Welcome to issue #11 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! In this issue we have show reviews of Rejjie Snow and Shabazz Palaces as well as album reviews of the new The Sea and Cake and Beach House. This week we are launching our Summer Fest Guide for May and June. Take a look for all your lineup and schedule needs for all the street and park fests we think are worth checking out.
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 email@example.com. 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
SHABAZZ PALACES / LEAF SET / DJ JILL HOPKINS
The Empty Bottle
Shabazz Palaces / all photos by KPL
When I walked into the The Empty Bottle last Friday DJ Jill Hopkins was already spinning a good mix of classic and new hip-hop and rock that, as the crowd grew, got a few moving throughout the club and served as a fine warmup for the grooves that were to come. Hopkins is the co-host of The Morning AMp on WLUW Vocalo radio, a public radio station; and if you are familiar with the show you know she has her finger on what is new and hip in Chicago . She treated us to quite a few tracks from local acts and even threw in the brand new controversial Childish Gambino track just to let us know she wasn’t playing around.
Local band Leaf Set were a surprise. After checking out their stuff on Sound Cloud, which is experimental but not far off from hip-hop, I was not expecting a straight up rocking trio behind MC Kwame Akil. They kind of sounded like a mix between Rage and Bad Brains with a bit of hip hop flavor thrown in, and from moment one it was clear the crowd was digging it. Akil leaned in and spat his rhymes as his bandmates roared. He roamed the front of the stage, mic in hand, his face caught up in the emotion behind his lyrics, which is clear are very meaningful to him. After the solid half hour set they reluctantly started to pack up their gear as the sold out crowd milled back to the bar to stock up on a drink for the headliner.
Ishmael Butler (of Digable Planets fame) and percussionist Tendai Maraire began performing under Shabazz Palaces in 2009 and have since built a strong following in the indie hip-hop community. Last years double albums Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star and Quazarz vs. The Jealous Machine, a kind of comic book concept double album, opened up even more storytelling material for them. The albums are believed to be a reflection in metaphor on the Black American Experience. They are jazzy and spectral but not too abstract for casual listening. The duo took the stage behind their kits (Butler a laptop and mixers and Maraire his drums) and as the projections began they eased us into their realm of consciousness.
With african rhythms paired with electronic beats, bleeps and drones, the music gets your feet moving, but as you start to listen to what Butler and Mariare are rapping about you begin to understand why the music is so abstract. This is how they see the world, through the lens of their experiences the world is a complicated and insane place. They are just capturing it, in the way they know how, through music.
I’m not sure what tracks they played, because as the set went on, I was swept up in the pure soundscape created by these two. They suck you in and make the rest melt away so you exist within this world they curate, full of video game sounds and blurry beats that blend with the rhythm of the drums and Butlers smooth flow that weaves through it all with such ease. After they came to a close, we were all kind of stuck in our spots waiting for the real world to come back into focus before we had to go back out into the unseasonably chilly Chicago night.
REJJIE SNOW / LEWIS OFMAN
Rejjie Snow / all photos by KPL
There is something special about all ages hip hop show; seeing the next generation of concert goers getting down to the grooves, warms you from the inside out. Last Wednesday was one of those nights, as Rejjie Snow entertained us all with his smooth flows and deft lyricism from Schubas stage. There were plenty of under age kids waiting patiently several rows deep in front of the stage as LPL and I arrived a few minutes from showtime. Mainly DePaul students, we decided, that were here to see the opener just as much as Rejjie.
Parisian neo disco artist Lewis OfMan took the stage soon after we took up a spot close on stage left. He said hello and then took a spot at his keyboard and started to produce some really funky disco tracks with just a laptop and his keys. He had a staccato way of hitting the keys that was interesting to take in, his hands a blur over the board as he played over his backing track. A couple of dancers started moving their feet right away and by mid-set he had us all swinging our hips and grooving through his sonic landscapes.
He had some early set troubles with his midi but soon just decided to do without it, it made us wonder what his tracks would have sounded like if all his equipment would have been functional, because it was great as it was. Would he have blown our minds even more? We’ll never know.
After a longish intermission Rejjie Snow’s DJ got behind his table and started with a few popular tracks of the moment, as is the tradition at most hip hop shows. It serves as warmup for the crowd but I have to say I have never really understood it and sometimes it backfires. We just want to see the act. If we wanted to hear the latest hip hop radio tracks we would listen to the radio. Just saying. But as soon as Rejjie Snow waded through the crowd and took the mic; the crowd, which had grown close to capacity, keyed in and he had our full attention.
Born Alexander Anyaegbunam, but performing under the Rejjie Snow moniker for a couple years now, the Dublin based MC has flows as smooth as Q-Tip and as sexy as Andre 3000. This being the “Dear Annie Tour” he rolled through most of the new album including highlights “Rainbows,” “23” and “Greatness” that got the crowds hands up as we were all sucked into his world. For an hour and half he had all of us in his palm and even dealt with the hekeling from a fellow Irishman with such aplomb it left us all with more respect.
It became clear towards the end of his set that he was going over time but he wasn’t going to end till his set was complete, he even turned to whoever came to tell him to wrap it up and said, “I ain’t leaving the stage.” And when a brave soul sparked up in the small space that is Schubas and offered him a hit he took the fan up on the offer for a small puff before launching back into the next track.
As the set came to a close he was all smiles and gave a bunch of high fives and shakes to his young fans who had stuck it out all night up front, and as we all poured out onto Belmont, the spring night seemed especially light as we had all just been in the clouds thanks to Mr. Rejjie Snow.
THE SEA AND CAKE
THE SEA AND CAKE, THRILL JOCKEY
The Sea and Cake is not a band many have heard of, but the Chicago trio been consistently incredible for 20+ years. Talk about Chicago or post-rock music long enough, and they’ll come up; it’s just a question of how long it takes. It’s been six years since their last release, and honestly – there isn’t much new here. But again, these guys don’t need to reinvent the wheel. They made it right the first time, and it rolls the car exactly where we want it to.
The Sea and Cake play two shows at The Empty Bottle on Wed, May 23rd. The early show is sold out, but you can buy tickets for the 10pm show here.
KISS YR FRENEMIES
An impressive debut from the self described “tenderpunk pioneer” band that blends indie rock trops with such ease that it makes it all seem new and relevant. Taking us on a journey of her experiences of young adulthood band leader Sarah Tudzin, who has worked as an engineer with bands such as Slowdive, Porches, Black Lips, and Lower Dens, steps in front of a mic and delivers one of the this years best indie rock albums yet.
With songs about the struggles of everyday life and paying bills like “Paying Off the Happiness,” or understated acoustic numbers like “boi” in which she laments someone who doesn’t return her feelings; Kiss Yr Frenemies is the indie break out of the year. If Tudzin has more like this up her sleeve she’ll have a long steady career.
The farthest West they have scheduled is Denver but we expect that to change very soon.
After they dropped four of the eleven tracks on new album 7 as singles it is a wonder that there were any surprises left, but these indie darlings kept plenty in reserve. Overall it is their fuzziest album to date, with their lyrics low in the mix and even more distorted than on previous efforts. However, there is a warmth in Beach House’s music that roots itself in your heart and won’t let go. Where as some synth duos put out cold, detached tunes, their sound is near golden, it radiates; one of those groups that you know the minute you hear them. They are a genre unto themselves. Some have tried to duplicate it but no one has succeeded. Non single highlights include“Pay No Mind” and “Lose Your Smile” which has an acoustic guitar base that feels refreshing after all those fuzzy synth drones have wrapped their tendrils around you.
Beach House is playing The Chicago Theatre on August 18th and it is sold out. But there are plenty of those resale tix available starting at $60.
THE PRODIGAL SON
PERRO VERDE, CONCORD
Ry Cooder has been an even keel for 50 years. He’s always been interested in keeping the Americana roots alive, and it’s a sound that will continue to be in fashion – not just a fad that I seem to have lived through three times in my life so far. Cooder’s last album, 2012’s Election Special, went full political in a time when we truly needed it no other way. He created an album that celebrated the sound American music was built on, but also celebrated the protest that has defined our culture for centuries. It took 6 years for his follow up, and it’s, for the most part, devoid of the blunt messages he last left us with.
With only 3 original compositions, Ry gets back to his foundations by revisiting blues, gospel and folk tracks that can be modernized to shine a light on the issues we face today and how we may not have changed that much. Right, I said it wasn’t super political… It’s just more subtle. Album opener “Straight Street” eschews the classic gospel sound of the original Pilgrim Travelers’ version for an upbeat, banjo led story of redemption. It’s immediately apparent in this track how great Ry’s son, Joachim, is as a producer. He’s also a hell of a drummer, shrewdly showing his chops in a way that never upstages his dad.
“Shrinking Man” is a riotous bluesy country original, and it took a couple times for me to pick up on the lyrical metaphors. “I don’t need much and I don’t pay no starvation wage to poor folks out on the poison ground. You don’t rob the land when you’re just a little old shrinking man.” It’s poignant lyrics that speak to someone that grew up in a small, forgotten, midwestern town.
I try hard to keep these reviews short, in the interest of not coming of attention spans, but this one was particularly difficult. I wrote blurbs on every song, ranging from my self-reflection while listening to “Gentrification” to the religiously charged cover of “You Must Unload.” We’re having a great run of celebrated musicians coming back for victory laps, and I sincerely hope more like this come our way in 2018. We need them.
Only 13 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.
You Must Unload
In His Care
Postscript: “Jesus and Woody” is an incredible, fictional (duh), story of Christ asking another legendary musician to reflect on the history and current state of America. It’s larger-than-life, so just go listen to it. In fact, listen to the whole damn album all the way through. Forget the above 13 min recommendation
Ry Cooder is playing Thalia Hall on June 24th. It’s unfortunately sold out, but we recommend trying to get tickets to an American icon.
TRANQUILITY BASE HOTEL & CASINO
Five years passes and the world is not the same as it was in 2013, when we were all finally a bit over the rough economic crisis and it seemed the party was going to start again and maybe last this time. That was the world the last Arctic Monkeys album AM came about in. Well, so much has changed in five years (hell, the last two years, or was it last two weeks?), and this new album is as much a reflection of the times as AM was. It was guitar based and rock pop to the core, while Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is near operatic in its scope. Piano has replaced the guitar as the lead instrument, and Alex Turner’s vocals have gone from easy flowing to a crooning that feels apprehensive in nature. As if he doesn’t want to say what he has to say too loudly because maybe someone will hear.
In other words this is a departure. Most critics are calling it a left turn, but I would just call it an evolving. There are hints of this coming in say “No.1 Party Anthem” or “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” on the last album. What does make this record stand out is the thematic elements that run through it, they are building a world with this one, which is always impressive as a listener. To be able to write a collection of songs that form a narrative, even if that narrative is a little thin, will always seem a difficult proposition. One that Turner and company took on and made their best album to date.
They are headlining Lolla this year, for the third time we think, but this is the first time we are excited to see them.
THE GOOD IS A BIG GOD
Brazilian music, to me, has always inspired a specific feeling. I’ve never been to the country, but I imagine that it’s a feeling that permeates the entire culture. The genre has a timelessness to it, that is consistently welcoming and relaxing. It’s the combination of bossa nova and tropicalia with modern pop that Domenico Lancellotti explores here, immediately transporting the listener to his home country’s beaches.
“Tudo Ao Redor” and “Asas” are my album highlights here, with the former calling back to the class Gilberto sound and the latter juxtaposing the clean acoustic and scattered percussion you expect with avant-garde pop electronics that really push the notions of what Brazilian music can be in the modern age. “Insatiable” has some seriously bright samba tones that perfectly fit with Lancellotti’s soothing croons.
Lancellotti employs two longtime pals, Moreno Veloso and Alexandre Kassin, to round out the album’s sound with synth and additional vocals, but his co-pilot, Sean O'Hagan, is the star for me. O’Hagan’s time with Cornelius and Stereolab allows what might have been a review of classic Brazilian compositions to elevate to a truly deep album, with layers that take several listens to unravel.
Only 10 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.
Tudo Ao Redor
Postscript: if you speak his language, you’re probably upset I didn’t dive into the cultural undertones on this album with regards to the effects of Olympic games in London and Rio. I listen for the music, primarily, and how the vocals fit in. That’s enough for me, but hopefully you can find even more pleasure from listening.
Domenico Lancellotti currently has no dates scheduled for Chicago. If he does, we’ll let you know so keep checking back!
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
Chicago indie rock is really starting to develop its own sound and feel and Deeper is right at the core of that movement. Check out this jangly two minute jaunt from the locals who are putting out their self titled album on May 25th.
The Empty Bottle is hosting their record release party this Friday, May 18th, at 9PM. It’s only $8 ($10 at the door) and Pool Holograph and Earring are playing in support.
A new bluesman for a new era. Fantastic Negrito will be a star, we are sure of that. This neo-soul and blues masterpiece really shows off his stuff.
He is playing Chicago Blues Fest this summer (see our Summer Fest Guide for more info!)
A gorgeous single from the indie hero: her first from new album Be The Cowboy, due out August 17th.
No current dates for Mitski in Chicago. She just played in November at Schubas so hopefully she is back in the late summer or early fall in support of this album.
DON'T HAVE A FIT
This Dallas native will be taking the folk rock world by storm soon. A bit Vile a bit DeMarco and definitely all the way good. Can’t wait for the album due out May 25th on esteemed British indie label Bella Union.
Ari Roar is currently touring the UK. We are hoping this album propels him on a US tour and Chicago is one of the stops.
KERO KERO BONITO
Another perfect indie pop tune from London’s Kero Kero Bonito. Check this one out if you need a jam to play over and over on a sunny summer day.
Too bad they aren’t visiting Chicago anytime soon because we are jonesing to see them live.
OTHER NOTABLE JAMS FROM THIS WEEK
Courtney Barnett - Sunday Roast
LUMP - Late to the Flight
White Denim - Magazin
The Ballroom Thieves - Paper Crown EP
Lori McKenna - People Get Old
pronoun - wrong
JAMS WE MISSED BUT NOW CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF
Dirty Projectors - Break-Thru
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Refute
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDED NEW RELEASES
THE BONES OF J.R. JONES / ONES TO KEEP CLOSE / THE BONES OF J.R. JONES, TONE TREE
With musical roots in gospel, blues and soul, John Robert Linaberry’s one man band The Bones of J.R. Jones is a magical mixture of American roots that produced one of our favorite albums of the week.
He just performed at Schubas in April and we missed out. Hopefully he is back in the fall!
LA LUZ / FLOATING FEATURES / HARDLY ART
The third album of surf rock with a punky bent from this all female group out of L.A. Just in time for sunny Sunday afternoon jam time.
They are playing back to back shows at the Sub T on May 31st at 8PM for $15 and at Do Division on Friday June 1st at 9PM. (see our Summer Fest Guide for more info.)!
DJ JAZZY JEFF / M3 / PLAYLIST
A legend of hip hop releases a relevant album and we say thank you! Most of these tracks feature the trio of Chicago native Rhymefest, Philly MC Dayne Jordan, and NYC rapper Uhmeer all flowing over Jazzy’s excellent beats.
He is playing Hyde Park Brew Fest on Sunday June 3rd. Tickets are $25 to $45.
JERRY GARCIA / BEFORE THE DEAD / JERRY GARCIA FAMILY
This is what any true Garcia fan has always wanted. Early bluegrass and folk recordings from ‘61 to ‘64, including some that long time song writing partner Robert Hunter plays bass on! We listened to the entire three hour and thirty minute box set and it is something special.
UZ / THE REBIRTH / QUALITY GOODS
With three different monikers: house/garage producer Plezier, world champion turntablist DJ Toubl, and bass maker UZ; this is one busy man. We dig his production all around and know there will be much more coming from him in the future.
He just visited Sound-Bar in April so we doubt he will be back anytime soon.
MORE NOTABLE RELEASES
BEATRICE DEER / MY ALL TO YOU / BEATRICE DEAR
Her fourth album producing affecting indie rock mixed with Inuit throat singing and lyrics in French, Inuit and English. The result is as evocative as anything out there.
We hope this is a break out album so she finally makes a trip South to see us in Chicago.
LUKE WINSLOW-KING / BLUE MESA / BLOODSHOT
This veteran local label man, though he resides in New Orleans, releases a spectacular bluesy, funky jaunt through our times; from “Break Down the Walls” to “Born to Roam” and more. This is Americana at its best.
We are in luck, he is playing Schubas this Saturday for $12 ($15 at the door). The show starts at 10 pm and Lou Shields is opening.
HAWKTAIL / UNLESS / PADIDDLE, HAWKTAIL
New folk instrumental group whose first album shows a traditional bent with a modern take. If you like that sort of thing, you will dig this collection of nine tunes.
Hawktail is playing on the Live From Here with Chris Thile at Ravinia on June 9th. Tix are $35 to $65.
SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO / MURMURATIONS / WICHITA, SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO
What do you say about an album that could be a last album? When the album is as good as this one, we say thank you and best wishes Jas Shaw. We hope you recover and can treat us to some of these gorgeous tracks. This is how twenty first century “classical” music will sound.
They were booked to play Lincoln Hall on June 7th but when Jas Shaw (one half of the duo) was diagnosed with a rare disease, AL Amyloidosis, they had to cancel the tour. Good luck Mr. Shaw and we hope to see you again soon.
BRENT COBB / PROVIDENCE CANYON / ELEKTRA
This may be the funkiest album in the history of Country music. Just kidding, but it’s damn close.
He is opening for Chris Stapleton at Tinley Park on Saturday October 6th. Tix are $35 and up.
MARIAN HILL / UNUSUAL / REPUBLIC
Sultry indie pop from this Philly duo who use Samantha Gongol’s voice to carry the melody while producer Jeremy Lloyd lays down some sparse beats and evocative electronica. The result is rather breathtaking.
We missed them but hopefully some of you caught them at the Metro on Tuesday night. Hopefully they roll back through soon.
NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Hey Surfers! Check out our new Summer Fest Guide! It is chock full of all the street and park fests we think are worth checking out. As of now it is through June, with July thru September coming soon, and it is up to date with all the lineups and schedules that are out. We will be updating it every week with the issue so be sure to check back to see who has put out announcements. This is your guide to the best part of Chicago summers, outdoor shows!
North Coast Music Fest released their lineup for the ninth iteration of the electronic and jam fest that takes place in Union Park every Labor Day weekend. Maybe it is our imagination but is it smaller this year? Did they get rid of a third stage? We’ll see when the weekend gets here but for now here is the lineup by day.
We are excited by Jamiroquai on Sunday, and Tauk and Robert DeLong on Saturday! Hope to see you there Surfers!
- If you want tickets to NIN and Jesus and Mary Chain at The Aragon on October 25th and 26th, you’ll have to go stand in line this Saturday starting at 8am. Tickets go on sale at 10 am at The Aragon box office. In an attempt to curb third party internet grabs the bands have set up an in person only box office ticketing system for this tour, and we applaud the effort. We have been preaching the anti-third party tix fight for years now and it seems the bands with power to do it are listening to fans. See you in line Chicago.
That’s it for this week Surfers. Stay tuned next week for a review of the Wye Oak show at Thalia and our Summercamp Music Fest preview!
Till then . . . see you at the show Chicago.
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:
- See a show and write about what made it great for you (and snap a couple pics)
- Tell people about CCS
- Listen to a new album and write a review
- Share the weekly issue post
- Buy us a ticket to see a show - we will try to cover the show if you can’t go!
- Post to our social media sites about news in the local music scene
- Help us make a connection to acquire:
- Press passes
- Photo passes
- Promo materials (buttons, stickers, gear, flyers…)
With any contribution, we request email submissions by the following Wednesday morning (ex. If you see a Friday show, submit 4 days later; ex. Listen to a new album on Tuesday, submit the next day). Please let us know that you want to contribute so we can get you into that week’s issue. You can totally submit a review later than Wednesday, and we may include it. Not to put the pressure on, but we are a weekly mag so we like to keep content current.
P.S. If you want a little extra confidence, we really do want to hear from you and expand our community. I am not a trained writer, and personally think my reviews need a good deal of improvement. I keep writing to get better, and people are still reading it!