Welcome to issue #26 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! This week we made it to Schubas for Brittany Campbell and the tape release for Jason Balla’s new project ACCESSORY at the Empty Bottle! So much new music dropped last Friday we had a hard time cutting it down so our Reviews section is a bit long this week. We got the genius of Tash Sultana, post-rock gods Mogwai doing another soundtrack, and the instant classic IDLES album Joy As An Act Of Resistance! That’s all here and soooo much more. Come back next week for write ups on all sorts of acts playing Chicago the next few days. There’s Superorganism, Let’s Eat Grandma and FIDLAR coming your way! And our Riot Fest preview . . . It’s gonna be a big issue! Better get started . . .
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 nineteen 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
(tape release) / frank heat waves / kristian north / fran
The Empty Bottle
ACCESSORY / all photos by KPL
Record release shows in the Chicago indie scene can turn into a musicians’ party, and this was certainly the case Monday night at The Empty Bottle as Jason Balla celebrated the release of his newest project’s first record. ACCESSORY is his first true solo project, and it seemed that half the crowd was made up of other musicians there to check out Balla’s new work Blue Tape. Members of Melkbelly, Twin Peaks, Lala Lala, and J. Hernandez were all in attendance. Balla’s other bands, NE-HI and Dehd, were there to support him too. And for sure there were others I didn’t recognize. Regardless of the all star audience, solo project of Chicagoan Maria Jacobson, Fran, set the night off perfectly. She strolled onstage with her drummer in tow and started playing her brand of low-key indie rock. (Really it’s her voice that sets her apart. Unassuming, yet lilting in all the right ways, they are really the star of Fran’s sound.) She played a short, twenty minute set, but it started the evening off on just the right tone. She is playing the 312 Urban Block Party on September 21st. It’s free with an RSVP.
Somewhere between War on Drugs and Father John Misty lies the music of Kristian North. His brand of rock is a rolling tune over which he can tell a lyrical story. He had shades of Lou Reed in his vocal performance, and, with his sunglasses reflecting the bar lights, he looked like he was walking down the Vegas strip with his guitar in hand. The Montreal-based musician was a great bridge from the mellowness of Fran to the multitude of electronic sounds created by following act Freak Heat Waves. An electronic duo made up of Canadians Steven Lind and Thomas di Ninno (who played guitar and drums for Kristian North that night, which makes sense if you are touring together as it’s quite a money saver) they each had a decent size synth, pedal setups, and produced rather melodic experimental electronic jams. They had the crowd hooked from the first tune. Think stripped down Animal Collective if they knew how to create a solid song anymore. It was good to see Balla bringing in some neighbors from up north to share the night with.
After the stage was cleared, Balla was joined by local guitarists Dave Vettraino and Vivian McConnell, with Shiraz Ackley on drums. They began running through most (if not all) of Blue Tape. The three live guitars set off the layers of sound he had created in the recording, and the extended jams that they attached to a couple of tunes washed away the stripped-down sound from the album. Balla took up center stage and, with closed eyes, crooned through the set. He was a very different performer than his never stop moving and dancing self in Dehd, or the confident co-front man of NE-HI, making it clear these were personal tunes that mean a lot to him. As the set winded down, they all seemed to settle in. And by the close, Balla had abandoned his guitar and stood center stage swaying as he bit into the lyrics, drum track and guitars swirling around him. I highly recommend checking out ACCESSORY the next time he decides to play a show for this project. If you hadn’t noticed, he’s kind of a busy guy . . .
Brittany Campbell / all photos by JCB
Brittany Campbell is a Brooklyn-based, actress, dancer, producer, singer, songwriter and animator. I’m exhausted just saying that sentence, so I have no idea how she pulls it all off. While she’s from Brooklyn, she’s currently calling Chicago home while she works with the touring Hamilton musical. During breaks from playing Angelica Schuyler, she’s been playing a few shows to get the word out on one of her many passions – music. I caught one of those shows last week at Schubas, and damn - it was good.
Her latest album, Stay Gold, came out earlier this year, and is a lovely blend of indie pop and contemporary R&B. It’s minimal, but with beats in all the right spots. Brittany has hushed, intimate, vocals, but can belt it out loud when appropriate. It’s a dichotomy that played out with ease in a relatively quiet back bar room. There were less than 30 people around the stage when Brittany and her band stepped up, but she didn’t seem to notice or change her set at all. The indie cred came full force, clad in a houndstooth overcoat, bundled up tight, fedora expertly pulled over one eye, and a lonely spotlight on her center-stage guitar strumming. Those hushed vocals drew the crowd in real close, silently hanging on every chord and word…
That’s when the lights go up, the coat comes off, and Campbell’s band brings out the soul. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than tight drums, buttery smooth basslines, and synths cause ataxia. Clearly, the rest of the crowd agreed, as there wasn’t a solitary figure in the room. Brittany seemed to be as comfortable as could be, too, owning the stage like it was a sold out night at Hamilton. She sang intimately to listeners, asked the crowd to get low with her and sing along to a song about getting fucked up (“Buzz” from aforementioned Stay Gold).
Until I finally win the Hamilton $10 ticket lottery, I’ll gladly settle for seeing this burgeoning talent again. She plans to go on a tour this fall, so we’ll definitely keep you posted on dates. Until then, keep an eye out on her bandcamp (link below) for pop up shows.
Check out Brittany Campbell’s latest record on Bandcamp. You can also check out her music video, music, production, animation entirely by Campbell, here.
ACCESSORY is the new solo project from Chicago indie rock mainstay Jason Balla. His other three bands NE-HI, Dehd, and Earring are all established in the scene, and how he had time to perfect these eight wonderfully atmospheric gems is just as perplexing as the music itself. Heavy reverb surrounds his guitar turning it into an instrument of epic echo, and his vocals (run through the same kind of processing) reflect and refract back on themselves, producing what can only be described as an acoustic chamber of mirrors. The result is disharmonic in all the right ways. A lovely record from start to finish, he has a knack for earworms and closer “Ahead” is still stuck in my head hours after the first listen.
We couldn’t find any upcoming shows for ACCESSORY, but when they play again we’ll let you know! In the meantime go buy the album here!
lonely lands , mom+pop
Possibly the most gifted musician of her generation, Melbourne native and “one-person band,” Tash Sultana has finally released her debut album. After years of EPs and hitting the tops of charts in multiple countries, winning awards in Australia and beyond, she releases Flow State and it deserves every accolade it will get. The self taught musician played nearly every instrument on the album (she says she knows how to play fifteen instruments and is only 23). The result is incredibly engrossing, genre defying, and downright perfect. If you have never heard of Tash Sultana, now is the time. There is nothing else to say . . . Just listen to it.
The Aragon is hosting her on November 9th. Tix are going for a cool $45 and selling fast!
Post rock might have fallen out of favor since the early 2000s, but nobody has told Scottish elder statesmen Mogwai that. They put out some of the best material that genre had to offer in the 90s, and have been quietly making a name for themselves with soundtrack work in the last decade and a half. With quite a few documentaries under their belt, Mogwai finally gets a crack at a major motion picture, Kin. “Eli’s Theme”, a beautiful, piano driven overture, is a classic Mogwai opener - simple, yet emotionally moving, chord progressions that build up over time to feverish sonic assaults. As this is a soundtrack, these thunderous tracks need to be used sparingly, and Mogwai excels - with tracks like “Flee” and “Scrap” sounding just enough like the post-rock output of the 90s, yet delicate enough to not overwhelm the visuals it scores.
One last thought - soundtracks are particularly interesting to me because they can work without their visual counterpart. It doesn’t usually happen the other way around. In this case, the movie is getting torn apart by critics but the music tells a very convincing story on its own.
Mogwai doesn’t tour often, and rarely outside of the United Kingdom, but if they come stateside, we’ll let you know!
joy as an act if resistance.
England has a long history of punk rock. It’s where the genre was birthed in the late seventies and Bristol product IDLES fits right into that chronology. Following last years blistering full length debut Brutalism comes this collection of hardcore punk that reaches near instant classic status by the end of it’s twelve tracks. It's utter musical madness with massive amounts of lyrical meaning. Singer Joe Talbot is quoted as saying that "this album is an attempt to be vulnerable to our audience and to encourage vulnerability; a brave naked smile in this shitty new world." He deals with so many subjects it’s hard to keep track: immigration, Brexit, and class war on the political side; and self-love, toxic-masculinity and infant mortality on the personal side (He lost a child in childbirth which the song “June” deals with in heartbreaking fashion.) This is as intimate as punk rock gets. Joy As An Act Of Resistance isn’t breaking new ground, plenty of punk singers have used their personal experiences to pepper their music with emotion, but it is, hands down, one of the best rock albums of the year.
They are swinging through Lincoln Hall on Friday September 14th at 10PM. Tix are only $15!
big red machine
big red machine
justin vernon & Aron dessner
Justin Vernon has so many projects going that it is tough to keep track of them all. The genius behind Bon Iver has been a part of three other projects this decade and his latest team up with Aaron Dessner of The National is some of the most gorgeous art-pop released this year. The name comes from the nickname of the Cincinnati Reds teams from the seventies, but Vernon has reportedly said it gives him the impression of a “beating heart,” which could explain the pumping rhythms and loops Dressner (who writes most of the music for The National) uses to back Vernon’s poetic lyrics and affecting falsetto vocals. There are a few ballads here, in typical fashion for both artists. The beautiful “Hymnostic” and “People Lullaby” are spiritually melting; but it is the beats and electronic sounds of songs like “Lyla” and “Deep Green” that truly make for an interesting listen.
It looks like the two are not performing these tunes live at the moment. Hopefully they decide to at some point.
music from the big pink (remastered 2018)
umg , capital
Purists have argued against remastering for years, so it was no surprise when Robbie Robertson, guitarist and one of two surviving members of legendary rock and rollers The Band, announced there would be a new remastering of their classic debut album for its 50th anniversary some fans were up in arms. They called it a weak attempt at a cash grab, but the limited edition 45rpm pink vinyl double LP set they put out is only priced at $38. A pittance compared to the heavier price tags of other limited edition remasters that have come out over the years. So if it wasn’t really for the money, why would Robertson subject their 1968 classic to a remastered reboot? Because he can.
However, Bob Clearmountain (who has worked with bands ranging from Springsteen and The Who to The Pretenders and Simple Minds), working with the original four track master tapes, took what was a gloriously impromptu sounding masterpiece and turned it into a hollow shell of its former self. It’s all still there, the broken out of sync harmonies, Garth Hudson’s fantastic organ work, the lazy beat of Levon Helm’s drums, and the stories told in song that birthed Americana (even though all but Helm were Canadian). Nothing is missing theoretically, but the warmth that these tracks contained, the fire that built a genre is somehow stripped away. Maybe all that is missing is the record crackle from my Dad’s original pressing, that I used and abused in youth; but that can’t be all it is. It seems like the essence of innocence that exists in that original recording, the ignorance of what they were really about to accomplish, the insistence to play facing each other in the studio, and the originality of the sound those five men developed in a basement in upstate New York falls flat in this new remaster. Leave me the original ‘68 recording, you can keep your fancy upgrades.
Movies, to me, have always been a balance of visuals and auditory compliments. A movie without a good soundtrack, is like a burger without fixings. It can satisfy, but something will always be missing. Soundtracks, however, can have an incredible impact on their own. The ability to tell a story with just tones and mood is part of why this site exists. I credit John Carpenter with my long-standing appreciation for soundtrack work. His work with horror movies, and to a great extent soundtracks, is nothing short of groundbreaking. Daniel Davies is the godson of this legend, and after working in a few rock bands and contributing to Carpenter’s film work, he’s breaking into the cinematic industry on his own. While guitars do build textured backgrounds, the synths are front and center throughout Events Score. It’s not surprising, considering the influence of Carpenter. “Shadows Alive” is straight out of a slasher flick, and “Stasis” is a beautiful coda, after the heroes have defeated the terrible monster. Events Score might not have a visual counterpart, but it’s a moving piece that is a surefire selling point for a new composer.
No word on if Davies is taking his show on the road, but we’ll keep our ears to the ground.
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
Blue suede dudes
True this track is already a couple of weeks old, but we just found it and we dig this Chicago quartets easy going, jangly brand of rock.
They just played a record release at The Empty Bottle on Sunday but we can’t find the record anywhere. Where’s the record dudes!
i saw the light
Another band that defies its genre, Manchester darlings Whyte Horses newest track feels like a lounge number rapped in the gloss of disco. Which probably explains the fact that it’s a cover of Todd Rundgren’s 1974 pop classic.
Whyte Horses don’t have any stateside tour plans in the near future.
i'm on fire
This unrecognizable cover of one of The Boss’ most recognizable tunes is rather stunning. Yet another gorgeous tune from one of this years break out artists.
She is hitting Lincoln Hall on October 4th. Tix are available for $15.
what am i to do
A political track from one of Chicago’s premiere MC’s, in which he explores the question, what do you do when you’re black in this social climate.
He’s coming back home for the 312 Urban Block Party at Goose Island Brewery of Friday Sept. 21st. It’s free with an RSVP!
An acoustic pop number by up and comer Ari Staprans Leff whose stage name Lauv is Latvian for Lion. Not usually our bag, but this one hooked us.
He is opening for Ed Sheeran and Snow Patrol at Soldier Field on October 4th.
more notable jams from this week
The Wombats - Bee-Sting
San Holo , Bipolar Sunshine - brighter days
Zhavia Ward - Deep Down
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDED NEW RELEASES
Terry / I’m Terry / Upset The Rhythm
Another great album by an Australian band this year. The indie scene in Melbourne and beyond never ceases to amaze. This local supergroup (all the members are in other bands) plays straight up indie rock with some post-punk and new wave influences. If you’re looking for them on Spotify keep scrolling, they are way down on the list when you search Terry.
As of now they are only hitting the UK on tour. Here’s hoping they come stateside soon.
Iron and Wine / Weed Garden / Sub Pop
Sam Beam has seventeen years under his belt as Iron and Wine, and the experience shows on this six song EP that is anchored by sure hit “Last of Your Rock ‘n’ Roll Heroes.” It’s not his best work but it’s still I&W, which means we still dig the hell out of it.
Beam is hitting the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee on October 4th and tix are going for $35.
Courtney Hartman , Taylor Ashton / Been on Your Side / Courtney Hartman , Taylor Ashton , Free Dirt
The soft harmonies and acoustic based folk tunes these two have put together on this project are so affecting we had to listen to it a couple times. Great musicians in their own right the two together produce magic.
They don’t have a Chicago date on their current tour. That makes us sad . . .
Anna Calvi / Hunter / Domino
Combining decades of influences from Patti Smith, Nick Cave, David Bowie, and PJ Harvey, among many others, the dark pop rock London born Anna Calvi produces is addictive. Her deep, throaty vocals contain the material dreams are made of.
There are currently no tour dates for Calvi in the US. We don’t blame her, we wouldn’t come here right now either.
Muncie Girls / Fixed Ideals / Buzz
The sophomore album from this Exeter England trio who deliver classic pop punk influenced indie rock that is as solid as Lande Hekt’s vocals. We can’t wait to see them live, which is where this genre always excels.
And it looks like we get the chance! Muncie Girls are hitting the Cobra Lounge on November 11th. Tickets are going for only $12!
MORE NOTABLE RELEASES
Amos Lee / My New Moon / Dualtone
In his seventh studio album, folk artist Amos Lee brings us encouragement. While playing music at the bedside of patients battling serious illnesses, Lee witnessed pain and loss and suffering. He also witnessed the positive effect music had on each patient. He shares with us now the lessons he learned: to respond to life’s current chaos with personal exploration and growth. Whatever life throws at you, find a way to help see yourself through to the other side. Even if “sometimes, sometimes all you got is a song.”
Currently there are no Chicago dates for Mr. Lee, but you can find your new moon here.
Wild Nothing / Indigo / Captured Tracks , Secretly
Pushing forward with one of the best retro-80s sounds we have in the current decade, Wild Nothing clean up the hook-driven synth tracks even further from their last record but don’t lose the attitude. It’s bombastic, but doesn’t blow the doors off… like the last record came dangerously close to doing.
Wild Nothing plays Thalia Hall on Nov. 9th. Tickets are $25
Aaron Lee Tasjan / Karma For Cheap / New West
You know that old adage “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes”? Tasjan is here to suggest that we first need to take an honest walk in our own shoes. With lyrics such as “the truth is so hard to believe,” he is not quite talking about fake news in the political sense, but applying that idea on an individual level. We can’t ignore ourselves just because the world around us is going to shit, the world needs us all to keep on keeping on. When the going gets tough, look inwards. Dig deep. Strength is there.
He’s played in Chicago many times but is not slated to pass through this tour. You can buy Karma For Cheap.
Passenger / Runaway / Black Crow , Nettwerk
Mike Rosenberg, aka Passenger, brings twangy folk-Americana on a road trip around the world, introducing listeners to all the influences he’s gathered in the past 3 decades.
Passenger currently has dates in the states, but none in the Chicago area. Boo.
Jameson Cooper and James Dickenson / Spohr: Violin Duets, Vol. 1 / Naxos
Louis Spohr was one of the greatest violinists ever, and is known to this day for his frenetic compositions with little reprieve. These two professionals take on the difficult duets in style, with very few noticeable mistakes and even some clever renderings of less impressive suites. Naxos is planning to release quite a few more of these volumes, and if this first is any indication of future results - I’m pumped.
Juanita Stein / Until the Lights Fade / Nude , Handwritten
After 19 years in the industry, Stein shares with us a series of stories in her sophomore solo album. At times she is the author, while other times she sings in the third person. Just as she theatrically matches the melody to the mood, Stein seamlessly travels between musical eras between bars, keeping the listener poised to make each emotional transition right along with her. We can’t wait to see how her theatrics plays out on stage.
She’s bringing her show to Schubas on October 30th. Tickets are going for only $10
Troye Sivan / Bloom / Universal
Yet another solid album out of Australia this week. The young pop crooner Troye Sivan put out a solid album or synth and vocal wonder. His unabashed references to his life as a gay man show how far we’ve come as a society. Artists used to have to work in code, now Sivan can just come out and be as blunt as he wants. Small graces . . .
Sivan is headlining at The Chicago Theatre on October 19th!
King Of The Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller / BMG
An all star cast turned out to do this tribute to the one and only Roger Miller. Kacey Musgraves, Dolly Parton, Lyle Lovett, Loretta Lynn, Cake, and even John Goodman along with many, many more. It’s a must listen for any fan of the legends material.
Alkaline Trio / Is This Thing Cursed? / Epitaph
This punk rock workhorse trio has released 21 studio and live albums in their twenty years together. All of them deserve a listen and they prove with their latest that old men can rock just as hard.
The three are playing Riot Fest next weekend! Who knows when though . . . . see below for more on that. . . .
NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Everybody’s asking: “What’s up with Riot Fest?” They haven’t released any sort of schedule and the third headliner is still up in the air and the fest is almost a week away. What’s up Riot Fest? We know you do things on your own time frame but damn this is coming down to the wire. We’re all waiting to see who’s playing when. The anticipation is brutal!
Thursday September 6th
Let’s Eat Grandma / Odetta Hartman / Boniface
Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors Sold Out
(EB always keeps a few tickets back for door open so you can still get in)
Mt. Joy / Michigander
Thalia Hall 7PM doors Sold Out
(Thalia Hall also keeps some tickets back for doors)
Shonen Knife / Primitive Teeth / Gal Gun
Subterranean 8PM $15
Andy Frasco and The U.N. / Deep Fayd
Beat Kitchen 9PM $15
Friday September 7th
Car Seat Headrest / Naked Giants
The Riv 7:30PM $25
The Hideout 9PM $10
John Mark McMillan / Mike Mains & The Branches / Tyson Motsenbocker
Bottom Lounge 7:30PM $16 ($36 VIP)
The Pietasters / The Crombies / Boomtown United / DJ Chuck Wren
Beat Kitchen 8PM $20
Saturday September 8th
Fidlar / Dilly Dally / Nobro
The Vic 7:30PM $25
Comfort Station Benefit:
Dos Santos / Phoelix / DIM / Campdogzz
Logan Square Memorial 4PM FREE ($20 for Beer Garden Ticket)
Vail / Sunglow / Terror Pigeon
The Hideout 9PM $8
Buffalo Tom : 25th anniversary of “Let Me Come Over”
Metro 7:30PM $25
Subhumans / War On Women / Ugly Bones
Cobra Lounge 7:30PM $18
Sunday September 9th
Monday September 10th
Gang Gang Dance / Deakin
Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $14 ($16 doors)
Givers / Naughty Place
Schubas 8PM $15
Tuesday September 11th
Concord Music Hall 8PM doors $36.50
Sad Baxter / Strawberry Jacuzzi / Impulsive Hearts
Empty Bottle 8:30PM $8
Wednesday September 12th
Nothing / Culture Abuse / Smut
Lincoln Hall 9PM $16
White Denim / Rotem Sivan
House of Blues 6:30PM doors $20
Andrew Bernstein (of Horse Lords) / Timeghost + John Bender Duo
The Hideout 9PM $10
See you at the show Chicago!
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