Friday, February 27, 2009

Pitchfork Music Festival 2009 set for July 17 to 19

While they haven't yet announced who will be playing, promoters for Pitchfork Music Festival have revealed that the fest will take place this year from Friday, July 17 to Sunday, July 19 in Union Park. Tickets are set to go on sale Friday, March 13.

This will be the fourth year of the festival, which in 2008 drew hordes of music lovers with performances by Animal Collective, The Hold Steady, Vampire Weekend, Spoon, Jarvis Cocker and many more.

Three weeks after the fest, Chicago music fans will have Lollpalooza 2009 to look forward to, which despite much speculation, also hasn't officially revealed any of its lineup.

Who do you hope shows up in this year's Pitchfork lineup?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Members of Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, Fountains of Wayne, Hanson form supergroup

When I heard about this I took a glance at my calendar to make sure I hadn't slept through March and it wasn't April Fools' Day. It isn't, so I think it's for real.

Apparently, two Chicago music veterans - James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins and Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick - have joined forces with Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam Schlesinger and Taylor Hanson, the middle Hanson brother, to form a "supergroup" called Tinted Windows.

Confused? Me too.

According to the band's site, they already have an album in the can for release on April 21 and will play at SXSW on March 20.

If you're wondering what this unlikely concoction of musicians might sound like, the band's press release mentions "fusing the sounds of power-pop, rock and New Wave of the late 70's and early 80's...with the more modern rock and pop sounds of their own groups. 'We talked about everything from from The Buzzcocks to The Knack,' says Iha. 'And, of course, Cheap Trick.'"

Doesn't sound so bad, actually.

If you want to get an early taste, check this out:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Five shows this weekend - February 27 to March 1

The Appleseed Cast (photo by Chris Strong)

Friday, February 27

- The Appleseed Cast with Giants, Or So It Goes and Color Radio at Bottom Lounge - Kansas-based "post rockers" Appleseed Cast released their seventh full-length, the mostly intsrumental "Sagarmatha," this month. Check out an interview with the band published today by Jim DeRogatis of the Sun-Times. 8 p.m., $12 advance, $15 day of show, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- Fermata at Uncommon Ground - Hailing from Madison, Wisconsin, Fermata is an acoustic rock band consisting of everything from upright bass, violin and viola to mandolin, banjo, accordion and acoustic guitar, all pulled together by powerful female vocals. 10 p.m. More info.

Saturday, February 28

- These Arms are Snakes with Darker My Love and All the Saints at Subterranean - These Arms are Snakes are a Seattle-based experimental "post hardcore" (so many "post" bands...) band that have released three albums, most recently last year's "Tail Swallower and Dove." 9:30 p.m., $10, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

- moe. at the Riviera Theatre - Formed in 1990, moe. have long been one of the leading progressive/jam bands on the scene. They have released nine proper studio albums in addition to a collection of live albums, accumulating a devoted fan base along the way. Doors 7 p.m, show 8 p.m., $26.50. Also on Friday. More info and tickets.

Sunday, March 1

- Soft Targets with Mean Ohio and Beautiful Leper at Empty Bottle - Soft Targets are an indie rock/punk band from Chicago that recently released a new album called "Soft Targets Must be Destroyed!" Mean Ohio and Beautiful Leper are also local. 9:30 p.m., $3. More info and tickets.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009 lineup predictions

No Doubt

Lollapalooza won't announce its official 2009 lineup for weeks, but online speculation as to who will play the fest, scheduled for August 7 to 9, is in full force. If the actual roster looks anything like what's being kicked around, it's bound to be an another amazing time.

Considering what's being buzzed about across the Web and what simply makes sense, below are my picks of bands that have a good chance of popping up on the official lineup.

Keep in mind that this is purely speculation, and none of these bands have been officially confirmed as playing the festival.

No Doubt - The newly reformed, Anaheim-bred pop/alternative/ska favorites recently announced plans of a summer tour that will kick off in May and find them "playing outdoor amphitheaters and arenas throughout the summer." Sounds like the perfect scenario for a Lolla slot, and given the fest's track record of booking 90s rock chart-toppers as headlining acts, it would make a lot of sense.

Jane's Addiction - The band that headlined the original Lollapalooza is back playing together again, with a few smaller gigs already under their belts, a show scheduled at the Sasquatch Music Festival in late May and confirmation that they will support Nine Inch Nails on their farewell tour. It's only logical that the original Lolla headliners will do so again.

Depeche Mode - The highly influential synth-pop act announced a worldwide tour to support their twelfth LP, "Sounds of the Universe," and a Chicago gig is missing from the announced dates, with a gap in the schedule that would coincide perfectly with Lolla. Put two and two together and a slot at the fest seems like a good possibility.

Green Day - The band is releasing a new record, "21st Century Breakdown," in May, and considering their popularity with both the 90s crowd who got into them via "Dookie" and the youngsters who are better versed in "American Idiot," a Green Day slot would be huge. According to news of a world tour to support the record is coming soon, and an appearance at the festival would definitely not be a shocker.

Coldplay - There are two reasons they are prime candidates for Lolla this year. One, they are one of the world's biggest bands and have yet to play the fest. Two, there's no Chicago gig on their current tour schedule, and an opening on August 8 that would make an appearance possible.

Blink 182 - Visit the pop-punkers' site and you'll find a message that reads, "To put it simply, we're back. We mean, really back. Picking up where we left off and then some. In the studio writing and recording a new album. Preparing to tour the world yet again. Friendships reformed. 17 years deep in our legacy. Summer 2009. Thanks and get ready..." As with No Doubt and Jane's Addiction, this reunion would lend itself perfectly to a set at Lolla.

Kaiser Chiefs - The Chiefs are a pretty sure bet, considering they recently mentioned a Lolla gig in their recent fan newsletter.

The Raveonettes - Sune Rose Wagner of the Danish duo also mentioned a Lolla gig, according to this blog. If this post was actually up on the band's MySpace site, though, it has since disappeared.

Who are you hoping shows up in the official lineup for Lolla '09?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Five shows this weekend - February 20 to 22

Smoking Popes

Friday, February 20

- Deer Tick with Future Clouds and Radar and Anni Rossi at Empty Bottle - 10 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, February 21

- Smoking Popes with The Dials and Helicopters at Cubby Bear - 9 p.m., $14, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Mahjongg with TomTomTomBoy at Hideout - $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- New Bomb Turks with Mannequin Men at Cobra Lounge - 10 p.m., 21 and over. More info.

Sunday, February 22

- The O's with Nathan Xander and Adam Faucett at Darkroom - 7 p.m., $7, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Steak House Mints - Out of the Sky

You have to admire Chicago's Steak House Mints for having the sense of humor to name themselves after a post-dinner breath freshener. The name is certainly amusing enough to grab the unsuspecting listener's attention, but after playing the band's debut album, "Out of the Sky," it's clear that they're notable for much more than what they call themselves. The record is a worthy listen throughout, full of beautiful Beatles-esque melodies and clever songwriting.

The Mints came to be after singer-songwriter Billy Dave Sherman assembled an ensemble to help bring his tunes to life, recruiting drummer Steve Gillis (formerly of Filter), bassist Shawn Sommer, guitarist Scott Tipping and keyboardist Vijay Tellis. The result is an album that sounds like the band has been releasing music together for years.

Sherman obviously knows his way around a pop song, delivering upbeat gems such as "All Because of You" - which features a pure, sunny vibe reminiscent of the Zombies classic "This Will be Our Year" - and "If I Were President," a fun, catchy rocker that explores just what its title suggests (check out the band's accompanying music video here). This isn't the kind of pop music that tries to have deeper meaning or unnecessary experimentation to make it okay for the hipster crowd to dig. It's just good-natured, catchy fun that gives you the chance to sing along to lines like, "If I were president my first lady'd be a stone cold fox/I'd cover her in furs and rocks/I'd make peace between the nerds and jocks/I'd make sure every cowboy had a gun/And find out what's up with area 51."

That said, the Mints play with quite a few sounds on the record, mastering soaring orch-pop via "Blue Fly" and "Flying in My Dreams" and finding Sherman sounding like indie rock's answer to Michael Bublé on "Cheap Thrill" and "Cat Dance." All of the material is strong, but the livelier power pop numbers provide the instant gratification.

"Out of the Sky" is a genuinely refreshing listen that justifies repeat plays and shows great promise for The Steak House Mints. You can pick it up at CD Baby.

More Chicago music reviews:

Pet Lions - Soft Right

Camera - Fire & Science

tenniscourts - Dig the New Sounds of tenniscourts

The Living Blue - Walk Talk Rhythm Roam

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New releases - 2/17/09

Morrissey - "Years of Refusal" - Morrissey is back with the follow-up to 2006's "Ringleader of the Tormentors," and delivers arguably his strongest release since the 90s. "Years of Refusal" is packed with a punch not heard on much of his other recent work, and features an assortment of strong tracks including the punk romp "Something is Squeezing My Skull," the mariachi-tinged "When I Last Spoke to Carol" and the driving rocker "All You Need Is Me."

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead - "The Century of Self" - The Austin-based art rockers release their sixth album, the first since 2006's "So Divided."

M. Ward - "Hold Time" - The singer-songwriter from Portland and one half of duo She & Him releases his sixth solo album.

Chicago artists:

Coupleskate - "Don't Scare the Horses" - This all-female indie rock band from Chicago released their debut LP on February 13. You can check out the music video for the opening track, "Laws of Physics," on their official site, and pick up the music via CD Baby or iTunes.

Pet Lions - "Soft Right" - This up and coming local band play a highly addictive mix of indie rock and classic power pop, and have just released their very strong debut EP, "Soft Right," (reviewed here) for download via They will play an official release show March 7 at Beat Kitchen.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Show review: Pretenders at the Riviera, 2/15/09

"Thank you for making my day," rock icon Chrissie Hynde told the crowd at the Riviera Sunday night as she left the stage at the end of the first proper Pretenders gig in Chicago since 2006.

The feeling seemed mutual, as the packed theater cheered energetically throughout the band's set even though the song list played down the hits in favor of new material, lesser known singles and strong album cuts that may or may not have been familiar to most in attendance.

After a brief and entertaining opening set from Southern-fried indie rockers American Bang, Hynde took the stage with one other Pretenders mainstay, original drummer Martin Chambers, and more recent additions James Walbourne on guitar, Nick Wilkinson on bass and Eric Heywood on pedal steel. The group kicked off the show with two raucous rockabilly numbers from their 2008 release, "Break Up the Concrete," a record that finds Hynde sounding her most unrestrained since the early 80s. The jittery "Boots of Chinese Plastic," a clever play on the classic Bob Dylan track "Boots of Spanish Leather," set the scene, while the spastic rave-up of "Don't Cut Your Hair," which Hynde dedicated to all the "gentlemen" in the audience, kept the momentum going. There was a humor in these tracks that hasn't been present in most of the band's output over the years, with the first namedropping various spiritual mantras and the latter giving Hynde the opportunity to spout lines such as, "From Ipanema to the Copacabana, the monkeys give their asses for a piece of banana."

Aside from playing all of the strongest cuts from "Concrete," Hynde and the band completely ignored material past the mid-80s, focusing on early favorites such as "Kid" and "Day After Day," which were both dedicated to the late original Pretenders, Pete Farndon and James Honeyman-Scott.

The band's biggest hits were present but scarce, with straightforward versions of "Back on the Chain Gang," "Don't Get Me Wrong" and "Brass in Pocket" (Hynde: "Let's get this one out of the way") probably being the only cuts recognizable to the most casual of fans.

The biggest surprise of the night came in the form of "Cuban Slide," a non-LP track that appeared only on the band's 1981 EP, "Extended Play." The track's Bo Diddley-inspired beat fit in nicely with the like-minded "Concrete" tracks, particularly the title track, a highlight that ended the pre-encore set.

The hardest-hitting moments came during the two encores, though, which found Hynde and company tearing through four rockers from the 1980 debut. "The Wait," "Tattooed Love Boys" and "Precious" were delivered with as much firepower as ever, while the intense, slightly eerie "Up the Neck" was perhaps the night's biggest stunner, ending the Pretenders' latest visit to Chicago on just the right note.

Hynde has stated that one of her greatest musical strengths has always been the ability to get the most out of her band mates, which made a lot of sense after watching newcomer Walbourne tear through blistering solos on "Rosalee" and "Thumbelina," during which she seemed to be just as entranced as the crowd. Walbourne, who replaced long-time guitarist Adam Seymour, stood out as a critical asset to the band and one that the lead Pretender will no doubt want to keep around.

At one point during the show Hynde directly addressed her fallen band mates Farndon and Honeyman-Scott, quipping, "We'll be there soon, get the kettle on." Considering Sunday night's proof that the 57-year-old and her troupe sound as essential as ever, let's hope she's dead wrong.

The Pretenders at the Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL, February 15, 2009 - setlist (not in exact order): Boots of Chinese Plastic, Don't Cut Your Hair, Kid, The Nothing Maker, Love's a Mystery, Back on the Chain Gang, Message of Love, The Last Ride, Talk of the Town, Rosalee, One Thing Never Changed, Don't Get Me Wrong, Day After Day, Brass in Pocket, Cuban Slide, Thumbelina, Break Up the Concrete. First encore: The Wait, Tattooed Love Boys. Second encore: Precious, Up the Neck

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pet Lions - Soft Right

Back in December I highlighted Pet Lions as one of the best emerging Chicago bands of 2008 solely off the strength of a handful of demos on their MySpace site. At that time they were still putting the finishing touches on their debut EP, “Soft Right,” which is now available to buy as a download via The 5 song collection definitely delivers, solidifying the foursome’s status as a band you should get on your radar as quickly as possible.

On first listen, Pet Lions come across like a slightly poppier version of The Strokes, with lead vocalist Karl Østby sounding a bit like he could be the better-adjusted younger brother of Julian Casablancas. Listen more closely, though, and you’ll hear that the band owes just as much to late-70s and early-80s power pop and new wave, with a focus on strong, airy melodies throughout and plenty of clever lyrics to add to the classic pop spirit of the tunes. That’s not to say the Lions lack their own identity. There’s a distinct, buoyant guitar sound here that gives the material its own flavor. Pretty impressive for a band that’s so far only released five songs.

“Soft Right” begins with “Roman History,” the most instantly accessible of the bunch. This one has the most obvious Strokes vibe, sort of like a cross between “Hard to Explain” and “12:51,” only catchier. There’s not a weak track to follow, but other highlights include “Stuck at the Bottom” and the excellent closer “Girls of Athens,” which are simply great pop songs bursting with hooks, energy and melody.

Based on the strength of this EP, it would be thoroughly surprising if the Lions don’t find themselves with droves of fans very soon. Highly recommended.

Pet Lions will play a release show for “Soft Right” March 7 at Beat Kitchen. Click here for more info and tickets.

Friday, February 13, 2009

New URL:

Starting today, you can access Windy City Rock via a brand new address, The old address will still work, you'll just be redirected.

As always, thanks for reading!

Five shows this weekend - February 13 to 15

The Pretenders

Friday, February 13

- Bound Stems with Serengeti at Beat Kitchen - Bound Stems are high on the list of Chicago's most notable current bands. They released their second LP, "The Family Afloat," last September on Flameshovel Records. Doors 8 p.m., show 8:30 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Coupleskate with Euphone and Reds & Blue at Empty Bottle - "Local indie rock sweethearts" Coupleskate will celebrate the release of their debut LP, "Don't Scare the Horses." The band will play the record from start to finish. 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Saturday, February 14

- Jeff Tweedy at The Vic - The Wilco front man is set to play two solo shows at the Vic this weekend as the band gears up for new DVD and album releases as well as touring later this year. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., $100. Also on Friday. More info and tickets.

- Delta Spirit with Other Lives at Dawes at Double Door - Delta Spirit hail from California and play a mix of indie rock and soul. Doors 8 p.m./show 9 p.m., $8 advance/$10 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, February 15

- The Pretenders at The Riviera - Chrissie Hynde and company are touring to support their first new record, "Break Up the Concrete," since 2002's "Loose Screw." They will hit Chicago Sunday with the new, rockabilly inspired songs as well as the classics. American Bang will open. Doors 6 p.m., show 7:30 p.m., $42. More info and tickets.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Camera - Fire & Science

Chicago three-piece Camera isn't new to the scene - they've been around since 2003 - but their latest EP, "Fire & Science," is only their second release. The band have spent most of their time perfecting their live show, so it wasn't until recently that they decided to take a serious leap into recording, renting a house to transform into a makeshift studio where they self-produced the six songs on the EP. Without prior recording experience, they learned as they went, and the result is an impressive showcase for their intriguing, ear-catching blend of experimental rock and new wave, which at times sounds a bit like a less depressed Joy Division.

Armed with consistently strong tracks that aren't afraid to venture into a variety of musical worlds, as well as some wonderfully bizarre song titles a la the Cocteau Twins, camera deliver an instantly memorable listening experience. The excellent "Lasting Impression of Emperors Passed" kicks off the collection with a tribal beat that develops into a jittery, driving rocker, making way for more ambient cuts such as "Inner Bully" and "One Neo Eon," which draw from shoegaze and manage to sound fresh and unique without sacrificing hooks and a sense of melody. The closing track, "London Fields," shows just how hard the band is capable of rocking and just how far their musical realm reaches.

The trio is currently working with a team of producers on a full-length for release this year, and based on the strength of "Fire & Science," it will definitely warrant a listen.

Catch Camera live on February 28 at the Abbey Pub. Click here for more information.

More Chicago CD reviews:

tenniscourts - Dig the New Sounds of tenniscourts

The Living Blue - Walk Talk Rhythm Roam

Alive Day - Blindsided by Hope

Office - Mecca (free download)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The history of Windy City Rock: A crash course in Chicago bands through time

Chicago has always taken a lot of pride in being "Home of the Blues," but its contributions to rock and roll have arguably been overlooked. Compared to other major cities such as New York, L.A. and Seattle, the Windy City doesn't generally get the recognition it deserves for consistently producing a wide variety of noteworthy acts since rock's beginnings.

When examining chart hits of the 60s to the carefully crafted prog and power pop of the 70s to the DIY-spirited indie rock of today, though, it becomes apparent that our city has always had a lot to offer to music fans both locally and globally.

Read on for a crash course in the history of Windy City rock.

-- 1960s --

While British invasion acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Zombies defined rock and roll in the 1960s, a host of Chicago bands hit the pop charts alongside them.

One such act was The Buckinghams, best known for their radio hits "Kind of a Drag," "Don't You Care," "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)," "Susan" and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," all of which hit the Top 20. Originally known as The Pulsations, the band formed in 1965 and quickly changed their name after winning a local battle of the bands competition on WGN-TV. The success of these singles during the second half of the decade earned The Buckinghams the status of one of the top selling groups of their time before splitting in 1970. The band has since reformed, releasing new music and playing live.

Also putting Chicago on the pop charts in the 60s were The American Breed, formed in Cicero in 1966. The band is best remembered for their hit 1968 single "Bend Me, Shape Me." The song also made the news more than 30 years after its release when its publishers sued alternative rockers Garbage for borrowing liberally from the song on their late 90s hit, "I Think I'm Paranoid."

-- 1970s --

Keeping in step with the musical trends of the time, the Windy City rock scene in the early-to-mid 1970s produced a number of popular bands that fell under the categories of prog rock, album rock, or arena rock.

Chicago, the band named after its home city, can be forever heard on oldies radio with early 70s rock hits such as "25 or 6 to 4" and "Saturday in the Park," and on power ballad compilations with later, saccharine cuts such as "Baby, What a Big Surprise" and "You're the Inspiration."

Hailing from the University of Illinois in Champaign, REO Speedwagon formed in 1967 and released albums throughout the 1970s that perfectly reflected the popular prog rock and hard rock sounds of the decade. It wasn't until 1980, though, that the band would achieve mainstream success by shifting to a more pop sound, as evidenced by the hit singles from that year's "Hi Infidelity" record - "Keep on Loving You" and "Take It on the Run."

In the second half of the decade and early into the next, Styx would also have notable impact on AOR rock with prog and hard rock anthems such as "Come Sail Away," "Blue Collar Man" and "Babe."

While these bands were scoring mainstream success with popular sounds of the decade, Chicago was also quietly producing a host of bands that took their cues from 1960s-esque pop melodies over arena and prog rock.

The most notable of this camp was perhaps Zion's Shoes. The band was at the helm of some of the most melodic and pristine tunes in the history of power pop, including "Too Late" and "Tomorrow Night." Although they recorded into the 90s, their 1977 self-recorded album, "Black Vinyl Shoes," as well as 1978's "Present Tense" and 1980's "Tongue Twister," have reached particular cult status among power pop fans.

Even more obscure in the power pop arena were Pezband, who combined early Beatles-inspired melodies with an unpolished edge over the course of three strong records, "Pezband" (1977), "Laughing in the Dark" (1978) and "Cover to Cover" (1979).

And then of course, there's Rockford's Cheap Trick, who became Chi-Town's most successful power pop act by merging pop hooks with harder-edged rock to forever ingrain themselves into rock history with classics such as "Surrender" and "I Want You to Want Me."

-- 1980s --

At the start of the 80s, Oak Park's Off Broadway carried on the Chicago power pop movement of the 70s, releasing two well-received (but since largely forgotten out of the power pop circle) albums, the first of which, "On," included the radio hit "Stay in Time."

Soon, though, the sound of the Midwest in the 80s would shift away from those of the previous decade, making way for other genres such as alternative and industrial rock and punk.

Ministry formed in 1981 and went on to have a huge impact on spearheading and popularizing industrial metal. Years before Nine Inch Nails existed, Ministry owned the "industrial" tag and garnered legions of fans with an aggressive, sometimes abrasive sound that was largely out of character for the decade in which they were born. The band was active for over 25 years before retiring in 2008.

Also on the rise in the 80s was the Chicago punk scene, with The Effigies at the forefront. The band formed in 1980 and was together for the entire decade, releasing five LPs before disbanding in 1990. As of 2004, they have reformed and played various Midwest punk bars.

-- 1990s --

The 90s were perhaps the most important decade for Chicago rock and roll.

The decade brought the world probably the most popular band to ever come out of the city: The Smashing Pumpkins. Although formed at the end of the 80s, it wasn't until the early 90s that the Pumpkins began releasing the albums that would define the 90s alternative rock sound, namely 1993's "Siamese Dream" and 1995's "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." In addition to their musical impact, the Pumpkins brought us the Windy City's most infamous and intriguing rock star personality to date in the form of front man Billy Corgan, who was still stirring controversy with live show rants as of late 2008.

While The Smashing Pumpkins were Chicago's alternative rock superstars of the 1990s, Local H were a bit more subtly received, if not less acclaimed. The band scored a few hits, including 1996's "Bound for the Floor" and 1997's "Eddie Vedder." They're still playing and recording to a strong fan base today.

While other bands were playing up the grunge and alternative rock sounds of the time, Material Issue rocked while keeping the plentiful hooks and melodies of power pop alive. The trio, fronted by the late Jim Ellison, released three albums before Ellison's tragic suicide in 1996. Over the course of their existence they left us with a canon of timeless power pop songs, including "Valerie Loves Me," "What Girls Want" and "Kim the Waitress."

Then there's Liz Phair. Before morphing into a pop star at the turn of the century, Phair personified the do-it-yourself indie rock movement that kicked off in the 90s. Her debut album, "Exile in Guyville," featuring songs such as "6'1"" and "Never Said," is often listed among the most important rock records of all time, influencing countless followers with its lo-fi approach and lyrical rawness.

Another revered Chicago band to come out of the 90s is folk rock/alternative rock favorites Wilco, who sometime between their formation in 1994 and today, became a sort of untouchable force in local music with their diverse sound and songwriting talents.

-- 2000s --

In the 00s, Chicago artists found success with a wider variety of sounds than ever, including mainstream pop-punk, indie rock and singer-songwriter.

As pop-punk and mall rock became forces to be reckoned with, local acts stepped up to meet the demand. Wilmette's Fall Out Boy is perhaps the most widely known of the lot, scoring major mainstream success with the pop punk sound via albums such as "From Under the Cork Tree" (2005) and "Infinity on High" (2007) and singles such as "Dance, Dance" and "Sugar, We're Goin' Down."

Other local acts that have reached a similar audience include The Academy Is..., Plain White T's and Lucky Boys Confusion.

At the same time, many other rock styles have brought Chicago bands to mass recognition. The Redwalls have risen to prominence with their Beatles-esque indie rock, Andrew Bird has garnered massive recognition with his carefully-crafted folk pop and Alkaline Trio have amassed a loyal following with their hard-hitting brand of punk.

As the decade comes to a close, it seems the door is wide open for any style of rock out of Chicago to make a mark. If the city's musical history is any indication, there's plenty of greatness to come.

Also check out:
Best emerging Chicago bands
Best places to see a show in Chicago
Best rock music radio in Chicago

Friday, February 6, 2009

Five shows this weekend - February 6 to February 8

Sybris (photo by Heather Stumpf)

Friday, February 6

- Sybris with Blueblood and Tiger Spirit at Schubas - Sybris is one of Chicago's most notable current bands, drawing on 90s alt-rock sensibilities and propelled by the powerful vocals of Angela Mullenhour. Also on the bill are two other local acts to discover. 10 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- The Record Low with Skybox, Mr. Gnome and Awesome Gary at Double Door - Locals The Record Low recently wrapped up recording a new album, and while they prepare its release are playing some gigs around town, starting with this one. Be sure to arrive early for the quirky, highly entertaining indie rock of Skybox. Doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m., $5. More info and tickets.

Saturday, February 7

- Los Campesinos! and Titus Andronicus at Logan Square Auditorium - Indie pop act Los Campesinos! come from Cardiff, Wales, have released two albums so far, and have been lauded by the likes of Pitchfork. 9 p.m., $15, all ages. More info and tickets.

- Mi Ami with onYou at Hideout - 9 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Sunday, February 8

- Shapes and Sounds with Josh Kaufman Band and Bird Ate My Donut and Mad Bread at Bottom Lounge - Shapes and Sounds is a local trio that play an indie rock-hip-hop hybrid. 8 p.m., 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

tenniscourts - Dig the New Sounds of tenniscourts

Over the years, the Chicago area has given the world some first rate power pop music in the form of bands such as Cheap Trick, Pezband, Material Issue and Shoes. If it seems like modern times haven't produced much worthy of joining that list, get acquainted with Wes Hollywood, his new band tenniscourts, and their recently released record, "Dig the New Sounds of tenniscourts." Armed with a wealth of hooks, attitude and energy, the album is a very welcome break from the hordes of overly obtuse indie rock and chamber pop acts that try hard to say a lot, but end up saying very little.

After releasing four albums over the past decade as "The Wes Hollywood Show," Hollywood decided to put together a new band, releasing the self-titled "tenniscourts" in 2007 and "Dig the New Sounds" at the end of 2008. The result is a roster of amazingly tight, masterfully written and performed pop songs that stick on the first listen and don't lose their charm. If you've ever found yourself getting tired of having to play a CD over and over before being able to get into it, tenniscourts is the band for you.

From "Dig the New Sound's" first track, "Forever True," you notice that the melody is so perfect, the riffs so catchy, that you're in for something special. This is the kind of stuff that sounds like it jumped straight out of a convertible on a hot summer's day circa 1979. And that's a good thing. "Swimming Pool," which the band have released as a 7" single, is a dose of pure, revved-up new wave fun, while other highlights such as "Crystal City" and "Ordinary Life" have a definite Ray Davies or early Elvis Costello cool to them that makes them impossible to resist.

Along with bassist Spencer Matern, keyboardist Chris Thomson and drummer Tom Shover, Hollywood has produced some of the finest power pop music out of Chicago - or anywhere, for that matter - in recent memory on "Dig the New Sounds." If you're a fan of hooks and melody, don't hesitate to give it a listen.

Catch tenniscourts live and for free at Miska's on 2156 W. Belmont on Saturday, February 14. Check out the band's MySpace for more info and to sample tracks.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Wednesday: Catch two of WCR's 'best emerging bands' at Subterranean

This Wednesday, February 4, is your chance to check out two of Windy City Rock's recently-chosen "best up and coming Chicago bands," The Innocent and King Sparrow. The two bands, along with The Blackjack Kings and So Elated," will play what is sure to be a night of stellar rock and roll at Subterranean. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets are $8.

Here's a refresher on both bands:

The Innocent

The Innocent is actually singer-songwriter Michael Hardey, who released his debut, self-titled EP (reviewed here) early this year. The 6-song release is instantly accessible, featuring highly melodic, well-written songs that are equal parts folk pop and college rock.

Songs to check out first: "Beautiful Lie," "The West Coast"

King Sparrow

It's tough to forge a unique sound in today's world of indie rock, but this three-piece is doing its best to break the mold starting with their debut EP, "Derailer." Picture a mixture of driving punk and garage rock paired with extra melodic vocals and cryptic subject matter. "Since the music is tight and exact, but a little bit atonal, and the vocals are melodic, we end up with a strange relationship between form and content," explained vocalist/guitarist Eric Georgevich in a recent interview with

Songs to check out first: "Bones and Skin," "All's Cinnamon"

Don't miss the opportunity to catch two of Chicago's finest up and coming bands in one night!