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Feature Thu Aug 03 2006

Lollapalooza: Band vs. Band

Though the weather shouldn't be much of a problem this year, with an expanded festival grounds rambling down Grant Park, Lollapalooza's three days will be an endurance test. No longer should there be constant sound bleeds from one stage to another harshing your buzz, but you'll likely rack up a few miles walking between all the events. The fest's new found space unfortunately means that unless you jog, you probably can't easily split sets this year, which means you're also in for some tough choices. It's going to be band vs. band (vs. DJ) this weekend — all of them vying for your attention. Gapers Block: Transmission contributors have looked at the 130 bands playing over 30 hours this weekend, and given you the breakdown of 25 sets you should hear:

Friday, August 4

Aqualung vs. Cursive (Friday 1:30pm)
Appearing at Lollapalooza at the tail end of a U.S. swing, Omaha's Cursive will undoubtedly be showcasing their forthcoming album Happy Hollow, to be released August 22. It's hard to describe Cursive without bandying about abused terms like "emo" and "indie," but truthfully, the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree. There are shades of Ian MacKaye here and there, the requisite angular guitar lines for the indie set, and the occasional tortured soul, oh-woe-is-me lyrical thread, but they seem to have more going on than a lot of their peers. The available singles off of their new album are a mixed bag. Vocalist Tim Kasher seems to have toned it down a bit, and the addition of synths, horn lines and other miscellaneous studio polish will probably turn fans on and off in equal numbers. But the new material is interesting enough, and their old standbys will undoubtedly draw in the angsty teen set.

It is becoming almost de riguer to find rock stardom through advertisement exposure (think the ubiquitous use of the 5,6,7,8's Woo Hoo, or The Walkmen's We've Been Had), and Londoner Matt Hales (aka Aqualung) could be that career path's poster boy. The inclusion of Strange and Beautiful in a VW commercial in 2002 led to his debut album of the same name, which sold well in the UK. While the album has been floating around for a while, it really didn't get much traction in the U.S. until '05, when he launched his first U.S. tour at Chicago's own Schubas and got some radio play with the tune Brighter Than Sunshine. While Aqualung's Schubas show was plagued with early technical gaffs, Hale and brother/guitarist Ben captured the album's light, breathy feel. The music seems intensely personal and emotive, and may be a little out of place in this large festival setting.

Pick: Cursive — Aqualung is great, but could be sort of a downer in the festival setting; save him for the next time he plays the Metro, Park West or Double Door. Cursive has the potential to turn in an excellent dirt-show set.
-Dan Snedigar

Stars vs. Editors vs. Jeremy Enigk (Friday 3:30pm)
Stars is not to be missed and Torquil Campbell is one of the best frontmen you'll see at Lollapalooza, but I have yet to see them begin a set well. It usually takes a little while for them to warm up. When they're on, though, they are red-hot. If you like the idea of a poor man's Interpol, then see Editors for a few minutes first. And if you want to hear what Sunny Day Real Estate's Jeremy Enigk has done in the 10 years since his last solo album, go hear how he's been influenced by the Divine Comedy and Pernice Brothers. (His new album, World Waits, will be out this fall.) But try to find a route back for at least the last half of Stars.
-James Ziegenfus

The Blisters vs. Kelley Stoltz (Friday 3:00pm and 3:15pm)
If there's any place to see some proud parents at Lollapalooza, it's in the Kidz Tent (Kids with a "z" is so much more rock n' roll); and possibly the most proud papa at the festival this year will be Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, whose son Spencer is the charismatic drummer in the Chicago band The Blisters — probably the best-known band in the country whose members are all under the age of 11. The cute-as-a-button quartet made national headlines as the adorable TV ad spokesband for Quaker Oats in 2005, but they've been playing venues around town for a while now. This spring, they even scored a spot at The Abbey Pub, and their first Rockumentary. They'll likely be playing a good batch of covers, but don't be too harsh on them; these are their formative rock years, after all.

A wee-bit older than 11, Detroit-native Kelley Stoltz's first interests in performance came at around the same wee years that our little Tweedy is entering. He told, "Part of it is growing up as an only child, I was always a good mimic and a goofball in class and stuff. That somehow went from when I was 10 pretending I was a baseball announcer to pretending I could play instruments." Stoltz's sound has always had a peppy singer-songwriter pop ingredient, previously performed solo, and at one time infused with a put-on British accent. His obvious musical influences, including The Beatles and Brian Wilson, colored his first albums a little too much for most rock critics' tastes, but still, San Francisco listeners were drawn to him. Stoltz is hitting Lollapalooza after a spring and summer opening for The Raconteurs and playing SXSW all with his first real band.

Despite lauds for Stoltz as SF's "best-kept songwriting secret" by Pop Matters, in this time slot, I'd rather spend the hour hearing the potential future of rock and roll, not just for the possible glimpse of a congratulatory hair tussle by Jeff, but for the chance to say I saw The Blisters "back when."
-Anne Holub

Lady Sovereign vs. Mates of State (Friday 5pm)
After a brief appearance at this year's Vice Records/Intonation fest, Lady Sovereign returns for another round. Admittedly, I am fascinated by the whole UK Chav thing, and while I think that Lady Sovereign and similar artists such as The Streets are worth almost as much for their novelty value as anything, the delivery and uniquely British style electronic production behind her debut EP Vertically Challenged are undeniably catchy. I can never tell if U.S. Lady Sovereign fans are really into it, or if they are just digging the irony of it, but it should be a good people watching show, and will no doubt be fun.

I am slowly becoming convinced that less is more. This year's Lollapalooza features two top-notch drum and organ outfits with the Benevento-Russo Duo and Mates of State. Made up of married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, Mates of State manage to fill the space with a genre-defying blend of jazz-like drumming, heavy organ sounds and dueling vocals. While the whole concept seems positively saccharine, it somehow works perfectly. Albums like 2003's Team Boo have nary a flat moment. Their shows are sunny to begin with, and perfect for a day in the park.

Pick: Mates of State — It's hard to argue with a feel-good band like MoS that can be so energetic without really breaking a sweat. Lady Sovereign might be good for a yuck or two, but the Mates of State sing bouncy songs about love and life that just seem more substantial.

Iron & Wine vs. Secret Machines (Friday 5:30pm)
The big question about this match-up is how well the acts can adjust from Metro-sized venues to an enormous outdoor stage. Iron & Wine has a fairly simple set-up, whereas Secret Machines give audiences something to watch. Sam Beam makes nice music, but he's just not very compelling live. Secret Machines, though, are arguably better live than recorded. And even if you do elect to watch Iron & Wine, you'll probably hear the torrential drumming from Secret Machines anyway. They are loud. (So don't forget your ear plugs.)

Raconteurs vs. My Morning Jacket (Friday 6:30pm)
My Morning Jacket cannot compete with the star power of the Raconteurs on paper. Jack White and Brendan Benson are established songwriters and the former is a grand performer. (And let's not forget that the band also includes two members of the oft-underrated Greenhornes.) This isn't what's made them, though. White now has to contend with Benson as a co-frontman for a band with an underwhelming debut album and limited live experience. My Morning Jacket, on the other hand, is a road warrior. And even though their latest studio album, Z, is perhaps their weakest yet, their tremendous live show has not faltered at all.

Sleater-Kinney vs. Violent Femmes (Friday 7:30pm)
All due respect to Gordon Gano, but Sleater-Kinney is the only way to spend the Friday 7:30pm timeslot. The band has announced it'll go on "indefinite hiatus," and until it scheduled a couple farewell gigs in its Portland, Oregon, base, the Corin Tucker-led act's Lollapalooza set looked to be its last. Sleater-Kinney have been in town a few times in the past year, supporting 2005's blistering The Woods. Those sets rocked hard, but these riot womyn (surely no longer grrrls) didn't seem to be enjoying themselves all that much, leaving much of their back catalog untouched until their encore. One hopes they'll have a bit more fun in this last festival stint. Whatever they do, this historic moment is not to be missed. As for the Violent Femmes, it's been so long since they released new material, they look to be little more than a nostalgia act. Sure, it'd be fun to hear "Blister in the Sun" live, but doesn't every cover band in Wrigleyville play it all the time?
-Matt Peck

Ween vs. Death Cab For Cutie (Friday 8:30pm)
If you're feeling like laughing or being offended, then I have a band for you! Ween That's almost all I can say. I remember listening to their strange brand of musical hilarity back when I was in high school. Ween is a little duo comprised of Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman (aka, Dean and Gene Ween). This pair, armed with sharp tongues, writes lyrics that generally appeal to the adolescent set. However, their immaturity and youth actually cover serious topics at hand such as racism, government and homophobia. Ween came into the spotlight with their 1991 record Pod, and their follow-ups with Pure Guava and were both pretty well liked in demented circles. Moistboyz is their recent release — made up of odds and ends from over the years, all of which is of course laced with jabs and stupid-human jokes — and you can see why Ween is still such an indie success.

Death Cab for Cutie (aka DCFC) is a quartet from Bellingham, WA led by singer Ben Gibbard, who has contributed to various side projects such as Postal Service, DNTEL and All-Time Quarterback just to name a few. The band recently gained major label recognition switching from the indie company Barsuk to join the artists at Atlantic. Though this came as a disappointment to most of their fans, as now ticket prices and sold out shows are sure to come, DCFC has still maintained some of their small-time status. Their newest release, Plans, was an inspirational departure and branched out from the love-lorn tracks of their previous efforts Transatlantcism and We Have the Facts and We're Voting, Yes, to bring a more spiritual and grounded side to the table. Melodic, sweet, catchy and sometimes haunting, DCFC is a band that shows how to rock a soulful guitar.

My pick: Ween. This is purely personal since I've seen DCFC four times now, and I've seen them already on their current tour. Death Cab for Cutie tours more often than Ween, and the likelihood of you catching them again is really good. So, even though Ben Gibbard is my hero... I've never seen Ween, and this is my chance.
-Catherine Rigod

VHS or Beta (Friday 8:00pm)
No, this isn't a cagematch with two bands duking it out over two dead technologies. VHS or Beta is just one band. But, the key is that VHS or Beta are possibly the most interesting Daft Punk/disco/Duran Duran-inspired band to come out of Louisville, Kentucky since... well... ever. Who knew that the Bluegrass State could turn out such booty shaking illy beats like those emanating from the instruments and minds of Craig Pfunder, Zeke Buck and Mark Guldry? Invited back to Lollapalooza, and playing at a later (i.e. darker) more disco-rific hour, it will be interesting to see how many more folks than last year can get packed in front of their stage — especially since it's billed as a DJ set, and not a live show like last year. DJ sets by bands are always an interesting chance to hear influences after all, and VHS or Beta's albums have had some great inspirations. While their older LP Le Funk has much more of the French dance music influence, the later released Night on Fire is still just enough disco to get you up and on the dance floor — even the dudes. If the crowds at Ween and Death Cab for Cutie are too much, definitely don't split, head over to the Mindfield and check out VHS or Beta's DJ set.

Saturday, August 5

Feist vs. The Go! Team (Saturday 1:30pm)
Leslie Feist, who performs just as Feist, is a Canadian darling who began singing in a punk band until she was told if she kept that up, she would sing no more. Leaving the yelling to someone else, Feist picked up a guitar and a softer, folkier sound and released her debut solo album Monarch in late 1999. From there she has contributed to such bands as Peaches, Broken Social Scene on their 2002 record and most recently Kings of Convenience. Her latest album, Let it Die, is a mix of melancholy and quirkiness and any singer that can bring a tear and a smile at the same time is worth your time. If mellow and soulful is what you need in the hot sun, Feist will be that breeze you need.

Do you miss high school? Were you the one that was booing the football stars, or would you never tell your current friends that you were a cheerleader? Either way, for a bit of nostalgia mixed with '80s dance, a touch of hip hop, '60s doo-wop, music samples, pop guitars and — oh yes — cheerleading calls, The Go! Team are a moving party! Hailing from the British shores of Brighton and somehow channeling the old Solid Gold Dancers, this six-piece ensemble's album released in 2004, Thunder, Lightening Strike, shouted its way over the pond ,leaving U.S. audiences pumped up and ready for more. With songs like "Get it Together" you feel like you should be watching a Volkswagen commercial, and the track "Bottle Rocket" will leave you wanting to find your Addias. Ladyflash, is their newest effort, and if ever you wanted to just let loose and shake it, this band is one you can definitely move to, even if it's a million degrees outside!

My pick: The Go! Team. Although Feist is an amazing songstress, I have more chances to see her since she lives in Canada.

Coheed and Cambria vs. Built to Spill (Saturday 2:30pm)
A friend of mine who works in record promotions and is generally good at summing up bands told me that Coheed and Cambria basically "sound like Rush" before he got me some tickets to a House of Blues show in 2003. I left the theater with the impression that he was both right and wrong. I think the type of people who are into Coheed and Cambria are probably the same sort who are generally into Rush, and there are similarities: technical playing, a sort of refined metal ethos and lead singer Claudio Sanchez's somewhat squeaky vocals ala Geddy Lee. The differences are striking too, though. Coheed and Cambria seem much more nimble, and kind of more fun, maybe just because they haven't been at the same grind for 30 years. Certainly this will be a relatively high energy set and probably represents some of the heaviest music on the bill.

In the wide open Western U.S. where I grew up, distance is relative, which is why we in Montana grew up rooting for bands like Modest Mouse as virtual hometown heros. By that measure, Built to Spill, the pride of Aida County, Idaho, were virtually the boys next door. As such, I have long loved Built to Spill's disjointed, jumpy melodies and Doug Martsch's plaintive vocals. Albums such as 1997's Perfect From Now On and 1999's Keep It Like a Secret cemented their place in indie rock history, and while singer Martsch and crew took some time to pursue other interests in the past few years, they came back in solid fashion with this year's You In Reverse.

Pick: Built to Spill — These guys were as good as anyone in the game in the late '90s and their shows, at least historically, back it up. Until that Pavement reunion you're waiting for, this is going to be as good as any 30-something indie rocker can hope for. While Coheed and Cambria are very interesting, and should turn in a worthwhile set, I am going with the Idaho contingent.

Calexico vs. Wolfmother (Saturday 3:30pm)
While Wolfmother comes all the way from the Australia to perform at this year's Lolla, it's Tucson's Calexico that wins the export vs. import game for this timeslot. Sure, you have a million more chances to see Calexico outside of this fest (Um, why haven't you bought your Hideout Block Party tix yet?), but chances are, you didn't see them a couple months ago when they played the Metro on their CD release tour. Mixing romantic mariachi with smart songwriting and even smarter indie-rock arrangements, this is one of America's greatest exports, both on record and live. The band's latest, Garden Ruin, is one of the year's best releases — and even in the questionable outdoor, big festival setting Calexico will prove it as such.
-JP Pfafflin

Lyrics Born vs. Particle (Saturday 3:30pm)
This set won't be as polarized by its audiences' tastes as you'd think. Lyrics Born (aka Tom Shimura)'s latest album, Same !@#$ Different Day, easily made my top ten albums from 2005, even though it's in part remixes of his solo debut, Later That Day... from 2003. His own serious musical ventures started over a decade ago, in 1992, when he and friend and fellow Bay-area spinner DJ Shadow, started their own label, SoleSides Records. In 1996, the label changed its name to Quannum, and in the years since it has become popular in part because of one of its acts, the rap duo Blackalicious (who you can hear right after Lyrics Born's set today at 5pm, possibly with the man himself stepping up with them like he did in the old days). But Lyrics Born stands on his own just fine. His tunes range in influence from reggae to soul to funk in the backbeats and turn your head with lyrics (ha!) like "You're weird / Feelin blue / On a stool somewhere, two-fisting beers / At a Hofbrau / Moaning like a hot cow / Cryin on the shoulder of some old man you met just now" from "I'm Raw."

By not-so-complete contrast, Particle is a band perfect for the noodle dancing set as well as the fans of electronica. A "jam band" by most accounts, Particle has been inspired by everything from Pink Floyd to the Dead to Parliament Funkadelic and infuses their live shows with electronic beats along with jam sets, leading fans to christen them as "livetronica." Their current album, Transformations: Live for the People, features guest appearances by Blackalicious (there they are again), Robby Krieger of The Doors, guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani and DJ Logic, who add rhymes to the group's once solely instrumental tracks, and once more confound their fans and critics alike as to how to classify this group. It's hard to say exactly what the crowd for Particle will be like, especially with Lyrics Born drawing a good number of the electronic music fans to his venue, but fans of Blackalicious should probably watch out at both stages for any special appearances by MCs Gift of Gab and Chief Xcel which would seem entirely possible.

Sonic Youth vs. Gnarls Barkley (Saturday 4:30pm)
The Saturday 4:30pm match-up presents one of the festival's tougher calls. On the one hand, you've got the purveyors of the single of the summer; on the other, you've got a band so legendary, it's nearly criminal to miss them. Gnarls Barkley, the weird and wacky collaboration of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse, are sure to bring the fun — costumes, for example, are likely. Sonic Youth, on the other hand, forgo gimmicky shenanigans for nothing but rock. The band's latest, Rather Ripped, has met with critical praise, but the common refrain is that the record is "more of the same." So, if you've seen Sonic Youth before, and you're a casual fan, maybe you're best served seeing Gnarls Barkley, an act unlikely to have a 25 — or even five — year history. Or, if you're a bit more committed, maybe you take your chances and watch a bit of both, picking the half of the GB set during which you expect to hear "Crazy." Or, if you're a super fan, well, you didn't read this far, did you? (Of course, luck might make the decision unnecessary; WXRT is sponsoring a contest to give away tickets to an aftershow gig by Thurston, Kim & Co. at the Double Door.)

Thievery Corp vs. The New Pornographers (Saturday 7:30pm)

Thievery Corporation is a band that takes the roots of jazz and stirs them up with some acid elements, trip-hop and experimental noise, leaving the listener surrounded by a barrage of sound. Produced by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, Thievery Corporation gained the notice from the Verve Music Group and lounge hounds alike with the release of their record The Mirror Conspiracy in 1999. It's been a slow climb, but their 2005 album The Cosmic Game came into the spotlight due to notable album contributions from artists like David Byrne and an appreciation for new jazz that has grown thanks to the likes of bands like Medeski, Martin and Wood. Thievery Corporation is sure to deliver an ear enhancing experience, and it's definitely a conversation piece.

The New Pornographers are a power-pop inspired group composed of some of the Pacific Northwest and Canada's best indie performers and began as a side project for members from Zumpano, The Evaporators, Destroyer, Fisher Rose and Chicago alt-country chanteuse Neko Case. This new effort forged sounds from '60s guitar melodies and whimsical lyrics mixed with horns and reverb. Twin Cinema is their latest record, a follow-up to Electric Version. Though their new album seems almost identical to their last record, they have stayed true to their sound and have left the listener with tighter transitions and stronger vocals from Case. For a true indie gem this is a collaboration that will leave you feeling like you got your money's worth.

My pick: The New Pornographers. In my opinion, save Thievery Corp for a small, dark and smoky lounge or club where you can really listen to them and not be distracted by the people and the heat.

Manu Chao vs. Kanye West (Saturday 8:30pm)
I've never heard of this Kanye dude, but Manu Chao is playing in the U.S.! Emerging as a solo artist after the dissolution of his seminal French-Latin '80s punk band Mano Negra, the Parisian born Chao is criminally under-appreciated in the States. Singing in nearly seven different languages (a feat to which only "Project Runway" castoff Malan Breton can attest), Chao and his backing band, Radio Bemba Sound System, have a sound that's just as cosmopolitan: French pop, Rock en Espanol, folk, reggae, dancehall and Studio One ska all play a part in his cosmic cocktail. Even if you don't know what he's singing about (although you should make a point to check out the liner notes, since many of his songs are politically relevant), it's hardly lost in translation.

Sunday, August 6

Mucca Pazza vs. Boy Kill Boy (Sunday 11:45am)
If there's anything I like doing before noon on a Sunday, it's hearing a circus punk marching band play a music festival. That's right, a marching band. Mucca Pazza has been playing for Chicago audiences everywhere from neighborhood fests to the Conan O'Brien show, and has thrilled them all with their joyful, flamboyant, crrrrazy marching band antics (complete with cheerleaders). This is the band we all wanted to dash onto the gridiron and take out some preening quarterbacks back in our high school days. But don't get me wrong, their songs aren't all sunshine and rah-rah-rah. Mucca Pazza means "crazy cow" in Italian, which is kind of a dark thing if you start thinking about it. Their songs range from the frenetic to the dirge (sometimes in the same song), but the energy they put out is really apparent in their live show. It will be hard for popsters Boy Kill Boy to compete with the flash and crash of Mucca Pazza, but I can predict their audience as more of the brooding, black clad goth kids from high school — decidedly not the marching band type (punk rock or not). Their sound is supported by some fine squelchy electronic squonks straight outta 1983, with some easy to sing along with refrains and a Cure-inspired kind of blackness going on (they are British, after all). If you missed The Killers at Lollapalooza last year, Boy Kill Boy is your best substitute in 2006. When stuck with the decision between the two, I think I can get the gist of Boy Kill Boy via the headphones, but Mucca Pazza is a treat for the eyes as well as the ears, and mine will be at their stage bright and early.

The Redwalls vs. Manishevitz vs. Catfish Haven (Sunday 12:30pm and 1:00pm)
It's the Chicago Classic: in this Lolla deathmatch, three local bands are all taking the stage in the timeslot showdown. In one corner, you have the pretty-boy pop of The Redwalls, the British Invasion-loving band which issued its debut on Capitol Records last year; in the other corner you have Catfish Haven, the charismatic southern rock trio (actually, a nine [!] piece for this show) which released an EP on Secretly Canadian in January and has its debut LP due in September; but it's Manishevitz, the quirky locals who have been quietly releasing lovely pop albums since the late '90s, that wins this match. You can hear the band's latest, "Bluebird," via its MySpace page — it seems Manishevitz is taking a cue from '70s radio rock it started to explore on its last release, City Life. Right on, dudes.

Hot Chip vs. Benevento-Russo Duo (Sunday 2:15pm)
That Hot Chip's "Over and Over" showed up in Diplo's Pitchfork Festival set should tell you most of what you need to know to make your decision for the Sunday 2:15pm slot. If those keywords translate as "good-time electronica," you're set with the Brits and their synthesizers. If not, try "Friends of Trey." Thinking Phish immediately? The Benevento/Russo Duo have got you covered with lots of keyboards, lots of percussion. The audiences of these acts isn't likely to overlap that much, but, despite the early start, both crowds should be moving.

Ben Kweller vs. Nickel Creek (Sunday 2:30pm)
Sort of a pre-teen bluegrass novelty act in the beginning, Nickel Creek was formed in 1989 by guitarist Sean Watkins, fiddle player Sara Watkins (his sister) and mandolin player Chris Thiele. After signing with roots label Sugar Hill in the late '90s, the trio put out a self-titled album in 2000, the Grammy-winning This Side in 2002 and Why Should the Fire Die? in 2005. While the instrumentation is decidedly bluegrass, the band members obviously have deep record collections, and their talent is now unassailable. Their music draws from jazz and rock as much as anything else, and it should be a great fit for Lollapalooza.

There's no real dispute that Kweller has some talent for something. He cut his teeth with the band Radish in the mid to late '90s while a teen and went on to forge a solo career in the early 2000s seemingly based on being in the right place at the right times. Kweller has two "official" albums, Sha Sha and 2004's On My Way. His music is pretty benign, and sort of vacillates between the cutesy and the proto-serious. Kweller has cultivated a following, and his set should be pretty well attended.

Pick: Nickel Creek — My favorite thing about festivals is that you can see a diverse mix of bands, and Nickel Creek should be just the thing to interject a bit of diversity. Their playing is beyond reproach, and their music incorporates so many styles that it is hard not to find something to like.

Andrew Bird vs. 30 Seconds to Mars vs. Pepper vs. The New Amsterdams (Sunday 3:30pm)
Scheduling four bands against each other was pure evil on the organizer's part, but fortunately the selections are diverse enough that a simple decision tree will lead you to the right stage this hour. Fans of 311 and Sublime's brand of reggae-rock (and maybe pop-punk of the Blink 182 variety) will shunt off to the Playstation Stage for Pepper, probably the best and only reggae rock band in all of Hawaii. Next to branch off will be celebrity stalkers and fans of aggressive alt.rock, whose allegiance in this four-way fight should be to 30 Seconds to Mars, fronted by actor Jared Leto in angry mascara.

If you're still with me, you're faced with the toughest decision: Do you go with the tried and true hometown hero, Andrew Bird, or the young band out of Lawrence, Kansas, the New Amsterdams? My recommendation is to give the New Amsterdams a chance — they've got an airy, comfortable, slightly countrified sound that will please most indie fans, and if they don't float your boat, you can always wander over and check out what brilliance Bird is sawing out on his violin. The nice thing about these festivals is the opportunity to catch something new, and you know Andrew Bird will be playing another show here in his home town soon enough.
-Andrew Huff

Matisyahu vs. The Shins (Sunday 4:30pm)
Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jewish reggae and dance hall performer backed by a guitar and drums, who shares messages of hope and peace for the urban jungle. With his new album Youth, via a patois voice mixed with Hebrew accents, many of his lyrics span the Torah and calls from Haile Selassie. Matisyahu is not out to convert, though, just to pass along the idea that you can be religious and young while relating to all walks of life. Matisyahu has a strong delivery — mix that with a reggae sound and traditional Hasid dress — and it's pretty entertaining. If a twist on culture is your thing, catch this man. (Not literally though — don't expect him to crowd dive since religious law prevents any contact with women.)

One of the original guitar bands of the late '90s indie-pop movement, The Shins are a five-piece outfit whose members were a part of such groups as Flake Music and American Analog Set. Now as The Shins, these boys grabbed the indie world's attention with their release of Oh, Inverted World on Sub Pop Records. They followed up their moderate success with the 2003 release of Chutes Too Narrow, which featured catchy tunes with memorable hooks. From movie soundtracks to car commercials, Chutes Too Narrow made it to the big-time, and has rocketed the band to new heights, though their sound still remains true to their roots. If you're looking for something to sing along to, The Shins is the best bet this hour.

My pick: Matisyahu, he's original while fun and has a pretty great voice on him!

Reverend Horton Heat vs. Of Montreal (Sunday 5pm)
Reverend Horton Heat has been a touring machine for so many years that the band could probably put on a good show in their sleep by now. Rockabilly requires over-the-top entertainment live, and there is no lack of it at a RevHo show, but each seems like the same formula at this point. Jim has good rapport with audiences and Jimbo will inevitably do something amazing with his upright bass. Like many Elephant 6 bands, Of Montreal is hit or miss live. They're a wildcard. Are you really having a problem deciding between these two? Then catch Of Montreal at Schubas on Friday and see Reverend Horton Heat during this time slot.

Queens of the Stone Age vs. Wilco (Sunday 6:30pm)
This has to be one of the most polarizing choices of the weekend. If you don't know which of these bands you really want to see, you either have very broad taste or you've been living under a rock and don't know who these folks are. Queens of the Stone Age play very heavy Rock, whilst Wilco play artisanal indie rock with an tinge left over from their early years. Both bands hit the big time in 2002, with Songs for the Deaf for QotSA — you couldn't turn on Q101 that summer without hearing "No One Knows" — and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for Wilco — similarly, "Jesus, etc." was on XRT's heavy rotation. Both bands have followed up with less acclaimed but still solid albums (Lullabyes to Paralize and A Ghost is Born, respectively) and both are known for strong live sets. Your call, but I give the Queens a slight lead based solely on the fact that Wilco's playing a couple dates in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio in October. Road trip!

Blues Traveler vs. Broken Social Scene (Sunday 7:30pm)
Blues Traveler soldier on, 10 years after giving the world the "Run Around," and if their last record went a bit under the radar, one critic called Bastardos! "certainly the richest, most diverse album they've ever done, and quite arguably their best." Meantime, Broken Social Scene have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, following up their break-through You Forgot it in People with a self-titled album that was just as good. Which one to see at 7:30 on Sunday night? Well, it depends on the falvor of jam band you're looking for: BT have their name for a reason, incorporating blues and funk into their trad rock; BSS, on the other hand, take their indie rock in a more experimental direction. Chances are one of these acts already has your allegiance, so we'll leave you to it.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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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

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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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