PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Juana Molina is a former comedic television actress who made a foray into music in the late ’90s, leaving her acting career behind. Her humor and immense talent as a musical artist carries through in her live sets and the show at Old Town School of Folk Music Thursday, April 10 was no different.
Though she’s flown somewhat under the radar in the States, she definitely has quite the fan base in Chicago, as well as around the world. With this being her first US tour in 5 years and with the critical acclaim of her latest album, Wed 21, Molina has been missed. She is known for her unconventional approach to song creation and her lyrics are abstract rather than topical. For fans of Feist who seek a similar yet even more experimental sound, Molina needs to be added to your playlists. The two artists also toured together in 2008, so there you go.
Molina sings in her native Rioplatens Spanish which made me a little nervous to see the show because I don’t always understand her lyrics. But after getting a taste of Wed 21 in the days leading up to the show, I had to see what this talented lady was all about.
With 15 years of material under their belt including numerous studio albums and countless live bootlegs, Lotus has made it difficult to predict what to expect at their shows.
There are, however, a few staples that continue to attract sell-out crowds both nationally and internationally: their light show is always spectacular; their musicianship is always on display in an egoless, free jazz sort of way; and despite their jam band roots, they’re usually the best dressed/most well groomed dudes in the building. Such was the case on Saturday at their second of two sold out shows at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre.
Throughout the years, Lotus’ sound has evolved from their early focus on “jamtronica” (jam and electronic influences) to their current incorporation of multiple genres and textures (rock, funk, and hip hop to name a few). One thing is for sure: it’s all about the music for them. They experiment, they explore, and challenge themselves in the most organic, fundamental ways and it pays off, especially live. They are jam band royalty for a reason, after all.
One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions for “revival” reads, “the growth of something or an increase in the activity of something after a long period of no growth or activity.”
After a long winter of no activity and record-breaking subzero temperatures, we’re about to get an infiltration of warmth via the funky tunes of The Revivalists this Friday at Concord Music Hall. It’s your chance to win a pair of tickets, TVD readers!
The Revivalists are a septet of super talented musicians and friends who formed their group in 2007. They infuse their New Orleans inspired sound with a blend of traditional rock n’roll, horns, and exceptionally soulful vocals. Their energetic live shows will get your hips grinding and your fists pumping. This show will surely get you out of that lazy no-dancing rut you know you’ve been stuck in. Plus, who doesn’t love a sax solo, am I right?
The Ballad of Willy Robbins is Vikesh Kapoor’s loose concept album about a working class man whose life crumbles and he loses his health, wife, and home. After playing for Howard Zinn’s family at the late historian’s memorial service in Boston, Kapoor was inspired to write the album over the course of two years in Portland. What resulted was a beautiful collection of stories of determination, grit, and the nuances of the human condition.
Kapoor is often compared to the great Americana folk singers like Pete Seegar and Woody Guthrie, but Kapoor tells me that his music isn’t intentionally political. Rather it’s the tradition of telling stories of the working class that Kapoor has revived. He stands out among many artists who live and produce music within a highly digitized world where songs are churned out constantly and consistently and put together by a producer on a computer.
Last Sunday’s (2/16) Schuba’s crowd warmly welcomed Kapoor’s raw pickings of the guitar, the bluesy sound of the harmonica, and Kapoor’s clear, full vocals. It’s true, most of the audience did not know Kapoor before Sunday but once he started singing, the entire room fell silent—and not in the way that implied that the show was boring, rather the audience had every intent to listen and connect with the stories they were told. Here was an actively listening audience—something that can be a rarity for those talented but still unknown musicians embarking on a major tour for the first time.
Just before the show, we sat in the basement of the legendary Chicago venue and reveled in the fact that so many great musicians had sat where we’d been sitting, drinking beer, and warming up to play. We talked about what it’s like to tour alone, Willy Robbins, and of course, vinyl.
“My grandma played me my first record on this giant cabinet console that must have really been the bee’s knees when she and my grandfather bought it.”
“She had a copy of ‘The Monster Mash’ that I would play until I got too spooked by side-b of the ‘scary sounds.’ Years later, it was the only turntable where I could try out some breakbeat records I bought thinking I could be the next Beastie Boys. She’s wasn’t all that enthused.”
“‘When I Die’ is a song about being so terrified of death that your only alternative is to micromanage the hell out of it. Unable to learn or grow from the experience, you assume that you’ll have the benefit of coming back from the afterlife and rubbing it in the faces of all those who slighted you during your time on earth.
You’ve probably seen Mutts around Chicago at local festivals like Do Division and Milwaukee Ave Arts Festival. Maybe you even heard their song “God, Country, Grave” on Cinemax’s Banshee or have seen their records in Reckless or Saki. No matter how you know them, if you live in Chicago, you’ve likely heard of Mutts.
Mutts will continue their residency at Township in Logan Square this upcoming Monday and every Monday for the rest of February. Half of the proceeds from this residency go to Chicago HOPES, a non-profit that organizes after school programs for kids living in homeless shelters throughout Chicago.
Mutts are supported by other Midwest bands during their residency including Kane Place Record Club from Milwaukee and Chicago rockers Common Shiner who are on the bill this week. Next week, Empires and Maid Myriad. The final show on 2/24 will be supported by Vic and Gab and Wedding Dress.
PHOTOS: DAN JARVIS | Chicago’s Riot Fest has come and gone, and I am in still recovering from the three days of musical nirvana I experienced in Humboldt Park. The weekend, full of rain and expensive beer, luckily also included an uncanny amount of powerful musical acts that ranged from punk rock to rap and many genres in between.
Friday was “Riot Fest Lite” for me. Arriving later in the afternoon, the first day was in full swing as we passed through the gates. The wristband, beer ticket, and beverage lines were all a mile long, and after a quick hour-long wait I was ready to enjoy some music.
That evening, I floated between stages, catching GWAR, Sublime with Rome, and even a minute or two of Fall Out Boy’s performance with an occasional stop to see the fire spinners and hula-hoopers.
Never knowing what they’ll do next, GWAR once again hit the Riot Fest stage with their abrasive live show. Say what you will about their music, but do they ever know how to put on a show. Last year they aborted Snooki’s baby on stage, and this year they tore the head off Super Zombie Jesus, all done with a great sense of pride and in the name of their home planet of Scumdogia.
Chicago’s go-to punk, rock, and alternative music festival, Riot Fest, is fast approaching. The festival will forcibly occupy Humboldt Park from September 13 to 15.
Since 2005, Riot Fest has balanced out Chicago’s festival season with music and reunions not brought to you by Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, or North Coast. And, if music at a music festival isn’t your thing, it’s also a carnival with rides, freak shows, and even a ferris wheel.
FRIDAY | Riot fest jumps right in on Day 1, and boy does it start with a bang. The day’s lineup ranges from the poetic hip hop of Saul Williams to punk rockers like Screeching Weasel and Bad Religion.
Rounding out the bill on Friday is a healthy dose of metal, including a 25th anniversary Danzig performance, Hatebreed, and the ever-entertaining (and messy) GWAR. Here are some of the other acts we’ll be catching on Friday.
The music of Paper Thick Walls has been placed upon the same pedestal as many of the great indie folk artists of the last two decades. On top of that, their debut album A Thousand Novels has received literally hundreds of positive reviews since its 2011 release. This Friday, these Chicago locals bring their brand of orchestral indie rock back home to the Double Door.
Their songs may present themselves as understated folk ballads upon first listen, but they quickly grow into raucous walls of sound. The five piece band is composed of violin, piano, guitar, upright bass, and drums.
Add to that equation the infectious songwriting and vocal style of lead band members Eric Michaels and Kate Schell, and you’ll see that there’s a damn good reason Paper Thick Walls has received so much praise.
“Mutts’ music embraces the inner turmoil, the things that are striven for, the ways that we fall short, the ways we’re let down, as well as the few things that spark us back onto the right track, even if those are the rare moments, the briefest of comebacks.” —Sean Moeller, Daytrotter
If you’re a Chicagoan and you haven’t heard of Mutts by now you might as well be saying you haven’t heard of Barack Obama. OK, that might be an exaggeration, but they have cemented themselves as a must-see band in the local music scene over their 4 years of releasing music together.
With a knack for honest, personal, and truly intimate songwriting, frontman Mike Maimone’s songs will tear at your heart-strings but mend them in due time. Their live show ranges from raucous keyboards and pounding drums to delicate piano ballads. Think Tom Waits, if he still had the energy to jump up on his piano mid-song.
Over the course of releasing three full length LPs and a whole bunch of EPs, the band has grown into a unified and versatile act that truly defies all genres.