Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Raw Material: All You Need to Know About Tomorrow Never Knows

Alt-Rock, Festivals, Folk-rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Pop, Indie Rock, Pop, Rock No Comments »
0116_ZolaJesus2TNK

Zola Jesus

By Keidra Chaney

As of this writing, tickets for the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival (January 14-18) are still available. You can get a five-day pass for $100, and most individual shows run from $15 to $30. TNK added a comedy lineup to the festival a few years ago, but since I’m the last person you should be asking about comedy recs, I’ll stick to my picks for the music shows you should consider leaving the house for in the next few days.

TNK kicks off on January 14, and while Aimee Mann and Ted Leo’s fun folk-rock collaboration, The Both, is likely to draw a crowd, I recommend checking out the synth-pop project from Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner, called Operators, at Schubas (3159 North Southport). Indie rockers doing dance pop appears to be a thing now (not that I’m complaining, as a rock fan with a jones for synth) and Operators sound about as you’d expect: very eighties-tinged and chock full of hooks. It’s pop music the way indie rockers seem to be embracing it unabashedly now, and I think it’s worth checking out. The $15 show is 18+ and starts at 8pm, with Mister Suit, Lowell and Lia Ices opening. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: Chicago Music 2015—You Read it Here

Folk-rock, Garage Rock, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Neo-soul, Post-metal No Comments »
sidewalkchalk

Sidewalk Chalk

By Keidra Chaney
While recapping the musical highlights of the past year is satisfying, looking forward to the new year is even more fun. Speculation always runs rampant, but the great thing is never knowing what to expect from new bands, new shows, new trends. Sometimes the next big thing in Chicago music comes out of nowhere, or an older favorite manages to surprise. And of course, in Chicago, we approach the upcoming summer concert festival season like it’s a basketball draft. So yes, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2015. Here are a few January shows to start off the year right, along with a few unscientific predictions about what to expect in Chicago music for the new year. Or maybe it’s just a wish list. You decide.
Apparently January is a good month for anniversaries, and there are two pretty significant ones coming up at Metro (3730 North Clark). Chicago’s pride, Bloodshot Records, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary on January 10 with an impressive lineup: folk-rocker Ben Kweller, Lydia Loveless (wasn’t she just in town?), alt-country local Jon Langford, Bobby Bare Jr., and Nashville six-piece Banditos.  The 18+ show is $21 and starts at 7pm. On January 30, post-metal trio Russian Circles comes home for their tenth-anniversary tour. I’ve been a huge fan of the band since their 2008 full-length release “Station,” and their acclaim seems to increase with each passing year. I never thought I’d see the band (or any heavy local band, honestly) play Millennium Park, and yet last summer’s show at Pritzker Pavilion was one of my favorites of an already impressive summer. This is a better time than any to check out the band, as they’ve promised a lineup of “special guests” for their hometown. If you haven’t seen them live, you’re running out of excuses. The 18+ show is $18/$20 d.o.s., and starts at 9pm. Prediction: We may finally see Chicago heavy music get its due in more mainstream circles.

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Preview: Method Man, Redman, and B-Real/Concord Music Hall

Hip-Hop, Rap No Comments »

smokers-club-tour

RECOMMENDED

1999 called, it wants its concert back because this show is going to be THE BOMB.

In case you’ve never listened to rap music, Method Man and Redman have been making head-nodding, gangsta-leaning jams together since 1994 and are still two of the best rappers out there. If you don’t believe in soulmates, at least in a creative sense, these two could change your mind. B-Real is the front man of Cypress Hill and sold more than eighteen million albums. His nasally vocals are legendary, and while he has released countless hits, no one can resist or avoid “Insane in the Membrane.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ana Tijoux/Subterranean

Latin, Rap, World Music No Comments »

AnaTijoux

RECOMMENDED

Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has been quite busy of late—just in 2014 she collaborated with the likes of Julieta Venegas, Oscar-winner Jorge Drexler and many others while embarking on a massive tour that included stops at Millennium Park and the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. Her sound blends North and Latin American influences—she has a solid band that includes guitars, percussion, keys and drums. In addition, her backup singers are also skilled MCs who have the chops to share many of the tunes, freestyling whenever there is space to do so. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Shabazz Palaces/Lincoln Hall

Hip-Hop No Comments »
Photo: Nikki Benson

Photo: Nikki Benson

RECOMMENDED

The glitchy, trippy music of Seattle-based duo Shabazz Palaces is hip-hop for sound and noise nerds, much more concerned with exploring different musical palettes and textures than creating beats to nod your head to. Ishmael Butler (formerly of Digable Planets) has a history of creating hip-hop with a solid foundation in jazz-influenced musicianship. With Shabazz Palaces, Butler goes even bolder and more experimental in his musical collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire. Together, they eschew sampling of existing songs and dare to create new patterns of melody and rhythm with drum machines, synth, samplers and various forms of percussive instruments. It’s hip-hop that tells a story through words and music and defies simple descriptions. 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 Compton hometown drawing the crowd in, Lamar blazed through a surprising number 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: Schoolboy Q/Pitchfork Music Festival

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

Photo: Robert Loerzel

When the festival gods decided to bestow Schoolboy Q with a slot that immediately followed Earl Sweatshirt’s, they might not have anticipated the effect that a back-to-back bass-thumping can have on an audience. The people were fatigued, but Schoolboy Q soldiered on, successfully reorienting the festival grounds toward a club-vibe with track after track of radio-friendly hip-hop. He’s a crowd-pleaser, Schoolboy Q is, and few sets outside of Kendrick Lamar’s will inspire such widespread dancing and Instagramming. If you were worried about having a photo to remember the weekend by, fear not, there’s a good chance you’re in somebody’s from the Schoolboy Q set alone. Even Earl Sweatshirt couldn’t resist—he spent much of the set dancing and laughing on the side of the stage, the feel too fun and infectious to miss. Schoolboy Q’s DJ deserves special recognition for expertly handling hype-man duties without stealing the singular focus that his frontman deserves. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Earl Sweatshirt/Pitchfork Music Festival

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

Photo: Robert Loerzel

For some fans, the favorite moment of Earl Sweatshirt’s set comes down to what they enjoyed chanting more: “I’mma fuck the freckles off your face, bitch,” or “Hot soup in my motherfucking bowl.” No matter which side of the divide you fall on, there wasn’t a person in the park who didn’t appreciate Earl insisting on a massive singalong to Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” before he would even bother to launch into a song of his own. This was the crowd-participation performance of the weekend, with Earl even taking the time to badger one unfortunate far-removed fan to chant along to his set, or be doomed to public mockery for life. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess which route the fan chose, along with everyone else, who simply couldn’t resist Earl’s irreverent sense of humor, the calling card for one of hip-hop’s most significant newcomers. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Pusha T/Pitchfork Music Festival

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

Photo: Robert Loerzel

In contrast to the tight, rehearsed set Clipse put together in 2007, Pusha T strolled on stage a leisurely thirty-five minutes late this year. One wonders what he was thinking, standing on the very same stage as before, now without his brother Malice; perhaps the church steeple in the distance serving as a constant reminder of the moral obligations Malice now embraces. Or maybe not. Pusha T’s mid-set medley of “Runaway,” “Mercy” and “I Don’t Like,” absolutely crushed the enthusiastic crowd, at least the parts of it that were still visible through the consistent smoke haze. Hip-hop shows can sometimes suffer when an artist raps over his own tracks, their voice sounding weak in comparison to the studio recording, and Pusha T suffered this routine setback, but not without a fight. The object of his derision? Lil B, who he targeted more than once to a crowd who had fawned over The Based God last year. It didn’t seem to matter, not much did, except a bunch of kids hungry for street raps to blow smoke to. (Kenneth Preski)

Live Review: Twin Peaks, Ka/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

After spending most of my time at the Blue Tent on Friday, I had my fill of drum machines for the moment, so starting out with Chicago’s Twin Peaks was a breath of fresh air. Their brand of fuzz-drenched, melodic garage rock was a perfect start to a sunny Saturday of music and beer (even though no one in the band is quite old enough to have one yet.) I really don’t want to belabor the they’re-just-out-of-their-teens angle, but it’s always a thrill to hear such confident, mature rock ‘n’ roll coming from musicians so young. The thrill of playing a Pitchfork crowd (on the eve of their second LP release, no less) was evident from their charmingly awkward stage banter to their equally awkward, yet very rock ‘n’ roll guitar smashing.

On the Red Stage, Brownsville rapper Ka shifted the mood from sunny power pop to gravelly-voiced hip-hop, fraught with the kind of introspection and regret that comes from age and experience. Ka is a wordsmith and storyteller at heart and uses sparse, ambient loops to anchor his lyrics and demand concentration from the listener. Definitely not party music, but an oddly fitting counterpoint to the youthful punk energy of Twin Peaks. (Keidra Chaney)