Thursday, December 31, 2009

Show preview: Bailiff at Lincoln Hall, 1/9

Bailiff have been buzzed about in the Chicago music scene for a while now thanks to their debut EP, Mm Hmm, and tight live performances both headlining and supporting acts such as Poi Dog Pondering, Gringo Starr and The Cave Singers. The band will soon start recording their debut LP, but first they will headline a show at Lincoln Hall on Saturday, January 9.

The term "blues" usually comes up when describing the three-piece's music - and while blues elements are undeniable - there's much more to the picture. To my ears, it's gritty, slow-burning rock and roll that's as experimental and progressive as it is traditionally bluesy.

At Lincoln Hall, the band will not only play tracks from Mm Hmm, but also debut new songs that will appear on their forthcoming record. To check out their sound, download a track below and click here to get a copy of the full EP. To learn even more about Bailiff, read our Q&A with guitarist and vocalist Josh Siegel.

Download mp3: Bailiff - "Even I Know the Rain"

Bailiff at Lincoln Hall

Saturday, January 9
Also with Loose Lips Sink Ships and Son of Cops
2424 N Lincoln Ave
10 p.m., 21 and over
$10. More info and tickets

Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Year's Eve shows in Chicago

Local H

Still undecided on plans for New Year's Eve? If so, ring in 2010 with one of the many excellent musical offerings on tap in Chicago. Here's a roundup of the options that, at the time of writing, still have tickets available:

- Local H at Double Door - Also with Electric Six and local brother-sister garage rock duo White Mystery. Doors at 9 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m., $65 (includes hosted bar: Draught Beer, Well Drinks, Wine, Water and Soda). 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- The Jesus Lizard at Metro - Also with Disappears. Doors at 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m., $50 advance, $60 day of ($125 VIP tickets also available), 18 and over. More info and tickets.

- The Fiery Furnaces at Lincoln Hall - Also with Cryptacize. 10 p.m., $20 advance, $25 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- The Tossers at Reggie's - Also with Yakuza and Scott Lucas & His Married Men. Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m., $25, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Crystal Castles at Logan Square Auditorium - With both a live set and a DJ set from Crystal Castles, and also with DJ Alex Zelenka. 8:30 p.m., $50, 17 and over. More info and tickets.

- Bobby Bare Jr. at Schubas - Also with David Vandervelde and Ben Clarke. 9:30 p.m., $20 advance, $25 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Pegboy at Beat Kitchen - Also with Shot Baker and Anxiety High. Doors at 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m., $20 advance, $25 at door, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Urge Overkill at House of Blues (Back Porch Stage) - Also with A Friend Called Fire. Doors at 9:30 p.m., show at 10 p.m., $40 advance, $44 day of, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- Tight Phantomz at Quenchers - Also with White Savage. 9 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info.

- Margot & the Nuclear So and So's at Subterranean - Also with Everything, Now!. Doors at 9 p.m., show at 10 p.m., $30 advance, $40 day of, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Vampire Weekend 'Contra' listening party in Chicago, 1/7

Anxious to have a listen to the sophomore Vampire Weekend record, Contra, before it's officially released on January 12? Then head to The Four Treys (3333 North Damen Ave.) at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 7 for a listening party hosted by AMI Entertainment Network.

Not only will you get to hear the new tunes, you'll also have the chance to score prizes and giveaways such as autographed posters, a limited edition CD and stickers. For additional details, check out the flier to the right.

Here is the track listing to Contra:

01 "Horchata"
02 "White Sky"
03 "Holiday"
04 "California English"
05 "Taxi Cab"
06 "Run"
07 "Cousins"
08 "Giving Up the Gun"
09 "Diplomat's Son"
10 "I Think Ur A Contra"

Visit the band's official site to listen to the album's first single, "Cousins,"and download another new track "Horchata," for free here. Click here to pre-order a copy of Contra.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Q&A: Camera

Early this year we reviewed Chicago trio Camera's EP Fire & Science, an impressive palette of "pop-noir" combining modern indie rock sounds with classic post-punk, new wave and art rock sensibilities. Camera's material has captured not only the attention of local music fans and press, but also fellow musicians and producers who are currently teamed up with the band to hone their next release, Realpolitik!.

Download MP3: Camera - "One Neo Eon" (from Fire & Science, available on iTunes)

In advance of Camera's three upcoming area shows - Dec. 22 at The Empty Bottle, Jan. 2 at Chicago City Limits (Schaumburg) and Jan. 22 at Bottom Lounge - guitarist and vocalist Justin C. Scro answered some questions for us on the band's current projects, future plans and more:

WCR: For those new to Camera, tell us a bit about the band’s history and musical style.

The three of us had grown up playing music together and by the time that Ryan and I were twenty-two and Joseph was eighteen, we were the last of the garage band kids left from the old days. We never discussed taking music seriously, but it was apparent through the years together that we all did. Once the Strokes arrived, we realized that people our own age were making music on a large scale and it was time to stop looking at a profession in music as an impossibility. We started writing and practicing more earnestly and soon found ourselves recording demos on a home recorder we had split in purchasing. The demo we recorded in the basements of our family homes lead us directly to playing our first show at the old Bottom Lounge within a period of a few months and we’ve been playing continually ever since.

We were once called "Pop Noir" by the Chicago Reader and that was the first and only time I felt that someone really nailed us as a band, even between Ryan, Joseph and myself. In a grandiose way it made me think, "What if Kurt Cobain joined the Beatles in a Quentin Tarantino movie?" That might not be the reality, but the picture it painted put us closer to where we want to be.

You have a new album, Realpolitik!, in the works. When is it due out and what can we expect to hear as compared to your previous work?

Things are very up in the air with Realpolitik!, but in the best way possible. Working with our producers Matt McDonough and John Strate-Hootman (ambient mainstay Vir Unis) has opened a lot of doors for us, even more than they anticipated when we began working together. The EP will go directly to the vice president of Sony after it is mixed and mastered. If it’s not well received there, Matt and John will continue shopping it around as a demo. Depending on where we end up - if anywhere, fingers always crossed - we will most likely re-record the EP with selected other tracks from our previous EP, Fire & Science, and some new tracks, so our first release for anyone will be a full length album.

This is the first time we’ve worked with anyone near the level of Matt and John or our engineer Paul Vnuk Jr. Paul writes reviews for the best recording gear in the world and has the option to purchase the equipment he likes at the production price, so his studio has things that are beyond any of the places we’ve seen in the Chicagoland area. It’s very impressive. So, I’d say it will sound different in quality primarily. Fire & Science was produced by Ryan and his production partner Steven Ciliak. It was their first outing and it turned out great. It represents who we were at that point musically and Realpolitk! will do the same for this era, but it will be much more defined, both musically and sonically.

How did it come about that the record is being produced by Matt McDonough, Mudvayne’s drummer?

In the fall of 2007, Ryan put an ad on Craigslist to see if we could find anyone interesting to join Camera as a back-up guitar player and keyboardist. John Strate-Hootman responded, saying that he did not wish to join, but that he loved our sound and really wanted to work with us in some capacity. John and I talked on the phone for hours and he eventually decided to come to our recording space to capture some rough demos to bring to his friend and production partner. We didn’t know at the time that it was the drummer from Mudvayne, but John played him the music which lead Matt to come to our Metro show that spring to check out if we could pull our music off live.

Both Matt and John were impressed enough by our live show to sit us down in Smart Bar and ask us if we wanted to record an album with them. They told us that all we would have to pay for was the studio time and they would work with us on nothing but good faith, pending our success, of course. If these two strangers were going to gamble all their hard earned free time based on Camera being successful, there wasn’t anyway we could or wanted to say no. We all celebrated our new partnership by piling into the photo booth together. That picture hangs above my desk.

Among the tracks recorded so far – either on the upcoming release or on the past EP’s – are there any particular band favorites?

We are very meticulous about our writing and recording methods. If any song survives to the point the public gets to hear it, we must really like it. I would say every song goes through a period where it is our absolute favorite, then we hate it, then we learn to love it again.

You recently recorded a cover of the Radiohead song “Idioteque” for the tribute CD Every Machine Makes Mistakes. How did you get involved with the project and how’d you decide on that song?

We share a practice space with the great Mr. Russia, and Ivan, their commandant, had worked with the tribute albums Lens Records had released in the past. When this one came up, he told us about it right away. We’ve covered “You and Who’s Army?” in the past, but we all agreed that if a Radiohead tribute album ever landed in our hands, the first track we would check out would be “Idioteque," let alone that it is also one of our favorite and most agreed upon Radiohead songs.

What are some bands and artists Camera get inspiration from, either locally or beyond?

Um, Kubrick, our fathers, food, weather…just kidding. For as much as I’ve rambled on here, any artist that can list what influences them in just a few paragraphs has far too narrow of interests. It’s a cliché of an answer, but everything influences us. The title Realpolitik! came out of a Janis Joplin biography that I was adapting into a screenplay, where the author described that the realpolitik of Woodstock was that it sucked and no one was awake when Jimi Hendrix was playing. I fell in love with that word. Almost everything we do has a ‘fall out of the sky’ quality like that, but it’s from a different avenue every time.

As far as local bands go, they have just as good of a shot as having an influence on us as anyone, but the few we consider comrades are Plane, Mr. Russia, Gemini Club, Bullets in Madison, Milk at Midnight, and Elipse, just to name a few.

How do you think living and playing in Chicago has shaped your music and who you are as a band?

As naïve youngsters, there was always this vision that once we finally got on stage and played a good show that people would notice right away and we’d be having beers with Billy Corgan and Jeff Tweedy within a week. The truth of it is, the music scene in Chicago isn’t what we grew up thinking it was. Hailing from the suburbs, the idea of something being cool or in never seeped into what we should listen to or play like, there wasn’t ever a genre or a goal in mind. I’m very thankful that was the case. If we would have spent more time in the city as we developed, I feel our music would have gravitated towards what was popular at the time we were coming up so we could more easily find our place.

Now that we have our own two feet, so to say, we’ve come to really love the Chicago scene because the bands we play with aren’t our heroes, they’re our friends and the scene isn’t an established tool to launch acts, but it’s something that we are all working on building together.

How would you say Camera’s live sound compares to the band’s recorded sound? What can people expect from a live show?

We are very intricate when we record. Ryan and I listened to hours of railroad bell samples before choosing the right one for the intro to “The Lasting Impression of Emperors Passed." There’s an ethic and a discipline there. With our live show, it’s like getting to let the animal back into the jungle. I would describe our shows as a cathartic experience for both us and the audience. When it’s over, you know we’ve been through something together. I highly recommend it.

Any standout gigs from the long list of Chicago area shows you’ve played over the past few years?

A few do stick out. We played a Friday night at the Double Door and it was the first time we were given a weekend there. We took the four months off beforehand and snail mailed over two hundred printed invitations to the show, really hoping to pull in a decent crowd. Over three hundred people ended up showing to see us specifically that night and it was mind blowing. The energy made for one of the best shows we ever played. The same thing happened at Schubas and the Abbey Pub shortly thereafter. It’s always a good feeling when you play to a packed house, but, as we’ve learned, we played just as hard when there are only a few people watching as there were when we made our first appearance in Madison. I would put that one on the list as well because that was our first ever out of state show and we had a blast getting to play for even a handful of complete strangers.

Where can people go and get your music and find out more about the band?

We’re playing the Empty Bottle on December 22nd and the Bottom Lounge January 23nd. We give Fire & Science away for free at our shows. For keeping up with the band and purchasing music online you can visit any of the wonderful links below:


CAMERA Facebook
CAMERA Twitter
CAMERA SonicBids
CAMERA ReverbNation
CAMERA BandCamp (site under construction)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

This Thursday: 'I Slept With Joey Ramone' book signing at Barbara's Bookstore

Gabba gabba hey! Attention all Chicago Ramones fans - Mickey Leigh (Joey Ramone's brother) and Legs McNeil, authors of the new book I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Family Memoir, will be in Chicago this Thursday, December 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Barbara's Bookstore (1218 South Halsted St.) for a signing, Q&A and discussion of the book. The two will also read their favorite excerpts from the book, which chronicle's Joey's story. Don't miss it!

For more information on the book and its authors, click here.

I Slept With Joey Ramone book signing and Q&A
with authors Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil
Thursday, December 17
Barbara’s Bookstore
1218 South Halsted Street

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lincoln Hall to host 12/23 benefit concert for Chicago women's shelter

The Maybenauts

On Wednesday, December 23, various Chicago-based female musicians will join forces to rock Lincoln Hall for an extremely good cause. As part of "Covers to Cover II" - which follows up a 2006 benefit show that raised $1,500.00 for the woman's homeless shelter Deborah's Place - members from bands including The Dials, The Maybenauts, The Mekons and more will perform to raise money for the CAWC Greenhouse Shelter for abused women and their children.

Members from these bands will play as specially-formed, one-time-only acts to pay tribute to their favorite musicians, from David Bowie to The Breeders to The Cars. As if that didn't sound like enough fun, acting as MC for the night will be none other than Rattina, the female rat puppet from the “Chic-A-Go-Go!” TV show.

Here's the full schedule of bands set to play the show:

8 PM-8:20 PM - Yoko Noge plays Shippie Wallace
8:30 PM-8:50 PM - IRIS plays The Breeders
9 PM-9:20 PM - Sally Timms plays Nico from The Velvet Underground
9:30 PM-9:50 PM - The Maybenauts play David Bowie
10 PM-10:20 PM - Aloha Lives does NOT play Tiny Bubbles
10:30 PM-10:50 PM - Double Life plays The Cars
11 PM-11:20 PM - Dressed in Black plays The Gossip
11:30 PM-11:50 PM - Slutter plays Kiss

And here are additional details:

"Covers to Cover II" benefit show for Connections for Abused Women
Wednesday, December 23
Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave.
Doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
18 and over; $12 cover, or $10 with donation of new toiletry
Tickets here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Show preview: Sissy Mena EP release at Double Door, 12/16

Sissy Mena is a recently-formed Chicago trio specializing in driving, melodic, shoegazey rock, which they're introducing to the world via their debut six-song EP, Young Girl. The band will celebrate the release of the EP this Wednesday, December 16 with a show at Double Door (FREE, 8 p.m., also featuring Future Ghosts, California Wives and Satellite 66).

Young Girl is a solid introduction from a unit that should have no problem winning over anyone who likes a healthy dose of fuzzy guitars and distortion with their rock. While it's apparent on songs such as "Udellia," "Pay for Some Sins" and the EP's title track that the three - Tyler Brinegar, Adam Bonich and Taylor Briggs - have a fondness for pure shoegaze, they can't be pigeonholed in that genre, sometimes seeming just as happy taking a more straightforward (but still deliciously noisy) approach (see "History," "Certain Smiles," "Main Drain"). This variation works in the music's favor, preventing the set of songs from ever sounding too abstract or monotonous and allowing the trio's skills to shine.

Listen to the EP and download a copy here, and head to Double Door Wednesday night for what promises to be an excellent show. In addition to this week's EP release party, the band also have a gig coming up on Friday, January 15 at the Hideout (10 p.m., $8, more info and tickets).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekend show picks

The Flaming Lips


- The Flaming Lips, Phoenix and Pete Yorn at Allstate Arena "WXRT Big Holiday Concert." 7 p.m., $40-50. More info and tickets.

- Pelican at the Empty Bottle with Black Cobra and Disappearer - 10 p.m., $14, 21 and over. More info and tickets. Check out the recent Sun-Times interview with the band by Jim DeRogatis.

- Cains & Abels at Bottom Lounge with Cavalier Rose, In Tall Buildings and All the Creatures of the Sea - 8 p.m., $10, 17 and over. More info and tickets. Click here for a WCR article and free download from the band.


- Mahjongg at Hideout with White Car - 9 p.m., $10, 21 and over. More info and tickets.

- I Fight Dragons at Metro with Pretty Good Dance Moves and Cobalt and the Hired Guns - 9 p.m., $10, 18 and over. More info and tickets. Check out our I Fight Dragons CD review here.

- Russian Circles at Lincoln Hall with Young Widows, Sweet Cobra and Phantom Family Halo - 9 p.m., $12 advance, $14 at door, 18 and over. More info and tickets.


- Marcus Foster at Abbey Pub with Blue Roses - 8 p.m., $10, 18 and over. More info and tickets.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

EP review: V Sparks - 'Biscuits and Tea'

From their retro Brit-mod album artwork to the 70s glam elements of their music, Chicago indie four-piece V Sparks make it evident that they're proud to conjure up rock and roll's past. But while the three songs on their new EP, Biscuits and Tea, point toward an obvious love of Bowie and T-Rex, they also prove that the group have timeless pop songwriting down to a tee. At its core, this stuff is just good old rock 'n' roll fun that transcends eras and sub-genres, with immediate choruses plus energy and melodic hooks to spare. All three tracks are superb, from the boisterous "On My Arm" to the theatrical, attitude-heavy "Manic" to the sweeping singalong of the title track. Making the material even stronger are some wisely-used orchestral flourishes as well as genuinely impressive vocals from front man "V", who sings these songs with enough personality and gusto that you'd think his life depended on it. This one's a winner, and I for one can't wait to hear more.

Check out the first track on Biscuits and Tea below, then head over to the band's MySpace page to download the entire EP for free. You can also get their 2008 debut self-titled LP on iTunes.

Download MP3: V Sparks - "On My Arm"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tonight at Double Door: Benefit show with Helicopters, King Sparrow & more

Head to Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.) tonight to see four great Chicago-based indie bands playing for a good cause! Helicopters (reviewed here), Soft Speaker, King Sparrow (free download here) and a new band, Poster, will make up the bill for the show, dubbed "Bang the Drum," to benefit the Arts at the Perspectives Charter School. The Arts program at the school has been affected as a result of budget tightening, and the bands are helping to fix problem by donating proceeds to the purchase of musical instruments and art materials.

Benefit for the Arts at Perspectives Charter School at Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave)
-featuring Helicopters, Soft Speaker, King Sparrow and Poster
-Tuesday, December 8, 2009
-Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m.
-21 and over
- $10 (tickets here)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

MP3: The Tyranny of Dave - 'The Greatest Generation'

Here's a very cool song that was sent our way from Chicago-based songwriter Dave Wechsler of Piñataland, a Brooklyn-formed, historically-themed rock unit. The single - to be included on the upcoming album from Wechsler's new project The Tyranny of Dave - is called "The Greatest Generation," and is described by the songwriter as "an homage to both Talking Heads' 'Naive Melody' and the World Trade Center." The "Naive Melody" influence is definitely present, but instead of sounding simply like a retread the song is fresh and thoughtful with hooks that grab straightaway.

Download mp3: The Tyranny of Dave - "The Greatest Generation"

The album is called The Decline of America Part One: The Bush Years, and Wechsler says it deals with the political failures of 2001-2008 as well as his personal ones during that time period. The CD release party is scheduled for Saturday, January 2 at Uncommon Ground on Devon (1401 W Devon) at 10 p.m.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Listen to new music from Chicago's Blah Blah Blah

Blah Blah Blah have been on our radar for a while now, having played a number of shows around town and circulating their track "Why Am I the Only One Laughing" (see our post and listen to the song here) months ago as an introduction to their music. The song, full of melodic, swirling, Smiths-esque goodness, showed a lot of promise and left me eager to hear more. Now the band have made additional cuts from their upcoming debut, Charm, available for listening on The songs go down a similar path to "Why Am I...," making it clear that track's Smith sensibilities were no fluke, but also further highlighting the unit as one of the most exciting up-and-coming acts in the city. Songs such as "After Midnight" and "Blue Moon" are lush, soaring pop bliss, while "They Don't Dance" and "Kill the Waiter" find the four-piece stretching their wings with dancey new wave flourishes and slow-burning introspection, respectively. The band's dreamly, melancholic-yet-accessible sounds go down like sugar and should please anyone into melody-driven indie pop or old school Brit pop and new wave.

Blah Blah Blah's next show is coming up on December 12 at AMP Rock Lounge (1909 North Lincoln Avenue). See the band's MySpace page for more information.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Free music, free Metro show from four Chicago bands

Do you like free downloads from great Chicago indie bands? How about free shows? Of course you do, so be sure to visit where you can currently grab mp3s from four locally-based acts - Kid, You'll Move Mountains, Picture Books, Venna and Crayolala. On the same site you can also download a flier (the same one you see to the right) that will get you into the bands' Saturday, January 2nd show at Metro at no charge if you get there before 9 p.m.

If you like the free downloads, don't forget to support the bands by picking up hard copies of their releases (KYMM here, Picture Books here, Venna here).

Also, for more information on headliners KYMM check out our recent Q&A with vocalist and guitarist Jim Hanke.