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Review Thu Jun 26 2014

Review: Bob Mould Has Our Attention at Downtown Sound, 6/23


This past week, Downtown Sound hosted Bob Mould, a founding member of the lauded rock bands Hüsker Dü and Sugar. Mould is in the midst of a tour supporting his great new solo release Beauty & Ruin. Each Monday, Downtown Sound hosts musical acts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, and it's one of the more exciting, albeit surreal, venues for a rock concert in the city. The bands that take the stage at Downtown Sound shows are more likely to be found headlining the Metro or the Riviera Theatre, and it's a marvel to be surrounded by the Chicago skyline and a fading sun, picnicking with friends, as you listen to bands you're more used to hearing through club speakers and seeing through dim, moody lighting.

Besides Mould on vocals and guitar, Verbow alumnus Jason Narducy handled bass duties and Jon Wurster of Superchunk and the Mountain Goats was behind the kit; the résumés of the three men onstage includes some of the best and most seismic indie rock of the past three decades. In addition to playing bass for Mould, Narducy opened the evening with his band Split Single. Narducy, along with the rest of the players in his band, hails from Chicago, and there was a large contingent of friends and supporters cheering them on near the front. The atmosphere was tantamount to a great, tight-knit club show played on one of the city's grandest stages.

As Mould's set commenced, the razor-wire combination of bombast and precision from Narducy and Wurster enabled him to smother the field of the Pavilion with frantic stabs of distorted open chords on his Stratocaster, amplified through an imposing Marshall stack. Mould's guitar playing is intense but rarely abrasive, and he can effortlessly wow you with his pyrotechnics without ever sacrificing the song itself.

I discovered Mould's music a bit later than many, chancing across a performance of "The Descent", from 2012's Silver Age, on Letterman a few years ago. I simply could not take my eyes off the screen, and it was this charisma that roped the audience in at Monday's show. That he was so engrossing is all the more impressive considering that the typical crowd at Downtown Sound can be a bit sedate. It's not a critique of the audience, nor is it all that surprising; people come down to the lawn after work to enjoy some great bands and catch up with friends. It doesn't mirror the frenzy of a tiny rock club, nor could it. However, Mould managed to turn heads, regardless. I first noticed it when they played "The Descent" early in the set. It's a sonic starting gun of a tune and pummeled unsuspecting listeners into attentiveness. As I looked around the pavilion, I saw faces peering up from IPhones and friends putting conversations on hold, fixated by the energy onstage.

The setlist was a mix of Hüsker Dü, Sugar and solo tracks, with a slight emphasis on Beauty & Ruin. One particular highlight was "Hardly Getting Over It", a song from Hüsker Dü's Candy Apple Grey. It was one of the few moments in the show where the tempo and volume ebbed slightly, and in case some audience members had been thrown off by the fast pace of the other numbers, it was a potent reminder that Mould is, above all, a hell of a melody writer. Overall, the show was one of the heaviest that I've seen in the Downtown Sound series, and I'm thrilled they went with a performer more aggressive than the norm; though Mould formed Hüsker Dü thirty-five years ago, the gusto emanating from him and his band outstripped many younger bands I've seen. It's inspiring to know that there are performers like Mould who are forging a path into maturity with integrity, proving that's it's absolutely possible to maintain your vitality in punk over three decades into a career.

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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

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  & Shops:

Alligator Records
Beverly Records
Bloodshot Records
Dave's Records
Delmark Records
Drag City
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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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