partner Dave Rawlings by her side. It has become a little difficult to separate them from one another, seeing as every album that bares one of their names holds the other in tow. After an eight year absence from recording songs under Welch's name, the duo released The Harrow & The Harvest, one of the best folk albums in recent memory. This past Wednesday at the magnificent Thalia Hall, Welch and Rawlings presented their pairing with delightful sincerity.
They came out with no introduction and they certainly didn't need it. The night was set aside for just the two of them, no opener other than themselves. The crowd whooped and hollered with all the veracity of much more elaborate or gaudy show, when it was just Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch, their stringed instruments, and a few mics at center stage. The simplicity of having these two musicians stand tall in the middle of the stage amplified not only their talents but the majesty of Thalia Hall. It left everything out in the open, no fuss to distract from "Tear My Stillhouse Down", the first song of a very fulfilling night.
There are plenty of ways to look at death and loss, but rarely is it ever as deeply touching and beautiful as the way The Antlers look at it. Over the course of five albums, they have managed to successfully mine these issues for every bit of their emotion. The results have been amazing, creating sonically breathtaking and enjoyable works about some of the worst moments in life. This weekend at Lincoln Hall, The Antlers took the stage to show just how magnificently they can represent the saddest moments in our lives.
The show opened with Brooklyn's Yellow Ostrich. The band recently released Cosmos, which lead singer Alex Schaaf joked as being the soundtrack for the hit TV show. That sense of fun emanated throughout their much of their music, despite some more somber lyrics. "How Do You Do It" speaks of a someone who gets through countless failures, but the instrumentation felt joyous. However, there were moments where Yellow Ostrich matched their songs earnestness. The use of electronic drums on "Ghost" and Schaaf's tremendous guitar gave the song an epic feeling. The slow and lovely pace of "I Know You are Lost" was accompanied by a venue shaking bass that wrapped around the crowd. They ended their set with "Shade," which places Schaaf's fantastic vocals in the forefront.
The 15+ year experimental music organization Lampo concludes its winter/spring 2014 season this Saturday, with a mix of sound and visuals by long-running collaborators, musician Robert Beatty and filmmaker Takeshi Murata. The event is free with RSVP, and will contain both live performances and film screenings. It takes place at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Pl., and starts at 8pm.
For many years, Beatty was probably best known as the electronics mangler in Hair Police, a long running trio of nice guys who manage to sound like a body being buried before fully dead. The group's commitment to audio asphyxiation is a thing to be admired. But when not grinding his electronics into the unforgiving soil with that lot, his solo work, first under the moniker Three-Legged Race and now under his own name, aimed itself directly into the inner eye of the cosmos. With albums like 2012's Persuasive Barrier and 2008's Living Order/Mourning Order, Three-Legged Race revealed itself as a supple, endlessly inventive purveyor of head-bound electronic music, conveying shades of light and shade with beauty and heart. Beatty's distinctive visual art has also adorned LP covers like Burning Star Core's "Challenger" and Ga'an's "Black Equus."
The resurgence of psychedelic rock should come as no surprise by now. The past few years have been filled with bands mining the genre that was most prevalent during 60s and 70s for inspiration. Many tend to fall too far into the sound for their own good, while the immersion for others works so well that it's hard to believe they aren't directly from that time period. California's Allah-Las easily fall into the latter. They have managed to replicate that old garage psychedelic rock without being tiresome or boring. They wholeheartedly embrace the sound, especially when playing live. Such was the case this past weekend at their sold out show at Empty Bottle.
Richard Thompson, lead singer of the legendary folk band The Fairport Convention, is a man whose presence on stage carries much weight. His adeptness at guitar playing as well as his aptitude as a lyricist are deservedly renown but one thing some who haven't seen him live may not realize is how charming he is. He's also rather funny, joking that he found the bassist,Taras Prodaniuk, and drummer, Michael Jerome, of his electric trio out in the alley and supposing Chicagoans might have lake chanties instead of sea chanties.
Indiana label Joyful Noise Recordings puts out some of the best records year in and year out. They have a fantastic stable of artists that are dedicated and place every bit of themselves in to their music, something few labels can attest to. This past Saturday at the Metro, the label was well represented as Busman's Holiday and Kishi Bashi came out to support their recently released albums A Long Goodbye and Lighght respectively.
Busman's Holiday is made up brothers Lewis and Addison Rogers. Together they create touching and tender songs that deal with love, space and the things in between. The brothers are natural storytellers, which was evident in both their songs and crowd interactions. They had an instant rapport with the audience at the Metro, always taking a moment between songs to recount their adventures and follies. They gleefully reminisce about petting rhinoceros at the Lincoln Park Zoo and accidentally wearing the same black shirt and red socks.
This past weekend, Space in Evanston hosted two substantially different bands from Birmingham, Alabama. It felt like showcase of the sounds of that city, showing just how diverse and ultimately unique the music scene there can be. John and Jacob took care of the rock and country side of things while St. Paul and The Broken Bones handled the soul. The energetic pairing had the sold out crowd dancing the entire night, far past the end of the show.
John and Jacob were an interesting choice to open for St. Paul and the Broken Bones. They may be easily seen as a country act, but their music holds more weight than that. John Davidson and Jacob Bryant infuse their songs with elements from all ends of the rock spectrum. Elements of blues, rockabilly, hard rock, and even a little bit of 90's alternative can be heard in their music. They combine all these varied parts while retaining country music at the core.
It all started with the sublime "XXX 88," a Diplo-produced absolute siren of a jam the Danish 25 year-old dropped last August (and which played an integral and much-repeated part in my Indian Summer playlist).
Mø seems to be a member of a rising crop of new artists on the brink of mainstream success--Sam Smith, Banks, and Charli XCX among others--who legitimately seem to be exploring new territory in the pop music landscape. Mø's music is hard to describe, a quality that most likely contributed to her early hype. Part pop, part modern electronic, part dance, part R&B-- these disparate parts make up a whole that is more original and engaging and raucous than 99% of the dreck that currently occupies the mainstream charts.
Mø graced Lincoln Hall this Wednesday night, accompanied by fellow Scandinavian Erik Hassle, the latter of who delivered a heart-melting rendition of his blogosphere hit "Talk About It" to great effect. But it was Mø, whose stage name means "Maiden" in Danish, who unequivocally owned the night, the audience, and the venue.
Mø left no corner of Lincoln Hall unexplored, determined to reach every member of the audience in a city that she had never been to until that same day.
She sang from the balcony. She crowd surfed multiple times. She even got up on the bar, Coyote Ugly style (minus the gyrating stripteasing). This girl goes hard, and it's difficult to assume she doesn't do this for every show. Here is an artist who actually enjoys her own music--she owns her songs, and gives herself up to the music--which is wholly refreshing when compared to the sullen and un-emotive alternative.
Now, I'm no concert novice. I've seen shows that left my ears ringing for a full 24 hours, but the bass--and synths and guitar and 808s--at this show were of a class unto themselves. Particularly, the bass was so potent and booming it's difficult to describe without resorting to hyperbolics. It's a miracle the audience left with their internal organs intact.
If Mø's EP Bikini Daze was a late summer soundtrack to the winding down party of the warm months, then No Mythologies, with its 808's and massive synths, represents the genesis of a new season. This particular spring night, she barreled through almost her entire debut, opening with "Fire Rides," bringing down the house with single "Glass," and serenading the audience Romeo-and-Juliet-style from the second level.
Scrunchie high on her head, face matted with sweat, voice hoarse by the end of show, and what had to be a severely sore neck from her insistent headbanging and Stevie-Nicks electro-gypsy dancing, Mø backed up every promise of her album and early hype to the entire audience at Lincoln Hall last night. Safe to say no eardrums will be spared as Mø makes her way through her North American tour. It's well worth the ringing sensation.
Metronomy has gone through some massive growth spurts in its inception. Originally the group consisted solely of Joseph Mount creating experimental electronic music. Quickly he began adding members for live shows, expanding his music simultaneously. Eventually the group grew to a veer full-fledged band, much grander and substantially different from its origins. They've gone shifted through soundscapes, from the accessible The English Riviera to the surprisingly psych Love Letters. They came through Metro this past Wednesday, showing how far they gotten in recent years.
Cloud Control, an Australian psych rock opened the night. While it's relatively easy to define them as a psych rockers, they tend to veer towards a very poppy version of it. A lot of the pop sensibilities could be attributed to the infectious energy that the band's vocalists exhibited. Heidi Lenffer's heavily modified voice on one of the songs was delightful. Alister Wright's voice was also incredibly versatile, gleefully transitioning from mannered vocals to high pitched snarls. The band is incredibly cohesive, with songs like "Promises" sounding similar to the Pixies in their prime.
Over the years, Brooklyn based Mirah has taken her music on an interesting journey. She has worked with a large assortment of musicians, from Phil Elvrum of The Microphones to Thao Nguyen. Mirah has progressed her music from her early and wonderfully lo-fi sound to a more polished and mature state. Mirah, along with Loamlands and Led to Sea, came to Space this past Wednesday in support of her latest album Changing Light.
The first musician of the night was Led to Sea, consisting of the talented Alex Guy and her violin. The solo performance was absolutely astounding. There is something genuinely delightful about Guy's stage presence, whether elegantly bowing or gently plucking her violin. Her songs are infinitely absorbing, stemming from assessments of sometimes being a bad girlfriend and crashing bike into a BMW. Guy played a few new songs from a forthcoming album, which she teased throughout the night. She harmonized with her looped voice and instrument; a unison so well assembled that it sent verifiable chills across the room. Her set was short and sweet, a mere glimpse of her talent.
The best things about being in the Chicago music scene are the nonstop opportunities to see new and upcoming bands perform. There are more than a few hidden gems out there that will satisfy your musical needs. It is imperative to seek out the types of shows that venues like Subterranean host, allowing local bands to grow and flourish. This past Sunday they hosted a nice grouping of punk and indie rock in the form of Bluster , Aggro Control, and the Cartridge B-Sides.
Bluster began the night with their eclectic sound, which times the felt like straight up rock before delving into more post punk territory. The singing was split between guitarist Mark and bassist Anne, who happened to be the only woman and mother playing on that lovely Mother's Day evening. Their songs have a catchy edge to them and while Bluster's status is particularly new, you can definitely see their cohesive talent. Bluster was quite fun, bantering with the crowd and chalking up a slight misstep to a necessity of rock and roll. They certainly hit a wonderful rocking high with their final two songs, especially with the ecstatic "Elegy" which best captures Bluster's energy.
Once again, the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave) brings out the dark and sticky from the corners and onto the stage for the three days of springtime mayhem known as the HozacBlackout Fest. This weekend's conflagration of songs to stomp things to includes punk and proto-punk favorites, local bands, imported bands, and bands you're gonna wish you heard in the Music/Friendly/Dancing confines on Western Ave. Get your 3-day pass while you can (if you still can) or plop down some dough for your steady's new favorite date night.
In many ways the music of the The Boys is like a transitional fossil, somehow quietly bridging the gap between a poppier 1960s British music scene and the late '70s London punk explosion. Long overshadowed by the work of contemporaries and peers such as the Clash and the Sex Pistols, The Boys' songwriting and musicianship are in many cases the equal of or superior to their better known genre-mates. Though The Boys never really reaped commercial success, they've long been critical and cult darlings, inspiring, perhaps most notably, Germany's iconic punkers Die Toten Hosen, who have long championed their music. Their Blackout Fest appearance comes on the eve of their first new album in over 30 years, Punk Rock Menopause, set for release on June 20, and offers a seriously rare opportunity to see the band stateside.
Nels Cline is more fluent in music than you are with the English language. In fact, everyone in his ensemble, The Nels Cline Singers, speaks through their instruments with the eloquence and precision of America's greatest novelists. Tuesday night at Evanston's SPACE (1245 Chicago Ave.), the quartet rocked, jazzed, and freaked their way through two sets of the most soulful, energetic, human music I've heard in Chicago. The Singers, which consist of Trevor Dunn (bass), Scott Amendola (drums) and Cline (guitar) were joined by Brazilian percussionist and Cheshire Cat impressionist, Cyro Baptista.
Every time I walk away from a Singers show I feel younger and invigorated, inspired to do anything with as much passion as they put into their craft. Tuesday night I almost couldn't handle it. As they played, each song brought to mind different scenes and scenarios: a bubbly swamp, a smoky New Orleans pier, the western plains but with robots instead of cowboys. I was ready to take to the page and gush nonsense about the journey I had been taken on. But then I realized that I was imposing human order on the chaotic beauty of the natural world. That is what the Nels Cline Singers tap into. They play with such sincerity and joy that the songs are imbued with the ineffable quality of natural beauty. Baptista spent the night alternating between drumming on odds-n-ends and slinging odds-n-ends around his head as he mumbled gibberish into a vocal synth. Trevor Dunn's upright chops are other worldly. More than once, the people in front of me did cartoon double takes and stared at each other in a Bill and Ted "Excellent!" sort of way. Scott Amendola and Nels Cline shared "electronic freakout" duties alongside their doctorate level performances on drums and guitar.
The incredibly energetic performance was buttressed by the impeccable acoustics of SPACE. The owners have gone out of their way to ensure they run not just a world class performance venue for rock, but also a listening room for the jazz heads.
Nels Cline doesn't play in Chicago often, and it's too bad because his blend of experimental rock, noise, and jazz speak directly to this city's musical heart. He approaches songcraft with the joy of a child and through that his music offers something for fans of nearly any genre.
Hundreds of twenty-something funk seekers packed into Lincoln Hall for a sold-out Chromeo show on Monday night. Lucky for them, the Canadian electro duo was on point, bringing their '80s-reminicent beats, silly lyrics and sex appeal for a special show on Cinco de Mayo -- dubbed "CIN-CHRO de MEO" on their Twitter account.
Loud chants of "Chromeo...OOOOOH!" welcomed guitarist Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and keyboardist P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) onto the stage as they sauntered over to their instruments while the "Intro" of the band's sophomore album, "Fancy Footwork," began to blare throughout the intimate venue.
Then they officially kicked things off with a couple of the most infectious songs from 2010's "Business Casual." Somewhere between "Night by Night" and "Host Mess," Dave 1 took the opportunity to show off an impressive talent. He stood in the middle of he stage, commanding all of the attention, as the almost unbearably incandescent strobe lights converged on his reflective guitar. But he really wowed everyone, including himself, when he directed one of the beams up to the disco ball, causing little lights to dance amongst the crowd.
If anyone was concerned before about the Godspeed You! Black Emperor reunion shows possibly putting Efrim Menuck's other project, Thee Silver Mt. Zion on hold, there now seems to be no reason to doubt that Efrim Menuck can handle somehow being a parent, releasing albums under both bands, and touring heavily. It's enough to inspire awe in both his creativity and his stamina.
Things seem to be escalating quickly for the local doom metal quartet, Mount Salem. First, they were signed by the influential Metal Blade Records. In March, they released their debut album, Endless, which has been on heavy rotation ever since I acquired it. Tonight is another achievement as it marks the start of their nationwide headlining tour.
In addition to having some of the raddest (potentially NSFW) cover art I've seen in awhile, what I find appealing about them is that they do so well what early Black Sabbath albums did. What I mean is that they've found the sinister undertones of old blues records and amplified it to its logical endgame.
Mount Salem play tonight, May 1st, at Township (2200 N California Ave.) This is a 21+ show. Cokegoat, Lagoon, and Jap Herron all open. Tickets are $8 and can be purchased here.
Check out a video of them performing at Ultra Lounge (RIP) last summer below.
A few minutes ago, North Coast Music Festival released the first wave lineup of this year's event. The late summer festival returns for its fifth year on August 29th through the 31st at Union Park. Weekend passes will run you $150 and can be purchased here.
The lineup itself looks impressive. North Coast has always focused on the intersection of rap, jam bands and EDM. This year looks no different with STS9, Bassnectar and Snoop Dogg all set to headline. The undercard looks intriguing too, with Future Islands, Riff Raff, Washed Out, Action Bronson, Dr. Dog, Cashmere Cat and a slew of others all scheduled to appear. Chicago acts have a sizable presence as Wild Belle, Prob Cause, Ghosthouse, Zebo and several others perform.
The City of Chicago finished announcing their various summer festivals this past Monday as they announced the lineup of the always popular Downtown Sound Music Monday series.
Things get started on June 2 and continue Mondays at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park until August 11. The Downtown Sound series is known for their eclectic and well curated indie and world music bookings. This year is no different with offerings that range from the punk singer/songwriter stylings of former Hüsker Dü frontman, Bob Mould (June 23rd), to the of hypnotic Syrian desert rock of Omar Souleyman (June 9th). A favorite of mine is local post-metal collective, Russian Circles (August 11th), who are in the the middle of a victory lap after releasing the absolutely fantastic album, Memorial, last year. I'm also quite excited for Wooden Shjips (August 4th) who are signed to Thrill Jockey and create intensely sludgy works that are kinda captivating. The seemingly omnipresent, White Mystery (June 30th), also make an appearance opening for My Brightest Diamond. All shows are free and start at 6:30 pm at Millennium Park.
One might be more familiar with Sean Carey's work with others bands, specifically as the drummer and supporting vocalist of Bon Iver. It can be hard to look past the massive nature of that band to see Carey's amazing work, but after the release of All We Grow, it became a little easier to envision Carey as a fantastic solo artist. His sound similar to that Bon Iver, but likens itself to even softer and more ambient textures, making his sound a perfect fit with Lincoln Hall.
Opening the night was White Hinterland. I've been a fan of White Hinterland since her debut under her own name Casey Dienel. ". Dienel's sound has change substantially since the opening notes of Wind-Up Canary. What was once a delicate piano behind a wonderful voice has transformed into the current White Hinterland, more intricate instrumentation fronted by a more complex and experimental voice. Playing by herself, Dienel used a variety of loops and pedal to create lovely and powerful songs such as "David" and "Baby". Dienel connected with the crowd with her funny patter, ranging from Seth Rogan induced sex dreams to an unyielding hope to attain Hannibal Buress' phone number. Her candor and delicate attitude made it a pleasure to follow her lead and sing along during a couple of songs, including "Ring the Bell". While the was was tentativeness from the crowd, they eventually gave in during her final song. Dienel left the stage through the crowd as they soft sang along with her, giving her as much love as she gave them.
Sam Smith's "Nirvana" is one of those songs. You know, the kind that you listen to five (okay, maybe ten) times in a row because the experience of hearing it floods dopamine to your brain over and over, making you feel noticeably happier, emotional, and hungry for another listen despite having it on a loop. So when Sam Smith kicked off his show last night at the Vic with "Nirvana," you can imagine the insanity the opening notes inspired. Those kinds of songs come around only a few times a year, but when they do, they are gift. And that is precisely what Sam Smith is: a gift to the music world.
NYC's Blondes make blissfully distorted chill out electronica. Signed to the tastemaker label, RVNG Intl, Sam Haar and Zach Steinman have crafting beats since the early 2010's, releasing a steady amount of DJ mixes, EPs, and remixes to ever increasing notoriety. Their single, "Wine," with it's classic house arpeggio synth and hypnotically warbled vocals evoke a manic sensation which commands the listener's attention and compels that person to move and react. They're reminiscent of acts such as Teengirl Fantasy, Mount Kimbie and Laurel Halo. With this in mind, I went to see them a few days ago at Smartbar.
Cloaked in smoke and light, Blondes opened their set with a prolonged burst of shoegaze-esque disarray before delving into a set of deep house grooves and Kraftwerk inspired techno beats. Over the course of their set, the room became a patchwork of vastly diverse styles of dance. There was the woman who pranced throughout the dancefloor, often intensely gazing directly into the eyes of people in the crowd, with this weird yet smoothly jagged interpretive dance that looked like something Marina Abramović would do at MoMA in a Jay-Z video. There was the sharply dressed man who pop and locked with style and expert skill. There were the people who stood in the back near the speakers, minimalistically moving their bodies, getting a physical sensation from the bass. One of the things that I absolutely love about Smartbar is now unpretentious it is, how everyone is welcome and made to feel accepted. This past Friday at Smartbar was no exception, as Blondes pulsing beats kept the crowd moving deep into the night.
Opening and closing the night for Blondes were Smartbar affiliates, Kiddo and Antiphase, who played fervent sets of dark and decadent techno. Below is a recent mix by Kiddo which is somewhat similar to her set from a few days ago that's totally worth checking out.
Yesterday, the internet's most lovable grump announced the dates for this year's edition of Riot Fest. Riot Fest will return to Chicago this September 12th - 14th. Before that, it'll be in Toronto on September 6th - 7th. Riot Fest will wrap up this year's season in Denver on September 19th - 21st.
From the looks of it, they plan to keep building on what they've started when they pivoted to become a major festival. They plan to expand the grounds at Toronto in order to have more carnival rides. In Denver, they plan to revamp the camping areas. 2014 also marks the ten year anniversary of Riot Fest being in Chicago. In response, they promise "special surprises and attractions."
Ticket and lineup information has not yet been released, but should be provided soon.
Arc Iris is a well-crafted tornado of musical genres, taking considerable cues from all over the place. One song can have a country twange while the next is a frenzied folk song you've never could have imagined. Jocie Adams, the group's unfathomably talented leader, has been compared to Joanna Newsom, Bjork, and countless others. The comparisons do very little to full grasp what is going on with Arc Iris. Their sound moves around so much that there is no telling where they will go and that is certainly what makes Arc Iris such a please to listen to. I had previously seen the band open for Nicole Atkins and immediately knew that I had to see them again. Luckily, Arc Iris had their CD release party at Schubas.
The Fruit Flies, a local Chicago duo Molly McCormick and Danni Parpan, started off the night quite nicely. I believe they were a late addition to the evening, so I was pleasantly surprised by their really catchy indie folk that one can't help but move along to. Songs like "Summer in the City" required a bit of crowd participation in the form of clapping throughout and It didn't take much convincing. The Fruit Flies have a fun stage presence, throwing out jokes at every possible opportunity. They are instantly lovable as they muse about being a package deal in McCormick's engagement or doing a comedy open mic later.
The Men appeared this past Saturday to a full house at Empty Bottle without a word. Drums cacophonously clattered, filling the air with tangible bass and impending doom. Thier guitars were loud, filling the room with curated noise and an overall sense of anticipation. It was only for a moment before seamlessly launching into their first song of the night, the incredibly anxious "Lotus." Those first few moments set a clear precedent for their rest of their performance; a frenzied spectacle.
The Men are a noise punk band from Brooklyn who have been gravitating towards no frills garage rock over the last few years. They create raucous anthems for the working class driven by loud guitars and thundering drums. They are the soundtrack to a night of drinking cheap beer and whiskey with your friends at questionable dive bars. As they played songs scattered throughout their discography, I looked around around the room and took in what I saw. Lovers held hands and danced the night away to the pounding rhythm of the drums. Friends laughed as they played pool and engaged in general revelry in tandem with the guitar riffs. Eventually, I found myself in the middle of the crowd as they played "If You Leave...," a song that has room to breathe while progressively building up to a violent and wordless chorus. It was exhilarating.
After a quick break, The Men returned and and wrapped things up with an unexpectedly gnarly cover of The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Though it turned out to be a false alarm, The Men unexpectedly found themselves being the soundspace to this year's first summer-esque night and it was everything I wanted.
Unfortunately, I couldn't arrive in time to check out the opening act, Basic Cable. This bums me out, because I tried to catch them at Hideout's SXSW Send Party that we recently talked about, but something came up. I've heard nothing but good things about them. Our friends over at Loud Loop Press named them as one of the "14 Bands to Watch in 2014" and the folks over at Notes + Bolts interviewed them not too long ago. Listening to their album I'm Good to Drive reminds me of bands of Sub Pop past while simultaneously making me excited for their future. Check out a stream of it below.
There are few musicians like Martin Dosh. He is a gifted collaborator, having worked with Andrew Bird and Bonnie "Prince" Billy. He is able to create wonderfully expansive compositions, always standing out. His unique solo work edges off to all ends of the spectrum, incorporating elements of jazz, hip hop, and surprisingly warm electronic noise. As displayed on the cover last year's Milk Money, Dosh is a one man band. He switches from a variety of instruments, using loops and innumerable knobs and switches to create lush soundscapes that at times are accented with soft bursts of vocals. Dosh's music is interesting and utterly engulfing.
Dosh will be joined by local Chicago band Bitching Bajas. They specialize in achingly long but undeniable beautiful pieces of music. Their latest album, Bitchitronics is made up of only four songs, the shortest of which clocks in at just over five minutes and the longest at a massive sixteen minutes. Every moment of their lightly drizzled droning feels like deep meditation tha is occasionally interrupted/enhanced with soaring guitar solo. It wouldn't be hard to find yourself melting into their sound.
Dosh and Bitchin Bajas will be playing at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia Ave. Chicago, IL, on Thursday April 17. Tickets are $12 and the show starts at 9pm
After a severe thunderstorm briefly hit the northern suburbs Saturday afternoon, the sun came out in full force and brought forth the most glorious day Chicago has experienced so far this year.
To commemorate the inaugural patio sit of the season, I sipped margaritas and munched on chips and guacamole outside of a Mexican restaurant in Lakeview. That was followed by a good old barbeque because it was necessary to take full advantage of the warm weather.
And then to top it all off, I moseyed down to the Riviera Theatre with a happy belly to see one of the funkiest bands in the jam scene, Lotus. The show started at 8:30pm to allow two opening sets before the main attraction. Electronic music blared throughout the lobby, as Daedalus played his last couple of songs.
Its been a little under four years since the original lineup of Taking Back Sunday got back together. In the time since they've reunited, they've toured endlessly around the world in celebration of the 10 year anniversary of what is probably their finest hour; Tell All Your Friends. They've also released two new albums, 2010's self-titled reintroduction and Happiness Is, which came out early last month. Their new work sounds like what you would probably imagine a 30-something Warped Tour-era emo band sounds like, slightly less harsh and a bit more mellow overall as they wear the classic college radio rock influences of their youth boldly on their sleeves.
Are you named Stuart (or Stewart)? Do you love good music? Are you free tonight? If you answered "Yes" to all three questions, well, sir, you just might be in luck. Robbie Fulks (who obliged us with some amazing SXSW tour diaries this year) is playing a show tonight at the Hideout, and all Stuart/Stewarts get in FREE. Just bring your ID and get ready to rock. Music starts at 7pm at the Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia. Show up, and find out who the "special guests" might be tonight at the show dubbed "House of Stuarts." Non-Stuart/Stewarts can get in for a $10 donation.
A few months ago, I wrote about the band Weekend. They were in town opening for Dissapears at Empty Bottle back and we gave away a pair of tickets to see them. I went to the show, later on that week, and they were truly fantastic. Loud, desolate, and claustrophobic. That intense wall of sound that they created during the chorus of "Oubliette" is probably a highlight of things I experienced last year. All of this is to say that Weekend is back in town, tonight at Empty Bottle. I recommend checking them out and I also recommend checking out their stellar album Jinx, but Weekend isn't the point of this; their opener Cities Aviv is.
Cities Aviv is a rapper from Memphis who finds himself deconstructing what rap is while challenging preconceptions of what rap is supposed to be. Sometimes tagged with tumblr-born genre descriptors such as "cloud rap" or "trillwave" along with rappers such as Spaceghostpurrp and producers such as Clams Casino, I discovered him while in the midst of a depraved insomniatic state in the middle of the night a few years ago when he appeared on the overlooked track by Lushlife, "I'm a Buddhist, She's a Cubist." I was stricken by his surrealist wordplay and etherealized delivery, vaguely reminding of things like Tricky's "Hell is Round the Corner." I sought out his mixtape, Digital Lows (album artwork potentially NSFW) and was enraptured by songs such as the hazy sounding "Jaguar" and the beautifully dense Depeche Mode sampling, "Die Young." His latest album, Come to Life came out earlier this year and continues his experimentation. "IRL URL" acts as a triumphant call to arms while other tracks are zoned out and introspective. You should check him out. Our friends at the Chicago Reader agree.
Cities Aviv plays tonight, April 5, at Empty Bottle opening for Weekend. Local band Supercell Mothership kicks the night off. Tickets are $12 at the door and the show starts at 9:30pm. You must be 21+ to attend. You can get tickets here.
I saw Dum Dum Girls open for Vampire Weekend a few years ago at Aragon. They were right on the heels of their first album I Will Be and the played well, their energy filling the venue quite well. Since then, members have come and gone and their music has matured. Their stage presence has also become more pronounced and fluid. It's no wonder that they, along with Radar Eyes and Blouse, quickly sold out the Empty Bottle.
The night at Empty Bottle started out with a great early crowd. It's a rare sight, seeing so many people come early to concert. They were lucky that the consistently entertaining Radar Eyes opened the show. The local Chicago rockers doled out their fuzz rock by the bucket. Anthony Cozzi sings over wonderful guitar noise than one could listen to for hours. Nithin Kalvakota, bassist for Marnie Stern, took over drumming duties for Radar Eyes after Shelley Zawadzki left the band and it was a great choice.There's a lot to like about Radar Eyes as they barreled through their quick, but satisfying set.
Some of the most interesting bands truly transcend the genres and descriptions placed on them.They make music beyond the norm, in lieu of the confines that try to define them. Forest Swords and How to Dress Well embody this sentiment. Both have been bestowed as experimental and ambient R&B (or the ridiculous PBR&B). It would be easy to just stop there, but it would be a massive disservice to the immersive and incredible music they make. After a month of touring together, they ended their trek at Lincoln Hall and put on a unique show.
Forest Swords' music fills a room like no other. Almost instantly the crowd felt themselves swimming in Matthew Barnes' darkly toned music. He was accompanied by a bassist, whose sound intertwined with Barnes' soft electronic noise perfectly. Barnes minimal arrangements burst to grander and more intricate creations in this setting. Maniacal clanging offset the soothing beats that pulled the crowd in.The set was a hypnotic dream as Barnes' and his bassist played against a backdrop of images ranging from beatific flowers slowly falling to haunting burning patterns. Forest Swords played continuously, merging songs together for nearly the entire set, leaving few moments for the crowd to cheer and applaud. However, the crowd got the chance to show their approval after the dizzy array of images at the end of Forest Swords' set.
Few bands have such a defined sound as Warpaint after having released only two full lengths and one EP. The band's sound is somewhere between psychedelic and arty with a balance of both feminine etherea with the vocals, keyboards, and guitar melodies and the muscle made with the combination of bass and drums. The Los Angeles four piece have a way of emphasizing both a lingering richness in their sound as well as a more climactic feel at times. One could make the case that their long songs seem to lack the catchiness of a chorus with a hook but their strange and wondrous moments found deep within the recesses of the music elevate the band overall to be greater than the sum of it's parts.
Ryan Lott, the main component of Son Lux, creates post-rock songs infused with flashes of lush hip hop beats. It's this kind of genre bending that often fills me with curious glee. There are so many possibilities with this mix, so I had no idea how much I would end up enjoying and obsessing over Son Lux on my first listen. I had a similar experience with Leverage Models. I picked up their vinyl solely based on their album's cover and the touted connections with LCD Soundsystem and Sharon Van Etten. Both of these purchases were blind and I got more out of them than I ever expected. The sold out audience at Schubas certainly got more than they bargained for from the pair's fantastic show.
Leverage Models started out the night right as lead singer Shannon Fields spoke through a garbled and deeply distorted voice as drummer Max Jaffe wrapped a scarf around his head. Fields tore into the set, sounding demonic and speaking of Jordanville and Eleanor Roosevelt before uttering the name of the band. Fields' introduction was exactly want the band needed, it held a unique grandness over the packed crowd. It cast a surrealistic vibe around the set that only amplified the band's energetic and inspired performance.
I saw TOPS perform last year when opening for King Krule. I was immediately impressed with their pop driven songs. I honestly felt like they were old classics, songs I had heard countless times and still had not grown tired of them. As soon as this feeling would sink in, TOPS would change it up. They are not a simple retread of familiar sounds, but rather an evolution of them. It only makes sense that they are touring with their fellow Canadian Calvin Love, whose own music go towards a similar sense evolution, albeit via a different path. Together they form the Love on Top Tour as they passed through Schubas this past Thursday.
It is crucial emphasize how great it is to come on time to see openers, especially when they are as talented as Calvin Love. Love started his set to a very sparse crowd. Aside from a few very direct jokes about the latecomers, like dedicating "Waiting on You" to them, it didn't seem like Love cared. He played like he was in a full house. On his records, Love's music is a very dark and experimental version of the 80s synth that has come back into fashion. But when performing live he is filled with pure punk fury, which makes sense considering those are his roots. His croon is much grittier and his songs are faster. Luckily more and more people started coming into Schubas as "Cool", Love's most appropriately named song, sparked a dance party. I'm not saying the typical concert swaying and grooving, I mean full on across the room dancing. Even TOPS lead singer Jane Penny joined in as more than just a few rugs were cut during the second half of his set.
I think that at this point, we can get over the whole actor turned musician stigma that has followed Donald Glover around. Bringing it up now seems needless seeing as how he has left his most prominent acting presence, Community, for his Childish Gambino persona. But when you look at what he's doing now, the stigma has become an asset. It has been helping him mold this new venture. Even after his early releases proclaimed that he is just a rapper, this is not the case. A 72 page script, a short film that loosely follows said script, and a release of a "bootleg" vinyl of Because the Internet barely begin to describe the experience that he is attempting to create. Childish Gambino succeeded with an incredible show at the Riviera this past Wednesday.
Before I get into the amazing performances, I have to applaud the atmosphere at SPACE. It is an extraordinary place to see a show. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of fantastic intimate venues all around the Chicagoland area, but SPACE in Evanston is a must see. SPACE feels like the clubs I imagined when I was younger, big enough to get a crowd but small enough for it to feel special. The sound travels nicely through the room, capturing the bands in the best way possible. It certainly didn't hurt that the groups were Islands and Escondido, whose sets were fantastically crafted and performed.
Escondido (Photos by Steve Sterns)
There's something really wonderful about Escondido. The openings to some of their songs sound like scores from old westerns filled with sweeping trumpets and gently strummed guitars. Their music is warm to the touch, a mixture of twang and straight up rock. Plenty of influences come to mind, but rarely overcome the band. Despite their name meaning hidden in Spanish, Escondido's sound and stage presence is anything but. They just have a unique aura about them that comes through in their music and lyrics, wrapping up whatever room they're in.
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 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.
I'm looking at the weather report and it's supposed to be 50 degrees in a few days. There still might be some snow on the ground, but it looks like we've almost made it through this winter. Things outside seem to be increasingly pleasant and this may be the first weekend to truly resemble spring that we've had in 2014. What are you going to do with this not hibernating in your comfortably warm apartment whilst binge watching Pokemon cartoons on Netflix and eating leftovers of cheap chinese food time you've suddenly found yourself with this weekend? If you want to get out of the house, a few good shows are coming up that you may want to check out.
The vibrant music of Columbus-based band Saintseneca is full of triumphant contrasts — they're the hammock you want to lay in on an endlessly sunny, summer day, and they're the hearty, comforting stew that you want to eat after a long winter's shoveling. Their sound is reminiscent of of Neutral Milk Hotel mixed with Violent Femmes and The Cure, not to mention tinges of the rural music of Appalachia (deriving from front-man and songwriter Zac Little). Floating leisurely like dust particles in an empty room, the buildup of so many influences create dynamically melodic molecules eager to reach listeners everywhere and anywhere.
Graveface Records is a wholly independent label, the brainchild of Ryan Graveface who plays for a few of the bands that call his label home. The extraordinary music that comes out of the Savannah, Georgia based outfit ranges from the psychedelic sounds of Black Moth Super Rainbow to the avant-garde Xiu Xiu. Recently they began a tour called The Graveface Roadshow ,featuring a compendium of the label's artists performing together. This past Monday they brought Dreamend , The Stargazer Lilies, and The Casket Girls to the Empty Bottle for a free show. Rarely does it get better than this.
Dreamend started their set a little later than the listed start time, which allowed for the late comers to enjoy the band's post-rock fuzz. Once the room had a decent crowd the band hit the ground running, delving straight into a heavy and absorbing song. Dreamend is main project of Ryan Graveface and it's definitely worthwhile. A barely visible video projected onto the stage as Graveface played off to the side behind a case with the words The Casket Girls written on the lid. He wore a balaclava like headgear the entire time he played guitar. The microphone attached to the front of the mask weighed it down, distorting Graveface's look into something twisted and surreal. The near childlike thank you toward the end of the set, seemingly the only time Graveface addressed the crowd, made me jump. It was a drastic shift from Graveface's deep droning singing voice. His presence onstage was a magnificent façade that worked well with the music, giving him a nice dreamlike appearance.
I stumbled across Nicole Atkins' music when she appeared on the Ron and Fez show on SiruisXM. She was promoting her first album Neptune City, which was a great showcase of her voice and her quirkiness. Atkins was smart and engaging on what had to be one of her first nationwide shows. Since then her music has matured quite a bit and the comparisons to Roy Orbison multiplied, which is certainly not bad thing. She seems destined for the larger venues, so seeing her at a smaller place like Beat Kitchen was certainly a treat.
First up on stage was Davey Horne, a soft spoken Scottish folk singer. He came off as charming. His accent clearly affected the crowd, with a few shouts proclaiming his attractiveness. He even joked about it being too thick. Luckily he was able to back up that response with a very good, albeit short, set. Horne completely personified the image of a traditional folk singer, right down to the harmonica around his neck during a few of the songs.
Arc Iris was up next and I was not prepared for their amazing performance. They certainly dressed to impress. Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Jocie Adams wore a white leotard adorned with a splash of glitter. Cellist Robin Ryczek wore a sequined vest that mirrored keyboardist Zach Tenorio-Teller's shiny shirt. Drummer Ray Belli's white shirt and white pants made him look like a droog straight out of A Clockwork Orange. Their attire combined with the leafy vines adorning the stage created the effect of stumbling upon a group of musical faeries. It felt magical, especially since their music matched the scene.
I can safely say that Stephen Malkmus was one of the first musicians that captured my attention. During my early teens I was stuck in a desert of bad music, listening only to what friends and family listened to. It wasn't all bad, it just didn't grab me. Around 14 or 15 I was hit with a wave of incredibly great music with Pavement being one of the standouts. By that time they were no longer together, but Stephen Malkmus was still going strong with his new band the Jicks. I played that first solo-but-not-really-solo album nonstop. This was my first opportunity to see Stephen Malkmus after I missed the Pavement reunion shows in 2010, so I was incredibly excited.
Opening up the night at Lincoln Hall was Chicago band Disappears. Brian Case, lead singer and founding member of the group, quickly introduced the band though a haze of unintelligible reverb. It really suited the band as they started off mysteriously quiet, guitars and bass buzzing lightly. Drums came in a slow burn that eventually turned into a strong post rock sound. Disappears have a very laidback feel to them, especially Case as he rocks back and forth during the set. A near industrial screech filled the area between the heady songs, all while an array of geometric shapes projected behind them danced to and fro. The video started off slow, but much like the band it continued to transform at dizzying speed. The lines doubled and tripled until they looked as if they were an alien language, perfectly accompanying the Disappears sound.
Despite a slight technical difficulty with the patterned video at the end of the set, Disappears put on a incredible show with the highlight surely being Noah Leger's drumming. The four piece band has gone through numerous drummers over the years, each one offering something substantially different than the last. Leger showed what an incredible addition he is to the group. Toward the end of the set, Leger hit a grandiose peak, as he skillfully assaulted the translucent drum set to a surprisingly ethereal moment.
"I made a pledge to myself. If I was to raise my voice, be direct as I can be. No matter what I may destroy," Jeremy Bolm screams during the song "To Write Content." Touché Amoré is a hardcore band from California who have been making waves these last several years with their impassioned recordings and incendiary live shows, destroying conventions and creating believers in their wake.
Inspired by bands such as Converge, Thursday and Refused, Touché Amoré have been carving their place in the world of hardcore for the better part of a decade. Thier latest album, ...Is Survived By, has gathered a substantial amount of attention for the band, earning accolades such as Pitchfork's "Best New Music" and has enabled them to perform for larger crowds including their set during prime time at last year's Riot Fest.
What I find most interesting about them is Bolm's heartfelt spoken word-esque lyricism which acts as the driving force of the band. Songs such as "Just Exist" deliver a sensation of intensity paired with a message of hopeful catharsis as Bolm passionately proclaims "All of these things scare me half to death. I'll suffer the day just hoping for the best," while the drums clatter claustrophobically followed by a luminous bit of guitar that calls back to bands like Fugazi.
Opening for Touché Amoré are survivors of the Tooth and Nail / Equal Vision / Epitaph / Victory Records hardcore bubble burst of the mid 2000s, MewithoutYou. Over the course of their last several albums, MewithoutYou have been experimenting with folk while retaining their sense of intensity; just now that intensity is manifested differently. In their current form, they remind me of bands such as Murder by Death but exploring issues of philosophy and religion.
Update: ...And this show is now sold out. You can try contacting Bottom Lounge to find out if they'll have any additional tickets at the door, but as of right now tickets are no longer available to purchase. If you're into it, I still recommend checking out Touché Amoré and MewithoutYou on Spotify, though.
This wasn't the first time I've set an alarm to buy Jeff Tweedy solo tickets for his show at the Vic.
The first time was way back yonder in 2009, where my 17-year-old self eagerly bought the tickets with my parents credit card at 10am on a Friday morning during Winter Break, only to be utterly devastated to find out -- after purchasing the tickets, of course -- that the show was 18 and up. My parents call it one of the best shows they have ever seen. I sulked for the entire week.
Five years later, I finally got my chance to redeem the follies of my teenage self. Seeing a solo Jeff Tweedy show has long been on my bucket list, with reason Numero Uno being that Jeff Tweedy is the ultimate Chicago hometown golden boy, andfrontman of what may be the Chicago-iest Chicago band in recent times: Wilco. Tweedy and co. are practically an institution at this point, and every year around this time, Tweedy plays a string of solo shows at the Vic to benefit an academic scholarship for the Montessori school his children attended. Tickets to the show weren't cheap -- they ranged from $75-$150, but hey, they're tax deductible... I think.
Steep price or not, the show was worth every penny. With hair like a mad scientist and an arsenal of acoustic guitars that rivaled Neil Young's (OK, a stretch, but it was an impressive array nonetheless), Tweedy played a set of deep cuts, covers, and die-hard favorites.
Linnea Olsson is remarkable. With just one album release so far, Ah, she already shows promise and a sense of accomplishment. Live, she lived up to the hopes of the sold out audience. Those there to see Ane Brun were quite pleasantly surprised with Olsson's talent as a songwriter. Those there to see Olsson primarily were not disappointed.
The lovely Linnea Olsson from Sweden is playing at Schubas this Saturday, and she had time to answer a few questions for her fans.
I heard the NPR interview when you talked about heartbreak and restlessness in these songs and the joy music brings you. Do you think you are a better song writer because of the way you experience your every day life?
I take stuff from my everyday life and put into songs, but I also make a lot of stuff up. I don't know if it makes me better, I mean, I try and write about stuff that makes me feel things. It doesn't have to be a certain feeling, but I need to feel. I try and put myself in a different state while writing and performing music. But also be very present at the same time. It´s great when I manage to combine the two.
Bass Drum of Death make swampy garage rock and they do it incredibly well. It makes sense then that they're from the depths of Mississippi where bluesmen such as RL Burnside call home. Started as solo project by former Fat Possum employee John Barrett, he recorded the album GB City off hours DIY style using simple tools such as a drum kit, a guitar and a USB microphone. The band has since filled out to include a touring drummer and guitarist. It was with this lineup that they played to a fervent sold out crowd at the Empty Bottle last Thursday.
Security had their hands full as people tried in vain to crowd surf while the room filled with the sounds of distorted guitars and warped vocals. Songs like "Bad Reputation" and "Nerve Jamming" took on a newfound form of intensity as massive mosh pits emerged within the crowd. Throughout it all, Barrett and his band kept the momentum up as they played a large amount of both of their albums to a completely enthralled crowd, occasionally punctuating songs with random onomatopoeic sounds yelped into his microphone with an echoing effect.
Before Bass Drum of Death took the stage, I was able to catch a set from Blasted Diplomats, a local garage rock quartet who just released their self titled album via BLVD Records and I really dig what I heard. Afterwards, I sought out some of their things on Bandcamp and it's been on regular rotation as of late. Both bands provided an excellent soundtrack to an evening of drinking and revelry amongst friends, and in the end this was all that was wanted.
There's a motif that sweeps through the spectrum of bluesy-rock duo Little Hurricane like an unexpected storm, and that's the underrated factor; indeed, the San Diego-based band consisting of Anthony "Tone" Catalano (vocals and guitar) and Celeste "C.C." Spina (drums and vocals) spans so extensively that the effect is like the impact of a hurricane. Don't be fooled by the "little" portion in their name — their sound is nothing short of explosive. In fact, the intertwining vocals between Tone and C.C. is reminiscent of a salted caramel old-fashioned doughnut from the Doughnut Vault, with its rich and multidimensional flavor. Alongside that, though, there's an underlying grit and gristle that impulsively perks the ear buds and urges listeners to sway and become one with the hurricane they've cast upon a stage and studio. This soul-seeping inundation sets Little Hurricane apart from many indie acts in the music industry, and they're not one that should be ignored. The band has already received acclaim from IHeartRadio and Rolling Stone.
Beyond general gusts from reputable outlets, Little Hurricane has caused even more wondrous wreckage: two songs from the band's 2011 release, Homewrecker, aired on television (the track "Get By" was on Revenge and "Hold Me Back" in a Taco Bell commercial), while their vast appreciation for making music and sharing it with their fans led them to an August 2013 release of Stay Classy, a 10-track collection of the band's favorite covers (including "Ain't No Sunshine," "Don't Wanna Miss a Thing" and "Blue Jean Blues," among others). Little Hurricane will release their next album, Gold Fever, on March 4 on Death Valley Records (a label the band created). Most recently, Paste Magazine premiered their new single, "Sheep in Wolves Clothes", and the band has shared four video teasers promoting the record on its Facebook page.
About three quarters of the way through Sam Beam's set at the Old Town School of Folk Saturday night, a woman in the crowd yelled, "Can I hug you?" "I've been giving you spiritual hugs all evening," Beam replied matter-of-factly. Such was the tone of the singer's Saturday night show, a benefit concert for the school, during which he largely played whatever the small audience requested with only the help of his acoustic guitar, squeezing our spirits on a cold Chicago evening.
Third Man Records artists The Haden Triplets opened the night with a handful of striped-down country tunes that sounded completely Coen Brothers approved, as if they could have been heard during an opening set for O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s Soggy Bottom Boys or at The Gaslight on the same night as Llewyn Davis. Although the sisters have been in music for a couple of decades (they're the daughters of revered jazz bassist Charlie Haden), they only recently united as a band. Rife with talent, the charming act's set featured covers like The Carters' "Single Girl, Married Girl" and Webb Pierce's "Slowly". When they gushed about the immense sound quality in Maurer Hall, violinist and most prominent of the singing sisters, Petra, said, "I can hear my heartbeat," appropriately capturing the Lincoln Square venue's crystal-clear acoustics.
"If there are any rappers in the building, you have to keep trying," Action Bronson says in between drags of a joint in front of a sold out crowd at the Metro this past Friday. "You're not going to make it off of your first mixtape. I mean, look at me. What the fuck?!" Large and imposing in his physique, Action Bronson is the embodiment of recently vintage 90's NYC rap. Raised in Queens, Ariyan Arslani grew up listening to rappers such as Nas, Mobb Deep, Cam'ron, Big Pun, DMX, and of course, the Wu Tang Clan. He grew up idolizing these artists, but never thought he'd be one of them. His intended path was something different, he wanted to be a chef.
The details are fuzzy, but it looks like he went to culinary school and worked various kitchen jobs while climbing his way up the ladder of the NYC food scene. According to various sources he was a sous chef at a steakhouse and worked as a cook for the New York Mets? Like I said, the details are kinda fuzzy. I personally dig the slightly mysterious aspect of his past, though. It make his persona more interesting to me. At some point, he started rapping. He gained traction with his music and found himself needing needed to choose between the mic or the kitchen. He chose the microphone. Several mixtapes and EPs later, he's finally arrived.
There's nothing quite like a little bluegrass to warm you up on a wintry Midwestern night. Between the polar vortexes and snowstorms, the fifth annual Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival was just what the doctor ordered. It continued for its second week at Concord Music Hall last Saturday night.
Dog1 and Escondido opened up the show for Greensky Bluegrass, as people filtered in gradually. It seemed that they took their time to arrive at the venue since there were three bands on the lineup. The overwhelming chatter during Escondido's down-tempo, folk tunes made it clear that the majority of the crowd was there for the high-energy quintet from Michigan.
Perfect Pussy created a little bit of a reputation for themselves with their chaotic shows during the CMJ music marathon last year. They parlayed that buzz into a well received EP, I Have Lost All Lost All Desire For Feeling. They were subsequently signed by the tastemaker label Captured Tracks, and tasked with recording a full length album and going on tour.
I arrived at Schubas on Wednesday around 8:30 to an increasingly full house. I grabbed a beer and made my way through the growing crowd. The band was already on stage setting up, and without much fanfare or warning, started playing around 8:45. The problem with that was they weren't supposed to start until 9.
It's never a dull moment when Superchunk is in town! The four piece has rearranged itself a little without Laura Ballance accompanying the band for live tours but with more practice given the current lineup, they've become even tighter than when they played a stellar set at this year's Hideout Block Party, giving both their old favorites and their new songs from 2013's ironically entitled I Hate Music. The crowd emphatically knew the words to all of the songs they played and were almost as invigorated as the band seemed, echoing a sense of energy with moshers up front and center.
Friday night's Tomorrow Never Knows show at Schubas was headlined by Weekend, whose previous Chicago shows have arguably been upstagings of bill mates. Their fuzzy post-punk calls to mind a chugging My Bloody Valentine or, say, a Glasvegas with more oomph. Their two albums are solid efforts and 2013's Jinx shows evolution, but live they are another beast. Hypnotic percussion and pummeling guitars make them an aural delight. A song like "Oubliette" may have noisy pop hints of Slumberland labelmates the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but it's the life that gets added to songs like "Mirror" and "July" where they're at their best. Singer Shaun Durkan thrashes on stage, sometimes just sitting down for half a song, but never falling out of step with everyone else as they punish chords. A 10-minute long closer that meandered but never bored built into a fury of noise as they left for the night.
Bare Mutants opened with a set mostly from their debut album, The Affliction. The Chicago band's developed over the last few years into something that has a little shoegaze but also borrows nicely from the Velvet Underground's more rock'n'roll years. Their best songs ("Without You," "Crying with Bob," etc.) tend to build to heavy last acts and earworm their way into your head. On Friday, they had a few new songs that fit perfectly with everything else. It seems they are in good shape for the near future and shouldn't be missed.
If there was any previous doubt how much Chicagoans love The Rural Alberta Advantage, Friday night would put those thoughts to rest. The audience for the RAA was better than ever in their deeply felt love of all of the lyrics to the songs they knew by heart. It's a rare day in this jaded postmodern world when a band doesn't have to ask the audience to sing along and they just passionately feel so inclined as if they were fulfilling some deep aspect of their souls.
This was the first time this reviewer had seen the one-piece wonder that is Haley Fohr of Circuit des Yeux. She was often able to use pedal effects to her advantage but perhaps even more amazing was her very deep and resounding voice with the powerful distinctiveness of a Patti Smith for this postmodern age. She didn't speak very much and so her personality remained a little mysterious but songs that often began rather gentle acquired a tone filled with anguish before their finish, which in a way speaks volumes on its own. She also has an incredible command over the projection of her voice as well which was both disarming and engaging.
The opening night of this year's Tomorrow Never Knows festival hinged upon opportunity. For not only were more established bands headlining at many of Chicago's most cherished venues, but also we were presented with bands beginning their careers and making their first appearances in Chicago, anticipating where their music will take them next.
On Wednesday evening, I was lucky enough to hear three bands showcase their talents for a completely packed house at Lincoln Hall, eagerly awaiting headliner Cayucas. Each band's sound was vastly different than the next, and the immense variety present kept listeners guessing as to what they would be welcomed with next.
Opener Bad Bad Hats played a short but sweet set that filled me and surely many other listeners in Lincoln Hall with pure, unadulterated joy. Minneapolis native duo Kerry Alexander and Chris Hoge combine their talents for the perfect musical chemistry, unabashed in the sweetness that their music possesses, but it is never saturated with too much. I had never heard their music before, though it felt like I was listening to a band I had followed for years as their sound was welcoming and jubilant. They opened with "9 AM," a track off of their early 2013 EP It Hurts, which is available for a free download via their Bandcamp page. The song immediately showcased their lyrical prowess; though the beats remain light, the lyrics find frequent moments of serendipitous wisdom that showcase their ballads as not only sweet, but smart. Kerry Alexander's voice is mature and soulful, and comprises a large vocal range, reminiscent of a Karen O and Bethany Cosentino vocal hybrid, with an additional zest that is all her own.
Dexter Tortoriello is a restless man. The former Chicago native gained attention the last few years alongside Megan Messina masterminding the band Houses together. With Houses taking a break at the moment, he's getting attention for his latest project; producing electronica as Dawn Golden.
Houses made soft and sombre indie pop with a subtle sinister edge. It appears that Dawn Golden aspires to kinda be the opposite of that; an idiosyncratic soundtrack to a night of insomnia in which the narrator seeks a human connection amidst a psychedelic fog of death metal inspired drum machine loops and trippy slowed down vocals. This new musical direction seems fitting since Tortoriello is candidly into bands like Neurosis and opened for Pelican during the Adventures in Modern Music festival at the Empty Bottle awhile ago. I find Houses to be pleasant, but I personally find his Dawn Golden project to be more dangerous, engaging and thats what appeals to me.
Check out Assorted Tracks, his makeshift mixtape of what he appropriately describes as sad bangers below.
Five-piece bluegrass band Greensky Bluegrass will play at the city's newest venue, Concord Music Hall, which quickly became the go-to place to host concerts in Logan Square after the Congress Theater was shut down. Rusted Root, the dynamic band that is best known for "Send Me on My Way," will also perform there for one of the final shows of the festival.
It's been awhile since we checked in with Flosstradamus. The last time we saw one of their shows was at Lincoln Hall; coincidentally during New Year's Eve of 2010. Some things have changed in the last three years. Lead by producers such as Skrillex, a new generation of electronic music has exploded into the mainstream and Flosstradamus have found themselves performing to ever growing crowds around the world in between recording EPs and new mixes. We remember Flosstradamus playing small yet intense sets at dive bars, so we wanted to see how they would transition from that setting to an almost arena sized theater. It was with this in mind as we headed to The Riv on a snowy Monday night for the first of two sold out performances.
King Krule, the stage name Archy Marshall, may be the most confident 19-year-old you will ever see. Sometimes when such a young artist hits the stage, a few missteps are expected. They possibly may not have enough maturity or experience to fully capture the attention of crowd. This is not the case with King Krule. Having played on Letterman and Conan earlier this year, they have displayed that he and his band can grip an audience quickly and tightly. King Krule took control of the very animated Lincoln Hall crowd and never considered the possibility of losing them.
Tops started of the night with their incredibly danceable pop music. Tops' sound is warm and soft, which is a striking contrast to that King Krule, whose music wallows in deep bass and sharp guitars. They seemed like a bewildering choice to open the show, but after a few notes into their first song they felt like they were the only choice to open. Someone in the crowd yelled out to the band, asking who they were and where they were from, to which Tops guitarist David Carriere responded, "We're you and we are where you're from."
Christmas spirit was all-aglow in Park West on Saturday night for the 11th Annual Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger Acoustic Holiday Show. The halls were decked from the venue's entrance to the stage. People in red and green, some donning festive hats and gaudy sweaters, eagerly filed in to find a spot and post up for the sold-out show that benefited The People's Music School.
The stage was converted into a makeshift family room, complete with all of the comforts of home. The two guitarists from local jam band Umphrey's McGee, Brendan and Jake, sat next to each other on a couch as they strummed away on their acoustic guitars. The atmosphere was very intimate, which paired nicely with the stripped-down tone of the performance.
They kicked off the show with a slew of unplugged Umphrey's originals. Some already featured acoustic guitars, like the melodious "The Pequod," and others did not, like the usually bass-heavy "Puppet Strings."
When they started out as a band, The Kills had very minimalist songs and a mysterious aura. Instead of being Jamie Hince and Alison Mossheart when they performed, they were Hotel and VV. They embraced a cool aesthetic that shunned traditional popularity. Comparisons to The White Stripes were inevitable, but through years, The Kills have changed their tune somewhat (so to speak). Their last two albums added a more varied production to their minimalism. It's hard not to see them as bigger and a bit less mysterious given Hince's marriage to Kate Moss and Mossheart's collaborations with Jack White. But all of these notions fell to the wayside when they started playing their set at The Vic Monday night.
Opening for The Kills was U.S. Girls, an eccentric and very experimental project of Meghan Remy. Usually Remy performs alone, with only some loopers and mixers to fill in for live musicians. However, this performance featured a very full band accompanying her on stage. After a very quiet and humble greeting to the crowd, loops of electronic noise filled the Vic. It was a loud abstract prelude that slowly introduced Remy's penetrating voice. Moments later the band tore into the song, instantly making U.S. Girls' music sound fuller and more complete. The live drumming especially added an interesting depth to the songs. "Island Song" started off with her haunting vocals before being transformed into a bouncing rhythm barely recognizable from the way it sounds on U.S. Girls on Kraak. Even with all the help, Remy still utilized some familiar equipment from her completely solo shows. She could be seen occasionally crouching down and fiddling with knobs on her mixers, creating interesting transitional pieces that allowed the songs to flow into one another. Unfortunately this seemed to extend their set and caused it to end prematurely with Remy teasing the audience about an unplayed Bruce Springsteen cover.
Singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, who's been opening for Andrew Bird at his Gezelligheid concerts this week, just announced that she'll be playing a show at the Logan Square Comfort Station, 2579 N. Milwaukee Ave., this Friday, from 7 to 9pm. Tickets are $20, and seeing as the Comfort Station maybe has a capacity of 50, you better get on that ASAP. And wear a coat.
Motown may have begun as just another record label; however, with a roster of groundbreaking artists like The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Jackson Five and others, it quickly skyrocketed into a pop culture phenomenon.
Having an impact that has reached beyond music to other areas that include fashion, film, movies, theater, and television, Motown, the brainchild of founder Berry Gordy, is responsible for some of the most memorable melodies in music history.
Cass McCombs' has often been compared to Bob Dylan or Neil Young, but those comparisons seem a tad too simple. McCombs has the ability to summon a sense of anxiety, and even a touch of anarchy, into a style of music that can sometimes err on the side of being overly sedate. This was put front and center during his sold out show at the Empty Bottle last Friday.
Opening the evening was Baltimore band Arboretum. With a Rhodes keyboard accompanying a bass/drums/guitar setup, the sound emanating from the stage evoked raggedy Appalachian folk melodies backed by pulsating post-rock. The instrumentation was muscular, and surprisingly bass-heavy in contrast to the pinched twinge of Dave Heumann's vocals. His guitar playing was given ample time, as the songs stretched over minutes of instrumental breaks, and tentative guitar arpeggios and swells gave way to more conventional, searing leads.
McCombs and company took the stage and lumbered into "Big Wheel," the (sort of) title track off his newest release, Big Wheel and Others. The tune's circular guitar riff was accompanied by a hypnotizing drumbeat, with the stuttering rumble of the toms reverberating throughout the room. It drew my focus towards Joe Russo, the man behind the kit; I was hooked on his playing all night as he expertly balanced intricate beats while maintaining the spare dignity so many of McCombs' songs generate.
Copenhagen has been getting an increasing amount of attention recently for their flourishing punk scene. But as bands such as Iceage and Lower become ad hoc ambassadors for the disenfranchised youth of the region, another band that is quietly emerging is Holograms.
A few years ago, after a few singles of theirs went viral, the young band were signed to Captured Tracks, recorded an album, and went on tour around Europe. This turned into a series of discouraging events such as their van being broken into and finding themselves stranded in Paris with no money for several weeks.
Upon their eventual return home to Stockholm in the dead of winter, they found themselves in a weird insomniaic fog. Nothing, seemingly, had changed. They had no money or jobs. They found themselves restless with boredom. Conceived out of this sense of isolation, they started to record their second album, Forever. The album has a full sound to it, channeling the bleakness of bands such as Joy Division as well as the melodramatics of Swedish metal bands such as In Flames.
Check out the video for their latest single, "Luminous," below.
Holograms play tonight, December 9th, at Schubas (3159 N. Southport.) This is a 21+ show. TV Ghost opens. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased here.
Drake and Miguel want to know: Would You Like a Tour? Perhaps a more unnecessary question has never been asked. Two of the biggest crooners in the game hit Chicago's United Center this Thursday. Drake and Miguel need not worry about their fan's desire for a tour; 2013 has proven to be big years for both artists. Miguel's 2012 sophomore record, Kaleidoscope Dream, finally took off, both by the virtue of it being an incredible record containing more sultry burners than Drake has failed relationships and a long overdue radio presence.
Which brings us to Drizzy Drake. Mopey Millenial attitude aside, when Drake dropped this September's Nothing Was the Same, it managed to strike the perfect tone between his narcissistic hedonism and his EveryDude, shrug-at-the-fame front.
You gotta give it to him, though: Drake has proved to have some killer instincts when it comes to music. The fear of being a one-off is long gone, and with his bourgeoie claws firmly gripped on Top 40 and the last vestiges of "traditional" hip hop (whatever that means), he has rightfully earned his place as one of the most exciting artists of the last five years. With his now-trademark moody sonics courtesy of Noah "40" Shebib, Drizzy's longtime producer and fellow Canuck, and Drizzy's painfully self-aware flow, it's hard to imagine that formula dying down anytime soon.
As for the Drake/ Miguel cocktail that Chicago is about to enjoy, I'd guess that the only real concern one should have going into this show is how to avoid the swarm of panties that are sure to be thrown onstage. These are two of the most sensual dudes in the game, and damned if they don't bring their Lady-Killing smirks to Chicago this week.
Drake and Miguel will perform at United Center, 1901 W. Madison Street, this Thursday at 7pm. Tickets begin at $59.75.
Chance the Rapper just may be the new American Dream. A product of the city's south side, Chancelor Bennett found himself sometimes ridiculed by his peers and teachers for dreaming big and being told instead to have more sensible aspirations. Bennett rejected these notions and somehow got himself suspended from school for ten days. In reaction, he holed up in the Harold Washington Library's digital media lab, YOUmedia, and recorded his debut mixtape 10 Day. This was barely two years ago. In the time since, everyone has seen tremendous growth from him. I've seen him transform from a promising upstart at small clubs to a charismatic performer at larger venues, but none as large as the almost arena sized Riviera Theatre. Would he be able to captivate such a large audience and make the leap to the next level? The answer to that turned out to be unequivocally yes.
We're always looking for a good excuse to post one of Chicagoland hero Jan Terri's legendary music videos, so I was pleased to discover that the VHS star will be performing at Reggies next week. Her cult favorite music videos have gained newfound popularity on YouTube - the most famous of which is appropriately labeled "Worst music video ever". And now, Terri is finally being featured in a documentary on her life and her rise to viral video glory. Per the Sun-Times, next week's show will be taped as part of the film "Jan Terri -- Badder Than Ever".
Some albums arrive just when you need them most. Remember April? Summer was near, hip hop was still devoid of Yeezus, Random Access Memories loomed on the horizon, and Modern Vampires of the City was still six weeks out. Whither our summer jam album? And then along came Acid Rap, and young Chicago upstart Chance the Rapper saved us all in one fell swoop.
With a soul sound that heavily tips a hat to College Dropout and an attitude that can probably be attributed to the perma-smirk of someone only one year removed from teenagedom, Chance's croaky delivery on Acid Rap may take some getting used to, but it's one in a handful of the most genuinely charismatic debuts of a new rapper in years. Chancelor Bennett is only twenty, but his verses are nothing if not witty, wise, and, when appropriate, calculatedly youthful.
Currently on his Social Experiment tour, Chance ended up adding another Chicago show due to overwhelming hometown demand--hardly surprising, when you consider that Chance's Lollapalooza set this past summer accommodated perhaps 1/3 of the actual folks who showed up to his show.
Since Acid Rap dropped, Bennett has been on the cover of multiple major music magazines and reviewed by just about every esteemed music publication. Downloads of Acid Rap have caused multiple websites to crash, he's jumped on Lil Wayne and James Blake joints, and headlined his own North American tour. All the hype a rapper could ever want, and yet Chance remains unsigned by a label. And so goes the entrepreneurial spirit of the self-starting millennial set. Here's to hoping he keeps doing what he's doing.
Chance the Rapper performs at the Riviera Theatre, 4746 N. Racine, on Wednesday and Friday, at 7:30pm. Both shows are sold out.
Sky Ferreira is finally having her post-"Everything is Embarassing" moment. Though she may never truly bypass the original sleeper Internet hit that made her something of an indie phenom, Ferreira makes a good case with her first full-length album, Night Time, My Time, which was released in October.
Her album cover (which is NSFW, to put it lightly) either gives no fucks or is as calculated as MTV's "Miley: The Movement." The great thing about Ferreira is that it doesn't matter. Nude album cover or not, her songs speak for themselves. Beautifully unraveled at the edges, melodic to a fault, and at once perfectly modern and retro, Night Time, My Time, must come as a relief after years of being jerked around by her record company.
It's hard to imagine the record company complaining now, considering "You're Not the One" is pure pop majesty, a driving anthem that begs for car speakers and rolled down windows. Same goes for the heartbreaking "I Blame Myself" and the angry, frantic guitars of "I Will."
Smith Westerns, a band comprised of native, long-haired Chicagoans, share the bill with Ferreira. The band's garage-y, glam-rock sound should complement Ferrerira's unhinged, '80s-esque pop ditties nicely. Whoever made this match knew what they were doing. The show is at the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave, Saturday night, and begins at 8pm. Tickets are $21.
It's somewhat apropos that a band called Cults has, well, developed a bit of a cult following in the three years since singer Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion formed in New York City. And why not? Catchy indie tunesmithing and a quirky and widely circulated video for the song "Go Outside" off their eponymous 2011 full length helped build buzz and garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim and has led to a great deal of touring in the past few years. Their 2013 release Static features a somewhat more aggressive sound, but it's still clear that this band took some notes from shimmery late-'60s California pop, a la Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys or Mike Curb Congregation bubblegum. Check it out for yourselves, with a sample below, or head out Saturday night to the Metro to see it live and in person.
The Avett Brothers have built an audience show-by-show over the past decade, and the band has negotiated a gradual climb from rock-influenced bluegrass upstarts to arena headliners (produced by Rick Rubin, no less). Their three major label releases have charted the band's attempt to impart pop song craft and elegance onto their well-honed caffeinated country style. The band visitings Chicago Friday in support of their newest record, Magpie and the Dandelion, which was recorded during the same studio sessions for last year's release The Carpenter.
Kicking off the evening is Providence, RI group Deer Tick. The band has navigated its own transition into bigger venues, albeit in a different direction than The Avett Brothers. Deer Tick's previous records have always struck a woozy balance between traditionalist Hank Williams-esque balladry, and the ramshackle, beer-soaked verve of The Replacements' more up-tempo tracks. 2010's Dear Providence tilted the scales decidedly in the latter direction, as lead singer John McCauley yelped over sandpaper guitar tones about an assorted cast of characters fueled by an endless amount of alcohol. Deer Tick's newest release, Negativity, can't help but feel like sobering up on the morning after, but it does so with a burgeoning diversity of styles for the band to draw on, including power pop, horn-infused soul, and a refined, weary lyricism. The band is a livewire act to see in person; I've been lucky enough to see them several times, on stages that ran the gamut from dive bars to festivals, and they've never failed to deliver a spirited and hysterical show.
The Avett Brothers and Deer Tick perform at the UIC Pavilion, 525 S. Racine Ave., Friday November 22 at 8pm. Tickets are $38.50-49.50.
Double Door has a long storied past. The smallish venue has hosted some of the biggest names in music, ranging from a secret Rolling Stones show to a Sonic Youth fronted Lollapalooza after party. The venue's countless events have cemented its reputation and iconic status, but for last night's opening band Rathborne, nobody has ever come closer to embodying fictional DD band Sonic Death Monkey (now Barry Jive & The Uptown Five) and Rob Gordon's DJing. The High Fidelity reference fell flat for some of the audience, (with quite a few asking who are Sonic Death Monkey?) but that didn't stop the bands' consistently fun interaction with the crowd.
Rathborne, an incredibly polished four piece band out of New York City, opened up the night very at ease.They played like they were right at home, which isn't that much of a stretch as Luke Rathborne shared a story about almost going to Columbia College, only to drop out when he saw crumpled up school pamphlets after missing the orientation and realizing his father would no longer be paying the tab. It was a fun soliloquy between songs that fit perfectly with the band's attitude. Jokes about a fake Tecate sponsorship and syth/guitar player Jimmy Gianopoulos' "Here's the Beef" shirt only added to their playfulness. There never seemed to be a misstep from the band, always playing to the crowd with an intensely confident swagger as Luke Rathborne occasionally shredded at the edge of the stage.
Oh, I know, you haven't even carved up your tofurkey and here we are talking New Year's Eve, but in Chicago, it's never too early to start planning your concerts, and this is one show announcement we're pretty excited over. DEATH is coming to town, namely Reggie's, 2105 S. State St., for a sure to be epic New Year's Eve show.
The relatively underground protopunk/garage trio, founded in 1974 in Detroit by three music-obsessed brothers, struggled to find the right musical niche but gained notoriety with crate divers and indie music lovers in recent years, culminating in the band biopic "A Band Called DEATH". Those who've studied the band or seen the film know of the struggles for commercial success and the tragic death of David in 2000 from lung cancer. But that wasn't the end of the story. Lucky for us, after the internets picked up the scent of how great this band was/is, Drag City picked up the band and has since started re-releasing their work, to the glee of many. And now they're headed to Chicago (not for the first time, but still, it's exciting).
DEATH plays NYE at Reggie's. Doors will open at 8:30pm with El Mejor opening. Tickets are $20 for GA (multiple VIP options available for more) and go on sale today. 17+
If you haven't seen the film yet, it's streamable online, or you can head to Reggie's December 20th for a special screening to get you in the mood for ROCK.
For this Saturday's performance of Lampo's Fall 2013 season, guests will taken several steps off the standard path. For starters, the event is at the Post Family Gallery (1821 W. Hubbard, #202), a new collaborator for this venerable experimental music organization. The gallery, which emphasizes photographic and design art, will also be hosting Reading Lampo, a month-long exhibit of printed material from the Lampo archives. Anyone who has ever received one of Lampo's elegantly designed postcards in the mail or purchased a gig poster knows the consistently top-quality design sense of every piece of printed collateral, and many of your favorites will be on display. The exhibit is mainly open by appointment, but on the night of the show, the exhibit will be open to the public for free.
Sleigh Bells' sold-out show at the Metro last Sunday was their fourth at the club, and vocalist Alexis Krauss noted it from the stage. "When are you guys gonna get sick of us?" she asked after expressing her thanks to the venue for continuously having them back. If the reaction of the crowd is any indication, both the venue and the band's fan base are unlikely to turn on them anytime soon. The audience gave as good as they got throughout the high-energy performance, not content to merely offer polite applause during the breaks; they were there to equal the band's high-wire enthusiasm.
The night began with Doldrums, an electronic trio based out of Montreal. Their sinewy arrangements fluctuated between hard-hitting bass and synth attacks and more serene mood-setters, often within the same song. Considering the excitement of the crowd, it seems likely they left with more than a few new converts. Shortly thereafter, the lights dimmed, the smoke machines turned on, and enough strobe lights flashed to risk a seizure. Guitarist Ryan Primack and drummer Chris Maggio appeared first (Sleigh Bells is utilizing a live drummer for the first time on this tour), followed by guitarist and producer Derek Miller. Finally Krauss, clad in a boxer's robe emblazoned with her initials, came onstage to massive applause. The band crashed into "Minnie," a track off their new record Bitter Rivals, and by the end of the song the boxer's robe had been tossed to the side. Krauss engaged the crowd from the first note to the last, not content to let the musical performance do all the work.
Though Mazzy Star went on hiatus in 1997 — much to the disappointment of scores of lovesick teens and introverts around the world — they've finally returned earlier this fall with Seasons of Your Day, their first full-length LP in over fifteen years. With roots in California's Paisley Underground movement in the '80s, it's lucky for us the band didn't let their legacy lie with the incomparable movie-montage magnet "Fade Into You."
With slide guitar and dreamy sonics reminiscent of Beach House and a voice so breathy it sounds like it could float away, Mazzy Star is anchored by Hope Sandoval's breezy vocals and David Roback's guitar.
Though Seasons of Your Day sees the band diversifying from the reverb-soaked sound they favored in their earlier days, there's no mistaking the wistful, airy ambience for any other band. The descending organ on "In the Kingdom" is achingly beautiful and sad at the same time, retaining just the right amount of '90s melancholy, while the Led Zeppelin-esque "California" brings a welcome change of pace with a crisp acoustic guitar riff.
Mazzy Star plays at the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, on Wednesday night at 8pm. The show is 18 and up, tickets are $35, and Psychic Ills opens.
Michael Nicolas (cello) and Cory Smythe (piano) perform John Zorn's 'Occam's Razor'
As I settled in to my seat, eager for the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) to begin their performance of a half-dozen compositions by John Zorn at the MCA, I thought about the years I've spent listening to John Zorn's records, both written and improvised, wondering what these through-written pieces would sound like, when suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a familiar site. A man dressed in a very familiar pair of camouflage cargo pants and a zippered hoodie popped out of a side door to have a quick glance at the stage. The most comfortably-dressed man in modern composition was here tonight! It added a hot spark to the anticipation knowing that Zorn himself would be watching from the wings.
Considering the breadth (and, in many cases, extremity) of Zorn's work, I came in expecting ear-bleed and grinding teeth from start to finish, but was surprised to hear not just his tender side, but also his beautifully classicist nature. The opening piece, a work for solo clarinet based on Herman Hesse's novel "Steppenwolf," was a long, lyrical work that sounded like the 1930s as inhabited by early modernist pioneers like Charles Ives and Henry Cowell, using abstraction as a way to color the mind and the mood, building to a dazzling sequence where clarinetist Joshua Rubin cleared intervallic jumps like he was playing hopscotch. To use Anthony Braxton's terminology, the gravallic weight of this piece was off the charts. The fireworks evoked, however, never overpowered the sheer lyrical beauty of the composition and Rubin's masterful handling of it.
Several years ago, I saw a performance by the avant-garde composer, Roc Jimenez de Cisneros. The piece was entitled "Tetralemma + Tetrafluoroethane" and was written for computer and air horns. To make the piece work, Cisneros meticulously altered a batch of air horns so that each one had a different pitch and key. Some horns were loud and sharp, while others were surprisingly subtle and sombre. The majority of the horns, though, occupied an ambiguous grey area between noise and melody. Over a sparse ambient skeleton produced by the composer's laptop, he and his makeshift orchestra started to use the various horns. Different horns of different sounds were used for different amounts of time at different locations throughout the performance space. One horn would create a loud droning sound while others created subtle bursts seemingly all around you. Things appeared to be a maddening mess, but slowly a pattern emerged. Engulfed by this odd wall of sound, a sense of catharsis took over as once familiar individual objects and noises found themselves transformed into a union of weirdness. It was an abrasive and experimental work, making the point that there is a kind of beauty in extremity.
Chicago is a city in transition, transforming into a central force in hip-hop before our very eyes. In between the meteoric rise of Chance the Rapper and the relentlessly confrontational presence of Chief Keef, Chicago plays host to a slew of artists who are on the verge of making it. This past Thursday at Reggies, I was able to witness one of those on the cusp artists; King Louie.
You may recognize King Louie from his appearance on Kanye's latest album Yeezus, where Louie raps the first verse and chorus on "Send it Up." Perhaps you recall seeing his Basquiat-inspired promo stickers all over town a year or so ago. Maybe you're into the local rap scene and are already familiar with him and his impressive lineup of mixtapes. The point of this is that knowingly or not, you probably at least have a passing knowledge of the man and his work.
Like the elephant to the blind men, composer John Zorn looks completely different depending on where you first experienced him, and like Walt Whitman, he contains multitudes. No single description will wrap it all up tight. If you watched "120 Minutes" in the '90s, you remember being pinned to the wall any time his group Naked City strafed your susceptible mind. Perhaps you even went further with his "death jazz" group Painkiller, and he hepped you to Japanese noise and grindcore terror. If jazz was your bag, perhaps you have fond memories of Masada, his "Judaism meets Ornette Coleman" project, with 500 compositions and dozens of recordings on display. Free improv fans remember seeing the weird, cartoonish mayhem of his game-based improv pieces like Cobra, Archery, or Xu Feng. Maybe your heard him blow duck calls on early Golden Palominos records, or subliminally took in his scads of soundtrack work. Back in the day when Best Buy and Borders catered to all tastes, you might have taken a chance on releases on his ultra-prolific Tzadik and Avant labels.
But amidst this sprawling hedge-maze of musical styles and approaches, John Zorn is first and foremost a composer. His works for variable ensemble units range from Feldman-like rivers of calm ("Redbird") to blood-draining exorcisms ("Kristallnacht").
Former Chicagoan (now ensconced in Brooklyn) Ben Vida presents several works of sound poetry, abstract electronics, and atmomized speech particles as part of Lampo's Fall 2013 series. The event is free (with RSVP), and takes place at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Pl., this Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8pm.
Vida presents several works as part of the program. In "Tztztztzt Î Í Í...", several performers (including Tyondai Braxton, Sara Magenheimer and Vida himself) were filmed performing a sound-poem by Vida, accompanied by synthesized approximations of their vocalizations, thus dislocating sound from action in peculiar ways. As Vida writes, "This attention to shifting relationships of inputs and outputs, cause and effect, was created with the intention of recalibrating the viewer's awareness of their own senses. The possibility of a recalibration and the desire to remind the viewer of how well they are able to receive and decode discordant information acts to reveal the brain's ability to create order out of multi-sensory distortions." Loosely translated, this means "take a deep breath and count back from 10, ace -- you can figure this out without mommy."
Also on the program is "Damaged Particulates," a piece composed for four-channel stereo with "fixed and live electronics" (pre-records and johnny-on-the-spot, friend) with an emphasis on single and dual deployments of stark sounds in fascinating contrast to one another. The use of such naked, visceral sonic artifacts prevents the ease of simply drifting along in the sonic stream, with layers rising and falling in the morass, in favor of discrete events that pop up out of nowhere, announce themselves, and then pop out of existence again -- sometimes one at a time, sometimes two in opposition, and occasionally a chorus of four just to keep you off your guard.
This is the second concert in Lampo's Fall series. Future events will include electronic composer Mark Fell (Nov. 2), percussionist Eli Keszler (Nov. 16) and former Emeralds synth guy Steve Hauschildt (Dec. 7).
Thursday in Chicago was an introspective day. The sky was an ominous shade of grey and a thick fog filled the air. As the day progressed, it started to rain. The city found itself temporarily transformed by the weather into a state of melancholy. It was the perfect weather to experience Ólafur Arnalds and his fantastic set of ambient modern classical.
Ólafur Arnalds played two sets on Thursday at the new jazz club, Constellation. I saw the later show at 9pm. Constellation opened in April on Western Avenue on the edge of Roscoe Village taking the space of the former Viaduct Theater. Founded by local jazz stalwart, Mike Reed, Constellation has taken on the mission of "present[ing] progressive performance and forward-thinking music with a focus on jazz, improvisation and contemporary classical." It's a really nice looking place and they're already booked an impressive lineup ranging from the aggressively avant-garde Peter Brötzmann to the master percussionist Hamid Drake.
The room in which we saw Ólafur Arnalds perform was a small minimalist area that embodied a sense of warmth and belonging. At one point during his set, Arnalds commented on this saying something to the point of, "It feels like I'm playing a private concert in the living room of my house. I do that for friends." He then smirked and further commented with his subtle wit, "It almost doesn't feel like you paid money to see me," before starting to play the baroque "Brim."
On stage, Ólafur was accompanied by a trio of musicians; vocalist Arnór Dan, violinist Viktor Orri Árnason and cellist Rubin Kodheli. Arnalds played the piano and handled sound manipulation with his assortment of devices. They played a set that leaned heavily towards the recently released album, For Now I Am Winter. Pieces like the aforementioned "Brim," and the Steve Reich inspired "New Skin" came alive with a sort of creative kineticism.
About halfway through the set, violinist Viktor Orri Árnason, performed an exhilarating and highly emotive solo. He played so intensely, his bow started to fracture yet he continued on and finished his performance. It was breathtaking. Afterwards, Ólafur commented with his subtle and charming wit, "Well...I guess I have to buy him a new bow."
He ended his set with a tribute to his grandmother, "Lag Fyrir Ömmu," a beautiful and haunting minimalist piece for piano and violin. "I owe my love of Chopin and all things non death-metal to her," he said before he began to play. As the piece reached its crescendo, an unseen violin suddenly played at the same intensity in tandem with the piano before both instruments slowly winded down to silence. The performance as a whole was a beautiful reminder of the subtle joys and subtle sorrows that life can sometimes provide.
Atlas Genius was greeted by a sold out crowd as they took the stage at the House of Blues Tuesday night. The band looked visibly shaken but equally surprised and humbled at the large gathering of people there to hear them perform. As they started to play, I looked around for a moment and found myself a bit surprised at how varied their fanbase is. Q101 refugees stood side by side with NPR devotees in a temporary brotherhood as they sang along in tandem as the band played their current single, "If So."
Atlas Genius have always sounded very influenced by Phoenix, especially their albums Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, and It's Never Been Like That. This admiration was clear throughout the night, and was most apparent when they played their song "Back Seat" in a slick and charismatic manner. Keith Jeffery, guitarist and singer, stepped into the crowd for a solo during an extended breakdown as the rest of the band encouraged the audience to clap and dance before leading the song to it's conclusion.
They then jammed for a little bit before moving on to the next song. This is a theme that was continued throughout the night; play a song and then jam for a few minutes before moving on. I get it. The album is only a little over thirty minutes long and they had a hour long set to fill. However, they're talented musicians who knew at least to keep the jamming interesting and somewhat brief, so I was fine with it for the most part. The musical interludes were interesting, in the post-rock stylings of Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai. All of that said, I wouldn't have minded a cover or two.
They played a few more songs from their album When it Was Now before playing their big crowd pleaser, "Trojans." The band seemed to build an increasingly confident swagger throughout the night and it reached a crescendo with their final song, the pulsing and arena rock ready "Electric." As they performed these two tracks, it seemed like practice for the bigger stages they will likely soon be playing.
"Thanks for selling us out," Atlas Genius earnestly yelled at some point during the night. "I think we play this city more than any other." If they continue at this rate they'll be back soon, quite possibly at the larger venues the bands they admire play.
When it comes to smaller venues, people tend to trickle in at inconsistent rates. Opening bands end up playing for less than half empty rooms. More often than not, one ends up missing a gem of a band that can hold their own just as well as the headliner.
Such was the case at Schubas when last minute addition Alex Calder and his band began playing. Calder's sound, very much indebted to the '60s pop, truly deserved a bigger audience. The songs played a little quicker and a little heavier than I thought they would, almost as if taking a quick detour through '90s alternative to get to the show. A larger crowd would have definitely added to the energy as Calder's guitar work contained several moments of brilliance. Calder's set was short but incredibly good; the band was determined to set up a night of psychedelic sound. Thankfully, they succeeded.
"We're here in the name of hip-hop," host Poison Pen declared, as the diverse throng of people inside of the Metro cheered. Even on a Sunday night, a rowdy crowd was packed in from the front to back of the venue.
After a somewhat brief performance by Poison Pen, Hasan Salaam was the first rapper on the bill to hit the stage. He announced that 100 percent of the profits made by his most recent album, Music is my Weapon, go toward funding a school, well and clinic in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa.
He asked the audience, "If America was a woman would you date her?" A large handful of people in the crowd yelled back, "F*** no!" Then Hasan played "Miss America," a song about the hypocrisy of American democracy.
Coming off a tour opening for Dawes, Shovels & Rope are no strangers to the road. Founded in 2010, they were previously tapped by Jack White to open some of his first Blunderbuss tour dates, and have been on a roll ever since. Hailing from Charleston, SC, the duo blow into Chicago to headline a Metro show on 9/26.
The band's 2012 album O' Be Joyful has racked up the acclaim for wife and husband singer/songwriters Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. Their music has been praised for raising a "ruckus" at the Newport Jazz Fest, and there's nothing but high expectations as they head west and cross our city limits. This won't be your classic Folk Americana music set. Tunes by Shovels & Rope are at once dark and sinister, like a shot of whiskey that makes you smile after the burn.
The duo have a musical vibe reminiscent of great pairings like Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings. Cary Ann and Michael's world is filled with love and not-so-thinly veiled threats of murder — like all great marriages. Their southern twang and delicious charm leaps off the album's grooves, leaving you with the feeling that this is a truly great working relationship. Songs like "Birmingham" and "Lay Low" bring feelings like this to light with a burst of raw emotion and passion (to the death). Or you can put on your boots and stomp and dance through title track "O' Be Joyful," relationship or no. Learn a little bit about it yourself, and see them grace the Metro's stage on Thursday.
Shovels & Rope perform at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) on Thursday, September 26. Shakey Graves opens. Music starts at 7:30pm. Tickets are $20 and the show is all ages.
Back in 2009, I worked at a small public relations outfit owned and run by the sister of Chicago's own Ike Reilly (of The Ike Reilly Assassination). My employer invited me to go see her brother play one cold December night, and never one to say no to live music (and not wanting to stay at the office to work late), I agreed. Despite the fact that my former employer was always late, we arrived in enough time to see the opener, U.S. Royalty.
To say I was impressed would be an understatement. I was floored — who was this band and where did they come from?! They not only commanded the attention of the audience right off the bat, they rocked the house as if that night was their last on stage. U.S. Royalty left nothing to be desired.
Their first full-length album, Mirrors, is a great balance of music that you want to rock out to and songs that you put on your road trip list. Of the album, singer John Thornley says, "Because we traveled for about a year and a half before we recorded the album, there is definitely a travel vibe to the record."
U.S. Royalty produces a sound that has been likened to The Strokes, The Killers and Fleet Foxes. The band of four is composed of brothers John and Paul Thornley on vocals/piano and guitar, Jacob Michael on bass, and Luke Adams on percussion.
The Weekend (not The Weeknd, the R&B singer of the somewhat same name) are disciples of bands such as Joy Division, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine. They make aggressively loud experimental post-punk, and they do it rather well. Their latest album Jinx is a cathartic love letter full of atmospheric sonic brutalism and manic paranoia to the bands they clearly admire.
Listen to their blistering single "Mirror" below.
We're giving you the chance to check them out for free. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "The Weekend" and we'll pick a winner by 5pm today to go to the show with a friend. [Update: We have a winner! Congrats to John!]
The Weekend play at the Empty Bottle this Friday, September 20th, opening for local noise rockers, Disappears, as they celebrate the release of their new album Era (a show we just previewed). Outside World kicks the night off. Tickets are $12 adv/$14 door. You must be 21+ to attend.
This Saturday, The Hideout will host Scout Niblett — an eccentric musical pleasure of the highest order. The British singer songwriter offers an interesting blend of painfully beautiful vocals and sparse instrumentation that occasionally transitions to pulse pounding chords. The moments of silence between the notes are as powerful as the crushing arrangements themselves. Niblett has a way of linking these moments together wonderfully, as is evident on her last two albums The Calcination of Scout Niblett and It's Up To Emma. Her fascination with astrology and alchemy lends itself to her rocking guitar work and continually finds its way into her lyrics, evoking otherworldly sensations that deliver on all the right spots.
Doing my homework before seeing opening band Pure X, a group from Austin, TX., would have clued me into what I was about to experience. For one thing, I would have found their Tumblr, Mellow Thrasher. I'm still debating whether or not that fully encompasses their "vibe." To start, not once did any of the four band members make eye contact with the audience, nor acknowledge that we were there. For an hour, we listened to the lead singer whine about something. (I'm not sure what, the filter on his mic was so thick I couldn't understand the words coming out of his mouth.) On top of that, his face was so constricted, the look of udder pain on my face undoubtedly rivaled his. The music was a bad marriage between the worst kind of emo and the most awkward kind of adult contemporary. Of their 2012 appearance at SXSW, Pitchfork tactfully wrote that Pure X was "adept at conjuring six-string clouds of lazy-day nothingness."
I was still traumatized when Youth Lagoon came on stage to save the day. But thankfully, Trevor Powers immediately connected with the audience and even called out some "bro" who urged him to chug his drink, getting a rise out of the crowd in solidarity against bro-dom. United we progressed, with Powers as our leader guiding us back to music sanity.
The vibe of the show was very much in line with the inspiration behind Youth Lagoon's sophomore album, Wondrous Bughouse. Powers refers to the music as an exploration of "the human psyche and where spiritual meets the physical world." The set was pretty awesome — a backdrop of multicolored waves and lighting that created a band of silhouetted shadows, setting the stage for a mysteriously seductive ambience. The change in energy was palpable and the audience grooved with the Youth Lagoon in a much more united front. The separation of band and audience was no longer, it was one group navigating various expressions of electronic pop music.
Rarely was there much, if any, pause between songs, with the band flowing from one crowd-pleaser to another, slightly favoring songs from their 2010 debut album The Year of Hibernation, with songs such as "17" and "Cannons," but the audience responded well to newcomers "Mute" and "Dropla."
Overall, Youth Lagoon put on a great show that showcased the bands balance of experimental electronic and pop sound. But I will never see Pure X again. Like, ever.
Like a sudden meteor shower in a starless quiet sky, CHVRCHES seemed to emerge out of nowhere. The Scottish electro-pop three piece is almost relentlessly fun and catchy but there are plenty of bands out there boasting such a quality that aren't selling out much smaller venues. Their sudden popularity and ability to sell out The Metro on a Wednesday night after only a couple of EPs to their name (their first full length entitled The Bones of What You Believe will be released later this month) piqued this reviewer's/photographer's interest.
Bradford Cox might present as a reinvented post-modern Joey Ramone but Deerhunter's songs are far spookier than anything The Ramones dreamed up in their darkest nightmares. Swirling reverb and bass so heavy it made the floors and walls shake tended to mark the show as the songs swayed between dissolving lucid noise to a complete transcendental experience.
Chicago has emerged as a central force in hip-hop, incubating rappers on the ascension such as Sasha GoHard and Chief Keef while at the same time acting as a homeland for established legacy rappers such Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco.
With that said, our friends over at Vocalo are putting on a rap show at the Empty Bottle this Saturday. They're showcasing three rappers that personify the increasingly diverse and complex ideals of the modern Chicago rapper who are all on the verge of potentially being a next big thing; Chandler London, ShowYouSuck, and ProbCause.
The wind was blowing out on a hot and humid Friday afternoon at the corner of Clark and Addison, which always is a perfect recipe for a lot of hits. With the Cubs in Colorado, playing the Rockies, the hits came from grunge-era rockers Pearl Jam, who made their debut in the Friendly Confines.
The iconic band, which has played together for the past 20-plus years, has seen it all, playing in legendary venues from The Offramp in Seattle to Soldier Field. It only was a matter of time before they rocked it out in front of the ivy.
Though hailing from Seattle, front man Eddie Vedder was born and raised in Evanston, and grew up rooting on the northsiders back when "Mr. Cub," Ron Santo and Billy Williams were gracing the covers of programs. So needless to say, the anticipation of hearing classic 90s hits such as "Alive," "Even Flow," and "Spin The Black Circle;" Mr. Vedder's homecoming; a beautiful sunset in a gem of a ballpark made for a perfect storm in what was to be a night to remember. That's right when the wind began to shift from the west and cloud cover began to set in.
The lineup for the 2013 A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party Sept. 6-7 has been announced, and it's a doozy. Both days are stacked with talent, including Mavis Staples and Neko Case topping the bill Friday and The Walkmen, The Hold Steady and Young the Giant holding down Saturday night.
If you like Brazilian pop music, CSS is your band, and if you tend to favor bands with a triumphant lead singer who transfixes her audience, CSS could very well be or become your favorite band. Based in São Paulo, the four piece captures their songs with a sense of energetic laughter and considering the crowd knew many of the lyrics (both the English and Portuguese words) to sing along, it made the night even more incredible.
Just a reminder that tonight Gapers Block Presents The Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival Afterparty at Logan Square Auditorium. We've got an eclectic bill for the night, including Tobacco, CAVE, Oscillator Bug, and Jamaican Queens. And to sweeten the deal, we'll be giving away two three day passes for Pitchfork Music Festival! The weekend passes are already sold out, but we've got a pair to give away at the party tonight. Hope to see everyone there tonight!
By now, though, the secret is most definitely out in the open. Reilly, who grew up in Marquette Park and went to college at DePaul University, is currently on tour as the lead singer and guitarist for his own group, John Reilly and Friends.
Roughly three years ago, Reilly teamed up with musicians Becky Stark and Tom Brosseau after bonding over a shared love for the close-harmony folk and country music of groups such as the Delmore Brothers and the Louvin Brothers. The trio initially played small shows for friends in living rooms around Los Angeles. More recently, they recorded a handful of singles for Jack White's Third Man Records in Nashville. And now, Reilly and Friends are on a worldwide tour with an entire band consisting of musicians from Old Crow Medicine Show, Soul Coughing, and more.
Reilly spoke to Gapers Block over the phone recently about his background in music, how he formed this band, and the epiphanies he experience while attending school just blocks from the Old Town School of Folk Music, where he'll be playing with his band this Saturday.
Get on your dancing shoes, because we're excited to announce an awesome show as part of our series of events celebrating 10 years of Gapers Block! On Friday, June 28, we're inviting you to enjoy Tobacco, CAVE, Oscillator Bug and Jamaican Queens at a special Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival Afterparty at the Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie Blvd.
Tobacco's not shy for creating beats that are drrrrrty good. And what better way to kick off your weekend than with some serious beats and a chance for making some new friends on the LSA dance floor? Part of the mysterious Black Moth Super Rainbow, and known for genuine weirdness sure to be something to tweet about, check out Tobacco's eerie synth stew, topped off with talk-box seasonings, which might go a little something like this:
Chicago's CAVE bring their brand of rock to LSA for this special after party. Sometimes droning along with some serious bass and keys, sometimes rocking like a psychedelic disco from the future, CAVE brings it in all-caps rock out glory. Just check out what happens when they get together and ride around on the back of a truck:
Coming off a spring tour with Black Moth Super Rainbow and The Hood Internet, Oscillator Bug makes a case for booty-shaking beats. And the trio Jamaican Queens round out the evening's entertainment, bring their synthy goodness to the floors at Logan Square Auditorium.
The MAAF Afterparty, presented by Gapers Block, I Am Logan Square and Land And Sea Dept., features Tobacco, CAVE, Oscillator Bug and Jamaican Queens on June 28 at Logan Square Auditorium. Tickets are just $5 for the first 50 people who grab their tickets, and $10 after. Doors open at 8:30pm, with music from 9pm to 1am. The Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival runs all weekend, from June 28-30, with music, food, art and more.
It has been 19 years since the legendary Kiwi band The Bats have visited Chicago so for many fans this show felt as rare as an eclipse and therefore extremely special. The Bats probably realized this in some way, even though the four New Zealanders on stage were nothing but modest and appreciative of Schubas, Laurie's Planet of Sound where they had performed at an earlier in-store, and even the beer from the local brewery Revolution that they liked. They seemed so excited for their sold out audience that they took a picture from the stage. This reviewer/photographer is happy to say that their one hour and forty minute set of 21 songs did not disappoint. The timing and interplay vocally and musically of the four piece was exceptional throughout the night and it was impossible deny the sense of wonder we all felt, old and new fans alike to witness these songs come to life in front of our very eyes and ears.
If you're like many 20-somethings, you were probably really into the pop-punk scene of the early 2000s like I was. I would ride to high school on my bike listening to Taking Back Sunday in the morning and hang out on message boards talking about bands signed to Drive-Thru Records all night. I would fantasize all day about escaping the suburban projects and working for a label such as Victory Records or Touch and Go. (Oh, Bush-era awkward teenage youth, sometimes I miss you. But not very often.)
I romanticized working for Chicago labels because Chicago has such a vibrant scene of bands that I looked up to: Lucky Boys Confusion, Fall Out Boy, The Dog and Everything, Alkaline Trio, and of course, Spitalfield.
Spitalfield are a pop-punk band based here in Chicago. They formed in 1998 and acquired the attention of Victory Records back in 2002 with their EP The Cloak and Dagger Club. Ten years ago, Spitalfield released their album Remember Right Now, and it has since amassed a cult following. They toured relentlessly and recorded two more albums before going their separate ways in 2007, but they've been reunited since 2010 playing the occasional show here and there. For the ten year anniversary of their seminal album, they've decided to go on tour to celebrate, and will play for their hometown crowd this Friday at the Bottom Lounge.
Check out a video of them performing "Those Days You Felt Alive" at the Beat Kitchen in 2010.
This Saturday, Lampo presents its final show of the Winter/Spring season, this time taking place at the University of Chicago's Bond Chapel (1050 E. 59th St.). The show is free, no RSVP required, and it starts an hour later than usual, 9 p.m.
First, a note about the Bond Chapel. Damion Romero played here last year, and with speakers blazing, he managed to atomize us and reduce us to our respective quarks and subatomic particles with his massive, vibratory bass attack. As Mark Solotroff noted, "I think my head is supposed to have a suspension system to prevents this from happening, but my EYES were vibrating during that set." It's a gorgeous, resonant space that can pay off big for performers willing to fill it.
On that note, Mr. Lescalleet isn't loathe to lay back quietly if necessary, but he's at his best when he's pushing himself and his massive, overheating reel-to-reel tape decks to exhaustion. I asked him what he had on tap for Saturday's show, and he said he'd be "utilizing the room's resonance in a manner similar to Lucier's I am Sitting in a Room." If you don't know that piece, it's 43 minutes long, and consists of one short spoken text -- explaining the process -- which is then played into a room, recorded, then played back into the room, recorded, etc., accumulating not tape hiss, but the natural resonances of the room, which feather and warp the original text beyond recognition, treating the otherwise static room tone like a body of water that is rippled by the disruptions of the speech. It's a masterwork of acoustic, almost scientific investigation fashioned into otherworldly music.
Can a duo be a supergroup? If so, The Uncluded fit the bill. Like an indie version of the Judgment Night soundtrack, rapper Aesop Rock teams up with indie-folk darling Kimya Dawson for an odd but endearing mix of their respective styles.
The Uncluded headline the Old Town School of Folk Music next Saturday, June 8, with Hamell On Trial opening. Tickets are $20 ($18 for members) and are on sale now. But hey, we've got two pairs to give away right now! Enter to win by emailing email@example.com with the subject line "Delicate Cycle" by 5pm today. UPDATE: We have our winners! Congrats to Kristin and Brian!
Let's say you've got a thing. A thing you're interested in. Movies, or stand-up comedy, or jazz, or RPGs. Most of the stuff you check out or attend in service of your thing you might go alone. Your friends/family/spouse know you have that thing, but they don't need to endure every grinding minute of it with you. But once in a while, an exceptional outlier in that thing comes around, and, well, you've just gotta share. You might go to open mics at Cole's on Tuesday by yourself, maybe, but when Jimmy Pardo comes to town, you drag your friends along. Your significant other may appreciate your interest in silent movies, but you'll be going it alone most days, except when "Safety Last" comes to the Music Box. Certain exceptions break past the workmanlike high-middle ground of the things we love and become something that we can take others without fear. No off nights for these people.
For experimental/noise music, I can take anyone with a halfway open set of ears and frontal lobes to a show by Emil Beaulieau, or Joseph Hammer, or Damion Romero, or Sudden Infant, and I know they'll at least appreciate the power of it, the fascinating performance, or maybe even the streak of humor. Two acts that regularly come through Chicago that get this seal of approval and which are playing tonight [Wednesday the 29th, not Thursday as previously stated] are Montana's PCRV and Maine's Crank Sturgeon.
I've been following the rising star of Chicago neo-soulsters JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound for a while now, and (besides being one of my favorite bands with an ampersand) I'm not ashamed to say the band always gets my booty out on the dance floor. With their new album Howl out this week on Bloodshot Records, the band takes on the next phase of their musical journey, with a somewhat more mature and (not a little bit) darker point-of-view.
Elena Tonra of the London based band Daughter couldn't have seemed more modest and pleased with the sold out crowd at Lincoln Hall, which was perhaps the reason why the band played over an hour and their set included a few songs not listed on the setlist. Though the band performed as a four piece, Tonra stole the show with her rather tormented looking eyes catching the light amidst the smoke during several parts of the evening. And, as the audience filled with adoring girls especially, looked up in awe to her, she saw them as they sang along with the lyrics they felt deeply to Landfill "I wanted you so much but I hate your guts."
There is a definite ominous yet playful sense to Megan James of the Canadian duo Purity Ring. She's clearly spent a great deal of time thinking about certain things like performing with her entire body and how to look as cinematic as possible. Just the very nature of her pounding on a drum is as cinematic as Lykke Li at times (only definitely with more smoke) and the way she can channel a wild look while she dances with a light makes one think she can make mischief if she pleases. Purity Rings, of course, are signs of chastity which also heightens the sense of Megan James coming out in an all white dress looking as if she's a bride who might at the very last moment change her mind.
These days a lot of electronic music could realistically be called "computer music," in that way your parents might have called anything from Tangerine Dream to Devo. Because nearly all music today is made with some sort of computer interface or another (even if just in the mixing and mastering stage), the idea of "music made with computers" seems less radical than it did in, say, 1977. At that time, if you really wanted electronic technology harnessed to what you'd call a "computer," you probably had to have access to an academic computer lab or a multi-million-dollar assemblage of devices, whether it was the MIT electronics lab or the TONTO system (as used by Stevie Wonder and others). But even then, what you were really talking about was an analogue synthesizer system using a computer interface as a sequencer. Computers were not the ubiquitous devices they are now. There wasn't that sense that everybody had a right to his or her own computer. In fact, most people probably thought the "computer lifestyle" wasn't for them, or wouldn't be until we all lived in the future.
Venerable lo-fi luminary/folk-hero Bill Callahan will be appearing at the historic Garfield Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Ave., on Monday, May 6, as part of a short spring series of performances that marks his first live return since touring on the back of 2011's excellent Apocalypse. Courtesy of Land and Sea Dept., Callahan will perform in the pastoral Horticultural Hall, surrounded by "festive flowers" and other assorted greenery, lest any of us forget he is a romantic of the highest, if not most inscrutable, order.
(Here, a break for those not yet poised or privy toward the Callahan cult: After penning the definitive Replacements fanzine Willpower from his childhood perch in Columbia, MD, Callahan rose to prominence in the early '90s under the (smog) moniker, and was an early beacon in the lo-fi indie-rock movement championed by label Drag City, Callahan's longtime home. Emerging under his given name in 2007 with the fantastic Woke On A Whaleheart, Callahan continued producing bracingly beautiful songs, gradually lending his evocative baritone a slight country-troubadour tinge. It suits him well.)
The man, myth (and, increasingly, legend) seems to grow in mystery, depth, and lyrical poise with each album, and Apocalypse in particular emerges as perhaps his best to date. Callahan will be playing material from that record and beyond on May 6th, but listeners should be advised for a stray (Buck Sergeant) Mickey Newbury cover or two. And because floral imagery colors his lyrics throughout Apocalypse, we fully expect his songs will feel right at home among the Horticultural Hall's azaleas and forget-me-nots (because you won't!)
A group recalling nostalgic images of road trips, sunshine-soaked journeys and wanderlust, West Coast outfit He's My Brother She's My Sister will be gracing Schubas with their presence this Friday, 4/26. Their first self-titled, seven-song EP is more rugged, recalling a quality of live precision that can only be found in in-the-moment recording, while their first full-length album released this past year, Nobody Dances in This Town, presents their sound as beachy, full and groovy.
Hailing from Los Angeles, the influence of location is evident. The riffs are psychadelic, the vocals infused with pop, blues and beach-rock. The California sun clearly made an impact on their sound, which is rhythmic and energized. Their attire evokes a snapshot from another era, flanked with psychadelic, free-spirited influences, which filters directly into their sound. Though newer to the scene, they've traversed America over by touring extensively, including a West Coast tour and a SXSW appearance. Their glittery pop sound is meshed with unabashed folk twang, creating the perfect blend of rockabilly jams. Catching them in Schubas' intimate space will be a musical journey you won't soon forget.
Take a listen to their live recording for "How'm I Gonna Get Back Home Tonight" below, which showcases their effortless sound and carefree style.
He's My Brother She's My Sister plays Schubas this Friday evening. The 21+ show begins at 10pm, featuring opening act Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas. Tickets are $12 online or at the door. Schubas is located at 3159 N. Southport, (773) 525-2508.
Bob Dylan has dubbed the next leg of his ongoing tour the Americanarama Festival of Music, and is bringing Wilco and My Morning Jacket, as well as a couple rotating openers, along for the ride.
The tour kicks off in West Palm Beach, FL on June 26, and arrives in Peoria on July 11 and Chicago at Toyota Park on July 12. The Richard Thompson Electric Trio is the special guest opener for both dates. Pre-sale for the Chicago show is this Wednesday, April 24; tickets officially go on sale April 27 for $77.70 including Ticketmaster fees. The Peoria show's presale will be April 30, with broad sales beginning May 4.
Takehisa Kosugi -- composer, violinist, creator with electronics, Fluxus member, and founder of legendary Japanese groups Group Ongaku and the Taj Mahal Travelers (an AMM-like group who performed all over Europe and Asia, and eventually did visit the Taj Mahal), performs this Saturday at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago) as part of Lampo's Winter/Spring season. Kosugi will perform works spanning 30 years, many written for the legendary Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Cunningham, the close confidant and collaborator with John Cage, revolutionized dance as Cage did music and composition, and his dance company consistently worked with the most cutting-edge composers in the world -- check out the 12CD boxset Music For Merce (New World Recordings), which features Kosugi, for proof.
In concert, Kosugi will perform four pieces of electronic music, using "homemade audio generators, ready-made sound processors and light/sound interactive materials." Lampo's hardy four-channel speaker setup will immerse guests in a strange, bubbling cauldron of rising and cresting electronics. The five pieces to be performed are "Cycles" (1981), "Streams" (1991), "Op Music" (2001), "Music For Nearly 90, Part-A" (2009), and "Octet" (2011).
Taste of Randolph Street returns to the West Loop June 14-16. The three-day celebration, which occupies six blocks of the Randolph Street Corridor, boasts some of the best food, artwork, merch and music in Chicago.
Popular restaurants from the surrounding area, including BellyQ, Publican Quality Meats, De Cero Taqueria, Pork Chop, Grange Hall Burger Bar, Vivo and La Sardine, will serve as the festival's food vendors.
Music promotion company Silver Wrapper has booked an impressive selection up-and-coming indie rock and local bands to perform on three stages throughout the weekend. The Mid will also host a dance stage, featuring established DJs in Chicago.
"You know, I love to play house in Chicago, and I've been looking forward to this date the whole tour" an elated Jamie Lidell exclaimed to his sold out audience at Lincoln Hall last Saturday night. Any fan of Lidell knows his love of funk, soul, and electronic, so it was no surprise that his set was chocked full of homage and honor to the Chicago house style that he loves as a fan himself. Weaving together a set of new tunes, soul crooners and house style, his one man set-up showcased Lidell at his finest form. Like a kid fiddling knobs in his basement, elated with joy at the creation of his art, he spent the night tucked behind at minimum six mixing boards and dancing along with the audience until the very end.
To say that singer-songwriter Pegi Young is overshadowed by her husband is a mighty understatement. She has been married to Neil Young for 35 years and has sung backup with his band for decades, but didn't release her own solo debut until 2007. Since then she's released two more albums, including 2011's Bracing For Impact.
Pegi and her band, The Survivors -- Spooner Oldham (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-inducted sideman), Kelvin Holly (Little Richard, Gregg Allman), Rick Rosas (Neil Young, Joe Walsh), and Phil Jones (Tom Petty, Rolling Stones) -- will perform at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave., on Thursday, April 11. Tickets to the show are $20, but you can get up to four tickets free by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The concert also features local act Cloudbirds and Patti Rain as openers. Doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 7:30pm. 18+
I first witnessed the one man wizardry of Jamie Lidell when he played Pitchfork Festival in 2007. Dressed like a shaman of funk in a kimono and headdress made of metallic streamers, he curated live a chopped up blend of soul, funk, and electronic. It was bizarre at first, then instantly mesmerizing and addictive. I bought his album the next day.
Much has stayed the same since that day, as he continues to toe the line between a soul, funk, and electronic artist. Whether crooning with a backing band or mixing behind machines, Lidell is an electrifying performer, constantly moving and making sure the audience understands the main objective of his music is to move. And with his recent self-titled album he continues this tried and true method, crafting one of my favorite albums released so far this year. It's an album that makes you yearn for a disco ball and a dance floor with tracks like "What a Shame" and "You Naked." He perfectly channels Morris Day and the Time style funk on "You Know My Name," thumping out a bass beat and Prince style guitar lick that makes you want to two step whether you know how or not.
Lidell is stopping in Chicago on his tour to promote the album tomorrow night at Lincoln Hall. The show is unfortunately sold out, but we've got a pair of tickets to give away to one lucky reader. Just email us at email@example.com with the subject line "I'm Selfish" (another great track off the new album) and you and a friend could spend Saturday night on the dance floor at Lincoln Hall. We'll pick a winner by 3pm today. Update: We have a winner! Congrats to Nina!
Check back next week here on Gapers Block with an interview with Jamie and our thoughts on his show Saturday night.
Jamie Lidell headlines Lincoln Hall Saturday April 6th, with Empress of and Ludwig Persik. The show is sold out, 21+ and starts at 10pm.
A still from the video for "Boss Taurus." Sousaphonist and band leader Mark Messing (center) is filling a new role this spring for a residency at Revolution Brewing.
How long have humans sat in chairs? A very long time, Mark Messing concedes. It's not a new idea. But it is new for Mucca Pazza, Chicago's resident punk marching band.
The group is known for selling out rock venues and providing an eccentric and spirited soundtrack to a number of local summer events, often when Chicagoans least expect it, as if somehow twenty-odd horn players and percussionists (and don't forget the violinist, guitarist, accordion player, and cheerleaders) can just materialize out of thin air.
To fans of harsh noise and experimental music, the name Luigi Russolo is intoned solemnly the way jazz buffs call upon Buddy Bolden in their hour of reverence. The two share a shortfall -- they were innovators in their form who existed just before the advent of readily available mechanical reproduction. Russolo, a painter, theorist, and member of the Futurist art movement, created The Art Of Noises (ring a bell?), a manifesto that suggested that life after the Industrial Revolution had created an evolution not just in production, but in consumption. He believed that people living amidst the audible detritus of modern life had become more able to appreciate more complex sounds, and looks fondly toward the day when the composer "strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange, and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound." He even created his own pitched noise instruments, which he called Intonarumori. The trouble is, these noise-machines were created in the mid-1910s and never really properly recorded or documented. The few acetates that exist give us only a bit more flavor of their existence than the scores of legends and second-hand stories about Buddy Bolden walking through the streets of New Orleans, wailing so loud he could be heard five blocks over.
2013 marks the 100th anniversary of The Art of Noises, and a number of celebrations are happening this year in Italy. In additional, Chicago's avant garde music organization Lampo will also be celebrating Russolo's shot heard 'round the heavens this Saturday (March 30, 8:00 p.m.), as Valerio Tricoli performs two pieces at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Ave., Chicago). The pieces have been written exclusively for Lampo, and are tributes to Russolo and his groundbreaking ideas.
"The Guitars of Spain" had guitar-like instruments from at least three other countries besides Spain on stage with them last Thursday by the end of their performance at City Winery.
But even from the start of the set, bandleader Carlo Basile's namesake flamenco guitar was merely the accompaniment, as a sitar-like Indian veena introduced clear Indian influences into Las Guitarras de España's globe-trotting set of Spanish-langauge world music. By the last two songs of the evening, not only were the flamenco guitar and veena plucking along together, but a special guest from Senegal appeared, adding his own contribution to the stringed instrument fanfare with a 21-stringed west-African kora. Colin Bunn, of openers Los Hombres Perdidos, rounded it all out with a good 'ol American hollow-body jazz guitar for good measure.
What happens when four musicians from some of Chicago's most experimental and forward-thinking bands come together for a night of improvised music at The Hideout?
Well, by nature, of course, not even the musicians should know. But if you're curious to find out, The Hideout hosts a rare evening of improvised music this Saturday from Califone multi-instrumentalists Jim Becker and Joe Adamik along with bassist Darin Gray and Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche.
This isn't the first time that British psych art quartet Django Django has performed in Chicago (they played Schubas last summer), but this time, they'll be hitting the Metro's stage to lay out their synth experiments for all to see. Cutting through samples in a style reminiscent of The Beta Band (drummer Dave Maclean is younger brother to Beta's keyboardist John Maclean) or (dare I say it) Animal Collective, Django Django offers up sonic landscapes that are infinitely catchy, addictive and fun. If there was ever a cure for a Chicago winter that just won't quit, the sweat you'll work up dancing to this band could be just what the doctor ordered.
The band's harmonizing over keyboard tones, amalgamated drum beats, guitar twangs and various bloops and bleeps may seem like aural overdose when you lay it out on paper, but their multi-layered approach to song building is warming. The songs on their self-titled full-length debut album feel constructed like colored sand in a bottle. Even if you were to shake them up out of order, you'd still be left with a beautiful set of notes to follow into the sunset.
Django Django plays the Metro at 3730 N. Clark St. on Friday, March 15. Night Moves opens at 9pm. 18+ The show is sold out.
After seeing Tea Leaf Green at the 10,000 Lakes Festival in 2009, I was happy to have the chance to catch them again, this time at Lincoln Hall on February 23. After an opening set by Tumbleweed Wanderers, Tea Leaf Green came out jamming. They included some beautiful build-ups to lead into transitioning songs. The guitarist, Josh Clark, can absolutely shred. Keyboardist Trevor Garrod is borderline impish. He has a glimmer in his eyes like he's up to something wonderfully mischievous and long, flowing blonde locks. With those two things combined he could easily be mistaken for an elf from Middle-earth. His voice is raw and smoothly at the same time. He sings like he plays the keys, in a manner that demands attention, but still maintains much grace.
Tea Leaf Green's Trevor Garrod (Photos by Brianna Kelly)
One of the best things about Tea Leaf Green is that it has two drummers on the roster. Drums are completely underrated. Having an extra kit in the mix really adds a whole different layer to a band's sound. There's even a fun and playful dynamic between the bassist and guitarist. They have all the necessary ingredients of a successful jam band. But their sound is still more polished than improvisational.
Glen Hansard has traversed the musical landscape far and wide to make a name for himself. As a teen, this Irish musician dropped out of school in order to follow his dream, serenading his Dublin streets with his lilting guitar-playing and distinct, smooth vocals that pack a punch. Lead singer in group The Frames, and then later joining forces with songstress Marketa Irglova to form The Swell Season, Hansard gained more exposure, leading to his acting and musical role in the emotionally turbulent film Once. Hansard released his first solo album in 2012, Rhythm and Repose, which showcases Hansard's ability to compress vast amounts of raw emotion into finite pieces of music.
It's with great joy that Hansard has been announced as a part of the Metro's 30th Anniversary Show, occurring on Sunday, June 9. This will be part of the Metro's 30th Anniversary series, celebrating the venue's revered place in the Chicago music scene. As he is an infrequent performer for this city, last appearing in September of 2012 at the Hideout Block Party, I can attest to the fact that Hansard's shows are lively and magical, and my description doesn't do them justice - there's a reason his returns back to our city are so celebrated. Tickets go on sale at noon tomorrow, and will feature some of Hansard's bandmates from The Frames as well as a horn and string section.
Electronic music seems to be the current musical lingua franca, if one follows the business very closely. Acts like Skrillex and the Swedish House Mafia are playing arenas rather than basements, and the dance beats and synth-reliant riffs are truly becoming mainstream. Amidst the tide of new electronic music, it's easy to overlook the fact that, in many ways, this generation's electronic artists are kind of just reinventing the wheel. Fair enough, but Chicago is in for a treat next week, as CHIRP welcomes German IDM/Electronic duo Mouse on Mars to the Mayne Stage Theater in Rogers Park as part of their first U.S. tour in six years.
Formed in 1993, Mouse on Mars consists of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma. Over a nearly two decade career, the duo has specialized in a very Krautrock-tinged version of IDM, often somewhat herky-jerky, occasionally challenging, but always thoughtful and well-composed. The result is often a kind of musical pointillism, somewhat disjointed in its individual components, but cohesive when appreciated in its entirety. The band itself released material on Chicago's Thrill Jockey records, and St. Werner has continued that relationship releasing material under the name Lithops, and has collaborated with fellow German avant-artist Oval.
Great news for anyone who has a large living room, basement or loft, has chill neighbors, and likes the band Califone.
The Chicago-based experimental folk band, led by Tim Rutili, is embarking on a living room tour of North America this spring in anticipation of the band's upcoming follow-up to 2009's album/film soundtrack All My Friends Are Funeral Singers. Rather than playing small clubs and venues, the band is soliciting offers from anyone interested in hosting the band in their own home. Califone has a Chicago date scheduled on May 17 and is looking for a good host.
Lady Gaga announced today the cancellationpostponement of her concerts in Chicago on Feb. 13 and 14, as well as shows in Detroit and Hamilton, Ontario, citing a case of synovitis, a painful inflammation of the membrane lining the joints. If you have tickets, hold onto them, as they'll be honored at rescheduled dates.
There's an unfortunate announcement coming out right now, concerning myself and the Born This Way Ball. Im so sorry. I barely know what to say. I've been hiding a show injury and chronic pain for sometime now, over the past month it has worsened. I've been praying it would heal. I hid it from my staff, I didn't want to disappoint my amazing fans. However after last nights performance I could not walk and still can't.
To the fans in Chicago Detroit & Hamilton I hope you can forgive me, as it is nearly impossible for me to forgive myself. Im devastated & sad. It will hopefully heal as soon as possible, I hate this. I hate this so much. I love you and Im sorry.
Like every classical art form, the avant garde has a canon. It seemed unlikely in their early lives that composers like John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen would eventually be an accepted form of entertainment (or, if we shrink from that word, let's say emotional and intellectual stimulation) for a respectable, concert-going crowd. But goalposts, they do move. In any city that of a certain size and cultural infrastructure, you can support a new music group that can play "repertory," and make a return on investment. But even with the most open-minded audience, what's hard then, now, and always is bringing a crowd out for untested talent.
For the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the thrill of the new is always the most important, but introducing crowds to the true unknown is the most important of all. It's why over half of every year's ICE events are given over to young composers. "People come for one fundamental reason: they want something unexpected to happen," says Claire Chase, flutist and artistic director of ICE. While it's fundamentally easier to fill an auditorium with promises of seldom-performed Xenakis pieces or interlaced programs of octet music by Franz Schubert and George Lewis, Chase says ICE is equally drawn to attacking the problems burdening young composers, namely lack of stage time. "It's one of the most optimistic things we can do as humans," says Chase.
It's not your by-the-book Valentine's Day event, but your heart might just melt at this benefit show at Schubas Thursday night. Come out for the guitar-and-drum-fueled fury of White Mystery, and show your Valentine you Choo-Choo-Choose to rock.
White Mystery will perform their ginger-haired brand of rock this Thursday fresh off of their European tour. And what better way to welcome this brother/sister team back to Chicago than with a rollicking show at Schubas on a February night? Forget all that lovey-dovey stuff, and let White Mystery warm your body from your ears on down.
A turntable without a needle...a turntable without a needle...what the hell good is a turntable without a needle!?
I pondered this in my mind (figuratively, of course...I may have only spun 38 times round the sun, but I know from Cartridge Music), the benefits of using a turntable without a needle to generate sound. The turntable's tonearm, of course, is still an amplified, resonant objects, and vibrations sent through it by cyclical friction will still produce interesting results, if not crisp, His Master's Voice-level precision. And maybe that's music to your ears. It is to mine.
This is the hook provided for the work of Hong Chulki, one-half of a performing duo performing this Saturday, hosted by Lampo at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago). Along with Choi Joonyung, who plays "playback devices such as CD-player, MP3-player, tape player, VCR, or loud-speaker," while "push[ing] an amplifier in and around the audience as if he were a noise vendor," Chulki creates an especially unconventional duo. Joonyung, similarly drawn to non-musical non-event based experimental music, has also published several albums manipulating damaged CDs. (One is cheekily titled I Am Scratching A CD In A Room.)
The pair founded South Korea's first noise group, Astronoise. But that was a long time ago -- the last release I can determine comes from 2006. Since then, Chulki and Joonyung perform solo, in a duo with each other, or in collaboration with others. Chulki and Joonyung have released a dozen or more collaborations on their Balloon & Needle label, collaborating with other South Korean improvisors/noise musicians, but also with international stars like Jason Kahn and Zbigniew Karkowski.
The event begins at 8 p.m. and is FREE with RSVP. You can do so here.
Here's the pair in trio, with Ryu Hankil on, er, typewriter.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, in a move to continue its hot streak of cold-month showcases in recent years, will be featuring Peter Hook (Joy Division, New Order) and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) in upcoming events on the museum's Streeterville premises. Mr. Hook will be appearing on Tuesday, February 5 via special invitation courtesy of the MCA, while Ms. Gordon will be appearing on Tuesday, March 26 as part of the famed, worth-its-weight-in-weirdness series known around these parts as Face The Strange.
Mr. Hook will be appearing to discuss his new career retrospective, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, which is described as offering "fascinating insight into the larger-than-life characters that formed a vital part of the Joy Division legend." Lots to chew on there, folks! He'll be appearing with Metro Chicago main-man Joe Shanahan, who will lead the conversation and hopefully provide fond anecdotes of New Order's first Chicago appearance at the Metro thirty years ago. Memories, make no mistake, will be the focus here — and lots of 'em!
Ms. Gordon will be appearing with Chicago psych-droners White/Light, whose members Matthew Hale Clark and Jeremy Lemos help coordinate the MCA's series (and who can also, most importantly, call up Ms. Gordon to sit in for one of their sets.) For those counting, this will be the second appearance by a member of (the late?) Sonic Youth for Face the Strange; drummer Steve Shelley appeared with kraut/drone locals Disappears and White/Light when he was still a member of the former in March 2011. White/Light, it should perhaps also be noted, is a current member of the Smells Like Records roster run by Shelley. So, really, it's all in the family.
Tickets for Mr. Hook's event are $10 at the MCA box office to reserve a seat, and the price of admission will be deducted from any audience purchases of Unknown Pleasures, which Mr. Hook will sign following his talk. Tickets for Ms. Gordon's Face the Strange showcase with White/Light are free for Ilinois residents or with suggested museum donation for all others. Capacity is very limited for both events, but you probably already knew that.
The Jordan Years is Wes Restless on vocals, Michael Andersen on bass and Roger Panella on guitar (guest musicians fill in details such as drums, keyboards and brass). The trio got together in 2008, practicing and recording in Anderson's Humboldt Park basement. According to press materials, Homemade Hustler "follows the story of a recent corporate castaway who decides to make ends meet on his own terms. He finds love, money, uncertainty, stress, and eventually trouble, but in the end he knows he wouldn't have it any other way."
The Jordan Years' record release show is presented by House Call Entertainment and Gapers Block, the show will also feature The Congregation and The Skinny, as well as DJ Intel spinning between acts and GB editor Andrew Huff (that's me!) emceeing. The Subterranean is located at 2011 W. North Ave. Doors open at 8pm. 21+
When you are a lover of music festivals, the day, to hours, to minutes winding down to the end is always the hardest part. We enter a world of exuberant bliss, an alternate reality, a bubble-esque respite from our usual routine. We celebrate the sets of seasoned favorites, while catching on to a new artist and falling in love with our next favorite band. It's magical. However, magic has to end. This year's Tomorrow Never Knows festival was filled with acts we revered, with fresh talent also added to the mix in an ample supply. Saturday night featured a blend of both of these aspects; new acts Snowmine and Hundred Waters meshed perfectly with celebrated act Freelance Whales for a night of electronic indie-pop fusion.
Opener Snowmine combined their futuristic, big sound with an eclectic video feed of themselves on stage, the colors obscured and inverted. For some reason, this combination made sense for their performance and identity. Trippy backgrounds complemented the dreamy, atmospheric sounds that emanated from the stage. Lead singer Grayson Sanders's voice floated above the crowd, as each member in the band jolted to the reverberating beats they were creating. It was a great way to start the show off; they've only been on the scene for a little over two years now, but they've made quite the initial impression as they hooked the audience's attention for the entirety of their set.
"Free Energy" is such a great band name. Whether the phrase evokes an open offer for fun or a thermodynamics concept, it all pretty much describes what happens when you listen to the band's music or see them live.
On Friday night, cozy little Schubas turned into a sold-out celebration of pure, dumb rock and roll, thanks only in part to Free Energy's unapologetically feel-good set. I don't know about all of the other five venues that had music on night three of Tomorrow Never Knows Fest, but I'm going to guess that Schubas had the rowdiest bill. With a solid lineup split between two local and two non-local acts, the people at Schubas were in for a night of increasingly building energy, in which glowsticks abounded and where there were at least two different instances of band members leaping up onto stacks of amps around the stage, turning Schubas into as much of an arena-rock jungle gym as possible.
Chelsea Wolfe wasn't just the most unusual musician playing in a night of quite varied and unique bands but she might very well be one of the strangest and most intriguing musicians in the entire world at large. She is striking in her very tall, thin stature and she seems like she comes from a totally different time and place, like the silent film era for instance. Wolfe possesses the kind of eyes that make her seem irreconcilably lost. Her music is typically experimental and distorted as in the case of her second full length album Ἀποκάλυψις, which is also referred to as Apokalypsis. She has become known for a sound that is unpredictable and as wild as it is strange so this reviewer wasn't quite sure how a more acoustic set was going to work.
This sounds weird, but I'm used to picturing Christopher Owens singing in his underwear.
It's probably because that was the first image most of us ever saw of him, on the cover of the debut Girls album back in 2009, sitting on the edge of a bed playing his guitar in nothing but underwear and socks, looking either seriously hungover, lovesick, or both. But the image turned out to be a pretty accurate visualization of the music on that album--and for the rest of his music with Girls, for that matter. The songs Owens wrote for Girls laid bare a deeply wounded soul without ever being too specific about anything. Lyrics like "I was feeling so sad and alone / but I found a friend in the song that I'm singing" would have likely sounded trite and unoriginal coming from anyone else. Coming from Owens and his erratic, disturbed singing voice, they were somehow gut wrenching. It was as if he was, in fact, showing himself half-naked and vulnerable.
She's Crafty, Chicago's all-female Beastie Boys tribute band, is starring in their very first solo concert at Underground Lounge, 952 W. Newport Ave., this Friday, Jan. 18, at 8pm. Come check out MCAmy, Ken D, MagRock and DJ Sara Tea, about which one person once said, "She's Crafty, not a novelty act."
Your $10 cover includes a raffle ticket for door prizes; additional raffle tickets will be $5 each or five for $20 for a chance to win an iPod, an autographed Starlin Castro baseball, Bulls tickets and more.
At 3 p.m., the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington St., Preston Bradley Hall) welcomes ICE for Shadowgraph: Octets by Franz Schubert and George Lewis. Using the wide-open theme of "music for octet," ICE contrast Schubert lyrical yet complex piece from 1824 with two compositions by AACM member George Lewis, whose works ICE performed at the MCA in February of last year. Shadowgraph (1977) and a reprise of Artificial Life 2007 (2007) will bookend the Schubert piece, giving listeners a look at the many ways that groups of eight can be ordered and utilized. The performance is free, seating is first come, first served.
If you're feeling making a day of it, head over to the Fireside Bowl (2648 W. Fullerton) at 7 p.m. for ICE's 10th Birthday Bash. The $10 admission fee gets you unlimited bowling and shoe rental, with live music by DJs Searchlight and Good Evening. There's also talk of rouge ICE performances throughout the night. Go frame for frame against an honest-to-Debussy MacArthur Grant winner in the true sport of kings!
Keeping the rhythm of its recent rally of bringing some of the most prolific faces and sounds of hip-hop and R&B to the city, The Shrine upped the volume once more last Friday, by welcoming a duo that practically epitomizes an era; Pete Rock & CL Smooth.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal
Celebrating twenty years since the release of their debut LP, Mecca and the Soul Brother, the originators were set to perform the album in its entirety. They took to the stage with all the command and comfort of a veteran, but the energy and excitement of a pair of performers in their prime. Pete Rock excelled behind the decks, as a master of his craft would, at interluding and blending his tracks with their samples, and even including some classics off of the pair's 1991 EP, All Souled Out. CL Smooth's lyrical performance was complimented by his physical one, as he moved and grooved through every beat of every track, making it clear that the birth of the "hype man" marked the decline of the real emcee.
The two performed together as though they had never stopped, and provided, as promised, a momentary cure and escape, or "medicine", as CL Smooth called it, for the currently troubled times. They took the room back to '92, or rather, the golden age of hip-hop that Millennials imagine it to be, with the music, and the moves, and the mood they set with a flawless live rendition of their masterpiece. The album may as well have been recorded in that room that night, because the perfection that boomed through the speakers equaled that of the LP.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth at The Shrine. Photo by Ricardo Villarreal
Wrapping up the night with their most known, respected, and most magnificent track, T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You), carried all the power that an ode to a fallen friend would, but it also blared with a reminiscence of the music, and the feeling that comes with thoughts of "the good ol' days," and everyone's varied recollection of them. It was nostalgia at its finest, channeled through legends in their truest form.
In a whirlwind announcement this morning, Andrew Bird (and friends), will add to his Chicago performances this December, with a special show on 12/22 at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia), benefiting local music education charity Rock for Kids. Early-bird tickets sold out pretty much instantaneously, but there are still general admission and VIP tickets (which include a meet-and-greet with Mr. Bird) are still available, running $100 and $200, respectively.
Now, before you get all huffy about the price, remember this charity show will benefit a special Andrew Bird Scholarship Fund at Rock for Kids, and try let your heart grow a few sizes before you Grinch out about it. If you can shell out the cash, you'll also get a special show poster designed by Jay Ryan in addition to admission to this cozy venue. So that, plus an intimate setting with Mr. Bird and friends, is a nice present to yourself, at least.
If you're hipper than me, you might've already known that Chicago has a Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP). I, however, am exactly as hip as me (let A=A), so this was news in this household. Better still, if you didn't know about MOCP, you might not have known that this Saturday, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) is hosting a night of works by four up-and-coming Brazilian composers this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at MOCP (600 S. Michigan Ave.)
Said composers are not altogether new to the Chicago arena. Marcos Balter, for example, composed Descent From Parnassus, a piece for solo flute performed by the dazzling ICE flutist/artistic director/MacArthur Grant recipient Claire Chase back in January of this year at the Art Insititute. That piece will be performed again this Friday, along with two other Balter works, Passará, for tape, and Edgewater, for alto and bass flutes. ICE will also perform works for solo and small group work, including Alexandre Lunsqui's Topografia de Um Caminho Andado, for bass flute, and Daniel Puig's Caotrios, for two flutes and horn. Most intriguing is Arthur Kampela's Not I, for solo horn and light, using text from Samuel Beckett's play of the same name, combining recitation, horn playing, and, yes, a light being turned on and off to create unique atmospheres and compositional strategies.
This performance starts promptly at 7:30. It is FREE, but RSVP is required, and as the space is sure to sell out, I'd recommend securing spaces quickly. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for tickets.
Here's a rendition of Descent From Parnassus by Chase, live in Sao Paolo, Brazil:
One has a sweet, high voice; the other a gruff drawl. One specializes in clean-cut, charming soul music; the other in raunchy, gritty blues tunes. One experienced brief and minor success in the Chicago-soul scene of the late '60s and early '70s; the other made his name as a Detroit bluesman even earlier, in the late '50s.
The Fresh & Onlys five piece (typically in the past, they have played live as a four piece but this time around, they had a female backup vocalist who played keyboards) may have started off a little silly with lead singer Tim Cohen wearing a Chicago shirt and offering the audience an extra beer. The San Francisco band may have even sounded a little sloppy at first as if they were just ready to have some fun with the audience on their Saturday night. But, by the middle of the set, they had evolved into the garage rock stars we've come to know and love with a solid tightness to their very best songs that should have impressed any audience member with a working pair of ears and discerning taste. The fact that Fresh & Onlys songs aren't played on every mainstream radio station just proves the point that mainstream radio isn't really worth listening to. Their hour long set included highlights such as "Waterfall". "20 Days and 20 Nights", "Peacock and Wing" and "Yes or No."
Chicago's own JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound team up with a whole lineup of bands Wednesday for a concert benefiting WXRT's 30th Anniversary of the Holiday Concert For The Kids. I spoke to JCBUS bassist Ben Taylor and got to ask all the important questions.
You know, I didn't realize until I read the press materials that the reason you're the Uptown Sound is that you're from Uptown.
Yes, we've been based out of Uptown the whole time, we started in the spring of '07, five years ago.
I got to see JCBUS in the musical production Passing Strange last year, it was amazing. Was the full band in that show?
Yes — there were four of us, and right after that is when we added our keyboard player Andy Rosenstein full time. The heart of the band was there, and some extra people — there were two extra people that just did the production with us.
There was a lot there that really resonated with people, it was a great experience. It was a lot of work going into it; right after recording an album we had to throw ourselves into learning and doing a show, do a 6 week run of it, then we immediately finished that and started touring.
So what can we expect to see at the Metro show?
This show is us previewing the new songs we're working on for our new album which we're going up to Montreal at beginning of December to record, and actually have a ton of new material we're going to be playing; this show is kind of like a re-launch, the unveiling of what comes next.
Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful. Not only for good friends and family, but also for live music. Every year this delectable holiday provides a long, wonderful weekend filled with fun. The festivities begin on Black Wednesday, the biggest party night of the year. Since many people return to their hometowns for the holiday, it is a common time of reunion that is apparently best celebrated with binge drinking.
On Thanksgiving Day you can sleep off your hangover and then later refuel with a massive turkey dinner. Whether you choose to continue the party after grandma and grandpa go home is entirely up to you. Many people choose to get a good night's rest so they can wake up at the crack of dawn for some notoriously American shopping on Black Friday, but this year you might want to consider spending your money on memories instead of material objects. There are plenty of deals at local bars and venues that will help you do so.
Here's a preview of a few of your many musical options before and after Thanksgiving.
Recently named one of "Paste's Top 10 Illinois Bands You Should Listen to Now," Exit Ghost has steadily been building a following around town playing traditional venues along with galleries and theater spaces over the past few years. Their recently released album Move Alone (which can be heard in its entirety on their soundcloud), hits a sweet spot between Springsteen's anthemic pomp and Harvest's nonchalant, folky swagger. On Tuesday, November 20th, the local country-rockers will be playing the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee, after capping off a late-summer tour of the Great Plains.
On record, lead songwriter Evan Holmes takes on the many disparate strains of mournful Americana blazed by artists like Neil Young and Springsteen with renewed optimism, giving each song a pop sensibility similar to peppy indie-poppers like Tegan and Sara and an attention to atmospherics on loan from The National. The result leans more toward classic pop than dust-bowl Americana, but the songs pack plenty of gnashing guitars, densely layered production and sincere lyrics throughout to keep listeners guessing. On stage, the newly minted five-piece band gives the tracks from Move Alone a three-guitar attack, with as many as four members offering harmonies to help each chorus swell. The band often plays new and unreleased material from show to show, the result of constant demoing and Holmes's workman-like approach to songwriting. Tuesday's show continues their upward streak, showcasing the band's attention to contemporary detail and reverence for their past.
Check out their video of "Delicate Man" on Show Me Shows, a monthly music video series based in St. Louis, MO:
Exit Ghost will be followed by headliners Rah Rah, with Violet Lights and Parallels and Lies opening at the Double Door on Tuesday. Tickets are $5 at the door and $7 online, and can be purchased here.
Thrill Jockey, the venerable local label that's given us releases from Tortoise, The Sea and Cake, High Places, and many others, is celebrating its 20th anniversary at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western, on December 20. The event will feature performances and DJ sets from Tortoise and The Sea and Cake performing "material you wouldn't expect," as well as a set from Kid Millions' Man Forever, which features members of Arriver. Label staffers (and possibly more TBA) will also be on hand spinning their own DJ sets throughout the night.
As a way of saying thanks to their hometown for 20 years of support, admission is free with RSVP, and will feature complimentary beverages courtesy of Goose Island and Virtue Cider. Act quickly — those free tix will sellout quick.
There is a certain way in which Sharon Van Etten has always been powerful. Her grace and elegance were never an issue in making her songs great and her live performance memorable. At the same time, it seems each visit to Chicago, her fans see a woman that is slowly transforming into someone who is stronger and who makes the songwriting seem less like simple poems and more like challenges to the psyche. We're seeing her take control and possess more of her songs both instrument wise and lyrically even though she's now playing with a band behind her. In other words, it still seems like it's coming from Sharon Van Etten and even in her most cool and collected moments where she's joking around, there's a sense that she feels good taking herself seriously because that's exactly what her songs deserve.
There's truly nothing better than going to a concert on Halloween. It's a giant costume party with live music and dancing. What could be more fun?
Wednesday night the Park West was packed with seemingly every character, creature and celebrity imaginable for Beats Antique's sold-out show. People decked out in costumes from head to toe were ready to get weird. The Michelin Man, Pikachu, bananas, Smurfs, and aliens gathered together under the disco ball and got their groove on. Breaking Bad's Walter and Jesse made an appearance — there was even a group of friends dressed as Adventure Time characters.
The Coop, dressed up as Johnny Depp characters, from Jack Sparrow to Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, opened the show with a short and notably electronic set. Their sound has moved further away from the typical jam band sound and is becoming increasingly more influenced by electronic dance music. It seems to be working for them because the crowd keeps on dancing.
There is so much legend and backstory around Daniel Johnston that it's almost hard to believe he's still a real guy on the road playing shows. For several decades already, he has self-released an extraordinary catalogue of strikingly stark, imaginative songs and illustrations despite the ups and downs of his continuous struggles with mental health.
Yet Daniel Johnston's uniquely genuine music has managed to have an irreplaceable influence on much of today's artists without Johnston himself ever really having a direct presence in the scene. In fact, a typical way to discover Johnston isn't even through his own recordings, but through the many covers he has inspired among some of the bigger names in indie rock.
But Johnston has continued quietly producing his art all along. Even now in his 50s, Johnston's playful creativity seems to be flowing out of him as much as ever, both through music and illustration.
You're used to hearing their most excellent mashups, but with an actual album to celebrate, it's a true reason to get your booty to the dance floor for some Hood Internet action this week. The Hood Internet hits the Metro on Friday night as their (rescheduled) album release party for FEAT finally gets underway. They'll be joined by My Gold Mask, Psalm One, Oscillator Bug, and BBU (who'll be giving their final performance!).
Here's a fresh video for "More Fun," from the album FEAT, featuring Psalm One and Tobacco:
Head to the show for free with a friend when you win a pair of tickets to the show, courtesy of the Metro! Just email us at email@example.com with the subject line "Feat" and we'll randomly select a winner at noon on Friday.
Tickets to Friday's show are $15 (if you had tickets to the original show date, September 20, 2012, bring them along -- all tickets for the previous date will be honored). Doors open at 8pm. 18+ The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark St.
Though Halloween is on a Wednesday, you shouldn't let that stop you from getting your freak on. It only comes but once a year so you might as well do it right. There are several shows occurring throughout the city, but Beats Antique at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., will surely make for a bewitching evening.
Two supporting acts are set to open the show before Beats Antique. Both bring slightly different genres to the table, which should coincide with the featured band's hybrid sound very nicely. Local jamtronica band The Coop will start the night off with their funky tunes. Singer-songwriter, producer and beat-boxer Lynx will further the musical diversification with her genre-bending sounds.
It was definitely a dark and stormy Thursday night but though it may have been hailing outside, Logan Square Auditorium seemed rather warn and welcoming in comparison, especially because they were playing The Kinks as the house music before the bands (that always helps the mood.)
As we enter the back 40 of Lampo's Fall 2012 season, concert #3 promises not only a fascinating listening experience, but a bonus event that is more interactive in nature. Come to the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago) on Friday afternoon and Saturday evening to listen, learn, and interact with two great artists.
It's a rarity when a supporting act's performance rivals that of the headliner. So it must be an anomaly when there are two openers that give the featured band a run for its money. Well, it most certainly happened Monday night at the Metro. The crowd that came out to the treasured Wrigleyville venue to see Heartless Bastards was in for a long night, with three bands scheduled to play.
Luckily, the four musicians that compose the soulful garage rock group have impeccable taste in music. Not only can they play it, they can pick it too. The two opening acts that were chosen to play before Heartless Bastards had both sounds and styles that complimented each other eminently well.
Dana Falconberry (Photos by Brianna Kelly)
At 9 o'clock sharp Dana Falconberry and her eclectic folk band took to the stage. Each of the six musicians had their own distinct, unique look. Falconberry looked like a country western star from the '60s in a classy vintage dress and cowboy boots, while the banjo player, Gina Dvorak, looked like she had just returned from a photo shoot from an American Apparel ad, with red lipstick and glasses with thick frames.
"Post-rock" is the term that most often gets thrown around when discussing bands like The Sea and Cake, but while it suits their more experimental tendencies to a point it's certainly something of a misnomer. Where "post-rock" can easily be mistaken as an outright dismissal of the rock form itself ("rock is dead" tropes notwithstanding), it seems that what bands like The Sea and Cake are really doing is simply broadening the definition of "rock" and fashioning it within a more global context. Perhaps they continue to get stuck with the tag because they, along with Chicago peers Tortoise, were one of the first bands in the indie sphere of the '90s that sought to push beyond the confines and clichés of Western punk- and guitar-based rock'n'roll in favor of more eclectic things like West African pop, dub grooves, and third-world funk. With ears craned more toward these types of sounds, bands like The Sea and Cake certainly seemed post-something. Interestingly enough, almost two decades in, they still do.
The Sea and Cake features a clutch of veteran Chicago musicians in Sam Prekop, Archer Prewitt, Eric Claridge and drummer John McEntire (also of Tortoise), each of whom has been synonymous with the more experimental and collaborative side of Chicago's independent music scene for well over 20 years. With a new album in this fall's Runner; to support, The Sea and Cake will be appearing this Monday, October 29, at the City Winery, the latest addition to the Randolph St. strip. Matthew Friedberger, an Oak Park native best known for his brother-sister duo Fiery Furnaces, will open with a set featuring tracks off his latest, the Parisian-inspired Matricidal Sons of Bitches.
[Update: This show has been moved to The Vic Theater, 3145 N. Sheffield Ave. All tickets will be honored.]
Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, has a reputation for live performances that follows her as closely as her own shadow. She has had more than a few uncouth moments and her mercurial disposition has caused her to miss just as much as she has hit. Though even when she misses, she's enchanting. Right or wrong, it has become a part of her mystique. Plus, she is on the mend. With Sun, a brighter Cat Power prevails and makes a moot point of her former somber self and the associated foibles. Of course, a few rehab stints here and there and all that vitamin D that life in Miami can provide help as well.
Still, she is going into this show with something to prove: That this time around, the $35 audience members spent to attend was well worth it. One can only hope that Cat Power will be able to reverse the trend and rein in those vices (insecurity, self-loathing, stage fright, and a dash of neuroticism) that tend to hold her in their grip as she performs. If she can do so, she has a good shot at endearing the audience to her simply by being sincere and enigmatic, never showy. She's not Neil Diamond. If she can't, history tells us that concertgoers might be in for a night of erratic behavior, incomplete songs, and perhaps even, a cowering Cat Power crying awkwardly over something nobody in the audience understands. This is worst-case scenario though and unlikely. What is more likely to be seen is a thin-skinned and reactive singer being herself- which could be somnolent and uncomfortable or approachable and engaging. Mystifying, nonetheless.
Consider yourself warned: with Cat Power, it's a gamble.
Cat Power, takes to the stage at The RivieraThe Vic Theatre on Sunday, October 28. X-Ray Eyeballs and Willis Earl Beal will open the show. Doors open at 7pm, and music starts at 8pm. Tickets are $34, 18+. The Riviera is located at 4746 N. Racine Ave. The Vic is located at 3145 N. Sheffield Ave. (Note: Due to a change in venue, all tickets purchase for the Riviera Theater show will be honored.)
There was an episode of WBEZ's Morning Shift a few weeks ago in which host Tony Sarabia spoke with the members of a local jazz quartet about the differences between improvising and composing, and whether or not the two are mutually exclusive. The conversation particularly grabbed my attention, as one of the things that often turns me off to classical music is its seeming lack of spontaneity or overwhelming sense of perfection.
"I would like to suggest that every musician is an improviser — or can be," clarinetist James Falzone ended up arguing in the episode. That also seems to be the argument the Latino Music Festival will make when it brings a showcase of Experimental and Improvised Music by Chicago Latino Composers to the Elastic Arts Foundation this Sunday in Logan Square.
The event features work from composers Marcos Balter, Gustavo Leone, Elbio Barilari, Pablo Chin, and Guillermo Gregorio — all of whom are currently active in some form or another in the Chicago classical music scene. But given the festival's focus on classical and traditional music from Latin America and Spain, Sunday evening's showcase offers a rare change of gears with a focus on more unconventional music in an intimate setting.
One of the benefits of living in Chicago is that with the slightest effort, the city will deliver up on whatever scene you could possibly desire. While seemingly not quite as well-publicized as some other, perhaps more indigenous genres, the bluegrass scene is surprisingly vibrant, owing to talented home-grown bands such as Sexfist and Flatland Ramble who keep the scene interesting with regular performances around town, and the occasional guerrilla jam at random illegal back-alley microbreweries. For devotees of the bluegrass scene, and there are plenty in cultural Mecca that is Chicago, this weekend will provide a special treat as Colorado-based neo-bluegrass jammers Yonder Mountain String Band play a two night stand at The House of Blues this Friday and Saturday.
To look at the band, made up of Adam Aijala on guitar, Dave Johnston on banjo, Jeff Austin on mandolin, and Ben Kaufman on bass, one might expect them to stick to the script and play traditional bluegrass, or perhaps to dabble in the sort of pyrotechnic "newgrass" of legends such as New Grass Revival, but that would be selling them short, as their latest album, 2009's The Show amply demonstrates. While the band is indisputably technically proficient, and is capable of delivering on that promise on more traditional leaning numbers such as "Out of the Blue," Yonder's music really gets interesting when the songwriting dips into the group's rock influences, lending a funked-up swing to the classic instrumentation. Songs like "Steep Grade, Sharp Curves" seem an obvious tip-of-the-hat to classic mid-'50s country music, while others with a more obvious modern feel such as "Belle Parker" and "Complicated" sound a little like what you'd get if you crossed indie-rock with a front porch jug band. While there is nothing at all wrong with their recorded output, Yonder Mountain's forte has always been the live show, where they can truly blend their extremely diverse musical influences and launch on interesting excursions and distractions highlighting both their chops, and their whimsy.
"It's great to be back home in Chicago," said Joey Burns, lead singer of Calexico -- a band that hails from Tuscon, AZ. This was just before Calexico walked off the stage after their last song of the set on Monday night, and the sudden declaration that this was actually homecoming show for them took me by surprise. Even other people around me in the sold-out Lincoln Hall crowd were asking themselves what the Chicago connection could be.
It turns out the Chicago connection is through the band's longtime record label Quarterstick, a sublabel of the Chicago-based Touch and Go Records. But really, all you even had to do was take a quick look at the band's Instagram posts from earlier that day to see howmuch fun they had roaming the city and how that might have contributed to them being so on top of their game later that night.
One thing is immediately clear when you see Calexico live: this band's love affair with Southwestern music is not a shtick. It's simply the form in which the band operates, and you can tell just by how solid they are as a band that they take it seriously.
Keith Rowe plays guitar. He plays it on its back, on a table, using piles of raw materials (springs, bows, coins, credit cards, steel wool, wood strips) to resonate the strings. In 2012, this is hardly uncommon, but in 1966, when Cronos-like Ur-free improv group AMM recorded their debut, it was like saying you eat your dinner with a windshield wiper. Rowe's relentless push to the edges of abstract sound and telepathic improvisation (as well as that of his former AMM colleagues Eddie Prevost, Cornelius Cardew, and others) built a cottage industry of abstract improvisers who are serious, humorless, and often proprietary in their explorations. Not so Rowe...at a solo performance hosted by Lampo in 2001, he ended his set -- 45 minutes of enveloping, genuinely alien atmospheres -- he asked the crowed with a big grin whether anyone else wanted to "have a go" at playing his rig for a while. No one stepped up -- attempting our own rendition would have been like taking Yo Yo Ma's still-warm-from-use cello out of his hand and farting "Happy Birthday" into the resonators. (His selective use of shortwave radio during long, serious improvisations also helps to incorporate the outside world into an inherently isolationist art form.)
Following a second solo performance at Lampo in 2005, Rowe returns this Saturday with another Lampo performance, performing a composition titled "City Music," written for him by Chicago composer Frank Abbinanti. The performance takes place at the Renaissance Society in Hyde Park (5811 S. Ellis Ave, Cobb Hall 418). Admission is FREE, no RSVP required, and the performance begins at 8:00.
Here is an excellent clip that not only allows Rowe to show of hiss techniques, but also lets him speak about the genesis of his style.
Chicago-area Phish phans may still be coming down off from what was widely heralded as their best tour in at least a decade, but for devotees of the jam juggernauts, there is no respite in the month of October. For followers of the band and frontman Trey Anastasio the next couple of weeks should prove productive, to say the least.
First, local landmark and former hole-in-the-wall dive Tuman's is one of eight locations chosen nationally to host a listening party for the debut of lead guitarist and singer Anastasio's solo album Traveler, which drops October 16th. In addition to an ATO records supported listening opportunity, fans will be able to take in an optional parking-lot-food-inspired tasting menu served up by head chef, and noted local Phish enthusiast, Jim Day.
Second, a mere three days after the release of the album on October 16th, Anastasio brings the circus to town for a solo show at the historic Chicago Theatre. Attendees can expect a show heavy with tracks off the new album, which ventures further into modern pop than many of Anastasio's previous efforts.
Calexico does so many things well. While some bands need entire albums to try on different genres (a "country album," etc.), the members of Calexico tend to pull off multiple style shifts in the same song — and always within the scope of an album. Named after the small town on the U.S.-Mexico border in California, the band writes music that soundtracks desert landscapes while often opening up in the most unexpected ways.
Even in their first few albums and EPs in the late '90s, core members Joey Burns (guitar and vocals) and drummer John Convertino were using their South-of-the-Border sound as a platform to sneak into jazz, post-rock, or other times straight-up Mariachi. And if that seems like an impossible combination of sounds, just listen to their 1998 EP Even My Sure Things Fall Through. It worked. Since then, the band has consistently churned out solid albums that refuse to take on one specific shape stylistically.
Calexico's John Convertino and Joey Burns (photo courtesy of the band)
Tilly and the Wall is a great band and Lincoln Hall is a marvelous modern venue, but when your sound guy is messing around on his iPhone during sets, it doesn't matter if you are Bruce Springsteen at the Sydney Opera House, the concert will be fraught with errors. From start to finish Tilly and the Wall's run at Lincoln Hall on Monday night was bogged down by unfortunate events. There was the inattentive sound guy who took a reactive rather than proactive approach to level setting. There was the overly emotional and sauced fanboy who clawed his way onto the stage, hugged Neely Jenkins and Kianna Alarid, and then sketchily lingered among the band members. There were the off-key harmonies and the breaking voices among the band. There were some issues, OK?
However, there was also tap dancing and rhythm that rocked the placid crowd from the bottom of their feet to the crowns of their heads. At first, I felt full of promise when the band thundered onto the stage with a rousing call and response of "When we say oh, you say fuck," backed by some Nebraska-style step dancing, but my hopes were quickly dashed when they then tore into their yet-to-be-perfected live rendition of "Love Riot" the first track off of their new album, Heavy Mood. The song is cacophonous and noisy in nature, but what was emitting from the speakers sounded more like misfired strums and hums than artful distortion. Thankfully, the volumes on the lead guitar came back from the outer spheres of the universe and towards earth where the other instruments held steady during the second song, making "Alligator Skin" much more balanced and enjoyable than the opener.
There's something about the Logan Square Auditorium that somehow lends a loose, battle-of-the-bands feel — its open stage and lack of any sort of fourth wall means it works just as well for a packed punk show as it might a senior prom. That its notoriously awful acoustics give it the same, airy charm (or frustration, you choose) you might expect from a DJ spinning tunes for couples dancing on a cleared-out basketball court helps, too. It's probably no surprise, then, that bands like Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall — bands that thrive on lack of pretense, absence of razor-sharp fidelity and that might actually prefer physically engaging with their fans — might love playing a place like Logan. And on a night where sound checks and guitar tune-ups bled into the beginnings of songs (and even sets), Friday's marquee double bill of San Francisco scuzz-rock's finest fit right in.
Alternating headlining slots between the earlier all-ages and later 18+ shows, Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall make the kind of freewheeling grooves so packed with energy and noise that you might not notice they've been throwing pop-perfect hooks your way the entire night. I showed up just as the younger scenesters from the night's first show started to file out, all sweat-drenched and out of breath from Ty Segall's bill-topping set minutes before. With Thee Oh Sees at the height of their national visibility and Ty Segall in the midst of a whirlwind year that has already seen two full releases in the fuzzed-out Hair and Stooges ode Slaughterhouse with a third, Twins, hitting shelves in a matter of weeks, Friday night's show caught two very vital acts at the peak of their powers. More importantly, they played like it, too.
There is an elephant in the room that will be addressed, but let's start with something positive in regards to the strange set Monday night from Prince at United Center. His performance of "Purple Rain" was hands down one of the best musical performances I've ever seen live. And there is no denying that in that moment, the crowd saw truly how amazing of a performer, writer, and artist Prince truly is. I sung along with everyone, was moved to tears, and it was an incredible moment. But, it was a bittersweet reminder of what I missed out on by not seeing Prince years ago, as his set Monday night was full of tease and confusion, and a poor example of what the artist really is about.
Now, back to that elephant in the room, which is the now infamous third encore situation Monday night. After playing a second encore of snippets of hits ("Girlfriend," "When Doves Cry," "Kiss") Prince said goodnight, exited the stage, and the house lights stayed off as crew members swept purple confetti off the stage. The stage still lit and lights off, fans sat for 40 minutes anticipating a return, when suddenly the house lights went up. The crowd erupted, booing and shaking heads abound, as we waited about 10 more minutes before the staff at the United Center started asking us to leave the building. After a 40-minute tease, the show was over. Or so everyone thought. As I sat on the #20 bus reflecting on my conflicted feelings of the show, I saw on Twitter that about an hour after leaving the stage, Prince returned to the small crowd still left and performed "1999" and "Red Corvette." I was stunned, an artist usually so dedicated to his craft and fans totally dropped the ball and simply fell flat as he ended an already mixed show.
Can you still call it a comeback when you might be better than ever? The kind of hard-won legacy that Boston noisemakers Mission of Burma made for themselves in the years since their early hardcore salad days is rare: As a band that was only together for about four years at the turn of the '80s and with only one album to its credit, the story went that Mission of Burma crashed before it ever really had the chance to get off the ground. But that album, the now-legendary Vs. — with help from the band's infamous ear-splitting live shows — gained near-mythic status among the independent underground scene in the decades that followed. With hype and nostalgia finally reaching a breaking point in 2002, the band reunited in with all of its original members (sans tape manipulator Martin Swope) including Roger Miller (guitar, vocals) Clint Conley (bass, vocals) and Peter Prescott (drums, vocals). And unlike other marquee post-punk reunion acts like Pixies, Pavement, or (as of yet) My Bloody Valentine, the band found enough inspiration in their reconstituted form to actually write new material. It could be said they had some unfinished business that needed a tending-to.
Mission of Burma (photo by Jesse Jarnow)
Now in the midst of one of the better second acts in rock, and with a steady stream of new records that easily eclipses the band's original material at least in terms of output, Mission of Burma returns to Chicago on the back of its new album, Unsound. Over the course of the past decade, the band has been lauded for its spectacular (not to mention age-defying) return to form. Since its first post-reunion release, 2002's ONoffON for Matador Records, the band has enlisted Shellac's Bob Weston to man the mixing boards and commandeer the band's pioneering form of live tape manipulation in place of the departed Swope. Though Weston only makes casual encore appearances with the band (most of his contributions are in-studio), Chicago scene vets will no doubt be on the lookout out when the band heads to the pristine Lincoln Hall stage this Saturday.
Before we all head off to the new incarnation of Riot Fest this weekend, the festival kicked off with some familiar territory -- the fest's old stomping ground, Congress Theater. Saturday and Sunday we head to Chicago's first outdoor Riot Fest, complete with a carnival and luchadores, over in Humboldt Park. Friday night had no frills, just a great line-up of bands playing a dark, grimy club with plenty of mosh pit space. This is the Riot Fest I am used to.
Well folks, the time has come again. The 16th annual Hideout Block Party/A.V. Club Festival is upon us, and this year we are presented with some fantastic acts that are going to bring high-caliber indie rock music to (just outside) one of Chicago's most unique music venues. We here at Gapers Block have decided that there are several new acts that you should be sure to catch, and familiar acts that you should consider catching up with.
The Hood Internet made its name creating masterful mashups of hip hop and indie rock for a few years now, regularly releasing free mixtapes filled with their best tracks. But now they're ready with something completely their own. Feat will be released Oct. 2 on Decon Records, and is all original -- no samples, no covers, lots of collaborations with artists, ranging from AC Newman to BBU to Kid Static.
On Thursday, Sept. 20 [Update: the show has been rescheduled for November 2, 2012. All original tickets will be honored.], The Hood Internet returns to its ancestral home, The Metro, for an 18-and-over record release show. Body Language, My Gold Mask and Oscillator Bug will open, with doors open at 8pm. Tickets are $16 in advance or at the door.
Chicago's City Winery (photo by John Zomot, courtesy of City Winery)
The Chicago outpost of New York's City Winery has sort of been slowly rolling out the welcome mat over the past three weeks with a flurry of soft-opening and press events, a week's worth of Lewis Black shows, and a few musical acts to break in the venue. Last night, the second of two sold-out shows by legendary guitarist Lindsey Buckingham provided a great opportunity to really see how the new venue is settling into Chicago's musical landscape.
First, the venue itself. Chicago's iteration of City Winery represents the "2.0" version of New York's City Winery, the creation of Michael Dorf, founder and long-time CEO of legendary jazz and rock venue The Knitting Factory. Building on the success of the New York outpost, Dorf brought the concept to Chicago, where it has been fully realized in a very heavily re-purposed warehouse space on Randolph Street, just west of that area's burgeoning restaurant zone. Intended to be something of a one-stop shop for your nightlife needs, City Winery incorporates a large restaurant, several informal lounge areas, various spaces that are intended to serve as flexible private areas, and a functioning winery that will soon take its first delivery of grapes and begin serving its own house wines early next year. Attached to the attractive public spaces is a roughly 300-seat well designed "listening room" that will feature mostly musical acts, booked by Old Town School alum Colleen Miller. While the restaurant, lounge, and winery spaces are perfectly nice, it is the venue that makes City Winery unique in Chicago, and in this way, it is less filling a niche in a town with an already vibrant musical scene, than finding its own way.
It was an all-Australian cast on Northerly Island Friday night. Openers Jonti and Missy Higgins paved the way for radio darling Gotye and his band on a night filled with moonlight and lake breezes. Just a few days into his second North American tour of 2012, the crowds amassing were part curiosity seekers and part bargain hunters who'd scored a deal on tickets through Groupon. Attention spans were diminished, to be sure, but while there may have been some "concert tourism" going on in the stands, there was nothing but earnest professionalism coming from the stage.
Sound crafter Jonti opened up the night right on time with loops and sonic spins from an array of (perhaps homemade?) equipment on the stage. A lone figure in the fading light of the sunset, he didn't conjure much attention from the post-work crowd who'd snugged in close to the stage for prime spots. The second opener, Missy Higgins, fared much better with the crowd, which at least had some experience with her music. The stage lights were just warming up when Missy hit the stage and for three or four songs, her band seemed lost in a half-glow of stage lights that seemed an afterthought. By the end of her set, however, both the lighting and the crowd had warmed up to this wee singer. Backed by a band filled with fine harmonizing singers, and some great bass playing from fellow Aussie, Butterfly Boucher (who the local camera guys seemed to find very interesting, indeed), Missy did an all-around solid job of weaving through her hits and her new album. I wanted her songs to be a little harder, a little more in-your-face with emotion, but I don't think that's really Missy's style. She was sweet and charming and perfectly sing-a-long-able. I think her best qualities were likely lost on a crowd set against the backdrop of a Great Lake, and she'd do better in smaller venues with more wood paneling and hushed ambiance. Still, Missy did a fine job making the crowd her new best friends, and kept everyone fixated on the stage, wondering what was still to come from the headliner who followed her.
After what seemed like an eternity of focusing each individual light by the band's obviously perfectionist light designer, the main attraction finally took the stage. When I'd spoken with Gotye earlier, he remarked that the band was bringing redesigned visual accompaniment with them on tour. Having never seen the show, I expected some lighting swirls and maybe a few scrims. What I was confronted with, however, was much much more than that. Gotye's live show is an auditory and visual assault on the senses. Each song is paired with a perfectly synced music video of sorts, displayed on a large screen running the length and width of the back of the stage. Ranging from nightmarish cartoons, to ink swirls in tanks of water, each song comes with its own visual narration to pair with the words and music performed on stage. It reminded me of the very best of MTV before the network went all reality show, all the time. The utter synchronicity of the images with the live performances was an accomplishment in itself, but the fact that these visuals seemed to add a deeper quality to the narrative, even to songs that didn't have lyrics, was a treat for everyone in attendance.
Since 1997, LAMPO has presented experimental music and intermedia events to adventurous Chicago audiences. Find out about upcoming shows at lampo.org, and hear more about LAMPO from Director Andrew Fenchel on WBEZ.
About The Grid
This video is part of a series profiling Chicago businesses, subcultures and landscapes. These short, lyrical documentaries aspire to be art cinema, ethnographies, and experiments in form. Producer Ben Kolak's directorial debut, Scrappers, scrappersmovie.com, won Best Documentary at the Chicago Underground Film Festival and made Roger Ebert's list of top documentaries for 2010. Sound recordist and editor Alex Inglizian does sound for LAMPO and is chief engineer at Experimental Sound Studio. Graphic Designer Akemi Hong is a recent graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's graduate program in Visual Communication Design.
The Grid is funded in part by the Chicago Instructional Technology Foundation Digital Media Production Fund.
Opera is not the most accessible or popular art form, which is too bad, since its creators intended it to appeal to everyone. Its power is lost on most audiences since it is usually in a language they don't know, and tickets for just one concert at the Lyric Opera can cost as much as $200.
The American Chamber Opera, based in Chicago, is trying to change that, with productions in English of popular operas for a much lower price. It started its season last weekend with a performance of Mozart's opera Don Giovanni.
The ACO performs the opera in the Sanctuary of the Chicago Temple Building, without a set or props. They use the space effectively, with characters walking down the aisle, entering in the back and hiding under the front pew.
The sun was still high and traffic on Western Avenue still thick, yet the Empty Bottle was filling up, octogenarians clumping around the few tall tables, millennials ordering pints of Green Line from the cash-only bar. By 4:50pm, when 98.7s WFMT's Relevant Tones program went live from the stage, the venue was nearing the capacity of a Friday night punk show.
Despite the club's 20 years bringing noteworthy bands to Ukrainian Village, this was the first live radio broadcast from the Empty Bottle, though it'll be a surprise if this doesn't plant a seed or two in the heads of other Chicago producers. The Thirsty Ear Festival, hosted by Relevant Tones' Seth Boustead, a Chicago composer and founder of education and advocacy group Access Contemporary Music (ACM), was, judging by the performances and the crowd's response and Boustead's own admission at the close of the show, a huge success. Which means the organizers' goal of making it an annual affair is most likely guaranteed.
As this city does so well, Thirsty Ear was really a celebration of Chicago. A person connecting the dots of Chicago's classical scene would quickly make an intricate web, and that was evident on Saturday. Not only were performers local, but so were many of the featured composers. Everything the Chicago Q Ensemble played was written by a Chicagoan. The Maverick Ensemble's Jason Raynovich slipped an original into the program, as did Boustead actually. Clarinetist James Falzone's set was a single, self-authored composed improvisation (more on that paradox in a minute). And the finale — the Boustead piece — also celebrated contemporary Chicago through visual art. "Three for Zhou B." is a three-part rumination on a trio of paintings done by Bridgeport artists Shan Zuo and DaHuang Zhou.
If a person camped out at the Empty Bottle for seven nights straight, they'd almost be guaranteed to see seven shows that shared nothing but the same small, corner stage. It's a venue known for its eclectic taste and a bent toward the fiercely independent, and yet on Saturday it will open its doors for an event that will be somewhat of an outlier to its already fantastically peppered scatter-plot and will make Empty Bottle history.
Compelling. Heartfelt. Timeless. Folk music heaven. Those are just a few of the terms that come to mind when I listen to one of my favorite new albums of the year, self-titled debut from emerging folk group The Lumineers. If you haven't heard their music yet, you sure will soon; their single "Ho Hey" is beginning to take airways by storm, as fans are becoming captivated by their refreshing folk sound.
The story of the group's formation began as two men, Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites, experienced grief at the loss of a mutual companion, Jeremiah's brother, Josh Fraites. They played music together to wrestle with their pain, and after doing a stint of shows in New York City, they packed up everything they had and took off for Denver. After discovering multi-instrumentalist Neyla Pekarek via a Craigslist ad to join their group, The Lumineers were formed. From playing at a local open mic night at the Meadowlark, to playing through their own self-booked tour, The Lumineers gathered fans from across the country with their charming folk revival style.
After seeing Garbage play last night, it's pretty doubtful that anyone in her/his right mind could claim that Shirley Manson isn't on top of her game. She owned the stage with a strong female assertiveness and her distinctive voice coupled with her rock moves and didn't even seem tired after playing a set that lasted over ninety minutes.
You may have heard about Ashley Pruneau, a cook at Mana Food Bar who was assaulted in her home on July 1. A benefit to help support her recovery takes place on Wednesday, August 8 at The Dark Room (2210 W. Chicago) featuring music by DJ White Shadow, Casa del Sol, and Lightfoils. There will be food and drink from Mana Food Bar, among many others, and a raffle and silent auction for goodies from a slew of area businesses. $15 gets you in, for more info visit Infoonashley on Facebook. Event begins at 7pm.
In an event so diverse I don't know whether to post it in Transmission, A/C, or Book Club, SYGC performs Thursday at the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.) along with Cloudbirds, and Angelina Lucero.
Their performances are part of Curbside Splendor Publishing's event "Words & Music," with readings by authors Joe Meno (writer of Hairstyles of the Damned, and Office Girl,) Patrick Somerville (The Cradle,The Bright River,) and Jac Jemc (My Only Wife.)
This event is free with RSVP on Facebook and will have a raffle to benefit Chicago Writers House. Music, writing, and philanthropy all in one event!
Amongst all of the indie bands out there today, it seems Liars is continually setting the standard for a intensely memorable set. They've defined their sound and honed in on creating what almost seem like dance hits that made lead singer Angus Andrew so angry he attempted to destroy them. They are still catchy but, just like their lead singer, they often threaten to spin out of control with inner turmoil.
Chicago is a bustling city all year round, but it seems that this city feels most alive during the summertime. Everyone steps outside to greet the sunshine's warmth post-intense winter doldrums, and the options for sightseeing and free attractions (especially music) abound. Monday's Downtown Sound installment at Millennium Park unfortunately was featured on one of those summer days that most Chicagoans would want to remain inside for; the sticky, thick heat was unbearable, and the oppressive sun beat down on concertgoers flanking all ends of the Pritzker Pavilion. However, the unpleasant weather didn't stop these swarms of individuals from staking their claim for a front row seat to see both Abigail Washburn and Charles Bradley. Arriving mighty early for a 6:30pm show, excitement buzzed in the air to see the screaming eagle of soul himself, with many a devoted fan awaiting Abigail Washburn's unique set.
Washburn opened the show, and stepped onstage in a flouncy floral dress, positively beaming at the audience. Her light and playful appearance was juxtaposed by the intense jazz style that emanated from her voice, as she sang her version of "Keys to the Kingdom." The entire audience was so hushed that a pin could have dropped and everyone would have noticed, as concertgoers became captivated by her sultry, lounge jazz vocals. Slowly her hauntingly stunning pitches were backed by the light pizzicato from a violin and the hushed whisper of a trumpet, gradually increasing the ballad's intensity. Beyond playing a range of genres, she dotted her set with quirky anecdotes that exposed extremely raw and personal aspects of her life, from spending time in China, to details of her family history, who actually owned a roller rink in nearby Evanston.
The Shams Band is kind of like the Chicago alt-rock tradition squeezed into a joyful country-folk setting. On Monday night, the band kicked off their July residency at Schubas with Charleston, South Carolina's Shovels & Rope and Chicago's Jeremy David Miller. The headlining Shams mixed up their set with older tunes and new ones from the just-released Cold City.The hillbilly banjo romp "Travel By Sea," on which Paul Gulyas turns his guitar into something more akin to a skronking Appalachian fiddle, started like a tune straight from the Bill Monroe songbook but ended more in the vein of hardcore.
In a different decade, "Breadwinner" could have been a raunchy Southside blues jam, while the pensive walk-down of "Cause You Can" and its last line ("this whole sad city full of fools, just waiting to be your man") recalls the songwriting from Dylan's Nashville period. The Shams know how to twist a good joke out of a country song — just like Gram Parsons did 40 years ago — but they also have a knack for heartfelt sing-alongs. The album's title track has one line in particular that all Chicagoans should keep dear to their heart next winter: "You dream of California and I dream of Chicago." Kind of says it all for this town.
Upon my first listen to Young Magic's 2012 full-length debut Melt, I was entranced by the dreamy, shimmering ballads that emitted from my stereo speakers. Infusing lush, layered rhythms with mesmerizing beats and haunting sound effects, the group's style is distinctive and bewitching.
I can only imagine how their psychedelic sounds will translate in a live setting, and you can find out for yourself this week as they make a tour stop at Schuba's Sunday evening. Young Magic's website touts the trio as gathering their musical influences from traversing the world, from New York City, to Buenos Aires, to Antwerp. Though ending up back in America, the group traveled the world over, leaving them with vast amounts of musical inspiration. This wanderlust leading to their sound's global influence is evident within their music, as the melting pot effect takes shape to give it a worldly quality. I certainly can't pigeonhole their music as stemming from just one specific locale or genre, though it's extremely fun to try, as each song contradicts and complements elements in the next.
Bill Fitzgerald is still reeling from when John Prine sprung a surprise visit to his club last Sunday for the Earl of Old Town tribute show. He pulled out his smartphone to show a picture he took of his wife basking in the great man's glory.
John Prine. The name conjures up images of the best of Chicago's folk music history — the scene Fitzgerald's has helped foster and promote for 32 years. Incidentally, that's the same number of years they've been putting on the annual American Music Festival.
Fitzgerald's American Music Festival (photos by Davis Inman)
In keeping with the patriotic theme, American flags dotted almost every inch of Fitzgerald's during the pre-Fourth of July celebration. Nearly every hand cradled a red, white, and blue can of High Life beer.
Modeled in part on the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Fitzgerald's has long brought Louisiana acts like Marcia Ball to the fest. Caterer Tom Cimm's "cochon de lait" po' boy might even rival the real thing.
We already told you the reasons why you should "Go Right Ahead" and see The Hives at The Vic Saturday night, June 30, but now we're giving one lucky reader a free pass, plus so much more. One lucky reader will win a pair of tickets to the show, plus a copy of the band's new album Lex Hives on 180 gram vinyl, plus a Hives 4-set pin pack and (oh, what the hell) some stickers. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Lex Hives" and we'll select a winner at noon on Friday. You must be 18+ to attend this show. [Update: We have our winner! Congrats to Othy!]
When a staffing agency called me last year and asked if I wanted to work the B96 Pepsi Summer Bash, I was intrigued. CBS Radio's Top 40 station, 96.3 FM, WBBM, had been a nearly ubiquitous presence while growing up in suburban Chicago. Without fail, the Summer Bash would be hyped up every year across the radio speakers of minivans, swimming pools, and shopping mall clothing stores as the biggest music event of the summer.
First held in 1992, and later sponsored by Pepsi some years later, the Summer Bash has always been a cross-section who's hot, who's established, and who's emerging in Top 40 mainstream pop radio. Bigger names like T-Pain, Chris Brown, Pitbull, and Lupe Fiasco were on the bill for the 2011 edition, along with acts with hit singles like Far East Movement, Tinie Tempah, Keri Hilson, Jay Sean, and the New Boyz, and tween heartthrobs Joe Jonas, Cody Simpson, and Big Time Rush.
Curious to see what the current crop of mainstream pop acts were like in a live setting, I said yes.
The evening of Loops and Other Variations began with Ensemble Dal Niente performing Donatoni's "Hot" Fausto Romitelli's "Professor Bad Trip Lesson 3" and an arrangement of Deerhoof's "Eaguru Guru." The non-Deerhoof pieces were both creative and climactic at times keeping the audience on the edge of their seats as if watching a Hitchcockian thriller. Still, it was quite strange to be present for the indie rock and listening to classical compositions. It made sense mainly from the perspective that Deerhoof has always created music that is both interesting and innovative and, with the arrangement of the Deerhoof song, it tied the two performances together nicely.
Something was building in intensity Saturday night at the Metro: a raucous, debauchery laden atmosphere that communicated to everyone in the place, this concert is going to be a celebratory event. Though my spirits were briefly defeated by the standard concertgoers that somehow manage to find their way right next to me at each show, from the individuals who became far too intoxicated before the show to the point that I'm pretty sure the woman next to me fell asleep standing up, or the unknowingly tone deaf man behind me who insisted on singing every word to each song, the Metro's lively atmosphere was translated from the stage, as each band who played a set brought a dynamic, energized presence to the Metro, allowing me to forget what was going on around me.
First to play a set was group Scott Lucas & The Married Men. The band contrasted with the casual concertgoers, as they appeared wearing coordinated and dressy attire. This complimented their sound; with loud, powerful bass riffs, and sounds suitable for a stadium audience, Scott Lucas & The Married Men brought the energy to the Metro and kept it coming. Highlights of their set included dropping in segments from The Beatles number "I've Got A Feeling," and their end ballad which featured a lengthy, dark guitar solo and lead singer Scott Lucas wailing into the mic.
Last month, Jason Lescalleet got his hands dirty on ferric oxide at The Burlington. As I said then, Lescalleet's approach to tape loops is the yang to Joseph Hammer's yin. With Hammer's upcoming appearance at the closer of Lampo's Spring series this Saturday, it might be beneficial to compare the styles.
Lescalleet is constantly building and tinkering. He wraps his spools of tape across several reel decks, stretching them long distance and overlapping them in confusing ways. In fact, he starts his sets before he's even completed his setup, a literal application of Ray Bradbury's declaration that artists should "jump off cliffs and build their wings in the air." His process, though transparent in theory -- everything's happening right in plain sight -- is incomprehensible in practice. I can't sync up what I'm hearing with what I'm seeing, other than the physicality of the two. Lescalleet roughhouses his decks, and the sounds respond by taking it out on the audience.
Hammer, on the other hand, has refined his technique until it is as straightforward and intuitive as Tai Chi. Compared with Lescalleet's knotty, dirt-track obstacle course, Hammer is like a velodrome, his frictionless surfaces removing all impedance to a soaring audio experience.
The Hideout Block Party and the Onion's A.V. Fest are combining forces this year, presenting one festival Sept. 14-15 in the City vehicle depot lot across from the Hideout, as in prior years. Iron & Wine, Glen Hansard, Lee Fields & the Expressions, the Corin Tucker Band, the Waco Brothers with Paul Burch and Redmoon Theater are the first acts to be announced, with another announcement June 25 and more in July.
Two-day passes are on sale now. If you move quickly, you'll get the $40 early bird rate; once those run out they'll be $50 and then $60. Single day passes will go on sale later this summer. A portion of every ticket sold will benefit a variety of Chicago charities, including Rock For Kids, Literacy Works, Drummond Elementary School and Oscar Mayer Magnet School.
Seventeen years into their career with eight studio albums, The Dandy Warhols seem pleased than ever to take the stage and hear their fans singing along to all their favorite songs. The Portland four piece always does a good job of picking out the songs that fans remember best from throughout their career with a good sense of pacing that makes the audience feel both the faster drive of the edgier songs "Bohemian Like You," "We Used to be Friends""Boys Better," and "Get Off" all being some great examples. But the band also helps you experience the velvety lushness of the melancholy lingering tracks like "Good Morning," so rich with texture one could feel it bursting and by the time lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor started singing "Godless," I swear he had a whole group of spiritual devotees to his indie rock religion.
To celebrate three years in the business of good vibes, good music, and an ambiance and audience to match, The Shrine thanked its guests, two weekends back, by welcoming the near-mythical hip-hop trio, De La Soul, to its stage. The group, made up of Maseo, Posdnous, and Dave, ranks among the greats, of not only the era that birthed similar legends like A Tribe Called Quest and The Wu-Tang Clan, but certainly of all time.
It isn't often the city, let alone the Midwest, gets the chance to see artists that possess the trio's level of influence and legend. It's no wonder then, that as soon as Maseo took the stage, the room filled with cheers, chants, and song requests; and all hands were filled with a cell phone.
The best thing about seeing a concert at the Pritzker Pavilion is the people watching: the young woman who somehow pulled off a pair of high-waisted jeans that would have made the rest of us look like sausages; the teeny tiny babies being worn on their parents backs and stomachs; and the sun-darkened, shirtless man in a necktie standing near the west ramp, dancing to music coming through a pair of earphones.
At a youthful 61 years old, Jonathan Richman looked tiny on the enormous stage with only his guitar, drummer Tommy Larkins, and a drum kit. With his trademark worried expression on his face, Richman began the set with a song that opened with the lyrics: "We had a fight last night." He moved into multilingual territory with a song sung half in French, half in English, translating for the audience like an instructor of a massive impromptu language lesson, pausing to say "Let's hear what Tommy's up to," and breaking into some crowd-pleasing dance moves while Larkins performed a solo.
French was only the beginning of the multilingualism Richman brought to the show. "If this song seems like it's in Italian don't worry, it's just 17 different ways of saying 'it's a great party.'" (Which he pronounced "pahty," in the manner of those Boston-born.) He then moved to Hebrew and Arabic, with the same intro: "if this song seems like it's in Hebrew don't worry, it's just 18 different ways of saying 'it's a great party.'"
Can you remember the first music that scared you? Maybe you were too young when you first heard the eerie, mournful peal of bells that started Black Sabbath's "Black Sabbath" coming from an older brother's bedroom, or you covered your ears in reflexive terror at Vincent Price's infernal laugh at the end of "Thriller." Or maybe you've never been scared by music! This might be all on me, but I remember (and cherish) every moment that a song put the fear in me, every time that a collection of sounds, melodies, or emotions pushed me away, maybe not to return for years after. Ringo screaming "I got blisters on my fingers!" at the end of "Helter Skelter." The alien-sounding whale song in the middle of Pink Floyd's "Echoes." Bob Mould's flayed-alive shriek in Husker Du's "Beyond the Threshold." In some cases, I couldn't listen to the song again for days or weeks afterward. In a few rare cases, I still can't return. In every case where I do return, I return stronger, more calloused to frightening, bracing music, but also a little desensitized. I no longer see demonic sea creatures baying for vengeance during "Echoes," just four well-paid Brits in a studio twisting knobs and going, "oh, jolly good one, Roger!"
But the track that unsettled me for over a decade isn't from the UK. It's from our neighbors to the north, Wisconsin. And this Thursday, they're coming to finish me off.
The Eternals are taking over Millennium Park, and this time, they're bringing their friends.
The Chicago-based group is a longtime mainstay in the local music scene; fans have enjoyed watching the Eternals albums' particular trajectory, tracing the band's ambitious path from thick funk grooves and electro-dub bounce to include a wider swath of influences, including jazz, rock, Afrobeat, and other world music.
Next Monday, June 11, an otherwise serene summer evening at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion (N. Michigan Ave. and E. Randolph Street) will be shattered as the core Eternalists, Damon Locks and Wayne Montana, are joined by eight fellow musicians for the debut of the "Espiritu Zombi Suite," a piece written especially for this large group. We're talking drums and percussion, flute, coronet, vibes, saxophone, backup singers -- the whole awesomely dancealicious nine yards. The show is part of the Downtown Sound music series.
Brother-sister duo Wild Belle open the show, which runs from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The event is free and family friendly.
There's something so refreshing, nay more like wholly life affirming to be in the presence of a truly talented individual that is completely lacking in any artifice. Patrick Watson is one such individual and his songs seem to arise straight from his heart out of his throat with a spontaneity that defies any idea of it being rehearsed but with such a smooth perfection that you know between all of his tour stops it of course had to have been practiced. Still, it's really the idea that each time Watson plays one of his songs, he's able to bring something new to it and the lyrics and composition that he's created is still so meaningful and genuine that everything just feels right.
It's a big time for Big Science. Originally hailing from San Diego, Jason Hendrix and Jason Richards, ex-members of The North Atlantic, brought to Chicago their sun-drenched songs that smack of post-punk indie influences and dance bot rhythms. This is summertime festival music, y'all. Check out Big Science tonight at The Burlington (3425 W. Fullerton Ave.) as they celebrate the release of their latest album, Difficulty. Boy Blue, Jared Grabb and Bring Yr Ray Gun open. Doors open at 9pm, and admission is a mere $5 donation.
British grunge legends BUSH are playing an accoustic set in the Cubby Bear's Underground Lounge Wednesday afternoon, before their show at the Allstate Arena with Nickelback, Seether and My Darkest Days. So yeah, this is an opportunity to see BUSH without having to pay for Nickelback.
The only way to get tickets is via the Cubby Bear's Twitter and Facebook accounts or go to the website for Q87.7, the new alternative rock station born out of the ashes of Q101, and fill out the contest form.
You know Miles Davis' On the Corner? The early '70s one with the HEAVY funk grooves and the crazy editing? And the cartoons? Like a Ralph Bakshi/Pedro Bell key party, that one is. Inside the sleeve, there's one set of cartoons with various caricatures of what I assume are Miles' ideas of stereotypical fan responses to his music. One guy is wearing a dashiki and pulling some sanctimonious body language. His word bubble says, "Me and Miles, we go way back...you know, Kind of Blue...." The implication, as I read it, is that this is the type of fan that can relate to an artist at their point of highest mass popularity. If a similar caricature for hip hop could be drawn today, the person might be saying, "Me and De La, we go way back...you know, 3 Feet High And Rising..."
Of course, you'll get no argument from me or any other hip hop fanatic that De La Soul's debut is one of the great rap albums of all time, but sometimes, it's hard to convince casual fans that De La Soul never stopped producing classic albums. But with precious few exceptions, De La Soul's story is one of constant artistic ascent, with each album topping the previous in terms of lyrical content, flow, message, you name it. And even if you still like the Prince Paul era the best, the band's production has never been less than stellar. I'd even go so far to say as 2004's The Grind Date, recorded 15 years after their debut might be the of the band's very best outings. So how'd they do it? And what are they up to now?
Just a few days ago, the lineup for Chicago's beloved Wicker Park Fest was announced, set to take place on July 28 and July 29. If you're unfamiliar with the event, Wicker Park Fest is set to gain 65,000 visitors over its two-day span, which is impressive in itself. Beyond its established attendance records, this street fest is located in one of Chicago's most treasured artsy neighborhoods, featuring distinctive restaurants, unique shops, and a diverse art and music scene.
Beyond the innovative and expansive art and performance aspects of the event, Wicker Park Fest always delivers by establishing a stellar music lineup, and this year is no different. The acts announced to play sets on July 28 begin with Cursive, indie rock band that just released their energetic album I Am Gemini on February 12. Next is Brooklyn-based band The Drums, who emit an upbeat, percussive, and perfect-for-summertime sound. Take a listen to their song "How It Ended" below:
Below is video of Daniel Ho performing in 2010 in Australia.
But that's still not all! In addition to the line-up of stellar Hawaiian music concerts and workshops, there's also a chance to be a part of a Guinness World Record history. There will be an attempt to break the record for the largest number of 'ukulele players in one place and establish the record for the only group assembled to play a traditional Hawaiian song. If you're interested in participating, come to the gazebo in Welles Park in Lincoln Square at 2:30pm on Saturday, May 26th for a free lesson and then stick around and strum the song "E Huli" along with (hopefully) a few thousand new friends. This is a BYO'U (Bring Your Own 'Uke) event. Not surprisingly, 'ukuleles and Hawaiian lap guitars are on sale at the store at the Old Town School. In fact, Mahalo painted ukuleles are only $25. That's a cheap price on a fun weekend.
Monday's show at Lincoln Hall opened with Impala Sound Champions, a group of DJs that got things started on the smokey stage (my suspicions of the smokey substance dissipated as quickly as the smoke itself — it evaporated quickly and had no tell-tale scent.) The DJs varied in style and substance, ranging in appearance from a dead ringer for my uncle Lloyd circa 1958, to a man who seemed to be channeling Mars Blackmon , to a bearded guy in a flannel shirt and a hat imprinted with the words "The Boss." They took turns at the mic and at the turntable, playing a mix of Dancehall, '70s and '80s Rock Steady, and Roots Reggae. The beats were as entertaining as the visuals, combined with lyrics like "I'm Tennessee Tuxedo, never Chumley," and "I'll keep you mad open like I'm your OB Gyne."
Second on the roster were Illuminati Congo, whose heavy drumbeats and saxophone backed up the vocals of lead singer Jahn the Baptist. I had my doubts after watching the first 30 seconds or so of the video for Me And My Machete, but was pleasantly surprised — this is definitely a case of the live show far outshining the video presentation. It was at about the same moment that Illuminati Congo won me over that my olfactory receptors clued me in to the fact that the smoke in the room had just kicked up a notch. Jahn the Baptist chanted "Ain't nobody do it like we do, we gonna do it like Bruce Lee do," in raspy tones. Before they left the stage, Jahn wished someone in the crowd a happy birthday: "Happy Appearance Day Linsday," he said, "Happy Unbirthday to everyone else," and closed the set with a song which, appropriately, contained the lyrics: "life is for living, life is eternal."
Tonight Schubas with host Toronto art collective Yamantanka//Sonic Titan's debut Chicago performance. Yamanatanka//Sonic Terror's nucleus of Ruby Kato Atwood and Alaska B perform a mix of doom metal and art-damaged pop music upon a traditional Noh theatre visual scope. When these two virulent streams cross a mind bending Buddhist tale unfolds with hints of Osamu Tezuka's (Akira, Domu) classic noir sci-fi manga works. Yamantanka//Sonic Terror are touring in support of their debut album out now on The Psychic Handshake. Check out some trippy videos below the cut.
A deep space electronic exploration vessel code named Squarepusher has scheduled a landing at Chicago's Cabaret Metro for the evening of Saturday Nov 3. Squarepusher is touring in support of Ufabulum his newest collection of broken beat extremeist high energy future music released on Warp Records. Below is a retina burning video interview with Squarepusher displaying the aggressively psychedelic visuals developed for Ufabulum's live performances. Tickets for Squarepusher at Caberet Metro Saturday Nov 3 are $25 and are on sale Saturday May 19 at noon.
Excitement was in the air Saturday night as concertgoers eagerly awaited Andrew Bird to step onstage. Bird hasn't been backed by a full band during his Chicago tour stops over the past few years, as he lent his talents to unconventional and extraordinary venues, such as his 2011 show at the Museum of Contemporary Art introducing his innovative exhibit collaboration with Ian Schneller, or 2009 and 2010 when he played intimate, magnificently beautiful sets at Fourth Presbyterian Church. Having attended each of those shows, I was unsure of how the acoustics would travel in such a large venue as The Auditorium Theatre, but I knew somehow it would exceed my expectations.
Mucca Pazza opened the show, and until you see them perform, you won't truly understand the scope of their musical efforts. Andrew Bird put it perfectly during his set when he complimented them and described them as "30 people all committed to the same idea," while their website pegs them as being an "astounding circus-punk marching band," if that's something you can even hone in on as a genre.
The Subterranean was packed Thursday night with fans of three diverse bands, as The Dirty Feathers, The Shams Band, and Dastardly all played sets. What I like most about the Subterranean is how intimate a venue it is, where the space is small but comfortable. Everyone enjoys the music together like they're in the company of old friends, dancing and swaying to the music. Chicago-native bands The Shams Band and Dastardly co-headlined the show, where comedic and obscure antics played out as The Shams Band and Dastardly set out to resolve their longstanding "battle."
Opening up the evening was Chicago-local band, The Dirty Feathers. Hailing from Champaign, their sound is gritty and bold, with electrifying guitar solos peppering their set. Frequently the lead singer would wail emphatically as Wolfmother-esque guitar riffs ascended in the background. This five-person ensemble is well on its way to perfecting their Southern grunge rock sound, and were a great way to start off the show.
It is easy to pre-judge bands. One look at the thick-framed-glasses-wearing, happy-fun-time-haired, trio of Pearl and the Beard, and I had already labeled them HIPSTER is bold, judgmental letters. I mean they are from Brooklyn for Christ's sake. But, being a huge fan of their 2011 album "Killing the Darlings," I also knew they were really effin' talented. As I headed into Schubas on Saturday night for their sold-out show, I was prepared for a night of solid jams with a hint of the traditional detached coolness hipster affect.
But Pearl and the Beard is one of those bands that makes you eat all of your stupidly preconceived notions and wash it all down with a healthy non-ironic gulp of PBR. They were warm, friendly and really freaking funny on stage in addition to just looking really freaking cool in those thick-framed glasses. They also immediately engaged the crowd. Halfway through the second song, the audience was already out of traditional stand-and-stare mode, and was clapping along with "Sweetness."
If you haven't heard the music of Maps & Atlases before, the band is going to be a bit hard to describe without taking a listen. I say this because their music is unique, deliberate, and dynamic, so much so that I can't categorize them to fit an exact musical genre. Hailing from Chicago, their sound has developed immensely over time, and they are making a stop on their tour here this Friday.
Their first release, Tree, Swallows, Houses, arrived on the scene back in 2007 and gives a great snapshot of the heart of the band's sound. Eccentric and inviting, Maps & Atlases has a sound based in math rock at its core, combined with indie-folk-rock elements. Their music thrives on unconventional tempos and beats that immediately draw listeners in, and keep them listening.
I remember sitting in music business classes while our professors assured us that you can't make it in the music industry if you give away your music for free. No matter how radical our new thoughts (at the time) were that you could, they refused to budge. Well, years later I finally have a perfect case study to refute their claims in The Weeknd. Sure, other bands have given away their music for free (the almighty Radiohead) and most bands now find it standard to give away music, but few have had the trajectory from obscurity to having a choir of fans. The Weeknd has done just that. With three free releases under his belt, and only a handful of shows, he sold out his Lincoln Hall show in nine minutes. It's a different industry than most people visioned, but clearly it works.
This morning Metro announced the inaugural Hot Stove Cool Music charity concert, featuring performances by The Smashing Pumpkins, The Figgs, Jenny Dee and the Delinquents, and members of Buffalo Tom. The event, which will benefit Chicago Cubs charities and Foundation To Be Named Later, goes down on Thursday, June 14 and will act as the kick-off party to the Cubs vs. Red Sox 3-game series at Wrigley Field. This rare chance to catch the Pumpkins at a small venue also falls just days before the release of their latest album Oceania on June 19, so it's safe to say we'll be hearing some new tracks from Billy Corgan & Co.
Tickets for the event are $50 and on sale this Saturday, May 12 at noon, online at Metro's website and fee-free at the Metro box office at 3730 N. Clark St. VIP tickets are available to purchase immediately for $1000 here, which includes tickets to the Cubs vs. Red Sox game the following day.
Motown soul meets retro funk flavor and epitomizes the problem with labels and genre, in a sound that can only be best described as Mayer Hawthorne. The singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist will be taking the stage at the Park West on May 17, sharing some of the revamped vintage goodness that his latest album, How Do You Do, is filled with.
Growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, not far from the Motor City, it isn't hard to tell where a great deal of his influence stems from. Influence aside, there's no doubt he's been doing something fresh from the vine since his debut album, A Strange Arrangement, released back in 2009. There's an air of confidence in his latest tracks from How Do You Do, however, that sounds like the perfect balance between the music of the good ol' days and a sound, style, and presentation of something not yet explored.
Tickets are sold out, but a limited quantity can be found at Stubhub.com. The Park West is located at 322 W. Armitage Ave. Music begins at 7:30pm with The Stepkids. 18+.
It's a heavy week for fans of experimental music in Chicago, with three shows in the next six days. Gas up the car (or do some calf stretches if you're biking), and head to these three venues for some cheap (and in one case, FREE) creative destruction.
Monday, Wicker Park's Enemy (1550 N. Milwaukee, 3rd Floor) welcomes Bob Bellerue (previously written about here for his project Redglaer) and his new project, Diablo. Bob's been on the scene for at least 10 years, also performing under his own name and as Halfnormal. He's on tour with Mister Matthews and Isa Christ, and for any of you who's toured, you know what a bugger it can be getting people out on a Monday. But look at you, you're not old, you're young! You can totally rage on the weekend and still hit this show! Show 'em what you got. Locals Jason Soliday and Neil Jendon open. Donation for out of town bands suggested, showtime 8 p.m., be prompt as it's a weeknight.
Wednesday, Logan Square's groovy live-band bar, The Burlington (3425 W. Fullerton), is hosting a rare treat for Chicago, Maine-based tape mangler Jason Lescalleet. If you attended the first Neon Marshmallow Fest, you vividly remember his two performances, including an intense set in collaboration with the reed/trumpet duo nmperign. His collection of much-abused tape machines and visceral manipulations (up to and including stomping down on the drive motors with a big ol' boot) is the the yin to Joseph Hammer's elegant yang. Chicago experimental composer Olivia Block opens. $7 donation, doors at 9 p.m.
Finally, get to Lampo's second spring event this Saturday at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl.) on Saturday for a rare local appearance by noise titan John Wiese. You may know him from his releases on Troubleman, No Fun Productions, or any of the one hundred (!) 7"s he's appeared on in the past 10 years, but however you've heard him, solo or in one of his many groups, you might still be surprised by the immersive, four-channel stereo experience offered up by the Lampo sound system. Show at 8 p.m., the event is FREE, RSVP here.
French superstar Yann Tiersen may have been competing with another popular French band, M83 (how could they split up the Chicago French contingency like that?!) but at the end of the night, it was quite certain the audience for Tiersen was not only impressed but feeling confident they made the right choice. Though this review/photographer is certainly a fan of both bands, Tiersen's appearances in Chicago have been much less frequent than M83 and fans of the latter can always catch them at Lollapalooza Friday August 3rd. (and hopefully an after show will be announced soon too!)
Six studio albums, endless touring, and a dynamic onstage presence are just a few of the elements that contribute to folk/alt-country band My Morning Jacket's immense success. A fan for years, I waited at Lollapalooza last summer to gain a front row spot to their headlining show, and I can honestly say that it was one of the best performances I've ever seen. Their energy and ever-changing music style instantly captivated the audience and kept everyone begging for more. Enjoy highlights from the Lollapalooza show below, which showcases their vivacity and unique onstage performance style.
The rambunctious duo, Craig Nice and Andy R. of Gauntlet Hair (Dead Oceans Records), may seem like two typical, young, and energetic mid-western gentlemen, but their onstage demeanor draws an opposite conclusion. Praised in the local grunge scene, Gauntlet Hair drew quite the crowd at Schubas Sunday night, where they headlined with tour mates and fellow Chicago natives, A Lull.
The duo that make up Gauntlet Hair, now-Denver dwellers, are familiar with the names, faces and places of Chicago. The audience was filled with friends and family, and Gauntlet Hair gave shout outs to Mom and Dad. Oh, the sweet adoring families doting on their offspring on stage — a truly heart-melting occasion. Sentiment aside, the duo made sure this fact was known: their undeniable stage presence is a force to be reckoned with. Chicago is their home turf and it would have been a damn shame not to witness them in full-unabashed fervor.
[This piece comes to us from reader Rachel Angres.]
After Rabble Rabble played Psych Fest last year, it was months before anyone heard anything from them. Now, after a brief hibernation, the Chicago four-piece is returning to the stage with a free (with RSVP correction: straight up FREE) show at the Empty Bottle. Rabble Rabble is one of those bands with shameless stage theatrics, whose sound is a mix between The Kinks and Pavement in the '90s, with smoothed out sharp edges of skuzzy guitar riffs and messy yet hooking arrangements.Their live sets are exciting and at times borderline offensive ("Fuck you" is often an opening comment from the band when introducing a song). They have their shtick — performing with a tone that's abrasive and wildly unabashed. This is what they do best and they're sticking to it.
The band got their start three years ago, after they met at a DIY basement show and decided to collaborate. Tonight, Rabble Rabble will return to the live stage at the Empty Bottle, where they plan to play some new songs from their upcoming sophomore album.
Tickets for the 2012 season at the Ravinia Festival go on sale Thursday, April 26. Offering up a near-nightly soundtrack to Chicago summers since 1904, this will be the first year you can use a special Ravinia smartphone app not only for your purchase, but also for connecting with friends while attending a show. If you have never been to a concert at Ravinia (located north of Chicago in Highland Park), there are two seating options: a reserved seat under the pavilion (with views of the stage) or a GA lawn ticket which is generally under $20 for most shows, with no sight of the stage. The benefits of a lawn seat are many, besides the lower price. First, you can picnic (with alcohol) on a blanket under the stars or beneath some of the ancient leafy trees on the site. Secondly, you can corral all of your friends together for an outing where everybody gets to enjoy some cheese, wine, and music in the fine summer weather. The "corralling" however, is the tricky part, especially given Ravinia's lack of distinct landmarks besides "right" "left" and "tree." Typically, there's a lot of people standing up with their cell phones clutched to their ears and waving with the other arm, that is, until the sun sets.
Tonight a grand science experiment will be conducted in The Metro. After the Record Store Day pop-up has packed up astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson will not make an appearance but a swarm of German technocrats will begin assembling an immersive sound and light display. Tonight the whimsical euro-crunk bass masters from Berlin, Modeselektor will cram their festival grade Coachella weathered show full of into The Metro.
Jennifer Hudson, Death Cab for Cutie, Chaka Khan and Dierks Bentley will headline this year's Taste of Chicago concert series July 11-15, the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced today.
Jennifer Hudson will kick off the concert series on Wednesday, July 11. Death Cab for Cutie, who were in town for two shows at the Chicago Theatre this week, perform on Thursday, July 12, as part of the 25th annual WXRT concert at Taste. Opening acts for both shows have yet to be announced, and Friday night is not yet booked.
Chaka Khan headlines the V-103 concert Saturday night, July 14, with Raphael Saadiq opening. And on Sunday, July 15, Dierks Bentley plays an early show, with Lindi Ortega opening.
For the first time ever, seating in the Petrillo Music Shell will be ticketed; a total of 3,000 seats for each performance will go on sale in late May for $25 apiece. Lawn seating will remain free. Ticket buying details will be available on the Taste website.
Like many in this neo-analogue age, Matt Carlson (known both under his given name and as the project Golden Retriever) looks forward by looking backward, reviving the sound and structure of analogue synth music of the '60s and '70s with modern means and equipment. But while so many would-be Vangelises of our time venture as far as texture and atmosphere, Carlson can spin you a mighty melody as well, those majestic, cyclical pentatonic modal improvisations that Tonto's Expanding Head Band or Synergy did so well, that put you, whether you were "enhanced" or not, smack dab into the middle of a Roger Dean/Heavy Metal: The Movie landscape with only a sinister cybernaut nearby to lead you back out. And you KNOW that guy's got designs on the Loc-Nar that the embattled old wizard gave you, so step lightly.
(Keith Whitman at Mimaroglu Music Sales really NAILS it in his description of Carlson's Particle Language LP in his catalog description, both the power of Carlson's vision and the occasional paucity of ideas among his peers, so let's bask in his reflected glory: Carlson "immediately eradicates my growing fears of this current wave of renewed interest in the format yielding nothing more than a few dozen "module hoarders" (i.e. trust-funded "curators" of well-intended systems acquired purely for "archival" purposes [i.e. using the same set of neurons previously necessary for maintaining a thriving ho-scale "train village"] that produce nary a sound)."
This Saturday, Matt Carlson presents a new series of compositions for "analog modular and digital synth, voice, and an array of time-lag effects" as the debut of Lampo's Spring season. The event takes place at 8 p.m. on April 21 at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House, 4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago. Tickets are FREE, and you can RSVP here.
Here is a TV performance of Carlson's composition, Merv from Portland's "Experimental Half-Hour" TV program:
The Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs announced its free summer concert lineup for The Jay Pritzker Pavilion within Millennium Park. This year we get four series: the electronic and new music heavy Loops and Variations, indie rock star studded Downtown Sound, the classical-leaning Grand Park Music Festival, and Made in Chicago: World Class Jazz.
Monday, May 28, 6:30 pm
Kelly Hogan + Scott Lucas and the Married Men
Monday, June 4, 6:30 pm
Jonathan Richman + Joel Paterson and the Modern Sounds
Monday, June 11, 6:30 pm
The Eternals + Wild Belle
Monday, June 18, 6:30 pm
Cloud Cult + Judson Claiborne
Monday, June 25, 6:30 pm
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International + Chico Trujillo
Monday, July 2, 6:30 pm
Joan of Arc + Daniel Knox
Monday, July 9, 6:30 pm
The Sadies + James Vincent McMorrow
Monday, July 16, 6:30 pm
Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires + Abigail Washburn
Monday, July 23, 6:30 pm
Ana Tijoux + Sidi Touré
Monday, July 30, 6:30 p.m.
SMOD + M.A.K.U. Soundsystem
[This review comes to us from reader Jason Duarte.]
New Brunswick, NJ's Screaming Females are not just another three-piece punk band. It would be unfair and inaccurate to pigeonhole their sound as simply punk, garage or indie because it's all too vague. If you threw indie, garage, punk, noise, pop and a dash of darkness into a blender and set it to high, walked out of the kitchen, forgot about the blender, then came back an hour later, you'd come back to a huge mess, blended to perfection. Soak it up, wring it into a glass, introduce some radiation from your microwave and then you have Screaming Females.
Screamales, as the band's fans refer to them, played the Subterranean in Wicker Park Thursday night in support of its new fifth studio full length; the Steve Albini-engineered Ugly, out on Don Giovanni Records. Screaming Females' vocalist/guitarist Marissa Paternoster has a voice that carries the Riot Grrl torch. It isn't "pretty;" actually, it's quite an acquired taste, but once the taste graces the palate, a Screamales song to a fan is the bell to Pavlov's dog.
Anyone who's considered the option of aging gracefully needs to spend an evening in close proximity to Charlie Gabriel, the 79 year-old clarinetist and saxophonist who plays with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and has a penchant for shaking his booty onstage. Gabriel's family has been playing music since the 1850's, and Gabriel himself has played with jazz luminary Lionel Hampton, among others.
Tuesday's lineup of PHJB musicians read like a who's-who of New Orleans Jazz: trumpeter Mark Braud; the aforementioned Charlie Gabriel; trombonist Freddie Lonzo (who's bio omits his birth-date, stating simply that he was "Born in New Orleans, Louisiana;") pianist Rickie Monie; clarinetist and vocalist Clint Maedgen; drummer Joe "Little Joe" Lastie, Jr.; and tuba player Ron Johnson. The group, whose members number at least in the teens, appeared at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston as part of their 50-year celebration tour. They will continue to tour through mid-August, playing in venues from coast to coast, and internationally in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.
I've always had a soft spot for the founding fathers of a genre, the foundation of a type of sound or style. Those acts that are super influential to a community, but are are overlooked for the most part by popular culture. Call it respecting your elders or knowing your roots, but sometimes the best albums can be found when you trace back what writers and musicians cite as their favorite and most influential pieces of work.
One of the acts that influenced much of the underground hip hop world in the 90s was the trio Company Flow. Made up of three rapper/producers (El-P, Mr. Len, and Bigg Jus), the groups debut album, Funcrusher Plus, was a cacophony of heavy beats and jarring samples that somehow blended into an impressive album of work. The lyrics ranged from abstract to social commentary, and with three innovative producers in the mix, the album became a creative touchstone of what was becoming the East Coast sound of that time. The album garnered critical claim (it still has a lot of love online from Pitchfork), but the band had severe problems with their label, and ended up disbanding to go their own way with solo work.
Personally I've followed El-P's solo stuff the most, which includes an impressive body of work ranging from collaborating with Trent Reznor to creating his label Def Jux to the wonderful instrumental and remix work he produces. I had the pleasure of chatting with him when he performed at Pitchfork Festival a few years back, and it was obvious the extreme care and dedication he has with all his work. But I know I'm not the only one excited to see Company Flow together again onstage. Since breaking up they've had a few shows here and there (including a set for Portishead's curated ATP fest), but this is the first show they have ever done in Chicago. There is no guarantee when and if they'll be back, so spend Thursday night educating yourself in hip hop history by celebrating the return of Company Flow.
Company Flow is tomorrow night, Thursday April 12th at the Metro. Tickets are $25 in advance, $28 the day of the show, and you can purchase them here. Doors open at 8pm and show starts at 9pm. There are four openers, so expect a long night of music (not that you'll mind at all).
Greg Kot reports that the Black Sabbath reunion will include original members Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward. The Afghan Whigs and At the Drive-In are also reuniting for the festival (and their own reunion tours).
Meanwhile, the other three headliners, RHCP, the Black Keys and Jack White, are all Lolla veterans (although White previously played with his band the Raconteurs). Bloc Party, Delta Spirit, Miike Snow and the Temper Trap also return for another go.
The show is scheduled for Thursday, April 19. Doors open at 8pm, Show starts at 8:30pm, $10 suggested donation at the door. All proceeds will be donated to Rudy, who is recovering. For more info visit Double Door.
A recent performance by the PHJB on The Late Show With David Letterman.
Legendary New Orleans jazz group the Preservation Hall Jazz Band continues its celebration of 50 years and running with two back-to-back performances tomorrow night at S.P.A.C.E. (1245 Chicago Avenue, Evanston.) Tickets run from $26-$46, shows are at 6:30 and 9:30. They probably won't be this far north again for a long time, so catch them while you can.
Look at the beard on Zs' saxophonist Sam Hillmer. Now look at yourself. Unless you're a graduate of a wizard academy you lack his face plumage. Parishioners of the magical arts like Sam are known for their reality warping rituals. With the sax and electronic drone music of Sam's arcane named project Diamond Terrifier he folds the layers of reality into a cosmic blanket fort and invites us into his world. The gateway into the adjacent dimension opens as Diamond Terrifier and Bachanalia's Flu Riddim Tour stops at Soapbox Music.
There's always something to be said for a band that's hard to pin down, and that certainly applies to Toronto's Fucked Up. It's easiest, of course, to paint them with a broad punk or hardcore brush, and certainly some of the notes are there: bearded, shirtless, yowling frontman, check. Howling, three guitar wall-of-noise, check. Unprintable/mentionable band name seemingly suitable only for Xeroxed flyers, roger. But that hardly scratches the surface. Take a closer look and it becomes clear that Fucked Up is a band that is leading a rich inner life. In 2011 alone, the band managed to release the critically acclaimed David Comes to Life, one of the most successful takes on a concept album in recent memory, as well as releasing David's Town, an ambitious Record Store Day release of surprisingly convincing "hits" from fictional Byrdesdale, UK. The band's live shows are an excellent tightrope walk between the rich, visceral chaos of their punk leanings and frontman Damian Abraham's force of nature stage (or perhaps more appropriately, venue) presence, and the bands clearly well crafted and capably executed songcraft.
[Note: Originally, Fucked Up was supposed to play Lincoln Hall on Sunday, April 8th. From LH: Due to a scheduling conflict the show has now been moved from April 8, 2012 to April 9, 2012. All previous ticket holders will be contacted directly.]
The far western suburbs, that is. On Sunday, July 8, a dream lineup (for me, anyway) of Wilco, Andrew Bird and The Congregation will perform at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, home of the Kane County Cougars, as part of WXRT's 40th anniversary celebration. To top it off, there will be a fireworks display after the show.
Tickets go on sale Saturday, April 7 at 10am via eTix -- or pick them up at either the ballpark or Vic Theater box office to save the service charge. They'll run you $50 apiece and are general admission, so you can pack a blanket and lay out on the ballfield if you'd rather not sit in the stands.
The first time I heard the Icelandic band Of Monsters and Men, it was instant love. They are not a band you have to listen to over and over to "get;" Of Monsters and Men are a solid septet of Icelanders supplying memorable melodies, thoughtful lyrics and general good vibes. Looking over the sold-out, packed-in crowd at Park West on Friday night, I got the sense that Of Monsters and Men has that effect on a wide range of people.
From hoodies to button-ups to flannels, the social genres blended together in the standing room only space at Park West. The band gave enough beat and energy for an occasional fist pump and enough pensive lyrics for a romantic sway or two.
...so why can't we? So asserts Enemy curator Jason Soliday of his two day fest, called simply "A Fest." This two-night festival of experimental and noise music concludes tonight (you're absolutely right, I should have informed you about yesterday's show) at Enemy, 1550 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3rd Floor. Donation suggested, starts promptly at 9 p.m. Lots of acts to get on, so no Rock O'clock for these folks.
Bokeh (Mykel Boyd of Somnimage Recordings fame, along with Mandy Matz on violin) Battleship (marvelous Hafler-ish subaquatic drone and shortwave) Quicksails (Ben Billington of Tiger Hatchery and ex-Druids of Huge) Jason Soliday (Enemy honcho on Sidrassi Organ and hellish mayhem; possibly something completely different) Hex Breaker Quartet (Telecult Powers + Grasshopper match up -- live streaming from NYC!) Bile & Horseman (Dog Lady + Tar Pit collaboration) Startless (Jason Zeh + Vertonen collaboration) Mike Shiflet (astringent electronic chemtrails all the way from Columbus)
After the jump, a bit about what went down last night:
[This review and photos come to us from reader Rachel Angres.]
Following the energetic set by opening band Dry The River, there was a sense of disjointedness as Bowerbirds began. The stage was somber — in mood and lighting. The first few songs were hurried; Beth switched from keys to accordion as if it was a game of "capture the flag." Phil sang in his own timing, as the percussion rushed the songs into an abrupt ending.
Eventually, seemingly after realizing how loyal and forgiving the fans were, all five members of Bowerbirds loosened up and began to sing and play in synchronic bliss. Their faces relaxed and their eyes closed slightly. It felt as if the band had a need to share their emotional tie with each song, a longing to express their life stories through music. The enchanting harmonics of Beth Tacular's voice, soothed the rugged tenor of her counterpart — and real-life love — Phillip Moore was as beguiling as it was symphonic.
Damion Romero treats living spaces like speaker cones, automobiles like drummers, and telegraph wires like direct lines to the music of the cosmos. A true acoustic scientist at heart, Romero creates his physical, high-density drones not from effects pedals or overloaded distortion, but from the intrinsic properties of a room, self-generating feedback loops, and monolithic, featureless boxes of his own invention. I've written about Romero previously, in the lead-up to his 2008 performance at Lampo, and all of that still holds and bears re-reading. That performance made use of Lampo's then-new loft space on Chicago Avenue, receiving the vibrations from the floor of the venue with ultra-sensitive geophones, sending the back into the system, and turning the room into an expansive, throbbing sonic object, a sound that surrounds you and reacts to each body in the room. For his performance this Saturday, the Renaissance Society's Bond Chapel (1025 E. 58th St.) in Hyde Park will be the resonant object in Romero's first four-channel speaker work, entitled Quartet. When asked for more details on the project, Damion said he didn't want to "jinx it" by providing details, further deepening the mystery of what's really in those flat, featureless metal boxes of his.
The performance starts at 8pm this Saturday, March 31. Admission is FREE, and no RSVP is required. First come, first served.
Clyde Petersen of Your Heart Breaks opened for Kimya Dawson at Sunday's show at the Old Town School of Folk Music, introducing his first song with: "This is a song about sneaking out of your parent's house to smoke weed in high school." It was like listening to my kid brother jam out on his guitar... if I had a kid brother, and if he was a musician. Like Dawson, Petersen is from Washington State, and had positive things to say about his visit to Chicago: "I like the bean, I enjoy your bean," he said, and: "I like that there are a lot of animators in your town who are cool ladies."
Petersen's songs ran the emotional spectrum from teenage nostalgia, to finding his way in the world as a transgender person. Dawson joined Petersen in a song dedicated to the memory of a deceased transgender activist; her metallic, animal-print leggings and halo of hair contrasting with Petersen's dressed-down aesthetic.
Petersen ended his set with an amazing piece titled "God Speed John Glen" about the 1961 space race between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. that included recorded feedback loops of his own guitar playing, acting out both parts of a conversation between an astronaut and ground control, and a nod to both Elton John and David Bowie in the lyrics: "I think it's going to be a long long time... ground control to Major Tom."
[This piece comes to us from reader Sarah Brooks.]
Chairlift, an electronic-pop duo combining Caroline Polachek's stunning vocals and musical effects from Patrick Wimberly, are set to play at the Empty Bottle on Friday, March 30. Their catchy, playful sound is inventive and enjoyable, and if you're new to their music, it's likely you're more familiar with them than you may think; Chairlift's first hit single "Bruises" was featured in an iPod commercial back in 2008 (you can refresh your memory below).
Since their breakthrough onto the music scene, Chairlift has released a plethora of their futuristic, innovative tunes. Their music, which utilizes a variety of instruments, synthesizer effects and vocal techniques to create a range of different listening experiences, has one thing in common: it makes you want to stop whatever you're doing in the moment to get up and dance. Their latest album, Something, was released in January, which produced more of their funky beats and infectious rhythms.
Check out the music video for "Amanaemonesia" featured below to gain a feel for their unique sound. The song is not only extremely catchy, but the eccentrically awesome video resembles a cross between a music video from the future and an '80s workout tape.
Chairlift plays The Empty Bottle on Friday, March 30, 2012. Tickets are $13 and the show is 21+. In addition to Chairlift, the show features bands Nite Jewel and Moon Furies and begins at 10pm. The Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave., (773) 276-3600. This show is sold out.
[This review and photos come to us from reader Rachel Angres.]
After an abbreviated performance by DJ Brady, The Big Sleep, a Brooklyn based noise-psych band, opened the show Wednesday night at The Empty Bottle. The crowd trickled in as local group APTEKA played a short but lively set. Within 20 minutes, the entire venue was packed. People shoved each other to get to the front and catch a glimpse of A Place To Bury Strangers members setting up for their performance. "I love their pedals. I want to take them apart and create something even more crazy with them," said an audience member, motioning towards the homemade creations splayed along the stage floor.
A Place To Bury Strangers' lead singer and guitarist, Oliver Ackermann, sang with a calm and buzzing tenor. He dragged the neck and body of his off-white, rusted guitar across the ceiling and dropped it down to the floor. One of Ackermann's signature techniques is to experiment with the instruments while on stage. In one instance, he placed the guitar directly in front of the floor amp, creating aching and abrasive feedback. The bassist, Dion Lunadon, sang eloquently and shredded it on the bass. Lunadon was by far the hit of the evening — with fog and fluorescents flickering, his frame luminous and stoic. His fingers frantically manipulated the strings with fervent perfection.
[This review comes to us from reader Brian Kutanovski.]
The sign outside Subterranean last night read "All Pigs Must Die," which gave a distinct feeling that inside was a punk rock show. Not meant in a purely derogatory sense toward police exactly, lead singer Kevin Baker mentioned in an interview with The New York Times that the band's name regarded "a pig" as "anyone who is irreversibly corrupt." Even with an antagonistically political band name on the bill, the All Pigs Must Die set itself was light-hearted and doused with practical jokes. The much anticipated band had a shoulder-to-shoulder Sub-T crowd chanting along to "God is War," (a track from their latest album of the same name), but the hostile dirges didn't translate into a hostile show attitude. It was more like an old family reunion.
Co-headlining were San Diego-based hardcore rockers, Narrows, promoting their latest album, Painted. With unrelenting fist-pumping speed playing to feedback-filled breakdowns, Narrows set the tone for a show of what would be a crusty chomp of distortion with intervals of noise and cock-rock guitar riffs. "From a venue that looks like it should be a brothel, it sounds more like a basement," said Narrows lead singer Dave Verellen into the microphone during their set. Considering it was the last show of their month-long tour (both bands appeared at SXSW last week), the concert was treated as a somewhat legitimate basement party. During the end of Narrows set, a member of All Pigs Must Die stage dived pantsless onto Verellen and was thrown into the crowd. From then on, the crowd participated in consecutive stage dives and piggy-back rides, all in good fun. These two bands are relatively new popular acts, yet all veterans in the hardcore scene since the '90s (the two bands' members also played in Converge, Botch, and The Hope Conspiracy), ended their sets with hugs and ear-to-ear grins.
The opening band was Pittsburgh youngsters, Code Orange Kids, who also made an appearance at SXSW, stomped the hell out of the stage with their short-shorts and slip-ons while the drummer threw haymakers into his floor tom during a song. Their female guitarist had the deepest growl by any vocalist last night, and their volatile energy was intensely cathartic.
Even after more than two decades of near-consistent world-wide touring, the old-hand members of Narrows and All Pigs Must Die seem to never quit their assault in the American hardcore scene. They certainly proved this point last night in Chicago.
Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records remains an indie powerhouse, and as of late has been burnishing it's well-deserved reputation for finding and releasing music by wonderfully eclectic and diverse acts, so it is no surprise that they recently added New York's Rhyton to the roster with the release of their eponymous first album, which has entirely sold out its limited LP and CD editions.
That's to be expected, as the album is a gem, one of my favorites so far this year, mixing elements of swirling early '90s desert rock with a heavy dose of jazz-inspired Krautrock, resulting in something that sounds a little like a collection of late-night outtakes from an Ege Bamyasi-era Can studio session. The songs wind and meander organically from one passage to the next, creating a rich, psychedelic sonic pastiche. A collaboration between Dave Shuford (No Neck Blues Band, D. Charles Speer), Jimy SeiTang (Psychic Ills), and Spencer Herbst (Messages, Matta Llama), Rhyton's music tends toward long-form improvisational jams, keeping with the group's roots in casual sessions between the members. Though the debut album is now unavailable in it's physical media editions (MP3s can, and should, still be purchased), Chicago has the good fortune to host the band on one of the dates of their brief current tour.
Rhyton plays Tuesday, 3/27 at The Burlington, located at 3425 W. Fullerton Ave. NYC's Turn To Crime and Chicago's Solar Fox open. Tickets are $8 at the door, and doors open at 9pm.
[This review comes to us from writer Rachel Angres.]
A Place To Bury Strangers released their latest album Onwards To The Wall on Dead Oceans in early February. The album was produced, mixed and mastered by the trio, which now after a six year swap includes front man Ollie Ackermann (guitar/vocals), Dion Lunadon (bass guitar) and Jay Space (drums).
Using the "wall of sound" technique and some DIY instrumentation, (they nerd out by building their own amps and various instruments to take on the road with them) APTBS has spent the last couple years preparing for what they love most — being on the road. The band brings a volatility that is more malleable when compared to the typical shoe-gazing method of compression, blending and reverberating slurred and sullen vocals.
Fiona Apple at Lincoln Hall Monday night (photos by Stephanie Griffin)
Fiona Apple probably only needed to show up and stand on the stage with her tank top, long skirt, and combat boots and a sea of adoring fans would have been pretty content. What the packed house at Lincoln Hall was treated to on Monday night, however, was an intimate (though brief) show by the emotional singer. Apple played for just under an hour, but she hit almost every high point from her last three albums, while providing some glimpses into her upcoming new one, The Idler Wheel is wiser than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords will serve you more than Ropes will ever do (Epic - release date TBA).
Armored in her classic mid-'90s outfit (she could have been keeping it in storage since 1996 when Tidal came out) and rocking some seriously enviable arm muscles, Apple wrapped some of her long hair up off her face and half-engaged, half-ignored (half hid from?) the sea of eager fans at her feet. Her openers "Fast As You Can," "On the Bound" and "Paper Bag" wound the crowd up and brought out some professions of love (which the songstress politely acknowledged and demurred). The sing-a-longs continued through "Mistake" and then came to a hushed halt (quite literally) when Apple went into the first of three new songs, "Anything We Want," with a length of copper pipe in her hand as supplemental percussion. Her next song was a very quiet number (more loud "SHHHH"'s from the audience who demanded full attention from their neighbors) titled "Valentine" which has a haunting refrain, "I root for you / I love you," that's still stuck in my head.
It took more than six years for Brooklyn-based pop punkers I Am The Avalanche to release their second album Avalanche United, but the buzz around this band barely seemed to teeter off after all that time. I Am The Avalanche has deep roots in the pop-punk scene--vocalist Vinnie Caruana fronted seminal Drive-Thru Records act The Movielife prior to its breakup and IATA's debut release on the same label in 2005.
Caruana's gang put out their shiny new album in October of last year and after supporting runs with genre gods like Saves The Day and Brand New are hitting up Chicago on one of their first headlining tours since its release.
I Am The Avalanche's self-titled debut was a heart wrenching lament of pretty much...well...everything, full of chugging guitar rhythms, aggressively autobiographical lyrics and booze-induced anthems. Whereas the band's newest release is decidedly more upbeat, melodic and boozy--but in a good way. The record is no less energetic than its predecessor, but this is a whole new brand of energy for this group. That said, Avalanche United isn't all fun. Caruana's anxiety-riddled vocal style creates poignancy in every line regardless of whether he's feeling remorseful, reminiscent, sarcastic or just plain old pissed off.
Hear--and see--for yourself Saturday, March 24, at Subterranean (2011 W. North Ave.). It's an early show so openers Red City Radio and Hostage Calm take the stage at 5:30pm. This also means the show is all ages. Tickets are $12 in advance or buy them at the door for $15.
[This preview comes to us from reader Rachel Angres.]
The harmonies in Bowerbirds' most recent release, The Clearing, on Dead Oceans Records, are magnificently subtle. Vocalist Phil Moore often leads his finely crafted falsetto into a harmony accompanied by his female counterpart, Beth Tacular. The polarity in their vocals is distinct and dichotomous. Little bits and pieces meticulously gather together and build a melodious abode, nuzzling in one's ears.
The Clearing is an album that can remedy even the coldest of hearts — it is a haven of warmth and symphonic solace. Lyrics swarm in as percussion builds on the hinges of a grand piano leading into an intense bellowing of seduction. Hailing from North Carolina, the duo's Southern charm enriches the lyrics, which are simply a series of sonnets to nature. It is an ode to the unknown.
The Clearing moves into the meadowlarks and valleys, as the sun slowly settles. The words reflect the triumphs of braving each season. The Clearing was recorded initially in Beth Tacular and Phil Moore's Wisconsin Cabin, with minimal recording equipment and the incredible outdoors that inspired their lyrics. Rare Book Room Recordings soon picked it up where it was mastered in NYC by Nicolas Vernhes.
Chicago's Grandeurs are a group out to prove the power of whispers. The quietly seductive alt-folk they play is out to prove the power of speaking softly. Grandeurs achingly slow songs hypnotically entrance listeners into their world of dark bars at 4am.
Sometimes it's a little surprising how little press electronic music gets in Chicago, given the city's long and rich history with the genre. That seems to have been changing as of late, and this weekend, you don't have to be in Ibiza to get satisfy that international superstar DJ jones you've been harboring, as The Mid hosts Paul Oakenfold.
Oakenfold has been DJing, remixing and producing since before electronic music was really a blip on the radar, throw in his stewardship of influential label Perfecto Records and you've got a more than convincing argument that he was central in fostering it into the mainstream. These days, the kids are going nuts for Skrillex, but for those of us old enough to remember the good-old days, but still young enough to stay up late listening to trance DJs, this weekend promises to be enjoyable.
[This preview comes to us from reader Sarah Brooks.]
Dastardly, Americana/folk/country hybrid band hailing from Chicago, has a sound that is bold and enjoyable. Described as "experimental enough to feel fresh but traditional enough to feel familiar even to first timers" and frequently appearing on lists of bands to watch in 2012, Dastardly is quickly permeating the music scene. They released their second album, Bury Me in the Country, on January 31, which showcases their eclectic country sound and was recorded in a studio with just a handle of whiskey to keep them company. With a combination of their unique sound and their candidly fun atmosphere, Dastardly shows are easily some of the most enjoyable around.
Dastardly shows are unpredictable, lively, and anything but boring. Back in October, Dastardly staged their first variety show at the Hideout, which included comedy sketches interspersed amongst their music set. Due to its success, they're doing it again folks, and you won't want to miss it this time around.
Below, enjoy the music video for "Fever," a song off of Bury Me in the Country, which showcases their unique sound and style.
Dastardly's "Megachurch" variety show is at the Hideout on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. In addition to Dastardly, the show features several Chicago comedians. Tickets are $10 in advance or at the door and the show is 21+. Doors open at 8:30pm and the music starts at 9pm. The Hideout is located at 1354 W. Wabansia Ave., (773) 227-4433.
Astronautalis is coming through town on tour, which is a solid show alone, since the Minneapolis based rapper doses out thoughtful lyrics over a blend of electronic infused hip hop beats. His delivery is smooth, and ladies, he's pretty easy on the eyes as well. But I'm more excited about the artist he picked to head out on the road with; Busdriver. If you catch the show Sunday night at Schubas, I implore you to get there early to catch his opening set.
Busdriver has been making music since an early age, releasing his first album when he was 13. His music has grown into a funky chopped up hybrid of everything from classical piano samples to thick and heavy wall shaking bass beats. And his lyrics flow from intellectual touchstones to pop culture shout outs to over-the-top sexualized wordplay. All of this is delivered with perfect (possibly over the top) pronunciation, while at breakneck speed. His latest album, Beaus$Eros, shows a more melodic side, but live you'll still get to witness the frenzied style of his work. Even in the underground and experimental world of hip hop, he still stands out as someone clearly focused on pushing his own work out of a comfort zone and manipulating what many perceive as hip hop.
Busdriver opens for Astronautalis, Sunday March 11th at Schubas. The show starts at 8:00pm, is 18+ and tickets are $14. You can purchase them here.
Just in time to usher in days of sunshine and warmer weather, local trio Unicycle Loves You conjures a collection of tracks worthy of a season of beer-soaked house parties. Their third and latest album, Failure, finds the group (singer/guitarist Jim Carroll, singer/bassist Nicole Vitale, and drummer J.T. Baker) furthering their already-established sound: dreamy boy/girl vocals buried under a blanket of jangly guitar and loopy keyboard flourishes, typically with a earworm-catchy '90s feel reminiscent of everything from Guided by Voices and Dinosaur Jr. to My Bloody Valentine. (Even their video for "Piranha" smacks of a 120 Minutes vibe.)
Whereas their second album, 2010's Mirror, Mirror, was decidedly more relaxed, tapping a space pop-meets-Belle and Sebastian vibe, new songs like the opener "Garbage Dump" and "Wow Wave Cinema" are revved up and angular. The first half of Failure focuses on the party-party, while the second half winds down into something a bit more calm bordering on dawdling. But with a track like the breathy, make-out sleepy "Brand New Pillow," it turns out that the lull is just fine.
[This review comes to us from reader Sarah Brooks.]
An avid fan for years, I bought my ticket to see Punch Brothers months ago, though they're not just loved by me, but clearly Chicago, too. I make this statement based on the sold out crowd that packed Park West Thursday night, eager to see the Brothers perform. Having recently released their third studio album, Who's Feeling Young Now? in February, Punch Brothers have gained steady momentum since the release of their debut album, Punch, in 2008. It's easy to see why — Chris Thile, lead vocalist and talented instrumentalist, has been a notable figure within the music world for years, from his time in inventive country-bluegrass-folk hybrid outfit Nickel Creek, to numerous solo releases, and even an instrumental collaborative side project with Yo-Yo Ma titled The Goat Rodeo Sessions. With five different instruments comprising the group and a stellar lineup of talent, it's not surprising that the Punch Brothers attracted such a crowd.
Punch Brothers at Park West (photos by Sarah Brooks)
Tickets go on sale on the band's website March 8, or via Ticketmaster or the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre box office on March 10 at 10am. Prices range from $33.50 to $63.50 -- or $51.85 to $84 once you add in Ticketmaster fees.
I always knew that "Mystery Science Theater 3000" couldn't be the only effective and entertaining way of recycling those awful 1960s-era sci-fi horror b-movies. Enter Chicago-based Terrible Spaceship's new show "Zontar, the Thing from Venus." Orchestrated by the band's dancey, electronic grooves, "Zontar" puts the bands in front of a video montage created by campy clips and animations from oldschool sci-fi flicks including the 1966 not-so-classic film with the same title.
Terrible Spaceship brings "Zontar" to Martys (3855 N. Lincoln Ave.) this Friday, March 9. This is also the first time that Chicago fans can hear the band's recently added brass section. Tickets to the show are $8 and it's 21+. The openers--Bambi Raptor, RON., and Longtital--start playing at 9pm.
You can stream Terrible Spaceship's debut album "Invaders 1938"--an homage to Orson Welles' famed "War of the Worlds broadcast--here.
Romantic and doomed, brainy but really strung out fans of acoustic-based, stonesy prog music with deep-buried dark poetry accompaniment take note Dan Bejar and his sunny band of ambient-prog-disco-yacht rock Destroyer is returning to Chicago. The upcoming show on Sunday June 24 at The Metro will mark Destroyer's third trip to Chicago within 12 months including a set at last summers Pitchfork Fest. Tickets for the show go on sale Satuday March 3 at noon.
Chicago non-profit art collective Lampo opened up free RSVPs for a performance by Kranky recording artist and synth wizard Keith Fullerton Whitman on March 10th at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House. He will be performing the U.S. premier of "Rhythms Naturels" followed by a live modular synth improvisation. Keith performed multiple sets of modular synth dungeons and guitar dragons as part of the 2010 Neon Marshmallow Festival.
Alex White and her younger brother, Francis, are known for their relentless touring as the local garage-punk duo White Mystery. It's not unusual for them to play several shows a week at venues all over the city. They bid an energetic farewell to their hometown Sunday night with an impressive show at The Empty Bottle to kick off an extensive tour of the U.S. and Canada, during which Alex said they would play in "every city in America" for a total of more than 70 shows.
Local psychedelic trio Dark Fog opened the show, entertaining the growing crowd with lengthy instrumental jams filled with spacey, warbling guitars and funky bass lines. They were followed by Boston dance-punk band Earthquake Party, who were on their first tour and played Chicago for the first time. Despite some technical difficulties with a faulty microphone, their keyboard-driven melodies, dual vocals and driving punk-rock riffs made for a good show.
White Mystery opened their set with their self-titled anthem. Brother and sister joined together in the chant of "We Are White Mystery" amid Alex's bluesy guitar riffs and Francis' steady, methodical drumming. They followed that up with "Powerglove" and "Blood & Venom," the songs flowing together into one continuous jam bridged by extended drum or guitar solos.
Supreme Cuts are a duo of electronic producers from Chicago making cavernous sensual jams peppered with amorphous soul samples they describe as Future RnB. Tonight Slack Kevorkian and Mike Perry will be performing a set of powerful make-out scented ambience at the Smart Bar. Supreme Cuts will tease out unheard tracks from their debut album Whispers In The Dark (forthcoming on Dovecote).
If the number of sell out club dates on their current American tour is any indicator, North London's Bombay Bicycle Club are finding their legs on this side of the pond. Last year's release of their third album, A Different Kind of Fix, which benefited from the production touch of Ben H. Allen, who has recently worked with notables like Animal Collective and Washed Out, showed the band moving in a different direction from its previous, mostly acoustic release, Flaws. Bombay Bicycle Club's music isn't particularly groundbreaking, it certainly bears the hallmarks of a fairly standard strain of British guitar-based indie, but the new album successfully showcases the band's strengths in frontman Jack Steadman's appealing vocals, and well-crafted, catchy tunes.
Of equal interest is opening act The Darcys, a Toronto-based act on indie uber-label Arts & Crafts. Of recent note, the band had the audacity to cover, in its entirety, Steely Dan's 1977 masterwork Aja. Steely Dan, of course, is legendary for their studio neuroses, and fortunately, The Darcys did not attempt to slavishly recreate Aja's emotionally cool, measured perfection. Rather, the band deconstructed the album and built from the ground up, working with the fundamentals and ending up with a sort of contemporary yacht-rock (think fellow Canadians Destroyer) inspired take. Is it as good as the original? Nah, but the album manages more hits than misses, and certainly merits points for ambition.
Celebrating their second annual Winter Soulstice party, the Metro is opening up its doors for some super soulful sounds from Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires. Bradley's songs of heartache, love, and righteous grooving are sure to melt even the iciest of icy cold hearts (and maybe even those frozen toes, too).
Bradley sings about love — having it, losing it, having it again and taking a warm bath in it. He belts out tunes like "Lovin' You, Baby" or "I Believe In Your Love" with such ferocity you think he's going to tear out his hair and fall over with a broken heart right there. He's got a James Brown-like work ethic — without anyone holding a cape over his shoulders (as awesome as that was for the Godfather of Soul, it's a dramatic element that Bradley's songs don't need to punch up their emotion.) His 2011 album on Dunham Records (an imprint of soul-loving Daptone), No Time For Dreaming (with the Menahan Street Band), is a powerhouse of reeling and rocking tunes perfect for either holding that loved one close to you, or tending to your broken heart. Somehow Bradley is able to twine together the yin and yang of his subjects so well that you can relish it like a good meal. So why not pull up a chair and dine with him?
Enjoy a bit of Charles Bradley performing "Lovin' You, Baby" at last year's SXSW Music Festival.
To someone like me, whose taste in electronic music developed at a time when wafting ambient acts like The Orb drew a lot of water, and even the "heavy" dance stuff wasn't much more than speedy disco with more low-end bump, a fair share of the modern electronic music being produced sounds something like R2D2 being shoved down a metal staircase. I'm solidly on board, however, with the lineup at the Congress Theater this Friday, which brings together Lotus, Conspirator, and Emancipator, three acts which manage to carve their own space in the spectrum of electronic sounds, while keeping a firm grip on the fundamentals.
Lotus is a band with its feet firmly in two different worlds. On one hand, they are a traditional rock group, with traditional instrumentation, and have long been stalwarts of the jam band and festival scene, appealing to the patchouli-scented masses with comparatively long-form songs and an obvious virtuosity. At the same time, the band has from its late-90s inception been at the vanguard of incorporating available electronic gadgets and gizmos to shape their sound into something like a live techno production, there on the stage, sans-studio. While their latest album, self-titled Lotus, gives a good taste of what the band is all about, they truly shine in a live setting, where their improvisational genius can come through.
Chicago bluegrass outfit Sexfist are unlikely to be accused of taking themselves too seriously, but there are a couple of reasons that you should pay attention to them. First, the band itself is extremely serious about their music, and second, they are one of the more entertainingly self-promoting bands in the city. Fans can fill in their Sexfist Club Cards at shows (a clever nod to the Subway Club of yore) and posters featuring their distinctive homunculus logo are staples on Chicago's post boards. This spring, fans of their Facebook page can vie for a chance to win dinner with the band, VIP treatment, and a merch package for their St. Patrick's Day show at Rogers Park's Mayne Stage theater. Beginning today, fans can check in on Facebook and play the "Would you rather. . ." game to win deluxe treatment by answering questions between now and March 9.
So maybe it's not the most traditionally romantic Valentine's Day lineup at Schubas, but if you and your sweetie can agree on a Cate Le Bon show with support by Talkdemonic, then you probably have picked the right significant other in terms of musical leanings.
Le Bon first gained attention touring with fellow Welshman Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, and has since gone on to release a Welsh language EP and an intriguing debut album, Me Oh My that was influenced, in her words, by "early experiences with a string of pet deaths." Lyrically dark, the music has an edgy folk-rock feel, mixing light, drifting melodies and Le Bon's lilting voice with more aggressive passages.
Portland's Talkdemonic began as the solo project of multi-instrumentalist Kevin O'Connor, and has reached full flower with the addition of viola player Lisa Molinaro to the band's touring incarnation. The band's latest release, Ruins is on a label run by fellow Portlander Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse fame), and benefits from his work behind the boards, lending music that could lapse into the twee a welcome dose of angular heft. While the band is often lumped into the "post-rock" camp, elements of electronica and artsy hip-hop create a solid foundation that channels the work of Steve Reich as much as any particular rock influence.
Cate Le Bon, Talkdemonic and Bone and Bell play at Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, this Tuesday, February 14 at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $10, $12 at the door and are available at Schubas.com.
Though Chicago's own Smith Westerns barely played for an hour on a stage adorned with Happy Faces, they left an immediate impression on the audience and did what great bands can truly do, which is leave their fans wanting more instead of getting tired of the songs. In fact, as the set progressed to the end, the night culminated in complete audience wild abandon and the band did well to feed on this adoration and become even stronger on stage, lead singer Cullen Omori especially. The band perhaps made a breakthrough when they achieved an opener touring spot for Arctic Monkeys but, let's face it, Arctic Monkeys aren't half the band these Chicago lads are.
The musical career of trombonist/composer/professor George Lewis looks very different depending on where you put your finger on the timeline. In the middle 1970s, he came onto the scene as a teenager in Anthony Braxton's first classic quartet, taking up the brass mantle from Kenny Wheeler. Wheeler's smoky, moody tone was a nice foil for Braxton's multi-directional compositional style of the time, but it also sounded sometimes like he had trouble with the fast charts. Not so Lewis, whose trombone lines dart and pivot, hummingbird-like, in the air around Braxton, speeding the group's development immeasurably. A few years later, Lewis' Homage to Charles Parker LP includes other unexpected elements, like Richard Teitelbaum's Moog synths and Lewis' own electronic processing on his trombone. Lewis' compositions at the time, like Braxton's, came from a personal, genre-less place, born just as much of jazz and improv as classical composition and experimental music forms. He was also one of the earliest jazz musicians to work regularly with computer-assisted composition and music forms.
It wouldn't be too much of an overstatement to say that British space-rock powerhouse Spiritualized owned the genre during it's heyday in the 1990s. 1992's Lazer Guided Melodies signaled that band leader Jason Pierce was going to continue to effectively mine the psychedelic vein of his former band, Spacemen 3. Spiritualized reached their critical peak with 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space, an album that dropped at a time when both Britpop and their particular brand of drone rock were big both here and abroad.
Spiritualized has made a few short touring forays over the last few years, but this outing has all the characteristics of a proper world tour. Chicago gets a not-to-be-missed club date at the Metro on May 3. Tickets go on sale this Saturday, February 4 at noon.
Say what you will about the Grateful Dead but few if any bands in the history of rock have engendered their level of fanatical devotion. Need proof? Look no further than the fact that Dead cover band extraordinaire Dark Star Orchestra has the truck to play two shows in Chicago in the next week, this despite the fact that kids born after legendary lead-man Jerry Garcia died are in high school and working on getting their driver's licenses.
Dark Star Orchestra, or simply DSO to those in the know, have made their bones by shadowing the fountainhead band through a slavish, completest knowledge of the original band's catalog, and shows which attempt to recreate particular historic shows song by song. Don't be fooled into thinking that they are strictly a nostalgia band, however. Any given DSO show looks remarkably similar to any late '80s or early '90s Dead show, with a mix of aging baby boomers and their teenage children who missed the circus the first time around. The band is comprised of virtuoso musicians who share with their fan base a wide-eyed love of the source material, and play to the level of that devotion.
Somewhere between the time this reviewer saw Los Campesinos! at Lollapalooza play a side stage in the middle of the afternoon in 2007 and last night, the band seemed to have gain a much rougher crowd. Though their songs haven't gotten all that rougher, their pop songs with an edge now inspire moshing and crowd surfing, which seemed just as jarring as it was unlikely for fans who just wanted to hear the songs.
Pink Floyd's Roger Waters has already confirmed a June 8 show at Wrigley Field playing the band's classic album The Wall, but let the rumor mill churn on. This official looking Live Nation tour itinerary floating around on Facebook puts jam rock juggernauts Phish in the venue for a July 4th and 5th double header. Before you resign yourself to having your hippie friends on your couch, remember there is absolutely no confirmation from anywhere at this point, but the team is away those dates.
Composer Marcos Balter heard something in the paintings of Cy Twombly. When asked by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) founder and flautist Claire Chase to compose a work based on any piece in the Art Institute's modern wing, he immediately selected Twombly's Return from Parnassus as his choice in his head, but kept mum, not wanting to sway Chase in her selection until they had both seen everything. When he and Chase approached the Twombly, she immediately gasped. "That's it!" Great minds....
It may be cold and dark and (occasionally) snowy, but there's nothing chilly about the warm sounds coming from Greensky Bluegrass. The band hits the stage at the Park West this Friday night, co-headlining with the ever-animated Chicago band Strange Arrangement. Greensky's latest album, Handguns, was released just this past fall (with an additional limited vinyl edition just made available recently). Check out five songs off Handguns below.
Last year's performances at Bonnaroo and Bumbershoot gained Greensky Bluegrass some more crunchy followers to their newgrass sound, and as a veteran of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, the band also brings in bluegrass devotees as well. Greensky's lineup includes guitar and banjo, but also dobro, mandolin, and upright bass (and occasional horns, even). The band is, at first glance, a quintet that could just as likely play a college quad as a mid-size major market venue like the Park West. A recent resurgence of olde timey music like that mastered by the Carolina Chocolate Drops or the Black Twig Pickers sets up newgrass pluckers like Greensky with a window of opportunity to get airplay somewhere other than college radio Sunday morning shifts. Even the multi-instrumentalist approach by bands like the Decemberists, Arcade Fire, or Fanfarlo speak to how Greensky's sound has room to stretch its legs these days, and gain audiences that can really fill a room. So if you're a fan of harmonies, exuberance, and sheer indie band touring fortitude, my best advice is to strap on your mittens and make your way to the Park West Friday night for what's sure to be a sweet warm-up.
Music starts Friday at 8pm. 18+ Tickets are $15 (plus fees) and are available online or at the door. Greensky Bluegrass will also be joined by Strange Arrangement and opener Chicago Farmer. The Park West is located at 322 W. Armitage Ave. (773) 929-1322.
On Thursday night Active Child and Tycho played at Lincoln Hall as part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. Both acts performed sets of hazy electronic music that fit the growing winter wonderland outside.
Active Child quickly filled the air with a characteristically exceptional set of modern chamber pop. Singer Pat Grossi's celestial voice soared over the accompanying classically tinged sun warped electronic pop. For an hour Lincoln Hall fell into natures hidden web and was transported to an elaborate Elven courtship ritual. Active Child performed almost the entirety of their recently re-released debut album You Are All I See to a receptive crowd.
The title alone for Grouplove's only full length studio release thus far, Never Trust a Happy Song might lead people to think that the Los Angeles 5 piece was a dismal and depressed bunch. This couldn't be farther from the truth, however. The band has the kind of energy that makes it seem like they are having some great fun on stage and, of course, they also are adept at convincing their audience that making music and performing it is incredibly easy for them. While the construction of a perfect catchy song that can be exuberant and, at the same time, quite meaningful to an audience doesn't come too effortless for many, this five piece may just be one of the lucky talented groups that can pull it off.
Begin Transmission: The rapper with the most intertwined synapses, Kool Keith aka Dr. Octagon aka Dr. Dooom aka Dr. Ultra aka Dr. Sperm aka Lonnie Hendrix aka Black Elvis aka Elvin Presley aka Black Linen aka Underwear Pissy aka Mr Nogatco aka Mr. Gerbik The Half Alligator Shark Half Man aka Mr. Green aka Mr. Orange aka Orange Man aka Light-Blue Cop aka Kid in the Commercial aka MC Baldylocks aka Tashan Dorrsett aka Blonde Man aka Clean Man aka Shark Man aka Elephant Man aka Alien Man aka The Forth Horseman aka Poppa Large aka Willie Biggs aka Big Willie Smith aka Willie Natural aka Jimmy Steele aka Fly Ricky The Wine Taster aka Keith Matthew Thornton, will bring his lyrical circus to Reggies on Jan 22nd. The greatest MC alive will be in town to support of his upcoming album Love and Danger.
Greetings travelers. If you're reading this you are interested in tonight's voyage into the higher planes starting with a live music performance by Tycho and Active Child as part of the 2012 program of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival. The guide currently being displayed on your digital device is a checklist to follow for maximum enjoyment of the evening. Together we will look behind the curtain as our minds peel back the layers of holographic perception.
Tune into The Hood Internet's Turntable.fm room tonight at 5pm for an hour of the DJ duo spinning live. If you missed their sold-out New Year's Eve show at Lincoln Hall, here's a little (live, but dubbed) video:
Nick Lowe and Mavis Staples joined Wilco for a rendition of The Band's classic "The Weight" as the finale at Wilco's date at the Civic Opera House back in December. Here's footage of them all rehearsing it backstage before the show.
NYE concerts rocked Chicago into 2012, but what happens now that the mixture of confetti, champagne and vomit is swept away? Next week, Tomorrow Never Knows 2012 will roll into Chicago, giving music lovers a reason to quit hibernating and rock out at some of the best venues across the city. From Wednesday, January 11, 2012 through Sunday, January 15th, TNK will be bring five nights of wintery music fun to this frozen city. TNK will be jammin' at Schubas,Lincoln Hall,Metro, the Hideout and Smart Bar . Tickets have already gone on sale for most of the shows. Check venue sites or the Reader's Website for complete listings and tickets sales.
Genre is a funny thing. It can work for or against your band. A simple label like "country" can influence listeners' opinions before they've even heard a single song. So when a band manages to elude a definitive genre--like Midwest Hype continues to do on their newest EP--the result can be awfully appealing.
Dayglow, the upcoming 6-song release from this Chicago-based seven-piece, pits reggae flows against slick rap verses and jazzy sax breakdowns. The moral of this musical story? Don't be surprised to hear unexpected sounds on this new disc. And don't be surprised if they sound unexpectedly fitting.
Celebrate the release with the band this Thursday, Jan. 5 at Schubas (3159 N. Southport). The show starts at 9pm with fellow locals Otis as the opening act. Tickets are $15 and include a copy of Dayglow so you can take the jams home with you after the show. Warning, this show is 18+, kiddos.
It seemed once again impossible glancing at the Cabaret Metro stage that there could really only be tree band members on stage during The Joy Formidable's set. The Welsh trio play as strongly as a 12 piece could with as much vigor as any punk band even though their songs are more closer to the "pop/rock" genre. Make no mistake on this: every song they played sounded as catchy and strong as a single but it's not so often you hear a song so intensely engaging in composition played on the mainstream waves.
Need something to fill up those calendar dates between Christmas and New Years? Or just need a boozy break from your family and their holiday traditions? The Mid has you covered this December with a free post-Christmas party packed with DJ sets by MPC whiz Araabmuzik and Chicago DJ duo Flosstradamaus. On Dec. 28 both artists will be jumping behind the decks for the hottest party before New Years and, again, you can enjoy it all....for free.
Flossy have been a staple on Chicago's party scene for nearly half a decade and are your best bet for dancing off all those Christmas cookies you'll have been gobbling all week.
Araabmuzik might not have the hometown advantage, but his shows are as legendary as his production collaborations (Do names like Ludacris, Gucci Man and Young Geezy ring a bell?).
All you have to do to make sure you don't miss out is RSVP on The Mid's website. Want to really splurge? Express entry is available for $11.99 per person. The show kicks off at 10pm on Dec. 28 and is 21+.
Finding a show to go to on New Years Eve isn't hard, but deciding exactly which show, out of dozens of offerings, might be more of a task. To help you out, we've compiled a list of entertainment options for those who want to rock, mosh, noodle, polka, or just stand in the corner and bob your head. No matter what you want to spend, there's an event going on in Chicago (and nearby) that can suit your taste and your budget. However, we'll leave the task of finding someone to kiss at midnight up to you.
Those in attendance on Tuesday night at Karkwa's show gazed in awe as the five piece Canadian band, who has a vast and sprawling sound, gave a performance that was nothing short of astounding. The Montréal group is used to playing much larger venues in their own country and France especially but played as if they, in fact, were in one of these places. Their sound filled every nook and cranny of Schubas Tavern for their hour-long set, even treating fans to a surprise encore when we all cried out for more.
Tickets don't just get you into the performance. You also get a digital copy of Break It Yourself and two live EPs, the five song Fake Conversations recorded on Bird's 2010 tour and one recorded on the 2012 tour. The fan presale sold out in a flash; tickets go on sale to the public at 10am Saturday, Dec. 10 via TicketMaster.
Jane Birkin has lived her life as not only the muse to one of the most famous French singers in history, but as an actress, humanitarian, singer, mother, and all around amazing woman. From her days as a staple in the European pop scene of the 60s, her beauty and charm captured the man who would create a body of work that would influence a multitude of artist from Beck to Portishead to Pulp. With the anniversary of one of the pinacles of Serge Gainsbourg's work, Histoire de Melody Nelson, Birkin has started to tour with a full backing band to bring to life the songs from this iconic album. If you are a Francophile, this is the closest you'll get to seeing Gainsbourg's music live in the most true form.
And for one lucky Gapers Block reader, we have a pair of tickets to give away so you can enjoy the show as well. Just email us at email@example.com by 4pm today, Friday December 2nd, with the subject line "Je t'aime" and you and friend could be enjoying the show for free Monday night [Update: We have a winner! Congrats to Tracy!] We're more than certain that the show will be très bien.
Just some of the members of Tinariwen (photo by Marie Planeille)
Let's face it, you don't have a lot of bands like Tinariwen on your iPod. Hailing from Mali, where the group first got together in the early 1970s, the blues-influenced tribal music is like none other. They gained some attention in Chicago thanks to electric performances around town [Read previous Transmission coverage of Tinariwen.] , and their latest album Tassili offers up grooving, trance-like gems that are sure to gain them even more listeners. Joined on many tracks by guests like guitarist Nels Cline (of Wilco fame), members of TV On The Radio, and the horns of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, there's a lot to love about Tassili.
Songs range from sad tales of longing for home to girl trouble to just tunes about having the blues. You can check out lyrics (which have been kindly translated into English) and see just how much you have to relate to in Tinariwen's songbook.
The band is a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, donning their flowing robes while still emitting an approachable spirit to their shows, whether they take place in the desert or on stage in Wrigleyville. For two lucky readers, we're happy to have two pairs of tickets to give away, courtesy of the Metro. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Wednesday, Nov. 23 with the subject line "Tassili" and you and a friend will be all set to see the show for free. [Update! We have our winners. Congrats to Scott and James!]
Tinariwen plays the Metro on Friday, November 25, 2011. Sophie Hunger opens. Tickets are $26 (adv), $29 (day of show). 18+. Doors open at 8pm, music starts at 9pm. The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark St. 773-549-4140
From Dec. 6 through Dec. 31, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will exhibit Sonic Arboretum, a collaborative music installation by Andrew Bird and sculptor/luthier Ian Schneller. The physical aspect of the work is a "sound garden" of 72 of Schneller's audio horn speakers scattered around the MCA's second floor atrium. The horns, which are hand made from dryer lint, newsprint, and shellac, vary in size from three to over nine feet tall. Bird will record new site-specific compositions at the museum; musical information will be sent to different groups of horns, allowing visitors to hear varied soundscapes as they move through the installation.
The musical aspect comes fully into play on Dec. 21 and 22, when Bird will perform live, surrounded by the audience, all immersed in the installation. Sonic Arboretum debuted for a one-night only concert at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2010. According to the MCA press release, the Chicago presentation is much larger in scope and duration.
Tickets to the live performances are sold out, but you could get in line for the waitlist if you're particularly intrepid.
When does a trumpet not sound like a trumpet, but rather, like a...
Self-built organic synthesizer
That creepy cybernetic mule video that was being passed around the internet
Plenty of non-idiomatic free improv trumpet players can make claims to a sonic palette that wide, but Kelley's is the only sonic toolbox I've heard that actually grows and matures every year. With little to no electronic processing, Kelley's horn can go from near imperceptible puffs of air to ferocious metallic alarms -- one of Kelley's best extended techniques is placing a thin sheet of metal gently against the bell of the horn, creating a chest-rattling industrial roar.
There is a certain perfect energy when you see a band on the steady rise in popularity. They attack each set with a fierce and primal sense of urgency and passion, as their life and success is finally being recognized on a larger scale. Couple in the fact that the band is known for conjuring up nostalgia with their sound, and you've got a dance floor full of adults that are probably dreaming of a not so far off youth. M83 dosed out their version of a perfect past Thursday night to two sold out audiences at Lincoln Hall.
Dan Polak has been a fixture of the Chicago punk scene for years. You can count on seeing him at every show smiling and singing along. He's known on the other side of the performance divide for his work in hardcore bands Left Hand Path and Like Rats/Undo Tomorrow. Over the years the Chicago hardcore scene has rallied around Dan as a pillar of positivity. Unfortunately Dan's been having a really bad 2011.
On Saturday at 8 p.m., Lampo's second (of three) concerts in its Fall series. This time, the nonprofit arts group, in association with the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Place, Chicago), present aural and textual disorientation from a genuine member of the (invented) aristocracy, one Leif Elggren, king of Elgaland-Vargaland.
Elggren, 61, is Swedish by descent, but it's not his only home. With Carl Michael von Hausswolff, he founded Elgaland-Vargaland, a country consisting of all the areas on the map (geographic, aquatic, digital, mental, and theoretical) not belonging to any other country. From no man's land areas to waterways not patrolled by neighboring countries, Elgaland-Vargaland is peopled by artists and thinkers the world over, each with their own royal title (December's Lampo performer, trumpet improvisor Greg Kelley, is Elgaland-Vargaland's "Minister of Fanfares," for example), and each with their own duty and municipality. Elggren's mind thinks this way -- areas left unclaimed by others, be they piles of dirt on the ground or unclaimed territories in the mind -- will be swept up and repurposed into exquisite aural/visual cartography, alternate histories and untested paradigms.
Elggren's last Lampo performance was in 2007 with Kevin Drumm, a piece entitled "If Other People Exist Then They Are Totally Sealed Secrets (The Voice as an Irregular Sound Generator)," a work for spoken word, electronics, motors and vibrating tin can crowns. This Saturday's performance is simply noted to be "for voice and live electronics." Fans of "lecture"-era Hafler Trio, or people who do chores while listening to Cage's Diary: How To Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) in the background, take note. And call me; we clearly need to hang out.
Chicago band B1G T1ME might be passed off as a "cover band," but that sells them a might short. This group is truly Chicago's Tom Waits outlet — providing a near-perfect rendering in style, performance, and delivery. As a Waits tour is a rarity lately, B1G T1ME is the closest (literally) many of us can get to the hot asphalt throated singer. They're playing just three more shows in the city in 2011, then they're taking a year off "to catch up on physical fitness and billiards." If you're a Waits fan, and just can't wait for Tom to decide if he's touring off his new album, Bad As Me (see our previous post on his new song, "Chicago"), then you'll want to get out and see B1G T1ME for your dose of growl, smoke, and bang.
Here are the remaining 2011 show dates for B1G T1ME before their year-long break:
Thursday, Nov. 17 at Morseland, 1218 W. Morse Ave., Chicago. Show starts at 9:30pm, two sets, no cover.
Make no mistake about it: Merrill Garbus a force to be reckoned with.
At the Tune-yards concert on Wednesday, Nov. 9, (the first of two sold-out shows at Lincoln Hall), the audience fairly vibrated while waiting for the band to appear. Snippets of conversation could be heard from all direction, fans describing to friends Garbus' mad-scientist methodology. In the restroom, two girls applied colorful face paint to each other's cheeks in emulation of the Tune-yards founder and front woman.
Chicago has been all a-swoon over the band ever since Tune-yard's raucous performance at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. Appearances on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" and other shows have only boosted their visibility. Not bad for a gal whose first album, Bird-Brains, was self-taped with only a handheld voice recorder.
Chicago wizards and warlocks are your demon claws ready for a southern metal Sunday slaughter? Fresh from their appearance on a patricide rich episode of CBS' premier snuff detective program Criminal Minds high level black magic users Black Tusk and swamp druids Thou are playing at the Ultra Lounge in Wicker Park on Sunday night. Locals The Swan King and Monstroso open. If you're worried about your muggle boss finding out about your late night magical metal adventures Thou is playing a matinee show on Chicago's metal lay line intersection, The Albion House. Dope smoking goat worshippers Bongripper and razor taunt d-beat barbarians Hate open.
Empty bars lit by hanging bulbs, the beer you drink alone, and the absolute stillness of night are the visuals of A.A. Bondy's languid folk music. Each song unfolds at an unconcerned pace as Auguste Arthur Bondy's sparse voice fills the valleys between the notes. He builds dreamlike worlds where everything halts into a still frame of reflection. Tonight A.A. Bondy and his backing band of Ben Taylor and Macey Taylor will transform Lincoln Hall into a lodge deep in the Appalachians with a night of slow whiskey drenched rambling man folk.
This week she brings the Tune-yards mad-scientist magic to Lincoln Hall (2424 North Lincoln Ave) for two sold-out shows on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., and Thursday, Nov. 10 at 9 p.m. Pat Jordache opens both shows. Yeah, they're sold out, but I'd imagine the resourceful may still be able to find a ticket.
Rock styles certainly seem to have a certain cyclical wax and wane, and it seems that psychedelia is currently on something of an upswing. While there are some great acts feeding the current tide of freak-out rockers, few seem to have gained as much traction, both popular and critical, as Bay Area quartet Wooden Shjips. Fine purveyors of droney space rock since their formation in 2006, the group has reached a new level of exposure with the release of their third album West released on Chicago's own Thrill Jockey label. With mastering by Sonic Boom of Spaceman 3, stand outs in the droney psychedelic rock of the late '80s and '90s, the album is a fuzzy, but focused sonic excursion. The album features a few more straight ahead rockers, which makes it more accessible than some of the bands earlier work, but doesn't muster enough sheen to disappoint garage rock fans who've followed the band to this point.
It was a blustery night starting out a long Halloween weekend, but there was no pretending for neo-soul outfit JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound as they celebrated their newest album release for Want More (Bloodshot). The band started with playing hits off the album to a nearly sold-out crowd at the Double Door Friday night and rocked the socks off of all of those present. Occasionally adding on a pair of energetic, tambourine tapping sirens in the form of two backup singers, Brooks commanded the stage with a striking white jacket and red scarf, replete with gold chain. With a mohawked 'do and a smile that can only be eclipsed by his happy smile up on stage, Brooks and the band seemed to be having just a little bit of a party in front of a few hundred friends and well-wishers.
Waters had recently mentioned to Rolling Stone magazine that he was working on an outdoor version of The Wall to tour in 2012 and had even conducted several light tests in ballparks around the country, including Wrigley Field.
Tickets will eventually be available online. Prices for tickets at similar venues on this tour range from $55-$200 plus fees.
If lineups were made on performance alone, Gauntlet Hair would have headlined the show at the Empty Bottle Thursday night. The Denver-via-Chicago quartet play projectile jams of billowing reverb somehow wrangled into neat, tight hooks.
Their 7" on Forest Family records last year, I Was Thinking..., is as good of an explosive pop jam as you're likely to hear, though they came to the Bottle in support of their recently released self-titled debut LP. The record illustrates the difficulty of pulling off this massive sound—for every dynamite hook there's another seemingly lifeless moment that gets tripped up by its own gratuitous reverb. At some points, they may as well be playing chillwave.
But what gets lost on record gets found on the stage, and their show finds the lively presence in each song by turning the whole thing up very, very loud. Each of their selections benefitted greatly from expanded volume, and really it was only set closer "I Was Thinking..." that seemed to drag underneath a weak guitar mix.
While the most identifiable parts of Gauntlet Hair's sound are the glistening guitars and yodeling vocals, the most important part might be the drums. The bedrock rhythms help ground the spacious treble, and do a better job of it the louder they are. That's the story with everything in Gauntlet Hair's set—proficiency through volume—and to nobody's surprise, it yielded more than a couple broken guitar strings.
Formed in North Carolina a scant six years ago, the now Baltimore-based Future Islands have become critical darlings on the strength of several solid releases on local label Thrill Jockey. On their latest LP, On the Water, the band continues the development of their signature "post-wave" sound, channeling bits and pieces of the best of '80s synthpop without succumbing to the overindulgence that plagued many of the genre's first-wave acts. Richly textured soundscapes develop slowly over loping Peter Hook-esque basslines, while frontman Samuel T. Herring's vocals swing from plaintive to almost menacingly growly. There are plenty of identifiable influences, but the songs are shimmering and immediate. Lyrically, On The Water deals with love and loss, somehow managing to sound deeply personal to Herring while remaining universal enough to be applicable to anyone's tale of heartache. Herring is a riveting stage presence, and their act keeps getting better, no doubt due to their tireless touring over the past few years.
It's all been many years coming for Chicago group JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. With national acts like The Dap Kings and Black Joe Lewis creating a real market for classic soul with a Millennial twist, the time is certainly right for Brooks and his talented company of musicians to make a big splash with their latest album Want More. Officially out today on Bloodshot Records, Want More is a hip-shaking romp through classic soul covers, homages, and original tunes that keep you, yes, very much, wanting more.
These guys have done a lot over the last few years. Besides garnering thousands of downloads from local fans for their peppy version of Wilco's "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart" (a cover that could have bit them in the ass something fierce if they'd failed to win over Wilco's Jeff Tweedy), the group gained attention from a national audience hungry for Wilco tunes. A broader crowd of listeners could now certainly see the influence of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke on the group's sound, which only gained them street cred as a band who certainly wasn't using this popular cover song as a one off.
Amon Tobin has a great name for a noir detective. In some alternate reality he's a superstar gumshoe who finds lost kids and protects New Orleans' eccentric family secrets. In our reality he's a sleuth of sound. Since his premier under the name Cujo in 1995 he's been known for possessing an uncanny sense of finding the best parts of forgotten records. Amon Tobin has become a post-modernist sound hero. He reclaims discarded pieces of sonic art and revitalizes them. In the past Amon has relied on a traditional DJ approach to present his music. For the ISAM show tonight at the Congress Theater, an army of mixed media artists have been brought into the fold to create an interactive museum-grade installation on par with the bombast of Daft Punk's rave pyramid or Deadmau5's ecstasy Rubik's cube.
A hush settled over Lincoln Hall as the assembled mass of neo-gothic Blade Runner enthusiasts counted backwards through Zola Jesus' intro instrumental. Singer Nika Danilova strode out draped in a white photo-reflective shawl flashback recalling of Jarodowski's Holy Mountain psychedelia come horror dystopia. The audience was held rapt by the singer stare as her cheeked reddened and a smile spread across her face. "Thank you, Chicago" the elven singer whispered before the pressure dropped and her mile wide voice rode across Chicago's north side as she opened up "Hikikomori" the first song of the night.
Zola Jesus laid heavily on the white light urban futurism of the recently released Conatus. The new songs expanded and shone brighter live. Nika's backing band continues to prove itself that last summers Pitchfork Festival performance was not a fluke. Her backing band consisting of producer/keyboardist Alex DeGroot, drummer Nick Johnson, and keyboardists Nick Turco and Shane Verwey bring the sonic tide in to mach Nika's expansive voice. The band projected foam tipped waves of sound to break upon an audience. Gone was the awkward muddy Zola Jesus of last year, replacing them was a collection of reborn star children projecting charisma.
Lampo, Chicago's nonprofit experimental art series, presents its Fall season beginning this Saturday, October 22. This series of three concerts, held at the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago), are free (with RSVP) and open to the public. This season's series of three concerts, though not as thematically tied as previous seasons, all features solo artists who are equally well known through their collaboration in larger projects.
Slowly but surely, I think Dee Dee is finally figuring out that nobody really cares about the Dum Dum Girls all that much. The black-haired songwriter whose real name is Kristen Gundred has gently eased her band's way into our collective consciousness with a slew of 7"s and EPs over the last three years, acting as a reluctant pioneer for the surge in lady-fronted bands that create glimmering '60s ballads with a hefty dose of elbow grease over the same time span. But while bands like Vivian Girls, Best Coast, and Puro Instinct are all losing favor for their own reasons, everything for the Dum Dum Girls has come to a head now. The quartet sold out the Empty Bottle Friday night, and their new LP, Only In Dreams, has cast away most of the complaints anyone might have had about the complexity of their performance.
Dum Dum Girls' back catalog is an impressive collection of quick, loose hooks and shy, charming vocals; but Only In Dreams is a mostly slow-burning affair between Dee Dee's powerful vocals and instrumentation that seems to shy away from its intimidating presence. Like, where the hell did that come from?
There are some things in life that are worth the wait. Yes, I wish I would have seen Portishead before now and yes I wish they put out albums more frequently, but if that was the case, would I love and respect their work as much as I do? Clearly their craft is a labor of love, each album carefully worked on until they see perfection in their vision, and the same can be said for their live show. Production wise it was near perfect, from the lighting to the quality of the sound (amazing since the Aragon is usually plagued with horrible acoustics) to the spot on perfection of each musician's part all set to a background of a perfect mix of visuals.
It's all too easy to fall into the habit of comparing bands to other bands in order to describe their genre or sound. Even the most articulate critics usually reduce a new act to the sum of their influences or peers. Now entering their third decade as a band, Primus is one of the rare groups that defies a ready comparison with anyone, or for that matter, anything else.
A unique product of Bay Area synergy, it's clear that Primus was the product of a broad palette. Claypool's slappy, tappy bass style adds funk elements which weave with Larry LaLonde's technical guitar playing, which runs the gamut from jam-band noodling to heavy metal crunch, often within the same song. This tour features the return of early Primus drummer Jay Lane, who after a brief stint with the band in the late 1980s, enjoyed a diverse career beating the skins for bands such as Bob Wier's Rat Dog and an early incarnation of recent Grateful Dead alumni super-group Further. Primus continues to inhabit an interesting space as a band with a huge appeal across a broad spectrum.
[This preview comes to us from writer Jason P. Olexa.]
Tomorrow night, Lincoln Hall will be filled to maximum volume by the haunting, swirling, operatic vocals of Zola Jesus in her first Chicago performance since Pitchfork Festival. On that sweltering day last summer Zola Jesus, a blonde former Wisconsin now Los Angeles resident born Nika Roza Danilova, emerged with her pixie frame encased in a metallic dress that visually provoked memories of elaborate French ballet costuming to H.R. Giger's Alien designs. Reflecting the sunlight cast around her Zola Jesus transformed from the musky suffocating rural gothic of her earlier performances and into a sharper synthesized emotional bombast of solid white emotional triumph.
Zola Jesus' latest album Conatus (released Sept. 26th on Sacred Bones) continues this cycle of solar rebirth. Nika's soaring vocals depart from the cold isolationist forest of her previous work and into urban environment. But, this is still Zola Jesus and the picture she paints of urban living is one of giant LEDs, underground dance music played by chamber musicians, and harsh utilitarian concrete monolith architecture with all corners bathed in artificial illumination. This city constructed of her mind has no place to hide and every emotion from the most embarrassing defeat to rocking triumph is exposed to the harsh light of Zola Jesus' judgment. The classical aria come ambient house thump of "In Your Nature" serves as a bed for Nika's influence of French naturalistic writer Emile Zola. References to Emile's scientific opposition of free will are brought into the airy chorus about learning to let go. Like Zola Jesus, Emile Zola was a conflicted human being. He was a cold scientist and an optimistic humanist at the same time. "Seekir" reflects this dogged optimism. Atop its agit pop beat is a brave young songwriter devoted to putting past transgressions behind her and liberating herself from herself. The continually evolving Zola Jesus pushes past the din of her past and into a bright new world of Conatus where she's no longer hiding.
It wasn't too much of a surprise that five piece New Zealand band The Naked and the Famous sold out the Cabaret Metro last night. Considering their Lollapalooza performance proved boisterous enough for their pop songs to make an impression on the crowd, it seemed only natural that Chicagoans would remember how much fun they had and return to the Kiwi band's next performance. As the eager crowd waited with anticipation for the band to emerge, a single green balloon rolled about the stage, giving a foreshadowing clue for the party that was about to begin.
Like most hip-hop crews, Minneapolis' Doomtree family is tighter than tight. They perform on each other's records, they're each other's biggest fans, and I imagine they'd back up one another in an alley fight. Dessa may be the lone female on Doomtree's label, but by no means is she the token. The rapper and singer has plenty of cred, and judging by last year's group tour, she may even have the biggest following.
The lady's touring in support of her new album, Castor, the Twin, in which she reimagines and rearranges some of her past material with a live backing trio. At her show on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln Ave) Dessa will open for for Hindi Zahra. The show begins at 8 p.m.; tickets are $12 presale, $15 at the door.
[This review comes to us from Jason P. Olexa. He can be found on Twitter at @TacoHugsPHD.]
"We are a fucking triumphant band" is the house creed of Chicago post-everything guitar army Pelican. They occupy the borderlands between the foggy mountainous kingdom of post-rock and the Viking strewn hills of the tribal metal warlords. Pelican has launched daring goat riding barbarian raids into both neighboring territories and grown into a thundering bombast of metal sinking into the psychedelic haze of post-rock.
Sunday was Wire Magazine's yearly Adventures in Modern music at the Empty Bottle. Headliners Pelican took the stage for their first hometown show in more than a year. In the time since we've last seen them guitar wizard Trevor de Brauw has retreated into the mists with his power ambient ensemble Chord, fellow guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec has been crafting the bar at Big Star into a beer spewing monster, and the brothers Herweg have relocated to LA.
Astronautalis is on a roll, and boy, is he riding it. The Minneapolis-based MC/vocalist's performance on Saturday at Schubas brought a packed room, much to his own amazement. He repeated his thanks throughout the night, clearly astounded. "I expected maybe 50 people to show up tonight, to be honest," he said at one point. "And we had more than 100 tickets sold in presale. You guys are incredible."
[This review comes to us from writer Dave O'Connor.]
Waves battered the seawall along Lake Shore Drive in the lead up to Friday night's Joan of Arc show, sending sprays of liquid fireworks ten feet in the air and higher, mother nature's sharpest proclamation yet that indeed summer is over. Meanwhile, an equally emotional riptide and another ending of sorts rolled through the Hideout Friday night.
"I believe in this calendar year, this is our 113th show as a band," said Joan of Arc lead singer, Tim Kinsella no earlier than midnight, three quarters of the way through their headlining set. He followed this observation with a more ominous update one song later: "this will be our last show for a really long time."
Friday's rich and steady hour-plus set could have easily been dubbed "accidental retrospective" as Kinsella pulled out dusty, decades old staples and newer jams alike; among them "Anyone Can Have a Good Time," from Owls, which drew one of the evening's many instantaneous and gutteral applauses.
Throughout the show, Kinsella's signature tumbling guitar scales popped with conviction and whispered an admiring reference to his former outfit with brother Mike Kinsella, American Football, but way more ferocious. The drum lines snapped relentlessly from start to finish, with noteworthy praise on a few complicated time changes nailed down with poise. Victor Villarreal's throbbing rhythmic backup guitar, which at times could have easily been mistaken for an electric organ, soared playfully around Kinsella's more vocal guitar angles. Combined, this sometimes sweet, always schizophrenic force ripped forth from the stage in near perfect unison.
The Hideout's tiny, no frills back room transformed into someone's parent's basement Friday night. Joan of Arc found a perfectly intimate setting for Kinsella to bring longtime loyalists together for what sounded the unit's last hurrah, at least for the foreseeable future. One can only hope it will be just another momentary pause in Joan of Arc's marathon lifespan.
It may not have been the actual Talking Heads on stage last night but it was hard to tell the difference. This Must Be the Band burned down the house (so to speak) Friday night with their recreation of the live concert film (and album) Stop Making Sense at the Vic. The recreation was so on point it was hard to tell the difference between the film and concert. As he mentioned after the show, it was obvious Charlie Otto watched the movie everyday for a month.
The crowd was full of Talking Heads fans young and old, toddlers to grandmothers (yes, I saw a grandmother and a toddler at the show). No matter how old they were, everyone enjoyed themselves dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. Just like the film, the show began slowly with "David Byrne" (aka Charlie Otto) singing "Psycho Killer" with his acoustic guitar and a boombox. The rest of the band was slowly brought in through the remainder of the show and soon the entire house was rocking to "This Must Be The Place."
Once the band finished their recreation of the film they came right back on stage to continue playing until they were "kicked out" of the Vic. Ad-libbing the entire rest of the show by taking requests from the audience couldn't have made a better ending to the night. It was clear the real Talking Heads fans appreciated This Must Be The Band's dedication to bringing to life a band everyone enjoys.
Beirut at the Congress Theater (photos by Andy Keil)
Ah, how time flies. No more the 17-year-old Sante Fe-based wunderkind piecing together an album in his bedroom, Beirut frontman Zach Condon has grown into his own, and nowhere was this more apparent than at their show at the Congress Theater on Monday night. Where before Condon was a bit gawky and awkward onstage, he is now a self-assured, 25-year-old trumpet-playing crooner who knows how to keep an audience captivated.
Last month, Heineken brought TV on the Radio to a billboard in Manhattan as the first installment of their "Occasionally Perfect" concert series, and last night Chicago got a pop up show of our own. Thanks to some cryptic tweets on Heineken's Twitter account and a bit of investigative work done by A.V. Club, Twitter was abuzz with the news that Canadian indie rock heavy hitters Broken Social Scene would be playing a surprise set in a parking lot across the street from Wrigley Field, at Addison and Sheffield.
Convinced there would be overwhelming crowds, I showed up half an hour early, only to find about 200 people milling about the huge lot. Within ten minutes, that number doubled, and by the time the band started the crowd had amassed at least 500 people. Occasionally perfect it was, as it had stopped raining shortly before the show started and was somehow warm enough to be outside in short sleeves. The band came on promptly at 8 pm, and played seven songs in approximately 40 minutes, including "Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl", "Cause = Time", "7/4 (Shoreline)", before topping it off with "Ibi Dreams Of Pavement", wherein the band made the crowd scream at the top of our lungs, last gasps of summer into the night.
As the first half of the 20th century drew to a close, it was looking like the big innovation defining the century would be Arnold Schoenberg's concept of Serialism. The mathematically precise 12-tone compositional approach turned classical music into something like composing by mathematical algorithm, something better analyzed like architecture than felt. But as the post-war years progressed, it became clear that other, more exciting forces were gathering momentum.
The 1950s, contrary to pop culture's depiction of it as a sterile, Leave It To Beaver-styled cultural wasteland, supported a thriving community of radical thinkers and artists, working in relative obscurity and pushing further outward despite the general disdain of the post-war public toward anything avant-garde. For a time, art was progressing faster than critics could dissect and compartmentalize it: as Morton Feldman put it, "there was a period [in the early '50s], maybe six weeks at most, where nobody understood art." Jazz musicians showed that compositions could be melodically and harmonically rich, yet also spontaneous. The Abstract Expressionists pushed themselves into difficult artistic corners, reducing and refining their emotional and aesthetic urges into movements and gestures, personal rhythms and "happy accidents" that moved even beyond abstract movements like Cubism. And, during the intermission of a concert featuring the music of Anton Webern, two complete strangers met for the first time...
Take parts hip-hop MC, gravelly Waitsian vocals, and a heaping spoonful of literary, historical, and musical influences, and you've baked yourself a tasty little Astronautalis pie. The Minneapolis-based indie rapper and singer's latest album, This Is Our Science, recently opened at number three on the CMJ Hip-Hop Charts and number nine on the iTunes Hip-Hop Charts (check out his video for "Contrails," featuring Tegan Quin (of Tegan and Sarah). Or check out some crowd-shot video of him performing the song in Texas back in May.
Catch Astronautalis live on Saturday, Oct. 1 at Schubas (3159 N. Southport). Opening is locals Ant'lrd and Sharkula. The show starts at 10pm, tickets are a whole $12, and you can get yours online or at the door.
My thoughts on the success of the Hideout Block Party this past weekend depends on when you asked me. If it was while I was enjoying food truck fare, sitting in the sunshine, while a lazy crowd milled about during Booker T.'s killer set, then I would have given a resounding two thumbs up. If you asked after the food and beer ran out, when the lines to go anywhere (inside the Hideout, inside a toilet) stretched far and wide, and I was freezing as the temperatures dipped, then I might have growled. Weather aside, I was surprised at the lack of organization, but given the fact the actual party has been on hiatus a few years (The Mad Decent Crew and Bloodshot Records took over for a bit), I'll chalk it up to being a bit rusty and hope that next year they don't run out of beer or food.
I never expected the 1972 song "A Horse With No Name" to get stuck in my head after Friday night's They Might Be Giants show at the Vic, but when I woke up Saturday morning there it was — it's unimaginative two-chord self fixed into my eardrums. Midway through the show John Flansburgh and John Linnell invited the entire Onion AV Club onstage, acoustic guitars in hand, for the purpose of playing a song that has only two chords in it. "Join in, don't act like you don't know the words," Linnell called into the mic, prompting the sold-out audience to sing along to what is possibly the most boring song ever written, and transforming it into a wryly humorous piece that only TMBG could pull off.
The show was full of such playful moments — the audience dance contest, for example, with one lucky fan winning a vinyl copy of TMBG's latest album, "Join Us", and three other not-so-lucky fans that came away with booby prizes like a copy of a Rick Springfield LP. At one point the band went backstage, appearing on a giant screen in the form of sock puppets reporting "live from London", in order to appease their newest sponsor, "Epic Fail Bologna Sandwiches." And in a moment of playful hilarity, they broke into the chorus of the 1997 Chumbawamba earworm "Tubthumping," with lively audience participation.
Start your week off right, with a pair of tickets to tonight's show at The Empty Bottle and an autographed poster from The Low Anthem. The Rhode Island indie folk act have been on tour for the past three years since the release of their third studio album Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. They released Smart Flesh this past February, a mix of hauntingly beautiful love songs and rousing Americana folk with always present perfect harmonies. The band is getting ready to take a break from touring for a bit, so this is your last chance to see them live for a bit if you've been putting it off. Also make sure to head out early and catch opening act Sleepy Sun for a woozy dose of swirling psychedelic folk pop.
Write to email@example.com with "Oh My God, Charlie Darwin" in the subject line for a chance to win! The winner will get two tickets to their show at The Empty Bottle tonight, along with a lovely signed poster from the band. Update! We have a winner! Congrats to Christopher!
The Low Anthem and Sleepy Sun play tonight, Monday September 26th, at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave. The show starts at 9:30pm and tickets are just $12.
[This review comes to us from writer Kyle Sparks.]
It's an awkward time to see Japandroids. It's been two years since the two-piece garage-rock group from Vancouver, British Columbia, dropped their debut LP, Post-Nothing, and we've heard nothing but a trio of 7" records last year to remind us that they even exist. Their forthcoming record is all but done, but nobody's heard any part of it. So the entire atmosphere behind their show at Schubas Friday night was a collective state of bated breath for what comes next.
That's a pretty complicated question for Japandroids, because it would seem that immaturity is a cornerstone of their success. Post-Nothing was a brilliant concoction of pop songs teeming with youthful vigor, and perhaps the best way of describing Japandroids to the uninitiated is "boyish." Brian King and David Prowse are like two energetic puppies, incapable of sitting still long enough not to play extra-rowdy renditions of their inspired rock 'n' roll gems. For roughly an hour, the duo ran through the majority of their catalog like there was nothing else in the entire world that mattered near as much. There's hardly a person at a Japandroids show who enjoys their set more than they do, though there were those who came close. The onslaught made a lot of middle-aged concertgoers get rowdy like they were kids again, and made this 22-year-old think twice about his plans to go straight home after the show.
I happened to run into Bottle Rockets drummer Mark Ortmann in the lobby of the Old Town School of Folk Music as they waited to go on for an encore with Marshall Crenshaw at the earlier of their two shows Friday night. Exchanging a pleasantry, I complimented him on the show, and he smiled and thanked me, commenting that "This tour is so much fun." I was glad to hear it, but I don't think I needed the confirmation, as the performances of both The Bottle Rockets and Marshall Crenshaw were consistent with good artists having a good time plying their trade.
Temporarily reduced to a three-piece as guitarist John Horton attended to a newborn at home, the remaining Bottle Rockets, guitarist and vocalist Brian Henneman, drummer Ortmann and bass player Kieth Voegele opened the show with an acoustic set that included many of their classics such as "1000 Dollar Car" and "Kit Kat Clock". The acoustic versions hew closer to the songs' origins, and brought into sharp relief the quality of the band's songwriting, exploring various aspects of Joe Six-Pack existence. Even with stripped down instrumentation and a shorthanded band, songs packed emotional depth while managing to remain light, often weaving dark themes with levity as in "Lucky Break", about spending time on workman's comp.
Finishing their set and coming back in rock band mode, The Bottle Rockets returned to support Marshall Crenshaw as he led the attentive audience through a retrospective of his thirty year career. Crenshaw dipped into his vast repertoire, playing a variety of songs from all stages of his career, as well as some choice covers including Richard Thompson's "Valerie", and Buddy Holly's "Cryin', Waitin', Hopin'" and "Rave On". Wielding a disconcertingly shiny candy-apple red Strat, Crenshaw played songs written with writing partners stretching from his teen years to more contemporary collaborations with artists such as Dan Bern.
In fact, if there was anything wrong with the show, it was somewhat mirrored in the pristine finish of Crenshaw's guitar. Under the plain white lighting of the Old Town's stage, and in front of an attentive but subdued audience, the performance occasionally felt a little too sterile, at times seeming more like a workshop on what a show should look like than a living, breathing show. Though the room itself seemed a little flat at times, it's ultimately hard to argue with the success of the night's lineup. A stage full of tested musicians having a good time is never a bad thing.
With the last day of the North Coast Music Festival came the sigh of disappointment heard round the city; it was the end of summer music festival season. But while our sweat-filled days of grooving and boozing along side of thousands of like-minded music junkies have come to an exhausted and satisfying end, there is still plenty of music to love left for fall.
Fortunately for Chicagoans, when temperatures dip the Chicago music scene just moves indoors to the lovely hearths of Lincoln Hall, the Empty Bottle and the Riv (just to name a few favorites). Think of it not as an end to your music-saturated summer days spent flirting with five or more bands a day, but rather the opportunity to settle down with that one special band in intimate quarters...at least for one night.
Check out who the Transmission staff will be cozying up with over the next few months.
For most of their career, St. Louis' Bottle Rockets have languished as something of an alt-country wallflower. While their formation in 1992 certainly qualifies them as one of the genre's seminal groups, their bio at times reads a little a hard-luck depression era novel, filled with near misses close calls. It's fortunate for us, then, that a band that has rightfully flirted with fame and just not quite gotten there to date is still around for us to enjoy.
Often criminally overshadowed by contemporaries Uncle Tupelo, the Bottle Rockets' earnest folk rock style remains an exemplar of the genre. More or less, they inhabit the live space like the Platonic Form of what a bar band should be. Recently, the band has rolled back the chicken wire cage and retreated a bit from its honky-tonk roots with an acoustic album Not So Loud - An Acoustic Evening with the Bottle Rockets on Chicago's Bloodshot label. The album showcases the group's tight songwriting, which draws comparisons to Woody Guthrie, and stands up to the work of any working folk songsters of the modern age.
The Bottle Rockets are opening the show at the Old Town School of Folk Music for singer, songwriter, DJ, and general musical yeoman Marshall Crenshaw. Crenshaw has penned songs for a bevy of other artists, and know inhabits an interesting space as a DJ for New York station WFUV, drawing from his personal record collection.
[This review comes to us from writer Davis Inman.]
Freelance Whales at the Empty Bottle (photo courtesy Eventbrite)
On Saturday night, Chicago was part of a simultaneous five-city, five-concert series put on by the San Francisco-based event ticketing start-up, Eventbrite. While The Hold Steady rocked The Beekman Beer Garden in New York and Wavves played L.A.'s The Troubadour, the indie-pop quintet Freelance Whales took the stage at Chicago's Empty Bottle.
The New York-based Whales drew a respectable crowd, and what the fans lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm, singing and dancing along with the band's multiharmonied baroque pop gems. The band opened with the song "Generator First Floor," a catchy ode to a haunted house, which also scored a spot in Twitter's quirky site redesign video. The group displayed plenty of musical dexterity with a stage full of instruments — guitar, banjo, synth, glockenspiel, harmonium, mandolin — which members seemed to trade between each song. Frontman Judah Dadone came out on banjo, but throughout the evening also played acoustic and electric guitars, bass, and a small synth at the front of the stage. The band's "bassist" Doris Cellar sometimes did double-duty (mid-song!) on harmonium, which Dadone joked was on its last leg after tipping over during one particularly raucous jam-out.
The free show was also a benefit for local charity Rock For Kids, which provides music education programs for underserved kids in the Chicagoland area. The band, who are not currently touring and had driven all the way from New York to play the show, were clearly excited by the opportunity to support a good cause, encouraging audience members to donate. Eventbrite's Vanessa Hope Schneider says the five concerts were a huge success. "A hundred percent of the money we collected will be going straight to the charities," she said.
[This review comes to us from writer Jason P. Olexa. He can be found on Twitter at @TacoHugsPHD.]
"Dixie" Dave Collins strode onto the stage of Reggie's Rock Club in Chicago's south side with his bass slung low. He braced his legs into a perfect sea captain's stance and directed his steely glare across the mass assembled to see his band, Weedeater, perform. After taking a long draw from his tall-boy of Old Style, Dixie smiled, revealing a mouth of gold, and lead his band of warriors into "Hammer Handle," the first crushing reverie from Weedeater's newest album Jason... The Dragon (Southern Lord, 2011). Drummer "Keko" Keith Kirkum and Dixie annexed large swaths of sonic low end in their quest to find the perfect rollicking laid back beer-in-a-paper-bag rock groove. Dave "Shep" Shepherd's guitar amp spit purple fog as the words of Dr. Stephen Strange from Marvel Team-Up, Volume One, Issue 21 flashed across his mind "There are few things in the infinite cosmos that are far beyond my power to command". Shep conjured a psychedelic metal riff from the ether that slithered its way onto the audience's amygdalae. Dixie lolled his head back, feeling the groove roll over him and hunched over the mic ready to deliver. The spirit of Bon Scott was called back to this level of existence through Dixie's whiskey soaked vocal chords. The gathered Chicago metal warlocks raised their hands in elaborate eldritch claws and rasped the lyrics into the rapidly shrinking space between the audience and the performers. The assembled spell casters with precognitive abilities knew this was the beginning of another masterful display of muscular southern metal from Weedeater. In the dim corners of the rock club one began to imagine a gathering of spirit animals taking shape and tapping a keg for one hell of a cosmic party.
[The following preview comes to us from writer Davis Inman.]
Laura Marling, the young British singer-songwriter who came up alongside the London folk ranks with Mumford & Sons and Johnny Flynn, will play Lincoln Hall on Thursday.
Marling's new album A Creature I Don't Know puts her more firmly in the spotlight, having gained steam off last year's I Speak Because I Can, as well as a nice Jack White-helmed cover of Neil Young's "The Needle and the Damage Done" for Third Man Record's blue series.
[This review comes to us from writer Jason P. Olexa. He can be followed on Twitter @TacohugsPHD.]
Bass rumbles and spits from my breathing regulator as I was deep under the sea in some gear that makes me look relevant to a goth's steampunk fantasies. Trying hard to focus on the reason I'm in this Batman wet dream get-up to find the long hidden entrance to Atlantis. My attention kept drifting to the species of aquatic life striped in colors humanity didn't even know existed. A deep-sea dub beat explodes and I find myself straddled on a Pegasus lifting me high out of the ocean, climbing effortlessly through the air. We're talking post skyscraper high, post supaman high, post rainbow high. As my vision adjusts to the brilliant light I make out St. Peter, Pimp C, and the metaphysical spirit of the Jodeci album Mad Band given human form in a candy colored hot tub. A clean-cut young man on a harp is dropping these R. Kelly romance jams straight out his vocal cords. I'm taking it in. I'm smiling. I'm in heaven and even if that Pegasus takes me back down to earth I have a new goal. This whole heaven deal seems all right with me and I'd like to spend more time.
The Pegasus taps the dulcet toned harpist on the shoulder and informs him of an earthly engagement. As a man who can't stop moving, partially due to the bends induced by my rapid accent into the metaphysical cosmos, I key in on the cut of The Pegasus' jib and hitch a ride back down to earth. I find myself in a candlelit neo-Gothic tavern named Schubas as my partner in travels hoists his harp onto the stage. Two fellow members of his sonic clergy on bass and drums join him; he introduces himself as Pat Grossi and his band is Active Child. Led by a rumbling bass tone, they launch into their fist song and I'm back at that heavenly poolside party.
Marissa Nadler, a singer-songwriter from Boston, draws on the haunted minor key dirges of Gillian Welch with some of the atmosphere of Kate Bush. But with long black hair, a white dress, and black stockings, singing songs about loss and death, she could also be the ghost of Joan Baez, ca. 1963.
Nadler pulled mostly from songs from her new self-titled, self-released album. Whereas album versions feature weeping steel lines and occasional synths, on stage it was Nadler, alone. It's hard to be entertaining in a quiet room these days, but it helps to have a great voice or great songs, and Nadler has both.
The Baltic-influenced craze that hit the indie world a few years ago has died to a slow simmer, but that waning has separated the true troubadours from those who just wanted a reason to grow fancy mustaches. Beirut counts among the former. After appearing at Lollapalooza 2011, Beirut will be back in town on Monday, September 26, at the Congress Theater, touring to promote their third full-length album, The Rip Tide.
Opening the show is Stereolab singer Laetitia Sadier. The show begins at 7pm. Tickets are $30 presale. Get yours online or at the door. The Congress Theater is located at 2135 N. Milwaukee Ave.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed with your typical street festival, look no further for something truly original and enchanting. The Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements held in Chicago's Eckhart Park seems like it will provide just about everything to concert goers and thrill seekers alike. The weekend festival boasts a delightful and eclectic lineup musically as well as rides, games, circus acts, a farmer's market and the Renegade Craft Fair (which on its own typically draws a large amount of traffic). The Brilliant Corners website states, "Some might say that Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements hopes to reinvent the traditions of Vaudeville for a 21st century audience..." and considering what it's offering, this sounds quite accurate. Plus, if you're still on the fence, the festival has partnered with local non profits including Girls Rock Chicago to make this truly a feel good experience in all ways.
Head over to Panchos - 2200 n. California Ave - tonight for The Treasure Fleet (includes members of Smoking Popes, The Arrivals, Sass Dragons and The Lawrence Arms). The Treasure Fleet play with Canadian Rifle, Witches and Holopaw.
Doors open at 8 pm, is 18+ and is $8.
You can buy tickets and get more info of this show here.
[This preview comes to us from writer Kyle Sparks.]
Hunx, aka Seth Bogart, is not afraid to let it all hang out. With his Punx by his side, the flamboyant frontman writes catchy, Ramones-esque melodies about cute parties and cuter boys, shouting all of his most intimate romantic yearnings for all to hear. But it's just as likely that most readers will recognize his face (or something else...) from his nude cameo in the "hardcore" version of Girls' "Lust For Life" video in 2009 (link NSFW, obviously).
Photo courtesy Hunx & His Punx
But it's important not to think of Hunx & His Punx as simply a gimmick of homoerotic fantasy housed in the musical talent of others. The group's first outing, last year's Gay Singles, is an eclectic collection of singles and EPs that introduced an ethos better fleshed out on this year's To Young To Be In Love. The contradiction is apparent, because nearly every song is about falling in love. But Bogart's point has more to do with the other half of it--the falling out. Because no matter how many boys woo him, he never comes away from a relationship without some nagging regret. Love is only exciting so long as it is regenerating.
Likewise, the boy-girl vocal interplay between Hunx & His Punx supplies their lively tunes with a dynamic backdrop. While they tear through the same styles of San Fran punk rock like Nobunny, Hunx & His Punx deliver four-chord pop songs like they owe it to themselves. They add elements of doo-wop and '50s candy shop pop. At their best, they sound like a great group of friends who can't get over how great life would be if it weren't for all these other people. Everyone can be reduced into two categories: fun and miserable. For the former, Wednesday's show at the Double Door will be a great time. Those of the latter need not apply.
Hunx & His Punx headline the Double Door this Wednesday, September 14. Natural Child opens. Doors open at 9pm, and the show is 21+. The cover is free with an RSVP. The Double Door is located at 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago label Bloodshot Records is getting out and having themselves a bit of a party Friday night, and you're very much invited. Two years ago, they went all out for the 15 year mark with their own Hideout Block Party and earlier this year, they released a live CD from the day of rock called No One Got Hurt: Bloodshot's 15th Anniversary — a true enough title, for sure (currently on sale at the Bloodshot site).
This weekend is still a big party, even if they're not putting up a tent about it. With prime Bloodshot acts the Waco Brothers, The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Danny Black and Nora O'Connor, and Deadstring Brothers (solo) on the bill, it'll be a night packed with super alt-country and rock favorites. Better yet, there's beer from Goose Island and food specials, including yum yums from Dangerously Delicious Pies. Tickets are $10 and music starts at 7pm. The Hideout is located at 1354 W. Wabansia. 773-227-4433.
A mere eight weeks after Lollapalooza, Perry Farrell will be in Chicago again, this time to launch Jane's Addiction's latest album, The Great Escape Artist, with a pair of shows at the Metro Sept. 24 and 25. The band will do similar two-night stands in New York and Los Angeles after Chicago. They're playing at IHeartRadio in Las Vegas the night before.
Tickets are $35 and will go on sale Saturday, Sept. 10 at noon on metrochicago.com only -- no lining up at the box office for this one. There will be a four-ticket limit per order. The show is 18 and over.
The album, which is officially released Oct. 18, is the band's first since 2003's Strays. The first single is "Irresistible Force." According to the press release, Jane's Addiction launched their 1988 album Nothing's Shocking with two shows at the Metro; Symphony of Ghosts has a bootleg of the Nov. 25, 1988 show.
There is this unique phenomenon at smaller music venues in Chicago. Promoters smash together random bands (usually all under the general "indie" category) and see what happens. Sometimes the Frankenstein created is hideous, but other times, like Friday night's "Orange Tree" music video premiere at Schubas, it is legendary.
The line-up for the night was odd and seemingly backwards in intensity. It started with the energy and fury of Sleeping in the Aviary, moved to the rock-infused bluegrass of Dastardly, and ended with the sweetly catchy pop of Paper Thick Walls. But the sequence worked for the Schubas crowed, who got riled up with Sleeping in the Aviary and rode the buzz through the video premiere.
I was initially drawn to Friday's show because of a familiar name. Sleeping in the Aviary was a hit Madison-based screamo band (in the best sense of the word) when I was a Badger (back in good ole 2008). I was jazzed for a piece of college-life nostalgia even if SITA is now officially a Minneapolis band. I was pleasantly surprised to find the band has matured from emotionally-fueled rockers to a more ridiculous, less serious and more varied rock group. SITA jammed from classic indie rock to '60s pop with barely time for a key change in between. The band seems to have learned growing up right means letting go of the angst and embarrassing the insane. To start their opening set, lead singer Elliott Kozel, took off his shoes and threw them at (not into) the crowd. With his feet free, Kozel, along with the rest of the band, jammed on stage heavy with bass and guitar with an occasional touch accordion and plenty of rock n' roll antics. SITA gave show reminiscent of a classic rock era with a strange familiarity to a drunk '70s prom band. The set could only have been better if it ended with a pantless encore.
Well, we avoided the rain on Day One of 2011's North Coast Music Festival, but fest goers still suffered through a sweltering September evening. Things got sweaty once the bass started bumping throughout Union Park. Organizers of this year's NorCo fest organizers admittedly bulked up on electronic acts and DJ performers--an effort that was already noticeable after just one day with acts like SBTRKT, Wolfgang Gartner and headliner David Guetta all hitting the stage on Friday. -Katie Karpowicz
Before I even hit the festival grounds, I received a simple text from a friend that "this crowd is an odd mix." Her sentiment was spot on, since North Coast brings together a mash of ravers, hippies, hip-hop heads and everything in between. It's your best bet for seeing a guy wearing high end Nikes next to a girl wearing fairy wings while hooping. Yet one thing is obvious by the enthusiastic demeanor of the crowd; they came here to dance. -Lisa White
We'll be at Union Park (1501 W. Randolph St.) all this coming Labor Day weekend for the second annual North Coast Music Festival, but before we slather on the suncreen and grab a corndog, here are some best bets for sets that can't be missed, and info on the prime Chicago talent on the bill as well. Single day tickets ($60) are still available (will call info.), so come on down and join us! (Download a PDF festival map.) We'll be reviewing the best and bounciest beats all weekend long, too.
Quick quiz: Which musician spoke of this auspicious start to her career in music? "A radio station in Atlanta dared to put [my song] in rotation, and someone burned the station down. Strangers walked up to me in restaurants and spit in my food... one [fan] letter would thank me for speaking out, the next would have razor blades taped to the envelope so I'd shred my fingers opening it... People threatened to burn down the venues I worked in, to run me over in the street, to shoot me while I was on stage."
Hint: she was only 15 at the time.
Janis Ian (Photo by Peter Cunningham)
Janis Ian's "Society's Child" brought heat from all directions. Stations bold enough to play it were rewarded with equal doses of accolade and venom from listeners. A sensitively wrought portrait of a doomed interracial relationship, "Society's Child" is compelling enough on its own merits, but in a culturally abraded year like 1965, it was spark applied to powder. Read that first paragraph again: Razorblades. Fire. Guns. This isn't cowardly internet dweebs railing against Rebecca Black's auto-tuning; "Society's Child" brought out primal conflicts in the hearts of people who felt that the civil rights struggles throughout the U.S. represented the end of civilization as we know it, and they pushed back with all the violence and bile they could muster.
To no avail. "Society's Child" was a bona-fide radio hit, gaining country-wide acceptance following a glowing review of her music on Leonard Bernstein's one-hour TV special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The respected orchestral composer's stamp of approval made Ian's music safe for timid radio programmers - KRLA in Los Angeles even took out a full-page ad apologizing to Ian for previously blacklisting her music. Far from a time-capsule piece that requires historical context, "Society's Child" still retains its literary and emotional power to this day, and it made Janis Ian a star at 15.
Rising indie stars Paper Thick Walls are set to release their debut music video "Orange Tree" at Schubas on Friday and if you've been following them on Facebook at all, you know they're pretty darn pumped about it. Lucky for anxious Gapers Block readers, we've got an exclusive first look at the new music video. The video, which was directed by Kevin Pickman and Stefeni Tormanen, is simple and sweet with the obligatory owl usage. It suits the kitsch-less-catch of "Orange Tree" and more importantly finally answers the age old question of what two Indie kids would do if they were stuck in a tent all night.
Lead singers Kate Schell and Eric Michaels make loving their light and breezy harmonies easy by blending lyrics with an assortment of pleasantly interesting instruments such as the trumpet, upright bass and fiddle. With their soft voices and deep instrumental backgrounds, they give slight deja vu to The Stars; they are the kind of band meant to perform a NPR tiny desk concert.
Although none of the band members are originally from Chicago, they are headquartered here or, as the band puts it, "stuck for the time being" like the dysfunctional family that they are. (For more on their complex connections, read playground misnomer's interview with the band.). With the backing of sound engineer Mike Hagler (Neko Case and Wilco) and performances at SXSW, NXNE and Summer Fest already under their belts, it looks like this Chicago-trapped band is set to become a Chicago favorite.
Paper Thick Walls fans have two options for seeing the band perform this weekend. They will perform along with Dastardly and Sleeping in the Aviary on Friday at Schubas. Show starts at 9pm and tickets are a steal for eight bucks. Fans can get an even better deal by stopping by the Paper Machete show at The Horseshoe (4115 N. Lincoln Ave.) on Saturday at 3pm for a free show. Live it up, Chicago!
I received a welcome surprise at the Paper Machete on Saturday when Chicago's own Briar Rabbit took the stage for the show's musical portion. I had heard of Briar Rabbit (also known by his given name Philip-Michael Scales) before but had never quite committed to seeing a show. Luckily fate stepped in and I finally had the chance to hear the singer-songwriter perform his sweetly sung stories of heartache, heartbreak and the never-ending search for true Indie love.
I've wracked my brain for two days now trying to find the appropriate comparison for Briar Rabbit but all I can come up with is a poor comparison to Jason Mraz with more head bobbing and a twinge more soul in the edge of his voice. As Paper Machete's host Christopher Piatt said "That is pretty music right there."
If you would like a chance to hear the pretty music along with a bunch of other Indie prettiness, check out Briar Rabbit along with Josh & The Empty Pockets , Band Called Catch and Snow 'n Charm at Lincoln Hall on Wednesday, August 31, 2011. Show starts at 8pm and will only set you back 8 small ones. Briar Rabbit promises it will be a show filled with Indie goodness. When questions what Indie goodness is, B.R. shrugged and said "It's like gumbo; you're not sure what's in it but you know there will be rice." Sounds delicious.
What a year it has been for Dexter Tortoriello. It was last October that his band Houses (with Megan Messina) released their debut album All Night through Lefse Records. The buzz started before that on the strength of the single "Endless Spring" (video below), but it was All Night that took them to CMJ, SXSW, and around the world. This also opened up opportunities to remix tracks for bands like The One AM Radio, Sun Airway, Active Child, A Lull, and others. You can check out the Houses remixes here. Also during 2011 Dexter released a solo project through Mad Decent under the moniker of Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross. Earlier this month he made his Chicago debut as DGRC at Mad Decent Block Party, and this weekend Houses will perform their first Chicago show as headliners. They are performing at Schubas on August 27th at 10pm with Pet Lions and Prussia.
[This preview comes to us from writer Lee Zickwolf.]
Victims have been going strong as D-beat punk legends for about 15 years now with a recipe of non-stop touring and recording. With substantial influences such as Discharge, Motörhead, Totalitär, and Skitsystem you already get the impression that once this band starts they don't let up until the lights come back on. The perfectly gritty amp sounds coupled with lead singer/bass player Johan's voice are not to be reckoned with. Many bands sound "angry" but it's usually sounds practiced and therefore forced. The way Johan sings gives you the feeling that he's 100% honestly pissed about the things he's singing about like how ridiculous the idea of borders are, human rights, and different government issues amongst other things.
With their fifth full-length release A Dissident comes a U.S. tour in August, with a stop in Chicago tonight at Panchos. This album has, dare I say, a more matured almost progressive feel compared to their other releases. It is the first time on an album that two songs have gone over the 3:30 mark. All the rage and bile is definitely still apparent with songs like "Victims in Blood part 6" and "Broken Bones." One song, "In Control" has a more rock feel that will have you banging your head instead of the usual thrashing. A band that thrashes this hard usually burns out or gets stale after about the third release, but Victims somehow add a little something different to each album but keep the ferocity they are known for. Usually a band has this "vision" of how they're going to change the world single-handedly but Victims know "No, we're not the future, but we'll keep fighting 'til the end."
Supporting Victims are Chicago's Eunuchs (members of Hewhocorrupts), Full On, and Tension Generation. If you are looking for a night of people belting out songs as if they were on fire, people jumping off things, and general discourse — this show is for you.
Music starts at 7pm tonight at Panchos (2200 N. California Ave) and it's all ages.
[About the author: Lee Zickwolf is a music nerd to the highest degree and newly transplanted from the east coast.]
Pearl and the Beard is all the good things you would expect from a hipstery indie folk band from Brooklyn. They have well-thought-out lyrics, woven harmonies, instrumental experimentation...all wrapped up in a lovely ugly handmade sweater. In addition to beautiful voices and exceptional glockenspiel-playing talent, they also seem to have a sense of humor and adventure with music. One of their most popular YouTube videos, a tribute to Will Smith, is a testament to this. In more traditional Brooklyn style, they also have a video at the 57th Street subway stop.
Hopefully, by now these videos have convinced you that you need to see Pearl and the Beard live. Well, luckily they will be at the Darkroom in Ukrainian Village on Thursday at 8pm along with Bob Dey's Tank Engine Man, The Great Crusades, and Andy Lund. Tickets are $8 and available at the door. Darkroom is located at 2210 W. Chicago Ave. (773) 276-1411
Chicago band All Eyes West play at Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., with emo/post-hardcore band Braid this Saturday. AEW is vocalist/bassist Justin Miller, guitarist Jeff Dean (The Bomb, Noise By Numbers), and Rick Fast (Dialogue) on drums. Doors open at 8 pm, is 18+, and is $16. You can get tickets and more info about this show here.
Head over to Double Door - 1572 N Milwaukee Ave - on Friday, September 9th for an acoustic set by Brendan Kelly (bassist/vocalist of The Lawrence Arms, former bands include Slapstick and The Broadways). Supporting him are Swayback from Denver, CO. and Ratasucia featuring Dan Hanaway and Chris Carr of The Honor System.
Doors open at 8:30 pm, is 21+ and is $8.
You can buy tickets and get more info of this show here.
It's still a long haul to get us through the rest of 2011's concerts, but if you want to set yourself up with a secure five days of music in the dark days of January 2012, you can do so tomorrow. Friday at noon, you can purchase a discounted 5-day pass for Schubas/Lincoln Hall's long-standing Tomorrow Never Knows Festival which will run from January 11-15, 2012 at multiple small venues in Chicago. The music will play on for five days at the aforementioned clubs (which have curated and played host in years past) and also at new TNK participants The Metro, Smart Bar, and The Hideout. The list of participating bands has not yet been released, even in short form, but you can go ahead and take a chance that, like years past (see 2010, 2009, 2008), the lineup will be awesome, and well worth the effort of donning your heavy winter coat and actually leaving the house. A 5-day pass will set you back $75 at this special early bird price and will be available starting Friday, August 19th at noon in limited quantities. (Note: Festival shows are 18+ at Lincoln Hall, Schubas and The Metro, but performances at Smart Bar and the Hideout will be 21+.)
High Places are preparing to release their next album Original Colors through Chicago's Thrill Jockey. This is the duo's third full-length in the five years that they have been together as High Places. The duo will be giving fans a preview of the album this Sunday, August 21st, at 4pm as part of Logan Square's Summer Music in the Park Series. This is a free event, but they are asking that you RSVP here so they can get a count of who is planning to attend. Opening for the band will be Magic Key, the latest project from Aleks Tomaszewska of Aleks and The Drummer.
An excerpt from Tony Conrad's performance in the Bergman Gallery at The Renaissance Society, January 23, 2011.
The Renaissance Society has been recording its contemporary chamber concerts since the 1990s, and it's going to be airing a selection of the standouts on CANTV over the next few months. Set your DVR to record every Sunday from August 7 through October 7 at 8pm to catch them all.
Chicago rap duo The Cool Kids (aka Antoine "Sir Michael Rocks" Reed and Evan "Chuck Inglish" Ingersoll) are hot on the heels of their first full-length album (after many free mixtape and single releases online over the years) with When Fish Ride Bicycles (Green Label Sound). With some great jams, including "Swimsuits [ft. Mayer Hawthorne]" and "Bundle Up" (both of which really highlight some of the most notable parts of living year-round in the Midwest), the album is great for some slow cruising on a hot summer night, or heading down the highway to your favorite getaway. Either way, put that elbow outside the window while you listen, for maximum cool.
The fellas are performing at Lollapalooza this weekend, but they're also jamming at an official Lollapaloza after-party at Reggies Rock Club (see our full list of Lolla pre- and after-parties), and we want you to get in for free. We're giving away a pair of tickets to one reader. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Cool!" and you and a friend will get in for free on Friday night. You must be 18+. [Update: We have a winner! Congrats to Gavin!]
If you're not a winner, or just don't like contests, catch The Cool Kids at Lollapalooza on Sunday afternoon at Perry's Stage at 3pm, or at Reggie's at 10pm on Friday, August 5th along with DJ RTC, The O'My's, and GLC. Tickets are $20. 18+. Reggies Rock Club is located at 2109 S. State St. (312) 949-0121.
The festival will include circus artists, comedians, short film, carnival rides, games, and music, including the aforementioned artists and also School of Seven Bells, Bill Callahan, Fool's Gold, Dark Dark Dark, and more (see the full schedule here). Admission to the festival grounds (which will include the Renegade Craft Fair) is free, but access to tented events will cost you $20 per day for music and $15 per circus act. My only complaint is that there doesn't seem to be any sort of all-inclusive day or weekend pass for those who want to experience all aspects of the festival and don't want the hassle of picking up tickets for every separate event. However, tickets are already on sale and available to purchase here, so you'll have plenty of time to plan out the weekend in advance.
The last time The Decemberists rocked our fair city in February, snowmageddon had just howled through Chicago, forcing concert-goers to dig their way to the Riv. The Portland-based band was greeted on Monday night with a slightly different scene, as thousands of sweaty Chicago fans packed into the Aragon, bringing summer energy and a fair share of pit stains. From sold-out concerts in the snow trap of Chicago winter to sold-out concerts in the heat pit of Chicago summer, Decemberists fans prove they are willing to bundle up or strip down to hear the melodious indie rock band sing songs, weave stories and rock out in full suits.
Ten years ago Ted Leo released his first real solo album, The Tyranny of Distance. (That Tej Leo thing shouldn't count.) To commemorate it this summer he's played it front-to-back a couple times on the east coast. Early Monday afternoon, he tweeted that he was considering playing it again at the summer's last New Music Monday concert at Millennium Park. A few people replied that it would be perfectly satisfactory with them for him to do so. And so when he and his longtime band walked out on stage, he quickly confirmed it. But before that, they'd need to warm up with a few other songs. Kicking off with perhaps his biggest hit, the Specials-inspired "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?", he got the crowd jazzed up from the get-go. From there it was onto "Me & Mia" and a handful of songs from his latest 2 albums. Even with a banged up knee, Leo bounded around the stage with the enthusiasm that's been a staple of his live shows forever.
Bela Fleck and the Flecktones concerts always seem to draw a diverse crowd, and last night's show at The Vic Theater was certainly no exception. Middle aged couples in dress casual stood elbow to elbow with aspiring teen Deadheads in tie dyes and cargo shorts. The crowd is telling, however, when one considers the wide gamut of musical styles that bubble up in a typical Bela Fleck show. Fleck's two sets evidenced his mastery both of his chosen instrument, the banjo, and the sometimes odd, yet usually fantastic stew of different genres that he has turned into his signature sound.
Fleck is currently touring with a throwback Flecktones lineup that includes Chicago local Howard Levy, who was a founding member of the band, but left in 1992 only to return in the past year. The remaining lineup remains unchanged, with standout bassist Vic Wooten and his brother, percussionist Roy "Futureman" Wooten forming a dynamic rhythm launchpad for Fleck and Levy's explorations of sound.
I was excited to get an actual hard copy of Gillian Welch's latest album The Harrow & The Harvest in the mail to review a few weeks back. Even more intriguing was when I went to research the work on her website, I found not one but two videos available — not for the songs on the album, but for the actual creation of the beautiful letterpressed CD insert.
I can't say that this album is one to pep you up when times are tough, but, much like the tradition of Americana and folk from whence it came (not to mention the longstanding "times are tough" themes of the Blues) these are songs that let you revel in the pain of everyday life. Like playing a break-up song on repeat for days on end, I couldn't get enough of these songs, though they didn't necessarily make me feel all bright and shiny. On the contrary, they're dark, sticky and hard to wash off your hands.
But know that The Harrow & The Harvest is a pleasure to listen to, even though it's dark on the inside. In a way, there's hope in the wide-open reality of her songs. There's a lot of talk of resignation that times can be hard (like when a friend steals your man) and sometimes you're in control of it (like when you break up with your boyfriend) "That's the way the cornbread crumbles." In the end, you're still alive, you're still around making your life what you will, and that ends up being the important part of it all. Take a moment and dive in. The album's perfect for lazy, warm afternoons on the couch watching the dust motes sail around the sunbeams, and lord knows we're having a few of those lately.
Watch Gillian Welch and David Rawlings perform on Conan back in June:
[Learn more after the jump including a lengthy video on the creative process behind the letterpressed CD cover.]
After a few summers of experimentation, The Hideout Block Party is returning to Wabansia Avenue this September with a nod back to Hideout favorites of years past and a lineup that works best for the popular event — they're keeping it varied, (for the most part) local, and totally awesome.
Halloween is a great night to go see a jam band. Costumes and fans with the commitment to boogie through three hours of spacy music create just the right pastiche to have a good time. Chicagoans won't have to travel far to get their fix this year, as legendary southern jam band Widespread Panic has announced that in addition to their two already sold out shows at the Chicago Theater on October 28 and 29, they're bringing the circus Uptown for a Halloween night show at the historic Aragon Ballroom. Panic has developed a rabidly loyal fanbase over the past 25 years with music that incorporates an amalgam of styles. On a good night, they're sort of reminiscent of the world's greatest bar band, not terribly pretentious, but awfully fun. Although the show will undoubtedly sell out, if you need any additional motivation to buy tickets early, Panic frontman John Bell said in a recent interview in Garden & Gun magazine that next year will see the band on an indefinite (and possibly permanent) hiatus.
Tickets for Widespread Panic at the Aragon Ballroom on Halloween night, October 31, are $45 and go on sale July 30 at 10:00 am online at eTix.com or by phone at 1-800-514-ETIX.
Béla Fleck (second from left) and the Flecktones (L to R) Victor Wooten, Howard Levy, and Roy "Future Man" Wooten (photo credit: Jeremy Cowart)
While rock music and the electric guitar certainly steal the limelight when it comes to discussions of American contributions to global culture, it pays to take a moment to consider the humble banjo. The banjo has a quintessentially American origin story, having been derived from an amalgam of several different African instruments, primarily with gourd or shell bodies, hide coverings and stick necks. These primitive stringed instruments gained western-style fret boards and increasingly sophisticated construction as they gained popularity, initially as a part of black minstrel shows of the 19th century. Gradually, the banjo found a home in white Southern traditional music and bluegrass, which formed the basis of what we now know as country music.
After seeing a long period where the banjo was somewhat relegated to the niche genres of bluegrass and country, which of course had its adherents but lacked significant mainstream exposure, the banjo as of late has seen something of a comeback. Throughout the '90s and early 2000s, acts such as Leftover Salmon and Yonder Mountain String Band used bluegrass, employing banjo as an integral instrument, as a launching point for projects that integrated elements of rock and improvisational music to appeal to a much wider fan base and steer many back towards the traditional music source material. In this day and age, it has become almost de rigueur for twee indy rock bands to trot out the banjo, and the humble instrument seems to have made something of a comeback.
On the final day of the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, the 64-year-old country legend played her afternoon set on the smallest of three stages, acceding to the vagaries of popular taste, but she stood out as by far the most historically significant artist of the weekend.
"One of my personal heroes," Dave Matthews said in a brief introduction before she took the stage Sunday, and it was hard to disagree after Harris and her superb backing band, the Red Dirt Boys, rolled through an inspired selection of bluegrass and gospel favorites with a few songs from her new album.
They might have been the oldest band at the festival, but we saw only the benefits of those 40 years of experience: Emmylou's easy command of the stage and rapport with the crowd, and the impeccable work by her bandmates on guitar, bass, drums, mandolin, violin, piano and accordion.
While some bands this weekend struggled to hold the audience's attention whenever the tempo slowed, Emmylou's clear, soaring voice was more than enough to keep fans from wandering off to the craft beer tent between Rickie Simpkins' virtuoso fiddle runs.
After the opening shuffle of "Six White Cadillacs," the set was loaded with haunting ballads, from Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl" to the Carter Family's "Hello Stranger" and the gospel standard "Green Pastures." The best of a strong bunch was "My Name is Emmett Till," an appropriately stark and powerful ballad about the Chicago teenager murdered in Mississippi in 1955.
Simpkins' mandolin riff on the bouncing closer "Get Up John" was still echoing in my brain as I headed over to the main stage to check out David Gray. I was ripe for a rude awakening.
I'll admit, I've never been the biggest Dave Matthews Band fan, but with a handful of not-to-be-missed artists (namely, The Flaming Lips covering Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety), I've been looking forward to the DMB Caravan more than any other music festival this summer. Still, I had my apprehensions.
Upon arriving Saturday afternoon, the first thing I noticed was the dirt. There wasn't any grass to be found, anywhere. Not that music festivals are known for their cleanliness, but large, sharp rocks scattered among the dirt made walking uncomfortable and sitting nearly impossible. The area directly in front of each stage was covered in wood chips, but if you wanted to relax further away from the stage, there were hardly any options, save a bench or two in the middle of the field.
The advantage DMB Caravan has over the other big summer music festivals in Chicago is space. I never had any issue whatsoever walking from one stage to the next in 10 minutes or less. The large festival grounds also afforded room for a plethora of non-music related activities, from the giant ferris wheel in the center of the festival to some sort of off-roading track at the side of the grounds.
The weather has been good, the music has been great and the mango Starfruit with blueberries has been a revelation. But after two days at the Dave Matthews Band Caravan, it's clear Chicago has major work to do if it's going to host more massive events at the former site of the U.S. Steel South Works.
One problem is the fairgrounds themselves: a dusty dirt field, half-covered in mulch and scrub brush, strewn with rocks, tree roots and stumps and lingering bits of steel wire. It's potentially dangerous and inescapably filthy, especially with no running water available to clean yourself up. But this is the inaugural event, and that all can be fixed for next time with a little effort.
No, the major problem is getting to and from the site. It's not the raw number of concertgoers; we handle 30,000 or 40,000 people all the time without much fuss. It's the massive difficulty the Chicago Transit Authority has had getting to the show whatever large percentage of the crowd is using public transportation.
Whether their arrivals are staggered throughout the afternoon or they're leaving en masse at the end of the night, fans at the DMB Caravan have seen huge wait times both on the Red Line and the inexplicably-not-free shuttle buses running loops from the 87th Street station to the festival grounds. It's tens of thousands of people pinned in by the lake with only one escape route.
I've never entirely understood the animosity so many people have for Dave Matthews Band.
Ten-plus years past their chart-topping peak, they are loved by a core of diehard fans, enjoyed by a few, and virulently scorned by just about anyone else who follows popular culture even slightly. If you don't like them enough to buy a ticket to one of their concerts, you wouldn't be caught dead at one.
Maybe you never saw the appeal, and grew to hate Dave Matthews Band as they became inescapably popular in the late-90s.
Maybe you never cared much, but used to be a fan, buying their CDs and going to a show every summer because that's what everyone in your high school did.
Maybe you loved them deeply and passionately for a few years and now feel vaguely embarrassed, as their music stands in for everything you can't believe you liked when you were too young to know better.
So it is that I wince whenever it's revealed -- because no, I don't broadcast it -- that Dave Matthews Band always was and still remains my favorite band. I'm right now fighting off the urge to deflect with a joke along the lines of "Feel free to disregard everything I ever write about music."
My usual response, or at least my instinctive, screaming desire, is to make sure the person to whom I've revealed this shameful secret understands that I'm not one of those DMB fans:
I'm real. I'm authentic. I'm more sophisticated and savvy and worldly than I was as a suburban teenager in the mid- and late-90s, and you just don't understand, man. It's great music, and hey, if you don't like it, that's fine. Just give it a chance.
But if you're typically annoyed by bros in ball caps and cargo shorts, preps in boat shoes and polo shirts or willowy girls in long, flowsy dresses, steer clear of the South Side Lakefront this weekend. The Dave Matthews Band Caravan rolled into town yesterday for three full days of rock/country/pop/folk/blues at the vast former site of the U.S. Steel South Works plant, and yes, most of the usual suspects are out in force.
The festival kicked off Friday with 14 acts, most of which Transmission missed entirely because Friday is a weekday, even in July, and we have Actual Work Obligations. But stay tuned for full coverage of Saturday and Sunday, during which I will be joined by colleagues who will help me suppress the urge to burden you with 3,000 words on Carter Beauford's drum kit.
It was an unlikely pairing at the June 27th installment of Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays at Pritzker Pavilion; one which may have taken more than a few people by surprise depending on their reasons for attending the evening's event.
Glen Hansard got things started off, as he walked out on stage armed with only a worn out acoustic guitar and a bit of Irish wit. Hansard, perhaps best known as lead singer of the band the Frames and half of the Swell Season, proceeded to treat the crowd to a spirited 45+ minute set, which included a rousing rendition of Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks." Shortly before delving into the cover, Hansard delivered a quick tale about learning his trade by performing on the street and one could see how his humble start had paid off. Hansard appeared completely at ease with his guitar on the pavilion's spacious stage, working the crowd with a bit of humor between songs. His easy manner kept the performance light, even among some of the sadder numbers. Hansard also delivered on what a large contingent were presumably there to hear, when he performed his most well known song "Falling Slowly," for which he won an Academy Award.
Singer-songwriter Michael McDermott is celebrating a lot of anniversaries this summer. Last week, he performed 620 W. Surf in its entirety at Lincoln Hall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the album that launched his career. This week, he heads to Uncommon Ground to perform as part of the venerable venue's 20th anniversary celebration. McDermott performs July 8th at 10 p.m., and his show is day eight of 20 nights of celebration for Uncommon Ground.
There is a $10 suggested donation. Read more about upcoming shows to celebrate Uncommon Ground's anniversary here.
McDermott is also the subject of this week's Transmission feature story.
Minneapolis' Haley Bonar released her latest album "Golder" back in April, and now she is headed to Chicago this weekend in support of Holcombe Waller and Chicago's Judson Claiborne. Bonar has a way of taking what seem like straight forward alt-country tunes and twisting them into something beautiful and interesting. "Golder" is Bonar first full-length album since 2008's Big Star (Afternoon Records). The shows a huge progression in her sound, and presents a fuller and more orchestrated approach than on Bonar's previous album. On the album she plays Wurlitzer, guitar, piano, synth, keyboard, shaker, Leslie, tambourine and provided an angelic but bluesy vocal style.
Don't be scared, or maybe you should be scared. Mexicans With Guns are headed to Chicago. However, this is a music blog and I am talked about the not-so-secret identity of San Antonio's Ernest Gonzales. Last month the electronic music producer released his debut album, Ceremony, as Mexican With Guns. Album is swirl of traditional Mexicans styles mixed with pulsing and inventive electronics and beats. The album was released by Innovative Leisure/Friends of Friends, and has received a lot of great praise in the last few months.
Below is the short film/music video for the track "Dame Lo". You can catch Mexicans With Guns at Darkroom on June 24th for Face Melt with Chicago's Down Giant and residents Intel, Maker, and Phaded.
Jake Rodriguez was reportedly a child actor way back in the day. As the stacks of memoirs lining the bookshelves of any modern day fame-junkie will tell you, that'll mess with anyone's mind, especially the impressionable youth. Just look at that face up there -- born to sell soap flakes and castor oil. Regardless of his past, Rodriguez's project The Bran (...another plight of medic's...) Pos, usually shorted to Bran Pos or Bran (...) Pos, is a project headed for the future.
It was a Downtown Sound soul night to remember with this excellent double bill between Kings Go Forth and opener Ben L'Oncle Soul. Both bands had major soul influences and nine piece ensembles live. Each also had charismatic and energetic frontmen that were able to inspire the crowd to get out of their seats and dance. With the perfect weather and the sweet sounds of soul wafting through the air, the glorious feeling of summer was again upon us.
Let's start the week off with the announcement of another solid music festival in Chicago, shall we?
Riot Fest just announced their largest line-up to date, with headliners Weezer, Social Distortion, and Descendents, along with a special major headliner announcement on Friday June 24th. The festival will be in Chicago October 5th-9th, and this year it will expand and have Riot Fest East in Philadelphia, September 24th.
Thus far the line-up includes the following acts: Weezer, Social Distortion, Descendents, X (play "Los Angeles"), Youth of Today, Suicide Machines, ALL (Scott, Chad and Dave), Helmet, D Generation, Down By Law, The Business, Strike Anywhere, The Tossers, Macabre, Nachtmystium, The Flatliners, Flatfoot 56, The Menzingers, Banner Pilot, The Pavers, Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, Shot Baker, The Copyrights, Cheap Girls, Larry and His Flask, Chines Telephones, The Crombies, The Holy Mess, Van Buren Boys, Neutron Bombs, The Infected, and many more will be announced throughout the week.
Multi day passes and individual tickets go on sale Friday June 24th at 10 in the morning CST. Tickets will be on sales at Ticketfly. The 5 day festival pass will be $145, and includes access to all Riot Fest 2011 shows, and includes access to secret shows leading up to the fest this summer. There will also be the Congress Pass for $135, and that includes access into all the Congress Theater shows during Riot Fest 2011.
The Riot Fest shows will be held at the following venues this year: Congress Theater, Bottom Lounge, Double Door, Cobra Lounge and the AAA Warehouse. There will also be a shuttle bus that will take fans from venue to venue.
Riot Fest has really expanded fast since it kicked off in 2005. It's a great way to end the festival season, consistently offering up a solid bill and some of the best secret shows in the city (I recall the secret Naked Raygun show at the AAA Warehouse a few years ago being one of the best shows of the year for me). We'll announce the special headliner on the 24th, and then make sure you get online and grab a ticket before some of these shows sell out.
The Poetry Foundation is offering you a chance to win tickets to a free concert by Neko Case this Saturday night. They'll give out pairs of tickets to 90 lucky fans for Neko's show at the Poetry Foundation's Open House at 61 W. Superior St. at 8:30pm on June 25th. How did the redhaired wonder get involved with the Poetry Foundation, you ask? Well, besides being an accomplished songwriter, she also contributed an essay on how poetry is not just for the intellectual elite for Poetry magazine's November 2007 issue.
To enter, fill out the online entry formstarting at noon today and before 5pm Tuesday, June 21st.
Serpents have long been held as alluring beasts, slithering stand-ins for charm and sexual energy. That tradition continues with ssssnake, the brainchild of local musician and singer Noah Tabakin. He of the perpetually raised eyebrow is a fixture on the scene as a regular in circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza and kinda-indie/kinda-Fishbone group Dead Rider (previously D. Rider).
Tabakin's busting out ssssnake's inaugural album, Hostile Takeover with an aggressive summer and fall tour schedule and a special CD release show on Friday, June 17, at The Observatory (3036 N. Lincoln Ave., Apt 4). Produced on Logic software (and relayed through his iPhone during live shows), the album is a hostile takeover alright -- of your pants. Seriously, soulful funk-hop tracks like "Sheet Music" and "Wolf and the Bear" are made for booty shaking and/or boot knocking. With his penchant for shedding down to his skivvies, it's easy to think of Tabakin as Chicago's very own Har Mar Superstar.
Toronto's Dinosaur Bones are playing tomorrow night, June 11th, at Schubas. They released their latest album, My Divider, through Dine Alone Records in March. The band has toured with Tokyo Police Club and supporting Broken Social Scene, and tomorrow night will be opening for Jeremy Messersmith.
Late last month they released the great video for the track "N.Y.E." from My Divider.
We're less than 24 hours from the start of the 2011 Neon Marshmallow Fest, a three-day event featuring experimental electronic artists from all over the continent. I'll be recapping the event after each night's festivities, but in the meantime, I wanted to add a few details that have happened since the last update.
First, Sunday afternoon will feature a special bonus round event, the 2011 presentation of Sonic Celluloid, Northwestern University's yearly combination of film and sound. This year, the Empty Bottle will host Zac Davis (formerly of Lambsbread), Lichens, and Sam Prekop starting at 2:30. Tickets for this event will be separate, but for purchasers of the three-day pass, Sonic Celluloid is included in your ticket.
Speaking of three-day tickets, time's running out to get one. If you're planning on going the distance, there's not much time to get all three days at a discount. Visit the festival site for more info on individual and three-day passes.
Finally, if you really can't make it, but you want a taste of those that were there, there's a Neon Marshmallow fundraiser cassette available by mail, again from the fest page. $6 ppd. gets you a rather lengthy tape featuring unreleased and exclusive tracks from many of the festival's highlights, including Leslie Keffer, The Rita, Sickness, Telecult Powers, Lucky Dragons, Pulse Emitter, Lichens and Outer Space. It's a nice looking package, and at no extra charge, the cassette itself is purple! You're welcome.
Marcus Schmickler, an early and vital voice in digital electronic music and late-'90s post-rock (under his pseudonym Pluramon) has been steadily accruing power and esteem over the past decade for his tough, detailed sound fields. A staple on labels like Mille Plateaux, A-Musik, and Editions Mego, Schmickler concerns himself with big sonics and expansive ideas, but with flair and real-world experience (i.e. killing in front of audiences) that elevate him above more academically-flavored granular synthesists. This Saturday, Schmickler will make his first appearance in Chicago since 2002, again through the grace of Lampo, the non-profit international experimental music series. Schmickler performs "particle/matter-wave/energy," a composition that will ask the age-old musical question, "What does it sound like when galaxy clusters of 30 objects reciprocally influence each other by means of gravitation? Using a sonification of astrophysical data, Schmickler will collide first two, then three simulated galaxies." As you'd imagine, this will likely be no shrinking violet of a composition....smashing galaxies is a surefire way to wake your neighbors.
Schmickler performs at the Graham Foundation Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl., Chicago) this Saturday (June 11) at 8 p.m. The event is free, but tickets are currently sold out. However, you can get on the waiting list should ticketholders not arrive by 8:00 by visiting the eventbrite page and letting them know you want in. No guarantees, but you can damn sure believe it's worth a shot.
For anyone who might be a fan of music that is vital, expressive, and unique in a world filled with indie copycats, Parenthetical Girls are the band for you! Lead singer Zac Pennington's strange and wondrous swooning voice occupies his records and stage presence in a way like none other. It's unforgettable and visceral and it makes you feel like you're dancing. It would be wrong and dismissive to label it only as experimental or as pop music but it contains the best qualities of both worlds. In a whole new way, it reinvents something particularly enchanting.
The Stepkids may seem stuck in the past at first listen, but they are reviving a vintage sound that not too many others are attempeting right now. The trio of singer songwriters reflect on psychedelia, but mix in a healthy dose of jazz, funk, neo and classic soul, and so much more. The band released a 12" single through Stones Throw earlier this year and are planning a full-length album later this year.
The Stepkids will be performing at Lincoln Hall Thursday, June 9th, with Dennis Coffey & Friends and DJRC. Lincoln Hall also just announced that the tickets are now buy one, get one free!
A man donning a rabbit mask prancing around atop a Vietnamese restaurant in the middle of the night in Chinatown sounds more like a manifestation of my strangest nightmares than a fun night out, but luckily I like it when things get a little weird. My dreams become reality this Saturday night as the Empty Bottle's Music.Friendly.Dancing series welcomes garage rock band Nobunny. This monthly concert series kicked off last March, and in appreciation for the Bottle's loyal customer base, the shows are completely free (with RSVP). For this month's show, they'll be moving away from the Empty Bottle and heading significantly further south to the upper level of Hing Kee Phohung Restaurant in Chinatown. Make sure to leave ample room in your stomach for some delicious grub; I hear their pulled noodles are tasty.
Hing Kee Phohung Restaurant is located at 2140 S. Archer Ave (between Wentworth Ave and 21st St in Chinatown). Music.Friendly.Dancing with Nobunny starts at 8 pm, but an RSVP does not guarantee admission so plan to arrive early.
Put on by The Empty Bottle but in a substantially larger space, HoZac Records Blackout showcase this year successfully featured bands specializing in garage rock with some hints of punk and psychedelic genres from time to time. If you've never been to a Blackout, it was a real experience mainly because of the energy level. There's a youthful rambunctious nature of both the bands and the crowd and it makes the bands much more enjoyable to see when they are so energetic.
Ratasucia is the newest project from Dan Hanaway, (The Honor System/The Broadways/Slapstick) Chris Carr, (The Honor System) and Tim Scare. You can order their record "White Noise Pollution" on Asian Man Record's website.
Doors open at 8 pm, is 18+ and is $6 in advance / $8 day of show.
You can buy tickets and get more info of this show on Ticket Web.
Radian, an effects-intensive post-rock band from Vienna, make a rare Chicago appearance this Saturday (May 28) at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia). A three-piece ensemble, Radian use electronics in their rig not just to distort the tone and timbre of their instruments, but also to simulate musiqe concrete-style editing via noisegates and other processing techniques. The stop-start effect sounds like it would be posthumously applied in a studio, but it's all done live. The band's last three albums were on Thrill Jockey, and two more before that on Rhiz. Opening will be ex-St. Augustin guitar droner David Daniell and two-piece repetition-mongers Cleared. 9 p.m., $12.
To anyone who doesn't already know Damon & Naomi, a little background is certainly useful. It is impossible to fully appreciate where Damon Krukowski and Naomi Yang have arrived without rewinding the clock to the late 1980s and their original band, Galaxie 500. Though the term "seminal" is tossed about quite frequently, and the pop music landscape is littered with sad tales of bands that could have or should have been bigger, few bands have achieved the sort of post-mortem street cred of this Boston-based group. Formed in 1986 by then drummer Kurkowski, bassist Yang and vocalist/guitarist Dean Wareham, Galaxie 500 went on to record three excellent albums for Rough Trade before Wareham quit the band and the label went bankrupt. Since the unceremonious end of Galaxie 500, that band has achieved a certain mystique that had evaded them when they were actually a functioning band. Though they were criminally under appreciated during their short lifespan, group's minimalist instrumental style and plaintive vocals undoubtedly helped influence the direction of modern post-punk.
After the breakup, Damon & Naomi dusted themselves off and, somewhat reluctantly, it seems, managed to stake some territory of their own as a duo. Beginning with the 1992 release of More Sad Hits, the couple has released eight albums, including this year's False Beats and True Hearts. The pair has also collaborated with the Japanese psych-folk outfit Ghost, and their guitarist Michio Kurihara has formed an integral part of their live act.
Certainly the music made by Damon & Naomi in the years since Galaxie 500's flameout tips its hat to the past. There are still the minimalist leanings and somewhat ethereal vocal style, but with the release of their fourth album in collaboration with Kurihara, the band has certainly claimed a territory of its own; a mature, well-crafted folk rock where the elements of the music tie together in a lush, but subtle flow.
Friday's show at the intimate Lincoln Hall should play well to the masses. For those who were around during Galaxie 500's brief lifespan, there will be enough familiarity in the music to satisfy the sentimentalist. More importantly, however, Damon & Naomi's post Galaxie work amply demonstrates that the bands we consider seminal are just that, in that they plant the seeds for the music to progress.
It was an interesting choice for Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays to open up the summer series with Bonnie Prince Billy, otherwise known as Will Oldam and various Palace incarnations. He easily sold out two weeknight shows at Lincoln Hall less than a year ago and also did well at The Vic Theater a couple of years back. Yet, some may still say Bonnie Prince Billy is still much less known than he should be for a man of his talents and breadth of his career. He has been creating and releasing music under various names since 1993 afterall and has so many studio albums that it is somewhat challenging for the casual fan to keep up. One can't help but wonder what some of those in attendance (who were checking out a free show but had never heard the man's music) thought last night.
Monday's don't have to be all bad this summer — not when you can cap them off with a free concert in Millennium Park nearly every week. Tonight marks the start of one of Chicago's best (and thankfully still active) musical traditions: the Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays series. This year's free concerts range from offerings from local labels, local bands, national (and international) acts, and sweet rare performances from not often touring bands. Grab a friend and a blanket, maybe a sandwich and some cheese cubes, and settle in under the web of speakers down a the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park to wash away the taste of those Monday blues. All shows start at 6:30pm.
Bonnie "Prince" Billy (right) and Emmett Kelly of Cairo Gang
The season starts off tonight (rain or shine) with the roots/acoustic punk/Americana sounds of Bonnie "Prince" Billy featuring the Cairo Gang. Bonnie "Prince" Billy (Will Oldham) brings his beardy, rootsy, often edgy songs to the stage tonight along with ample backing power from the Cairo Gang. Bonnie and the gang recently put out a benefit 10" EP Island Brothers whose proceeds go to bringing clean water to Haitians. Fans of good harmonies, sad stories, broken hearts, and all things that come with an acoustic guitar attached, should definitely hit up this show. Opening support comes from Eleventh Dream Day whose drummer Janet Bean broke her ankle over the weekend. Luckily, handy (pun intended) substitute Jim Elkington (The Zincs, The Horse's Ha) will fill in tonight. Did we mention it's free? Yeah.
In anticipation of their upcoming album, Codes and Keys, Seattle indie rock heavyweights Death Cab For Cutie embarked on a small tour of much smaller venues than the band has been accustomed. In a show that sold out almost instantly, the band swung by Metro Friday night to debut their new tracks and play some old favorites. The last few times they've come through our fair city, Death Cab played Aragon and Lollapalooza, making this night at Metro a rare experience for fans.
What this cruddy spring needs is a heavy dose of musical WTFness. I'm talking Man Man, the Philly group that's been hither and thither, spreading word of their particular brand of gleeful chaos. It's a bit swamp boogie, a bit feral blitzkrieg, a bit jazz-swoon saunter, and a ridiculous amount of energy and fun. Their latest CD, Life Fantastic, released earlier this month, and it's surprising fans with how centered and streamlined it is. No worries about Man Man going all "Unplugged" on us -- their live shows continue to be a screaming, feather-coated journey.
Man Man headline at the Metro (3730 N. Clark St.) on Tuesday, May 24. Also lending a heavy growl to the evening is the lasciviously named Shipla Ray and Her Happy Hookers. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show begins at 9. It's an 18+ show, y'all. Tickets are $16 in advance - buy yours online or at the door.
It's been a few years since we got a real tasty morsel from Chicago musicians The Sea and Cake. Since 2008's Car Alarm the sole release the group put out was a split 7" paired with Broken Social Scene. The Moonlight Butterfly, the band's ninth offering, isn't quite a complete meal, clocking in at just over 30 minutes with only 6 songs, but it's definitely doing something more than just whetting your appetite. It's a little more than an EP (and indeed, it's not being branded as such) but maybe it's something like a tasting menu in sound form.
The Moonlight Butterfly is on target with previous releases by The Sea and Cake — full of dreamy lyrics from Sam Prekop and fanciful guitar interplay between Prekop and Archer Prewitt. If you're already a fan of what this band does best, you'll do well to pick up this release. Recorded by drummer (and sound engineer) John McEntire at Soma Studios in town, and held together by bassist Eric Claridge, this is, in some respects, exactly what fans are after. But there's more to The Moonlight Butterfly than just that. The title track is all divergent glitchy keyboard noodling that I wish was more integrated into the other five tracks, instead it kind of sits in the middle of the album and gives you time to go get a soda from the kitchen while you wait for the rest of the tracks to cue up. Not to say I dislike it, but where Car Alarm had almost ghost-like reverberations from a distant steel drum interspersed as background percussion on several tracks, the keyboard track is kind of like the surprise jalapeno slice on your Banh Mi sandwich — it's doesn't turn you off, but man, you just want to get to that tasty barbeque pork and veggies. "Inn Keeping" does a better job of leading us into the song with a bit of electro-drum, and keeping the song steady with light guitar and stronger vocals from Prekop.
All this is not to say that The Moonlight Butterfly isn't a good time to be had, because it certainly is. The majority of the album is a clear Sea and Cake affair, but I almost wish they'd waited out the release by six months or even another year to see where this journey was going to take them. Is there something to the album's title track being the most out-of-place? Perhaps it's a sharp growing pain from a band locked into a particular dream-pop sound. Perhaps it's just an experiment that doesn't quite fit in a neat little bundle of an album. I'll be intrigued to check out the band live on Saturday at the Empty Bottle and see what their performance has to say for their current artistic mood. If you're a fan, might not be a bad place to find yourself either.
The Sea and Cake play Saturday, May 21st at the Empty Bottle. Doors open at 8:30pm. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 day of show. Openers include Plush with Liam Hayes and James Elkington. The Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave. 773-276-3600.
The BRGC rocks the house at Fizz as part of Mortified Turns Bright Pink, a fundraiser for the women's health organization Bright Pink.
The Blue Ribbon Glee Club, an a capella group that performs covers of classic punk rock songs, opened Tuesday's Mortified show at Fizz with what I eventually realized was "Where Eagles Dare" by The Misfits. It took me a verse or two to figure it out, but when I heard the lyrics "I ain't no goddamn son of a bitch, you better think about it baby," being sung in sweet, four part harmony, I knew my instincts were right.
The Mortified reading series, in which willing participants read ephemera from their youth, teamed up with BRGC for a benefit show, raising $1,070 for Bright Pink, an organization that provides education and support to young women who are at high risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
If there's anything more incongruous than an a capella singing group using curse words, it's a fully grown woman reading a diary entry that she wrote at age nine that includes the phrase "don't pull my dick, bitch". I can't think of a more apt pairing than BRGC to set into words and music the angsty and awkward real-life moments that were shared onstage by brave women who, in their own words, read about struggles with weight loss, aspirations of becoming the next Christian rock pop star, being boy crazy, and being sent to bed without any dinner, to name a few.
This Thursday night, May 19, the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western Ave.) presents a curious concoction of performers: First on the roster is Zachary Kale, an indie pop-meets-alt country band from Brooklyn; followed by local noodlesome No-Wave/jazz/experimental group, blink; and honky tonk-rockers D. Charles Speer & the Helix. Headlining is the esteemed experimental rock cellistHelen Money, whose stye moves effortlessly from beautiful classic lilts to kick-in-your-teeth electrified distortion.
Sound like a plan? Good. The show begins at 9pm and tickets are $8. Or those tickets can be free if you RSVP to email@example.com.
On Sunday night the historic Wild Hare nightclub closed its doors for the last time after more than 25 years of welcoming some of the biggest names in reggae music. The closure came in the wake of owner Zeleke Gessesse's decision to return to his home country of Ethiopia and open another Wild Hare in Addidas Adaba.
Lucky for Chicago's Rastafarians and Cubs fans looking for a post-game dance outlet, Conscious Culture Chicago has announced its new "Reggae in Wrigleyville" series hosted by the Cubby Bear, an attempt to fill the void left by Wild Hare. Saturday, May 28 marks the restoration of reggae in Wrigleyville with dancehall artist Red Rat and local openers KOFI and DJ Slacky J. Classic reggae hits will fill the airspace between artists' sets.
It's the first in what Conscious Culture Chicago promise will be "many" reggae shows at Cubby Bear. Tickets are $10 in advance at the Cubby Bear box office and $20 on the day of the show--a nice incentive to plan ahead. Music starts at 9pm and it's 21+.
While it's an old hip-hop trope to cajole the audience to raise their hands in the ay-yer, I can safely say that Kid Koala's show at the Abbey Pub last Saturday was the first time I've seen an entire audience of adults stretch their hands to the ceiling to emulate growing bean stalks.
From the get-go, Kid Koala, aka Montreal-based turntablist Eric San, made it clear that the night was going to take an interesting turn. "I want to get away from the dance floor," he said, referencing his career, which certainly hasn't followed a normal house DJ trajectory. While he's certainly capable of weaving unlikely samples together into a riotous dance fest, he tends to veer toward unlikely caches, including brassy jazz, swampy bayou blues, shredder guitar rock, and atmospheric space trips. He opened his set with slides from his graphic novel, animated storyboards from a breakdance cartoon he's illustrating, and previews of other musical projects.
On Saturday, May 21, Toronto-based trio Austra will bring their mesmerizing electronic-pop to the stage at Beauty Bar.
The sounds on Austra's debut album, Feel It Break, are atmospheric without sounding too aloof, dark and goth-y minus the gloom. Vocalist Katie Stelmanis's poignant, hauntingly powerful voice shines through the already glossy instrumental undertones keeping Feel It Break from falling into the sometimes sleazy "club music" genre. Sure it's danceable, but it's also delicate and sensual.
Crystal Stilts is back on tour following the release of their latest album, In Love With Oblivion. Oblivion is the ideal noise-pop album, weighing heavier on the pop than noise. The vocals are droning and nearly demonic — and yet, they complement the static dreamy guitar riffs floating between each word.
Oblivion contests the quintessential "Brooklyn psychedelic" sound that has much stigma attached to it — like the reverbing, echoing sounds of Animal Collective, or the lo-fi meanderings of Thee Oh Sees. This album is neither reverb-dense nor deliberately roughened to the point of discomfort and perspiration — it has funk, punk, pop and rock all rolled into one. The one element that has given Crystal Stilts their unique sound is the eerie descant vocals, which layer over lack-strung guitar, pop organs and a chipper tambourine to keep their cold baritones from droning in and out.
There is a hint of Jesus and Mary Chain in Oblivion, yet with crisp cohesion and whimsicality. Nevertheless there is a consistent theme in the album that intoxicates the listener with nostalgia — the rhythm. It's as if one were in a state of deep slumber, walking through their subconscious, fighting off the urge to wake up.
Eternal Summers, a Virginia two-piece band, opens with dreamy pop and swelling vocals sure to warm your heart. Their new Prisoners EP was released mid-April. The starry eyed lovers of Eternal Summers are a captivating scene to see live.
Crystal Stilts and the Eternal Summers will perform at Empty Bottle on Friday, May 20th at 10pm. Tickets are $12. The Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave. 773-276-3600.
In addition to their Empty Bottle show, the Crystal Stilts will also play an in-store performance at Permanent Records (1914 W. Chicago Ave.) on Saturday, May 21st at 1:30pm. (FREE, All-Ages, and BYO)
Don't be fooled by their bearded indie (beardie?) exterior — Young Widows know how to rock it hardcore. In a previous existence (read: the band Breather Resist) the Kentucky-based trio were all about aggro metal. After that band's break-up, Young Widows arose from the ashes offering a strikingly different, yet familiar, sound. The lads are currently touring in support of their latest album, Youth and Lightness, which takes the hardcore metal and tamps it down into a thick, fuzzy rock, loaded with reverb and post-punk leanings.
Young Widows headline on Saturday, May 14, at the Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont), preceded by My Disco and 97-shiki. The show begins at 9:30pm, and tickets will set you back $10. Get yours online or at the door.
Kid Koala's a one-man band, except the band happens to be on vinyl and at his fingertips. In 1996, the innovative turntablist made waves with one of his first mixtapes, which featured the Charlie Brown-inspired "Tricks 'n Treats." Fast-forward a bit, and Kid Koala has been a busy boy: He released three well-received full-length albums, collaborated in a band called The Slew (featuring members of Wolfmother), and toured and worked with the likes of the Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Gorillaz, and Bjork.
In the video below, Kid Koala spins his jazz-smacks-into-hip hop track "Drunk Trumpet."
Check out the man's skills for yourself as he performs as part of the Ninja Tune's XX Anniversary Conc