Category Archives: TVD Chicago

TVD Live Shots:
Jim James at the
Vic Theatre, 11/9

On a freezing fall night in Chicago, Jim James filled the sold-out Vic Theatre with more than just bodies.

I believe I truly felt hearts and souls expanding as the My Morning Jacket frontman led us on a spiritual journey in the form of his music. Stripped down to just his voice and a guitar—with occasional drum accompaniment by Dave Givan—James’ lyrics took on a poignancy that resonated to the core.

Given the current state of our divided country, we could all stand to revisit his discography, including this year’s Uniform Distortion and Uniform Clarity. His fall tour carries on to a few more stops before concluding in Louisville on November 23rd.

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TVD Live Shots: Elton John at the United Center, 10/27

Listen, just go see him.

I can barely stand of the thought of you hemming and hawing at home, weighing the pros and cons of an expensive night out on the town. I get it. But might I just spare you the pain of contemplation and encourage you to treat yourself. Just go. See. Elton. Fucking. John. The Living Legend. Literally.

It’s hard to put into words the experience of seeing a musician who has been the soundtrack of lives for decades. It’s even harder to put into words when he’s still at the top of his game, busting out extensive, intricate piano solos night after night and sounding just as his did at 35. Bitches, I wept.

Fortunately Sir Elton’s farewell tour is extensive, concluding in 2020, so do yourself a favor and buy yourself a ticket. I won’t tell you again.

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TVD Live Shots: Phish at the Allstate Arena, 10/26

If there is a fan base more passionately dedicated to the live experience than the jam band fan base, I’ve yet to encounter it. Their level of commitment far surpasses fans of other musical genres. Phish phans are no exception—and arguably the golden standard of jam fandom.

I arrived to Rosemont’s Allstate Arena for the first of three sold-out nights of Phish in time to wander through Shakedown Street, a staple of the jam community. Vendors of all kinds were doing their best to try to make a buck so that they can continue to follow the band on their tour. A quick walk offered me an array of things to purchase: beer, shirts, jewelry, bowls, art, drugs, and lots and lots of grilled cheese options.

Inside the arena, I made way to the photo pit where an enthusiastic fan informed me that the band wouldn’t be on for another 30 minutes. He was right and I was glad because it gave me the opportunity to observe the rituals of the most diehard of phans. Floor tickets were general admission, so those closest to the photo pit were just beginning to sit up and fold their blankets. Some pulled meals out of plastic bags, while others pulled out changes of clothes.

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TVD Live Shots: Courtney Barnett at the Riviera Theatre, 10/18

Last Thursday Courtney Barnett cruised through Chicago in support of her latest release, this year’s excellent Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Performing for a sold-out crowd at the Riviera Theatre, she and her band impressed as usual. They can PLAY. And it’s always something to watch Courtney shred the guitar. At one point opener Waxahatchee joined the band to perform a lovely cover of Elyse Weinberg’s “Houses.”

Courtney Barnett’s US leg of her tour continues through October before heading to Europe in November.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/16

1:24PM: I’ve arrived for the third and final day of Riot Fest ’18! I hear the Beach Goons covering “La Bamba” as I walk into Douglas Park.

1:42PM: The crowd is youthful and here early to see Finn Wolfhard’s (of the TV show Stranger Things) band, Calpurnia. The whole band is solid—way more polished than I expected them to be given their age—but guitarist Ayla Tesler-Mabe is stealing the show. This chick can shred—and she’s young!

2:18PM: Kevin Devine is leaping around the Radicals Stage doing his thing. The crowd, hot from the sun (it’s as if it’s July!), perks up.

2:35PM: Currently listening to some nice, mid-afternoon, uplifting rockabilly from JD McPherson.

3:31PM: “We came from space via Oakland, California and we came to fuck shit up and have a good time!” Swmrs lead singer Cole Becker shouts. This young band is impressing. Their set is super high energy and they’re using their platform to preach positivity, self-acceptance, and kindness.

3:58PM: “Nail me Johnny!” a fan screams at Johnny Marr in between songs. And that about sums up the vibe right now. A member of The Smiths is on stage, so naturally people are freaking the fuck out.

4:15PM: My fan vomit counter is up to three. That’s actually pretty low. Good work, Riot Festers!

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/15

1:33PM: It’s another beautiful (and shockingly hot!) day here in Chicago. I wander over to Riot Fest’s Deep Eddy tent—also dubbed the “Punk Rock and Paintbrushes” tent because it’s decorated with art from various musicians on the weekend bill. There is definitely some cool stuff up for grabs, including pieces by Blink 182 and Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba, Twin Peaks’ Clay Frankel, and more.

1:40PM: The “Riot Mall” area features various local vendors…and apparently karaoke at the Chicago History Museum tent! Some kid is singing his heart out and a crowd is growing.

2:15PM: It’s Gwar time in the press tent and as usual every member of the media has temporarily lost all professionalism in order to take selfies with the scumdogs of the universe.

2:38PM: Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy ease the crowd into their set before turning up the volume.

3:08PM: Technical issues are plaguing Health’s set, which is unfortunate because they are captivating. It’s easy to see why this is one of Trent Reznor’s favorite bands.

3:40PM: The Numanoids are out in throngs today and their wait is over because Gary Numan has hit the stage. It’s a killer performance and a weekend highlight.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/14

1:32PM: Riot Fest 2018 is officially underway! My first stop in Douglas Park is the Hellzapoppin’ Tent for their famous circus sideshow revue. A “half man” is walking on shards of glass and I’m in a panic that he’s about to bleed everywhere. He doesn’t, of course.

2:21PM: “Who wants to go on the Ferris wheel with me later?,” Liz Phair asks in between songs. The entire crowd raises their hands. She is on tour now in support of the 25th anniversary of her acclaimed debut album, Exile in Guyville. If the tour is anything like this set (and I’d guess it is), it’s not to be missed.

2:24PM: And let’s not forget Liz Phair is a Chicagoan! “I want to petition the new mayor to rename the Damen exit the ‘Exit to Guyville.'” I second that.

2:38PM: I am too late to catch The Fever 333, but I do manage to catch a bit of Lagwagon’s set. The California punk rockers have a hearty crowd singing along to every tune.

2:43PM: Despite missing The Fever 333, I happen to catch a cool moment—guitarist Stephen Harrison is taking a moment to talk to fans side stage. They are asking him about chord changes and begging him to bring the band to Pennsylvania.

3:27PM: Oh man I’ve been waiting for this set. It’s Pussy Riot time! The activist collective (““We are not a band, we’re a political movement.”) is in the news again—this time because one of their members, Pyotr Verzilov, is currently being hospitalized for suspected poisoning. “Today is the first time he talked,” leader Nadya Tolokonnikova updated the crowd in between songs. The considered cancelling their appearance at Riot Fest but “thought it would be more important to go on with it and tell people what happened,” she explained. The collective wasted no time getting to the point, as the masked members emerged carrying a large banner that read “We will punish those who poisoned Peter Verzilov.”

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TVD Live Shots:
Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field, 8/18

Pearl Jam fever hit Chicago last week and Wrigleyville is just now returning to normalcy. The buzz when the boys (Eddie, Jeff, Mike, Stone, Matt, and Boom) are back in town is contagious. There’s a Northside euphoria, and now we’re all on the comedown.

Of course this time around Pearl Jam gave us plenty to reminisce about. On Saturday there was the band’s cover debut of David Bowie’s “Rebel Rebel” with the MLB Commisoner’s Trophy on stage, Eddie waxing rhapsodic about the Cubs, beautiful tributes to the late greats Chris Cornell and Tom Petty, a rousing rendition of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” a weird Dennis Rodman appearance, and a 3-hour set that went well past Wrigley’s noise curfew.

On Monday there was the hour+ thunderstorm delay; the live debut of “Evil Little Goat,” some killer covers (The White Stripes, The Beatles, The Who), an appearance by former Chicago Blackhawk Chris Chelios capped with a beautiful tribute to the late hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita, and my personal favorite memory: Eddie smashing his guitar to pieces to end their 2018 Wrigley residency.

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TVD Live Shots: Sleigh Bells and Torres at the Metro, 8/17

Sleigh Bells returned to the Metro last week—and this time without any complications. In January, the band had to cancel their show due to sickness, and last year they had to play without one of their guitarists. So needless to say they were thrilled to return to the Metro stage a full three-piece and ready to rock. And so were we.

Georgia’s Torres opened the night with a hypnotic set. Her songs ranged from quiet to loud, but all had a raw vulnerability to them. The room was silent when she played, laden with emotion. She is impressive.

Sleigh Bells turned the volume up, as they always do. Those familiar with their shows know that they are a head-banging, crowd-surfing good time. Singer Alexis Krauss dazzled as usual, dancing nonstop and interacting with the crowd. Although a short set (only an hour), it was a fun one.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 4 at Grant Park, 8/5

2:14 PM | I arrive in time to catch the end of Durand Jones and the Indications’ set. It’s so lovely and soulful I’m sad I missed the beginning of it.

2:17 PM | Overheard as I’m passing two friends conversing under a tree, “I mean, last year I thought some girl was dead. Turns out she was just passed out.”

3:50 PM | Kali Uchis is dancing her way across the Lake Shore Stage as her fans are squealing with delight. This pop sensation is on the rise.

4:08 PM | Turns out Rainbow Kitten Surprise is a lot more politically charged than their name. “We’re from Boone, North Carolina,” said frontman Samuel Melo. “In case you don’t know, there’s a war going on down there. At least it feels like it if you’re queer.”

4:26 PM | Local Knox Fortune has a few other local cameos his set—his buddy Joey Purp as well as members of Twin Peaks. His cover of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” is a good one, as it perfectly suits his vocal strength.

5:32 PM | Well the Gucci Mane crowd is massive and rowdy, but that’s no surprise. Two teenagers standing next to me take 20 minutes to light their joint. Amateurs.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 3 at Grant Park, 8/4

1:23 PM | So pumped. It’s St. Vincent Day at Lollapalooza.

2:26 PM | Still laughing about a moment I had with my wife as she was ever-so-kindly driving me down (in our f**king gold minivan) to Grant Park. Me: “Taylor,” my college sophomore niece, “knows who Brockhampton is—I feel cool now!” Susan: “Yeah he’s, like, totally cool with the kids.” Me: “Susan, they’re a group.”

3:28 PM | Of the many fashion themes I’ve gathered from the weekend, a few are really standing out: 1. Bulls jerseys. I mean, Lolla is always heavy on the NBA jerseys but it’s all about the Bulls this year. And it’s not just the crowd—several artists have donned the red and black for their sets. 2. Mullets. Yeah…they’re back, I guess. 3. Glitter-slathered chests. 4. That tiny rip of fabric that claims to be a “jean short” but is really an “ass-cheek-hanging-out” short. 5. Various “Coca Cola” and “Sprite” apparel. (Level with me, millennials, what does it mean?! Are you asking for a specific type of drug? Please, tell this nana.)

4:17 PM | I’ve really enjoyed wandering past the Toyota Music Den this weekend. It’s been a nice opportunity to catch some acts who I missed on the main stages. Yungblud is currently stoked that a few members of their hefty crowd already know the lyrics to songs off their month-old debut album.

5:00 PM | Weekend/life highlight: LL Cool J is doin’ it an doin’ it an doin’ it so well right now at the Bud Light Stage.

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

12:52 PM | Heavy traffic. Yesterday the commute was considerably faster. It makes sensethe first day of a festival usually draws the smallest crowd. Or, at the very least, a late crowd. Today? Not so much. The crowds are flooding into Grant Park for the Pitchfork Music Festival.

1:32 PM | Security is heavy this year, mostly thanks to that piece of s**t who massacred 58 innocent humans and injured hundreds of others on October 1st last year in Las Vegas. Huge thanks to all of the officers and agents (yes, the FBI was present on the grounds all weekend), EMTs, and grounds crew who did their very best to keep downtown Chicago safe all weekend long.

2:37 PM | Taylor Bennett has gathered a huge crowd at Perry’s Stage. The young Chicagoan is making waves and not just because he’s Chance the Rapper’s baby bro. Taylor just released his latest EP, “Be Yourself”—his best venture to date. The crowd loves his positive spirit. He came out as bisexual before his 21st birthday and reminds the crowd of it. “Be Yourself” is more than just his EP name—it’s his anthem. Special guests Supa Bwe, Bianca Shaw, and Twista helped spread the word.

3:12 PM | Walking past the Toyota Music Den I pause to watch LA’s Buddy perform. The crowd is there to dance, and dance they do.

3:19 PM | “I’ve longed for that day when I’d be playing for confused, slightly disgruntled Post Malone fans, and that day has finally come.” said Parquet Court’s A. Savage. It’s a belly laugh moment. I get it, dudes. But there’s still a decent-sized crowd here for you and we’re loving every second.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza, Day 1 at Grant Park and The National aftershow at the Metro, 8/2

Since 2005, downtown Chicago—more specifically 115 acres in smack dab downtown Chicago (a.k.a. Grant Park)—has been home to the city’s largest music festival, Lollapalooza. It is a festival locals love to hate and hate to love. It doesn’t matter. People travel from far and wide to this Midwest mecca every year without question. Tickets typically sell out within hours. And don’t let the locals’ eye-roll attitude about Lolla fool you, we all go as well. And when we don’t, we’re sad about it. There’s a power that Lolla week in Chicago has over all of us. It’s in many ways our summer climax.

So here I am on the backside of the festival weekend comparing my peak to last years’, and I’m happy to report that this was one of the best Lollas to date. The crowds were (for the most part) manageable; the bands were on time; all went as scheduled; crime went down; hospitalizations went down; it didn’t rain; I repeat—it didn’t rain!—and somehow I managed to leave each day still walking without a limp and looking forward to the next day. So, yeah, the world is probably ending soon.

Now a four-day festival, Lollapalooza ’18 kicked off on Thursday, August 2nd. Highlights from day one included Slaves, who managed to resurrect the spirit of Lollapalooza ‘91 with their black-leather wearing, microphone-eating, head-banging, guitar shredding set. And of course Scotland’s Franz Ferdinand didn’t disappoint, and whose leader, Alex Kapranos, also got my vote for the weekend’s best high kicks.

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TVD Live Shots: Radiohead at US Bank Arena, 7/25

Radiohead hasn’t toured in six years, so when their brief North American tour was announced, I knew that I’d do what was necessary to catch one of their shows.

“What was necessary” turned out to be a road trip from Chicago to Cincinnati for the night. And boy was it worth every mile. The setlist pulled from their expansive 26+ years of songs, but favored tracks from 2000’s Kid A and 2003’s Hail to the Thief.

It was a beautiful evening, capped off with a crowd sing-a-long to “Karma Police” to end the show. “For a minute there / I lost myself…”

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TVD Live Shots: Sylvan Esso and Collections of Colonies of Bees at the Vic Theatre, 7/24

We caught the North Carolina duo Sylvan Esso at the Vic Theatre on Tuesday (7/24) with openers Collections of Colonies of Bees.

It was the second night of their sold-out run in Chicago and the most fun I’ve had on a Tuesday in a while. Their catchy, fun electro-pop has everyone grooving and singing along—Nick Sanborn continues to deliver the beats, Amelia Meath continues to be my dancing idol, and the pair’s stage lighting continues to stun.

Their summer tour wraps up next week north of the border.

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