Reviews, profiles and news about music in Chicago

411: Joe Bryl is back, and hoping for an Uprise

DJ, News and Dish, R&B, World Music No Comments »

After a six-month music sabbatical in Argentina, former Sonotheque owner Joe Bryl (DJ King Scratch) is back on the scene, this time curating “UPR!SE: Revolutionary Sounds From Fela To The Funk,” a weekly African-rooted residency at The Shrine, 2109 South Wabash, with DJs Tone B Nimble and King Scratch.

Bryl is no stranger to Afrobeat: he was the first DJ ever to play a set at Funky Buddha Lounge and has been interested in the genre for all of his twenty years in the industry, taking cues from artists like Fela Kuti, Miles Davis, James Brown and George Clinton.

“The difficulty I have with the DJ construction is that everything is sometimes looked through a prism of what is presently occurring, and not showing cultural connectivity over time,” Bryl says. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Winter Chill

Chicago Artists, DJ, Downtempo, Electronic/Dance, News and Dish No Comments »

The landscape of Chicago club life is changing, especially with the recent shuttering of Sonotheque and the re-branding of Lava. Smart Bar’s aiming for a little consistency in a business that’s anything but and just announced plans for a new Tuesday night series, titled Chilled, to be launched February 9. “Basically it’s gonna be a weekly downtempo night. We realized that, first off, there are not any good downtempo nights in the city, and secondly, there are a lot less options these days of things to do on Tuesday nights,” Nate Seider, Smart Bar’s talent buyer, says. “We just really want to do something laidback, more low-key, so the crowd can sit around and not feel so motivated to get up and rage and dance.” Seider used to run his own Tuesday night downtempo series at Moonshine, and picked DJ John Simmons to lead the charge on this new venture. He cites swanky joints Violet Hour and Rodan as models, as the evening intends to draw in the “martini crowd.” “I guess,” Seider says. “We definitely try not to be stuffy, but we just want people more in tune for a nice night out, to sit around and hang with friends and not worry about having to yell over the sound system.” (Tom Lynch)

At Zeroes End: Music in Chicago 2000-2009

Chicago Artists, DJ, Electronic/Dance, Festivals, Hip-Hop, News and Dish, Rock 1 Comment »

By Tom LynchDM_1161

Here’s an example of how much can change over the course of ten years—Lincoln Park’s Lounge Ax, the premier indie-rock venue in the city, which even had a cameo in the Chicago-shot “High Fidelity,” took its final bow on January 15, 2000, just two weeks into the new decade. By now, it’s unlikely the majority of those who frequently attend rock shows at places like Empty Bottle, Schubas or Hideout were old enough to have ever gone there.

When considering changes and adjustments in all mediums over the last ten years, music offers the most significant transformation, not only here in Chicago but across the globe. Moving into 2010 we’re heavily entrenched in the digital age, as it took iTunes, introduced by Apple in January of 2001, and the iPod, which came in October of the same year, a relatively short amount of time to make over the record industry and put the future of record stores, independent and corporate, in limbo. Goodbye Virgin. Goodbye Tower. It was sort-of nice knowing you. Read the rest of this entry »

Star Power: The origin of the sensational Kid Sister

Chicago Artists, Dance Pop, Electro, Electronic/Dance, Hip-Hop No Comments »

By Tom Lynchkid-sis--DON-FLOOD

For people of a certain age, watching Wrestlemania as a child on cable is a beloved memory. For Melisa Young, aka Kid Sister, it’s from that annual tradition that she fell for Koko B. Ware, the “Birdman,” the Hulk Hogan-era African-American WWF wrestler who carried around a pet macaw. “Koko B. Ware” was to be the title of Kid Sister’s debut record, but the Federation—now known as the WWE—wouldn’t even consider allowing Young to use the name.

“We were like, we’ll give you $10,000, and they were like, ‘We’re not even discussing it, it’s not up for debate,’” she says. “It was pretty crushing.”

Such a devotion to nostalgia, to origin, to not-forgetting-where-she-came-from has helped give Kid Sister some street cred and popularity over the last two years, all without having a full-length album. Young possesses a girl-next-door charm—and works it to her advantage, too—so that even if you try to fight it, you find yourself rooting for her. Her Kid Sister moniker helps to immediately position her as the universal girl everyone helps build up and protect.

Her rise as an artist is unique not only for her rapid ascent but also because of her determination to remain true to her vision. Read the rest of this entry »

411: Bryl Chill

Chicago Artists, DJ, News and Dish No Comments »

Next week, Joe Bryl’s Braziliance party at Sonotheque celebrates its three-year anniversary and also serves as a (somewhat) going-away shindig for the club’s co-owner. “This will be my last involvement with Braziliance,” Bryl says. “We’ve been lucky enough to bring a lot of Brazil’s talent here.” Bryl says he will remain as co-owner of the club along with Donnie Madia and Terry Alexander, and is still involved in the daytime activities, but his role will be much more limited while he focuses on a new project at the Charleston, located at 2076 North Hoyne. “The musical climate at Charleston will be more intimate. I’ll be collaborating with some DJs as well as record collectors. We’re preserving the historic space while adding a new sound system, but it’s basically going to be a bar.” Bryl will serve as Charleston’s manager and music director and his decision to focus on the new bar—not necessarily known for its music programming—was to be able to work in a more intimate setting and play material that doesn’t fit into Sonotheque’s “dance aesthetic.” Bryl says that Charleston’s owner, Jeremy Lewin, whom he’s known for years, first approached Bryl about the possibility a few months ago. Citing his passion for historic bars, Bryl says, “Old bars are still in existence, but they’re getting rarer and rarer just because of the way culture is evolving, or devolving.” Bryl says he’ll continue with his normal booking duties at Sonotheque as well—alongside Empty Bottle’s Pete Toalson—so no official “replacement” will be appointed. Bryl also says that an offer has been made to purchase Sonotheque but as of now nothing has progressed further.

Admission to Braziliance at Sonetheque on November 5 is free before 10pm, and $5 after.

Preview: Tim Baker, Kill Memory Crash, Gabe Palomo/Sonotheque

Chicago Artists, DJ, Electro, Electronic/Dance, House, Techno No Comments »


Tim Baker is a builder. Laying bricks of percussive, urgent rhythms, slathered with a mortar of acid, his Real Estate and Elephanthaus labels have been erecting his distinctive house and techno constructions for years. While it seems his recent work might’ve slowed down the BPMs and dug deeper into the basement, he never seems to lose the driving momentum of his earlier, harder-edged releases. And with tonight celebrating Elephanthaus’ twelve-year anniversary, longtime fans might hope to hear Mr. Baker’s musical journey include earlier favorites like the delightfully squiggly “Sugarcube,” along with just about every musical pit-stop along I-94, from his original home in Detroit to his decade-plus home here in Chicago. And just in time for Halloween, delightfully apocalyptic live industrial/techno hybrid Kill Memory Crash also performs, with drummer and DJ Gabe Palomo opening. Baker builds it, Kill Memory Crash burns it…sounds good to us! (Duke Shin)

October 29 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 9pm.

Preview: Shit Robot/Sonotheque

Chicago Artists, Disco, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House No Comments »


With a moniker like Shit Robot, perhaps DFA’s Marcus Lambkin doesn’t take himself too seriously. That would at least explain why dance-floor denizens hungry for his distinctively wonky tracks have had so little to chew on since getting a whiff of the danceable chaos of “Wrong Galaxy” or his remix of Dondolo’s “Dragon” in 2006. Shit Robot would release the “Chaos” single in 2007, which seemed to lean more towards the manic mutant disco of Emperor Machine, before releasing “Simple Things (Work it Out)” earlier this year—a subversively restrained number with humorous vocals, strains of classic NYC piano house and, of course, DFA-approved handclaps. Tonight, Shit Robot will be DJing, and while we haven’t had a chance to catch his sets before, we’re pretty sure you can expect to hear selections from the likes of Crazy Penis, Chicken Lips and Bangkok Impact—in other words, smoothed-out beats with just the right amount of wrong to keep it lively. Go Bang! resident Jordan Z opens, and Philly’s Tigersapien also performs live. (Duke Shin)

October 23 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 9pm.

Preview: Bonobo/Sonotheque

DJ, Drum 'n' Bass, Electronic/Dance No Comments »


Few DJs can get live-music fans excited. More often than not, the crossfader version is sorely lacking next to the band-assisted version, and in Bonobo’s case, this comparison is often made. Simon Green’s turntable visits, however, are hardly worth skipping, as his influences are a fun combination of funk, soul and jazz, with tangential forays into garage, drum ‘n’ bass and hip hop-fused breaks. He plays favorites from “Dial ‘M’ for Monkey” and “Days to Come,” but it’s the effortless jumps into the varied genres that aren’t to be missed. Sure, the album stuff sounds great loud, but Green’s ear is spot-on, and with support from Chicago staple, Striz, this is sure to be a solid outing. (John Alex Colon)

October 20 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, 9pm.

Preview: Volatl featuring Dilo/Sonotheque

DJ, Electronic/Dance, House, Techno No Comments »


Always seizing opportunities to book artists new to the States, VOLATL will host the Chicago debut of Buenos Aires producer/DJ/label-owner Dilo (aka Franco di Lorenzo) to headline its next monthly event at Sonotheque. Much like Jonas Kopp, Barem, Franco Bianco and Ernesto Ferryra, Dilo has been an integral part of the unmistakable wave of gifted electronic-music producers from Argentina who shook up the global techno scene over the last few years. Dilo first received international recognition releasing music with frequent production partner Gurtz, and later began releasing solo work and remixes for labels including Minus, Soma, Einmaleins and more. Expect a futuristic set full of dark, minimalist grooves mixed with more danceable house-oriented sounds. The event will also serve as a preview party for Klectik Recordings’ seventh release, which features a track from Dilo and Gurtz. Two of VOLATL’s residents, Klectik label boss Jason Patrick and New York favorite Connie (also remixer for Klectik 007) will perform DJ sets full of the freshest in techno and tech-house to keep you dancing all night long. (Elly Rifkin)

October 10 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, (312)226-7600, 9pm.

Preview: Jackson w/Bruno Pronsato/Sonotheque

Chicago Artists, DJ, Electronic/Dance, House, Techno No Comments »


Berlin’s Bruno Pronsato kicked off 2009 in Chicago with an outstanding performance to a packed Sonotheque dance floor courtesy of VOLATL. Lucky for Chicago, he’s back to bring summer to a close. Meiotic is hosting Bruno to headline its successful Jackson event in partnership with VOLATL. A prolific live performer and composer, Bruno Pronsato recently released his acclaimed “The Make Up The Break Up” on his own label thesongsays. The record is a testament to his innovation, skill and ever-rising popularity—no one else (aside from maybe Ricardo Villalobos) could get away with releasing such a well-received epic forty-minute minimal-techno track. Bruno’s sets are simultaneously challenging and danceable—warm and oddly haunting at the same time. Chicago’s Lady D joins Bruno in the lineup. One of the city’s most beloved house DJs with fantastic taste in music, Lady D fluidly navigates her sets between deep, understated and organic grooves and the raw, funky and jackin’ rhythms of Chicago house. Opening the night is DJ/producer/multimedia artist Hernan Sanchez, whose DJ sets range from the sophisticated minimal techno records sounds of labels like Perlon, Playhouse and Cadenza to early Chicago jack tracks and nostalgic house classics. (Elly Rifkin)

September 18 at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago, (312)226-7600, at 9pm. $10-$15.