Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Slim Twig/The Empty Bottle

Alt-Rock, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »

Photo: Carly Sioux


One of the problems that comes with being a music critic of a certain age, is that when a young twenty-something artist starts impressing you with similarities to seventies-era acts like The Beatles, David Bowie and T. Rex, you can’t be sure whether it’s because those acts are still that influential, or whether they’re just still influencing you. But after getting deeper into Slim Twig’s new album, “Thank You For Stickin’ With Twig,” it’s pretty clear that the former is the case. Hell, one of his tunes, “A Woman’s Touch,” is actually about The Beatles—or rather, about the role (decisive yet disrespected) of the mop-tops’ women in their success. “The wives became the enemies,” Twig sings, “Of screaming fans who never ceased / While holed up down at Abbey Road / The boys were baring rubber souls / So who wrote the songs? / Who dressed the men? / How did they know what to do then? / It’s the only story told.” The sound recalls the deliberately low-fi, analogue sonics of the Fab Four’s later years, but that feminist angle turns the tune straight-up postmillennial. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: Riot Fest and the Summer Wrap-up

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, EDM, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Garage Rock, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »


By Keidra Chaney

Lollapalooza is the juggernaut and Pitchfork the tastemaker’s favorite, but for me Riot Fest is the best music festival in town. As a rocker at heart, I’ll cop to a strong bias: the festival started as a multi-venue underground punk and metal showcase, and it’s currently one of the few festivals to stay (for the most part) true to its rock roots over the years. But there’s a lot more live music to check out in the next couple of weeks outside of Riot Fest, including North Coast Festival, if hip-hop, EDM and jam bands are more your speed, and an eclectic group of DJs and musicians paying tribute to Kate Bush.

Before the festival season wraps in Chicago, on September 3 at Beat Kitchen (2100 West Belmont) there’s a sucker punch of peppy garage punk with the city’s own Swimsuit Addition opening for St. Louis duo Bruiser Queen. Their 2014 full-length “Wretched Pinups” is like listening to nineties riot grrrl bands, surf-punk, eighties new wave and a little sixties girl group mixed in a sonic blender. (You can also check out a new remix of their single “Talk is Cheap” on their Bandcamp page.) Show starts at 9pm and is 17+; tickets are $8. Read the rest of this entry »

Lolla Day 3: Riders On the Storm

Alt-Rock, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Pop, Rap, Rock, Uncategorized No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Photo: Brian Hieggelke

By Craig Bechtel

Festivalgoers receive their tickets and passes with the caveat that the shows will go on “rain or shine.” But there’s always the caveat that if high winds and lightning pop up on the radar, all bets are off, and attendees of Lollapalooza Day 3 had to wrestle with the forces of Mother Nature, not once, but twice.

Sunday started hot and humid, and skies were sunny as Australian trio DMA’s treated those in attendance at the Pepsi stage to their jangly, echoey guitar pop. DMA’s are clearly inspired by the mid-nineties Britpop tradition, à la Oasis, Blur, Happy Mondays, etc., who themselves were born of NME C86 influences like The Mighty Lemon Drops, The Shop Assistants and The Wedding Present. Whether this was apparent to the crowds enjoying their set at the Pepsi stage was unclear—they may have been there based on the strength of the band’s “Laced” single, which has garnered some airplay on local AOR radio station WXRT, was a song of the week for KEXP and garnered a review in Entertainment Weekly last fall. Read the rest of this entry »

Sunday at Lolla: Hometown Heroes and Wild Weather

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Dance Pop, Festivals, Indie Rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »

Twin Peaks

By Robert Rodi

Sunday afternoon I had my first concentrated dose of Twin Peaks. I’m not generally drawn to this kind of act—you reach a certain age, you find your appetite for brash young guitar bands has been satiated almost to the point of aversion—but I love a local success story, and these Chicago natives have had an amazing year since they slashed their way to stardom at Pitchfork last year. Their album “Wild Onion” became both a critical and commercial success, launching them on an extensive national tour, and now they’d returned home in triumph to play Lollapalooza.

It was easy to see they were stoked. Almost from the moment they took the stage, they were hurling themselves around like sock puppets. I’ve heard enough of “Wild Onion” to know that there are some wryly rueful and even mildly cerebral tunes in their repertoire, but for their Lolla set it was pretty much power-chord overload. Their fans—who were many—seemed to love it, and the guys fed on that energy so that their performance rapidly went from propulsive to convulsive. Seriously, there was so much thrashing and pounding and leaping around, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the entire Sprint stage had shifted a few inches during their set. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Craig Bechtel

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

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.


St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Bud Light

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 »

Skylar Spence

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


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

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.

Tove Lo
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 »

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.


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
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: Reilly Gill

Alt-Rock, Festivals, Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »

Tyler, The Creator

Sifting through this year’s Lollapalooza lineup was pretty arduous. Like every year, there are some names that stand out and are an obvious “Yes, I have to see that,” but man, who are some of these other people? Luckily, Lolla has a great website where you can preview most of the bands without leaving the main artist page. Discovering new music is a wonderful thing; there are some diamonds in the shallow pop-synth rough here.

Also, the food options at Lollapalooza this year are excellent, and as someone who is very into eating and relaxing, I recommend stopping over at Chow Town (their name, not mine) and grabbing an iced coffee from Dark Matter and a jalapeño cheddar bratwurst from Publican Quality Meats. Bring a solid blanket and some solid friends and start off your big Lollapalooza weekend with this fancy second lunch and Father John Misty.


Father John Misty
I have seen Misty play twice now, and can seriously vouch for this one. His live performances are timeless, and his tongue-in-cheek, glassy-eyed attitude is made for the stage. He has been openly annoyed by fans documenting the majority of his sets on their smartphones recently, which I can also get behind.

The War on Drugs
TWOD’s airy, full sound is perfect for a large festival setting. Add a cold beer to cool down that jalapeño brat belly, and I’m in. 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.


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.

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 »

My Lolla: Robert Loerzel

Alt-Rock, Festivals, Indie Rock, Metal, Rock No Comments »

Father John Misty/Photo: Taylor Hill

I’ll be taking photos at Lollapalooza, which entails running around Grant Park, catching a few songs here, a few songs there. I’ll be keeping my ears open for interesting sounds by some of the bands that I don’t know. But these are the shows I plan to stick around for. (Can you tell that my tastes lean toward old-fashioned guitar music?)


Father John Misty
In his guise as Father John Misty, singer-songwriter Josh Tillman oozes charisma, and he has a tendency to do some crazy things onstage—more than you’d expect from listening to his catchy, 1970s California-style folk-rock songs. I’m hoping he ups the crazy quotient for Lolla.

Alabama Shakes
Samsung Galaxy
Singer-guitarist Brittany Howard’s voice and passion are astonishing, and her bandmates have developed a remarkable chemistry. These Southern rockers’ second album, “Sound & Color,” is outstanding, but the music is even more exciting live. Read the rest of this entry »