Author Archives: Dave Nebel

TVD Live: Riot Fest Day 3 at Douglas Park, 9/13

Walking onto the Riot Fest grounds for the final day, you could sense the energy and anticipation amongst the seemingly biggest crowd of the fest. After 2 muddy days, the grounds were finally leveling out, the sun came out to stay, and it was clear both the bands and the fans intended to go out on a high-note.

Riot Fest staple Andrew W.K. made his fourth straight appearance at the festival, and as always he came to party. With the help of his thrashing band, he lifted the spirits of the audience with his uniquely inspirational heavy metal. He took various moments to give motivational advice, and when he wasn’t pumping up the crowd he could be seen in a cyclone of hair and head banging. Andrew just knows how to put on a show, and songs like “She is Beautiful” and “Party Hard” caught the ears of even the newest fan. It just wouldn’t be Riot Fest without Andrew W.K.

To be honest, I was excited all weekend to see Rodrigo y Gabriela, and their set was nothing short of incendiary. Creating relentless galloping rhythms and virtuosic symphonies of sound, the acoustic duo delivered an incredible performance which left the crowd in awe. While Rodrigo Sanchez might come off as the front-man with his rapid fire licks, it’s really Gabriella Quintero who can blow your mind away. Her ability to use her acoustic as a complex percussive machine while simultaneously creating an orgy of beautiful chordal strumming bliss might just make you forget to breathe or blink. The group was also able to show off their heavy metal influence (much to the crowd’s enjoyment) by charging through covers of Megadeth’s “Holy Wars…The Punishment Due” and Metallica’s “Battery” and “Orion.” It was simply one of the best sets of the day.

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TVD Live: Riot Fest Day 2 at Douglas Park, 9/12

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | After a bit more rain overnight, Riot Fest returned for its second day with even muddier grounds, but with even more excited fans. The crowd came from near and far and could be seen sporting Doc Martin boots, studded jackets, and dyed mohawks. The place was ready to party. While Saturday Riot Fest usually means overwhelming crowds, the openness of the new location allowed for a more free-flowing feel which created a much more relaxed vibe throughout the beautiful day.

Pennywise took the stage in the late afternoon, and delivered a powerful set of classic punk rock. Their speed punk stylings stirred up various spirited circle pits, and lead singer Jim Lindberg’s voice was able to cut through with surprising ease as he sang of political corruption and social justice. The banter between Lindberg and guitarist Fletcher Dragge was constantly comedic and entertaining (including a comment that they had Donald Trump backstage doing blow). It was clear these guys have been in the business for years and knew how to put on a show. Closing out with their anthemic “Bro Hymn,” the crowd and band shared the catchy vocal theme to put an exclamation point on a solid set of music.

Drawing in a massive crowd, Merle Haggard brought his honky-tonk twang to the Riot Stage and created a unique and thoroughly enjoyable musical experience. One might have thought Merle would be out-of-place at the generally high-intensity fest, but the crowd latched onto the show’s energy immediately and Merle’s relaxed and confident stage presence created an infectious comfort throughout the crowd. A definite highlight of the day.

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TVD Live: Riot Fest Day 1 at Douglas Park, 9/11

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Finding its new Chicago home in Douglas Park, Riot Fest returned this year with an all-star lineup to definitively close out the Summer. While the festival focuses mainly on punk acts, it boasts a surprisingly diverse lineup of metal, ska, reggae, and hip hop acts, and the fans are happy to indulge in the variety of genres. For many of the bands that may have had their heyday a decade or two ago, it’s great to see their excitement playing in front of crowds magnitudes larger than their normal club shows.

Due to difficulties with the Humboldt Park community (which hosted the previous 3 Riot Fests), including its frustrations with the condition the park had been left in and the already growing gentrification concerns, Riot Fest was forced to move to Douglas Park in Chicago’s west side. And unfortunately for the second year in a row, rain storms leading up to the fest created wet and muddy conditions for the duration of the weekend. Luckily the concert hours were mostly clear and sunny, so morale and excitement remained strong.

The new fest grounds were considerably smaller than the prior versions at Humboldt Park, but the layout also allowed fans the ability to bounce between the stages far more easily than in previous years. The downside of this spacing was the frustrating sound bleed between the stages at various times throughout the weekend, but the organizers definitely laid out the festival the best way the space would allow.

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Moon Taxi,
The TVD Interview

Progressive indie jam rockers Moon Taxi are picking up steam in a variety of scenes and their relentless touring and energetic live performances have made them a fan favorite. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, the 5-piece creates a blended upbeat sound and wih a new album coming out in the fall, they are constantly pushing the envelope with their memorable vocal melodies and powerful instrumentation.

On their current summer tour which has stopped at most major music festivals, they swung through Chicago for Lollapalooza. We spent time with guitarist Spencer Thomson and keyboardist Wes Bailey to discuss life on the festival circuit, how the venue and vibe might change their set, and their methodical process to recording for a vinyl record.

Welcome, great to have you guys. How’s your Summer been going thus far?

Spencer Thomson: Wonderful. We’ve been playing a lot of festivals, getting around playing new songs off our upcoming album. Having a good time.

You guys have any favorite shows so far?

ST: We just played British Columbia for the first time for a festival called Pemberton.

Beautiful venue…

ST: Yeah wonderful. Our first time up there, that was a real standout for sure.

So, how would you say the space you’re playing might affect the way you perform? You guys play a lot of these huge, open festivals in front of enormous groups of people—how does that compare to playing a small, intimate indoor venue?

ST: Sheer volume. You know, we try to make things as loud as possible. The song selection might be a little different, you know? Especially whether it’s day or night, it might be a bit of a different set. It’s something that we like to do, consider all those things and be able to kinda modify ourselves and the set to fit the environment.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 3 at Grant Park, 8/2

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | After two solid days of music and festivities, the 3-day pass holders tiredly woke themselves up Sunday morning from their deep slumber, while others excitedly looked forward to their first day of the fest. The final day of Lollapalooza started off somewhat ominously, as both fans and performers were evacuated around 2:30 due to the oncoming storm. Luckily the delay only lasted 45 minutes, and instead of cancelling or shortening any sets they appropriately just shifted the entire schedule back.

The first band up after the delay was Moon Taxi (who might have been completely cancelled if not for the schedule shift) and they did a perfect job of getting people right back into the festival spirit. With the sun shining again, they got everybody smiling and moving around with their upbeat melodies and rocking rhythms. Almost every song played had a vocal hook that could get stuck in your head for days, and the instrumentation was raw and powerful.

They also allowed for moments of improvisation (an unfortunately rare occurrence at Lollapalooza) as they jammed various songs up to massive climaxes. Many of these jams were highlighted by the shredding lead guitar work of Spencer Thomson, but also by lead singer Trevor Terndrup, who ripped a couple of fiery solos himself. They even brought up Walk the Moon’s lead singer Nick Petricca for a fun cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” This is a band that has found their niche in the festival circuit, so be sure not to miss them when they come through your area.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 2 at Grant Park, 8/1

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Gearing up for Saturday Lollapalooza, I knew I needed to prepare both for the sun and the masses. The weather was forecasted to be nearly 90 degrees, and from past experience I knew that Saturday always drew the biggest, densest crowds (it’s a Chicago Summer Saturday, time to party). This might be part of the reason why Lollapalooza weighed the lineup more heavily towards Friday and Sunday, knowing that they would sell out Saturday no matter what, but nevertheless there was still plenty of great acts playing on a beautiful day to an ecstatic crowd.

I first headed over to the Samsung Galaxy Main Stage for Death From Above 1979. Comprised of just Jesse F. Keeler on bass and Sebastien Grainger on drums, the group created heavy unrelenting rhythms which you couldn’t believe were produced by just 2 performers. Their sound lands somewhere between punk, metal, and post hardcore, and the show had a consistent driving energy which allowed the crowd to bang their heads and jump around in the pit. While their catalog might lack diversity, they put on an energetic show which was well received by the audience.

Walk the Moon was up next, and they delivered a spirited and fun daytime set which landed well with the younger crowd. Frontman Nicholas Petricca entertained the audience with his constant dancing and soaring vocals, and fans had their arms swaying up in the air for pretty much the entire show. Nicholas also took various moments to give motivational advice on not being afraid to be yourself, and you could sense the tweens in the audience collectively swooning. Their hit song, “Shut Up and Dance,” closed out the show and drew a huge reaction from the crowd as it broke into an all out dance party.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 1 at Grant Park, 7/31

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | It had been 4 years since my last Lollapalooza, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. In some ways Lolla has become Chicago’s favorite weekend for the general masses to get together and celebrate sunshine and alcohol rather than live music (what other festival sells out 3-day tickets before the line-up is released?), but the festival always manages to put together a collection of great acts who put on some fantastic shows. There’s also something profoundly unique about seeing world-class artists perform in a huge open field surrounded by skyscrapers.

I headed over to Grant Park around 2 PM already with a ring of sweat around my neck from the blistering heat. My first act of the day was St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and they kicked things off with gusto. Their energized blend of southern soul and gospel had everyone moving their feet, and their frenzied frontman Paul Janeway drew cheers from the crowd each time he belted out screaming high notes with surprising ease. At one point he got so into it he started rolling around all over the stage, suit and all.

From there I headed across the north field to Father John Misty for one of my most anticipated sets of the day. Like many, I thoroughly enjoyed his last album, I Love You, Honeybear, and was excited to see the songs in the live arena. New songs such as “When You’re Smiling and Astride Me” and “I Love You, Honeybear” garnered an immediate crowd reaction, while older songs such as, “I’m Writing a Novel” got everyone dancing around.

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TVD Live: Sufjan Stevens at the Chicago Theatre, 4/24

PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Touring to promote his new album, Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens played his first of two shows at famed Chicago Theatre last Friday and created a beautifully intimate experience for the mesmerized, sold out crowd. Stevens focused mostly on his new material, playing all 11 songs on the album, while also sprinkling in fan favorites throughout the night. As opposed to his previous tours, this show leaned more towards a poetry reading than a rock production, but like always it highlighted Stevens songwriting prowess and intense passion.

Little Scream opened up the show, and while they were a bit timid, they fit with the mood in the room and worked well to warm up the audience. Lead singer, Laurel Sprengelmeyer, made a point of telling the audience how much she’s been enjoying touring with Sufjan Stevens and how she cries every night during his performance.

After a short break, the lights came down and the crowd cheered with excitement as Stevens entered the room. From the moment he stepped onstage, Stevens was completely in the moment and never stepped outside his focused demeanor. In fact, it almost seemed as though he was unaware that there was a crowd in front of him at all, and instead concentrated inward toward the memories of his past. Stevens’ new album is an honest and emotional piece, centered around the passing of his mother in 2012. As he sings each song, you can see the anguish in his eyes and feel the passion behind his words. You simply can’t help but be drawn into his captivating energy.

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TVD Live: Andrew Jackson Jihad, Chumped, Jeff Rosenstock, The Smith Street Band at the Metro, 3/27

PHOTOS: MICHAEL SOLOMON | Andrew Jackson Jihad came through Chicago’s Metro last Friday, March 27, and they brought a lineup stacked with passionate and lively punk acts. The Smith Street Band, Jeff Rosenstock, and Chumped each provided their own unique style, but there was a distinct common thread shared between all the bands that made for a fantastic overall show.

It had been a couple of years since I’d been to an authentic punk show. Growing up on Long Island, I spent much of my free time going to local punk/ska shows in church basements and neighborhood bars, and these shows taught me that the energy of a great punk show can be something special. When lyrics are shared rather than performed, and when there is a unifying spirit in the room which blurs the line between performer and audience. Friday’s show at the Metro brought back all of these feelings, and reminded me how extraordinary a punk show can be.

Chumped started things off and fit wonderfully as the opener. The female led 4-piece has a sound that lands somewhere between Alkaline Trio and The Get Up Kids, and their upbeat melodies had everyone bobbing their heads. Their catchy “Something About Lemons” contained a strong build-up and climax that landed particularly well with the audience.

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TVD Recommends: Mucca Pazza residency at Revolution Brewing, 3/30

Chicago hometown heroes, Mucca Pazza, will continue their residency at Revolution Brewing in Chicago’s Logan Square and you can bet that these shows will be anything but boring. With a sound that’s a wonderfully absurd medley of gypsy punk, big band brass, and New Orleans funk (among other genres), the 30+ member group emits a totally unique energy and is simply impossible to categorize.

To celebrate the vinyl release of their 4th album, L.Y.A., the band will play the album in its entirety on March 30th as they perform as “Sitting In Chairs,” an alter ego of the festival band which instead plays small, intimate spaces.

After their humble beginnings in the Chicago underground punk scene, Mucca Pazza have grown into a nationally recognized act, performing with the likes of Primus and The Flaming Lips and at festivals such as Lollapalooza and Rothbury. By utilizing a marching band rhythm section, an extensive horn and woodwind section, assorted string instruments, and an accordion, they create an adventurous and vivacious musical experience for their listeners.

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