As the summer starts winding down, it also brings the festival season to an end. Here in Chicago we have a lot of BIG festivals like Lolla and Pitchfork, as well as Ribfest and The World’s Biggest Block Party. Each neighborhood puts on their own festivals throughout the summer, and it seems like every day from May-September I hear about some new street festival that I need to check out. Sadly, I can’t make it to all of them. I generally stick to the ones that have some kind of pork food product in the title.
This weekend one of the final festivals of the year is being held just north of us, in the town of Woodstock, IL. I’ve never been there, but with the lineup they’ve secured it must be a pretty cool town. I agreed to go to a work function with Kari on the 25th, so I won’t be able to attend. If you haven’t secured your plans for Saturday, I would definitely recommend checking this out. Not only are the bands great, but there will be all sorts of food and fun to be had. And, it’s only $15. Music starts at 5 and ends at 2am.
I’m just gonna run down a list of some of the bands playing and insert audio or video clips where I can to give you an idea of the bands sound.
First and foremost, Ezra Furman is playing. This is worth the price of the ticket AND gas to get there if you need to drive. His newest record, The Year Of No Returning, has been number one on my list since it came out in February. He’s a unique songwriter and, even moreso, a unique performer. If you’ve never seen him before, $15 is probably the cheapest it will be for a while.
Cousin Dud is still relatively unknown band, but it won’t be for long. They just released their new full-length, Workinggirl’s Dud, a couple weeks ago. I saw them perform a little over a year ago and thought they did a really good job in a venue that didn’t deserve it.
One of my favorite surprises of the year has been Jon Drake & The Shakes album Dear Ulysses. The octet does a great job of blending different styles together to make indie rock not completely unlike Arcade Fire, but more fun. I’ve seen them live a couple of times, and Drake really pours himself into the performance. He’s a charismatic cat up there on stage, and he’s got a super talented band behind him.
That’s just three of the 20 bands Chrome Attic has put together for your listening enjoyment. On top of that there will be a pig roast, comedy shows, and a beer garden. All in all it should be a damn fine way to spend a Saturday.
For full details, check out the festivals website here.
I don’t usually preview the street festivals in Chicago. There are a bunch of reasons why, but two big ones are: Not all of the people that read this site are from Chicago, so why would they care. The other one is that there are SO MANY street festivals in this city! At least four or five every weekend in the summer. That’s great, but sometimes it’s tough to know which ones to go to. Do Division is a great one, Taste Of Lincoln and Ribfest have been good the past couple years, and Taste Of Randolph is certainly one of the best.
This year there is an amazing lineup of musical talent that I wanted to just alert those that may be in the area over the next few days that this shouldn’t be missed.
Friday June 15th
The evening kicks off fast and furious at 6 with Those Darlins.
The real treat comes at the 8:30 slot on the West Stage as Los Campesinos! bring their dance-y Welsh jams back to the states. I’m on record as saying I didn’t think Hello Sadness lived up to the potential that Romance Is Boring promised, but it’s still a fun record to throw on. I will be missing this set, unfortunately, as I have tickets to see Aziz Ansari on Friday night.
Saturday June 16th
A couple really good Chicago bands play during the day, with Unicycle Loves You kicking the tires and lighting the fires at 1pm on the West Stage. Later, at 6:00 Right Now brings some sultry soul to what will already be a sizzling day on the East Stage, while over on the West, Empires takes the stage at 6:15 to show why they’re one of Chicago’s most popular rock bands. And the capper for the night is Mr. Black Crowes himself, Chris Robinson, on the West Stage with his new band The Chris Robinson Brotherhood. I imagine they probably play a lot of songs about how being married to Kate Hudson is like a really terrible romantic comedy, but I’ve seen The Black Crowes perform, and Robinson can bring the goods. If the band backing him up is any good, this should be a great night. Hopefully it won’t be too hot to handle.
Sunday June 17th
For Father’s Day the festival decided to make all dad’s happy by having one of my favorite Chicago acts close out the fest with the 8:30 slot. Ezra Furman currently sits atop my Top Ten Albums of 2012 list with his debut solo LP, and last year along with The Harpoons he put out another fine record called Mysterious Power. I’ve seen him a couple times, and his show is raw and powerful. He’s got some competition, though, because at 8 over on the West Stage America’s favorite bar band The Hold Steady will be rocking the night away.
Here’s some Furman from SxSw
And to be fair, some Hold Steady, also from SxSw
Early day picks for Sunday are Santah at 1 on the East Stage and Hollows at 5:30 on the West.
It appears that everyone and their sister is putting up a mid-point top 25 list already, so I figured what the heck. I’ve heard 25 albums this year, maybe I should make a list. Fortunately I’ve been keeping a weekly top ten on the site every week since February, so I don’t have to think about my top ten at all. There have been a lot of albums that have come close to making the list, or been on and fell off shortly after. This is their time to shine, as they are all still very much worth your time. Not quite all of these have been reviewed on the site-I honestly don’t have time to post about every record I listen to, but I get close. For the most part these are names are ones you’ll recognize from previous posts. If not, you need to start doing some listening. Links to reviews will be provided.
Ezra Furman is returning home to Chicago this weekend to finish up his tour with two shows at Schubas Tavern on Belmont. I implore anyone within driving distance to buy a ticket and get to whichever show you can. The early show is all ages and will be opened up by The Canoes (another great Chicago band) and the second show is 21 and up with Chamberlin filling in as support. Read more…
I’m a big supporter of Ezra Furman. I find his songwriting ability to be on par with the best I’ve heard. He doesn’t just write excellent words, you can feel every piece of his soul in his delivery. His last album, Mysterious Power was one of my favorites last year. Ezra has the passion that I find lacking in acts like Bon Iver, and I believe any fan of Justin Vernon who listens to Furman would probably pass out from the overwhelming awesomeness of his voice.
For his new record Ezra decided to go it alone, taking some time away from his band The Harpoons. The Year Of No Returning feels like the most personal piece he’s ever written. It’s angry at times, sorrowful at others. In the liner notes he writes about our inability to be quiet and reflect due to the ridiculous amount of time we spend on smartphones, computers, or in front of the tv. This album is Ezra Furman making a stand against handing over our souls to corporations. As an added bonus it’s also a great listen.
For a solo record, Year Of No Returning sounds huge. It kicks off with guitar, piano, baritone saxophone, and tambourine on “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.” Right off the bat you can tell Ezra wanted this album to be bigger than his previous work. On Mysterious Power there was definitely a punk feeling, but here some of that gives way to a more romantic sound.
“American Soil” might be the best song Furman has ever written. It starts soft and pretty for about five seconds, then the driving guitar line kicks in, followed by a walloping piano. This is where the angry Furman takes over. My favorite line on the album comes here:
“Every race has its place every nation fights for species survival. I’m a Jew through and through and I’m about to write you a bible. Now let me take your hand and show you through the twisted hallways of the house of song. We got the magazine wallpaper and the million dollar bills on the lawn. And I can feel God taking his eyes off us, we were born for American soil.”
Throughout the record Ezra touches on controversial topics like religion and nationalism, but also brings in some great songs about love-or the lack thereof. The best example of this is the album closer, “Queen Of Hearts.” The musics simplicity defies the complex emotions being laid bare by Furman.
“and I watch you with your purse from the adjacent coffee table in the Starbucks they built in my heart. And your makeup starts to run, you can see your getting older. You can see your life has been hard. Your face is worn like an old playing card-the queen of hearts.”
There is so much going on in this record that I want to talk about, but I don’t want to ruin it for you. Some of the songs remind me of Dylan’s early works, regarded as protest songs after they were written. The other parts of the album make me think of what a Warren Zevon album produced by Jon Brion might sound like. It’s definitely too much to take in over the course of one listen. You definitely will need (and want) to hear The Year Of No Returning over and over.
You can stream the first half of the record on Ezra’s bandcamp page for free. He will be setting out on a tour soon, hitting Chicago at the end of April for two shows at Schubas (!!!).