We made it to 60! It’s been a long and arduous road at times dear Surfers, but we’ve passed another ten week milestone and every local and national act that thanks us for covering them, and our exponentially growing readership, makes this journey worth it. This week was jam freaking packed with Dehd and Woongi both putting out albums and all the local acts that played in support of their release shows at The Empty Bottle, including The Hecks, Liam Kazan, Blush Scars, and Mavis The Dog. MDR and NBL made it to PERTURBATOR, Gost, and Replicant, and Deer Tick and Courtney Marie Andrews put on one hell of a show (both were at the one and only Thalia Hall). So many albums, so little time, as Jamila Woods dropped a gorgeous new record as well as locals Replicant and instrumental prog rockers Stander; along with a massive amount of music dropping from outside Chicago as well. Check it all out inside, dear Surfers, and click on that playlist. See ya on the flip side, Summer is upon us and the coverage will just keep on coming. So keep tuning in each week for your local music news and calendar, located at the bottom of every issue!
Keep Seeing Live Music!
“I never thought I was capable of playing or writing my own music until I virtually could not keep it in anymore. I can’t wait to see what the next generations will bring.” - Sophie Brochu
⬐ SHOWS ⬎
Dehd / The Hecks / Mavis The Dog
Also: Dehd @ Shuga Records
KPL and I had been looking forward to Dehd’s record release party long before it was announced. If you have read even only a few issues of Chicago Crowd Surfer, you would have read of a Dehd reference in show reviews, recommended shows, weekly jams, or even read their name in a review of artists in good company with their genre-defining work. Let’s just do this - here are all the nine issues where KPL actually wrote about Dehd’s career: #59, #54, #51, #50, #35, #30, #26, #25, #6. That doesn’t even begin to include Jason Balla’s work with Ne-Hi or Accessory. So when Shuga Records announced (just one day before the release party) a day-of all ages in-store performance, I jumped at the chance to see a Dehd double-header. Shuga filled in, and we all revered them for the duration of their all-too-brief 25-minute set. My excitement peaked, and I hurried home to collect KPL for a dinner over at The Empty Bottle’s own Bite Cafe... (We were going to need full bellies for the celebration that was to come.)
After crossing to the venue side of The Empty Bottle, I used the facilities. Yes, this detail is personal, but it is necessary to this story. If you have ever done the same, (and also love The Bottle,) you smile at the “charm” of this particular chilly and sticker-splattered bathroom. To my delightful surprise, the hot water tap actually produced hot water! I exclaimed my discovery to the gal at the hand dryer next to me. I left the room to share my warmth with KPL, who informed me that I had just missed contributor TLM’s arrival as she had stepped away. TLM joined the CCS team just a few months ago, and as it stood, I had not yet met her. It only took half the time of a synapse firing to realize the stranger that I had just bonded with over hot water in the EB bathroom was none other than TLM. She and her warmly washed digits will take things over from here…
The Empty Bottle was buzzing with a congenial party atmosphere of old friends meeting up and new friends being made (like me and LPL!) Most conversations were about what good shows are coming up. This record release show for Dehd’s Water had been the buzz of the Chicago music scene for weeks.) So, no surprise that the place was fairly full when our first band got on stage. Mavis the Dog was visiting us from Philly. Three-piece garage rock vintage-tinged with everything from country to funk. They ran Scott Olsen’s vocals through an amp and laid on an echo that reminded me of a transistor radio or bad phone connection. (Like we were listening to him singing from the bottom of a well.) It made the lyrics hard to catch, but was also atmospheric. Steve Francisco’s backing vocals added a nice layer and clear emphasis. Francisco’s bass line set the tone for the songs, and Olsen’s jangly guitar floated around above it. On their very first song, “Buffalo Bill,” I really dug Scott's guitar flourishes. Rob Olsen’s drumming was on point. Precise and simple and fit the music. But what really caught my attention was his intro for the as-of-yet unrecorded, “Rock Horror.” He is not a simple drummer by any means. My favorite part of their set was the unnamed instrumental that started with a funky bass line by Francisco. It put me in a happy groove for their last song, “Cadillac Kid.” That song's pace instantly brought me to a clear summer day, driving down a rural highway with the windows down.
The Hecks delivered a party atmosphere perfect to celebrate Dehd’s new release. They don’t follow convention. Perfectly weird post-punk. Lead singer Andy Mozeman’s four different guitars are a clear example of this. The guitar he used on “My Star” only had three strings! I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before, which in itself was exciting, but I also loved the sound of it. Their music has evolved since their 2016 self-titled album. Leaning more into a sound that makes you want to move. Which the audience loved. Most of their set was from their forthcoming album, planned to be released in the fall. Their synth guy, Jeff Graupner, is part of that new sound, adding danceable bass lines. He kept that groove going visually with some great dancing. Zach Hebert’s drums also had a really nice funk going on. Mozeman wiggled his hips and put his shoulders into the music, moving his guitar in a hypnotically circular motion as he sang. The audience keyed into their performance, moving and dancing. My favorite song of their set was “Expector.” I really loved the almost bass-guitar-like repeated slide that Dan Vettraino gave us. It was so yummy! It will be on that new album, which I will be lining up to buy.
The Bottle’s atmosphere was electric when Dehd finally took the stage. People were pushing closer to the stage. The band was confident and happy. There is nothing like a breakup album to grab people's attention. There is nothing more relatable than a broken heart. Nothing more necessary than soothing it with that perfect song. Dehd's Emily Kempf and Jason Balla took their romantic breakup and used it to fuel their music. The album is a celebration of love as much as it is mourning its loss. They look head on at how their relationships affected their lives for good and bad. Even in the depths of pain, the lyrics are longing for that connection. Processing their feelings through the music must have “worked” not only because it’s a great album, but they are also still a band. Good thing, because this is not the kind of music that could survive one of them leaving the band. Their sound is too specific. What they are doing has a special chemistry that requires all three of them to keep it going. You only have to watch them play to know it. The stage was perfectly balanced. At the center was Eric McGrady on drums. He was stoic and kept a steady groove with the tom and snare. On either side of him we had the vocalists, the aforementioned Emily Kempf and Jason Balla. Bass and guitar.
Kempf’s abrupt husky vocals had a vast reverb. Balla’s vocals had a roundness. Those moments when they sang together were so perfect. Like so many great vocal duos, it gives them a fuller sound. They are stronger together for their contrast. They opened with the first two tracks on the new album, "Wild" and "Lucky." Kempf started out standing in subtle poses. Singing and playing in a way that was as striking as it was simple. Kind of like their music. By contrast from the first note, Balla was all over his side of the stage. He ran in circles. Moved upstage and back. He kicked, spun, bent and had seemingly rubber joints. When he sang into the mic, his body keeps moving, even if it was just a shoulder shrugging the beat. They blazed through their music, and by the time they played “Fire of Love,” Kempf had literally let her hair down.. She started by rolling her head. Then shaking her hips. Struts. Sways. Thrusts. She even let loose some impressive backbends. The audience was dancing and in obvious adoration. Even though we were at their album release show, they played some even newer music that has not yet been released. It’s been confirmed by the band, so looks like we can look forward to yet more Dehd music to come!
Woongi / Liam Kazar / Blush Scars
Woongi / 📷 : KPL
So many record release shows... so little time. Fresh off Dehd’s excellent Friday night shenanigans came Monday’s free release party at the good ol’ Empty Bottle which brought a ton of Chicago indie rock heavies to the classic confines of the city’s best supporter of local talent. We could list off all the artists that were in the crowd, but who needs to name drop? They know they were there to witness the synth magic madness of Woongi rolling through a ton of tunes off their brand spanking new Rip’s Cuts. With the first show from Kids These Days and Marrow allum Liam Kazar’s new live band and Blush Scars distortion-soaked brilliance in support, it was a night of eclectic tunes for the die hard scenesters and musicians’ enjoyment alike.
Describing themselves as “a pop group with esoteric tendencies” is as apt a description of Blush Scars as we can come up with. Sean McCormick’s impassioned screams lay under the throbbing of Drea Gonzalez’s bass, and the constant guitar scream from Not For You’s Lindsey Sherman. With Asa Von Hagen’s cymbal-heavy rattle from the back as the metronome the quartet’s shoegazy drone filled the stage with a groove driven by Gonzalez’s heavy bass lines and the constant purposeful feedback that was the perfect grimy appetizer for the evening's entertainment. The reverb-soaked vocals were completely unintelligible, but the emotion behind them was so raw and unhinged that we all got the picture without a translator, and they rolled through their short set like a bulldozer of consciousness, leaving us all glazed with their pure feedback-drenched performance.
Serving as a throwback to ‘60s and ‘70s rock, Liam Kazar has formed a new solo act that embraces the warm steel guitar tones of Dylan’s days with The Band or the sun soaked rock of the Laurel Canyon scene without feeling rehashed or derivative. The Chicago scene veteran, who started with Kid’s These Days while still in high school, has blossomed into a fully-fledged frontman with the chops to carry the weight of songwriter and bandleader with equal skill. With a full band behind him, including KTD allum Lane Beckstrom on bass, Kazar has found a new avenue for his soulful skills. After jumping around styles and genres over the past decade, it seems this one may stick with the young journeyman, settling into an older sound for a new generation.
As the synths came center stage and art rock mavericks Woongi deployed their full arsenal of gear, it was clear they came ready to rumble (well, the crowds ear drums, that is.) With new member Joy set up center stage and the rest of the W’s fanning out, bassist Wax Weckman the odd one out, not being buried behind a board or drum kit, and they wasted no time diving into the new record. Wavid Wurtin’s effects drenched vocals ride just under the heaving bass lines as an ethereal futuristic synth waved floods forth from the five boards; while Wencer Wein’s drums served as a landing zone for the space tones that venture into hooky melodies before flattening out into wall-less orchestrations of sound. With a tongue-in-cheek attitude, never taking themselves too seriously, the young five piece embrace a ‘90s synth rock flavor (complete with Leonardo DiCaprio T-shirts for the night) that is refreshing, while always threatening to go off the rails into Zappa-esque territory. A dichotomy that works heavily in their favor, the anticipation of a complete flip around every chorus twist or coda turn. Any fan of off-thewall rock should give Rip’s Cuts a spin, out now on local imprint Sooper Records. It’s a sonic adventure built for the mind as well as the ears.
PERTURBATOR / Gost / Replicant
Perturbator / 📷 : NBL
It was a dark and stormy night the evening I arrived at Thalia Hall to witness the eulogy of the new electro-heathen church, conducted by the grand bishop of blasphemy, Perturbator… (Sorry, I got a little carried away there... Some black metal musicians and black metal adjacent groups bring out my inner pulp-horror scribe.) I could make it work due to schlock aesthetic that Perturbator’s chief architect James Kent has cultivated, but I fear it would test the patience of our readers. My gothic prose tend to flaunt the air of harmless spooky shenanigans, like a late-career Vincent Price reciting a poem by candlelight. While this is not a bad thing on its own, it doesn’t capture the right style of horror Perturbator trades in. That late ‘70s early ‘80’s sci-fi and horror that leaned hard into a gritty, gruesome, and soul-disfiguring bleak aesthetic. An era that was defined by Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, and Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape from New York. Films that put a premium on caustic, hyper-real depictions of a society in decay. Perturbator is best understood through the mindset of these films: deft, ruthless, and frighteningly resourceful. Backlight these dire cinematic themes with the inventive interstitial resistance of ‘90s cyber-punk, and funnel it through deceptively deep sonic passages opened up to human psyche by vintage synthesizers and sound cards, and you have a clear but fleeting ray of flickering black light that you can step into for a moment of transcendent escape from the algorithmic panopticon of the modern era: Perturbator is a neon life hack.
Local dark-wavers Replicant opened the show with a polished performance that sounded like a She Wants Revenge mod with a reduced framerate, ported to a classic New Order software engine. Subdued and subtle with billowing clouds of red-hued fog. Not a bad way to start things off, and their name was definitely on brand for the theme of the evening... (Not sure why they decided to perform under the Radioshack logo though.) Was this an act of war against lumbering retail giants by displaying the face of one of their fellow fallen tyrants? Or just an unfortunate aesthetic choice? I will let the reader exercise their own judgment on the matter.
Detroit’s Gost increased the ambient level of electricity in the room when they took the stage next. Being label mates with Perturbator on Blood Music out of Finland isn’t where the similarities between the two bands end, but it would be reductive and unilluminating to reduce Gost to the qualities that overlap with the night’s headliners, especially because Gost is of a different breed all-together from their French counterparts. The Michigan manufacturer malevolent motherboard is more grounded, less conceptual, and more willing to wear its influences on the collar and sleeves of its acid-rain warped full-breach jacket. Gost takes the tradition of house music from the urban centers of their home state and leads them out into the cold prairie marshes that lay beyond its concrete enclaves. There these party rhythms learned the harsh, embittered truths that force the utterance of an oblivion-embracing call that rouses black metal adherents to this day. It was a disco on the lip of a consciousness-obliterating black hole, and not one of us left without leaving some part of ourselves in the swirling fray...
The evening ignited into a burst of hot, blinding, light as Perturbator took the stage. Despite James Kent’s prideful admissions of black metal influence, he doesn’t publically embrace these desolate conceits in his performances as an electronic artist. As he demonstrated with a live drummer and a phenomenal light display in tow, his compositions have a lushness to them that make the hegemonic digital snare that has coiled itself around the neck of society depicted through his music all the more unnerving to witness. However, the technology which forms a noose for you is built from the same basic tools as the knife with which you may cut yourself free- a central conceit of all cyber-texts. The machinations that are used to bring you to heel can themselves, with enough ingenuity (and luck), be repurposed to undermine an oppressor from the inside, while lending strength and credence to external resistance. As Perturbator's aesthetic illuminates, we are all cyborgs. We are all in some way extended by and through technology. We have all donned the new flesh. If we can't win back dominion over our digital bodies, then we are no more than datum in a simulation run for the benefit of a detached ordinal elite. We can learn how to free ourselves by training our imaginations through the language of cinema, music, and other expressions to construct a path hereto unknown into a brighter, guileless future. Sometimes a dark reflection of our times can illuminate its flaws in a way that allows them to be addressed forthrightly. I think that Perturbator can be one shard of that mirror. But, I digress. You may not follow my logic through the fiber cables of your own mind, but if you take nothing else away from this review, then know that James Kent’s electronic digital dissident soundtrack can inspire a great deal of thoughtful reflection for a project so seemingly steeped in the barren mires of vintage horror and techno-nostalgia. I hope that you can see it for yourself sometime, and then you can dream a dark dream of freedom with me.
Perturbator will have a new album out later this year. Interface frequently with their Twitter thread in your web browser for more details.
Deer Tick / Courtney Marie Andrews
Deer Tick and Courtney Marie Andrews / 📷 : KPL
When an artist releases a reworked compendium collection, as Deer Tick did with this year’s Mayonnaise, it’s essential to get out and see them as they roll through town. The songs are fresh again, having been revisited in the studio, and the band is sure to have been invigorated while going down memory lane. So, when Deer Tick pulled up to Thalia Hall last Tuesday, we were stoked to check ‘em out, along with the country soul stylings of Courtney Marie Andrews. Since both artists released a cover of each others’ tunes the week before, it was clear a special bond had formed between the two talented musicians. On a windy night in Pilsen, they transported the crowd to a different era in music, where suits and flowing white dresses were the preferred stage wear, and rock ‘n’ roll was a special haven of expression.
The growing anticipation of another set by Courtney Marie Andrews drove us to arrive early and press to the stage with the fellow devoted fans. We caught her back in Issue #30 at The Hideout when the soul-soaked country of her latest effort May Your Kindness Remain was fresh, and in the pursuing months she hasn’t lost any of the sparkle and emotion that the tunes require. The Phoenix based singer/songwriter has surely been steeped in classic country and motown soul and mixes them with the deft hands of a veteran, that belies her 28 years. Whether it’s the societal critiques in ‘70s-style rocker “Two Cold Nights In Buffalo” or the endearing optimism of power ballad “Kindness Of Strangers,” Andrews’ gorgeous vocal shines through the atmospheric, countrified glow of her songs. When John McCauley of Deer Tick joined her onstage for a rousing rendition of “Rough Around the Edges,” the self-doubt parable took on a whole other meaning as a duet: a conversation between the two artists on the struggles of day to day depression and coming out on the other side. Finishing with “May Your Kindness Remain,” she brought plenty of woops from the audience as she hit the beautiful final notes.
As the spacious room finished filling up with eager fans, McCauley and company ran onstage dragging a blue wheeled cooler and cracking Miller Lite’s before launching into their newest son, “Hey! Yeah!” to the roars of the appreciative crowd. For over a decade, the Ryan brothers (Chris on bass and Dennis on drums,) have joined forces with McCauley to create an electrified folk rock that has been captivating fans since their debut War Elephant. Soon after, Ian O’Neil joined on guitar, and they took off with a string of critically lauded releases before taking a four-year hiatus from the studio and returning with the excellent Deer Tick, Vol. 1 and 2 in 2017. The evening saw them visit tunes from across their career mixing early numbers like “Baltimore Blues No. 1” and “Art Isn’t Real (City of Sin)” with new songs “Hope Is Big” and “Me and My Man.” A mid-set break had Andrews return to the stage for a staggeringly gorgeous rendition of “Goodbye, Dear Friend,” and every musician from the night joined in on the classic Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes duet “Up Where We Belong” that brought down the house. Another cover finished the set with McCauley doing a solo “Too Sensitive for This World” before the full band jumped into rocker “Mange,” finishing with a killer jam out. The 90-minute marathon of a set had came to a close, but they weren’t done as they returned for a three-song encore highlighted by old hit, “Ashamed.” The energetic evening was full of classic Deer Tick moments like McCauley saying as he poured vodka while sitting down at the piano; “Gotta get me some piano juice;” and as the crowd joined in on the chorus of “Ashamed,” his glow could have been seen blocks away. A truly unforgettable night that couldn’t have left any fan unsatisfied... We stumbled back out into the real world of 18th and Allport with McCauley’s rough-and-tumble voice fresh in our ears.
NEWS & NOTES
Lots of SOLD OUT shows this week that are not included here
^ All Ages
THURSDAY May 16th
...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead / Protomartyr / + Melkbelly @ Logan Square Auditorium 7:30PM $22 ($25 doors)
+ Black Bear Combo / Les Vikq (Record Release) / Hodges and Hodges @ The Hideout 9PM $10
Molly Burch / + Bunny @ Schubas 9PM $12 ($14 doors)
Charlie Parr and Phil Cook @ Lincoln Hall 8PM $18 ($20 doors)
Honeysuckle @ Beat Kitchen 8PM $10
Animals As Leaders @ House of Blues 6:30PM $25
Rose Cousins / The Sea The Sea @ SPACE 7:30PM $15 - $25
FRIDAY May 17th
+ Rotten Mouth / The Million Reasons / Local Motive / Rosella Records @ Beat Kitchen 8PM $8
+ ZØRILA (Album Release) / Snooze / Mán Cub / Mother Goose @ HVAC Pub 7PM doors $10
+ Charlie Reed / Cass Cwik and the Small Gas Engines @ Hungry Brain 9PM $8
Xiu Xiu / + ONO / + Radiant Devices @ Empty Bottle 9PM doors $15 ($17 doors)
^ Drab Majesty / FACS / Champagne Mirrors / Curt Oren / DJ Bud Sweet @ Garfield Park Conservatory 6:30PM doors $25 ($30 doors)
Ona / The Second Winds / David Quinn @ Sleeping Village 8PM $10
Donna The Buffalo @ SPACE 8PM $20 standing room available
The War On Peace / Saint Aubin / Mane Stay @ Lincoln Hall 8PM $20
Tameca Jones @ The Hideout 9:30PM $10
^ Betty Who / Rozzi @ The Vic 7:30PM $26
Yann Tiersen @ Thalia Hall 7:30PM doors $45
SATURDAY May 18th
+ INDIAN / Immortal Bird / Bloodiest @ Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $12
The Twilight Sad / Kathryn Joseph @ Sleeping Village 9PM $20
Sego / Nectar @ Schubas 10PM $10 ($12 doors)
Black Pistol Fire / Emily Wolfe @ Metro 9PM $19
Snarky Puppy / Alina Engibaryan @ The Riv 8PM $35
Treadles / Options / Crown Larks / Furbie @ Subterranean (Downstairs) 6:30PM $8
Blu & Exile / Choosey / Dag Savage / Cashus King / Pistol McFly / Sirplus @ Subterranean 8PM $15
Zeal And Ardor / Sioum @ Chop Shop 9PM $20 ($25 doors)
SUNDAY May 19th
+ Girls Rock! Chicago Carnival with White Mystery / Half Gringa (solo) / Baby Money (solo) @ Sleeping Village 6:30PM $12
Caroline Spence / Jordie Lane @ Schubas 8PM $10 ($12 doors)
Bear Hands @ Beat Kitchen 9:30PM $20
+ Bur / Yours Are the Only Ears / Slight Of / Lenny @ Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $8 ($10 doors)
+ Project Fierce Fundraiser: Alexa Grae / Natalie Grace @ The Hideout 9PM $8
^ Spanish Love Songs / The Drew Thomson Foundation / Turnspit @ Cobra Lounge 6PM $10
+ Reggies 9th Annual Crawfish Bowl with Le Travaillant / Environmental Encroachment @ Reggies 2PM $35
+ Jason Roebke / Natural Language @ Hungry Brain 9:30PM $10 donation
MONDAY May 20th
+ Fauvely (EP Release) / Uma Bloo / Star Tropics @ Empty Bottle 8:30PM FREE
Cub Sport / Minor Poet @ Schubas 7:30PM $12 ($15 doors)
TUESDAY May 21st
L7 / Le Butcherettes @ Metro 7:30PM $26.50
+ Get Up With the Get Downs / The Sh-Booms / Wyatt Waddell
Mary Ocher + Your Government / Desert Liminal / Forced Into Femininity @ Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $12
+ Saltwater Tap / Leah Jean / Van Isaacson @ Uncommon Ground Lakeview 8PM $10 table
+ Twin Talk @ The Whistler 9:30PM FREE
WEDNESDAY May 22nd
+ Cafe Racer / Junegrass / Caroline Campbell @ Sleeping Village 9PM $5
+ Greg Ward's Rogue Parade / Ben LaMar Gay's Learn From Ghost featuring Sam Pluta and Jason Stein / Makaya McCraven (DJ Set) @ Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $10
Holly Herndon @ Thalia Hall 7:30PM doors $25 - $35
The Distillers / Starcrawler @ Metro 8PM $29
See you at the show Chicago!