Wednesday, August 31, 2011

'Checking In' with Warm Ones

By Frank Krolicki

A while back I highlighted Warm Ones' debut album Sprezzatura as one of my favorite Chicago releases of 2010, and many months later it's still getting some pretty regular action on my iPod. The band have been keeping busy working on new material, and here we have the first taste via "Checking In." It's just one minute long, but it's a good example of the sort of scrappy, addictive power pop that makes Warm Ones so much fun. As an added bonus, they've released an alternate, fuller-sounding mix of the garagey track "Toys" off Sprezzatura. Below you can watch the video for "Checking In" and hear the "Fallujah Mix" of "Toys," and also grab both as free mp3s on warmones.com.

Toys (Fallujah Mix) by Warm Ones

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Record Review: Yawn - 'Open Season'

By Andrew Hertzberg

Over the past year, Yawn has opened for a veritable who’s who in indie rock. Tanlines, Yeasayer, Delorean, Local Natives…the list goes on. Each of these bands has their own sound, yet there are two themes common to them all: layers and percussion. Which makes it no surprise that a band like Yawn would be a fitting opener to these bands in a live setting. Most of their hype came from the free online download of the eponymous EP released nearly two years ago. They’ve remained a bit quiet since, shooting a couple videos, playing sporadically, and frustratingly not updating their website for a bit (grrrr). But now, we finally have their full length debut, Open Season. Knowing what they’re capable of with undeniable tunes like "Kind of Guy" and "David," let’s continue with the hunting metaphor and take aim at the LP. 

Overall, the album contains a very fluid yet cohesive sound. That’s not to say it gets to the point of redundancy, but it does make track differentiation difficult at points. The waves between the first two tracks "Keepup" and "Take it With Me" illustrate this fluidity aurally. Right off the bat, we notice an even more layered and excessive sound compared to their EP. The one band that now starts to stick out in comparison over the initial Animal Collective point of reference is Of Montreal, equally layered but more groovy and head-bob inducing. But unlike recent Of Montreal efforts, the sound is not that fractured. However, the oddity is still there: for instance, third track "Yumyum" with its overpitched vocals and hypnotic throat clearing drumbeat which is almost impossible to get out of your head. To say the least, this track is delicious. This one or the insanely '80s danceable "Gasoline" would have been the more obvious choices for a single. Rather, the band decided on "Acid" being the leadout track to introduce to new listeners. It’s an interesting choice to challenge their audience with an unstructured, very experimental track, its title more in reference to the mind expanding substance as opposed to the material decaying one. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Show review: Peter Bjorn & John, Moon Furies at Empty Bottle, 8/24

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Wittmann's manic trumpeting
Moon Furies capped off their 100 shows in 100 days project in style, playing to a sold out crowd at The Empty Bottle and opening for Peter Bjorn & John. The group had their trademark charisma and enthusiasm working overtime from the start, evidenced by the fact that bassist Jim Wittmann waited all of thirty seconds before launching himself off the stage to dance with the crowd. An inspired version of "Way Down," from the band's debut album Mercury, mashed together tandem vocals from Wittmann and guitar player Andy Kiel over a wiggling synth line that evokes the same party atmosphere as Salt-n-Pepa's classic "Push It." Some of the crowd, I'm assuming those at The Bottle specifically for PB&J, seemed a bit bewildered by Moon Furies at first, curious about what nonsense was interrupting their conversation or waiting for something to whistle along to. By the time Wittmann produced a trumpet to bellow out the finale of "Look At Me," those same people had turned the crowd into a dance club. Kiel joined his bass player in the crowd during the intro to "Logan Square," leaving drummer and Windy City Rock writer Andrew Hertzberg alone on stage. The song's fist-pumping melody trampolined around Hertzberg's snappy drumming, giving every bead of sweat the audience had worked up something to groove to. Just in case anyone in the back was feeling a bit disconnected, Wittmann meandered towards the bar wailing on his trumpet during "Fallen."

Kiel and Hertzberg
Playing 100 shows in 100 days is likely to do one of two things (maybe both?) to a band: dramatically hone their skills or drive them totally insane. The former is certainly true of Moon Furies, who played the last gig of their marathon like it was their last gig on earth. The set ended with the group's strongest tune, "Mercury 13," a song that takes everything great about the band and rolls it into 5 minutes of bliss. It opened with an airy hum before being yanked upwards by soaring vocals and thumping percussion. Slower verses bled into ultra catchy synth squeaks, rising and falling while maintaining ultimate danceability. The song/show's dramatic crescendo found Kiel melting on the stage with his guitar while Wittmann perched himself on the bass drum, armed again with his trumpet.  Hertzberg rolled and crashed on his kit while a trumpet solo softly faded out, ending the set.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Record review: Ornery Little Darlings - 'O is for Ornery'

By Sasha Geffen

There's a certain feeling you get in antique stores, or maybe in a family member's forgotten troves, when repositioning old world artifacts in the now. Open a tarnished leather-bound jewelry box for the first time in decades and smell the air of a remaindered past. The light glints off the patina; suddenly, we're filled with the sense a time we don't quite remember ourselves. We piece together a tinted history, thrilled with our own archeology, filling in the forgotten space with idealized fossils of false memory. 

A playthrough of O is for Ornery evokes a similar sensation. A vintage, brassy artifact of a record, the trio's premiere LP breeds piano-bar grit with garage rock bite. Spiky opener "Prowler" stomps in with pure diesel-soaked art-punk that hearkens back to the early days of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Emmi Chen does a mean Karen O over the raw treble of bristling power chords and acidic minimalist riffs, but the track reveals itself to be both a pump-up and a fake-out by the next song. I'm sure OLD loved "Art Star" as much as the rest of us back in the early aughts, but they're not about to build their entire LP around its kernel. On track two, Ornery Little Darlings sheath their claws for a spell. Chen reigns in the growls for a breezy keyboard jam. We start to see that the aim here isn't to make as much noise as possible for as long as possible (a path that some neophyte art-punk records tread without restraint). O is for Ornery masters a sense of pace. Like a well-aged vintage film, a grainy narrative that repeated generations return to, it knows when to pull the punches, when to build tension, when to break it wide open.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

See Moon Furies wrap up 100 shows in 100 days at Empty Bottle

By Frank Krolicki

Exciting news here at camp WCR: our writer Andrew Hertzberg's band, Moon Furies, is opening for Peter Bjorn and John this Wednesday night, August 24th, at the Empty Bottle! If you haven't seen Moon Furies yet, know that their show is a crazy good time. Combined with PB&J, the night is bound to be one epic explosion of fun.

Making it an even bigger deal, Moon Furies will be celebrating the final show in their "100 shows in 100 days" adventure that began in May, which found them playing venues, street corners and pretty much anywhere else you could think of from then until now to raise money for cancer research at the Kellogg Cancer Center. Check out the story WCIU did on the project below to find out why Andrew, Jim and Andy decided to take it on.

Currently no more tickets are for sale through the Empty Bottle's site, but word is that 100  25 more are being released at the door tomorrow night. So be sure to get there early! 9:30 p.m., $20, 21 and over.

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Following last week's disaster at Pukkelpop festival in Belgium, Chicago's Smith Westerns spoke to Dutch TV station VPRO about being on stage just before it collapsed. Read an excerpt and view the entire clip at Pitchfork.
  • Daytrotter.com posted new sets for download from a couple more locally-based bands--this time it's My Gold Mask and Disappears
  • The second annual Design Harvest Festival, set for October 1-2 along West Grand Ave. (between Damen and Wood), has announced a music lineup programmed by The Hideout. Scheduled for Saturday are Califone, Santified Grumblers and Mar Caribe, while Sunday will feature Golden Horse Ranch Square Dance Band, Hoyle Brothers and Black Willouboughy.
  • Need some help justifying a North Coast Music Festival ticket purchase? Check out a list of 5 reasons to go to the fest on chicagonow.com.
  • Richard over at LoudLoopPress.com gave his take on O Is for Ornery, the new record from Chicago's Ornery Little Darlings (which you can snag on Bandcamp for just 50 cents).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Show review: Paper Mice, Lechuguillas, Snacks at Treasure Town, 8/20

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Magic Ian of Snacks
Chicago's music scene is filled with good people, kickass shows and raucous parties. Every now and then those elements collide for a cause and it turns into something both ludicrous and magical. Such was the benefit show at Treasure Town on Saturday where organizers reportedly raised $1,100 for housing, employment and prevention services for 1,400 Chicagoans living with HIV/AIDS.

The bill was loaded with local talent, but none stood out more than Snacks. The group was well-lubricated before their set and after a brief conversation with vocalist Magic Ian I couldn't help but wonder what the hell I was about to see. Was this about to be some fantastic debauchery fueled rock or was the group going to implode before this sweaty, punchy crowd? Guitarist Oliver Langrall halted my inner monologue with a flurry of distortion and a plodding riff that sent the band into motion and Magic Ian crashing into the crowd. The audience collapsed into a massive mosh pit with the singer leading the charge.

The songs were mostly drunk punk tunes in the vein of the Dead Kennedys and the Stooges, but manic violin shredding courtesy of Electric Ian (not to be confused with the Magic one) gave Snacks an added dimension of slap-happiness. The rhythm section was made up of the singer's Close Hits band-mates, with Dan Rico slugging the bass and Evan Burrows on drums. Every song played out like a race to the next- the flow only interrupted by the occasional diatribe from Magic Ian. The crowd ate up Snacks' confrontational demeanor, slamming into Rico and Langrall throughout the set with little worry at the possibility of being beheaded by a flailing instrument. By set's end the singer was crumbled to a fetal position, dotted with confetti and pants-less, howling into the mic over violin shrieks and tumbling percussion. I came away with a sense of disbelief, not at the chaos that is the band's live show, but at how tight they stay musically through it all. The songs are catchy- both deceptively melodic and adrenaline pumping. It's kitschy and pretentious to drop the "punk is dead" line, and just plain fucking stupid after you catch a Snacks show.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Show review: Close Hits at Weeds, 8/18

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Close Hits
Close Hits did nothing on Thursday night to tarnish their reputation as one of the most fun bands in Chicago to see live. The trio performed in front of a sardined and enthusiastic crowd, letting the cool evening breeze from the bar's open doors set the tone for an evening of stupid smiles and wild guitar solos. The show marked an interesting moment for the band: their final gig with snappy drum-smacker Evan Burrows. Close Hits' reliance on tight arrangements within songs that can't decide whether they're soul or punk jams makes a skilled drummer invaluable, and it'll be interesting to see what kind of talent singer/guitarist Dan Rico and bassist Ian Wisniewski recruit.

Live, the band's tunes channel energy from the chemistry between the trio. Close Hits opened up their set with a few song from their recently released EP, Hang On Me. "Do It Again" found Rico doing his best Freddie Mercury impersonation during the song's first verse, though he eventually exploded into more soulful wailing than you can expect to hear on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Those heartache vocals were supported by Burrows' stuttered chugging and Wisniewski's waddling bass line.The bassist handled himself well onstage, ducking and bobbing around venue personnel, keeping his rhythm while they attempted to get his mic going. In those moments having a sense of humor and a background in DIY shows, where anything can go wrong (right?), pays off. Wisniewski simply smiled and shouted his backup vocals to a nodding, shimmying crowd.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Show preview: Warm Ones, Volcanoes Make Islands, Chew Heart at Subterranean 8/20

By Sasha Geffen

Warm Ones
Recently it's come to my attention that the only second floor music venue I can think of is also the only one called Subterranean. I didn't even figure it out on my own; as we were walking up to the cabaret room to catch some head-melting doom metal, a friend of mine quipped, "wait, so it's called Subterranean and we're going upstairs?" The name modifies the music, not the location, I guess. Or maybe it's ironic. Either way, I've never seen a single disappointing lineup there. Dudes can book a set. I have had many an act blow my mind and become an instant local favorite upon rocking that stage. This Saturday's show promises to further that record.

Local duo Chew Heart will open up with their twangy, stomping indie pop. Singer Laura Granlund echoes Neko Case's timbre at times as she lays down vocals atop a hard-edged blend of grainy guitar and synth accents. The swirling guitar-rock of Volcanoes Make Islands will be up next. I dug their 2010 EP Sick City pretty hard and I hear they'll be debuting some new tracks from their upcoming full-length at the show. 

Headliners Warm Ones, meanwhile, have cultivated their own brand of pop-punk--and I don't mean that in the sense of the plastic, airless junk that corroded the airwaves in the '90s. I mean they've got equal grip on melodic craft and chaos, wielding each with impressive dexterity. They know you don't have to sacrifice muscle to build a perfect chorus. Vocals swoop in and out of lo-fi guitar storms in an absurdly addictive mix of sound. Check out the enormous track "GSS" off of their album Sprezzatura to see what I'm talking about.


Tickets are $10 and available here. Doors at 9pm, show at 9:30, 21+.

EP review: Blah Blah Blah - 'Thank You Thank You'

By Frank Krolicki


There probably hasn't been a blog post or article written yet about Blah Blah Blah that doesn't mention the Smiths. I was going to try to make this review of the Chicago-based quartet's new EP Thank You Thank You the first, but eventually realized it was futile. It's undeniable, and if you proudly have The Queen Is Dead on your iPod chances are you'll dig these six tunes.

I don't want to discredit the band, though, because Thank You Thank You doesn't at all come off as a stale imitation of something that came before it. For all its obvious influences, the EP is actually a completely refreshing listen. Sure, frontman Solomon Moss's smooth, poetic delivery might come from the school of Morrissey, but it's actually less of an acquired taste, and the words he's singing are not as overblown. All of the performances here are impressive, and combined with quality songwriting throughout, this stuff holds its own against anything that might have inspired it. Plus, it's hard to ignore the fact that this is a band made up of three African American guys and one guy of Columbian descent making music built on Brit-pop and new wave; Blah Blah Blah's multi-cultural makeup is refreshing, and combined with their musical skills and dapper style, helps to create a unique identity.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Ladyfest Midwest 2011: The Cathy Santonies, Hollows, much more

By Andrew Hertzberg

 
In August 2001, Chicago played host to the four day festival Ladyfest Midwest, featuring musical performances, visual artists, filmmakers and more. For the tenth anniversary of this event, the festival is scaled back a bit, but the purpose is the same. Whereas the original event featured national artists such as Shannon Wright, Le Tigre and ESG, the main focus this weekend is on our own city. All proceeds from the weekend benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center. Personally, I’m a big fan of the concept of multi-venue, multi-media festivals. A welcome change from Big Box and single minded festivals. Check the full schedule of events below.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tonight: Geronimo! cassette release at Subterranean

By Frank Krolicki

photo: facebook.com/thegeronimoband
You've got to hand it to bands that are committed to keeping the cassette tape alive. Cassettes might not have the warmth of vinyl or the clarity of CDs, but they have a certain charm all their own. Chicago's own scrappy, fuzzed-out rockers Geronimo! certainly think so and are doing their part to help you add to your tape collection. Tonight, August 17th, the band will release a limited run of cassettes at their Subterranean show, which also includes NYC's Grandfather and fellow Chicagoans Predators on the bill. 8 p.m., $8, 21 and over. Tickets here.

The cassette--the first in a regular series Geronimo! plan to release dubbed Buzz Yr Girlfriend--includes six tracks and will be available for free at the show. You won't be able to get it anywhere else, so be sure to head out and get your copy!

For more info on the project, check out Geronimo! member Ben Grigg discussing it on AV Club. You can also see the band's video "Design Yourself a Heart" below.

Geronimo! - "Design Yourself a Heart" from Northern Outpost on Vimeo.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Video: Trip out on 'Acid' with YAWN

By Frank Krolicki

I've seen a lot of trippy music videos lately. Trippy music videos seem to be the thing to do. I really think this new one by Chicago's own indie psych-pop quartet YAWN takes the cake, though. The clip--of the appropriately titled "Acid" off the band's soon-to-come debut full-length Open Season--is a strange yet enjoyable journey into nothingness from start to finish, including a bedazzled head floating in space, alien dudes, sea creatures and a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. I don't think there's any point to it all, but maybe the point is that there's no point. Heavy, man. See for yourself below and check out YAWN live when they play Metro on September 30th.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Video: Time travel with Scattered Trees

By Frank Krolicki

Following up their last video for "Four Days Straight," Chicago pop/rockers Scattered Trees are back with a new clip for their moody, emotional track "Sympathy." This time they decided head back in time, don warrior garb and act all dramatic, resulting in some beautiful visual to match the beautiful audio. The tune comes from Scattered Trees' recent LP of the same name, which has just got a physical release via Roll Call Records/EMI. Check it out below.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Not ready to let Lollapalooza go just yet? Fuse let us know they've got video interviews live with two of this year's performers--Grace Potter and Damian Kulash of OK GO--discussing the fest and their thoughts on Chicago. 
  • Speaking of Lolla, Jim DeRogatis continues his crusade to out any questionable behavior surrounding the fest with a Vocalo.org blog post probing further into its "tax-and-competition-free sweetheart deal."
  • Word spread fast Monday that another band on the Lolla schedule this year, Alaska's Portugal. The Man, unfortunately had their van and trailer full of gear stolen from a nearby parking lot. The latest news is that the van and trailer have been found, but were empty. Click here for a list of all the gear still missing.
  • You can add another batch of mp3s to your collection of Daytrotter sets from Chicago bands with this new one from Company of Thieves. It includes takes on four songs off their recently-released sophomore record Running From a Gamble.
  • LoudLoopPress.com reviewed the debut EP from Windy City-based husband-wife duo The Halamays. Check out what they had to say and listen to the opening track "Sun Goes Down" below.
Sun Goes Down by The Halamays

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 day three: Titus Andronicus, The Cars, Lissie & more

By Frank Krolicki

Titus Andronicus (photo: Frank Krolicki)
It's hard to believe Lollapalooza 2011 is already over. My overworked feet and sunburned neck couldn't be happier, but overall I'm kind of bummed that the madness won't be back again for an entire year--I could get used to seeing bands all day in the sunshine. Yesterday I wrote about how I was a bit underwhelmed with many of this year's performances up until that point, but thankfully Sunday came through with some big winners that helped make up for it. It was definitely my favorite of the three days.

Gold Motel (photo: Frank Krolicki)
I started off the day with a bit of Gold Motel, one of my Chicago-based favorites. I'd already seen them a handful of times before so I considered skipping their set since I wanted to see Titus Andronicus, who were starting a half hour later all the way at the other end of the park. That long walk can be brutal, especially in this weekend's extreme heat, but I couldn't bring myself to miss Gold Motel's Lolla debut completely. They're just too much fun. So I decided to suck it up and head over to catch their first few songs before I left for Titus. I saw them play their new single, "Leave You in Love," as well as a couple tracks from their debut album Summer House, and while none of it was new to me it was a good time as always. Frontwoman Greta Morgan tweeted that it was the most fun show they had ever played, so hopefully they picked up plenty of new fans.

Titus Andronicus (photo: Frank Krolicki)
I love when bands that I never cared too much about win me over at Lolla. This year that was Titus Andronicus. I had previously only listened to their debut album The Airing of Grievances and couldn't really get into it, but based on their Sunday afternoon performance I should probably give their stuff another listen. It might have helped that they only played material off of their sophomore record The Monitor, opening with "A More Perfect Union" and energetically blasting through 45 minutes of their anthemic punk. Frontman Patrick Stickles's bratty snarl contradicted his seemingly humble and uber-appreciative attitude--something that made me like the performance even more.

After Titus I headed all the way back to the other side of the fest to take in some of Rival Schools. What I heard provided some good, meaty guitar--something I couldn't find much of on Saturday--but their serious, grungey alt-rock made me feel like it was 1992. The band sounded tight enough, but I kept finding my mind wandering.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 day two: Beirut, Cee Lo, Big Audio Dynamite

By Frank Krolicki

Big Audio Dynamite (photo: Frank Krolicki)
After the first half of Lolla's Saturday performances came to an end and the masses started to flood into Grant Park, I decided to kick off the evening with Big Audio Dynamite. The British band, which includes The Clash's Mick Jones, was one of the fest's token "veteran" acts this year. I always make it a point to check these sets out because either a) performers who are around for a long time last for a reason--because they're really good, or b) I have the musical preferences of a 55-year old. Let's go with "a" for now. Anyway, these guys were very tight and I was glad I marked them down on my schedule. I can't say I wouldn't have rather heard Mick play Clash songs, but hearing fun, danceable B.A.D. tunes such as "Rush" and "E-MC2" wasn't a shabby way to close out the afternoon.

Cee Lo from afar (photo: Frank Krolicki)
Next came Cee Lo Green. Oh man, Cee Lo. This was a bizarre show. I don't think I've seen anything as bizarre at Lolla since Lou Reed's set back in 2009. Imagine having a really weird dream where you were going to a Cee Lo show, he came out dressed like something out of Mad Max and proceeded to perform totally random covers from the likes of Danzig and Billy Idol with his all-female band. That could only actually happen in some alternate universe, right? Well, it happened tonight at Lolla. The outfit part actually wasn't much of a shock--it is Cee Lo, after all--but I didn't see "Mother" and "Flesh for Fantasy" coming. He also did a couple Gnarles Barkley tracks and recent solo tunes "Fuck You" (of course) and "Bright Lights Bigger City." The odd setlist wouldn't have been an too much of an issue, but Cee Lo's often great voice seemed pretty shot and the overall energy of the set was just very strange (at one point, he tried to elicit excitement from the crowd by warning, "Don't you dare let these wonderful outfits go to waste or I'll step off the stage and slay you myself," then, after some cheers, following it up with, "Thank you so much, now no one has to die.") It was certainly a spectacle, though unfortunately more of the head-scratching kind than the awesome kind.

Lollapalooza 2011 day two: Black Lips, Friendly Fires & more

By Frank Krolicki

Walk the Moon (photo: Frank Krolicki)
So, Lollapalooza 2011 is officially now more than half over, and I'm sad to say I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed this year. Sure, there have been highlights (one of my favorites remains one of the first performances of the festival, by the Vaccines, even though nobody else I've talked to seems to have seen them). I've heard a lot of buzz about how amazing Le Butcherettes were (there was even vomiting in true punk rock style), but I didn't catch them. So while I've seen some perfectly enjoyable stuff, the "wow" moments have been scarce.

That brings me to my thoughts on Saturday's performances. As with Friday, there was plenty that I liked but not a whole lot that floored me.

Walk the Moon (photo: Frank Krolicki)
My first stop was the Music Unlimited stage to check out Walk the Moon. Going in, I had only heard a song titled "Anna Sun" by the young Cincinnati, OH-based four-piece, which was enough of a catchy, feel-good slice of pop to get me curious. Their set was that of a band obviously in love with what they are doing and eager to get the world listening. They gave off enough energy to fuel an assumedly tired crowd of early-arrivers and frequently cracked big grins, making it known they couldn't be happier to be there. Their dancey pop/rock, while perfectly good, didn't sound like anything too original, but it was solid enough to get me interested in hearing their debut album. I also appreciated their take on David Bowie's "Let's Dance," which I think would have made the Thin White Duke himself proud.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 day one: Coldplay, Mountain Goats, OK GO & more

By Frank Krolicki

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats (photo: Frank Krolicki)
As the crowds got thicker and the stages got harder to get anywhere close to, my first day of Lollapalooza 2011 continued into the evening with sets from The Mountain Goats, Bright Eyes, OK GO and headliners Coldplay. 

The Mountain Goats are a great band. Let me just say that first, because they are. They play with as much energy as you could ask for from a band, give it their all and are obviously 100% into what they're doing. Plus, the material is top-notch. So Mountain Goats fans, please forgive me when I say this: I can't stand John Darnielle's voice. I dig many unique voices in music, but Mr. Darnielle's nasally, high delivery just grates on me. I can't help it. So any enthusiasm I convey while writing about this performance is unfortunately marred by that unchangeable fact. But really, they played wonderfully, and John gave a couple nods to Chicago, which was appreciated (he said he decided to play a few songs solo acoustically during the middle of the set just so he could get to "Cubs in Five" and later paid tribute to Windy City classic rockers Styx with a left-field cover of "Babe"). To close the set, the band had Jenn Wasner from fellow Lolla performing band Wye Oak join them on stage for a spirited version of "This Year." It was definitely one of the strongest performances of the day, grating vocals or not.

Next (after a pretty painful experience spending a ridiculous amount of time in line at the Lou Malnati's stand), I caught the final half of Bright Eyes from afar. I have never considered myself a big fan of the band, but I have to say they sounded really good. As with The Mountain Goats, there was obviously an incredible amount of energy and passion put into the performance, made even more effective by a superb sound mix--everything was crystal clear. From what I saw, I doubt if any Bright Eyes fan went away disappointed.

Lollapalooza 2011 day one: The Vaccines, Smith Westerns, Cults & more

By Frank Krolicki

Justin Young of the Vaccines (photo: Frank Krolicki)
One down, two to go!

The first day of the 20th anniversary of Lollapalooza went off pretty much as any day of the fest usually does--there were highlights, there were not-so-highlights, there was crazy heat, there a constant cattle call of people, there was a cloud of pot smoke hovering over everything (I could go on and on...).

After hearing that the temperature would be in the low 80s throughout the weekend, I was kind of disappointed to be uncomfortably sticky halfway through the Vaccines, which was my first show of the day. Despite that fact I had a great time during the set. Channeling The Jesus and Mary Chain and the Ramones and adding in a dash of classic Spector girl-group, the London-based foursome delivered a performance perfect for getting geared up for three full days of sun and music. The band played everything from their debut LP What Did You Expect From the Vaccines?, getting the crowd most excited with fast-paced rockers such as "If You Wanna," "Wreckin' Bar" and set closer "Norgaard," but also keeping interest during slower tunes like "Blow It Up" and "Wet Suit." They also threw in a cover ("Good Guys Don't Wear White") and a B side ("We're Happening"). I'm not sure I had as good a time during anything else I saw on day one.

Reptar (photo: Frank Krolicki)
Unfortunately I didn't during Reptar, who mainly left me scratching my head a bit later in the afternoon at the Google+ stage (sidenote: does anyone else think it's a bit crazy that Google+ already has a stage?). I have to admit I only saw a few songs from the Athens, GA-based band, but what I heard sounded pretty yelpy and tuneless and set my hipster radar off to an uncomfortably high level. To like, 14 on a scale of 1-10. It didn't help that one of the dudes was wearing a unitard. I do appreciate the Rugrats reference, though. And from the reaction of the crowd this is obviously this is plenty of peoples' cup of tea, just not mine.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Interview: Conductive Alliance

By Andrew Hertzberg

(Credit: Facebook)
I gotta say, one of the perks to blog writing is seeing a band live and being able to go up them after a show and say, “Hey, we should probably talk a bit.” So it was on a Saturday evening some nights back I was introduced to Conductive Alliance at the Subterranean. The former four piece-now-duo sets a dynamic pace akin to post rock bands, darker tones on the aural spectrum, and more than a hint of math rock influence. I had a chance to sit and snag some drinks at a Polish dive on Western Ave. with Corey and Eli and talk a little bit about the bands background, the transition after losing members and rock formations. 

Catch Conductive Alliance live at the Hideout this Sunday August 7th ($8, 21+) when they open for Canasta and Johnny Rodgers. You can buy their EP Water Glyphs here, or check out some tracks on their Facebook page.

WCR: Give us some background on the band.

Eli: Well, the band started in 2007 when me and a good buddy of mine started playing acoustic instrumental music. From that we grew into a three piece with a percussionist. Eventually a four piece with an upright bass so there was two guitars, an upright bass and percussion, and it was all instrumental music. We released an EP as that band which was all recorded live in one day. That was sort of the art, we were all about being in the moment, improvising and having loose song structures, similar to jazz. We’d have a melody in the beginning, improv in the middle and a melody in the end and sort of bookend it that way. At a certain point we wanted to start to expand our sound, I started playing more electric guitar and we wanted a kit drummer, so we threw something up on Craigslist and it was so lucky to find Corey, you know, it’s always a crapshoot on Craigslist, but we got extremely lucky with Corey. He just moved here from DC, literally, I think I contacted him when he was loading his U-Haul to move out to Chicago from DC. So he came in and we just had good energy, he’s a great guy and an incredible musician so we started working as a four piece with Corey and continued to expand our sound to more and more electronic music, implementing synths, electric bass and now we’re pretty much an electronic band. What started as an instrumental acoustic band changed a lot.

Show review: Bullied By Strings at Subterranean, 8/2

By Gene Wagendorf III

BBS @ SubT
I'm not much of a dancer. I don't mind it necessarily, but there has to be a perfect storm of excellent tunes and copious amounts of alcohol to really get me going. Every now and then there is a rare exception to that rule. Enter Bullied By Strings.

The local electro-dance duo's manic stage show was hot from the start, replete with vociferous percussion, sugary vocals and solid, throbbing beats. Kristen Rowland, the tandem's gold-sequined singer, is profoundly captivating on stage. During some numbers her vocals soar over the thumping, electronic gale force buzz to inject a giddy nonchalance her audience seems more than happy to anchor to. Her movements onstage run the gamut from Karen O burlesque to Dave Chappelle-ian robot shtick. Oh, and then she breaks out a flute and pipes away until you forget that the instrument isn't exactly a staple of booty-shaking pop.

Everything is held together by Gabriel Rowland, a wolverine of a drummer skilled enough to dismantle and reassemble the tunes in front of the audience without ever drifting into undanceable territory. All of this came together during a song that began with Gabriel fluttering over congas behind a synth pulse while Kristen told secrets into the microphone. Eventually the number Jiffy Popped into a dance party while the singer wailed on her flute.

Tonight: Gold Motel at the Apple Store

By Frank Krolicki

photo: Matt Wignall
If you missed Gold Motel opening for Cold War Kids last night at Metro and aren't going to be able to catch their Sunday set at Lollapalooza, don't worry! You can still get your fix of their infectious, sunny sounds by heading over to the Apple Store at 679 N. Michigan Ave. for a free performance starting at 5:30 this evening.

In other Gold Motel news, the band just released a new digital single titled "Leave You in Love" which fits in nicely with the material on last year's debut LP Summer House and single Talking Fiction. Classic three-minute power pop that's musically bright and shiny and lyrically bittersweet. You can listen to it or buy it (well worth the buck) via the band's Bandcamp site.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Eavesdropping on Paul McCartney @ Wrigley Field, 8/1

By Gene Wagendorf III 

The only talent playing at Wrigley all summer
How do you put a price on seeing a Beatle? Where do you draw the line between a justifiable expense and outlandish waste? Is any one man truly worth a $165 ticket, before service fees? Luckily, I didn't have to pass that judgment on Sir Paul- I got to enjoy the entire concert for free.

I'm not bragging. Nor was I alone. A couple thousand of Paul McCartney's biggest fans surrounded Wrigley Field on Monday night to listen to some of the greatest songs ever written. When the idea was first pitched to me I was a bit hesitant. Would I actually be able to hear anything? Was it worth being in Wrigleyville for three hours just to hear some faint na-na's from "Hey Jude" while surrounded by pack of drunk fratboys puking along?

An unofficial street fest
I got more than I could have hoped for. Paul's sound system was impressive. I heard him more clearly while camped out on Waveland Avenue than I heard A Place to Bury Strangers from four people back at this year's Do Division Fest. In short, this was one of the best shows I've ever seen, and I technically didn't even see it.

As anticipation built toward the first song, small groups of Beatles fan hung around on the street, passing around joints and bottles of wine, singing "Rocky Raccoon" and "Eight Days A Week." Seemed more than appropriate, though not nearly as entertaining as the twelve year old kid who interrupted them as he bounced down Clark singing Human League's 1982 hit "Don't You Want Me."

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 lineup picks



We're suddenly just a few days away from Chicago's annual heat+sweat+music extravaganza in Grant Park known as Lollapalooza. Sure, some might say that--in the words of Jim DeRogatis--it's like a musical "Wal-Mart on the Lake." But you know what? It always turns out to be a good time. Of course, in order to maximize enjoyment you have to do some planning (unless your sole purpose of going is not for the music, but to aimlessly stagger around drunk and shirtless--in which case, please get out of my way). It's critical to map out your schedule in advance so you don't end up with any regrets once it's over. For anyone looking for suggestions, I (Frank) plus fellow WCR writer Andrew Hertzberg have put together our lists of artists we're planning to make sure to catch. Take a look below, and also check out our previous post specifically on Chicago-based bands playing the fest this year. Who are you most excited to see?

Friday, August 5th 

The Vaccines (Music Unlimited, 12:45-1:30): This stuff is damn catchy. Sure, there's a lot of catchy rock out there, but The Vaccines' Spector-meets-old school NYC underground-influenced style is especially well-done. The melodies to singles such as "Post Break-Up Sex" and "If You Wanna" click immediately, and amazingly, even most of the album tracks on debut LP What Did You Expect From the Vaccines are just as infectious. Sure to provide a needed jolt of energy to kick off three full days of Lolla. --Frank 

Tennis (Google+, 1-1:45): With a weekend full of sun, music, parties, after-parties and after-shows, it’s probably best to kick things off a bit low key. The duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore make music to sail around the world to, which is essentially what they did, coasting along the North Atlantic at five miles an hour for seven months a few years back. The translated the experience into beach pop tunes perfect for a lazy Friday afternoon. --Andrew 

Smith Westerns
Smith Westerns (Playstation, 3:30-4:30): Dye It Blonde, the second LP from Chicago's Smith Westerns, is full of great big glam-pop tunes that have brought the band international attention. The band's live shows seem to be hit or miss, but I'm taking a chance on these guys and their tunes sounding extra good in the sunshine and heat. --Frank 

Le Butcherettes (Google+, 3:30-4:15): I know, I know, I should be checking out hometown heroes the Smith Westerns at this time. But to be perfectly honest, I found their set at p4k last year a bit lackluster. Maybe their new found national recognition might have got them to kick it up a bit live, but I’m thinking I gotta check out the Mexican garage punk inspired equally by Luis Bunuel, Malcolm X and Sylvia Plath. --Andrew