Bully / photo by LPL

Welcome to 2019, Surfers! We took a couple rewarding weeks off to enjoy the holidays, but we are back and raring to go! Quite a bit happened while we were gone. Inside you’ll find new music from tons of local artists including Cascader, Jazz Robots, and Vic Mensa and debut LP’s from Family Vacation and Immediate Family. Along with catching up with a new staff fav Ben LaMar Gay’s 2018 release, we had a packed week yet again as we took in Greensky Bluegrass at The Riv and a full lineup on NYE at The Empty Bottle with locals Wülfpac and Accessory opening for the one and only Bully! (Sorry ‘bout the photos, they weren’t the only thing getting a bit blurry that night . . . ) We’re back Surfers, and ready to bring you all the great music 2019 has to offer!

Keep Seeing Live Music!


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Bully / Accessory / Wülfpac

The Empty Bottle

New Year’s Eve 2018

Bully / all photos by KPL

New Year’s Eve is a right of passage for all concert-goers. No house parties or package deals, just a straight up ticket to a once in a lifetime (or at least once-a-year) night. What better way for CCS to ring in 2019 than at The Empty Bottle for the first band that we ever covered with Issue #0 all the way back in February. It may not seem like a long time to you, but forty issues later we’ve come full circle. Bully continues to be one of our most treasured acts, and we were stoked to spend the first NYE of Chicago Crowd Surfers’ run with Alicia Bognanno and the guys.


Wülfpac was set to start the evening off, and their artful wolf banner was hung between them and the crowd, concealing the guitar and drum duo from our eyes but never our ears. They bounded on stage and immediately took off with their meaty riffs and pounding drums. Formed by Chicago scene journeymen Josh Swanberg (The Lemons and Today’s Hits) and Joe Shorgl (The Sueves and Skip Church), they ripped through a set that had us loving the raw power chords and excessive tom beats (it didn’t appear that Shorgl was using a bass drum). After the first couple songs, Swanberg howled and then instructed the crowd to show their appreciation by howling between tunes. “Here in the Wülfpac, we show we like it by our howls, “Owwwwwwwww!” The rest of the set was as hard-hitting on the rock factor, and everyone dove in with howls from their core as soon as a last chord faded. They don’t have any shows coming up soon that we could find, and they only have a couple of songs up on YouTube.

Jason Balla of Accessory


Following Wülfpac would have been a challenge for anyone, but Jason Balla (NE-HI / Dehd / Earring) was the perfect person to take over to keep the energy going. Accessory is his new solo project that debuted this year (we covered the release show in Issue # 26). It’s a bit more personal and introspective than his other projects, but still has plenty of the signature jangly guitar that is the mark of the Chicago Indie sound. Vivian McConnell of V.V. Lightbody and local sound engineer Dave Vettraino help Balla out live, and the three guitarists circled through and around each other, creating a sonic-layered static dreamscape. Go buy Blue Tape and support local music.


Midnight approached and Bully was still line checking as the short, audience-driven countdown commenced. Bognanno stepped to the mic and wished everyone a happy new year before launching into a scorcher of a set. From opener Brainfreeze,” to mid set rocker ¨Feel the Same,” all the way to closerI Remember,” they ran through every song we wanted and more. Bognanno’s fury and drive was always evident, and her scream pierced the flurry of power chords with such intensity that it made every hair stand on end. The band only has two records, but each are jammed with solid hits that made them instant classics. There’s a reason the Bottle invited them to play NYE, they are one of the best rock bands out there right now; with two encore covers of Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” and PJ Harvey’s “Snake,” they showed the whole crowd why. All together it made for an unforgettable evening that will live on through the year as the first show of 2019!


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Greensky Bluegrass / Jeff Austin Band

The Riv

December 28th


Greensky Bluegrass / all photos by KPL

Jeff Austin Band

A four-day, New Year run at The Riv is no small order. It’s a massive undertaking, but Greensky Bluegrass was up to the challenge, starting out the nine-set run with two killer sessions of jam-filled wonder. Jeff Austin Band was along for the ride and opened up the evening with some fast cuts that got the crowd going early. Austin, formerly of Yonder Mountain String Band, is a Chicago native who just moved back a couple of years ago and commented on how great it was that he was “going to get mandolin virtuoso was truly having a blast on stage, taking his quartet to heights of the speed and precision on which modern bluegrass thrives. If you’ve never checked out YMSB, it’s time you did. Austin (who left in 2014, but there is a huge catalog to explore) is back on the road and hitting towns all over the country. Check out his tour schedule and get to a show.

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

It was time for the boys from Kalamazoo to take the stage, and they came out smoking with a 17-minute All Four into a version of the Talking Heads’ “Road To Nowhere” that brought the house down. They have spent years developing their sound, and it nearly always works. Five guys playing acoustic instruments came together to create an immersive experience that drew you in with an amazing light show and jams that bordered on ecstasy. Their elaborately swirling, drawn out improvs always impress. By mid-set’s Take Cover,” they were blasting off into the stratosphere. Finishing off the set with a new tune from their upcoming record, All For Money, left us with high expectations for the second set. After a brief break, the quintet returned and went old school with the title track off their first record, Less Than Supper,”and steamrolled through some fan favorites with another new tune sandwiched in there for good measure. The mid-set showstopper In Controlinto Can’t Stop Nowscorched the crowd, and a frenzy of arms and heads moving to the frenetic pace took over. The dancing didn’t stop till closer, King of the Hill came to its rowdy end. A sweet encore of Miss September rounded out the night before we all drifted out into the blizzard that had developed over our metropolis, still jigging and singing along to the catchy and downright addicting tunes of Greensky Bluegrass.





Me Us You

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Algernon Cadwallader

Algernon Cadwallader

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Vic Mensa



Ben LaMar Gay

Downtown Castles Can Never Block The Sun

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Jazz Robots

Jazz Robots Write Down Their Dreams

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Family vacation


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Immediate Family

Whether Feast, Famine, or Fire



Σκοτεινό Φως




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Big Joanie


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Reel Big Fish

Life Sucks . . . Let’s Dance!


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Sen Morimoto
Audiotree Live

Beach Bunny
Audiotree Live

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American Football

Slow Mass x Nnamdi x Sen
On Christmas

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The Raconteurs
Sunday Driver / Now That You’re Gone

Jay Som
Turn The Other Cheek

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Dr. Dog / Midi Swamp / We Buy Gold

Charlie Crockett / Lil G.L.’s Blue Bonanza / Son of Davy , Thirty Tigers

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Porter Ray / Eye of the Beholder / Sub Pop

Tauk / Real TAUK, Vol 1. / TAUK


Selling / On Reflection / City Slang

frumhere / nostalgia marauder / frumhere



  • While we were on holiday The Empty Bottle announced the lineup for 2019’s Music Frozen Dancing! The free winter block party is always a damn fun day and this years slate is just as killer as always with Ty Segall & White Fence headlining with local punks Negative Scanner, industrial sex gods Plack Blague, local indie rockers Glyders and drone synth kings WEATHER WARLOCK! It’s gonna be a great day in the cold on Saturday February 23rd!

  • Ian’s Party is this weekend! Get your tix links below in our calendar section for this massive showcase of local bands all weekend at Chop Shop and the Sub T!

  • Tomorrow Never Knows fest is right around the corner. January 16th thru the 20th. Five days, six venues, so many bands! Go here for all your ticket needs!

  • Old Lazarus Harp is taking up a residency at Beat Kitchen’s Bluegrass Brunch every Saturday from January 12th thru February 23rd. It’s FREE!

  • CIVL (Chicago Independent Venue League) launched a website and has a petition up to slow the Lincoln Yards TIF plan, allowing for more vetting and public transparency for the massive development in the north industrial corridor that houses The Hideout. Help save the Hideout and keep Live Nation out of Lincoln Yards!


THURSDAY January 29th

FRIDAY January 30th
Ian’s Party  
Chop Shop and Subterranean    5:55PM 27 bands for $25 tix. $50 for three day pass.  

Star Tropics / Bur (tape release) / Courtney / TOPAZ
The Empty Bottle   8:30PM doors  $5 tix. ($8 doors)

Slow Pulp / V.V. Lightbody / Cold Beaches / Ruins / Ohmme (dj set)
Schubas   8PM $10 tix. ($12 doors)

The Million Reasons / Bubbles Erotica / Sugarpulp / The Wistful Larks
Beat Kitchen    8PM  $8 tix.

SATURDAY January 1st
Ian’s Party
Chop Shop and Subterranean   5:30PM  33 bands for $25 tix. $50 for three day pass.

T-Rextasy / Graves / Mermaid N.V.
Empty Bottle   8:30PM doors $8 tix. ($10 doors)

Talib Kweli / NIKO IS /  K'Valentine
City Winery  10PM   $38 - $56 tix.

Remember Sports / Trace Mountains / Joey Nebulous
Schubas    8PM  $10 tix. ($12 doors)

White Mystery / Ethel Shank / Touched By Ghoul / The Avantist
Cubby Bear   8PM  $8 tix.

Bumpus / The Bank Notes
Beat Kitchen    8PM $11 tix.


SUNDAY January 6th
Ian’s Party
Chop Shop     4:20PM 12 bands for $15 tix. $50 for three-day pass.

Lunar Vacation / The Slaps
Schubas    8PM  $10 tix. ($13 doors)

Aftersound / Bernie and the Wolf / Dead Lucid / The Braided Janes / Lunar Hotel
Abolish ICE Fundraiser
Beat Kitchen    6:30PM $10 tix.

MONDAY January 7th
The Curls / Kevin and Hell / Les Strychnine
Empty Bottle    8:30PM doors FREE.

TUESDAY January 8th
Saltwater Tap (EP release)
Uncommon Ground on Clark    7PM $12 tix.

Wet Piss / Werewolf Jones / TV Slime
Empty Bottle   8:30PM doors   $5 tix.

WEDNESDAY January 9th

See you at the show Chicago!