Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Raw Material: Plenty of Live Music to Be Thankful For

Festivals, Holiday Music, Pop Punk, Post-punk, Rock, Soul No Comments »

The O’My’s

By Keidra Chaney

For the musically inclined, the week of Thanksgiving can be a bit of a dead period. Since so many people head out of town for the week, many venues avoid booking shows during this time; in addition, they’re usually gearing up for whatever Christmas holiday events they might have planned. Bands try to squeeze in as many shows as they can before the holidays become a distraction for their followers, so traditionally it’s an uneven time for live music—unless you’re really keeping an eye out.

Which I’m here to do for you. And in terms of national acts, this Thanksgiving actually offers a pretty good weekend of options. The beloved Lucinda Williams comes to the Vic (3145 North Sheffield) on Friday, November 28, while her spiritual offspring Lydia Loveless is ironically playing Lincoln Hall (2424 North Lincoln) at roughly the same time. Saturday brings the gorgeous harmonies of Missouri roots rock band HaHa Tonka to Subterranean (2011 West North), and indie-rocker Angel Olsen (who once called Chicago home, albeit for a short time) returns to play Thalia Hall (1807 South Allport). Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Shonen Knife/Bottom Lounge

Pop Punk No Comments »


I do not think any band can put a smile on anyone’s face more than this Japanese power pop punk trio. Naoko Yamano and her bandmates have played rudimentary two-to-three-chord songs sung in rudimentary English. They’ve been going strong for more than thirty-two years and recently performed their 1,000th live show. While they may appear to be unassuming, don’t underestimate them; these ladies are simply exhilarating. We are talking about fast catchy riffs that engage, entertain and (make appropriate two-fisted hand gesture here) ROCK! Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Filmage/Lincoln Hall

Hardcore, Pop Punk, Punk No Comments »


As much as anything else, this is the story of Bill Stevenson. He’s a drummer. And from all the praise dropped at his feet during this newly released ninety-minute film, it would seem that he’s a pretty good one. If Descendents isn’t a familiar name—and it should be—maybe Black Flag summons some sort of recognition. If not, “Filmage” has all the talking heads one’d need to get informed. Keith Morris crops up. Mike Watt, too. And it would seem that Dave Grohl is becoming the new millennium’s Ian MacKaye, replacing that D.C. stalwart in punk documentaries. Watching those famous faces flit across the screen narrating the development of Descendents doesn’t get tiresome, though. The issue with films like this is that frequently the story winds up being more gripping than the music. No pop punk resurrection is set for the immediate future, yet early cuts from Descendents—with Milo Aukerman on vocals—isn’t surpassed by too much else in the music world. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Pony Time/Township

Garage Rock, Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Power Pop, Rock No Comments »
Pony Time 2

Photo: Sarah Creighton


Seattle garage-rock duo Pony Time first popped up on my radar about a year ago when singer/guitarist Luke Beetham was featured in The Stranger’s tongue-in-cheek “Men Who Rock” feature skewering gender stereotypes in music writing. Beetham’s willingness to poke fun at both himself and rock-bro sexism impressed me, and I was equally impressed with Pony Time’s bouncy, buzzy single “Lori + Judy.” As a two-piece, Pony Time manages to use the minimalism to their advantage with short songs that play up Stacy Peck’s pulsing drum work and Beetham’s nasal, sneering vocals, like a Fred Schneider who can actually sing. 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 »

Record Review: “I Hate Music” by Superchunk

Indie Rock, Pop Punk, Power Pop, Rock No Comments »


It might seem weird for Superchunk, an influential indie rock band that has released nine revered albums in twenty-four years, to title their tenth record “I Hate Music,” but time will do that. You grow older, problems get more complicated and a trip to the record store no longer really solves them.

“I hate music,” Mac McCaughan sings on the lead single, “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo.” “What is it worth? It can’t bring you back to this earth.”

If that sounds excessively pessimistic, don’t worry. In a breezy thirty-eight minutes, Superchunk delivers the catchy hooks and clever lines that have made them so great since their brilliant 1990 self-titled debut. But the band’s unique magic has always rested in their ability to blend upbeat, high-energy indie rock with down-in-the-dumps lyrics, and that duality is even more pronounced on their newest effort. Everyone in the band is growing older, well into their forties, turning this into an affair about aging. What sets this effort apart from similar works is the way the wintry theme is set to music that rocks with the rushing exuberance of youth. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Riot Fest/Congress Theater & Humboldt Park

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Pop, Pop Punk, Punk, Rock, Ska No Comments »

Riot Fest limps on for another year, turning its focus to expanding in other cities, booking bands like Rise Against or the Offspring to fill out time between Iggy and his geriatric Stooges. Even Andrew WK, who has apparently insinuated himself into the NYC underground by sponsoring a well-thought-of venue, is slated to make an appearance. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Redd Kross/Empty Bottle

Festivals, Garage Rock, Hardcore, Pop Punk, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »


HoZac’s Blackout Fest returns for another year of unrefined rock ‘n’ roll. And each evening’s headliner represents a different portion of underground weirdness: The weekend’s festivities run the gamut from psychedelia to South Bay hardcore and garage. Davila 666 sound like every other garage band you’ve heard—there are just more dudes in the group than most would find necessary, and the whole thing’s dispensed in Spanish. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Yolks/Burlington

Garage Rock, Pop Punk No Comments »


The difference between The Yolks’ pair of singles from 2008 and their long-player from a year later is pretty distinct, with quality of recording and songcraft varying wildly. The Yolks, a local trio drawing from the tepid pool of punk and garage, haven’t hit upon any significant music revelations. But with so little to screw up during the ensemble’s three-chord rants, there’s not much to take issue with. Folks seem smitten with “Mob City Hustle,” a cut from one of those releases. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Cute Lepers/The Beat Kitchen

Pop Punk, Punk No Comments »


Tied to grunge in perpetuity, Seattle and the Northwest still deal in a wealth of revved-up pop music angled at punk updates. Detached from all recent Sub Pop singer-songwriter nonsense and faux-cowboy rock, the Briefs arrived around the turn of the millennium to dispense punk’s properly composed sucrose. After a few albums, the last couple on BYO, the band took a break. Pretty quickly, though, any given weekend night the Cute Lepers, a group headed by Brief’s honcho Steve E. Nix, might be found running through sets at the Comet or some other local dive. A handful of singles followed, and less than three years after the Briefs called it a day (temporarily?), “Can’t Stand Modern Music” was released.

The aural distance between the Lepers and the group that spawned it seems minimal at best. Over the course of the newer ensemble’s first album, though, a wider range of spunky Brit rock crops up; “Prove It” could pretty easily be passed off as an Elvis Costello outtake dating to 1977. “Adventure Time,” released this past spring, finds the Lepers embracing a larger ensemble sound with the inclusion of piano and sax. Read the rest of this entry »