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Sunday, March 29

Gapers Block

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Interview Wed Feb 18 2015

Four Questions with Andy Gill from Gang of Four

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.

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Interview Wed Nov 26 2014

Richard Kaufman Discusses the CSO's Pixar in Concert


The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is known for many elements that comprise its exceptional caliber, from its renowned group of musicians, to their exceptional schedule of performances and their many, many accolades. A pinnacle element of the Orchestra's high achievement, of course, is the presence of their distinguished conductors.

Richard Kaufman, the guest conductor for this weekend's performance of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's first installment of its CSO at the Movies Series, has done it all. Studying music with a classical background, he began his instruction learning the violin at age seven. Kaufman then forayed into a melange of ventures, from being MGM's music coordinator, to coaching notable actors in musical roles, to conducting famed pieces for the world's top orchestras. His work earned him a Grammy award in 2003, and he has conducted orchestras alongside musical greats, from John Denver, to The Beach Boys, to Art Garfunkel. This holiday weekend brings him to Chicago, where he will conduct the CSO's presentation of Pixar in Concert. I spoke with Richard about this musical event, his influences and his unique history as a musician.

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Interview Wed Nov 05 2014

Interview: The Dirty Dirty Dollars

Interesting startup story: The Dirty Dirty Dollars began as a Creedence Clearwater Revival cover band. Finding that they enjoyed bringing an energized, high-octane rock sound to their audience, they began composing music of their own, and will be showcasing their talents at the beloved venue Martyrs' this Friday evening, where they will also release their latest singles, "An' When I Die" and "Pushin'."


Originally vowing to only create music that revolved around the subjects of "sex, death, beer and our fathers," the Dollars traveled across the United States to gain the inspiration they craved. They spent time at Memphis's revered Ardent Studios, which hosted the recordings of notable rock greats, from ZZ Top, to Big Star and The White Stripes. The group's raunchy personality is what attracts to their sound like a moth to a flame, as their upcoming live show promises to be one full of spontaneity and a bit of notoriety, too.

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Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Sep 01 2014

Beyond and Back with John Doe

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John Doe. Photo credit: Autumn De Wilde.

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?

Hah, on a really bad night maybe.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (0)

Interview Wed Aug 27 2014

Jazz Speak with Mike Reed

By Stuart Ross

Mike Reed is an example of a Chicago musician we can't take for granted. Born and raised in Evanston, Mike has been an integral part of the Chicago music community for more than 15 years. He showcases his dynamic, skin-tight percussion work with groups like People, Places & Things. And he has a hand in producing a number of events in the city, from the Pitchfork Music Festival to this weekend's free Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park, the Cultural Center and elsewhere around town. The festival kicks off Thursday at noon. See a full schedule.

I spoke with Mike about some of his recent performances and what's upcoming at the festival.


You've been involved with the festival for several years. How did this come about and what were some of your programming goals this year?

I'm involved in this work through being a board member of the Jazz Institute of Chicago, which has been the programming and planning partner since the inception of the festival. The event itself is produced by DCASE, so this is a partnership event with a long history. It's actually the oldest of all the free city festivals.

The committee is made up of eight members, pulled from the larger jazz community as well as the insights of many other friends and consultants. Because of this larger context there's a lot of ideas that circulate on what we're programming and why. We of course want to try and represent the large swath that makes up jazz and especially jazz in Chicago. We don't always succeed in the ways we want to, but it's such a huge task that no one could fulfill every desire.

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Pitchfork Music Festival Mon Jul 21 2014

Interview: Hundred Waters at Pitchfork Music Festival

pitchfork2014.jpgHundred Waters is a group to watch; their dynamic opening set at Pitchfork Music Festival this past Friday was unreal and other-worldly, as it contributed ethereal sounds to Union Park's dense landscape. I was lucky to get a chance to chat with the group, who are as humble as they are a master of their musical craft, as we discussed their distinct sound, their growth as a band, and more. Catch the interview with the full sound clip below, and tune into their music for a sound unlike anything you've heard before.

Interview with Hundred Waters at Pitchfork Music Festival 2014

Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

US Air Guitar Tue Jun 10 2014

Nordic Thunder Returns to the US Air Guitar Semifinals

nordic2.jpgHalf the reason I went to my first air guitar competition was that I had a free ticket; the other half was to ditch a lame party that had gotten uncomfortable. By the evening's end I had become a full fledged, hard core, air guitar nerd. I watched the gripping and hilarious documentary Air Guitar Nation and became an avid fan of Chicago's own air guitar god, Nordic Thunder.

When I got the chance to interview Mr. Thunder himself, my geek levels went into overdrive. I nabbed the interview opportunity and immediately went into a panic: how could I possibly prepare for an interview with someone who's won a world championship for playing an instrument that doesn't even exist? What on earth could I ask the man that he hadn't already been asked? How could I possibly manage to simultaneously hold in my mind these two completely true facts: by night Nordic Thunder is a world champion air guitarist; by day he answers to the name Justin Howard and holds a steady job at Rotary International headquarters in Evanston? There was only one way to find out -- screw up my courage to actually talk to the man.

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Interview Mon Apr 07 2014

Interview: Briar Rabbit Shares His Soulful Wisdom

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Photo via Facebook

Philip-Michael Scales, performing under the stage name Briar Rabbit, has been making quite a statement for himself in the world of music. Born into the family of musical legend B.B. King, his uncle, then attending the prestigious Berklee School of Music, and now, touring the country in support of his recent release, From Your Bones, Scales has set himself apart with his unique musical style of wisdom-infused folk music.

Each of his songs are punctuated with lyrical ingenuity, all telling stories of raw and relatable emotions and situations that occur as part of human nature and the beauty of life itself, heartbreak, despair, and all. The vulnerability present within his musical catalog promotes his songs to include a quality of sheer honesty and also exquisite candor. He will be gracing Chicago with his musical presence for a show at the Hideout this Thursday, April 10. I was grateful to get a chance to speak with him about his dynamic music, his songwriting processes, and his extremely soulful views on creativity, authentic living, and following your dreams.

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Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Mar 20 2014

"Documenting the Scene": A Conversation with Notes & Bolts Label Head Micha Ward

notes&bolts.pngMost of us would agree that the countless Chicago-based record labels and the bands they champion are a plethora of riches. The labels range from the commonly known to the newer upstarts, from Thrill Jockey to Drag City, but while many of these labels do feature many Windy City bands, only a few are exclusively for bands from the city. Notes and Bolts forges its own fiercely Chicago-centric path by focusing its attention on bands that call Chicago home. The label originated from a podcast created by Kriss Stress, who would have Chicago musicians and bands come in to spin their own tracks, as well as selections from other Chicago favorites.

Friday, March 21, marks a new chapter for the label, as they put on the first show of a monthly residency at the G-man Tavern, 3740 N. Clark St. (formerly known as the Gingerman), starting at 9pm. Kicking things off will be Chicago-based bands Swimsuit Addition and MTVGhosts, and you can find out all the information about the show by clicking here.

To learn more about the G-man residency and all things Notes and Bolts, I spoke with Micha Ward, who runs the day-to-day operations of the label. We talked about the label's inspirations, their unconventional approach to releases, and how the inclusiveness of Chicago's music scene can be its greatest attribute.

What is your role at Notes and Bolts and how did you come to be involved with it?

Notes and Bolts has essentially been a document of the underground of Chicago music for about a year-and-a-half. It was started by a gentleman named Kriss Stress, and the label portion started off as an offshoot of the podcast. Some of these younger bands weren't getting any distribution in any physical form. I came onboard last year to take over the label.

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Interview Wed Feb 19 2014

It's Not Who Killed Her, It's What: An Interview with Nick Waterhouse

The loquacious Nick Waterhouse is a cool, brainy cat. His songs are drenched in as much allegory and indecipherable Raymond Chandler references as they are in upbeat stabs of horns and surf guitar. And how he manages to marry stark, sophisticated insights to a swinging, light-hearted sound in each song on his new album was a mystery I was determined to unravel when I spoke with him over the phone last Thursday. During our 15 minutes Nick chatted with me about Shakespeare, the follies of California twentysomethings, and the imperfect protagonist of his new album, Holly.

How's your morning?

It's good! On my way over to Fairfax studio now.

They just moved into Sound City right? It must've been pretty cool to record there.

Yeah, it's in that unit. It's a very good, large, live room. Kevin Augunas who bought it did a wonderful job rebuilding it. He didn't mess with the room but he completely gutted it and redid all of the equipment there, which you know, I didn't exactly listen to Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes and want that drum sound or anything.

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Concert Thu Feb 13 2014

Show Preview and an Interview: Linnea Olsson

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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.

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Interview Wed Feb 05 2014

A Chat with Hospitality

By Stuart Ross

Indie-rock trio Hospitality brought their live show to Schubas this week in support of Trouble, their second full-length on Merge Records.

On the front end of their 2012 self-titled debut, Hospitality proved themselves to be makers of joyful pop. Songs like "Eighth Avenue" raced through last night's party, and the irresistible "Betty Wang" had nothing to do the next morning but linger at brunch. The record's deeper cuts, though, hinted at a darker side, and the band lets that side flourish on this year's Trouble.

Consider the first track, "Nightingale." You hear a nightingale and you might think flowers at your feet. But the riff is ominous and down in the bass. Even the chaperoned sway of a gem like "It's Not Serious" carries a serious message between the lines.

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Music Business Wed Jan 29 2014

MAEK: The World's First Free Music Record Label

MAEK Records logoWhile many record label companies struggle to fight against their listeners who try to get music for free, a new Chicago-based company has decided to stop fighting against the current. Maek is the world's first free music record label, and there's no catch.

"We believe there's a bridge between music being available and free for fans but musicians still making a living, actually making more money, off of their art than they would just trying to title it to fans," said Jason Sizer, president of the company. Sizer originally studied to work as an architect, but decided to tailor his background in graphics and art development to music.

Sizer spoke with a mentor about his idea for a free music record label back in 2011 when the company was first founded, and people thought he was crazy. The company continued making progress and was officially established in September 2013.

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Concert Wed Dec 11 2013

Mary Wilson and The Four Tops Make the Holidays "Spectacular"


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.

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Interview Wed Nov 20 2013

Interview: Brendan Canning

Brendan Canning has made quite the name for himself in the music industry. Dabbling in many different groups throughout his accomplished career, Canning has founded the unique indie rock outfit Broken Social Scene, and has been a member of groups such as By Divine Right, Len and a more recent project, Cookie Duster.

On his own, Canning has released two solo albums, notably, the most recent record, You Gots 2 Chill, released this past year. Presenting listeners with exquisite layering amidst a simple backdrop, the album presents Canning's music at its most vulnerable. Featuring a blend of instrumental and non-instrumental ballads that showcase the versatility of the acoustic guitar, Canning shows once again that he is a master at his craft as he meanders down many different musical avenues.

I got the chance to speak with Canning about his career: the music that he has created, the influences that have inspired him, and where he would like to go in the future. Just like talking to an old friend, Canning was warm and relaxed, and also humble as he spoke about his impressive career and the many different forays he has pursued throughout his time in the music industry.

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Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Nov 07 2013

A Chat with Dave Rempis: Jazz, Aerophones & Telepathic Empathy

By Stuart Ross

Dave Rempis has been an integral part of the Chicago music scene for 15 years. He curates many of the performances that keep the city a global destination for improvised music. He's also one of the main organizers of the Umbrella Music Festival, now in its eighth year, going on today and throughout the weekend.

Dave's recordings have been reviewed in The New York Times, The Chicago Reader, Downbeat, and others publications. The long list of musicians he's collaborated with includes Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Anderson, and Ken Vandermark.

I talked with Dave about the Umbrella Fest, starting his own record label, how music drives social change, parsley, and a few other things.

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Interview Tue Sep 24 2013

Singers and the Endless Song: Interview with Sam Beam

If you have been listening to Iron & Wine's earliest discography produced more than a decade ago, you've likely followed their sound as it has grown over the years. From lo-fi Southern folk music that was both haunting and introspective on The Creek Drank The Cradle, to the sweet ballads on Our Endless Numbered Days, to adding backing vocals and layered effects on The Shepherd's Dog, to pop flavors reminiscent of the 60s on Kiss Each Other Clean, and finally, to playing with and juxtaposing many different styles on Iron and Wine's most recent release, Ghost on Ghost. Iron & Wine's sound has never once remained stagnant or grown stale; it has constantly grown and matured, becoming more innovative as the days have passed, but never losing the signature sound that allowed listeners to fall in love with the music back in 2002.

Singer Sam Beam is the man behind the group's name, which was originally derived from a supplement called Beef, Iron and Wine that he saw in a gas station while shooting a film project in Georgia. The mercurial aspect of the name seeps into his sound; the heavy material illuminating iron, balanced and contrasted by the sweetness of the wine. Beam has had an extremely full life - one that almost rivals the fullness of his classic beard that he dons. Raised in the country, Beam has lived all over the South, currently residing in Texas after living in South Carolina, Florida and Virginia. Enthralled by the cinema, before his musical career began, Beam taught cinematography prior to releasing The Creek Drank The Cradle, produced solely in a home studio. Writing lyrics that can enrapture and enchant us while transporting us to a memory instantly is an effortless quality that Beam has perfected in his songs. From haunting ballads that can literally chill you to the bone, to sweet songs that make you instantly crack a smile, Beam is wise beyond his years, and easily imparts this wisdom to his plethora of loyal followers.

I got the chance to chat with Beam over the phone, whose soothing voice and gentle demeanor immediately put me at ease, just as is standard with his music, before Iron & Wine makes a tour stop at The Chicago Theatre this Friday evening. He discussed his new album, the growth of his sound, and where he sees Iron & Wine moving to in the future.

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Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Sep 19 2013

A Strange Victory: Derek Becker on Life Lessons, the Hideout, and the Best Rock Band in Chicago

Derek Becker is behind some of Chicago's best and most unique bands. He's not a musician, nor a producer, nor some wealthy benefactor of local music. He's an agent, and through the Strange Victory Touring Company, the agency he cofounded in 2011, Becker is responsible for getting great and strange music to the populace: Crime and the City Solution, Daniel Knox, Silver Jews, M.A.K.U. Soundsystem, Mucca Pazza, and dozens more artists from around the world.

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Pitchfork Music Festival Tue Jul 23 2013

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Tree


Tree by Lisa White

We sat down with hometown MC Tree after he kicked off Sunday afternoon in Union Park, serving up Soul Trap and some Chicago pride under the sun. After answering a quick phone call and relaxing a bit backstage, Tree spoke with us about playing SXSW, discussed the Chicago hip hop community and what inspires him in our city. It was a lovely way to relax and end our weekend chatting with artist in Union Park.

Interview with Tree at Pitchfork Music Festival

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Pitchfork Music Festival Mon Jul 22 2013

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Trail of Dead

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Conrad from Trail of Dead by Lisa White

Conrad Keely, lead singer of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, sat down to chat with us before taking the stage to deliver a heavy hitting rock set Saturday afternoon. We discussed some of his favorite festivals, the bands natural recording process, and how the music industry has changed since Trail of Dead began in 1994.

Interview with Trail of Dead at Pitchfork Music Festival

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists from Pitchfork Music Festival here on Gapers Block.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Pitchfork Music Festival Mon Jul 22 2013

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: White Lung

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White Lung by Joshua Mellin

After waking up the crowd Saturday morning with their own brand of punk rock, we were able to catch up with Canadian outfit White Lung. We spoke to them about surreal life on the road, the shelf life of their music, and Canadian kid music.

Interview with White Lung at Pitchfork Music Festival

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists from Pitchfork Music Festival here on Gapers Block.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Pitchfork Music Festival Sun Jul 21 2013

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Wire


Wire by Joshua Mellin

We kicked off our Conversations at Pitchfork series this year chatting with Graham Lewis from the seminal art punk band Wire. Graham shared with us his preference in live venue, how the music industry has changed since Wire formed in the '70s, and his earliest music memory.

Interview with Wire at Pitchfork Music Festival

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists from Pitchfork Music Festival here on Gapers Block.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Jun 17 2013

Interview: Harmonizing with John C. Reilly at the Old Town School of Folk Music


Left to right: Becky Stark, Tom Brosseau, and John C. Reilly

Anyone who has followed actor John C. Reilly's career up to this point shouldn't have a hard time discovering his musical talents. In addition to roles alongside Will Ferrell in comedies such as Step Brothers and Talladaga Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Reilly sang in the 2002 movie adaptation of Chicago, and he also starred, sang, and played guitar as the fictional music icon Dewey Cox in Judd Apatow's biopic parody Walk Hard. He even made a brief appearance in A Prairie Home Companion as one-half of a hoakey folk-comedy duo alongside Woody Harrelson.

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.

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Marc Fishman / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Apr 08 2013

Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck Discusses Muchacho's Desperate Excitement


It's hard to tell what exactly is going on in the cover photo for Phosphorescent's new album, Muchacho. Frontman Matthew Houck sits cropped out of the frame on the right, wearing a cowboy hat and what looks like a rhinstone-studded Western shirt. A woman wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and an unbuttoned shirt laughs on the bed. Someone appears to be lying down just next to her. It looks like they could be in a hotel room. Perhaps they're back after a night of heavy drinking.

Either way, the image is a good companion to the songs on Muchacho, which often convey similar feelings of weary excitement. Whether it's through the balance of synthesizers and live instruments on "Song for Zula," or the radiant electricity of a song like "Ride On / Right On," Muchacho operates on a thin line between this seemingly celebratory and weary mood.

Last month, I spoke with Phosphorescent's Matthew Houck over the phone as he was preparing for the start his North American tour, which rolls through Chicago this Saturday for a sold out show at Lincoln Hall. Houck answered questions about the making of Muchacho, what life is like both on and off tour, gentrification at home in Brooklyn, and the subtle tension between darkness and light that runs through the new album.

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Marc Fishman / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Apr 04 2013

Inspired Clowning: An Interview with Mucca Pazza's Mark Messing

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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.

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Timothy Schuler / Comments (1)

sxsw2013 Mon Mar 11 2013

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound and Gemini Club Head to SXSW

sxsw2013.jpgSouth by Southwest is already underway, but this week will bring thousands and thousands of music fans to Austin for the music arm of the annual conference. Two very different Chicago bands — the soul troubadours JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound and experimental electronica group Gemini Club are both loading up their vans and heading down south, and they'll be sending daily updates back to Chicago by way of the Transmission blog.

Electronica quartet Gemini Club consists of members Dan Brunelle, Tom Gavin, Ryan Luciani and Gordon Bramli. I've been a fan of the band's music for a while now, but I'd never had the pleasure of chatting with them. To get a bit more into the band's head before we hear their personal Austin thoughts, I exchanged a few questions with Tom:

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Interview Thu Dec 20 2012

Interview: Thrill Jockey Founder, Bettina Richards

Chicago-based indie record label Thrill Jockey turned 20 this year and celebrated with a series of concerts in cities across the nation featuring their bands. In advance of tonight's final show at The Empty Bottle featuring The Sea & Cake and Tortoise, Gapers Block caught up with label founder Bettina Richards and asked a few questions about the label turning 20, and what the future holds.

What is Thrill Jockey's "origin story"? How and why did Thrill Jockey Records come into being? What was your motivation, or what "void" did you see that prompted you to start Thrill Jockey Records?

Thrill Jockey started mostly because I wanted to continue to work in music — but the way I had been did not make any sense to me. I modeled it on labels like Dischord and Touch and Go — and their 50% profit share model. I wanted to advocate for bands that I loved in an equitable way. It was not a calculated move to fill a void and capitalize on it. It was youthful/ musical enthusiasm jumping into the void, with abandon.

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Interview Thu Nov 29 2012

CHIRP Updates Its Cure for the Loneliness of Internet Radio
Since its founding in 2007, The Chicago Independent Radio Project (or CHIRP) has offered a locally-curated and volunteer-based radio alternative to the otherwise mostly commercial stations that play music over the city's radio waves. But don't try looking for it on your car radio.

Current regulations under the Federal Communications Commission have prevented CHIRP from obtaining an official broadcast license, so the "station" has instead relied on Internet streaming as a way to bring independent-minded music and arts content to Chicago listeners. So it's no minor announcement when an entirely Internet-based radio station unveils a complete reworking of its website.

Tonight, CHIRP celebrates the official launch of its new and improved website with a party at Lincoln Hall featuring live music from four of the station's favorite local bands. Over a year in the making, the website brings together previously separate CHIRP-related sites under one confusion-free URL. But most importantly, the site features a brand new user-friendly interface geared towards maintaining an online community around CHIRP's programming.

I spoke with CHIRP founder and general manager Shawn Campbell about the need for this new website, as well as some more potentially big news on the horizon for the web-only radio station.

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Marc Fishman / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Nov 08 2012

Interview: Mehran Jalili Finds a Rock Band for the Flamenco Guitar

Chicago-based flamenco guitarist Mehran Jalili has literally followed the guitar around the world. Born in Iran, he moved to Chicago as a teenager, where he picked up the guitar after falling in love with the music of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. He played in his own bands for a while, but ultimately decided to pursue a career in law -- that is, until he saw someone playing flamenco guitar at a club one night.


The Mehran Jalili Ensemble

Jalili decided to scrap his law school plans and travel to Spain to study flamenco, which is a notoriously virtuosic style of guitar playing. In 2010, he released his first album, Angels of Persepolis, which garnered international attention for the inspiration it took from Iran's Green Movement protests. This year, Jalili released his second album, Subterranea, which finds him returning to his progressive rock roots as a flamenco guitarist. Jalili enlisted a group of three other Chicago musicians to help refine the flamenco style for the traditional rock band format.

I recently spoke with Jalili over the phone about his decision to bring flamenco into the genre he grew up listening to, the technical (and sometimes physical) difficulty of playing flamenco music, and the nature of having an international audience.
The Mehran Jalili Ensemble plays this Saturday at Uncommon Ground in Edgewater.

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Marc Fishman / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Sep 10 2012

Interview: Dustin Wong's New Dreams

By Ben Wilkes

Many alternative music fans are familiar with Dustin Wong, whether they know it or not. Formerly the lead guitarist and a key creative force behind the frenetic art punk of Ponytail, a Baltimore 4-piece that grew from its roots as a Maryland Institute College of Art class project, Dustin is no stranger to experimentation. A maestro of the loop pedal, in his solo work, Dustin layers intricate guitar melodies in real-time to construct cathartic soundscapes that challenge the conventions of songwriting. His February 2012 release, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, on Chicago's Thrill Jockey Records, breaks new ground for him as a musician and for us as listeners, bearing witness to orchestral, psychedelic swarms reminiscent of the greatest electronic and classical composers.

Dustin kicks off a North American tour supporting Beach House on Thursday in Richmond, VA, but he will first stop in Chicago tonight. Dustin is headlining a free show tonight at the Empty Bottle, starting at 9:30pm, that features local acts Bitchin' Bajas and Axis:sovA. For fans of jazz to noise, a live performance that builds elaborate walls of sound brick by brick is surely not one to be missed. I had the chance to chat with the humble, passionate Dustin about his new album, upcoming tour, and how Tibetan monks influence his songwriting process.

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Interview Fri Aug 31 2012

Chicago's Up-And-Coming: Interview with Cold Blue Kid

Atmospheric. Hauntingly mesmerizing. These fresh, layered indie rock sounds from up-and-coming Chicago band Cold Blue Kid can be found on both albums they've recorded, from their self-titled debut released in 2010, to the more cultivated Mimic, released in February of this past year. I got a chance to chat with frontman Alex Longoria about Cold Blue Kid's history, namesake, and what the future holds for the dynamic group.

Cold Blue Kid's music has a unique, innovative sound, but also one that is also grounded in stability. The dreamy, fuzzy backdrops combined with darker rock elements and experimentation with different instruments leads to the culmination of a soothing soundtrack featuring all that is good in the world of indie folk rock. Songs range from introspective, comprised of languid beats, to summery, synth-induced rock.

"I'm always writing music. I feel like I have journals, and journals, because I always wrote. Maybe they are not full songs, but I went back and took these abstract obscure words and put them together," Longoria stated of his song-writing method.

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Interview Mon Aug 20 2012

Interview: Gotye Talks About Songwriting, Record Shops, and His Live Show

If you've been steering clear of Saturday Night Live, your radio, your friend's radio, cars with their windows open, You Tube, or just about everyone's iPod, I could see how you've avoided hearing the song "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Belgian-born, and now Austrailia-based singer/songwriter Gotye. It happens. Take a moment and watch the much-parodied and remixed video for the song, below:

Gotye's sample-heavy music is catchy, and instantly likable — filled with intriguing sonic diversions that head all over the musical stratosphere. In advance of his show at the Charter One Pavilion on August 24, I was lucky enough to get him on the phone in Australia for a quick chat, in which he opened up about the odd likability of the breakup story in his hit single, his songwriting process, how he likes to discover new tunes, and more.

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Lollapalooza Fri Aug 03 2012

Pre-Gaming Lollapalooza with Boyd Tinsley

To kick off Lollapalooza weekend, Boyd Tinsley (who you might recognize from his two decades with Dave Matthews Band) stopped by Rockit River North to celebrate the release of his new film, Faces in the Mirror (which debuts August 30, 2012 at Boyd has also released a t-shirt line in conjunction with the film with designer Jason Franklin of Sportiqe, which was debuted at the party. I sat down with Boyd to chat about his upcoming film, t-shirt line, and the Dave Matthews Band.

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Interview Wed Aug 01 2012

Concert for a Cause: Interview with Nelarusky's Lauren McClusky

Each year, Lollapalooza's pre-shows seem to gain more and more buildup; which of Lolla's prized acts will be featured at a more intimate setting before the festival begins? This year, Lollapalooza pre-shows sold out in mere minutes, seemingly becoming more in demand than ever before. Young entrepreneur Lauren McClusky has forged her own path for her fledgling benefit concert turned Lollapalooza pre-show, known as Nelarusky, which this year features headliner Alabama Shakes, as it has transformed into a powerful benefit concert event positively impacting the Chicago music scene, and the world beyond.

Lauren McClusky has traversed the music scene well over early on in her career; after working in publicity, at venues, and in planning Nelarusky year after year, McClusky has distinguished Nelarusky as a strong annual music event. The term "Nelarusky" itself is a combination of the letters in Lauren McClusky's name, after a squabble with McDonald's left the original event name "McFest" back in the dust.

"We were trying to come up with a new name and one of the volunteers shouted it out. It kind of just stuck, because people thought having a name like that would stand out a little more than something else," McClusky stated.

Not only has Nelarusky grown immensely over its six year run, but it also provides music while making a difference; proceeds from the concert go directly towards the Special Olympics charity. McClusky stated that Special Olympics has been a special organization in the hearts of her family, as they traveled over the U.S. and different parts of the world volunteering for the cause. Therefore, there was no question in her mind when choosing the charity to be the beneficiary of the concert's success.

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Pitchfork Music Festival Sat Jul 14 2012

Conversations at Pitchfork: eMusic Editor-in-Chief J. Edward Keyes


eMusic Editor-in-Chief J. Edward Keyes and His Aura

If you've attended the Pitchfork Music Festival since the event started back in 2005, you are probably familiar with eMusic. The online music subscription site has been a supporter and sponsor of the festival since the beginning. It's no surprise, since eMusic and Pitchfork share very similar ideas on finding quality new music. Full disclosure, I've been a paying member on the site for years now, and I'm a huge fan of the catalog of music they have. Sure, I can find many popular hits on there, but I've also found a lot of under the radar bands, mainly thanks to their lovingly crafted editorial content.

This year eMusic has brought to the festival a contraption they've designed called the Electromusical Energy Visualizer. Basically you walk into a booth, put on headphones that pump out selected Pitchfork Festival artists, and then a machine snaps photos of your aura while listening to each artist. The machine prints out a photo for you to keep, and your aura can be read for you. It's a cool concept to explore how music affects us in more than one way, and we'll have up in a bit our own experience getting our aura photos taken yesterday at the festival.

Before the weekend kicked off, we got a few moments to chat with eMusic Editor-in-Chief J. Edward Keyes about the Electromusical Energy Visualizer, the festival itself, and the bands he suggested were the best bet to check out this weekend. Check out our interview after the jump.

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Interview Sat Jun 16 2012

4 Questions with Midnight Conspiracy

Skrillex, DeadMau5, Rusko. Yes, these are all music artists. Electronic dance music artists--or EDM--to be exact. They've all broken through on a national scale and have rolled through Chicago for various summer festival performances.

Our city has undeniably always been a magnet for national talent for whatever the hot new thing in music is. But we always hold true to our own talent, too. Amongst the sea of blazing hot DJs and producers that will be hitting the stages at Spring Awakening Music Festival this weekend including the aforementioned Grammy-winning Skrillex, there will also be more local beatmakers than you can shake a neon-colored stick at. Midnight Conspiracy is one of those acts. Gapers Block had the chance to chat with these dubstep trailblazers before their Saturday afternoon set at Spring Awakening.

GB: Tell me a little bit about how Midnight Conspiracy originated.

Mikul Wing: Midnight Conspiracy originated in the basement of Angels & Kings. We all were part of a weekly party called "Disappear Here" and between all the partying and drinking back then decided to form Midnight Conspiracy. And then things started to get serious, we put in the hard work, and here we are today. Blur the lines between work and play and you'll find yourself surprised with the results.

GB: EDM music has seen a huge explosion in popularity over the last few years and has arguably become a major presence in mainstream culture. Why do you think this is? Why now?

Louis Kha: When traveling around to the college campuses, I've noticed EDM being played in places I wouldn't have expected a couple years ago like frat parties and your normal college bar or club. People tell me that these places used to play hip hop and now they play EDM, so I ask, "Why the change? Why do you like EDM?" The responses usually come in the form of "It's just good fun and good vibes."

It remains to be seen if EDM can transcend and become a lasting force like hip hop or fade away as the latest fad to hit the youth.

GB: Why do you think Chicago has become such a huge hub for EDM music?
Louis Kha: There's a really long tradition of house music and other forms of electronic music in Chicago. So you have the old guard that were in a position of booking venues and clubs. And their passion for EDM is what drove them to take risks on acts way before EDM got popular. And from that they just cultivated a scene rich in EDM.

GB: You guys are playing Spring Awakening festival. What's the most exciting part about that for you?

Louis Kha: I'm stoked to play in Solider Field. Aside from being a big football fan when I was a kid, I remember watching Depeche Mode's 101 documentary and seeing them perform in other football stadiums like the Rose Bowl. That whole arena rock thing was epic, so it's exciting to bring EDM to the arena.

Download Midnight Conspiracy's third installment of their Dead Fame mixtape series here. Catch them TODAY at Spring Awakening Music Festival on the Da Main Stage from 6-7pm.

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Interview Tue Mar 27 2012

Interview: Bowerbirds — Building with Salvaged Wood

[This interview comes to us from reader Rachel Angres.]

Beth Tacular and Phil Moore of Bowerbirds were gracious to share a telephone line and a few stories while sitting in their un-finished cabin located in a remote area just outside of their hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. The cabin is a work in progress that Beth and Phil began building with their very own bare hands over the course of three years, coincidentally since the time they began recording their previous album Hymns For a Dark Horse back in the fall of 2007. The band just released its latest effort, The Clearing, this past month.

They started building the cabin by gathering scraps of wood from the surrounding land to build the structure and foundation. As an artist herself, Beth was exhilarated about this challenging process, perhaps because she utilized her craftsmanship and artistic talent to incorporate art into the manual labor.

[mp3] - "Tuck The Darkness In" by Bowerbirds from The Clearing

bowerbirds beth and phil.jpg
Beth Tacular and Phil Moore of Bowerbirds

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Feature Thu Mar 15 2012

Looking Minnesota: Greg Norton Meets the Hüsker Düdes

By John Greenfield

It must be pretty strange to see someone else portray you in a cover band, but Greg Norton, bass player from the influential Minneapolis punk trio Hüsker Dü, was a good sport about it.

Best known for his iconic handlebar moustache, Norton has kept a relatively low musical profile since Hüsker's demise in 1988. Instead, he pursued his interests in the culinary arts and, after many years in the restaurant business, currently works as a sales rep for a wine broker. However, in recent years he's been playing bass in The Gang Font feat. Interloper, an oddly named supergroup with members of The Bad Plus and Happy Apple.

Last Saturday Norton and his girlfriend Tobi Severson traveled from their home in Red Wing, MN, to Chicago's Quenchers Tavern to celebrate his 53rd birthday at a gig by Hüsker Düdes. Possibly the world's only Hüsker Dü tribute act, the band, featuring bassist Geoff Greenberg (Mr. Rudy Day), guitarist Dan Fanelli (Land of the El Caminos) and drummer Eric Mahle (Sunken Ships, Sybris) formed in early 2010. That fall the rhythm section played a few tunes with notoriously erratic Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart on guitar during his solo appearance at Quenchers.

Hüsker Dü bassist Greg Norton sings with the Hüsker Düdes. (Photo by John Greenfield)

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Interview Thu Mar 01 2012

Talking with Korallreven

korall.jpg Korallreven's simply titled debut album An Album by Korallreven is an exploration through Balearic pop and southern Pacific sounds in a dense yet ethereal electronic aesthetic that features Julianna Barwick and Victoria Bergsman (formerly of the Concretes, currently performing as Taken By Trees) guesting on vocals. The Swedish duo of Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjäder (also of the Radio Dept.) begin their first US tour that puts them at Schubas on Tuesday, the 6th. New York's Young Magic opens. Tom Krell (How To Dress Well) spins music before and after sets. The show starts at 8PM, is 18+ and $14. Gapers Block had a chance to chat with the gentlemen before they headed out on the road.

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Interview Fri Feb 17 2012

Da Brat Returns to Chicago with the Legends of Hip Hop Tour, Saturday


For 20 years now, Da Brat has cemented her status as one of the most noted women in hip hop; as the first female rapper to ever go platinum (1994's Funkdafied), this Grammy-nominated artist has definitely earned a place in music history. After riding in the fast lane with three follow-up albums, along with several television and movie roles, Da Brat (aka Shawntae Harris) hit a speed bump in 2007 with a prison term that threatened to end it all. Now, the Chicago native, part of the Legends of Hip Hop tour, is back in the driver's seat; here, she talks about her life, lessons learned, and of course, loving hip hop.

Gapers Block: You've been in the game for a while now. Take us back to the girl growing up on Chicago's west side — when did you know you could rap?

Da Brat: I knew when I was in junior high school when I was battling all the guys and was just wearing them out. And then when I started to see MC Lyte, [Queen] Latifah and Monie Love, I said to myself, "Oh — this is what I'm going to do."

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Interview Wed Feb 01 2012

Next Stop: Mongolia (Canasta Heads East...Way East)

Canasta prepares for their journey (photo courtesy the band)

Some bands tour via car, van or bus, but Chicago indie band Canasta is going to have to manage their upcoming tour with some planes and a convoy of trucks and jeeps. As part of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs' Arts Envoy Program the band will be performing in Mongolia next week. They'll begin their tour on Friday, February 3, in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and also play in Tsetserleg, Harhorin, and Arvaikheer, finishing up in Ulaanbaatar on the 12th. Canasta will play similar sets to what they usually break out for evenings at Schubas and the like, but admit that there might be some changes in their normal format. They'll not only give live musical performances, but also give workshops and lead jam sessions with the locals. Canasta is comprised of Matt Priest (lead vocals, bass, trombone); Elizabeth Lindau (violin, vocals); Jeremy Beckford (guitar, vocals); Brian Palmieri (drums); Ryan Tracy (keyboard, piano, bass, vocals); and Sarah Kneebone (piano, keyboard, vocals).

Perhaps some pre-trip inspiration can be gleaned from a song from their latest album:

[mp3] - Canasta - "Reading the Map Upside Down" from The Fakeout, the Tease and the Breather

While they're away, we've asked the band to live blog their experiences for Gapers Block's readers. Look for more from the band while they're in Mongolia (if they can find some wifi) and once they're back home.

In the middle of packing this week, the band's keyboard/piano player Ryan Tracy was kind enough to share his thoughts on the band's upcoming adventure.

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Interview Thu Sep 29 2011

Nordic Thunder: The Myth, The Man, the 2011 National Air Guitar Champion

On August 26th, a leather-clad, Viking-esque man named Nordic Thunder took to a rain-slicked stage in Finland and showed the world how a Chicagoan rocks the fictional guitar at the 2011 World Air Guitar Championship. Despite a valiant effort that included one monumental slide off the stage, the U.S.'s 2011 champion lost by 0.3 points to Germany's The Devil's Niece.

On the other side of the world, I, along with many of my Rotary coworkers, watched Nordic Thunder, who we knew as that video guy, Justin Howard, flip sweat-drenched hair and jam his imaginary ax. It was hard to believe that guy on stage was the same quiet guy from the elevator.

Nordic Thunder (aka Justin Howard) (photo by Alyce Henson)

It got me thinking, who is this Nordic Thunder fellow and just what makes him rock? Luckily, the air guitarist had some free time between photo shoots and signing autographs to sit down for some tea.

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Interview Tue Aug 30 2011

Pygmalion Music Festival Is On Its Way

Labor Day weekend may be upon us as the unofficial end of summer, but that doesn't mean that outdoor festivals are finished for 2011. The AV Club's Fest is coming up soon and the Hideout Block Party is a month away, but if you're up for a weekend out of the city, Champaign might not be a bad spot from September 21 through 25. The Pygmalion Music Festival returns for its 7th year with arguably its best lineup yet featuring Explosions in the Sky, Cut Copy, Braid, Gang Gang Dance, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, the Dodos, Japandroids and a bunch of other acts, including a gaggle of great locals. Polyvinyl Records' 15th Anniversary highlights this year's festival on Saturday, the 24th. Ahead of this year's festival, Transmission chatted with founder and organizer Seth Fein. Even though full festival passes recently sold out, single show tickets are still on sale. Visit for details on the whole weekend.

Transmission: What was the initial inspiration for Pygmalion when it began in 2005?
Seth Fein: Basically, I just knew that Champaign-Urbana could support a festival like this one. I had been to AthFest in Athens, GA and had heard of Bloomingtonfest in Bloomington, IN, so basically, I had the model that I wanted to work with. I wanted to give it a name that has significance to me and the community and I landed with Pygmalion: in honor of Slowdive's last record from 1995, and to pay homage to Richard Powers' novel, Galatea 2.2 -- a true modern day Pygmalion story.

T: What are expectations for Pygmalion now in its 7th year? Do the expectations increase each year based on the prior year's success?
SF: I think just above all, that it feels more professionally handled and that the level of artistry is improved. I spent a lot of time working with my existing sponsors and a handful of trusted agents to bring together this year's lineup. I think it was a success. Expectations for me are simply to just be able to present a solid night of artists every night of the festival. That's definitely been the case the past three years in my estimation.

T: How did the Polyvinyl 15th Anniversary show come together? And has it been the intention that, as the festival grew, there'd eventually be an outdoor event?
SF: I work closely with the label, and seeing as how [label manager] Seth [Hubbard] is a best buddy of mine, it was a natural extension of what we'd done in the past. In 2006, we did the 10-year, and I reckon that 2016 will be the 20-year. That one will likely tear the town down. As for there being an outdoor show, not necessarily. It's something I'd thought about for a while, and even once stated that that would never happen, but I have a tendency to change my mind, and fast.

T: Each year features a lot of Champaign-area bands that are new to many out-of-towners. How critical is it to balance the national headliners with the locals?
SF: Very. That's part of the intention of the festival. I want to be able to expose both locals and out-of-towners to our great music scene here, and one of the ways I can do that is to have a bunch of them performing at the festival. It's a great pleasure of mine.

T: What's the most satisfying thing about organizing Pygmalion? What do you do on September 26?
SF: I think just participating in the local culture here in Champaign-Urbana. I grew up here, and I actually stayed because I could see all that the town had to offer, and all the ways in which the town could grow. I hope that I am making an impact in that arena. September 26 -- hopefully my wife (festival photographer Justine Bursoni) will accompany me to a round of golf, and a nice dinner somewhere. Then, I will sleep and start planning for 2012.

T: There're a handful of animal-based acts on this year's lineup: The Dodos, Deerhoof, Bear Hands, Hedgehog, Iron Tigers, Mammoths, DJ White Rabbit, Why I Like Robins, Year of the Bobcat. Anything to read into that other than it's a common theme in band names?
SF: I think bands are just bands in that way. Bummed there was no "wolf" band, though. Wolves rule.

James Ziegenfus / Comments (0)

Pitchfork Music Festival Thu Jul 21 2011

Conversations at Pitchfork: Chrissy Murderbot and MC ZULU


Chrissy Murderbot and MC ZULU by Stephanie Bassos

Our final interview at the festival found us sitting down with Chicago house and juke DJ Chrissy Murderbot and MC ZULU. We chatted about the importance of answering your emails, how great the Chicago dance music scene is, and joked about living out of a hatchback.


Keep checking back for our final reviews and thoughts on Pitchfork Festival 2011.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Jul 21 2011

Interview With Upright Ape

uprightape.pngLife can take turns in ways that we cannot always predict or prevent. We depend on our minds and experiences to guide us through the very worst that life has to offer us. However, when our mind fails or deceives us or when violent forces in our lives set out to damage us it is hard to know where to turn. There are organizations that are there to help, but at the end of the day we need an outlet for all of the emotions that these situations can create. For local musician Upright Ape his life has always been complicated. He is bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, but when he met his fiancé a new element was added to his life. The family he was becoming a part of had been severely damaged and had been living on the street because their home was not safe. Upright Ape attempted to cope with this in the only way he knew how, through music. Over the last year he has recorded and self-released six albums all revolving around this situation. He is giving them away on his website, but also collecting donations that he is giving all the proceeds of to local charities that work with family that have been affected by domestic violence and child abuse.

Upright Ape is a very private person, but reached out to me a few months ago to tell his story and begin the process of spreading the word about this project.

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Pitchfork Music Festival Wed Jul 20 2011

Conversations at Pitchfork: OFF!


OFF! by Stephanie Bassos

What do you talk about with a few of the guys that basically helped lay the groundwork of hardcore and punk rock music? KISS of course. Keith Morris, Dimitri Coats, and Steve Shane McDonald of OFF! chatted with Gapers Block about their early music memories, how to successfully keep sane playing in bands, and give a comparative analysis of how many times Keith Morris has seen Guided By Voices vs. Mott the Hoople.


OFF! by Stephanie Bassos

Keep checking back all weekend and next week for more Pitchfork Festival 2011 coverage from Gapers Block.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Pitchfork Music Festival Tue Jul 19 2011

Conversations at Pitchfork: Sun Airway


Sun Airway by Stephanie Bassos

We sat down with Philly based Sun Airway after their early afternoon set at Pitchfork Saturday. While enjoying Gang Gang Dance in the background, we chatted about the writing process, how art influences music, and a few band members early notable memories of "The Boss."

Keep checking back all weekend and next week for more Pitchfork Festival 2011 coverage from Gapers Block

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Pitchfork Music Festival Mon Jul 18 2011

Conversations at Pitchfork: G-Side


G-Side by Stephanie Bassos

We kicked off our conversations at Pitchfork series this year when we sat down with G-Side, the Alabama rappers that would later take the stage Saturday and deliver a raw and energetic set that had critics and fans alike praising them across the Internet. We chatted with Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz about the Southern hip-hop scene, their first music memories, and what important acts from the South are on their radar.

Keep checking back all weekend and next week for more Pitchfork Festival 2011 coverage from Gapers Block

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Mar 31 2011

Color Radio: An Interview in Four Parts

[This interview was submitted by Rachel Angres — a music enthusiast and creative writing teacher. She is also a three time thumb war champion.]

Color Radio is a band unique to the Chicago local scene. Two brothers, Jonathan and Tohm Ifergan came together with their close friends to create such marvelous lyricism and dynamic sounds that are as echoic and obscure as they are familiar. To listen to their forthcoming album, Architects (due out in June 2011) has such rhythmic precision. It is their glowing vocals, which blend over layers of dreamy guitars that are finely tuned and followed up by ambitious percussion. Their sound has similarities to such bands as Here We Go Magic and Radiohead. Though it is unique to its own, blending dreamy pop with glimmering guitar solos, their talent is immediately apparent when listening for the very first time. And on stage it is their warmth and exuberance that can't keep you from smiling ear to ear. I had a chance to ask the men a few questions, and they gladly agreed.

Pictured from left to right: Joel Chasco, Matt Thomas, Jonathan Ifergan, Tohm Ifergan
(photo courtesy of Color Radio)

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Interview Sat Feb 19 2011

Morcheeba Speaks, Heads to the House of Blues

In the early '90s, in the electronica dominated club scene in England, kids needed something to chill out to after-hours. Born out of down-tempo electronic and hip-hop beats, trip-hop was the sound. Pioneering artists like Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, Tricky, Portishead, and the soulful, smoky, down-tempo sounds of Morcheeba provided many a kid with chilled out 3am soundtracks.

It's now been 15 years since Morcheeba's alluringly dark debut album Who Can You Trust? was released, and 12 years since the release of their platinum follow-up, and critically acclaimed, Big Calm. Since then, the trio, consisting of vocalist Skye Edwards, and sibling DJ's, composers and multi-intrumentalists, Ross and Paul Godfrey, put out two more albums together before deciding to pursue alternate paths. Skye worked on her solo career while Ross and Paul released two more albums as Morcheeba before Ross moved to Hollywood to write film scores and Paul moved to the South of France to tend to his family. Fortuitously, Ross ran into Skye on the streets of London in 2010 and, after a couple of drinks and an intense conversation, the trio decided to give their fans what they wanted: a reunited Morcheeba album.

The rest is history for 2010's release of Blood like Lemonade. The three, including an entourage of phenomenal musicians, are currently on tour in the U.S. and Canada celebrating the release of the anticipated 7th album. Morcheeba will be at Chicago's House of Blues on Tuesday, February 22, 2011. I had the opportunity to talk to Ross about the band, the new album, the future of Morcheeba and music in general.

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Transmission Tue Jan 04 2011

Interview: Light Pollution plays with Japandroids New Years Day

For the second day in a row, Brian King and David Prowse of Japandroids played Schubas Tavern to a New Years Day crowd that mainly consisted of post new years eve celebrants looking for some post-angst rock. Joining Japandroids for the New Years day night hijinks was the Chicago anthemic synth-rock band Light Pollution. They took the stage promptly at 10:00 p.m. and began playing to an already full room.

Light Pollutions' James Cicero and Matt Evert, the long-haired, bearded friends, were joined by guitarist Nick Sherman and newcomer, bassist Justin Park. Perhaps a nod to the sentiment of the night, the band began the set with "Sleepwalker," new material that will potentially go on their still unnamed forthcoming album. Interspersed through the set were fan favorites and critic approved "Oh Ivory" and "Good Feelings." In between songs, Cicero warmed up the crowd for the "super cool dudes" from Japandroids and removed a grey sweater to reveal a white Hawaii shirt that looked like it had seen extensive touring. After playing through "Bad Vibes" off of Apparitions, Cicero took tambourine in hand and finished the set with new song "Wild World," a mournful, yet redeeming tune.

After finishing their set, Light Pollution quickly packed away their instruments and made their way to Schubas' green room. Cicero, Evert and Sherman sat on a long couch with their backs to a concrete wall furnished with the concert posters of acts passed. Bassist Justin Park paced back and forth, chowing down and pita bread and hummus that Schubas had provided.


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Feature Thu Dec 09 2010

Getting a Punch Out of the Banjo

It's been a big month for Punch Brothers' banjo player and Chicago native Noam Pikelny. As if his current bands' two Grammy nominations weren't enough, Pikelny also appeared on Letterman to receive the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. When I spoke to him this week over the phone he was gearing up for a U.S. tour with the Punch Brothers, which stops in Chicago this weekend, December 11th and 12th.

"I think it's a great thing for the banjo and for bluegrass music," Pikelny told me about the award. The banjoist found out he'd been selected as the award's inaugural recipient via a letter signed by the board of professional players and musicologists involved in the decision process, several of whom Pikelny described as musical role models. The board consisted of Earl Scruggs, Pete Wernick, Tony Trischka, Anne Stringfield, Alison Brown, Neil V. Rosenberg, Bela Fleck and, of course, Steve Martin.

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Feature Tue Sep 28 2010

Epitonic — Bringing Indie (mp3s) Back

Before Pandora, Hype Machine, and even, the best way to discover new independent music was through a site called Epitonic. Founded in 1999, Epitonic was one the first sites to offer free (and legal) mp3s from independent bands and labels from around the world. Music fans would spend hours digging through the site's recommendations and discovering bands they would have completely missed without the site. Epitonic lasted until 2004, but has remained dormant since. However, one of the original founders and co-owner of the site, Chicagoan Justin Sinkovich (The Poison Arrows, File-13 Records), is being the site back is a big way, and the support has been overwhelming. He has started a Kickstarter page for fans to help and show their support, and is planning a launch event to be held when the new site is ready. We recently had the opportunity to ask Justin a few questions about Epitonic, why it is coming back, and what we can expect.


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Feature Thu Sep 02 2010

Michael Zerang: Harvesting Energies

Michael Zerang1 - photo by Gareth Mooney.jpg
Michael Zerang (photo by Gareth Mooney)

The first thing Michael Zerang wants to talk about, following our initial chit-chat and coffee orders, is his new xylophone. "It's the thing that's most obsessing me right now," he says. Zerang rattles off numerous details about the instrument: made in the '30s, blonde with rosewood bars, four octaves — few xylophones made these days are that large. "It's an unforgiving instrument. It doesn't have a 'give' the way a vibraphone or a marimba does. It's like a bagpipe — it's either on or it's off," he laughs. He's practicing it for a performance he'll give today (September 2) at noon, as part of the Michael Zerang Organic Unit, a sextet accompanying a Butoh dance troupe at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion as part of the Chicago Jazz Festival.

Of course, xylophone is not the only tool in Zerang's arsenal. Neither, for that matter, is music his only outlet for his love of rhythm.

Casual followers of Zerang's music know him as a master jazz/free improvisational percussionist, a rock-solid base from which all manner of musical forms can spring. Whether thundering behind the well-oiled jazz compactor that is the Peter Brotzmann Tentet or grounding the transmissions of gentler musical aliens like his trio with Mats Gustafsson and Jaap Blonk, Zerang is an ensemble's lightning rod. Unlike many free improvisers, Zerang possesses a rare gift — fearlessness in the face of silence. He's just as comfortable with negative space as with filling the frame.

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Interview Thu Jul 29 2010

A talk with Jason Davis of Archeology

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Photo courtesy of

In the middle of the '00s, somewhere outside of Ellisberg, Wa., hopefully amid a grid of criss-crossed string and with trowels in hand, Jason Davis and Daniel Walker met on a college archeological dig for Native American relics. A number of early collaborations and tours later, the two of them formed a band named for their shared passion by joining with drummer Benjamin Haysom and guitarist Zach Dilday in the summer of 2008.

Since then, the prolific group Archeology has released 5 EPs, and this past March its members released their first full-length, Memorial. It's a tight collection of harmony-laden folk tunes running just over half an hour and possessed of the kind of bittersweetness you're likely to experience on a cold, lonely fall day around sunset.

The band will be playing to a Chicago crowd on July 30, a perfect show to catch before Lollapolooza rolls into town and takes over. But be careful where you get your info on the where and when. The show was originally scheduled to take place at The Cave, but it's since been moved to Double Door. Music starts at 8 pm tonight, and tickets prices range from $18-20. As a preview to the show, Jason Davis sat down for a brief interview to discuss the band's style, lyrics and ambitious output

GB: So you've already had five EP's in the last year?

JD: We had three more announced EPs, and then we did two that were kind of under the radar. We were really new to the concept of releasing our own records, so the first two we just did shows around and released them that way. It sounds really foreign now, and I can't even believe we were at the point that we had to find out about how to get our music on iTunes independently and whatnot. The last three, we put a lot more effort into them and toured around them.

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Concert Mon Jul 19 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Big Boi

Big Boi by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

What a way to end Pitchfork, rushing backstage less than 30 minutes before Big Boi hits the stage to take some amazing photos and have a quick conversation with one of the most important figures in modern hip-hop. Big Boi talked about his thoughts on playing the festival, how he unwinds while keeping so busy, and what he hopes is the legacy of Big Boi.

Interview with Big Boi at Pitchfork Music Festival

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Concert Mon Jul 19 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Sharon Van Etten

Sharon Van Etten by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

We talked to Sharon Van Etten, who opened up the festival Friday, while she enjoyed a day off. We discussed the transition from an intimate venue to a festival, her creative process, and life in the Brooklyn music scene.

Interview with Sharon Van Etten at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Concert Mon Jul 19 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

We sat down with Peter from Here We Go Magic before they played Sunday to talk about recording their latest album, constant touring and life on the road, and about being signed to a Midwest label.

Interview with Here We Go Magic at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Concert Mon Jul 19 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Bear in Heaven

Bear in Heaven by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

The sun finally came back out Sunday while we chatted with Adam from Bear in Heaven. The band had a long Saturday, playing the festival before heading over to play a late show at Lincoln Hall. Adam told us about influences of the band, working together, and what it's like to go from playing a sweaty outdoor festival to an indoor venue in a matter of hours.

Interview with Bear in Heaven at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Concert Mon Jul 19 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Netherfriends

Netherfriends by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

We sat down with Shawn from Netherfriends to chat about the artists he is excited to see at Pitchfork Festival, playing teenage house parties, and doing what you love. We also survive a near death experience as our interview tent almost collapses on us, proving that Pitchfork Festival always gives us a surprise or two.

Interview with Netherfriends at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (2)

Concert Sun Jul 18 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Freddie Gibbs

Freddie Gibbs by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

If you're a fan of hip-hop, and aren't familiar with Freddie Gibbs, do so now. The Gary, IN native is swiftly rising to the top, bringing a fresh yet familiar sound to the heavy and heady style of gangsta rap. He's charismatic, humble, and one hell of a showman. He sat down with us to discuss growing up in Gary, the Midwest style of hip-hop, and where he sees the genre heading in the future.

Interview with Freddie Gibbs at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Concert Sun Jul 18 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: WHY?

WHY? by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

We talked to Josiah Wolf from WHY? after they finished their set Saturday afternoon. We discussed musical influence, the bands he was able to catch at the festival, and if you listen (not that) closely, you can hear the massive dance party of LCD Soundsystem in the background. A chat with WHY? and the sounds of lasers in the background isn't such a bad way to end the second night of Pitchfork Festival.

Interview with WHY? at Pitchfork Music Festival

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Concert Sat Jul 17 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: EL-P

EL-P by George Aye

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

I sat down with EL-P after his performance Friday at Pitchfork. We chatted about working with Trent Reznor, what type of work scares the shit out of him, and what he believes is the future of hip-hop and music.

Interview with El-P at Pitchfork Music Festival

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Concert Sat Jul 17 2010

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Liars

Gapers Block Liars1.jpg
Liars photos by Kirstie Shanley

Gapers Block sat down with some of the artists at the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Click here for more interviews and coverage from the festival.

I started my Pitchfork Festival as soon as the gates opened, racing across the field to chat with Liars before they headed to load-in. We chatted about sleep deprivation, their love of the Midwest, recording covers, and getting the toxins out on-stage.

Interview with Liars at Pitchfork Music Festival

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Concert Mon Jul 05 2010

Preview: ChristMisfits in July @ Lilly's

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the ChristMisfits in full regalia at their Songs of the Season show last December at Lilly's, photo by Marie Kelly.

Misfits tribute bands are a longstanding tradition that includes bands like Crimson Ghosts, The Nutley Brass, and The Misfats, who bill themselves as "the fattest Misfits tribute band ever." In recent months the list has grown by at least one: The ChristMisfits, a Chicago-based tribute band who made their debut over the holidays at Lilly's dressed in Santa hats that fell over their faces in a metaphorical devil-lock hairdo. They came armed not only with instruments and vocals, but with songbooks printed on faux parchment paper so that fans could follow along to altered Misfits songs with titles like: Gratitude; Where Reindeer Dare; and I Turned Into a Snowman.

The band returns to Lilly's this Saturday for ChrisMisfits in July, and have added six never-before-heard songs to their repertoire. The ChristMisfits are comprised of Bret Tanzig on "vocals & gifts", Jonny Only on "bass & scream", Jeff Wolfgang Von Frankenstein on "guitar & tights", and Lizzie "Robo" Cook on "drums & tinsel". I spoke to them by phone and email to get some perspective on their upcoming show.

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J.H. Palmer / Comments (0)

Interview Wed Jun 30 2010

Big Science: Lush, Layered and Always Together

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I am an very open about my dislike for showing up at shows on time. It is not only that I have a cool factor to maintain, but there is also the probable chance that the opening band will take up a large portion of my life that I will have to fight to get back. This was not the case last year when I misunderstood the start time of an Archer Prewitt by an hour and saw local band Big Science open. I was taken to a delightful as well as complex musical place. I was severely disappointed when the set ended and thought what a tragedy it would have been if I had been on my game that night and showed up when I had planned to. Doing that, I would have missed a band with such a multi-sound effect that gives a sober synesthesia allowing you to see their music. Maybe this is because they combine so many different vibes in to each song that the senses become overloaded and instead of shutting down, explode in all the right ways. In any regard, they need to be seen live to really understand this experience.

The band (made up of three Jasons and a Jeremy) just released their second effort last month entitled Skyscraper Sound and plays this Friday, July 2nd at the Double Door. I had the chance to ask Jason R. some questions their unusual sound, their super hip, geek-tastic name and good old fashioned band togetherness.

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Interview Tue Jun 22 2010

A Homecoming: Jody Watley


For Chicago native Jody Watley, there really is no place like home. With over 20 million solo records sold worldwide and Billboard chart-topping hits that include "Looking for a New Love," "Everything," and "Real Love," the Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter, performing in a special homecoming concert this week in Chicago, talks about returning to her Windy City roots, her record label and upcoming album, Chameleon, and why performing in Chicago will be extra special this time around.

Gapers Block: Transmission: Your godfather, the legendary Jackie Wilson introduced "Jody Watley" to the world — was that when the bug hit you?

Jody Watley: Well I think I always had the desire to be a performer from my love of Motown and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Jackie Wilson was very close with my mother and father. At one time, my father was a gospel radio personality on WVON before I was even born, and he always had a lot of friends that were in show business. That's how the relationship with Jackie Wilson came to be.

GB: Describe for us what that experience was like, being exposed to Jackie Wilson and his music at an early age.

JW: The first concert that I remember attending was Jackie Wilson at The Regal Theater, which of course is where the Harold Washington Cultural Center is now located. That was one of the reasons [I chose this venue for my show] is because when I did some research on it, I realized this was simply meant to be because I haven't been on that spot since I was a little kid. My first time on stage was with Jackie Wilson at his show and it definitely had a profound impact on me; the people — and the women — were going crazy! He was such a phenomenal performer and even at a young age, you know when something is really special. So that is a little known fact [about me]. Jackie Wilson was definitely very influential and whatever my desires were, experiencing that time with him probably sealed the deal in many ways.

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LaShawn Williams / Comments (2)

Concert Tue Jun 01 2010

A brief chat with GWAR

According to our sources, GWAR entered the country last week "via [their] bat-shaped helicopter and are now at an undisclosed slave pit preparing for tour" after a four-month break. Gapers Block gave a call to Oderus Urungus of GWAR to catch up with the lead singer of the one of the most disgusting and politically inappropriate bands the world has ever known in anticipation of their performance tomorrow at Durty Nellie's in Palatine.

Gapers Block: GWAR started in 1984 — that's more than two and a half decades. How has humanity managed to survive this long?

Oderus Urungus: I don't know, and I'm not very happy about it. I blame a lot of this on other people, particularly the human race. As long as they keep having sex, there will be more of them than are dying. But I'm pro-sex, as long as I get to watch.

GB: Is this tour still in support of your latest album Lust In Space?

OU: Yes! It is a continuation of the beating given at the end of last year. We're heading to all the places we didn't hit on the first half of the tour because frankly, we're very bad at Google and directions. We're pretty sure we have the right coordinates this time.

GB: When was the last time you were in Chicago?

OU: Chicago... I don't measure time in the same way as you do. We have a longstanding necro-bestial love affair with the people of Chicago. We've all had sex so many times, there are so many Oderous babies wandering the streets. It's kind of disgusting. And the baseball teams confuse me. There should be only one team in one sport. That sport should be Afghan Goat Rugby. (long, unsuitable-for-print description of the "rising sport" ensues).

GB: Do you find booking a venue again difficult after you've performed your particular live act?

OU: Durty Nellie's — we have been there before. They're usually very good about it: We'll say "Are you cool with alien barbarian monster marauder m@#$%&*fers violent thrusting about their crude parts while knee-deep in gore?" and they'll say "Yes, of course, we'll give you 10 million dollars."

GB: I see you also played the Gathering of the Juggalos in 2009. Was that a good experience?

OU: It was done for money, plain and simple. But also to experience the cultural phenomenon that is the Gathering. I mean, it was the most bizarre thing I did last year. More power to the juggalos and juggalettes. We'd do it again in a heartbeat. They manage to get every single penny from their fans.

GB: Anything the crowd should expect from you this Wednesday?

OU: The smells of fecal matter. Some of the fans didn't enjoy the fecal matter — we were surprised. If they don't want fecal matter on them, it only goes about 30 feet or so. So now we're letting people know that. Fecal Matters Matters — that's our new non-profit.

GWAR plays at Durty Nellie's on Wednesday, June 2nd. Tickets are $22, doors open at 7pm (21+).

Dan Morgridge / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Apr 29 2010

The Blind Staggers live hard, work hard, and love hard

Since forming in August of 2009, The Blind Staggers have played countless shows in and around the Chicago area with notable bands such as Deals Gone Bad, Split Lip Rayfield, The Devil Makes Three, and the Siderunners. This four-piece, alt-country band consists of Damien Christian (vocals, guitar), Laura Loo (vocals), Shrek (bass), and Swede (drums). Under no circumstance should one delay in checking out The Blind Staggers — their enthusiasm and determination about their music is sure to make this outlaw-country band explode.

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Photo by Katie Hovland

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Katie Hovland / Comments (3)

DJ / Dance Tue Feb 09 2010

All Systems Go with The Chicago Workgroup

Untitled-1.pngLocal DJ Collective the Chicago Workgroup have been doing their fair share to bring Chicago both a new sound and a couple of fairly old ones. At once a blog, a collective and a residency every second Wednesday at Smartbar, the seven DJ deep Workgroup has been making strides to showcase forward-thinking house and disco. All Systems Go! - their monthly night at Smartbar - has been booking ever more prominent artists in both genres, and tonight's bill is topped by none other than DFA's Holy Ghost! with CWG DJs Scotty Brandon, Samone Roberts, Kid Color and Weaponry providing the support and Mister Joshua, Ross Kelly and OneFiftyOne sharing hosting duties.

Despite strong line ups for All Systems go in the next couple months with Trus'me on March 10th and Aeroplane on April 14th, the Chicago Workgroup hope to achieve much loftier goals. Before an eventful Friday evening out, I met with Samone Roberts, Scotty Brandon, Noah Casser (Weapony) and Josh Ferguson (Mister Joshua) to discuss the Workgroup's beginnings, future plans, the benefits of being a collective and a little bit on how technology has helped in unexpected ways.

UPDATE: Smartbar has just released a statement confirming that the ridiculous snow storms on the east coast have canceled Holy Ghost!'s flights out of New York. Pre-sale tickets can be redeemed for the rescheduled performance in the Spring or refunded at the Metro Store. Though Holy Ghost! will not be performing tonight, All Systems Go! is soldiering on with no cover all night.

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Mica Alaniz / Comments (0)

Interview Sat Jan 23 2010

Goatwhore Interview & Photos: 1/20/10

All photos by Brian Leli

On the road, Goatwhore vocalist Ben Falgoust acts as tour manager, merch guy and occasional van driver. When not enthralling the crowd, he can likely be found loading in equipment or selling t-shirts. It's only one example of the fortified work ethic and resolve that has kept the band moving for over a decade.

I met up with Falgoust and Goatwhore guitarist Sammy Duet after their HOB show on January 20. We sat in a small corner of their dressing room to talk about the New Orleans band's turbulent history: how it affected their music, the drive that kept them going, and how Chicago played a role in much of it.


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Brian Leli / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Jan 21 2010

The Tunnel Musicians of Chicago

Where there are people, there is music. It makes us feel the things we need to when we don't already. It enhances them when we do. It carries us backward and pushes us forward. It can be found in every known culture and has been performed in public since the time of antiquity. It should come as no surprise to find it being performed just a few steps beneath the ground. After all, there are fantastic acoustics and 24-hour audiences to be found in the tunnels below.

The tunnel musicians of Chicago can be heard amid the roar of trains. Depending who you ask, there are only four performance-permitted stops: Jackson and Lake on the Red Line, and Jackson and Washington on the Blue. Some will tell you about these four. Some will tell you there are only three. I'll tell you what time already has: where there are people, there is music.

I recently spent three nights walking through the tunnels for a closer listen. These are the sounds, and the people I heard.

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Brian Leli / Comments (13)

Concert Mon Nov 23 2009

Last Chance to See Galactic Inmate Tear it Up

arman.jpgGalactic Inmate is a rowdy, slighty twangy, metal/rock band from Chicago with a loyal following. The three members-- Keith Herzik on guitar, Brett Whitacre on drums, and Arman Mabry on bass, started playing together in 2004. Now, they don't play live very often, but when they do, it's loud as hell. I saw them at Quenchers the night before Halloween (they were dressed up as ZZ Top) and was blown away by their awesomeness-- they kicked ass even with Herzik's yarn beard perpetually tangled in his guitar strings-- so I set up an interview. I met Mabry at The Green Eye on a rainy November night. He jovially sipped PBR and whiskey, the diet of champions.

How do you all know each other?

Keith and I are both from Austin. I knew of him when I lived there but I never met him. It just so happened that when I moved up here with my old band, The Hamicks, I met him. Because eventually, in Chicago, you meet all the Texas people. We didn't really play together initially but we were down the hall from each other at a practice space. One day he and I started messing around, playing old Austin band songs like Scratch Acid and Ed Hall. We were having a great time doing that, so he said "Hey, man, our drummer Bret would like to play..." and that's how it happened.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (0)

Interview Thu Oct 15 2009

Picking Brains with Cheer-Accident


Alex Perkolup is a musician who currently plays bass and guitar in the critically acclaimed progressive rock band, Cheer-Accident. Originally formed in 1981, Cheer-Accident has maintained an impressively fresh and interesting sound, oscillating between noise and pop, refusing to be categorized. The music is moody, complex, and highly composed, but never muddy. Perkolup has been one of the three mainstays in their ever-evolving lineup for six years. He has also played in Bobby Conn, Lovely Little Girls, and The Flying Luttenbachers, among others.

Do you have formal music training?

I started lessons at eight and went on until I was about nineteen. I had one guitar teacher for nine years of that time who was a big influence on me. I started playing because of Eddie Van Halen. I came out of the metal school of musicianship. I was really into difficult playing and my guitar teacher recognized that. He introduced me to King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Gentle Giant and some progressive rock bands, so he was very instrumental in my influence.

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Kelly Reaves / Comments (1)

DJ / Dance Thu Sep 17 2009

Hood Internet: The Interview

Paste magazine sat down recently with our favorite local mashup DJs: The Hood Internet and had a little chat. Read and learn about the creative process behind their dancefloor breaking mashups, their feelings on Girl Talk, and plans for an actual Hood Internet album release. These guys (well, a solo STV SLV, but still) rocked our anniversary party like nobody's business, so we have a lot of love for what they do.

Check the latest Hood track:

Prayer N Nite (Bon Jovi vs Kid Cudi vs Crookers) - The Hood Internet

Anne Holub / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Jul 20 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Beirut

Photo of Paul and Perrin taken by WBEZ

A weekend full of interviews with some of the nicest bands around was capped off with Paul and Perrin, two of the musicians in the band Beirut. The guys and I camped out backstage under a tree, chatting about the wonderful staff and actual musicians who work at Pitchfork Festival, their encounter with a drunk Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, and how part of Beirut was formed in a Haggen-Dazs. Special thanks to WBEZ for reading my mind and taking a shot of the guys a day before during their set, somehow knowing I would get so engrossed in our conversation that I'd forget to snap a picture.

Thanks for tuning in as I sat down with some of the artists this past weekend, and I hope everyone had a wonderful Pitchfork Music Festival 2009.

Lisa White / Comments (3)

Interview Mon Jul 20 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Vivian Girls

Vivian Girls

Early Sunday afternoon we sat down in the shade with the all girl rock trio Vivian Girls. The band spoke about the craziness of playing in front of a massive festival crowd, how Pitchfork is centered around the city, their story of opening for Sonic Youth, and the relaxed the atmosphere at the festival all weekend.

Check back later for our last installment of Conversations at Pitchfork.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Jul 20 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: The Thermals

Photos of The Thermals by Kirstie Shanley

Speaking to The Thermals was a lovely start to Sunday at Pitchfork Festival. The Portland trio chatted about what bands they were excited to see, their favorite festival memory of dancing on-stage with the Flaming Lips, their recent move to a new label, and how things are going with Kathy's band All Girl Summer Fun Band.


Thanks to Kirstie for taking some lovely shots of The Thermals, and keep checking back for a few more interviews with bands at Pitchfork Festival.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Jul 20 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Lindstrom


Hans-Peter Lindstrom is a dedicated guy. He flew all the way from Norway to play Pitchfork Festival. He arrived five hours before his set in Chicago, and told me he was jumping back on a flight Sunday morning to return home. Lindstrom was kind enough to sit down and chat with Gapers Block during his whirlwind weekend of travel, praising the selection of bands that Pitchfork books for the festival, his enjoyment of working alone as a solo artist, and how he selects the music he remixes.

And before Lindstrom could leave, Justin from WBEZ convinced the Norwegian DJ to pony up for an installment of their delightful segment the Wikipedia Files. Of course Justin had to steal our thunder and demand I take a glamor shot of him and his new best friend Hans-Peter. Clearly these two hit it off, and have forged a lifelong friendship. I can only hope this picture will end up framed on the WBEZ office wall.

Justin from WBEZ is stealing my thunder

Keep checking back for more interviews with artists from the festival this past weekend.

Lisa White / Comments (2)

Interview Mon Jul 20 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: The Antlers

the antlers

What you see above is the true face of festival fatigue. The Antlers sat down with us to chat 10 minutes after performing on Saturday. The guys joined us to have a post show beer and a smoke break, and shared what bands they were looking forward to seeing at the festival, the open mind that festival goers have when checking out new bands this weekend, their preferred location for recording, and how recording Hospice was a therapeutic labor of love.

Keep checking back for more interviews with bands from the festival this weekend.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Sun Jul 19 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: The Black Lips

the black lips

The Black Lips closed out Saturday night with a searing set of rough and raw blues fueled garage rock. In person the band is sarcastic and entertaining, much like the stage antics their known for during a live show. The fine folks over at ReadyMade Magazine let me and the band crash their swanky display, as the guys expressed their dislike of festivals (love to play, hate to attend), memories of being chased out of India with their record label Vice, their sinister plan to take over and shut down the festival with their radical ways, and even give the festival itself a Pitchfork style rating.

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists all week at Pitchfork.

Lisa White / Comments (2)

Interview Sun Jul 19 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

the pains of being pure at heart

Call it twee, call it shoegazer, or call it whatever you like, but make no mistake about the fact that The Pains of Being Pure at Heart make bright and cheery pop music. Their sunny music matches the bands sweet and friendly disposition perfectly, as I caught up with the band backstage after the brief downpour of rain Saturday afternoon. The band spoke about still being in the honeymoon stage of success, dished the dirt on a pop-punk Warp Tour past, and Peggy disclosed her rebellious ways of sneaking backstage at the first Pitchfork Festival.

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists all weekend at Pitchfork.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Sun Jul 19 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Cymbals Eat Guitars

cymbals eat guitars

Next up I spoke to Cymbals Eat Guitars, one of my picks from our feature of bands to check out this year at the festival. Earlier the band kicked off Saturday with their brand of fuzzed out '90s style indie rock. Their laid-back music was the perfect soundtrack to a breezy early Saturday afternoon. The guys discussed the extremes of playing both venues and festivals, their favorite memories from early Lollapalooza festivals (including Neil's memory of Cyprus Hill and an inflatable bong), the surreal moments of their success this past year, and their guilty admittance of loving dance rock. And to fully explain their photo, the guys really needed a bathroom break. I was more than happy to oblige their need to express this frustration. Even indie rockers have to cave and use the port-a-potty.

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists all weekend at Pitchfork.

Lisa White / Comments (1)

Interview Sun Jul 19 2009

Conversations at Pitchfork Festival: Matt and Kim

matt and kim

This weekend Gapers Block is sitting down with some of the artists at Pitchfork to talk about the festival itself, their favorite festival memories, and much more. Keep checking back all weekend for more conversations at Pitchfork Festival.

Before you take a listen, I have to disclose I'm a writer, not a sound engineer, so I apologize for the rough around the edges audio. You'll hear background noise, the occasional siren, and even the cheering crowd of DOOM during one interview. What else would you expect though from a live music festival? Have no fear if you're not a fan of audio, though. I'll be transcribing and posting the transcripts of each conversation throughout the week. Until then, turn up your speakers, and check out what some of the bands play Pitchfork Festival had to say.

I started off my Saturday chatting with the happiest indie pop duo in the world, Matt and Kim. I can say without a doubt, they are two of the sweetest people around, and a ridiculously dedicated band, constantly touring and even sometimes playing multiple shows a day. They shared with us a favorite a festival story of Matt jumping into the most contaminated lake in Norway, expressed their love of top 40 hip-hop, and clued us in on the perks of no longer having to rough it on the road.

Keep checking back for more conversations with artists all weekend at Pitchfork.

Lisa White / Comments (0)

Interview Wed Jul 15 2009

Pitchfork Festival Organizers Interviewed

Heeb recently caught up with publisher Chris Kaskie and editor-in-chief Scott Plagenhoe to discuss the upcoming Pitchfork Music Festival, and more. Check it out at Heeb.

Brian Leli / Comments (0)

Artist Mon Jun 08 2009

"The Wikipedia Files" with St. Vincent

WBEZ's Justin Kauffman interviews multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Annie Clark -- aka St. Vincent -- to clear up some of the details on her Wikipedia entry.

St. Vincent will be performing a free concert tonight in Millennium Park in the Pritzker Pavilion, with Allá opening. The show starts at 6:30pm.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Feature Thu Feb 19 2009

Getting Down with JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

In addition to being the sharpest-dressed band in Chicago, JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound have been taking the city by storm with their unique brand of raw power soul.

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Raf Miastkowski / Comments (2)

Interview Mon Feb 16 2009

A Quick Chat with Charlie Looker


Hailed by Tyondai Braxton of Battles and Stereogum, Brooklyn's Extra Life have made a name for themselves with their hypnotic combination of math rock and chamber pop. Extra Life hits up the Empty Bottle tonight in support of their album, Secular Works, released last year through Planaria Recordings. Gapers Block had the chance for a quick chat with lead singer and guitarist Charlie Looker before the show.

Gapers Block: Where did the title Secular Works come from?

Charlie Looker: The title Secular Works is a reference to Medieval and Renaissance music, periods which I am deeply into. Composers from those periods wrote sacred music (masses) and then also would write secular songs in the popular forms of the time. When you buy a CD of Early Music, you will often find records of so-and-so's "secular works". So for Extra Life, the title is somewhat ironic. However I'm very influenced by Early Music, both sacred and secular. I have also become interested in religion, simply as a human phenomenon, an outlet for the human will.

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Stephanie Griffin / Comments (1)

Feature Thu Feb 12 2009

The Godfathers' St. Valentine's Day Massacre

Despite the awful winters, the corrupt politics, and the rising unemployment rate, Chicago is one of the best cities in the world, especially for live music. With numerous acts constantly stopping in Chicago, it's no surprise that important events happen in our fair city. So it was definitely no surprise when seminal 1980s British rock band The Godfathers announced their return to the U.S. for the first time in 20 years would happen at the Metro in Chicago this Valentine's Day. And that the show would be the first St. Valentine's Day Massacre show (a tradition of theirs) outside of London ever. Gapers Block: Transmission had the chance to chat with lead singer Peter Coyne about the upcoming show, music, and what it's like being in a groundbreaking band like The Godfathers.

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Lisa White / Comments (0)

Artist Wed Aug 06 2008

Catching Some Static

Yea Big & Kid Static's first music video, "The Life Here," hit the front page of YouTube, resulting in 250,000 views in two days. Along with those views came a whole lot of negative, often racially charged comments. The duo talk about it on Current.TV.

Andrew Huff / Comments (0)

Interview Sat May 03 2008

Now or Never

Brendan Losch.jpgAt the age of 24, Chicago's Brendan Losch has already accomplished a great deal. He just self-released his second full length album, Until We Meet Again, and is dedicated to recording a song a week throughout the year. He also run the fantastic music blog, Count Me Out, and has opened for many successful acts including Bowerbirds, Nicole Atkins, The Dodos, Woven Hand, and others. On June 23rd he will open for friend and fellow talented musician Michael Nau (a.k.a. Cotton Jones Basket Ride) at Schuba’s.

When I saw Brendan had released his new album I felt it was the perfect time to ask him a few questions.

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Jason Behrends / Comments (0)

Interview Mon Mar 17 2008

GB Interview: Indie-Folk Singer-Songwriter Robert Francis


Robert Francis's Debut Album, One By One.

Robert Francis, a 20 year-old indie-folk singer songwriter from L.A., recently opened at the Park West for Australian singer Missy Higgins. He’s on his first national tour and attracting attention from a myriad of music journalists who believe that he’s on the verge of a big break (and probably all want to claim that they “broke” him), and I wouldn’t disagree.

His songs are deeply personal and possess a sort of haunted country twang caused by a myriad of folk instruments, many of which he plays himself. He loves Townes Van Zandt, is frequently compared to Bob Dylan and has been described as a young guy with an “old soul.” In fact, he’s much nicer (I imagine) than Bob Dylan and I sensed a very youthful passion for his music.

I sat down with Francis before his Park West gig and asked him about touring nationally for the first time, getting along with his band in a small van and his very musical family. When I entered the theatre, his manager and band mates were frantically trying to repair a set of amps that had just exploded, but he sat calmly in one of the booths and we talked with 80’s music blaring in the background.

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David Polk / Comments (0)

Interview Tue Dec 18 2007

Indie Soul Stealer

Legendary, yet still active photographer extraordinaire Pat Graham will land in Chicago on Thursday to discuss his decade-spanning career as a touring photographer. Coinciding with the recent release of his first official book, Silent Pictures (Akashic books), Graham will hold a speaking engagement at The Book Cellar, with a special introduction from Chris Thomson from Red Eyed Legends and former Circus Lupus, The Monorchid, and Skull Kontrol fame.

Graham, who rose to fame as the semi-official Dischord Records photographer has spent years on the road with Modest Mouse, June of '44, and Tortoise, creating fine art prints, calendars, and contributing to an endless stream of record covers and liners. Come out and meet the photographer at this rare appearance/book signing.

The event starts at 7:00pm Thursday, December 20. The Book Cellar is located at 4736 N. Lincoln Ave. Call 773-293-2665 for more information.

John Lombardo

Artist Fri Sep 07 2007

Music as a Business

Crain's Small Business' Entrepreneurs in Action video series this week features Chicago jazz and classical arranger Cliff Colnot. Worth checking out.

Andrew Huff

Concert Fri May 25 2007

Up for Opera?

Yet another Chicago Opera Theater production is getting good press. This time it's Hector Berlioz's Béatrice et Bénédict, a comedic libretto based on Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The show provides a fine counterbalance to COT's recent dark, Jungian/Freudian explorations of Erwartung and Bluebeard's Castle. Tickets are still available for the four remaining performances.

Oh, and while you're at it, you may want to listen to Gretchen Helfrich interviewing the COT's director, Brian Dickie [mp3].

David Schalliol

Artist Wed May 16 2007

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dancing

Four more years!!!: DJs Bald Eagle and Mother Hubbard

It's been four years since the Life During Wartime DJs crew came together and started spinning at clubs in Chicago. They're still at it, and their chosen moniker is, unfortunately, still relevant. The duo of DJs Bald Eagle and Mother Hubbard currently bills its homebase monthly appearance at The Hideout as “Chicago’s Dance Party.” While that may sound like a bold claim, it’s certainly apt. The past two years have seen LDW move to the top of the local popularity index, having proven themselves to be one of Chicago’s most reliable homegrown party-sparkers. This weekend sees them celebrating their four-year anniversary with a two-night dance party at The Hideout.

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Graham Sanford

Interview Mon Mar 05 2007

Bjork with a Pitchfork

Holy crap! Pitchfork scored an interview with Bjork about her new album, Volta, which will be released in May. And contrary to her charicaturized personna, she's completely coherent!

"I just wanted to get rhythmic again. Medulla was my way of pulling out of that, refusing to be categorized as 'Oh what rhythm is she going to do next?' Just feeling the pressure of all these young drum programmers or producers or whatever you call them contacting me, like, who was going to be the flavor of the month. It had become this kind of fashion statement, it just wasn't right.

"I mean, I do love one-upmanship sometimes, like when you see kids breakdancing and who can do the best tricks. It's common, it's in our nature as animals, like the birds of paradise who've got the best feathers and that sort of stuff. But it's fun when it's impulsive and it's about fun. When it becomes clever, when it becomes more of a left-brain, who can mathematically out-do the other, it's not so fun anymore. And maybe I just sort of pulled out and did a whole vocal album."

Andrew Huff

Radio Wed Jan 03 2007

A Musical Resolution & The End of Jazz

Eight Forty-Eight interviewed musician and teacher Michael Droste this morning about his just-completed One Song Every Day project , which began as a New Year's resolution in 2006. Listen to the interview here (mp3).

Later in the show, Chicago Public Radio's decision to kill its nighttime jazz programming was defended by music critic John McDonough (mp3), who pointed out that many of the most vocal opponents of the decision don't actually listen to jazz on the radio.

If you do listen to jazz on the radio, your last chance to do so at 91.5 on your FM dial is tomorrow (Thursday) night beginning at 8pm, when Dan Bender, Richard Steele and Sarah Toulouse will host the final eight hours of jazz programming as a team.

UPDATE: Here's Peter Margasak's take on the McDonough piece.

Andrew Huff

Interview Wed Oct 18 2006

Gone, but Not Soon Forgotten

The Tripwire runs a 2003 zine-only interview of Thax Douglas by Elia of Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. We're told Douglas departed because he had "deep dissatisfaction at his perceived lack of status in Chicago and felt bleak about his economic prospects here." As Douglas reveals that the blood bank is one of his primary sources of income, one is left to wonder, perhaps New York's pay more?

[Author name lost in database explosion]

Interview Wed Oct 04 2006

Lupe on Fiasco Inc.

You may recall earlier this year when, upon the leak of his album, Lupe Fiasco suggested he might just take his rhymes and go home. These days he's singing a somewhat different, albeit similarly end-game-focused tune: he tells Tom Breihan "[his] thing is to put out the next two albums, and then [his] mission is complete." There'll likely be the empire to attend to, but being a mogul is different than being a rapper, right? (He talks about other stuff, of course: topics range from Pitchfork to Pink Floyd.)

[Author name lost in database explosion]

Interview Mon Oct 02 2006

Albini in the Reader

"It's quite gratifying to realize you were smarter than all the people who were telling you you were gonna fail."

[Author name lost in database explosion]

Interview Fri Sep 15 2006

OK? No.

Today, Nerve interviews local band OK Go. On the subject of local website Pitchfork Media: "Yeah, they really don't like us [sighs]. I think it's personal. They were a small Chicago-based site when we started out as a small, Chicago-based band, and I think there were some infidelities with someone's girlfriend. But they really hate us."

[Author name lost in database explosion]

Interview Thu Aug 31 2006

Really Quick Interview: Thax Douglas

Thax is a Chicago music institution, whether you like his poetry or not. You knew you were at a "real Chicago show" when, after the lights went down, he stepped quietly out on stage, pulled out a piece of paper and read a poem in honor of the night's entertainment. Most of his live poetry has been brief (read in under 30 seconds) but the impression he left behind lasted much longer (there's even a documentary). Chicago adopted him as "ours", but no longer. In a short while, Thax will pack his poems and head out to New York City. In honor of his legacy, tonight, Chicago musicians will say farewell at a special show at the Hideout featuring Sybris, Tight Phantomz, Dick Prall, and Daniel Knox. I had a chance to ask Thax a few questions about the show and his poems and Chicago music venues, and below are his responses.

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Anne Holub

Classical Mon Mar 09 2015

Pulling Strings: For classical music in Chicago, you got a guy - March 2015

By Elliot Mandel

Lots of big works downtown this month. But do you also know about New Music Chicago? Check 'em out for up-to-date listings of all things in the contemporary music scene.

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  Chicago Music Media

Alarm Magazine
Big Rock Candy Mountain
Boxx Magazine
Brooklyn Vegan Chicago
Can You See The Sunset From The Southside
Chicago Reader Music
Chicagoist Arts & Events
Chicago Music Guide
Chicago Singles Club
Country Music Chicago
Cream Team
Dark Jive
The Deli Chicago
Jim DeRogatis
Fake Shore Drive
Gowhere Hip Hop
The Hood Internet
Jaded in Chicago
Largehearted Boy
Little White Earbuds
Live Fix Blog
Live Music Blog
Loud Loop Press
Oh My Rockness
Pop 'stache
Pop Matters
Resident Advisor
Sound Opinions
Sun-Times Music Blog
Theft Liable to Prosecution
Tribune Music
UR Chicago
Victim Of Time
WFMU's Beware of the Blog
Windy City Rock


Abbey Pub
Andy's Jazz Club
Aragon Ballroom
Auditorium Theatre
Beat Kitchen
Bottom Lounge
Buddy Guy's Legends
The Burlington
California Clipper
Concord Music Hall
Congress Theater
Cubby Bear
Double Door
Elbo Room
Empty Bottle
Green Mill
The Hideout
Honky Tonk BBQ
House of Blues
Kingston Mines
Lincoln Hall
Logan Square Auditorium
Mayne Stage
The Mutiny
Old Town School of Folk Music
Park West
The Promontory
Red Line Tap
Reggie's Rock Club & Music Joint
The Riviera
Thalia Hall
The Shrine
Symphony Center
Tonic Room
Uncommon Ground
The Vic
The Whistler

  Labels, Promoters
  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
Dusty Groove
Flameshovel Records
Groove Distribution
He Who Corrupts
Jam Productions
Jazz Record Mart
Kranky Records
Laurie's Planet of Sound
Minty Fresh
Numero Group
mP Shows
Permanent Records
Reckless Records
Smog Veil Records
Southport & Northport Records
Thick Records
Thrill Jockey Records Touch & Go/Quarterstick Records
Victory Records


Sun Mar 29 2015
Ibeyi/Flo Morrisey @ Lincoln Hall

Sun Mar 29 2015
Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-90) @ The Vic

Sun Mar 29 2015
Beat Swap Meet Chicago @ Empty Bottle

Tue Mar 31 2015
The Von Trapps @ SPACE

Fri Apr 3 2015
Soloists from Fonema Series II: Kathryn Schulmeister

Featured Series


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Transmission is the music section of Gapers Block. It aims to highlight Chicago music in its many varied forms, as well as cover touring acts performing in the city. More...
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