Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: The Chicago Afrobeat Project/Abbey Pub

Afrobeat, Chicago Artists, Funk, World Music No Comments »


The hallmark of a good band is its ability to perform in any setting at any time. Gigging at a local Occupy, the Chicago Afrobeat Project played to a sympathetic crowd, one almost expected to take in the confluence of funk, jazz and afro-stylings as the norm. If no one said anything about a post-racial America, they were thinking about it. Several months earlier, though, CAbP did a spot at the Beachland Park, a private beach club in Cleveland. Private might be too strong a word. There’s no gate, but there are fees for residents who use the park on a regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Phonte and 9th Wonder/Abbey Pub

Hip-Hop No Comments »


Where’s Big Pooh at? It’s a fair question considering two-thirds of North Carolina’s Little Brother are slated for an appearance this Saturday. Since its inception during the late nineties, the trio seemed like a vehicle determined to expose its principal players to a national audience in order for each then to flourish independently. That’s happened. Kinda. Little Brother always dealt in productions weighted down with soul crooners on the hook. It was a practice that served the group well and set up 9th Wonder for collaborations with everyone from Jay-Z to Destiny’s Child and MURS. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Kid Koala/The Abbey Pub

Chicago Artists, DJ, Krautrock, Turntablism No Comments »


Having worked in collaborative terms for his last release with the Slew, Kid Koala jettisons his accompaniment for a trip to Chicago. Not sporting a new release to tour on doesn’t leave the DJ short on material. Armed with a variety of approaches to working two turntables, Kid Koala as frequently trucks in vaguely comedic terms as he does in spliced-together brilliance.

Off his first long-playing album, Ninja Tune’s 2000 “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome,” “Nerdball” sticks out a bit for its dexterous cuts interspersed with brief vocal snippets. What’s remarkable about the two-minute composition, apart from it being a miraculous display of technique, is Kid Koala’s empathizing with geeks. Opening the effort’s a brief clip from “Revenge of the Nerds” so fully transformed it ranks alongside drum samples as percussion. Of course, listeners are granted time to take in the quote as it points to a lifetime of nerdom. Spinning out recognizable sounds into something new has been the DJ’s job since the genre’s inception. Separating this Canadian beat maker from his peers, in addition to all that humorous fare, is Kid Koala’s penchant for manipulating a melody’s pitch, taking horn solos and arriving at some new woozy conclusion. Regardless of his aural contributions to performance, let’s hope there’s a bit of costuming as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: One Be Lo/Abbey Pub

Hip-Hop No Comments »


There’ve been rap concept albums. Some have succeeded and some haven’t. One Be Lo, however, is the only MC who’s attempted a trilogy of them. With three hours worth of music spread over his albums between 2003 and 2007, the Michigan-based performer dealt in jazz and funk samples familiar to anyone hoarding Tribe albums and revisiting the first few Common discs. What’s interesting about the samples One Be Lo landed on is that more than just a few come from a disc called “Waterworld” as issued by Binary Star towards the latter portion of the nineties. He was one of two MCs in that group. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Rasputina/Abbey Pub

Rock No Comments »
The most immediately striking aspect of Brooklyn’s Rasputina is its brooding, gothic cellos, which make up most of its accompaniment and often teeter between distorted and clean tones. Eventually though, the Victorian-influenced and borderline insane ramblings of lead singer Melora Creager take listeners by surprise, as lyrics like “In this eggshell atmosphere, which is so very thin, 20 thousand million copper needles begin vibrating” beg to be noticed. The group’s newest record, “Sister Kinderhook,” is a loose narrative on colonial federalism, touching on subjects like the existence and immolation of giants (“Holocaust of Giants”), feral children (“Snow-Hen of Austerlitz”), and that old crutch for rock and rollers, the Anti-Rent Wars of 1844 (“Calico Indians”). And all in all, those themes are a pretty fun change-up to some dope mopily groaning about break-ups. That said, it’s that ever-present cello that still defines the group, often gorgeously sweeping around Creager’s vocals, playing several kinds of foil to the melodies—haunting, menacing, or mournful voices that turn bewildering songs about giants and wolf children into compelling Victorian-rock symphonies. (Andy Seifert)

July 25, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, (773)478-4408, 9pm. $18 (advance), $20 (door).

Soundcheck: Yard Dogs Road Show brings its hobo cabaret to town

Rock No Comments »

What is a hobo cabaret? Even the members of Yard Dogs Road Show struggle to explain. Born from the saloon vaudeville that toured the Wild West in the late 1800s, it’s a theatrical mix of sword swallowers, dancing dolls, fire eaters and poetry. Then layer avant-garde story lines and a burlesque vibe atop an eight-piece band and you can begin to understand what to expect.

This carnivalesque stage show has been going on for more than ten years, born in the San Francisco underground as a three-piece jug band and now evolved into a full-on rock band. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Ten Concerts in Chicago: 2000-2009

Rock No Comments »

By Tom Lynch800px-PostalService_color300dpi_by_Brian_Tamborello

My ten favorite shows from the last ten years. I’m almost certain I’m forgetting a few here and there, but these are the unbelievable nights that came to mind first. In descending order, for those of you who love anticipation!

10. The Postal Service @ Abbey Pub 4/23/03

I’m still one of the only people I know who saw Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello actually perform live. (On this night, with Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis performing the girl vox!) However you feel about DCFC, it’s hard not to be quickly won over by “Give Up.” Cex opened, and that was pretty terrible. Read the rest of this entry »

Twilight Nights: Singer-songwriter Kate Meyers gets emotional

Chicago Artists, Folk, Folk-rock, Rock, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »

kate-meyersFor Kate Meyers’ first ever battle-of-the-bands contest, she placed third. But this was no high school or community-center battle of the bands. It was a battle of “Twilight”-inspired songs, hosted by an all-things “Twilight”-related fan site. “I read ‘Twilight’ a long time ago and after reading a scene in the book, I wrote a song about it,” says Meyers. “The emotions I got from reading the book were so intense, I had to recreate it through song.”

Though her other songs are not inspired by bestselling vampire books, they do mostly deal with life and love and other emotions that surround her on a daily basis. “I’ll have the music written and I’ll play with it for months and then the lyrics will just flow out naturally after that.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Gentlemen Auction House/Abbey Pub

Dance Pop, Indie Pop, Indie Rock No Comments »


St. Louis really hasn’t produced much as far as underground music goes (Uncle Tupelo is about it), but out of the Missouri wastelands comes Gentlemen Auction House, a band with immediate potential to crack the ranks of indie elite by riding Arcade Fire’s coattails alone. A seven-piece indie-pop collective, GAH (already the best acronym in music) frequently features the kind of gaudy, orchestral arrangements that made Arcade Fire a surefire hit, but never flirts with self-righteousness, instead choosing quirkiness, immaturity and gimmicks (two drummers!). Sometimes this works—“Call it Casual” and “The Book of Matches” are jolly pop romps, guaranteed to “bring the house down,” if you will—and sometimes the effects are pretty damn awful, mostly when the band decides to try to be some kind of reggae/jazz/Michael Jackson hybrid thing. Still a relatively young act, GAH has plenty of time to iron out the wrinkles, blow up the third of its catalogue that sucks and become an indie “it” band based on the initials alone. (Andy Seifert)

April 9 at Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, (773)478-4408, at 9pm. $8-$10.

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The Face of Punk: Johann’s Face Records turns 20

Chicago Artists, Pop, Punk, Rock No Comments »

By Todd Millermarcruvolo2009

In 1989, George H. W. Bush was inaugurated, the Exxon Valdez spilled eleven million gallons of oil into the Prince William Sound and, here in Chicago, Marc Ruvolo and Gar Brandt founded Johann’s Face Records, a record label that through its twenty years would release eighty-eight records for bands such as Alkaline Trio, The Smoking Popes, Apocalypse Hoboken, Ruvolo’s own No Empathy and many, many more.

The label is modeled after Dischord Records, Ian MacKaye’s record label that is based in Washington D.C. Dischord was initially founded by MacKaye in 1980 to release a record for The Teen Idles, a band that MacKaye was a member of, and similarly, Johann’s Face’s original purpose was to release records for Ruvolo’s bands, No Empathy and Chia Pet. Read the rest of this entry »