Welcome to issue #10 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! We made it to double digits, no going back now. This issue we have a write up of the sold out Frankie Cosmos show at Lincoln Hall. Along with reviews of the new Jessica Risker and Birds of Chicago albums and more!
Seeing live music gives us joy, and it is our mission, in these trying times, to spread some of that joy to you. We don’t just want to spread it, we want to share it; which is why we are a crowd-sourced publication. We want you to join us: to write about, and share pictures of, the shows you attend, the new albums you love, the bands you adore, and any other thing that has to do with seeing, performing, or experiencing music in Chicago. Please send any submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We are now up to eleven contributors and are always looking for more! We may not publish everything we get, and we reserve the right to edit, but will always try and seek the submitters’ approval. Our mission is to be a positive publication, so if you have negative things to say - please look for another forum in which to express that opinion. We aim to wade through the bullshit of this modern life to find what good is left. See you at the show Chicago.
Keep Seeing Live Music!
KPL & JB
FRANKIE COSMOS / FLORIST /
Frankie Cosmos / all photos by KPL
Lincoln Hall may not seem a fitting venue for a night of intimate lo-fi indie rock, but time and again the venue comes through. The right acts just seem to have the power to shrink the room, making it feel like you are right there on top of the band, even though you may be thirty to fifty feet away.
Chicago’s Lala Lala, by their own omission, do not play a whole lot of shows here, and I was excited when I saw them on the bill. I had heard great things but had never had the opportunity to check them out past many listens of their last album Sleepyhead. Lillie West and the band came onstage to a few cheers and captured the crowd’s attention right away with their dreamy, fuzzy brand of indie rock. The harmonizing between West and the bassist was downright gorgeous at times, and the several tunes the two of them did alone were one of the highlights of the whole show.
I knew the show was sold out and it was a bit disappointing to see only about half the crowd had shown for the locals, who put on quite a show, with rousing versions of “Lala Song” and “Fuck With Your Friends” to round out the set. They are playing Friday of Do Division and I can’t wait to see them with a friendly local crowd.
During the set break the crowd started to file in for Florist; Emily Sprague’s indie folk project is as confessional as it gets. She plays a simple melodic sequence on her guitar and talk sings over it while the driving bassdrum pushes the tunes along. During several songs, drummer Felix Walworth was playing bass as he was pedaling the bass drum. Always having been enamored with musicians who can play two instruments at once, I spent most of those tunes watching him do this thing.
Florist’s tunes allow you time to contemplate. They are spacious and graceful. Not only do they give you time to process the stories Sprague is telling, but to also explore how they could relate to your own life. I have no specifics here because it all washes over you and leaves the listener with a golden warmth in the brain that takes awhile to fade after the melodies have ceased.
Greta Kline and company have been to Chicago five times (maybe six?) since her breakout album Next Thing dropped in ‘16, and I have caught four of them. There is something about the way she can describe the everyday life of her generation with simple harmonies that capture doubts and troubles in tone as well as content.
On tour in support of new album Vessel, it was no surprise that she and the band cruised through a good number of those tunes; but it was the sing alongs to older tracks like “Sinister” and “Fool” that made the set gel. The three early twenty somethings in front of me, who ended up storing their bags with mine under the bar, were sure blurting along with Kline as she sang “You make me feel like a fool, waiting for you.”
As they came back out for a three tune encore, I couldn’t help gazing around at all the smiles. There is something infectious about Kline and her music. We all identify with her lyrics in a way that is rare in an artist. She is telling the story of all of us, with an almost whimsical way musically that makes all the worries dissipate, at least for a mild minute. A short time of respite from the roughness of the real world. Thanks for that Greta.
I see YOU AMONG THE STARS
A portrait of a life would be the proper way to describe Jessica Risker’s new album. Another would be nine tracks of lo-fi confessional folky indie pop that is made for thinkers. This record requires attention. You must listen as she weaves tales from an everyday life; like in “Cut My Hair” where she laments the loss of a relationship, or “Zero Summer Mind” as she recounts driving through Chicago. Musically ethereal at times, the album is held down by Risker’s talk sing delivery that makes her lyrics so accessible, therefore meaningful. It seems she is finally finding her groove after many years within the Chicago indie scene.
Risker just had her Record Release Party at Empty Bottle on Tuesday, but if you missed her she is opening for Minor Moon at the Hungry Brain on May 26th and she is playing Pinky Swear on June 5th.
BIRDS OF CHICAGO
LOVE IN WARTIME
A renaissance of Americana is brewing all over the place and no one is doing it quite like Birds of Chicago. The husband and wife duo, one from Canada (Allison Russell) and one from Chicago (JT Nero), warm the soul with their vocals. The influences here range from folk to rock to soul, each having their own place to shine on new album Love In Wartime. They have referred to their music as “secular gospel” which may have applied to last years American Flowers; but this one goes so deep into the roots of American music it’s impossible to pin it to any one genre, making it a true Americana record. They are an amalgamation of time, drawing us up under their wings for a pleasurable ride though the wind.
They are currently touring Europe for the summer but hopefully we will see them back around soon.
On his sophomore LP, Leon Bridges gets bold. On his 2015 debut, Coming Home, he delivered a classic review of ‘60s soul. It was almost too flawless, and one could have assumed he’d stick tightly to the formula already perfected. It’s a great surprise to hear him expand horizons to include 70s pop, jazz and R&B. Bridges is still a retro act, but it’s much more widely appealing.
We reviewed the song earlier, but “Bad Bad News” has the most apropos line to describe fan reactions: "I hit 'em with the style and grace. And watch their ankles break." From that up-tempo jazzy soul number to the closing acoustic tribute to his mother, “Georgia to Texas,” Bridges explores Al Green crooning (“Shy”), guitar-funk (“If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)”), and straight up disco (“You Don’t Know”).
When I saw Leon Bridges live before the debut dropped, there wasn’t a lot of dancing. There’s no way that continues on the tour for Good Thing. That said, Bridges still hits the highest points on the album when the music takes a backseat and we’re able to sit back and enjoy his gentle voice. That might be the only downside to the album – he established himself as an expert in retro-soul, and it’s hard to break that reputation. Hell of an effort here, though, and I can’t wait to see how he continues to blend other charted territories.
Only 10 minutes to spar? Check out these tracks.
Bad Bad News
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Postscript: I don’t strut down the streets, spinning and imagining everything in slo-mo while listening to Bad Bad News… Nope, definitely not something that I do.
Leon Bridges plays Aragon Ballroom on Sept 24th. Buy tickets here.
BE MORE KIND
XTRA MILE, POLYDOR, UNIVERSAL
It has been a joy watching Frank Turner rise slowly and steadily over the last ten years. Be More Kind feels like a culmination, a peak musically and lyrically. An entire cohesive album that feels so current it may jump out the speakers to lecture you on the ways of living life with happiness and wariness hand in hand. In other words, Turner believes we need to be aware of the world around us, but not let it get us down enough that we don’t try and fix it. In “Make America Great Again” he sings “Let’s make America great again, by making racists ashamed again, let’s make compassion in fashion again.” And it doesn't matter that he is English, some of the same problems are happening there. He makes a larger metaphor with “1933” comparing our current situation with the rise of the Third Reich and ends by practically screaming “Don’t go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn.” Be More Kind is chock full of quotable lyrics, these are only a few; but really what keeps the attention is his unbelievable positivity. In the wake of all the noise and nonsense, Turner turns to face it and help us all along the way.
He is coming to the Aragon Ballroom with his band The Sleeping Souls June 23rd at 7PM. The Homeless Gospel Choir, The Menzingers and Lucero are opening and it’s a steal at $35 for that lineup. Tickets were still available last time we checked.
every day it feels like I'm Dying
It’s been three years since Eternal Summers last record, Gold and Stone, and the dream pop trio clearly spent that time prepping for their best release yet. Doing away with the moody sound of their last record, Eternal Summers busts out strings, brass and synthesizers to create a swooping display of glorious pop.
The band plays to their strengths on many of the tracks here, from indie ballads (“New Friend”) to Belle and Sebastian-esque pop (“Dying to Know”). The curveballs of grunge (Oblivious) and country slide guitars (“Master of it All”) subtly hint at the side projects Nicole Yun and Daniel Cundiff worked on over the past few years, where they honed their craft.
While the songs do jump from genre to genre, each minute of the album feels like it couldn’t have been recorded any other way. I’d be remiss to not mention the instrument the band steadies their entire sound on – Nicole Yun’s dreamy vocals that contrast gentle intimacy with powerful bouts of intensity. She’s really progressed as a singer over the 5 Eternal Summers albums, but it’s also a joy to hear her skills as a guitar player are moving up at the same pace. They aren’t a hugely known band, but any fan of solid indie rock owes it to themselves to dig through this entire LP. If you don’t find something you like here, I honestly don’t know what to tell you.
Only 10 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.
Postscript: Breeders meets Alvvays meets the Cardigans? Yeah, I’m good with it.
Eternal Summers doesn’t have any dates in Chicago yet, but keep us favorited for updates!
Eleanor Friedberger will always be one half of the band Fiery Furnaces to me, which is to say I have trouble looking at her as anything but inconsistent (in a good way). However, her solo career has been quite straightforward and maybe I just have issues figuring out what to say in a full review. There are no weird time or key changes here, and the lyrics actually make sense. There are even a couple dance numbers in the middle. Ok, so there you go. It’s good, and it’s easy to listen to. End of story.
She played Lincoln Hall on May 5th. I blew it. Hopefully, some of you didn’t.
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
NEVER NOT DEAD - EP
Punk rock Chicago style: dirty, snide and broad shouldered. This new EP dropped a couple weeks ago and we were slow on the uptake, but now we can’t get enough.
We can’t wait to see them again at Do Division on Friday June 1st! (see our Fest Guide, coming out next week, for more info!)
THIS IS AMERICA
How does Donald Glover get cooler? Release our song of the summer, that’s how. This is twentieth century Michael Jackson territory. Yeah, we said it.
He is hitting up the United Center on Sept. 8th and there are plenty of tix available.
A slow burner from the Seattle glam rockers leaves us eagerly awaiting the whole album, set to drop May 25th.
Thunderpussy is playing Cobra Lounge on Monday March 21st. It’s only $12. What else are you going to do on a Monday . . .
YOU DON'T LOVE ME
This track builds and builds until it is full on sonic beauty. We can’t wait for a full album after all the EPs they put out last year.
They were just in town in March so we may have to wait awhile till they come back around.
MARDI GRAS BEADS
Delivered in their typical dissonant vocal style, this new single from upcoming album, Wide Awake! sounds like a Beach Boys tune gone a bit sour. If you love them as much as we do, you know that’s a good thing.
Still no Lolla aftershow announcements but we are praying these guys play one.
OTHER NOTABLE JAMS FROM THIS WEEK
Hatchie - Sleep
Natalie Prass - Lost
Valley Queen - Supergiant
Welles - Rock N Roll
REMMI - Good With It
Beatrice Deer - Atungak
Beach House - Black Car
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDED NEW RELEASES
SHAKEY GRAVES / I CAN'T WAKE UP / DUELTONE
The solo project of musician and actor Alejandro Rose-Garcia, Shakey Graves delivers a powerhouse of an album. Dreamy and grand, Can’t Wake Up may finally launch this folk rock hero into the public consciousness.
He is playing The Vic on May 22nd and it is Sold Out, but there are plenty of third market tickets out there.
TRAMPLED BY TURTLES / LIFE IS GOOD ON THE OPEN ROAD / BANJODAD
Leaning on a more traditional sound than some of their previous ventures, bluegrass outfit Trampled by Turtles gives us a dozen tracks of pure acoustic glee.
They are visiting Thalia Hall for a two night stand May 19th and 20th, both are Sold Out but as with most shows there are a ton of tickets out there if you want em. You just gotta pay for em.
ROYCE DA 5'9" / BOOK OF RYAN / HEAVEN
We’ve made it no secret that we are fans of hip-hop with integrity with a confessional bent, and this one fits both those categories with ease. How he did he release this album right after the new PRhyme (DJ Premier and his duo project) dropped last month? Hardest working man in hip-hop the last month for sure.
Unfortunately he is not making an appearance in Chicago any time soon.
BELLY / DOVE / BELLY
We sure didn’t expect a Belly comeback album 23 years later, especially one as good as this. Tanya Donelly and company are back and possibly better than they were in 1995.
Belly is playing The Vic on Oct. 8th. - $30 - $45
middle kids / lost friends / middle kids, domino
So much good music is coming out of Sydney right now! This stadium ready indie rock trio is insanely impressive on their debut.
They are at Lincoln Hall on Sunday June 9th at 9PM for $15!
MORE NOTABLE RELEASES
dadA life / our nation / so bleeped, universal
This album was built for the here and now. Electronia for the present.
The Swedish duo is set to appear at Prysm Nightclub, yeah you read that right, on May 25th. Tix are $35.
black moth super rainbow / panic blooms / red cult
Reaching new heights of weird, BMSR were never known for subtlety and this one takes it over the top.
These indie darlings are playing The Metro on June 16th for only $16!
MATT AND KIM / ALMOST EVERYDAY / MATT AND KIM , FADER
The normal party atmosphere dissipates with this one and the duo take a turn at the the political with great results.
Hopefully they do a full tour in the fall, at the moment there are no Chicago dates this year.
SAM LEWIS / LOVERSITY / SAM LEWIS, TONE TREE
Gospel, soul, blues, and rock all packed into this album by a man who looks way too young to be producing this kind of experienced soulful grace.
He is playing at Fitzgerald’s in Berwyn on June 29th as part of the American Music Festival, it’s $40 for a day ticket or $140 for a four day ticket.
LAKE STREET DIVE / FREE YOURSELF UP / NONESUCH
There is a reason Lake Street Dive sells out shows. They are just a great act, and this album proves why.
Their Thalia Hall date on May 15th is Sold Out but they are hitting the Riv on Oct 27th and there are still tix left at $38.
ghastly / the mystifying oracle / ghastly
This one is for the hard core electronic fan we believe exists in most of us.
No Chicago dates for him in the near future.
parker millsap / other arrangments / ocrahoma
Oklahoma’s own Parker Millsap puts out a straight ahead rock n roll effort and we say “more please.”
He is at Lincoln Hall on June 1st for $17. Starts at 9PM.
Been inspired by a recent musical experience? Excited about an upcoming show? shoot us an email to GET STARTED.
Being a contributor has never been easier. All you have to do is enjoy music, have a good time and tell others about it. We are a community sourced web mag, that means our experts are music lovers in your community. Yes, you are an expert music lover. (We know because you are reading this site) Our goal here is to encourage people to see live music, and have a good time doing it. Get clever with how you would like to contribute, but here are some ideas:
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NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
House of Vans put out the schedule for their free House Parties and the lineup is really crazy. Here it is in full. (With date the RSVP opens in parenthesis)
May 31st - Vic Mensa (already full up)
June 8th - Princess Nokia (May 23rd)
June 21st - Ice Age (May 31st)
July 12th - The Dead Milkmen (June 26th)
July 27th - Unknown Mortal Orchestra (July 12th)
August 8th - Wolf Parade (July 25th)
Make sure to RSVP on the date it starts cause these shows are gonna fill up fast! We have been to a couple of these in the past and the line can be ridiculous so show up early, entry is not guaranteed.
- New Belgium Brewery announced their annual Tour de Fat showcase for this year, and we’re excited! This year the touring fest comes to Humboldt Park on June 30th for a day of celebrating bikes, music, performance and beer. Indie surf rock duo Best Coast are headlining and for only $15 you get six hours (12 - 5PM) of performances and music along with plenty of biking madness!
- Do312 announced their annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Market at the East Room parking lot, 2354 N. Milwaukee, on Saturday June 9th. The free event is full of all sorts of vendors but it’s really the music that drew our attention with Sundown Club, Platinum Boys, White Mystery and headliners The Detroit Cobras!
That’s it for this week Surfers! See you next week for some write ups on the Rejjie Snow show and Shabazz Palaces at the Empty Bottle!
Till next week . . . See You At The Show Chicago!