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Posts Tagged ‘Chicago’

Bent Knee at Schubas 6/12/2017

I was introduced to Bent Knee a couple weeks ago when I read about their new record, Land Animal, which comes out next week on Inside/Out. The title track was put out as the first single, and I was sure it was a cover at first because there was something familiar about it. The pace and timbre of the delivery from Courtney Swain was stuck in my head for a couple of days. I realize now that my mind was just playing tricks on me. Her voice does remind me of Hayley Mary from The Jezabels (particularly on “Noah’s Ark”), but the song is wholly original.

Going into the live show I didn’t really have any expectations. Bent Knee has been playing together for a long time now, so I knew they’d be tight, and I had some idea of what they sounded like on record but no clue what their concerts were like. Turns out they’re just as interested in having fun as the people in the audience.

The show was being taped by the people at Audiotree, who also own the venue. That limited where I could go to take pictures a bit because I didn’t want to get in the way of the guys filming up front. I moved around a bit to try to get some different angles, but there were enough people there for the show that it wasn’t always easy (I’m average height, but a lot of concert goers are much taller than myself).

The most animated member of the band, Ben Levin, was a joy to watch. He seemed both completely focused and freewheeling at the same time. He was all smiles and his energy just couldn’t be contained by the stage. That energy was felt throughout the audience, as the ground shook multiple times from people stomping and jumping right along with him.

I enjoyed what I heard from this group of Bostonians. Swaine’s vocals can feel overwhelming at times, but it’s that same raw power that gives the songs their emotional weight. The label “orchestral pop” does fit to a degree, but I’ve never liked it. Nor “chamber pop,” though I think that works better. Having a live violinist is almost always a good thing, and though I didn’t get any good pictures of him, Vince Welch working the knobs and synths adds a great element to the music.

Arkells at House Of Blues 6/9/2017

Arkells returned to House Of Blues on Friday night after opening for Frank Turner at the venue back in January. Frontman Max Kerman must have been taking notes during those gigs, because he utilized every square inch of the stage during their headlining set. And when he divided he needed even MORE space, he just jumped over the barricade and hung out with the crowd. They’re a fun bunch of guys, and their music lends itself to a night of fun and good feelings. This was my fourth time seeing them in two years, and I have left each show very satisfied.

With last year’s release of Morning Report I think Arkells turned a corner and stumbled onto the path to fully realizing their potential. Like most great bands, it took a while to get there. I think they’re headed toward much bigger things in the future.

The set list was a mix of new and old, reaching as far back as 2008’s Jackson Square for “Pullin Punches.” For newer fans who haven’t gone back to listen to the older albums, its good to pepper in some of that original stuff so they get a better idea of where the band came from.

One of the big highlights for me is watching Max mess with lead guitarist Mike DeAngelis. I don’t know them personally, but they seem to have a great relationship. Mike is a great guitar player and, I think, gets overlooked at times due to Max’s boundless energy and charisma.

The connection with the audience is really what it’s all about. Arkells do a great job of making everyone feel involved, naming the concert goers the “non-denominational choir” of whatever city they’re playing. They even asked a guy to come up and play guitar on a song-and he sounded pretty good!

A Day In The Country Turns 10!

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You know summer is coming when The Hideout announces A Day In The Country. This is the 10th anniversary of the one-day festival, celebrating musicians from all forms of Country music. Curated by Lawrence Peters of The Lawrence Peters Outfit, music fans will enjoy everything from Americana and Honky Tonk to Western Swing. Plus, Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale will be performing songs from his 30+ years in music. Here he is with Buddy Miller at NPR’s Tiny Desk.

You’ll also have the chance to eat some delicious Honky Tonk BBQ and treat yo’ self to some Bang Bang Pie!

Check out Hideout’s website for full details and lineup info. The music starts outside at 2pm and moves indoors from 5-11pm. Tickets are only $12 for a full day of music.

Secret Bad Boy at Empty Bottle 5/26/2017

As a long-time Ben Joseph fan, I was excited to check out his new band Secret Bad Boy when they opened for Happyness at Empty Bottle on Friday night. I’ve seen Ben play keys and guitar with Ezra Furman + the boy-friends a dozen or so times. He’s always struck me as someone who understands a lot more about music than I ever will, and seeing him as the frontman for this new band only solidified that impression.

With only two songs out on Spotify, it was tough to know what to expect. Live, their set jumps from genre to genre, never settling in to one specific vibe. There was an instrumental intro with R&B and funk sounds. That led to a song with a synthy disco feel. When Joseph picked up a guitar things flipped to a whole new thing. At times reminiscent of Lou Reed with his speaking/singing, he’s also no less experimental.

I particularly like the guitar-heavy songs. The others are good, but I feel like there’s an energy to songs like “Chicken” and “Fleeting Love” that can’t be replicated by the keys. 


It’s definitely worth following up and checking out the rest of their music. They had cassettes for sale at the show, but I don’t have a tape player. The Minimal Beat premiered one of their songs a couple weeks ago, so you can check that out here.

You can also hear their song “Double Platinum,” described by Joseph as being about the second-worst thing he’s ever done.

Valley Queen at Metro 5/7/2017

I got an email roughly 0.000003 seconds after listening to Valley Queen’s “Pulled By The Weather” asking if I’d be interested in checking out their show here in Chicago. I thought the song was really excellent, so I said yes. I checked out their EP, Destroyer, and found it an enjoyable listen. It’s a bit of soulful folk music, but when they hit the stage to play live, the guitars come to play and it turns into a full-on rock and roll show.

My initial reaction to the music was that it reminded me of Janis Joplin playing with Big Brother and the Holding Company. A couple songs later Courtney Barnett’s voice pops in a bit as well. It’s a good dynamic, marrying the older, classic sounds with something a little more contemporary. Natalie Carol’s voice can get up there with a range that is impressive to say the least. She can also shred, and does so at every opportunity.

The band seemed to be having a great time in front of the already pretty big crowd. Opening for Laura Marling, I wasn’t sure how the crowd would respond once Valley Queen started to get loud. Turns out they dug it. Lots of cheering after every song, and not the polite kind like I do when someone is trying really hard and it’s just not working. No, I imagine they converted a lot of new fans last night.

You can check out their stuff on Spotify, or you can head over to their Bandcamp page and buy their EP right now.

Molehill at SubT 5/2/2017

Tonight I went to see my friends in Molehill play an opening set at Subterranean. Mona was the headliner, but I got out of there early so I could grab dinner and be home in time to watch the end of the Celtics/Wizards game (and after that fourth quarter by Isaiah Thomas I think I made the right call).

Molehill were their usual awesome selves, playing some new songs from their singles/EP collection that’s in the process of being released. Rather than lug around a bulky DSLR like I usually do, I just brought a point and shoot camera with a wi-fi card. I edited all these photos on my phone. I also shot this video, which came out pretty good and really highlights the energy they bring even if it’s an opening slot.



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The War On Peace-Fear Of Loss (video)

April 27, 2017 Leave a comment

Photo by Chris Hershman


Chicago band The War On Peace are about to release their new EP on May 12th. After two full-length albums, Automated People finds the group looking to expand their sound and their fan base. With comparisons to The Fray circling around them, I’m sure they won’t have any trouble tapping into the mainstream crowd.

“Fear Of Loss” is the first single from Automated People, and the video is very well done. If I had one issue, it would be that I wanted to see more of the actors and less of the band. The story the song tells is interesting, and I would have liked to see a whole video of just that narrative playing out. Still, it’s very well-made and fits the song.

In addition to releasing the EP on May 12th, The War On Peace will be playing at SubT with Minor Characters. Tickets can be found here.

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