Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

You Ought to Know: The Unrepentant Humanity of Montreal’s Ought

Emo, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Victoria Davis

Photo: Victoria Davis

Ought’s debut LP, “More Than Any Other Day,” begins with a track called “Pleasant Heart” that’s led by an instrumental which inspires anything but its title. Its shaggy, stabby guitar and mathematically puzzling drumming take us to singer/guitarist Tim Beeler’s Kinsella-esque howling as the track unravels into a dissonant string-led soundscape.

But Ought manages to feel warm and familiar—endearing; cute, even—in their angst. A clarion of believable hope always emerges from its darkness. The band’s plainly existential lyrics and daring style have drawn easy comparisons to The Velvet Underground and Talking Heads, but it’s their charm which makes these similes most possible. Their character is big enough to mention them as carriers of a long, great, lively pop lineage.

It’s Ought’s humanity that stands tallest at the Empty Bottle on a Saturday night in September. As Beeler somehow balances the dual personalities of his voice and guitar, the crowd shuffles closer to the stage with air-hugs and smiles, like they’d just really like to have a beer with these fellows who anthemically shout about being “excited for the milk of human kindness.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Conor Oberst with Dawes/Metro

Alt-Country, Emo, Folk, Folk-rock, Indie Rock No Comments »


Conor Oberst 2Conor Oberst has miraculously survived the era of Bright Eyes despite the morose songs he wrote during his stint as the King of Emo. Oberst’s groups since the project have adopted a more western-folk influence, beginning with the aptly titled Monsters of Folk. He has also toured and recorded with the Mystic Valley Band, embracing the influence of an angrier Neil Young, and producing a full, clean, Americana sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Riot Fest/Humboldt Park

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Emo, Festivals, Hardcore, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »


Thirteen concurrent thoughts that afflict the bystander of a bus advertisement featuring this year’s Riot Fest lineup: I had no idea The Replacements got back together. Can you imagine how many kids will be singing along to Fall Out Boy and Blink-182? Can you imagine how many of their parents will be singing along to the Violent Femmes? Even without Kim Deal, I don’t think I can see the Pixies enough. What I wouldn’t do to see Debbie Harry duet with Danzig. It’s possible that Guided By Voices have written enough songs for at least one to appeal to every single person on the planet. Flavor Flav of Public Enemy may be the greatest reality television star who ever lived. One of the two Black Flag reunion bands is playing, and so is X, making this one of the best punk shows of the year. If you substitute Brand New and Taking Back Sunday in their place, the same can be said about emo. In fact, local pop punk bands popular in the 1990s are so well represented by the likes of Screeching Weasel, Smoking Popes, The Broadways and The Lawrence Arms, as to lend the festival an air of well-honed sophistication. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Victor Villarreal/Panchos

Chicago Artists, Emo, Punk, Rock No Comments »


The 1990s and early 2000s, especially, were a crucial time for Victor Villarreal. After successful runs with punk pioneers Cap’n Jazz and Owls, among others, he disappeared from the scene he helped establish to focus on other, non-musical endeavors. His seven-plus-year absence ended in the summer of 2009 when the Chicago guitarist resurfaced in DeKalb, a small college town an hour and a half westward, with a handful of strings and headful of new solo material—his first ever to feature his own vocals. Villarreal played a couple of shows to support “Alive,” his debut album, before reuniting with his old bandmates a year later to tour with Cap’n Jazz. The months thereafter were quiet for him, and aside from an odd release here and there and a number of appearances supporting fellow Chicago outfit Joan of Arc on guitar, nobody really knew what Villarreal had been up to. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Braid/Metro

Chicago Artists, Emo No Comments »


Following the successful reunion last year of Chicago’s seminal nineties emo band, Cap’n Jazz, it seemed only a matter of time before the city’s other genre stalwart, Braid, would also announce their return. Bob Nanna and co. return to the Metro (where their initial departing shows occurred way back in 1999) with the hope to recapture the energy of their brand of post-hardcore that became so influential long after their breakup. Read the rest of this entry »

The New Emo: It’s back, living underground and thriving in Chicago

Chicago Artists, Emo 2 Comments »


By Leor Galil

There’s a pre-concert ritual many gig-goers may be familiar with: gawking at band merchandise. Usually, there’s a flashy T-shirt or a tour-only vinyl that will whet some music fan’s appetite.

Yet, the most interesting item Nick Wakim’s band, Castevet, had to offer at a house show in Logan Square in early August couldn’t be bought. It was a photo of the Chicago quartet’s latest album, “The Echo & The Light,” on display at a record store. In Japan.

“We’re kind of a big deal in Japan,” Wakim said, jokingly, as he showed some of the other musicians on the night’s bill the photo on his iPhone 4. “No big deal.”

Joking aside, Castevet’s success is a big deal. For a band that plays basement shows as often as Castevet, the opportunity to release an album on a foreign label like Japan’s Stiff Slack Records doesn’t happen every day. Castevet is doing something big. And that big thing is emo.

Emo, or emotional hardcore, has gone through a lot of changes since it became a vital sound in the Washington, D.C., post-hardcore scene in the mid-eighties. Its most recent iteration saw a marriage of pop-punk melodies and emo lyrical introspection boost bands like Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance to the No. 1 and 2 spots on the Billboard charts, respectively. Emo experienced a wave of backlash along with its success, be it in the form of the British tabloids that called emo a cult, or other bands that saw the genre as flaccid and one-note.

Read the rest of this entry »

Soundcheck: Cap’n Jazz reunites

Emo, Indie Rock No Comments »

Growing up listening to music, it’s easy to overlook the fact that band members are growing up too. As the years go by, you dust off stacks of albums, listening to them nostalgically, albums like “Analphabetapolothology,” the retrospective collected works of Chicago’s teenage emo forerunners Cap’n Jazz. Guess what: you aren’t the only one interested in playing these songs again.

“I’m not sure who brought it up first,” drummer Mike Kinsella says about the idea of reuniting—their last performance was back in 1995. In the interim, each band member has gone on to be in seminal outfits such as the Promise Ring or Joan of Arc. These days are a bit different from their teenage years. “Instead of being like, ‘We’re going to jump in the van with one change of clothes and play basements around the country’, it’s now like, ‘Well I can only be gone for a few days at a time because I can’t get a full-time babysitter’,” says Kinsella. Read the rest of this entry »

Oh Boy, Fall Out Boy

Chicago Artists, Emo, Rock No Comments »

By Tom Lynch

Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody in the Wilmette-born emo-pop band, as the four-piece was so immersed in the various “scenes” of Chicago and its suburbs before it got famous and its mouthpiece married one of the Simpsons. When Newcity did this cover story on FOB back in May of 2005, I met Pete Wentz at the Pick Me Up Cafe in Lakeview; he seemed as normal as can be, humble even. We talked about the newest “Star Wars” and how fans—teenagers—sometimes recognized him at places like movie theaters. He came off as genuinely mystified by his band’s growing popularity, and grateful to the dedicated fans. Just an excited kid.

Who’s to say if Wentz’s personality changed once he became rich and famous; the band’s music didn’t—not really, anyway—but as it turns out, according to a blog post by Wentz himself that went live yesterday, FOB may be no more. Or Wentz might be out of the band. Or something. 

Read Wentz’s address to his fans after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sunny Day Real Estate/Metro

Emo, Rock No Comments »


Those who say Weezer’s 1996 record “Pinkerton” laid the groundwork for what emo was to become don’t give enough credit to Sunny Day Real Estate’s 1994 Sub Pop debut, “Diary”—the most perfectly titled record of the genre—which truly set in motion the spinning wheel of eyeliner and tear-soaked sleeves.  What’s easily forgettable now is that back in the mid-nineties, “emo” wasn’t quite the derogatory term yet, and “Diary,” being the classic record that it is, still holds up as an accomplished rock record, with deep and meaty distorted guitars ravaging their way through a tornado led by Jeremy Enigk’s youthful, genuine vocals. (Both the debut and the band’s “LP2” have been re-released with bonus tracks.) The band tours now with its original lineup—Sunny Day first broke up in the middle of recording its second record—which will help remind everyone that this band essentially started a genre on an impossibly high note. That it’s been all downhill from there is hardly Sunny Day Real Estate’s fault. (Tom Lynch)

Sunny Day Real Estate plays September 24 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark, (773)549-0203, at 8pm. $27.

Preview: Owen/Beat Kitchen

Chicago Artists, Emo, Indie Rock, Rock, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »


Mike Kinsella, under the Owen moniker, has released a handful of records, some quite impressive, some shrug-inducing, all possessing their share of cringe-worthy moments as Kinsella offers his whispery emo one-liners. “No Good for No One Now,” from 2002, still stands as Owen’s best, and even 2006’s “At Home with Owen” had its moments of grace and invention. Kinsella’s new record, the bluntly titled “New Leaves,” doesn’t feature the songwriter taking any great strides in musical direction but, as with his previous releases, his phenomenal guitar-playing keeps the record afloat, the intricate and precise guitar pieces blending together seamlessly and beautifully. “New Leaves” is a very, very pretty record, as Kinsella, like much of his work with Owen, bases the musical pieces in acoustic guitars and sweet, sweeping melodies. “These old bones don’t feel so old when I’m home with you,” Kinsella sings on “Never Been Born,” and his on-the-nose romantics come off more genuine than you might think. Tonight, Owen performs as a full band, and gets opening-act help from Bob Nanna (Braid, Hey Mercedes) for the early show and Davey Von Bohlen (The Promise Ring, Maritime) for the late show. It’s an old-school emo kid’s dream! (Tom Lynch)

September 18 at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, (773)281-4444, at 7:30pm & 10:30pm.