It was a wild night on the North Side last night, and not just in the streets of Wrigleyville. Just a few stops away on the Red Line, British indie trip-rockers Glass Animals were dropping the Riviera Theatre into the middle of an Eden-esque jungle. Palm trees lined the edges of the stage, huge one-tentacled jellyfish lanterns hung from the ceiling, and the requisite rain forest humidity came from the sticky crowd that got down to every sexy song.
Sometimes at shows I wonder how many people in attendance consider the act on stage to be their favorite ever. It's just speculating for fun. But some nights it's easy to see, like Tuesday at Metro when there was zero doubt about who the #1 super fan was. Maybe the tip-off was the outstretched hallelujah arms, the barricade-hugging, the desire need to be recognized by the band, or all combined. While those actions alone shouldn't be disturbing, nobody wants to stand behind that package of grandiosity for an hour and a half. On the other hand, Mew hasn't played Chicago in six years, so that's a lot of pent-up excitement exploding at once.
Unlike many bands, Mew's singer Jonas Bjerre is perhaps its most laid-back member, allowing bassist Johan Wohlert to shine as the energetic one who banters with the crowd. But Bjerre doesn't need to bounce around to be the star. It's his voice, reaching an upper register that not even the 20-something girls next to me could hit, that gives Mew a big part of their identity. (And it was in top shape Tuesday.) However, another definer, the prog-rock elements that separate them from many alt-rock/dream-pop bands were a little muted, like on "Introducing Palace Players."
Still, the band was focused and crisp reeling off the hits mixed among new album songs. Standards "Special" and "156" were greeted with great applause, and closer "Comforting Sounds", an epic 9-minute progresser, brought the house down within its first few notes. For Mew, it was business as usual operating at a high level. For Chicago fans who haven't seen them in six years, even just casual fans, exuberance is maybe an understatement.
The Throne Room on Broadway is a pretty dark venue. The walls are black, the décor is black, there's a black curtain behind the stage to block the windows that look out on the street below. But into the darkness bubbles an energy from the only glowing part of the room: the stage. On this stage, the four members of Audiobakery prepare for the evening's ceremony. Lead singer and guitarist Brad Bacci takes the mic and beckons to the crowd. "You're about to hear six songs we've never played before," he shares. "This is the first half of the concept album we're recording. It's about the seasons, and tonight we're going to take you from March to August."
"Get up and dance! Bring it in!" shouts bassist Jon Nadel, beaming exuberantly.
And with that, the band leaps into "March," the first track off its upcoming album Perennial Bloom, set for release on next year's spring equinox (you can hear a sneak preview here). Drummer Brett Schomer is a wildman behind his kit, eyes closed with passion as his whole body flails. Guitarist Zak Sprenger is his antithesis, standing perfectly still as his fingers fly through a set of complex runs. Bacci and Nadel stare out at the crowd, singing in harmony and conducting their audience with their facial expressions. The song plays out like a storm--March, they say, comes in like a lion--but if this is a storm, players and listeners are uniting in a spectacular rain dance. There is the sense that everyone in the room has become a singular organism, throwing off light into the surrounding gloom. This is the point of Audiobakery's existence and of its music: bringing people together, opening minds, creating a cosmic event here on Earth.
The last time Catfish and the Bottlemen was in Chicago, they were playing a Lollapalooza aftershow at Subterranean. I was there. I'm still not sure my eardrums have recovered, though I don't know which caused more hearing damage -- Catfish's powerful set of garage pop or the crowd's rabid screaming/singing of every word. It was more packed than the Red Line after a Cubs game and accordingly things got very steamy, but the atmosphere raised every hair on my body. When singer Van McCann had to deal with microphone issues (on his birthday, no less) and everyone in the room filled in his lines on "Homesick" -- that's the reason you go to concerts. That's the impact Catfish and the Bottlemen's grimy, Kooks-y, hard-driving rock has on its listeners.
This time around, they'll be moving one step closer to the stadiums they've dreamed of filling since they formed in Llandudno, Wales, in 2007, playing at the House of Blues with opener Jamie N Commons on Saturday night. Catfish has been touring America for most of the year in support of their debut album, The Balcony. Fortunately, bassist Benji Blakeway was able to find some time on the road to speak with me over the phone about the band's travels, what's changed (and what's remained the same) as their popularity has grown, and the cardboard cutout of The Balcony's... um... unique album artwork that they've been taking with them everywhere.
I didn't expect The Internet's Syd tha Kyd to be such a commanding presence on stage.
When you talk to her, as I did a few weeks ago for Transmission, she emanates a laid-back attitude that's matched by her sultry trip-hop vocal delivery on the album her band is supporting on this tour, Ego Death. I thought I was in for an evening of slow jamming, casual movements to subtle grooves, and hazy sensuality at Bottom Lounge. But the energy that the band brought to the stage lent the night a stunning vibrance that warmed the bones and the soul on a frosty Sunday evening.
Getting signed to Merge Records was a dream to Mike Krol. And in the late spring the power pop artist was signed, but it was only after a youth spent pursuing a graphic designer career and recuperating from a breakup with a long-term girlfriend.
I had a chance to talk with Ryan Graveface about what exactly fans can expect from the the upcoming show and expanding our previous talk at Pitchfork with what he has in store for Graveface Records and Terror Vision in the coming months. You can listen to our previous conversation from Pitchfork here and our newest one below.
"It'll start picking up around doors, which is at 8:30 or 9," the bartender assures me as I solitarily sip on a Revolution Rosa. Of course, she turns out to be right. It's a Free Monday, after all. This is the Bottle's weekly time to shine in the vibrant Chicago live music scene.
The Bellfuries sound like they're resurrecting music from before the day it died. They got an upright bass, a semi-hollow guitar, and a big yelping vocalist to prove it. And it seems they're only a duckwalk or a hip shake away from the '50s.
Our favorite indie punk rock marching band group here at Gapers Block, Mucca Pazza, will be playing a show at the Metro on October 10, and we've got a pair of tickets to give away! Our friends over at CHIRP will be moving their online station to radio on 107.1 FM, and as a benefit, Mucca Pazza will be putting on a show alongside other standout acts. CHIRP Radio has remained solely volunteer-driven since its advent five years ago, broadcasting music from 6am through midnight daily from its North Center studio. In focusing on a diverse array of musical offerings, CHIRP also works to introduce us to local up-and-comers, cementing its status as an important arts fixture within the community.
To enter, comment below (make sure to use your email!) with your favorite Chicago artist (besides Mucca Pazza, of course). Winnerswill be announced Thursday, October 1, at 2 p.mhave now been chosen. Happy entering!
Mucca Pazza will play the Metro on Saturday, October 10. This all ages show is $21 in advance, and $23 at the door, with the show beginning at 6:30pm. Mucca Pazza will be joined by support acts Brother Starrace, Jennifer Hall, and Spaces of Disappearance. The Metro is located at 3730 N. Clark St., (773) 549-0203.
The hazy stage lights of the Aragon Ballroom shut on at 7 p.m. on Sunday, but fans began waiting outside the locked doors nearly 4 hours in advance. The colossal crowd pushing to get in the sold-out 3,200-capacity venue were lined upside the building, back through the alley, and spilling in front of the bars along Lawrence, forcing the manager of the neighboring Uptown Lounge to emerge shouting at event security to maintain the chaos.
This is a much different picture of pre-show excitement for A$AP Rocky in Chicago than the last show he headlined in 2012.
Once Jennifer Castle stepped to the front of the stage, she strummed her hollow guitar and crowed in a country-inflected voice. The audience, sipping their Lagunita's or Oberons, filed into Thalia Hall's old and restored opera house, and at once quit talking. Castle set a calm tone for a Sunday night and brought the listeners back to a quieter time -- and she wouldn't have been out of place at Greenwich Village in the '60s.
You're reading about The Internet on the internet right now. That's pretty darn meta (and that's definitely not a joke the band has gotten before). But unlike the lowercase "i" version, the six-piece neo-soul band is something you can actually see in the flesh when they roll through Bottom Lounge on October 4th.
The Internet is on tour supporting their June album Ego Death, a brooding, introspective modernization of lustful R&B. The production reminisces upon Frank Ocean's landmark codeine-laced 2012 LP Channel Orange--no surprise there, seeing as Ocean and The Internet are both associated with LA hip-hop collective Odd Future--and incorporates the funky bass lines, minimalistic beats, and swirling psychedelic elements that have risen to mainstream prominence over the past few years.
But what separates The Internet from its contemporaries is the work of vocalist Syd tha Kyd, who flows over the top of the music like a gently seductive river of syrup. I got the chance to speak with Syd about the process of making Ego Death, her development as a singer and songwriter, and the books she's reading on tour, among other things.
"PROHIBITED ITEMS: Pacifiers; Unsealed tampons; Kandi bracelets; Masks of any kind; Stuffed animals or dolls; Laser pointers; Frisbees and/or any other projectile." Security guidelines for the touring Mad Decent Block Party in Cicero on Saturday were as strict an EDM version of airport TSA. Guests were patted down, clothes and bags were intensely searched, and shoes were sniffed out by a K-9 unit to prevent any illegal substances (or opened feminine products) to be snuck into the desolate parking lot of the Hawthorne Race Track. We've compiled a photo diary of the day, allowing you to take part in the electric energy present at Mad Decent Block Party.
Twin Peaks was showing off their Chicago (I was about to write Chitown but then thought about that Gapers Block button...) pride last night at the Vic. The fivesome of Midwestern punk rockers had as backing on the stage a banner flaunting a (rather pot-bellied) Benny the Bull with the four blue Chicago stars arrayed above him and a sleepy-eyed sun saying "'sup dog?"