Hey there, Surfers!
As the year comes to a close, we wanted to take the time to look back at Chicago Crowd Surfer’s first year and our favorite shows and albums of 2018 in a timeline fashion. Most sites are coming at you with their top 50 or 100, but the very idea of ranking all of these artists doesn’t appeal. Each and every one of them deserves the top spot. Call us sentimental, but that’s the way we feel about it. Feel free to check out others top lists (find links in news and announcements), but here you’ll get our view of 2018 and how it was another strong year for women in music. The meer volume of great female musicians, and their astounding output this year, is a reassuring testament to the slow changing of the guard in rock. Chicago’s local scene exploded this year. It was a monumental year for local hip hop, with four groundbreaking artists dropping albums that made the world turn their heads toward our metropolis; Pitchfork Music Fest had the most Chicago acts ever (9), and an amazing string of local indie rock albums came from a scene that could break to national recognition any day. It was one killer year for sure. Thanks for sharing it with us. See you next year, Chicago.
Keep Seeing Live Music!
KPL & JCB
While you’re enjoying the issue check out our Year In Review playlist on Spotify.
This Is Not The End
The tone was set for the rest of the year with this Los Angeles native’s manifesto of seven anthems to gender and racial empowerment. With songs like “Black Sheep”, “Quiet”, and “I Don’t Belong To You”, she decemates the soul with the beauty and quiet anger these tunes carry.
Chicago’s most irreverent and filthy rapper broke the mainstream with this combo of biting personal tunes and sexual explorations that never shy from their tongue in cheek style. Euphorize was the first of two records she dropped this year, but Eden embraces more of the mainstream sound while this one really gets down and dirty from top to bottom. She’s returning home on March 21st for a show at Thalia Hall. Tix are $18.
Between Two Shores
Glen Hansard makes music fit for a small town boy like me—nothin’ snooty. Simple, catchy tunes with personal lyrics and without much mystery. That doesn’t change at all, and familiarity is always nice to have on reserve. ( “Roll on Slow” was in my top 5 played songs of 2018, according to Spotify.) His style has also traditionally been easy to box into indie folk, but Hansard explores horns and keys to bring more R&B and Soul into the fold with Between Two Shores.
Bully / melkbelly
The Empty Bottle
Only the second show we covered, and these two ripped the roof off the Empty Bottle at a Free Monday sold out show. The first time we caught Melkbelly, they blew our minds out the back of our skulls. Miranda Winters can howl with the best, and their tight noise rock jams kept us following all year. Bully came out swinging and tore up the stage, as Alicia Bognanno and company simply destroyed on a freezing winter night.
Winter Slumber: Al Scorch and the Country Soul Ensemble / Micha
Listening to Al Scorch’s music is insufficient to fully realize his passion. He jumped and jigged the entire way through his set at the Empty Bottle, even shaking the speaker stands beside him. Winter Slumber is a series of Sunday afternoon benefit shows. There were mothers sitting on the floor with wide eyed toddlers sitting in their laps, taking in all Al had to offer. We also discovered Jess McIntosh of Joybird, accompanying on violin, and MICHA at this show; two great local female musicians. A review of this show went into our second issue ever - a great model to form our craft and start off the new endeavor of Chicago Crowd Surfer.
We’ve been telling you all year: 2018 is the year of badass women teaching us how to rock again. Early in the year, Betsy Wright and Laura King came out screaming this message. On my first listen to this self-titled debut, I had no idea two people could slam so many hooks and ear-splitting solos into 25 minutes. Not only is this record loud enough to get your blood pumping and short enough to last a quick workout, but it’s also a hell of lot of fun.
I’m With Her
See You Around
This unassuming record was the work of three of country folk’s solo stars: Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O'Donovan, each with their own impressive body of work. A collaboration dating back three years, they finally put out a full length, and it’s a perfect lesson in the beauty of American songcraft. Their harmonies are goldenz, and the spare guitar backing just adds to the simple beauty theses tunes hold. See You Around deserves all the acclaim it receives. They are returning to Chicago via Thalia Hall on March 2nd. Tix are $35.
Thee Oh Sees
Music Frozen Dancing - The Empty Bottle
The whole Music Frozen Dancing fest was great, per usual, but Thee Oh Sees were unbelievable. Two drummers beating the everloving shit out of their skins, John Dwyer furiously coercing every possible sound out of his guitar while yelping and chirping at a crowd so amped on the band’s energy that the barrier was pushed over on me while taking pictures. All while freezing my fucking ass off. This was the show that connected my hobby of photography with the thrill of live music. I was in love, and if I ever forget it, I only have to look down at the scar on my leg from the aforementioned barrier.
Since Doomtree made me move one hot and heavy Riot Fest morning, Dessa stood out as a role model. When she dropped Chime back in February, she graduated to idol. Her genuine confidence on stage is not in spite of her struggles, but rather in gratitude of them. Six months later, Dessa wrote My Own Devices, a book inspiring readers to look within themselves to find the healing strategies that will work best for them, to face the past, process it and move on. Dessa is coming to Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music for what will undoubtedly be a memory maker of an evening.
Sometimes all you need is a voice and a guitar to create musical magic. We caught this Aussie songstress twice this year, and her warmth and charm outweigh her witty and affecting tunes. And when she hits those high notes, the room melts away into bliss. Riding the wave created by “Boys Will Be Boys”,she had an amazing year. Thrush Metal may have been the debut of the year, and we’re hoping for much more from this talented singer/songwriter. She is returning to Chicago for a show on March 29th at Schubas. Tix are $12.
A swirling, weaving symphony of guitars over a driving backbeat creates indie rock gold in the debut from this Chicago act. Famous Dust was a late year discovery for us, but it hasn’t left the playlist since. Can’t wait to catch ‘em open for CAVE and Wand at Lincoln Hall January 17th. Tix are $15.
in tall buildings
This website started as a celebration of Chicago musicians. One of these musicians, Erik Hall, has a project that is at the top of my list of favorite local bands, which puts In Tall Buildings high up on the list of overall faves. Dig into the early issues of Chicago Crowd Surfer, and you’ll find an album review, an interview with the man himself, and a live review at Schubas. Akinetic is his most complete album to date, and it was on my Spotify year end recap for a reason—it’s worth many, many, many repeat listens.
Macro Eye Close Up
The Chicago punk quartet impressed us with this sophomore effort. (They were our first interview, way back in March.) A quick eight tunes of constant rock joy, Sam Fadness’ scowling snarl balanced with Gretchen Hannum’s killer scream makes for one of our favorite punk albums and signaled the start of a great year for the young band. Give Macro Eye Close Up a listen and you’ll understand. Then catch em live on January 4th at Livewire Lounge for a $5 cover, or at The Empty Bottle opening for Slushy on January 10th. Tix are $8.
Our most played record of the year by far. Beautiful rock from one the best songwriters in the business. A 23-year-old shouldn’t be this good. It’s just not fair. Historian is our 2018 wrapped in a time capsule of music. Thanks for the memories, Lucy. She’s opening for Sharon Van Etten at Thalia Hall on February 15th. Tix. are $30.
Pylons / Haymarket Riot / The Ableist / Totally Cashed
Pylon’s Album Release Party
We had seen Pylons just a few weeks prior at Schubas, and were invited to the celebration of Macro Eye Close Up. What we didn’t know, was that they had booked some stellar bands to ramp up the crowd for their release. We were hella ramped after Totally Cashed opened the evening with a screaming rage that can only come from a place of a love for the flexibility of live performance. The Ableist carried the energy, and Haymarket Riot nearly broke the stage with the wild drumming of Brian Wnukowski. Every single one of Pylons’ new songs was well received and lifted us all a bit higher.
It was a breakout year for Sophie Allison. The Nashville-based singer/songwriter scored big with this collection of affecting tunes. It’s one of those “listen front to back, no skip” records. From “Cool”,to hit “Your Dog”, all the way to closer “Wildflowers”, Clean was a revelation of strength.
Manic, joyous, and fantastic, Superorganism blends all our favorite things into one sugar coated synth pop container. A much needed record for those pick me up moments.
Fresh, weird, and innovative. The debut from this band was a long time coming, and lived up to every expectation. Surfer garage rock isn’t a genre often spoken of, but don’t pigeonhole this New York band—there are plenty of psych and Britpop influences to be found in Acid Dad.
The Muckers will always be a personal favorite because I got to spend time with them as people, and they shine from the inside-out. We wrote a few times this year—in the webmag and on social media—that Emir Mohsseni felt destined to leave Iran and perform his psych-rock in America. And he overcame every obstacle, mainly put in place by our own country, his dream destination. We are lucky to have people like The Muckers in America, actively realizing the original American Dream and enhancing our musical flavor.
Young Fathers creates art that is musically beautiful, but that is just the initial draw. Once they sonically have your full attention, they advocate for social concerns using clever lyrics raised through a beautiful vocal presentation. Their simplicity and welcome conviction makes it hard for any naysayers to contest these Scottish gents. Cocoa Sugar is much needed in these trying times.
Freedom is an album that when first released, I probably wouldn’t have said it would be my favorite of the year. In fact, I didn’t even feel it needed a full review back in Issue #5. It’s an album best listened to on headphones—its intimate spiritual journey is not to be shared. Freedom is an album that I’ll throw on during walks throughout the city for years to come. It’s a “best of” that will continue to be just that.
Mambo, baby. Americans are traveling in droves to Cuba lately, so this album seems appropriately timed. Orquesta Akokan’s old school groove can make anyone dance. Sure, there is a ton of history to dig into with the recording, but it’s just pure fun, and sometimes that’s all I want in an album.
I know we aren’t supposed to rank albums here, but Kacey Musgraves has my absolute favorite record of the year. It’s intimate and bold at the same time. At times, it feels like it was made just for me—to remind me of how in love with my wife I am—and at times, it feels like the pop album that country music deserves. It’s fun, grounded, and genre defying. Just listen to Golden Hour already.
Possibly the most inventive and odd record we loved this year. Cherry was at the top of his game with this one. The Chicago artist gave a rousing full band Pitchfork set, and his smooth, loungy tunes are perfect for the party. Flavour is a sonic journey through the decades and the scores of influences that make up Cherry’s sound. He’s playing the Sub T on February 2nd, opening for Vundabar with Slow Pulp in support. Tix are $15.
Dark and gritty post punk from this local quartet who absolutely slaughter every time we see them live. Odd Talk captures their frenetic style with just enough penash to make it accessible to the laymen, while keeping the hardcore, heavy hitting backbone they exemplify. They are opening for Weeknights at The Hideout on February 13th. Tix are not on sale yet.
Care For Me
What a year for the Westside rapper who dropped this insanely great record and sold out dates all over the world this fall. And the past month, with the fifth single “Where It’s At” hitting last Friday, he just keeps dropping tunes. Care For Me is intimate and expansive all at once. It’s a fixture on best of lists this year.
The sister-brother, guitar-drums duo has been around the scene for over a decade and have never stopped rocking it. Red hair flying, they always come to entertain. Hellion Blender turns it up a notch with plenty of Chicago references and flavor. They are hitting the Cubby Bear on January 5th. Tix are $8.
Potentially overshadowed by its extreme cultural significance, operatic tenor Jeremy Dutcher transforms an almost extinct language and culture into a modern masterpiece. Transcendent and soaring, this is a work of art that stirs emotions regardless of your fluency in the language. (Spoiler, you aren’t fluent). Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa is truly beautiful music, so who gives a hoot if you don’t understand it?
Kid Koala - Satellite Turntable Orchestra
Art Institute of Chicago - Stock Exchange Room
April 17th - 9:30pm show
This live exhibit at the Art Institute reminds us that music is a form of art, regardless of genre or perceived notions of the musicians within a genre. Kid Koala beautifully illustrated this reminder by filling his stage with projected visual of live visualizations. Read the review in issue #8 to get the full picture.
photo credit: Art Institute of Chicago
Waxahatchee / Hurray For The Riff Raff / Bedouine
An evening of powerful female vocalists is a recipe for a good heartswell. My heart was full, and I didn’t think it could get any fuller. Alynda Segarra (Hurray For The Riff Raff) ended her set and left the stage, leaving her band to continue their music in the limelight. From my view in the crowd I saw Alynda look back to her family of musicians. Her heart was full of love and pride and awe, and mine burst.
Indie rock beauty from this local five piece that feels spare, groovy, and lush all at the same time. Stef Smith’s vocals float above the pop sheen that covers every inch of this record. This band is right on the verge of a big break, and Parallel Person is a giant step toward that goal. They are opening for Snail Mail at The Metro as part of Tomorrow Never Knows fest. That show is sold out, but you can still get in with a five day TNK pass. It’s $100 but gets you in to any show on the schedule.
This Chicago artist dropped an amazing debut. The producer and saxophonist put on sonic dreamscapes that pose as songs. It’s jazz, electronic, hip hop, and art rock all rolled into one insane package. He’s got the goods, and Cannonball! is just the beginning.
I See You Among The Stars
A dreamy and gentle guide into downtime, Risker takes you through prescribed introspection. If you can pull yourself through the sonic cleanse of I See You Among The Stars to hear her words a bit more intently, you will find she sings of concepts with an equally soothing familiarity.
Getting me in trouble at work for Google searches on company hardware, these ladies are bringing sleazy rock back. With a live show that leaves the crowd sweating and panting for more, Thunderpussy don’t quit.
The Fiery Furnaces haven’t been active in about a decade, but that only gave one-half of the duo free reign to create some of her best work yet. The sister Friedberger reinvents herself for the countless time on a record that owes more than its fair share to 70s and 80s soft rock and pop. The pop is most interesting to me—I’ve always appreciated the art-rock, brother-sister duo, but on this effort, Eleanor raised the bar with Rebound, an album that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Be More Kind
A rock album solves often overcomplicated social situations that we all struggle with as humans. Turner has a crafted a way of handling our planet’s state by way of accessible mantras that instil reassurance, kindness, simplicity and a sense of community. In his live shows, the audience sings along to nearly every single song. Knowing this, any Frank Turner song can be heard with the understanding that he is speaking to more than a single listener. No matter how stable and put together people might appear on the outside, we are all striving to figure out this thing called life and Be More Kind.
Low Cut Connie
Dirty Pictures (Part 2)
I think it’s no surprise to anyone that Low Cut Connie defined my 2018. They roared into my top live shows of all time, and this album has a lot to do with it. A follow up to a new direction, LCC is smarter and more mature. They still give a raucous song when they need to, but the end result of Dirty Pictures (Part 2) is sleek and poised to break into the mainstream.
After a couple albums pushing their sound and definition, the New York journeymen came at us with their most ferocious and polished record to date. Not since Light Up Gold have they sounded this good. Each and every song a social treatise on our life and times. Wide Awake! is the album we needed from these guys this year.
Listening to Deeper leads the mind to clear and wonder “how is this sound happening?”. Seeing a Deeper show does not necessarily answer the question. We caught them at DoDivision in issue #14, and they were an LPL stand out show among many big names at the Goose Island Block Party in issue #29. The band works together in such a mash up that the spectator cannot really decipher who is playing which part, and it really enhances their work. Need additional proof? The 2-year old I nanny started headbagging while listening to them with absolutely zero prompting. Find a way to get yourself to their show on January 11th at Sleeping Village.
OUR FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR - Chicago festival season!!!
Love Is Dead
Scottish band CHVRCHES created an album of great dance tracks with Love Is Dead, recorded at the Hansa Studio in Berlin, with lyrics that stimulate a bit of emotional depth. Mid-november, they released Hansa Sessions, an acoustic rearrangement of five songs from this album, offering the listener an opportunity to revisit the thoughts that arose on the dance floor in a calmer, more conscious reflection.
Anna Holmquist (of The Curls) produced a stirring piece of work with Curtains. The projects debut full length blends plenty of strings with her affecting lyrics that tug on the heart without falling into the sappiness trap. With plenty of crossover with other local acts, Ester is a vehicle for Holmquist’s songs that don’t quite fit The Curls aesthetic. It’s a quietly engaging record that deserves more attention. Ester is playing Schubas on January 19th as part of TNK Fest. Tix are $15.
Red Barn - Summer Camp Music Festival
When all the jam cards come together, and the synergy in the room is palpable, it can make for an amazing concert experience. And the jam packed Red Barn was floating above the fields and woods of Three Sisters Park as Sound Tribe Sector 9 carried us flying on their back through a drum and bass set for the ages. We’ve seen them over twenty times in the last five years, and this was the best set yet.
Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band
Sunshine Stage - Summer Camp Music Festival
It was sunset on the last day of Summer Camp, and the Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh was on stage with his son. I wandered off to find a view of the sun, within earshot of the Sunshine Stage. To my pleasant surprise, a few others had the same idea and were dancing in the rows of crops and the rays of the sun, just on the other side of a downed festival fence.
A crazy concept album from these local rockers centers them as the spokespeople for the republic of Babeland!. A story they stuck to during an adventurous interview with LPL right after the record dropped. Check it out! They are playing a Christmas Show at Mickey Finn’s in Libertyville on December 29th.
Vivian McConnell is a vet of the local scene who ventured out on her own this year to create a rather gorgeous debut as V.V. Lightbody (a name she lifted from her Grandmother). Full of quiet confident tunes, Bathing Peach is a must listen for anyone who appreciates delicate beautiful music. She is playing ANCHR Magazine’s second anniversary showcase on Friday January 4th. Tix are $10.
If nothing else defined 2018, it was Lindsay Jordan’s debut full length. The nineteen-year-old’s perfect record ruled our summer playlist with her tales of teen woe and joy. Lush was a huge hit for the Baltimore native and catapulted her into instant national recognition. She’s swinging through Metro as part of TNK Fest. That show is sold out. The only way to get in at this point is go third market or buy a TNK 5 day pass for $100. We think you should do the latter. This years lineup is insane!
Kindness, A Rebel
Songcraft is an art form, and look no further than Asheville-act River Whyless for countless examples of tuneful perfection. The quartet’s three part harmonies blend with their low key indie folk to make a boundlessly beautiful record. It never gained the traction it deserved, but to us, Kindness, A Rebel will always be a classic of 2018.
Nine Inch Nails
As a child, Nine Inch Nails seemed under my brothers’ door as I slept. My lullaby favorites became anthems to help me through adolescence. NIN has now released Bad Witch: the third and final EP of their trilogy which began in December 2016. It is full of fresh and relevant anthems. Nothing has changed, the world is still in a state of needing to shout anthems at yourself looking in the “shit mirror” until your head begins to bob as you drum along with some air sticks. In October, Aragon ballroom was full of forever fans from all walks of life, shouting along shoulder to shoulder in a full venue mosh, using the noise wash as a veil to weep along with Reznor, wide awake.
River Whyless / Jalen N’Gonda
Common / Tune Yards / Towkio / CupcaKKE / Grandson
Mamby On The Beach
issue # 17
My first experience with Mamby On The Beach was a success. Grandson kicked us off and set the bar high enough to match his energy. CupcaKKe raised her own bar and peeked through her blonde curls to rap about her pussy’s desires. Towkio and his braids and bounces were even better in person than I had hoped (I was hoping Chance would join for this set…). Merrill Garbus owned the stage as Tune Yards and held it until she was finished with her set, joining the crowd for an acapella ending after the festival cut the feed to keep events running as scheduled. Common brought the beach down with his tidal wave of a performance, summoning Chance to freestyle at this festival of hometown greats. Grandson is hitting Reggies on March 12. Tix are $15. ($18 at the door). CupcaKKe is coming home to Thalia March 21. Tix are $18. Chance the Rapper is headlining a Night At The Museum event at the Science and Industry Museum tonight December 20th. Tix are $10.
Black Star / Madame Ghandi
Taste of Chicago - Petrillo Band Shell in Grant Park
Talib Kweli and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) gave the Chicagoans at The Taste of Chicago a glimpse into life in Brooklyn, circa 1998. Let me tell you, the concepts still hold up 20 years on. The real highlight of this show (for me) was Los Angeles electronic music artist and activist Madame Ghandi (drummer of M.I.A.) and Kehlani bringing their beats of inspiration backed by statistical evidence of the benefits to supporting more women to positions of power. Petrillo was a lovely mix of humans out to see this pairing of powerful pairs.
Big Thief / Julien Baker
Blue Stage - Pitchfork Music Festival
The back to back Friday sets of Julien Baker and Big Thief at the tree-lined Blue Stage set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The bravery of Baker, standing solo with her guitar, toe to toe with the crowd, is truly outstanding. And the energy the normally static Big Thief gave to their early evening set was startling at points. Who knew we would ever get to see Adrianne Lenker solo on top of the stage sub? All around the best moments of the weekend, which was a tall order to fill with so many great bands at this years fest.
Parquet Courts / Dream Wife
The perfect Lolla aftershow belonged to these two fantastic acts. Thalia Hall’s floor was bouncing as Parquet Courts tore it up to a nearly full floor pit, and Dream Wife opened up the night with a phenomenal set, making instant fans of us and many more. Parquet Courts blew the roof off with so many tunes off this year’s Wide Awake!.
So much good music came out of the local scene this year, but Campdogzz reached another level with their sophomore full length In Rounds. It’s a perfect record from start to finish, and has not left our playlist since discovering it this Fall. Jess Price’s vocals mix with the dark folk rock to create auditory vistas befitting a drive through the great plains.
Lili Trifilio’s solo project-turned full band-had a big year in 2018, starting with releasing this pristine EP, then scoring a Riot Fest set, securing opening slots for major acts, and a recent stellar Audiotree set that showed off the bubbly indie tunes Trifilio is a master at. Just pop on Prom Queen,and it’s sure to improve your mood. They’re hitting Lincoln Hall on January 10th for a headlining gig. Tix are $13.
Having pleurisy may have kept me from seeing the Scissor Sisters frontman live, but thankfully I have this album to hold me over until the next tour. Taking the ostentatious sound of his former band, and incorporating multiple new genres with an honest look at himself, Jake Shears blessed us with a criminally overlooked album.
Red Baraat / Gramps The Vamp
It is no surprise that I immediately loved the 8-piece, keyboard-heavy, doom funk band that is Gramps the Vamp. Their sticker is now mounted on our hallway sticker wall. This was a Wednesday night show, and KPL raced to finish the issue to catch the show. Red Baraat followed, and surpassed their energy with each strum to the dhol. The instrument is ancient, but it was new to us and carried along an energetic history that, thanks to the magical effects of music on the body, has never been lost.
Some Kind of Spectre
Laid back and loose just like the season, local rockers Sonny Falls dropped a quietly great record at the end of the summer that made for many a late night headphone jam session. Some Kind of Spectre is a record that sneaks up on you, getting better and better with each listen. We spoke with them after the record dropped and Ryan Ensley and Anthony Santoro had a whole lot to tell us. They are hitting up Sub T on January 26th. Tix are only $8.
Joy As An Act Of Resistance
We said it then, and we’ll say it now, Joy As An Act Of Resistance is an instant classic. The Bristol punks captured all the nervous energy of the now in perfect snaps of hardcore glory. With tunes embracing anxiety, immigration, anti racism and even climate change, this is the Bedtime For Democracy of today.
Lunar Ticks (EP) / Bronson Rock / Rotten Mouth
Lunar Ticks EP release party
EP release parties are so much fun. The scheduled bands tend to be friends in the industry and have been supporting each other as they’ve gain speed. The celebration for Unknown Gnomes/Neon Hearse was no exception. All three local bands lean heavily on their ability to improv, and the audience was packed with local loyal fans. Seeing LT open for the jammers of Aqueous in issue #38 was impressive: as was to witness the growth as a band in just over 14 weeks.
Rotten Mouth is playing the Sub T on January 11th, opening up for The Footlight District. Tix are $7.
A perfect record from top to bottom from Chicago native Fatimah Nyeema Warner. It’s one of those once in a generation albums that captures the times and social experience with such detail and talent that it’s difficult to even wrap your brain around. Noname scored a huge 2018, and this was just the icing on the success cake, but what a delicious and rich product it was. Room 25 should be ruling our peers’ top lists, and should be a criminal offense to leave it off. Thalia Hall is hosting a three-night run over New Years for the local artist. NYE is the only night with any tix left, and they are going for $40 - $50.
Lillie West’s solo project gained great strides in 2018 and culminated in the release of her best work yet in The Lamb. Incredibly personal and heartfelt, these tunes were penned after massive life changes and struggles that shaped her world view. We’re allowed to share these moments with her as she takes us on a life affirming journey. West and the band are opening for Snail Mail at the Metro on January 17th. That show is sold out but you can still get in by purchasing a $100 pass for the whole Tomorrow Never Knows Fest.
An unembellished and simply lovely album full of compositions that take the slowcore legends sound and warp it into something bordering on absolute beauty. Double Negative is the Duluth trio’s 12th record, and it takes the uncertainty and anxiety of these times into musical form with an evolution of sonic layers that blend into a sensational wonderscape.
Local hardcore quartet C.H.E.W. is the most intense act we witnessed in 2018, and their new record Feeding Frenzy carries the same raw power as their live show. Doris Carroll’s potent bellows just decimate the competition. If you’re a lover of hardcore and don’t own this record, it’s time to correct that mistake. They are opening for Portrayal of Guilt downstairs at the Sub T on February 20th. Tix are $10.
Much delayed and then purposefully ignored by most outlets (if you want to know more check out our write up in Issue #31 and the Pitchfork feature that came out days before this release), the third record from the New Jersey project is a study in forgiveness. The trouble with ignoring this record is just how good it really is, which leaves us wondering if art can truly heal the transgressions of another. All proceeds from Skylight are being donated to charity. Bottom Lounge is hosting a two night run March 3rd and 4th, and both shows sold out within hours. Maybe their fans are ready to forgive, but it will be difficult to forget.
A confident and compelling solo record from the Big Thief leader full of tunes that probably didn’t quite fit the aesthetic of the band but work incredibly well as a cohesive project. abysskiss is a quiet affair full of emotive songs that explore the beauty of relationships and the difficulties of life's challenges. Lenker is coming to Lincoln Hall February 20th. Tix are $18.
Mi Vida Local
Atmosphere was a timely discovery for me in my late college years as I attempted to perfect independence and learned how the world actually operates. But I didn’t seem him live until Riot Fest earlier this year. KPL wrote earlier this year that his show was affected by the fans who posted up early for Coheed and Cambria who were slated behind him. His Riot Fest set may have confused my long standing expectations, but then he released Mi Vida Local. His rhymes have a way of simultaneously motivating and validating me, keeping my mind sharp and open. With killer guitar chords to boot!
Ferris Wheel’s Day Off
Damn fun and light, Ferris Wheel’s Day Off is good for a mood stabilizer bent on happiness, encouraging your soul to have a little fun and go with the flow. Who needs a prescription when you have the music of Mungion?
Mungion is hitting Martyrs’ on New Years Eve! Tix are $20.
This one got a LOT of play and brought boundless joy to our house. Listen to this one as you ride your bike through the city. Just please use a speaker (not earbuds) so you can share the Parcels love and be safe as you cruise past the rest of this city. Parcels is playing March 1 at Lincoln Hall. Tix are $15. ($17 door)
Alone At Last
A gorgeously poetic debut from the Chicago artist who took the scene by storm with this impactful and elegant record. Alone At Last should be consumed by all far and wide.
Old Lazarus’ Harp
The Innertown Pub
And now for something totally different, a show that is largely performed for the pleasure of the performers themselves. Old Lazarus’ Harp is a folk collective of members from a multitude of folk bands in and around Chicago. The performance itself is a heartwarming, intimate setting, where spectators can join in dance calls and hear ancestral stories told through song.
Thunderpussy and Mystery Actions
A nice perk of occasionally shooting and writing about live music is the friends we’ve made with artist-marketing companies keeping us up to date on the hottest acts. These two groups (the latter an up and coming punk rock group from Chicago and the former a flamboyant retro rock band from Seattle) were certainly that, although they seem more fitting to be from glittery and gritty Las Vegas. A whirlwind evening that filled up my memory card more than any show to date. Seeing these ladies will leave you blurry from excitement yet thirsty for more.
CAVE / Communication Arts
Let’s face it, post rock is not for everyone. It takes a release of musical inhibitions to truely appreciate the repetitive soundscapes that make up the genre, and CAVE have a habit of pulling those obstructions away from the mind and drawing the listener into a swirling meditative state. Their album release show at The Hideout was a transformative experience, and Allways brings us into a constant state of joy every time we throw it on. The local post rockers are also part of TNK fest and have a show at Lincoln Hall January 18th. Tix are $15.
Pieces of a Man
A glorious exploration of manhood and blackness today. The Chicago native just slays on tune after tune. Funky, thought provoking and affecting; it’s as close to excellence as hip hop gets, while still paying attention to the roots of the genre. Pieces of a Man is a huge step for the local rhymer. Thalia Hall is hosting him on February 2nd. Tix are $22 - $30.
Recorded over three live sessions and then mixed, toyed with, and refined over months, the Chicago based nu jazz drummer produced an aural masterpiece. Universal Beings is truly a marvelous musical experience. McCraven is appearing as part of J. Dilla’s Doughnuts at Thalia Hall on February 9th. Tix are $15.
Low Cut Connie
The Empty Bottle
Low Cut Connie is, simply put, the real deal. Not only my favorite show of this year, they’re in the top of my all time list. If you even casually enjoy live music, you owe it to yourself to catch these guys. That’s all. Just go—you will never regret it
Three artists at the top of their game come together to collaborate and produce music magic. Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers combined their musical talents to create boygenius and the result is six of the best songs of the year. Will they ever do it again? If not, at least they left us with these gems that will remain amazing for years to come.
Fantastic surf punk from the local quartet who functioned at a 10 for thirty-six minutes of pure rock glee. The pure joy NOLA contains just bursts from the seams of a leopard print number with a beehive on top. It’s the music that makes life worth living. They are opening for Ovef Ow January 31st at The Empty Bottle. Tix are $8.
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya / Sen Morimoto / GLITTER MONEYYY
The Empty Bottle
What an exhilarating evening of local music at our favorite venue. GLITTER MONEYYY’s filthy hip hop was a perfect start before the jazzy genre-bending performance by the constantly smiling Sen Morimoto. Nnamdi Ogbonnaya rounded out the perfect evening with one of the best sets we saw all year. Frenetic and magnetic, you just can’t take your eyes off him as he vocally twists and weaves through his math rock, hip hop and funk/soul influenced tunes.
Cursive / Meatwave / Campdogzz
Sometimes it happens that you see a band perform fresh off an album release. The hype is contagious and Cursive was on cloud 10. Meatwave brought intensity and demonstrated what it is like to perform out of the sheer love of music. I also discovered local indie-rockers Campdogzz for the first time, who Cursive has signed to their label”15 Passenger”.
Just two weeks ago, I went on a rant about why this was an amazing show...without saying much of anything about the actual performance. That’s how art I can be. Do you really want me to do it again? Me neither—plus, I’ve only so many insufferable pretentions. The summary of it all is, I am a huge fan of Phosphorescent’s music, and the live shows live up to the albums. It was one of my favorite shows. Maybe his next will be one of yours.
Feelin’ Right Saturday Night: The Ric & Ron Anthology
The end of the year is typically light for releases. It is also a brilliant time to revisit a bit of NOLA history in order to give this album the attention it deserves. Even an album of this weight is at risk of getting lost in the shuffle behind the sheer amount of new music being released these days. FRSN is a brilliant homage to NOLA rhythm and blues legends Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Eddie Bo and Al Johnson, along with Joe Jones, in celebration of the 60th anniversary of New Orleans R&B label Ric Records and its sister label Ron Records.
Sooper Records: Secret Sampler Vol. 2
Our favorite local label puts out a second annual sampler to show off their impressive collection of artists, many of which made our timeline this year. Sen Morimoto, Sonny Falls, Miranda Winters, TrashKitten, Gentle Heat, Options and many, many more appear on this insanely great collection. One song from all fourteen albums released by Sooper this year. Do yourself a favor and check it out right now!
Oozing Wound / Rectal Hygienics / Conduit / Bruges
Oozing Wound / all photos by KPL
Our skulls are still reverberating from the onslaught of musical madness we enjoyed last Friday at the best new venue in town, the welcoming Sleeping Village. Four metal/noise rock bands, each with their own flavor, took to the SV stage in front of a rather mellow, but engaged crowd. Only a few times did a pit form during Rectal Hygienics, but all together it was a calm evening for a metal show, leaving the music to rattle our bodies and minds.
Bruges is a side project exploring “repetitive noise” from members of Chicago-based metal bands Angry Gods, Den, and Moral Void. Crunchy basslines, high concept guitar tones, driving drums, and a scream that pierces the room, Bruges is an assault on the senses that was the perfect entry into the night.
New York’s Conduit was all about the theatre as singer Alessandro threw his guitar all around himself, while using a steel conduit to create as much noise as possible along the strings. Hard hitting and in your face, the Brooklyn act’s new record Drowning World is not for the faint of heart.
“This band is gonna change your life,” insisted the bearded and ball-capped dude in front of me as Rectal Hygienics finished their line check. While they were blisteringly heavy and as angry as they come, it wasn’t the best set of the night by far. That award was easily claimed by local favorites Oozing Wound. Noise rock to the extreme, Zach Weil’s unmistakable scream permeates your core. And Kevin Cribbin’s unrelenting base lines shake your heart while it’s all pulled together by Kyle Reynolds’s crashing cymbals and roacus drums. The trio comes together to deliver every time we’ve seen them, and they just keep getting tighter year after year. If you’ve never seen Oozing Wound, they are a must catch act for anyone even remotely into great music.
Bleach Party / Bev Rage and The Drinks / The Runnies
Bleach Party / all photos by JCB
Tuesday night we celebrated a successful end to our first year of Chicago Crowd Surfer. The core crew went to KPL and LPL’s apartment. NLB, ATD, ELP, JCB (and the wife, aka. FOB rantress Leigh B.), KPL and I (and the cat) enjoyed a meal and had a few really good laughs. We journeyed over to Sleeping Village to take in an evening of rock by The Runnies, Bev Rage and The Drinks, and Bleach Party.
Mary McKane lead on vocals while holding down the basslines on her organ. Russ Calderwood worked the pedals to bring in his riffs, and Brett Swinney kept it all going on the drum kit. McKane confided that they had been eying the SV stage for a while. It is a good stage to eye, and you three filled it well.
Bev Rage came on wearing a thigh-length, blue, yellow and purple wig, adorned with a life-sized ball of yarn and knitting needles, and an afghan cardigan. Bev has a lyrical way of diving into a thought that captures the listener and holds their attention, because the journey to the end is just so damned engaging. Intro line of the night? “What did I call that song, ‘I’m popping a cyst with a pharmacist?’ No, ‘I’m popping a cyst with a masochist.’”
Up next in our CCS celebration night was Bleach Party. We celebrated pretty hard to this one. Meg MacDuff is—if you can imagine—a sped up Janis Joplin, wearing hot pants and Gilda Radner’s glasses and stumpy pigtails. I should emphasize here that all of that came together for an excellent very appropriate stage presence for Bleach Party. I couldn’t help myself but think, WWJBD (What Would Janis Be Doing) in the music industry as it is right now? Would I go see the show? Hell yeah!
Bleach Party is playing The Empty Bottle on Jan 31. Tix are $8
NEW YEAR’S EVE
(There are tons of SOLD OUT shows, and entire days of nada, not included here)
THURSDAY December 20th
Pooky / Engine Summer / Rainbow James / Rabbit Folk
Subterranean 7:30PM $10 tix.
Maren Celest / NIIKA / Belly of The Whale
The Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $5 tix.
The Audition / Flowers For Dorian / Detour North / Tiny Kingdoms
Bottom Lounge 7:30PM $20 tix.
Flowtone / Animal Factory / Old Money Bender
Martyrs’ 8PM $10 tix.
FRIDAY December 21st
80 Foots (album release) / Capt. Captain
The Hideout 9PM $8 tix.
Josefina / Will Phalen / The Gunshy
Sleeping Village 9PM $10 tix.
Lowdown Brass Band
Untitled Supper Club 8PM Free with Table Reservation.
Freddie Gibbs / DJ RTST / SoloSam
Park West 8PM $25 tix.
Jimmy Whispers / The Lemons / Sports Boyfriend
Hungry Brain 9PM $10 tix.
The Floozies / Mersiv
Concord 8PM doors $22 tix.
Femdot / L.A. Vangogh / Shawnee Dez
Lincoln Hall 7:30PM $10 tix. ($15 doors)
SATURDAY December 22nd
The Trolls Holiday Benefit for GCFD / Acceptor
Empty Bottle 8:30 PM doors $10 tix. or free with food donation
Drama / Emily Blue / Leslie Marie
Lincoln Hall 9PM $12 tix.
Jimmy Whispers / Good Fuck (Tim Kinsella & Jenny Pulse) / Grapetooth DJ sets
Hungry Brain 8PM $10 tix.
Genevieve / Lauren Turk / Sadie and The Stark
Beat Kitchen 8PM $12 tix.
Sam Trump’s Soul Vortex
Untitled Supper Club 8PM Free with Table Reservation.
Kurt Vile and the Violators / Jessica Pratt
The Riv 7:30PM $36 tix.
The Floozies / SoDown
Concord 8PM doors $22 tix.
SUNDAY December 23rd
Jazz Robots (album release) / Cousins / Good At Bad
Beat Kitchen 8PM $8 tix.
Lost Years / The Burst and Bloom / The Avantist
Emporium (Wicker Park) 9PM FREE. RSVP for 10 Free Tokens.
Dirty Junk / The Cheap Dates / Shitizen / Milhouse
Burlington 8PM $8 cover.
FRIDAY December 28th
Ryley Walker / Ohmme (duo) / Ben Lamar Gay
Empty Bottle 9PM doors $15 tix. ($18 door)
Ratboys / Spencer Radcliffe / Floatie
Sleeping Village 9PM $12 tix.
Sam Trump’s Soul Vortex
California Clipper 10:30PM $5 cover.
Greensky Bluegrass / Jeff Austin Band
The Riv 8PM $32.50 tix.
Reverand Peyton’s Big Damn Band / Bill Grady Band
Martyrs’ 9PM $15 tix. ($20 door)
SATURDAY December 29th
Meat Wave / Skip Church / Sunglow
Burlington 8PM Proceeds from the show go to benefit www.ourresilience.org
The Flesh Panthers / Aweful / Three Blue Teardrops / The Hamburglars / Bremer and the No Goods / Super Sonic Space Rebels
Chop Shop 6:30PM $10 tix.
Saint Pé / Troy Anderson
Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $8 tix. ($10 door)
Blue Dream / Rookie / Strange Foliage / Captain UFO
Lincoln Hall 7:30PM $10 tix. ($12 doors)
Kung Fu / Murley
Martyrs’ 9PM $18 tix. ($20 door)
Greensky Bluegrass / Jeff Austin Band
The Riv 8PM $32.50 tix.
SUNDAY December 30th
Henhouse Prowlers / Fox Crossing String Band
Martyrs’ 9PM $20 tix. ($25 door)
Fiona McMahon and Friends
Elbo Room 8PM $5 tix. ($8 door)
Lotus, El Ten Eleven
Park West 9PM $30 tix.
Greensky Bluegrass / Horseshoes & Handgrenades
The Riv 8PM $32.50 tix.
Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors FREE.
Subterranean 8PM doors $13 tix.
HAPPY NEW YEAR SURFERS!!!
WEDNESDAY January 2nd
The Tomblands / Indigo De Souza / The Holifields
Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $5 tix. ($8 door)
Bev Rage & The Drinks / Strawberry Jacuzzi / Baby Money
G Man Tavern 8PM $5 suggested donation.
See you in 2019 for another year of great music
See you at the show Chicago!