Friday, May 23, 2008

Division Street Fest Features The 1900s and More

The 2008 Division Street fest is set to take place Saturday, May 31 and Sunday, June 1 on Division Street between Damen and Leavitt, and will feature a full lineup of live music that includes local indie pop favorites The 1900s, who are scheduled to play at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

Southern rock band Lucero is headlining day one of the fest, while Ted Leo and the Pharmacists will end the evening on Sunday.

Also included on the bill are Chicago acts Mucca Pazza, a self-described "circus punk marching band" and rock band Tully Monster, as well as Tally Hall, Muldoons, Frightened Rabbit, Bear Hands.

Click here for the complete schedule and fest details.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Tonight: THE PRAIRIE SPIES CD Release Show

Local indie rockers The Prairie Spies are playing the Empty Bottle tonight in honor of the release of their debut LP, Surplus Enjoyment. The Spies specialize in noisy, unpretentious rock and roll with plenty of hooks.

Check out a few of the cuts from Surplus Enjoyment on the band's MySpace.

Also playing are Killer Whales, Bad Veins and The Spectacles.

The Prairie Spies
Surplus Enjoyment release show
May 16, 2008
The Empty Bottle
1035 N. Western
10 p.m.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Interview: AIR TRAFFIC Frontman Chris Wall

British indie rockers Air Traffic have a lot going for them. Their songs are infectious, they rock a lot harder than most of their contemporaries and they've already received a great deal of buzz, considering they released their debut CD, Fractured Life, just last year. Earlier this month the Bournemouth band set off on its first U.S. tour, which includes a May 18 Chicago stop at Reggie's.

Fractured Life
is a rarity in its genre - an album on which every song has its own personality while remaining cohesive and entertaining throughout. From the cocky rock and roll swagger of Come On and Never Even Told Me Her Name to the raucous jolt of Charlotte to the piano-driven introspection of Empty Space, the disc is a feast of styles fit to please any indie rock mood. The album has already caused quite a stir in the band's native land, with singles Charlotte and Shooting Star scoring significant airplay and chart success.

Frontman Chris Wall took some time out to fill us in about the tour, the future and why he's most looking forward to showering while in town. Read on...

How has the tour been so far? Has there been a show that sticks out? Any unexpected moments?

The tour so far has been really enjoyable. The response from the audiences, no matter what size, has been overwhelming...I think those are my most unexpected moments! The show that was most enjoyable for me was probably last night in Dallas.

I noticed you guys recently played a church. What was that like?

Uh...I don't recommend it. There were pews and everything, it was a bit uncomfortable!

As this is your first full tour of the States, how would you describe U.S. audiences compared to U.K. audiences? Have there been any differences between the two that have surprised you?

The crowds here seem to be more open to new music. We were opening for Elbow, and very often in the UK people don't really give the opening act much attention, but I was really surprised over here...people came right up to the stage and didn't talk through our set and were really fun to play to.

You’re coming to Chicago Sunday…have you ever played or been here? What do you know about it and is there anything in specific you’re looking forward to while in town?

Never been. Shamelessly I actually have no idea what's there to see or do, so the thing I'm most looking forward to is a shower in a hotel.

For people who don’t know about Air Traffic, how would you describe your sound? What do you think sets Air Traffic apart from other bands?

We are basically British indie rock. What sets us apart from other bands is that we write great songs...which I think are becoming more and more rare these days. I can't even listen to the radio any more with all the shit that they play. We don't write for the radio and we don't write for an audience. We write for ourselves, and people just happen to like it. We're pretty diverse so it's hard to say what we're like. When we play live we have a lot of energy, and always put 100 percent into our music.

Do you have any favorite tracks on Fractured Life? Are there songs you particularly like to play live?

I love to play Shooting Star live... it's usually a crowd winner. Favorite track on Fractured Life is probably Come On.

Do you prefer playing live or recording in the studio?

Bit of both. I used to hate live, but now I'm really getting into it and I don't freak out so much before going on stage. There's something really comfortable about studios, though...I love being locked away in a little music world like that.

You guys have known each other and been playing together for a while. When was the first time you really thought to yourself, “Wow, this could be something big?”

The first time I really thought it was after having six months away from the band -we kind of disbanded, actually - traveling around Australia and New Zealand. I downloaded our demo stuff off our Web site at the time to play to a friend and she was bowled over by them...that's when I thought seriously about getting the band back on its feet.

How do you all get along on the road?

Usually pretty good. There are good and bad days, you just have to roll with it. I feel sorry for interviewers when they get us on a bad day, we can be a bit miserable. Ha. A couple of days some girl had to break me and Dave apart while we were trying to kick the shit out of each other in the street. But we're fine now. It's always booze and women.

Tell me a bit about the Air Traffic songwriting process, from how the songs start to how they end up sounding on the album.

A song can come in minutes. You just get an idea in your head and run with it. But it takes a long time for songs to fall into their right place - usually we need to play a song live so many times before we're actually comfortable with it. And when you get to recording it you can mess with it all over again. When we've got a new idea we just play it over and over and everyone works out their individual parts. It's a pretty open book, but it works best if someone has some kind of idea with where it's going.

How do you feel about your songs being played on shows such as One Tree Hill, The Hills and Kyle XY?

I think anything that gets us a little more exposure is a good thing. I don't want to "sell out" at all, but in such a huge country you've got to do what you can to get your songs around.

I noticed you guys take a pretty interactive approach to communicating with fans through blogs on MySpace and your official site. That’s something a lot of other bands don’t do. What do you think the benefits are to taking this approach?

It's actually really enjoyable, that's why we do it. It brings your fans closer to you, and it also drives us to keep making music.

What’s next for Air Traffic after the tour? What do you hope for the band in the future?

There's no limit to what I hope for Air Traffic. I want to play to the whole world. Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be satisfied however far we get...but that's what drives me so hard, trying to reach a goal that's always getting further away. The next thing we need to do is write and record a new album that's better than the last one!

Air Traffic
Reggie's Rock Club
2109 South State Street
May 18, 2008, 8 p.m.
Official site

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Promoter's Ordinance Council Vote Put on Hold

As a result of a massive amount of public opposition toward the Chicago City Council's planned Wednesday vote to approve a promoter's ordinance that would place crippling restrictions on event promoters in the city, the City Council License Committee decided today to postpone voting until an undetermined date.

In the meantime, the committee plans to work on fine-tuning the law, which is expected to take at least a month, before taking further action.

For more details, see Jim DeRogatis's report.

Taste of Randolph Street Announces 2008 Lineup

The Taste of Randolph Street festival, an annual three day event that aims to support the West Loop community, has announced its 2008 music lineup. The festival, which is set for June 20, 21 and 22, will feature Josh Ritter, Drive-By Truckers and Mike Doughty as the headlining acts.

Also playing the fest are two local acts - power pop band Frisbie and jazzy hip-hop group J.Davis Trio - in addition to Matt Costa, Delta Spirit, Bobby Bare Jr. and The Everyday Visuals.

Click here for more information.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Promoter's Ordinance Spells Trouble for Chicago Music Scene

This Wednesday, May 14, could spark a crushing blow to Chicago's indie music scene.

That's when the Chicago City Council meets to decide the fate of legislation that would place numerous tight restrictions on event promoters in the city. If the legislation is passed, anyone organizing an event, including independent musicians, could find it next to impossible to do so.

The Promoter's Ordinance was approved by the Committee on License and Consumer Protection last week, resulting in a frenzy of outcries from the local music community.

As reported by Chicago Sun-Times music writer Jim DeRogatis, activists in the Chicago Music Commission don't plan to sit back and let it happen:

“The language of the ordinance as drafted unnecessarily and perhaps prohibitively increases the cost of doing business for any promoter seeking to work with PPA- [public place of amusement] licensed music venues, including, among many others, Schuba’s, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Vic Theater, the Riviera Theater, the Metro, the Hideout, Uncommon Ground and Martyr’s,” said Alligator Records founder and CMC board member Bruce Iglauer.

“The ordinance will reduce the amount of music in Chicago, make events more expensive for consumers, dampen the large and growing economic engine that is Chicago music and create a much less supportive business climate for Chicago’s small music business community.”

Here are some of the implications of the ordinance:

- Any event promoter must have a license from the city of Chicago and liability insurance of $300,000.

- The definition of "event promoter" is loosely defined, meaning it could apply to a band, singer, or visiting theater company.

- An event promoter must be licensed and will pay $500 to $2,000, depending on expected audience size.

- Applicants for a license must be over 21, have fingerprints taken, submit a background check and more.

- Smaller venues are targeted, as venues with 500 or more permanent seats are exempt.

- Police must be notified at least seven days prior to an event.

Find out more here.

Please sign the petition opposing the ordinance here.

Review: COLIN HAY at Lakeshore Theater, 5/10/08

It's appropriate that 80s pop frontman-turned-solo singer-songwriter Colin Hay played local comedy haven the Lakeshore Theater Saturday night. Armed with a healthy supply of both one-liners and heartfelt acoustic tunes, Hay's act was as much a stand-up routine as it was a musical performance.

Throughout his lengthy set, which was preceded by the mellow Americana of Kate Lamont and Blueprintmusic, Hay proved that he is much more than merely the man behind a few new wave chart-toppers. He performed introspective, folky songs such as Going Somewhere, Beautiful World and Waiting for My Real Life to Begin - all likely candidates for a completely acoustic show - seamlessly. And instead of ignoring songs that would please casual fans, Hay delivered familiar aged hits such as Down Under, Who Can It Be Now and Overkill in an organic style that made them fit in comfortably with the rest of the set.

Hay followed his opening song with about 10 minutes of banter, stating "We might get three or four songs in tonight." In fact, at times watching the performance felt like watching VH1 Storytellers. The audience found out exactly how I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You wound up on the Garden State soundtrack after Zach Braff became a regular at Hay's shows and asked for approval to include the song. After receiving his first resulting royalties check in the midst of a kitchen renovation, the choice between real granite and fake granite suddenly became much easier, the singer joked.

Sting, who also played Chicago Saturday with the Police, was a major source of Hay's humor. "This usually doesn't happen, we usually agree not play a city on the same night," he said. "I think we attract each other's audience."

It didn't stop there. "Do you think his mother calls him 'Sting'?," Hay asked after one song, later continuing his amusing fixation by simply muttering "%*!#@*! Sting..."

Hay also had a turn at one of his self-proclaimed musical heroes, Bob Dylan. Before playing What Would Bob Do?, he recalled recently seeing Dylan play a show during most of which he was tucked behind the keyboards, occasionally singing and sounding like a "man from Afghanistan saying a prayer." He proceeded to do an impression of how this would look and sound just in case we needed clarification.

All in good fun, of course.

Hay gave the performance of a true entertainer who has the chops to tirelessly carry an acoustic, two hour show as the only one on stage and keep the audience entertained throughout. Man at Work, indeed.

Lollapalooza Lineup Additions, Last Band Standing

Lollapalooza has announced the addition of six bands to its lineup, the majority of which was revealed last month. The newly added acts include:

Iron and Wine
Saul Williams
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Wild Sweet Orange

Follow the links above to sample the bands on their MySpace pages.

Lollapalooza has also launched this year's "Last Band Standing" competition, which allows bands to submit material and campaign for a chance to play the festival. Click here for more details.

Friday, May 9, 2008

AIRIEL - The Battle of Sealand

Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times recently deemed local noise rock outfit Airiel one of "Chicago's next big bands," and a listen to the group's 2007 release, The Battle of Sealand, reveals more than a few moments that prove why.

Airiel is known as a shoegaze band, and it's true that the music is fuzzed-out and full of noisy guitars. However, there's nothing subtle about The Battle of Sealand. The band goes all out, spares no sound effect and really, truly rocks. Even the vocals of Jeremy Wrenn, while often indecipherable, hold their own against the wall of noise on many tracks. Thinktank, Thrown Idols, Mermaid in a Manhole and The Release are driving workouts that take a much more aggressive approach than an unsuspecting listener might anticipate. Sugar Crystals is an icy electro jolt that sputters along fueled by nervous energy, and while the yearning Stay offers a rare chilled-out moment, it also manages to maintain the album's overall sense of urgency. The Battle of Sealand arguably approaches tedium during two tracks - You Kids Should Know Better and The Big Mash-Up. While these songs aren't devoid of any redeeming qualities, they make the Battle go on a little longer than necessary.

Airiel on MySpace
Buy The Battle of Sealand

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

AIMEE MANN to Bring "Smilers" to Ravinia

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to see a bunch of happy, well-off festival-goers basking on blankets and enjoying wine and cheese while taking in life affirming lines such as "If you could save me from the ranks of the freaks who suspect they could never love anyone," you're in luck.

Celebrated singer-songwriter Aimee Mann is coming to Highland Park's Ravinia Festival on Sunday, August 31, to promote her forthcoming seventh solo studio album, @%&! Smilers. Classic British pop band Squeeze is sharing the bill.

Smilers, out June 3rd, sounds very much like what you'd expect from an Aimee Mann record. It's clever, melodic and lyrically not very happy, while at the same time managing not to be a total downer and maintaining a high level of accessibility. Mann completely ditches electric guitars for this record. She also ditches the concept album approach of her last collection of originals, 2005's The Forgotten Arm, opting for 13 tunes that each tell a unique story.

The album kicks off with the first single, Freeway. This is another of Mann's frequent character studies of those who are anything but all smiles, with plenty of memorable lines such as "You found yourself a prophet, but you left him on the boardwalk/Another chocolate Easter bunny hollowed out by your talk." Only this one features a synth line that would make The Cars envious.

Mann continues her new-found synth fixation (or a return to her roots, considering her 'Til Tuesday records) on Thirty One Today, which musically sounds happy, but lyrically deals with feelings of depression that result from its protagonist getting older and feeling as though he or she hasn't accomplished enough, leading to introspective afternoons of "getting loaded watching CNN."

Fans who favor Mann's more organic sound will also find much to love on Smilers, most noticeably on the thoughtful, sadly beautiful Medicine Wheel and Columbus Ave. Elsewhere, Little Tornado is a haunting track that personifies the title object and its destruction - "bane of the trailer park" - while Stranger into Starman is a brief reflection sparked by a crossword puzzle and an Anne Sexton poem. Another highlight, It's Over, is a soulful ballad that soars with an orchestrated sound and one of the album's strongest melodies. Album closer Ballantines, with its quirky ragtime vibe and happy-go-lucky delivery, is reminiscent of Way Back When from Mann's debut solo record, Whatever.

Like its cartoon cover star, @%&! Smilers is simultaneously sour and whimsical, full of life in a down sort of way. What more could you want from an Aimee Mann album?

Tickets and Ravinia info
Aimee Mann official site

Friday, May 2, 2008

SOUTH to Play Abbey Pub May 5

U.K. indie rock trio sOuth is playing the Abbey Monday, May 5, promoting this week's release of the band's fifth LP, You are Here. The albums marks a shift away from sOuth's previous electronic leanings, opting for a wider range of indie rock and indie pop sounds. Check out AllMusic Guide's review here.

You can hear some of the tracks from You are Here at sOuth's MySpace page and pick up tickets here.