Category Archives: TVD Chicago

TVD Live Shots:
Mavis Staples at the
Vic Theatre, 2/6

Chicagoans might not agree on everything, but there is one thing that I’ve come to find that we all agree upon: our shared love for musician, civil rights activist, and hometown gal, Mavis Staples

If you’ve not seen Mavis in concert, I urge you to make an effort to attend one of her shows. And if she’s not coming to a town near you, you owe it to yourself to check out the 2015 documentary, Mavis! The reason is simple—this woman is a pure ray of sunshine in an often disheartening world. She IS joy (I’m pretty sure she’s an official synonym for “joy” in the dictionary at this point).

Mavis’ spirit is contagious. Hearing her sing just one song is all that it will take. You’ll be hooked for life, which is a good thing because she’s got a lifetime of music. I recommend starting with The Staples Singers and working all the way up to her latest critically acclaimed album, 2017’s If All I Was Was Black.

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TVD Live Shots:
Buddy Guy and Mojo Daddy at Buddy Guy’s Legends, 1/28

So, in case you live under a rock, let me clue you in to an undisputed fact: Buddy Guy is THE MAN.

He’s a 7-time Grammy winner, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, one of the greatest guitarists ever to play the instrument, and aside from Eric Clapton, he’s influenced Jimi Hendrix, Keith Richards, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, to name a few. There is no one quite like this Chicago blues legend. And every year the lone saving grace of January in Chicago is his month-long residency at his venue, Buddy Guy’s Legends.

I caught his final 2018 residency show and boy was that a treat. Buddy played for three straight hours, pausing only to share anecdotes with the audience and to bring his son, Greg, and daughter, Carlise, to the stage to perform with him. At 81, Buddy showed no signs of stopping as he charged through the crowd playing his guitar. Like a fine wine, Buddy only gets better with age. You can see for yourself.

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TVD Live Shots: BØRNS and Charlotte Cardin at the Riviera Theatre, 1/27

BØRNS brought his tour in support of his sophomore album Blue Madonna to Chicago this past weekend for a sold-out show at the Riviera Theatre. Support from openers Charlotte Cardin and Mikky Ekko helped to make it a solid electro-pop, rock-filled evening from start to finish.

BØRNS has a flair for production, fashion, and theatrics. It was apparent from the moment he took the stage. But most impressive to me was his beautiful voice, which even managed to soar above the symphony of squeals coming from the audience at certain points.

BØRNS’ tour carries on throughout North America—with a brief stint in Australia—before heading to Europe in the Spring.

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TVD Live Shots: TNK Fest with Diane Coffee and Ron Gallo at Lincoln Hall, 1/19

January in Chicago can be rather dreary.

The end-of-the-year holiday insanity has passed, and we have not much but cold weather on the horizon for the time being. However, years ago the good geniuses at Schubas Tavern and Lincoln Hall decided to organize a winter music festival, Tomorrow Never Knows. TNK Fest now spans across five venues (Schubas, Lincoln Hall, Metro, Hideout, and SmartBar), lasts for five days, and features a shitload of talented musicians and comedians.

My work travel schedule prevented me from attending the bulk of TNK Fest this year, but I was able to catch Diane Coffee and Ron Gallo’s excellent show at Lincoln Hall on January 19th. Both bands are worth the cost of a ticket. Diane Coffee is a true performer, bringing stage theatrics to enhance his brand of psych rock. And be on the lookout for Philadelphia’s Ron Gallo, who’s got some great garage rock tunes and a fun stage presence.

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TVD Live Shots: Angel Olsen at the Riviera Theatre, 12/9

Angel Olsen and her excellent band cruised through Chicago last Saturday to play to a sold-out Riviera Theatre.

Her performances, which have always been wonderful, continue to beautiful, fun, and memorable. It was a nice little holiday homecoming for the former Chicagoan, who’s released one solid album after another since her 2012 debut. Her tour continues to DC and her current home of Asheville before heading to Australia and Europe for several dates.

She’s more than worth the price of admission, so grab a ticket!

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TVD Live Shots: Queens of the Stone Age and Run the Jewels at the Aragon Ballroom, 12/2

The final evening of WKQX’s “The Night We Stole Christmas” concert series at the Aragon was definitely one to remember thanks to the stellar lineup.

Hip Hop duo Run the Jewels (Killer Mike and El-P) heated things up before alternative metal band Queens of the Stone Age headlined. It was fun to see a lineup that paired hip hop with hard rock and fans of both acts were gifted an early holiday present.

As usual, both live shows were excellent—but that’s the golden standard that’s come to be expected when you go to see QOTSA or RTJ.

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TVD Live Shots:
LCD Soundsystem at the Aragon Ballroom, 11/6

LCD Soundsystem wrapped up three sold-out nights at the Aragon Ballroom Monday evening.

Touring in support of their most recent (and excellent) work American Dream, the band appears more polished than ever and continues to be one of the most exciting live acts on the planet. Simply said, they put on the best disco dance party I’ve ever attended—and likely will ever attend. Until, of course, their next show.

Spoiling the crowd with an array of new and old hits, the heat index in the Aragon quickly spiked off the charts. The sweat unabashedly drip down every body in the Ballroom. It didn’t matter. We danced ourselves clean.

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TVD Live Shots: Arcade Fire and The Breeders at the United Center, 10/30

Arcade Fire brought their Infinite Content Tour to the United Center Monday night, treating the crowd to an in-the-round setup. It was quite literally a boxing ring equipped with a rotating stage positioned in the middle of the arena. The effect? A more intimate, club-like feeling in what is otherwise a venue better suited for sporting events than concerts. I dug it, along with their stellar lighting (bonus points for not one but two disco balls) and thoughtful production.

Arcade Fire is just one of those bands that really comes to life live. Their songs have such anthemic qualities and there’s just so much to watch; so much talent to witness. It’s like a game of musical chairs—who’s going to play what instrument next? And because of that, my expectations are high at their shows.

So I’m happy to report that they exceeded my expectations yet again. This is a band that gives their hearts and souls to their fans, night after night. And from the look of it, they have fun doing it too. The setlist favored their latest album Everything Now, but pulled from their entire discography. It was a pre-Halloween dance party, as many attendees rocked some incredible costumes.

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TVD Live Shots:
Tori Amos and Scars
on 45 at the Chicago Theatre, 10/27

Tori Amos brought her Native Invader tour to the Windy City for a beautiful night of songs last Friday. At times, I forgot it was just one woman on the stage, as her impeccable voice, her piano mastery, and her commanding presence filled The Chicago Theatre. She is, and always has been, a thrilling performer.

The setlist spanned her impressive discography and she even managed to throw in a couple of lovely covers during her “Fake Muse” segment—Sade’s “Smooth Operator” and Jim Croce’s “Operator.” Each night Tori’s setlist evolves, so there was an air of anticipation in the theatre. But the audience was visibly and audibly thrilled, particularly after “Yes, Anastasia,” “Take to the Sky,” and “Precious Things.”

British pop trio Scars on 45 opened the show. Tori’s U.S. tour continues through early December, and a ticket to one of them is worth every penny.

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TVD Live Shots: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile with Jen Cloher at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 10/26

When I first heard that Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were coming out with a collaboration album, I had two thoughts: (1) musically speaking, that makes a ton of sense, and (2) this is gonna be a good album. (Spoiler alert: it is.)

Now, after watching them play together for the first of three Chicago shows in honor of the Empty Bottle’s 25th birthday, I wonder if it’s possible that they were separated at birth. Tall, slender, and flanneled, their long, dark hair covered their faces as their guitars and voices conversed with one another. Just two musical soulmates born across the world from each other, destined to meet to eventually spoil us all with their creative riches.

It was a memorable evening to say the least. It’s always a treat to see Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, but to see them play together was a full-on dessert tray. They seem perfectly paired, bouncing sounds back and forth. Their chemistry is natural, innate. It’s a fated partnership for sure—one that I hope will continue to give us a Lotta Sea Lice.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/17

3:18 PM | The last day of Riot Fest ’17 is underway and the crowd is very happy to see local fellas, The Orwells, take the stage. Frontman Mario Cuomo shimmies and screams, occasionally flashing a mischievous grin at the crowd.

4:00 PM | The Mighty Mighty Bosstones are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Let’s Face It by playing it in full. It’s a scene of pure jubilation. Everyone is smiling—the crowd, the band, security, my fellow photographers. I even take a moment to see if I can figure out how to ska after all these years. (Verdict: rusty for sure but just like riding a bike.)

4:22 PM | We’re standing in the photo pit waiting for Cap’n Jazz (another Chicago band—yay!) to begin and the head of security is telling his guys that one of them needs to take a break. “Already did, boss,” one responds, holding up a half-eaten monster of a ham sandwich. “No, I want you to sit. I want one of you to take a break,” bossman reiterates. “We’ll be dead tomorrow it doesn’t matter,” another jokes. “No seriously I wanna work this one,” Mr. Ham Sandwich says mid-bite. “This guy is crazy. He goes nuts.”

4:38 PM | Mr. Ham Sandwich is 100% correct. “We’re Queens of the Stone Age thanks for coming!” lead singer Tim Kinsella jokes, minutes before leaping into the crowd to get tussled around while still singing. Their set is one of the most memorable—and best—of the weekend.

5:09 PM | Gwar just entered the press area and I’ve never seen so many industry professionals lose their composure all at once and to this extent. I mean, reporters are begging them for selfies. BEGGING. Literally everyone is ignoring their assignments to get photos with these sci-fi, man/beast, heavy metal warriors.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/16

1:57 PM | The lines to get into Riot Fest are huge today. Well, one line, I should say: the women’s line. Security has divided us by gender despite the fact that male security guards are patting down both lines. I’m obviously not the only one trying to figure out why this makes any logistical sense. Behind me a woman jokes to her friends, “The patriarchy ruins it again!”

2:18 PM | I’m drawn to the sound at the Roots Stage. Turns out it’s Black Pistol Fire. I like their sound—it’s solid, bluesy hard rock. And I like their stage presence—high energy.

2:48 PM | Well Peaches has arrived…in a vagina hat and shaggy pink body suit. Provocative as ever, she’s taken over the festival. She’s all anyone can talk about.

3:15 PM | WTF is up with this small ass crowd for Shabazz Palaces? I blame Peaches, whose crowd continues to grow as she dances and leaps into the audience singing lyrics such as “Whose jizz is this?”

3:21 PM | Ok, here comes the crowd for Shabazz. They’re filling in and grooving now.

4:00 PM | Supergroup alert! Dead Cross has taken the stage. Mike Patton is wailing into the mic and the crowd is losing their shit.

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TVD Live Shots: Riot Fest Chicago, 9/15

2:18 PM | Aaaaaand we’re off! The final festival of the good weather season here in Chicago. Shockingly, it’s a scorcher today and I notice a lot of people in black taking cover in the shade.

2:38 PM | I catch the second half of Liars’ set and Angus Andrews is rocking a white tutu. Combined with his white tank, it appears as if he’s thrashing across the stage in a wedding dress. An excellent start to Riot Fest.

3:05 PM | Saul Williams is a spoken word master and he’s doing his thing right now. “Your punk rock ain’t that punk rock…if it doesn’t make fascists explode,” he tells the crowd. They cheer in agreement.

3:27 PM | I am now taking a moment in the shade with everyone else. The spot happens to be in a sound melting pot zone—you can hear three stages at once. X + Saul Williams + Four Years Strong = the first supergroup of the weekend.

4:12 PM | The Buzzcocks are bringin’ the punk all the way from the UK. Nostalgia is in the air.

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TVD Live: Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park, 9/2–9/3

PHOTOS: DENNIS McDONOUGH | Millennium Park was swinging with New Orleans grooves while tipping the scales in favor of the jazz-oriented city’s more edgy sounds when the Chicago Jazz Festival took over the park on Labor Day weekend. There were lots of homegrown players as well as the cream of the crop of New York’s young stars, and one very special musician from South Africa.

Mary Halvorson (pictured below) is known as a guitar player’s guitar player and she has been setting the standard in New York for over a decade. For her show in Chicago she brought her octet with Susan Alcorn on pedal steel, saxophonists Jon Irabagon and Ingrid Laubrock, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, trombonist Jacob Garchik, bassist John Hebert, and drummer Ches Smith.

Halvorson is known as a prickly, jittery player who writes very inventive music. With the octet she was able to showcase her compositions which move from pastoral to a fierce storm. On the lyrical second song, the trumpeter’s solo was a majestic clarion call.

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TVD Live Shots: Green Day and Catfish and the Bottlemen at Wrigley Field, 8/24

Green Day put on what was easily the most exhilarating performance that Wrigley Field has seen all summer—and that’s saying something, given the ballpark’s abundant and star-studded 2017 concert lineup. Also, it’s worth noting that what was arguably the most fun and celebratory show at Wrigley all summer was the cheapest one. (Thanks Green Day for making your shows affordable.)

Where to begin? There was a drunk bunny tossing toys into the crowd, pyrotechnics, Billie’s leaps, Mike’s facial expressions, Tré’s tutu, jokes, a t-shirt canon, so many fireworks, sing-a-longs, Chicago-centric covers (“Shout,” etc.) and rally cries. (In general: theatrics galore!) Multiple fans were pulled from the crowd to sing and stage dive. One, “Ritchie from Glenview,” was given the guitar he was brought to the stage to play. I mean, the band gave so much to the crowd that we might as well have been contestants on a game show.

Seriously though, Green Day is incredibly generous to their fans. And I’m not talking about their giveaways. They’re kind, considerate, and loyal to their fanbase. They played every single song as if it was their last time playing it. Ever. How they still have this much energy 30+ years later is beyond me. The band was juiced, the crowd was juiced, and it made for one hell of a fun ride. Even Billie Joe referred to it as “one of best nights” of his life. In awe staring out at Wrigley Field, he confessed, “Never in my fucking life did I ever think we’d be playing Wrigley Field.”

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