Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Bebel Gilberto and Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers/Ravinia

Afro-Cuban, Bossa Nova, Festivals, Jazz, Latin, World Music No Comments »


On her current tour, New York-born Brazilian singer-songwriter Bebel Gilberto is going in a completely different direction. Instead of playing familiar hits and a few new tunes, she is doing the opposite: most of the tunes on her recent sets have included tunes from “Tudo,” an album that has yet to hit stores as of this writing. Read the rest of this entry »

Fierce and Fed Up: Hardcore Punks Find A Home

Festivals, Hardcore, Punk No Comments »
Aye Nako photo by Robert Pluma

Aye Nako/Photo: Robert Pluma

Fed Up Fest, taking place July 25-27, is a new addition this year to the packed Chicago summer music festival scene. In the tradition of fests like Olympia, Washington’s Homo-a-go-go, Fed Up Fest seeks to highlight the contributions of LGBTQ musicians to DIY music, though where Homo-a-go-go covered a wide range of styles under the DIY umbrella, Fed Up Fest focuses on hardcore and punk. Conscious of the problem in LGBTQ spaces of the ‘silent T,’ where transgender community members get name-checked but can often be marginalized, the organizers of Fed Up Fest particularly wish to highlight bands from across the country featuring trans folks—especially trans women. Bands on this year’s lineup include: Read the rest of this entry »

Parting Thoughts: Pitchfork Music Festival 2014

Festivals, Live Reviews No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

By Keidra Chaney

Coming into Pitchfork I could count the number of acts I had real enthusiasm for. However, by the end of the weekend, I had downloaded albums by two acts I hadn’t listened to before (Ka and Factory Floor) and was interested in following up on quite a few more. Pitchfork has finally motivated me to reconsider Deafheaven, which is a major feat in itself. Of the Chicago-based music fests, I think Pitchfork is definitely the best curated, with a great balance of established acts, nostalgia acts and buzz bands. Read the rest of this entry »

Pitchfork Music Festival/Sunday Photo Roundup

Festivals, Live Reviews No Comments »
Isaiah Rashad/Photo: Robert Loerzel

Isaiah Rashad/Photo: Robert Loerzel

Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Kendrick Lamar/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Hip-Hop, Live Reviews No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

It’s no easy task closing out a weekend-long festival, but tonight Kendrick Lamar proved why his name continues to be so highly regarded in hip-hop circles. Sure, he’s a profound storyteller, but that’s something we can take for granted; the true strength of Lamar’s set came from its crossover appeal. Kendrick Lamar was the only hip-hop artist to make use of a live band this weekend, guitar-shredding solos included, and his pacing across the stage and within his set list was expertly executed. Performing in front of a video triptych with scenes of his hometown drawing the crowd in, Lamar blazed through a surprising amount of hits for a recording career that’s relatively young. Whether prompted to light up their cell phones, or celebrated for lighting up something else, Lamar had Chicago in the palm of his hand, with festival-goer’s arms held high in response. Like he says, “Kendrick have a dream.” Even if this isn’t the exact dream he’s talking about, it has to come close. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Grimes/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Indie Pop, Live Reviews, Pop No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

The Red Stage was at capacity in anticipation of Grimes, AKA Montreal’s Claire Boucher, AKA the closest thing to Korean pop we are likely to ever hear at Pitchfork. (Boucher has gone on the record as a huge fan, and the influence is quite evident in her sound.)

On one level, it’s a bit curious how well loved Grimes is among the indie set precisely because her sound and her songwriting is so unabashedly pop; even her performance has the feel of a pared-down pop-star spectacle, from the generous wind machines to the pair of ribbon brandishing backup dancers.

However, when you see her in action, it becomes more obvious what endears her to the Pitchfork crowd. She’s a skilled producer with a special talent for creating a tapestry of electronic sounds: synth patterns, percussive textures, layers upon layers of her own voice. Not to mention she’s a hell of a lot of fun to watch. She alternates between crouching over her controllers like a mad scientist and bouncing around the stage like the DJ of her own birthday party. The crowd here clearly feels and returns her energy and she returns it back in spades. It’s a dizzying web that’s similar to the music itself. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: DJ Spinn/Pitchfork Music Festival

Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Live Reviews No Comments »

Since the sudden passing of DJ Rashad, it’s been unclear how Chicago’s Teklife crew would move on, let alone fill his slot at this year’s festival. The group’s unequivocal response was an impassioned set that featured dozens of dancers and DJs on stage, and non-stop footwork music, save for a pause to honor their fallen comrade. It was an incredibly warming, moving experience, to dance along with the Teklife crew in their hometown at such a crucial moment. The performance was more a celebration than an occasion for mourning, and the crowd picked up on that, spontaneously breaking into dance circles, throwing up their arms and flailing along with carefree love and affection for the big beats and manic pace that left no choice but to move, and move on, with Teklife, even without DJ Rashad. No other moment at the Pitchfork Music Festival seemed as poignant or touching, DJ Spinn and the Teklife crew capturing the power and beauty of music’s possibilities, and redeeming Pitchfork for only choosing two Chicago acts to perform. At least they chose wisely. Rest in peace, DJ Rashad. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Slowdive/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Rock, Shoegaze 2 Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

For fans of the hazy 1990s British rock that came to be known as shoegaze, Slowdive was one of Pitchfork’s true must-see acts this year. Back together after a nineteen-year hiatus, the group sculpted pretty melodies out of its guitar notes during its set early Sunday evening, with Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell switching off on lead vocals, both sounding like they were lost in dreams. But then, as the chords churned around and around, the songs began to roar with an often fierce intensity—contrasting with the musicians’ calm, relaxed demeanor onstage. It’s hard to say whether any of them actually gazed at their shoes as they made that beautiful, blurry and buzzing noise, but it was beguiling. (Robert Loerzel)

Live Review: Majical Cloudz/Pitchfork Music Festival

Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Live Reviews No Comments »

I was so engrossed with watching a group of presumably intoxicated festival goers staring at some sticks or ants or something, I didn’t make it to Majical Cloudz in time to be very close to the stage for the electronic duo’s set. No matter, because after the first song, a technical difficulty delayed the band’s performance. Singer Devon Welsh tried to stall with attempts at knock-knock jokes from fans, and beat-boxing, but then quickly moved to plan B, singing fan requests a capella, which was actually quite compelling, even after the lead singer forgot some of the words to a song and turned the mic over to a wobbly voiced but enthusiastic fan.

After fifteen minutes and two unaccompanied songs, a pared-down version of the set (sans the full suite of effects and patterns) was all Majical Cloudz could muster. It mostly worked; the songs are melancholy and sparse, and Welsh allowed himself to carry the set with his expressive vocals. Though fans attempts to be helpful by clapping along didn’t always go smoothly, he good-naturedly brought them back on track, and thanked the crowd for sticking around. Considering this is my worst nightmare as a musician, I must say Welsh handled a potential disaster with good humor and grace. (Keidra Chaney)

Live Review: Real Estate/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Indie Rock, Live Reviews 1 Comment »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Real Estate’s breezy music, full of shimmering surfaces with chiming guitars and soft, breathy vocals, isn’t the sort of stuff that gets audience fists pumping in the air, but the New Jersey band’s pleasant set late Sunday afternoon offered a welcome interlude of relaxation. The light, airy songs drifted out across the park, and every once in a while, Real Estate picked up the tempo, sounding a bit like a venerable band from the same state, The Feelies. But mostly, the group put us in a mellow mood. (Robert Loerzel)