Category Archives: TVD Chicago

TVD Live Shots: Converge, Cloud Nothings, Djunah at House of Vans, 8/24

The masses came out for the final show of the Vans House Parties at House of Vans this summer, curated by heavy hitters Converge. With the line to get in wrapping around the block, it was easy to recognize that this summer concert series was going to end with a bang.

Djunah was the first to hit the stage, a two-piece rock band hailing from Chicago. The crowd was watching intently, bopping their heads along with the melodies. It was pretty chill during this set, the crowd presumably saving up all their energy for the headliner. This didn’t stop Djunah from delivering an action packed set that felt like the stage was filled with multiple musicians. Their debut album is due to be released in November.

Cloud Nothings, the genre bending rock band from Ohio, came up next. Switching between slower indie rock songs, to amped up punk songs, the crowd bounced along rhythmically. Even the concertgoers sitting on the skate ramps were bopping along to the music. They were successful in getting the crowd ready for Converge.

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TVD Live Shots: Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Trombone Shorty at Huntington Bank Pavilion, 8/17

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue have hit the road this summer on a co-headlining tour. They swung through Chicago’s summer concert hotspot—Huntington Bank Pavilion—on what turned out to be a beautiful Saturday night.

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue hit the stage hard and didn’t let up. The band brought some much appreciated New Orleans flair and played with such intensity that every song might as well have been their last. Trombone Shorty was more than happy to share the spotlight with his bandmates, as each took their moment to solo and shine.

Ben Harper assembled the original Innocent Criminals (Juan Nelson, Leon Mobley, and Oliver Charles) for this tour and what a treat it was to see them all together twenty years later. Their set felt more introspective and intimate than Shorty’s spirited performance, but that’s the beauty of Harper’s work. It was particularly satisfying to hear some of his older tunes (“Fight for Your Mind,” “Welcome to the Cruel World”) as well as a great cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”

The tour hits the east coast next and wraps up at the end of August in Lenox, MA.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza at Grant Park, 8/4

4:00PM: I’ve been stuck in the north entrance Lollapalooza line with 4,000 new companions. We’re inching along so I’m guessing I won’t have the chance to photograph Francis and the Lights. Bummer.

4:28PM: A little excitement here in the security line. A girl next to me simply couldn’t wait any longer to use the restroom. Pleading cries didn’t help her, but the crowd did. Those close formed a human circle to protect her from cops seeing her while she natured it. Teamwork.

4:39PM: I’m inside the gates! Finally! It’s the busiest day of the weekend (and best daily lineup). I weave my way through the crowds to Perry’s Stage.

5:22PM: Why the hell am I at Perry’s Stage? Would you believe me if I said Shaq? The NBA Hall of Famer has taken up a DJ career and goes by the stage name of Diesel. His skills are…shall we say less developed than his basketball game, but no one seems to care. The crowd rages and the scorch of the pyrotechnics leaves me sweaty.

5:25PM: Just got word that 300 to 400 kids broke down the gates at Michigan Ave. and Harrison St. about 20 minutes ago. Oh boy.

5:26PM: The Revivalists played their entire set with an “End Gun Violence” backdrop. We fell asleep to the news from El Paso and woke up to the news from Dayton. It’s not far from anyone’s thoughts today.

5:55PM: A mysterious skywriter appears above Grant Park during Sharon Van Etten’s set. “Smile” it spells out.

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TVD Live Shots:
Kacey Musgraves
at the Metro, 8/3

WORDS AND IMAGES: JEREMY LAWSON | Kacey Musgraves is in the middle of an insanely successful and busy year, having been on the road with her “Oh What a World” tour practically non-stop since January 9th (and picking up an impressive pile of Grammys along the way).

Chicago has been especially good to her: Kacey performed for a sold out crowd at the Chicago Theater last March and was back in town on August 3rd, this time playing to a packed house at the Metro on the eve of her Lollapalooza set.

The show opened just as her album Golden Hour does, with the lovely, mellow and so, so singable “Slow Burn,” inviting her fans to warm up their vocal chords and perform along with her. The crowd did not disappoint on that front, as they matched Kacey word-for-word on every song throughout the set; a testament to how Kacey’s music has resonated with today’s listeners and a harbinger of amazing performances yet to come.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza at Grant Park, 8/3

3:56PM: I’m making a list of Lollapalooza wardrobe trends while waiting for Smino. So far I have: body and facial glitter, fish nets, swimsuits, fanny packs, neon, thongs. I look down at my breathable linen pants and sensible shoes and…I’m definitely not on trend.

4:15PM: Smino brought props…in the form of a pink Pontiac named “Pepto.” Awesome. His silky smooth vocals soar, even when he’s rapping.

4:26PM: I stop at the Toyota Music Den and decide that Liily needs a bigger stage. The LA-based alternative band is using every square inch of space to thrash around.

5:10PM: I find myself over at the BMI Stage, mainly because I haven’t been to it yet. It’s a hidden gem of a stage—nicely shaded by trees. Witt Lowry is performing a cappella because of sound issues. The crowd helps him out.

6:32PM: So. Many. Instagram. Stories. Endless and everywhere. We need to stop watching everything through our phones.

6:41PM: Airplane banner ads have been flying above Grant Park all weekend, but I just eyed the best one: “We’re Rolling Too” courtesy of Well played—and a brief distraction from AJR’s pretty brutal set on the Tito’s Stage.

7:11PM: “This is a fucking sexy ass town! You know that, right?” Jack Black of Tenacious D asks to claps and laughter. They’re working their way through their discography with select highlights from each album. They begin with their most recent, “Post-Apocalypto,” and work their way back to the most beloved, their eponymous 2001 debut.

7:18PM: Jack Black is feeling like dancing. So is Kyle Gass. He requests a sax and a kids’ Fisher Price sax is retrieved. He “plays” it, the band joins in, and—you guessed it—a dance party ensues.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza at Grant Park, 8/2

3:08PM: “This is what five feminists looks like,” IDLES lead singer Joe Talbot growls before the Bristol rock band dives into “Mother.” They are just the jolt of rock Lollapalooza needs (and once had on the regular). Three songs in and guitarist Mark Bowen and bassist Adam Devonshire have already leaped into the crowd. This is a set I won’t forget.

3:28PM: Wandering past the Toyota Music Den, I hear a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” It’s The New Respects. I pause to listen and enjoy.

4:26PM: Japanese Breakfast finishes up an already stellar set with a great cover of Wilco’s “Jesus, etc.” Nice touch.

4:31PM: Fence hoppers! At least 20 just leaped over the fences by the Bud Light Stage and once again security cannot catch them. They’re in!

5:12PM: Maggie Rogers is playing directly into the sun but that doesn’t stop her from bouncing around the stage with seemingly endless energy. She is dancing up a storm!

5:54PM: Conan Gray just did a gymnastics routine for an interview in the Press Tent and we were all so impressed we clapped. He stuck the landing.

7:13PM: And now for the main event: Janelle Monae! “Life is only made of memories—tiny small moments,” she reflects. “My only hope to you, Chicago, is that I create a memory for you because what I’m seeing right now is a memory I’ll never forget.” She gazes out at the field of people with the skyline as the backdrop.

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TVD Live: Lollapalooza at Grant Park, 8/1

2:54PM: I just witnessed three drug deals so far walking down Michigan Avenue. I can hear the EDM from Perry’s Stage, which as it turns out is an appropriate soundtrack for the transactions. Lollapalooza 2019 has arrived. Here we go!

4:34PM: We’re off to an exciting start! The first fence jumper of the weekend races out of Artist Village. Security is chasing him but the jumper is too speedy and successfully disappears into crowd.

4:45PM: Matt Shultz of Cage the Elephant spotting! He’s here today as a concertgoer, not a performer, but still manages to look as intriguing as ever holding the skeleton of an umbrella.

5:26PM: H.E.R. begins her set a little late but quickly proves she can do it all. Three songs in and she’s already played the guitar, bass, and drums. And did I mention she has a beautiful voice?

6:54PM: Saba is charming, often flashing his adorable smile throughout his time slot at the American Eagle Stage. The Chicago native is making his hometown proud.

7:09PM: I wander south and catch the end of Hozier and notice that the sound has improved since last year. No surprise—at this point Lolla runs like a well oiled machine. It’s impressive, given its size (Lolla averages 100,000 attendees per day). Not enough can be said for the fest organizers who continue to perfect elements of Lolla each year.

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TVD Live Shots:
Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle at Huntington Bank Pavilion, 7/31

On the eve of Lollapalooza, Huntington Bank Pavilion hosted what might as well have been the opening night of the festival as it featured Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle (all Lolla alums, I might add). Normally I would’ve been fast asleep preparing for the long weekend ahead, but The Night Running tour was not one I wanted to miss. I had a feeling it would be special—and it turns out I was right.

First up was Wild Belle. Siblings Natalie and Eliot Bergman and Erik Hall took the stage looking impeccable in white, as if they’d just stepped off a Caribbean yacht. Their breezy, island vibes sounded like it as well and accentuated the perfect Chicago night. “I think we’re related to most of you,” the Chicago natives joked while thanking the crowd at the end of their set.

Britt Daniels doesn’t age, I’ve decided. The Spoon frontman looks great and sounds great, as does the rest of the band. It’s an invigorating show, and one that showcases Spoon’s impressive discography. My only complaint is that they couldn’t play longer.

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TVD Live Shots:
Kali Uchis, Iris Temple, and Tatiana Hazel at Metro, 7/30

Founded in 2007 by Lauren McClusky, Nelarusky holds an annual benefit at the famous Chicago venue Metro to raise money and awareness for the Special Olympics. This year marks their 13th year holding this benefit concert that has become an official Lollapalooza after show, and to date they have raised over $300,000. This year’s benefit saw Kali Uchis, Iris Temple, and Tatiana Hazel come together on Tuesday, July 30th, 2019, to help add to Nelarusky’s impressive donation total.

Tatiana Hazel started the night off with a band, dominating the stage almost immediately. Chants of “I love you, Tati” could be heard from the crowd. Her energy lit up the room, which was apparent due the crowds non-stop dancing. This set was bittersweet for Hazel, as she announced during the last half of her set that she is moving to California soon, so this was her last show in Chicago as a Chicago resident. She powered through the rest of her set and the crowd was left amped up for the next performance.

A quick break between sets was filled with a brief announcement from Nelarusky thanking the crowd for being there and highlighting the accomplishments of athlete Barbara Kozdron, aka Barbie. Barbie’s speech was met with instant applause as she detailed her favorite sports to compete in and informed everyone that she has won over 600 gold medals in figure skating, as well as bench pressing 185 pounds. The crowd was very supportive.

Iris Temple was up next. Their jazzy and soulful sound mixed with their hard-hitting lyrics about anxiety, depression, and falling out of love had the crowd in their feelings. The music fit very well for their topics, and the musicality of the musicians was nothing short of amazing. Their harmonies and melodies meshed very well together.

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TVD Live Shots: Anderson .Paak, The Free Naturals, Kadhja Bonet at House of Vans, 7/25

There aren’t many cities that are fortunate enough to have a House of Vans, so I’m sure glad that Chicago is one of them.

Every summer, we are spoiled with a selection of free house parties curated by musicians and artists and hosted by Vans. And man are they the hosts with the most: admission is free, beverages are free (even beer!), and mementos from the evening (such as shirts, hats, posters or shoes) are also free. In other words, we are spoiled.

Last week was no exception, as Anderson .Paak took his turn curating the space and sound of the House of Vans for one awesome night. It featured an art installation by Dewey Saunders, as well as live performances by Kadhja Bonet, The Free Nationals and the man himself. It was an exceptional night of fun and dancing in a unique, intimate setting.

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TVD Live: Pitchfork Music Festival, 7/21

3:30PM: I’m listening to Pitchfork Radio en route to the fest and am enjoying Khruangbin’s interview. Bassist Laura Lee is talking about attending her first Phish concert this year (she was blown away) while the sounds of JPEGMAFIA on the Red Stage float over. “Looks like he’s going off over there,” guitarist Mark Speer remarks.

4:03PM: Well Khruangbin was not wrong. I’ve arrived in time to catch the last half of JPEGMAFIA’s set and it might be the performance of the weekend. He’s thrashing around, diving into the crowd, laughing, and putting on an all-around intensely mesmerizing show. He finishes: “I’ve got something very disappointing coming soon and I’m about to go get high. Peace.” As I’m walking away, I hear one fan ask another, “Can we go get high with him?!”

5:24PM: The Chirp Record Fair is as solid as ever, and features local record stores as well as labels. I’ve just spent some time deep diving into the stacks and am heading home with some gems. The Renegade Craft Tent and Flagstock Poster Fair are equally overflowing with talented artists and I wander through, appreciating their work (and the shade).

6:10PM: My record player has spun a ton of Khruangbin in the last couple years, so I guess it’s no surprise that I’m digging everything about their set. Props to Pitchfork for scheduling them at sunset at the Red Stage. The sun rays are peaking through from the side of the stage, perfectly accentuating the band’s funky, psychedelic sound.

6:23PM: Clairo, fresh off her Green Stage set, is in the crowd for Khruangbin. Fans immediately recognize her and she obliges by taking photos with them.

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TVD Live: Pitchfork Music Festival, 7/20

The second day of the Pitchfork Music Festival pulled out all the stops. The day started out hot and sunny as Japanese pop band CHAI took the stage. The adorable four-piece girl group have been interviewed as saying they want to “take Kawaii back” and redefine the definition of Japanese cute culture.

While they didn’t speak much English, and the audience clearly didn’t speak Japanese, both the band and the crowd were smiling during their entire set. As their set came to a close, they each put on colorful cloaks and danced to a techno song that kept shouting “We are CHAI!” Every moment of their set was wonderful, and they fit in perfectly with Pitchfork’s crowd.

Parquet Courts had one of the most intense and energetic crowds of the weekend. Bassist Sean Yeaton continuously made amazing faces and poses as their lead singer Austin Brown growled into the mic. During their set, fans were moshing and crowd surfing while taking photos on disposable cameras and throwing their gym shoes in the air. As photographers took a break before the next set, I heard Brown say “well folks, looks like Mother Nature is going to cut our set short.” No one knew quite what was going on, until a delightful British voice came on over the speakers, letting us know that big storms were coming. Somehow, a few of us made it to a bar nearby before it began pouring, but we were bummed that both Kurt Vile and Amber Mark’s sets were cut from Saturday.

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TVD Live: Pitchfork Music Festival, 7/19

2:26PM: I’m en route to the 15th Annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park and currently listening to Pitchfork Radio’s live stream. Chicago native Tasha has just finished up an intimate, beautiful set and I imagine she’s heading somewhere air-conditioned to cool off. We’re in the middle of a severe heat wave and it’s taking its toll on everyone. The current “feels like” temperature is 109 degrees F.

2:32PM: Grapetooth is playing DJ now and the song selection is Chicago-centric. It’s appropriate, given that every year Pitchfork devotes a decent chunk of the lineup to local talent.

2:52PM: I’ve made it inside the park and the heat is no joke. I’m sweating, but not as badly as Standing on the Corner, who happen to be playing directly in the sun on the Green Stage. There looks to be a full orchestra on the stage—dozens of musicians—and the melodies flood the field.

3:03PM: Rico Nasty puffs on a joint and observes the scene from the Blue Stage. She’s drawn a crowd and there’s a large consortium of them who seem unfazed by the heat as they’re moshing.

3:22PM: Valee hasn’t broken a sweat and is spitting verse, cool as a cucumber. HOW?!

3:58PM: I’m so pleased to see Pitchfork giving the Young Chicago Authors’ Louder Than A Bomb Poets a platform. They’re performing spoken word in between sets on the Blue Stage, and it’s mighty impressive and inspiring.

4:08PM: Grapetooth is here to dance, and so are their fans. The drums are loud, the synth is singing, and the boogie-ing has commenced.

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TVD Live Shots: Taking Back Sunday at House of Vans, 7/13

Behold the night of celebrating 20 years with Taking Back Sunday in Chicago at House of Vans, where it felt like one big high school reunion as vocalist Adam Lazzara announced that drummer Mark O’Connell wasn’t there this night because “he [was] having a baby!!” (To which in turn led to Lazzara giving us all a brief pop quiz on how babies are made.)

Current drummer of Against Me!, Atom Willard (previously of The Offspring, The Special Goodness, Danko Jones, and founding member of Angels and Airwaves), stepped in O’Connell’s stead for a night of relishing memories of past triumphs and shared anguish of relinquished feelings. Nothing brings a room full of people together like screaming nostalgic lyrics attached to more-than-familiar melodies.

As Lazzara had previously stated, they are “traveling the world to celebrate the amazing brotherhood, music, and life we have created together over the past 20 years… for what is sure to be an experience to remember.” To make an already special tour an even more special night, this particular show at House of Vans was part of their Vans House Parties Series where the headlining artist gets to curate the whole show and instead of buying tickets, attendees get in for free via a RSVP, first come, first served basis. Taking Back Sunday curated the show with openers Rozwell Kid and Pronoun, featuring an art installation by Brian Ewing.

The night spent with Taking Back Sunday’s Lazzara, Willard, John Nolan (guitarist), Shaun Cooper (bassist), and Nathan Coogan (touring guitarist) was complete with moshing, crowd surfing, Lazzara’s seamless mic throws, (albeit a bit constrained and constricted to the intimate space) and a collective donning of all the emo feels.

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TVD Live Shots:
Outlaw Music Festival
at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre, 6/28

Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival hit the Chicagoland area at the end of last month and featured a heck of a lineup: Willie Nelson & Family, Phil Lesh & Friends, The Avett Brothers, Alison Krauss, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dawes, and Lissie.

Due to classic Chicago traffic, I arrived late but was able to catch the end of Alison Krauss’ lovely set. The Avett Brothers were up next and wowed the crowd (as usual) with their undeniable harmonies, musicianship and energy. At one point Scott Avett ran the perimeter of the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre pavilion, all while singing and hi-fiving fans, which I found to be an impressive feat of athleticism, especially in the heat and humidity.

I spent most of Phil Lesh & Friends’ set sitting in the grass and watching the sunset—a perfect location to take in some Grateful Dead classics. “Wharf Rat,” “Terrapin Station,” and “Black Muddy River” were just a few of the standouts.

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