Monday, October 31, 2011

Video: The Cell Phones - 'It's Halloween'

By Frank Krolicki

Happy Halloween! If you, like me, forgot it that it was October 31st until minutes ago, you should check out the video below from The Cell Phones pronto to help get yourself in the spirit. The Chicago trio are obviously big Halloween fans and decided to put their Lady Gaga/Devo costumes to good use for a clip all about this crazy day. Satanic cult and devilish hi-jinks included.

 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Show preview: JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound, White Mystery at Double Door, 10/28

By Frank Krolicki

Ever since JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound graced the world with their funky, soul-infused take on Wilco's much-lauded "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart," their name has been thrown around quite frequently around town and beyond. Now the band have unleashed their new Bloodshot Records album Want More, and are celebrating with a release show this Friday, October 28th at Double Door. If the show goes down anything like the album plays out, not even the most guarded of hipsters in attendance will be able to stand still. JC and company are armed with the most soulful of soul rock, as heard on lively tunes like first single "Everything Will Be Fine," "Bad News" and the record's title track. The guys also know how to slow it down without making you lose any of the good vibrations (see ultra-smooth cuts like "Awake" and "To Love Someone (That Don't Love You)"). This is pretty much a guaranteed good time.

Sweetening the deal is another of the Windy City's most noted acts--flame-haired garage rock siblings White Mystery--who seem to be playing shows constantly yet somehow never got tiresome. Also on the bill are Satan's Youth Ministers (appropriately-named considering it's Halloween weekend and all) and DJ Sloppy White.

Things kick off at 9 p.m. and will cost you 10 bucks if you order in advance ($12 at the door). Click here for more information and tickets and check out "Everything Will Be Fine" below.

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound - Everything Will Be Fine by Windy City Rock

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

By Frank Krolicki
  • CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) announced their first ever "Record Crawl," which will involve hitting up a variety of Chicago record stores on Sunday, November 13th. Participants will score special discounts and gifts, and can keep the fun going at an after-party at Laurie's Planet of Sound. Details here.
  • You can add to your collection of Daytrotter sessions from Chicago bands with this new one from Distractions.
  • I'm not sure anyone was waiting anxiously for Wilco popcorn to exist, but here you go. Starting November 1st, the always delicious Windy City snack mainstay Garrett Popcorn will offer a custom Wilco tin and CD bundle. Four dollars of every sale will benefit the Jane Addams Hill House Association. And coming soon: the Wilco Chicago-style pizza. Kidding. Or am I?
  • The Chicago Tribune's Gret Kot interviewed longtime musical activist Joan Baez and got her thoughts on the "Occupy Chicago" protests going on in the city.
  • LostInConcert.com posted some great photos and a writeup of the recent Weezer show at Congress Theater.

New track from Radar Eyes: 'Summer Chills'

By Sasha Geffen

Photo by Lily Chou
Following the release of their "Miracle" 7 inch, local fuzz-rock outfit Radar Eyes are gearing up for their debut LP on garage/punk label HoZac Records. HoZac just premiered the first single from the record and it's at least seven kinds of awesome, with dirty Stooges guitars and psychedelic vocals hidden inside miles of reverb. Check it out below and keep an eye out for the Best Friends LP release later this year.

Radar Eyes - Summer Chills (from HoZac LP) by HOZAC RECORDS

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Show review: Star Anna, The Buddies at Hideout, 10/21

Star Anna (photo via Facebook)
The Buddies took the stage at The Hideout Thursday night, armed with enthusiasm and three guitar players. Usually that last point has me skeptical- so many times I have seen a third guitarist clang along unnecessarily, fucking up a song that two competent players could adequately handle. Excess was not the case during this set however, as The Buddies played their songs with an endearing pop and swagger, making each note count. Pastoral melodies combined with aw-shucks hooks to craft what was ultimately a fine set of rock music. Blues-tinged numbers featured staple lines like you’ve got a way of walking / I’ve got a way of messing things up, but slipped out of predictability courtesy of dismantled chords and sneaky punch. An endearing acoustic song was lifted by clever accordion play and some dynamic group harmonies. In all, an enjoyable set, made even more so by unplugged cover of the traditional Irish drinking song "I'm A Man You Don't Meet Every Day." Any show that ends with one of those is bound to leave good (drunk?) feelings.

Star Anna’s visit to Chicago was well-timed; the first song she played felt like the perfect soundtrack for a fall road trip. The colors of leaves change and eventually they fall, leaving the sappiest of us wishing the moment lingered a bit longer. I had the same feeling about this set. Described to me as “good singer-songwriter stuff,” Star Anna wasn’t what I expected. This show found her backed by The Laughing Dogs, and the group had a sound that moved effortlessly between subtle and energetic. Gymnastic piano melodies glided through brash southern-rock solos, the perfect support for Anna’s elastic delivery. Her songwriting chops were on full display, but rather than fragile ballads she offered up songs that kept the audience on their toes. Frogger bass lines tumbled over intuitive percussion, a rhythm section that held sway until the singer called for unexpected and mesmerizing conclusions. On several occasions I found myself moving in-time with a catchy tune only to have the rug pulled out from beneath my feet.

One of the most surprising songs of the night sauntered with a soulful, Baby Huey-esque flair. Lilting guitars and an almost apologetic organ rolled out of the speakers with undeniable charisma. Those two words might also describe Star Anna herself, who was powerful and sexy without straining to be either. In an age where any female artist who shows a little skin and throws come-hither looks at a camera is regarded as a sexual icon, it’s refreshing and attractive to see someone who leans on nothing but confidence and talent. That is sexy.

Like all good road trips, the moment passed too quickly, but left me looking forward to my next vacation.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Pumpkin cometh - 2011 Chicago Halloween show roundup

By Sasha Geffen

The veil is thinning again. Basic cable has steadied its classic horror assault and everything tastes vaguely of cinnamon and fear. Benevolent anthropomorphic pumpkins will undoubtedly fail to appear yet again no matter how carefully you tend to your patches and Chicago's venues are once again loaded with rollicking costume parties. We've got all sorts of doomy celebrations to look forward to, from local outfits dressing up as their favorite bands to international indie-metal stars stopping by to terrorize your eardrums. Be sure to stimulate your horror receptors with at least one of these Halloween festivities. 

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28

darkroom (2210 W. Chicago): Unicycle Loves You will light up Ukrainian Village's darkroom with their bombastic psych pop, possibly even playing a few new tracks from their upcoming LP, which will drop this Valentine's Day. The Wheelers and The Melismatics will also make appearances and Jack Armondo of My Gold Mask will be DJing. Tickets are only $7 if you come in costume so be sure to break out that zombie makeup and/or robot mask. 8pm, $7 advance or at door in costume, $10 at door uncostumed, 21 and over. More info and tickets here.

The Vic Theatre (3145 N. Sheffield): If you like your Halloweekend heavy and smeared with the primal goo of the Dark Lord, the Vic has you covered on Friday. Legendary Scandinavian metal outfit Opeth will be swinging by these parts. Fellow Swedish dark rockers Katatonia will open. 7:30pm, $28.50 in advance, all ages. Details and tickets here. 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29

Elbo Room (2871 N. Lincoln): A whole slew of bands will be playing dress-up at Elbo Room's Halloween Extravaganza. Swing by to hear a ton of classics covered. We'll get Pine Cone Alley as Weezer, The Plastic Boots as The Who, Bullet Called Life as Sly and the Family Stone, Model Stranger as Nirvana, Lucid Ground as Tom Petty, and The Hot Sauce Committee doing double duty as both the Beastie Boys AND Limp Bizkit. Everyone will be in full costume so it's probably just going to be awkward if you show up plainclothed. 8pm, $10, 21 and over. RSVP here, tickets here.

Show review: Cymbals Eat Guitars at Lincoln Hall, 10/21

By Andrew Hertzberg


It’s hard to pin down what it is I like about Cymbals Eat Guitars. Reference points for their music almost unanimously include the same '90s stalwarts that plenty of bands today try to imitate, but I think it’s CEG’s ability to take risks that sets them apart. For instance, the opening track and lead single to this year’s Lenses Alien is an eight-and-a-half-minute epic, not-quite-easing the listener into a winding album full of dissonance, odd chord progressions and introspective lyrics. And although the four-piece has a basic set up (guitar, bass, keys, drums), they achieve a great dynamicity between songs, and even within songs themselves.

That isn’t to say the songs don’t hold some amount of pop sensibility. It was easy to get a headbob going Friday night at Lincoln Hall for "Plainclothes," or at least as long as you didn't pay attention to the lyrics. Likewise, "Shore Points" was short and sweet but full of moodswings throughout. One of the biggest crowd pleasers was "Cold Spring" from their debut 2009 album Why There Are Mountains. Intertwining songs between the two albums in the live set really showed how although the band isn’t breaking entirely new ground, they are at least experimenting more and taking greater risks. Which is where "Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)," that eight-minute track, comes into play. Although the band is from New York, I feel this track in particular shows the influence of the American Northwest on the guys. Singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino is a pretty dead on Jeremy Enigk, sings esoteric lyrics reminiscent of Elliott Smith, with the backing music blurring the lines between Sunny Day Real Estate, Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. It was solid live, but I really wish it was used as a kick-in-the-ass opener or as a powerful closer. Oh well. They ended up closing with "Gary Condit" before coming back out to play "Indiana" from their first album, its upbeat drums and waltzy bassline almost out of place with the rest of the set.

(I feel it should be mentioned: I've never been asked by a bouncer for my sign before while checking IDs. I hope for more of this and cuter bouncers).

More photos after the jump

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tonight: Light FM, The Assembly, Farewell Captain at Subterranean

By Frank Krolicki

If you were frequenting live shows in Chicago during the first few years of this century, chances are Light FM is a familiar name. Back then the band was a local favorite, but eventually frontman Josiah Mazzaschi took off for the warmer temperatures of L.A. where he founded his own studio, The Cave, and put together a new version of his one-time Windy City band. While we can no longer claim Light FM as our own, a homecoming of sorts will go down at Subterranean tonight, October 23rd, as they play a headlining set before they head back to California after opening on this month's Smashing Pumpkins tour. Adding even more incentive to head out are alt-rockers The Assembly--whose driving, moody sound will return soon after a bit of a hiatus via a new album The Future Has Been Sold--and Farewell Captain, featuring ex-members of the Chicago version of Light FM. This one's bound to be worth the trip out on a Sunday night. The show starts at 8:30 and costs $8 (click here for tickets, but note that the bio inaccurately describes the '80s, Feargal Sharkey-fronted Assembly instead of Chicago's Assembly).

Light FM -For Better or Worse by lightfm!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Show review: Boris at Metro, 10/19

By Andrew Hertzberg

(Photos: Shannon Aliza)
It only took until the third song for the mosh pit to come into full effect Wednesday night at Metro. Opening with "Riot Sugar" from this year’s Heavy Rocks (not to be confused with 2002's Heavy Rocks), the sludgy and heavy yet snail paced rock of Boris put the crowd in a trance, until "Statement" from Smile, with its 1-2 cowbell countoff into a Stoogesesque guitar moan, before dropping off into a droning lead-in to "Attention Please," 4AD worthy dreampop off this year’s album of the same name. The four piece were all clad in black (with long hair to match), the most charismatic being drummer Atsuo, situated between his pink see-thru drumkit and a giant Zildjian gong, bouncing between fast paced beats and jazz-like fills, likewise providing background whoops and hollers and general crowd interaction. Takeshi held onto his double necked bass/guitar combo and took lead for the more ferocious and moshpitable songs, with Wata behind the keys and providing her vocals for the dreamier tunes.

For those who weren’t at the show, you might have noticed a few keywords that stood out within contrast to each other. You see, the Japanese band is generally boiled down to the drone/doom genres of metal, but they certainly branch out into the other areas as well. The group can just as easily elicit the band in which they took their namesake (the Melvins) as the dynamic post-rock of Explosions in the Sky or even the slowcore catharsis of Red House Painters. Amongst the other thing you should have noticed from that first paragraph, Boris have two new albums out this year, with a third on the way for our shores (New Album was released in Japan in March). The three albums find the band at the most diverse and most divisive, spanning a multitude of sub-genres to create an unpredictable listener response.

Zigzagging between shoegaze walls of sound with more aggressive metal jams, alternating male and female vocals while also yelping random whoops and hollers, Boris will keep you guessing. Nowhere was this better examined than in the set closer of "Aileron" (the Heavy Rocks (2011) version, not the Attention Please (2011) version…stay with me). What started out as an innocently appregiated guitar lead soon exploded back into the droning noise with cavernously reverbed vocals and back again several times. Our fellows in the aforementioned moshpit were certainly confused (especially after such upbeat pieces as "Pink"). Maybe that’s what led to that one dude choke-slamming someone and subsequently being taken care of Metro security. Hell of a night.

More photos after the jump

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Video: Narrow Sparrow - 'Joe Meek's Dream'

By Frank Krolicki

I have to thank Narrow Sparrow. Before I found out about them and their new song/video "Joe Meek's Dream" I didn't know anything about Joe Meek. Despite my fascination with '60s pop, I had never stumbled onto The Tornadoes' totally rad 1962 instrumental hit "Telstar," which was written and produced by Meek. And I certainly didn't know that he had an obsession with Buddy Holly, who he said communicated with him through dreams. Or that he suffered from mental illness and sadly took his own life at the age of 37 (seriously, this is one engrossing Wikipedia page). So I salute you, Narrow Sparrow, for your strangely touching slice of off-kilter pop and its equally strange and touching Super 8 video. Keep 'em comin'.

EP review: Rocket Miner - 'Songs for an October Sky'

By Sasha Geffen

It's rare that you find a debut EP quite so tremendous as Rocket Miner's Songs for an October Sky. Many bands, if breaking into the world with a shorter recording, use the space as a playing ground for the first tentative incarnations of their sound. But not this post-rock ensemble. They aren't out to dabble. They're out to wreck you with marrow-rattling resonance.

As far as post-rock goes, Rocket Miner's is a distinctly tight breed. We get some Mogwai-like dynamics--you know, the good Mogwai, before they started mucking about with this cheery, synthy, clever business, back when they were too busy pounding you in the ear with riffs the size of monuments. Think "Like Herod" and how it lulls you into a false calm only to blast you out of it as soon as you feel safe. Rocket Miner achieves and retains that edge, that ease of shift. They'll just as soon cradle you in sheets of gentle ambiance as they will tear you apart with monstrous guitar swells. 

This EP, brief (in post-rock terms) as it may be, simply does not let up. Except for one 47-second interlude--something of an odd break between acts that sounds like an intercepted alien radio signal--October Sky suspends a continuous sense of jaw-grinding urgency. Like early Godspeed, Rocket Miner entertain a military flair. The drums keep a marching tempo on the snare, a sound maybe extracted from our collective memories of dour civil war scenes. But unlike Godspeed of any vintage, Rocket Miner aren't interested in creating enormous avant-garde sweeps. There are no samples, no thickly-spoken bad prose over the opening movements. The record concerns itself only with texture and songcraft--and it breaks ground in both.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Show review: Dastardly presents 'Catastrophe' at Hideout, 10/18

By Andrew Hertzberg


Well that was a perfectly awful show. I don’t know where Gabe Liebowitz and the dastardly folks of Dastardly found the other performers of the evening, but none of them deserved to share the stage with the local Americana quintet. In the tradition of Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw, the group put together a night at the Hideout that was to showcase the talents of a variety of other acts. Instead, we had to put up with some of the most hideous creatures ever to grace a stage. The host for the evening was the pompadour boasting Dickie Phipps, saddled at the front left corner of the stage announcing acts and keeping the night moving along. Before I get ahead of myself, I must give credit where it’s due. Dastardly started things off performing two songs, the crooning ballad "Rose Marie" that warmed up the crowd into "Fever," which allowed Gabe to show off his Alpine folk yodel.

And that’s where things quickly took a turn for the worse. Joe Fernandez was set to perform a more traditional standup routine. After an uncomfortable silence, he reveals that his girlfriend of three years broke up with him just before the set. Gabe tries to encourage him; Joe whimpers a bit, then runs to the back room off stage. We wait. We hear him cry. Ummm, awkward? He finally composes himself enough to come back out, attempting his bits about grocery shopping and clit piercings, barely able to get the words out of his mouth. Fernandez’s performance was a sad display of a desperate human being, and the crowd was still laughing at him! Roaring even! This soul on the verge of self-destruction, who’s grandmother is coughing up blood, who is obviously abusing alcohol and has a gambling problem, is being laughed at not for his talents, but because of how sad he is. Of course, on top of this, he’s not the best at impersonations. Al Pacino and Robert De Niro at a bagel factory? Really? Come on. Let’s hope Mr. Fernandez can get over his issues and come back with some real material. And let’s pray to God that his next girlfriend doesn’t have to hear him serenade her with Jewel’s "You Were Meant for Me."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Record review: Pinto & the Bean - 'The Waiting Place'

By Frank Krolicki

There's something strangely satisfying about small bands making big noise. Whenever I come across a musical act with fewer than three members I automatically prepare myself to hear something light and acousticy, so having my ears tricked by a rocking two-piece like Pinto and the Bean is a welcome surprise. On their debut The Waiting Place, Paul Taneja and Ivan Sosa manage to bring a fullness and intensity to their electro-tinged indie rock for an album that packs a lot more punch than what you might expect from a duo.

Opening track "Let's Make Noise" holds true to its title and shows just how much noise these two guys can make together; it's an immediate indie rock anthem loaded with meaty guitar, a shout-along chorus and a dash of angst. Songs like "Rebuild Everything" and "Robot Wars" follow suit with more energy than many bands with three times the members would be able to drum up.

What's most impressive about The Waiting Place is that every song holds its own. The melodies are fleshed-out and memorable, and there's enough stylistic variation to prevent the tracks from running together. "Wake Up" and "Eleazar" are essentially folk songs with a pop sheen, emotionally-driven and bittersweet (the latter is especially affecting with its sadly beautiful melody, reflective lyrics and the ragged desperation of Ivan's lead vocal). Elsewhere, the bouncy "Stray Dog" offers up three minutes of perfect power pop, "Midnight Monsters" combines a mysterious vibe with a '60s-styled guitar strum, and "Night Rider" crunches along with hard rock riffs.

Show review: The Smashing Pumpkins at Riviera, 10/14

By Gene Wagendorf III 

The Smashing Pumpkins tear through  "Panopticon"
The lights draped across the The Riviera's stage formed the outline of a circus tent, and after a couple lesser curiosities performed (I'm still trying to process exactly what the fuck I saw in openers Fancy Space People), the night's main attraction arrived. Billy Corgan brought his latest incarnation of The Smashing Pumpkins back home for a sold out show, one that would feature few "hits" and plenty of new material for both fans and skeptics to sink their teeth into. Setting the tone for the night, the group launched into the bombastic new track, "Quasar," which seems destined for a future as a set-closer. The appropriately named song featured glimmering guitar wails that rose up over chaotic drumming, lulling briefly for a breather on a bed of bubbling bass before blasting off again. That formula worked to help Corgan craft some of the '90s most memorable rock songs, and it continues to serve him well.

The first true test of this new lineup came when 21-year old drummer Mike Byrne rolled out the opening of "Geek USA," the meatiest cut from 1993's Siamese Dream. The drum-roll was preceded by some stumbling carnie music, which would have made it a perfectly tragic time to fail on former drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's most impressive performance. Thankfully for Byrne, Corgan and (most importantly) the audience, the kid knocked it out of the park. I can say kid because, well, he's probably just started his Jagermeister phase. "Geek" sounded as agitated as ever, an aural melee that had me pissed off at someone somewhere for, well, something. That energy was deftly shifted by Corgan into the celebratory anthem "Muzzle," which played out as a grand, life-affirming bounce. Jeff Schroeder's serpentine lead snarled around Corgan's "I knew the silence of the world mantra," a moment that had me fondly recalling what happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • Gapers Block reviewed Dum Dum Girls' Friday night set at the Empty Bottle, and Underground Bee has a bunch of great pictures from the show.
  • In the latest bit of Billy Corgan randomness, the Smashing Pumpkins frontman announced that he has started his own pro-wrestling company called Resistance Pro. Click here for more details (which probably won't help it make any more sense).
  • Over at HeyReverb.com, you can hear/download a live acoustic session with locally-based indie pop outfit Gold Motel.
  • LoudLoopPress.com dived into the new self-titled album from Chicago rockers Mannequin Men.
  • Jim DeRogatis took on the evils of ticket scalping on his vocalo.org blog.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interview: Alex Toth of Rubblebucket

By Andrew Hertzberg

photo: peter dean rickards
Musicians are just so lazy. I had to push back a scheduled interview half an hour because singer and trumpeter Alex Toth of Rubblebucket was sleeping? At 6:30 p.m.? Jesus. Ok, so apparently he and his bandmates were up all night shooting a music video in a graveyard. I guess I can let that slide. Besides, Omega La La is one of my favorite albums released this year. I still feel like I can’t describe it accurately. It’s like the Talking Heads added an afro-soul brass section and started experimenting with in depth layers. And even that, I feel, doesn't get the point across. After seeing their music videos for "Came Out of a Lady" and "L’Homme" as well as probably my favorite set at North Coast Fest last month, they’ve solidified an official seal of approval from yours truly. Wanna see them in action? They’re playing this Friday, October 14th at Double Door (9 PM, 21+, $15). For now, read on to find out what a n’goni is, David Lynch’s influence on the band, ghosts, and probably the only band that will directly reference stone masonry in an interview.

(Thank you, Alex, for risking all of the effects of sleep deprivation for waking up and answering my questions.)

WCR: What is a Rubblebucket?

Alex: Rubble (space) bucket is an industrial grade construction tool that is also used in disaster cleanups, you know, for earthquakes and whathaveyous. In Vermont, in stone mason culture, apparently a Rubblebucket is also a tool used, a smaller tool used for building walls and stuff like that. And then there’s a band. And that’s us [laughs]. 

Is there any reason you chose it as your name?

It wasn’t some deep selection process. Initially there was a session of musicians that came together at this art party at a milk bottling plant in Burlington, Vermont. It was a pretty wild party. And we were just making up all of these very fiery arrangements on the spot, making up melodies, and there was a rhythm section and a bunch of percussionists. It was a pretty weird instrumentation. That night, the place was called ‘Rubblebucket’ something or other. And when you go to make a band name, it can be such a grueling process, like how do you choose this or that? So we had a couple of ideas and at the end of the day that one had the most meaning. One of the percussionists, who’s now our percussionist, he’s a stone mason and he named it that.

Show preview: Boris at Metro, 10/19

By Andrew Hertzberg

(photo credit: Miki Matsushima)
Japanese drone metal group Boris are making their way through Chicago next week in support of their newest album Heavy Rocks from earlier this year. What’s that? Oh. It’s also in support of Attention Please released earlier this year also…seriously? Ok, I guess they also have a new album, New Album, coming out which is getting its official American release next month. So. They’ve got three new albums under their belt. And really, to simplify them as drone metal is quite inaccurate. Especially considering the influx of new material, you can expect some dream pop, sludge, post-rock, shoegaze, acoustic jams even? (I mean, they do have an album cover that’s a direct reference to Nick Drake) It’s gonna be quite the dynamic, ear-blistering episode to say the least, and may be the only show to go from haunting to abrasive with the click of a pedal.  

This is all happening next Wednesday the 19th at the Metro. Tera Melos and Coliseum open things up ($16 advanced / $18 day of, 8 PM, 18+). Click on over here for tickets. Below, check out the split black and white / white and black videos for ‘Hope’ and ‘Riot Sugar’ off of Attention Please and  Heavy Rocks (respectively). 

(Japanese noise bonus: can’t get your fix soon enough? Melt Banana play Subterranean this Sunday the 16th with just as noisy locals Rabble Rabble and Swimsuit Addition opening.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Show review: Smoking Popes, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, Super Happy Fun Club at Double Door, 10/8

By Gene Wagendorf III 

The Smoking Popes do Riot Fest
Saturday at Double Door was an at times weird, but mostly spectacular night.

The free Riot Fest event featured three local bands, and first up were pop-punkers Super Happy Fun Club. I don't have too much to say about these boys beyond "they showed up." Apparently they were a late addition to the bill and I've got to give them credit for being... available? Most of the set was made up of predictable three-to-four minute slush. Maybe it was an off night, but SHFC seemed more concerned with arguing with hecklers and plugging their record than playing music that was at all moving or interesting. The highlight of the set had to be during a lull of extended instrument-tuning, when an audience member yelled, "Play a song!" The group's guitarist responded by saying, "We'll come over there and play a song... in your fucking... ear!" Really? OK. The rest of the set was riddled with obnoxious numbers like "My Life's A Mess (Yeah Yeah Yeah)" which began, of course, with a cheese-ball guitar crunch and the line yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah / yeah yeah yeah yeah. You know how when you type a word or speak it aloud enough times it loses all meaning? Yeah. What struck me as truly odd was when the band was finally greeted with a smattering of applause after a song, singer Stubhy Pandav reacted as if the reception was long overdue.

Elia and M. Ralph on stage
On the other hand, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir earned every cheer, and then some. Walking the line between sincere troubadours and goofball shtick, singer/guitarist Elia had the audience wrapped around his finger through much of the set. Think Kevin Smith humor and wit with a hell of a voice and an ear for catchy, jangly pop. Songs like "One Night Stand" had the crowd dancing while smirking at the cheeky lyrics. Elia's sincere delivery made the song about as sweet and endearing as a tune about fucking a stranger can be. Later, after asking who in the club would like a song dedicated to them, the singer pulled a cute twenty-something up on-stage to dance with him as his band broke into a rattling ballad. Charming, until he belted out the song's opening line, "I hope that you catch syphilis and die alone." Guitarist Mary Ralph did an admirable job of holding the down the musical fort during Ethan Adelsman's occasional dissonant violin shredding, a welcome and unexpected addition to the mostly ultra-accessible set. The Smoking Popes Josh Caterer joined SYGC for the last song, another peppy one that found the band having just as much fun as everyone else.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ticket giveaway! Butch Walker & the Black Widows at Double Door



This Thursday's show at Double Door featuring Butch Walker & the Black Widows is sold out, but don't plan on spending your night another way just yet. We've got a pair and we want to give 'em away!

Butch and the band are stopping in Chicago on their tour supporting their recently-released second album The Spade, which you can sample below via first single "Summer of '89" (additional tracks are on streamable on SoundCloud). If you want to get in the running for the free tickets, all you have to do is send us an e-mail with the subject line "Butch Walker" and your first and last name in the message. We'll accept entries until 6 p.m. CST on Wednesday, October 12th, and then select a winner randomly. The contest is now closed and we've notified the winner. Thanks to all who entered!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Get your photo on a Wilco release

By Frank Krolicki


Apparently, Wilco are all for the movement to bring the cassette tape back. The band are preparing a limited edition cassette release of their most recent album The Whole Love, and to make it even better, are inviting fans to help create the artwork. Until October 15th, fans can head to hipstamatic.com and submit photos inspired by specific tracks on the record. Wilco will select their 5 favorite entries and put them on the cover of the cassette, and an additional 5 entrants chosen by Hipstamatic's community will win some Wilco swag. Enter here and check out some of the competition so far here.

Show review: Danzig Legacy at Congress Theater, 10/7

By Andrew Hertzberg


In perfect honesty, I shouldn’t be writing this review. Calling it a review even seems inaccurate. I’ve never listened to much Misfits or other Danzig projects, not from any real dislike--just one of those artists that’s inexplicably managed to fly under my radar. And for whatever reason, I make it a habit of seeing musical legends, familiar or not, probably just for bragging rights. At the least, I was hopeful for a better night at the Congress than the last time I was there

Oh, but I could tell right away that the $35 and up tour shirts weren’t gonna bode well. Not to mention the ubiquity of people already wearing Misfits or Danzig merch (there’s a lot of people out there that need tosee PCU). For whatever reason I was cynical off the bat. Something about the atmosphere was rubbing me wrong. And it didn’t help to look up at the dome of the majestic theater to see that Riot Fest (of which this show was a part of) was brought to me by Red Bull. Thanks, guys. So Danzig and his backing band finally take the stage in their all black attire. And they play some tracks that I find out later are performed officially under Danzig (followed by a set of Samhain, followed by a Misfits set, thus: Danzig Legacy). Well, remember my unfamiliarity with the material. So instead of being able to differentiate between songs, I heard a lot of cheesy guitar solos, unimaginative drums and unintelligible vocals coming from a dude that at the least could psych the crowd up. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tonight: Social Distortion, The Tossers at Congress Theater

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Social Distortion headlines a big Riot Fest show at The Congress
Riot Fest finds itself in full swing on tonight, bringing in veteran punk rockers Social Distortion in for a show that should provide all the fist-pumping you can handle. Touring in support of their 7th album, the 2011 release Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, Mike Ness and company have all but perfected their sound- often anthemic numbers that feature driving guitars and sincere delivery- and are no strangers to headlining big Chicago fests (their slick performance at Lollapalooza 2010 had me drunkenly nodding along and wishing I knew the lyrics). Reverend Peyton's Big Damn band and local Celtic-punks The Tossers, one of the city's finest bands to get hammered to, open the show. Doors at 6:30. Check out Social Distortion's performance of "Bad Luck" from Lollapalooza below.

Show review: The Drums at Subterranean, 10/4

By Andrew Hertzberg


It was about a year ago that I did my first show review for this website. Afterwards, I spent the night solving the world’s issues until 4 a.m. with a friend, after a few rounds of course (see bio). A year on, I’m seeing the Drums again, and those late night conversations still proceed. This time about the current and future states of music (you know, because that’s something we can predict). It led me to objectively look into what it is I like about the Drums. On the surface they come off as another indie band. Bunch of white dudes from Brooklyn make post-New Romantic songs in the vein of the Cure, the Smiths and New Order. If imitation is the best form of flattery, the Drums are on the edge of over-flattering. What your ear initially picks up is how the bouncy pop songs are juxtaposed with gloomy lyrics. For instance, last year’s eponymous debut LP begins with a major key and the line “you were my best friend but then you died.” Quite a mood setter to begin an album (a format we seem to still embrace) that sets the pace throughout.

This year’s Portamento doesn’t veer too far off that road, but as I remember from their live show, their singer is tops. It’s not even that he dances like no one’s watching, but that he’ll jog in place in time with their songs, a "dance" move that I associate with the '80s for some reason, the fastest cardiocore moves featured on the full bass and empty pockets "Money." It would come off as anachronistic if it weren’t so nostalgic. Not for the '80s in particular (even if that’s the vibe that comes off aesthetically), but for youth in general, for the desire for things to last forever, before the inevitable crush of the realization that life is futile, that things change, that despite all the good in the world, there is an equal amount of bad.

Record review: Tiny Magnets - 'Time to Try'

By Frank Krolicki

Ever since I listened to Tiny Magnets' 2010 debut EP Daughters of the Frontier, they've ranked high on my list of Chicago bands I've been most anxious to hear more from. The six tracks on that release had a timeless quality that captured the spirit of Midwestern rock and roll--full of heart and soul without being gimmicky, simultaneously pretty and rough around the edges, and devoid of pretense. It sounded like the work of a band that just wanted to make great music and really couldn't care less if they ever got a mention on Pitchfork, and I loved that. After spending the past year playing regular live shows and taking some time in the studio, Tiny Magnets are back with Time to Try, another strong set of tracks that picks up where Daughters of the Frontier left off, but with an even more confident sound and a bit more stylistic variation. You could cite plenty of genres to describe the album, from alternative rock to power pop to folk rock; what makes it all work so well is the consistently high quality songwriting and the genuineness of the delivery--these are heartfelt tunes that stand out with earworm guitar hooks, solid melodies and guy-girl vocals.

Tiny Magnets have a knack for opening strong. On Daughters of the Frontier it was "Olivia," a starry-eyed, slightly melancholy dose of tuneful rock that sounded like it could have been played on 120 Minutes back in the day. On Time to Try it's "New London" which takes everything that makes the band's sound so appealing and rolls it up into three minutes; the bittersweet mood, Kevin Henretta's ringing guitar, the accessible melody and the co-ed singing are all well represented. The vocal tradeoff is especially effective here, with Brian Cremins (who also plays bass) starting off with his cool rasp and Allison Felus's bright delivery stepping in with a great part that starts by asking, "So where should I begin and how did it end?" It's an example of a song that manages to showcase two lead singers equally and sound effortless in the process.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A few Chicago music news bites

  • The upcoming Chicago International Film Festival will be showing a new documentary on Andrew Bird called "Fever Year," which covers the Chicago multi-instrumentalist's latest tour and creative process. More information and tickets to Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th showings here.
  • Speaking of Andrew Bird, LostInConcert.com has some nice photos and a writeup from his recent performance at the Hideout Block Party. They've also got the Block Party performance by the great Mavis Staples covered.
  • Richard over at LoudLoopPress.com has a review of the latest album from Chicago hard rockers Sequoia.
  • The Tribune's Greg Kot reviewed last Friday's Fleet Foxes show at the Chicago Theatre.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Video: A Lull - 'Some Love'

By Sasha Geffen

Psych-stompers A Lull are back with the second single off their acclaimed debut Confetti. The video for the buoyant track "Some Love" plays out like a series of living Instagrams: a lazy morning road trip leads into a midnight urban dance party complete with graffiti and sparklers. This is our feel-good vid of the week. This is how you wish you could live every day.