PHOTOS: BRIGID GALLAGHER | Angel Olsen was welcomed to Chicago with two sold out nights at Thalia Hall this week. Joining her was bilingual crooner Rodrigo Amarante.
Brazilian singer-songwriter (perhaps best known for the theme song for Netflix’s Narcos), Rodrigo Amarante set the scene for the night holding down the stage with just his guitar and sweet vocals. Between songs he told the audience, “I had the best day. They treated me like a king here even though I’m just a pawn. I’m so happy.” You could feel his happiness as he whistled along with his tunes. As Amarante sang, he and his guitar filled the room with the impression of a full orchestra playing.
Amarante’s first solo album, Cavalo is currently available on vinyl. His sophomore release is anticipated some time this year.
A full house waited in anticipation gathering closer and closer to the stage as Angel Olsen’s set time was approaching. Soon her band entered the stage in uniformed suits topped off with bolo ties. A few moments later Olsen appeared on stage and everyone went silent as she put on her guitar. “Oh you’re quiet now…that’s cool,” she told the crowd who quickly began cheering, “Yeah right!” she exclaimed before playing the notes of her first song “Never Be Mine.”
2:42pm: As I’m running to catch the Juliette Lewis and the Licks, I hear Dee Snider covering Nine Inch Nails’ “Head Like a Hole” in the distance. I arrive Riot Fest’s Rock Stage and turn my attention to Juliette Lewis, who is absolutely commanding the stage. She twirls, jumps, dives, screeches.
3:00pm: The party has officially started. Andrew W.K. has arrived, muscles bulging out of his signature white t-shirt and white jeans. He stuffs his microphone into his pants and slams down on his keyboard, jazz notes ringing out. His fans are screaming so hard the noise is almost deafening. Party on.
3:08pm: Juliette Lewis can sing. I wander back over to the Rock Stage to catch her covering—and nailing—Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Before her final song she pauses, “I feel like music is a spiritual thing and I want to thank you for being here.” She ends her set with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary”—her version sounding like Tina turner on steroids.
2:31pm Walking in my wife accidentally says “Yay girl!” to a guy and he asks for her number. She’s off to a great start here at Riot Fest.
2:50pm: Young talent alert! Denzel Curry impresses the hell out of everyone by freestyling two songs a capella due to technical issues. He continues to impress once the issues have been fixed, and takes any opportunity to jump off the stage to connect with the crowd.
3:35pm: The Hold Steady is playing Boys and Girls in America in full at the Rock Stage and everyone is losing their minds. Even us photographers are singing along and smiling while trying to capture the moment.
4:09pm: I catch end of Motion City Soundtrack’s set, one of their last ever as they’ve announced their breakup, and it’s a pretty amazing scene. The crowd surfing is some of the best I’ve seen so far and once the set ends, the band tosses their picks, drumsticks, set lists, and more out to their fans, many of whom are in tears.
12:52pm: Diarrhea Planet is the perfect Riot Fest welcome. They’re rock, they’re punk, and they’re fun as hell.
1:11pm: I spot my first mohawk of the weekend. It’s tall, purple, and glorious.
1:14pm: There’s a small but diehard crowd for Fu Manchu to start, but by the end of their set the crowd has grown, perhaps as mesmerized by the impressive head-banging as I am.
1:30pm: A little rain, but nothing compared to past years.
1:41pm: A dude selling cheap-ass ponchos for $5 is making bank right now. Mine is less for the rain and more for GWAR’s upcoming set.
Mother Nature ordered up the most perfect Sunday night that we’ve seen all summer. Perhaps she knew what was going down at Millennium Park.
“We’re home,” Jeff Tweedy confirmed to the crowd as Wilco took the stage to play their first show in their hometown since 2014. Also home? Openers and up-and-comers Twin Peaks (a band, I might add, who is not to be missed live).
This celebration of Chicago bands lasted 3.5 hours. “Play all night,” a fan next to me thought aloud—a sentiment that I, and many others, shared with him. It was a perfect night and a perfect setting to sink into the music and appreciate all that Chicago has to offer. Wilco, we love you baby.
There’s something special about concerts at Wrigley Field. The bands and the fans always seem extra juiced. There’s a little extra sweat left on the stage and a few more tears shed throughout the ballpark. And one thing is for sure—no one ever wants the show to end in the Friendly Confines.
Multiply all of this by 10 and you have Pearl Jam’s sold out Wrigley shows (“Let’s play two!”) on August 20th and 22nd—their first shows back in Chicago since their epic 2013 run at, you guessed it—Wrigley Field. This is not by mistake. Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder is a diehard Cubs fan (I mean, he even wrote a song about it!) and when he hits the stage (in his Murphy’s Bleachers shirt) in that sacred and historic stadium, he hits it hard.
It was clear from the start that Seattle’s finest were not messing around. The setlists from each night consisted of the stuff PJ dreams are made of—including a slew of phenomenal covers (my personal favorite being Pink Floyd’s “Confortably Numb”). There were guest appearances—former Bull, Dennis Rodman on the 22nd and all-around incredible human being, former safety for the New Orleans Saints, Steve Gleason on the 20th. (Side note: do yourself a favor and see his documentary Gleason, about his battle with ALS. It’s tremendous.)
If there is not a special place in your heart for Dolly Parton, then I’m not sure you’re a living, breathing human.
No offense—perhaps you haven’t been stopped in your tracks by her distinctive voice or listened to her lyrical stories. Maybe you haven’t repeatedly watched Nine to Five or Steel Magnolias or Straight Talk. It’s possible that you haven’t heard her giggle or read an interview, noting her quick wit, humility, and messages of love and acceptance. Maybe you just don’t know enough about her. And that’s cool. But, for real—you’re missing out.
I’ll tell you who didn’t miss out though—the thousands of us in attendance at her sold-out show at Ravinia Festival, her first show there since 1993. Passing through the north shore of Chicago to celebrate her 43rd (yes, 43rd!) album, Pure and Simple, Dolly dazzled, danced, sang, shared, and strummed her way through her two-hour set. It was the most crowded I’ve ever seen Ravinia and a blanket of Dolly generated euphoria enveloped the audience. At 70 she’s not showing one sign of slowing down. And that’s great news for all of us. If Dolly’s making her way to a town near you, I recommend grabbing a ticket.
Alabama Shakes closed out their sold-out, two-night stint in Chicago at the Aragon Ballroom. After the elegant setting of the Civic Opera House the evening before, the band and its fans were ready to let loose in a less formal setting.
The beers were flowing and the sweat was pouring as the band took the stage to play a solid mix of songs off their two excellent and critically acclaimed albums, Boys and Girls and Sound and Color. As usual the star of the night was lead singer and guitarist Brittany Howard because, well, THAT. VOICE.
Fans strained to find a window to watch her as she wailed into the mic and shredded on her guitar. Alabama Shakes continue to prove themselves to be one of the best live acts on the road today. This was my fourth time seeing them and they continue to captivate. I’m already looking forward to the next show.
WORDS AND PHOTOS: JEREMY LAWSON | Upon arriving at Thalia Hall in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, I was greeted by the Secret Sisters. I was pretty bummed to have missed their entire set. They were just wrapping up an acoustic encore when I looked up to see the enormous ceilings of this amazing venue. I had never been to Thalia Hall and I picked the perfect show to experience the concert hall. The Secret Sisters left the stage and the crowd was ready for what was to come, a knee slapping, banjo picking, good old folk show.
Old Crow Medicine Show took the stage and I had no idea what was in store for me. The show started off with some of their older material. You could instantly tell that the crowd were long time followers of the band. Everyone was singing along and most of them were dancing—dancing alone, dancing with their partners, and dancing with strangers.
The energy was electric and the stage was set for a Pilsen dance party. At one point I was in the balcony and when I looked down nearly half of the crowd was swing dancing. Not your traditional swing dance but mostly swinging each other around with Old Style in hand. People were laughing, yelling and having a good ole time. This was my third time seeing the band and each time the party has gotten crazier.
3:07pm: Last day of Pitchfork ’16! Before I head towards the music, I decide check out the House of Vans area. There is only one House of Vans in the U.S. (Brooklyn) but that’s soon to change because one is being built here in Chicago. I’m psyched. All weekend the HoV area was allowing festival goers to build their own working vinyl turntable from scratch…FREE. Super cool.
3:37pm: Kamasi Washington is a whiz on the tenor sax—perhaps even more of an arrangement whiz. I have been listening to more and more of his music in recent months so his set was a must-see for me. He’s not disappointing, nor is his band, the West Coast Get Down. He is the present—and future—of jazz. It’s just an amazing, multilayered wall of sound hitting the audience.
3:47pm: Holy hell it’s hot today. But the sweat is worth it because Kamasi’s father, Rickey Washington, joins the band for “Cherokee.” He delivers a killer sax solo.