Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

My Lolla: Craig Bechtel

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Metal, Prog-rock, Rock No Comments »
1_DFA1979_Rough-Trade

Death from Above 1979

Lollapalooza started as a traveling “alternative” rock carnival, but today it’s a stationary event showcasing music that ranges from rock to hip-hop to pop to electronic. If that doesn’t seem like a tremendously wide range, it’s not just you. As Lollapalooza has evolved toward the mainstream, Riot Fest (based in Chicago, but now held around the country) has pulled away most of the possible punk edges, brought back some “legacy acts” with underground roots like No Doubt and Billy Idol and introduced actual carnival rides. Conversely, having recently completed its tenth rendition in Chicago’s Union Park, the Pitchfork Music Festival can’t be rivaled in terms of their indie cred, and they supplement their bread-and-butter indie rock with a fair amount of rap, electronic and even some retro-folk explorations too. Chicago is either blessed or cursed to host 300,000 Lollapalooza-goers the first weekend in August each year, depending on who you ask, but it’s still the granddaddy of all of these festival options, in terms of longevity, attendance and scope.

Compared to Pitchfork’s three color-named stages and fifty-odd acts, Lollapalooza boasts approximately 150 performances on six corporate-named stages, plus one for Kidzapalooza presented by Lifeway, and Perry’s—named for the founder, Perry Farrell (hopefully he didn’t have to pay himself anything for naming rights)—for DJs and dancing only. So how can you choose who to see and who to hear? Research and listen, and if it’s a tie, try to split the difference. Just try not to pass out when running between the stages in the hot, hot August heat.

FRIDAY

2:30pm-3:30pm
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Bud Light

2:50pm-3:30pm
BadBadNotGood
Pepsi
Friday holds off on tough choices until the 2pm hour, when St. Paul & The Broken Bones has to compete with BadBadNotGood. If the latter had rapper Ghostface Killah in tow to perform numbers from their excellent collaboration, they would get the nod, but I’m afraid I’d rather hear some authentically-done soul singing as opposed to seventies-set experimental explorations. Since there’s bound to be an abundance of treacly, fake-soul offerings this weekend (I’m looking at you, Sam Smith), I’m going to have to give Paul Janeway and his Birmingham-bred brethren the edge here. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Dylan Peterson

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
saint-pepsi

Skylar Spence

I won’t be at Lolla this year; the following is a fictionalized daily schedule.

FRIDAY

2:00pm
You lock up your bike outside of the festival, wipe the sweat from your forehead, drink the rest of your water and start walking.

2:15pm-3:00pm
Glass Animals
Samsung Galaxy
Sex is the first thing on everyone’s mind at Lollapalooza, so it only makes sense to start off the festival experience with Glass Animals. This slinky, slow-rock band from the UK will set the mood for the rest of the weekend, whether it’s a gray, rainy day or a hot and humid 100 degrees. You’ll feel a groove either way.

3:00pm-3:45pm
Tove Lo
Sprint
Keep the sexy theme going here, with added pop hooks via Sweden. You’ve made some major eye contact with someone during Glass Animals, and now you’re a quick stroll away from getting to know that someone even better during “Talking Body.” (There’s no time to waste—when Tove Lo’s at the chorus you can’t be dancing by yourself.) Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: John Wilmes

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Metal, Rock No Comments »
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Twin Peaks

Do you like it big? Big crowds, big sounds, big sensations? Lollapalooza, as it is wont to do, brings on every kind of big this summer. The annual festival is an excuse to indulge everything oversized, everything bloated (in the best sense) about the music world of now. Dive nose-first into the communal affair, and hold my hand if all the noisy fun and sweat start to scare you.

FRIDAY

4:30pm-5:30pm
Hot Chip
Bud Light
There is something ridiculously urgent about this band. The British synth-poppers make dancing seem like the most important thing in the world, with their slow-burn beats and the haunting lilt of singer Alexis Taylor. And who’s to say dancing isn’t so essential?

5:30pm- 6:30pm 
The War on Drugs
Palladia
It’s hard to find more finely-tuned rock schmaltz than what TWOD is churning out these days. Their chug of Americana and pretty tones was built to chain-smoke in front of when done live—if you’re into that sort of thing. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Jake Krzeczowski

Chicago Artists, Festivals No Comments »
FKA Twigs

FKA Twigs

Ah, Lollapalooza! Like an old friend you’ve grown apart from, the Lolla of today hardly resembles the festival I spent all my summer cash on as a teenager, to drink cheap vodka out of a water bottle and watch Kid Cudi. The Lollapalooza of 2015 is an aggressive beast that appears poised to burst its Grant Park confines and spill into the city at large—as indeed it does every night at 10pm during its three-day stretch.

If you can’t tell by now, I’m no longer the biggest fan of the fest. In a city where Pitchfork, North Coast, Riot Fest and Spring Awakening are realities, there honestly is little reason to attend Lolla unless you like long lines, sweating on the person next to you and catching the same headliner from two years ago. It’s the vanilla of the Chicago summer festival season, the Iggy Azalea if you will; it’s a great reason for teenagers to wear ill-fitting, high-waisted shorts and Crocs.

The only thing that has brought me to Grant Park the past few years has been the allure of local talent seeping into the festival giant’s lineup. Last year I showed up for Vic Mensa’s set on the BMI stage and hung around until Sunday to see Chance shut the place down with an epic headlining performance that won’t soon be forgotten. This year? It’s a mix, but I’ve got some tips to get you through.

FRIDAY

12:45pm-1:30pm 
SZA
Samsung Galaxy

2:15pm-3:00pm
Glass Animals
Samsung Galaxy
Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Keidra Chaney

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Indie Rock, R&B, Rock No Comments »
Charli XCX

Charli XCX

To be perfectly honest, Lollapalooza didn’t even register for me this year as an option, because between Pitchfork, Riot Fest and North Coast Fest there’s so much fest action this summer and fall I have to be selective about my commitments, and those other festivals feature more of the music I adore. But there are still acts that I’d personally check out at Lolla.

My schedule would be pretty predictable and not terribly adventurous. I’m getting too old for Lolla’s size and excessive amount of flower crowns.

FRIDAY

12:45pm-1:30pm
SZA
Samsung Galaxy
She does the kind of low-fi R&B so beloved by the indie bloggers these days, and she was pretty, fun and lively at Pitchfork last year.

1:30pm-2:15pm
Misterwives
Sprint
The perpetual teenager in me discovered this band through MTV’s “Finding Carter.” Check them out if sensitive (but not twee) indie pop is your thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: “Halo” Composers Collaborate with Paul McCartney

Ambient, Blues, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Folk, Interviews, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Vocal Music No Comments »
Paul McCartney, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori

Paul McCartney, Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori

By Dennis Polkow

Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori have been friends back to their college days in the 1970s when they were in rival bands in the western suburbs. “We’ve always been very competitive with one another,” Salvatori recalls. “Marty came in to record five songs with his band, so of course, I had to write better songs and record those as well.”

While Salvatori was working for his father’s printing company, O’Donnell was painting houses to put himself through music school. “They were shooting a television commercial and Marty was painting the set. The director found out that he was a composer and offered him five hundred dollars if he would write some music for it. I had just taken out a loan for a basement recording studio setup and Marty called up and said, ‘If you let me record there, I’ll split everything with you fifty-fifty.’ We put ourselves out there on a handshake and collaborated on the commercial as O’Donnell-Salvatori, like Lennon-McCartney. It has been that way ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: South Side Jazz Coalition/Quarry Event Center

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »
Margaret three

Margaret Murphy-Webb

RECOMMENDED

To honor the late tenor saxophonist Von Freeman and his Tuesday night, jam-till-the-early-moanin’ blowing sessions, vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb and instrumentalist Anderson Edwards started the Jazz Jam Revival at the 50 Yard Line on East 75th, about half a mile west of where Vonski hosted his séances of sound. Now, some three years later, with the Revival still going strong, Murphy and the newly formed South Side Jazz Coalition (SSJC) are determined to reestablish another local tradition: the South Shore Jazz Festival, originally presented by Geraldine de Haas’ Jazz Unites from 1981 to 2012, and held at the South Shore Cultural Center. (De Haas and her husband relocated to New Jersey in 2013 to be with their children.) “The South Shore Jazz Festival was a tradition for Southeast Chicago and the southern suburbs,” says Murphy-Webb. “Everybody came out for this festival. It was just a wonderful time with all the cookouts, vendors and great music.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: lePercolateur/The Green Mill

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »

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RECOMMENDED

I used to love catching lePercolateur at the old Katerina’s on Irving Park. There was something about that narrow, dark-paneled room that struck me as faintly European—with its stage tucked modestly between the bar and the kitchen, so that every performance was infiltrated by tinkling ice on one side and swinging doors on the other (which on a good night always seemed to be in time). And lePercolateur is all about the continent. The band owes its chief inspiration to the gypsy jazz pioneered by Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt—that is, everyone in the band but vocalist Candace Washburn, whose Gallic sophistication owes more to cafes than campgrounds (you can’t imagine anyone for whom the term “chanteuse” is more appropriate). Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: James Conlon Bids Farewell to Ravinia, Says “Si” to Italy

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Festivals, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Vocal Music No Comments »
James Conlon / Photo Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

James Conlon/Photo: Ravinia Festival

By Dennis Polkow

“After I became music director eleven years ago,” says Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon, “it was so interesting how many people I would meet around the country, or Americans I would meet in Europe, that would say, ‘You know? I heard my first concerts at Ravinia.’ I started to think that everybody grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and somehow or another moved to another place in the world. It is astounding how many people of all ages were formed there, from twenty-year-olds to eighty-year-olds, and how many people Ravinia has been able to reach in its way and introduce classical music to them. Of course, the trump card of the Chicago Symphony is the best way you can do that. It was very striking to me and I am very proud to be a part of that tradition and process and hope it will continue on forever.”

Nonetheless, Conlon announced last August that the 2015 season would be his last as Ravinia music director, and that 2016 would also end his music directorship of the Cincinnati May Festival after thirty-six years. Instead, he will become the first American to ever become principal conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai in Turin, Italy. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ryley Walker/Subterranean

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
RyleyWalker_PhotobyDusdinCondren_PressPhoto5

Photo: Dusdin Condren

RECOMMENDED

It may be a good marketing move for an artist to invite comparisons to Van Morrison, Nick Drake and Richard Thompson. The only problem is that people will then, go figure, compare you to Van Morrison, Nick Drake and Richard Thompson. So before you take that leap, be sure you can measure up. Fortunately for Chicago singer-songwriter Ryley Walker, the title track of his new album, “Primrose Green,” is one of those shimmeringly perfect folk-rock tunes that only comes along every dozen years or so. (It easily stands next to Morrison’s “Moondance,” despite being nothing like it.) Read the rest of this entry »