PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | After talking with Natalie Bergman from Wild Belle earlier this month for TVD and getting a preview of their new album Dreamland, I was excited see them perform live. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
At a special Earth Day event curated by Land and Sea Dept., Wild Belle played at Chicago’s Garfield Park Conservatory. The conservatory was a beautiful setting for the band’s upbeat earthy grooves. Visitors were free to roam the campus to view exotic plants and make their way to the stage through the Palm Room filled with an enchanting tropical landscape.
It was breathtaking to explore, especially with the addition of the nighttime lights. Artgroup, Luftwerk’s critically acclaimed art installation, solarise: a sea of all colors, was a main intrigue of the event as everywhere you looked there was something new to behold amongst the greenery. Guests wandered in out of different greenhouses in wonderment as sounds of old school Jamaican songs spun in the distance.
Sioux Falls hailing from Portland, Oregon, started off the night with a perfect garage band feel, but with a special dose of heart. Lead singer, Isaac Eiger played each song to the tips of his toes, occasionally losing balance as the song took him away. They closed their set with the charming “If You Let It” which begins with “dookie’s puking everywhere,” but the surprising turn at the end, ‘’I need to get my eyes checked so I can see your sleepy smile… from far away.”
But of course, “from far away” is given proper emphasis with the whole band projecting it from the top of their lungs to the crowd. Sioux Fall’s latest release, Rot Forever is available on vinyl as a double LP.
I first heard Ben Harper in 1995 when my friend Kim made me a copy of Welcome to the Cruel World on a tape. That was all I needed. I was sold. I wore that tape out. And by 1999, when I began my freshmen year of college, a Ben Harper patch adorned my backpack—the lone signifier that distinguished my Jansport from the next.
In 1999, I saw Ben—with those spectacular Innocent Criminals—at The Riviera Theatre for two sold-out shows. And last week I returned to The Riv to photograph Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. I know—full circle, right?
The knot of anticipation in my stomach vanished the minute the band walked on to the stage. Perhaps a touch more weathered since I saw them last, they nevertheless sounded as good as ever, which is no surprise given their layers of talent.
After I photographed the first three songs, I found a spot and just took in the remainder of the show. It was everything that I could’ve asked for: Ben’s unmistakable voice, the arcs of energy, the guitar solos, the acoustic set, Juan manhandling his bass, Leon’s beats, the seamless shifts in genre from song to song. I would’ve loved to hear some deeper cuts but I guess that’s the problem when you have thirteen studio albums—everyone wants to hear different tracks.
The ’90s are back, folks. The bands of my childhood are reuniting and touring and I’m not the only one who’s excited. This show, for example—the Smashing Pumpkins with special guest Liz Phair at the Civic Opera House—sold out within minutes. And of course it did—how often do you get to see two beloved Chicago acts at their hometown opera house?!
Liz Phair kicked off her all-acoustic set with crowd-pleaser “Johnny Feelgood.” “My parents are actually here tonight,” she said after. “I’m sorry about all the swear words guys,” she joked before diving into “F**k and Run.” Later she fondly recalled attending operas at the theatre with her family as a child. “It’s really special to be standing on this stage,” she acknowledged.
Her set was brief but there were moments when I scanned the scene to find audience members (particularly female audience members) scream/sobbing the lyrics to her songs, many of which came from her critically acclaimed 1993 album, Exile in Guyville. The nostalgia was heavy and even I found myself transported back to my childhood bedroom where those songs used to play so often.
But nothing had me as nostalgic as the thought of the Smashing Pumpkins hitting the stage. The last time I saw them live was in 1998 at the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Their set began just as a thunderstorm rolled through and it was as if the Pumpkins had called up mother nature herself. The thunder and lighting were eerily aligned with music, and it was completely, unforgettably badass.
PHOTO: JENNIFER TZAR | Natalie Bergman, half of the brother-sister duo Wild Belle, loves vinyl. Traveling all over the world, she has picked up some rare records, some too scratched to even play—but she still has to have them.
With the release of their new record Dreamland just around the corner, Natalie took time to talk with TVD about the search for the records one just has to have.
I just saw you on Jimmy Fallon this week. It looked really fun! What was that experience like?
I’m back in LA now and I’m writing thank you letters to everyone in my band and to Jimmy. I just finished my letter to Jimmy. He’s really an extraordinary person. He has such an amazing gift. He brings people together. He’s such a strong joy in this world. I really love him and I’m so thankful that he invited us on the show. It was such a nerve-racking performance. My knees locked!
When you were talking about your first album, Isles, you said each song was like its own island and had its own story. Do you think of your upcoming album Dreamland the same way?
Definitely every song is its own story. The album is sort of its own story to me. It has a lot to do with my time in Chicago. This album has a lot to do with loss and recovery, finding different means to cope with loss.
I think that as an artist it takes a lot of guts to keep the dream flowing, to keep reaching for things that you believe in. Fallon was a good example of that. I met him in Jamaica and we got along so well. I sang a Bob Marley song for him and he fell in love with my voice. It’s moments like those that I really feel like it takes guts to stand up for yourself as a musician and stand up for your art and performing in front of someone you don’t know, but you admire. There are lots of people who I look up to, lots of artists and musicians. It’s really an honor to be able to perform in front of these artists who I admire so much.
The record is sort of a journey through my mind through a breakup. It has to do with many different relationships. My relationship with love, with a man, with the label, with family, with friends…
“First three songs, no flash, then out!” It’s the all too common directive for any live concert photographer—but when your subject’s Mr. Iggy Pop, who can refuse?
Those of you with sharp memories will recall we shot Iggy along with Josh Homme in San Francisco for a piece we ran earlier in the week, TVD’s Jason Miller writing last Tuesday, “Iggy Pop has nothing left to prove to the rock ‘n’ roll community. The Godfather of Punk and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee refuses to slow down one bit.
And why should he? His 17th studio album launched at the top of the Billboard Rock and Alternative charts, delivering the 68-year-old icon his first #1 album ever…”
Thus, with zero arm-twisting, TVD Chicago’s Brigid Gallagher met up with Iggy and Crew on Wednesday night at the city’s Chicago Theatre, and tasked with “first three songs, no flash, then out,” captured magic on stage with magic of her own—which we’re rather used to around here. —Ed.
The show opened with the sweet sounds of The Flat Five. Making old songs sound new again with their jazzy arrangements, The Flat Five covered a wide range of material including The Free Design’s “I Found Love” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “Mother Beautiful.” They peppered the set with witty banter telling the audience, “We are well aware we’re you’re appetizer,” before clearing the way for Mavis.
Mavis Staples entered the stage to a standing ovation and took her time to greet each fan with a wave before she settled into her first song, “If You’re Ready.” After the first few selections Mavis exclaimed, “We’re happy to be home!” It was a homecoming reunion as she listed the friends and family that came out to see her. When a fan shouted “I love you, Mavis!” she replied, “I love you, too!” and turned to the audience, “You know, that’s my cousin.”
Baltimore’s Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand, better known as the indie dream pop duo Beach House, have spent the last decade (and then some) cultivating a cult following. And for good reason.
Their sound is nostalgic, cozy, familiar. It’s like snuggling into your favorite blanket. Beach House songs wrap around you—they hug you and even, at times, kiss you. And in winter, every Chicagoan needs a good hug. And kiss.
So it’s no surprise that the band, now a quartet live, kicked off the month of March playing in front of a sold out crowd at the Vic Theatre. Victoria took a liking to the Vic: “It’s beautiful,” she mused. “Run down in all the right ways.” And the crowd took a liking to their set, which focused on songs from one of their two 2015 releases, Depression Cherry, as well as Beach House classics from “Teen Dream,” “Bloom,” and “Devotion.”
Cherry Glazerr started off the night with our first taste of summer. Clementine Creevy’s sugary sweet vocals about snack foods and friendship were given an edge with heavy strumming guitar. Creevy’s small frame created a large presence as she moved about the stage, even coming to the edge to sing to fans. Much of the audience was impressed and unable to help themselves from head-bobbing and dancing. At the end of the night many concertgoers walked away clutching a copy of their latest album, Haxel Princess on pink vinyl.
Best Coast brought summer night vibes with their set consisting of a pleasant mix of new and old. Frontwoman, Bethany Cosentino’s fierce stance was silhouetted making her a powerful force as the band played favorites such as “Do You Love Me Like You Used To?” and “Crazy For You.” Cosentino alternated between guitar and a star-shaped tambourine using those moments to let loose and dance to their appealing poppy rock songs.