Our biannual behind-the-scenes look at Chicago’s thriving music community gets a little more complex every year. Performers are easy enough to pin down; they’re front and center, by definition. But it can take some digging to excavate the driving forces behind the city’s rich tapestry of orchestras, festivals, music venues and record labels. On the other hand, a certain kind of celebrity has attached itself to bloggers, promoters, radio announcers, artistic directors and journalists, that puts them almost on an equal footing to the artists they’re here to support. So we find ourselves, in this year’s Music 45, ranging wide across the city’s musical landscape, reacquainting you with names and faces you may know almost as well as your own, while introducing you to several newcomers who have labored, if not quite in obscurity, then without the recognition their endeavors have earned them. What they all have in common, is that your life—yes, yours—is a little bit richer because of them. (Robert Rodi)
Music 45 was written by Robert Rodi and Dennis Polkow
With additional contributions by Keidra Chaney, Corey Hall, Robert Loerzel, Dylan Peterson and John Wilmes
Cover and interior photos by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux on location at Metro Chicago Read the rest of this entry »
Alt-Rock, Chicago Artists, Festivals, Hip-Hop, Indie Rock, Jam Band, Metal, Prog-rock, Punk, Rap, Rock
By Keidra Chaney
Pitchfork Music Fest Weekend is upon us once again. It’s traditionally been the “tastemaker’s festival” of the summer, where this year’s Pitchfork buzz acts become next year’s Lolla lineup. This year’s crop offers a decidedly local flavor, in a way hearkening back to the festival’s roots in Chicago, starting with the Pitchfork-curated Intonation Festival back in 2005. The city’s own Wilco and Chance The Rapper bookend as headliners on Friday and Sunday (with a reunited Sleater-Kinney closing Saturday), but there’s a whole lot to check out in between, from the fest itself to a whole slew of aftershows all weekend long. I had every intention of going to P4K this year, but I’m ninety percent sure I’ll be out of town, so I’ll share with you the schedule I have planned. If any of you take my suggestions, let me know how it all worked out.
I’d get out of work early and ease into my weekend with Chicago’s own guitar wunderkind Ryley Walker on the Blue Stage at 3:20pm, then run over to check out Drake acolyte/rival ILoveMakonnen on the Green Stage at 4:35pm. Friday at Pitchfork Fest tends to not be hugely eventful because the heavier rock bands that I prefer tend to show up on Saturday and Sunday, so I’d take a long break and check out the vendor booths to kill time before seeing a bit of Panda Bear on the Green Stage at 6:25pm, then leave early to jet over to the Red Stage for Chvrches at 7:20pm. This is a group that took time to win me over, because I found a lot of their synth covers of classic rock and R&B hits nearly intolerable, but their latest album has grown on me; it’s dance music that sounds BIG, like a rock band, and it’s likely to sound pretty good on the Red Stage. Wilco plays on the Green Stage at 8:30pm, and while I probably wouldn’t stick around, I am sure everyone else will. Read the rest of this entry »
Blues, Chicago Artists, Classical, Country, Electronic/Dance, Experimental, Folk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Music 45, R&B, Rock, Soul
Photo: Joe Mazza of BraveLux
Chicago, you are a big, bold, beautiful city of infinite complexity. Your historical heritage, your social and political upheaval, your segregation, violence and corruption have birthed an incredible wealth of musical expression. It’s by virtue of these artists that our community confronts and escapes the mistakes of our metropolis. And so our publication listens intently, offering a nuanced dialogue with the musicians who craft our culture. Yet, once a year, we redirect our approach to the opposing swing of the pendulum. We zoom-out where we would normally zoom-in. This list offers a broad-stroke survey of those Chicago musicians whose current cultural currency is readily represented to the city and to the rest of the world, living artists whose quantifiable influence echoes their effect. Some big names are missing, some rankings seem arbitrary, but it’s toward these acts, firmly Chicagoan, that we look when we seek out the spirit of home. Where our words might fail, the music will not. (Kenneth Preski)
Music 45 was written by Kenneth Preski, Dennis Polkow, John Wilmes, Jessica Burg, Robert Szypko, Eric Lutz, Keidra Chaney, Reilly Gill, Corey Hall and Dave Cantor
All photos taken on location at The Hideout by Joe Mazza of BraveLux. Read the rest of this entry »
Tim Kinsella helms Joan of Arc, LeRoy Bach was with Wilco at their creative peak, Angel Olsen is on the cusp of indie stardom, but Marvin Tate? Who is Marvin Tate? The man responsible for writing each of these thirteen songs is the least known of the otherwise reputable quartet. Somewhere in the cracks between his race-exploring appearance on “This American Life,” his freakness embrace on Def Poetry, and his semi-regular outings as bandleader of early Funkadelic infused D-Settlement, Marvin Tate is too many things to distill. To be sure, he’s a Chicagoan, just like everyone else on this release, save Olsen who has fled the city to foster a career in the ascendant. Apart from Tate’s stated résumé, his work has yet to break the art world open, but such is the fate of the self-proclaimed poet. Where Tate disregards rhyming in verse, he favors the brutality of truth, which sits well with Kinsella. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
There might not be a middle class in a few years. Thomas Friedman said so in the New York Times. So while we’re all waiting for that crushing future, a generation’s gotta figure out how to get over. And Minneapolis’ Martin Dosh seems to have succeeded.
He’s mostly just Dosh now–his last name serving as a tag for all performances he’s inclined to take part in, whether it’s a solo gig or as part of ensemble performance. “Milk Money,” the percussionist’s latest album, he says, is the result of a concerted effort to do something different, and something in a collaborative vacuum. It’s aurally apparent from the disc’s opening four minutes. “We Are the Worst” doesn’t feature any sort of easily recognizable beat—an odd move for a guy so associated with a drum kit.
“It’s always been me and an extension of me–my greater musical family in Minneapolis,” Dosh says of his name’s abstraction. “My longest collaborator is Mike Lewis, who recorded on “Pure Trash,” “Lost Take” and “Tommy”–and he did all the tours I did from 2006 to 2010. … We had a cool telepathic language; we pulled off a full-band sound with two guys.” Read the rest of this entry »
When Beethoven died, John Quincy Adams was President of the United States. Illinois had been a state for less than a decade, and Chicago wouldn’t be incorporated for another seven years. That Chicago will play host to the world premiere of a Beethoven love song is astounding by all measures, none more so than the respective age of the composition, older than the city where it will be performed for the first time. To celebrate the momentous occasion, The International Beethoven Project, led by President and Artistic Director George Lepauw, have assembled a broad swath of love-inspired performers, including Wilco’s phenomenal drummer Glenn Kotche, and Gray, a band started by the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The programming often takes musicians to task, asking them to perform variations on a theme, most potently Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony,” which will get special piano and experimental electronic treatment resulting in a great number of entirely new compositions. And though the festival is his namesake, Beethoven is not the only composer represented. Matthias Pintscher, music director of Paris’ Ensemble InterContemporain, will conduct Bach’s “Saint-John’s Passion,” Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” and “Overture to Tristan and Isolde,” and Mozart’s “Gran Partita,” all as a buildup to his take on Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 (Pastoral Symphony).” Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve never readily accepted the music of Justin Vernon. Undeniably well-crafted as it is, irresistible and viscerally affective as his voice is, something’s missing. Or maybe there’s too much of something, perhaps too much of the saccharine. Or perhaps Vernon’s sincerity goes unchecked on his independent projects (Kanye West contextualized the singer’s talents masterfully on each of his last two longforms), and I’m just unable to sign off on what’s ultimately a glitch-painted form of plain old “Americana,” which occasionally performs infectious and fascinating dances between each of its instrumental layers. I could go on. I could probably compliment Vernon’s sonic engineering all day. He’s a textural master, he’s a king of the melodic gut-punch. He could probably make me cry for weeks and weeks if he took up residency with a guitar in my family room. Read the rest of this entry »
Cover by Colin Denney
Music is alive and well and living in Chicago.
While that once might have meant records and radio and bands being signed to major labels, it’s a much more complex score these days, with artists and venues more entrepreneurial than ever. But at the core is the shift in emphasis from recorded to live music, and it’s a change that’s made Chicago a town of festivals, from the city’s bedrock blues, jazz, gospel and world music festivals, to Lollapalooza and Pitchfork, to the new electronic dance music festivals—Spring Awakening, Wavefront and North Coast—as well as the explosive growth of an old one, the Chosen Few DJs Picnic. With these shifts, the players are changing too; since we last made this list of the behind-the-scenesters, the power list if you will, most of the list has changed. This year’s forty-five include twenty-six folks who were not on the list that last time in 2009. (Brian Hieggelke)
Music 45 was written by Brian Hieggelke, Dennis Polkow and Kenneth Preski, with additional contributions by Dave Cantor, Keidra Chaney, Dylan Peterson, John Wilmes and B. David Zarley. See previous years here. Read the rest of this entry »
Performers have forgotten over the last few decades how useful it is to have a point to your music. Innocuous tunes about booze and boning are always going to have traction, but recordings from the Staple Singers remain an unmatched body of work that touts determination and tenacity. Mavis, her father Pops and a cadre of sisters performed from the 1950s through the eighties. They used music to connect their own community and worked to unite every thoughtful person in the country. Along the way, Mavis worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to the Stax house band alongside her family and during solo endeavors. It took her about sixty years to be awarded a Grammy—she may deserve a few more—but it was a hard-earned piece of recognition. Read the rest of this entry »
Elsinore recorded their first LP very, very slowly. It took two years and plenty of University of Illinois house-party gigs for the pop quintet to assemble a record out of their singular catchy songs. Released two weeks ago and co-produced with Adam Schmitt and mastered by Jon Pines (who has also worked extensively with Wilco), the band is looking to finally break free from their Champaign-Urbana bubble. Taking cues from modern-day influences Ben Gibbard and Sufjan Stevens, Elsinore enthusiastically cranks out punchy choruses and well-timed harmonies. Call it power pop with a killer falsetto. Though Elsinore is the headliner, Canasta is an equally great (if not better) reason to check out Lincoln Hall Friday night. The Chicago-based orchestra-pop band seems to have been on the verge since 2002, when it was founded by male/female duo Matt Priest and Elizabeth Lindau. They’ve cycled through fifteen members and gotten some mainstream attention—sound bites in a feature film, TV commercials and a spot on NPR’s World Café—but always seem to be a bit under the radar. Which is surprising, considering their New Pornographers-duo sound matched with a Midwestern alt-country feel. The band was at Lincoln Hall earlier this year with Mucca Pazza, but the marriage Friday night between both Elsinore’s and Canasta’s nuanced pop will be a holy experience. (Dee Fabbricatore)
August 20 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2501, 10pm. $10.