Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Songs About Gentrification and Euthanasia: Dance Early and Often with The Julie Ruin at Pitchfork

Alt-Rock, Disco, Electro, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »


By Bart Lazar

Music can be fun, danceable and meaningful; this is what The Julie Ruin teaches us. Originally formed as a solo project by Kathleen Hanna, the founder of the riot grrrl movement, The Julie Ruin combines pulsing disco, electro-clash and punk to provide the most danceable band you may find at Pitchfork, or anywhere else, this year—and the only one singing songs about gentrification and euthanasia.

Ken Mellman—keyboardist, vocalist and former member of the Obie-award winning drag cabaret duo Kiki and Herb—took time from recording The Julie Ruin’s second album to let us know a little bit about this veteran, artistic and activistic band, and why you should get to Pitchfork early on Sunday.

Tell me about The Julie Ruin.
Kathleen wanted to start a new band, so she systematically tricked each of us into joining her. She snagged her old bandmate from Bikini Kill, Kathi [Wilcox, bassist], who was just moving to New York from D.C., Sara Landeau [guitarist and proprietor of the Brooklyn Music Studio for Women and Girls], who she met when they both were volunteering for Girls Rock Camp, and Carmine Covelli [drummer], who had been Le Tigre’s tour tech guy. Kathleen had been a fan of my old act and we had been friends for years. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wire’s DRILL Festival/The Hideout, Thalia Hall, Metro

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Indie Rock, Post-punk, Punk, Rock No Comments »

Wire / Photo: Marylene Mey


Whether or not you believe Wire to be a seminal punk and post-punk band, you have to admire its insistence on evolution—from its minimalist beginnings in 1976 through its various genre-defying iterations. Which brings us to the new format for the band’s ongoing DRILL festivals: small, curated events built on artistic kinship across divergent musical styles, influences and generations. This version of the festival (with different supporting/collaborating artists) hit London earlier this year, and we have the privilege of being the only other host city on the agenda. Read the rest of this entry »

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: Warpaint/Vic

Post-punk No Comments »


Warpaint is the kind of band that indie-rock fans lose it over because they’ve got an original sound and solid songwriting but still fit within a very familiar musical aesthetic. In this case, it’s early eighties post-punk, in the vein of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The L.A. quartet’s 2014 self-titled release sees the band move into expanding their sound for their second album; in their recent singles “Disco/very” and “Keep it Healthy,” singer/guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman chant like voices drone and twine together with a discoesque beat that’s reminiscent of CSS, then move into a dreamy, swirling guitar lullaby. Lately the band’s members have been in the press as much for their outspoken thoughts on feminism and rock as they are for their songs, but music is their primary message and the band is in their element when performing live. (Keidra Chaney)

October 5 at The Vic, 3145 North Sheffield, (773)472-0449. 8pm, $25, 18+

The End of Journalism: New Ideas with Steve Albini

Chicago Artists, Interviews, Minimalism, Post-punk, Punk No Comments »
Steve Albini 1

Still from the documentary “Parallax Sounds”

By Kenneth Preski

Every critical outlet must justify its insights. The reasoning should extend beyond a simple citing of sources, should move past the seduction of poetic prose, and burrow down into the very tenets of knowledge that the writing seeks to embody. For a variety of equally abstract and profound reasons, this enterprise is in a badly confused state with respect to music journalism. What’s now required is a nuanced dialogue with musicians to re-appropriate the method, to re-envision the approach in favor of the artist and the audience. To that end, Steve Albini’s thoughts are invaluable. Beyond his work as a prolific sound engineer, Albini is a university-trained journalist and a seasoned musician. His band Shellac is on the eve of releasing “Dude Incredible” at a time when traditional operations for the music and publishing industries have been malformed by the internet. Now is the moment to re-strategize.

In an interview, it’s clear that the sea change has been on Albini’s mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: New Order/Aragon Ballroom

Electronic/Dance, New Wave, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »


If it’s been awhile since you’ve caught up with New Order, and you happened to miss the reunion show in 2012, or their energetic set at Lolla last year, here’s what you need to know. New Order reemerged from yet another breakup in 2011 with a new lineup: keyboardist Gillian Gilbert returned to the band after taking time off to raise children, and Bad Lieutenant’s Tom Chapman assumed duties on bass. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Swans/Lincoln Hall

Experimental, Post-punk, Rock No Comments »


Legendary heavy experimental band Swans is headlining Lincoln Hall for what promises to be a terrifying and fascinating exposition of the adult haunted house that the band has been showcasing for the past thirty-two years. Their latest release “To Be Kind,” is their thirteenth studio album and is as intimidating as all of their releases in the past. The whole album, which is over two hours long, sounds like the soundtrack for a tour of a serial killer’s house. Swans has honed in on the aspects of doom and gloom that affect everyone, artfully crafting these elements together in a way that don’t give the listener even a hint of a break. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Iceage/Subterranean

Post-punk, Punk No Comments »
Photo: Kristian Emdal

Photo: Kristian Emdal

Danish punkers Iceage impressed the music blogger scene a couple of years ago with their debut full-length, “New Brigade,” and their electric live performances. For music fans, their brand of uncompromising punk rock is a breath of fresh air in a indie-rock world that seems to shy away from a real sense of abandon and danger. But the band’s troubling, continuous embrace of fascist images and references is impossible to ignore. Google the terms “Iceage and fascism” or “Iceage and racism” and you’ll find a laundry list of charges, among them the fact that more than one member has worn t-shirts and merch for the Norwegian black metal band Burzum, whose frontman, Varg Vikernes, was jailed for murder, and is an unsympathetic white supremacist and homophobe. Iceage’s band members initially remained evasive against the accusations, then later—and rather passively—denied them, claiming political ignorance and pointing out that one of their members is Jewish. Read the rest of this entry »

Past Punk in Present Tense: HoZac Harnesses History

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Post-punk, Protopunk, Punk No Comments »
The Boys

The Boys

Relative unknowns and underground royalty: this is the balance that people have come to expect from the HoZac Blackout Fest, and 2014 delivers. Running from May 15th through the 17th at the Empty Bottle, the weekend showcases some up-and-coming acts like Shocked Minds, Toupee, First Base, and 999999999, while also boasting punk icons The Boys and The Dictators. The festivities open with the third art show that HoZac has included in their proceedings, with seventies punk photographers Paul Zone and Brian Shanley showcasing snapshots spanning decades.

Blackout Fest, especially this year, exists at a remarkable point on the timeline of punk. The parallels between 2014’s headliners and the other acts featured are undeniable in a way that should be embraced. HoZac co-founder Todd Novak explains, “These ideas of music and art aren’t new, but they’re timeless. They’re always going to be good ideas and it’s mind-blowing to see them be carried on.” Read the rest of this entry »

Marquee Men: Television Lives Their Legacy

Post-punk, Protopunk, Rock No Comments »
Tom Verlaine

Photo: Bart Lazar

Don’t call Television a punk band, OK?

It is true that forty years and about a month ago, Television played the first show at a newly reopened country, bluegrass and blues club on New York’s Bowery and changed the course of music history. CBGB’s became the spring that spat out punk rock, and Richard Hell—the band’s bassist, and co-founder with Tom Verlaine—the prototype punk emulated by the Brits.

Originally, Verlaine and Hell were angst-ridden best friends with an “us against the world” contemptuous attitude who wrote and published poetry as one entity. But Verlaine’s interest in control and perfection prevailed over Hell’s chaos, and the chiming, precise, intertwining of Verlaine’s compositions ultimately became the dominant fabric of the band, leading (perhaps aided in part by Verlaine’s relationship with Patti Smith, who encouraged him to take charge) to Hell’s departure in 1975. Read the rest of this entry »