Saturday, January 25, 2014

Show review: Perfect Pussy at Schubas, 1/22/14

By Sarah Rosenfeld

Syracuse noise-punks Perfect Pussy headlined a short, but very loud and high-energy all-ages show at Schubas this past Wednesday night. The band first generated some serious interest after playing CMJ Music Marathon in NYC last October and have a debut LP Say Yes to Love coming out March 18th on Captured Tracks. Touring basically nonstop since releasing their four song cassette I Have Lost All Desire For Feeling, Perfect Pussy seem to be riding their buzzwaves well.

Wednesday's show was definitely not running on punk time. Doors said 7 p.m. and the first band was already on by 7:30 p.m. Local Chicago garage punks and DIY scene vets Split Feet brought their self-described "wyrd noisy dark sounds" to open the night, followed by Chicago hardcore band Broken Prayer. With the night almost over before 9 p.m., Perfect Pussy went on around 8:45pm and played hard and fast for a set that lasted about 15 minutes. Launching immediately into an abrasive soundscape with heavily distorted and feedback laden guitars and vocals, front-woman Meredith Graves frenetically screamed almost unintelligibly but very enthusiastically at the crowd, who responded by starting a moshpit. According to a pre-listen of their cassette demo, she was yell-singing about the kind of real, unadulterated bullshit that really pisses a girl off. The sound guy probably should have had the vocals turned up louder to compensate for a band who definitely puts the noise in noise-punk, but even on the cassette the vocals are tough to make out. Short, not-so-sweet, furiously heavy and to the point, Perfect Pussy zipped caustically from one song to the next and the night was over by 9 p.m. Meredith thanked Schubas for letting them do an all ages show and hung around afterwards taking hugs and mixtapes from fans. For a band getting such strong media attention, it was a sweet and unpretentious gesture.

Considering that it was well below zero on Wednesday night in Chicago there was a decent sized crowd out for this show. It was great to see this kind of band play to such a young and energetic crowd; they are clearly building a strong fan base here in Chicago. Their almost too-short set will hopefully get longer once the LP is out and as the young band adjusts to the rigors of such a heavy touring schedule. Perfect Pussy would be right at home playing a dark basement DIY show but will likely be playing bigger venues as the year goes on, so if you missed them this time around definitely grab a ticket to their next show. You may want to bring ear plugs, unless that's not punk rock enough for you.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Inside the Double Door

By Cristina Alonso

If the walls at this Wicker Park venue could talk – or sing – they’d have 20 years of rock stories to share. We take a backstage tour through the club’s history, featuring local indie acts, legendary Halloween parties, and a certain up-and-coming band called the Rolling Stones.

Photo courtesy of Double Door
The Double Door has witnessed some of the most memorable events in Chicago’s music history, but to Dan Wade (Art Director and Social Media Manager) and Genna Saccomonto (Events Coordinator), the heart of the venue lies in its vibe. “It’s just a really fun, intimate musical experience,” says Genna. “It also happens to be a very lived-in dive bar,” adds Dan. “One of our owners, Joe Shanahan, affectionately refers to this place as ‘the CBGB of Chicago.’”

Giving the club such a nickname carries a lot of weight, but a look back at the acts who’ve graced the stage makes it clear why it is deserving. Back in 1995, the Smashing Pumpkins played four concerts in the span of two weeks here, performing unreleased songs that turned out to be the tunes from their classic Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Two years later, the Rolling Stones picked the Double Door to kick off their tour with a secret show, feeling like it was the kind of small space they played when they just started out. The tickets were $7.

Photo courtesy of Double Door
But it’s not all about the big names. “We’ve had some great up-and-coming acts like Rah Rah from Canada, or Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts, who’s a really great folk singer,” says Dan. The musical variety means that the crowd can completely transform from a night to another. “We had Turbo Negro last year, and everyone was wearing denim jackets with patches on the back, and drinking cheap beer out of cans,” says Dan. “It looked like a convention for biker gang. And then we had Raheem DeVaughn, who does sexy-sounding slow jams, so it was like a bachelorette party.” Other memorable gigs include Swedish rockers The Sounds last October, and Cypress Hill in November 2012. “A lot of people said that it was one of the best hip-hop shows they’d ever seen,” Genna says.

Locals also love the Double Door for its holiday spirit. For 17 years, they’ve hosted legendary Halloween bashes, inviting a favorite local act to tribute a classic rock band. “In 2013 we had punk rockers AM Taxi covering the Cars,” says Dan. “They dressed as them and performed in character. And our customers always come in wild Halloween costumes.”

Their trademark New Year’s Eve shows are favorites in town, too. To end 2013, circus-punk marching band Mucca Pazza took over the venue with their colorful extravaganza, marking the beginning of an amazing twentieth year for the Double Door. “We’re going to have a bunch of special shows this year,” says Dan. “People should definitely stay tuned and check out our calendar.”

Here’s to many, many more decades of rocking Chicago.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Record review: Circuit des Yeux - 'Overdue'

By Gene Wagendorf III    

Haley Fohr, the experimental singer-songwriter behind Circuit des Yeux, has released a handful of intriguing records over the last few years, but it's on her fourth full-length, Overdue, that she's accomplished something truly fascinating. Previous records feature Fohr switching between raw folk tunes and conceptual sound experiments that run the gamut from soothing meditations and chilling daydreams to oppressive sonic collages. On Overdue the Circuit des Yeux sound has evolved to balance these approaches, and it is that marriage of somewhat conflicting ideas within each song that makes this record so exciting. 

Overdue unfolds with "Lithonia," a majestic number that moves on the strength of a gorgeous string arrangement and Fohr's massive vocal performance. Her voice, which has long been a strong suit, shines on the track; moving effortlessly from a husky, almost operatic drawl into a desperately upbeat sway ala Bryan Ferry. "Lithonia" is warm, haunting and grand; the highlight moment of Overude whose aesthetic is strangely absent from the rest of the record. That isn't to say it's all downhill afterward, just that Fohr moves away from the lush strings and grandeur in favor of other territory.