PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | This year’s Pitchfork Music Festival was full of great music, superb people-watching, and an all-around relaxed vibe. The shows I attended were pretty varied and on Friday, I caught the tail end of Factory Floor, then chilled out to Sharon Van Etten, and ended the night banging my head (sort of) to Beck. Saturday and Sunday were way busier and more crowded (those two days sold out) and there was a lot of litter on the ground by Sunday evening but for the most part, I thought it was a pretty good run.
All weekend, scheduled set times were strictly abided by. This was probably because of Chicago’s strict outdoor event curfew laws and shows that started late weren’t even an issue. Pusha T came on thirty minutes late and I heard fans say for a while afterwards that his was the best show they saw all weekend. Lines for beer and food varied depending on the time of day so if my friends and I saw a short line for any sustenance whatsoever, we seized those opportunities. Do I even need to mention cell phone service? Well, I have experienced much worse, but having a legitimate meeting spot was definitely helpful the whole weekend.
Union Park is also just really easy to navigate. There were three stages—Red and Green in the main park, and the Blue stage, which is on the opposite side towards Ashland Avenue and is nestled among the trees. Usually the more intimate and atmospheric-sounding acts play at the Blue stage, and the Red and Green stages alternate sets and maintain the headliners. This is very navigable setup which made it easy to catch as much music as I wanted throughout the day while also being able to see and eat and drink when I wanted.
I mean, you obviously don’t get the best sound quality waiting in line for a vegan gyro and a beer, but you know where I’m going, right?
The Pitchfork Music Festival is probably my favorite festival of the summer. This particular festival is maintained by only three stages in the West Loop’s Union Park which only seems tiny but really, it’s just as bumping and crowded (in a good way) as any other music festival. Pitchfork always draws a healthy balance of pitchfork.com darlings, big names, and smaller acts that do not disappoint.
It’s truly one of the most well-run events of the season. They’ve got port-a-potties galore! Food trucks with surprisingly good food! Well-dressed people! Not as many teenagers! Reasonable ticket prices! And of course, most importantly, the lineup is always killer.
There are so many great bands to see this year. In fact, I whole-heartedly recommend that you just go see as many acts as possible. Lucky for festival-goers, the schedule is managed in such a way that all the set times are staggered so that it is actually possible to catch every single show at some point. Yes, sacrifices must be made if you’re attempting an ambitious schedule so, for those times when you’re undecided on what to do, here are some of the acts we would recommend to our readers who plan to attend this weekend.
PHOTOS: SARAH DERER | Blank Range is a five-piece rock n’ roll band out of Nashville. And while you can probably get a sense of their “sound” from that statement alone, each member brings a diverse set of influences to the table, putting their own memorable stamp on a tried and true formula.
For a band that’s only self-released a cassette and a 7”, Blank Range has attracted a lot of attention. The group won BMI’s Road to Bonnaroo competition in February, making them the first band announced for the festival’s 2014 installment. They were guests on Daytrotter back in November, and, as of April, are the latest addition to The Billions Corporation’s roster of artists. All this recognition has helped them accumulate a notable following in and around their home state of Tennessee, with a burgeoning national fan base set to see Blank Range on their first official tour.
Band members Jonathan Childers (guitar/vocals), Grant Gustafson (guitar/vocals), Jon Rainville (keyboard/vocals), Matt Novotny (drums/vocals) and Aaron Wahlman (bass/vocals) all hail from the Midwest, and despite their home base in Nashville, agree that “regional” or “Southern” rock isn’t an appropriate classification. They’ve shared the stage with Southern rockers Futurebirds and Southern-inspired rockers Blitzen Trapper, but the group has a sound all its own—driven, in equal measure, by each member’s unique musical aesthetic.
PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | “My name is Chet Faker and I’m going to play you a few songs. I’d be surprised if you didn’t know that already,” he said stepping on stage, taking his place alone but but surrounded by machines—keyboards, synths, and trackpads—sporting an impressive red beard and a big-ass smile. This is the guy? Oh yes, this is the guy whose downtempo version of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” practically blew up the Internet in 2011.
It’s hard not to hit the repeat button on this sweet homage to an R&B classic. Faker’s 2012 EP “Thinking in Textures” came out shortly after the infamous cover was released and his latest and full length debut, Built on Glass came out this year. To support the record, Faker brought his woozy, atmospheric, electro-R&B to Lincoln Hall on Tuesday night and got a sold out crowd to dance all the way through what literally became a really hot set.
Right before the encore, Faker revealed that he had asked the venue to turn off the fans. Though it was apparent that there was quite a bit of off-the-cuff mixing, remixing, and ranting happening—the setlist, the light show, and the temperature were all intentional. I admit I was a little peeved for about a second that he admitted to turning the fans off, but I honestly don’t think the show would have been as sexy if it weren’t for all that body heat.
Santah, will be throwing an official record release this Friday at Schuba’s for their new 7” single, “Awwh Man.” If you haven’t heard of Santah yet, you’ll want to hop on this train really quick! They are Stanton and Vivian McConnell (bro & sis!), Steve Plock, Tommy Trafton, and Michael Winegardner.
Their music is full of sunny melodies with a rock n’ roll backbone paired with metaphorical lyrics about life, nature, and love. The release of the new 7” single, “Awwh, Man,” from these Chicago indie rockers seems to go perfectly with the start of the summer season. It’s about that time when a hint of humidity hits the air and winter coats can finally take their place in storage. To see them play at Schuba’s this Friday will be a solid start to the summer indeed.
Santah has had a short but busy past three years in Chicago. Since 2011, they’ve put out two very solid LPs, and played all around Chicago while making a genuinely good impression on the music scene in this city. They are the kind of band that when you hear their songs, you will crave to see them live—the music is so layered and sonically full and it would be a disservice to yourself to avoid tracking down their vinyl and snagging tickets to their shows. With Santah, you are going to want the full effect.
The songwriting is also just outstanding and cool. The more I listened to Santah, the more I was curious about the stories behind these emotional yet upbeat rock albums. I wanted to know if White Noise Bed and You’re Still A Lover had a connection. Was there another chapter to be written? Did it all just mean nothing? I found out that there’s a bit of both plus more in Santah’s songs.
Between taking photos and tidying up their practice space, the band gave me their perspective on their intention to record via analog, what artists and albums they’ve been listening to, and what’s next.
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.