Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Holiday Music, Indie Rock, Interviews, Live Reviews, Metal, Prog-rock, R&B, Rock, Shoegaze, Soul, Space Pop
By Keidra Chaney
Here we are at the end of the year, and while most music journalists will inflict their top-ten bands/albums/live shows of 2014 lists on their readers, I’ve decided to spare you. There’s still enough time, after all, to catch the best show of the year, or even check out a new band or album that might be your favorite. There have been two or three times that my favorite concert of a given year took place during the last six weeks on the calendar (I’m looking at you, St Vincent!). This is especially true with the holidays approaching; Chicago is fond of its Christmas and pre-New Year’s live music showcases and events. Either way, there’s still a lot going on in the city when it comes to live music. Here are a few standouts.
The Empty Bottle (1035 North Western) is all up in Christmas this month, with a whole slew of Christmas and Christmas-ish events to celebrate the holiday. On December 12, they’re throwing their second annual Bottle Hop to raise money for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It’s an old-school rock ‘n’ roll/soul/R&B shindig, which makes it a perfect opportunity to dress kinda fancy. The lineup includes badass throwback soul band The Congregation (on the verge of very big things, I predict), fifties rockers The Tenders and western swing outfit The Chandelier Swingers. The show is $10 and starts at 9pm.
A week later, on December 19, space-y collaboration Quarter Mile Thunder throws a “Xmas psych party” (which also doubles as an album release party) with the Record Low. The following night features holiday-themed Chicago supergroup Snow Angels (comprising members of Mannequin Men, Johnny and The Limelites, Vee Dee and Automatic Stinging Machines), who reconvene for their annual holiday performance; they say it’s been twelve years since they started.
If that’s too much live music for you, the Bottle also hosts a pair of lunch-hour events in time for Christmas shopping: a poster sale on December 14 and a pop-up holiday market on December 20. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
By Kenneth Preski
Stand in a room while Jason Adasiewicz is performing and his artistry is self-evident. The rarest musicians are those who are able to overcome the technical standards of their instrument and in turn breathe life into a new playing style; unquestionably unique, a different way of looking at the world. Sometimes that’s what it takes to capture an audience’s attention. Even frequent collaborator and jazz immortal Peter Brötzmann was not a fan of the vibraphone before he heard Jason Adasiewicz. “He actually hates that instrument,” laughs Adasiewicz, sitting with one on his right, a drumkit to his left. That’s because, until now, no one has ever played the vibraphone like he does. Read the rest of this entry »
Maybe you saw Rabble Rabble open for Death at Reggies on New Year’s Eve, or maybe you’ve seen them at a DIY space, but they are a big enough band in sound and in presence to tear any venue apart. This local act is formally releasing their new album, “Brain Hole,” on Logan Hardware Records, at the venue they’ve come to know the best, with some acts that are sure to make this quite the celebration. Read the rest of this entry »
Pig Destroyer is about as close to a household name as underground metal can get, to the point that some metal snobs consider the band to be “mainstream” in comparison to its younger, more extreme counterparts. (They probably wouldn’t pass the “does your mom know them?” test, unless your mom goes to Kuma’s regularly.) Of course musically, the band is no less savage than they’ve ever been. Their last full-length, 2012’s “Book Burner” was both unusually ambitious–with some of the best, most disturbing lyrical storytelling vocalist J.R. Hayes has ever written–while sounding younger and more punk than ever, thanks to primary songwriter/guitarist Scott Hull’s guiding hand. Read the rest of this entry »
Though Texan Scott H. Biram has released a number of well-received albums and has been performing for more than a decade (amassing a considerable following in that time period) his latest release from Bloodshot Records (“Nothin’ But Blood”) is bringing new fans out of the woodwork. Biram calls his music “the bastard child of punk, blues, country, hillbilly, bluegrass, chain gang, metal and classic rock,” and for once this is not an example of an artist over-selling himself. Despite the first track on his latest album implying that he’s taking it “Slow & Easy,” Biram still preaches as much hellfire as he does redemption with both his lyrics and musical style, following loud, fighting-angry metal tunes like “Church Point Girls” with easy listening bluegrass ballads like “I’m Troubled.” Seeing Biram take the stage alone with his signature trucker hat, the uninitiated may expect a fairly typical country singer-songwriter—but once he gets going, it becomes clear why he’s also known as “The Dirty Old One Man Band.” Read the rest of this entry »
While Portugal’s Moonspell has had the usual shifts in style that are characteristic of a band with a lengthy history, in a black-metal-dominated contemporary scene that clings to “no clean vocals” like a religion, the band’s gothic influences are an acquired taste for certain fans. That being said, “Alpha Noir,” part of the band’s most recent two-part release, is their thrashiest in years. Read the rest of this entry »
Matching the lunacy of Kool Keith rhymes, Tha Alkaholiks penchant for boozy word play and occasional Cudi-style sing-alongs (but not too many), Mr. Muthafukin’ eXquire’s “Lost in Translation” arrived last year only to be overshadowed by gimmicky newcomers and a slew of genre luminaries issuing work after being sprung from the clink. Joined by folks like Jake One, El-P and Esoteric, eXquire doesn’t ever lack proper musical backing to discuss the finer points of getting wasted, exploiting your girlfriend and proclaiming his love of breast milk. The MC even takes the time to expound on his affection for fried chicken and all the sides he can snag to make a meal. Read the rest of this entry »
It’d be easy to get lost amid the slew of independently issued releases from Chicago’s hip-hop underground. So, it’s surprising that with the media fawning over Chief Keef and his major dealings, Chance the Rapper still stands out. And it’s not because of the MC’s desire to work his own personality into contemporary music mores. Instead, on his “10 Day” release, the still-teenaged rapper digs through twenty-year-old influences—groups that started releasing music before he was born. Read the rest of this entry »
The States are woefully short on soccer riots. So, if there’s one band that should do well, working in that vacuum, it’s the Cockney Rejects. During the band’s brief early eighties heyday, the United Kingdom group was best known for stuff like “War on the Terraces” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Tossed on the heap of bands Garry Bushell dubbed Oi!, the Rejects kicked on for a few years after issuing “Greatest Hits” in two volumes as a pair of cheeky 1980 albums. Everything skinners-in-training need to know about the band—and a bit more—is contained on those discs. There’s a wealth of coulda-been hits if someone had taken the time to ramp up a proper punk/Oi! chart thirty years back, but “I’m Not a Fool”’s as catchy as the genre gets. Read the rest of this entry »