Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

My Lolla: Keidra Chaney

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Indie Rock, R&B, Rock No Comments »
Charli XCX

Charli XCX

To be perfectly honest, Lollapalooza didn’t even register for me this year as an option, because between Pitchfork, Riot Fest and North Coast Fest there’s so much fest action this summer and fall I have to be selective about my commitments, and those other festivals feature more of the music I adore. But there are still acts that I’d personally check out at Lolla.

My schedule would be pretty predictable and not terribly adventurous. I’m getting too old for Lolla’s size and excessive amount of flower crowns.

FRIDAY

12:45pm-1:30pm
SZA
Samsung Galaxy
She does the kind of low-fi R&B so beloved by the indie bloggers these days, and she was pretty, fun and lively at Pitchfork last year.

1:30pm-2:15pm
Misterwives
Sprint
The perpetual teenager in me discovered this band through MTV’s “Finding Carter.” Check them out if sensitive (but not twee) indie pop is your thing. Read the rest of this entry »

My Lolla: Robert Loerzel

Alt-Rock, Festivals, Indie Rock, Metal, Rock No Comments »

Father John Misty/Photo: Taylor Hill

I’ll be taking photos at Lollapalooza, which entails running around Grant Park, catching a few songs here, a few songs there. I’ll be keeping my ears open for interesting sounds by some of the bands that I don’t know. But these are the shows I plan to stick around for. (Can you tell that my tastes lean toward old-fashioned guitar music?)

FRIDAY

3:30pm-4:30pm
Father John Misty
Palladia
In his guise as Father John Misty, singer-songwriter Josh Tillman oozes charisma, and he has a tendency to do some crazy things onstage—more than you’d expect from listening to his catchy, 1970s California-style folk-rock songs. I’m hoping he ups the crazy quotient for Lolla.

5:45pm-6:45pm
Alabama Shakes
Samsung Galaxy
Singer-guitarist Brittany Howard’s voice and passion are astonishing, and her bandmates have developed a remarkable chemistry. These Southern rockers’ second album, “Sound & Color,” is outstanding, but the music is even more exciting live. Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: “Halo” Composers Collaborate with Paul McCartney

Ambient, Blues, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Folk, Interviews, New Music, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Vocal Music No Comments »
Paul McCartney, Martin O'Donnell, Michael Salvatori

Paul McCartney, Martin O’Donnell, Michael Salvatori

By Dennis Polkow

Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori have been friends back to their college days in the 1970s when they were in rival bands in the western suburbs. “We’ve always been very competitive with one another,” Salvatori recalls. “Marty came in to record five songs with his band, so of course, I had to write better songs and record those as well.”

While Salvatori was working for his father’s printing company, O’Donnell was painting houses to put himself through music school. “They were shooting a television commercial and Marty was painting the set. The director found out that he was a composer and offered him five hundred dollars if he would write some music for it. I had just taken out a loan for a basement recording studio setup and Marty called up and said, ‘If you let me record there, I’ll split everything with you fifty-fifty.’ We put ourselves out there on a handshake and collaborated on the commercial as O’Donnell-Salvatori, like Lennon-McCartney. It has been that way ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: South Side Jazz Coalition/Quarry Event Center

Chicago Artists, Festivals, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »
Margaret three

Margaret Murphy-Webb

RECOMMENDED

To honor the late tenor saxophonist Von Freeman and his Tuesday night, jam-till-the-early-moanin’ blowing sessions, vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb and instrumentalist Anderson Edwards started the Jazz Jam Revival at the 50 Yard Line on East 75th, about half a mile west of where Vonski hosted his séances of sound. Now, some three years later, with the Revival still going strong, Murphy and the newly formed South Side Jazz Coalition (SSJC) are determined to reestablish another local tradition: the South Shore Jazz Festival, originally presented by Geraldine de Haas’ Jazz Unites from 1981 to 2012, and held at the South Shore Cultural Center. (De Haas and her husband relocated to New Jersey in 2013 to be with their children.) “The South Shore Jazz Festival was a tradition for Southeast Chicago and the southern suburbs,” says Murphy-Webb. “Everybody came out for this festival. It was just a wonderful time with all the cookouts, vendors and great music.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: lePercolateur/The Green Mill

Chicago Artists, Jazz, Live Reviews No Comments »

bhLegP

RECOMMENDED

I used to love catching lePercolateur at the old Katerina’s on Irving Park. There was something about that narrow, dark-paneled room that struck me as faintly European—with its stage tucked modestly between the bar and the kitchen, so that every performance was infiltrated by tinkling ice on one side and swinging doors on the other (which on a good night always seemed to be in time). And lePercolateur is all about the continent. The band owes its chief inspiration to the gypsy jazz pioneered by Belgian guitarist Django Reinhardt—that is, everyone in the band but vocalist Candace Washburn, whose Gallic sophistication owes more to cafes than campgrounds (you can’t imagine anyone for whom the term “chanteuse” is more appropriate). Read the rest of this entry »

Offbeat: James Conlon Bids Farewell to Ravinia, Says “Si” to Italy

Chamber Music, Chicago Artists, Classical, Festivals, Interviews, News and Dish, Orchestral, Pop, Rock, Vocal Music No Comments »
James Conlon / Photo Courtesy of Ravinia Festival

James Conlon/Photo: Ravinia Festival

By Dennis Polkow

“After I became music director eleven years ago,” says Ravinia Festival music director James Conlon, “it was so interesting how many people I would meet around the country, or Americans I would meet in Europe, that would say, ‘You know? I heard my first concerts at Ravinia.’ I started to think that everybody grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and somehow or another moved to another place in the world. It is astounding how many people of all ages were formed there, from twenty-year-olds to eighty-year-olds, and how many people Ravinia has been able to reach in its way and introduce classical music to them. Of course, the trump card of the Chicago Symphony is the best way you can do that. It was very striking to me and I am very proud to be a part of that tradition and process and hope it will continue on forever.”

Nonetheless, Conlon announced last August that the 2015 season would be his last as Ravinia music director, and that 2016 would also end his music directorship of the Cincinnati May Festival after thirty-six years. Instead, he will become the first American to ever become principal conductor of the Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della Rai in Turin, Italy. Read the rest of this entry »

Music 45 2015: Who Keeps Chicago in Tune

Music 45 3 Comments »

joe-mazza-brave-lux-chicago-newcity-music-45-2015-screen-res-8364

Our biannual behind-the-scenes look at Chicago’s thriving music community gets a little more complex every year. Performers are easy enough to pin down; they’re front and center, by definition. But it can take some digging to excavate the driving forces behind the city’s rich tapestry of orchestras, festivals, music venues and record labels. On the other hand, a certain kind of celebrity has attached itself to bloggers, promoters, radio announcers, artistic directors and journalists, that puts them almost on an equal footing to the artists they’re here to support. So we find ourselves, in this year’s Music 45, ranging wide across the city’s musical landscape, reacquainting you with names and faces you may know almost as well as your own, while introducing you to several newcomers who have labored, if not quite in obscurity, then without the recognition their endeavors have earned them. What they all have in common, is that your life—yes, yours—is a little bit richer because of them. (Robert Rodi)

Music 45 was written by Robert Rodi and Dennis Polkow
With additional contributions by Keidra Chaney, Corey Hall, Robert Loerzel, Dylan Peterson and John Wilmes

Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Metro Chicago Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Ryley Walker/Subterranean

Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Indie Rock, Rock No Comments »
RyleyWalker_PhotobyDusdinCondren_PressPhoto5

Photo: Dusdin Condren

RECOMMENDED

It may be a good marketing move for an artist to invite comparisons to Van Morrison, Nick Drake and Richard Thompson. The only problem is that people will then, go figure, compare you to Van Morrison, Nick Drake and Richard Thompson. So before you take that leap, be sure you can measure up. Fortunately for Chicago singer-songwriter Ryley Walker, the title track of his new album, “Primrose Green,” is one of those shimmeringly perfect folk-rock tunes that only comes along every dozen years or so. (It easily stands next to Morrison’s “Moondance,” despite being nothing like it.) Read the rest of this entry »

Impresario of the Moment: Joe Shanahan, Owner of Metro and Smart Bar

Interviews 1 Comment »
Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

Photo: Joe Mazza/BraveLux

By Robert Rodi

Joe Shanahan’s influence on the Chicago music scene is both vast and of long standing. He launched his rock venue Metro in Wrigleyville in 1982, with dance club Smart Bar beneath the main venue. Over the decades he’s seen many bands come through his doors as hungry young talents, then go on to become successful touring acts—bands like Naked Raygun, Butthole Surfers, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Urge Overkill, Jane’s Addiction, Oasis, The White Stripes, Chance the Rapper, Fatboy Slim and Fall Out Boy—to name only a very, very few. Metro’s stage has also hosted its share of legends, from Bob Dylan and Iggy Pop to James Brown and Prince. Now fifty-eight, Shanahan is in a position to look back on a career that very nearly defines the history of Chicago rock ‘n’ roll; but instead he finds himself, due to some recent realignments in his life, looking decidedly forward.

I met with him midday in the empty Smart Bar, where he took a seat at a stool at the end of the bar and sat with his back against the wall.

Looks like a good vantage point for you.
Over the years I may have sat at this stool at the bar thousands of hours. I can hear the dance floor, I can talk to my bar staff—and people know I hang out here; if I’m in the club, they know this is where to find me. Unless I’m in the booth.

Are you at the club every night?
Often, but not every night. If there’s a DJ or an act I’m tight with, or if there’s a special event. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Ajulie-ruin-sitting

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 »