Welcome to issue #14 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! It was Do Division weekend and we saw all the bands you may have missed! Check out our coverage below! We apologize that our new calendar is still under construction but make sure to check back next week; but until then there are few recommended shows in news and announcements. Also this week new albums from Neko Case, Brian Jonestown Massacre, bounce queen Big Freedia and so much 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 fourteen 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 & JCB
Division Streeet, between Damen
June 1st - 3rd
Hide / photo by JCB
On the first weekend of June, Do Division officially marks the opening of Chicago’s street fest season. During the course of its twelve year run, it has turned into a must see lineup. With so many local and touring acts, you can experience live music from the time you arrive to when you decide it’s time to hoof it home. And--just like the last several--this year’s lineup was packed with post-rock, punk, and rock heros. Ted Leo and La Luz lead the way on Friday; Bear vs Shark rounded out a killer top card on Saturday; and Wooden Shjips, along with afro-soul giants, Antibalas, brought it home on Sunday. But, it was the local bands who were able to snag a spot on the lineup that were the real draw. All three days had some great local and small touring acts that grabbed our attention. Here are some impressions--brought to you by CCS contributors--of the highlight acts that you may have missed at this year’s Do Division.
Local punk favorites for a couple years now, PEEL is known for their energetic live shows. This is the first time I have seen them where half the crowd and the whole band weren’t sweaty messes by mid set. They rocked through a couple tunes off their latest EP, Never Not Dead, and much more; but the crowd was not looking to rock out at 6pm on a Friday, so the energy PEEL usually takes to get going just wasn’t there. But, if you get a chance to see them in a club, do so, with all haste.
Bad Bad Hats
Fresh out of the Twin Cities, this quartet is just starting to make its mark on the indie scene. Their first single, “Wright It on Your Heart”, really makes me look forward to their album, Lightning Round, which
is due to drop on August 3rd.
Lillie West and company brought it with opener “Lala Song” whose rousing sing along chorus of “ahhhs” really got the small crowd going. Along with “Fuck With Your Friends” and “Dream Song” they played a few new ones. Hopefully they have plans for an album soon. Friday was chilly and windy affecting the attendance. Many were waiting for the headliners to start to come out of the bars; but West came to play and the crowd grew through their short set.
Psych and surf rock fall in love and become one within this music. These four women from LA know how to play and back it up with just enough bravado to stay classy.
I had never seen them before, though they’ve played quite a bit around town. They really impressed me. A blend of English and Spanish lyrics, and an indie rock base peppered with some traditional Spanish influences; their sound is quite unique. You should check them out for sure.
This local act brought a string section to accompany the thoughtful songs and jazzy trumpet. It sounds like it could be a mess, but I assure you it worked.
The Goon Sax
This Australian trio was just what I needed by the mid afternoon. Their combination of sincerity, goofiness, and charm had me from the start. This was their first trip to The States, and they made sure to let the crowd know that they knew they were in America when their uber driver’s motivational speaker tape said to “get rid of the losers in your life.” …Ouch.
This modern rock trio released a new album last month. I missed it then, but have listened since, and it’s rather good.
Check out Liars--which came out May 18th--and then catch their live set at Beat Kitchen on Sunday July 8th.
Jumping brass players in the late afternoon? Yes, please. My 5 year-old niece couldn’t get close enough to the stage to watch the 9-piece spectacle, and was skipping through the crowd to the beat. ¡ESSO!, short for El Sonido Sonic Octopus, reigns from Chicago and pours down some booty-shakin’-good Afro Latin Beats. It’s been only 5 years since the band’s formation, and they have worked up quite the resume.
¡ESSO! is playing next at the Indy Pride Festival on June 9. Entry to the fest is only $5 and we say their show is worth the gas!
Early aughts, and post-hardcore standouts, BearvsShark, reunited in Chicago on Saturday night to wrap up the day’s line-up with an energetic performance. These Detroit natives last played Chicago in October of 2016 donating their proceeds to aid in the Flint water crisis. They ripped through songs from both of their full lengths, Right Now You’re in the Best of Hands (2003) and Terrorhawk (2005), and the crowd ate it up. Audience participation was at an all time high as lead singer, Marc Paffi, often found himself joining the crowd, encouraging them to sing various choruses, and even joking with them before the set that, at age 38, he wasn’t sure how limber he would be.
Noise punk at its best. They took to the stage and rolled through most of this year’s album, Odd Talk. With Charlie Landsman’s guitar screaming over top of Alicia Gaines’ bass line--the anvil on which the rest of their sound is formed--and Nadia Garofalo's vocals cutting through the din, these guys are worth checking out.
You can catch them at the Empty Bottle on June 26th.
Houston, TX solo performer, Brianna Hunt, self-describes her genre as “calm ambient sad girl shit”, and I would say that is accurate. She caught our attention with her honest and open conversation. Hunt’s audience was made of a few families and Bucktowners--evidently not her typical crowd. She apologized for swearing in front of the kids, admitted knowing nothing about Do Division until that moment, and then apologized a second time for her music not fitting in with the rest of the fest. No apologies needed, Brianna. We found your self-discovery to be a breath of fresh air. Thanks for sharing!
Hunt returns to Chicago to play a Friday show Schubas on August 17, only $15.
Right after releasing a record last week, this Chicago act played a killer set on Sunday’s sunny afternoon. Many of the tracks were off that album including the hit “Pink Showers”, and deep cut “Trust”. (Which they ended with an extended jam, qualifying as one of my top moments of the weekend.)
They will be opening for Clearance at The Hideout on Aug. 3rd.
Harrowing vocals and layered arrangements might not sound like a great mid-afternoon band, but I’ve been reading a lot of sci-fi lately, so it established a great mood for my Sunday run at Do Division. Hannah Lew’s vocals can sound both inviting, or cold and distant depending on what the song requires.
They’re at Beat Kitchen on Sept 18th. I highly recommend.
Jovan describes herself as equal parts filmmaker, photographer, and emcee. I was aware of the first two, but her emcee skills blew me away on Sunday. While she records solo, her backing band was something to behold. Bringing the energy up for the drunk street festival goers, they crafted a perfect backing while Jovan jumped off the kick drum. It was impossible to look away as Joven bounced around the stage, getting the crowd moving while she merged rap with a theatre-worthy performance.
Jovan doesn’t have any dates scheduled at this time, but we’ll keep you posted!
So, I guess the best way to introduce you to Hide would be to describe them as a visual spectacle. We got there mid-song, to see Heather Gabel with mud smeared across her mouth, chest, legs and belly which was all quite accessible in her American Flag bikini. Seth Sher maintained an enticing gothy dark pop base, while Gabel yelled and thrashed. I dug it. A lot. At one point a fellow, captivated crowds-man behind me asked aloud--to no one in particular, “What is this?” To which I replied, “I dunno man, but I dig it.” He wasn’t wrong when he then remarked, “This is what people are talking about when they ask ‘what is art?’.”
Hide will be back to perform at the Metro on Sept. 21 for the Cold Waves Festival. I wonder if there will be mud at The Metro?
Do you like Lucky Boys Confusion? Are you from Chicago? Do you like indie-punk rock? If “yes” to these, you already like AM Taxi. If i didn’t know any better, I’d have sworn I was watching Gaslight Anthem. (That’s not a bad thing.) The guys mix classic rock with punk, and it’s good. They have a new release coming out this year, so keep an eye out for dates.
AM Taxi did mentioned that they will be playing some additional street fests this year, but we haven’t seen anything posted yet. We’ll let you know when we do!
Lowdown Brass Band
This is another band you’ll know if you’ve spent time at Chicago’s street fests. It is impossible not to move when Lowdown Brass Band is on the stage. Made up of full time musicians and moonlighters mixing jazz, ska, Latin and hip-hop, these guys work the stage like it’s the only thing that matters. The onslaught of brass and MC Billa Camp’s hip-hop is a must see for any Chicago street fester.
Lowdown Brass Band plays at Untitled June 15th.
Post rock is a tricky genre, but these guys pull it off. Fresh off their album released last week, they jammed through their hour set. Sax player, Rob Frye, guested on a couple tracks and blew me away. These guys out of Portland are not to be missed when they roll back through Chicago.
Thanks to West Town Chamber of Commerce, The Empty Bottle and the Subterranean for a great fest and lineup! See you next year, Do Division!
I first took in Jess Abbott’s solo project at Riot Fest a couple years back and she impressed me with her energy and songwriting skills; but she has taken a huge step with this record, honing her craft into indie rock perfection. Some of the edge of her last album, Out of the Garden, has been stripped away making room for an intimacy that was always there under the surface to come forward. She has always been influenced by the alt-rock of the late 90’s, but this moves her forward into the now while staying true to those roots. However, she is still just as self reflective as before, on standout “Underwear” she croons “I’ve been beating myself up / I’ve been known to throw a punch, or three / I don’t want to fight you / I’m already fighting me, and I’m losing.” before the guitar explodes around her.
It’s difficult to explain what is different here than on her previous three albums, but it may come down to confidence. She sounds like a musician who has found her stride and knows it. Every song is a keeper, from the ballad “Strawberry Selfish” to the acoustic guitar base of “Hot Star,” to could be radio hit “Queen of New York” Nightstand is filled with tunes that will leave you humming for hours. It was disappointing when the album ended but as Abbott puts it on closer “Rowing:” “It’s hard to end.”
Tancred is opening for The Joy Formidable on Nov. 3rd at Lincoln Hall. It’s $25 and well worth it just to see her -- even though TJF is rather kick ass themselves.
the brian jonestown massacre
What should you think when you see a band is releasing their 18th album? How about when they say there will be a 19th later in the same year? Anton Newcombe, the brainchild behind The Brian Jonestown Massacre, has defined the word prolific over the past 23 years. While some of the releases have been misses for sure, the first 2018 release, Something Else, is nothing but true to form.
Despite the title, Newcombe delivers 9 tracks that will be instantly familiar to fans and casual listeners. It’s a delightful ride through the lo-fi psychedelia fields he introduced us to in the 90s. Of particular note is the disparity between opener and closer. “Hold That Thought” is a rousing guitar driven tune missing from recent releases and one that would fit right at home on the radio. “Silent Stream,” however, is a slow burn with twists and turns that aren’t unlike the Barrett years of Pink Floyd.
In between is a surprisingly solid group of songs from a man that seems to release songs directly from the demo tape. “Psychic Lips” is a great 80s new wave rocker, and “My Love” seems to almost fold under the weight of the meandering cymbals and guitars but manages to revolve around Newcombe’s sparse yet engaging lyrics. “Skin and Bones” was another shocker, just for being another upbeat radio rock song complete with driving percussion and as much tambourine as you can handle.
I don’t know how many new fans this release will earn the band, but any casual interest in neo-psych rock owes it to themselves to check the all around reliable 39 minutes of Something Else.
Only 12 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.
Hold That Thought
Who dreams of cats?
Postscript: I dream of cats. Or, just one cat. That sleeps on my head.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre played the Vic May 11th. When they come back. We’ll let you know!
neko case, anti
If you would have told me at the start of this year my favorite album six months in would turn out to be folk rock legend Neko Case’s newest I would have said you were crazy, but here we are and it’s true. Case’s fourth studio album is a sprawling journey musically that spans from her indie country roots, to the rock sound she helps produce in supergroup The New Pornographers, to a new pop element that she embraces wholeheartedly. Her songs are still full of observances and storytelling that dwarves most songwriters but they have a bit more nuance and style here than ever before. Highlights include “Sleep All Summer.” a duet with long time collaborator Eric Bachmann, the rolling country tinged “Last Lion of Albion,” and pop rocker “Bad Luck:” where she speaks so much truth with “Are you tired of things going right / things going wrong / tired of trying to make everyone happy / too tired to sing your own song.” We aren’t too tired Neko. We are singing our own song and it feels glorious. Thanks for the inspiration for all these years.
She is currently opening for Ray LaMontagne and they are coming to Northerly Island June 16th. Last time we checked there were still tix available starting at $24.75
This match was meant to be. Laura Marling’s lyrics and incredible voice riding high on producer and accomplished musician Mike Lindsey’s music. The two met in London after she opened for Neil Young and were drawn together after they each found out they were admirers of the other. He played her some pieces he was working on, she started writing lyrics immediately and LUMP was born. Hooky and odd in all the right ways, these seven tracks draw you in while threatening to melt your brain at the same time. There is so much going on in Lindsey’s instrumentations that it’s hard to track at times, but Marling’s voice rides above it all with grace and precision and helps to ground the esoteric electro pop floating through these songs. This is how two excellent musicians can team up and produce something so fresh it still feels warm when you bite into it.
So far they only have two gigs in London and L.A. but we hope they have a tour planned soon.
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
coheed and cambria
the dark sentencer
A nine minute sci fi epic from the masters of concept metal. Their first new tune since 2015. However, they have been in the studio lately and have a new album coming later this year.
These metal legends are at Northerly Island on July 26th with co headliners Taking Back Sunday and The Story So Far in support. What a lineup! Tix are $39.50 and are still available.
fast slow disco
A remix of standout track “Slow Disco” off last year’s Masseducation, which you guessed it, is faster than the original. Why not take a ballad and turn it into an electro pop wonder? She never ceases to amaze.
As of now she has no dates for this year in Chicago.
street fighter mas
The third single off upcoming album Heaven and Earth, due out June 22nd, finds our favorite saxophonist delving into a slow funky jam that lets him do his thing: blow our minds.
He is playing The Riv on Saturday Nov. 3rd. Tix are going for $36.75.
gorillaz (feat. george benson)
Our favorite animated band returns with more new music. This little pop number helmed by the fabulous guitar legend George Benson stuck in our brains for days.
Gorillaz is dropping by the United Center Oct. 16th for their second show in Chicago in two years! Tix go on sale Friday and start at $53.75.
This self proclaimed “High Priestess of Pop” released her first EP and we can’t get enough. Not only is she unabashed about her queerness she makes it sound so right that it comes across as completely natural.
No tour dates so far for Simone. Chicago would love to see you Frankie!
OTHER NOTABLE JAMS FROM THIS WEEK
Joywave - Compromise
Buddy Guy - Blue No More
Golden Dawn Arkestra - Children of the Sun
Valley Queen - Boiling Water
Red Baraat - Sound the People
The Internet - Come Over
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDED NEW RELEASES
father john misty / god's favorite customer / sub pop
Has J. Tillmans project Father John Misty gone to far? He may even think so. This is his fourth and most personal album under the moniker which finds him dropping some of the machismo bravado -- that we always took for tongue in cheek anyway -- for personal essays on life's foibles and misunderstandings. Maybe that is the reason for the change in cover art which has always been esoteric drawings until now. Every artist turns corners in a career and it seems Mr. Tillman is rounding one now.
We were surprised to see him on the Riot Fest lineup. The festival at Douglas Park, Sept 14th - 16th, just released their lineup last week (see issue #13 for a full lineup, tix on sale now) and he was one of the acts that got us excited.
big freedia / 3rd ward bounce / asylum
NOLA’s bounce queen has always been a favorite of ours and this is her most accessible release so far. If you are new to the bounce genre check out this hot EP which is some of her best so far. They call it bounce for a reason. It will make you move, guaranteed.
She doesn’t have any Chicago dates on her current tour but she did swing by a few months back so we don’t expect her to be back till the fall or winter. But if you are looking to road trip she is playing Friday, June 8th in Indy at The Pavilion, and June 16th in Cleveland at Grog Shop.
natalie prass / the future and the past / ato
Talk about a left turn! This is the best example this year of an artist taking huge steps to change up their sound. Going from indie folk to pop may seem like a stretch but she pulls it off beautifully. Prass says this album is a reaction to last years election and it shows, with songs like “Nothing To Say” that delves into the depths of how most of us feel right now: “Everybody’s talking but there’s nothing to say.”
Prass is hitting Lincoln Hall September 19th and tix are going for only $15!
oneohtrix point never / age of / warp
Daniel Lopatin is nothing if not prolific. Fourteen albums in eleven years is a fantastic feat. His latest begins with a crazy piano based track that captured our ears, and it just proceeds to get stanger and more disjointed ending with “Last Known Image of a Song” that is simply a drone with a violin plucked over the top. This is musical art at its most daring. How far can you push the listener before they just can’t take it anymore. We dig it.
Unfortunately he has no Chicago dates coming up.
gift of gab / rejoice! rappers are rapping again! / giftstribution
As we pointed out last week Gift of Gab hadn’t put out any solo music in quite awhile and we get gifted this EP this week. Flow is the name of his game and he shows it through all six tracks. As one half of Blackalicious he has honed his craft for twenty years and no one can flow better. If you are into lyrically thick hip hop check this out. “The Gentrification Song” takes a hot topic and lays it down with purpose.
Sadly there are no real tour dates for either Blackalicious or Gift of Gab at this time.
MORE NOTABLE RELEASES
ruen brothers / all my shades of blue / ramseur
Not many artist can say their debut was produced by Rick Rubin, but these retro rockers, who are actual brothers from England, can brag about it the rest of their career. With influences like The Everly Brothers and Roy Orbison it is music from the past but still feels like it belongs in this time and place.
They are opening for Cafè Tacvba at the Concord Sept. 29th and 30th. Tix are $65.
kanye west / ye / getting out our dreams, def jam
What is there to say? Kanye put out an album. At this point can you separate his music from his image? It’s tough, and this one doesn’t do him any good in that regard.
He is currently not on tour, but if you want entertainment follow him on Twitter….
ben howard / noonday dream / ben howard, universal
Atmospheric and understated this British singer/songwriter has taken a turn toward the melancholy with his third effort.
He is visiting Aragon Ballroom on October 3rd. Tix are on sale and will run you $45.
freedom fry / classic / freedom fry
The long anticipated studio debut from this husband and wife duo from LA. A California sound steeped in indie folk rock. If you’re looking for a summer beach record this might be the one.
Freedom Fry has no Chicago dates in the near future. But we will let you know when they come around.
vicktor Taiwò / joy comes in spirit / innovative leisure
Another quality record from an Englishman this week, he has lived there since coming from Nigeria at 8. Vicktor Taiwò’s brand of R&B is all about ambience and substance. It makes for glorious listening.
He hasn’t toured in years. We’re hoping for a Chicago date sometime soon.
omar apollo / stereo / omar apollo
This Mexican American from our neighbor state to the east produces a stunning debut album that mixes the music of his heritage with atmospheric indie pop and the result works wonderfully.
Apollo just played a sold out show at Schuba’s in February so we may have to wait a few months more for him to return.
NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Spring Awakening is this weekend! Happy festing to all you SAers out there! Stay hydrated, dance your asses off and only buy or accept things from people you trust. You know what we mean….
- Our new calendar is still under construction. We apologize but two fests in two weeks means things are going slower than normal around here, but here are some recommended shows for this week to keep you informed till we can get our shit together:
Thursday June 7th
Ryan Joseph Anderson / Becky Levi / Mike Vanier and Ty Maxon
The Hideout - 9PM - $10
Friday June 8th
Mt. Joy / J.S. Ondara
The Hideout - 9PM - Sold Out
The World Is A Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die / Pianos Become the Teeth / Teenage Wrist
Lincoln Hall - 8PM - $20 ($25 doors)
V.V. Lightbody (record release) / Rose Hotel
Schubas - 9PM $10
Chicago Blues Fest
(see Summer Fest Guide for more info)
Dirty Water / Sneezy / Pylons / Totally Cashed (record release) (Pre-show art gallery & standup comedy @ 6PM)
Burlington Bar - music starts at 8PM - $10
Saturday June 9th
Liz Phair / Soccer Mommy
Empty Bottle -9PM - Sold Out (but they always keep back 20 or so tix so if you wanna go get there before 9, when doors open)
Middle Kids / Duncan Fellows
Lincoln Hall - 9PM - $15
Pilsen Food Truck Social
(see Summer Fest Guide for more info)
Mt. Joy / J.S. Ondara
The Hideout - 9PM - Sold Out
Kate Renegade / Boo Baby / GIRL K
The SubT - 7PM - $8
Chicago Blues Fest
(see Summer Fest Guide for more info)
Tuesday June 12th
Okkervil River / Star Rover
Thalia Hall - 7PM doors - $25 - $30
The SubT - 8PM - Sold Out
Silent Age / Las Cruxes / Dead Hummingbird
The Empty Bottle - 8:30PM - $5 ($7 doors)
Ocean Alley / Gazebo Effect
Schubas - 7PM - $13
Wednesday June 13th
Broken Social Scene
The Vic Theatre - 7:30PM - $35
That's all for this week Surfers.
Till next week . . .
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!