Saturday, July 31, 2010

Showlist: Lollapalooza weekend aftershows still on sale

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Blitzen Trapper
Although the best way to catch a lot of the bands playing at this year's Lollapalooza music festival is to go to the fest itself, standing around in the August heat with thousands of other people is not everyone's favorite thing to do. If you're up for a concert, but not for the festival experience, there are still a lot of Lolla pre- and aftershows in town starting the day before the fest. Although a lot of Lolla aftershows have already sold out, at the time of publication, all of the following listings still have tickets available. Tickets for the show in question are available by clicking on the related venue name. I highly recommend shows marked with an asterisk (*), with my top weekend pick being Blitzen Trapper's aftershow Saturday. And if you just want to see live music at a good venue (and don't particularly care if the bands are also playing at the festival), there is a list of some recommended Lolla alternatives at the end of this article.

Thursday, August 5:

**Cymbals Eat Guitars, Young Galaxy at Schubas (9 pm, 18+, $15)

**The Big Pink, White Car, and Night Gallery at Lincoln Hall (9 pm, 18+, $20)

*The New Pornographers, The Dodos at Metro (9 pm, 21+, $31)

Company of Thieves, These United States at House of Blues Chicago Back Porch Stage (9 pm, 21+, $14 adv/$16 door)

Devo, Dirty Projectors at Congress Theater (7:30 pm, all ages, $35)

Slightly Stoopid, Collie Buddz, New Kingston at House of Blues Chicago (9 pm, 17+, $35.50 adv)

Friday, August 6:

*Wild Beasts, The Kissaway Trail, Lone Wolf at Empty Bottle (10 pm, 21+, $15)

The Ettes, American Bang at House of Blues Chicago Back Porch Stage (11 pm, 21+, $14 adv/$16 door)

MGMT, Francis and the Lights, AWOLNATION at House of Blues Chicago (11 pm, 17+, $80 adv)

Saturday, August 7:

***Blitzen Trapper, Avi Buffalo at Lincoln Hall (11 pm, 18+, $20)

**The Soft Pack, Royal Bangs at Schubas (11 pm, 18+, $15)

*WAVVES, Harlem, Ferguson & Geronimo at Empty Bottle (11 pm, 21+, $15)

The Cribs, Warpaint at Cubby Bear (10 pm, 21+, FREE)

The National, Antlers at House of Blues Chicago (11 pm, 17+, $33 adv)

Sunday, August 8:

Health, Chandeliers at Reggie's (10pm, 17+, $10 adv/$13 door)

Chiddy Bang, Donnis, XV, Vonnegutt & FreeSol at Subterranean (10 pm, 17+, $15)

Phoenix, Toro Y Moi at House of Blues Chicago (11 pm, 17+, $37.50 adv)

Digitalism DJ set with special guests at Lincoln Hall (9 pm, 18+, $20 adv/$25 door)

I also recommend the following non-Lollapalooza shows going on the same weekend:

Thursday 8/5: The Laureates, Village, Like Pioneers, Tell Your Friends at Subterranean (8:30 pm, 21+, $8)

Friday 8/6: Night Gallery (record release), White Car, Deep Earth at Hideout (10 pm, 21+, $8)

Concert review: Mission of Burma at Subterranean 7/30/10

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Mission of Burma (photo by Susan Schomburg)
This evening's show at Subterranean was very enjoyable. The venue itself is intimate without being too close for comfort, and it's usually possible to find a good spot in the room (or upstairs balcony) to enjoy the show.

Opening act The Poison Arrows kicked things off with a set of weighty shoegaze that tugs your ear in a number of directions without having anyone in particular to compare them to. Their frontman doesn't quite sing, but rather has a recitative chant that floats over heavy bass and drums, informed by guitar and synth effects.

The only problem I had with the band, as their set wore on, was the increasing feeling of repetition I felt between their songs. They were all played at more or less the same tempo, which wouldn't be so bad if they'd employed a different form. Instead, most of the songs employed a rather narrow repertoire of musical devices and structure. They all had a kind of slow build to them, starting from nothing and working their way up to a big, epic middle section, which may or may not stop mid-song after a climactic moment (usually pausing for long enough that they confused the audience into applauding for the end of a song that wasn't half over yet), only to turn around and, after cementing the climactic moment by repeating it, dwindle the songs back down to nothing, with endings that feel more like fade-outs on albums than three guys playing things live on a stage (and who knows, on an album, it might work a lot better).

The sonic textures they created were interesting and entertaining, but for my money, the overuse of a narrow bag of formal tricks made their songs smack of dilettantism. Nevertheless, their music was enjoyable, and it was nice to sit back, nod your head along to the beat of the drums, and let the sounds wash over you.

Chicago's D. Rider took the middle spot, performing a set of weird, discordant avant-rock with a strangely hypnotic live show. Their charismatic frontman/guitarist threw shapes like nobody's business, owning the stage in a bizarre mix of spastic energy and contorted control. Two keyboard synth players augmented the band's sound, at times also chiming in on bari sax and trumpet, which added an unsettling harmoniousness to the songs. The crisp, pulsing beat of the drums held the band's sound together and gave the audience something to hang their ear on.

Add to all this the frontman occasionally digging into his pocket and throwing out a handful of confetti during songs, and it's clear that the band flirts with the line between avant-garde and downright pretension, but they seem to have the chops to back it up. If their performance this evening was typical, I would highly recommend checking them out the next time they play live in town.

Headliners Mission of Burma first met, and then exceeded expectations with respect to their live performance. I was pleased to find that their live sound, as on their albums, is brash, bold, and larger than life, and their live show is a lot of fun to watch. Guitarist Roger Miller moves around a lot, swaying and shaking to the beat and creating a visual flourish to those biting guitar flourishes that make the band so exciting to listen to. From behind a plexiglass wall set up around his kit, drummer Peter Prescott laid down booming, bombastic beats and chimed in on vocals. On bass, Clint Conley cemented the band's live sound, and his facial expressions while singing were particularly entertaining.

It was clear during the set that the band was having a really good time, and the crowd ate it up. In response to one fan's repeated shouts of "Louder!" between songs, Miller elicited laughter from the audience with his suggestion that he "Go stand right next to the P.A., it does the same thing."

After a fair amount of cheering, the band returned to the stage, doing a four-song encore that closed the evening in a blaze of energy, kicking the show up from pretty great to excellent. People got especially rowdy during "That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate", dancing and moshing and singing along to all of the numbers the band did in their well-earned encore.

If you missed out on tonight's show, you can still catch Mission of Burma tomorrow (Saturday, July 31) at the 2010 Wicker Park Festival (they are scheduled to play on the North Stage at 7:30 pm). Admission to the all-ages festival is free with a suggested donation of $5.

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

'Nasty, poppy, '60s, weird': In the studio with Chicago's King Sparrow

Posted by Frank

Photo by Catticut Palich
If you’ve visited this site with any regularity over the past couple years, you’ve probably seen the name “King Sparrow” more than once. When I dig something - when I really, truly believe something is special - I can’t shut up about it. And that is most certainly the case with King Sparrow, a Chicago indie three-piece who are hands down one of the most genuinely talented, sincere bands I’ve had the pleasure of hearing and getting to know since I began Windy City Rock.

The guys – vocalist/guitarist Eric Georgevich, bassist Sean Price and drummer John McGeown – are set to release their debut full-length this Fall with a record release show set for Friday, October 15 at Schubas, and recently invited me to spend some time with them in the studio as they worked through the mixing phase. They recorded the album this Spring with Brian Zieske at Gallery of Carpet studio, which we highlighted a while back in our article on some of the greatest recording studios in the Chicago area. Brian, Eric, Sean and John were all incredibly cool in letting me hang out and giving me a look into the process as they prepared their art to be unleashed unto the world.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Audio: Interview/live music session with Chicago band Soft Speaker

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Chicago band Soft Speaker has a lot going for them: vocals that are haunting and menacing (sometimes at the same time), ferocious bass and drums, and a sound that draws on many musical styles without overtly referencing any one thing.
I recently caught up with the band as they geared up for a single release show and small Midwest tour. The band talked about their beginnings, their success so far as a band, their approach to songwriting and music, and their single release show before playing a new song live at their rehearsal space in Chicago, Illinois.

The band's most recent release, a single/singles collection, was put out in an unusual way: at the single release show at Schubas on July 10, attendees received a coaster (beer mat) with a download code to download not only the new two-song release, but four previously released tracks.

The entire interview and an exclusive live performance by the band can be streamed on the Indiesomnia website.

Soft Speaker is scheduled to perform Wednesday, August 4 at Crimson Lounge (333 N. Dearborn St, Chicago).

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

Photo slideshow: Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Here We Go Magic performing at Pitchfork Fest

What a festival! For those of you going through live music withdrawal or already wishing for Pitchfork 2011, I have one final treat for you: a brief photo slideshow of some of the festival highlights. Whether you enjoyed the bombastic energy of a good show or just delight in live music well played, the festival delivered something for everybody to enjoy (even if it bordered on too mellow at times). And because the festival experience is more than just the people on the stage (even if some of them--Michael Showalter, I'm talking to you--gave up on their own sets), there are a few shots of people and sights you may recall from the festival, like the guy who lit a cigarette while crowd-surfing during Neon Indian's Sunday evening set, or people trying to find a way back home after the fest.

Enjoy the (complete) local trip down memory lane here.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Q&A: The Loneliest Monk

Posted by Frank

It would be hard not to be enchanted by The Loneliest Monk, a Chicago-based art rock duo made up of real-life couple Michelle Morales and Miles Benjamin. Both musically and visually, the duo is marked by a compelling mystique that instantly sets them apart as something special. Listening to their recently-released self-titled LP is kind of like experiencing a series arty mini-movies, each one unfolding with suspense, emotion, and allure. Rounding out the sound's overall unique vibe is Morales's beautiful cello work, which paints the material with classical flair, and the ear-catching dissonance created by Benjamin's playful tiny piano and percussion. Check out this mp3 of one of the album's tracks, "You Don't Have to Try," for a taste, and pick up the full record here or stream it below.

Seeing the duo live, though, completes the picture. They are intent on delivering not just a concert, but an experience - complete with costumes, sets and drama. It's a wonderful break from the norm, and you can see it for yourself at their next local show on Friday, July 30 at the Empty Bottle with La Scala and Violetness (click here for more information and tickets). In advance of the show, the two took some time out to answer a few questions for Windy City Rock. Read on to find out what they had to say.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Concert photos: Kings of Leon, Built to Spill at First Midwest Bank Amphiteater, 7/24

Kings of Leon's
current North American tour passed through the Windy City Saturday night at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheater, and photographer Mike Sullivan was there to capture the action! The band has teamed up with a variety of notable bands for this go-around, including the Black Keys, the Whigs and Built to Spill, who shared the stage in Chicago. Here are a few shots from both bands' sets.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Check this out: The Switchboard Sessions blog

Posted by Frank

Recently I came across The Switchboard Sessions, an excellent blog that spotlights bands in a truly unique way, inviting them to record songs over a landline telephone to be posted along with extremely thoughtful, thorough write-ups by the site's Chicago-based founder Dane Erbach. The muted, primitive nature of these phone recordings gives off a really cool, nostalgic vibe, like listening to some long-lost, long-forgotten pieces of music dug up in a dusty old attic. Not only does the site's phone-recording concept give it an original spin, the writing is notably insightful and informative, really getting down to the heart and soul of the artists and their work. Click here to learn more about Dane and the site.

Chicago indie rock favorites Kid, You'll Move Mountains were the subject of the latest session. The band recorded two songs for the site, a version of their own "No Applause," the closing track from their LP Loomings, as well as a cover of the Queen track "Nevermore" from the 1974 album Queen II. Two members of the band, Jim Hanke and Nina Lanthrum, feature on the tracks and deliver two really captivating little recordings. For more on the band, check out our Q&A with Jim from last fall.

Other bands featured on The Switchboard Sessions to date include Everyone Everywhere, Murder by Death and Heartsounds, to name a few. I know I'll be keeping an eye on the site to see who shows up next, and I hope you'll stop over there, have a look around and check back often.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ticket giveaway! The Dead Weather at Congress Theater, 7/30

Following our Devo/Dirty Projectors ticket giveaway last week, we now have a pair of guest list spots up for grabs for alt-rock supergroup The Dead Weather with Harlem at Congress Theater on Friday, July 30! It's bound to be a kickass show, and we want to give you the chance to see it for free.

To get in the running,  just send us an e-mail with the subject line "Dead Weather show" and your first and last name in the body of the message, and we'll select a winner at random to receive spots for you and a friend on the guest list courtesy of React Presents. We'll be accepting entries for the contest until 5 p.m. CST today, July 21.

Good luck!

Update: The contest is closed and a winner has been selected. Thanks to all who entered!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nashville via Chicago: Clark Paterson

Posted by Bobby

I recently attended an excellent in store performance at the very cool Hard Boiled Records on Roscoe. It was an intimate song sharing session with emerging folk country Chicago artist Mark Minelli (more on him coming soon) and Nashville singer-songwriter Clark Paterson. Clark went to Loyola and frequently returns to Chicago to play for friends and a growing fanbase. While having a few PBRs and perusing the vinyl I asked Clark if he'd answer a few questions for the ole blog. Clark's no bullshit earnestness and appreciation for listeners are very becoming in the oh-so-fashionable indie scene and he was more than happy to oblige.

Bobby: You went to school here in Chicago and then music took you to Nashville. What has been your experience in the two cities? Did you play any music here in Chicago before you left?

Clark: Nashville is a mid-sized city that is full of musicians, music fans and music-related businesses. It's a funky little town that has some great people and some southern charm. Chicago, on other hand, is a big city with a Midwestern charm. Chicago is a great town and has very mild summers which are very enjoyable to me now! The summers are rough in Nashville. Both are my favorite towns in America.

I played some small shows in Chicago but never really hit my stride with writing and performing until i moved down to Nashville. Nashville just makes you up your game! You are constantly exposed to people who are really talented and it pushes you to deliver the goods.

We're both big fans of the Boss. When you're writing, how present are your influences? I heard you and others say at shows, "this is me tryin' to be..." Do you hope to get there or is trying good enough?

As far as musical influences there are three dudes who make me want to make good, honest music. One is Bruce Springsteen. He is the most consistent and talented dude in the game. He is the musical equivalent to Brett Favre. You can't stop him and he always shows up and delivers. The Boss has so many sides to his music. It's an American stew mixed with rock, country, folk, and soul music. He is the cat's ass as far as music goes. The other two dudes who make me wanna make better music are Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam. Both were cats who had their own styles and stuck to their guns.

As far as writing better music and trying to be as good as my influences, I would like to be as good as them, but on their worst days (laughs)...but I would like to get better and better and keep pushin' on.

You have toured a lot recently - best story?

I have many funny stories. This year I was touring through Japan and there were days that I wouldn't speak any English. It was strange, but the people there were very kind to me. I wanted to sample a lot of the Japanese food. The only problem is when the club owners and bartenders would take me to dinner before the show they always ordered for me because I couldn't read the menu. It was very kind of them to take me out for supper, but they always ordered the same two things for me. It was kinda funny. I think I had every variation of hamburger steak and salisbury steak the country has to offer. Just struck me as such a funny coincendence.

What can we expect in the future?

I am touring thru Sweden/Finland in August and I am very excited about that. I am playing a lot of shows in the Midwest this fall so that will be a treat to catch up with old friends, too! I just made my first T-shirt this weekend and that's always fun to make more merchandise because it's cool to make new things that say your name on 'em! I am also cutting two new tracks this Fall and putting out a 7" recording.

Nice, Clark. I'll keep an eye out for it.

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Festival 2010: Best of the fest

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Titus Andronicus performing July 17 at Pitchfork
The dust has finally settled from this year's Pitchfork Music Festival; for those who went and need some help remembering it, or for those who weren't there but want to pretend they were, I offer you this best-of-fest recap.

Friday's musical delights came from The Tallest Man on Earth, who, armed only with an acoustic guitar and a half-hour of stage time, played a beautiful set of folk influenced by bluegrass and awesome. Liars also made an excellent impression with a live show that included plenty of visual spectacle courtesy of charismatic frontman Angus Andrew.

Saturday's stand-out performances came from live show powerhouses Titus Andronicus (anthemic punk with a wicked live show) and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (hypnotic blues punk complete with light equipment-smashing thrown into the bargain).

Sunday's schedule was packed with good bands, but there were a few bands that stood out from the pack. Local Natives, who combine Fleet Foxes-esque vocal harmonies with nostalgic songwriting and an exciting live show, were one of the best acts I saw at the festival. Beach House's dreamy, shoegazey indie was also lovely live, and Surfer Blood brought a lot of energy and excitement to their set. St Vincent's live show, although not particularly visually exciting, was so full of beautiful music and the energy that comes with live music performed well that you don't really mind her not dancing around the stage like she was on fire.

All three nights' headlining bands put on excellent shows; for my money, Saturday night's LCD Soundsystem was definitely the best of the three, as they managed to keep the evening's energy up and kept people dancing through their entire set.

In general, Pitchfork always feels like the best-run of the summer festivals to me; they manage to keep the herd of people generally healthy and happy during the three days they're milling around Union Park. I like the location, which is small enough to make it possible to see bands scheduled at conflicting times (less ground to cover between stages) while the stages are set up far enough apart not to have any major problems with sound bleed (when the band on the B stage was actually playing, you could not hear what was going on over at the A and C stages).

A few negative points: people complained a lot about the systems in place for buying alcohol. If you wanted to get a beer at the festival, you had to stand in three separate lines: one for a wristband (to prove you were 21), one for tickets (to pay in advance), and one for the beer itself. I can see why they did it that way; over the course of the festival, it would definitely streamline things not to have to card people multiple times and handle money at the beer tents, but I can also see how frustrating it would be to a person who just wants to get a beer and get back to the music.

Due to the hot weather, the line for the one water station this year was extremely long, to the point that I think many people just gave up on it and went without. The festival staff did their best to keep people safe, handing out water to the people in the audience at each stage (they offered it to people from the stage and from the sound booths), although instead of sharing it, many people just poked holes in the tops and sprayed it over people--which felt good for two seconds, but did not help dehydration. The staff and performers also encouraged people to stay responsible and get plenty of water, wear hats if they had them, and generally stay cool in the heat.

I felt like this year, the timing on the stages in the main festival area (A and C) was much more streamlined; there was hardly any waiting between acts, which meant there was always something entertaining going on. Although this meant it wasn't always possible to get close to acts on both stages, the LED television screens meant you could camp out by one stage during setup without missing the set going on at the other stage. The side stage (B), by having acts booked back to back and nothing going on to distract the audience between performances, seems to have a chronic problem of getting behind schedule.

The people at Pitchfork Fest seem to experiment with their approach to lineups. Last year's "Write the Night" idea--where fans wrote in to request songs for Friday night's bands to play--was interesting, although at times, it made for slightly stale sets, and there was quite a bit of waiting in between the night's four musical acts for setup and sound checks (only the main festival stages were open the first night; the B stage area was roped off). This year's idea, to have a stage devoted to stand-up comedy Friday night, proved more successful. People gathered around the stage, many sitting the whole evening in the shady grove where the B stage is placed each year. It provided a mellow respite from the heat and energy of the musical acts, and was a refreshing change of pace for a music festival. The only problem, remarked on by several of the comedians during their sets, was that of sound bleed from the very loud main stages. It wasn't distinct enough to be particularly distracting, but it was loud enough to know it was going on, and created a somewhat surreal experience of knowing you were at a music festival, yet not watching a musical performance.

Although it is to their credit that the people at Pitchfork always include a few local acts (this year's offerings included The Smith Westerns and Allá), it always feels like a bit of an invasion from elsewhere. Chicago has a lot of really good local music, and it would be nice to see a bigger portion of one of the biggest Chicago-based music festivals featuring local talent next year.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 Day 3

Posted by Susan Schomburg

St. Vincent plays Pitchfork Sunday
Wow, what a day! The people at Pitchfork really packed a lot of acts into the last day's schedule--I wasn't the only person constantly walking between stages to see a bit of everything.

Early in the day, Cass McCombs delivered mellow ballads and classic-rock-tinged songs that had a bit of bite. Best Coast had a surfy sound and songwriting that drew heavily on 60s girl-group style. They drew a very big crowd for early in the day and for being placed on the Balance stage, and did not disappoint.
Girls continued the mellow retro West Coast feel to the afternoon with old-school ballads and poppier, harder-rocking beats. The singer's voice has a slightly nasal sound to it that reminds me a bit of Elvis Costello and Bright Eyes, only not really either of those. It was kind of sweet when the lead singer took a photo of the crowd telling everyone to "say hi to Mom."

A live DJ set on the Balance stage came next courtesy of Washed Out, who had good beats and got the crowd going in spite of the heat. He sang over the electronic mixes, and seemed to put some combination of reverb and choir effect on his vox--the result was an ethereal quality that didn't quite feel real standing in the shade with a welcome breeze blowing on Sunday afternoon.

Baltimore duo Beach House came next, adding a drummer with mallets to their live set this afternoon. The combination of organ and guitar was a refreshing change, and the singer's voice, delicate and powerful at the same time, gave the band's set a dreamy sound.

With emphasis on beautiful vocal harmonies, Local Natives also managed to rock pretty hard while singing them, which gave their voices a present, urgent sound. With sweetly nostalgic songs played with beauty and intensity, I found their set to be one of the outstanding performances of the festival, both musically and in terms of stage presence.

Noise rock outfit Lightning Bolt is a bit too violent and intense for me, and I'd probably never listen to their recordings, but their set on Aluminum stage during the afternoon was compelling and exciting to watch (from a safe distance). Their drummer, sporting a weird multicolored mask, was excellent, and the duo's frenzied playing really got the audience going. Their sound is very dark, mildly disturbing, and it was heavier music for those who enjoy moshing and crowd surfing.

Surfer Blood had a bit of 80s mainstream rock sound in their mix. I felt like the singer's vocals were a bit raw--in a good way--and it was a strong set overall. They have a fun sound, and know how to put on a good show for their fans.

St Vincent has been getting a lot of buzz since her album came out, and if her set today was typical of her live show, she definitely deserves it. Her music is lovely, with floating melodies that were enhanced by a sax and violin at the show, as well as a drummer who really gets into the songs, and of course, her beautiful reedy voice wafting over everything else. It is music that can very easily take your breath away, which you don't really mind as you let it sink in to your skin.

Here We Go Magic had a decent live show. Their live sound is catchy, they worked really hard, and obviously enjoy what they're doing onstage. The sound was a bit sleepy with some electro thrown in. Overall, it was just a good time.

With a set that relied way too heavily on sampling and not seeming to do much of anything himself but get the crowd excited, Major Lazer is definitely not my kind of music. That being said, his show was pretty exciting. Visual spectacle was a big part of it--he brought out all kinds of crazy things, including Chinese dragons, ballerinas, and dirty dancing.

Following a tip from a friend of mine, I checked out Neon Indian's live electronic set, which was really fun. They got people dancing, and their frontman, who is also their DJ, plays theremin really well. I had a lot of fun dancing with the crowd, and was impressed with the amount of attention a guy who spent much of his time onstage messing with levers and buttons managed to draw. The whole group danced and sang with a surprising amount of energy for early in the evening on a long hot day, and they were worth waiting around to hear.

Sleigh Bells' live show of somewhat violent noise pop was exciting, but the crowd got a bit rougher than they probably should have (I met one person who got a lens knocked out of their glasses during the set!). Nevertheless, the duo put on an intense and entertaining show--the singer was particularly good at getting people moving, and it was a good performance.

Sunday night headliners Pavement lived up to the hype surrounding their music. Their live show was outstanding, although it primarily took a mellower tone than I was expecting. But it was exactly what the crowd needed at the end of a long, hot weekend. I have to admit, I've never been a particular fan of the band, but their set was very exciting, held people's attention (even from the back of the park), and was, at times, downright beautiful. They kicked things up for the second half of their set, rocking harder than the first, and I have to say, they really know how to put on a great live show.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 Day 2

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Pitchfork

This year's Saturday schedule was particularly packed with slightly overlapping acts--there was generally just enough time to see some of each set, but not enough for all of either.

Kurt Vile's name always throws me for a loop; I'm always expecting something more punk and less psychedelic than I get from his music, but in spite of expectations, I'm never disappointed. His reverb-heavy vocals and mix of electric and acoustic instruments made for a great set on Saturday afternoon. His music has a trippy-but-intense quality that reminds me of the Velvet Underground, a sound reinforced by the foundation laid down by the drummer, who used mallets (not drumsticks) on his kit live, giving the drums a muted, heavy quality that anchored the amplified acoustic and Vile's vocals well.

Titus Andronicus was fantastic. They played their shoegazey punk songs with intensity and conviction, making it worthwhile for the fans who stood in the sun in 90-degree heat to watch them play. And they were entertaining to watch as well as hear; frontman Patrick Stickles, in particular, really drew the eye, jumping and shouting and gesturing, and even hopping down into the crowd to sing for one song.

Chicago's own Smith Westerns more than held their own on the Balance Stage Saturday afternoon with a set of energetic glam rock that locals have come to expect from their shows. Meanwhile, on the Aluminum Stage, Raekwon performed a very entertaining rap set that included a bunch of extremely talented kids breakdancing--leading to more than one audience member saying "Holy sh*t!" as they spun on their heads and did other crazy things I probably will never learn how to do.

Twenty years into their career, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is still putting on outstanding shows. Their set was, as their name suggests, explosive, with thick bluesy guitar riffs interlacing and pounding drums pulsing through the whole mix. Jon Spencer in person is even more hypnotic to watch than I was expecting, and he even played some theremin before smashing his mic on the stage at the end of the set.

As hard as I thought it would be for whoever had to follow JSBX in the main festival stage grounds, Wolf Parade managed to hit hard with an opener bombastic enough to not be boring in comparison. Their sound during the set ranged from straightforward indie rock to dancey disco-feeling songs, and overall, it was very easy to dance and move to Wolf Parade live.

Bear in Heaven's live sound was very heavy, with virtuosic drumming, weird 80s-riffic synth and just a hint of psych guitar. They put on a solid set and there were few heads in the audience that weren't bobbing along to their music.

Day Two headliners LCD Soundsystem lived up to their reputation and position in the lineup. Their set was very high-energy, and they got a massive crowd, many of whom were too far to even see the stage, on their feet and dancing for over an hour. The electro-influenced dance punk translated well to an outdoor festival setting, and frontman James Murphy got everybody dancing and clapping and singing along to his songs. The evening could not have ended better.

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Festival review: Pitchfork Music Fest 2010 Day 1

Posted by Susan Schomburg

Liars performing at Pitchfork Friday
The first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival went pretty well this year. Although the July weather was sticky and hot, the festival itself had a nice blend of high-energy acts to get fans on their feet in spite of the heat and mellow performances that kept everyone cool and relaxed.

Festival opener Sharon van Etten set an intimate mood to the start of the festival with a strong voice and confessional songs, a mood that was continued into the Tallest Man on Earth's set. Although his time slot was only half an hour long and although the sun was hot, many of the people in the audience would have stood in the sun for much longer to hear more of his lovely voice and words and guitar.

Liars kicked up the energy of the afternoon with a set of exciting, slightly nihilistic electric garage punk (although that description doesn't quite do justice to the band's stage presence: the frontman's slinky motions, light dance, head shakes and hand motions meant there was always something to look at).

Robyn's music has never been my cup of tea, but her energetic live electronic set was much more entertaining than I was expecting. The same goes for Broken Social Scene; they really put on a good show, and after hearing their songs played live with so much conviction, I intend to go over their recordings again and figure out why I never really got into them.

One interesting variation on past years' festivals was the addition of a stand-up comedy stage on Friday's lineup of performing artists. Gathered peacefully around the Balance stage was a surprisingly large group of festival-goers, sitting on the ground and listening attentively to the comedians in spite of a substantial amount of sound bleed from the Aluminum and Connector stage's acts (which was remarked on by more than one comic) and ambient noise from the busy streets. For me, the stand-out performance was from comedy stage headliner Eugene Mirman (probably best known from his role as Eugene the landlord in "Flight of the Conchords"), whose absurdist set included jokes on a number of controversial topics told in a delightfully disarming manner. The set ended with him coming down into the audience to hand out "fake business cards" to fans in the audience.

Day One headliners Modest Mouse struck the audience at a visceral level, keeping people going at the end of a long, hot day. Their live show, like their records, have a biting quality with a groove you can get into, and it was interesting to see how some of their effects are done (like singing into an old-timey microphone to get that effect--obvious, but it really never occurred to me that it was just that simple) and enjoying their live instrumentation (which included a banjo and a horn).

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Check this out: Chris Catania's Live Fix blog

Posted by Frank

With no shortage of cookie-cutter music blogs out there, it's always beyond refreshing to come across a site that has a unique point of view and is genuinely doing something different. One such site is Live Fix, which was founded a few years back by fellow Chicago music writer Chris Catania. I connected with Chris a while back through our websites, and we've shared a mutual respect for each other's work ever since. On Live Fix, he dives into the experience of going to a live show with more passion and detail than I've seen anywhere else, dissecting not only the performances, but the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) reactions of their audiences and what they mean in a larger context.

It's fascinating stuff, so I thought I'd invite Chris to do an interview here on Windy City Rock to go into more detail on the world of Live Fix and some of his most memorable live music experiences. Read what he had to say:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Show review: The Shams Band, Rachele Eve, Valentiger & Nelken at Beat Kitchen, 7/8

Posted by Bobby

The Shams Band (photo:

One of the many cool things about writing for a music blog is that it allows one the opportunity to drink canned beer and see live music with the illusion of productivity. I did just that last Thursday at Beat Kitchen for a show including The Shams Band and Cyndy Fike, who I had previously written about digging separately (see here and here), as well as Rachele Eve and Valentiger.

Cyndy was with her full band, Nelken, and started the show off with a soft but powerful bit of Americana. The electric guitar sounded like it was being played on a porch with a cord trailing behind it into a house where a dusty amp sat. At least tha t's what I pictured, but I was putting away the Blatz. Driven by powerful harmonies and jangle guitar, it was a good start to the evening.

The second act, Michigan's Valentiger, was a bearded three piece that mixed well-traveled folk harmony, nostalgic 50s and 60s chord progressions and the urban frenzy of early punk three pieces (when they started their cover of the Jam's "In the City," I annoyingly began nudging the people next to me and singing Paul Weller's praises). It was cool to see these three establish a cohesive identity while covering so much musical ground.

Rachele Eve was the third act. Rachele has both the vocal chops and the songbook to be very impressive. Her songs were hooky, dynamic and memorable, and her band was kick-ass. They supported her as well as performing in their own right. It was like watching a gypsy boat full of catchy ruckus float down the river past you. The band allowed itself to lose control, get lost in the racket and then immediately tighten up and bring it back down. People were movin'.

The Shams Band performed last to a good number of people, starting their weekend early. And like I have said before, the Shams Band throws a great party. The tone of Paul Gulyas's electric lead really set the pace for a gritty, bluesy set. There were moments to slow down and make use of the three vocalists' excellent harmony, moments to get rowdy and holler, and moments to shut it down completely with the bittersweet American longing of the track "Des Plaines River."

By the end of the evening it was hard to remember that this was just the beginning of the journey for Rachele Eve and for The Shams Band. They were setting out on tour the next day. The road seems like a good place for them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

We're giving away tickets to Devo and Dirty Projectors at Congress Theater!

Interested in catching one of new wave's most iconic bands along with one of today's most hyped acts...for free? Windy City Rock is giving you the chance! We've got a pair of guest list spots up for grabs to see Devo with the Dirty Projectors at bands' pre-Lollapalooza show on Thursday, August 5 at Congress Theater, and we want you to have them.

All you have to do is shoot us an e-mail with the subject line "Devo show" and your first and last name in the body of the message, and we'll select a winner at random to receive spots for you and a friend on the guest list courtesy of React Presents. Entries will be accepted until 6 p.m. CST on Tuesday, July 13, and we'll notify the winner by responding to their e-mail.

It's that simple, so get sendin'. Good luck!

Update 7/13/10 - The contest is now closed. Thanks to all who entered. Stay tuned for more ticket giveaways coming up soon!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1900s, White Mystery and more to play Milwaukee Ave. Arts Fest

Posted by Frank

Logan Square's Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival, slated from Friday, July 23 to Sunday, July 25 on Milwaukee Ave. between Kimball and California, will be chock-full o' quality music this year. Three stages full of it, in fact. The lineup is diverse - featuring everything from indie rock to folk pop to salsa to hip-hop, with an emphasis on Chicago acts - so it will be a great opportunity to sample the various sounds the city has to offer. Here's what's on the schedule:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Soak in the new video to Gold Motel's sunshiney 'Safe in L.A.'

Posted by Frank

I can't get enough of Gold Motel. The summery, upbeat melodies. Greta Morgan's sweet and smooth voice. The total lack of pretension in favor of quite simply a damn good time. If you're of the same mind, you should know that the Chicago band have released a new music video (their third since forming just last year! How's that for productive?) for the snappy tune "Safe in L.A." off their debut LP, Summer House.

The video is exclusively up for viewing on, so head over there and have a gander now. It's simple but cool and classy, showcasing the band's great style and retro (in a good way) sensibilities.

Guitarist Eric Hehr, who wrote "Safe in L.A.," said this of the song on "I was kind of bummed out, living in dreary Chicago, and my friends were in L.A., so I wrote the song as a love letter to California, romanticizing about the lifestyle I presumed they were living out there."

To see Gold Motel in the flesh, head to Millennium Park on Saturday, July 10 from 4:30 to 6. The band will perform as part of the "Great Performers of Illinois" series. They'll also be playing as part of the "Local Music Revolution" festival at Congress Theater on Sunday, July 11.

For even more Gold Motel goodness, check out our recent interview with Greta.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Show review: New York Songwriters Circle at Schubas, 7/5

Posted by Bobby

I think we've well established here at Windy City Rock that not only does said Windy City rock, but it does so over the summer in such a feverish, frequent fashion that it can be hard to even decide what to check out. I received an invite from a friend to check out the Chicago branch of the NY Songwriters Circle at Schubas Sunday night and decided to head over and see what was cooking. I had previously been intrigued by the title of the series and was eager to experience the roundtable live set. One of the artists, Chicago's Starina Catchatoorian, had described the evening as an opportunity to see songwriters performing their craft in a cool wooden room with beautiful sound and people actually listening. After recently seeing a young fella at an open mic who was performing a beautiful acoustic cover of "Modern Love" have to move three times, mid song, so the pool players could position their shots correctly, the idea of an environment ideal for songwriters really appealed to me.

Throughout the night, the various songwriters sat across the front of the stage, performing one by one.

The first artist, Brendan Losch, immediately appealed to my deep sonic respect for Jim James and his ethereal vocals floating over a steady rhythmic acoustic guitar rocking back and forth like a horse and cart, or maybe a small fishing boat. With his third song Brendan looped his vocals and began sow pedal trickery that took his music on an interesting road out of Midwestern earnestness and into more coastal synthetic territory.

Second in line was Dan Price. He referenced international travel as an immediate influence, which I thought was cool, and his songs very much reflected that. They ran the gamut from modern to ancient, much in the way that Andrew Bird is known to do (he can really whistle as well). His melodies were at once enchanting and surprising - a nice mix.

Starina Catchatoorian

Third to perform was the aforementioned Starina Catchatoorian, whom I had seen perform with her full band recently here in the city (kickass). Starina was accompanied on ukulele by Chicago actor/musician Matt Holzfiend. The first time I saw her, Starina was taming a particularly gritty electric guitar, but here she held a more gentle acoustic one, and her performance with it brought a great crowd response. Matt's accompaniment, vocal and rhythmic, threw the rock songs through pleasant loop, grounding them in the wood and earth of the night's sentiment. Starina managed to keep the dirty rock 'n' roll aesthetic while moving through chord progressions both gentle and aggressive. It kept me on my toes.

Next up was Cyndy Fike, who teaches music here in the city and performs with the outfit Nelken, who are set to play July 8 at Beat Kitchen. Her songs were enhanced by her killer voice and occasional surprising changes in vocal hooks. She also leaned more country folk than any of the other performers in a delightful way.

Zach Blew (

At the farthest end of the stage was Zach Blew. When Zach stood to perform for the first time, he didn't have a guitar. Just the mic, and at his feet a vocal looping pedal, over which he displayed an admirable bit of mastery. Zach's three song choices were diverse and yet equally appealing, and he also joined Cyndy on the most haunting number of the evening. The first song, a neo soul acapella tune was badass. The second, which the crowd got to sing along with, was another soulful hook filled song about looking at an object of desire like you're shooting a film. It made me really look forward to the collaboration he spoke of with an R&B producer here in Chicago. Lastly, he slowed things down with an older tune in which Dan Price graciously agreed to lend his aforementioned whistling skills. Zach is relatively new to Chicago, but keep an eye out, you'll here more from him.

Julia Klee and her band closed out the very enjoyable evening with showstopping vocals and songs that were at once unique and accessible, in the vein of Neko Case. Keep your eyes open for her, as well.

Be sure to check out one of these showcases when you can. It was very much the way songwriters such as these should be seen, and I was very glad I went.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Show review: My My My and I Fight Dragons at Summerfest, 7/4

Posted by Frank

Two Chicago bands - My My My and I Fight Dragons - headed north to Milwaukee this Fourth of July to play on the 11th and final day of this year's Summerfest, which bills itself "The World's Largest Music Festival." Both played 45-minute, late afternoon sets on the same stage, with My My My followed directly by I Fight Dragons. Against Me! and Silversun Pickups would perform on the same stage hours later, meaning devoted fans of those bands had already staked out their spots close to the stage. While watching the Windy City bands seemed to be simply a way to pass the time for many in the crowd, both acts brought high-energy sets that succeeded in capturing the attention of unsuspecting onlookers and did their home city proud.

As usual, My My My were lots of fun to watch. They play quirky power pop that's given a unique stamp by song structures with adventurous twists and turns, as heard on their excellent new LP, Leather Silk (review here). Their set mainly included songs from this album, including highlights such as the bouncy, keyboard-driven "White Lions," the driving shout-along "Be My Bianca" and the sleek, dancey "Swoon." In addition to material from Leather Silk, the band played the frenetic "Middle Aged Hardware and Youthful Indiscretions" from their last LP, Little Cat Plays the Alpha Rave, as well as a wonderful brand new song called "War Party." Vocalists Russell Baylin and Sarah Snow never fail to impress with the passionate deliveries, and the entire band sounded perfectly tight. Simply put, My My My rocked, and I sure hope those in the crowd who were unfamiliar with them will look them up.

Later, before I Fight Dragons took the stage, I knew the Nintendo-pop troupe would have no problem getting the crowd pumped up. The band are nothing if not dead-set on bringing a good time, as they've proven since breaking out in early 2009. Despite their rather brief existence the six-piece was recently scooped up by Atlantic Records, and the show made it easy to understand why. Their straightforward, singalong pop has mass appeal and they genuinely know how to entertain and pass their energy along to an audience. While blasting through a mix of yet-to-be-released songs as well as material from their debut EP, Cool Is Just a Number (review here), they took full advantage of their video game theme, incorporating 8-bit beeps and blips throughout, plus busting out controllers, a Nintendo Power Pad and other old school gaming gear. In addition to their originals, they played a rockin' cover of the infamous Rick Astley cheese-fest "Never Gonna Give You Up" combined with an equally rockin' version of the Super Mario Bros. theme to close the set. Every song was like watching a party on stage, and most of the audience looked like they would have gladly welcomed another 45 minutes from the dragon-fighters.

Photos by Frank Krolicki

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekend show picks: Silversun Pickups, The Loneliest Monk and more

The Loneliest Monk

As the long weekend gets rolling, it's time to start thinking about which live music options to check out over the course of the next four nights. There's no shortage of great stuff lined up, so read on for some picks, get out there and have a fantastic holiday!

Friday, July 2

- The Loneliest Monk at Lincoln Hall with Aleks Eva and Hollows - This Chicago couple, Michelle Morales and Miles Benjamin, put on a live show that breaks away from the norm by mixing their art rock/chamber pop with a "masquerade ball" aesthetic. The show will celebrate the release of their debut album. 9 p.m., $10, 18 and over. Tickets.

- Derek Nelson and the Musicians at the Empty Bottle with Pool of Frogs and Psychic Friends - Late last year Chicago-based folk-rocker Derek Nelson released his debut EP, Something Obscure (review here), a very impressive introduction to the singer-songwriter. He's since been singled out by many as one of the city's best up-and-coming acts and landed some notable shows, including a slot at the Taste of Chicago.   10 p.m., $7, 21 and over. Tickets.

- Mazes at Hideout with Hotel Brotherhood - Check out our recent post to catch up on all that's been going on with this great Chicago indie psych-pop band. 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets.

Saturday, July 3

- Silversun Pickups at Aragon Ballroom with Against Me! and The Henry Clay People - The lauded L.A. alt-rockers released their latest album, Swoon, last year, and with support from notable punk acts Against Me! and The Henry Clay People, should bring a killer show. 6:30 p.m., $27.25, 17 and over. Tickets.

- The Heavy at Lincoln Hall with The Dirty Diamonds - These Brits have a wonderful style, blending indie rock with vintage soul sounds for a guaranteed good time. Be sure to arrive early for the Windy City's own Dirty Diamonds, who have a similar 1960s-meets-modern day aesthetic and are tons of fun. Click here for more on them. 10 p.m., $14, 21 and over. Tickets.

Sunday, July 4

- Tiny Vipers at the Empty Bottle with The Sight Below and The Spend - Celebrate the 4th with Sub Pop Record's Tiny Vipers (a.k.a Seattle-based songstress Jesy Fortino), who specializes in a dreamy, introspective sound as heard on her two full-lengths to date, 2007's Hands Across the Void and 2009's Life on Earth. 9:30 p.m. $8, $15 at door, 21 and over. Tickets. 

Monday, July 5 

- The Thermals at Millennium Park/Jay Pritzker Pavilion with Disappears - The next up in Millennium Park's summer series of free concerts, a set from this high energy indie/alt rock trio from Portland should serve as a wonderful way to end the long weekend. Chicago's own Disappears will start things off. 6:30 p.m. free, all ages.