Monday, August 30, 2010

Cee-Lo's choice words, Chicago's inspiration?

Posted by Bobby

Making its way around the blog circuit the past two weeks has been the excellent new single, "Fuck You," from Cee-Lo Green. It has caused quite a stir for, well, obvious reasons. However, if you've ever been heartbroken, it may be the sincere poetic distillation of sentiment you have always searched for. To me, the aggression in the lyrics is compositionally beautiful in that it establishes a very effective dichotomy between the upbeat feel of the song and what is being sung. In other words, I think it's fucking awesome. As for what it has to do with Chicago, you can one-up your other hip friends by talking about how the song seems to have sampled from "Saturday in the Park," the 1972 hit from Windy City-based band Chicago. breaks it down here, comparing an instrumental version of the new track with the old Chicago tune. Hear the similarities?

So for all of you who agree with me about the undisputed artistry of this tune, you can enjoy the idea that if there were no summer in Chicago the city, then no Chicago the band would have written about it, there would be no "Saturday in the Park" for Cee-Lo to sample, and no smile from ear to ear on all those enjoying this late summer jam.

And if you disagree with me, well, do I really have to say it?

Video: Cee-Lo Green - "Fuck You"

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Spend Labor Day weekend at North Coast Music Fest

Posted by Frank

Not ready to face the end of this year's summer music festivals quite yet?

Luckily, a brand new music fest will be held in Chicago this Labor Day weekend to keep the fun going strong. From Friday, September 3 to Sunday, September 5, the inaugural North Coast Music Festival will bring a wide variety of sounds to Union Park (1501 W. Randolph St.), from indie rock to hip-hop to electro.

Included in the lineup is a number of acts based out of the Windy City, including Hey Champ, Lupe Fiasco, Van Ghost, Loyal Divide, Future Rock and more. Check out the full lineup after the jump.

The fest will run from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Three-day passes are already sold out, but single day passes are still available and cost $40 each. Click here to purchase.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Help Pet Lions record their debut album

Posted by Frank

Chicago indie pop four-piece Pet Lions are all geared up to follow-up their excellent 2009 EP, Soft Right, with a proper full-length. They already have plans to record at Engine Studios (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine, Josh Ritter, etc.), but as is often the case with indie bands, just don't have the funds necessary to make it happen. Because of this they've launched a campaign via that invites fans to donate a pledge (as little as $5) to help with the creation of the record. In return they're offering rewards such as an advanced digital copy of the album once recorded, merch and show tickets, depending on donation level.

For my money, Pet Lions are one of Chicago's most promising bands, and Soft Right has already gotten quite a bit of attention for them (check out our review of the EP). They are wonderful songwriters and have a very fun sound that's one part Strokes-esque indie rock and one part old school new wave/power pop, so I'm excited to hear what they would offer up on an LP. If you are too, consider helping them out by clicking on the image below:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Free music from Cameron McGill & What Army, show at Metro this Friday

Posted by Frank

Cameron McGill
There's no shortage of excellent live music going on this Friday in Chicago. If you've been reading over the last few days, you'll know that White Mystery and The 1900s at Lincoln Hall, Big Science, Post Honeymoon, The Kickback and Camera at Bottom Lounge, and The Logan Square-centric Square Affair are a few of the options. Here's one more to make the decision on how to spend the night even harder: Chicago's own Cameron McGill & What Army will be headlining Metro (with Horse in the Sea, Kevin Andrew Prchal and Rachele Eve also on the bill), and their outstanding folk-rock is definitely worth checking out. Tickets are $10 and are for sale here, and to make the deal even sweeter, each ticket purchased in advance will be good for the entry of two people.

In celebration of the show, McGill and the band are giving away a free track, "Dead Rose," from their upcoming album Is A Beast. It's a rockin' tune with great swagger, and you can grab it via the below link.

Mp3: Cameron McGill & What Army - "Dead Rose"

Is A Beast is expected out next Spring, and will follow-up 2009's Warm Songs for Cold Shoulders. In the meantime, the band will embark a Fall tour with Margot & the Nuclear So & So's next month.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Q&A with Chicago band Big Science, show 8/27 at Bottom Lounge

Posted by Frank

Big Science
This Friday, August 27, Chicago's Big Science will headline Bottom Lounge, with fellow Windy City acts Post Honeymoon, The Kickback and Camera also on the bill. The four-piece mix post-punk and new wave influences with a modern rock vibe to create a sound that's as atmospheric as it is danceable, as heard on their recently-released second EP, Skyscraper Sound. They're bound to bring a good time Friday night, and to help gear up for the show bassist Jason Richards answered a few questions for WCR on Big Science's history, style and plans. Read what he had to say below, and check out a free download of "Basement Lights" off the EP for a taste of the band's sound.

Download mp3: Big Science - "Basement Lights"

WCR: You guys have been playing together as Big Science for a few years. How did the band get started?

JR: The band got started when Jason Hendrix (vocals, guitar) and I moved to Chicago. We aimed to start something with Jason Clark (guitar) who we knew from San Diego. Not long after we started generating ideas, a friend said that he knew someone that he was working with (Jeremy Pena) that wanted to play music and that he was a drummer. And that was that.

Tell us about your recently-released second EP, Skyscraper Sound. What was the recording experience like?

Everything that we've released we have recorded on our own, in our own studio. The recording experiences are always a learning process. We're always getting new tools that help us make our recordings sound better, but there's a learning curve with them and it can be frustrating because a lot of times there are kinks that pop up in our work flow. I'm mostly talking about problems that arise with the technology involved in recording. For Skyscraper Sound we had to switch recording programs right as we were about to mix. It was a total pain.

Skyscraper Sound follows-up your debut EP, 2009’s Coast of Nowhere. How would you say you’ve grown as a band from the first release to the new one?

I think we're more confident as a band and as songwriters. I also think I'm taller now. I'm definitely way taller than Jason Clark.

You’ve released the EP on AEMMP Records, a student-run label through Columbia College Chicago. What’s your experience been like working with AEMMP?

AEMMP has been a good experience for us. We have had some students that we're really excited about working with us and I think they took away a lot from the class in terms of what it's like to work on a record and what it's like dealing with a band.

What do you think sets Big Science apart in the Chicago indie rock scene, and how do you think the city influences your music?

I think that our live shows help to set us apart here. I also think that musically, we have a different aim from a lot of bands in Chicago as far as the sounds that we're after to make our songs happen. Chicago gives us experiences and feelings, both good and bad, that I think we sometimes draw on. I know that Hendrix sings about it some in "1000 Years," but mostly I think it's a subtle thing if it's there. If we ever write a song called "Fuck, It's Cold" you'll know Chicago has taken hold.

Most memorable show you’ve played to date?

Wicker Park Fest was a really great experience. Getting to hang out all day and watch great bands and seeing all the people that came out was amazing. We got to play on the same stage as Mission of Burma and Cap'n Jazz.

If there was one band – past or present – that you could play a show with, which would it be?

Right now, I would say The Clash.

What’s next for the band?

We're playing Bottom Lounge on the 27th of this month. It's going to be a fun time. We're going to play a couple brand new songs. After that, we're leaving for a little week-long tour on September 10. When we're not playing shows or touring, we're always writing and recording. We're currently working on a full-length debut.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Logan Square bands to celebrate community at The Square Affair, 8/27

Posted by Bobby

Logan Square has a lot to give to Chicago's independent music scene these days, and on Friday, August 27, the residents of the community will be showcasing their talent and enthusiasm in celebration of its culture - and in hopes to pass a bit of both down to a younger generation. The Square Affair will feature artists from Logan Square performing at the Logan Square Auditorium (2539 N. Kedzie) for an event that will not only highlight the community's thriving music scene, but also give back to its residents. Jon Drake and the Shakes, The Shams Band, The Minneapolis Henrys and Derek Nelson and the Musicians are scheduled to perform starting at 8 p.m. The Dirty Diamonds will also be spinning soul and funk DJ sets throughout the night.

One of the ways the event will give back is by generating support and donations for the Intonation Music Workshop (IMW, an after-school music program that provides people from 6 to 17-years-old access to music instruments and instruction in a safe and positive environment. IMW currently works in eight locations and with 125 children across Chicago. Old Style, the premier sponsor of The Square Affair, is printing t-shirts exclusive to the event that will be given away in exchange for donation to IMW.

The Square Affair is a 17 and over event, and tickets cost $8 in advance or $12 the day of. For more information and to purchase, click here.

UPDATE 8/23: We now have a pair of tickets for The Square Affair to give away! Be the first to send an e-mail to with the subject line "Square Affair tickets' and they're yours. The tickets have been claimed!

Also, there is a Square Affair sampler available, which features free downloads from each of the four bands performing. Get it here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Show review: Tokyo Police Club at Metro, 8/20

By Mike Sullivan

Tokyo Police Club wrapped up their summer tour Friday night at Metro, and an energetic crowd welcomed them at the historic venue.

The night started out with another band out of Canada, the Arkells. This five-piece group from Hamilton belted out their soul-rock flavored tracks. The band only has one album under their belt, Jackson Square, which was originally recorded in 2008. You would think they would grow weary of playing the same 11 tracks over and over, but they played them just like it was the first time performing them live. So much energy and enthusiasm came out of every single member, and the crowd definitely responded.

Next up on the bill was Freelance Whales. This eclectic group comes from Queens. As I stood in the pit watching the stagehands bring out their instruments, I wasn’t sure what I was about to hear. There were your usual drums, guitar and bass, but also banjos, synthesizers, a waterphone, a glockenspiel, some strange accordion box called a harmonium and even a watering can. (yes, watering can!) Needless to say, once they started, I see how it all came together. Their harmonic melodies and story telling lyrics really captured the crowd. They emit a vibe while playing that makes you feel good inside. They are one band that deserves a second look.

Finally, it was time for Tokyo Police Club to take the stage. The stage looked so empty after all the instruments from Freelance Whales were cleared away. TPC came out of the gates with "Favorite Color," "Nature of the Experiment" The capacity crowd immediately began singing and clapping along. With all that energy comes the nasty heat and humidity that always finds its way into these smaller venues. The intense stage lights reflected off of everyone’s sweat glazed skin. They performed a large portion of their catalog right off the bat without even taking a moment to catch their breath. They established a tempo right away, and wanted to keep it going all night without any lulls. For this being their last show on this leg of the tour, they still sounded really fresh and full of energy. 

Tokyo Police Club's setlist consisted of: Favorite Color, Nature Of The Experiment, Graves, Top 5, End of a Spark, In a Cave, Tessellate, Hands Reversed, Big Difference, Not Sick, Be Good, Bambi, Favorite Food, Gone, Citizens of Tomorrow, Breakneck Speed, Wait Up (Boots of Danger), Your English Is Good.

More photos after the jump.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Record review: Lissie - 'Catching A Tiger'

Posted by Frank

It took only one listen to Why You Runnin', the 2009 introductory EP from the blonde, freckled, charmingly nonchalant Lissie, to predict that big things were in store for the Rock Island-bred singer-songwriter. Although Illinois can no longer fully claim her - she now lives in California - her new, debut LP Catching A Tiger proves that she has lost none of her Midwestern heart and soul. It also proves that she's one hell of a breath of fresh air for pop-rock music, and someone we should expect to hear much more about. She's already made major waves in Britain since releasing the record there in June, and is now set to reach an even wider audience with its U.S. release.

Catching A Tiger splits its time between two distinct sides of Lissie: the reflective, earnest alt-country/folk songstress heard on Why You Runnin' and the uber-cool girl who fronts a band and owns a kickass record collection, but who loves a catchy radio pop song every now and then. Listen to the rural, sparse beauty of album closer "Oh Mississippi" right after the sleek, driving poppiness of "Loosen the Knot" to hear the difference at its most pronounced. One sounds like Neko Case at her most intimate while the other sounds like something you'd hear on the Top 40 if the Top 40 were much less bland. In-between the two sides of the spectrum she takes on Phil Spector girl-group ("Stranger"), Stevie Nicks-esque yearning ("When I'm Alone, "In Sleep") and piano-led balladry ("Bully"), all extremely well written and playing up her exquisite, clear voice. On the surface it might seem like all this variance would make for a disjointed record and a performer without a clear vision, but somehow Lissie keeps it from doing either. In fact, Catching A Tiger - and the artist herself - are even more exciting because of it.

Lissie will release "Cuckoo," one of the record's most infectious tracks, as a single on August 30. The single will also include her cover of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" - which has become a live favorite. For the live experience, plan on heading to Lincoln Hall on Sunday, October 17 for her next Chicago show.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Wildbirds at Beat Kitchen tonight, 8/18

Posted by Bobby

Milwaukee's The Wildbirds are in town tonight, and if you haven't heard of them you probably will soon. They bring with them a brand of good old fashioned rock 'n' roll that the likes of Tom Petty, Humble Pie and The Black Crowes would be proud of. It is an ideal soundtrack to a midsummer night like the one I expect we've got coming. The Wildbirds have been making quite a stir to the north of us, and having seen them live, I can vouch for it being a hell of a show. If you've ever been upset you weren't around for the summer of love, or wished you were in high school in the mid-70s instead of the mid-90s, you may want to check this out.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. 21 and over. Tickets are $7 and available here.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Local H, Scott Lucas & the Married Men to release EPs this Fall

Posted by Frank

Long-time Chicago rocker Scott Lucas will release two EPs this Fall - one with his tried-and-true band Local H and one with his solo project, Scott Lucas and the Married Men.

The Local H EP, dubbed Local H's Awesome Mix Tape #1 and out on October 19, will consist of recorded cover versions of songs the alt/hard rock duo have often incorporated into their live sets. Since playing their first show nearly 20 years ago, they have covered everyone from Guided By Voices to Britney Spears. For their first recorded collection of covers they decided on the following track list:

1. Wolf Like Me (TV on the Radio)
2. Joey (Concrete Blonde)
3. Puss (The Jesus Lizard)
4. Spiderbite (Winnebago Deal)
5. Blood Stains (Agent Orange)
6. Time (Pink Floyd)
7. For Lovers (Wolfman)

"We've always done covers live," said Lucas in a press release announcing the EP. "It's just fun for us. Period. We never do songs as a joke. Every cover we've ever done is a song that we love. And that goes for Britney, too."

Coinciding with this release is The Absolute Beginners EP, also out October 19 from Scott Lucas and the Married Men. The four-song EP marks the band's second recording and includes two covers - "Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie and "Hey, Rita" by Local H - as well "Crosshairs" and "Last One," two re-recorded original tracks that originally appeared on their debut, George Lassos The Moon.

"We recorded this EP the day after we returned from our first tour," Lucas explained in the press release. "When we recorded the first record, we hadn't been together for more than a month. Some of us barely knew the songs. I wanted to capture the band after it had been on the road. To see how the dynamic had changed. There's more energy. It's been great to watch this band grow. It makes me really excited for the next album."

Monday, August 16, 2010

New 1900s LP on the way, plus show 8/27 at Lincoln Hall

Posted by Frank

Photo by Kirstie Shanley
It's been a while since we've heard new music from well-loved Chicago guitar-pop troupe The 1900s, but that won't be the case for long. The band is currently gearing up to release their sophomore LP, Return of the Century, November 2 on Parasol Records.

The album will follow-up their 2007 full-length Cold & Kind, which was lauded by yours truly and many others for its 60s-inspired folk-pop goodness, as well as an early-2009 mini-album of odds and ends called Medium High. I recall hearing the band say they were expanding their sound on the new material, so I can't wait to hear what they have in store on the new release.

To get a sneak preview, check out the band's opening set for White Mystery at Lincoln Hall on Friday, August 27, where they will debut some of the new songs. More information and tickets are available here. They will also be embarking on a U.S. tour this Fall to promote Return of the Century, and will head to England in December to play the Bowlie 2 festival at the request of none other than Belle & Sebastian.

New site serves as online open mic for Chicago musician, performers worldwide

Posted by Frank

Most indie musicians today are well acquainted with social media, relying on sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to get the word out. One new site, though - TheStage.TV - has set out to take the interactive factor of social media for performers up to a new level.

Billing itself as "The World's Open Mic," the site allows performers and an audience to engage in real-time. The audience can applaud the performers, offer feedback and grant additional playing time. If an audience member really likes what they hear and see, they can subscribe and be notified whenever the performer is going to take TheStage.

All musicians need to perform on the site is a web camera/microphone, and they can take TheStage immediately or get queued-up if someone is currently performing. There's no cost to use the site and performers who rank in top positions can even earn money.

Melrose Park-based musician Dave Smith has become a dedicated member of, quickly gaining fans and a top ranking with over 500 performances on the site to date. Dave, who goes by "Anekretia" for the online performances, took the time to answer a few questions about his experiences as a Web-based musician and how he thinks can benefit indie artists:

WCR: Dave, how and when did you find out about and become involved in the site?

DS: For more than a few years I have traversed the Internet on a daily basis looking for things like this - chat rooms, websites and forums that had places for a person like me to collaborate with others. This particular website came up in a conversation with a friend of my girlfriend, and when we went and saw his video archive of his performance, we joined immediately. We instantly found an addictive home there.

How has your experience with the website been unique from other websites you've used in the past to get your music out there? has surpassed all of my previous experiences in more than a few ways such as instant video uploads to YouTube, which is a perfect way to archive a song idea quickly from any location. A person can do many things here - sing songs, do comedy, beat box sounds, drumming videos - it really is endless as long as it's PG material. This is the perfect environment to deal with stage fright issues, or even test out some new idea in sound.

What type of music do you perform on the website - originals, covers, both? What style of music do you focus on?

I have focused on cover songs - is a cover friendly environment - with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC licensing allowing someone like me to sing whatever they please. I have even been known to take requests via the chat room that watches. My focus is usually directed to whatever gets more cheers, time and subscribers. recently announced they will have genre-specific live channels (blues, progressive rock, electronic, country, etc.) and for someone like me who plays different styles, that's a huge benefit.

Did you have experience performing live in front of audiences before using TheStage?

I played many venues in California before I moved to Chicago, and once opened for a well-known metal band and an audience of 50,000 people in San Francisco. Those days are long gone, but I have found solace in sites such as and to curb the desire to tour and make it big.

Gina - gina401965 on - is the love of my life. Gina and I met on 3,500 miles apart. We are both Internet musicians, we've performed live for nearly three years now in virtual reality platforms for a decent amount of money per show, and have both grown to adore this site and some new fans as well from all over the world. Second Life is and has been our main venue in places around the world, and now we have become a main attraction on as well. We hope to see anyone there - drop in, make a request, just hang out, give time, cheer, and subscribe.

What effect has the website had on the way you approach performing your music? has encouraged me to sing far more than usual, but I have also found a home there for my guitar solo improvisational material, so it allows me to express myself however I wish, really. This site has also been a blessing in the financial department - there is a top 20 list and if you are on it you win money, with the amount depending on placement.

Overall, what do you think TheStage has to offer indie musicians? has tripled my YouTube subscribers and brought me new fans from around the world, and there is a small amount of pay for staying in the leaderboard as mentioned above. Those reasons are enough as it is, but is also a growing and improving environment. They are trailblazing new ideas and are pioneers in the field as it is now. Other sites have already tried to latch on to the idea, but has the real deal and first place of its kind with this type of artist-fan interaction. The typical musician, indie artist, or band, unless they are on world tour, cannot afford to miss doing this a few times, at least for the kicks.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Concert review: The English Beat at Double Door 8/13/10

Posted by
Susan Schomburg

Photo by Susan Schomburg
At the Double Door last night, ska enthusiasts had a good show to watch but pretty miserable conditions to contend with. The last time I went to a show at the Double Door, it was December and the first big snow of the year was still coming down outside. I remember thinking it was pretty cold in the room, wishing that they'd turn the heat up a bit, and that I didn't wind up taking my coat off that night. Fast forward to a muggy day in mid-August, and the lack of climate control in the main room of the club was even worse. The room started out warm but tolerable, and during the course of the evening became so hot I felt like my brain was going to melt. In spite of that, I had a pretty good time, thanks primarily to the bands.

Bad Manners had a lot of energy, playing many ska favorites and covers of several 50s and 60s pop songs, which their supersized frontman, Buster Bloodvessel, encouraged the audience to sing along with him. Sporting a cheetah-print jacket and pants (until they came off mid-set to reveal black shorts), he bobbed and pivoted in time to the music, singing in a gruff, somewhat froggy voice. He was joined onstage by a pretty large band, including three-piece horn section and a guitarist who jumped around and run-danced while playing solos. The band got people up and dancing, perhaps a bit too frantically for the heat, but it was a fun set.

Between the sets by the two full bands, Chris Murray did a brief acoustic solo set with an amplified acoustic guitar. After the energy of the full band, it was a bit anticlimactic to have just one guy come on, but he played and sang well, and overall, it was probably a good move to have the large bands separated by something with a pretty different sound while still being in the same vein as the other acts. It gave variety to the evening, and although he seemed to have a bit of trouble holding the audience's attention in the heat (there's only so much attention a guy with an acoustic guitar can hold), he was certainly more entertaining than a long set change (the curse of the live show). He also joined The English Beat midway through their set.

In spite of the heat, headliners The English Beat were more than troopers. By the time the band hit the stage, the temperature in the club had already climbed to a pretty uncomfortable level, but they played through the heat, and sounded really good. Band leader Dave Wakeling was funny and charming in between songs, making jokes and understanding the audience's drop in activity (on more than one occasion, the crowd would start dancing, then fizzle out of energy mid-way through because of the heat) was because they were "dancing on the inside." One particularly classy move on Wakeling's part was giving one of his bottles of water to a person in the crowd, even though he looked like he needed it himself. Singer Antonee First Class entertained the crowd while the rest of the band recouperated a bit between songs, starting singing acappella and gradually being joined by the instruments as the song progressed in a particularly entertaining moment. Everybody in the audience was dripping with sweat, and if you were standing relatively close to the stage, you probably saw sweat spray off the band members as they moved to the music, especially Wakeling, whose guitars looked pretty soaked by the end of the evening. The band played their big hits, including "Save it for Later" and ending with "Mirror in the Bathroom" before coming on, at the audience's insistence, for a brief encore. Leaving large puddles of sweat on the stage's linoleum floor where they had been standing, if they can put on a show that good in conditions that hot and sticky, I can only imagine how much fun they'd be if you were comfortable enough to really get into it properly with the dancing their music calls for.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Weekend show picks: English Beat, Del Rey and more

Del Rey
If you're in the mood for live music this weekend there are plenty of great options around the city, including a classic 2 Tone ska band, hard rock via Japan and some very cool locally-based indie acts. Here are some picks for Friday, Saturday and Sunday:

Friday, August 13

-The English Beat at Double Door with Bad Manners and Chris Murray - It would be tough to have a live show more fun than that of this quintessential 2 Tone ska/new wave band featuring vocalist and guitarist Dave Wakeling. A guaranteed good time. Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m., $25, 21 and over. Tickets.

- Boris at Metro with Russian Circles and The Life & Times - This hard-hitting experimental rock band out of Japan and are sure to deliver a memorable set tonight at Metro as they pass through our city in the middle of their current American tour. Doors 8 p.m., show 9 p.m., $17, 18 and over. Tickets.

Saturday, August 14

- Secret Colours at Beat Kitchen with Panda Riot and Geronimo! - Earlier this week we let you know about a free download of a very cool Beatles cover by this Chicago psych-pop unit, which gives a good idea of the spacey, fuzzy sounds you can expect to hear during their live show. Also check out their recently released self-titled record to see why this band is quickly gaining recognition in and out of the Windy City. Doors 10 p.m., show 10:30 p.m., $10, 17 and over. Tickets.

- Del Rey at the Empty Bottle with Bear Claw and This Is Versailles - Another solid option for Saturday night comes via Chicago indie/experimental band Del Rey, who are preparing to release a new album, Immemorial, and tour Europe this Fall. 10 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets. 

Sunday, August 15

- Golden Birthday at The Empty Bottle with Heavy Times and Altered States - This local, lo-fi minimalist pop act has a sound perfect for chilling out on a Sunday night. 7 p.m., $3, 21 and over. Tickets.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Check this out: Jaill at Lincoln Hall 9/13

Posted by

I was pumped to see at my local record store today that the suggested listening included the exceptionally cool debut album, That's How We Burn, from Milwaukee band Jaill (SubPop). These guys are making great music and the album was recorded just an hour and a half north of our fair city. I had the opportunity to attend a show and interview them while working with the totally rad Milwaukee music blog Seizure Chicken, and they were very cool and put on a hell of a show. It was big news in MKE when they signed to SubPop and it is surely a boost for the city's rapidly emerging indie music scene. Be sure to check out Jaill's music and give the band some Windy City props!

The band are currently opening shows for The Hold Steady in various cities, and will next play Chicago on Monday, September 13 at Lincoln Hall with Jenny and Johnny and Love as Laughter. Click here for more information and tickets.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Chicago's Secret Colours tackle a Beatles classic (free download)

Posted by Frank

It's risky business when bands cover classic, revered Beatles tunes. People love the originals so much and have heard them so many times that most often the covers just can't succeed, no matter how hard they try. Even so, Chicago-based pysch-rockers Secret Colours decided to give it a go with their take on "Tomorrow Never Knows" off 1966's Revolver, and they are offering the track for free download. If you ask me, the band do an outstanding job with a woozy, hazy take on the original that builds up with plenty of trippy beauty but also features a couple gnarly, impressive rave-ups. It's a rare Beatles cover that offers something fresh and exciting to the original and stands strong in its own right.

The release of the track comes hot on the heels of the band's debut, self-titled LP, which WCR's own Susan recently reviewed here. Susan also recorded a live interview and acoustic session with Secret Colours, available on

To take in the band's psychedelic sounds live, head to Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont) on Saturday, August 14 for their next show, which will also feature fellow Chicagoans Panda Riot and Geronimo!. 10 p.m. doors, 10:30 p.m. show, 17 and over, $10. Tickets here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Check this out: Dr. Manhattan

Posted by Bobby

Last night at the Empty Bottle's always enjoyable and perfectly-priced Free Music Monday, I was exposed to the catastrophic atomic energy that is
Dr. Manhattan. I was quietly drinking a French Country Ale in a corner when these four fellas, two of them brothers, began to rain down some furious mixture of funk and scuzz and Lord knows what. And then there was dancing. They were dancing, too. In fact, they were occasionally so overwhelmed with the desire to dance that they had to loop their instruments in order to set them aside and get to it. It didn't appear to me that many in the Bottle last night were familiar with Dr. Manhattan (also, sweet that they are named after a comic book character), but everyone was dancing. I plan on catching up with the four suburban young men soon, so look for an interview. But for now be sure to check out their music. And for those out there who are both music and comic nerds, well, they were as urgent and freaky as a two story swing electric penis.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 day three: The National, Arcade Fire

The National at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
The grand finale of this year's Lollapalooza Sunday night was an indie/alt-rock fan's dream, with The National playing immediately before headliners Arcade Fire on stages that were right across from one another on the North side of the fest's grounds.

The National set the stage for a memorable conclusion to the 2010 installment of the three-day music-filled party with a strong selection of songs that included highlights from their most recent release, High Violet, while also giving quite a bit of attention to their 2007 album, Boxer. One of the new songs, "Runaway," opened the set on a grand, stately note, making way for other moody and gems such as "Fake Empire" and "Anyone's Ghost." The band kept things from becoming to sleepy by mixing in higher-charged rockers such as "Abel" and "Mr. November." By the time they closed the performance with an excellent rendition of "Terrible Love," which sounded a great deal more powerful than it does on its recorded version on High Violet, many people began migrating over to the Budweiser stage to get in position for Arcade Fire. Still, it was a worthy conclusion to one of the weekend's top-tier performances.

Immediately after The National left the stage, Arcade Fire kicked into "Ready to Start," one of the highlights off their new, third LP The Suburbs, and never let up throughout their 90-minute set. Instead of using the performance to put emphasis on the new record, they wisely delivered a setlist obviously designed as a crowd-pleaser, emphasizing their debut, most widely-popular LP, Funeral. They performed seven songs from that record, just as many as they performed from The Suburbs. Not surprisingly, those seven songs got the most enthusiastic reaction, but the crowd also seemed captivated by the new material, such as the rocking "Month of May" and the new wavey, Regine Chassagne-sung "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)." Sophomore album Neon Bible got the least attention with only three songs, but the three that are arguably the strongest from that release - "Keep the Car Running," "No Cars Go" and "Intervention." The band left everyone feeling properly uplifted with the epic, sweeping "Wake Up," which worn out Lolla-goers happily sang along to. It was the perfect way to end a weekend full of good music and good times.

Check out setlists from both The National and Arcade Fire after the jump.

Lollapalooza 2010 day three: X Japan, Frightened Rabbit, MGMT

As the final day of Lollapalooza 2010 was heading into its last hours, I was getting ready to see a few major acts one after the other, starting with electro-psych popsters MGMT, then moody indie rockers The National, and finally revered Canadian alt-rock act Arcade Fire. First, though, I caught parts of performances from X Japan and Frightened Rabbits.

It's safe to say there has never been another act quite like X Japan at Lollapalooza. The band is indeed Japanese and perform an over the top combination of power metal and progressive rock. They're known for donning wild, manga-inspired costumes during performances, though Sunday afternoon their visuals leaned toward heavy metal gothic, with black leather, skulls and crosses. Their soaring, epic heavy metal anthems aren't something I'd generally gravitate toward, but there was something endearing about the band and their outrageous show. Maybe it was the fact that, despite existing as a unit since the '80s, it was the first time performing in the States and it was cool to see them getting good energy from the crowd. Or maybe it was the fire blasts that popped up on stage near the end of the set. Who knows, but it was all kind of cool. For photos of the performance, check out Time Out Chicago's gallery and review here.

Next, I decided to catch a portion of Frightened Rabbit's set before staking out a place for MGMT at 6 p.m. Apparently many other Lolla-goers had the same idea, because by the time I arrived at the Sony bloggie stage it wasn't really possible to get anywhere close enough to see them. What I heard from the Scottish indie rockers sounded perfectly fine and I would have been happy to stay to hear more of it, but this was one of those times at Lolla when the atmosphere really inhibited my enjoyment of the music - I couldn't see anything, there was no place to move and the crowd back where I was talked loudly through everything I did hear. Because of this, I stayed for just a few songs and then left for the Budweiser stage to see MGMT.

When MGMT last played Lollapalooza in 2008, I caught some of their set from afar, but it didn't sound like anything too great and I admittedly didn't pay much attention as I was never very impressed with their debut album, Oracular Spectacular. Ever since they upped the ante on their second album, Congratulations, though, I've looked forward to seeing how they would come across live these days. While I had no problem with the band's Sunday evening performance in itself, this was another case where external factors made it suffer. Where I was standing the sound mix seemed way off (I could barely hear Andrew VanWyngarden's vocals) and the incessantly chatty and drunk crowd made it hard to properly take in the music. That said, they played all the songs the majority of the audience wanted to hear - including "Time to Pretend," "Electric Feel" and "Kids," which they've reportedly skipped at other recent appearances - and got people moving.

Check out MGMT's setlist after the jump.

Lollapalooza 2010 day three: Company of Thieves, Freelance Whales

Genevieve Schatz of Company of Thieves at Lolla (photo: Windy City Roc
It can be pretty tough to decide what to see on any given day of Lollapalooza, but I always make it a point to highlight Chicago-based bands when marking up my schedule. This year, I made sure to check out not only Skybox on Saturday (more on that here), but also Company of Thieves on Sunday.

While I was very familiar with the band from their debut album, Ordinary Riches, and even did a Q&A with guitarist Marc Walloch right here on WCR, I had never seen them live before their set at the fest. I was very impressed. Frontwoman Genevieve Schatz was one of the most dynamic, compelling performers I saw all weekend - with one of the best voices - and the band had a bite and an edge that hasn't been as prominent on their recorded material.

Highlights of the set included their most notable song, "Oscar Wilde," as well as material Schatz introduced as being from the band's soon-to-be-released sophomore album. "Queen of Hearts" was an emotionally hard hitting song with an excellent chorus that really showcased Schatz's vocals, while "Gorgeous Grotesque" - an environmentally themed song - engrossed with a dark, slightly menacing vibe. The band had a sizable crowd and did their home city proud.

Freelance Whales at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
Later, I stopped by the BMI stage to check out New York-based experimental folk-pop act Freelance Whales. The band's style was hard to pin down, but overall they had a light, pleasant sound that was great for taking a chill-out break in the shade of the area by the stage. For my tastes, their songs were a bit too sleepy and hard to grasp on to, but they certainly came off as a talented group of musicians who many people seemed to find an enjoyable addition to their Sunday afternoon at the fest.

More photos after the jump

Lollapalooza 2010 day three: Miniature Tigers, Frank Turner

Miniature Tigers at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
The third and final day of Lollapalooza 2010 got off to an early - and rainy - start for me as I arrived at the festival to see one of the first bands on the schedule, Miniature Tigers. I've been digging this band ever since I saw them open for The Morning Benders here in Chicago a few months ago, and keeping their newly-released sophomore LP, Fortress, in heavy rotation.

Many others must feel the same way, because despite the steady rain and the early start time a large and attentive crowd gathered by the PlayStation stage on the North side of the fest to see the band play at 11:30 a.m.

The band pulled through for both existing fans and those gathered just out of curiosity with a set of tight, good-natured indie pop that was consistently accessible yet lyrically and musically interesting enough to sound fresh and different from the droves of other indie pop bands out there. They focused on material from Fortress, such as the brief, bouncy and humorously titled "Japanese Woman Living in My Closet," the dancey single "Gold Skull" and the lush, airy "Tropical Birds," but also pulled out some highlights from their debut - most notably the infectious "Cannibal Queen," which got the audience singing along. In addition to having great tunes, they seem like an all around good group of guys that you can't help but root for - something that came through loud and clear when frontman Charlie Brand recounted how he really wanted to go to Lollapalooza when he was 12 but couldn't because he was too young, and how amazing it was that he was now getting the chance to play the fest with his band.

Although not one of the most talked about bands at this year's fest, Miniature Tigers proved to be one of the most enjoyable.

Miniature Tigers setlist:
1. Mansion of Misery
2. Rock N' Roll Mountain Troll
3. Tell It to the Volcano
4. Bullfighter Jacket
5. Gold Skull
6. Japanese Woman Living in My Closet
7. Tropical Birds
8. Lolita
9. Coyote Enchantment
10. Cannibal Queen
11. Last Night's Fake Blood
Frank Turner at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)

After Miniature Tigers ended, I headed over to the smaller Sony bloggie stage to catch a portion of British folk/punk singer-songwriter Frank Turner's set. At that point I was admittedly a bit annoyed by the rain that wouldn't seem to let up, but what I saw of Turner's performance made me forget about it and got me rocking straight away. Like Miniature Tigers, the singer-songwriter seemed extremely thrilled to be playing the fest and was visibly giving it his all to win the crowd over with his impassioned, driving material. In my opinion, it's more often acts like these, not necessarily the heavy hitters, that make Lollapalooza a special experience and a venue for discovering new music.

Stay tuned for additional coverage of Lollapalooza's Sunday performances, including Arcade Fire, The National, MGMT and more.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 day two: Spoon, Green Day

As day two of Lolla 2010 ticked away, I made my way over to the North end of the fest to catch tried-and-true indie rockers Spoon, and then decided I would trek back to the South end to see what punk-pop mainstays Green Day had to offer.

Spoon's set was very enjoyable, and just what any fan of the band's records would most likely expect from them. If you're not a Spoon fan to begin with, they're probably not the type of band that will win you over live  -  their performances stay pretty true to what you hear in their studio material and front-man Britt Daniel has a rather low-key stage presence. But to those who were already fans, the band delivered with a tight sound and excellent assortment of songs. Personally, I prefer the band's more accessible side, which happily was out in full force in the form of songs such as "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb," "I Summon You," "I Turn My Camera On" and "The Underdog."

In terms of Green Day's set, three words come to mind: "Over the top." Scratch that, four: "Long, over the top." The band's set was filled with such long-winded theatrics that it was nearly impossible to tell that they ever came across as a punk act marked by two-and-a-half minute songs and an indifferent attitude. Instead, their time on stage played out mostly like one of those cheesy musical productions on a cruise ship, except with a pop-punk slant and a lot of dirty words. There were explosions. Many explosions. There was endless crowd participation (if I had a dime for every time frontman Billie Joe Armstrong shouted "wave your hands in the air" or "let's get crazy" or "yeah, Chicago!", or brought fans on stage...). There were meandering songs and equally meandering song intros.

Starting off with a host of new-era Green Day songs such as "21st Century Breakdown," "Holiday" and "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," the set eventually moved to classics like "Longview," "She" and "When I Come Around," which the band tended to perform in a more straightforward manner, temporarily making the performance more enjoyable. Soon after, though, the meandering and theatrics returned with a vengeance and the performance went on so much longer than necessary.

Overall, one thing could be said for Green Day - their energy knew no bounds and was a thing to marvel. I can't think of many performers who would have the stamina to do what they did. But while their staged mania might have appeared shiny and exciting on the surface, I'd much rather have seen a rock and roll show than a production.

Lollapalooza 2010 day two: JP, Chrissie & the Fairground Boys

Chrissie Hynde and JP Jones at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
Although Lollapalooza's family-oriented stage, "Kidzapalooza," might not seem like it would make for that great of a time for people not toting little ones around, each year it seems to hold one or two gems that would be worth catching no matter what age you are. This year, the Kidzapalooza act that stood out to me as a must-see was Chrissie Hynde's new band, JP, Chrissie and the Fairground Boys.

Hynde, along with Wales-based singer songwriter JP Jones, played a short set at the stage late Saturday afternoon. The story goes that the Pretenders frontwoman began this new project with Jones, around 30 years her junior, after meeting him randomly in a bar and then deciding to collaborate musically after trading a few text messages. Despite - or maybe because of - their pronounced differences and spontaneous partnership, the two have been creating genuinely exciting music together and will release their debut record, Fidelity, later this month.

Their low-key Lolla set proved a refreshing break in a festival that can often be overwhelming. For 20 minutes or so, we simply got to hear the wonderful sweeter side of Hynde's vocals paired with Jones's impressive, gruff delivery on top of some beautiful, heartfelt songs, such as "Australia," "Fairground Luck" and the band's first single, "If You Let Me."

It was a rare opportunity to experience a relaxed, intimate performance from a rock legend and a rising talent.

More photos after the jump

Lollapalooza 2010 day two: Skybox, Against Me!

Skybox at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
With one successful day down and two days of Lollapalooza to go, I set out Saturday morning with a few bands in mind that I knew I wanted to definitely check out. The first was Chicago's own Skybox, who made the cut as one of the few locally-based acts to represent our city this year. Their recently released album, Morning After Cuts (reviewed here) is very impressive, and while I had heard many reports previously that the band gave outstanding live performances, I hadn't had the chance to see them.

The band began at 12:30 p.m. at the BMI stage, and by the time they began a good-sized crowd had already amassed, though it was unclear how many were actually familiar with the band going in and how many had wandered by purely out of curiosity. As soon as their set started, ushered in by the sparkling, exuberant title track from Morning After Cuts, I knew I would leave the performance impressed.

The joyfulness these guys deliver on record is even more prominent live. Lead singer Tim Ellis has distinctive, quirky voice that gives the band's sparkling indie pop even more personality, and he's a true showman to boot. Before closing their set with one of their best songs, the dancey, insanely upbeat "In a Dream," Ellis ran off stage and came back in a sparkly silver bra a la Lady Gaga. Had Gaga not been the buzz of the fest this year, the theatrics might have come off as trying a bit too hard (especially when the singer proceeded to remove his pants), but in light of the situation it was more less a good bit of fun.

Skybox setlist
1. Morning After Cuts
2. Buckets
3. Everyone Falls In
4. Fences
5. Plastic Cups
6. Various Kitchen Utensils
7. Light
8. Trout
9. In a Dream

A bit later in the day I decided to check out punk rock outfit Against Me!. While waiting for the band to come on the adidas MEGA stage I heard part of Blues Traveler's set from the Parkways Foundation stage across the way, which, believe it or not, included a truly bizarre reggae-fied version of Radiohead's "Creep." It was one of those things you would never, ever anticipate happening until it actually happens.

Tom Gabel of Against Me! at Lolla (photo: Windy City Rock)
In any case, Against Me! delivered a rocking set that got the crowd properly riled up. The band's socially and politically-charged punk is the style of punk I appreciate most - hard-edged but not hardcore, with some melody and tunefulness incorporated more often than not. Frontman Tom Gabel wasn't a man of many words, but that was just fine - onlookers were happy to rock out with little interruptions through the duration of the set. Plus, he ended with a bang by doing a bit of crowd surfing during the last song, "Baby I'm An Anarchist."

Against Me! setlist:
1. High Pressure Low
2. Cliche Guevara
3. Pints of Guinness
4. White Crosses
5. Up the Cuts
6. I Still Love You Julie
7. I Was a Teenage Anarchist
8. White People for Peace
9. Suffocation
10. New Wave
11. Rapid Decompression
12. Don't Lose Touch
13. Miami
14. Walking Is Still Honest
15. Baby I'm an Anarchist

More photos after the jump

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: The Strokes

The Strokes from afar (photo:Windy City Rock)
At the end of a great first day at Lolla, it all came down to one important decision: see The Strokes or see Lady Gaga. As a longtime fan of The Stokes I initially gravitated toward them, but was more than a bit tempted to check out what kind of spectacle the pop megastar would put on. Luckily, Gaga's headlining set started 30 minutes earlier than that of The Strokes on the other end of the festival, so curious onlookers like myself could take in a few of her songs before having to hoof it over to Julian Casablancas and company.

Susan goes into more detail on Gaga's performance in her day one Lolla post, but the small portion of the set that I was able to catch was, well, totally lame. I don't know if things got more exciting as the performance went on, but what I saw looked like not much more than a cheesy Madonna tribute show on a cruise ship (the songs weren't actually Madonna's, but they may just as well have been). It made my decision to leave and watch The Strokes at 8:30 pretty damn easy.

The New York City rockers delivered an enjoyable set, as expected. Having seen the band live twice, they didn't really bring anything new to the table and aren't ones for showmanship, but they sounded great and played a strong setlist, which leaned heavily on their revered debut, Is This It?.

Part of the band's charm is that they convey everything that's always stood out about NYC rock and roll bands such as The Velvet Underground, Blondie and the Ramones to a new generation. There's an icy aloofness about them, a nonchalant air of cool that Casablancas, in particular, pulls off perfectly. "This is our first show in the states in like, forever," observed the frontman in the middle of the set. Then, after a few seconds at a loss for anything to follow it up with: "That's all I got." It's the kind of thing that would make it tough not to be on their side, as was their decision not to go through the charade of coming out for an encore - they just played their set all the way through, ending with "Take It or Leave It."

All the songs people wanted to hear were played: "Last Nite," "Someday," "Reptilia," "Hard to Explain," "You Only Live Once" and other favorites. One pleasant surprise was the soulful album track "Under Control" off the band's sophomore record, Room on Fire, near the end of the set. I only wish they would have played some new songs from their supposed upcoming fourth LP, but that's a minor gripe and new material never seems to go over as well as the old stuff when playing to a festival full of casual fans and non-fans, anyway.

The Strokes were a satisfying conclusion to day one. Now on to day two. Keep your eyes right here to get the scoop on Saturday's festivities!

The Strokes setlist
1. New York City Cops
2. The Modern Age
3. Hard to Explain
4. What Ever Happened
5. You Only Live Once
6. Soma
7. Is This It
8. Vision of Division
9. I Can't Win
10. Reptilia
11. Last Nite
12. Juicebox
13. Someday
14. Under Control
15. Heart in a Cage
16. Take It or Leave It

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers at Lolla (photo: Windy City Rock)
While my good friend and WCR colleague Susan opted to check out Devo during Lolla's 4 p.m. slot Friday, I hit up the Budweiser stage to take in The New Pornographers. Even though the well-liked indie rock/power pop troupe has been around for over a decade and previously played Lollapalooza in 2006, I hadn't seen them before, so I figured it was about time - especially considering how fantastic their latest LP, Together, is.

The band didn't disappoint. In fact, they gave my second favorite performance of the day, right behind the magnificent Mavis Staples, who played before them on the same stage. The New Pornos weren't exactly a "showy" band - they basically just got out on stage and nonchalantly played their stuff, occasionally with a bit of slightly awkward (endearingly) banter thrown in between songs - but that was perfectly fine. They played the songs so well, and the material is just so good, that it would have been hard not to thoroughly enjoy the set.

Sometimes certain members of this "supergroup" aren't present at certain shows, so I was happy to note they were all on stage - including alt-country/rock darling Neko Case, who performed an excellent solo set at the festival last year. Case hid underneath a big, black and white floppy hat for the entire time to combat the bright afternoon sun, but delivered her songs - such as the gorgeous, peppy new single "Crash Years" and the bouncy "Mass Romantic" - with gusto. Another of the band's vocalists, Dan Bejar, receded to the back of the stage every time he wasn't singing one of his own songs ("Myriad Harbour" and "Silver Jenny Dollar," for example), and when he did come to the front he looked quite surly (again, endearingly so), grasping a can of beer as he sang. The band's other two vocalists, A.C. "Carl" Newman and Kathryn Calder - were more visible. Calder's "Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk" was a highlight, and Newman delivered spot-on renditions of a handful of his songs, including "Use It" and "All the Old Showstoppers."

The setlist spanned the band's substantial back catalog, paying attention to older fan favorites and hitting on most of the high points from Together. For my first time seeing the band, I don't think I could have asked for a better show.

New Pornographers setlist
1. Sing Me Spanish Techno
2. Myriad Harbour
3. The Laws Have Changed
4. Jackie Dressed in Cobras
5. Moves
6. Crash Years
7. Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
8. All the Old Showstoppers
9. Testament to Youth in Verse
10. Challengers
11. Your Hands (Together)
12. Mass Romantic
13. Silver Jenny Dollar
14. Use It
15. The Bleeding Heart Show

More photos after the jump

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: Devo, Matt and Kim, The Black Keys, Lady Gaga

Devo at Lollapalooza (photo: Susan Schomburg)
One day down, two to go. The first day of the 2010 Lollapalooza festival in Grant Park went pretty well. It's obviously big, and there are a lot of people not being as nice to each other as they should be, but overall, things went okay.

For me, the first stand-out performance of the day came from new-wave legends Devo, who are still very much alive and kicking. Their live show was intense and exciting, and came with herky-jerky dancing, artsy projections on a screen, and lots of matching uniforms. The energy ran high throughout the set, while fans--including many sporting plastic Devo hats--danced and jumped and sang along to their songs. The band were clearly having a good time, and fed off the audience's energy, making their performance even better.

I caught the start of Matt and Kim's set on my way from Devo, and they were just as I remembered them: energetic and fun, with pulsing rhythms and nice keyboard riffs. Matt gave shout-outs to Lake Michigan and the City of Chicago before going back into the set. I wanted to see more, and so did many others--all sorts of people just stopped in the middle of the walkways to watch the set.

The Black Keys were my top pick for Friday's festival, and I am happy to say they were very good live, indeed. Their sound is so big live, you keep forgetting it's just two guys banging away on guitar and drums, but that just makes them more awesome. They delivered an hour of thick, gritty grooves in the blues-rock tradition, starting out the set with older material. They were joined midway through by bass and keyboard players, and proceeded to play several songs off their latest album (Brothers, which is shaping up to be one of the best albums of the year). When they reached their latest single, "Tighten Up," it seemed like the whole audience sang along. The band closed their set as a duo once more, playing more of their earlier material, including "Your Touch" and fantastic set closer "I Got Mine." In spite of being scheduled until 7:15 (not 7) and the audience's hoots and hollers, the band did not come back on to play a few more, a disappointment to more than one fan in the audience. At least they left us wanting more.

Man, though. Lady Gaga really let me down. The first half-hour of her set (which, given the quality, was all I stayed for) was just not very good. It was slow-paced and pretentious and just...dull. It wasn't very visually appealing, and I was actually somewhat shocked she's got such a reputation as a performer if that's what she brings to her live show. I would suggest you just watch her videos and not bother with her live, except that, from the opposite end of the park, at The Strokes' opposing headliner show, I saw fireworks and laser beams coming from where Gaga was performing. I suspect perhaps she held back during the first part of her set to weed out those people (like me) who were just there to see what all the fuss was about, rather than the faithful many who stayed for the whole set in spite of the stinky beginning. Afterwards, blocks away from the fest, her set was still clearly audible in the streets.

When Lady Gaga failed to live up to her headliner status, I headed over to see The Strokes (who I'd never seen live before). They delivered what Gaga hadn't--an exciting live show to end the evening. Their set got people moving and shaking, even at the back of the park.

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: Mavis Staples

Mavis Staples & Jeff Tweedy perform (Photo: Windy City Rock)
Even with two days of Lollapalooza 2010 left to go, I think it's safe to say that Friday afternoon's performance by Windy City gospel legend Mavis Staples will be lauded by many as the greatest of this year. In fact, in my opinion her performance was one of the best I've seen at any installment of Lollapalooza to date.

The 71-year-old singer's set was nothing short of exquisite. The sheer power of her husky, emotive vocals combined with her heartfelt delivery elevated the material from simply songs to spiritual experiences. Much of the setlist pulled from her forthcoming album You Are Not Alone (produced by another one of Chicago's finest musical talents, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco) and from the sound of it we are in for a special treat September 14 when the record is released. From the heart-wrenching title track to the universally relatable "Only the Lord Knows" to the joyful, upbeat "I Belong to the Band," Staples truly sold the material and had the audience in the palm of her hand.

Much to the crowd's excitement, Tweedy came on stage as a special surprise to play guitar on two tracks. It was beyond cool to see two such respected, talented Chicago artists performing together. It was apparent they genuinely care for one another and the art they have created together. Plus, Staples came across as humble, good-humored and genuinely appreciative of the love she received from the crowd, making the experience even more special.

I'd expect that anyone who decided to stop by the Budweiser stage for this performance won't forget it any time soon.

Mavis Staples setlist:
1. Wonderful Savior
2. Only the Lord Knows
3. Too Close to Heaven/I'm on My Way to Heaven Anyhow
4. You Are Not Alone
5. I Belong to the Band
6. The Weight
7. Wrote a Song for Everyone
8. Creep Along, Moses
9. Freedom Highway
10. I'll Take You There

More photos after the jump

Lollapalooza 2010 day one: The Ettes, Jukebox the Ghost

The Ettes at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
The first day of Lollapalooza's three-day run has come to a close, and I must say Friday's installment proved to be one of the most enjoyable times I've had at the festival since it started in its current incarnation in 2005. Not only was it a beautiful day (albeit quite hot at times, though anyone who's ever been to Lollapalooza has come to expect that), but the performances overall seemed to be of a very high caliber.

I arrived at the fest just as it was opening, and immediately noticed a bigger crowd accumulated than there typically has been in past years this early on in the day. Usually the acts that perform early don't have huge crowds, but that didn't seem to be the case this year. Hip-hopper B.o.B. kicked off the festival with an 11:30 a.m. set at the adidas MEGA stage, and as I passed by I noticed a very sizable audience. The same was the case for Nashville-based quartet The Ettes, who played at 12:30 p.m. on the BMI stage on the North side of the festival.

The band's set was the first I decided to check out after arriving, opting for them over Wavves. Their crunchy, down-and-dirty rock sounded great and was ideal for pumping the crowd up and getting everyone ready for a three-day musical party. What made The Ettes stand out among their contemporaries for me was the band's front woman, Lindsay "Coco" Hames. Rarely do you hear such a girly voice (think Kim Deal or even Jane Wiedlin) paired with this style of music. It made for a really ear-catching juxtaposition. They seemed like really cool people without pretension, too, which is always refreshing at a festival where there's never a shortage of egos.

Jukebox the Ghost at Lollapalooza (photo: Windy City Rock)
Shortly after, I headed back to the BMI stage to catch a portion of Jukebox the Ghost's set at 1:45. I didn't know much about this band going in, and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. The Washington, D.C.-born trio's jaunty, good-natured indie pop was incredibly well-written and performed with plenty of enthusiasm. I had seen them compared to Ben Folds, but in my opinion a band such as fun. would be a more accurate comparison. I was only able to catch a few songs as I wanted to see Mavis Staples, whose set began at 2 on the Budweiser stage, but all it took was those few songs to win me over as a fan. I will definitely be checking out their new album, Everything Under the Sun, when it comes out next month.

More photos after the jump

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Strokesarazzi: For those torn between The Strokes and Gaga at Lolla

One of the biggest dilemmas Lollapalooza 2010 has put forth is having to decide between seeing The Strokes or Lady Gaga Friday night. True, they're really nothing alike, but both promise to be pretty damn entertaining. In light of this, our very own Bobby Minelli has put together a little video called "Strokesarazzi." In the video, Bobby puts his musical prowess - not to mention his ability to do a wicked Julian Casablancas - to work by presenting us with what it might sound like if The Strokes took on Gaga's "Paparazzi."

Bobby got the idea after discussing Lollapalooza scheduling conflicts with his brother and the resulting urge to tackle the question, "The Strokes or Lady Gaga? What's a leather clad disco dancing festival goer to do?" Behold:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lollapalooza 2010 artist picks, take two: Susan's top festival acts

Posted by
Susan Schomburg (WCR Exclusive)

When my dear friend Frank asked me to narrow down my picks for Lollapalooza to five must-see acts for each day, I said "of course"--and then proceeded to not actually get it done in a timely manner. Seeing as I finally got around to narrowing it down to those oh-so-chosen few, this post will be an informal mash-up and at times hyperbolic response to Frank's previous post. If you want to see my long-winded posts detailing my picks-at-large for each day's offerings, feel free to click on each date below.

Friday, August 6:

Wavves (12:15-1, Budweiser stage): If you make it to the fest early on Friday, be sure not to miss lo-fi garage rockers Wavves. What can I say? I saw them at Pitchfork fest last year and was suitably impressed. They're a really good bet if you can get yourself to the fest in time for their set (or maybe just listen in from the street as you wait in that massive line to get in to the fest).

Devo (4-5, Parkways Foundation stage): How many times are Devo going to tour? You'll probably have a lot more chances to see The New Pornographers (and/or their constituent members) than you will to see influential new wave act Devo. Plus, if you're into theme shows (I know I am!) you can enjoy another band from Akron, Ohio later that night (The Black Keys).

Matt & Kim (5-6, Adidas Mega stage): Following Devo, stick around for keys/drums duo Matt & Kim. Another act from last year's Pitchfork fest, all I can say is that they can really bring the best of the house party vibe to a big outdoor festival setting, and are a sure bet if you want to dance and have a good time at the festival. And then run, don't walk (okay, I'm not really advocating anybody to do that--let's say, 'make your way in a brisk but orderly fashion' instead) to the Black Keys' set across the festival grounds.

The Black Keys (6-7:15, Budweiser stage): My #1 pick for Friday's fest is blues-rock duo The Black Keys, whose recent release Brothers is (in my not-so-humble opinion) likely to be one of the best albums released this year. Singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach's solo set at last year's Lollapalooza was one of the best of the fest, and I have every confidence that with drummer Patrick Carney with him once more on stage, these childhood friends will tear it up. I totally agree with Frank on this one. Seriously, don't miss these guys, they're two fun dudes who will definitely rule the school.

Lady Gaga (8-10, Parkways Foundation stage): I agree with Frank that the Friday night headliners are a tossup among festival-goers, but I know I'll be checking out Lady Gaga's set, if only because I probably would never go to a show specifically for her, but I'm going to ride on the assumption that her stage show is going to be pretty spectacular. At the very least, start out at her set, and if she doesn't deliver the goods, you can always make your way over to the Strokes (who are scheduled to start a whole half-hour after her set does).

Saturday, August 7:

Warpaint (2:15-3, Sony Bloggie stage): The good things you've heard about Warpaint are true. They were at this year's Do-Division Festival, and these ladies rock. They have a dark, trippy sound and lay down some excellent beats live. Go ahead and see for yourself.

Gogol Bordello (3:45-4:45, Parkways Foundation stage): This gypsy punk outfit is definitely one of the most unique-sounding bands of recent memory, and if you want to clear your musical palate from all the straightforward indie rock you're liable to get just from haplessly wandering past some stage or another at the fest, these guys are the ones to do it. (Although I have to admit, I might sneak out a bit early to catch Chrissie Hynde playing at the kiddie stage.)

Grizzly Bear (4:15-5:15, Budweiser stage): Experimental folk-rockers Grizzly Bear are a best-bet for the festival. Their music is just a weird and awesome blend of styles, employing electronic and acoustic instruments together with slightly unnerving songwriting and rich sonic textures. Just see em. Do it!
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (6:30-7:30, Sony Bloggie stage): So here is one place where I totally and fundamentally disagree with Frank. I've seen Spoon live, and they are one of a handful of bands I've seen live whose live show I strongly recommend you to not bother with. In their stead, check out hippy folk-rock collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on one of the more intimate stages at the fest. Their music has catchy hooks and good vibes galore, and for my money, I'd rather take a chance on an act I haven't seen before that might be really good, than waste my time with one I know isn't.

Phoenix (8:30-10, Budweiser stage): Again, I disagree with Frank. Green Day haven't been questionable recently; they've been questionable for quite a long time (I can't remember a time when they weren't). Meanwhile, French indie act Phoenix have been putting out quirky, bubbly indie pop rock that infects your soul with the desire to shake what your momma gave you.

Sunday, August 8:

Company of Thieves (1-1:45, Sony Bloggie stage): I agree with Frank that this Chicago act, one of the few at this year's fest, is a solid bet with lush and lovely sounds galore.

Blitzen Trapper (2-3, Budweiser stage): The act I'm most excited to see on Sunday, Blitzen Trapper blends folk, old school rock, Americana, and the feeling you get when you look at sepia photographs of people you've never met in a cabin in the woods all together into something new but familiar, and undeniably gorgeous. Their albums are some of the strongest releases I've heard in recent years, and they're great live. It is a shame--nay, a crime against music itself--if you miss this band's set at the festival. (Did I mention, they happen to be one of my favorite bands?)
Minus the Bear

Minus the Bear (3-4, Adidas Mega stage): I'll admit, in the past, I've thought Minus the Bear was good, but not great--but their most recent album (Omni) along with the footage of their live shows I've seen courtesy of the internet confirms that they should deliver a great set of electronic-tinged dance rock Sunday afternoon.

MGMT (6-7:15, Budweiser stage): I agree with Frank. MGMT upped the ante with their latest release, and their live show should be full of dancing and rocking and pageantry to boot. Don't miss 'em.

Arcade Fire (8:30-10, Budweiser stage): I admit, it took me a while to warm up to Arcade Fire's music. I remember arguing fiercely in 2005 with the program and music directors at my college radio station when the question of adding "Wake Up" to the station's rotation came up. It hardly needs saying, but my objections were overruled. I'm still not crazy about that nincompoop song of theirs, but I do have to admit, the band's actually pretty damn good, and with a reputation preceding them of an excellent (possibly epic?) live show, I, for one, look forward to putting them to the test Sunday night.