Friday, March 28, 2014

Q&A: Blouse

By Sarah Rosenfeld

Blouse // via Captured Tracks
We caught up with Blouse's Charlie Hilton a few days before the madness of SXSW and chatted about the sophomore record Imperium, (out now on indie label Captured Tracks), touring life, SXSW and pizza. Blouse is a band that is not afraid to evolve and the progression from their self-titled first synth heavy album to a more organic sound on Imperium is authentic and fun to experience. Blouse will be playing the Empty Bottle on Monday, March 31st with Dum Dum Girls and Radar Eyes.  Hopefully you got a ticket already because the show is sold out.

WCR: You guys are playing in Albuquerque tonight, right?

CH: Yes.  We just played Phoenix last night and we’re on our way to Albuquerque tonight, then we’re heading over to Austin, TX.  Last night was the third show of the tour with Dum Dum Girls.

You just started the big North American tour with Dum Dum's.  How’s that been going so far?

It’s been really wonderful!  They’re such cool girls. We’ve been having a really good time.

How would you say it’s different than the other tours you’ve done?

The shows have been packed! I know Dum Dum Girls have a good draw.  I think a lot of the venues on this tour are going to be either sold out or really crowded because they are smaller venues.  I think Dum Dum’s could have played in bigger places but it’s nice to know you’re going to pack pretty much every room and have a really excited crowd.  It just feels better to play when it’s like that!  It just makes it exciting because you know what to expect and there’s not a mystery as to how many people are going to be there, which is always nice.  At the end of the day we just want to be playing for people.

You put out a new album Imperium back in September.  It’s definitely a more organic and less synthy sound than your first album.  What made you decide to move in that direction?

It started off because the producer Jake wanted to play more guitar on the record. He and I had done a lot of the synth parts on the first album and he kind of joked around that the synths were too heavy and annoying and he didn’t want to tour with one, so that’s how it started.  Then as we continued talking about it we decided that sonically, it would be really interesting to just try something without the synths and it seemed like a really good challenge.  Just sort of change the formula up a little bit on the second record.  It’s an interesting thing going into a sophomore record, because you have to compete with yourself. You don’t want to repeat what you’ve done but you also want to stay true to your sound.  It seems really good to carve a specific path for ourselves.  And I’m glad we did it, I’m really happy with the results.

So, it was a conscious decision, it didn’t just happen?

No, not at all.  I mean, I wasn’t sure if it would work and if we would get through it, but we pulled it off.  It was very self-aware.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Video: Xoe Wise - 'Cigarette Break'

By Gene Wagendorf III  

Cemeteries. Hamburgers. The Windy City Rollers. Motorcycles. People exploding into birds. A gun-toting angel.  

These are just some of the visuals singer-songwriter Xoe Wise conjures up in the video for "Cigarette Break," a track from her excellent 2013 EP Breakfast. It's a totally ridiculous set of imagery- and it's totally fun.

Wise is currently in Las Vegas working on her new record, Racecar Orgasm. You can watch the video for "Cigarette Break" below, and then do yourself a solid and check out her cover of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SXSW 2014 Recap, 3/13 - 3/15

By Sarah Rosenfeld

Bring Your Ray Gun 3/13 @ Package
Well kiddos, SXSW is officially over and the summer festival season is now a go!  Sure it may not quite feel like summer here in Chicago, but supposedly it will get here eventually.  Windy City Rock was down in Austin for the last part of the SXSW Music week and wow, what a few days that was!  Bands from all over the world descended onto Austin and played in every single venue in the city and then some spaces that weren't even technically venues.

Thursday started off the Southby experience with a Chicago Showcase at Package, which is a men's underwear store and crammed into a tiny space in the back were a stacked line-up of some funky Chicago bands.  They gave all the bands free undies so obviously they all performed in their skivvies.  Highlight was disco punk band Bring Your Ray Gun which brought some seriously high energy funky tunes.  The two dancers broke it down in front of the band with frenetic, choreographed dance routines that didn't stop for the entire set.  It was probably good that the whole band was in their underwear because things were getting sweaty!  Definitely go check these guys out here in Chicago and come ready to dance your face off.  Later in the day over at the Tiniest Bar in Texas, we caught Chicago funk/hip-hop fusion guys whysowhite for some more funky funk dance tunes.  This is another band you have got to see perform live.  The stage vibrates with the energy of six dudes who are clearly having a great time and lead singer Charlie looks like he's having a blast spitting rhymes and working the crowd.  There hasn't been a single whysowhite show that wasn't filled with people getting down and funky and this show was no different.
whysowhite 3/13 @ Tinest Bar in Texas
HAERTS 3/13 @ Dickie's Roadhouse
Thursday night brought things a little more low key over at the Dickie's Roadhouse party at Bangers.  ASTR, the dance/soul duo from New York got the crowd moving although lead singer Zoe's wardrobe malfunctions kept stopping whatever momentum she was getting from the crowd.  Finally asking for a string to keep her top from falling off, she was able to finish the set.  Much to the disappointment of some of the guys in the crowd there was no actual strap failure.  Big highlight from this showcase was HAERTS, a dreamy electro-pop band also from NYC.  Singer Nini Fabi, originally from Germany, sounds beautifully melancholy as she sings and occasionally jimmy jangles a tambourine and plays the keyboard along with her bandmates on guitar, drums and bass.  One of the best tunes of the night was one of their new songs called 'Call My Name' which she introduced as a song about "when you're walking away from someone and you wish they'd call your name but they don't." Oof. Damn.

Warpaint playing to a packed SPIN
at Stubb's on Friday 3/14
Friday started off at the SPIN day party at Stubb's, one of the many delicious BBQ joints in Austin.  Warpaint was supposed to be playing when we got there, but due to sound issues and various technical difficulties they could only play a couple of songs before they had to stop to keep the schedule going.  This was really too bad because Warpaint, the all women psychedelic dream pop group out of Los Angeles, was one of the draws of the SPIN showcase and at least they crooned their crowd pleaser 'Love Is To Die' to the swaying audience.  Over on the other stage, straight out of South Central LA rapper ScHoolBoy Q was a bit of a jarring change from Warpaint's more melodic set and the rapper ended up calling out for all the real fans to come up to the front and things got a little more rowdy.  Back on the main stage right after that were Cleveland indie noise rockers Cloud Nothings who brought a decidedly heavier vibe, although we didn't stay to hear the whole set.  They performed at the SPIN house at SXSW 2013 and they were noticeably tighter on stage this time than the previous year.  When at Southby, it's impossible to see everyone so sometimes you have to make tough choices or at least get a change of venue to switch up the experience.  And the next experience was one that should be had by everyone at least once and that's a Diarrhea Planet show.  Every show they've done in Chicago, no matter the venue has ended up with a mosh pit and their thirty minute set at Rusty's once again did not disappoint.  Halfway through they offered free tshirts to anyone who stage dove and there were a bunch of takers for this challenge.  Diarrhea Planet shows are fun, extremely rowdy, sweaty affairs and their DGAF attitude and unlimited high energy is so fun to experience.  And you'll get very sweaty, was that mentioned already?

La Luz 3/14 @ Panache Booking party
Friday night was the Panache Booking showcase at Hotel Vegas which definitely brought the heavy.  Saint Rich was playing when we got there and these guys had a great guitar heavy vibe that had a lot of hipster heads bobbing to the fuzzy 70s sounding guitar hooks.  Later that evening, the ladies of La Luz out of Seattle played one of the best sets of the day with a darker doo-wop sound and surf guitar riffs that wouldn't sound out of place on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.  They all moved and swayed together as they played which almost mirrored how the crowd was moving to their beachy California sounding tunes.  Right after La Luz finished up, on the other side of the stage it was time for Northampton, MA noise punks Speedy Ortiz, a band getting a lot of buzz right now.  It's always nice to see a buzzband and come away feeling like they actually deserve that buzz.  They are coming to the Empty Bottle on April 19th and if you like loud, noisy distortion laden guitar and heavy bass lines with edgy lyrics sung in a manner reminiscent of Sleater-Kinney, then you should definitely get your ticket now.  Speedy Ortiz is really fun to watch live as lead singer Sadie and guitarist Matt rock out hard on stage as they play.

Weeknight 3/15 @ Sailor Jerry
Saturday afternoon was mostly spent at the Swan Dive bar on Red River St. off of 6th listening to an eclectic variety of bands.  Standout from this venue was Waylayers, a chillwavey atmospheric pop band from the UK that played to a light crowd due to the fact that it was the last day of SXSW and a lot of festival goes were taking it easy to prepare for one last night in Austin.  In fact, encountering Waylayers at this precise point in the day was perfect for chilling out, hanging out and regrouping.

The final night of Southby was spent at the Sailor Jerry House at Gypsy Lounge.  Chicago post-punk garage rockers Radar Eyes were on stage already jamming out with their fuzzed-out dark psychedelic vibes as we were walking in.  Lead singer/guitarist Anthony's voice is perfect for this kind of music and he strongly carries the energy of this band.  Radar Eyes play frequently in Chicago so catch them around town for sure.  Hardcore band Spires played as well and once the shock of how young they look wore off they were a hard rocking, very technical band that was fun to watch rock the eff out.  The Saturday night Sailor Jerry showcase was very well curated and brought not only the best show overall but also the best new band discovery of SX2014.  Best new discovery honor goes to Weeknight, a synth-pop shoegazey band from Brooklyn comprised of couple Andy and Holly.  The kind of music they play, which has somewhat of a Cure vibe so it could have been very boring to watch, but they both move around a lot as if their music is playing them and not the other way around.  Holly definitely has a Karen O thing going and her stage presence was captivating.  Later in the evening were SISU, a Dum Dum Girls side project that sounds like Dum Dum Girls and Youth Code, a electro-industrial band from LA that was loud and dark and heavy.  The girls' wild energy was almost too much for the small stage.  Perfect opening for a personal favorite of the entire week, the neo-folk dark alt sounds of King Dude.

King Dude 3/15 @ Sailor Jerry House
Going on at almost 1am, King Dude spent time carefully sound checking before lighting a cigarette, taking a drag and putting it in his guitar capo cigarette holder.  Dressed in black like the rest of his band, King Dude's voice is deep and dark and tells stories of Lucifer and Light, pain and love.  King Dude played the guitar slow and echoey on 'Jesus in the Courtyard' while his deep vocals growled to the crowd "Don't you want to know why?" For one of the songs, the drummer had a heavy chain in one hand and a mallet in the other, creating a slow, droning beat as he rhythmically dropped them onto his drums repeatedly.  The creativity of this band in creating a very specific atmosphere is entrancing and it was really magical to experience in such a small venue.

And so that wrapped up another year of SXSW.  Although there were a lot of bands we would have loved to check out, it's impossible to be everywhere at once and plans change and sometimes you just really need to find a food truck.  With hundreds of bands and shows to see each day there are options to go to the larger corporate sponsored events that require badges and special wristbands and line waiting, or you can RSVP to a few showcases and check out bands both known and unknown at smaller venues all over Austin.  If you miss the band you want to see one day, chances are you can catch them at one of a few other showcases the next day or you'll end up stumbling upon your new favorite band.  Congrats to all the bands who made it through the grueling SXSW schedule of multiple shows per day and safe travels to everyone as you make your ways home.  See you next time Southby!  Thanks for all the fantastic music, perfect weather, delicious tacos and BBQ, good friends (old and new) and great vibes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Go To There: March 11 - 16

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Tuesday, March 11th: WatchOut! and Bitchin Bajas at The Burlington (9pm, 21+, $5)

Lucky for us, Chilean psych-rock band WatchOut! is stopping in Chicago on their way to SXSW. The band's 2011 release, Flashbacker, is full of sprawling jams that blend kraut and 60s garage seamlessly- a danceable trance with swollen grooves and zesty melody. Local dream casters Bitchin Bajas, the angelically droney project of CAVE's Cooper Crain, play first.

Wednesday, March 12th: MAMA and C Batteries at The Empty Bottle (8:30pm, 21+, FREE w/ RSVP)

Testosterone-soaked power poppers MAMA recently dropped their excellent debut, BIG IN CHICAGO- a tape packed with viscous, charging rock songs. The band does those songs justice with a tight, high energy live show, which makes this free concert a no-brainer. "Death disco" group C Batteries open the night up, which'll give anyone interested a chance to act out the darker scenes from Party Monster.

Thursday, March 13th: Wei Zhongle at Cafe Mustache (8:30pm, All Ages, FREE)

Don't ask me how to pronounce the name and don't ask me to give you a genre. If you can deal with that, then do yourself a favor and catch this free set at Mustache. Wei Zhongle calls themselves Nu Music/ Nu Trance, but what's actually happening in their compositions is the exploration and reconciling of styles of music from across geography and history by a quintet that's both whimsical and severe. Released last year, Raised High/Brought Low is a record filled with filled with magic and curiosity- and one that feels both refreshingly alien and comfortably indigenous.

Friday, March 14th: Crown Larks at Cole's (9pm, 21+, FREE)

Crown Larks have become one of the more fascinating bands to follow on the local scene, as they seem to stretch and grow with each new performance. Last year the group released Catalytic Conversion, a record at once wild, droney, delicate, fierce, melodic, complex and raw. That's a mess of contradictions, but Crown Larks managed to blend them all to center, the result being a beautifully crafted debut. Their live sets have journeyed out to the more psychedelic/drone end of that spectrum; a viscous, technicolor sound exploration that curves and zooms like a getaway car.

Saturday, March 15th: Whitey Morgan and the 78's at Cobra Lounge (9pm, 21+, $10)

Bloodshot Records artist Whitey Morgan visits from Flint, MI, for a night of swaggery barroom honkey-tonk. Morgan possesses the classic cool, husky voice required for tales of drunken debauchery, and it shines on choruses like I told him I ain't drunk/ Hell I just been drinkin'. Chris Parker of The Cleveland Scene sums the 78's sound up nicely: "Their hardheaded honky-tonk twang is pure outlaw, channelling the rebellous spirit that's as true to their name-checked predecessors (Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Hank Williams) as it is to the MC5."

Sunday, March 16th: The Humminbird at The Empty Bottle (7pm, 21+, $8)

If you saw our recent review of Beyond the Orchard then you know we're high on The Humminbird. The freak folk project, led by psychedelic chanteuse Muyassar Kurdi, is even more fascinating live than on record thanks to her ability to improvise with other players. The ancient, organic sounds she conjures are served well by that freedom, making each Humminbird performance a unique event. On this evening Kurdi and company open for D. Charles Speer and The Helix.

Friday, March 7, 2014

SXSW is Coming!

By Sarah Rosenfeld

This weekend kicks off the annual pilgrimage of many Chicago bands down to sunny and warm Austin, TX for the huge SXSW music festival and conference. The official start to festival season 2014, SXSW gathers bands, music lovers, and industry insiders, and Chicago is well represented in the Lone Star State this year with a ton of official and unofficial showcases lined up next week in Austin. But if you can't make it down to ATX next week, don't miss this weekend's kick off activities right here in Chicago.

via The Hideout (SXSW Send Off 2013)
The Hideout - SXSW Send Off Party (SATURDAY, 3/8, 1pm to VERY LATE AT NIGHT, $10 at the door)
Featuring Wrekmeister Harmonies, Ryley Walker, Marrow, Basic Cable, Absolutely Not, Jon Langford & Skull Orchard, Bonzie, Bailiff, Outer Minds, Kins, Radar Eyes. All these local bands will be doing showcases down in Austin next week, but you get to check 'em out first in their home town!  

Subterranean - SXSW Send Off! (SATURDAY, 3/8, 8pm, $10 in advance/$12 at the door)
You don't need a badge to get into this night party! SubT's got The Ivory's, The Future Laureates and Motel Beds before they too head off on their journey south.

Windy City Rock will be reporting live from SXSW in Austin next week so we'll catch up with some of these bands around Austin. Are you going too? Here's a short list of some Chicago related showcases to get you started:

Chicago Made SXSW Music Showcase (TUESDAY, 3/11, 8pm to 2am, OFFICIAL SHOWCASE, RSVP here); Red 7, 611 E. 7th Street, Featuring Chance The Rapper, The Hood Internet, The Autumn Defense, ARCHIE POWELL & THE EXPORTS, Bonzie, My Gold Mask, showyousuck, and ProbCause

Bloodshot Record's Official SXSW Showcase (WEDNESDAY, 3/12, OFFICIAL SHOWCASE, BADGE/WRISTBAND REQUIRED) The Continential Club, 1315 South Congress Ave; and 19th Annual Bloodshot Record's Yard Dog Party (FRIDAY, 3/14, noon until 7pm, open to the public - no badge or wristband required -RSVP here) Yard Dog Art Gallery, 1510 S Congress Ave, with The Deslondes, Rosie Flores, Bobby Bare Jr, Robbie Fulks, Luke Winslow-King, Ha Ha Tonka, Lydia Loveless, Barrence Whitfield & The Savages, The Waco Brothers

Chicago Everything Showcase (THURSDAY, 3/13, noon - 8pm, FREE SHOW!) Peckerhead's 402 E. 6th Street, Austin, TX 78701 including performances by DJ MZ Stylez, DJ V-Dub, DJ MH2DA, BO DEAL, SICKO MOBB, CALEB JAMES, Young Chop, Johnny May Cash, Jay Stonez, Blanco Caine feat. Mikkey Halsted Giftz, Bushwick Bill, LUCCI VEE, Koo Koo, Phor, Rick Ruiz, Bad Mouf Santra, Misha G, 360 The Don, JB the Joker, Castro, Tizzleman, J Bake, Cash Davis, T-20, Sevirr, DoT, and King Deasel

Midwest SXSW Showcase hosted by Metro (FRIDAY, 3/14, 11am to 6pm, FREE SHOW!) Holy Mountain,  617 E. 7th St. with lineup including Pink Frost, Ryley Walker and Oscillator Bug

The Official Reggie's Unofficial Showcase (FRIDAY, 3/14, FREE SHOW! FREE BEER! NO BADGE/WRISTBAND/RSVP NECESSARY); The Lodge, 411 E. 6th Street, Featuring Mutts, Monokino, The Wild Family, Heymoonshaker, empires, The Coup, Truckfighters, The Magnetic Reels