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Lolla Day Two: Pedal to the Metal

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Live Reviews, Metal, Punk, Rock No Comments »
Photo: Brian Hieggelke

Mick Jenkins/Photo: Brian Hieggelke

By Craig Bechtel

One of the few hip-hop acts on the Lollapalooza bill this year, and the only one from Chicago, Mick Jenkins led the audience in a repeated chant to “drink more water,” dovetailing off the musical project he released last year entitled “The Water[s]”—which he told the rapt crowd (who mostly seemed to know the words) is a metaphor for truth. His verbal flow was just as fluid as water, and to Jenkins’ credit, his four-piece ensemble included a live, jazz-influenced drummer, along with the de rigueur backing man and DJ. But the proof was in the performance—as Jenkins put it at the end of one number, “all of this shit is perception.” Perception being what it is, he concluded his set with a reference to N.W.A.’s “Fuck Tha Police,” a pointed reference to the ongoing national controversies prompted by allegations of police brutality against African-Americans. The point was not lost on anyone. (A few hours later rapper Travis Scott would attempt to make a similar point at the beginning of his set on the Perry’s stage by telling the crowd to climb over the security barriers and rush the stage, shouting “We want rage!” According to published reports, the plug was pulled on his performance only five minutes in, and he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.) 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: 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: 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 »

Raw Material: A Varied (and Vicarious) Pitchfork Itinerary

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Jam Band, Metal, Prog-rock, Punk, Rap, Rock No Comments »


By Keidra Chaney

Pitchfork Music Fest Weekend is upon us once again. It’s traditionally been the “tastemaker’s festival” of the summer, where this year’s Pitchfork buzz acts become next year’s Lolla lineup. This year’s crop offers a decidedly local flavor, in a way hearkening back to the festival’s roots in Chicago, starting with the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival back in 2005. The city’s own Wilco and Chance The Rapper bookend as headliners on Friday and Sunday (with a reunited Sleater-Kinney closing Saturday), but there’s a whole lot to check out in between, from the fest itself to a whole slew of aftershows all weekend long. I had every intention of going to P4K this year, but I’m ninety percent sure I’ll be out of town, so I’ll share with you the schedule I have planned. If any of you take my suggestions, let me know how it all worked out.


I’d get out of work early and ease into my weekend with Chicago’s own guitar wunderkind Ryley Walker on the Blue Stage at 3:20pm, then run over to check out Drake acolyte/rival ILoveMakonnen on the Green Stage at 4:35pm. Friday at Pitchfork Fest tends to not be hugely eventful because the heavier rock bands that I prefer tend to show up on Saturday and Sunday, so I’d take a long break and check out the vendor booths to kill time before seeing a bit of Panda Bear on the Green Stage at 6:25pm, then leave early to jet over to the Red Stage for Chvrches at 7:20pm. This is a group that took time to win me over, because I found a lot of their synth covers of classic rock and R&B hits nearly intolerable, but their latest album has grown on me; it’s dance music that sounds BIG, like a rock band, and it’s likely to sound pretty good on the Red Stage. Wilco plays on the Green Stage at 8:30pm, and while I probably wouldn’t stick around, I am sure everyone else will. Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Material: The Best of 2014? Possibly Yet to Come

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Holiday Music, Indie Rock, Interviews, Live Reviews, Metal, Prog-rock, R&B, Rock, Shoegaze, Soul, Space Pop No Comments »

Forgotten Species

By Keidra Chaney

Here we are at the end of the year, and while most music journalists will inflict their top-ten bands/albums/live shows of 2014 lists on their readers, I’ve decided to spare you. There’s still enough time, after all, to catch the best show of the year, or even check out a new band or album that might be your favorite. There have been two or three times that my favorite concert of a given year took place during the last six weeks on the calendar (I’m looking at you, St Vincent!). This is especially true with the holidays approaching; Chicago is fond of its Christmas and pre-New Year’s live music showcases and events. Either way, there’s still a lot going on in the city when it comes to live music. Here are a few standouts.

The Empty Bottle (1035 North Western) is all up in Christmas this month, with a whole slew of Christmas and Christmas-ish events to celebrate the holiday. On December 12, they’re throwing their second annual Bottle Hop to raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It’s an old-school rock ‘n’ roll/soul/R&B shindig, which makes it a perfect opportunity to dress kinda fancy. The lineup includes badass throwback soul band The Congregation (on the verge of very big things, I predict), fifties rockers The Tenders and western swing outfit The Chandelier Swingers. The show is $10 and starts at 9pm.

A week later, on December 19, space-y collaboration Quarter Mile Thunder throws a “Xmas psych party” (which also doubles as an album release party) with the Record Low. The following night features holiday-themed Chicago supergroup Snow Angels (comprising members of Mannequin Men, Johnny and The Limelites, Vee Dee and Automatic Stinging Machines), who reconvene for their annual holiday performance; they say it’s been twelve years since they started.

If that’s too much live music for you, the Bottle also hosts a pair of lunch-hour events in time for Christmas shopping: a poster sale on December 14 and a pop-up holiday market on December 20. Read the rest of this entry »

Metal Man of Mystery: Greg Fulton’s Journey from Thrash Icon to the Party Band Circuit

Chicago Artists, Metal No Comments »


By Keidra Chaney

Everyone loves a good rock ‘n’ roll success story. You know the one: the scrappy band of musicians, armed with nothing more than raw talent and dreams, hustle their way to nationwide, major-label success. But these days such stories are few and far between, and for every rock-star success story that’s told, there are always several, lesser-known stories of industry mainstays that get short shrift.

For example, Greg Fulton: active in the Chicago music scene since his days as a Columbia College student in the 1980s, Fulton is currently the founder, guitarist, and vocalist of Sweet Diezel Jenkins, a Chicago-based “party band” that does mashup-style covers of R & B and pop hits. Can you imagine a funk-infused mashup of Sisqo’s “Thong Song” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”? Sweet Diezel Jenkins manages to pull it off with aplomb. SDJ has a regular gig at Red Line Tap in Rogers Park on most Wednesday nights, and the band regularly plays out at bars and festivals across the midwest, from Ohio to Michigan.

But little known to many, Fulton also represents a slice of Chicago heavy metal history, as the founding member of several metal bands: Znowhite, Cyclone Temple, and Rebels Without Applause. Znowhite, founded in 1982, was featured in a volume of the iconic “Metal Massacre” song compilation alongside a then-unknown Slayer. (Fulton is listed on Znowhite albums under his stage name, “Ian Tafoya.” He managed the band under his own name.) Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Sleep/Thalia Hall

Metal No Comments »


“Metal” is a very broad term, roping together a sweeping mass of bands that do not necessarily belong in the same genre. Sleep falls into this category, stoner metal specifically, but denies the stereotypes that make metal as a whole sound shallow. Their songs are essentially full albums with well thought-out compositions. Sleep knows how to find a hook and blow it up tenfold into long, massive songs that fade into each other and make longer, more narrative pieces. It’s difficult to find parallels between Sleep and certain godfathers of metal because they have moved beyond the blueprints set up for them. Sleep is evidence that metal has almost untraceably evolved since its beginnings.  Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Helmet/Reggies Rock Club

Metal, Rock No Comments »


Helmet’s seminal 1994 release “Betty” came during a time when rock was going through some weird shifts in the mainstream. Grunge was its nadir and the industry glommed onto so-called “alternative” or “post grunge” rock bands like Candlebox and Offspring to fill the void. So when “Betty” was released it made an impact, even though the album was not as much of a commercial success as Helmet’s sophomore effort, “Meantime.” Some music fans view “Betty” as their mainstream entry point into underground post-hardcore and metal while some critics see it as the accidental template for the rise of the much maligned sub-genre of nu-metal and representative bands like Slipknot and Limp Bizkit. Regardless of where one falls in the debate on the historical influence of “Betty,” the album stands up on its own. The meaty down-tuned riffs at the intro of “Milquetoast” or the pulverizing bass of “Biscuits for Smut” still manage to inspire mosh-pit action, even if said mosh pit is slower and much more cautious than in 1994. Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Deafheaven/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Metal No Comments »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

And now for the only full-on metal act of this entire festival, the eagerly awaited (by some) Deafheaven. A lot of folks at the fest were clearly not ready for vocalist George Clarke’s gut-wrenching shrieks, but whatever. We will be back to indie rock mumbling and such soon enough.

A certain segment of metal critics/fans lost their collective shit for the band’s 2013 release, “Sunbather,” a wet dream for anyone who is equally enamored of both, say, Gorgoroth and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I have been largely unmoved by the band’s records, but I will say their shoegaze-y elements are much more stirring in a live setting. Also Clarke’s evil-German-film-studies grad-student vibe actually works live; he’s got a weird kind of sexy malevolence that fits their sound and is dynamic to watch. They debuted a new track,”From The Kettle Onto The Coil” with a nice chunky breakdown in the middle that appeals to my metal traditionalist sensibilities. You win this round, Deafheaven. Mostly because you guys are the only metal I’ll see all weekend. (Keidra Chaney)