Welcome, welcome, Surfers to one of our biggest issues yet! We had a packed Valentine’s weekend, with five shows in four days! (Yes, we are insane!) We caught Friday and Sunday of Pitchfork’s Midwinter at The Art Institute, a Planned Parenthood benefit full of local talent at Lincoln Hall, a late night loft party with DJs Heather and Colette, and the transcendent Illuminati Hotties with locals Retirement Party in support at The Hideout. It was full week of new releases as well, with records from local experimental trio Billington/Shippy/Wyche (who sat down with us for an interview), Chicago-area rockers Gazebo Effect, and the one and only Chaka Khan. And that’s just the local music, loyal readers! We have so much more to share! So pull up the playlist, and dig on in, (and don’t forget to check out the calendar for your show-going needs.)
Keep Seeing Live Music!
⬐ SHOWS ⬎
Panache’s benefit for Planned Parenthood
V.V. Lightbody / all photos by KPL
With a mighty roster of established and up and coming artists, Panache Booking held a righteous benefit for Planned Parenthood at Lincoln Hall on Valentine’s Day. The evening couldn’t have been better with a rotating lineup of bands and solo artists each with their own love song covers to share. Chicago rapper Femdot started out the night with exclamations and rapid flows. His limbs never stopped moving as he prowled the stage, his non mic hand accentuating every lyric pop. After quickly setting up her piano, Gia Margaret displayed the quiet carisma that has gained her many fans over the past year since releasing There’s Always Glimmer last summer. She even showed off her sense of humor by covering a tune from Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer. The fabulous V.V. Lightbody (Vivian McConnell) was next, joined by a couple flutists and Malcolm Brown of Whitney on piano. A consummate scenester, McConnell would return with several other acts as the night progressed to lend her skills to harmonizing and tamborine. Pool Holograph was one of those acts; they propelled the crowd into a meditative state with their rendition of Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” and the fantastic Tasha took us all into her hands with a beautiful cover of the Dixie Chick’s “Lullaby.” After a few words from Planned Parenthood, (Donate Here, they need all the help they can get right now!) local legend Jeff Tweedy came out solo, tiny acoustic guitar in hand, to regale the now packed house with a version of Labi Siffre’s “It Must Be Love” and a few of his own tunes including “I Know What It’s Like” from new record WARM. Local indie rockers Deeper were up next, and after joking about Tweedy breaking the rules (he played his own songs) they hit it out of the park with John Maus’ “Bennington.” Knox Fortune was next out of the gate, and along with Miss McConnell and his band they ripped through a great cover of Donna Lewis’ “I Love You, Always Forever” that got the now thinning crowd dancing to the disco flavor. It’s really too bad that a majority of the crowd dispersed after Tweedy’s performance, because up next was really something special. Whitney hit it big in 2016 with Light Upon The Lake, and have been on a short hiatus from performing live while they recorded a new record (WeamDreaver, which was just announced this week). They were a late addition to the evening but came prepared with a cover of Neil Young’s “Love In Mind,” along with sharing a new one that will appear on the record, and ending the evening with a duo version of their “Golden Days.” What a night this was! Thanks to Panache and Lincoln Hall who raised $15K for Planned Parenthood. We can’t think of a better Valentine from the city of Chicago!
If you want to scope some videos of the evening hit up our twitter feed.
Illuminati Hotties / Retirement Party
Illuminati Hotties / photos by KPL and JBW
A sold out show at The Hideout is always a special thing, to be packed into the legendary venue that has hosted so many amazing acts over the years is an experience every Chicagoan should have. If those wood paneled, taxidermied-fish-adorned walls could talk they would regale you with tales of many acts that graced that small stage before they rose to stardom. And years from now they would be able to tell of Illuminati Hotties and locals Retirement Party who are both bound for greatness.
With last years snarky and amusing Somewhat Literate, Retirement Party made an impact with their self described “bullshit pop;” and have been opening for some killer national acts, including a recent tour with Mom Jeans. Avery Springer’s at times humorous, and at others introspective lyrics, lay at the heart of their appeal; however, Nick Cartwright and Springer’s layered guitars and James Ringness’ exuberant drumming bring to mind plenty of second wave punk/emo acts like The Get Up Kids or Rainer Maria. But they do share more in common with locals Beach Bunny and Sincere Engineer than the latter with their stream of conscious lyrics and simply perfect vocal delivery. This evening Springer had the crowd in her hands and she didn’t disappoint, delivering a short and impactful set, including plenty off Somewhat Literate, including highlights “That’s How People Die” and “Truck Stop Casino.” We’re definitely looking forward to checking them out again. and we may get the chance when they headline a show at Cobra Lounge on March 8th, with Holy Pinto, Boss Fight, and Tiny Kingdoms in support. Tix are only $10!
It wasn’t long before the self described “tender punk pioneer” Sarah Tudzin and the band made their way from backstage to line test before absolutely zipping through a set full of tunes off last years debut Kiss Yr Frenemies. Tudzin’s charm and confidence on stage immediately engaged the crowd as her shout along tunes brought out inner singers all around us. Pop with a punk core would be an apt description of Illuminati Hotties, and there was plenty of bouncing and dancing from the packed house, showing how catchy and infectious Tudzin’s tunes are. The audience’s enthusiasm only helped feed the band, with Nathaniel Noton-Freeman on guitar, Tim Kmet on drums, and Dean Kiner on bass, who all had their moments of delirious joy rocking the sold out crowd. They ended with a pumped up version of “Pressed 2 Death” to cheers for more. It was clear she had no encore planned but at the rabbles insistence, she came out and did a solo number before calling it a night. Hot off a tour opening for Lucy Dacus, these California kids are off to big things. We hope they swing back through this summer, and bring some more of that punky joy with em!
Colette and DJ Heather
Elastic Arts Center
Colette and DJ Heather / all photos by LPL
...let me pick up where KPL left off. After Retirement Party and Illuminati Hotties, we rode the wave back home for a bit of coffee. Coffee at midnight can mean a few things, none of which involve going to bed at a prescribed hour. Tonight it meant we were heading to Colette & DJ Heather’s 10th annual tour, which began in 2009 as a 3-month American tour with back to back daily sets.
Before the EDM explosion, house music grew out of garage and warehouse parties in the early nineties. Colette and DJ Heather have been spinning long before 2009, both together and independently, yielding a fan base alongside house legends Mark Farina and Derrick Carter. So called “raves” grew into loft parties to circumvent city fines. Locations were kept secret until the day of the event, and details were not to be shared. Resident Advisor now largely maintains the underground scene, following these very trends to guide house music fiends to the finest of parties. Tonight’s Valentine’s themed party was fourth in a series of events, called Loft Frequencies, purposively decorated and curated by BlondEvents. Each Loft Frequencies party has a charitable mission and raises funding for a dedicated charity, including epilepsy and pediatric cancer.
Loft parties can be in any event space, anywhere in Chicago. Attendees commit to going because of who is spinning, not because it is close to home. That said, KPL and I were thrilled to receive a convenient addy, just a hop skip and a jump from our apartment. It had been a while since I allowed myself a well-cleared weekend to enjoy a single night of house music. Going late into the morning, at times not returning home until noon the next day, I cleared my Sunday to allow for anything. We climbed the disclosed stair well (of the non-profit Elastic Arts) filled with house music, and excitement rose as we ascended the stairs on our own cloud of beats. A low key entry involved confirming our name on the list, and instructions to find the coat check, bathroom, and use the BYOB bar post-it tracking system, and to enjoy ourselves. We wove through beats and people, passed a kneeling wine bag bong, watched live artists Josiah Neniskis and Megan Kind, and passed through an Exit door (portal) into a hallway with bathrooms and coat check. I love this space and had been away too long.
Hootie and Redux had already finished their sets. DJ Heather (Heather Robinson) was on the decks, and just as the backing vocal track claimed “It’s all about me,” DJ HEather tagged the deck over to Colette. Colette (Colette Nicholas) used her own headphones, like sitting down to your own drum kit. House DJ changes are seamless. You have to pay attention to see it happen, or feel the beat trends change in your body. Just listen to your hips...
She slipped through vocal track “check your body” and layered over her own scene-changing vocals to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dream.” Hearing “when the rain washes you clean, you'll know, you'll know” early into the evening sent me back to my house antics of the mid-00s - this was a space to dance, aided by the beats of a visionary DJ, until I realigned with my pure self.
All walks of people come together and blend into a mass of continuous enjoyment - no drama, very little conversation, mutual merriment. People come to mostly have fun on an individual level, fueled by the vibes emitted around them. DJs included. Not a mistake to conflate bolder expressions of individuality with a good time. There are no rules in house music, no rules on the dance floor. Anything goes here.
Somewhere around 2AM, Heather spun through Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day.” In the underground, the reworked live mix is often the more well known version, but the same emotion is always conveyed, if not highlighted. Tonight, there is to be no end to the day, days just roll into next. It’s always going to be a lovely day when you allow yourself to roll. The heavier and deeper Heather dropped, the deeper our hearts dropped into bones.
The weirder people got (or rather the purer they became), Heather and Colette dug deeper into their catalogs. Their hits still hit, and they hit hard. DJs included, we were all finding our home in house music amid the rolling mass. The crowd would erupt at the slightest hint of a statement track from back in the day. To further emphasize my point, Colette’s #2 track “Hypnotize” on Spotify is off of her 2005 record.
Pleased the music has not changed in 10 years, I was pleasantly aware of some changes within the mob of people. Perhaps the most apparent, respect for my body. Bumping and grinding did not garner side eyes or unwanted advancements. This had never stopped me from bringing my booty game, but it was really nice not to have to dance away from any suitors. My ancient Asics were still down to groove. My knees not so much, but Saturday night they were strutting along as they also forwent their curfew.
Around 3AM, just shy of set close, we were slipping into the future as Heather worked in Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle,” picking up on her trend of the day rolling along. Just behind me, through the haze and dim lighting, I could just barely make out a crepe paper limbo, manned by a masked figure wearing an LED top hat. The evening was far from over, bigger down and unders were yet to come. This mob was bound for the glory of an urban sunrise.
Art Institute of Chicago
February 15th and 17th
The anticipation was palpable as we entered the Art Institute for the first night of the inaugural Midwinter. A collaboration between Pitchfork and the AIC, (That’s the Art Institute of Chicago for those not in the know), the three day event (or music festival if you prefer) brought some of the best and brightest of current up-and-comers and established acts to perform in some of the many halls and spaces the museum/school has to offer. A base ticket was needed for entry, gareenting you five performances by the same artists each night in the Grand Staircase, plus run of the museum including various soundscapes inspired by pieces of art or whole gallery spaces. If you wanted entry into any of the additional performances, an add on ticket was required. Couple this with pop up performances and Pitchfork Radio broadcasting live in the basement all weekend, and you have what turned out to be more than your run-of-the-mill festival. Sure there were plenty of rules and a volunteer staff that could have used more information at times, but this was the first year, and there were sure to be kinks along the way. Here was our adventurous experience as we took in the event on Friday and Sunday evenings:
A self-taught violinist out of L.A. who creates solo compositions of utmost stripped down complexity, the fabulous Brittney Parks, is Sudan Archives. Yes, you read that right. Her music is visceral. Her beats reach out with a need to be touched by the soul. Emotionally complex and lavishly rich, like wrapping your mind in velvet, her performance in the intimate Fullerton Hall was transcendent. An hour of beauty and substance laid bare by the 23-year-old. (Her father agreed as he recorded every moment from down front.) A touching scene to add to her gripping show.
It turned out that the echo of the Grand Staircase was the perfect venue for the abstract guitar of Portland’s Marisa Anderson. We raved about her latest effort Cloud Corner back in June and were psyched to see her on the bill of this inaugural event. The Grand Staircase was not a performance space, and her figure was lost from our distance in the large pieces of art behind her, but, her sound was not. The reverberation of her guitar off the walls made her already layered compositions that much more thick and filled with wallowing depth.
**** Soundscapes ****
Though some of the soundscapes could have used more volume on the busy Friday, overall they were incredibly successful. The 16th Century Italian and Spanish art of Gallery 211 inspired Visible Cloaks to produce “Untitled,” reflecting the dichotomy of the secular museum clashing with the religious imagery in the art work. While Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s spare but gorgeous composition was the perfect accompaniment to Georgia O’Keefe’s austiere, “Sky Above Clouds IV,” each filleted one with hope for the horizon. The soundscape by Ilyas Ahmed titled “Aslan” had to be passed through multiple times each evening in order to get from the Grand Staircase to the rest of the performance venues, and there were always people sitting next to the speakers taking in the warm glow of the ancient Indian and Southeast Asian art the Alsdorf Galleries contain. Behind the viewer, through the floor to ceiling windows, is the glowing industrial skyline of Chicago. In front, artworks are created where all the rock and glass and ore used in those buildings is still in the ground. It set a dichotomy that we felt “Aslan” captured with it’s heavy chords built from scales that are like classic Indian Kalyani raga.
A gigantic screen behind the stage of Rubloff Auditorium dwarfed the five members of the English shoegaze heros Slowdive. Their entire show was filled with a plethora of animated abstract images that never stopped as they rolled through tunes new and old, inspiring many on the lower level to abandon their seats to dance/sway in bliss in the aisles. After reuniting in 2014, ten years after their original hiatus, the Reading, UK quintet returned several years back more focused and jam-worthy than ever. Slowdive was a heady topper to an already exhaustive evening, and we decided to call it a night after their emotionally draining performance.
If you’ve never taken in Mary Latimore’s unparalleled harp compositions, it may be hard to imagine the utmost beauty that she congers out of one of music's most difficult and complicated instruments. Using a loop mixer she places on her lap, the talented musician layers gorgeous arias through the many strings her fingers strum and pluck with precision. The resulting melodies could render even the most stoic individual to a sniveling mess. The Grand Staircase was the perfect venue for her grand pieces to resound.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” may be the most apt way to describe the passion of Madison McFerrin, the daughter of celebrated performer Bobby McFerrin; however, while his music seems rooted in the past, hers looks to the future. Alone, she composes rhythmic vocal concoctions using a loop pedal that are breathtaking and lyrical, and then she sings over the top of them: a one-person band using just her voice. A stunning thing to witness, and an even larger experience to behold.
**** Soundscapes ****
There were a few more soundscapes we wanted to take in before our add-on performances pulled us away, and Helado Negro’s “Meuniverseandyou: Field Recordings A” inspired by the American Folk Art Gallery was not to be missed. The multi-layer composition was created using environmental and synthesised sounds to represent what Negro thought the sounds these pieces of art in the gallery might make if given the opportunity. Atmospheric and rather euphoric, it really worked to set off the sometimes disturbing art in this one-of-a-kind rotunda gallery. A visit to the AIC isn’t complete without scoping out the Classic American Art of the 20th century, and Isamu Noguchi’s piece Miss Expanding Universe is a glorious example of abstract sculpture. Experimental artists Tashi Wada and Julia Holter created “The Flying Fix”really reflecting the hanging-in-the-air tension and acceleration that the suspended sculpture inspires.
Hiss Golden Messenger
An incredibly intimate performance by Michael (M.C.) Tayler, otherwise known as Hiss Golden Messenger, was gifted to those lucky enough to crowd into Fullerton Hall: Tayler and his three guitars, a stool, and a mic (well three, but who’s counting?) His sweet musky baritone at the forefront, eyes closed, he regaled us all in the beauty of his country-tinged folk, even sharing a new song “Happy Birthday” that he wrote for his daughter on her fifth birthday which she was “mildly impressed” by. A sort of storyteller’s theme presided over the hour-long set, including the story of how he wrote the next album’s worth of tunes in the mountains of Virginia with his guitar and bag of ‘shrooms in tow to help propel his work on the follow up to last year’s excellent Virgo Fool.
One of Chicago’s most intriguing young hip hop artists, Joey Purp closed out our evening and festival with a bumping performance in the Chicago Stock Exchange space. The gold-encrusted room with intricate wallpaper, geometric pillars, and art deco glass ceiling panels was at odds with the modern stage set up, creating a contrast that totally disappeared as soon as the charismatic rapper strolled onstage and started his stirring and enterataining performance. Rolling through a good portion of last year’s intriguing QUARTERTHING and ending with hit “Girls@,” he rocked those that stuck around for his show. Sweating his ass off under layers of clothes, he hit highlights “24K Gold/Sanctified” and “Hallelujah” hard, making him one of the best hip hop performers we’ve seen in years!!
There is an argument to be made that every music festival is a “choose your own adventure” experience. However, when the event involves purchasing “add on” shows on top of your base entry ticket, the “cyoae” quotient goes up a hundred-fold. The importance of making your showtimes becomes tantamount, and time can rule the experience. Add on to that certain rules of the house that must be enforced, and you get more of a structured event than some have the patience for. If this would have been billed as an event instead of a music festival it may have not sold as well, but it sure would have been viewed differently by the attendees. Regardless, we would say Midwinter was a success bringing together auditory and visual arts in a way that has been at the heart of human culture since some of the pieces on display in our city’s greatest museum were created. Here’s hoping we get another year of this one-of-a-kind festival!
NEWS & NOTES
Once again there are lots of sold out shows not listed here.
THURSDAY February 21st
Big Syn / Woongi / Desert Liminal (solo)
Hungry Brain 9PM FREE
Mel Senese (Release Party) w/ Special Guests
HVAC Pub 7PM doors $5
Tourist / Gilligan Moss
Sleeping Village 8PM $18
Vantablac SOL / Cado San / Nick McMillan / Shawn Reidy
Emporium - Wicker Park FREE w/ RSVP
Bailen / Shiny Penny
Schubas 8PM $10 ($13 doors)
Face to Face (Acoustic) Performing "Holdfast" In Its Entirety
Subterranean 8PM $25
The Kooks / Barns Courtney / Future Feats
The Riv 7:39PM $35
That 1 Guy
Beat Kitchen 9PM $15
FRIDAY February 22nd
Old Shoe / Ben Miller Band / Allie Kral
Chop Shop 9PM $20
Flora / Human Bloom / D'Zhari
Beat Kitchen 8PM $10
Butchered / On The Cinder / BTSK / The Ableist
The Liar’s Club 8PM doors Cover
Bob Mould Band / Airstream Futures
Metro 8PM $30
Graves / Hex Cougar / Kolla
Schubas 9PM $15
Beirut / Helado Negro
The Riv 7:30PM $42
SATURDAY February 23rd
Music Frozen Dancing
Ty Segall & White Fence / Negative Scanner / Plack Blague / Glyders
Empty Bottle (outside on Cortez) 1PM FREE
Mollow / Cheer Up / Good Looking Friends / lettering / Jeff Schaller and the Long Way Home
Subterranean (downstairs) 6PM $8
Bob Mould Band / Beach Bunny
Metro 8PM $30
Dante Elephante (LA) / The Evening Attraction / Valleys
Emporium - Wicker Park 9PM FREE w/ RSVP
Face to Face Performing "Self-Titled" In It's Entirety
Subterranean 9PM $30
Wonky Tonk / Co-Stanza / Broken Robots
Reggies 8PM $10
SUNDAY February 24th
Alex Cameron & Roy Molloy / Lola Kirke
Thalia Hall 'In The Round' 7:30PM doors $20
Makaya McCraven Band
Jazz Showcase 4PM, 8PM, 10PM $20 - $35
MONDAY February 25th
MNEK / Tayla Parx / Raja Kumari
Lincoln Hall 7:30PM $17 ($19 door)
Steve Earle / Shannon McNally
City Winery 8PM $50 - $65
Adia Victoria / Joshua Asante
Schubas 8PM $13 ($15 door)
WEDNESDAY February 27th
Jungle Green / Soft Rain Airplane / Íñigo Soler
Schubas 9PM FREE
Bret Koontz / Jessica Risker / Sean Green
The Hideout 9PM $8
Chirp Radio Night:
Glitter Moneyyy / Jen and the Dots
The Whistler 9PM FREE
The Chills / Brion Starr / Chatham Rise
The Empty Bottle 8:30PM doors $20
Cold Cave / ADULT. / VOWWS / DJ Scary Lady Sarah
Metro 8PM $21
See you at the show Chicago!