Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Moonrise Nation/Lincoln Hall

Chicago Artists, Indie Rock No Comments »

groupwindowsfbcovercropRECOMMENDED

Moonrise Nation is one of those rare acts that is coming from a place of total honesty, presenting music that means a lot to them during the most important part of their development as artists. There is a certain misty wisdom in Moonrise Nation’s overall sound due to the songwriting itself as well as the general combination of piano, cello, guitar and woven harmonies. The group sounds like Regina Spektor collaborating with Atlas Sound, bringing together a darkened pop quirkiness and a mellow but fierce underlying force. Also, they’re all in their late teens, but this is not evident in their sound. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Helmet/Reggies Rock Club

Metal, Rock No Comments »

helmet_groupRECOMMENDED

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 »

Preview: Los Lonely Boys/Thalia Hall

Alt-Rock, Latin, Pop, Rock, Tejano, World Music No Comments »

loslonelyboys_photo1RECOMMENDED

As one of the few Latin-bred rock bands to make it into the mainstream rock scene, the three siblings of this power trio sure have made strides. On one of their first major tours, they teamed up with legendary Mexican-American band Los Lobos—with bassist Jojo Garza pulling double duty by performing in both bands, who would come together at the end of every set for an extended jam. Read the rest of this entry »

Time-Tested: Composer William Bolcom Returns to Grant Park with a new “Millennium”

Classical, Interviews No Comments »
Photo: Peter Smith

Photo: Peter Smith

By Dennis Polkow

The final week of the Grant Park Music Festival’s eightieth anniversary season will feature a residency with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer-in-residence William Bolcom, whose works will be spotlighted, including a world-premiere commission.

Bolcom, now seventy-six, is no stranger to Chicago and no stranger to the Grant Park Music Festival. In fact, it was a 1986 Grant Park performance of his mammoth “Songs of Innocence and Experience” that led to his being commissioned by Lyric Opera to write no less than three operas for the company.

Almost the moment Lyric’s then-general director Ardis Krainik thought of Lyric’s massive “Toward the 21st Century” initiative which would present one twentieth-century European and American opera each year leading to the new millennium, Bolcom was the first composer she thought of to write a brand new American opera. “After I heard ‘Songs of Innocence and Experience’ in Grant Park,” the late general director told me in 1992, “I was so moved, I went backstage and asked him on the spot.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lila Downs/House of Blues

Cumbia, Latin, Regional Mexican, Son, Tejano, World Music No Comments »

lilaRECOMMENDED

The first time I saw Lila Downs was about a decade ago, when she was participating in a Latin American-themed evening and she shared the bill with a Brazilian singer. She was still riding the wave of exposure brought on by her participation in the 2002 movie “Frida,” in which she played an unnamed singer whose tunes wove key elements of the plot together up to the very end, when she was joined by Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso for the Academy Award-nominated “Burn It Blue.”

On that show, she came on stage playing a two-sided drum that set the pace for the set, which exuded energy from beginning to end, and I was hooked. Her strong voice and charisma on stage had me from the first song, and I have been following her music ever since. During her sets, she always celebrates her heritage, often including songs in regional Mexican dialects alongside original and traditional Mexican tunes. Read the rest of this entry »

Chicago “Now”: How the Legendary Horn Band is Redefining its Future

Interviews, Rock No Comments »

Robert-Canada1
By Dennis Polkow

When you’re a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning group whose album sales have topped the one-hundred-million mark over a forty-seven-year span, it may seem as if there are no new plateaus possible. And yet 2014 is already turning out to be one of the most extraordinary ever for Chicago the band in its long history.

In January, Chicago played two sold-out concerts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, completing a remarkable career arc for the four original members still with the band who spent a significant portion of their formative years at or near Orchestra Hall in the mid-to-late 1960s.

“Standing on the stage of Orchestra Hall and playing with the Chicago Symphony was the highlight of my career,” assesses trumpeter Lee Loughnane. “I will never forget it.” Read the rest of this entry »

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

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

Mannequin-MenRECOMMENDED

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: Ed Motta/Mayne Stage

Funk, Neo-soul, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, World Music No Comments »

EdMottaRECOMMENDED

When Ed Motta began his career in the late eighties, critics and listeners were quick to compare his vocal style and his blend of funk, soul and Brazilian grooves with that of the late Tim Maia, one of the pioneers of the genre. That was no coincidence, after all he is Maia’s nephew–but his music evolved greatly from those early days with his Conexão Japeri band. Over the decades, he has collaborated with musicians as diverse as jazz greats Roy Ayers and Ivan Lins, fellow Rio-born songwriter Seu Jorge, and soul legend Chaka Khan, to name a few. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lollapalooza: A Guide to Navigating the Festival, Even if You’re Not Going

Festivals No Comments »
Photo: Ashley Garmon

Photo: Ashley Garmon

Though I’d popped in and out of past versions of Lollapalooza thanks to press credentials, last summer’s edition was my first immersion in all three days of this singular sensation. Thanks, I’m sure, in no small part to the best weather the festival’s ever enjoyed and my convenient proximity to Grant Park from my Printers Row home, I had far more fun than my post-post-rock bones had any right to. As befitting a festival with far more musical variety and conflicting options than any one brain can process, we’ve asked a half dozen music writers to share their strategy for the weekend so that you either align yourself with the one who seems to speak your language, or pick and choose, which is what I’ll be doing. Here’s a few more things I expect to do, based on last year. Go early: sure you’re not dying to see the openers, but the best time of the day at Lolla is shortly after the gates open. Crowds are light, attitudes are chill (and mostly sober) and, if you sprawl out over a nice patch of grass, you’ll enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the park. Not to mention a chance to shop the vendors of Green Street (of which Newcity is a partner; see our guide after this section) or check out the progressive charities on site. Challenge yourself: This is not the place to hunt dinosaurs (we have Riot Fest for that), but to discover and enjoy the essence of newness, the once-driving spirit of rock music itself. Think old-school: Lolla started in 1991 and mobile phones and texting seem to work as well as they did back then: not at all. Be flexible: there are two main ends of the festival (north and south), and it can be a hike to get to and from shows at both ends. Unless you really really want to see someone at the other end, you might have more fun just parking at one end for the day. Don’t sweat the headliners, unless you really really must see them. The shows at night demand an early “campout” strategy if you want any chance to see the stage. If a closing act’s your passion, shape your day that way and pitch a tent. But if it’s not, you’ll enjoy a day of freedom and discovery and… summer. (Brian Hieggelke)

My Lolla: B. David Zarley
My Lolla: Craig Bechtel
My Lolla: Eric Lutz
My Lolla: John Wilmes
My Lolla: Keidra Chaney
My Lolla: Kenneth Preski
My Lolla: Reilly Gill

My Lolla: Craig Bechtel

Festivals No Comments »
Bomba Estéreo

Bomba Estéreo

True, this year’s Lollapalooza is yet another chapter in the continual poppification of the “alternative rock” landscape, and the headliners bring to mind the clichéd phrase “been there, done that,” but like every year, there are a few quality acts that provide some tough choices to make. Read the rest of this entry »