Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Attorney General Lisa Madigan investigating Lollapalooza?

I have heard several friends and music fans discussing and speculating about exactly what is going on regarding Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's reported investigation of Lollapalooza. Several subpoenas have been issued to those organizing and promoting the city's biggest music festival, and the investigation is said to have been spawned by accusation of possible illegality in the radius clauses included in the event's contracts.

A radius clause is not at all uncommon in a contract between a band and a promoter putting on a large live event. However, Lolla's radius clauses are by far the most extreme when compared to other events such as Bonnaroo, Coachella, or our own Pitchfork Music Festival. Lolla contracts can prohibit a band from playing within a 300 mile radius of Chicago for as long as six months before and three months after the annual event. Not only does such a clause prevent small clubs and promoters from placing their favorite (and likely most profitable) cutting edge bands in their venues here in Chicago, but even in other cities (such as Milwaukee) which are within said radius. Lolla's promoters have said they willingly remove the radius clause from a contract at the band's reasonable request, and this is most likely the reason you can see the Black Keys at Metro, the National at House of Blues and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Lincoln Hall next month in addition to their appearances at the fest.

If it's possible for bands and the promoters to reconcile their differences over the contracts easily, an obvious question comes up - is an investigation really necessary? A thorough look into the issue from Chicago music writer Jim DeRogatis on his Vocalo.org blog makes the issue a bit clearer.

The city's foremost independent promoter, Jam Productions, is the most likely affected by the radius clause and the extreme power wielded by C3, Lolla's promoters and Jam's out of state competition. With the juggernaut Live Nation dominating independent promoters all over the country (especially following their recent Ticketmaster merger) Jam may be concerned about having to thrive whilst simultaneously fighting off Live Nation and, potentially, having nine months out of the year affected by these radius clauses. Jam, as well as a number of small businesses and club promoters, may be where the pressure for an investigation came from, and how it made its way to Madigan.

We will keep you updated as to how this might affect the Windy City and its largest music festival. In the meantime, hopefully the above at least sheds a little light on the situation.

What do you think? We'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue.

Video: Essex Chanel host a skinny dippin' pool party gone wrong

Over a year-and-a-half in the making, the new music video for Chicago folk-pop act Essex Chanel's happy-snappy tune "Skinny Dippin'" has finally arrived to help kick off summer. And as one might expect from listening to the song, it's tons of fun. But it doesn't stop there. It also gets a tad twisted, upping the amusement factor even more. Staying true to its title, there's plenty of frolicking about in the nude going on (albeit with strategically placed blurry patches), but the nekkid pool party takes a pretty funny, surprise, B horror movie-esque twist at the end. So get clickin' below and be sure to watch all the way through.

"Skinny Dippin'" comes off of Essex Chanel's latest LP, Love Is Proximity, which is currently available for free download along with the rest of the their catalog (11 albums, 249 songs) on essexchanel.com! For more information, see our recent post on the band's free music bonanza.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Become a street-teamer for Bottom Lounge

If you're a fan of the Bottom Lounge (1375 W. Lake St.) and are interested in helping them get the word out about their shows, listen up!

The club has let us know that they're on the lookout for "individuals with a deep passion for independent music and who are interested in getting involved in concert promotion and live music. Your duties will be representing the club to local businesses, other music fans and flyering street routes, concerts and festivals. The position is unpaid, but street team members do get comped meals and free entry to all Bottom Lounge shows for themselves and a guest."

To get involved, they've asked that you send an e-mail to info@bottomlounge.com that includes some information about yourself and why you are interested in becoming a street team member.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Weekend show picks: Ween, Steel Train, My Gold Mask and more

My Gold Mask (photo: A.Jayne)

If you're looking to catch some live music in an outdoor fest setting in Chicago this weekend, you have plenty to choose from thanks to the Taste of Chicago, which kicks off today, and West Town's second annual Green Music Fest, which runs Saturday and Sunday. For more information on cool bands to check out at each, see our respective posts here and here. If the unforgiving weather of late has you all shaken up and someplace with a roof and four walls is more your speed, there are quite a few great free-standing shows to choose from, too. Here are a few picks:

Friday, June 25

- Ween at Aragon Ballroom - 9 p.m., $29.75, 18 and over. Tickets.

- Crooked Fingers at Schubas with Small Awesome - 7 p.m., $14, 21 and over. Tickets.

Saturday, June 26

- My Gold Mask at Hideout with Brilliant Pebbles - 9 p.m., $8 advance, $10 at door, 21 and over. Tickets.

- Maps & Atlases at Subterranean with Fang Island - 10 p.m., $12, 17 and over. Tickets.

- Woven Bones at Empty Bottle with Red Mass, Mickey and Radar Eyes - 9 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets. 

Sunday, June 27

- Steel Train at Lincoln Hall with Jukebox the Ghost and Via Audio - 7 p.m. $13 advance, $15 at door, all ages. Tickets. 

- Zola Jesus at Schubas with Dada Trash Collage and Jabon - 8 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chicago's Oh My God feature Tila Tequila in new video

Oh My God
- an indie rock quartet from here in Chicago - have gained notoriety not only for their music, but also for their high quality music videos. In their new video for "My Own Adventure," a single from their album The Night Undoes the Work of the Day (Split Red) they feature, of all people, Tila Tequila. What? Not exactly an indie rock staple, Tila, but she shows up to investigate some seedy goings on in a gas station bathroom. Maybe have a look yourself?

You can also currently head to ohmygodmusic.com for a free download of the song. While you're at it, check out our other recent posts on Oh My God:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New, free music from Chicago's Machinegun Mojo

Chicago indie four-piece Machinegun Mojo won't release their new full-length, Souvenirs From the Other Side of Here, until late August, but in the meantime they're offering a taste with two free downloads from the record. The songs, available below,are a great introduction to the band's folk-tinged rock. "Hannah" is a storytelling song that starts off with a light, jaunty melody and builds up into a bluesy romp, while "Woman" is a mellower, Americana-styled tune.

Download mp3: Machinegun Mojo - "Hannah"

Download mp3: Machinegun Mojo - "Woman"

While Souvenirs From the Other Side of Here is nearly completed, the band say they are still trying to pay for some odds and ends (production costs, pressing, etc) to tie everything up. For this reason they've set up an account on kickstarter.com, where you can pledge money to help the release along if you dig what the guys are doing. For more on that, click here.

You can also show your support by heading to Double Door on Thursday, August 12, to catch them live.

From starving artist to 'Twilight' songwriter: A Chicago musician's soundtrack success

Imagine this: One day you’re a bona fide “starving artist” in a big city, creating music you’re passionate about year-after-year while sometimes struggling to pull together enough money to pay the month's rent. Suddenly, within a matter of weeks, you’re listening to your song on the soundtrack to a massive blockbuster film and watching one of your favorite musicians perform it on national TV.

This is the kind of scenario most indie artists will only ever dream about, but for 34-year-old Chicago-based songwriter, performer and producer Rob Kleiner, it’s a dream come true.

Recently, Kleiner co-wrote a song called “What Part of Forever,” a soaring, uplifting pop-rocker that very well could have suffered the same obscure, unjust fate as thousands of other excellent songs composed by indie musicians who simply never get their “big break.” Instead, you can now find the track as number 14 on the official movie soundtrack to “Eclipse,” the third installment of the wildly popular teen vampire series “Twilight.” It comes right after Band of Horses and a few tracks after Vampire Weekend...and oh yeah, it’s performed by Cee-Lo Green of neo-soul giants Gnarls Barkley. The song will also play in full during the film’s end credits.

How does something like this happen to an artist who considers himself downright “unconnected”?

“A ton of it was luck, but I guess you also make your own luck,” Kleiner said. “It was a ‘When that opportunity presents itself, are you ready for the challenge?’ kind of thing.”

And ready he was. Since graduating from college over a decade ago, Kleiner has devoted his life to music. He’s been with his band Tub Ring for over 10 years, at one point playing nearly 200 shows per year throughout various countries. He’s also one half of Nintendo/electro pop duo Super 8 Bit Brothers, and has been involved with New York City synth-punk act Mindless Self Indugence. If that weren’t enough, Kleiner can also claim to have been a member of infamous Windy City punk band the Blue Meanies, even if his stint was incredibly short-lived - the band broke up two days after he joined. When not performing, he has also scored independent films and produced material for other artists.

The "Eclipse" opportunity came about, he explained, via a friend and fellow songwriter who uses the moniker "Oh, Hush!." The songwriter had ties to a publishing deal and asked if Kleiner might be interested in co-writing a song to submit for Green's contribution to the film, knowing he was a huge fan of Gnarls Barkley. The two decided to take a stab at it while keeping their expectations low, fully aware their work would be competing against a long list of other tracks. 

“It was a long shot, but it seemed like something that would be worth the effort,” Kleiner said. “Then when it was done everything just happened really quick – the label wanted to buy it and Cee-Lo was tracking it two days after we gave it to him - it was crazy.” 

At that point, the soundtrack had been mostly wrapped-up. “What Part of Forever” was a late-stage addition. Now, the song is planned as the soundtrack’s next single and was recently performed by Green on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“To actually see a guy I pretty much idolize singing a song I wrote…there was something even cooler to that than seeing my name in the CD credits,” the songwriter said.

Although clearly driven and dedicated to his craft, Kleiner said that he never saw an opportunity quite as game-changing as the soundtrack placement coming - especially since he works as a completely DIY artist with no manager, agent, or publisher. He equates it to “a rookie hitting a grand slam on his first at bat…which also happens to be in the World Series.”

To Kleiner, this "grand slam" means not only a greater amount of monetary compensation for his work than ever before, but also a significant jolt to his career – a career that, up until recently, he thought would be focused on making music for indie films.

“The money is for sure a godsend, but honestly what’s more important is the doors that this is opening for me,” he said. “By the end of the year I’ll be able to have a platinum record that I can hang up in my little home studio, and I’m going to be able to work with artists of different calibers.”

So far, the new opportunities include being asked to work on a track for Green’s upcoming solo album, as well as to write for other well-known names that he can’t yet divulge.

For the countless indie artists still struggling to be heard and wishing they could catch a similar kind of break, Kleiner stressed the importance of simply continuing to do what you love and never giving up. Even if he never came into the soundtrack opportunity, he said, he would have indefinitely continued to make music regardless of the amount of money it brought in.

“Honestly, just keep going – you’ve got to follow-through,” Kleiner said. “If you get up to bat enough times you might strike out 100 times, but then you hit that one and everything’s different.”


Video: Cee-Lo Green performing "What Part of Forever" on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, June 14, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Five bands not to miss at Taste of Chicago 2010

The Shams Band (photo: ishootrockstars.com)

There's a lot of flavor at the Taste of Chicago this year. Head to Grant Park starting this Friday, June 25 to Sunday, July 4 for music-filled days showcasing specific themes, such as garage rock and folk, and bands both local and international on a variety of stages. Here are a few local highlights, plus one very cool group visiting from London that I am diggin'.

The Shams Band - Friday, June 25, 4-5 p.m., Illinois Lottery Stage

The Shams Band is a can't miss Chicago Americana/folk band that slyly differentiates itself by walking the delicate line between honest and clever. The band's music is marked by the wisdom of an unassuming blue collar intellectual, and in songs like "Working Man," singer Paul Gulyas's mischief is clearly audible. When he admits he was "already up to no good," it makes you want in on whatever he was getting up to. Here's your chance.

Jon Drake and the Shakes - Friday, June 25, 5:20-6:20 p.m., Illinois Lottery Stage

Jon Drake and the Shakes amble along Midwestern highways, approachable and disarming in there earnestness. The wavering voice of their music speaks directly to the trend of honesty and sincerity that has been compelling musicians everywhere to abandon bombast and pluck on some strings and sing together.

White Mystery - Saturday, June 26, 6:40-8 p.m., Illinois Lottery Stage

The brother and sister duo who sound like Grace Slick and Jimmy Page had kids betray their faux parentage with fiery red curls, but are true to the licks. They have been causing a fuss all Spring and with this being the first of many fest appearances here in Chicago, maybe you should check them out so you can hold it over your friends' heads when they try and tell you about White Mystery in July!

JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound - Saturday, July 3, 12-3:40 p.m., Illinois Lottery Stage

It should come as no surprise that JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound are like a time machine that you can dance in, but what may surprise you is how quickly you will get in the time machine (generally about four bars in) and find yourself wondering, why isn't this on the radio?Why did people stop making music like this? Well, not everyone did. Just check it out.

The Heavy - Saturday, July 3 - 4-5 p.m. - Illinois Lottery Stage

The Heavy jam. But not in a way that makes you want to call them a jam band. They jam in the way that the originators of the word (whoever, wherever they may be) would have to be proud of. I listen to them and think Bob Marley to James Brown in four chords? No way. Yes, they did. These guys even got David Letterman so pumped up when the played the Late Show that he just straight up asked them to play the song again immediately, which they did. All the way from London, do not miss them.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Video: Chicago's Dastardly perform 'Villain'

Recently, Chicago-based Americana rock band Dastardly wrote letting us know about their new video, which features them performing their track "Villain" live. They did a great job, so see for yourself and give it a play below. While you're at it, head over to their website to download their debut EP, The Living Room Tapes, Vol. 1, at no cost.

You can also catch Dastardly live at Uncommon Ground (1401 West Devon Ave.) on Saturday, July 10. Click here for details.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Record review: Jonny Rumble - 'JR'

Over the past few years Chicago-based four piece Jonny Rumble have established themselves as a genuinely rocking, talented band that's always worth a listen, and their new LP, JR, just might be their strongest to date. The album follows up their 2008 full-length, Almost Dead, and includes a more diverse, accessible set of songs that reflect growth in both songwriting and performance.

Part of JR's appeal is that its musical style is nearly impossible to categorize, yet the record plays out with a cohesive sound and vision. The band serve up everything from punky power pop ("Courtney's Basement") to trippy, mellow psych pop ("Stumped") to gentle, acoustic alt-country ("Toe the Line"), but there is a focused energy and vibe throughout that keeps the collection from sounding disjointed. That said, the more upbeat, pop-oriented tracks such as the jangly "Handgun Blues" and the aforementioned "Courtney's Basement" grabbed my attention the fastest and just might be the band's strongest suit.

Lyrically, much of the material seems to deal with the unrest and frustrations of modern life from the underdog's point of view. "While people slowly get ahead of you/They're filling up their pockets, you're only burning fuel," reflects vocalist and guitarist Brian Webb in rocker "Opportunities," for example. In the driving, aggressive "BRZRKR," biting observations of "all the kiddies on the street in their tight-fit clothes" who would "all be better off dead" drive the discontentment home. And if anything can be inferred from long list of misfortunes that have struck the band over the past few years - including a string of destructive hurricanes that forced them to relocate, unjust jail time, a stolen van, lost teeth and other bloody injuries - the record's sentiments are well-founded.

By their very nature Jonny Rumble are one of those greatly relatable bands that any true fan of rock and roll would find it tough not to root for, and as JR proves, they are more than worthy of being championed.

Download mp3: Jonny Rumble - "BRZRKR"

You can download the entire album for free here courtesy of Rock Proper, the band's label and distributor. If you like what you hear, be sure to support the guys by picking up a vinyl copy of the record here.

Jonny Rumble will celebrate the release of JR with a show at Beat Kitchen on Friday, June 25. Also on the bill are California Wives and You Can Be A Wesley. Doors 8:30 p.m., show 9 p.m., $6, 21 and over. Tickets.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Meet Bobby Minelli, Windy City rocker (and our new writer)

I'm stoked to introduce you to Windy City Rock's newest writer, Bobby Minelli! Not only will Bobby be writing about all things Chicago rock and roll, he is a genuine Windy City rocker himself, fronting the Gentlemen's Club.

To get you better acquainted, Bobby took the time out to answer some questions about his background and the band. Read on to find out more, and keep an eye on WCR for his contributions.

Also, the Gentlemen's Club will be playing a headlining gig at Lincoln Hall this coming Sunday, June 20, so be sure to check it out. Molehill, Jackpot Donnie, Soul Vendor and Jimmy Zangrilli are also on the bill. Festivities start at 8 p.m. and cost $7. Click here for tickets and more information.

Bobby, first of all, welcome to WCR! It's cool to have you on board. To get everyone up to speed, tell us a bit about your musical history as well as your current band, the Gentlemen's Club.

I started playing music here in Chicago while attending Loyola University. I came from a very musical environment where I grew up in Ohio, so I suppose it was just a way of discovering or keeping my identity. My Dad and I were in the car in 2000 and the radio was just flooded with boy bands and the like, and I heard "Last Nite" by the Strokes and I was like, 'wait a God damn minute…people are making music like this currently? Where is this? Who is this? Can I get in on that?' I ran with it from there. My brother and I played as a duo all through college, then I fronted a band called Roar, and just tried to progress as a songwriter.

Later, a group of guys I worked with and I were always joking about this fake band we had called the Gentlemen's Club. We all dug good pop music, British stuff, Motown stuff and garage rock revival stuff, so we were constantly talking about it. Then one of the fake members booked a real gig. We played my songs, people came and even liked it! I realized right away there was something there.

Tell us about some of your material and the inspiration behind it.

Well, the songs are very personal to me, even when they are fun and danceable. I have no particular method when it comes to song writing. Generally, I get the idea of a song I would like to hear, and then try and make it up. I love the feeling when you hear a really great song and then want to show everybody you know, bug them with it. Sometimes I get that feeling about songs that don't, strictly speaking, exist yet. They almost always pertain to my life because that is just the way I relate to music. Mostly I try and teach the universe a lesson, it's like 'no no no,' teaches me one back and the song sums up that experience.

In terms of other musicians, who are some you enjoy most?

Well, like I said before, the Strokes revival rock of the early 2000s was massively influential. I think Julian Casablancas is easily one of the best songwriters of our generation. To me, he just sounded like the reason kids run away to the big city - something I did.

I also think Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys really has a sly and stylish flavor to his lyrical development and delivery that I was enamored with. Okkervill River is a great band, there is so much good indie rock right now - the White Rabbits, the Drums, GIRLS, Yeasayer. I am constantly very taken with studying great songwriters and how diverse approaches can be. I love Brian Wilson, the Boss, David Bowie, Morrissey and Johnny Marr, Paul Weller - you know, guys known for writing kick ass songs. I rely a lot on the creativity and ingenuity of my band mates for arrangement and what specific direction a song takes, how it is performed. My guitarist Jeff Freling and I work really well together in terms of discovering how a song should feel.

Favorite music release of 2010 so far?

I loved the new Spoon, Surfer Blood, the Drums, LCD Sound System, the Black Keys and Yeasayer. But I think I have to say that the National's High Violet is getting them all of this crazy attention and they really deserve it. The slow burn is a hard thing to pull off in this immediately gratified age, and damn do they pull it off. They are a truly great band, who have been putting out great albums for ages. Although I must say, the Strokes have a new record coming in September and after they all did their solo projects and came back together, I think they could be making the record of the year.

Best live show you've seen recently?

I recently saw GIRLS at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and it was an incredible experience. I had the chance to chat with Christopher Owens before the show, and he had these eyes that looked like they had crossed ancient oceans. The music captured that. They are easily in my top five of bands right now and the sort of sublime riot that they are onstage is really disarming.

A while back I did an interview for WCR with your brother and fellow musician, Mark Minelli, who also makes great music here in Chicago. How would you say you guys compare and contrast artistically? Do you ever collaborate, and if so, how?

Well, we played together in college and we were both just starting out. Now we get together weekly and just trade songs. We critique, get jealous, keep a healthy unspoken competition and I think it is a really good thing. He writes folk music and I write rock, but when we were kids, we were both obsessed with Disney music, so sometimes I think we are both playing out those types of musical fantasies in our lives with varying styles and personalities. He is really damn good so it is constantly a challenge for me to be on top of things and get better. People would be well served to check him out.

You recently moved back to Chicago after spending some time living in Milwaukee. What differences have you noticed between the music scenes in the two cities?

Milwaukee has a great music scene and people are very serious about supporting art in that city. I really love it. The pace is different due to the population difference, but the fact that it is smaller allows for people and shows to be a bit more concentrated. There are so many bands in Chicago that sometimes it can be a bit hard for a music fan to focus, or find what they are looking for. I really like the idea of establishing a scene, that is something we are really invested in. And what you can get from a crowd in Chicago, I don't think you can get from anywhere else. I mean, we survive these winters together, and the traffic and all that big city living, that when we get the chance to become a united force, a crowd, there is this Midwestern rebellion that comes out.

Since moving back to Chicago you've become involved with the Chicago Roots Collective, a group of local musicians that help support one another and spread the word about each others' music. How did you come to be a part of that and how do you think the CRC can benefit the Chicago music scene?

We have a great working relationship with friends in band called Molehill and they originally got us involved in the CRC. It is exciting, people acting on the obvious yet sort of untapped idea of supporting each other to get the music heard. I think introducing musicians who want to work with each other and make progress together, who aren't scared of seeing another band succeed, is a really exciting prospect.

(For more details on the Collective, check out Bobby's recent article)

Speaking of the CRC, the Gentlemen's Club are getting ready to play Lincoln Hall Sunday, June 20 with other CRC bands. What can people expect and why should they be sure not to miss it?

This is our first chance to play Lincoln Hall, which is truly an amazing venue and worth seeing in its own right. And with the CRC, there is always a guarantee of a killer lineup. It is the Gentlemen's Club's first show in Chicago in a couple of months so we are chomping at the proverbial bit. And we are, and please quote me on this, "hungry." I know there are a million bands out there and it is hard to choose what to see in a city this large. If you come out, we'll take it as a challenge. We'll prove it to you.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

New late-night talk show to feature Chicago musicians

Chicago's Second City will soon be home to a weekly, live, "late-night"-style talk show that will not only feature comedy and chats with notable guests, but also serve as a platform for Windy City musicians.

The show, dubbed "The Late Live Show," will take place at midnight every Saturday night at Second City's de Maat Theater (1616 N. Wells Ave.) beginning June 26. Locally-based comedians Joe Kwaczala and C.J. Toledano will bring their humor to the show as co-hosts, and the variety format will also include a live music performance each installment. So far, the following Chicago-centric list of acts have been lined up for the first five shows:

June 26 - Tom Schraeder
July 3 - David McMillin
July 10 - The Heligoats
July 17 - Gold Motel
July 24 - The Nothingheads

While Kwaczala explained to us that "The Late Live Show" has been developed to be first and foremost a live experience, the shows will also be filmed and there are plans to make them available to view online, and possibly on TV.

All shows will be free, but tickets can also be purchased for $5 in advance to guarantee a seat. Click here for more information.

Get ready for West Fest

The full music lineup has been announced for this year's West Fest, West Town's annual street fair. The fest will take place on Saturday, July 10 and Sunday, July 11 on Chicago Ave. between Damen and Wood, and here's what's in store, via Empty Bottle Presents, for each day on the main stage:

Saturday, July 10: YAWN (1 p.m.), Beach Fossils (2:30 p.m.), Bloodiest (4 p.m.), Class Actress (5:30 p.m.), Fucked Up (7 p.m.), Jonathan Toubin (8:30 p.m.)

Sunday, July 11: Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps (1 p.m.), Light Pollution (2:30 p.m.), Dominique Young Unique (4 p.m.), The Life & Times (5:30 p.m.), Small Black (7 p.m.), We Were Promised Jetpacks (8:30 p.m.)

There will also be a second stage with DJ performances, which you can find out more about here.

West Fest will run from noon to 10 p.m. on both days, with a suggested $5 donation for admission to benefit West Town Chicago Chamber of Commerce and West Town’s Commercial Park.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples share thoughts on collaboration

Photo: Spencer Tweedy (spencertweedy.com)

Recently, Wilco front man Jeff Tweedy and iconic gospel singer Mavis Staples joined in Wilco's Chicago studio, The Loft, to collaborate on Staples' upcoming album, You Are Not Alone (out September 14). Not only is the record produced by Tweedy, it also features two songs that he penned - the title track and "Only the Lord Knows." Now, the two are sharing their thoughts on the songs and their experiences working together.

"I have almost everything she's ever recorded, and I dug back through very thoroughly when I was given this job to do," Tweedy said in a press release. "I thought that if I refreshed myself about where she's been, it would help her figure out where she wanted to go. I wanted to be sure that we were making a record that she really wanted to make."

Of her time working with Tweedy, Staples said, "He would listen to my conversations, my words, and then feed off that...The songs he wrote take me places I wouldn't normally go. I wasn't used to singing this way, but it felt really good."

The release also provides a bit of detail on both Tweedy-penned songs. It explains how Staples was so touched by the emotional title track that she shed tears while singing it, thinking of her father. The singer describes the other track, "Only the Lord Knows," as politically-themed.

"You talk to this one, listen to that one, pick up the paper, but you can't get any answers. The White House, the church - I can't get any straight answers to the things I want to know," she said. "So for now, we're on our own, and we have to go to the Lord. He's the only one who knows."

For more details on the album, check out this post from our friends at loudlooppress.com.

Staples is set to perform at Lollapalooza in Chicago's Grant Park on Friday, August 6.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Video: The Dirty Diamonds - 'The Right Direction'

Anything that attempts to get my attention by introducing itself as sounding like what would happen "if Iggy Pop and the Shangri-Las had somehow found a way to get together and play" will more than likely succeed. As was the case with an e-mail introducing Chicago's The Dirty Diamonds, who recently released their second EP, Monster Ballads (I know what you're thinking and no, nothing on it sounds like Skid Row's "I Remember You"). You can download the EP here.

I personally hear more Shangri-Las than Iggy here, with some Ronnie Spector thrown, all wrapped up in shiny, modern, funky packaging. Think Amy Winehouse, only without the whole off-putting "train wreck" thing. I dig.

Check out the video for one of the EP's songs, "The Right Direction," below, which they claim pays homage to Sonic Youth, Kenneth Anger and Sum 41's "Fat Lip." If you like what you hear/see, check out the band live on Saturday, July 3 at Lincoln Hall with The Heavy.

Check this out: The Chicago Roots Collective

One year ago in this fine city, several musicians got together with the common goal of supporting each other and each others' music. The idea emerged among them that perhaps they could further their progress, professionally and creatively, while traversing Chicago's music scene in a unique way - as a collective. Yesterday I sat down with founding members of this group, the Chicago Roots Collective, and we talked about our fair city, all it has going for it, hopes for the future and making it work in the modern age.

I was very interested in the origins of the collective and the goal of the endeavor when setting out. Founding member Donnie Biggins, of the Shams Band, described the idea of a community where musicians supported each other by attending shows and spreading each others' music, and weren't constrained by the "one against the world" odds that many bands feel they are facing in trying to do what they love.

"It is important for everyone to let their guard down and to support each other because we all have similar goals," Donnie said.

Additional founders Peter Manhart and Trevor Jones, of Molehill, agreed, saying that the idea of uniting to achieve more in a city with so much potential seemed like a much-needed one.

In the past year, the CRC has presented several impressive showcases, drawing some of the largest hometown crowds in the city. These showcases always feature a lineup drawn from the 10 CRC bands and have been met with serious success and community response.

Going forward the collective hopes to expand, having already incorporated visual artists by hanging work in venues to represent a community that is achieving a great deal very visibly in Chicago. The fellas I sat down with were completely invested in the idea of partnering with radio stations, record labels and anyone who would like to get involved. I wouldn't be surprised if you saw them with a Lollapalooza showcase next summer.

I have often heard and observed that here in Chicago, due to extreme competition among venues and bands, there is no distillation of scene, so to speak. That is to say that at any given venue on any given night, one might see traditional Japanese folk music one night and then cosmic death metal the very next - hell, maybe even on the same bill. With the departure of legendary poet Thax Douglas, who left Chicago for Austin late last year - a decision he described as a direct response to an observed atomization of and lack of hunger in the Chicago music scene - some Chicago musicians want to prove just how hungry this city can be. In the case of the CRC, hungry enough to work together for a common goal. While the CRC isn't exclusive with regards to genre and style, they do set up a cohesive show, where the people paying for the music know they are getting a set of kick-ass independent bands.

In a day and age where it is becoming increasingly common to see groups of musicians creating a scene and mutually benefiting from the exposure, the CRC seems to have the right idea.

The CRC will host its fourth Lincoln Hall showcase on Sunday, June 20 from 7:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Tickets (available here) are $7 and the show will feature The Gentlemen's Club, Soul Vendor, Molehill, Jackpot Donnie and Jimmy Zangrilli.

If you would like to learn more, get involved or simply check out upcoming shows you can find the collective at www.chicagorootscollective.com.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Show review: Concrete Blonde at the Vic, 6/12

A reunited Concrete Blonde, one of alternative rock's original and most dynamic bands, played Chicago's Vic Theatre Saturday night as the fourth stop on a national tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their most successful album, Bloodletting.

Considering the band had been inactive as a unit since 2004 with, up until recently, no plans to get back together, it was hard to know exactly what to expect from the show going in. But all it took was the creeping, menacing guitar intro of "Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)," the apparent enthusiasm from the large, obviously dedicated crowd, and the commanding appearance of front woman Johnette Napolitano looking entirely ready to rock to signal that it was going to be one hell of a night. And it was.

After a slithering version of the song did its job getting fans to sing along, the band continued the set with four more Bloodletting tracks. A solid version of their biggest commercial hit, "Joey," surprisingly didn't seem to get quite as much of a crowd reaction as some of the lesser-known songs in the set. Rocker "Days and Days" and two of the album's most beautiful, more laid-back tracks - "I Don't Need a Hero" and "Lullabye" - sounded incredibly fresh. Later, they played two more tracks off the record, the sad, eerie "Caroline" and a particularly powerful version of the Andy Prieboy-penned "Tomorrow, Wendy," both of which are Concrete Blonde staples. After reading reports of "Caroline" not being played on previous stops of the tour, I was relieved to hear the band kick into it Saturday night - a show celebrating Bloodletting just wouldn't seem complete without it. "Tomorrow, Wendy," an always-moving song about dealing with loss, reached new heights as Napolitano began singing in a fragile, wounded voice behind a hood and her mess of hair, eventually letting loose for the most powerful lines ("I told the priest don't count on any second coming/God got his ass kicked the first time he came down here slumming/He had the balls to come the gall to die and then forgive us/No, I don't wonder why, I wonder what he thought it would get us").

In the end, the band played seven of the 10 songs from the album the tour was put together to celebrate. While "The Beast," "Darkening of the Light" and "The Sky Is a Poisonous Garden" would have been no less welcome than the ones that made the cut, it was ultimately for the best that they made room for a variety of tracks from their other albums. All corners of the Concrete Blonde sound were represented, from hard rock ("God Is a Bullet," "Run Run Run") to poppier fare ("Someday?," "Happy Birthday") to punk ("Your Haunted Head," "Still in Hollywood"). They even played two of their best covers, Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows" and Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing."

Perhaps the biggest show-stopper, though, was one of the most obscure songs in the set, "When I Was a Fool" from the group's 2002 reunion album, Group Therapy. Napolitano delivered the track's lyrics - which deal with self-acceptance and maturation but at the same time are laced with bitterness - with unbelievable intensity and had the crowd 100 percent transfixed.

It should also be mentioned that Jim Mankey's howling guitar work sounds as amazing as ever - playing a major part in what gives Concrete Blonde their bite and distinctive style - and that drummer Gabriel Ramirez also did a fantastic job.

You never really know what to expect when a band hits the road again after years of not playing together. It could lead to mediocre, or even downright bad results. Fans might not show up. Tensions and rustiness could hinder the music. In Concrete Blonde's case, though, the respite seems to have given them even more fire. With a band that has always been as naturally thrilling, though, I guess there was never any reason to worry.

1. Bloodletting (The Vampire Song)
2. Joey
3. I Don't Need a Hero
4. Days and Days
5. Lullabye
6. Scene of a Perfect Crime
7. Ghost of a Texas Ladies' Man
8. Someday?
9. Everybody Knows
10. Caroline
11. When I Was a Fool
12. God Is a Bullet
13. Run Run Run
14. Little Wing
15. Heal It Up
16. Your Haunted Head
17. Mexican Moon
18. Happy Birthday
19. True
20. Tomorrow, Wendy
21. Still in Hollywood

Friday, June 11, 2010

Audio: An interview with Chicago band Secret Colours

By Susan Schomburg

It's been a busy time for Chicago-based psych-rock band Secret Colours. They are playing a double album release show for their first full-length, Secret Colours, tonight at Lincoln Hall with Gold Motel (also releasing an album) and Mini Mansions. I got a chance to catch up with them recently and taped an interview and live acoustic set for the Green Room Sessions interview series on the Indiesomnia! podcast, which is well worth a listen (as is the new album).

Tickets for tonight's show at Lincoln Hall (6 pm, $10, all ages) are available here.

Secret Colours' Indiesomnia Green Room Sessions Setlist:



Some Might Say*

Chemical Swirl*


Set Me Free

*Acoustic version of Secret Colours album track

To listen to the interview/acoustic set, please visit the podcast at indiesomnia.com!

This article also appears on the Chicago Indie Rock Examiner blog.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Weekend Show picks: Concrete Blonde, The Fleshtones, Gold Motel and more

Gold Motel

Friday, June 11

- Gold Motel at Lincoln Hall with Secret Colours and Mini Mansions - Take just one listen to Gold Motel's newly-released debut LP, Summer House, and you'll see how it would be near-impossible for this record release show not to be a guaranteed good time. Driven by the vibrant, honey-sweet vocals of singer-songwriter Greta Morgan (of The Hush Sound), breezy, 60s-esque melodies and a band with tons of energy, Gold Motel offer up plenty for any fan of summery indie pop to geek out about. To learn more, check out our recent interview with Morgan here. Local indie psych-rock act Secret Colours will also celebrate a new record with an opening set. 6 p.m., $10, all ages. Tickets.

- The Psychedelic Furs at Metro with She Wants Revenge - There's a whole lot of new bands around trying to do the whole post-punk/new wave thing, but you can rarely top the originals. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., $27.50, 18 and over. Tickets.

-The Dutchess & the Duke at the Empty Bottle with Mazes and Black Nag - The Empty Bottle should be an especially great place to check out the Seattle folk-rock duo. Be sure to arrive early for Chicago's own Black Nag and Mazes, the latter of which are busy with various releases and performances this month, detailed here. 10 p.m., $12, 21 and over. Tickets.

Saturday, June 12

- Concrete Blonde at The Vic with Jim Bianco - Vampires might be all the rage these days, but classic L.A. alternative band Concrete Blonde were writing songs about 'em back in 1990 on their best-known record, Bloodletting. This Chicago stop is part of a brief tour that finds the band reuniting to celebrate the LP's 20th anniversary. With Johnette Napolitano's deeply-impassioned vocals and songwriting and Jim Mankey's howling guitar work by all accounts as powerful as ever, this should be one hell of a show. 7:30 p.m., $28.50, 18 and over. Tickets.

- The Fleshtones at Bottom Lounge with The Goldstars, Teenage Imposters, Tomorrow the Moon and The Earth Program - Speaking of classic bands, New York garage rockers The Fleshtones have been doin' their thing and doin' it well since 1976, and they'll continue to do it at Bottom Lounge Saturday night. Get there early for some cool openers, including Chicago's The Earth Program, a unique ear-catching act who describe themselves as "retro spooky space punk" (free album stream/download here). 7 p.m., $13, 21 and over. Tickets.

- Blah Blah Blah and YAWN at Hideout - You might have read about these two Chicago-based bands right here on Windy City Rock. The former has a wonderful Brit-pop-influenced style (more here), while the latter have a lush sound that's a bit Vampire Weekend-meets-Animal Collective (EP review here). Both would be well worth checking out on their own, so this bill is an opportunity to see two exciting Chicago indie bands at once. 9 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets.

Sunday, June 13

- Look Mexico, A Lull, Victor Fix the Sun and Dick Wolf at Subterranean - Tallahassee-based indie rockers Look Mexico will play Sunday night as part of a national tour in support of their sophomore record, To Bed to Battle. Doors 7:30, show 8 p.m., $8 advance, $10 day of show, 17 and over. Tickets.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mazes announce new releases, shows

It's going to be a busy month for Mazes, Chicago's lo-fi psych-pop group featuring Edward Anderson and Caroline Donovan from the 1900s.

First, the band are planning two new digital releases for Tuesday, June 15 on Bandcamp - a single that was originally released via 7" vinyl in celebration of this year's Record Store Day, as well as a free collection of remixed tracks from their 2009 debut.

The single - My Imagination/Mazes Messes' - which Mazes actually consider to be their second album, features seven songs in seven minutes recorded over seven days (and, of course, originally released on 7"). All in the form of two tracks, an A side and a B side.

Mazzzes, the remix/de-mix album featuring 11 tracks from the band's debut reworked and re-imagined by friends and fans, will also be available. The entire collection will be up for grabs at no cost come the 15th, but for now you can download one of the tracks here:

Download mp3: Mazes - "Things I Threw in the Well" (Scott Masson mix)

If that weren't enough, the band will be recording a brand new album this month and have a series of Chicago gigs lined up. The shows are in celebration of bassist/vocalist Tom Smith's imminent relocation to San Francisco, which Mazes aren't considering a hindrance to their continuation. "None of us think of the band as ending. We'll be recording another album. We plan on going to SF and NY to play...collaborate long distance...we see it as expanding in a way," says Anderson.

The live dates are:

June 11 at the Empty Bottle w/Duchess & The Duke
June 12 at Old Town Fest
June 24 at Millennium Park (noon)
July 2 at the Hideout

Monday, June 7, 2010

Free LP from Chicago's Tyranny of Dave

Regular readers might remember that we recently posted a great tune from Chicago-based Americana/alternative songwriter Dave Wechsler (a.k.a Tyranny of Dave) called "The Greatest Generation." Influenced by The Talking Heads' "Naive Melody" and described by Wechsler as "the most danceable song ever written about the collapse of the WTC," it definitely piqued our interest for more. Now, he has released the full album the song came from, The Decline of America Part One: The Bush Years, for free download via Bandcamp.

Described as "A musical travelogue through the Bush Years, from the fall of the WTC to the financial crisis," the LP's 12 songs deal not only with the political events of recent years, but also Wechsler's personal life over that time period.

From the press release for the record:

"When G.W. Bush got elected, Dave Wechsler was newly married, happily employed, had a critically acclaimed band, Pi├▒ataland, and was generally living the life he wanted to be living. By 2009, he was divorced, unemployed, had tenuous connections with the band, and was generally moping about his Chicago apartment without doing much of anything at all. The Decline of America Part One: The Bush Years is his chronicle of those years, meshing his personal failures of the aughts with the decade╩╝s political strife."

Grab the record here!

Video: I Fight Dragons - 'Heads Up, Hearts Down'

Chicago-based Nintendo-pop troupe I Fight Dragons have gone all "Avatar" on us.

The band just released the music video for their tune "Heads Up, Hearts Down," and in true modern-day blockbuster fashion, it's in 3D. The 3D glasses were handed out at their recent shows, but luckily you can still watch the video (complete with wacky bowling alley hi-jinks) just fine without them. Check it out below.

I Fight Dragons have been doing quite well for themselves lately. Since you first read about them here back in early 2009, the band have signed to Photo Finish / Atlantic Records, have been touring extensively and will soon complete their debut LP.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Q&A: Holdfast

It's always great to come across a young, newly-formed band that bursts out of the gate running and makes it clear they have their sights set on big things. Chicago five-piece Holdfast certainly fits that description.

The band formed just this past winter as students at DePaul, and they've already accomplished quite a bit in their brief time together. They've opened for Guster, Ludacris and The Cool Kids as winners in a DePaul battle of the bands competition, are nearly done recording an EP and are already planning a full-length.

Holdfast will play their next show this Saturday, June 5, at Jerry's in Wicker Park (1938 W Division St.). Their set will start at 11:45 p.m., so if you'll be at Do-Divison fest prior (or even if you won't be), be sure to head over and show these guys some support.

The band took some time to answer a few questions for WCR, so read on to get to know them better. And while you're at it, preview the forthcoming EP by grabbing a free download of one of their tunes at the link below.

Download mp3: Holdfast - "Lollipop"

WCR: First off, tell us about how and when Holdfast came together and your time as a unit so far.

Chris Ash (vocals, guitar): I come from Edwardsville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis. I knew I wanted to go to a college in a larger city so I could be part of a large music community. When I came to Chicago, Derek, my friend from home, Easton (Gruber, bass and vocals), whom I met at DePaul, and I started Holdfast. We played one show. Then Derek eventually left the group and Danny (Cohen, guitars and vocals), David (Curtin, guitars), and Anthony joined in that order over the next couple of months. We started recording before David and Anthony (Martins, drums) joined, but we did some backtracking and now we're almost finished with our new EP Like the Sun.

What kind of styles/sounds can we expect to hear on the EP?

Danny: We all come from different musical backgrounds, and we're all into different things. The EP is essentially going to be a rock record, but there are a lot of elements that come into play from each band member that don't necessarily fit into that world. There are a lot of folk and country aspects, I think, as well as some pop.

You're currently offering one track, "Lollipop," for free download. What's the story behind that song? Where did you record it?

Chris: We recorded the whole EP at DePaul University where we go to school, with our friend Andrew Scherer. He's in the music school as a sound recording technology student. As for the song, the lyrics came out of my need to focus on the present.

What are some other bands or artists you get inspiration from that might come through in the music? What about influences that would be less obvious?

Chris: Radiohead, The Shins, Andrew Bird.

Danny: I think those are the ones that stand out in the music. I listen to a lot of Jon Brion.

Easton: Dr. Dog.

Although you guys just came together recently you've been able to play some gigs, including a set at Subterranean. How have they been going?

Danny: Its been great! We got to open for Guster last Friday at DePaul, and they were the nicest guys. I'm excited to be playing shows like this one on Saturday, I want to keep meeting local bands and making friends with them.

For future shows, which venues would you most like to play? What bands - either local or beyond - would you most like to play with?

Danny: Having grown up going to shows in Chicago, I'm always really excited when we play places like the Subterranean. There is a possibility of a Reggies show, although we haven't finished figuring out the details yet. If we ever got to play a show with This is Me Smiling or The Hush Sound, I would be thrilled and honored.

What do you hope Holdfast will have been able to accomplish by this time next year?

Easton: We're hoping to have a full length album out by that time, and we'd also love to be playing with other bands and just being a part of a network of musicians.

Where can people go for more information and to keep up on the band?


From there, you can find links to all of our other pages, like Facebook and Reverbnation. You can join our mailing list at http://reverbnation.com/holdfastband, and we'll keep everyone updated on upcoming shows.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Show preview: Apteka, Panda Riot and Sissy Mena at Subterranean, 6/10


Gapers Block recently ran an excellent, comprehensive article written by Jon Graef about the “blooming shoegazer scene” in Chicago, highlighting some of the city’s up-and-coming bands that have a fondness for the fuzzy guitars and dreamlike sounds associated with the genre. On Thursday, June 10, Subterranean will host a musical equivalent to a sampler platter of these bands, with three of featured in the article - Apteka, Panda Riot and Sissy Mena - in the lineup. Here’s a little background on each to get you up to speed:

These guys have been around since '06 and have a loud, full sound that blends elements of shoegaze with psychedelia. They've just released a new 7" single called "Traitors," backed by a tune called "Aragon Sound" (Aragon sound is no longer just a hot topic of discussion among Chicago music fans - it's now officially a song title!). They'll release another 7" soon, and have even been caught covering the Thompson Twins in concert (see below). How's that for awesomely random?

Panda Riot
With airy female vocals supplied by Rebecca Scott over a gorgeous, ethereal backdrop, any dream-pop fan would have a tough time resisting the charms of Panda Riot. The band formed in Philadelphia but are currently stationed here in the Windy City. Their new EP Far & Near is a testament to their talent, featuring six songs that combine classic elements of the genre with electronic touches for ear-catching results. Have a look at the video for one of the tracks, "Motown Glass," below:

Sissy Mena
We first gave you a heads up about trio Sissy Mena back in December, when the band was getting ready for their EP release show at Double Door. The EP, Young Girl, is a strong introduction, using shoegaze as a base but not confining itself to anything that's quite that easy to categorize. Check out this video of the band performing one of the tracks, “Udellia,” on smallchicago.com:

Sissy Mena- Udellia from Milk Products on Vimeo.

The show is 21 and over, starts at 8:30 p.m. (doors at 8 p.m.) and will run you $8. Tickets are available here.

Reggies seeking street-teamers

Reggies is on the hunt for street-teamers to help get the word out about shows and other events at Reggies Rock Club, Reggies Music Joint and Record Breakers! And to show their appreciation for those who help, they are offering all street-teamers free access to four of their shows per month.

To participate, you have to be at least 16-years-old, live in the Chicago area and be able to put flyers up at least once a week.

If you're interested in getting involved, Reggies asks that you shoot a note to reggieslive@gmail.com with your availability as well as answers to the following questions:

-Why do you want to be part of the Reggies street team?
-Who are your top five favorite bands?