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Show Preview: Dinosaur Jr. + Steve Gunn at Metro [10/8]


Good old fashioned rock n’ roll doesn’t get nearly enough attention these days. People are so interested in finding the next great innovation in genre that they fail to remember that certain styles of music are truly timeless and can still offer fresh surprises at every turn. Not only that, but who’s so jaded they aren’t impressed by a complex guitar solo? It’s a certain skill that very few can truly master, so all credit should be given to those that can. Case in point, this Saturday at the legendary Metro here in Chicago you have the unique opportunity to see two of the greatest rock guitarists still making music today do their thing: J. Mascis and Steve Gunn.

Dinosaur Jr. has been around for what seems like forever, and in the musical world 30+ years kind of is. Of course they were inactive for eight of those years, so that gap decreases their legendary status just a little bit. But that’s neither here nor there, because they’ve been back in action for the last decade and have arguably eclipsed the great work they did in the 80s and 90s that earned them a place among alternative rock royalty such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Mascis may be their anchor, what with his aching vocals and fuzzed out guitar solos that are distinctive enough that you can easily pick them out of a crowd, but don’t discount a force of nature like Lou Barlow, who is a spectacular bassist and singer in his own right (as evidenced by his work in Sebadoh). Should I compliment their drummer Murph too? Oh, sure. He does an excellent job keeping the rhythms tight and heavy in the face of each song’s relative unpredictability. Dinosaur Jr’s new record Give a Glimpse of What Yr Not only reaffirms all of these assertions, and proves their inspiration and creativity remains sharply intact even after all these years. The question at this point is how long that will last. This latest revival of the band has already lasted longer than their first two stints, and with any luck it’ll stick for many more records. Or not. Best to see them while you can. If you’ve never witnessed J. Mascis destroying guitar solo after guitar solo right in front of you, that’s something to put on your bucket list. It’s a genuine joy to watch him and the rest of the band work.

Lesser known but no less talented is Steve Gunn. The Brooklyn-based musician first earned his stripes by playing in Kurt Vile’s band as one of The Violators. Of course he’s also been releasing solo albums for nearly a decade now, at a pace of about one per year. Toss in some collaborative efforts as well, and the guy becomes positively prolific. While much of his early work has been rooted in gorgeous lo-fin instrumentals, by the time 2014’s Way Out Weather arrived he felt like a fully formed entity, complete with a backing band and confident vocals. A big part of what makes Gunn’s music so compelling is his ability to compose these complex folk and rootsy songs while making it all seem completely effortless. Nothing is ever hurried or panicked in both voice and melody. You put on his records while relaxing with a beer on the porch or cruising across the heartland of America. That’s particularly true on his new album Eyes on the Lines, which is thematically embossed with the call of the open road. Simplistic as his songs may seem on the surface, closer listens reveal light touches of psychedelia, krautrock and blues, among other genres. Solos bob and weave through otherwise standard melodies, like eels writhing around in the ocean. Think about My Morning Jacket or a less jam-heavy Grateful Dead or The War on Drugs as bearing similar or shared sonic markers with Gunn and you’ll gain a much better understanding of what he’s all about. In a live setting, it’s equally relaxed and thrilling to watch him work through songs as they divert down unexpected paths and tear through the fabric of expectation. Don’t miss him if you can help it. The Metro show this Saturday is virtually sold out, but here are the details anyways in case you’re lucky enough to get tickets.

Dinosaur Jr. / Steve Gunn / Thalia Zedek Band
Buy Tickets
Saturday, October 8th
9PM / $31 / 18+

If you miss Steve Gunn this weekend, the good news is that he’ll be back in Chicago next Saturday (October 15th) for a performance with Jim Elkington at the Logan Square Food Truck Social. Tickets for that one are $5 and you can find out more information here.

Lollapalooza 2016: Lineup Recommendations

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This year, Lollapalooza celebrates its 25th anniversary as a music festival. It’s had some ups and downs, including a couple of years when it went away entirely, but since settling down in Chicago back in 2005 things have been smooth sailing. Things have expanded exponentially in the last decade alone, with more stages, more artists and now more days than ever before. Yes, for the first time ever (and in celebration of this milestone), we’ll have four full days of music and mayhem. If three days and 130 artists somehow wasn’t enough to make your head spin, four days and 170 artists practically crosses the line between enjoyment and punishment. I’ve nearly killed myself in the past attempting to cover every single day of this festival for the last 11 years, and in all honesty I’m quite concerned with how I’m going to survive year 12. Don’t overextend yourself, drink lots of water, and wear comfortable shoes are just a few pieces of advice I can offer and will be abiding by myself.

That said, with four days of music it gives you an even greater opportunity to enjoy some of your favorite bands and discover some great new ones. Instead of analyzing every artist on the lineup, or even taking an hour-by-hour look at the insane schedule, let’s try something a little more sensible and manageable for 2016. In honor of 25 years of Lollapalooza, I’m going to recommend 25 can’t-miss artists who will be performing at the festival this weekend. They’re broken down by day, and distributed evenly across the weekend with the exception of Sunday, which has one extra artist just to hit that magic number. The only downside in limiting this to recommending six (or seven) artists per day is that a few really cool acts inevitably get left out. If you’re going all four days it’ll be tough to catch everything worthwhile as it is. The way these picks are structured, there’s not a lot of time slot conflicts happening, so you could theoretically see just about all of these artists if you play your cards right.

Join me after the jump for the full list of 25, complete with multiple audio/video streams from each. Best of luck to you if you’ll be in Grant Park this weekend. I’ll see you on the battlefield. Follow my Twitter and Instagram feeds for live, on-the-ground reports all four days.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2016: Sunday Preview

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Sunday at Pitchfork Music Festival is set to be just about the sexiest day of any music festival ever. To quote Tracy Morgan, “Somebody’s gonna get pregnant!” The lineup is stacked with all kinds of R&B and freeform jazz that’s designed to put you in the mood for some lovin’. Not sure how perfectly that pairs with sun and 85 degree temperatures, but we’ll find out, right? At least things will be steamy one way or another. If you’ve been to the fest for two days already, the generally slower and more relaxed vibe on Sunday should be a nice change of pace. The slightly later start time than usual is an added benefit. Gates may open at noon, but the first music doesn’t start until 1:45, so sleep in an extra 90 minutes or at the very least stay off your feet for that period of time. As with the other two days though, there are some serious benefits to showing up early and catching those first bands of the day. Join me past the jump for the hour-by-hour breakdown of who’s playing when, and what artists you simply can’t miss.

Also, in case you missed them, here are the Preview Guides for Friday and Saturday as well as audio streams from every artist on the lineup.

Thanks for reading. If you’re headed to Pitchfork this weekend, I’ll see you in Union Park!

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2016: Saturday Preview

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Let me use today’s introduction to offer a few festival tips and tricks to help you survive the weekend at Pitchfork Music Festival. Six years of coverage has helped me get this down to a science, so if you follow my lead I guarantee everything’s gonna turn out great for you (you know, within reason). First, the general outdoor festival stuff. Stay hydrated. Drink at least 3-4 full bottles of water each day. That is a minimum. I know it’s tempting to have a few beers, and you realistically still can, just don’t make that the only liquid you drink all day. You’ll sweat tons in the 80+ degree heat and will be on your feet pretty much all day, so those fluids need to be replenished unless you want to wind up in the medical tent. Next up, sunscreen and bug spray. Use both liberally. If you get sunburned on Friday, the rest of the weekend will be painful. You also don’t want to scratch a bunch of bug bites either, so protect yourself.

Don’t overexert yourself. There’s a temptation to go hard and try to see just about every band. It’s possible too! Union Park isn’t that big, and with three stages you won’t need to do that much walking. Just remember to take breaks and sit down from time to time. Eat food – probably more than you’d otherwise have – to maintan energy while you burn calories. Explore! There’s plenty of fun things to do, including the CHIRP Record Fair, the Flatstock poster sale, Book Fort, Craft Fair and Kids Area. A bunch of brands have tents/booths where free food and merch is given away. Lifeway frozen kefir bars are typically being given away near the basketball court, so that’s a nice cool treat on a warm day. You can probably screen print a t-shirt for free too, if that’s an interest. If you’ve got some down time or don’t like any of the artists performing, wandering around the festival grounds can make for a great time.

So that’s about all I’ve got in terms of tips. Well one more – be good to others! In my experience, everyone at Pitchfork is very chilled out and friendly, so treat them in kind. Join me past the jump for an in-depth, hour-by-hour look at the schedule for Saturday. There’s plenty of great stuff to recommend.

Also, in case you missed them, here are the preview guides Friday and Sunday as well as audio streams from every artist on the lineup.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2016: Friday Preview

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So you’re planning to attend the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival. Congratulations! You have made a very wise choice. It promises to be a great time in a great city with a great collection of artists. Speaking of those artists, one of the challenges with any music festival is looking over the schedule and trying to figure out who to see when. In the cases where you only like one artist performing at a particular time, the choice is easy. In the cases where you like two artists performing at the same time, the conflict can be tragic. But what about the artists you’re not familiar with? There’s always at least a few at any large festival, and even the most avid music fan has some knowledge gaps. The great news is that it’s easy to learn, and maybe just a little easier to make a crucial decision about a conflict, if you’ve got some outside help. Welcome to the first of three installments of the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival Preview Guide! Here you can find out information about every artist on the lineup, and see recommendations on who you should be seeing at any particular time. So if you wouldn’t mind, please join me after the jump to check out the comprehensive guide to who’s performing on Friday. Let’s go!

Check out the preview guides for Saturday and Sunday as well as audio streams for every artist on the lineup.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2016: Hear the Lineup

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As is tradition, I’m very pleased to welcome you to yet another year of Pitchfork Music Festival coverage! Once again there will be a full week’s worth of focus on Chicago’s premiere boutique music festival, complete with day-by-day previews, recaps throughout the weekend, and plenty of photos so you can see some of the action too. It’s extremely comprehensive, so if you’re planning to attend or just wish you could, I hope you’ll keep a close eye on the site to learn more about the lineup, who you need to see, as well as reports straight from the festival grounds.

We begin with an audio introduction to all the artists performing at this year’s fest. Those familiar with Pitchfork know they carefully curate the lineup every year to highlight important, often up-and-coming acts. That inevitably leads to a fair amount of obscure names you might not recognize. For example, you may be wondering, “Who is Jlin? What kind of music does he or she or they make?” Well, hopefully this post answers those questions with relative ease.

After the jump, you’ll find a full list of every artist performing at this weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival, complete with links to their website or Facebook or Tumblr or Bandcamp or whatever their primary web presence might be. You’ll also find links to stream two songs on YouTube or Soundcloud from each one, so you can get a basic idea of what they happen to sound like. Artists are grouped by the day they are performing and arranged in alphabetical order. If you prefer to stream your music using Spotify, you can find a full playlist at the very bottom of this post, also featuring two songs from every artist on the lineup. Those are grouped in order by day and set time.

Really what I’m saying is, no matter your audio preferences, there should be a format here that will give you access to the music, which is of course the most important part of this whole festival equation. So sit back and get familiar before spending the weekend in Union Park, so you can go in with a head full of knowledge and impress your friends.

Check out the preview guides for Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

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Show Preview: Moderat at Concord Music Hall [5/21]


For those who know a thing or two about the indie electronica scene, the trio known as Moderat have every right to be called a supergroup. Their name is a combination of the two projects from which they’ve sprung, specifically Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring). Separately, they’ve released some of the most dynamic minimalist electronic music of the last decade. Together as Moderat, they’ve crafted three full lengths and an EP, a majority of which was spent testing out new and experimental directions with varying results. It seemed to be a product of them trying to feel each other out rather than a lack of competence or care. Just because three people can make really great music on their own doesn’t mean they’ll immediately work well together. On their new record III, it seems they’ve finally reached the next level of their collaboration, resulting in one of the most sonically cohesive and engaging collections of beat-driven tracks this year.

Sonically the songs on III fall somewhere on the ambient electronic soul spectrum between Four Tet, James Blake, Burial, Jamie Woon and Atoms For Peace. That’s a lot of quality references that for the most part feel earned. Beats skitter, vocals soar, synths glide, and a wounded sort of sexiness oozes from just about every note. Fans of The xx will find plenty to love as well. That beautiful darkness also lends itself to dramatic performances. Unlike the candy-coated laser beam dance parties of today’s EDM festival headliners, Moderat use style and substance to channel an epic intimacy that you’ll want to dance to. Powerful visuals projected behind the trio, combined with staccato lighting effects and liberal use of smoke machines create just the right sort of atmosphere to elevate the songs to an otherworldly level. It’s an intoxicating mixture that means their live shows are less performance and more experience.

Moderat will be transforming minds and hearts at Concord Music Hall this Saturday, May 21st. Not to be missed if you can help it! Teflon Tel Aviv and Abstract Science open. Details:

Moderat, Teflon Tel Aviv and Abstract Science
Buy Tickets
Saturday, May 21
9PM / $25 (Advance) / 18+

Show Preview: Cross Record at Schubas [4/30]


Let’s start with the basics. Cross Record is the wife and husband duo of Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski. They are based out of Dripping Springs, Texas (near Austin), where they own and run a ranch and recording studio. It’s where they crafted their latest album Wabi-Sabi, out now on Ba Da Bing! Records. If you’ve not yet heard it, stream “Steady Waves” and “High Rise” to get a better idea of what they’re all about.

The dark-tinged experimental folk that populates the record falls somewhere on the strange spectrum between Cocteau Twins, Sharon Van Etten, Angel Olsen, Mount Eerie, Chelsea Wolfe, PJ Harvey and Here We Go Magic. That may touch on a lot of different sonic markers, but the nebulous nature of their songs defies easy description. Each one is inherently beautiful, yet also raw, obtuse and deeply emotional with a sense of danger or evil lurking just underneath the surface. That’s a large reason why the album’s title is so appropriate, as it’s a Japanese phrase meaning the acceptance of transience and imperfection.

Cross Record’s show at Schubas this Saturday will mark something a homecoming for the duo, as they lived in Chicago until a couple of years ago. Their notoriety has increased considerably since their last visit thanks to the release and critical acclaim of Wabi-Sabi, so it’ll be interesting to see how the new songs shape the overall performance. No matter what, it’s certain to be a special night you’re not going to want to miss.

Cross Record, The Loom and Blind Moon
Buy Tickets
10 PM / $10 ($12 Doors) / 21+

Show Preview: Porches, Alex G and Your Friend @ Bottom Lounge [4/9]


Outside of a music festival or a special radio session, have you ever been to an indoor concert with a late afternoon start time? I can’t recall ever attending a show before 7:30pm, and would imagine that spending time at a venue when the sun is out would feel a bit weird. Yet sometimes it’s necessary, I guess, particularly if said venue is double booked for the evening. Apparently Chicago’s own Bottom Lounge does that on occasion, typically on weekends when a majority of people aren’t at work. Saturday, April 9th is one of those occasions, with a triple bill worth not only my money but yours as well.

The first thing you need to know is that it’s going to be an emotional evening, in addition to being an early one. All three artists set to perform have released deeply personal, introspective records in the last year, and received a fair amount of critical acclaim for each. First on the lineup is Your Friend, otherwise known as Taryn Miller. Though her pseudonym can be a challenge to find via traditional search engines, she and her impressive debut album Gumption are worth seeking out. The music she makes could be considered experimental folk, as there’s a fascinating dichotomy between the traditional and non-traditional, the intimate and the expansive, the calm and the chaotic. Strip them down to their bones and you’ve got a single guitar and a voice, but the use of loops, found sounds, electronics, drones and other elements twist and obscure that in beautiful ways while revealing layers of untold depth. The lyrics are reflections on the self, how we present ourselves to the world and the courage it takes to change. Listen to the song “Heathering” below to capture a better idea of Your Friend’s particular aesthetic. It’s definitely worth showing up early to check out her set.

The meat in this musical sandwich is Alex G, the shortened moniker of Alex Giannascoli. The 21-year-old Philadelphia native started to receive a fair amount of attention in 2014 with the release of DSU, his first album that was properly mastered and released on an actual label. Prior to that, he self-recorded and self-released more than a handful of other full lengths and EPs via Bandcamp, very much fitting the definition of a DIY bedroom singer/songwriter. His lo-fi, often hangdog approach has earned him comparisons to Elliott Smith and Pavement in the past, though his sharper experimental leanings on last fall’s Beach Music took things in a much darker and uncommercial direction. It’s an interesting change considering this marked his highest profile release to date and Domino Records debut. Still, there’s plenty to like if you can get past some of the odd choices he makes with vocal modulation. For example a song like “Bug” would probably have been even better if some chipmunk-styled vocals didn’t pop up for no apparent reason. Still, beyond some small missteps on the new album, his past catalog is remarkably solid and worth your exploration. The same could be said about his live performances.

New Yorker Aaron Maine is the man behind the Porches name. It’s a project that’s been around for close to a decade now, but similar to Alex G is just starting to hit it big. Prior to the release of his Domino debut Pool earlier this year, Maine put out at least eight records, though it’s a little tough to put together an official count given that at least a couple seem to have (mostly) vanished from the internet. In many ways it feels as if those previous albums were all in preparation for this new one, which has earned a wealth of critical acclaim and placed Porches on an exclusive list of rising artists. The songs on Pool might best be described as dance tracks for lonely people. You could also use the album title to show the fluidity and spacious grandeur that a majority of the tracks exhibit. Synths and other electronics surge and swirl, while guitars, when present, are often relegated to the background. It’s a bit of a departure for Maine, whose earlier efforts were more entrenched in the world of lo-fi folk. The directional shift is all too purposeful, yet still manages to capture the intimacy and introspection that Porches has been known for across earlier efforts. Take a listen to “Car” and “Be Apart” below to get a better grasp on the magic of Porches.

So there you have it, a rundown of the three dynamic artists set to perform at Bottom Lounge early on a Saturday evening in April. Show up early, see some quality performances, then grab dinner after. Nice and easy. Here are the fine details:

Porches, Alex G & Your Friend
Buy Tickets
5:30 PM / $15

Show Preview: Ty Segall & The Muggers at Thalia Hall [3/7 + 3/8]


Ty Segall is nothing if not prolific. You could easily call him one of the hardest working musicians today, and his output helps prove it. As an example he released four albums between 2012 and 2013, and at least one full length every year since then. If he’s not putting something out under his own name, he’s creating or joining other bands. Last fall he made a record with one of his side bands Fuzz, and already this year he’s put out Emotional Mugger under his own name. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s got at least one more full length ready to go before the end of 2016. Perhaps the most insane thing about all of it is how generally great and varied every release has been. I legitimately can’t recall having heard a single bad Ty Segall-involved album in the last few years…maybe ever. Along the way he’s managed to make himself into a bit of an amorphous element, upending expectations at just about every turn. Just when you think another album of fuzzed out psych-rock is on the way, he picks up an acoustic guitar and explores folk or leans hard in the opposite direction by giving metal a try. He takes to all of it like a fish to water, and even plays different instruments depending on the particular song or project.

The fatal flaw with all of Segall’s efforts is that he may be giving listeners too much of a good thing. His constant progress has created a set of unrealistic expectations, and may even be diluting what he does give us. For example, if he puts out another album in 6-8 months, will it lessen the appreciation and repeat listenability of Emotional Mugger? Can having so much available material in too short of a time span make it difficult to focus on and figure out what truly stands out and is special about it? I suppose it’s up to each one of us to decide how much we can digest, and try to manage as best we can.

When he’s not in the studio, Segall can typically be found on the road. He tours in the same way he records – like a madman. Live shows are almost always brute force displays of strength, primal in nature and loud in volume. Guitars are always at a maximum level of fuzz, and drums suffer the sort of abuse that leave you concerned they could give out at any moment. When he’s behind the microphone, Segall’s voice wails and screams right along with everything else, so what comes out of the speakers could best be described as an auditory weapon of mass destruction. If you’re standing in the right spot, his songs may motivate parts of the crowd to erupt into massive mosh pit(s), layered with body surfers for good measure. It can be a brutal, full body experience that’s not for everybody. If you’re not a physical person, stand away from those who prefer jumping around. If loud music makes you worry about your hearing, wear earplugs. No sense in denying yourself the pleasure and invigorating life force of a Ty Segall show if you enjoy his music. It’s actually quite remarkable to see his songs played on a stage in front of an audience, because it enhances what you might otherwise hear through headphones or speakers in the comfort of your bedroom. That might be the way to most fully appreciate the man and all he’s done for music these last few years.

Ty Segall performs two nights at Thalia Hall next week. Details and ticket info are below. Don’t miss this!

Ty Segall & The Muggers
Tickets: Monday, March 7 / Tuesday, March 8
9PM / 17+ / $23 (advance) / $25 doors

Buy Emotional Mugger from Drag City

Show Preview: Marlon Williams at Schubas [2/10]


People are so eager to affix artists with labels. They provide an easier way to understand what artists do, so outsiders can better determine if it might be right for them. As time marches forward and old ideas become new again, there are those that fight against such traditions, seeking to carve their own paths outside of the familiar. Pictures, words and sounds require a certain level of accessibility to establish an audience, but new twists on old favorites can usher in advancements and inspire others to do the same.

Marlon Williams is a singer-songwriter from New Zealand who is not so easily defined or labeled. Despite being in his mid-20s, many have called him an “old soul” based on the mature themes and influences that permeate his music. As with most who have grown up in the age of the mp3, such increased access allows you to explore anything and everything your heart desires. Even in the small coastal town where he grew up, the soundtrack of his youth included PJ Harvey, Smokey Robinson, Elvis, The Beatles and Gram Parsons mixed in with traditional Maori and gospel songs thanks to his time in a church choir. Williams’ father was also in a punk band, which most assuredly left an impression as well.

So after consuming so much and so many different styles and genres of music, it makes perfect sense that Williams is something of a sonic polymorph. Those quick to judgment have been saying his recently released self-titled album falls under the country or alt-country umbrella, but the reality is so much deeper and more varied. You can hear flourishes of folk, Americana, bluegrass, gospel, soul, rock and even punk twisted into this remarkable tapestry that transcends such easy definitions. At the heart of it all is that powerful voice, which anchors every song with purpose and meaning no matter what direction it takes. Case in point: he covers Nina Simone’s “When I Was A Young Girl” better than anyone I’ve ever heard outside of the original version. It’s striking and very Tim/Jeff Buckley-esque, to the level where it gave me (and I hope you) chills.

Following a sold out tour through Australia and New Zealand, Marlon Williams is now seeking to break out internationally with a tour that takes him around the globe in 2016. He’s currently making his way through North America, which includes a stop at Schubas Tavern this upcoming Wednesday, February 10th. Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker opens. This is a prime opportunity to see a rising star before he blows up, so do yourself a favor and don’t miss this show!

Marlon Williams with Woodrow Hart & The Haymaker
Wednesday, February 10
8PM / 18+ / $12

Show Preview: The Go! Team at Lincoln Hall [1/16/16]


There are very few bands on this planet whose live show could accurately be called a party. Don’t get me wrong; any artist who brings lots of passion to a performance is worth your time and hard-earned money, no matter the energy level or content. But party bands are a special breed, particularly in their ability to transcend any real notions of quality associated with their music by pumping it full of fun and excitement. Andrew W.K. hasn’t released an album since 2009, and everything that came before it sounded pretty much the same, but he’s still out there touring and selling out shows by singing party anthem after party anthem. Good for him.

Which brings me to The Go! Team. They are, in my opinion, the quintessential party band. I’ve never had a bad time at a Go! Team show. Very few people probably have. There’s just too much to enjoy, which really gets reflected first and foremost on their albums. Their sound is something of a challenge to define, in large part because they slam together so many different genres and styles for the hell of it. For example, you could get a Bollywood sampled melody paired with an old school hip hop beat, garage rock guitars and school playground chanted lyrics. The best part is that it works a vast majority of the time, like a delicious stew made from leftovers in the fridge.

I can safely say there’s never been a bad Go! Team record, though we’ve yet to get one that eclipses the 2004 debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike. Part of the reason why that was such a success was because of its novelty at the time, and perhaps due to Ian Parton’s insistence on piecing together every single element himself. Two subsequent efforts had the live band take an active role in the studio, and there’s been a small struggle to transcend past that initial sound. But last year’s The Scene Between saw Parton return to that solo dynamic, perhaps seeking to recreate the magic of a decade earlier. The results were once again solid and generated good reviews, but not quite the raves or hype levels that would elevate The Go! Team beyond their current status. Just like the album (and song) title, they in some ways feel trapped between scenes, where it can be an occasional struggle to determine where they fit into the current music landscape.

Part of that I think has to do with the vexing mystery that is consistency. If you make good music on a regular basis without stirring up headlines or dramatically changing your sound, people tend to lose focus. Hype is a fickle beast that shift attentions on a whim in a quest for the Next Big Thing, while leaving everyone else in the dust. The Go! Team continue to deliver on their initial promise, and each live show remains a celebration worth attending. They are worthy of your love, and if you’ve not yet had the opportunity to hear their music or experience one of their unique and energetic performances, that’s something you need to remedy sooner rather than later. If you’ll be in Chicago next Saturday (January 16th), come hang out at Lincoln Hall if you want to dance, jump and enthusiastically sing along for what promises to be a highly memorable and fun evening with The Go! Team. Rounding out the bill will be Javelin and Jude Shuma. It’s part of the Tomorrow Never Knows festival, which you should also check out, just in general. Fine details:

The Go! Team with Javelin and Jude Shuma
Saturday, January 16
9PM / 18+ / $15

Show Preview: Ryn Weaver at Park West [11/12]

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Back in January, I had the privilege of naming Ryn Weaver to my Class of 2015 project. In case you’re too lazy to click that link, the basic idea is that each year I choose 10 rising artists and closely follow their growth and progress for the next 365 days. My track record is pretty strong, and while nobody will likely ever top the run that Class of 2014 alumnus Sam Smith had last year, a few 2015-ers are holding their own so far. Ryn Weaver is arguably at the top of the pile right now, for a couple different reasons I’ll explain in detail.

First, there’s her debut album The Fool. It came out this summer and is a collection of fun, quality pop songs worth checking out if you haven’t already. More importantly, the record proved the hype behind her first single wasn’t a fluke. Her talents extend well beyond “OctaHate” to showcase introspective lyrics and a powerful vocal range that’ll make your eyes widen and jaw drop. Many wise radio programmers have picked up on this, and provided her some strong exposure on Top 40 and Pop stations around the world. That translates to a growing fan base.

Second, there’s her live show. Weaver performed at every major U.S. music festival this summer, including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. I was fortunate enough to not only catch her set at Lolla, but an additional aftershow she headlined the night before. Yes, she’s got incredible stage presence and knows how to work a crowd. While there’s a certain element of predictability to her set given she has only released an album and an EP so far in her young career, each song takes on a unique and distinctive life apart from the recorded versions in large part because she performs with a full band. That’s unique for someone who makes pop music, where synthetic backing tracks and overdubs are commonplace on stage. She believes that live performances should be fully LIVE, and they’re all the better because of it. Her vocals only get better too, showcasing an elasticity that goes even beyond what you hear on record.

Third, she loves her fans. I’ve seen plenty of performers go out of their way to stick around after the show and sell/sign merch, which is always nice even though most of the time they just want to make a sale. When I saw Weaver back in August, she didn’t hang out at the merch booth, but instead greeted adoring fans outside of her tour bus. For over an hour. She not only took the time to sign everything people wanted signed, but she took lots of selfies and had lengthy, genuine conversations that arguably lasted a little too long. It took her about 90 minutes to make it through a line of about 20-25 people, so everyone got a highly personal and engaging experience with her. Not sure I’ve ever seen someone display that level of commitment to fans, which really speaks to the kind of person she is.

If you’ll be in Chicago on Thursday, November 12th, you can experience the magic and wonder of Ryn Weaver in person when she plays a show at Park West. It will likely be a wonderful evening, filled with great music and quality opening sets from ASTR and Holychild. The show is all ages and starts at 7, so it should be extra high energy and fun. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased in advance here. Hope to see you there!

Show Preview: Hinds + Public Access T.V. at Lincoln Hall [10/22]


One of the most distinct features associated with garage rock tends to be its ramshackle bordering on lazy attitude toward composition and structure. Unlike most other styles of music, there’s a certain amount of charm that oozes through songs with all of the cracks visible and hinting that things could completely fall apart at any second. It’s like a lovable drunk friend or relative – they stumble around with smiles on their faces and jokes to spare, but there’s always a slight worry at the back of your mind that they’ll blindly wander out into traffic and get hit by a car or start puking heavily in the most inappropriate place. It’s all fun and games until shit gets real. Thankfully garage rock rarely if ever self-destructs in an off-putting way, and when it does only harmless jangly guitar melodies are left in its wake. There’s often a method to the madness, as even some of the grittiest bands can secretly be the greatest perfectionists. Their jeans are torn up, but less from wear and more because they were purposefully ripped to look that way.

The reason I bring this up is because two garage rock-inspired bands will be performing together in Chicago at Lincoln Hall next Thursday, and they’re proverbial trainwrecks you definitely shouldn’t miss. Calling Hinds and Public Access T.V. trainwrecks is meant as a compliment, and hopefully everyone takes it as such. The music that both bands make is distinctly bouncy, fun and memorable in such a way that you can tell it was made by people who are passionate about every aspect of life. Every album, song, video and live show is a celebration.

In the case of Public Access T.V., the New York four-piece is the brainchild of John Eatherly, formerly of the indie punk band Be Your Own Pet. Those familiar with his former group should feel some sense of connection with this new one as they share a similar attitude, though the sound and members are certainly different. Instead of hyperactive and aggressive punk rock, Public Access T.V.’s sound comes across more like a hybrid of ’70s punk and ’90s Britpop, which is a unique enough combo that it enables them to defy easy categorization. The term “garage rock” is more of a catch-all descriptor for them than it is a legitimate definition. For example, their latest single “Patti Peru” feels familiar in a Strokes or Stooges kind of way, while “All We Want” is practically indebted to new wave with its more synth-dominant melody. They are nothing if not a complex band. Considering that they currently only have a few songs to their name, there’s also plenty of room for these guys to continue evolving and shaking up some genres just for the fun of it. Of course as more and more people are turned on to Public Access T.V. they’ll figure out what’s working best and head in that direction. I’m excited to hear what that might be, and hope you will be too. In the meantime they’re playing live shows and earning plenty of acclaim along the way, which is why they’re worth showing up early at Lincoln Hall to see.

As for Hinds (fka Deers), the Madrid four-piece are members of my Class of 2015, otherwise known as 10 artists I’m expecting to do big things this calendar year. They’ve done a fantastic job building hype these last 10 months, releasing a couple of new singles, videos and a mini-album collection of older songs, all to keep us tantalized until their debut full length Leave Me Alone arrives in January 2016. Their star has continued to rise the whole time, in part due to the quality of the music but also because they’ve been touring pretty much nonstop for the last year and a half, winning over audiences around the globe. They played a few shows in the U.S. this past spring, but hadn’t really scheduled a full North American tour until recently. They spent the last couple of weeks opening for Glass Animals in a dozen or so cities around the country, Chicago included, but now they’re off on their own headlining trek and will be bouncing back through town on the 22nd. One of the things I really like about Hinds is how much they’re willing to share with their fans. Most of their music videos are the four of them goofing around backstage, on the road or at home. Last winter they released a 25 minute documentary highlighting their 2014 summer, which gave even more insight into their distinct aesthetic and personalities. It’s ridiculous how charming and effortless the four of them are together, and their songs capture that chemistry perfectly. Give a listen to songs like “Chili Town” and “Between Cans” to get a great idea of why Hinds are such a captivating band that has earned and continues to earn a very rabid fan base. They’re likely to become huge sooner rather than later, so do yourself a favor and catch them at a small-ish venue like Lincoln Hall while you can!

The Fine Details
Date: Thursday, October 22
Location: Lincoln Hall
Time: 9 PM
Age Restriction: 18+
Tickets: $15 [Buy]

Show Preview: Jenny Hval + Briana Marela at Constellation [9/3]


We’re in sort of a weird, experimental pop renaissance so far in 2015. There have been some extremely interesting and important records released this year that may have flown just under your radar but are more than worth the time and effort to seek out. I’m talking about albums from such notables as Bjork, Holly Herndon, Deradoorian and Circuit des Yeux among others. Later this year we’ll also get albums from Empress Of and Julia Holter, which should fit in perfectly with the rest. But right now I want to take a moment to highlight two particular LPs that I’ve been quite taken with so far this year.

The first is Briana Marela’s All Around Us, which came out earlier this month. It’s her first for Jagjaguwar, and for it Marela flew from Seattle out to Iceland hoping to be inspired. Iceland of course being the home to Sigur Ros, she wound up working with the band’s producer Alex Somers, as well as the orchestral collective Amiina who make their instrumental presence felt on just about every one of the band’s albums. The results are stunning and beautiful, particularly when paired with Marela’s sugary sweet yet breathy vocals. There’s a brightness that radiates through every song, reflected outward in a burst of rainbow colors like when sunlight hits a crystal. Cuts like “Surrender” and “Take Care of Me” are great examples of the expansive arrangements and slightly obtuse song structures present throughout the record.

If you’re interested in going a bit stranger and more confrontational with your music, Jenny Hval’s latest effort Apocalypse, girl can definitely help you there. Her modus operandi is tearing apart traditional pop songs and repurposing them to somehow find the more memorable and catchy elements within. There are two primary factors that help make her music so challenging. The first is the seemingly random way songs are composed, where pop melodies will emerge from a strange direction and either choose to stick around or continue on a separate path into obscurity. What the motivation behind such shifts are remains a mystery, but that’s all part of the adventure. The second has to do with Hval’s lyrics, which tend to be odd and provocative yet also meditative and well thought out. She’ll use phrases like “soft dick rock” and “huge capitalist clit” that have a certain WTF quality to them, yet their grand purpose is to make you think about concepts like the patriarchy and counterculture in a different way. Sure it’s not exactly easy listening, but the effort you’ll expend trying to dig into everything going on across this record pays out dividends across repeat listens. Give a listen to “That Battle Is Over” and “Sabbath” to get a better idea of what the album is all about and whether or not you might consider it to be your cup of tea.

What’s very exciting is that Briana Marela and Jenny Hval are touring together, and will be performing at Constellation in Chicago next Thursday, September 3rd. It’s an 18+ show that kicks off at 8:30. Tickets are $12 in advance and can be purchased here. It promises to be a highly fascinating and memorable night, so I strongly encourage you to come out and support these two powerful and innovative artists!

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