Sunday, February 28, 2010

Music networking night, 3/1 at Double Door

Sonicbids is hosting a Chicago music networking night - dubbed "A Spring Fling Networking Thing" - Monday, March 1 at Double Door (1572 N. Milwaukee Ave.). The event will run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. and feature Sonicbids founder Panos Panay (pictured to the right) as well as Summerfest festival promoter David Silbaugh. Panay will offer advice to bands on what steps they can take to find success through their music, while Silbaugh will provide tips on applying to play this year's fest. If that weren't enticing enough, free beer and pizza will be up for grabs.

The event comes on the heels of a new partnership between Sonicbids and the City of Chicago in which Sonicbids will serve as the city's talent pool for booking bands for festivals such as the Taste of Chicago.

Recently, five Chicago bands scored slots at next month's South by Southwest festival in Austin by appling via their Sonicbids accounts. The acts include Psalm One, Stephanie Nilles, Willy Joy, Light Pollution and Joe Pug.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Small Chicago: live music videos from Windy City bands

We recently received a note about a new site called Small Chicago, which features videos of (mainly) Chicago bands playing three songs live filmed by two cameras in one take. The project's first set is from Coltrane Motion, and new performances will be posted around twice a month. According to text on the Small Chicago site, "The idea for the series came from our longing for a new Old Grey Whistle Test, an appreciation for Austin City Limits, and the fact that we’re lucky to know a lot of really great musicians in Chicago."

Great idea! Check it out for yourself here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

EP review: Soft Speaker - 'Stranger in the Alps'

Soft Speaker is a Chicago-based four-piece that formed in 2008, debuting with an EP titled Conditions and following it up this month with the five-track Stranger in the Alps. It's tough to classify the band's sound - even after a few listens, everything from alt rock to psychedelic to folk to college rock seems at times appropriate - but what's apparent is that this unit have something special. Tracks such as "Tennyson Tea" and "Weathervane" strike the perfect balance between cryptic and accessible, while the moody psychedelia of "Into the Fog" and "Marble Mask" further set the atmosphere. Add to that the fact that the material on Stranger in the Alps is extremely well-produced and you have a definite keeper.

You can sample the EP here. Soft Speaker will celebrate the release of the EP with a show at Darkroom on Friday, February 26 (doors open at 9 p.m., $8 advance, $10 at door, 21 and over). Yukon Blonde and Moxie Motive will open. Click here for more information and tickets.

Video: Skybox - 'In a Dream'

I'd argue that giant, rubber Japanese monsters are awesome in pretty much any situation. The guys in Chicago's Skybox must feel that way too, seeing as how the brand new video for their ace tune, "In a Dream," is chock-full o' them. Not to mention someone in a chicken suit and various other oddities. See for yourself:

"In a Dream" comes off the band's deliciously good, recently-released sophomore LP, Morning After Cuts, reviewed on WCR here. The tune is available for free download here.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Two Thrill Jockey shows tonight: Tortoise & Chicago Underground Duo

Chicago Underground Duo

Looking for a good show tonight, 2/20? Check out one these two quality options via Thrill Jockey Records artists:

Tortoise with Robert A.A. Lowe (from Lichens) at Lincoln Hall. 10 p.m., 18 and over, $20, more info and tickets here.

Download mp3: Tortoise - "Prepare Your Coffin"

Download mp3: Robert A.A. Lowe & Rose Lazar - Fantomoj de la Vitro Domo"

Another Thrill Jockey act, Chicago Underground Duo, will play tonight at the Hideout. This is a record release show. 8:30 p.m., 21 and over, $10, more info and tickets here.

Download mp3: Chicago Underground Duo - "Spy on the Floor"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lady Gaga, Green Day, Soundgarden to headline Lollapalooza 2010 lineup?

Will 2010 be The Year of Gaga at Lollapalooza? According to The Daily Swarm, all signs point to yes. The site is reporting to have information from "multiple industry sources" that highlights everyone's favorite pop sensation as one of the fest's headliners, in addition to Green Day, Soundgarden, and three acts yet to be revealed. As it always goes, nothing is confirmed, but past years have consistently shown these kinds of leaks to be on the money.

Click here to read the full report.

Lollapalooza promotors are expected to officially announce the full lineup of performers in the spring. The fest is set for August 6 to 8 in Chicago's Grant Park.

Show preview: Pretty & Nice and Title Tracks at Hideout, 2/18

Pretty & Nice

The Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) is the place to be this Thursday, February 18. Two great acts - Boston's Pretty & Nice and DC's Title Tracks - will play the bar as the Chicago stop on their current month-long tour. The show is 21 and over, starts at 9 p.m. and costs $8. Click here for tickets and read on for more about the bands.

Pretty & Nice call to mind the quirkier, giddier side of classic new wave (think Devo and XTC), freshened-up for modern-day indie rock audiences. Listening to songs such as "Piranha," "Tora Tora Tora" and "Nuts & Bolts" from their 2008 Hardly Art/Sub Pop debut, Get Young, it would be pretty much impossible for their live show not to be a wildly fun sonic sugar rush. This is the kind of stuff that makes you want to jump on a pogo stick while downing a packet of Skittles, or generally run around your place like a madperson (this is a good thing). The band toured for a good chunk of last year - including a few weeks playing the West Coast with The Get Up Kids and a month gigging Europe - and are getting set to record a follow-up to Get Young. Before heading into the studio, they'll test out their new material on this tour.

Download mp3: Pretty & Nice - "Piranha"

Title Tracks is the new solo project of John Davis, previously of bands such as Georgie James and Q & Not U. The debut Title Tracks LP, It Was Easy, was released on February 9 and breezes along with nods to hook-filled 60s rock and old school power pop. If you dig the likes of Nick Lowe, early Costello and Marshall Crenshaw just try not to love insanely catchy tunes such as "Black Bubblegum" and "Steady Love." Plus, Tracyanne Campbell of the wonderful Camera Obscura does guest vocals on the record. For more information on the project, check out this recent DCist Q&A with Davis.

Title Tracks : Steady Love from John Davis on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Audio: King Sparrow interview, Valentine's Day week show previews and playlist

By Susan Schomburg

This week's Indiesomnia! local music podcast includes some good non-sappy Valentine's Day music, an interview with Chicago's own King Sparrow, and a showlist with show recommendations pre- and post-Valentine's Day. You can listen in to the podcast by clicking on the player below, or download your own copy by heading to Playlist highlights include several King Sparrow tracks, as well as music by Wilco, Jefferson Airplane, the White Stripes, and more.

Live Chicago podcast 2/22 at Hungry Brain

Here's a cool event to add to your calendar: On Monday, February 22, Alex and Francis White (a.k.a. Chicago garage rock sibling duo White Mystery), editor Scott Smith and locally-based comedian Brendan McGowan will take part in a live podcast recording at Hungry Brain (2319 W. Belmont). The event is being hosted by You, Me, Them, Everybody (YMTE), a podcast site that covers music, events and people in Chicago.

The night will also feature music from Jeremy Tromburg of Chicago indie band the Ragtones. Entry is free, doors open at 8 p.m. and you must be 21 or older to attend. Click here for more information.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

New music videos: The Gorilla Press and Ornery Little Darlings

February seems to be the month of rockin' new videos from Windy City bands. First King Sparrow released the excellent "Forest", and now two other locally-based acts - The Gorilla Press and the recently-formed Ornery Little Darlings - have come out with very cool clips. Behold:

The Gorilla Press - "Anger in the Drains"

Ornery Little Darlings - "Run From the Gun"

Monday, February 8, 2010

Q&A: The Moves

Take a listen to songs such as "Revolution Bound" (mp3) and "AlrightAllrite" (mp3) from Chicago's The Moves and you'll get a good idea of what the trio is all about: Catchy pop choruses, driving guitar and infectious energy all wrapped up in genuine rock and roll swagger. Since forming in 2007, the three - Dave Spaulding (vocals, guitar), Bryan Piper (bass) and Max Shreffler (drums) have played a long list of successful shows in and around the city, and recently hit the road for a Midwestern tour in addition to filming their first video.

As the band gets ready for their next gig on Thursday, February 18 at Beat Kitchen ($8, 8:30 p.m., more info and tickets here), WCR caught up with Spaulding to find out more:

WCR: Tell us a bit about how The Moves came together and the kind of music you guys set out to make.

DS: We came together about two-and-a-half years ago after my previous group disbanded. I was tired of the more straightforward punk rock I had been making in previous bands and wanted to draw in some of my other pop, glam and indie influences. Max called me up and asked if I wanted to get another project going and Bry answered an ad I took out in The Reader for a bassist. I had just recorded a demo of "Squeeze" (listen on the trio's MySpace site) and that sort of set the tone for the band.

What sets The Moves apart from other indie rock bands in Chicago?

I think we just have a different vibe. Many of them are very heavily influenced by emo - whether they acknowledge that or not - whereas I don't think we were influenced by that movement at all. That said, we have played with a lot of local bands that we like and respect a lot.

Last year you released your debut EP, One Two Three Four. Tell us about the recording of that EP and about some of the particular songs. Any favorite tracks among the band?

That was our first time recording in a professional studio - everything else we have laid down has been self-recorded. It seems like it took forever! We were doing these real late night sessions to save money. Bry and Max were done pretty quickly but I had to break up all the vocal sessions and mixing sessions since I couldn't always be up all night because of work. But it was a lot of fun and we learned a lot from the process, I think. Our favorite tracks tend to change all the time.

You recently made a music video for one of your songs, "Revolution Bound." What's the story behind the song/video?

Musically, the song came together really quickly. I had this vocal part in my head for the chorus - "come on, come on / we are the women / We are the men...," but I wasn't sure where to go with it. Then I started thinking about Prop 8, which had just passed, and the rest of the vocal just wrote itself. I couldn't think of any other songs that were real explicit about gay rights or gay marriage, and we've been proud of that I think. We did the video ourselves in our practice room with Max's brother shooting, and pieced it all together on a computer.

You've listed bands such The Clash, U2, Green Day and INXS as influences - which comes through in the music - but who or what would people probably be surprised to learn influences the band?

I think you can hear all of those bands in our songs in one way or another. More recently we've had a few people compare us to Muse and Placebo. We all like Muse but I don't think any of us have listened to Placebo at all! We'll have to download some of their records...

Bry is a big Yes fan, which might be kind of surprising. I've definitely walked in on Max playing classical music more than once (he's also an awesome marimba player). I'm unashamed to listen to a lot of modern pop stuff like Britney and GaGa. I'd say we're all pretty shameless about the stuff we like! Guilty pleasures without the guilt.

Last summer you took on your first Midwestern tour - how'd that go?

It went really well! We sold merch at almost every show and made it through with pretty minimal arguing. We literally came out a few dollars ahead, too, which was great. We can't wait to do it again, especially now that we know a little more what to expect!

Since you started playing out as a band, which has been your favorite so far and why?

There have been a lot that have been great for so many reasons, but playing the Night Of Noise the past two years has been really something special. It's an outdoor event outside the Thompson center sponsored by GLSEN. Basically it's a gay rights rally for teenagers. It's just awesome because the kids are really into it and it's a cause we all care about.

What can people expect to see and hear at Moves gig?

We rehearse a lot and we really try to be as tight as possible. So we like to think that people who come see us are in store for a solid performance, not a complete disconnect between the recordings and live show that you find with some artists.

What's next for the band? Are there plans to record more music?

There are a few tracks that have gotten a great response when we play live and we'd like to do them as more free downloads. We'd like to do another music video sometime soon as well.

Where can people go to find out more?

Hum to play Memorial Day show in Millennium Park

Although not yet officially confirmed, Internet buzz from a few different sources suggests that cult Champaign, IL-formed space-rockers Hum will reunite for a show on Memorial Day, May 31, in Chicago's Millennium Park. Since ceasing to be an active band in 2000, the four-piece have gotten back together only periodically to play a handful of shows, last appearing on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2009 for gigs at Double Door.

Check out the following sites for more information:

Facebook event page

h-u-m Twitter

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Video: King Sparrow - 'Forest'

A few months ago Chicago rock trio King Sparrow filmed a video for "Forest," one of the tracks off their superb debut EP, Derailer. The end product is finally ready for public consumption and it's all kinds of awesome. Watch it below, and go see the band open for Maritime at Beat Kitchen on Saturday, February 13 (show starts at 7:30 p.m., $10, more info and tickets here).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Fight Dragons sign to Atlantic Records

Soon after NES/superhero-themed pop-rock troupe I Fight Dragons came onto the scene last year with frequent live shows and an introductory EP, Cool Is Just a Number, it became very apparent the Chicagoans were focused on getting as many people hearing their music as possible. They've been masters of social media and self-marketing to the point where they quickly became one of the city's most well-known indie acts, and all along the way their enthusiasm and commitment to the success of the project has been crystal clear. That's why the band's announcement earlier this week that they've been signed to a major label, Photo Finish / Atlantic Records, shouldn't come as too big of a shock.

In the announcement, the band revealed that they would be releasing their debut full-length record on the label, for distribution in retail stores nationwide. Plus, they'll head out on tour this Spring with fellow Atlantic acts 3OH!3, Cobra Starship and Travis McCoy.

As pointed out in a post on the announcement by Chicagoist's Tankboy, signing to a major often winds up becoming more of a curse than a blessing. But in the right circumstances it could lead to a great deal of opportunities that would otherwise be unreachable, and I Fight Dragons noted that they will be holding onto "huge amounts of creative control," so we'll assume only the best. After all, there are undeniable limitations that come along with a total DIY approach, and nobody should fault a band for wanting some help with getting music into people's ears (and hopefully getting some monetary reward for their art). We wish the best of luck and congratulations to the band, and look forward to hearing the LP!

For more information on the signing and upcoming tour dates, visit

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Wedding Present to play Double Door on 'Bizarro' anniversary tour

Anyone who digs old school indie/alt-rock as much as me will be happy to know that The Wedding Present will make a stop in Chicago this Spring for an April 16 show at Double Door. The gig will be part of a tour commemorating the 21st anniversary of their sophomore LP, 1989's Bizarro, which marked their first major label release. After forming in the mid-80s, the band helped establish the indie rock sound and have since influenced a long list of artists.

Tickets are $15 and Girl in a Coma will open the show. Click here for more information.

Free Derek Nelson live EP (plus Lincoln Hall show 2/4)

The very talented Derek Nelson (whose debut EP, Something Obscure, we previously reviewed here) has just released a FREE digital live EP recorded from his January 13 show at the Empty Bottle. The EP is made up of six tracks, including three previously unreleased originals, a spirited take on Bob Dylan's "Walkin' Down the Line" and two from the debut. Anyone into Americana, folk-rock and the like would be wise to grab it here.

Derek also has a band now, simply called "The Musicians," and the group will play their third show together this Thursday, February 4, headlining Lincoln Hall ($10, 9 p.m., 18 and over). The show will be presented by Loop Apparel, who will commemorate their closing by giving away free t-shirts to everyone who enters. The bill also features two other Chicago acts - Daysleeper, who will be releasing a record, and Overman. Click here for tickets and more information.