Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Fierce and Fed Up: Hardcore Punks Find A Home

Festivals, Hardcore, Punk No Comments »
Aye Nako photo by Robert Pluma

Aye Nako/Photo: Robert Pluma

Fed Up Fest, taking place July 25-27, is a new addition this year to the packed Chicago summer music festival scene. In the tradition of fests like Olympia, Washington’s Homo-a-go-go, Fed Up Fest seeks to highlight the contributions of LGBTQ musicians to DIY music, though where Homo-a-go-go covered a wide range of styles under the DIY umbrella, Fed Up Fest focuses on hardcore and punk. Conscious of the problem in LGBTQ spaces of the ‘silent T,’ where transgender community members get name-checked but can often be marginalized, the organizers of Fed Up Fest particularly wish to highlight bands from across the country featuring trans folks—especially trans women. Bands on this year’s lineup include: Read the rest of this entry »

Live Review: Perfect Pussy/Pitchfork Music Festival

Festivals, Live Reviews, Punk 1 Comment »
Photo: Robert Loerzel

Photo: Robert Loerzel

Perfect Pussy’s songs were barely discernible amid the nonstop noise and crashing as the band quickly blasted through its set on the Blue Stage, but that hardly seemed to matter. This punk band is all about bashing your head in, sonically speaking, and it accomplished that. Lead singer Meredith Graves, wearing a striped dress, rarely stopped moving as she screeched and twirled, occasionally lifting her skirt for peeks at her undergarments, while her bandmates attacked their instruments as if they wanted to break them. Not surprisingly, a few people in the audience were inspired to crowd-surf. (Robert Loerzel)

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: Wax Trax! Records Pop-Up Store/Metro

Chicago Artists, Industrial, Punk No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDWax Trax Pop-Up Metro

Wax Trax! Records was the center of the universe for a generation of punk and industrial kids in Chicago and beyond, so this is pretty thrilling news: on June 15, Chicago will have an opportunity to relive the glory days of the early 1980s to mid-nineties at the Wax Trax! Records pop-up retail shop at the Metro. For one day only, Wax Trax! will open up its archive of original releases, posters, t-shirts and other rare treats, with a roster of DJs and a full-service bar. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rabble Rabble/Empty Bottle

Chicago Artists, Punk, Rock No Comments »

Rabble RabbleRECOMMENDED

Maybe you saw Rabble Rabble open for Death at Reggies on New Year’s Eve, or maybe you’ve seen them at a DIY space, but they are a big enough band in sound and in presence to tear any venue apart. This local act is formally releasing their new album, “Brain Hole,” on Logan Hardware Records, at the venue they’ve come to know the best, with some acts that are sure to make this quite the celebration. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Tweak Bird/Beat Kitchen

Psychedelic, Punk, Rock No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDTweakBird

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 »

RECOMMENDEDEx-Cult

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 »

Preview: Templars (Midwest Live and Loud)/Bottom Lounge

Festivals, Punk No Comments »

RECOMMENDEDTemplars

There’s surely a socio-economic reason for American skinhead bands flourishing in the nineties. Or maybe it was a logical extension of other underground genres winding up on MTV. What if Oi! was almost the next big thing? Let’s just blame the Clintons and forget that Dropkick Murphys used to be important to anyone. Whatever the explanation, Midwest Live and Loud (a sly reference to all those split live recordings from first and second wave UK punk acts) has rounded up a surprisingly vast array of performers for its three-day festival. An argument can be made for supporting acts, like Fear City and Noi!se—and there’s no reason to shy away from that take on the genre. It’s just that the Templars, Sunday’s headliners, are unquestionably the most musically talented Oi! band of the last two decades. 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 »