“This shit is crazy!” a Riviera Theatre security guard yelled to me, wide-eyed, as I was leaving the photo pit. I laughed and nodded.
“This is my third time seeing them and…this shit is CRAZY!” he emphasized. Yes, it is. Large balloons bounced around the sold-out venue while cannons blasted so much confetti that I’m still finding pieces of it in my camera bag. There was glitter, rainbows, inflatables (“Fuck Yeah Chicago”), streamers, and Wayne Coyne riding a unicorn through the crowd. And this was only three songs in. God, I love it when The Flaming Lips are in town.
Aside from the antics, the setlist was a pretty epic one. They covered David Bowie (“Space Oddity”) and played a chunk of songs from their suberb 1999 release, Soft Bulletin. The Lips are touring extensively right now in support of their latest album, Oczy Mlody, so seriously, don’t be a moron. Go see them. They’re unlike any other live band.
Lucy had a lovely opening set. In between beautiful folk songs, she was personable and funny, answering audience members’ questions and telling anecdotes. When asked about her biggest musical influences, she credited her family—a most definitely talented musical family. “It’s hard to get around that,” she joked. “They kind of pummel it into you.”
Rufus’ voice is arresting. He unassumingly took the stage and with the first note out of his mouth, the crowd hushed and was instantly transfixed. His voice would stop anyone in their tracks. It’s stunning. The crowd was putty in his skillful hands as he took turns playing the piano and guitar, singing his way through his impressive and diverse discography. In the dimmed light I could see a room full of white teeth, all smiling.
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Climbing the stairs to Chicago’s Metro last Tuesday, you could feel the party had already started. Tunde Olaniran brought the perfect energy to kick off a Sleigh Bells’ show. He owned the room as he made it impossible for anyone to sit still during his high energy set.
All were made to feel welcome with signs on the stage promoting a safe space, “No Ableism. No Shaming. No Fatphobia. No Femmephobia. No Transphobia. No Racism. No Sexism.” Olaniran taught the audience new moves with two unstoppable dancers supporting him on either side. The dancers mashed ballerina techniques with hip hop and assisted Olaniran with clapping hands, becoming a vital part of the performance. Hear Tunde Olaniran’s beautiful voice and positive message on his most recent album, Transgressor, currently available on vinyl.
The audience eagerly awaited Sleigh Bells to take the stage and let them know, with great affection, when they finally arrived. The set started with strobe lights and bass that shook the venue like a storm was on the way. Vocalist Alexis Krauss and guitarist Derek Edward Miller were in constant motion once they took the stage; hands up, spinning, jumping, thrashing, hair blowing from a fan. The audience kept the pace as the bass filled every inch of the venue, the vibration forcing everyone to dance and keep their arms extended towards the stage. Krauss couldn’t keep herself away from the crowd either as she leaned over the front of the stage to hold hands, encourage singalongs, and occasionally crowd surfed her way back to the spotlight.
The Strokes bassist Nikolai Fraiture is embracing the role of frontman with his new project Summer Moon. A supergroup of sorts consisting of Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, Camila Grey of Uh Huh Her, and Noah Harmon of Airborne Toxic Event, Summer Moon’s debut release With You Tonight is in stores now.
We chatted with Nikolai in advance of the record’s arrival in the racks.
Was Summer Moon always band you were thinking about starting? How did it come about?
Summer Moon was actually more of an album title that I had a couple of years ago. Then over time the project changed and involved other people, so I thought it sounded better as a band name rather than putting it out as another solo album.
It started in my music space. I have a recording space in my home in New York. I had some songs that I was working on and then I asked some friends in New York to play and jam and kind of try to breathe life into the songs. We recorded over a lot of what I had already done and I did some recording in Austin, Texas, as well. And then finally, I hunkered down and finished the album. Then I met some musicians in Los Angeles and that’s our current lineup—Stephen Perkins, Camila Grey, and Noah Harmon.
Was it a different experience from making a Strokes album? Did you draw from different influences?
Yeah, I feel like with Summer Moon I can take a lot more risks than I would otherwise. I was listening to this genre that I stumbled upon called Italo Disco, kind of weird Italian disco from the ’70s and ’80s. The tones and the experimental nature of the synthesizers and the overall music is what influenced part of the album.
Is that a deliberate sound you were aiming for with Summer Moon?
It was kind of a blend of things. Tonally, I really liked that influence, but overall the songs are a lot longer experimental things—the structure isn’t super tight. So, blending that idea of the tones into more structured songs, like influences that I’ve had from New York all my life, mainly makes the composition of the album, rather than just that influence. It wasn’t like I heard that and then wanted to do it. It’s more like one aspect of the album.
Run the Jewels is the greatest rap duo in the game and you should go see them live immediately. Period. Killer Mike and El-P are the real deal.
If for some reason you cannot see them live, I highly recommend downloading their latest release, Run the Jewels 3 free over at their website. And while you’re at it, check out Run the Jewels and Run the Jewels 2 as well.
If you already know Run the Jewels, first of all—congratulations. Second, check out this set list from the other night at the Aragon Ballroom.
D.C.’s Priests played Beat Kitchen last week as part of their North American tour in support of their debut album, Nothing Feels Natural.
I stumbled across the album not long after its release date (January 27th) and have been listening to pretty much nonstop since. The process of completing the album and getting it out was a long and laborious one for the band, but I’d say it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears. And given the current political climate, it feels as if there was no better time for Nothing Feels Natural to drop.
They are just as energetic and commanding live as I suspected. My only critique is that I wish the show had lasted longer.
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | As soon as the doors opened to the House of Vans, the crowd began exploring. This was the grand opening everyone was waiting to sink their teeth into and it did not disappoint. House of Vans is the only existing indoor skatepark in Chicago and some people were so excited they had their skateboard on hand.
The space is filed with beautiful sloping ramps, the walls lined with awe-inducing concert photography, and special touches to recognize its hometown. Behind one ramp, a fenced in ivy covered wall is reminiscent of Wrigley Field, as is the repurposed Goose Island brewpub bar. To top off the night, local favorites were waiting to treat the crowd with food and drink. On site were Parson’s Chicken and Fish, Big Star Tacos, and Goose Island, who even had a special brew, the Vans Golden Lager.
There was a lot to keep the crowd occupied before the music got started. Vans was handing out t-shirts, totes, and limited edition grand opening posters. Several folks couldn’t wait and they put their shirt on right away. A DJ played favorites as a line formed outside of the photo booth. Eventually the mass of people parted and a circle formed as several dancers took turns showing their best breakdancing moves.
Minneapolis’ Bad Bad Hats kicked the evening into gear and quickly engaged the audience. Between their infectious beats and lead singer, Kerry Alexander’s witty commentary between songs, people couldn’t help but be struck. Given her confessional lyrics and fresh voice, it feels like you’re being told a secret from your best friend, plus their songs are immediately relatable—even when they center around gas station snack foods. Bad Bad Hats’ newest album, Psychic Reader is currently available on vinyl.
Margaret Glaspy closes her eyes as she sings, focusing on each note, each tremble is on purpose, every waver calculated. Her songs are a beautiful, smooth blues at one moment and then her voice rises to a growl giving each phrase a bite. For “Memory Street” she becomes a perfect skipping record as she repeats “Times I…” over and over until finally finishing, “Times I took forever to forget.” It started to feel like the record scratch would continue forever (and the audience kind of wanted it to.)
Chicago’s own Pool Holograph kicked off the night with a ton of energy. The crowd was engaged, often talking back to the band in-between songs—their lead vocalist singing every word with a punch as he hopped around the stage. As the band closed their set, they thanked the audience for being “patient and beautiful.” Pool Holograph’s latest album Town Quarry is available for download and on limited edition cassette.
Esmé Patterson took the stage having donned an electric blue wig. It became the perfect prop throughout her set, accenting her songs with a hair flip or shaking the bob to cover her face. Between the wig and her gestures to the audience, she was serious and intentional as she revealed each intimate song. The intros of her compositions sometimes have a bluesy twang, then a racing guitar enters, and her sweet voice, filled with squeaks and vibrato, captures the space. Patterson’s lyrics embody her—mind and soul.