Sunday, August 30, 2009

Q&A: Paperbear

Chicago's Paperbear will play Schubas with Dick Prall Monday, August 31, and are also gearing up for a set at Reggie's two year anniversary show on September 8. In anticipation of the shows, the band took some time out for a Q&A with WCR and were also cool enough to offer two of their songs for free download to give readers a taste:

Download mp3: Paperbear - "No Parking"

Download mp3: Paperbear - "Little Voices"

For people who aren’t familiar with Paperbear, how would you describe your sound?

That’s a tough question - genres are so vague - but I’d say indie rock with piano and synthesizers about sums it up. We’re looking to incorporate more laser sounds and animal noises, though, in the future - a sound cornucopia if you will.

When and how did the band come together?

About three years ago, Derek was doing solo stuff and Burke and Ryan’s band just broke up. Jose was a former band mate of Derek's out in L.A., and Matt came in about a year later.
Has Paperbear released any music yet? Are any upcoming releases planned?

We just released our second EP in June and in the Fall/Winter of '09 we will be recording another.

Favorite live show you’ve played so far and why?

Empty bottle was fun - great live sound. Our record release show in June at Reggie's Rock Club was nice. The past five shows have been really good and keep getting better. We’re getting a positive response from the latest EP.

Who would you most like to play a show with, local or beyond?

Neil Young, Dr. Dog, Mozart, and Grizzly Bear. Locally, we like the Ponys and Wilco.

What’s the one thing you most want Chicago music fans to know about the Paperbear?

We are playing Schubas with Dick Prall on August 31, and Reggie's Rock Club Anniversary show on September 8 with Mister Blotto, the Bitter Wigs and eight other bands.

What’s next for the band?

We’ll keep on playing out and promoting this record and in the fall we're back in the studio to record our next EP. A video is in the forecast as well.

How can people find out more?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Chicago Public Library seeking submissions for local music contest

Chicago musicians, have you ever wanted to express your love of the Windy City through song?

If so, the Chicago Public Library (CPL) wants you to take part in its new "Sound Off" competition. The contest is calling on loal musicians to submit Chicago-inspired songs for the chance to headline a concert in Pritzker Park in late October and also snag a day’s worth of studio time at Electrical Audio, complete with sound engineering and tapes.

The Library is accepting submissions from now until September 27. Then, 10 finalists will be selected to be reviewed by a panel of judges including Chris Force of ALARM Magazine and music critic and author Jessica Hopper, who will select a grand prize winner to headline the concert and receive the studio time.

Music fans will also be able to have their say. From September 28 to October 3, anyone can vote online for their favorite finalist, with the top vote-getter winning the opportunity play an opening set at the concert.

“From Robert Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago to new tunes from our favorite local punk bands and folk singers, it’s no wonder that Chicago has inspired hundreds, if not thousands of songs, each with a unique perspective that reflects Chicago’s incredible energy,” said Force in the press release announcing the contest. “Chicagoans have a special pride for their city. Why not sing about it? Chicago’s unique energy runs so deep it’s no wonder that musicians as diverse as Rise Against, and even the Rolling Stones have relied on the city as a muse for their songs.”

Click here for more information on the contest and details on how to enter.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

This Friday: Stimulus Music Show at Beat Kitchen with Loyal Divide, Blah Blah Blah and more

Loyal Divide

"Stimulus Music" is a new project via Chicago music promo company JMA designed to promote both the local music scene and independent businesses in the city. The project will officially kick off this Friday, August 28, with a showcase at Beat Kitchen featuring Loyal Divide, Blah Blah Blah, Le Concorde and Vince P.

The e-mail we received announcing the showcase included the following FAQ, which does a nice job summarizing the project and offering more details about the show:

Friday, August 28th at 9 PM
Beat Kitchen
2100 W Belmont Ave, Chicago

BANDS: Vince P, Loyal Divide, Blah Blah Blah, Le Concorde

BUSINESSES: Threadless Tees, Uncle Sammy’s Subs, Piece Pizza, Gallery Coffee, iCream, Wow Bao


Stimulus Music is the combination of Chicago artists and local businesses aiming to boost the city's culture. This is the first concert that promotes the tight-knit community of Chicago and our music scene while bringing optimism to the current economic situation.


Upon arrival, guests will receive a discount card that will be valid for one month. This card has exclusive downloads from the bands performing and will also include special offers from celebrated businesses that make Chicago so unique.


THREADLESS TEES - (1905 W. Division) - 20% off on all t-shirts
PIECE PIZZA - (1923 W. North Ave.) - 10% off all pizza purchases
GALLERY COFFEE - (1760 W. North Ave.) - Free small coffee with purchase of any pastry
ICREAM - (1533 N. Milwaukee Ave.) – 10% all ice cream purchases


WOW BAO - Free coupons - one free Bao
312UNES - There will be a 312une's rep that will buy drinks and give out Goose Island merchandise.


LE CONCORDE – Carves new territory in indie-pop by merging intricately woven synth kaleidoscopes with stark, songwriter elements.

BLAH BLAH BLAH – This underground sensation continually wins over hearts for their emotively driving, and upbeat songs that playfully strike a balance between organic instruments and electronic elements.

LOYAL DIVIDE – Using melodic electro-beats, Loyal Divide wanders effortlessly between raw industrial beats, lilting pop melodies and dreamy ambiance.

VINCE P – Catchy and electronic beats paired with cheeky rhymes


Stimulus Music fuels independent businesses while promoting music community involvement.


Feel free to download a Stimulus Music Sampler here:


Click here for more information and tickets to the event.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Midstates and the Choir of Ghosts ready new album

South-side space-pop duo Midstates and the Choir of Ghosts will soon release a new record called Morning Pacific, and they're offering Windy City Rock readers a taste with a free download of the first single, "Hate to See You Smile."

Download mp3: Midstates and the Choir of Ghosts - 'Hate to See You Smile'

Originally known simply as Midstates, the "Choir of Ghosts" was recently added after founder and guitarist/vocalist Paul Heintz began working with drummer Jose Rodriguez following the departure of co-founder Steve Munoz. In its previous life, Midstates released the records Shadowing Ghosts (2003) and Boxing Twilight (2006), which brought in rave reviews from the likes of and Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times.

The band's sound is self-described as "a fusion of electronic space-pop and psychedelic rock," and Morning Pacific promises to be well worth checking out of its first single is any indication of what to expect.

Keep an eye on the duo's Facebook page to stay up to date on information about the record's release and any upcoming shows, and check out their official site for more free downloads.

UPDATE 8/26: Midstates and the Choir of Ghosts have a FREE show coming up this Saturday, August 29 at Darkroom. American Princes and Driftless Pony Club will also play. 7 p.m., 21 and over. Click here for more info.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Show review: Brendan Benson at Schubas, 8/20/09

Photo: Windy City Rock

Brendan Benson might be best known as Jack White's foil in the Raconteurs, but beyond his involvement in that high profile band exists a strong solo career spanning over 12 years. Thursday night the Michigan-born singer-songwriter came to Schubas for two sold out shows promoting his new LP, My Old, Familiar Friend, and successfully sent the crowd into a state of power pop bliss - until the power went out.

Thankfully, the outage didn't happen until the third (and presumably, final) song in the encore, so the unexpected interruption wasn't too devastating. Benson was scheduled to perform another set later in the night, so hopefully the issue was resolved before then.

Before the juice went out, Benson and his band delivered an 18-song set for the early show that was perfectly-crafted, playing out more like a greatest hits collection than mainly a showcase of material from Familiar Friend. While he's never received a great deal of radioplay, singles such as "Tiny Spark," "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)," Good to Me," "Metarie" and "Spit It Out" are regarded as modern-day classics by power pop enthusiasts, and they were all present and accounted for in the set. He played six new songs (technically five-and-a-half - closer "Feel Like Taking You Home" fell victim to the outage), and wisely selected most of the LP's strongest cuts. The Motown-infused "Garbage Day" was a highlight, as was the adrenaline rush of "Borrow."

Photo: Windy City Rock

The remainder of the set effectively represented Benson's other three solo records, featuring four songs from 2005's The Alternative to Love, five from 2002's Lapalco and three from his 1996 debut, One Mississippi. The first few songs suffered from vocals bening too low in the mix, but once the kinks were worked out the crowd was treated to an all-around excellent show. High octane rockers ("Good to Me," Spit It Out") got the blood flowing, while Benson's pure vocals absolutely shined on more contemplative, mid-tempo cuts such as "Metarie" and "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)."

Beyond the music, Benson came across as an all-around good guy, joking with the audience and seeming happy to be on stage. When a female audience member shouted, "Take off your pants!," he laughed and replied, "You don't wanna see that." Later, he praised Illinois-based musician Andrew Bird and asked if anyone had been to the singer-songwriter's recent gig at the same club. It was one of those intimate, laidback shows that can only happen at a place like Schubas. At one point, Benson mentioned that it was the first time he had played the club since 2002, and when someone in the crowd suggested he make it a yearly affair from now on, he said he was up for the idea. Let's hope he meant it.

After the power went out (Photo: Windy City Rock)


1 - A Whole Lot Better
2 - Folk Singer
3 - Eyes on the Horizon
4 - Good to Me
5 - Sittin' Pretty
6 - Metarie
7 - Me Just Purely
8 - Don't Wanna Talk
9 - I'm Blessed
10 - Garbage Day
11 - You're Quiet
12 - Cold Hands (Warm Heart)
13 - What I'm Looking For
14 - Spit It Out
15 - Tiny Spark
16 - Borrow
17 - Alternative to Love
18 - Feel Like Taking You Home (half finished because of power outage)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Show preview: Roman Candle at Schubas, 8/30

Photo by David McClister

In May, Chapel Hill, NC-based Roman Candle released their sophomore LP, Oh Tall Tree in the Ear, and are heading to Chicago as part of the supporting summer tour for a show at Schubas on Sunday, August 30. Blending modern roots rock and alt-country with a healthy dose of classic Southern power pop in the vein of the dB's and Big Star, the band's music is both earthy and pop-minded. Just listen to the sweet jangle of "They Say," one of the record's highlights, for proof. Their debut album, 2006's The Wee Hours Revue - which featured production by dB's member and power pop mainstay Chris Stamey - earned the band rave reviews from top media, quickly sending them into the national spotlight.

Having toured with high profile acts such as Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, The Avett Brothers, The Whigs, Indigo Girls, and Patti Smith, Roman Candle have developed a reputation for excellent live performances and should be well worth checking out when they come to town.

Download mp3: Roman Candle - "They Say"

For more free Roman Candle downloads, check out the band's recent Daytrotter session.

Roman Candle at Schubas
Sunday, August 30
Also with The Rikters and Phonograph
8 p.m.
18 and over
More info and tickets

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More about Chicago's new venue, Lincoln Hall

We recently reported that Schubas owners Mike and Chris Schuba were preparing to open a new concert venue called Lincoln Hall, and today the club sent out this e-mail with more details:

As many of you may have heard, Schubas is preparing for the Fall opening of Lincoln Hall, a brand new mid-sized music venue at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., the former location of the Three Penny Cinema. Lincoln Hall will follow Schubas' lead and feature some of the country’s, and Chicago’s best, musical talent in a venue with great sound and sight lines. Bands and customers alike should expect the same great Schubas hospitality in another comfortable environment that features a front bar and restaurant, as well as additional bars in the music hall’s main floor and mezzanine. To keep up-to-date on all the news preceding Lincoln Hall’s opening, including the first acts announced and photos of the building, join us at the following sites:

Newsletter Sign-up

Lincoln Hall Facebook

Lincoln Hall Twitter

Lincoln Hall Myspace


Show for Lupus Research

John Darragh of Chicago power pop band the Blissters will play a solo acoustic show at Cafe Ballou (939 N Western Ave.) Sunday, August 23 at 7 p.m. to benefit the Alliance for Lupus Research. The show is free, but any donations are encouraged and will go to the organization.

Also on the bill are singer-songwriter Mike Gerardi and I Monelli. Go check out some great music for a great cause!

Here's the latest music video, "Is It Monday," from Darragh and the Blissters:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Smashing Pumpkins announce new drummer

Mike Byrne (Photo by Kristin Burns)

According to the official Smashing Pumpkins Web site, the band has selected a new drummer to replace Jimmy Chamberlin. Mike Byrne, a 19 year-old Portland, OR native will kick off his time in the Pumpkins by playing on the band's next album and tour, which are expected to be announced in September.

After front man Billy Corgan (the only original member left in the band) called for drummers to audition last April and received over 1,000 submissions, Byrne was selected to meet with him in LA and offered the gig soon after. "We didn't actually play songs at the audition," said Byrne. "We just kind of jammed for about 15 minutes and then talked about Fugazi for the other 15 or so minutes."

Prior to joining the Pumpkins, Byrne was involved in various Portland-based indie bands including Moses, Smell the Roses and the Mercury Tree.

Long-time drummer Chamberlin quit the band this March, stating, "I will say, without going into any unnecessary details that this represents a positive move forward for me. I can no longer commit all of my energy into something that I don't fully possess. I won't pretend I'm into something I'm not. I won't do it to myself, you the fan, or my former partner. I can't just, 'Cash the check' so to speak."

Monday, August 17, 2009

This Tuesday: Pretenders, Cat Power & Juliette Lewis at the Vic

What better way to spend your Tuesday night than by rocking out with The Pretenders? The iconic band will play Chicago for the second time this year Tuesday night, August 18, headlining a triple bill with Cat Power and Juliette Lewis.

Last October, Chrissie Hynde and the band released Break Up the Concrete, their first new LP since 2002's Loose Screw. The stripped down, rockabilly-flavored record brought the them some of their best reviews in quite a while and seems to have kicked the band into high gear. They toured the U.S. early this year (which included a Chicago stop at the Riviera, reviewed here), made rounds in Europe through July, and are now back for round two in the States.

Acclaimed singer-songwriter Cat Power released her eighth album, Jukebox, last year, while singer-actress Lewis has just come off a six year stint fronting Juliette and the Licks and is now set to release a new album, Terra Incognita, on September 1st.

Tickets are $44 and are still available here.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Q&A: Flights

Flights - Eric Hillman & Brian Holl

Ambient rock band Flights have only been in Chicago for a few months, but are already working hard to make their mark on the scene. The duo, Eric Hillman and Brian Holl, will play a September 2nd show at the Empty Bottle and have also been spreading the word by giving away their music for free.

Hillman and Holl took the time to answer some questions for Windy City Rock about Flights' history, sound and future:

As a band new to Chicago, what’s the story behind Flights? What brought you to the city?

Brian and Eric: Flights truly began after years of sending ideas and sounds over the Internet - Eric being in Boston and Brian in Milwaukee. In January of 2009, we had a goal to record some songs in Wisconsin that started from said ideas without any real knowledge of how to see them come to fruition. After months of re-organizing, composing and recording, we came up with the four songs that make up Living Bodies, our first release. The story begins long before that though, as Flights gained moderate but scattered success in Milwaukee as a four piece band with a different lineup. The success was short-lived solely because of the geographical distance between the band and Eric, who was pursuing a degree in film-scoring at the time. The hiatus ended in May of 2009 when we located ourselves and focused on making Chicago Flights' new home city.

Tell us about your EP, Living Bodies, and your overall sound. What can people expect to hear?

Eric: Living Bodies is as much an introduction, an unfinished thought, as it is a final product. After working very comfortably in our piano-rock style for years, Brian and I knew that our hearts and minds yearned for a change. With this EP we took our first step into that world. A world full of new sounds, new ideas, and a DIY approach that was at times frustrating but overall incredibly rewarding. Many people have compared our sound with that of Radiohead, Bjork and Sigur Ros, but we know that we will always strive to grow and create a unique sound that is solely our own.

You’re releasing your music in the form of online “Packages.” Tell us more about this and how you decided on this approach.

Brian: We came up with the idea after wanting to give our music away for free, seeing the current business model in the music industry - selling songs - hard for young acts like us. We want to break into Chicago and gain true fans through our music the quickest way possible. Music is still a valued commodity in our society, and the filtration process has been set more and more on the public. What I mean is that word-of-mouth is king for marketing, and we want to utilize this to gain fans. We hope that our music inspires listeners enough to tell the people around them about us. Giving our music away for free, in what we call "Packages" - online compressed folders filled with various forms of media we create - was the quickest way for getting our songs into the hands of people who wanted to listen.

What do you feel Flights can offer to the Chicago music scene that sets you apart from other bands?

Brian: I think we fill the void between the experimental groups and rock groups in Chicago. We have a very ambient sound, comparable to Sigur Ros at times, but also an edge that hits and could remind people of Radiohead. We try to play off of our influences, but never write with a specific style in mind. A song we write could be compared to Bjork or Steve Reich, but we never write without our own intentions and intuition prioritized first. I think you'll always hear crossovers in music from now on. As anyone will tell you, "it's all been done before."

As a duo, how do you make your music work live?

Eric: As just two people with very large ideas we knew that we wanted to produce music on a grand scale, and to do this we knew we needed to draw together a group of talented musicians to help make our ideas a reality. The first person to join us was now permanent drummer, Alec Lacasse. He wrote and recorded Living Bodies with us and provided a incredibly unique energy and insight into the overall feel of the EP. However, after spending months meticulously creating all the sounds and textures of Living Bodies we knew that we couldn't allow those to be lost in translation when played live, so over the past few months we have gathered a talented group of friends and local Chicago musicians to help bring our full sound to the stage.

As you gear up for your September 2 show at the Empty Bottle, what do you want people to know about a Flights show? Why should they be sure to make it out?

Brian: Right now, we're not even sure what a Flights show will be like - hah. We've never played out with this music, or the members, aside from Eric and I. What I do know is that we will be putting our entire souls into the show, as we do with our music. I think the night will follow our songs - very dramatic, emotional and epic.

What’s next for Flights?

Brian: Well, the show is our number one priority right now. After September 2nd, we'll be playing Milwaukee, Madison, and shooting for some various college towns. We're trying to be picky with Chicago right now, as we want to play with bands who inspire us and don't want to hit the market too hard. We'll also be doing different press opportunities like in-studios for radio, live studio sessions for blogs and in general getting our name out there to raise the awareness of Flights.

How can people find out more?

Brian: We have a blog, "Young Men Walking," that we update regularly that should be the first place people go to for Flights news. You can view it at We also have a MySpace page ( and are on Facebook as well - search Flights in the pages section. We look forward to hearing from you!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lollapalooza 2010 $60 tickets come and go

Lollapalooza 2009 hasn't even been over for a week, but that didn't prevent the fest's early bird promotional $60 tickets for its 2010 installment from selling out within minutes.

Although no lineup announcements will be made for next year's fest - scheduled for August 6 to 8 in Grant Park - for many months, deal-hungry Lolla lovers didn't seem to care. The $60 3-day passes went on sale shortly after 1 p.m. today and sold out in under 10 minutes.

This is the first year Lollapalooza promoters put the $60 tickets on sale so soon. In previous years they've gone up for grabs around five months before the festival. For those who missed out, Lollapalooza is putting discounted three-day passes on sale next Monday, August 17. With nearly a year until the festival and no lineup announcements imminent, they'll still run you $175 each, suggesting that a price hike is coming and in 2010 Lollapalooza will be more expensive to attend than ever before. Click here for more information.

Shows this weekend

Art Brut


- Art Brut at Subterranean - It seems the tongue-in-cheek British rockers are quite fond of Chicago. a few short months ago they were in town for a residency at Schubas, and now they're back for this gig as well as a Saturday slot at West Town's Green Music Fest. Team Band will open. Doors 9:30 p.m., show 10:30 p.m., $15, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

- Del Rey at the Empty Bottle - Chicago-born instrumental, experimental rock. The band has been around since 1997 and are known for tight, dynamic live shows. Also with Dark Fog and OnYou. 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- The Duke & the King at Schubas - Indie roots-rock out of New York. The band has just released a new record called Nothing Gold Can Stay. 10:30 p.m., $10 advance, $12 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.


- Green Music Fest - West Town will host the first Green Music Fest this weekend, which will be held in Eckhart Park at 1330 W. Chicago Avenue. The fest will include all green, environmentally-conscious vendors and services, as well as some great bands. Saturday's lineup includes Art Brut in the 9 p.m. headlining slot, as well as tapes 'n tapes (7:40 p.m.), Say Hi (6:35 p.m.), Maritime (5:30 p.m.), Sybris (4:25 p.m.), Elsinore (3:20 p.m.) and Brilliant Pebbles (2:30 p.m.). One-day passes are $11.50 advance, $15 at door, and two-day passes are $20 advance, $25 at door. More info and tickets.

- Harvey Danger at Schubas - The Seattle band recently announced plans to break up after 15 years together, and this will be their final Chicago gig. The initial 10 p.m. show sold out, but a second, 7 p.m. show has been added. 7 p.m., $14, 18 and over. More info and tickets.


- Green Music Fest - The second and final day of the fest will feature headliners Lucero (9 p.m.), plus Murder by Death (7:40 p.m.), These United States (6:35 p.m.), Catfish Haven (5:30 p.m.), The Saps (4:25 p.m.), Minneapolis Henrys (3:20 p.m.) and Canasta (2:30 p.m.). More info and tickets.

- Colin Hay at the Abbey Pub - The former front man of Men at Work is much more than a great singer-songwriter - he's a downright amazing entertainer. Hay's shows typically skew toward part music performance, part stand-up comedy act and are always worth catching. He's set to release a new album, American Sunshine, this month. Doors 7 p.m., show 7:30 p.m., $30 advance, $35 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Free download: Mr Russia - 'Training for the Gameshow Host'

Chicago's Mr Russia have just released a new EP titled Training for the Gameshow Host, and they want you to have it for free.

Earlier this year the band released their debut full-length, Teething, which introduced their sound as a healthy mix of post-punk, new wave, punk and garage rock. Gameshow Host continues down the same path, packed with lots of meaty guitar and drums, menacing bass lines and cocksure vocals. From the hard rock swagger of "Wooden Heart" to the immediately accessible garage romp of "It's True" to the bizarre, loungey shuffle of the tongue-in-cheek title track, the EP solidifies Mr Russia as one of Chicago's most exciting up-and-coming bands. They even take a stab at Radiohead's "National Anthem." How's that for ambitious?

Mr Russia point out that the download is "no strings attached, totally, completely 100% FREE, no mailing lists sign up, no catch, no gimmicks, just free."

For even more good times at no cost, you can catch the band live for free Wednesday, August 19 at Double Door, where you can also pick up a physical copy of the EP at no charge. Other bands on the bill include Evil Beaver, This is Versailles and Youth Dekay.

John Hughes tribute song by Chicago duo JoyFocus

John Hughes

After the sudden death last week of film director, writer and producer John Hughes, many musicians have voiced their admiration of his work. As the man behind iconic films including Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, he integrated pop music into the movie-going experience and inspired many along the way. This was clear last weekend at Lollapalooza, where bands such as Vampire Weekend and Chairlift dedicated songs to Hughes.

Chicago pop duo JoyFocus are among the musicians who consider him an inspiration, and in the wake of his death are spreading the word of a tribute song called "Mr. Hughes Come Home." Released in 2007, the very catchy tune was originally slated to appear in the documentary Don't You Forget About Me - The Movie, but eventually wound up on one of the band's EPs.

Listen to the song here and check out our recent Q&A with JoyFocus.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Office release 'Mecca' on vinyl

Back in January, Scott Masson of one-time Chicago alt-pop act Office released the group's latest record, Mecca, for free download. The files are still up for grabs, but starting today you can also pick up a copy on vinyl through Quack Media.

The Office lineup that recorded Mecca is no longer in tact - Masson moved back to his home state of Michigan late last year after getting mugged and robbed before a recording session in Chicago - but Office remains an active project featuring Masson and various players.

The LP costs $14.99 and is available here.

Mecca Track List:
Sticky Dew
Nobody Knows You
Enter Me, Exit You
Dr. Drako
Everything You've Witnessed
Trainwreck DJs
Double Penetrate The Market
Aphrodisiac Missiles
The Silent Parade

Monday, August 10, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009: Neko Case, Lou Reed

Neko Case (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Without doubt, Neko Case was one of the highlights of this year's Lollapalooza. Prior to her Sunday set I wasn't really sure how she'd come across in the music festival setting. So much of her material is thoughtful and intimate and suited for venues that allow it to shine, not a huge grassy field filled with hot, sweaty drunk people.

Somehow, though, Case managed to make it work wonderfully.

As soon as she started playing the Budweiser Stage at 4:30, it was clear the sound was 100 percent on target and that the set would be a welcome change of pace from most of the fest's other acts. She played a variety of songs from her latest record, Middle Cyclone - including "This Tornado Loves You," "I'm an Animal," The Pharaohs" and the marvelous, jangly single "People Got a Lotta Nerve" - in addition to back catalog favorites such as "Maybe Sparrow" and "Deep Red Bells." Case's clear, pure voice couldn't have sounded better, and she was charming and down-to-earth throughout - no doubt one of the classiest acts on this year's bill.

Neko Case (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Neko Case (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

This year's "legend" act, Lou Reed, took the same stage later in the evening at 6:30. The performance was oddly surreal for a number of reasons:

1 - Despite playing a full hour, Reed only made it through eight songs, thanks to the fact that "Paranoia Key of E" went on for no less than 18 minutes, with an extremely extended outro that included lots of squealing and screeching noise effects.
2. Reed said absolutely nothing to the audience save for introducing his band members at the very end of the set.
3. The performance started 15 minutes late and ended 15 minutes late, forcing a tardy start for Band of Horses on the nearby Playstation Stage. It seems the unnecessarily long endings of many of the songs could have been shortened to take care of this problem.
4. Most of the crowd didn't seem to know what to make of Reed.

Even though the performance was a bit strange, the power of classics such as "Sweet Jane," "Walk on the Wild Side" and "Waiting for the Man" couldn't be denied.

Lou Reed plays the Budweiser Stage (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Lou Reed setlist:

1. Sweet Jane
2. Senselessly Cruel
3. Dirty Blvd
4. Waves of Fear
5. Mad
6. Paranoia Key of E
7. Waiting for the Man
8. Walk on the Wild Side

Lollapalooza 2009: The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Thinking of the third and final day of Lollapalooza 2009, one word comes to mind: Hot. It was really, really hot. So hot that festival employees were liberally handing out bottles of water and using them as makeshift water guns to provide a bit of relief to the brave souls who dared to gather near the front of the stages during the day's performances.

The heat made it a bit difficult to take in the music properly, but even so, Sunday included some enjoyable sets.

Danish noise-pop act The Raveonettes - including core members Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo - played a solid set at the Playstation Stage starting at 3:30. The band's been around for a while and have a few albums under their belt - plus a new one on the way in October - but they still seem to fly under most people's radar. Before the set began a modest crowd had gathered, but after the music got under way quite a few people stopped to take in the band's Jesus and Mary Chain-meets-The Ronettes sound.

The finest moment came in the form of an incredibly catchy new tune called "Last Dance," which is slated for the upcoming LP, titled In and Out of Control. Other setlist highlights included "Attack of the Ghost Riders," "Dead Sound," "Love in a Trashcan," "Twilight" and "That Great Love Sound."

The only criticism to make is that the band were pretty static and unengaging on stage, but that's forgivable considering the sweltering heat and the fact that came across as totally unpretentious and genuinely appreciative of everyone who stuck around to watch.

The Raveonettes (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

The Raveonettes (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lollapalooza 2009: Glasvegas, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Glasvegas (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

As day two at Lollapalooza marched on, Scottish act Glasvegas ushered in the evening with a set at 5:30 on the Vitamin Water Stage. The band's debut, self-titled album was a great combination of grit and Phil Spector-influenced melody, so I was definitely looking forward to seeing the band live. They wisely opened with their single "Geraldine," probably their greatest song. They hit on all the other highlights from the record, such as "Go Square Go" and "Daddy's Gone," and the material took on a harder, louder sound in the live setting. Unfortunately, front man James Allan created some unnecessary awkward moments by randomly making crude body part jokes in his stage banter and then apologizing for it later after realizing there were kids in attendance. Cringe-worthy moments aside, the set was pretty good.

Glasvegas setlist:
1 - Geraldine
2 - Lonesome Swan
3 - It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry
4 - Polmont On My Mind
5 - Fuck You, It's Over
6 - Flowers & Football Tops
7 - Ice Cream Van
8 - Go Square Go
9 - Everybody's Got to Learn Sometime [The Korgis cover]
10 - S.A.D. Light
11 - Daddy's Gone

Glasvegas (Photo by Frank Krolicki)

Later, opting for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs over the other headlining act, Tool, we made our way to the Budweiser Stage to catch the group's set, which started at 8:30. Per usual, front woman Karen O proved she was there to entertain by emerging in a very elaborate American Indian-meets-gigantic killer bird costume. While she didn't have much to say to the crowd, the band delivered a spot on set full of material from their latest, synth-heavy record It's Blitz! as well as a handful of favorites from earlier albums Fever to Tell and Show Your Bones. The best moment came when the band performed the single "Zero" and sent two giant eyeball beach balls into the audience. All in all, the Yeahs proved why they were a solid choice to headline in place of the Beastie Boys.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs eyeball the crowd

1 - Runaway
2 - Phenomena
3 - Heads Will Roll
4 - Pin
5 - Dull Life
6 - Gold Lion
7 - Cheated Hearts
8 - Skeletons
9 - Hysteric
10 - Soft Shock
11 - Honeybear
12 - Zero
13 - Turn Into
14 - Maps (acoustic)
15 - Y Control
16 - Date With the Night

Lollapalooza 2009: Chairlift

Chairlift (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Brooklyn's Chairlift was one of the acts I was most excited to see at this year's Lollapalooza. The trio's hybrid of dream pop and synth pop is a refreshing alternative to the scores of all too similar indie rock bands on the scene, and front woman Caroline Polachek has an excellent voice.

The band played the Citi Stage on Saturday at 3:30, and were unfortunately faced with sound problems. The first song, an unlikely, Sade-like cover of Snoop Dogg's "Sensual Seduction," (complete with a rap by Polachek) suffered because of it, as did the second tune, the lively "Evident Utensil." Fortunately, the situation improved after that, with the Cocteau Twins-like "Territory" and "Planet Health" sounding fantastic. The catchy, upbeat "Bruises" - which received widespread attention from its use in an Apple commercial - seemed to be the only song most people watching were familiar with, but even so, the crowd seemed happy to soak in the group's vibe.

1- Sensual Seduction (Snoop Dogg cover)
2 - Evident Utensil
3 - Territory
4 - Planet Health
5 - Earwig Town
6 - Dixie Gypsy
7 - Make Your Mind Up
8 - Bruises
9 - Somewhere Around Here

Chairlift (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Chairlift (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Chairlift (Photo: Windy City Rock)Chairlift (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Lollapalooza 2009: Constantines, Los Campesinos!

After a rainy and muddy day one of Lollapalooza, the Saturday installment of the fest thankfully went down much more smoothly. The day was dry, at least occasionally sunny and packed with great music, ending with headlining sets from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Tool.

We set out for day two with high hopes and planned to arrive early, but first made a pit stop at the Hilton - which is directly across the street from Grant Park - to check out Playboy's "Rock Star Brunch" event. It was held in a suite at the top of the hotel and with food, drinks and DJs it was a fun way to kickoff a Lolla-filled day. The suite offered an excellent bird's eye view of Grant Park:

Photo: Windy City Rock

Once we arrived at the fest, the first band on tap were Canadian rockers Constantines at the Citi Stage. The band has a straight-ahead, hard-edged style featuring gritty vocals, which is the sort of thing that works very well in a festival setting. Front man Bryan Webb even dedicated a song to Chicago's own Empty Bottle. Here's (most of) the setlist:

1 - ?
2 - Young Offenders
3 - Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright)
4 - Hard Feelings
5 - Young Lions
6 - Sub-Domestic
7 - Trans Canada
8 - Shower of Stones
9 - Shine a Light
10 - Draw Us Lines

Constantines (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Constantines (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Next up was Wales-based indie pop act Los Campesinos! at the Budweiser Stage. The seven-piece is nothing if not energetic, with almost every song made up of a series of manic yelps from various members of the band. To a point this was amusing, but to my ears its charm began to wear off after a few songs, mostly because the majority of them sound very similar. It can't be denied that the troupe's energy is infectious, though.

Los Campesinos! (Photo: Windy City Rock)
Los Campesinos! (Photo: Windy City Rock)
Los Campesinos! (Photo: Windy City Rock)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Concert review: Andrew Bird at Schubas 8/6/09

Chicago's own Andrew Bird played an absolutely stunning live set at Schubas Tavern Thursday night. The gentle indie-folk songster wove intricate musical tapestries onstage for an enraptured audience at the intimate venue. The special sold-out event benefited the Rock for Kids charitable organization, and was the first part of a two-day sendoff (the other appearance being none other than a set at Lollapalooza) to the singer-songwriter, who leaves this Saturday on a three-and-a-half-week European tour.

Minneapolis-based opening act Alpha Consumer included, along with a set that ranged from solid rock grooves with a mild psychedelic feel to quirky folk-influenced Americana, a few good-natured digs directed at Mr. Bird's unique musical style. After a very brief set change, Mr. Bird took the stage along with long-time musical associate Martin Dosh and members of Alpha Consumer in tow.

Regular attendees of Andrew Bird's live shows are already citing the performance as one of his finest to date, and he was certainly in fine form yesterday night. The set, primarily comprised of recent material off his 2009 release, Noble Beast, also included early material and several highly entertaining storyteller-style introductions and explanations that were especially endearing.

From the reedy tenor of Bird's voice, to his cheerful whistle and glockenspiel, to the intricate bowings, pluckings, and strummings of his violin and guitar work, the music itself was utterly breathtaking. Except for occasional mid-song cheers that just couldn't be held in any longer, the audience seemed to be held spellbound for the entire set. The music was soulful and lovely and the energy in the room was electric. My personal favorite of the evening was a hair-raising rendition of “Imitosis”, the penultimate song of the regular set. Responding to overwhelming audience applause, the musicians returned to the stage for a two-song encore, including the nearly-acappella “Some of These Days” accompanied only by strummed violin.

It is performances like these that inspire people to start playing music themselves, and reinforces just how deserving Mr. Bird is of his status as one of the finest independent musicians around—not just in Chicago, but worldwide, as well.


Andrew Bird, “Oh No” at Schubas 8/6/09

Andrew Bird, “Masterswarm” at Schubas 8/6/09

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Preview: Saint Solitude at Darkroom August 11

Asheville, NC-based musician Dup Crosson - whose one-man-band project is known as Saint Solitude - will soon stop in Chicago for an August 11 show at Darkroom (also featuring TV Set, Pree, Miss Autopsy and Leaves). The gig is part of a U.S. tour to promote the newly-released debut Saint Solitude record, Journal of Retreat.

Although Crosson flies solo, the record proves that he's no dime-a-dozen singer-songwriter. With inspiration from the likes of R.E.M, Echo & the Bunnymen, Oasis and Suede, Crosson delivers a full, alluring pop sound that showcases his skills as a multi-instrumentialist and loop artist. For a taste, check out one of the album's cuts, "Let's Try It":

Download: Saint Solitude - Let's Try It

In anticipation of the Darkroom show, Crosson answered some questions on Saint Solitude and what people can expect from the show:

First off, tell us how Saint Solitude began and how the project has developed so far.

Saint Solitude began officially in 2006 as the moniker for my solo material. I took a break from songwriting for a few years in college and when I came back to it, I realized I hadn't lost the desire to write- in fact it came back stronger than ever. I decided from there on out I always wanted to have my own project going on alongside anything else I might be doing - something I could always come back to. Bands tend to break up a lot...this was my way of always having something to work on.

You’ve just released your debut record, Journal of Retreat. What was the recording like and what can people unfamiliar with your music expect to hear?

Most of the record was recorded in the living room of my old house, except for one track, "Flocking Disaster," which was done at Landslide Studio, where the album was mixed. I've always loved home recording because of the flexibility - recording vocals late at night, making up weird percussion tricks in my kitchen- you have to pay for that time in a studio! There's definitely some limitations doing it this way, and it makes you learn the technical side of things more, but it's quite comfortable otherwise.

I'm playing to more new ears on this current tour, so I get any number of responses depending on what they've heard - the record or the live show - because the two are pretty different right now. The record is full band style and arranged for a four or five piece band. The live show is a one-man affair with a loop station that builds layers upon layers. Same songs, though. For the people who haven't seen the looping before, it can be pretty exciting. I'll have a band when I tour again next year to try and bridge the two entities into a more cohesive sound.

Even though you’re a one-man band, your music tends to have a fuller group vibe rather than a typical singer-songwriter sound. Did you set out to make it this way? How do you make it work live?

I knew it was always going to be my project, but I didn't ever think I'd be touring as a one-man band. It just made more sense. I can tour in a sedan that gets 44 miles to the gallon. That's pretty invaluable for trying to get your name out there. Makes it a lot easier.

I've always been turned off by the typical singer-songwriters who aren't doing something new - either in their records or their live shows or the way they arrange their songs. Beck is good at keeping things fresh. Neko Case excels at it. My live show has been my attempt to do something new for me and the audience - I experiment a lot, but the core of the show is the old fashioned three-minute pop song. That comes through, I think. People still remember the hooks, hopefully.

What’s one band or musician you feel clearly comes through as an influence in your music? What about one that people would probably be surprised to learn is an inspiration?

People hear Radiohead a lot, which I don't really understand - but I do listen to them a lot, so it makes sense. They're pretty seminal to where I steer myself melodically. The Smashing Pumpkins have always been my favorite - Billy Corgan, enigma that he is, will always remain my favorite songwriter. I think that throws some people off because I don't always go for the big, heavy riffs that they're known for. I always appreciated their range of songwriting more than anything - the ability to place a soaring nine-minute rock opus next to a delicate, acoustic song.

Your current tour will bring you to Chicago for a gig at Darkroom on August 11. Have you played here before? What are you most looking forward to from your stop in the city?

I've never even been to Chicago before! Even being such a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan. So I'm excited to swim in the lake and see the Metro and what not. I'll have a map of geeky things to do, I'm sure. Hopefully see a show on my night off. I've been told I have to eat at Hot Doug's.

Why should people be sure to check out the show? What can they expect?

It's not a typical one-man show. It's loud, it's spacey. Plus there's like 5 bands on the bill so there will be plenty of music for your buck. One of my favorite bands from D.C. is playing, too - Pree. Their singer May has a very unique voice.

Your best experience playing live so far? What about the worst or craziest?

Hmm. That's a tough one. Audience participation always gets me going. It's fun to play off that. I just played these songs with a band a week ago for the tour kickoff - that was really fun, too. A taste of what's to come.

The way my show's setup, the worst thing can be equipment failure because I have so much. I've got to roll with the punches sometimes.

How can people find out more? - I update my blog there. Also on There are video clips at both, and the record will be available through CDBaby and within a week or two.

Lollapalooza previews podcast

Still have those last-minute scheduling decisions to make for Lollapalooza 2009? Check out the new episode of Indiesomnia!, which features lots of Lollapalooza acts, as well as folks playing after-parties and local shows in town this week! The listings of Lolla picks and shows in town can be accessed here.

Check out the playlist:
Lou Reed – Walk On The Wild Side
King Sparrow – The Wreckage
Kings of Leon – Sex on Fire
The Raveonettes – Love in a Trashcan
Kaiser Chiefs – Everyday I Love You Less and Less
Bon Iver – Skinny Love
The Decemberists – Sixteen Military Wives
Neko Case – People Got A Lotta Nerve
Band of Horses – Funeral
Of Montreal – Disconnect the Dots
Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
Fleet Foxes – Sun It Rises
Silversun Pickups – Kissing Families
Ezra Furman and the Harpoons – Take Off Your Sunglasses
The Killers – All These Things That I've Done
Ben Folds – Rockin' The Suburbs
Andrew Bird – Scythian Empires

Schubas owners to open new venue

Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune reports that Chris and Mike Schuba, owners of beloved local music club Schubas, are preparing to open a brand new, bigger venue called Lincoln Hall as a complement to the existing club.

The mid-sized venue is set to open in the fall at 2424 N. Lincoln Ave.

According to the article, "The new location, on the former site of the Three Penny movie house (built in 1913), will be about three times the size of Schubas, which has a capacity of 167. The Schubas brothers and their partners bought the 4,400-square-foot Lincoln Avenue property last September for $2.7 million, and have sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into it to create a soundproofed, two-level concert space. A front room and bar will serve food. But the primary focus will be music."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This Wednesday: No service fees on House of Blues tickets

As part of Live Nation's ongoing "No Service Fee" promotion, this Wednesday, August 5, starting at 12:01 a.m., the company will expand the deal to shows at various theaters and clubs (so far it has only applied to amphitheater shows). Shows at House of Blues Chicago are included.

The promotion runs for 24 hours and applies to performances on both the main House of Blues stage (click here for a full list) and the club's Back Porch Stage (click here for a full list).

Free mp3: Brendan Benson - 'A Whole Lot Better'

Much-loved singer-songwriter and Raconteurs member Brendan Benson is about to release his fourth solo album, My Old, Familiar Friend, on August 18, and Amazon MP3 is currently offering a free download of the LP’s leadoff track, “A Whole Lot Better.”

Anyone who loved Benson’s last solo effort, 2005’s The Alternative to Love, should be pleased with the new tune, which brings the hook-filled power pop of that record back in full force. No disrespect to his work with The Raconteurs, but in my opinion this side of him is a whole lot better, indeed.

You can also currently stream the entire album at

Benson is coming to Chicago to promote the new record with a show at Schubas on August 20, but it's unfortunately already sold out.

5 top recording studios in Chicago

Gravity Studios

Behind every amazing record is an equally amazing recording studio.

Even the most talented musicians can fall victim to shoddy recordings, so a band's decision on where to lay down, mix and master their material can make a world of difference to how they're perceived by listeners.

It's no surprise that Chicago - with a music scene so notable and diverse - is home to a host of top-notch studios geared to both indie and major acts. If you're looking to record in the Windy City, here, in no particular order, are five of the Chicagoland's best recording studios:

- Gravity Studios (2250 W. North Ave., Chicago) – Wicker Park’s Gravity Studios has developed a reputation as one of the best studios in Chicagoland, and for good reason. Since 1993, artists such as The Smashing Pumpkins, Umphrey’s McGee, The Walkmen, Veruca Salt, The Sounds, Ben Kweller and Silversun Pickups have produced noteworthy recordings with the studio’s help. The studio is not only a viable option for widely-known bands, though. Up-and-coming local acts such as My My My and Mr. Russia have also turned to Gravity and have achieved excellent results. To learn more, visit the studio's site for an in-depth look at its history and capabilities.

- Rax Trax Recording (3126 N. Greenview Ave, Chicago) – With a roster of clients boasting the likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, OK GO, Plain White T's and Lucky Boys Confusion, Lakeview’s Rax Trax has recorded artists in both the local and national spotlight. Chicago-based singer-songwriter Matt Ryd had this to say about his experience recording at the studio: “Rax Trax sticks out in my mind as having the perfect combination of laid-back professionalism, skilled engineers and very affordable rates. There are certainly cheaper places to record in Chicago, but even if you pay less per hour elsewhere, you won't get the same bang for your buck as you will at Rax Trax. The extra $10 to $15 per hour will buy you a remarkably improved quality of sound.”

- Soma Electronic Music Studios (2001 W Division St., Chicago) –Scan the client list of Soma Studios - owned and operated by engineer John McEntire - and you’ll find an impressive list of bands, including Spoon, Bright Eyes, Stereolab, Chin Up Chin Up, Tortoise, Wilco, Fiery Furnaces, The Sea and the Cake and many more. Visit them online for detailed information on rates as well as the studio's noteworthy recording equipment, which includes a newly refurbished Trident A-Range console - one of only 13 in the world.

- Gallery of Carpet Recording (Villa Park) – Villa Park’s Gallery of Carpet was established in 2002 by producer Brian Zieske and has consistently helped up-and-coming indie bands produce outstanding, professional quality recordings. Local acts such The Academy Is, The Hush Sound, Pet Lions, the Rikters and Bailiff are just a few examples. In a 2007 Illinois Entertainer article, GOC client and The Long Gone Lonesome Boys leader John Milne described Zieske as a “wunderkind.” “In terms of being an in-studio genius Brian’s right there,” Milne said in the article. “But he’s not smug or arrogant. I suggested some really unusual ways of working, and although he expressed doubts, he was willing to try things and recognized what worked.” The studio’s Web site offers a hefty amount of information on its capabilities, gear and rates, and this recent Gapers Block interview with Zieske sheds light on GOC’s history and its owner’s approach to recording.

- Kingsize Sound Labs (3441 W. Grand Ave., Chicago) – Owned by tracking, mastering and mixing engineers Mike Hagler and Jeff Boyd, Kingsize can claim major acts such as Wilco, Neko Case and the New Pornographers as past clients. “The space is really cool, and Mike is a magician,” said John Darragh of Chicago band and Kingsize clients The Blissters. “I’m always amazed by the things he can hear in the mix and his uncanny understanding of what we’re looking for. I personally love how the studio itself is this warm and comforting place tucked away in an odd warehouse on a strange block. It makes me feel ready to create, and when you’re there you feel like you’re just tucked away with your band, your music and your guru.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

Video: theMDR - 'Foreign Tongue'

Local band theMDR recently filmed a live performance at Chicago digital media arts school Flashpoint Academy for a planned DVD this fall. The show was staged, filmed and recorded by Flashpoint students working alongside pros. theMDR have uploaded the video for one of the songs, "Foreign Tongue," on YouTube. Cool idea and great tune, for sure: