Since we’re at that point now, and I’ve already run my top 25 albums and top 25 songs if the year so far, I figured we may as well finish out the trifecta and talk about some great concerts. Living in Chicago, there isn’t a shortage of amazing shows to see night in and night out. Obviously I don’t make it to all of them, and there have been some that I wish I hadn’t missed. For the most part, though, if I really want to get to a show, I do. It’s been a pretty great year so far, and looking at my calendar through September, the good times won’t be stopping any time soon.
So here we go. See if you can’t spot a couple of my favorite music venues.
10. Canasta 10th Anniversary Show, June 2 at Schubas
I feel like, more than anything, this was an education for me. I missed out on most of Canasta’s existence, but I made up for it by rocking front and center for this show.
9. Islands, March 1 at Lincoln Hall
Sometimes I just go to shows to enjoy them and not worry about writing a review. So I never wrote about this one. If I had, too much of it would have been filled with trash talk about the “fans” who had no idea what the new songs were even though the album had been out for a couple weeks already. I thought it was great.
8. First Aid Kit, April 6 at Lincoln Hall
One of my favorite surprises of 2012 has been First Aid Kit. I don’t understand how the Swedish have such a grasp on American folk music, but they do. Between these sisters and The Tallest Man On Earth, artists in the US need to step up their game to compete.
7. Emily Wells, May 4 at Schubas
Even if you aren’t a fan of her music (I am), I think one could easily enjoy just watching how she puts things together. She’s a true artist in every sense of the word, creating every sound live instead of just bringing a laptop and hitting play. I came away with a great appreciation for what she does.
6. Hoots And Hellmouth, May 20 at Schubas
This was a very soulful, rocking performance. Much moreso than I had thought it would be. Sean Hoots proved a fabulous guitarist, and the band was as tight as could be.
5. Of Montreal, March 27 at Metro
This was the first time I had ever seen Of Montreal, and I can’t wait to see them again. I assumed that it would be heavy on Paralytic Stalks material, but it wasn’t at all. And they played for what seemed like forever. I think it was about 2 hours and ten minutes. Way more than I expected. Their stage show is unbelieveable. If you haven’t seen them, you need to.
4. Fiona Apple, March 18 at Lincoln Hall
So after seven years off, could Fiona Apple still manage a live performance? Absolutely. I think the overall consensus in the crowd was: She’s back! She played three songs off Idler’s Wheel. Two of them, I really liked (“Valentine” and “Anything We Want”) and one I thought didn’t sound great live (“Every Single Night”). But really, as soon as she came out and opened with “Fast As I Can” the show was a complete success.
3. Bhi Bhiman, March 25 at Schubas
We’ve seen Bhi three times already this year (Park West and Lincoln Hall), but this one stood out as the best. Probably because Schubas is such an intimate room. It didn’t hurt that after the show we were sitting in the bar and he came up and chatted with us for a good hour before we parted ways.
2. Jeff Tweedy, March 31 at The Vic
The best thing about the charity shows that Jeff Tweedy does every year at The Vic is that the first 30 people in line get to pick the setlist. It’s also the worst thing. I didn’t have any problems with the set the night that we saw him, but I could see how some of the deep cuts wouldn’t appeal to everyone. The best thing about Tweedy solo sets on the whole is that he is much more personable. He lets his guard down a bit and usually says a lot of really funny stuff.
1. Jeff Mangum, February 6 at Athenaeum Theatre
You know that feeling of utter joy you get when you’ve been looking forward to something for a long time, and it exceeds every expectation you had for it? Like, if you’ve been searching your entire life for the best frozen yogurt, and then you find yourself at a Forever Yogurt and then when you eat it you start crying tears of exultant joy because you’ve finally found it? That’s kind of how I felt on both nights of the Jeff Mangum tour in Chicago. If you’re a fan of Neutral Milk Hotel, I don’t think there’s any way this could not be the number one.
And that’s it. Ten great shows, but we’ve seen a lot more. Especially from local artists like Chaperone, Vintage Blue, The Future Laureates and others. And we’ve got a long list of upcoming shows to look forward to. Here are some of the things coming in the next couple months:
July 5-Ezra Furman at Hideout
July 15-Jason Myles Goss at Uncommon Ground (Devon)
July 20-Sons Of An Illustrious Father, The Canoes, The Buddies at Observatory Studios (possible contender for the number 2 spot)
July 23-Young Jesus, Daniel Ellsworth and The Great Lakes, The Shams Band at Schubas
August 3-Childish Gambino at The Vic
August 4-Frank Ocean at Metro
August 25-Langhorne Slim at SPACE (Evanston)
August 28-Golden Bloom at Schubas
August 30-Okkervil River at Upland Brewery (Bloomington, IN)
September 8-Springsteen at Wrigley Field
September 24-First Aid Kit at Metro
It’s gonna be a good summer.
What shows did you see so far this year? Anything that stood out? We love to hear from the readers. Post something in the comments section if you have a show to add.