Monday, February 28, 2011

Show review: Akron/Family at Lincoln Hall, 2/24

By Conor O'Hagan

Akron/Family (photo:

Akron/Family are extremely difficult to label. And maybe that’s the point.

Last Thursday the band performed at Lincoln Hall, promoting their latest album Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT. I have no idea what that title means. By means of explanation, in a note sent to their record company, Akron/ Family were inspired by a note left for them which said: “Flourish. Flourish. Flourish. Fuck Shit Up.” The band took this to heart. That’s good enough for me.

The trio played six new tracks, mashing their sincere sing-along hippy-revival numbers with wild experiments in noise pollution. At times battling in Dan Auerbach territory, at times sporting a wide variety of miscellaneous instruments, and never seen without some of the best beards rock and roll has to offer, AK are cool customers and had the crowd dancing and participating throughout.

Interview: Emblems

Posted by Frank

Chicago's Emblems play a moody, swirling, heavily orchestrated style of indie-folk that captivates upon first listen. It's a sound that so far you can only hear via a handful of tracks, but expect much more soon; the quintet are currently in the studio preparing a new record planned for release this spring. They also have two shows coming up: April 17th at the House Cafe in Dekalb with The Spring Standards and April 22nd at the Viaduct Theater with Young Jesus and Verona Red.

Emblems' Matthew Stevens, Steph Popoca and Luke Mowcomber recently took some time out from recording to answer a few questions for WCR. Read on to find out what they had to say and keep an eye out for more details on their upcoming release.

WCR: First off, give us a bit of background on Emblems.

Matthew: Emblems came together when I decided that I wanted to start something refreshing. I wanted to create a band with multiple influences instead of pertaining to a particular style. Our wide variety of influences between members definitely makes this band unique. Emblems has good amount of instrumentation, as well. 

Show review & photos: Dropkick Murphys at Congress Theater, 2/26

By Mike Sullivan

"Lets go Mur-phys…Lets go Mur-phys…Lets go Mur-phys…"

This was the crowd's chant at the Congress Theater Saturday night when Boston’s Dropkick Murphys made their their annual Chicago stop on their tour promoting upcoming album Going Out In Style, out March 1st.

Being a Southside Irish lad, I look forward to the month of March for some great Irish traditions; be it parades, enjoying some authentic Irish food, watching some Irish dancing, listening to the Chicago Fire Department Pipes and Drums, or even getting rowdy to some Celtic punk music. This year, the Dropkick Murphys helped to kick off March’s traditions a few days early.

The band have gained popularity over the past few years with tracks appearing in Martin Scorsese’s academy award winning film "The Departed", and you always hear a clip of "Shipping Up to Boston" at some type of sporting or another. Even so, their trueness to their sound and their love for the blue collar, hard working American haven't changed.

They started the night out with one of their new songs, "Hang ‘em High," which definitely set the tone for what was to come. After that, they dove quickly into "The Fighting 69th" and "Barroom Hero." The at-capacity crowd swayed back and forth like a churning sea while shirtless bodies were being tossed above to ride the adrenaline-filled waves. The band continued to rip through track after track with little hesitation in between to keep the now beer-soaked crowd amped up. They played material off each of their seven albums, saving some of the fan favorites for the end. A large pirate flag rolled down as a backdrop as "Shipping Up to Boston" closed the main set. You could tell the crowd was hungry for this song as the hall exploded with the first notes played on Tim Brennan’s accordion.

After a short break the band came back to finish the night just like it started, at full throttle. They played the macho tongue-in cheek song "Kiss Me I’m Shitfaced" with a stage full of women to help sing along, followed by "Skinhead on the MBTA," then closed the night with one of the union workers' favorites, "Boys on the Docks."

Many bands lose something when their music is transferred to a live performance; they either miss some oomph or sound exactly like they do on their studio albums, with little heart and soul poured into the show. The Dropkick Murphys do just the opposite. They bring a completely new experience to their performances, which makes the show turn into more of a party with your best friends than your average concert outing. Now I'm ready to kick off a long month of Irish festivities.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Show review: Dum Dum Girls, Minks at Empty Bottle, 2/24

Posted by Andrew

On this week’s episode of “Always Catch the Opener": Dirty Beaches. I walked into the Empty Bottle Thursday night to catch the closing track from the Canadian solo artist (apparently a trend), to the pre-recorded melancholic piano of the only track I knew by him, "Lord Knows Best." Wish I would have caught the whole set of minimal blues, as it apparently also included a Johnny Cash cover. Guess I’ll have to wait until March 29th when he drops his debut LP, Badlands, to hear the rest of it.

Up next was Brooklyn six-piece Minks. The band seems to practice the too-cool-for-school look as much as they practice their Curesque hook-laced pop jams. Track titles like "Cemetery Rain" and "Funeral Song" prove ironic in their happy-its-a-rainy-day upbeat tempos that wouldn’t be out of place on a Go-Betweens album. As much as I dig their debut LP By the Hedge, the sound just doesn’t cut through as much live as I would have hoped. The synths didn’t stand out as much as on the album and the group adapts a sort of bored stage presence, throwing out occasional insincerely mumbled "thank you’s" in-between tracks. That said, the chorus to "Kusmi" has a great vocal hook that stands out above the layered synths and heavily reverbed guitar. Was in my head all night.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pitchfork Music Festival 2011 dates announced

Posted by Andrew

And for some reason, nothing really matters in my life for the next five months. It's that time again to start counting down the days to the polarizing music blog empire's annual music festival in Union Park. For all the guff that the website gets, you gotta hand them credit for putting on a hell of a show with reasonable ticket, food and beverage prices. No bands announced yet, but years past have included the likes of the Flaming Lips, Pavement, Spiritualized, Spoon, Animal Collective amongst a veritable who's who of indie rock vets along with buzzing up-and-comers. This year's fest is set to go down July 15-17. Tickets go on sale Friday, March 4th on the fest's website. Single day passes are $45, the whole weekend is $110. Considering the weekend passes sold out within five days last year, I'd suggest getting on this quick.

Show review: Murder by Death at Subterranean, 2/24

By Matt Ciani

Murder by Death
Not many bands qualify to fall within the category of “Gothic Western” music. Even fewer can do this whilst rallying a crowd into a frenzy the way Adam Turla and co. did last night when Murder By Death played Subterranean.

Starting off their set with tracks from their most recent release, Good Morning, Magpie, the band tore through their 12-song main set with masterful, Johnny Cash-ish ease. Frontman Turla introduced his songs as “ballads about murder and desperation," but despite its inherent grotesqueries, Murder By Death’s off-kilter Southern charm was nothing but a seemingly infinite source of positive energy for their cult-like following.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ticket giveaway! Portugal. The Man at Lincoln Hall, 3/10

photo: ediphotoeye
Here's the deal: Audiotree's launch party featuring Portugal. The Man, Kellen & Me and the The Soil & the Sun is going down Thursday, March 10th at Lincoln Hall. It's already sold out, but the good people of Audiotree have given us two pairs of tickets to give away to the good people who read WCR.

We usually just ask for an e-mail when we give away free tickets, but that's getting kind of boring. Plus, we feel like shamelessly promoting our Facebook page a bit. So here's what to do in order to get in the running:

1) Go to the Windy City Rock Facebook page and click "like." Do the same thing on the Audiotree Facebook page.
2) Leave a comment on the Windy City Rock Facebook wall post that links to this page and mentions the show/ticket giveaway. Let us know that you want to win the Portugal. The Man tickets in your comment. It doesn't matter how you say it, just let us know you want 'em.

That's it. So it's still pretty easy. We'll accept comments until 6 p.m central time on Tuesday, March 1st and then select two winners randomly. Good luck!

Tonight: Post Honeymoon, Whales, Sam Vicari at Panchos

Posted by Frank

Post Honeymoon (photo: Nate Larson)
If you want to include some live music in your Thursday night, Panchos has you covered with a lineup of three very worthwhile Chicago acts.

Duo Post Honeymoon deliver their own sparse but captivating take on post-punk with slinky, plaintive female vocals and an eerie vibe. Flashes of bands such as Romeo Void, Pylon and Siouxsie and the Banshees come through. Listen for yourself here.

Before the duo takes the stage, four-piece Whales will offer up their ear-grabbing mix of shoegaze, noise-pop and space-rock, which can be heard on their self-titled debut album.

Sam Vicari will begin the night on a more upbeat note with a sound that calls on the likes of Weezer and the Smoking Popes for inspiration. Check out his album Keep Careful for free download on Bandcamp.

8 p.m., 18 and over, $5. Tickets here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • What does Rahm Emanuel as mayor of Chicago mean for independent music in our city? Jim DeRogatis asked this question with an in-depth article on his blog
  • Loud Loop Press announced that locally-based rockers Rabble Rabble will provide a series of video blogs for the site while they are down in Texas during SXSW. Keep an eye out for the vlogs following the band's first SXSW show on March 16
  • Have you signed up for Chicago Mixtape yet? If not, get in on the action to get free tracks from Windy City bands e-mailed to you weekly. CMT will officially celebrate its launch with a show at Subterranean on Saturday, March 5th featuring Jonny Rumble, Jitney, Ornery Little Darlings and more
  • Garage/punk quintet Rambos have just released two new tracks - "Arrows" and "Terrorize" - for free download on their Bandcamp site. You can also check out live performances from the band on YouTube here and here
  • Chicago-based folk-rock artist Curtis Evans made his Daytrotter debut last week. Check out the impressive four-song set here

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Interview: Jay Ranz of Tiger Bones

Posted by Andrew

It takes a certain kind of band to mashup Joy Division with Harry Nilsson. So when you see that the last track of Tiger Bones’ debut EP Go Over Here is called "Transmission (Nilsson edit)" you know you’re dealing with some guys that cleverly employ their sense of humor with a unique perspective on music. Aside from that, the four piece blends elements of post-punk and surf rock into ominous and brooding garage sounds. So far compared to the Cure, Suicide and Broadcast, among others, this is a band difficult to pin down by association alone.

On the heels of their EP release (out March 8th on Dedd Foxx) I had a chance to talk with guitarist Jay Ranz about the band's origins, their history with the Ponys and the ubiquity of ‘tiger’ bands. The official release party is going down at the Whistler next Thursday March 3rd, with Village opening up. Read the interview below.

Watch Maps & Atlases' Mahogany sessions

Posted by Sasha

Having just completed their European tour, Maps & Atlases are stopping back on this side of the pond before shipping off to Japan in April. Luckily for us, these busy travelers will play Chicago first, on Friday, March 11th at Lincoln Hall. While in the UK they laid down a couple of tracks for the London-based Mahogany Blog. These (mostly) unplugged sessions were filmed in soft focus in front of a quaint ivy-streaked brick wall, like all folk rock videos should be. Check out "Living Decorations" below and "If This Is" here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Musicians, want to play a SXSW show?

Posted by Frank

To all you musicians who would like the chance to head down to Texas and play a show at SXSW, here's your chance. The crew behind Gigmaven have a contest going on that will award two winners slots at their SXSW day party at Emo's in Austin on Tuesday, March 15th. They'll also throw in money toward travel expenses, professional photography of your set at the gig and more.

There are two ways to win and they both involve uploading pretty simple videos to YouTube, so if you like the idea of playing a SXSW show there's really no reason not to enter. Winners will be announced on March 2nd at 2 p.m. The full rules and instructions are here.

To learn more about Gigmaven, check out our post on its recent expansion to Chicago.

Video: Merlin Wall - 'Chick Track'

Posted by Frank

In the new video for their tune "Chick Track," Chicago's Merlin Wall prove that simple can be good. Especially when simple involves three minutes of a babe on the beach. Just a babe in various poses and some waves and...well, that's pretty much it. And yet, if your viewing experience is anything like mine, you'll have no problem making it to the very end. Of course it also doesn't hurt that a totally cool, catchy surf rock song is playing along with it (a song that you can download for free along with five others on the band's debut EP Crushin' from Afar). Have a look/listen for yourself:

Drive A at the Vic, 2/20

By Mike Sullivan

The large cold and wet crowd that waited patiently outside the Vic Sunday night for the Chicago stop of the Dead Masquerade Tour got hot and sweaty really quick once they got inside.

Drive A - a Los Angeles-based punk/rock band with influences ranging from Anti-Flag to Rise Against to Green Day - opened the night with a lot of angst filled lyrics and power chords that reminded me of the classic skate punk music from the 80s. These guys know how to throw down a highly intense show and singer Bruno Mascolo loves to interact with the crowd throughout the set.

The quartet played some new tracks from their upcoming album The World in Shambles, set for release this spring. Their sound and writing has matured greatly since their first album, 2009's Loss of Desire. You can tell that two years on the road has helped them grow as musicians and really polish their sound. If you’re into punk music, you should really give these guys a listen and check out their energetic live show next time they come around.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Record review: Santah - 'White Noise Bed'

Posted by Andrew

It’s difficult to review an album that’s already been out for the better part of a year. I’ve already read so much about it from other people’s perspectives, it’s hard to determine if what I want to write is my own opinion or a rehashing of other reviews. The Fighting Illini-formed Santah, who now base themselves in Chicago, seem to gradually be building a buzz throughout the Midwest since the release of their debut album White Noise Bed back in early May of 2010. Amongst all the reviews, comments and RIYL namedrops, I’m here, belatedly, to offer a few of my own.

The track likely to catch your ears first is "No Other Women." The interplay between vocals and instruments in ¾ timing and highly reverberated guitar recalls many west-coast outfits, from the sunny Morning Benders to the percussive Local Natives to the folky Fleet Foxes. These comparisons illuminate the idea that music in general is continually evolving geographically. Wilco and My Morning Jacket are two other comparisons I have come across, and the Midwestern alt-country tag fits…sometimes. To pigeonhole Santah like that would be to ignore the glimpses of early '00s Brit-Pop. In fact, the most unnerving thing about this album to me was during the cathartic closing of "When I Couldn’t Move," where Stan’s falsetto breaches Chris Martin territory; it’s almost enough to make me want to give Parachutes another chance. Album closer "Neighbors and Cousins (Are We Lovers)" juxtaposes confused feelings with an upbeat piano and playful bassline that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Flaming Lips’ psychedelic and underrated Clouds Taste Metallic.

Much of the criticism of the album deals with the unintelligibility of leadman Stan McConnell’s vocals and that this is not a lyrics album. Some justified that it was almost the point to have the vocals act as just one of the other instruments, but I feel this is a misstep. One of the things the band is often hailed for is the humanity of their recordings, with little to no studio tomfoolery. Naturally, this follows suit in the honesty of their lyrics, which admittedly, can be difficult to make out at times. But those who are persistent in their listening will come across clever gems such as "I gave my rights up, I fucked her...whole world up" from the track "Cold Wave." Stan waxes literary on "Irish Wristwatch" with “Once is not enough to know to read what we wrote, you'll need every footnote.” Which I’m deciding to loosely translate as ‘listen to this album over and over and over." Sold.

Overall, Santah released a fantastic album that proves me wrong in my assertion that nothing worthwhile happens outside of the city limits. Now setting up base in Chicago, the band is looking to make a bigger splash nationally. They are heading to SXSW next month, bookended by dates around the Midwest. Before then, you can catch them this Sunday the 20th at Saki Records for a 4 p.m. performance opening for California Wives and again on March 9th at Schubas. In the meantime, listen to Stan McConnell play a couple solo tracks and discuss the band’s future on Indiesomnia’s Green Room Sessions recorded late last year. White Noise Bed is currently streaming in its entirety up on bandcamp.


Check out more record reviews:

Interview: Brice Woodall

Posted by Sasha

photo: Brittany Diliberto
Originally from Virginia, Brice Woodall arrived in Chicago in 2005 and immediately began putting his own take on indie folktronica all over the map. It's difficult to fit his work into a genre box; his songs are simultaneously digital and lushly organic, accessible and mysterious, playful and dark. He's been called the Thom Yorke of the south and the Andrew Bird of outer space. Radiohead might be his most traceable influence, but there's plenty going on that's uniquely Brice as he combines dreamy electronic atmospheres with surprising melodies and enigmatic lyrics. He just released a fantastic set from the Abbey Road Studio sessions he recorded with his band, The Positrons, and his latest self-released solo record Devil Take You! is now available for purchase on iTunes. His next studio record is currently set for a spring release.

You can catch Brice live for free this Saturday, February 19th at 9:00 p.m. at Leland Tap with Andy B. White and Haywood Yards. In advance of the show, he took the time to chat with us about things like the upcoming record, DIY, YouTube, and 19th century Russian lit. Check out the interview below.

Record review: Village - 'Local Moves'

Posted by Frank

Last year Chicago's Village debuted with Minimal Animal, a strong set of tunes that split the difference between '60s-styled psych rock and jangly power pop. It was one of my favorite releases of 2010, so just a few months after it dropped I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the second Village LP, Local Moves, was already set for an early 2011 release. While Minimal Animal came together after singer/guitarist Stephen Ucherek dissolved his previous band The Living Blue and began writing and recording new material mostly on his own, its follow-up, out now, was more of a group effort. It is the first Village release featuring the band's since-formed live lineup; joining Ucherek are guitarist Kevin Smith, drummer Joshua Lucas, bassist Allissa Hacker and Mike Racky on pedal/lap steel. This definitely gives the record a fuller, tighter feel, but at its core it picks up right where Minimal Animal left off, with the same sort of garage-meets-psych-meets-pop vibe and an equally strong - maybe stronger - batch of songs.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Check this out: Rodeo

Posted by Frank

If you visit these parts often you're probably also familiar with one of our fellow purveyors of Chicago music information, the excellent Loud Loop Press. You might also know that our pal Richard Giraldi is at the helm of that site, but did you know he has a band? They're called Rodeo, they're a three-piece and they play heavy, sometimes psychedelic rock that Richard describes as having a "Jesus Lizard-meets-the Pixies" vibe. I have been playing the band's debut EP Sarcastic Summer and I concur with that description, especially if you think about those bands at their rawest. Not really metal, but certainly something you can thrash around and release some pent up frustration to. And we could all use some healthy release via incredibly loud rock and roll sounds now and then, don't you think? You can listen to the EP and name your price for a download on Bandcamp.

Rodeo will be playing at Abbey Pub tonight, February 17th, with the very charmingly named The Fuck You Kiss My Asses, POWERS and Brutal Beatings. 8 p.m., 21 and over, $8 advance/$10 at door. Head on over and rock out. More info here.

Tonight: The Cathy Santonies, Secret Colours & more

Posted by Andrew

The Cathy Santonies
Thursday has quickly become my favorite day of the week. I’m too impatient to wait for the conventional week’s end and there always seems to be more going on Thursday nights anyway. This week is no exception, with a couple of great shows to choose from tonight.

According to their online bio, the Cathy Santonies “are a subversive mix of riot grrrl & cock rock.” Really, I’m having difficulty coming up with a better description. I feel like sort of a rube that it took the Tribune to turn me on to these gals, but I’m sure glad they did. The Whistler should prove to be an interesting space for them to play; save the fancy cocktail for between sets because this is going to be a fist-in-air, guns-a-blazin’ good time. Get their EP I’m Yr Friend! I’m Yr Revolution! on their site for free. Opening the show is Memphis native, Minnesota transplant Gasoline Silver. With the a bit of blues from his birthplace mixed with the punk rock his new home is known for, you’ll definitely wanna make sure to get there early on this one. 21+, 9:30, FREE.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

EP review: Cains & Abels - 'The Price is Right'

Posted by Sasha

Cains & Abels tread through a darkness perhaps similar to the one Bonnie "Prince" Billy sees in its elusiveness. The Price is Right, the follow-up to the band's 2009 full-length Call Me Up, hides something sinister underneath its pop constructions and echoing arpeggios. The EP has brought Cains & Abels to a smaller, stranger place. Since we last heard from him, lead singer and bassist David Sampson has settled more comfortably into the idiosyncrasy of his voice, a thin, fractured warble styled along the lines of The Long Winters' Sean Nelson. Sampson embraces the emotive power of his technical limitations, using controlled breaks at opportune moments to emphasize the weariness in his lyrics. He's no longer straining, nor is he using harmony as a crutch; instead, there's a new confidence in his offhand vocal quirk that beautifully characterizes the sound of the whole band.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Be in the next Archie Powell music video

Posted by Andrew

Hey, all of you actors and non-actors out there: want to be famous? What's your opinion on free beer and a good time? For a chance at the former and a guarantee of the latter, head over to Quencher's Saloon on February 27th at noon to help Archie Powell and the Exports shoot a performance scene for their next music video. No word on what track they're doing, but my guess is that it's going to be one of the straightforward-no-bullshit-Midwestern-rock songs they're known for. More info on the event can be found at the Facebook page. If you're wondering ahead of time what AP&E are capable of live, check them out at the Empty Bottle for one of their infamous free Monday night shows on the 21st.

More on Archie Powell:
Live Review at Darkroom, 12/02/10
Record Review for 'Skip Work'
Music Video for "Enough About Me"

A few Chicago music news bites

  • If your Valentine's Day sucked (or you're just a cynic about the whole deal), City States have the song for you. In light of the holiday the locally-based art pop unit took on the less-than-happy Police classic "King of Pain," which you can listen to on Also be sure to check them out at SubT tonight with Future Ghosts and WCR writer Andrew's band, Moon Furies.
  • In honor of Black History Month, brothers Jason and Baron Harper of Chicago band Scattered Trees put together a great short documentary on race in music and what it's like being black indie musicians. Watch it here.
  • The Windy City's own queen of soul, Mavis Staples, took home a Grammy for best Americana album Sunday night in recognition of the Jeff Tweedy-produced You Are Not Alone. Fellow Chicagoan Buddy Guy also won for best contemporary blues album. Thomas Conner of the Sun-Times has more details in his article.
  • Gapers Block reviewed '70s-formed post-punk act Gang of Four with Hollerado at Metro Friday night.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Show review: Justin Townes Earle at Metro, 2/10

Posted by Bobby

Justin Townes Earle returned to Chicago last Thursday, after our city had been the abrupt endpoint of his previous tour in support of the killer album Harlem River Blues. The tour came with reports of run-ins with the law and copious amounts of substances, and following his Lincoln Hall show last fall Earle checked into treatment. Luckily, fans had the excellent gospel, folk and blues influenced record to tide them over.

On Thursday, the Bloodshot Records star was supported by local songwriter Tom Schraeder and touring support act Jessica Lee Mayfield. Schraeder took the stage with a creeping calm and began a series of wailing melodies that evoked a sort of twilight wandering. His pace was slower than that of the headliner but it was a good way to warm up - and a necessary one - because it was sooooo cold outside.

Get to know the Bad Sons, VHS style

Posted by Frank

Michael Lux and the Bad Sons' debut EP Neat Repeater is one of the best releases I've heard over the last few months. As I mentioned in my review, it's raw yet accessible, it rocks and it features some really strong songwriting. Since the Bad Sons are a recent addition to the Chicago music scene, they've put together a video with director Spencer Rohan that explores their sound and style with performances of some of the EP's tracks and an interview with Lux. It's a great introduction to the band that also pays homage to a dying medium, the VHS tape. See for yourself below, then check out the Bad Sons live at Hard Rock Cafe on February 17 and Subterranean on March 3.

The Bad Sons on VHS from Spencer M. Rohan on Vimeo.

Friday, February 11, 2011

See four great Chicago bands 2/25 at Martyrs'

Posted by Frank

Got plans for Friday, February 25th? If not, you'll want to head to Martyrs' for a night of top Chicago bands plus a pint of beer for a mere seven bucks. If you do, you'll probably still want to head to Martyrs' because what could really be better than a night of top Chicago bands plus a pint of beer for a mere seven bucks?

An amazing lineup full o' WCR favorites - King Sparrow, Warm Ones, Hollus and Secret Colours - will kick off starting at 9 p.m., and everyone who buys tickets now through this special Chicago Reader deal can see them all plus receive a pint of Half Acre for that low price. The deal will only be available until 10 a.m. on February 14th, so grab 'em while you can. A limited number of tickets might still be available at the door on the 25th, but they'll cost $10 and won't include the Half Acre (spending more cash + no beer = sad).

To read more about the bands, check out these links:
In the studio with King Sparrow
Q&A with Warm Ones
Secret Colours record review
Hollus EP review on Loud Loop Press

Check this out: Chicago Mixtape

Posted by Andrew

Isn’t it so annoying trying to find new music? You have to search blog after blog after blog, rifling through Bandcamp and Myspace pages trying to find that one last bastion of musical creativity. Wouldn’t it be great if this music could just be mailed to you for free? Better yet, what about mailed electronically? Oh, and there should be opportunities to get free concert tickets. And it should be based in Chicago with the sole purpose being to bring greater exposure to what’s going on in the underground…well isn’t it a hell of a coincidence that the Chicago Mixtape is launching this Monday the 14th?

Yup, they’ve got pretty much all that I asked for. The weekly mixtape showcases bands that will be performing around the city that week. As a bonus, if you sign up before the official launch on Monday, you get a starter mixtape featuring Oh My God, Baby Teeth, the recently reviewed JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, amongst others. So if you’ve been looking for a "musical festival in your inbox every week," your search is over, my friend. Sign up today and soon enough, you won’t need to depend on blogs like us anymore (fingers crossed that this post doesn’t come back to bite me in the ass).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Interview: White Mystery

Posted by Andrew

photo: Rob Karlic
I know what you’re thinking. You’ve heard enough about White Mystery over the past year and already know everything about them and don’t care to read another interview. Well tough shit, honey. We may be spoiled now because they’re playing Chicago every week, but one day they’re gonna be gone. They got big plans to show off to the whole world their fiery brand of balls-to-the-wall garage rock, which means you’ve got to enjoy ‘em while they last. You’re next chance to do so is for FREE at the Empty Bottle on Monday, February 14th for Less Than Three Day (Valentine’s Day for all of the non-nerds out there), with Dark Fog and the Pleats opening. As always, they got a couple other gigs planned sporadically throughout the city over the next couple months which they were kind enough to give the word on. Read on to find out where they are, as well as the duo’s gaming habits, artistic inspirations and plans for world domination.

Show preview: Grape Juice Records Showcase at Subterranean, 2/11

Posted by Sasha

Grassroots record label Grape Juice Records will kick off the 2011 Showcase Series at Subterranean this weekend with Chicago acts of several stripes. We've got a couple of lady crooners from far and near, an Americana octet and some lo-fi, low-stress indie pop kids. Here's who to expect:

Julie Meckler arrived on the Chicago scene after an unusual journey. Originally an actress from France, she quit the stage, hopped the pond and landed in New York in the summer of '08. She hit the road with a guitar, venturing across America for three months while concocting her brand of sultry, bluesy folk. Having discovered the country, she ended up in its middle, settling down here in the city with her band. They've released a three-song EP so far and are in production on their first full-length.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chicago, you saw it first last summer at Lolla: The Strokes are back!

Posted by Bobby

One is often required to play it cool. Ironically - considering that the Strokes have personified cool for so many - this is not one of those times. Blogs, music publications and Ray-Ban wearers all over the world today are digitally hailing the New York foursome's comeback. Almost exactly one decade since the release of their first single, "The Modern Age," the band have returned to form as if to say, "what's the big deal, I just stepped out for a cigarette."

When they headlined Lollapalooza here in Chicago last summer after a lengthy absence, the Strokes were every bit the garage revivalists they had become known to be. Now, the comeback has continued with the new single "Under Cover of Darkness," free to download today and tomorrow on Fans were so eager for it that they crashed the website upon the single's launch. The song starts with a bang - two, actually - and from then on out it bounces, clips curbs and blinks electric like the city that birthed it. We get not one, but two sing-along refrains and - get this - backing vocals, which I took to be a sign of the new album's purported more collaborative nature. "Under Cover of Darkness" builds on the restrained-yet-joyous hits that spilled off of the Strokes' debut album Is This It by utilizing the diverse arrangements they called upon with 2006's First Impressions of Earth, all the while never forsaking pop catchiness.

The new album is out March 22nd and is titled Angles, referencing the various circumstances each band member approached the project from. If this song is any indication, the Strokes may be about to nonchalantly remind us who started this party in the first place. Here's hoping to see them back in the Windy City soon.

Show review: JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound at Metro, 2/5

Posted by Andrew

(Photo Credit: IshootRockstars)
Possibly my greatest defect as a music blogger (and human being in general) is my lack of knowledge in the realms of funk and soul. But hey, being born in a Rabbit year myself, maybe the new year signals a new me. So I guess that’s how I found myself at the Metro’s Winter Soulstice last Saturday to witness Chicago’s JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound.

To be sure, I can't tell you the difference between James Brown and Otis Redding, two cats that Mr. Brooks has been compared to. So it really was the performance itself that was a testament to his musical talents. And despite throwing the Uptown Sound into the official band name, it was really all eyes on JC in his black and red leisure suit. His frantic yelps and grunts drove the upbeat tunes before finding his inner falsetto and releasing it during the slower jams.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Video: Bobby Minelli performs at Hard Boiled Records

Posted by Frank

Back in December, WCR writer/musician/all around rad dude Bobby Minelli performed a live in-store acoustic set at Hard Boiled Records in Roscoe Village. On the repertoire was a very cool original tune called "You Want It From Me," which was captured on film and has since begun a happy existence on planet YouTube. See and hear Bobby in action below. It would also be well worth your time to check out the full-band studio version of the track on Bandcamp, while you're at it.

Eminem, Foo Fighters, Muse among Lollapalooza 2011 headliners

Posted by Frank

Let the Lollapalooza 2011 lineup news commence.

Every year around this time a few of the annual fest's scheduled performers are unofficially announced, and this year Greg Kot of the Tribune has the scoop. As posted to his blog this afternoon, "reliable industry sources" have revealed that 2011 fest-goers can expect to see Eminem, Foo Fighters and Muse among the headliners August 5-7 in Grant Park. Best Coast, Girl Talk, Crystal Castles and Lykke Li are also expected to perform.

I can't speak for my WCR compatriots, but to me this news is worthy of a great big "eh." Here's hoping there's more to get pumped about as we find out about additional acts.

What do you think? Does this announcement make you any more excited for Lolla 2011?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Video: Sad Brad Smith revisits 16-bit 'Old Days'

Posted by Frank

Up for a bit of '90s nostalgia? This new 16-bit inspired music video from Chicago's Sad Brad Smith will take you back to simpler days spent playing Super NES after school. It gets pretty trippy though, so maybe it's more like playing Super NES after school on acid. Either way, it's a pretty cool video. Watch it below and then check out our recent review of Smith's album Love Is Not What You Need here.

Old Days are Here Again from Bernie McGovern on Vimeo.

Check out more videos:
Smith Westerns - "Weekend"

Friday, February 4, 2011

Post-Snowpocalyptic weekend show preview

Posted by Andrew

(photo: Chicago Tribune)
So you finally realized it’s safe to leave the house. The world still exists and despite a continuous stream of natural calamities and political unrest flooding your Twitter feed, you want to take in the best of how contemporary musicians are dealing with the condition of man. And free being that you are, you recognize you have choices and are subsequently defined by the choices you make. Perhaps your choice was to procrastinate and fail to purchase a ticket for the now sold out Decemberists show at the Riv. Maybe Yo La Tengo’s spin-the-wheel concept is too far out for you. No worries. There are plenty of other fantastic options for the weekend. Check ‘em (WARNING: Lots of things to click on up ahead, try to remain calm):

Friday, February 4th:
  • Luster is hosting a record release show at the Beat Kitchen before hitting the road for a bit with their heartbreaking balladry. Twin Tigers open with their Athens, GA blend of garage/shoegaze.
  • It doesn’t take the promo pics of the Moondoggies gentlemen all dressed in flannel to let you know they hail from the same home as Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes: the music does the talking. Catch their sweet harmonies at the Hideout.
  • Get down with the swagger of Tin Tin Can at the Viaduct Theater. Opening the show is Distractions, who I am placing at the top of my list for next Chicago band to get national attention. They’re reminiscent of a wide variety of laid back 60s sounds (r&b, lounge, girl-group) without sounding derivative. Catch ‘em local while you still can.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A snowtorious February begins: shows not to miss

Posted by Bobby

Disappears (photo: Kate O'Neil)
January in Chicago gave us some mid-winter heat from national acts such as Free Energy and the Postelles as well as some excellent performances from local Chicago acts. Molehill brought their Muse-esque funk propelled by the epic bass guitar groove of Trevor Jones to a packed show at the Beat Kitchen on January 21st. On the 27th, the Chicago Roots Collective held their one year anniversary party at Lincoln Hall. I was in attendance, and as per the reviews you may have previously read here on WCR, the Shams Band did not disappoint. Donnie Biggins and the Shams again brought together a rowdy crowd of local music supporters, and the people were rewarded for their winter resilience with vigorous Midwestern folk rock that stomped forward while Paul Gulyas (one of the city's freshest guitar players) sprayed the crowd with melancholy licks fresh from the highway.

February will certainly not be short on excuses to pull on the snow boots and march into the cold, but I thought I'd highlight a few of the show choices here because I know it can take more than a little motivation to get out there and into the snow.

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Now that the worst of Blizzaster '11 is over and it is getting more and more possible to actually venture out into the world, consider checking out some of the sure-to-be-great live music going on tonight. Andrew filled you in earlier on the two free shows happening via Betta Promotions, and also sure to be a satisfying choice is Jonny Rumble, The Kickback and The Winter Sounds at Hideout
  • Pitchfork asked Cullen and Cameron from Chicago's much-hyped Smith Westerns to weigh in on some of their favorite things, from songs to venues to record shops. Dying to know what kind of ringtones they use? Find out the answer to this and other burning questions here
  • Greg Kot of the Tribune wrote about some pretty cool news for locally-based band Disappears. Following the recent departure of drummer and co-founding member Graeme Gibson, the band have been able to get Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley to take his place - at least temporarily. Disappears are next set to play this Friday at the Empty Bottle, celebrating the release of their new record Guider 
  • The Windy City's own math/indie rockers Dick Wolf! have a new 7" out titled Entropy, and Loud Loop Press has the lowdown with a detailed review. Also check out A.V. Club's new interview with the band.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Video: Geronimo! make silent films loud

Posted by Sasha

Space rock trio Geronimo! has put out a video for their badass track "Thunderbattles," off their record Fuzzy Dreams (an excellent listen for anyone who likes guitars). It features what appears to be edited footage from an old-timey silent film, in which a distressed young couple search for their runaway baby. All ends well but not without a few hijinks ensuing along the way. The video was put together by Ron Felton and comes recommended for fans of '90s-style tunes and '20s-style films alike. Check it out:

Geronimo! - "Thunderbattles" from Ron Felten on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowmageddon 2011 preview: Glittermouse, Rabble Rabble and more

Posted by Andrew

So apparently there’s some bigass blizzard hitting our city over these next couple of days. I don’t know nothing about it, and apparently neither do the good people over at Betta Promotions, who are keeping at what they do best: hosting free shows. This Thursday you've got two options to combat the snow with some good tunes. 

There’s going to be quite a wide array of bands playing Lincoln Hall, exemplifying the diverse indie scene in Chicago. Opening the show is Pet Peeve, fronted by Romanian born Lorian Toth, who makes no attempt to hide his Eastern European roots. At times they are as aggressive and upbeat as Gogol Bordello, but their Americana and alt-country side means they wouldn’t be out of place on a bill with locals Dastardly. Playing second are Color Radio, whose opening notes to "Newest News" off of their Be Safe, Beware EP evoke the likes of Appleseed Cast before breaking into cathartic guitar-based post-rock dynamics, without the long-windedness of Explosions in the Sky. Headlining the night is Glittermouse, who have been keeping more than busy bringing their brand of arena-sized power-pop to your ears. Grab a free EP off their website now and expect more in the coming months. 

Win tickets to see Maps & Atlases' JBTV taping

Posted by Sasha

Maps & Atlases
Chicago's music channel JBTV has been featuring great emerging local bands for ages, and experimental folk rockers Maps & Atlases are set to join their ranks this month. The indie foursome are currently on the British leg of their European tour, but JBTV is offering the opportunity to see them live as soon as they return stateside. 50 randomly selected folks and their plus ones will get to sit in on the taping of their performance session on February 20th.