Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

Preview: Martin Barre Band/Martyrs’

Folk-rock, Live Reviews, Rock No Comments »



“The thing that pleases me is melody,” says Martin Barre, lead guitarist for British folk-progressive rockers Jethro Tull from their 1969 “Stand Up” LP through the group’s dissolution. “If I can come up with some nice chords and a really melodic top line, that gives me great satisfaction.”

Since that band ceased operations, Barre has taken the opportunity to kick-start his long-nascent solo career. “I didn’t get the opportunity to start doing solo material until 1983, when we all decided to take a year off.” Of going solo full time in 2014, Barre says: “I started to learn very late, but maybe that’s a good thing. I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is great. I’m really inventing my career as a musician.’ And I’ve been happy—really, really happy—ever since.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Mike Dillon/Martyrs’

Jazz No Comments »


The last time the listening public had the opportunity to hear work from a disc featuring vibesman Mike Dillon’s name out front was back in 2007 on his “Battery Milk” disc. The last five years not yielding up a new record with the Texan’s name on it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working, though. Issuing recordings alongside some supremely inspired jazzbos in Garage a Trois and the Dead Kenny Gs, which include Northwest saxophonist Skerik and keyboardist Marco Benevento, the latter counting as half the bill of Martyrs’ Saturday bill, only hints at what’s been caught on tape for Dillon’s latest effort. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Paloma Faith/Martyrs’

Alt-Rock, Electronic/Dance, Indie Pop, New Music, Pop, R&B, Soul, Vocal Music No Comments »


On her debut US release “Fall to Grace” (Epic), British-born singer/actress/songwriter Paloma Faith brings an eclectic mix of songs that show influence from Amy Winehouse and Duffy mixed with her own personality. A handful of songs are clearly meant for the dance floor, such as the neosoul-inspired “Let Me Down Easy” and especially the retro-sounding “Blood Sweat and Tears.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad/Martyrs’

Reggae, World Music No Comments »


Upstate New York’s given the world a number of acts that defy place and time–Ithaca’s John Brown’s Body, for one. Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad isn’t as prolific, but has been a substantial voice in the hippified reggae scene over the last half-decade. The Rochester-based band’s first offering, “Slow Down,” was an anemic attempt to wrestle a bit of personality from a genre that has very little to do with the collective GPGDS experience in America. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Vieux Farka Toure/Martyrs’

Folk, Reggae, World Music No Comments »

Photo: Ernest Barteldes


The son of the late, great Ali Farka Touré definitely does not live under his father’s shadow. After his impressive self-titled debut two years ago, he emerges with “Fondo” (Six Degrees), a disc that explores and expands Malian blues under a more global perspective.

Since his first disc came out, Touré has been on a whirlwind of activity—in 2008 year, he went on extensive US tours and also appeared alongside Pee Wee Ellis, Fred Wesley and Senegalese multi-instrumentalist Cheik Lô on “Say It Loud: I’m Black And I’m Proud,” a tribute to James Brown that included a concert at New York’s Lincoln Center and he also participated on the “In The Name Of Love: Africa Celebrates U2” compilation with a very personal cover of “Bullet The Blue Sky.”

On his new CD, Touré seems to have picked up a lot of influences from music he has heard along the road: “Diaraby Magni” pays homage to the roots reggae of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, while the “Chérie Lé” has a clear Brooklyn vibe thanks to Tim Keiper’s rock-inflected drumming.

Not that Touré has drifted from his native African roots—one of the most beautiful moments on the disc is the slow-tempo “Paradise,” which features Toumani Diabaté on the Kora, a 21-string harp-like instrument commonly used by West African musicians. Another highlight is “Slow Jam,” an improvised blues piece where Touré showcases his strong improvisational skills. (Ernest Barteldes)

April 15, 8pm, Martyrs’, 3855 North Lincoln, (773)404-9494. $25.

411: Kid Rock

Chicago Artists, Festivals, News and Dish No Comments »

Pop Tarts

The bands playing Chicago’s first-ever “The Stars of Tomorrow Summer Spectacular!” may not know much about Alice Cooper, but they’ll definitely celebrate like rock stars when school’s out for summer this year. Between Lollapalooza, Pitchfork Festival and the Hideout Block Party, not to mention countless city-produced festivals on the lakefront, Chicago has no shortage of summer music in the open air. But the Intonation Music Workshop (IMW) has managed to find a fairly new twist with its all-day festival taking place June 12 at Fosco Park Playground, 1312 South Racine: all the bands are made up of kids between the ages of 5 and 18 years old, including Trace, Fatal Attraction and Soul Children.

Mike Simons, founder and executive director of IMW, a program that provides Chicago’s low-income children with access to musical instruments, instruction and performance opportunities they otherwise would not have, says he began with the hope of providing the city’s underprivileged children with a chance to learn essential life skills like teamwork and risk-taking, and express themselves creatively through music. Established in the spring of 2006, IMW now serves 450 students a year and operates eight sites across the city.

Although Simons says IMW is “not so concerned about making great musicians,” they’ve certainly cultivated some promising players. In four years, students of IMW have formed more than twenty rock bands, including graduates who’ve played at Lollapalooza and have been invited to private auditions for “America’s Got Talent.” PopTots, a group of 5- to 7-year-olds, are slated to perform at Martyrs’ April 25. Cherry Coke sales should go through the roof that night. (Darrel Sangster)

Preview: Ekoostic Hookah/Martyrs’

Jam Band, Reggae, Rock No Comments »


It might seem odd that an Ohio-based jam band would repeatedly be invited to perform in reggae-obsessed Negril, Jamaica. However, upon hearingEkoostic Hookah’s psychedelic improvisational music, one immediately gets it. After all, the sound they make goes perfectly with the inexpensive ganja most visitors, er, sample during visits to the small Caribbean nation that gave us Peter Tosh and Bob Marley—who incidentally both advocated legalizing cannabis in their native land. Formed in 1991 by vocalist/keyboardist Dave Katz, guitarist Steve Sweney, bassist Cliff Starbuck, guitarist/vocalist John Mullins and drummer Eric Lanese (who joined in ’93) after jamming together at open-mic nights, Ekoostic Hookah has become one of the most beloved bands in the national jam-band scene. They set themselves apart from the fray with their carefully arranged three-part harmonies and very open mind when it comes to music: in their sets you get a little bit of everything, ranging from jazz, folk music and lots of experimentation. (Ernest Barteldes)

December 12, Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln, (773)404-9494, at 10pm. $15.

Soundcheck: Claire Stahlecker

Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Pop, Singer-Songwriter 1 Comment »

Claire on CouchClaire Stahlecker’s music is similar to a breezy romantic comedy, one that’s pleasant enough to take in for an hour and a half, and not a piece that will torture you for days afterward. The Chicago singer-songwriter, still unsigned, makes a convincing blend of pop and folk; her songs stir with the honesty and emotional wisdom of a late-night troubadour, but she’s also not afraid of writing a hummable hook. On Friday at Martyrs, Stahlecker releases her first EP, titled “A Little Piece of Heaven,” and it seems like this is just the beginning for the young artist.

“The only thing that really motivated me to practice was to learn some of my favorite artists’ songs,” she says of the time she was learning to play. “I had been writing for a long time too. When I was a kid I used to write songs without an instrument, just lyrics. It’s weird to think about now. I never thought it would be a career.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Greg Laswell/Martyrs’

Pop, Rock, Singer-Songwriter No Comments »


After enjoying moderate success with the Southern California-based band Shillglen until 2001, Greg Laswell launched his solo career as a singer-songwriter in 2003 with the independently released “Good Movie,” which ultimately won a Best Local Recording award at the San Diego Music Awards the following year. An acoustic balladeer with a strong folk-rock influence, Laswell has successfully placed his music on TV shows like CW’s “90210” and CBS’ “Without a Trace.” His subtle cover of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” was heard on the soundtrack of “Confessions of a Shopaholic,” while “Come Undone” (no relation to the Duran Duran hit of the same name) has been featured on the trailer for the upcoming feature film “Veronika Decides to Die,” an adaptation of a novel by Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho. Laswell has been compared to the work of Jeff Buckley and Radiohead due to the personal nature of his lyrics and also the general emo feel of tunes like “Come and Go” and “Off I Go.”(Ernest Barteldes)

July 24 at Martyrs’, 3855 N. Lincoln, (773)404-9494. 9pm. $10.

The House of Dillinger: Kindle goes to jail

Blues, Chicago Artists, Folk-rock, Rock No Comments »

kindleLate one night the members of Kindle, through a friend, gained access to a courthouse in Indiana, the same one that held John Dillinger and the one from which he later famously escaped. “We were looking for somewhere that has strong acoustics and an intimate setting,” says singer and guitarist, Joshua Wright. So the band went in and used the interior of the building for its acoustics. While there, they recorded harp and vocal tracks with the natural reverb that was created in the empty space.

By definition, “kindle” is a verb, to arouse or inspire. As a band name, the word signifies a fresh start, the members taking influence and experience from past projects and channeling their energy into something new. “[The name] represents us, as a culmination of all the styles and backgrounds we hail from as individuals,” says David Lubarski, a member of Kindle who splits his time between roles as one of the group’s two drummers and its bassist. “We wanted to start something new.” Read the rest of this entry »