Tune-Yards at Mamby On The Beach / photo by KPL

Editor's Note
Welcome to issue #17 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! Hey there Surfers! Last Saturday we attended Mamby On The Beach and have issued our full report, pluss reviews of River Whyless at Lincoln Hall and Night Riots at The Sub T. JCB reviews the new NIN and Kamasi albums and we have all the new releases and upcoming shows you need to know about! We are taking next week off, so happy ‘Merica day to you all! Don’t blow you hand off and we’ll see you for issue #18 on July 12th! 

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 chicago.crowd.surfer@gmail.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!


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Mamby on the beach


Oakwood Beach

June 23rd

Common / photo by LPL; all other photos by KPL


Sand is just this side of glitter on my list of the worst things on this planet. Let’s say that sand and me do not mix. However, when the Saturday lineup was released for this fest at Oakwood Beach we just had to scoop up some tix. Sand be damned, I had to check out the local hip hop loaded schedule along with the likes of personal favorites Tune-Yards and new rocker grandson. 

What used to be Wavefront Festival at Montrose Harbor (which I attended just once to see Justice do a DJ set) changed several years ago. After many complaints from the residents of the Uptown lakefront, they switched the moniker to Mamby On The Beach and moved south to the very much out of the way Oakwood Beach. So out of the way in fact, that as Westside residents, we had to take two trains and a bus to get within a twenty minute walk through Hyde Park and across the Drive to get to the gates. An hour and fifteen minute journey that wasn’t terrible but about as far as I’ll go for a city fest.  

However, once we arrived to a very empty festival grounds with a wonderful breeze off the water and a bright sunny day to look forward to; the journey was forgotten and we settled in for a day of great tunes with our towering skyline as the backdrop. Thinking we missed grandson (his set time had already started and we didn’t hear anything from the Beach Stage), we wandered over to the Park Stage where Gilligan Moss was in the middle of their impressive set. Evan and Ben are a couple of Chicago guys who are putting out some damn fine electronica. They left us for New York a bit ago and it was good to see them back. We took a spot on one of the boulders that were off to the side and jammed a bit to their poppy funky dance music. A loyal contingent was already dancing but we have far surpassed the age where we can go hard all day and chose to chill while enjoying Gilligan Moss’ stylings. 


hen they took a song break and announced this would be their last few tunes, I pulled out the schedule to see who we could kill some time seeing till CupcakKe at 3:00. And that’s when I heard it. Was that hard rock coming from the Beach Stage? Damn, it is! We didn’t miss him after all! grandson was on and we beelined it for the sand. Indeed, he had been late coming on and we were overjoyed to get to take in his brand of protest rock. Jumping across the stage, climbing onto the speaker stacks, while screaming and rapping his lyrics, coming off the stage to jump on the rail and be one with his fans, there was nowhere that this New Jersey born nomad (he now resides in Toronto) did not fling himself during his set. I said last week, when reviewing his new EP a modern tragedy, vol. 1, that he reminded me of Zach De La Rocha and after seeing him live the comparison was dead on. Everyone that witnessed his set will remember it for his voracious energy and emotion packed performance. 

After grandson and his band left stage, LPL and I looked at each other and knew the rest of the day was going to have to be killer to top that. We started to wander back to solid ground for some lunch and the hour wait till CupcakKe was coming on. We tried out the Silent Disco (I prefer the dual dj silent disco at North Coast and LPL pegged why she doesn’t really like them at all: “I can’t feel the bass vibrating my body.”). After some quick sandwiches we headed for the local hip-hop queen's set. 

Silent Disco


The stage was empty, and out she sauntered. Blonde curls flying in the wind, a mic in hand, to the cheers of the couple hundred fans already gathered. “This is gonna be a dirty, sexy set.” she said. “Get over it.” and launched into her raunchy raps. There is nothing subtle in her lyrics. Sex is explored in every way possible: she flowed about pussys, dicks, and everything she wants to do to them at breakneck speed. The set included classics “Vagina” and “Deepthroat” but also new tunes off her latest album Ephorize (which is still my favorite rap album of the year).  “Duck Duck Goose” is a particular highlight and I couldn’t help laughing out loud to: “vending machine, vending machine, can’t eat this pussy till there’s money between, money between.” 

Over the course of her set the crowd had grown quite a bit and she was rocking well over a thousand, many of whom probably had no idea who she was but she was reaching them anyway. Her too short set was over before we knew it. Another Chi-cat was on next at the Beach Stage so we made the short walk through the sand to the rail as the changeover finished and the band began the intro. 


If CupcakKe’s album is my favorite hip-hop record to drop this year Towkio’s runs a close second. The Chicago based Savemoney artist’s work is affecting and expertly curated; mixing elements of R&B, gospel and hip hop into a funky amalgamation that is perfect for the here and now. His fans agree. They greeted his walk out to cheers and screams. After that it’s all a blur of getting down and dancing to his excellent set (stopping every once in awhile to snap some pics). 

 On the screen in the rear an image of him in spiraling block colors was projected live from a camera that followed him the whole show. He treated us to great tunes off WWW. including club bumpers “Hot Shit,” “Disco,” “2 Da Moon” (with guest Grace Webber)  and the Chance cover “Juke Jam;” along with more intricate emotional tunes like “Hate to Love.” The Era footwork crew made an appearance and guest spots were abundant. (I half expected Chance to make an appearance, but little did I know…)   It was the best hip-hop set I have seen in a bit and we will make it a point to check him out anytime he is back in town.   

Venturing back to The Park stage we were shocked at how quickly the fest had filled. In just a few hours everyone had showed up and it was now kind of crowded, but still comfortable. We commented later that it was the perfect amount of people for a festival. Getting as close as we could for Tune-Yards, she finished her line check and turned out to the crowd. Hitting a button on her keyboard the beats began; her live drummer and bassist kicked in and we were transported into her mind and musicianship for the next forty five minutes. A venerable multi-instrumentalist, Merrill Garbus’ sound is unlike anyone else's: tribal beats and syncopated rhythms combine with electronic elements to create a frenetic combo that is so interesting you can’t do anything but dance, or stare dumbfounded at how great her pop sensibility is to keep this all together and make it catchy and memorable. The last time I saw her she played for an hour and a half, so within a quick set frame she never really got it going, but it was still great to see Garbus again after several years without a Tune-Yards fix. 


Some dinner was in order after back to back to back excellent sets, and chilling out to Gorgon City (Live) was the next logical step before the sun set and Common came to the stage. The English producers didn’t disappoint with a danceable yet substantive set that included new hit “Go Deep” and classic “Ready For Your Love.” The two producers were separated by a couple singers and a large drum kit, and they created all the tunes live (hence the live moniker) with both playing synths and keyboards, with laptops nearby of course. It was the perfect way to watch the sun set over the skyline while people watching on the beach.  

Common is, by now, the grandfather of Chicago hip-hop. After twenty six years, eleven albums, a prolific acting career, and constant community and charity engagement, he has reached legendary status. Neither of us had seen him before and the tension was building as the change over finished and the backing band took the stage. Out came the man himself, bald head shining, clad in all white. In case we were confused, his name was building sized on the screen behind him. They proceeded to treat all of us to a great hour set, including classics like “It’s Your World Parts 1 and 2” and “Go!” and his Oscar winning tune “Glory.” It was an inspiring and impressive performance. I do feel guilty that the highlight of the show was Chance coming out to do “The Food” (originally a dual track with Kanye) and dropping a fat freestyle about feeling out of place at the public library. However, there is still something to be said about the classic style and straight ahead rapping that Common and his generation pioneered. Without them the new crossover artists like Chance would have never made it to the top. 

Getting out of there was about as difficult as getting there and our pool car took forever to get us home, but it was all worth it for the day of excellent jams; and I managed to only bring home a bit of sand in my cons, that I promptly dumped out before going up to feast on some chicken nuggets. Bed was calling and the dreams of sun, sand and tunes awaited.   


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Night Riots / .courtship / Siltent rival



June 22nd

Night Riots / all photos by JCB

Subterranean is a two floor venue in Chicago. It’s great that they can offer multiple sets of live music almost every night, and the main stage is upstairs and allows for an intimate experience near the stage but also has a nice balcony for a more relaxed evening. One of the bad things about a venue like this, is when you read the start time for the wrong band as the one you’re there to see. Such an incident happened last Friday, and I missed Silent Rival and Courtship.’s sets. As I stepped into the upstairs venue, I immediately realized my error. Not from any time on a poster, but from the audience – it was clearly an all ages show, and those always start early. The floor was packed to the brim with young, eager faces, so my friend JG and I grabbed a drink and headed to the balcony. As I mentioned, it was a sea of young faces, so it wasn’t a problem for a couple of old times like us to find our rightful place in the corner. I’m sure we looked and sounded like Statler and Waldorf, as we bemoaned what kids call concert time on a Friday night these days.

The band came out quickly, and it was immediately apparent that these guys have earned their loyal following. Singer Travis Hawley is an animal of a frontman, bouncing all over the stage and lingering only for a moment to saunter to the infectious sounds of the synth-pop music. Hawley is clearly passionate about the music, and it’s nigh impossible to look away as he’s belting out each lyric like it might be his final word. Sometimes, he didn’t even have to sing. He made a point to bend down and hold hands with front rowers, and it drove the crowd wild every time. Hawley also had a way with the crowd that bordered on hypnosis. Whenever he’d raise his hands or mic stand and sway it, every hand immediately shot into the air to follow along.

Night Riots

The rest of the band is clearly into the theatre of it all, as well. Starting a particularly grim song adorned with skull masks seemed a bit much to this Statler, but the crowd ate it up. One moment that stands out to me was when two assistants, in cult attire, held up drums in the center of the stage for the instrumental section of Night Riots to bang on in unison. It was neat way to give the energetic frontman a break, and to give the crowd, or old camera-toting review guy, something to talk about the next day.

I didn’t know much of the music going in, so I wasn’t singing along but damn it if big hit “Nothing Personal” hasn’t been playing in my head for a half week after. Early into the set, we discussed that the music fits right into scene where Imagine Dragons and The 1975 seem to reign supreme. Where Night Riots stands apart is the energy they bring and the slightly darker lyrical content. They’re a band that doesn’t wallow in despair, they revel in it. The low points of relationships drive the majority of the songs, and instead of strumming a lonely guitar – the band has decided to channel it into this generation’s The Smiths.

Night Riots isn’t playing music you’ve never heard before, but that’s not why you want to see them. You want to see them because they’re performing music in a way that you don’t see from other synth-pop bands. The old dudes from the Muppets were perplexed, walking out in the Wicker Park streets. We were ready to hate on the youngsters, and their unoriginal music. Instead, we spent the next couple hours talking about how fun of a show Night Riots was. I say if you get the chance, see these guys – no matter what kind of music you like.


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River whyless / jalen n'gonda


Lincoln Hall

June 21st

River Whyless / all photos by KPL

Jalen N'Gonda

Jalen N’Gonda is a gorgeous individual. Now that I have that out of the way...let’s get to the music. In his first Chicago show N’Gonda dropped my jaw in awe. He has a haunting way of crooning you into awareness, while he speaks of day to day issues relevant to just about everyone. Born in Maryland, N’Gonda moved to Liverpool to commence his musical journey - just 2 years ago. In those quick 2 years, he is selling out and headlining shows across Europe. Jalen, Chicago is sorry. The audience at Lincoln Hall Thursday night was far too sparse to adequately show our city’s appreciation for your talent.

He and his percussionist walked on and began “I Guess That Makes Me A Loser”, echoing John Legend and Black Joe Lewis, rooted within a myriad of the iconic sounds of 60’s and 70’s jazz and soul. Those sounds slid right through me for a few tracks and into “Kinda Wonderful” - it was like skipping on a rainbow. In my peripheral I see someone else skipping along that rainbow, donned in white, her face sharing her body’s emotion...

They continued to slide through N’Gonda’s debut EP Talking About Mary and into “Don’t You Remember” with their strums and strings perfectly staggered, casting a sonic shadow off of the note before it. It was the kind of expertly crafted musical combination that places your attention in a pleasant kind of anticipation that could only be characterized as butterflies beginning to flutter in unison.

When I first heard River Whyless, KPL and I were at home a few weeks back listening to their album Kindness, a Rebel for the “New Releases” section a little lower in this web mag. I was doing a little unpacking as we continue to settle into our new home. Multiple times, their poppy harmonies and folk and psych rock twinges caused me to stop and make eye contact with KPL and share a silent “wow.” 

River Whyless appeared on stage, with none other than my rainbow skipping partner. Halli Anderson had added a sparkly black shawl to her ensemble, but was still tapping her white sneakers and bouncing her knees. I had not properly heard the lyrics when listening to the album at home, the music alone grabbed me then and impressed me that night. Last Thursday, the content captured me. It took me back to my childhood where I listened to my dad’s records of the American folk rock heroes of the 60’s, as they addressed the political issues of their day. Many of which, unfortunately, are still relevant and divisive today. River Whyless has taken on continuing their mission, and likewise have continued in their likeness.

Using her violin panels as a percussion instrument; Halli had a second violin hanging from her stand, a single maraca, and a snare drum. She hollered into her violin’s mic and set us off with rippling violin chords. Ryan O'Keefe (vocals, guitar), Alex McWalters (drum set) and Daniel Shearin (vocals, bass, harmonium) layered their talents over the violin and harmonized on lovely lyrics such as “Come as a lion/ Finding the strength in the sun / Rest your desire / Rest in the battles you've won / Here we are unbound” and “I have been elected by the good Lord / He told me who to lock up and who to free...Isn't it strange when you can see but don't believe? / Maybe we're in need of new beliefs.” Halli and Ryan traded off lead vocals through five or six gorgeous tunes, then Alex took a break from his drum kit. The front three descended the stage to the floor for an acoustic “in the round” experience. Halli, Ryan and Daniel walked us through an emotional “War is Kind” and “Mama Take Your Time”.  

I missed the details of the next few songs because I was so consumed by the thoughts that arose, and as I related the lyrics to my own life experiences, at times hitting a little too close to home. They must have guided me out of my haze because it was such a smooth and effortless transition. I became aware of my heavy thoughts and watched them as they passed me and returned to light, until I reached a balance once again. Perhaps, I thought, when an instrument is used for more than its intended purpose - to make audible music - the body is also challenged to maneuver itself in such a way that the mind can find its way through the stage of consciousness where it is currently stuck. The four geniuses of River Whyless confirmed my feelings by creating a percussion out of non-percussive instruments. Healing my mood until the mind had the freedom to allow itself to be elevated. Their harmonies kept me rising into a state of pure peace. River Whyless left us on a high note, and we cheered for more. 

Not 10 seconds went by and Halli’s white outfit appeared through the black curtain. The front three hurried back to rejoin our energy. And join it they did. I had grown weepy - heck, no it is pretty obvious that I had already been moved to tears a few times tonight. I was in a weepy state when they returned to the floor and asked the first row to sit down. Everyone now had a beautiful view of this remarkable trio. Ryan shared with us the backstory to a song not on any music streaming site, and set me off with his memories “remembering the last words that were promised / of you and I bound in endless light / well here I am and how i want you / if it could only stay the same / as it once was / as it once was.” He had lost his love to breast cancer all too young and wrote this song as tangential memory. I lost full control of my tear ducts and put my notebook away to fully support him in his experience. 

Halli and Ryan arrived at the merch table with just a few people ahead of me in line. Without hesitation, I ordered a “poster, a pin, a crop top and a hug.” The hugs were free. In the cab ride home my tear-stained cheeks and KPL had never felt closer. I wondered aloud: Where did people discover Peter, Paul and Mary? Where did people discover Simon and Garfunkel? Tonight, we discovered River Whyless at Lincoln Hall. They are making history current, and currently making history.


Jalen N’Gonda returns to Chicago to play the Riv with Lake Street Dive on Saturday Oct 27
The closest River Whyless performs again is in Indianapolis, at the White Rabbit Cafe on Friday August 24


freddie gibbs

Over ten years has passed since Gibbs debut and his growth has never slowed. With a penchant for rapping about women, drugs, and chicken; he has flowed his way to indie rap royalty. His new release, Freddie, is more of the same hard core thug rap he has always been slinging; however, it still sounds just as good, having lost zero edge over the years.

What sets him apart from a large crowd of rappers is he has never lost his sense of humor. Take this records cover art for example: it is a perfect recreation of Teddy Pendergrass’ Teddy album circa ‘79. Who else would do that? Paying homage to influence and history in such a legit and hilarious way is just Gibbs’ style. Always has been.

Missing here is some of the inspirational Chicago raps that brought him prominence in the 2000s. It is no surprise,  given he hasn’t lived here in a long time, but has been on the West Coast for years; hence the laid back style that dominates the record. We’re still with you Freddie. Keep bringing it and we’ll keep listen’.


Gibbs’ has no Chicago dates yet. Hopefully he’ll come home soon. His Thalia Hall set a few years ago on 4/20 was the most smoke filled show we have ever attended!


Nine inch nails
bad witch
the null corporation

This is not your daddy’s Nine Inch Nails. This is the end result of many different iterations of the band converging into one focused release. Trent Reznor has always been a master of bottling pessimistic rage, but his work with Atticus Ross (now the 2nd official member of NIN) over the past decade in film soundtracks has culminated with the 3rd and final entry into a trilogy of EPs. With 2016’s Not the Actual Events, the duo explored self reflection and destruction. 2017’s Add Violence questioned the fractured world in which we currently live, and searched for reasons. Bad Witch answers those questions. It’s our fault, and we’re fucked.

Like most Trent Reznor releases, Bad Witch swings like a pendulum from untempered frenzy to nihilistic dissonance, with bouts of haunting minimalism inhabiting the center of oscillation. Upon first listen, this half hour finale to the triptych is, on the surface, a hard sell to die hard NIN fans. But with repeat listens, it reveals pieces of itself as the sound we’ve heard slowly evolve since 1989. “Ahead of Ourselves” harkens back to the abrupt beats of Reznor’s reign of the industrial scene of the ‘90s. Throughout the album, the saxophone features prominently in a way not heard since Reznor’s work on the Lost Highway soundtrack. “God Break Down the Door” eerily reminds us of Bowie, who Trent was never shy about listing as a musical hero and whom collaborated with Reznor multiple times.

The album devotes half the runtime to instrumental closing tracks that lean heavily on the duo’s ability to impart dread through minimalism. “I’m Not from This World” combines Reznor’s early video game soundtrack work with his Ghosts releases and the widely celebrated scores with Atticus Ross. As usual, Reznor does not let himself off the hook from his lyrical musings. If anything, he blames himself more than his subjects. But this unnerving instrumental track's title makes us wonder if he finally feels like he’s lost in a world he doesn’t understand. “Over and Out” ends the album in a very Year Zero way – an 18 minutes opus that devolves into complete dissonance and a warning that “time is running out.”

Bad Witch is a short, yet powerful record. As raw and off the cuff as it sounds, it’s always impressive to see Reznor and Ross create an entire world for us to live within. This world, however, may be beyond saving. Like other great NIN albums, it deserves to be played loud. Ear-shatteringly loud. Over and over and over again. We can only hope that by doing so, the next moves will become clear and we can prove Reznor wrong.

Only 11 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.

Shit Mirror
Ahead of Ourselves
God Break Down the Door


NIN is playing three nights at Aragon Ballroom in October.  People waited in-person at the box office for hours and hours to get tickets. You may have heard about it.

Postscript: Year Zero’s jabs at Bush were pretty obvious, but I quite enjoy the (somewhat) more nuanced jab at our current president with this album title.



Sometimes the story behind a band can outshine the music. In Birdtalker’s case they run together to make this debut album something truly special. Zach and Dani Green were married in 2012. Zach was a musician, Dani was not. One day Zach asked if Dani would help him with a song he was working on and as it turned out she was a songwriter after all, and Birdtalker was born. Their friends joined in and the quintet worked on songs together for a year before they started to record this stunning debut. It’s so easy going, lovely, and engrossing that it sounds like they have been playing these songs for a decade or more. The true test of a good tune: can it sound relaxed and natural but still immediate and important. This entire album fits that bill perfectly.

“Leave what’s heavy behind” is such a simple lyric but with Zach and Dani’s harmonies and the folky sound flowing behind it takes on a pristine quality that makes it unspeakably gorgeous. It’s an anthem for right now, “Are you feeling fearful brother, are you feeling fearful sister, the only way to lose that fearful feeling, replace it with love that’s healing.” With so much to fear in the growing calamity of our nation this is a tune that could heal so many.

There is so much more of that; from songs exploring the difficulties of relationships to our treatment of others to how we see a “good man;” each of these tunes explores the depth of their subjects so thoroughly its breathtaking. Do yourself a favor and put this on now.


Unfortunately they have no Chicago dates but they are playing Shank Hall in Milwaukee on August 22nd. Tix go on sale this Friday. They haven’t played here since last summer so we hope they come back this fall.


kamasi washington
heaven and earth
shoto mas, the young turks

Kamasi Washington has been crushing the sax in the music industry for over a decade, most famously on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, which he also arranged. It was with 2015’s The Epic, however, that he became a household name. That three-hour behemoth was indeed Epic, serving as an introduction to jazz for modern listeners. And while this year’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime is no slouch, it’s the content that most intrigues us. It is not only the best he’s done from a musical perspective, Kamasi explores some serious themes over the course of the two discs.

As explained in a tweet: “The Earth side of this album represents the world as I see it outwardly, the world that I am a part of. The Heaven side of this album represents the world as I see it inwardly, the world that is a part of me. Who I am and the choices I make lie somewhere in between.” I can’t begin to understand or explain everything this album represents, and it would be an offense to attempt to summarize it in a limited medium such as this site. This, like his previous output, will continue to reveal its secrets over the coming years. If there’s anything to glean from the explanation from Kamasi, this isn’t jazz for purists. This isn’t off the cuff – it’s a thought out and expertly crafted message.

As to be expected, the album features Afro-Latin music in spades. “Fists of Fury” is a Latin track that almost unhinges from the level of groove throughout, and features the first taste of Kamasi’s destructive saxophone abilities. The second disc opens with a full symphony slowly swelling in front of a wordless chorus. Coming off of KPL and I’s concert review last week, “Via Lua Vi Sol” features perfect vocoder use, while Afro drumming, smooth upright basslines, and trombone and bass solos fill your soul.

It’s hard to describe in 364 words what you get from over two hours of compelling jazz. It’s a great record that needs to be heard by most people. As our resident jazz fan, I will admit that I can see why some won’t appreciate Heaven and Earth. Kamasi is interested in teaching us about musical history, and specifically jazz history, but he’s more of a traditional composer than jazz bandleader. The album feels so well crafted and oiled that it’s more of a skyscraper than a painting. It was built on layer and layer of foundation that needed to sound specific ways or else the work of art would crumble. It isn’t built on raw emotion, or driven by improvisation, and that’s what bothers a purist.

While you may hear the word ‘derivative’ thrown around, even by me if you spend enough time in my company, the fact is – art reproduction is important. In some ways, it’s the only way art can truly grow. With improvisation, one can limit themselves to their own creative abilities and ideas. By taking the best pieces of a myriad of influences, Kamasi is able to build the tallest and most impressive jazz high-rise we’ve seen in many years.

Only 26 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.

Fists of Fury
Vi Lua Vi Sol


Kamasi and his band are playing The Riviera on Saturday Nov. 3rd. Tickets are still available at $37.

Postscript: I didn’t say much about the tunes here, but the group Kamasi has gathered here is truly inspiring. Funky, avant-garde, Latin, Afro-beat, R&B. It’s almost too much to handle, but it holds throughout. The crew on this record deserves our respect just for keeping the doors from blowing off.


death grips
year of the snitch
third worlds, harvest

It is true that there are more unique musicians than ever before, but few reach the uniqueness that is Death Grips. They burst on the scene in ‘11 with mixtape Exmilitary. Six albums and several breakups later they gift us with Year Of The Snitch, an enthralling and intense journey into the brain of lyricist MD Ride and musicians Zach Hill and Andy Morin. Their combination of industrial, metal, punk, and hip-hop has never been repeated. Some have tried but none have been able to garner the extreme sound that Death Grips captures. This is not a casual listen. This requires attention to be paid. Enter at your own risk.


Currently Death Grips has no US dates on their slate. We hope that changes soon. 


real friends
smiling on the surface

Chi Suburb emo rockers Real Friends have always brought it and this track is no different. “I’m caught up in an empty room, filled with second thoughts and gloom, I’ll keep smiling on the surface.” Couldn’t think of a better way to sum up the last year and a half. 

They are playing what is billed as “The Last” Vans Warp Tour at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre on July 21st. If it wasn’t Pitchfork weekend we would be there, just for nostalgia sake.

St. Lucia
a brighter love / paradise is waiting

80’s inspired pop is right up our alley and St. Lucia first caught our attention with Matter a couple years ago. This is their first new material since and it is steely pop gold. Originally a solo project of South African musician Jean-Philip Grobler it has now grown into a full band and this classic single (with an A and B side) is so sleek it hurts. Their third full length is on its way and we can’t wait. 

St. Lucia is playing the Concord on October 3rd. Tix go on sale this Friday at 10 am. 

who we are EP

Perienaly punk rockers the Descendents waste no time getting to the point. Just look at the album cover. The lyrics are right there. Milo, Bill, Stephen, and Karl are heros of punk and always will be. 

They are playing 350 fest at Tinley Park on August 25th with Less Than Jake, Mest, A Wilhelm Scream, Sincere Engineer and Burn Rebuild. Sounds like a great line up for $45!   

bad religion
the kids are alt-right

Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and company are back with their first new music since 2013 and it’s a doozy; attacking the moment with the razor sharp consistency we expect from them. Using a trope from The Who thru The Offspring thru Fall Out Boy (who have all put out similar titled songs) is not only hilarious, it works so damn well we have no words. We can’t wait to see them at Riot Fest. 

Consistently the best punk band we have ever witnessed. If you go to Riot Fest, go see them. Period. 

neighborhood #3 (Power out)

Recorded as part of Canada’s Polaris Prize Winner Cover Sessions Series (that’s a mouthful) brings two of our favorite Canadian acts together as up and comers Weaves cover Arcade Fire’s classic off their debut album, which is nearing its 15th anniversary. Damn time flies. 

No current Chicago plans on their docket. We just saw them at Schubas way back in issue #1, but we don’t expect them back till late fall. 



  • Let’s Eat Grandma - Ava

  • Gorillaz ( feat. Snoop Dog and Jamie Principle) - Hollywood

  • The New Respects - We Ain’t Going Nowhere

  • John Mark McMillan and Sarah McMillan - Death In Reverse

  • Henry Jamison - The Wild Quartets EP

  • Wet - You’re Not Wrong

  • Alec Benjamin - The Boy In The Bubble

  • Jealous of the Birds - Plastic Skeletons (Acoustic)



Dreamy, beachy, and catchy; an altogether great debut from this teenage band out of Vancouver. Most of whom aren’t even old enough to drive. When Stranger Things is over we hope to find this still going for Finn Wolfhard and crew. 

Calpurnia is listed among other great acts at Riot Fest this year. The schedule is yet to be released.



Gang Gang Dance  /  kazuashita  /  4AD

Wow! This is a gorgeous album from the Brooklyn based experimentalists. Taking influences from all around the world, the electronica they produce is breathtaking and perplexing like all great music should be. Lets hope we don’t have to wait seven more years for more.

They are gracing the Empty Bottle with a show on September 10th.  


priscilla renea  /  coloured  /  white rose garden, thirty tigers

Is she country . . . gospel . . . R&B . . . who cares! She is all of those and more. The most impressive debut  in awhile, this songwriter turned performer is phenomenal and we hope she hits the big time with this record. 

No Chicago dates yet for this talent. Visit us soon Ms. Renea! 


T. hardy morris  /  dude, the obscure  /  normaltown

The Dead Confederate frontman leans more into the psych folk than his band with this third solo effort. A bit less dour than his previous work, Dude, The Obscure, is a journey into this rockers mind and it’s a complicated place.

THe has no Chicago dates at the moment. We would love to see him at The Bottle. Just saying . . .


the record company  /  all of this life  /  concord

Blues rock is tricky. You can either sound regurgitated and sloppy or honed and fresh. The Record Company falls into the later category. You can tell their live shows are an event. 

They are dropping by The Riv on September 29th with Madisen Ward and Mama Bear in support. Tix are going for $32.50. 


lera lynn and guests  /  plays well with others  /  single lock

This duet album is so fine we don’t know what to say. Ms. Lynn is joined by the best in americana including her producer John Paul White of defunct duo Civil Wars. It’s a Friday night with a glass of bourbon record. Not for casual listening. These artists have too much to say. 

Lynn is swinging into City Winery on September 21st. It’ll run you $22 - $32. Will be worth it. 


this wild life  /  petaluma  /  epitaph

Only California could produce an acoustic emo duo. While these two produce music that may be eye rolling at times; they are earnest and honest, which is much needed at the moment. 

This Wild Life is also performing at “The Last” Vans Warped Tour on July 21st at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre



freeway / think free / new rothchilds, roc nation

Since 2015 rapper Freeway has lived with kidney failure, receiving dialysis 3 times a week to keep him alive while he waits on a transplant. So it comes as no surprise that this subject dominates a good part of new record Think Free. We don’t blame him, we wish more artists would flow about their actual lives.

Freeway has no Chicago dates at this time.

marshmello / joytime ii / marshmello

Remember this is still the most popular genre for 20 year olds and under. Even if you don’t get it, don’t understand it, it doesn’t make it not worthy to be included in the annals of music history. Some people disliked Mozart. Many hated rock and roll. Remember this when musicians like Marshmello are heralded years from now.  

He was just in town this spring at Navy Pier and drew a sold out crowd. 

dawes / passwords / hub

Joining the ranks of rock bands exploring the doubts and fears of now, Dawes releases what may be their best work to date.

They are opening for Jeff Lynne at Allstate Arena on August 15th. 

vacationer / mindset / downtown

A perfect album for the present. Trippy, atmospheric and fever inducing, this album by multi instrumentalist Kenny Vasoli will go perfect as the background music at your next get together. 

He is playing Lincoln Hall on July 19th. Show starts at 8 pm and is $15 ($17 doors)

paul cauthen / have mercy / lightning rod

In the style of Johnny Cash he sings: “you can change, you racist, fascists, nihilists and bigots, I’m calling you out my friend.” It is a stark way to start the record and he continues to impress throughout. We’ll call this throwback modern country with a conscience. 

He is currently opening for Shakey Graves, which is the perfect fit if you ask us. They have no Chicago dates coming up.

jack river / sugar mountain / hopeless utopian

Holly Rankin, aka Jack River, is a name you should remember. We believe this Australian pop producer/singer,songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is going to be big. 

She has no U.S. dates on her tour slate. Too bad, we are hoping to catch her live soon. 

ashe / the rabbit hole / mom+pop

Indie R&B is a broad genre these days yet Ashe fits squarely in the middle. Not experimental enough to lean to the left, yet not traditional enough to go right. This debut EP shows real promise. 

Currently she has no tour dates planned.

teyana taylor / k.t.s.e. / getting out our dreams, def jam

The latest Kanye produced effort to come out this June shows us the range of singer/teenage reality star Teyana Taylor, and this one is up there with KIDS SEE GHOSTS. The production is on point. Her performance is quite well done. We’ll see what the next one brings. Still can’t separate it Kanye. Still can’t. 

She is opening for Jeremih at The Riv on August 19th. 

arp / zebra / kemado, mexican summer

Alexis Georgopoulos has been around for years performing under the nom du plume of Arp. He creates aural soundscapes that defy your imagination. Beautiful stuff here. 

We couldn’t find any tour dates at all for Arp. Does he leave NYC? 

lacrae and zaytoven / let the trap say amen / reach

We have to admit that Gospel Rap is not a genre for us. But when Zaytoven, the top trap producer (who is religious himself,) teams up with the top name in the genre we pay attention. It’s good rap and we really don’t miss the negative connotations in a lot of hip hop. Still can’t make us like trap beats though. Sorry Zaytoven. Just can’t do it. It’s too slow for us. 

No Chicago dates for these two in Chicago. It doesn’t look like Lecrae does secular venues. 


  • This Saturday is New Belgium’s Tour de Fat with headliners Best Coast! It’s only $15 for some great tunes, entertaining acts and cycling fun. Check it out if you are not downtown protesting . . . 
  • We are taking our first annual 4th of July break next week! There will not be an issue next week but we will return for issue #18 out on July 12th! Have a happy 4th everybody! 
  • In the meantime here are some shows to check out this week! Soon enough we’ll figure out a better way to package these. Patience. Patience. 

Thursday June 28th: 
Maps & Atlases / Prism Tats
Lincoln Hall  8PM  $16

Saturday June 30th: 
Tour da Fat with headliners Best Coast
Humbolt Park   12PM - 5PM  $15

Remember Sports / Nadine / Tasha
Sub T (downstairs)  7:30PM  Sold Out

Har Mar Superstar sings Sam Cooke (Late show)
The Empty Bottle  11PM doors  $17

Zoofunkyou / Stampy / Zombie Manana
Lincoln Hall   8PM  $10  ($12 doors)

Sunday July 1st:
serpentwithfeet / Lee Mo / Jordan Zawideh (DJ set) 
The Empty Bottle  8:30PM doors  $14

Monday July 2nd: 
Natalie Grace Alford / MG Bailey / Kristen Ford Band / Social Que
Reggies Rock Club   7PM   $5

Wednesday July 4th: 
Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band / Devil in a Woodpile / Al Scorch
City Winery (patio)   3PM  $12  

Friday July 6th: 
West Fest (see our Summer Guide above for more info.)

Saturday July 7th: 
West Fest

Sugar Free Guns / Planetsexploder / Element
Schubas   8PM  $10 ($12 doors) 

Shame / Corridor / C.H.E.W. 
The Empty Bottle  8:30PM  $12 ($14 day of) 

Now, Now / Wens
Lincoln Hall  9PM  $15

Sunday July 8th: 
West Fest

Kevin Morby / Cut Worms / Anna Burch
The Empty Bottle  8:30PM  Sold Out (remember the Bottle always keeps some tix back, show up early)

Monday July 9th: 
YOB / Bell Witch / Super Secret Special Guest
Reggies Rock Club   7PM doors  $20 ($25 doors) 

Tuesday July 10th:
Brigid Mae Power / I.E. Kokoro
The Empty Bottle  8:30PM doors  $10 

Wednesday July 11th: 
Bent Knee / Gatherers / Lume
Schubas   7PM   $10 ($12 door) 

Beat Kitchen  7:30PM  $12

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:

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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.


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