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Show Review: Lady Lamb [Schubas; Chicago; 5/6/15]

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On May 14, 2013, Lady Lamb (Aly Spaltro) played a headlining show at Schubas in Chicago. She was very sick with a cold and by all accounts barely made it through her set. “If I recall correctly,” she said on Wednesday while reminiscing about that night, “I couldn’t even sing most of the songs, so I asked the crowd to sing along with me.” Quite a few people cheered when she said that, to acknowledge they were there and that she was telling the truth. Shows like those are the sorts that both the audience and artists remember clearly, because they’re far from what could be considered normal. Then again, I’d like to think that just about every Lady Lamb show is special and unique in its own way, which is why when Spaltro returned to Chicago to play the Empty Bottle with Torres about a month and a half later, she was 100% healthy and arguably even more memorable for her powerful and intense solo set.

Nearly two years to the day since her sick performance at Schubas, Spaltro returned on Wednesday night to headline the venue once again. Not only was she in tip top shape, but was also armed with a brand new record called After as well as a backing band to help bring her songs to life in a much fuller way. Things immediately got off to an elaborate start with the multifaceted “You Are the Apple” from Lady Lamb’s 2013 debut album Ripely Pine. In the grand tradition of starting strong and then going stronger, After single “Billions of Eyes” surged to life next, which got the crowd moving a bit with some serious head bobbing and a bit of a sing-along. At one point a couple people began to clap along with the beat, but unfortunately nobody else joined in so that stopped pretty quickly. Still, it was clear early on that people were connecting with the songs, they just showed it in a variety of ways.

For her part, Spaltro did a great job of mixing things up, really putting her three piece setup to good use with some of the louder and more aggressive numbers like “Bird Balloons” and “Spat Out Spit,” then giving them a mid-set break to play some quieter stuff like “Sunday Shoes” and “The Nothing Pt. II” solo. Those moments when it was just her voice and guitar really brought back the intimacy of her shows from a couple years ago while also infusing the set with greater doses of pathos and heart. The between song banter was a similar shade of earnest, with Spaltro expressing real gratitude for Chicago and everyone who came out to support Lady Lamb, which included her own Aunt Fran. I had the privilege of standing right behind Aunt Fran next to the stage for the duration of the show, and she was positively beaming with pride the entire time.

At the very end of her 90 minute set, Spaltro once again sent off her bandmates and closed by playing “Ten” solo. “This is my favorite song,” Aunt Fran whispered to her friend as the first notes rang out. It comes across like a diary entry brought to life, complete with the little moments and vivid imagery that we remember from our childhood. In one of the final verses, Spaltro sings the lines, “We were singing along / To every word of the songs / That helped make us who we are.” If the tear-streaked faces in the crowd were any indication, Lady Lamb’s songs have done their part to help shape lives in a similar fashion.

Buy Lady Lamb’s After on iTunes

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Show Review: TOBACCO + The Stargazer Lilies + Oscillator Bug [Lincoln Hall; Chicago; 9/17/14]

There are some things that, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t un-see. Images are burned into your brain for all of eternity, in many cases haunting you and giving you nightmares. It’s the sort of stuff where you want to look away, but for whatever reason are unable to do so. I had one of these such experiences at Lincoln Hall this past Wednesday night with a triple bill show of Oscillator Bug, The Stargazer Lilies and TOBACCO. Let me tell you the story of how it destroyed me mentally.


Opening the night were Chicago’s own Oscillator Bug, who have been on this tour for a little over a week but are just now getting around to playing a hometown show in celebration of their debut album Bursts of the Million. While they’re technically a quartet when performing live, pretty much all of their fractured songs and compositions are built by frontman Zaid Maxwell, who started the project because he had these sounds and melodies in his head that wouldn’t go away and wouldn’t fit with any other band or project he was working on. The results are something truly unique, though most people describe Oscillator Bug’s sound as synth psych-pop. You’ve got to find some way to sum it up concisely. To my ears though, it’s more like a sonic assault. Songs overflow with more noise than often feels sensible, yet there’s still a clear melody and strong beats propelling everything forward. While there’s a central groove to most of their songs, sound effects and synths buzz around your head at all angles to the point where sometimes it can feel like there’s a little ADHD going on with too much to try and pay attention to. Of course it’s things like that which make the record worth repeat listens, mostly so you can pick up on everything that’s going on. Meanwhile in a live setting the assault extends beyond the mere auditory and into the visual, as lights surround the band on all sides and are consistently changing in time with the music. They’re not tremendously bright though, as ample attention is also given to the projection screen behind them, which shows a variety of psychedelic imagery. The band is a highly functioning machine while performing, and Maxwell plays ringleader throughout. I’d best describe his demeanor on stage as “staccato,” which is really to say he’s moving at a mile a minute, whether that’s in his halting vocal delivery or switching back and forth between a guitars, synths, pedals and other sound manipulators. He’s a one-man wrecking ball, and his three bandmates are right there at the core because there’s so much to do. Overall, Oscillator Bug’s 25 minute set was extremely high energy, fun and just a bit nuts to experience. More than a few people standing near me commented about how impressed they were after the band wrapped up, and in no way do I disagree with that sentiment.

Buy Bursts of the Million from Dymaxion Groove


Things got a little different with The Stargazer Lilies’ performance, but not in a weird or uncomfortable way. It was simply a sonic shift from the technicolor psych of Oscillator Bug into a world shrouded in muted tones and drones. The New York-based trio powered through a 40 minute set that was heavy on ambient and shoegaze melodies. It was glorious and beautiful and loud, which is really just as it should be. One of the main things I came to realize over the course of their set was that they have the word “stargazer” in their name partly because their music intends to be more uplifting than downtrodden (naturally, it’s also a type of flower). You may be inclined to gaze at the ground out of pure genre habit, but pay close enough attention to the way their songs are structured and do what you can to discern some lyrics, and suddenly there’s this positive harmony that shines through the cacophony. That’s a somewhat rare quality for a band like this to have, which is probably why they’ve been steadily on the rise over the course of the last year or so. There are two small areas in which their live show could use some improvement, and those are with the presentation and vocals. I understand that with most ambient drone-style performances the crowd is supposed to let their minds drift and internalize just about everything, but those not fully entranced may find the band’s deep lighting and projected images to be a bit boring. They’re not hyperactive like Oscillator Bug, nor are they danceable and showing crazy videos like TOBACCO (more on that in a minute). Then again, if you’re the filling in that band sandwich, there’s very little you could do that wouldn’t be perceived as boring. Aside from that, Kim Field does great work on the bass, and is equally talented behind the microphone – when you can hear her, of course. Guitars overpower everything in this style of music, but the vocals are there to function as their own gorgeous instrument and if they’re not properly mixed they’ll be completely drowned out. Field’s voice was barely audible during the songs, and the couple of times she attempted to engage in stage banter it was nearly impossible to hear and make out what she was saying. Outside of those couple of things, it was a highly enchanting set.

Buy We Are the Dreamers from Graveface/Bandcamp


The evening’s headliner was TOBACCO, but it might make more sense to call the guy “wacky tobacky” based on how much strange and offbeat humor played into his live set. Thoroughly aware that having a crowd watching a guy behind a table of buttons, knobs and laptops while lights flash can be pretty boring, one of the main elements in TOBACCO’s live show are videos projected on a screen behind him. He started his set by showing a clip of “The Jerry Springer Show,” which included a hilarious story that a guest told about finding his fiancee cheating with his best friend. From there, it was all about the weird, wild, perverse and strange, set to pounding beats and highly manipulated vocals. If you’ve heard of TOBACCO and maybe even heard his music, then that only tells one small part of this guy’s aesthetic. Music videos for songs like “Streaker” and “Super Gum” (both very NSFW) give you a much better idea of the visual and auditory madness that’s rules his set. I mean, that second video features re-edited video from an actual porno from the 80s wherein people have sex with a strange, female version of E.T.! Any newer videos that were shown during the performance, including “Streaker,” may have been shot within the last few years but had just the right tint and grain to make it look like a product of the 70s or 80s to keep with a running aesthetic and motif in the world of TOBACCO. So what you do during the set is watch the (mostly) psychologically damaging videos while dancing your ass off. Part of me wants to detail all of the figurative war crimes that my eyes bore witness to, but it’s probably better if you don’t know, just in case you want to discover and explore this box of horrors yourself. So is the TOBACCO live show worth your while? I’d liken the experience to a car crash – it may look nasty, and there’s certainly the possibility that people were hurt, but through whatever morbid Curiosity you can’t help but want to look. The man reaches into the dark recesses of your human inclination and plays around in the blood and pus. You’ll walk away feeling violated and maybe even a little offended, but some part of you also loved it and craves more. It’s incredible how close our sensations of pain and pleasure are to one another.

Buy Ultima II Massage from the Rad Cult Store

Pitchfork Music Festival 2014: Sunday in Photos


Join me after the jump for a collection of photos that I took on Day 3 (Sunday) of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Photos are arranged by set time. They are also available in higher resolution on Facebook. Check out my full recap of the day, as well as all the rest of the coverage by clicking here.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2014: Saturday in Photos


Join me after the jump for a collection of photos that I took on Day 2 (Saturday) of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Photos are arranged by set time. They are also available in higher resolution on Facebook. Check out my full recap of the day, as well as the rest of the festival coverage by going here.

Note: There are no photos of Saturday headliners Neutral Milk Hotel featured here at their request.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2014: Friday in Photos


Join me after the jump for a collection of photos that I took on Day 1 (Friday) of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Photos are arranged by set time. They are also available in higher resolution on Facebook. Check out my full recap of the day, as well as all the rest of the coverage, by going here.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Sunday Photos


The third and final day of the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival was just as incredible than the first two, if not more so. After the jump, enjoy the visual odyssey that was Sunday with photos of R. Kelly, M.I.A., Yo La Tengo, Chairlift, Sky Ferreira, Waxahatchee, Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and Foxygen. For complete coverage of everything related to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, simply click here.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Saturday Photos


Here’s a selection of photos that I took during Day 2 of this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. Click past the jump for photos of Belle & Sebastian, Solange, The Breeders, Savages, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, Phosphorescent, Ryan Hemsworth, Parquet Courts and Metz. Check out more photos, day-by-day recaps, and a whole lot of other stuff related to the 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival by clicking here.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2013: Friday Photos


In case you missed all of the action out at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, I’ve certainly written plenty about it, but haven’t SHOWN you what it all looked like. Well, this and the next couple of photo posts should change all of that. Join me past the jump for a bunch of photos that I took on Day 1. In this set, you’ll find photos of Bjork, Joanna Newsom, Wire, Woods, Angel Olsen, Mac DeMarco and Mikal Cronin.

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Lollapalooza 2012: The Photos


Now that all the written pieces are out of the way, I wanted to share with you the collection of photos that I took at this year’s Lollapalooza. Before we dive in, I want to make sure you’re aware of a couple things. First and foremost, I was not given a press photography pass for the festival. That means I didn’t have the opportunity to stand right next to the stages and zoom in to get photos of sweat dripping off the faces of every artist that was up there. When you see Jack White looking like an ant in one of these photos, that was taken from pretty far back. I like to think that most of these photos are still reasonably decent though, and I tried my best to only select the ones that worked. Secondly, what I’m posting below is only a small sample of the total photos I took over the duration of the weekend. If you want to see the all the photos, head over to Facebook for day-by-day sets. Also, if you’d like to gain a little perspective on what bands I saw and the good/bad of it all, simply click this link to see all of my coverage of Lollapalooza 2012. Thanks! Photos are after the jump.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2012: Photos


Okay, friends. Here’s a selection of photos that I took all this weekend at the Pitchfork Music Festival. In this set I’ve included one photo from each artist, edited down from over 400 photos total. If you’d like to see the complete set of edited photos (4-5 photos from each artist), please visit our Facebook page for all that. Their uploader is easier to use and the pictures look nice in that context. I’ve also given my final thoughts about this year’s fest, in case you missed it. Read 100% of my Pitchfork Music Festival coverage via this link. I think that about wraps things up. Starting tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled programming of album reviews and mp3s. Until then, click past the jump to glance at some photos from the festival.

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SXSW 2012: Final Thoughts + Photos

Four days, 32 artists, and one physically/mentally tired guy. That about sums up my SXSW 2012 experience. While I was stumbling around Austin in a haze the last hour of the last day, my first trip to SXSW was a wonderful experience I wouldn’t trade for the world. After hearing so many great things about the city and the conference/festival, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer and simply had to go just once, just to see what it was like. The end result was largely what I expected it to be, but with a few surprises thrown in as well. My hope here is to chronicle the things I think worked about SXSW, and a few that didn’t. Also, if you click past the jump, you can see all the photos I took while in Austin. If you’d like to read about individual performances that I saw last week, have a look at the following daily reports:

Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday

The Good
Perhaps the thing that makes SXSW truly great is the sheer size of it all. There are literally thousands of bands performing over a handful of days, almost all of them within the span of about 2 square miles. Getting around from show to show isn’t bad, whether you’re on foot or feel the need to take a pedicab. Of course 6th Street can get a little packed during peak hours and create some slow downs, but it’s never anything too unmanageable, even if you need to get somewhere fast. The wide array of shows and showcases happening at any given time can also create a bit of a headache, as it’s not exactly easy to pick and choose if there are 6 artists you want to see all performing at once. Learning the city and the locations of all the venues both legitimate and illegitimate goes a long way towards helping you make such tough choices based purely on conveniece and distance from where you’re currently at. Do you go see Cloud Nothings playing down the block, or do you walk 6 blocks to see Grimes? As I see it, the decision is pretty much already made for you.

Yet there are also a few SXSW music moments that you can’t always plan for, simply because they weren’t planned. There weren’t many “secret” shows this year so much as there were secret guests like Kanye West jumping on stage at the 2 Chainz show or Eminem showing up to support 50 Cent or Bruce Springsteen bringing out everyone from Jimmy Cliff to members of Arcade Fire to Tom Morello and Alejandro Escovedo. Those extra thrills only make the experience more special. Also a major contributor: the people. Austin is already something of a cultural melting pot, but with music fans and artists coming into town from all over the world, the diversity factor multiplies by about 10. But here’s the thing aboug most music fans: they’re good, friendly people. You could strike up a great conversation with the person standing next to you in line and not blink an eye. Everybody was there because they love music, and the easiest conversation starter was always finding out who they’re most excited to see while in town. The only time I ever saw anybody get angry was when a couple of people cut in line trying to get into a show. The reaction was less anger and more, “That wasn’t cool, guys.” If we as a society behaved more like everyone in Austin at SXSW did, the world would be a more peaceful place. Unless of course you’re at an A$AP Rocky show and somebody’s throwing full beer cans at the stage. That near-riot situation was a showcase of the worst side of humanity.

But outside of good music, good people and good weather, good food is another thing Austin is known for. There were food trucks and street vendors on most corners, each specializing in a different type of cuisine. You could get breakfast tacos at one place, and some Korean version of spaghetti at another. There was plenty of BBQ to be found too. If you’re a fan of slow-roasted meats that are tender and delicious, you didn’t have to walk more than a block in downtown Austin to find some. For the cheapskates, there were also a bunch of showcases giving away free food. It’s worth noting that like grocery store samples, the “food” they give you for free is often small and may not be of the highest quality. It also gets snatched up almost immediately for those reasons as well. You’re costing yourself a potentially great meal if you’re not paying for it.

The Bad
For all the great things that happen in Austin during SXSW, it’s not a perfect situation by any means. First and foremost among the issues is overcrowding. Things may get cramped when you’re walking down the street, but that’s nothing compared to what’s happening inside many of the venues. Jam packed to the gills, trying to get anywhere close to the action was tough, let alone trying to make your way back to the exit. When things did get that bad, the waiting games began. Lines built up outside venues that were a city block or more long, everyone beholden to the “one in, one out” policy. Pitchfork’s evening showcase at Central Presbyterian Church was the height of madness, and I stood in line for 3 hours, missing Fiona Apple, just to get into the 500 capacity venue. Was it worth it? Eh, kinda. Every performance I saw there was a revelation, which is more than I can say about the other venues in town. I’m not entirely sure how all these sound engineers stay employed given how many times I saw an artist ask for a levels adjustment or something broke. I know these artists don’t get a soundcheck during SXSW and they want to put on the best show possible, but constantly stopping or even aborting some songs right in the middle because of a small issue takes away whatever mojo that might have developed in the meantime. The worst night of all was at Clive Bar, where Tycho played without any sub-bass, New Build’s monitors weren’t functioning properly, and Grimes was forced to start her set even after everything wasn’t tested to see if it was working properly (it wasn’t).

Sound issues are just one half of the paradoxes that SXSW presents. The other is overextension. While SXSW can be a great thing for artists (performing in front of music industry bigwigs brings all sorts of exposure along with it), agreeing to play 3 shows a day for 4 days in a row can put you near death’s door. Touring is tough enough when you’ve got one show every night for 3 weeks straight, but SXSW is a marathon compared to that long distance run. Artists function on little to no sleep and can easily blow out their voices from singing too much. On Thursday night I saw Grimes play a perfect show at Central Presbyterian Church. 24 hours later, she had performed at least twice more before arriving at Clive Bar with a voice that was barely there. She fought against it as hard as she could, and eventually had to call it quits in a set that was also plagued with sound problems. It was a valiant effort, but likely left most of the crowd disappointed. Then again, everyone was so kind, understanding and enthusiastic, it probably didn’t matter as much as I thought it did.

Finally, I want to mention the hierarchy that is SXSW. Your amount of access is almost entirely based upon your status within the music industry. If you’re not part of the industry and are simply looking to see some free music, there’s lots to choose from if you don’t mind a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of. If there was a line anywhere, it was almost guaranteed the general public would not be allowed in, as those with badges or wristbands automatically had first dibs. Among the badges and wristbands, only the badges were given priority access into any venue. Every badge would be allowed in before any wristbands would, no matter when they showed up. Of course if I had a badge I probably wouldn’t be complaining about it, it’s just that there were so many of them. There must have been at least a dozen shows I tried to get into but was denied because the room was already filled with badges. Granted, badges cost around $900 and you should be getting something for that money, but it would be more fair if they offerend some balance like for every 100 badges let in, 10 wristbands also get in. Alas, wristband holders got the shorter end of the stick, while the general public was more shafted than anything.

To Conclude
SXSW is something that every obsessive music fan should attend at least once in their lives. It can be a genuine blast if you let it, and only gets better the more access you have. Not but a few years ago, the several day conference/festival served as a proving and development ground for new music talent. Today, that’s not really the case anymore. You may discover your new favorite band while wandering around Austin, but for the most part our discoveries are contained to the hype cycle on the good ‘ol Internet. Then again, were it not for SXSW I never would have stumbled into the band Tearist and one of the most batshit crazy/weird live shows I’ve ever seen. I’m still not sure whether it was supremely stupid or incredibly clever, but if you like incomprehensible psych-pop and somebody showing an iron beam who’s boss with a lead pipe, Tearist could be for you. Outside of the occasional exposure to an artist you didn’t intend to see, you’re quite in control of your own destiny. Unless you’re the adventuresome type willing to walk into a venue without knowing or caring who’s performing, most identify and target acts based on personal tastes or recommendations of others. With so many choices, you can use the time to check a few acts off your personal bucket list. That’s what I did, and though I didn’t get to see every artist I wanted to, I feel like what I did see was extremely worthwhile anyways, with the aforementioned issues or not. I hope I get to go again, be it next year or in 10 years. And if you didn’t go, I hope you take the opportunity to get to Austin soon. It’s a great American city, and the Live Music Capital of the World for a reason.

Click past the jump for photos of many of the bands I saw at this year’s SXSW, in alphabetical order:

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Listmas 2011: Wilco’s Incredible Shrinking Tour [5 Nights, 5 Chicago Venues]

In case you haven’t heard, last week Wilco ended their fall/winter U.S. tour in support of their new album “The Whole Love” by performing 5 shows in their hometown of Chicago. Dubbed “The Incredible Shrinking Tour”, each night built upon the one before it as the band started at the 3,500 capacity Civic Opera House and ended a few days later at the 500 capacity Lincoln Hall. Along the way, there would also be stops at The Riviera (2,300), The Vic (1,400) and Metro (1,150). While I would have loved to have attended all 5 shows, time, money and ticket availability reduced me down to only 3 of the 5 nights. Still, 3 Wilco shows are better than 2 or 1 or none, and I also happened to be in attendance at the last two nights in which the band played their smallest shows in years, probably over a decade. Each show I attended also had its own distinct vibe and set list, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to recap and review each one. Let’s go in order.

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Show Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars + Hooray for Earth [Lincoln Hall; Chicago; 10/21/11]

Fall is the best time of year for several reasons. It could be the weather, still relatively warm with a slight chill in the air. It could be the leaves changing, a beautiful reminder that we need to prepare for the harsh winter ahead. There’s also plenty of seasonal foods to enjoy, from pumpkin-flavored treats to freshly picked apples, particularly of the honey crisp variety. But set all those lovely things aside for a moment because fall is also fantastic for its concerts. So many bands are out on tour, freed from the glut of summer music festivals which have massive bills and radius clauses keeping some out of town through much of August and September. And while going to a summer festival where 100+ artists are performing can be a great way to discover new music, going to see a smaller show with just a couple artists on the bill can give you a much more impactful and perhaps surprising experience. You’re paying to see a headliner, but showing up early reaps plenty of rewards in and of itself. Case in point, this past Friday in which I dropped by Lincoln Hall for a headlining show from Cymbals Eat Guitars. Their first two records “Why There Are Mountains” and “Lenses Alien” struck a chord with tastemakers, and the band has been on the rise ever since. On their current fall tour they’re being supported by the band Hooray for Earth, whose debut full length “True Loves” turned many a head this past summer, even as it wound up a little lost in the shuffle of other, bigger releases.

On what was a crisp October evening, the show had an uncharacteristically late start time of 10pm. It makes sense in that none of the 3 bands performing had enough material for a full 90 minute set, but there was no real reason why things couldn’t have kicked off at a more normal 9pm and ended at midnight instead of 1am. Does it make that much of a difference in the end? Not really – once you’re out for the night, there’s not much difference between midnight and 1am. Plus it gives people more of their earlier evening free to do things like drink more before the show and then try to start a mosh pit during Cymbals Eat Guitars. More on that in a minute, but right now I want to give a quick shout out to Chicago’s own Bailiff, who was the first band on the bill Friday night. This was a one-off show for them as they’re not part of the tour, but those that know Chicago’s local music scene were smart enough to arrive on time for their set. While I like what I’ve heard on record from Bailiff, I had never seen them live before, and due to some small travel delays I only had the chance to see the last 10 minutes of their 25 minute set. Those 10 minutes were enough to impress me though, and I can’t help but think that those guys are well on their way to becoming a band that earns worldwide attention. The “it” factor is clearly there, and I’m absolutely looking forward to hearing and seeing much more from them in the next couple years.


A fairly sizable crowd had arrived at Lincoln Hall by the time Hooray for Earth took the stage, and most of them had never heard the band before. I know that because people kept asking me who the band was. That’s great news though, because it means they were intrigued by what they heard and saw. It’s the opening sets where everyone passively watches or talks the whole time that are bad signs. A couple drunk girls asked me if it was Yeasayer on stage. They clearly didn’t know their Yeasayer either, but at least they were in the ball park sonically. One of the great qualities about Hooray for Earth is how they’re able to marry psychedelic and pop sounds with electronica and dance elements, which at this show resulted in an unorthodox dance party. The guys in Hooray for Earth weren’t so much taken aback by the dancing, but they did seem just a touch surprised to see a number of people getting their groove on. It’s relatively challenging to get cross-armed indie kids to dance, so that was just one of the small victories Hooray for Earth could claim during their set. Another was some charming stage banter, highlighted by the mid-set pause in which frontman Noel Heroux called a friend to wish him a happy birthday. Really the music itself did all the talking that was needed though, and in their 45 minute set the band powered through much of their record. Naturally it was the title track off their new album “True Loves” that got the biggest crowd response, aided by the fact that it’s a highly addictive and fun single that has gotten some radio airplay by a few forward-thinking stations. Their live rendition of “Black Trees” was blisteringly cool as well, aided in no small part by the swirling, psychedelic video projections that washed over the band. Hooray for Earth likely made a bunch of new friends thanks to their reliable and enjoyable set. I think they can do even better though, and hopefully bring a little more on stage energy to their songs in the future. As they do more touring and write new material, that should all evolve naturally. Hooray for Earth remains a band to watch, and if we’re lucky, the next time they come through town they’ll be the ones headlining.

Hooray for Earth – True Loves
Hooray for Earth – No Love

Hooray For Earth – Black Trees

Buy “Lenses Alien” from Barsuk Records


It’s been a tough couple years for Cymbals Eat Guitars. Relentless touring around their debut record “Why There Are Mountains” resulted in two of the band’s four members quitting and frontman Joseph D’Agostino blowing out his voice. Such tragedy also comes with a ray of sunshine though, and in this case the sheer exhaustion pretty much meant the band was leaving it all on the stage each and every night. Now with a revamped lineup and a vocal tune-up for D’Agostino, Cymbals Eat Guitars unleashed their sophmore effort “Lenses Alien” to more critical acclaim, effectively proving their debut was not a fluke and they could not only sustain but evolve as well. The small tragedy on Friday night was that more people didn’t make it out to the show. Lincoln Hall wasn’t sold out by any measure, but those that did come were largely die hard fans. The ones that weren’t die hard fans upon arriving hopefully left with a sharply increased appreciation for these guys. They started their set with the bouncy “Indiana”, which had at least a few people jumping up and down right away, though things wouldn’t really escalate until about the final 30 minutes of the show. It was somewhere right around “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” that things reached an apex they could not top. The track itself is 8.5 minutes long on record, and on stage the band drew it out and enhanced it even more than I ever thought possible. The tension built up over the course of the song was held for as long as possible before the quiet exploded into a wall of sound and D’Agostino’s visceral scream. It has been awhile since a live rendition of a song has given me goosebumps like that. To their credit they also bled “Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)” into “Keep Me Waiting” effortlessly, the whole thing seeking to provide the auditory definition of the word “epic”. The seamless combination of songs would happen a couple more times in the second half of the set, and the noisier and more experimental the band got, the more energized the crowd got. That is to say a bunch of guys near the front felt it would be a great idea to start a mosh pit. As they bounced into one another more and more, those of us not looking to potentially get hurt backed away and gave them some space. THankfully things never got overzealous or violent, and respect was maintained not only between sectors of the crowd but towards the band on stage as well.

For me, the only disappointing thing about CEG’s set was an apparent lack of applause/cheering by the crowd once they finished their set. Perhaps my perception was off and the crowd was smaller than I thought, but I just assumed it would be a louder response for an encore than what was given. Almost as if they resigned to do an encore because they were headlining and less because it was demanded of them, the band came back out after a very brief moment backstage to play one more song. It was a nice cap on the evening, though it probably wasn’t necessary. They played for an hour, hit all the songs I had wanted them to and slayed them all, and while I was cheering for the band when it was all over, I was also satisfied to the point where I didn’t need any more. If the crowd isn’t going to give you the sort of response that warrants an encore, my opinion is don’t do one. Again, maybe I just had a disconnection between crowd size and the loudness of said crowd and everyone was begging for an encore. It’s also very possible my hearing was a bit off after such a loud and punshing set. Ultimately my stance is this: for the talented bands involved, this show should have been close to sold out – especially for a Friday night. That it wasn’t is the biggest disappointment of them all. Bands like Cymbals Eat Guitars and Hooray for Earth are the type worth listening to and investing in because they push creative boundaries within their respective genres. If you can’t be bothered to go and see them, they can’t be bothered to make more music. Please take that into account the next time either of them rolls through Chicago or whatever city you live in.

Cymbals Eat Guitars – Rifle Eyesight (Proper Name)

Cymbals Eat Guitars – …And The Hazy Sea

Buy “Lenses Alien” from Barsuk Records

Lollapalooza 2011: The Photos

Yes, it’s been nearly a week and a half since Lollapalooza ended. I’ve written piece after piece on it. I’ve said all I’m going to say about it for 2011. All I’ve got left is to SHOW you some of the things that went down. So this is a collection of edited photos that I snapped over the course of the 3 day weekend. As it gets later in the day and the crowds built up, my photos got further and further away. Which explains why the headliners look like little dots in the background. What can I say – I did what I could. I hope you enjoy these (mostly good) photos. Perhaps we’ll do it all again next year. Click past the jump to see the assortment, in the order I saw each band in.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2011: Day 3 in Photos

Click past the jump to see a whole lot of photos from Day 3 of the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival. You can see photos of Yuck, Kurt Vile and the Violators, OFWGKTA, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Baths, Superchunk, Deerhunter, Cut Copy and TV on the Radio.

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