Hey there Surfers! Welcome to February and issue #46! Four weeks till we turn one year old, and we’re counting em down, starting with this massive issue for your reading pleasure. This week we have write ups on Smashed Plastics grand opening and Chicago Psych Fest 10, along with Dorothy’s kick ass show at Bottom Lounge and Ovef Ow’s EP release party at The Empty Bottle. As always we have tons of new music to report on from the off the wall Chicago team up from Sharkula and Mukqs to a new record from South Shore rapper G Herbo plus tons of other new albums from the likes of Girlpool, Le Butcherettes, Boy Harsher, the phenomenal new trio Spielbergs out of Oslo, and so, so much more. Make sure to check out our Spotify playlist at the link below to follow along as you journey through another packed issue. See you next week Surfers, as we’ll have plenty more to report from the weeks happenings in Chicago and beyond. Till then . . .
Keep Seeing Live Music!
Photo credit: Twin Talk
Smashed Plastic Grand Opening
Serengeti / Diagonal / The Lawrence Peters Outfit / Bleach Party
Smashed Plastic / all photos by MDR
On Saturday, February 2nd, I checked out the opening of the Smashed Plastic Record Pressing plant at Workshop 4200 on Chicago’s northwest side. The location is a rehabbed warehouse that formerly held the Hammond Organ Factory. It now plays host to makers and creators of all stripes who call Chicago home. The location is ideal for a start-up pressing plant looking to serve the local music scene by pumping out small batches. For their grand opening, Smash Plastic opened the entirety of Workshop 4200 to the public. Admission was free, and so was the beer... To make things even more interesting, the guys at Smashed Plastic asked a diverse line-up of local musicians to aid in setting the ambiance. This itinerary included Bleach Party, The Lawrence Peters Outfit, Diagonal, and Serengeti.
I arrived a little late and wasn’t able to catch Bleach Party's set (but I heard from friends that they were pretty good). The first thing that I noticed upon entering was how packed to the gills the event was: shoulder-to-shoulder sardine-ville by 8pm with a mixed crowd of art students, business-owners, culture-industry types, and more than a handful of people who must have just wandered in off the street to see what was going on. It honestly felt like half the city showed up.
The Opening was an excellent opportunity for various galleries and studios that call Workshop 4200 home to open their doors and talk about their trade. The energy was high, and everyone was looking to mingle.
The first act I was able to catch was The Lawrence Peters Outfit. LPO bill themselves as “un-ruined country music,” and they certainly deliver an authentic-feeling rendition of swinging, country western. The band provided a nice counter-weight of earnest, rustic charm to the decommissioned and refurbished industrial setting of the event space and helped interject some toe-tapping energy into the crowd. The attendees responded by swing dancing through most of their set. The band mostly played originals off of their self-titled album, released in 2011. (Which I think may also be their only album.) It’s clear that I’m not an LPO aficionado, but after witnessing their set, I’m certainly now a convert.
It was after LPO finished their set that I tried to get another beer only to be informed that the bar had run out of cups and I needed to find my own if I wanted to be served. Half-Acre had donated enough beer, but someone underestimated how many cups they would need to serve it. I’m above dumpster diving for Solos at this stage in my life, so I decided to forgo libations for the remainder of the event. It was just as well because the kegs of Half-Acre were dry before 10pm prompting a beer run for a barrel of Modelo, and soon afterward, a few cases of Miller Lite once the Modelo dried up as well. (People get thirsty at parties.)
Diagonal was the third band to perform that evening. If you didn’t know already, they’re your standard Chicago shoe-gaze band with some psychedelic leanings and a fondness for post-rock posturing. They played an energetic but tightly controlled set that adhered closely to the sound of their latest EP, You Are Free. A friend of mine remarked afterward on social media that it was surprising how his ears weren’t totally fried after Diagonal's set despite the liberal application of distortion. The band takes a softer approach to building their walls-of-sound, and it is a much-appreciated courtesy for the ears of their audiences.
The night closed out with a stripped-down set by David Cohn, better known as the venerated Serengeti. David and his hype man and collaborator (also named David) played a loosely choreographed set, where they traded barbs, aired mutual grievances about the state of the world, discussed shared pasts, and played beats off Cohn’s phone. The set had a taught but humble energy to it, with Cohn and Co. simultaneously indulging in the mythical aspects of performance while opening up their hearts to offer a slice of solidarity with complete strangers. The set opened with a brief episode from the life of Kenny Dennis, depicting his hairy struggles with the forces of the deep internet. From there on Cohn was mostly himself, chewing on his microphone, held close to his face, slinging rhymes against alienation and self-doubt like a trained warrior vanquishing a legion of zealous foes. The banter and bars reached a high point for the crowd when Cohn let loose his strangely intimate, backhanded letter of endearment to Chi-town “Dennehy,” prompting a room-wide shout-along with the chorus “favorite actor Dennehy / favorite drink O’douls / Bears / Hawks / Sox / Bulls.” I can’t tell you how cathartic shouting “Bulls / Bulls / Bulls” along with a room full of people can be, knowing that your individual allegiances to the team doesn’t matter as much as your shared experience of living in and loving the city that the team also calls home. If the guys at Smashed Plastic aren’t already thinking that they should make this an annual thing, this is their invitation to start! (But next time, we’ll need more beer!)
Chicago Psych Fest 10: Night 2
Dead Rider / Twila Bent / Plastic Crimewave Syndicate and ONO / SPVD / DJ Catie - O
Visuals by Liquid Sky Light Show
Psych Fest at The Hideout / all photos by KPL
It was obvious from the liquid art visuals and DJ Catie O’s trippy sounds already on full display as the doors opened for night two of the tenth annual Chicago Psych Fest that this night was going to be a full-on experience. Nothing about the evening was a disappointment as all the acts brought their full selves to the Hideout stage, and the packed venue took in a mind-altering night of experimental psych rock that took us all to the edges of our beings.
After a half hour of Catie O delivering her elastic beats from the back DJ booth and Liquid Sky Light Show getting their rigs ready to go, Joshua S. Condon, aka SPVD, (and of Glyders) stepped onstage and calmly tuned his guitar before setting it down and stepping to his table full of effects and dated mixers. Starting a beat with a simple button push, he began to build his tunes with each knob turn or fader slide. It may sound simple, but each track is carefully mapped out and orchestrated so he knows exactly what to do at each moment. A brain teaser for the calculated mind. And when he picked up the guitar again and started hitting it with a bow before sliding it along the strings to create a wall of amped-up sound was the moment his performance just went over the top. A one man psych extravaganza all from the calm, demeanored man at center stage. Check out his self titled EP that dropped last summer and check out his band Glyders at Music Frozen Dancing on February 23rd.
Many in attendance were stoked for the next act, and nothing about Chicago psych rockers Plastic Crimewave Syndicate teaming with legendary locals ONO) was disappointing. The core of the ONO collective, Travis (vocals and percussion) and P. Michael (synths and modulars) have been cranking out awesome “experimental, noise and industrial poetry performance” since 1980, holding mythical status in the local scene; and psych-rock mainstays Plastic Crimewave Syndicate (PCS) are relative newcomers but really brought the thunder when teaming up with the local legends. They hit the ground running with Travis delivering his spoken-word vocals over the cacophony of P. Michaels modulars with PCS jamming under and on top of it all. Before the first tune, Steve Krakow, the guitarist of PCS said, “tonight we are going to be paying tribute to a bunch of our favorite artists, but you won’t know any of them.” And he was right; however, it didn’t matter in the slightest as the entire set was engaging and utterly mind-bending. From Travis’ garbage lid/chian instrument, to bassist Drew Kettering’s entranced playing, to P. Michaels headlamp and spacesuit costume, to Krakow’s insane guitar effects, it all combined to make for an unforgettable performance. Check out both these bands! Once you do, you’ll never look back. Here is a Chirp Radio Session that ONO did a while back that’ll surely get the synapses firing.
Back in October we caught Twila Bent’s first live show and EP release for LWAS. We raved about it then, and they’ve only grown tighter and more evocative in the following months. Made up of vets of the scene: bassist Drew Kettering (also of PCS), synths and general noise from Ralph Darksi, guitar and synths by Phil Karnats and Jered Gummere on drums, they ripped through their too-short set like a jacked up, rabid animal. So focused are these four that you could set fire to the stage and they wouldn’t even notice. Their brand of noise driven psych was the perfect cushion between the freak out of ONO + PCS and the insanity of Dead Rider that was on the horizon.
Frontman Todd Rittmann stepped to the mic, guitar in hand, and delivered a fever-pitched, mumbled declaration as drummer Matt Espy and bass/synth specialist White Christmas began what was our most intense set of 2019 so far!! Rittmann threw himself around as his playing became more frantic with each passing moment. Espy, meanwhile, was a complete animal behind his kit- we counted five broken sticks over the forty minute set; and not just broken- shattered. All punctuated by the stoic, expressionless Christmas behind his set up, never reacting to the pure emotive lunacy taking place around him. Such was Dead Rider, formerly D. Rider, the brainchild of Rittmann that rose from the ashes of ‘90s experimental rockers U.S. Maple. We were told before the show by several in attendance that Dead Rider is their favorite Chicago live act, and now we know exactly why. The trio puts out heart-stopping tunes that appeal to the inner demons in all of us. Last years Dead Rider Trio featuring Mr. Paul Williams is a must-listen.
It’s unfortunate that we were not able to attend the other two nights of Chicago Psych Fest 10, but we are already marking our calendars for next year. If it’s anything like this experience, it will be another night to remember.
Dorothy / Spirit Animal / Mel Senese
Dorothy / all photos by JCB
Chicago native Mel Senese opened up the night with her soul-infused alt-rock. She’s been working the scene in various bands for the past five years, and it shows. She commands the stage more like an established Grammy winner rather than someone on the eve of releasing her debut: Prey comes out Feb 21st, and I think it’s gonna be a hell of a hit. She opened for Dorothy on an early date of the Freedom Tour in Joliet back in July and clearly made enough of an impact to score this gig on the later tour leg. Hearing her launch into the wonderful lead single, “Prey,” I thought of when I first heard Haley Williams on “Misery Business.” I think Mel Senese could be rocketing up in popularity shortly after her release party at HVAC Pub on 2/21. Catch her while you can, so you can smugly say, “I was there before she was famous.”
Is Brooklyn quartet Spirit Animal a new Beastie Boys? Combining rap and hard rock, while cultivating a lighthearted yet heartfelt aura, it’s a sentiment that persisted during their blisteringly fun mid-opener set. Steve Cooper is a hell of a frontman, juxtaposing moments of raw intensity with playful grins at their growing fanbase. And I don’t know if you could walk away from one of their shows without noticing bassist Paul Michel’s enthusiastic playing style, complete with ataxia-inspired headbanging and open-mouthed awe at his own low-end thumping prowess.
Riding high off the August 2018 release of their major label debut, Born Yesterday, the band relied heavily on that album’s funk-motivated pop rock to whip the crowd into a frenzy. Highlights were tracks YEAH!, JFK, and BST FRNDS, which all had catchy pop melodies overlaying a crunchy riff rock base, and lyrics clever enough for the internet but thoughtful enough for longer than 280 characters.
It’s not unusual for artists to transform and reinvent themselves at some point in their career – it’s just that people grow, and so do artistic inclinations. However, you don’t usually see a course correct between a singer’s first and second album… at least not when the first album is successful. The sophomore effort is usually a continuation of what was established in the previous outing. Dorothy, however, bucked that trend. Their debut album, 2016’s ROCKISDEAD, firmly established frontwoman Dorothy Martin as the bad girl every boy wished someone would have warned them about. She sang late ‘60s-inspired sleaze rock, wore tattered shirts and fishnets, and was shamelessly badass. They were a band that liked Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, dammit, and if it’s too loud, then you’re too old. On the sophomore record, 28 Days in the Valley, we visit other sounds from the same era. This band jams and can rock when they need to, but no need to fuss about it, man. They’re a Joplin, Doors, and Jefferson Airplane band now. I like the sophomore record, to be clear, but wasn’t sure what to make of it upon first listen.
Turns out, the titular Dorothy may not have been faking the sex, drugs, and rock n roll lifestyle. Getting sober and leaving dysfunctional relationships in the dust are pretty damn good justifications for adjusting your perspective, and bully for her to make a stand on what she needed personally against the potential risk to a blossoming career. Songs I particularly latched onto from 28 Days in the Valley are “Flawless,” “Freedom,” and “Black Tar & Nicotine.” Catchy, bluesy, soulful, powerful... Grace Slick meets Amy Winehouse? Ok, but how was the show?, I hear you asking.. Well, thanks for the needed segue, imaginary person…
In order to properly introduce her new identity, Dorothy stands directly centerstage and christens the area with incense. The band erupts into the classic rock sound that honestly will never die. (Can I briefly say that the amount of mustache between the rhythm guitarist and bassist was astounding? They may have left Black Sabbath’s influences in the rearview mirror, but they made sure to steal Mr. Butler’s finest accessory before they went.) Martin sashays up to the mic, curly hair bouncing as she smiles pleasantly at the screaming mass, and her gypsy attire billows in the stage smoke to create the visage of a mystical rock god from another planet. It’s easy to get swept up in the performance, especially once that voice unleashes. If you’re going to embrace the sound of a specific era, it’s not enough to dress like you mean it. (She used to dress like a punk that doesn’t give a fuck, and now embraces the gypsy dress code.) You need to have the pipes to back it up. Luckily, Dorothy has it in spades. Channeling her inner demons not unlike the previous mentioned vocalists in order to inspire positivity, she soars through made-for-live tracks like “Who Do You Love” with her theatrical voice and stage presence. I don’t want to just throw this out there for no reason, but her lows scraping the grunge ceiling and her highs inflicting shoulder-shivering involuntary convulsions remind me of Chris Cornell. There’s just something special with an artist that is able to harness the darkness and transform it into a truly inspirational performance. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much Taoist philosophy, but the dichotomy is pivotal in good art.
Dorothy is a band, not a single person, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the chops. You’d swear these guys had been backing up Creedence in a previous life, the way they glided through each bluesy chorus. Nick Perri is a Guitar Hero fan’s dream, with an ostentatious cape and solo poses evocative of many a living room ‘star power.’ Jason Ganburg beats his drums like Black Keys’ Patrick Carney – nothing snooty or flashing, just hard and driving beats for the rest of the band to use as a nucleus. Occasionally, the band breaks for some inspirational time with Martin – who let us know that if there are toxins in our life, be them people or otherwise. They would pass, and we shouldn’t them stand in our way. We’re “Flawless.”
Ovef Ow / all photos by KPL
In honor of local rock quartet Ovef Ow’s EP release, The Empty Bottle hosted a “night of badass lady drummers” as Marites Velasquez, bassist for Ovef Ow, put it. After being cooped up in the casa all week avoiding the arctic tundra our city had become, we let loose with the rest of the enthusiastic fans who turned up for these three “badass” local acts headed and backed by some of Chicago’s most talented female musicians. With so many shows dominated by cis-male bands it’s always refreshing to be reminded that ladies rock harder.
Baby Money and The Down Payments have been around for years, and Pamela Maurer (aka Baby Money) came to share it all with the crowd. The guitar-wielding songwriter busted loose when she wanted to but knew when to pull it back for those intimate moments that add quality levels to a performance. Backed by Hilary Brown on bass and Sarah Neczwid on drums, Maurer was all smiles at first but as she stepped into the comfortable shoes of her often dark tunes, the exterior fell away and the fierce one within showed around the edges, only to be pulled back as the tune came to an end and the smile returned. A well-rounded set ended with a rousing tune where Brown lost her bass strap halfway through but never missed a note- she just muscled her instrument to her will. If you can catch them, we highly suggest doing so. Unfortunately, they don’t have any shows planned at the moment but to tide you over there’s a ton of music on their BC page. Check it out, and do Maurer and crew a solid and purchase some of these fine tunes.
If you’ve been keeping up with our little mag, you know plenty about Bleach Party. Their brand of old school surf-tinged rock, launched at a breakneck speed, is right up our alley, and Meg MacDuff (guitar/vocals) and the gang came to let loose all that polar vortex cabin fever. As we’ve raved before, Kaylee Preston rules her kit and the bands pace, driving them all towards the cliff like Thelma and Louise before swerving at the last minute and piloting their whirlwind sound right into the crowd. Bart Pappas (guitar) and Richard Giraldi (bass) round out the quartet, and ever since they let out debut full-length NOLA, it’s been munching on our brains whenever it wants. Get addicted yourself by checking them out live. They currently don’t have any dates planned after playing twice this week, but we’ll be sure to shout it from the rooftops when they have a gig coming.
Busting right out of the gate, Ovef Ow hit us all with their self proclaimed “post-punk/surf/new wave” combination that punches right to the chest before precisely smashing your serotonin centers.hitting your serotonin centers with precision. Their infectious grooves pilot themselves through the ears and to your feet as Sarah Braunstein (drums) and Marites Velasquez (bass) keep the low end bouncing while trading off lead vocals in time with Kyla Denham (keys) and Nick Barnett (guitar) blasting an off-kilter surf based melody that is as catchy as it is danceable. Born a couple of years back from the ashes of Me Jane, (read more in our interview with them last week), Ovef Ow has been supplying Chicago with its post-surf needs and new release Crash The Party is their third EP and first with local label Midwest Action. Both the band and label/website are tearing it up, so check it out, buy their EP, and support local music!
Sharkula X Mukqs
What Chaos Is Imaginary
swallow the sun
When the Shadow is Forced into the Light
This Is Not the End
Take Up Space (Unplugged)Never Better (10th Anniversary Edition)
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
Psymbionic , Probcause
Sounder (Encounter) EP
Blossom (Demo) / Be Seeing You
Jealous of the Birds
Wisdom Teeth EP
Empire of the Sun
Lost In Translation EP
Cage The Elephant
Ready To Let Go
Shanalala / NY Money
THIS WEEK’S NEW RELEASES:
The Western Den / A Light Left On / AntiFragile
Calva Louise / Rhinoceros / Modern Sky
Blank Range / In Unison / Sturdy Girls
Lou Doillon / Soliloquy / Barclay
Masaki Batoh / Nowhere / Drag City
Laure Briard / Un peu plus d'amour s'il vous plaît / Midnight Special
Mörglbl / The Story Of Scott Rötti / Mörglbl , The Laser’s Edge
Yamila / Iras Fajro / Forbidden Colours
Deep State / The Path to Fast Oblivion / Friendship Fever
Finlay Shakespeare / Domestic Economy / Editions Mego
Patrick Damphier / Say I’m Pretty / yk
Yurgen Blackrok / Anima Mysterium / I.O.T
Alfredo Rodriguez & Pedro Martinez / Duologue / Mack Avenue
NEWS & NOTES
THURSDAY February 7th
Slushy / Ladygod / Wülfpac
Schubas 9PM FREE
First Round's On Me / Rotten Mouth / Save State
The Owl 9PM FREE
Corey Wong (of Vulfpeck) / Emily Browning
Lincoln Hall 8:30PM $20
Brasstracks / Kemba / Pell / Anthony Flammia
Bottom Lounge 8PM $18
Interpol / Sunflower Bean
Chicago Theatre 7:30PM $30 - $125
SATURDAY February 9th
Vocalo Winter Block Party:
Mother Nature / MFNMELO / Navarro / Loona Dae and More
Metro 6PM FREE w/ RSVP
Naked Giants / Twen / The Evening Attraction
The Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $10
Derrick Carter / Harry Cross
Smartbar 10PM $12
La Armada / Juventud Crasa / Ledge / Death of Self
Cobra Lounge 6PM $10
Chrome Sparks / Kalbells / Max Jaffe
Lincoln Hall 9PM $18 ($20 doors)
The Parrots / Mozes and the First Borns / Courtney
Schubas 9PM $10 ($12 doors)
FRIDAY February 8th
Lucrecia Dalt / Bitchin' Bajas
The Hideout 9PM doors $10
Stoop Goodnoise (Album Release) / The Burst and Bloom / Fall Classic / Flake Michigan
Subterranean 9PM $10
Zoofunkyou / Goose Corp / Elk Walking
Schubas 10PM $12 ($15 doors)
Twiddle / Neal Francis
Concord 8PM doors $18
Bassel and The Supernaturals / Kayem / Mike Maimone / Dassit
Lincoln Hall 8PM $13 ($15 doors)
Joshua Hedley / Cale Tyson
Schubas 7PM $15
JANE / Forks of Ivy / Chaos in Creation / Arcana
Subterranean (downstairs) 9PM $8
BILAL / Jay Illa / AMI
Chop Shop 8PM $25 - $50
Counterpunch / Still Alive / The Linden Method / The C-Sides
Beat Kitchen 8PM $10
SUNDAY February 10th
Little Miss Ann Band
Beat Kitchen 12PM $6
Twin Talk (Record Release) / Mike Lewis / JT Bates / Jeremy Ylvisaker
The Hideout 9:30PM $10
See you at the show Chicago!