Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Cool Kids/Congress Theater

Chicago Artists, Hip-Hop No Comments »


As a duo, the Cool Kids have issued some work that effortlessly merges old-school tendencies with new adventures in modern production styles. Releasing that handful of mixes and some absurdly titled albums about fish and bicycles allowed Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks the gravitas to take a bit of time for solo endeavors. And a  youthful uncaring continues to unfold on Inglish’s “WRKOUT” and Rocks’ “Lap of Lux.” Sonically, both albums move away from proper Cool Kids’ production, embracing more of an analog vibe. Ostensibly, “WRKOUT” is professional sounding beat-tape with Inglish taking twenty-eight minutes to explore music that might not have been a good match for an MC—and almost certainly not a perfect match for the Cool Kids. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Nas/Congress Theater

Hip-Hop No Comments »


Any opportunity to catch one of New York’s rap cognoscenti needs to be heeded, regardless of the situation. Since the release of Nas’ latest album—this year’s “Life is Good”—folks have been discussing whether or not having a ghost writer (if that’s actually the case) somehow dismisses the MC’s accomplishments. Before arriving at some conclusion, take the Rolling Stones and apply roughly the same critical lens. Does the enduring sixties version of the troupe cease to exist because a handful of those songs were penned by another hand? Probably not—and no one’s even eviscerated Nas’ latter-day works. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: A$AP Rocky/Congress Theater

Rap No Comments »

Photo: Verena Stefanie Grotto


Listening to A$AP Rocky’s year-old debut mixtape “LiveLoveA$AP” is like traversing a zero-gravity realm where snapshots of the rapper’s day-to-day life are projected on all sides in black, white and gold and set to music created at the bottom of the deep. He raps conversationally about being who he is, wearing progressive yet inexplicable clothing, having sex with various women knowing full well they have boyfriends, and confronting those boyfriends earnestly (“Oh that’s your girl huh?/ Well I just hit it/It’s A$AP nigga/ live with it”). Every now and then, an ulterior voice steps in, deep and drawled, and you see a close-up of him taking a swig of purple liquid from a Dixie cup. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Merle Haggard/Congress Theater

Country No Comments »

It’s difficult not to judge folks by who they do business with—and Merle Haggard might be screwed based just upon his handlers. While the SoCal country stalwart has the distinction of being a crucial figure in the development of what’s been termed the Bakersfield sound, he’s ostensibly a touring relic, something like the Queen of England, pushed out to give solace to folks who remember the good ole days. Haggard’s last release, 2011’s “Working in Tennessee,” has all the charm of soft rock added in to the lesser country tropes outlaws have cultivated during the last half-century, again proving artists need someone alongside them to edit out the trash. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Refused with OFF!/Congress Theater

Punk No Comments »


It’s a good thing that Keith Morris, formerly of Black Flag and Circle Jerks, decided to continue recording and performing hardcore punk music. With OFF!, Morris is perpetuating the nostalgic scene that was dear to so many anarcho-punks of old, giving today’s youth a more tangible reason to call themselves hardcore. Although Morris appears to be balding (the frontman has dreadlocks that must be falling out one by one) he retains his in-your-face attitude and on-stage energy.   Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Lotus/Congress Theater

Electronic/Dance, Folktronica, Indie Pop, Jam Band, Rock No Comments »


Don’t expect this electronic jam band to just come in and do its thing when it appears onstage. In addition to the elaborate lighting it ordinarily uses, Lotus (Mike Greenfield, drums; Jesse Miller, bass and sampler; Luke Miller, guitar, keys; Mike Rempel, guitar; Chuck Morris, percussion) often thinks expansively when choosing how and what to play. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Wu-Tang Clan/Congress Theater

Hip-Hop No Comments »


With the release of “The W” in 2000, Ol’ Dirty Bastard contributed his final verse to a Wu-Tang Clan cut. The MC, who died four years later, went out on a track he shared with Snoop Dogg called “The Conditioner.”  The fact that “The Conditioner” counts a West Coast stalwart speaks to the Clan’s ability to transcend any perceived constraints of coastal prejudices. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Jerry Lee Lewis/Congress Theater

Rock No Comments »


That Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1957 debut long-playing album includes a song Elvis did and a version of Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene” as well as Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” says a lot about the pianist. And American music in a broad sense. Hailing from a Louisiana town west of Natchez, Mississippi and not too far from Vicksburg, the country’s historical problem with consistency pertaining to race and proper justice in general must have been pretty evident in the forties during Lewis’ formative years as a kid. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Method Man/Congress Theater

Hip-Hop No Comments »


It’s alright to tour on your career highlights if your career highlights include Wu-Tang Clan’s first album as well as “Tical.” Method Man has a name even tangential rap fans have heard. That might have to do with the MC spelling his name on “Enter the Wu-Tang” back in 1993. But those seven syllables resonate just as much as Meth’s carefully crafted public persona. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Manu Chao/Congress Theater

Latin, Reggae, Rock, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Paul Familetti


There really isn’t an American corollary for the French-born, Basque in origin and multilingual songwriter named Manu Chao. Sublime, as awful as that is to say, might be the closest thing. The same sort of cross-cultural idea is present: a heady mix of Caribbean styles, hip-hop, electronics and rock. What Manu Chao does, though, is to imbue his work with a sturdy political streak moving beyond espousing an affection for weed and consternation for its legal status. Read the rest of this entry »