Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

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 »

Songs About Gentrification and Euthanasia: Dance Early and Often with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork

Alt-Rock, Disco, Electro, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »

Ajulie-ruin-sitting

By Bart Lazar

Music can be fun, danceable and meaningful; this is what The Julie Ruin teaches us. Originally formed as a solo project by Kathleen Hanna, the founder of the riot grrrl movement, The Julie Ruin combines pulsing disco, electro-clash and punk to provide the most danceable band you may find at Pitchfork, or anywhere else, this year—and the only one singing songs about gentrification and euthanasia.

Ken Mellman—keyboardist, vocalist and former member of the Obie-award winning drag cabaret duo Kiki and Herb—took time from recording The Julie Ruin’s second album to let us know a little bit about this veteran, artistic and activistic band, and why you should get to Pitchfork early on Sunday.

Tell me about The Julie Ruin.
Kathleen wanted to start a new band, so she systematically tricked each of us into joining her. She snagged her old bandmate from Bikini Kill, Kathi [Wilcox, bassist], who was just moving to New York from D.C., Sara Landeau [guitarist and proprietor of the Brooklyn Music Studio for Women and Girls], who she met when they both were volunteering for Girls Rock Camp, and Carmine Covelli [drummer], who had been Le Tigre’s tour tech guy. Kathleen had been a fan of my old act and we had been friends for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Silverio/Ruido Fest

Electro, Festivals, Latin No Comments »

Silverio_carrousel-e1404678516587

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There’s no concise way to describe the electro antics of Julian Lede, better known as the madcap Mexican artist Silverio. His self-proclaimed simple samples and often cajoling approach to electro dance might seem light years ahead to some fans, just plain odd and off-putting to other, more austere and prissy electro goers. Known for his rampant energy, notorious red bikini, glistening beer belly and sweat-drenched performances, Silverio mixes humor, dissonance and the crassest elements of Mexican popular culture into his music, as well as his persona. Read the rest of this entry »

The Germans Are Coming: Techno Entrepreneur Has Big Plans for Detroit

Electronic/Dance, News and Dish No Comments »
dimitri_hegemann_-_photo_by_marie_staggat

Dimitri Hegemann/Photo: Marie Staggat

By Lee DeVito

Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival is a rare instance of the mainstream embracing what is otherwise still a relatively underground aspect of the city’s musical legacy. It’s an occasion on which thousands of visitors, from the city’s suburbs to the world over, flock to Hart Plaza to celebrate an entire genre of music that can be traced back to a handful of Detroiters tinkering with making electronic music in the 1980s.

At Movement, it’s not uncommon to hear DJs pay respect to Detroit’s contributions to electronic music by dropping tracks like Cybotron’s “Clear”—regarded as the first techno record—into their sets. As celebrated and accomplished as DJs like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, Kevin Saunderson and Eddie Fowlkes may be, they’re not quite household names to your casual millennial raver; yet at Movement, they’re reserved prominent slots alongside mass-appeal electronic acts like Skrillex, Fatboy Slim and Moby.

During the rest of the year you might catch some of those early Detroit DJs playing far more low-key events in Detroit’s smattering of electronic clubs. But while Mecca comparisons are a cliché, it’s hard not to evoke it in the way that many music fans, artists and DJs look to Detroit during Memorial Day weekend.

This May, as organizers were gearing up for the festival, members of the local media gathered for a more low-key appreciation of techno, centered around a man from Berlin who has been making waves in the media for his vision for the city. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Rock Dead? What Killed Detroit’s Popular Venue, The Magic Stick

Alt-Rock, Electronic/Dance, News and Dish, Rock No Comments »
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Photo: Daniel Meyering

By Lee DeVito

To be fair, none of the parties involved ever actually declared that rock was dead. Yet that sentiment was the takeaway for many earlier this year when The Magic Stick, an iconic Detroit rock club, announced it was switching formats to electronic dance music.

The club—part of a historic entertainment complex that includes The Majestic Theatre and the city’s oldest continuously operating bowling alley, The Garden Bowl—enjoyed its peak as the epicenter of the “garage rock” boom of the early 2000s. Homegrown acts like the White Stripes, the Von Bondies, the Detroit Cobras and the Dirtbombs helped make stripped-down, guitar-based music cool again, resonating with audiences in Detroit and beyond.

For a time, bills stuffed with four or more bands were common, with the second-floor venue’s wooden floors flexing somewhat alarmingly under the weight of up to nearly 600 sweating fans. Hip national acts like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Sleater-Kinney and Arcade Fire would make stops at the venue in the following years. The White Stripes, by then selling out theaters and stadiums across the world, even considered the venue as the location for anElephant”-era secret show, before those plans were thwarted by Jack White breaking his hand in a car accident. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Chosen Few Picnic/Jackson Park

Chicago Artists, Disco, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, House, Live Reviews No Comments »
Wayne Williams

Wayne Williams

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In the late seventies and eighties, a group of local DJs—Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Alan King, Tony Hatchett and Andre Hatchett—helped turn Chicago-style house music into an international phenomenon. In 1990, the by-now-self-christened Chosen Few Disco Corp. (self-esteem obviously not being a problem area for them) held a reunion picnic at Jackson Park, and rather than being a wistful, weren’t-the-old-days-great-please-pass-the-potato-salad affair, the party generated enough high-energy mojo to launch an entirely new phenomenon: an annual house-music festival that grew to incorporate live performances as well as epic-scale spinning. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wire’s DRILL Festival/The Hideout, Thalia Hall, Metro

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Punk, Rock No Comments »
Wire

Wire / Photo: Marylene Mey

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Whether or not you believe Wire to be a seminal punk and post-punk band, you have to admire its insistence on evolution—from its minimalist beginnings in 1976 through its various genre-defying iterations. Which brings us to the new format for the band’s ongoing DRILL festivals: small, curated events built on artistic kinship across divergent musical styles, influences and generations. This version of the festival (with different supporting/collaborating artists) hit London earlier this year, and we have the privilege of being the only other host city on the agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

Art > Commerce @ SXSW 2015: A Survivor’s Story

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Dance Pop, EDM, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Folk-rock, Garage Rock, Indie Pop, Live Reviews, Post-Rock, Rock No Comments »
Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

By Bart Lazar

“To hell with poverty,” Gang of Four tells us, “we’ll get drunk on cheap wine.” The only problem is that the band is playing at SXSW on a stage sponsored by dozens of global megabrands and funded by tens of thousands of trade show attendees, each of whom has shelled out thousands of dollars to attend. But just like the song, SXSW has an irresistible beat you can dance to, so that art, entertainment and fun ultimately trump commerce. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: For Live Music, a Not-So-Bleak Midwinter

Alt-Country, Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Folk-rock, Indie Pop, Indie Rock No Comments »

July Talk

By Keidra Chaney

It’s an interesting time of year for live music in Chicago; it’s right before the spring and summer concert season, so many of us are preoccupied with summer-festival-lineup announcements or buying tickets for recently announced shows taking place in the upcoming months. At the same time, it’s smack dab in the middle of the worst part of winter, so many of us are suffering from major cabin fever and eager to leave the house for anything remotely interesting. Chicago’s musicians and venues often approach this time of year in novel and creative ways.

The 2015 Dunn Dunn Fest returns to Chicago February 19-21. In an indie-rock-heavy festival scene, Dunn Dunn Fest has traditionally stood out from the crowd by focusing more on American, folk and roots acts. Six venues will host this year’s event, including The Hideout (1354 West Wabansia), Subterranean (2011 West North) and Beat Kitchen (2100 West Belmont). While Dunn Dunn Fest started in 2013 as an intimate festival focused primarily on Americana, a closer look at the lineup this year reveals a much larger and more diverse list of forty-plus bands that don’t fall so neatly into that category. On February 19, Toronto alt-rock band July Talk plays Subterranean (8pm, $10) and on February 20 sunny indie-poppers Save the Clocktower play the Hideout ($10, 10pm). For more information on the full lineup, venues, times and ticket prices go to the Harmonica Dunn website. Read the rest of this entry »

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)