I’m not sure who was having a better time during Beach Slang’s set last night at House Of Blues: the band or the audience. Everyone was in high spirits as they played their quick-tempered rock songs and intermingled them with some hilarious musical cues, including “Two Princes” by Spin Doctors, “My Own Worst Enemy” by Eve6, and of course “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. They even promised one fan in the crowd that they would learn to play “Two Princes” for real at their next show if that person comes.
Here’s a quick clip to give you an idea of how much fun they were having.
I believe this was the band’s first show in Chicago since their lineup change last year, and things seemed to go over pretty well. New drummer Cully Symington never missed a beat, and guitarist Aurore Ounjian’s nimble fingers deftly maneuvered through some great riffs. Lead singer James Alex showed a great affection for the audience and for Minus The Bear for bringing them on tour to open shows for them. He also, at one point, read a list of people he’s been told he looks like while on tour, and it was everything from Eddie Munster to Jack Black and Angus Young.
This was my first time seeing MØ and it was a lot of fun. I’ve listened to her before, but can’t say I’m a die hard fan or anything. I actually went to this show to check out the opener, Tei Shi, who has a record coming out that I really like. She was a fitting warm up for the style of music MØ plays, and the crowd seemed to really enjoy her set.
Despite a long delay at the beginning of the show, and another in between sets, the fans maintained a high level of excitement that exploded into screams when she finally took the stage during the “Don’t Wanna Dance” intro. The performance was non-stop adrenaline, with MØ using every bit of the wide open stage setup, plus some when she came out into the crowd during “Slow Love.” And later she jumped into the masses and let them pass her around the sold out Metro floor like waves carrying her away from shore and then bringing her back.
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since the last installment of Chicago’s finest multi-venue music festival, Dunn Dunn Fest. The yearly smorgasbord of great music is provided by Harmonica Dunn founder Donnie Biggins. Every year he finds amazing known talent and acts flying under the radar and puts them all together for a crazy three days of discovery and enjoyment.
Last year I spent my three days Of Dunn Dunn Fest at three different venues, listening to very different styles of music. Thursday I was at Beat Kitchen for Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes (with opening sets from Jared Rabin and Kansas Bible Company), Friday I got funky with Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, Nasty Snacks, and Alanna Royale at Lincoln Hall, and on Saturday I caught Frontier Ruckus along with the great Chicago bands Mooner and Martin Van Ruin at Schubas. This year’s lineup provides opportunities just as entertaining.
Below is what I would choose to see if I were going. Sadly, I’ll be out of town for the duration of the festival. Please take some videos and post them on the internet. For a full list of artists playing, check out the Harmonica Dunn website.
Thursday: The Kickback at Beat Kitchen
The band just added some more dates opening for Bush, but here you get to see their craziness headlining a small venue instead of opening in a 2,000 seat theater.
Friday: Low Cut Connie at Lincoln Hall
Three great bands, including Biggins’ own The Shams Band and St Louis glam-pop act Sleepy Kitty!
Saturday: Mike Doughty at Lincoln Hall
Dunn Dunn Fest and WXRT join forces to bring former Soul Coighing frontman/currently successful solo artist Mike Doughty to Lincoln Hall! Opening act is Wheatus.
After catching their shows at SubT last year (one in the Spring and one in the Autumn), I could not make it to Arkells 2017 Chicago debut opening for Frank Turner at House Of Blues. They’re playing again tonight, but I am unable to make that as well. Luckily, they added a quick afternoon set at JBTV that I was able to attend. They brought out a lot of people for a noon Monday set, many of whom had been to their show last night and others who were going to go tonight (and a few who had tickets for both nights). I was probably the only one in the studio going to neither.
So, for my only Arkells experience of January I got to stand five feet from the band as they ran through some mostly acoustic versions of their songs. My fears of losing the high energy dynamic they usually have quickly subsided as Max Kerman’s infectious personality burst through as he sat behind his guitar and joked with the audience.
The setlist was a little different from a normal Arkells show, but ended up being longer than I expected. Mostly songs from Morning Report, but they did “Whistleblower” from Michigan Left. We got “Drake’s Dad,” “My Heart’s Always Yours,” “A Little Rain (A Song For Pete),” and Max switched spots with Tony and played keys on “And Then Some” so Tony could play the mandolin he brought.
After the music, the band came out to the lobby to say hello to everyone. Max made his way through the room, making sure all who desired a photo or autograph got one. He even obliged me for a quick portrait.
Philip Michael Scales started The Company You Keep podcast back in 2015, and this year he’s stepping his game up with a residency at Uncommon Ground on Clark to record the episodes live. Every second Thursday of the month you can find him interviewing music makers about their craft, their experiences, and anything else that comes up.
On January 12th he’ll be sitting down with musician/bar owner/concert promoter Donnie Biggins. Topics that are sure to be discussed: Biggins time in The Shams Band, promoting shows and running your own festival in Chicago, the new solo release Donnie put out last month, and owning a bar while maintaining a marriage and three young kids.
I’ve had the opportunity to chat with both of these individuals over the past few years, and they are engaging and funny, so I have high hopes for this first episode. You can RSVP and find links for tickets here. If you’d like to check out some prior episodes, you can find them on iTunes.
The opening half of last night’s co-headlining show at Park West was beloved folk/country singer Ryan Bingham and his band. The pairing of a campfire ballad singer with the former front man for Gaslight Anthem (Brian Fallon) may seem like an odd choice to some, but given their shared love of classic rock, it’s clear they’re a match made in heaven. They came together during the set for a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and a couple more times throughout the night.
I’m not terribly familiar with Bingham’s work, but I know enough that I could enjoy some of the better-known songs. I found him to be a very charismatic guy, and his band is as good as any touring group out there right now. He dedicated the song “Sunshine” to his friends in North Dakota fighting against the pipeline being built on Native American land, which was a sweet way to bring attention to the issue.
It’s been over a year since Bingham’s last new music came out, but the fans on hand in Chicago didn’t seem to mind hearing some old favorites. The highlight for me was “Hallelujah” off his 2010 record Junky Star.