Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, Eleventh Dream Day kick off Millennium Park's New Music Mondays

Posted by Bobby Minelli

Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Will Oldham thanked Norse gods for the weather last night, and even suggested attendees of this year's first free "Downtown Sound: New Music Mondays" concert pay tribute by seeing Thor's new blockbuster movie. There are many to thank for the spectacular free outdoor concert series, including the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Park's Department the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture. While at points in the previous year the series was in danger of being canceled due to budget restrictions, this summer the lineup is as strong as it's ever been. There will be ten double bill concerts on Monday nights and, based on last night's attendance, Chicagoans are thrilled about it.

Eleventh Dream Day took the stage in the Monday afternoon sun and began what inevitably became a coming out party for Chicago--coming out from wherever we all go to get through the winter. It was a collective celebration, full of summer dresses, cut-off shorts, beer and Raybans, and Eleventh Dream Day's minimalist rock 'n' roll was the perfect way to start the party. The guitars carried up from the pit and rattled into the sky a pronouncement of our ended hibernation. The mix was great; one of my favorite aspects of the Pritzker Pavilion is the vocals carry well and are more audible than many outdoor venues. Chicagoans floated onto the lawn, the crowd continuing to grow throughout the entire set, and there was an overall feeling of both relaxation and exuberance. I can't recall the last time I saw so many smiles in public.

When Oldham, (a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy) and the Cairo Gang took the stage the crowd had settled and appeared ready to be absorbed in the rock and sway of his effortless voice. And so the band embraced dusk and called in the twilight with beautiful harmonic summons. They were a perfect selection for an evening filled with gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy it. Indeed, Oldham himself consistently expressed his appreciation for the chance to take the stage and serenade the thousands of appreciative onlookers. By the time the band returned to the stage for an encore, night had fallen and the gorgeous lights changed seemingly at his command, and when they had finished the smiles stayed.

Next Monday, Bloodshot Records' own Justin Townes Earle will be headlining this truly unmissable series.

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