Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Here We Go Magic/The Empty Bottle

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



I call it “needle-drop bliss”—that moment when you lower the tone arm onto an LP, and after the first few burps of vinyl, you hear something that induces immediate euphoria. That isn’t quite the case with Here We Go Magic’s new album, “Be Small”—the first cut is a thirty-second squall of feedback that sounds like a jet engine with a head cold—but when it snaps into “Stella,” you might as well sit down, wherever you are, because you’re not going anywhere soon. This is pure pop magic: a breezy, bouncing groove that churns happily away beneath a languorous melody line. And what lovely, evocative lyrics: “But if you trip on every fashion / Fall into every pile of bull / You’ll only smell of empty mansions / Once, maybe once you were full.” It’s a rare thing, to find a band that’s both lyrically and harmonically adventurous; and HWGM manages to sustain it throughout the length of the album. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: She Rides Tigers/Quenchers Saloon

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Live Reviews, Psychedelic, Rock No Comments »



Not sure what it is about the long-awaited arrival of summer in Chicago, but it invariably unleashes the urge to go out, cram oneself into a small club shoulder-to-shoulder with the demoniacally like-minded, and have one’s face melted by an unapologetically balls-out local rock band. Well, June is that month and She Rides Tigers is that band. In case the endlessly extended winter has eroded your belief in just how much noise a mere trio of human beings can make, Joe O’Leary (guitar, vocals), James Scott (bass, vocals) and Matt McGuire (drums) are happy to remind you. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: Lang Lang Dresses Up and Down for Chicago, Sixties Rockers Hold Summit for Musician’s Musician

Blues, Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Folk, Folk-rock, Interviews, Jazz, News and Dish, Pop, Prog-rock, Psychedelic, R&B, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul No Comments »
Lang Lang  Photo: Neale Haynes

Lang Lang

By Dennis Polkow

Although Chinese superstar pianist Lang Lang is calling from London, where he’s just given a recital at Royal Albert Hall, he is thinking ahead to Chicago. “I need to buy a new suit, I had my big breakthrough there,” he recalls, a reference to when, at conductor Christoph Eschenbach’s encouragement, he stepped in as a last-minute, unknown replacement for an indisposed Andre Watts at a 1999 Ravinia Festival Chicago Symphony Orchestra Gala, and became an overnight sensation at the ripe old age of seventeen.

Eschenbach, then Ravinia music director, was a mentor to Lang Lang, as was then-CSO music director Daniel Barenboim, so that Chicago was like a second home. He was the first artist to offer a piano recital at the Civic Opera House in 2012, and was so impressed with the sound of the venue, that he returns there this month. “When you see such a big hall, you always worry about, ‘what is the sound like?’ But it has perfect sound. I remember last time, I was playing Mozart, it was so beautiful, so precise, so intimate. It’s a miracle to see such a big space have such an intimate sound.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Mannequin Men, Radar Eyes, Le Tour/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Garage Rock, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »


I don’t know if you’re into garage, punk, psych or chasing whiskey with Schlitz (or not chasing it at all), but if you are into any of these, go to this show. Mannequin Men, Radar Eyes and Le Tour are some of the most compelling bands in Chicago right now and a show combining all of these forces should not be missed.

Mannequin Men have been playing together for about eleven years and consequently present an air of experience as well as general bliss on stage. Their sound is rough and upbeat; they kind of sound like the Black Lips’ tougher dads. Radar Eyes are lower key than Mannequin Men, mixing the beach vibes with grungy basement sounds. Le Tour is a furious force of pedals, screeches and ballsy guitar solos that, if you listen closely, are neatly constructed by somebody who really knows what they’re doing. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tweak Bird/Beat Kitchen

Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »


If you’re looking to blow off some steam on a Friday night, catch Tweak Bird, Fake Limbs, and Nones at the Beat Kitchen. This mixed bag of psych, hardcore and art rock should do the trick.

Tweak Bird is an LA-based pair of brothers who just released their first full-length LP on Bloomington, Indiana’s Let’s Pretend Records. Their psych vocals can get so high they’re almost delicate, but are balanced out with waves of thick, rolling guitar riffs and heavy drums. The go-to psych influences are obvious, but there are also whispers of the Melvins and The Jesus and Mary Chain to keep things unpredictable. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ex-Cult/Empty Bottle

Psychedelic, Punk No Comments »


Ex-Cult is headlining the Empty Bottle for the first time after opening for Ty Segall and Mac DeMarco respectively at the Bottle last year. Their first full-length album, “Ex-Cult,” was recorded and produced by Segall in San Francisco in 2012. After extensive touring, they recorded “Midnight Passenger,” their second full-length album, which was released on April 29 on Goner Records. The effort is a powerful step forward in their raw mix of Memphis punk rock and gritty psychedelia. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Amor Planeta” by Pacifika

Alt-Rock, Bossa Nova, Dance Pop, Indie Pop, Latin, Pop, Psychedelic, Record Reviews, Reggae, Rock, World Music No Comments »


On their third release, the Vancouver-based trio formed by vocalist Silvana Kane, guitarist/producer Adam Popowitz and bassist Toby Peter seem to be taking the music into a deeper, more psychedelic direction without completely losing touch with their Latin, Middle Eastern and electronic roots. The songs are still framed by near-whispered vocals and nylon-guitar-framed textures alongside multi-tracked instruments and vocals sung mostly in Spanish, but the trio seems to have found a more organic approach to their sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Loop/Bottom Lounge

Krautrock, Psychedelic, Punk, Rock, Shoegaze No Comments »


It’s a nice treat that Loop has reunited to tour for the first time in twenty-three years. That the British band is making an appearance in Chicago is the cherry on top. The crew were contemporaries of Spacemen 3 in the late eighties, both bands played an unruly mix of psychedelic-punk-krautrock. These groups are the reason come-down music as beautiful as Slowdive exists, and why a shoegaze scene became a reality. Loop is known for being an incredibly loud and intense live act, which is easy to assume the moment any of their recordings are played; the urge to turn it up is overwhelming. Distorted electricity cascades down the back of a perfectly synced rhythm section, vocals blurring in and out of lushly layered guitars—“Heaven’s End” is right, this is the perfect blend of sacred and profane. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Moonrises/Hideout

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Psychedelic No Comments »


Steve Krakow is an impossible figure to miss in the Chicago psych scene. Operating under the alias Plastic Crimewave, Krakow has served as writer, illustrator and radio personality for his explorations into the “Secret History of Chicago Music,” while juggling his time as a prolific musician and booking agent for the Million Tongues Festival and the Chicago Psych Fest. The latter is now in its fifth year, with the three-day affair offering a Friday feature in Moonrises, a group of moonlighting musicians that includes Krakow’s manic guitar playing laid atop the formidable free-jazz drumming of Tiger Hatchery’s Ben Billington, and nuzzled against the throb of Libby Ramer’s organ. Read the rest of this entry »

Record Review: “Vårt Solsystem” by Our Solar System

Experimental, Psychedelic, Record Reviews, Rock No Comments »


The transition from static structure to impulsive improvisation is a tricky leap. Most musicians obey either one method or the other, lacking the immense skill and range required to jump back and forth. Given that Sweden’s Dungen is a band with a knack for executing careful compositions, psychedelic without being aimless, structured without being suffocating, it comes as a surprise that their bassist Mattias Gustavsson would opt to create a ten-piece ensemble to explore the outer limits of his craft. Though he insists the group is leaderless—they all don white cloaks on the cover and on the gatefold photo to underscore their uniformity—the rhythm section is the pivotal force anchoring the impromptu sets. The vinyl-only release is split between two recording sessions featuring different players that somehow manage to achieve the same effect: orchestral rock with ethereal aspirations. The effort succeeds in large part despite the confusing cosmology (the asteroid belt is awarded an astrological symbol, there is a Hebrew astrology chart backed by verse from a Persian poet on the record sleeve) and one must credit the achievement to a group of talented musicians intent on subsuming their egoism in favor of collective expression. Read the rest of this entry »