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.
PHOTOS: MICHAEL SOLOMON | If you’re a vinyl collector in the Midwest, chances are you were at the CHIRP Record Fair on Saturday afternoon.
Collectors and vendors came from all over—from New Haven, WI and Shelbyville, IN to Seattle and Pittsburgh—plus lots of vendors from here in Chicago. Pictures of the fair are captured here.
If you missed it, fear not. The CHIRP Record Fair will come back for the Pitchfork Music Festival in July, so—see you in Union Park.
CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio Project) is holding their annual, CHIRP Record Fair and Other Delights this Saturday at Plumber’s Hall in Chicago. And, it’s not just a record fair—CHIRP has invited a bunch of their friends to grace vinyl lovers with “other delights”—there will be live music and deejays all day, improv, plus delicious food and coffee.
“The whole goal is to be a place for people to shop for records and an event for everyone whether they’re serious vinyl collectors or not,” says Shawn Campbell, the founder of CHIRP. “One of the nice things about the station is what we give our deejays a way to play whatever format they like. And many of the deejays in the studio spin vinyl. I’m sure a lot of deejays, in the weeks after the record fair, are going to be spinning their records on the air.”
CHIRP has been taking online community radio by storm since the summer of 2007 and now boasts worldwide listenership. In November 2014, the FCC granted the station a broadcast license to build a radio tower and construction begins later this year.
If you’re really jonesing to get first picks, you’ll want to snag the $25 early-bird tickets which allow you in-and-out access to the fair all day starting at 8am plus gives you dibs on the expansive collection of vinyl for sale from notable Chicago record shops plus vendors from out of town. If you want to attend but you prefer a bit more sleep on Saturday morning, the event is open to all other ticket holders beginning at 10am and is $7 or $5 with a Record Fair flyer or ad. Grab tickets here.
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Belle and Sebastian, the indie-pop veterans from Glasgow, took the stage at the Riviera Theatre Friday night. After witnessing Friday’s performance, it’s clear that Belle and Sebastian don’t really care whether or not you think their music is just a soundtrack for all things twee. After 19 years and nine beloved records later, it seems that they, and especially frontman Stuart Murdoch, just want to throw dance parties. And the people want to dance.
Belle and Sebastian have just begun their US tour in support of their ninth record, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Friday’s show opener was the Scottish two-piece, Honeyblood.
I heard several people around me exclaim that Belle and Sebastian was their “all time favorite band” and it was hard not to notice the anticipation and eagerness of the audience—it’s been five years since the last record, Belle and Sebastian Write About Love. During the set up, any time a microphone was adjusted or a light flickered, someone in the crowd would enthusiastically start whooping and clapping. So when the dozen or so musicians that make up Belle and Sebastian’s touring band took the stage and began the show with “Nobody’s Empire,” it was a relief. Next, they played “I’m A Cuckoo,” a throwback from 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress.
Benjamin Booker brought his unique blend of garage rock and blues to Chicago last weekend for a sold-out show at the Metro.
The New Orleans-based musician has quickly become a name to know since his 2014 self-titled debut album dropped, and his energetic and uproarious shows have rightfully added to the buzz surrounding him.
As far as punk blues goes, Benjamin Booker is the current kingpin. His raspy vocals and vigorous guitar riffs draw you in and his on-stage charisma keeps you there. Go see him in an intimate venue setting while you can.
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.
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.
While waiting for TV On The Radio to hit the stage at the Metro on Monday night, I struck up a conversation with a few fans hugging the rail.
They’d been waiting for hours, inching their way closer to the stage, but all for good reason: “TVOTR is the only relevant modern rock band,” one said. He continued, “I listen to classic rock, punk, and TV On The Radio. That’s it.” This is a small example of the cult following that TVOTR has acquired over their 14-year career. And, yeah, they totally deserve the love.
Following the sudden and tragic loss of bassist and keyboardist Gerard Smith in 2011 to lung cancer, the future of TV On The Radio was uncertain. The remaining members of the band took a hiatus to grieve and do individual projects, so when they announced the release of a new album, Seeds, in 2014, fans exhaled one, big sigh of relief. Their subsequent tour announcement was icing on the cake.
I’ve never seen the Metro more crowded and the fans more enchanted than on Monday night. On stage and in the studio, TVOTR has proven themselves to be so many things all at once—punk, pop, soul, rock, funk, and more. They are innovators, true artists, and must-see performers. So do so.
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | of Montreal and Deerhoof played to a sold out crowd at Chicago’s Metro last Friday night and it was a blissfully satisfying show. Both bands are touring to promote their latest releases—of Montreal’s Aureate Gloom and Deerhoof’s La Isla Bonita.
Deerhoof hail from San Francisco, CA and celebrated their 20th anniversary last year with the release of their new record. They’re known for their erratic, noisy sound that reels you in and makes you sweat it out for three minutes or so. And they keep it simple—their lyrics, their riffs, their gear—it’s minimalistic, but it seems to provide a perfect base for listeners to interpret and experience the band’s music in a hugely personal way.
Deerhoof opened with two of their best tracks from La Isla Bonita, “Exit Only” and “Paradise Girls.” The energy on stage was non stop. Drummer, Greg Saunier, was so physical that somewhere between playing “We Do Parties” and “Last Fad” he stopped to explain that he’d have to readjust the cardboard resting underneath the drum set because it had shifted while he was playing. It is always fun to see bassist and vocalist Satumi Matsuzaki’s voguing and jumping along to John Dieterich and Ed Rodriguez’s heavy rifts. The bare stage really allows for each member’s personalities and musicianship to shine.
When you buy tickets to The People’s Champions Tour co-headlined by emcee legends Talib Kweli and Immortal Technique, you are guaranteed to see a show that’s about music and so much more.
It’s about social consciousness; it’s about activism against corruption, inequality, prejudice and media censorship; it’s about justice, acceptance, and love. This is REAL hip hop after all, folks. Chicago’s Metro was fortunate to be the first of many sold out venues they’ll be playing across the country, and the show is not to be missed.
If you want to feel inspired, go see these masters of their craft in action.