"What happens when you go into this space that's so dominated by men?" Alison Cuddy asked her guest, Kim Gordon, in front of a packed house at the Music Box Theatre Thursday night.
No doubt Gordon has heard variations on the question throughout her career: the constant, nagging prod of "What's it like to be a girl in a band?" was enough of a jumping-off point to become the title of her new memoir, the excellent Girl In A Band (Dey Street Books). Still, Cuddy seemed careful to rephrase the question in a way that offered real curiosity at Gordon's outsider status, and without the attendant sexist baggage these kinds of questions inevitably imply. How did Gordon so deeply infiltrate the boys' club of indie rock and manage to tilt the balance of power, however fleetingly or slightly, in her power?
The best thing about Numero Group is that they are determined to give forgotten musicians their due. They carefully mull over the strangest and most obscure sections of musical history in order to curate amazing compilations. Over the past few months, the archival record label has set their sights on the late '70s and early '80s post-disco era of Chicago. There are so many acts that truly deserve attention from this time and Numero Group has been dolling out great releases
December saw four 45s from the time period including music from Universal Togetherness Band, Jesus Wayne, and Donnell Pitman. A larger more detailed compilation of Universal Togetherness Band gave a deeper look into the funk filled sounds that were sadly being left behind during the era. These releases were a primer for the centerpiece of this collection, Ultra High Frequencies: The Chicago Party. This music and video collection takes a look at content of "The Chicago Party," a more realistic and older-skewing version of Soul Train that aired for 23 Saturday nights on WCIU-TV during 1982.
2014 was a big year for Hozier. Along with dropping his From Eden EP and his self titled debut album in September, the Irish singer songwriter was also named Spotify's Top Viral Artist of 2014. But really every year has been a big one for Hozier since his career started, considering that it was just a little over a year ago in 2013 that the video for "Take Me to Church" went viral.
It's incredibly hard to prepare for a Swans concert. It makes no difference whether you're familiar with Swans' leader Michael Gira and his experimental post-rock or not. Their live show is consistently visceral experience that tests the very idea of the band and the creation of music. Swans' songs have never been easy to take in as they dredge down to some very scathing and torturous sounds. Despite the inherent harshness, there is a longing for love underlining their existence that somehow become incredibly rewarding the more you listen. It's a tumultuous back and forth that makes the band all the more interesting.
The closest one can get to being ready for a Swans show is to listen to their latest work. Their last two albums The Seer and To Be Kind clocked in over two hours a piece, indulging further into Gira's dark and inviting noises. These albums are the height of Gira and his current bandmates impressive collaboration. This weekend at Thalia Hall, Swans performed about six songs during their near non-stop two hour plus performance. It was one of the loudest and most transcendent concerts I've had the pleasure of attending.
Alright, Chicagoans, it's time to step out of the arctic tundra that we live in currently, and treat yourself to something joyful this week. Defrost your heavy hearts and enjoy some quality music, something that reminds you of the happier times, the warmer times.
Wednesday evening at House of Blues presents us with a musical smorgasbord to feast on, laden with summery rock bands perfect for allowing us to pretend we are not in the throes of winter, just for one evening. Curated by 101WKQX, a station committed to introducing listeners to up-and-coming, fresh music with its Queued Up series, the Queued Up Artist Series show will feature four emerging bands to introduce fans new and old to their diverse and standout musical offerings.
Greil Marcus is a legend among music writers. He's one of the world's first rock and pop critics and author of more than a dozen books on music themes and musicians such as Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and The Doors. Thursday night he sat on stage at the Old Town School's comfy Maurer Hall to talk about his new book and listen to the music of two more legends, Chicagoans Jon Langford and Sally Timms, formerly of punk band The Mekons.
On a national book tour for his latest work, The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Yale University Press 2014), the evening was filled with Marcus' reading and reminiscences of our shared history in music, as well as live performances.
The 10 songs that Marcus uses to bind together our musical history are not the 10 you might think. No "Blue Suede Shoes," no "Purple Rain," no "Born to Run." Instead, Marcus writes about "songs that have traveled through time," gaining meaning as they are performed in different versions by many musicians.
Back in 2006, Sleater-Kinney announced an unelaborated and indefinite hiatus, leaving their fans with little to no hope of seeing the band together again. It may seem like an overreaction but that is at the very least how I felt as a burgeoning adult losing one of his favorite bands. Granted in the following years all the members continued making amazing music. Corin Tucker released a couple of albums that I gravitated to immediately. Drummer extraordinaire Janet Weiss played with nearly every other band I like including the Jicks, Quasi, and the Shins. Carrie Brownstein added writing and acting to her repertoire, all the while making more and more music. When Weiss joined Carrie Brownstein on Wild Flag, it was the closest thing to a Sleater-Kinney reunion most fans could clear see at the time.
Thankfully, with the release of their box set Start Together last year, new music emerged and a fully formed concept of the band returned. No Cities to Love, their first album in a decade, doesn't feel like a simple reunion album. I don't think Sleater-Kinney is capable of that. Every song on the album is a new classic that makes it seem like they never actually left. That was definitely the feeling at the Riviera, where the crowd jumped and sang along with Sleater-Kinney in an amazing show.
The post-punk band Gang of Four have a new album, What Happens Next, which is being released on Feb. 24. It features collaborations with Alison Mosshart from The Kills, Robbie Furze from The Big Pink, Gail Ann Dorsey, German superstar Herbert Grönemeyer and Japanese superstar Hotei. The band is coming to the Park West March 13; I reached frontman Andy Gill over the phone last week to ask a few questions about the upcoming show.
I had a chance to listen to the new album a bit, and each song is distinct, giving it a sound like a compilation album. I'm curious if one of these songs is going to be the new GOF sound, or if the new sound of GOF is collaborating with other artists.
I think you kind of take it one step at a time... I always felt that when working on a new record it is like starting from scratch. I know there are some bands that kind of plowed their furrow and they're gonna stick to it -- they've got their sound and the way they do things, and stick to what they do. Right from the beginning GOF was different with every record. It's like if you're asking similar questions but coming up with different answers. To me time moves on, I move on, I'm not exactly the same as I was four years ago, and when I was 27 I wasn't the same guy as when I was 22. Time moves on and you come up with some different answers to the way to proceed and the way to make songs and the way to make records. I think with this record I think even more so because Jon King who's been on previous records is no longer in the project, so that makes it even more the case of reinventing the wheel.
Doing the collaboration thing was something that I had felt like doing for quite a long time, it's something that's quite common in hip hop bands and I think that's quite healthy -- you can do some things that perhaps might surprise you. In terms of defining the GOF sound, the next record -- for which I have ideas and songs, will probably involve collaborations. Beyond that can't say where it's going, with each album I didn't know quite where things were going, once you've got four or five songs on the go you start to see what direction its taking.
Looking like a mythical bird creature, cosseted in feathers protruding from his shoulders, and with a painted eye coolly and majestically surveying the scene from his back, Alex Chappo of Brooklyn based psych-pop-garage-rock band Chappo led the crowd down the rabbit hole at Schubas on Friday evening.
Kaki King has been creating beautifully intricate songs for years. Her work is mostly wordless, letting her guitar work to speak for itself save for a few lovely lyrics in songs here and there. Recently she has taken this instrumental focus to a marvelous extreme with her multimedia art piece The Neck Is A Bridge To The Body, which King performed this past Wednesday at Lincoln Hall. The art piece is a collaboration between King's complex guitar work and Glowing Pictures' visual artists including Beth Wexler who was in control of the visuals. The whole production centers around King's white guitar as it transforms itself into a unique canvas for the ever evolving video art. The kaleidoscope of imagery was as strange and wonderful as it sounded coming through King's guitar.
2015 marks the 10th year of Pitchfork's dynamic Music Festival, in the sunny and vibrant square, Union Park, from Friday, July 17 through Sunday, July 19. To celebrate, they've rounded up a stellar crop of acts to commemorate its decade-long reign as one of Chicago's most revered music festivals. Their aim for the big 10th year lineup was to intermingle up-and-coming acts with established favorites, with an emphasis on hometown artists.
Well-loved Chicago group Wilco will headline the fest Friday evening, with the legendary Sleater-Kinney performing on Saturday evening. Chance the Rapper will bring his electric set to Union Park on Sunday to close out the weekend's events.
"This is NOT a jam band," I insisted to my friend on Saturday evening at Concord Music Hall as we waited patiently for the show from revered New Orleans funk outfit Galactic to begin. No offense to those who prefer jam bands, I have just never been able to enjoy their music as much as I have tried. Though Galactic's own site description touts their identity as a funk and jazz jam band, their description is much more intricate as it is entwined with traditions of music that has emerged before their time, which created a one-of-a-kind experience for those in attendance.
San Francisco group Monophonics opened up the show with an energy-packed set. A musical army setting up camp onstage, the group ensemble featured vocals, drums, trumpet, saxophone, and more. Formed from three previous ensembles, the group began with a variety of live performances in the Bay area, and released their first album, self-produced, in 2006. Adding two more albums throughout their career, the Monophonics have built a loyal fan base and intriguing, ear-catching sounds. Lead vocalist Kelly Finnigan's voice is smooth and pristine, allowing for the emotion and force that comes with singing soul music. The heartache-ridden "Deception" was the standout moment of the set for me, when wailing vocals were complemented by careening horn backdrops. They ended their strong set with one of their most popular tunes, "Bang Bang," a dark and delectable crowd-pleaser.
Everyone's favorite punk rock marching band, Mucca Pazza, journeyed east recently and ended up at NPR where they broke some serious records. As a gang of 23 musicians and cheerleaders, they became the largest ensemble to wedge around All Songs Consdiered editor Bob Boilen's desk for their very own Tiny Desk Concert. Check it out, and breathe some life into your work day:
You can also download the band's 14 minute concert as an mp3.
Fifth House Ensemble: Verklärte Nacht
Arnold Schoenberg composed Verklärte Nachte (Transfigured Night) in the closing months of the 19th Century, a single-movement work inspired by Richard Dehmel's poem of the same title. Through the poem and music runs the theme of conflict, impending upheaval, and change. In its ever-deepening cross-media exploration, Fifth House expands Schoenberg's music and Dehmel's stark and beautiful language and adds experimental visuals by Chicago animator Buki Bodunrin. The program includes music by Kevin Puts and Guillaume Connesson. Tickets are $15-$25. Tuesday, February 17, 7pm. Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse.
Long-running Chicago experimental arts and music organization Lampo soft-launched its Winter 2015 season with a very surprising and exciting opener. This Saturday at 8 p.m., the Graham Foundation's Madlener House (4 W. Burton Pl.) will host the legendary composer Arnold Dreyblatt. Dreyblatt will perform two pieces; Spin Ensemble (2011), a piece created with recordings of an MRI machine, and a live performance of his best known piece, Nodal Excitation (1979).
If you are of a certain age, you might remember Dreyblatt from his CD on John Zorn's Tzadik label (Animal Magnetism, 1995). If you're a bit older, you might remember the Nodal Excitation LP on India Navigation (or its reissue on Dexter's Cigar). He's best known for his shimmering, overtone-rich pieces involving taught strings and wires set to vibrating by plucking, bowing, or hammering. The opening piece sounds equally intriguing: "In Spin Ensemble (2011), Dreyblatt creates a palette of acoustic signals and patterns from recordings of an MRI machine (specifically the "Siemens Magnetom Symphony Maestro Class") in the Martin-Luther-Hospital in Berlin. He considers the device something like a giant Tesla coil, in which the alignment and resonances of a powerful magnetic field are gradually altered by rotating radio frequencies. Under Dreyblatt's direction, Siemens technicians operated the machine expressly for these recordings, searching for software settings to generate a desired sound. Later he analyzed the audio segments, and grouped them by pitch, rhythm and density. For the resulting composition, these files have been combined and fused, but they have not been digitally treated in any way."
Tickets are FREE with RSVP. Click here to reserve. (update: tickets are sold out, but it might not hurt to wait around to see if any claimed tickets open up.)