Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Show review: Briar Rabbit at Double Door, 6/21

By Bobby Minelli

photo: Cynthia Post
In-between self examined lyrical exclamations, Briar Rabbit frontman Phillip-Michael Scales found time to express his excitement when his mother--daring tornado warnings and summer storms--strolled into the Double Door's Summer Solstice party last Tuesday. "I swear she's on the list. She's my mom!"

There was a similar vibe of exuberance and relief among the concert goers that night when Briar Rabbit took the stage just after the massive downpour--which had been looming all day--subsided. The doors were open so a warm summer wind could pass through and elevate the evening's potential for a bit of magic.

Starting things out with an infectious yet restrained acapella hymn, Phillip-Michael and company launched into the series of well thought out pop songs that have gotten them so much attention these past few months.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Record review: The Island of Misfit Toys - 'Bear Hair'

By Sasha Geffen

I remember when I bought my first Bright Eyes record. I was 13, it was Letting Off the Happiness, and I felt I was coming out of my local record shop with a huge secret, with dangerous material. I hadn't listened to very much music at the time. My taste centered on the classic rock from my childhood and whatever was on the radio. I was only just starting to get into Nirvana. But then I started reading about one Bright Eyes on a blog I followed, ended up "sampling" some tracks with Kazaa, and within a month had bought their whole discography. I'd never heard anything that raw before. Oberst's early work still makes me almost uncomfortable with its honesty at times. I kept it like a secret. It was my first musical obsession outside the mainstream, and it shaped my teenage identity as music tends to do.

I can hear plenty of that same rawness in the debut LP from The Island of Misfit Toys. The musical project of Anthony Sanders and a barrelful of his friends produces indie pop that doesn't shy away from getting screamy. Thankfully, Sanders doesn't take himself quite as seriously as Oberst did in his adolescence. The desperate nerd edge throughout Bear Hair supports itself with a healthy sense of humor, an engaging playfulness. If you're going to be sad it's useful to learn to laugh at yourself. Anthony Sanders knows this well.

Wicker Park Fest announces final lineup, schedule

By Frank Krolicki

Wicker Park Fest is often called out as Chicago's best street festival, and it keeps getting harder and harder to argue with that. The fest has released its final musician lineup and schedule for this year (happening July 23-24), and for a mere $5 donation you can spend the weekend watching great band after great band. The fest always does a nice job showcasing local talent and this year is no exception; there are a bunch of locally-based acts on the schedule including Netherfriends, Dastardly, Company of Thieves, Flosstradamus, Van Ghost and more. That's in addition to bands from afar such as Blitzen Trapper, Wavves and Wild Flag. Check out the full lineup and schedule below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Record review: Pale Balverines - 'Farther Than the Dock Can Take You'

By Christian Chiakulas

I always hated just about every band at my high school, which probably accounts for why I was only recently introduced to Pale Balverines even though I've known lead singer Christopher Kurtz for a healthy decade. I'd heard good things about them in school--the main compliment being that they are a real band (there is a difference between a high school band and a real band). Well, for once, the rumors are accurate.

The Balverines' first release is a 6-song EP entitled Farther Than the Dock Can Take You. The first song, “Everything My Heart Knows it Learned on Tralflamdore [sic]” does dynamics right, with eerie spacey-sounding quiet verses and massive distortion-ridden choruses. The song highlights everything that is good about the band; Kurtz's earnest, yearning vocals, mixed with thoughtful guitar work courtesy of original lead guitar player, Nick Coamey, who was replaced by Sam Clarke-Mchale during the sessions for the EP (Clarke-Mchale played Coamey's parts on almost every song, including this one).

The absolute standout track is the fifth, "Chasing Pikes," a seven-minute indie rock epic which is the only track that Coamey played on before being replaced by Clarke-Mchale, and it shows. The lead guitar has a shimmering U2-ish quality that is lost on the other tracks and compliments Kurtz's metallic rhythm perfectly. The song uses fishing as a metaphor for...something, but Kurtz's vocals, dripping with emotion at every word, make whatever it is sound completely heartfelt. The song builds slowly into a huge climax, and the payoff is grand.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Show review: Jason Webley, Destroy Nate Allen, The Gunshy at Panchos, 6/22

By Braden Nesin

Jason Webley (photo: Braden Nesin)
I walked through the door at Panchos just as The Gunshy was getting started. Picture, if you can, an acoustic punk Tom Waits, strumming his guitar and belting out ballads in a voice like gravel. He started out a little too rough around the edges for my tastes, but by the end of his set he was really growing on me. Self-referencing his heavy Pogues influences was a nice touch. All alone up there on stage he really gave it his all, and there’s no denying the kid has heart.

Mere moments after The Gunshy left the stage, Destroy Nate Allen took the floor, encouraging everyone to gather around them. They ushered people up on to the stage, along the walls, anywhere there was space for another body, and then proceeded to do their thing.

This adorably married couple from Portland, Oregon represent everything that I love about truly great punk rock. They screamed, they jumped around (a lot) and they had more fun than anyone within a five mile radius. This wasn’t so much them putting on a show as having a blast with a bunch of old friends they just met. They ran around the inside of the circle they had created, singing in peoples' faces and getting the crowd to sing along with them. They sang songs about eating more vegetables, songs about love and songs about which one of them was more punk rock (this tour it was Nate). Despite knowing who was coming next, I was genuinely sad when their set ended. Destroy Nate Allen are definitely a must see if they ever come back to Chicago.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Record review: Brontosaurus - 'Cold Comes to Claim'

By Sasha Geffen

"Listeners, beware," we're warned in the first few seconds of Cold Comes to Claim. Beware, and prepare for what's to come--some danger, perhaps, judging from the tense, cinematic chords that crawl under the vocals. "Prepare your brains for bombardment, notes born of despair." We're asked, even pleaded, to ready ourselves for feeling. Pianos trickle in; harmonies twist together. When the drums start crashing, we're feeling it--we're there, we're ready.

Chicago duo Brontosaurus, comprising Nicholases Kelley and Papaleo, make plenty of sound for just two people. And not in the same sense that White (Stripes/Mystery) make high volumes of noise, although that, too, is an impressive feat. The songs on Brontosaurus's debut album are thick, impressively woven worlds; dark, intricate, and indeed full of feeling.

At six tracks and roughly 30 minutes, Cold Comes to Claim runs up against the shorter edge of standard LP running times. The brevity is wise; the record feels whole. It takes its time where it needs to, holds an arc, and never lingers where it doesn't need to. This prog-folk adventure runs effortlessly clean as it engages its listeners in perfect pacing. It knows where to rear big--at the climax of "Beware," with huge drums and charred vocals--and where to recede into the darkness. Softer moments emulate real English folk songs, while more explosive stretches fall into the same world as folk's more energetic descendents, e.g. the historical nerd stylings of the Decemberists. In one song the rock is played straight; thick guitar tones on the tonally isolated "Bring In New Blood" remind me of bands that were "emo" before it was a bad thing.

Show photos: Possessed by Paul James at Panchos, 6/20

WCR contributing photographer Heather Sapp was at Panchos Monday night and snapped some great shots of Texas-based Possessed by Paul James (a.k.a multi-instrumentalist Konrad Wert). Konrad was part of a lineup that also included Mount Peru, Jeff Harms and Angela James, and after the show was over, he even kept the music going by playing more songs outside on the sidewalk. Check out the images below and be sure to catch PBPJ next time Konrad comes to town.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Show review: Not in the Face, Moon Furies, Man Your Horse at Memories, 6/20

By Gene Wagendorf III

Moon Furies (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
Rock and roll is full of clichés -- from musicians, writers and fans alike. We all cringe when we see them, and we're all no doubt guilty of contributing to them. Such was my night at Memories on the 20th of June. Before you think I'm slamming the bands that night, hold on, I'm not. The blame for the cliché moment rests solely at my own feet as three, yes, three times I turned to the guy next to me and said "Man, I wouldn't want to have to follow those guys." Each time I said it about a different band.

First up was Man Your Horse, a math rock trio from Vancouver. The first thing I noticed about the band was the way they set up: drummer front and center with the guitarist and bass player flanking him on opposite sides. I don't know if this was premeditated or simply out of necessity (with a total of five bands playing over the course of the night the stage area was swamped with gear), but man did it work. Said drummer was a fucking maniac on the skins, rolling and pounding out soaring beats that felt more like thunderstorms than parts of a song. Jack Kerouac once described a jazz quartet as working with "unmusical ideas that nevertheless never leave the music, always there, always far out."  That's all I could think of while watching this guy work in tandem with the angular melodies and bubbly bass lines his co-conspirators were conjuring. It sounded like a mess, and usually that's not a good thing, but this was that rare kind of mess that works, that makes you want to move. Man Your Horse ended on what I think was "Breakfast for Dinner," but the set did such a good job of bleeding together as a single piece of music that it doesn't really matter. What matters is that they ended on the strongest note possible.

And so it happened for the first time. "I wouldn't want to have to follow those guys."

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Lollapalooza aftershows have been announced. Check out the full list here.
  • Chicago rockers Michael Lux and the Bad Sons -- who put out a really excellent debut EP late last year -- have released a video for a new track titled "We Left Phantoms Behind," performed live earlier this month at Bottom Lounge. Watch it here.
  • As reported on Robert Feder's Time Out Chicago blog, alt-rock station Q101 WKQX 101.1 FM is under new ownership by former Tribune Company CEO Randy Michaels' Merlin Media, and is expected to drop music programming for an all-news format in the coming weeks.
  • The Chicago Reader published the results of their "Best of Chicago 2011" poll, and Windy City Rock was selected as one of the best local music blogs! Thank you to everyone who voted for us and congratulations to our friends at as well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pitchfork Festival announces schedule

By Andrew Hertzberg

It's only a couple weeks away until Pitchfork Music Festival takes over Union Park for a weekend. The schedule has finally been announced (with color coordinated stages), and there are certainly some tough choices. Considering Tune-Yards and Battles have dropped two of the best albums this year, I'm not too happy about that one. And I'll have to decide if I care more about indie cred by catching Guided by Voices or the bzzzzzzing Das Racist. Oy, first world issues. Anyway, check it for yourself below. What are your greatest conflicts?

Three day passes sold out, single days still available on Ticketweb.


Show review: The Kent McDaniel Band, Kraig Kenning at Custer's Last Stand, 6/19

By Gene Wagendorf III

Kraig Kenning (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
The quickest way to get me to cream my pants is to be even semi-competent with a slide and a steel guitar. Paying attention, ladies? Good. That sound makes me want to settle in under the hot sun with a beer and groove. Enter Kraig Kenning at the Custer's Last Stand Festival of the Arts up in Evanston. The winner of the inaugural National Slide Guitar Festival was tearing it up on his six-string as I wandered around with my corn dog. The hook was set. Kenning wasn't playing in the most ideal of locations; a heavy fecal odor was drifting up from the sewers and mixing with clouds of incense from a nearby hippie tent and every 15 minutes or so the Purple Line would come rumbling by. He took it in stride. Jumping back and forth between blistering originals and a handful of mellow covers (a touching "Amazing Grace" and a unique spin on "Here Comes the Sun"), Kenning had his audience justifiably mesmerized. Fitting that by the end of the set I wanted to be a cowboy.

For a festival whose namesake is best remembered as the architect of one of the American military's most disastrous engagements you'd think the acts might've been playing under a bad sun. The Kent McDaniel Band didn't seem to get that memo, as all they were interested in was laughing, joking, celebrating and tearing it up. The trio opened up, appropriately, with a lazy, strolling version of "Summertime." Followed by "Sunny Side of the Street," featuring Dorothy McDaniel on vocals, the band kept the festival mood flowing. Sung sweetly and earnestly, the song worked to transport the crowd to a simpler time. One where the machines weren't about to take over and you could still split a Sunday with your date without worrying about spreading swine flu. The blues ballad "Jimmy Stu" is one of several McDaniel Band tunes soaked in an anti-establishment punch. Dedicated to "all the cosmic cowboys who ended up on the corporate ladder," it jangled along sarcastically on the strength of solid riffs and excellent percussion from savant Alpha Stewart.

Video: Blah Blah Blah - 'Why Am I The Only One Laughing?'

By Frank Krolicki

Blah Blah Blah have been kicking around for a while as one of Chicago's bands to watch, regularly playing shows and giving tastes of their sleek, Brit-pop-flavored tracks online. Now the band have announced that a 6-track EP titled Thank You, Thank You will come out in July, and in advance have made a video for lead single "Why Am I The Only One Laughing?" (produced and directed by Kasia Koniar). You can check out the stylish black-and-white clip below and get a free download of the track by sharing your email address on the band's site. Blah Blah Blah also have a handful of live dates come up, listed here.

Blah Blah Blah - Why Am I The Only One Laughing - Official Music Video from MAJOR K: Kasia Koniar on Vimeo.

Here's another taste of the EP:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Show review: Project Film, Exit Ghost, Lakesigns, Jesus Crisis at Reggie's, 6/17

By Sasha Geffen

Project Film (photo: Sasha Geffen)
I've always thought of Reggie's as a lingering hub of tough-guy aggro-rock, but before Friday I'd only ever ventured into the Rock Club. Don't get me wrong: I love a good mosh pit, even the slightly curtailed circles of chaos security allows on the Rock Club's small floor. But enjoying a show at the adjacent Music Joint space is a different experience entirely. The Joint acts as a chiller counterpart to the boisterous Club, and the Friday lineup epitomized summer chill as it closed off a day of perfect June weather.

Project Film stopped by for a last home city show before they head off to tour the west coast. The duo filled out their lineup with bass and drums, adding some great volume and texture to their charming indie pop. Fretless bass noodlings nicely filled out frontman Sam McAllister's rhythm guitar work; jams like the instrumental "Ink" particularly took on new life in the open air of the stage. We heard a handful of songs from PF's debut Chicago as well as some newer material, all carried by an unfailingly earnest delivery.

The 1900s, Gold Motel at Taste of Randolph, 6/19

By Frank Krolicki

The 1900s (photo: Frank Krolicki)
Most of what I have to say about the performances by The 1900s and Gold Motel Sunday night at Taste of Randolph fest I already said in previous reviews (see here and here). Of all the bands in this city, these have been two of the most consistently energetic and entertaining to see live, and nothing was different during their sets at the final night of this year's West Loop street festival.

Gold Motel came on first early in the evening, and as usual, made it very easy for the crowd to dance (or at least head-bob, for the more inhibited in attendance). Their concise, buoyant power pop tunes just make you want to move. The quintet played almost all of their debut record Summer House, in addition to "Cold Shoulders" and "Slow Emergency," both tracks from their recent 7" Talking Fiction. They also threw in two promising new tracks -- "Leave You in Love" and "Santa Cruz" -- from their upcoming sophomore LP, which frontwoman Greta Morgan announced would be recorded in the fall and released early next year.

Later in the evening, The 1900s delivered a set very similar to when they played the Empty Bottle for the release of their latest LP Return of the Century in December, but I found myself just as transfixed Sunday as I was back then. Co-lead singer Jeanine O'Toole could have accomplished that by her '70s babe vibe alone, complete with a look falling somewhere between Chrissy from "Three's Company" and Daphne from "Scooby Doo." But there was also the music, which was of course fantastic. The 1900s hit on all the highlights from Century ("Bmore," "Babies," "Sanzimat," "Overreactin'," to name a few) as well as a handful of older tracks such as a lengthy, raveup version of "Two Ways" and an extra-rocking take on "Bring the Good Boys Home." It was as close to a perfect way to spend a hot June evening in Chicago, for sure. 

Check out full setlists and more photos after the jump.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Show review: Ortolan, Bring Your Ray Gun at Pancho's, 6/16

By Gene Wagendorf III

Thursday night at Pancho's was all about dancing, clapping and smiling. Hard to go wrong with that trio.

Chicago dance-rockers Bring Your Ray Gun seem poised for a remarkable future. The new-ish group took the stage at Pancho's with veteran swagger and a genuine desire to make people move. Heather Perry's catchy bass-lines meshed well with some tight drumming to create grooves that, well typical of the genre, never fell victim to predictability. Every now and then the guitar seemed to want to lead Bring Your Ray Gun into more all-out-rock-attack territory, only to have its leash pulled at the perfect moment. Lead singer Josh Lambert has a bit of Eric Paul in him, 'cept that Lambert looks like he's having the time of his life onstage. It's that sentiment that really carries the band- you get the feeling they'd almost rather be dancing in the crowd than making the music. Almost. The vibe was so contagious that Pancho himself was behind the bar grinning like a fool and jamming on a wood block. With a debut EP slated for August, it'd be a shame if BYRG weren't gigging outside somewhere in the city this summer. They have "street festival show stealer" written all over them.

However, I'd be wrong to suggest that BYRG stole this show. The main course for the evening was dessert, or more specifically, Ortolan. Wine Spectator explains that "for centuries, a rite of passage for French gourmets has been the eating of the Ortolan. These tiny birds—captured alive, force-fed, then drowned in Armagnac—were roasted whole and eaten that way, bones and all, while the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God." My experience musically devouring Ortolan was presumably just as sweet, though without the crunchy death or theological shame.

Friday, June 17, 2011

This Saturday: Yourself and the Air, Santah, Taste of Randolph + more

By Andrew Hertzberg

Yourself and the Air
Oh, summer. My least favorite season. If it’s not excruciatingly hot, then I have to worry about which of about five things I want to do on any given night. They’re all gonna be gold, and sometimes it’s a perfect storm of amazing events. This Saturday seems to be one of those magical nights, especially for music. Too. Many. Options. Here are a few of what is sure to be choice local acts:

Give the boys in Yourself and the Air a warm welcome back after their recent tour and celebrate the release of their new album. The fact that they covered Modest Mouse the last time I saw them may only buoy the comparisons, but there are plenty of worse bands to sound like. Opening it up is wunderkind / travel agent / chair-avoiding Netherfriends in all their mid-fi bastard psych-pop glory. Get here before Shawn wanders off to Sheboygan or Arkansas or Mars. Playing first is Conductive Alliance, whose mathy sound is an intellectual assault as much as a sonic one (9 PM, $10, 17+).

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Record review: Mickey - 'Rock N' Roll Dreamer'

By Frank Krolicki

Meet Mickey. We got acquainted just a few days ago. I'm really glad we did because being with Mickey makes me feel like I'm in some dark, sleazy, beer-drenched rock club circa 1977, which is pretty damn amazing. Anyone or anything that can instantly timewarp me back into what seemed a much more dangerous and exciting time in rock and roll is just fine by me. Specifically, Mickey is five guys from here in Chicago who have just released a debut record titled Rock N' Roll Dreamer on Hozac Records. The LP is a revved-up glam-garage hybrid over 10 tracks and about 28 minutes, packed with enough raucous energy and buzz-saw guitar to make you want to jump up and thrash around uncontrollably wherever you are.

Mickey doesn't come with any gimmicks. As soon as opening track "Dance" (a tune that wouldn't sound out of place on a Ramones record) begins, it's clear that Rock N' Roll Dreamer isn't bent on doing anything other than rocking out. All of the nine tracks that follow adhere to pretty much the same formula-- straightforward and hard-edged with thoroughly shoutable lyrics, brief runtimes and guitar hooks that grab you by the throat. If you've ever found yourself screaming along to anything by the New York Dolls or The Sweet, chances are this stuff will hit the spot.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Show review: The Lopez, Wett Nurse at Memories, 6/13

By Gene Wagendorf III

If you've been looking for a band that picked up where ? and the Mysterians left off then you should have been at Memories on Monday night.

Fellow Michiganders Wett Nurse have taken the organ-infused garage rock of said band, added a bit of West Coast psych-pop, and crafted a sound that's as haunting as it is addicting. Their guitarist plays his instrument like it was a shotgun, riding waves created by a combination of urgent percussion and a creepy crawler organ sound that gives the whole set a sort of Scooby Doo-on-acid feel.

Playing tracks mostly culled from their debut album, Worships the Devil, the trio's live sound belies their age. Not once during the show did a song collapse under its weight. Each one simply created its own fuzzy cloud, knowing exactly when to drift away. The straight-forward rocker "SPOOK IT" felt tight and seemed to bow out right on cue, while other numbers, though equal in length, seemed a bit more sprawling. During the finale Wett Nurse appeared to melt onstage, warbling to the end like a delicious microwaved Peep.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Video: Company of Thieves - 'Death of Communication'

By Frank Krolicki

If you didn't see my review of Company of Thieves' latest, Running From a Gamble, I was pretty taken aback by the record. I'm a sucker for powerhouse vocals, and frontwoman Genevieve Schatz sounds pretty remarkable on this set of tunes. Plus, Gamble has the perfect combination of guitar-driven edginess and pop, with a really intense, infectious energy throughout. The new video for punchy first single "Death of Communication" captures this energy well. It's a pretty straightforward performance-type clip, but the band's spirit really comes through and the video is beautifully-made with some rad celestial effects going on. Take a look:

Record review: Color Radio - 'Architects'

By Sasha Geffen

Color Radio make music for people who love a good set of headphones. Strap on a pair of over-ear Sennheisers and delve into the rich sonic tapestries these four have woven. 

Architects, the first LP from this Chicago ensemble, stresses minute detail within immense atmosphere. The songs fill space, echoing into the open air, while simultaneously hiding a variety of textures within their depths. Scope never comes at the expense of complexity; these are big songs, but they're filled up with shades, swirls, and patterns that command attentive listening. Like Broken Social Scene, Color Radio understand that dreaminess need not be lackluster.

Instruments twist together naturally and beautifully on Architects. Synths are wielded carefully, padding out smoky guitar licks while avoiding any artificial timbre. The record sustains an organic quality throughout its length. It's filled with sound but never quite gets loud, like the quiet drone of airplane engines humming in the background. Tweedy-esque vocals strain in earnest above the buzz. The occasional orchestral boost breaks through the sleepiness, which at times might be characterized as short-form post-rock.

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Chicago soul-rock favorites JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound have signed to Bloodshot Records, with an album titled Want More expected out sometime in the fall. In the meantime, they'll set out on tour after playing local shows June 16th at Ravinia (opening for Robert Plant & the band of Joy) and June 18th at the West Loop's Taste of Randolph fest.
  • posted a new five-track live session with Chicago songwriter Daniel Knox (whose latest album Evryman for Himself  was recently reviewed here on WCR).
  • Locally-based avant-pop duo The Loneliest Monk will soon release a new 7" red vinyl single on Kilo Records titled Hiding Places. It's out July 8th at Reggie's, when TLM will headline a lineup also featuring Stephen Paul Smoker and Flying Cars. If you purchase tickets in advance, you will automatically get a copy of the vinyl as well as a bonus photo booklet.
  • Greg Kot of the Tribune took a closer look at the Lollapalooza schedule, which was revealed last week.
  • Loud Loop Press has the details on a new outdoor concert series from The Empty Bottle, which will go down at the Illinois Centennial Memorial Column (2595 N. Milwaukee Ave.) throughout the summer. Scheduled to perform are Califone, Bloodiest, Thee Oh Sees and more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Show review: Tinsel Teeth, Running at Crown Tap Room, 6/9

By Gene Wagendorf III

Tinsel Teeth
The buzz around local psych-punkers Running has been pretty substantial. Their debut EP, from Permanent Records, was limited to a run of 500 copies. That may not be enough. Everyone I know who has seen the band live gets a little wide-eyed in trying to describe the scene. Needless to say I was excited.

Running took the stage to little fanfare, quietly picking up their instruments. That was the last bit of quiet for the night. A kind of electronic banshee's howl blasted out of the speakers and the band was off. The sound was part Black Flag, part Parts & Labor, with punchy vocals slammed down with an Albini swagger. What surprised me most about the band after a few songs was just how many solid, catchy riffs were buried beneath the swirled screeches. All but one song fell under two minutes in length, though it may have been hard to tell seeing as Running never stopped thrashing until the set was over. I don't know if they had someplace else to be, if they were worried there might not be applause or if they just didn't care, but it worked. The whole set rang in at around twelve minutes. If they had laid down a bet I'll assume they won.

Not many bands would be eager to follow that kind of assault, but Tinsel Teeth are the perfect kind of group to go for it. The four-piece from Providence play a special kind of hell-infused metal and sport a lineup that likely match your description of "people I have no desire to meet in a dark alley."  The band's female lead singer looks, at first glance, like a short and sweet little Jersey girl. That is, until you notice the strap-on dildo, clusters of bruises and streaks of blood. Her drummer and guitar player come off as a couple of stocky, tattooed henchman pulled out of some Samoan snuff film.  And then there's the drummer. He's a thinner, kind of nondescript guy, which is even more terrifying. What, you wonder, has gone so wrong inside this man's head that this is the company he keeps?

Record review: Black Arrow - 'Blood Calls'

By Christian Chiakulas

I'm no huge fan of the "modern rock" sound, but I can appreciate that there are varying degrees of artistic viability when it comes to post-grunge bands, ranging from “Nickelback” to “listen-worthy.” Chicago rockers Black Arrow rank somewhere in the high end of that spectrum.

Blood Calls, the band's first album, kicks off with an instrumental (as so many loose concept albums seem to do nowadays) before launching into nine tracks of straightforward but not expendable metal-influenced hard rock. There's a lot here to satisfy purists, but very little transcendence into other genres. The songs are generally on the long side due to a surplus of instrumental turnarounds and bridges, many with Metallica-inspired guitar solos. The four-piece is as tight on record as the best of bands, which is partly because of the thick yet radio-friendly production. The guitar work ranges from “standard” to “excellent” and ends up being the album's main redeeming feature; there is a good mix of technical skill with pop sensibilities and almost every song is bursting with guitar hooks. The absolute standout track is “Deadford” for its unrelenting catchiness and guitar riffs.

Frontman Daniel Larson is not the most technical singer and often ends up sounding like Adam Gontier with a cold, but his vocals are by no means bad, and they work well with the sound that the band is going for. Robert Novara's drums suit the songs well and have their moments, but ultimately have little room to shine, and Matt Shotick's bass, when audible, seldom leaves rhythm territory. The rhythm section is tight, but nothing to write home about as the band's songwriting calls for them to mainly serve as a backdrop for the guitar work and vocals.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Show preview: Matters at Schubas, 6/10

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

Looking for your latest John O’Regan fix? The Diamond Rings brainchild has reunited with his old band the D’Urbervilles and transformed into Matters. How new is the band? Neither of the bands' Wikipedia pages mention anything about this. Now that’s some indie cred that’s up for taking. There’s not too much out there at all on them, but you can grab their debut 7” in digital format on bandcamp. The band retains a similar post-punk sound from before albeit a bit cleaned up and John O’s baritone seems somehow even deeper. Don’t expect the glammed out, Jordan jersey sporting frontman of yore. If the ominous noir setting in the A side’s "Get in Or Get Out" video is any indication, this show will be set in a tone much darker than a Diamond Rings gig. Catch the official Chicago debut of Matters at Schubas this Friday, June 10th at 10 PM ($10, 18+). Headlining the show is DC’s US Royalty balancing the Black Keys blues swagger with Fleet Foxes harmonies. Opening up are Quad Cities vets Chrash with their wry, insightful Pinbackish indie rock.

Show review: Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Laughing Eye Weeping Eye at The Empty Bottle, 6/7

By Gene Wagendorf III

Miriam Wallentin of Wildbirds & Peacedrums
My evening at The Empty Bottle Tuesday began with Rebecca Schoenecker, the gypsy behind Laughing Eye Weeping Eye, offering me a songbook. The soft, manila paper contained the evening's set list- complete with lyrics for a few sing-a-longs and an adorable picture of a winged aardvark. A few moments later the band took the stage, urging the crowd to move forward and join them in their first number, "There in the Valley." Schoenecker worked a seesaw melody out of her harmonium and softly chanted while bandmate Patrick Holbrook kept time with some shakers. From there Laughing Eye played a few more fragile sounding numbers, once taking a moment to remind the audience to participate.

Those band/crowd interactions felt akin to being in a first grade classroom; the teacher asking students to pay attention as she reads aloud, speaking earnestly and yet impersonally. Schoenecker's introduction to the next song- "this next song is about the aardvark, a very scary creature"- felt like it should have come complete with a storybook illustration. Oh, wait... The song's plodding tune was complimented by some well hit vocal notes and the rattlesnake tambourine work of Holbrook. The set had an oddly religious feel to it, exemplified best by what, for me, was the show's high moment: an idyllic number called "O'er the Mountain." The clap and sing-a-long tune sounded more likely to have been penned on a porch in the Bible Belt than by a couple of arty misfits from Chicago, yet it proved to be the song that got the most participation from the audience with the least instigation.

Download two new remixes from My Gold Mask

Posted by Frank Krolicki

photo by Jim Newberry
In a dancey mood? Then you'll definitely want to grab two new remixes that Chicago's own My Gold Mask have just released for download. The first is a take on the duo's track "Violet Eyes," done by Baryshnikov with an extra icy cool groove applied to the moody, seductive art pop of the original version. Joining it is Robots With Rayguns' remix of "Ghost in Your Bed," a new spin on the opening track from MGM's most recent EP A Million Miles (From Where We Were Last). You can listen to and download both remixes below.

The duo are currently writing and recording their next record and will also head out on tour this summer. Catch them at two hometown gigs: Ribfest this Friday, June 10th and Millennium Park on Monday, July 18th (opening for Blonde Redhead as part of the "Downtown Sound" series).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Video: Pet Lions live at Lincoln Hall

Posted by Frank Krolicki

Chicago indie pop quartet Pet Lions, who made their full-length debut in the form of the very solid Houses last month, have just released their first official live video. The clip lets us in on a recent performance of one of the album's tracks, "To the Coast," from the band's May 14th record release show at Lincoln Hall. Watch it below and see the band live at their next show on Saturday, June 18th at Beat Kitchen with Santah and The Names That Spell.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Record review: The Diemakers - 'Assault All Your Senses'

By Christian Chiakulas

In a city filled with both pretentious indie-rock bands and over-the-top hard-rock bands, The Diemakers come off as a sort of healthy balance between two extremes. Their debut album Assault All Your Senses showcases this middle-ground with material that, though not genre-bending or defining, sounds fresh and fun while at the same time giving hardcore music lovers enough to appreciate.

The album kicks off with “Get It (Love)” and wastes no time getting to the point: this is a rock band. The trio is led by singer and guitarist Dominic Harris, whose vocals recall Robin Zander and Cliff Johnson. His rhythm guitar work appropriately echoes the pop sensibilities of Cheap Trick and his solos would make Angus Young proud, giving the band a hard rock edge while still maintaining universal appeal. Additionally, Ben Smith's drums stand out during nearly every song, and Jay Harnish's bass comes in and out at all the right places, always serving the songs and never being flashy. He has a lot of slack to pick up as this record has an abundance of guitar solos, and he handles being the glue that binds everything together very well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Do Divsion Fest recap: Javelin, White Mystery and more

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

A Place to Bury Strangers being deceptively stoic
And so continues my love / hate relationship with street festivals. It’s a great way to catch up with multiple friends in one public setting, hanging out of doors with great weather after being treated with phenomenally disagreeable Spring. The bands are always rock solid and the positive atmosphere can make even the harshest anti-hippie swoon with love for their city. For the next three months, Chicago is the capitol of the music world. New York, Paris, and London forget about it: we are it. Likewise, the crowds can be claustrophobic and two egg rolls for four dollars is the best deal you can really find. The sound is impossible to control for such a wide spanned audience and with all due respect to the sound guys, well, it really could be better. But, as an attendee of what I consider our Summer’s kickoff music festival, I must write about it. So, without further ado, a very half-assed, half-attentive, alcohol-hazed review: 


I had seen these guys play an afternoon set at Millennium Park last summer so I knew what to expect: Two guys and a lot of sounds. What they produce on record is amazing. Likewise, they perform with an unworldly energy, the setting sun spilling over the Damen stage not stopping the marathon-stamina jogging-in-place of the percussionist of the duo. The sound was overblowing the soundsystem, but I’ve always viewed Javelin best as background music. Thus, the sample heavy Northeasterners provided a welcoming tune for someone after a rough day at work (oh, if only music blogging could pay the rent). Only caught half the set, but catching 'Vibrationz' was enough to make it worthwhile.

Interview: Shaun Hague

Posted by Frank Krolicki

The title of Shaun Hague's debut EP The Time Is Now is telling. After spending years playing guitar for various artists such as Amos Lee and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, the Redondo Beach, CA-based musician is just now about to release material under his own name. "The time is step out from sideman to frontman," reads the site of the Kickstarter campaign that helped fund the EP, out June 7th via iTunes. Though it's a brief three tracks, The Time Is Now is a solid release that shows great promise for Shaun's future as a solo artist; this is confident, soulful, well-written stuff that goes down easy and shouldn't have an issue finding an audience.

Shaun is coming to Chicago soon for a headlining gig at Martyrs on Thursday, June 23 (click here for more info and tickets). In anticipation of the show I asked him a few questions to find out more about the new EP, past projects and future plans--read on to see what he had to say.

WCR: You'll soon headline Martyrs here in Chicago. What can we expect from your live show?

GUITAR SOLOS! No, I’m not that selfish, but there are a lot of solos. That is what I think separates me from the common acoustic singer-songwriter, doing lots of lead guitar work myself. I also have some broken down moments where it’s just me and a piano or an acoustic. My goal is to always give the audience their money’s worth and put on a great show for them.

Speaking of Chicago, one of the tracks on your new EP is titled “Windy City Girl.” What's the story behind that as well as some of the other stuff on the EP?

“Windy City Girl” is inspired by my wife who grew up in the Palos Heights, IL area. The song just tells the story of my everyday life. I’m a lucky guy to be with such an amazing person, she inspires me both in music and outside too. “Rainy Day in L.A.” is written about my amusement of Los Angeles and that it just completely shuts down when it rains. People act as if a hurricane is blowing in. I would hate to see what would happen if it ever snowed on an L.A. freeway. “Make it a Great Day” is a phrase my keyboard player used to say a lot. I always found it to be extremely positive and one day decided to write a song around that phrase. It’s just a tune about making the most out of life and not letting time slip away from you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Chicago electro-rock trio Moon Furies are well underway in their ambitious "100 shows in 100 days" endeavor, which they are doing for cancer research (more on that here). You can keep up with details of all the shows - which so far have gone down everywhere from Subterranean to the Apple Store to outside Willis Tower - on the band's website.
  • Want free tickets to the Santah record release show with Pet Lions and The Names That Spell at Beat Kitchen on Saturday, June 18th? is giving a pair away--all you have to do is go here and click "I Like It" for a chance to win.
  • Taste of River North has announced the music lineup for this year's festival, set for July 15-17th. On the schedule are JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, Bumpus and more. See the full lineup here.
  • Loud Loop Press wrote about the Abbey Pub being featured on Spike TV's "Bar Rescue," a show that spends five days revamping bars and then reveals their new look. The episode will air in July.
  • posted a new session with Chicago's own Netherfriends. Click here to hear it and grab a free download.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

EP review: Yourself and the Air - "Who's Who in the Zoo"

Posted by Sasha Geffen

Well, kids, it's summer. Some of us are done with school for the year, while others are just glad to have thawed from Chicago's wintry brutality. It's warm enough to go swimming in the lake and lie on the grass and fly kites and get sunburned. And what better accompaniment is there to this seasonal levity than seven tracks of breezy psychedelic goodness?

The latest EP from lower west siders Yourself and the Air is as summery as summer gets. Infused with an irreverent glee, Who's Who in the Zoo manages to carry plenty of quirk while never veering into deliberately abstruse territory. The record plays a bit like Animal Collective calmed down a bit; there's the same Pixies-rooted stop-and-go dynamic in these songs, but without the bald-faced mania that characterizes the indie world's premiere folktronica darlings. YATA seeks to build songs to rolling momentums, not to shred them up and throw them in the air like confetti. Tracks like "Trampoline" and "Bon Voyage" never stagnate or scatter, but point themselves to the finish and snowball all the way there. The focus of whimsy is a delight to hear.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

This Saturday: Nobunny, Cave in Chinatown

Posted by Andrew Hertzberg

The Music.Friendly.Dancing series returns again this weekend at, um…a Chinese restaurant? Didn’t think it was possible for the Empty Bottle to go this absurd so early in the series, but this might take the dumpling. Nobunny and Cave will perform this Saturday, June 4th, 8 PM, at Hing Kee Phohung Restaurant (2140 S Archer Ave). This week’s edition is appropriately titled “Damn, Son – Dimsum!” with hopefully enough of the latter to go around. As usual, you gotta RSVP online ahead of time to get in. However, this doesn’t guarantee entry so get there early before capacity is hit. For those that want to play it safe (or aren’t over 21), Nobunny performs earlier in the day at Wicker Park’s Empty Bottle curated Do Division Fest. For those unfamiliar with the masked madness, check out these pics from last week’s Blackout Fest on qromag. Once again, a big to the folks at the Empty Bottle for keeping music in this city good and keeping it free.

Check this out: The Kickback's 'Diary of a Disas-tour'

Posted by Frank Krolicki

The Kickback (photo: Justin Flieth)
You know what's better than a band that rocks? A band that rocks with a kick-ass podcast. Take Chicago's own The Kickback. Ever since late 2010 they've been bringing their "Diary of a Disas-tour" to the world in the form of a weekly podcast that not only covers updates with their musical endeavors but also features plenty of random, hilarious stories, rants and banter. Frontman Billy Yost says it's about "what it's really like to be a band that can't afford to be making music 24-hours of the day" as well as "things that sort of influence the band's direction (Michael Keaton movies, the Muppets, manic-depression, etc.)." There's even regular segments with self-made "bit" music, such as "If Michael Keaton were here," "The Most Inappropriate Purchase of the Week" and "Who's Pissed and Who's to Blame." These guys are pretty damn funny, so "Diary of a Disas-tour" is well worth checking out not only to keep up with news of the band but also for a good laugh. You can listen to the podcast via the link above and also find it on iTunes.

In other Kickback news, the band has just put out a video for "Alpha Flight," the first track on their most recent EP Mea Culpa Mea Culpa. I won't ruin it for you, but not since The Replacements' "Bastards of Young" has there been a music video that attempts to pack so much action into just under four minutes.