Welcome to issue #7 of Chicago Crowd Surfer. Seeing live music gives us joy, and it is our mission, in these trying times, to spread some of that joy to you. We don’t just want to spread it, we want to share it; which is why we are a crowd-sourced publication. We want you to join us: to write about, and share pictures of, the shows you attend, the new albums you love, the bands you adore, and any other thing that has to do with seeing, performing, or experiencing music in Chicago. Please send any submissions to email@example.com. We are now up to ten contributors and are always looking for more! We may not publish everything we get, and we reserve the right to edit, but will always try and seek the submitters’ approval. Our mission is to be a positive publication, so if you have negative things to say - please look for another forum in which to express that opinion. We aim to wade through the bullshit of this modern life to find what good is left. See you at the show Chicago.
Keep Seeing Live Music!
KPL & JB
wild child / the wild reeds / stelth ulvang
Wild Child / all photos by KPL
The last night of a tour always has the potential to produce something grand. The road can be a special place where lasting bonds are created, which is definitely the case with Wild Child and The Wild Reeds, who ended their tour together at Thalia Hall on Sunday.
An all ages affair, meaning it starts early and ends early, is perfect for a Sunday evening. I was pleasantly surprised when first opener Stelth Ulvang, a singer/songwriter and touring musician who has recently been playing with The Lumineers, walked onstage fifteen minutes earlier than the seven start time, with his drummer and bassist/violinist in tow. His twenty minute set was jammed packed with his neo-folk syle tunes that get you humming along without venturing into the sappy or trite that this genre sometimes contains. He had the growing crowd from the first tune, and switching back and forth from guitar to piano, he put all he had into the time he was given: performing a few tunes off new album American Boredom along with some earlier work. I’m not normally into an artist explaining their songs but he did have a great anecdote, explaining one tune was about a dead dolphin he dragged back into the ocean. But was really a love song to the woman who told him he was swimming with shark chum as he was doing the good deed. As he was ending, I started checking out the crowd behind me and realized this was going to be one of those rare shows where the women would outnumber the men. Always refreshing when that happens.
After a rather quick changeover Los Angeles’ The Wild Reeds took the stage to a few hoots from fans, and by the end of their hour set we were all in that category. To say the ladies of The Wild Reeds are showmen would be an understatement. From Sharon Silva shredding while on her knees, to Mackenzie Howe playing harmonica and keys at the same time, to Kinsey Lee’s howling bellow of a voice these three incredible women have something very special together. You can tell that they are great friends and are having the time of their lives performing these songs. From self confidence booster “Capable” to the gorgeous love song “Fix You Up” their three part harmonies were made to melt hearts. At the end of their fantastic set (if you get a chance to see them in the future, you should) all the members of Wild Child joined them onstage for a tune and it turned into a raucous affair with an inflatable lobster being tossed everywhere and Silva ending up playing while on her back to finish the tune. You would never guess from listening to their albums that The Wild Reeds would rock so hard live, but I kept thinking that it has been a long time since I have seen a band have this much fun onstage. Keep living the dream ladies, you’re damn good at it.
The seven piece folk-soul collective out of Austin known as Wild Child was up next, and as I suspected they were just as jazzed and upbeat as their tour mates. They came onstage to cheers of what was now a near packed house; and started to roll through their catalog; including doing a couple old tunes with just original members Alexander Beggins and Kelsey Wilson. Just for the record, Wilson can sing. She has a warm and beautiful tone that fits so well with Beggins half falsetto. The harmonies the two produce work excellently with the folk-soul sound of the band. Their new album Expectations has been a sleeper hit this year, and it is no surprise when you see them live. The energy and synergy that is produced onstage is rather spectacular. The hour and a half set went by in a heartbeat.
To add to the cohesiveness the ladies from Wild Reed’s joined them onstage for a gorgeous version of “Sunken Ship” followed by a great version of “Expectations” to end the set, but instead of leaving the stage (they were running out of time, all ages shows must end by ten) they launched right into an encore that brought Wild Reeds out again for a synchronized dance routine, while each member of the band took a solo. Thanks for including us in the end of tour festivities, it made for a memorable show! I hope to see these two special bands again soon. Visit our metropolis again this year please!
baths / no joy / sasami ashworth
Baths/ all photos by KPL
Sasami Ashworth began with her voice. While my ears were enjoying the music, I took in the visual elements of her performance. She wore a floor length robe, its sheer red hue flowed behind her as she swayed along with her own tune. Her feet were donned with Dr. Marten black boots, and she sported a tattoo of a heart with text on her left quad. As I was pondering what her wardrobe might reflect about her, I caught a lyric about losing her calluses after a rough relationship. She continued walking us through her self-reflection, looking back in time to see herself slipping down. Sasami sang of her past experiences, mostly about relationships and the pivotal moment she realized they needed to end. Despite the downer subject matter, she broke the mood by turning her angst into her guitar. She came out on the other side with proud humor: “I am doing solos with my mouth. I don’t have a band, YET!” Sasami wrapped up her set with a strong strum, her red robe bouncing along.
No Joy began with a squeal and a bang. I looked over the railing from the upper level to see two heads hung down, faces covered in hair. The bang came from the drum kit just out of view from my perch on the balcony. KPL, who had seen them before, leaned to me and hit the nail on the head, we dug the driving drum kit with two guitars over the top (no bass). I couldn’t tell you any of the lyrics, but that doesn’t seem to be the point of No Joy. Rather, I was led to embrace the droning pulse of blood sifting through my brain, which was active but my thoughts were intangible. As I sat with my pulse, KPL went off to take pictures from the other side of the balcony. He came back with a shot of the full band, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn their drummer was short haired and male. Not who I expected to be driving this shoegaze band from Montreal. They may be called No Joy, but there was plenty of joy to be had watching this performance.
Baths creates an electronic sound that I can place from note one. KPL and I saw them a few years ago at The Metro with his parents, and quickly learned that this was not a style of music that is understood across generations. Their music stuck with me, and the parents stuck it out.
Will Wiesenfeld and Morgan Greenwood make up this LA duo. Their stage was divided exactly in half. This left plenty of room for Morgan’s impressive spread of sound equipment and Will’s mic and keyboard. They performed all of my favorites, opening with “lovely bloodflow” and included “extrasolar,” “human bog,” and “broadback” ending their set with the popular “no eyes.” But, really, all of their songs are my favorites. Will sings with such power and clarity, so I really couldn’t be disappointed. As a Lincoln Hall bonus, they made use of the disco ball (as if they knew I was going to be there).
A highlight was Will’s onstage movement. The stage had to be split in half so he could have enough space to release his energy, and he still did not have enough room; dancing with such poise, and such intentionality that you could see the music being released from his soul and out through his toes, his arms, his head, and his spine; just about every part of his body that he could articulate (and even some parts I didn’t know you could articulate the way he did). Even standing at the mic, his legs were undulating from hip to ankle, as I imagine a merman would move in such a passionate performance. At times writhing on stage (with grace mind you), his voice never shook. He always seemed to have the fullest breath, seamlessly guiding him between every high note and every guttural scream, and through every spinal twist.
I am obviously a fan of this band, and highly recommend you give them several listens. Then figure out where you can see them live. They are a spectacle. Just, maybe leave the parents at home.
P.S. To the pair of dudes dancing at the ramp rail: you truly enjoyed this show as much as I did. If you are reading this, I would love to read your review of this show!
tauk / egi / steady flow
Tauk / all photos by KPL
Nothing like a good Friday the 13th show. The weird always seems a bit higher on these nights; a whole crowd can feel a bit off kilter. What better way to take in a triple bill of quality jam bands?
LPL and I arrived at the Concord a bit late and Steady Flow had already taken the stage to a sparse crowd. This seven piece instrumental funk band from Peoria are the real deal. Taking a cue from bands like Lettuce and Galactic (see issue #0.8 in our archives for a review of these funk giants), Steady Flow takes the classic funk sound and stretches it to its limits with blasting horns and bass lines that make you move your feet. Drummer Kendall Smith is particularly impressive, pounding on his drums like there is no tomorrow. I think he used every drum on that kit, and there are quite a few, in every tune.
Guitarist Tanner Brown treated us to a rendition of “California Love” on his guitar talkbox that gave the audience something familiar to latch onto and helped them relax into the groove. Jam shows are always filled with solo dancers and there were plenty grooving with their bodies to Steady Flow’s jams.
I must show appreciation to whoever decided to set up all three drum kits on stage before the show. While it made it tight for Steady Flow, it sure made the change overs so much faster, which helps move the show along.
Locals EGI were up next and it wasn’t long before their short line test was done and they were off and running with an improv filled set. This four piece plays a more classic jam band sound than the other two acts, with lots of tunes that remind one of early Phish or later Twiddle. There aren’t many jam bands in the Chicago area; in fact I can think of only two: Mungion and EGI, and both are excellent, you should check em out.
EGI’s groove is laid down by Drew Littell on drums and an impressive Allan Borukhovich on bass while Noe Perez and James Hernandez lay their guitar licks over the top to create a solid sound that is rocking, funky and fun. There is a particularly good tune in “ Thrive”, off new album Vessel, which released in early March. It’s chorus, “we thrive in the late night,” is catchy and singable making for a good jam hit. If you like your rock groovy and longform check out Vessel wherever you get music, you won’t be disappointed.
What we had all been waiting for was up next, two sets of non-stop jam jazz funk from arguably the best in the genre. While I saved our spot, LPL ran to the bathroom and bar leaving me to ponder if there had always been a rail at The Concord. Or if they put it up for certain shows. I certainly don’t remember it always being there, but then again I often used to leave shows and couldn’t remember the beginning of them; let me just say I am glad those days are in the past.
Tauk took the stage to the roar of their fans, and after some theatrics from drummer Isaac Teel involving his Michael Jordan #45 jersey, they rolled right into their first set. This four piece takes instrumental funk into the electronic area with some tunes that pull on the limits of improv with circular jams that affect the mind as well as the dancing feet.
Keyboardist Alric “A.C.” Carter lays down a funky line and Charlie Dolan keeps the groove going on bass while Matt Jalbert solos over the top of it all like his life depends on that next note. The real star of all this is Teel. His drumming really drives these tunes and as he sets up center stage he becomes the band leader in a way; although they all communicated back and forth with gestures and eye contact all through both sets. A highlight for the crowd was their cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” towards the end of the first set.
The second set was a bit more jam heavy with Carter and Jalbert trading solos back and forth and continuing to play some great tunes off their new Shapeshifter EP that released last week. The encore was particularly rocking. The crowd that hadn’t left (it was nearing 2am) were getting down as hard as they could! We were kindly told it was time to leave by security after we were chatting with some friends and making our way slowly out. We just wanted to put off leaving as long as we could. Wanting the weird to soak in as much as possible before we journeyed out into the rainy night to wash off the fun and return to the real world.
All three of these bands are playing Summer Camp Music Festival in Chillicothe, IL. Tickets are still available. You can find them here.
Say SUE ME
WHERE WE WERE TOGETHER
DAMNABLY, eLECTRIC mUSE
Most critics refer to Say Sue Me as Korean surf indie pop. Which is a mouthful, I admit; but it doesn’t get to the core of the emotions and depth that are packed into this music. Singing in Korean and English, Choi Sumi’s mellow delivery betrays the somber but sometimes uplifting, sometimes humorous, subject matter of the interesting tunes contained in new album Where We Were Together.
From love songs like “But I Like You” to upbeat tunes like “I Just Wanna Dance” the surface is all a bit glossy but when you dig a bit you realize there is an over pervasive sense of longing and indecision that haunts these tunes. Maybe it’s because I know the tragic story of their former drummer who has been in a catatonic state since a fall several years ago, or maybe it is making this music with international fears looming in the background; but something seems a bit off and it makes for music magic.
I don’t know if a band from the U.S. could make an album this complex seem so simple. It’s something that seems to be coming from across the water lately. Influences garnered from American Pop and Indie Rock form an amalgamation in the minds of musicians all over the world and they seem to be able to do it better than their influences ever could have. Just listen to final track “Coming To The End” and you’ll understand what I mean.
At any rate, check out this album, you won’t be disappointed. It is chock full of layered guitars and seemingly simple driving bass and drums, all surrounding Sumi’s droll and gorgeous delivery.
No U.S. dates for Say Sue Me in the near future. If they do announce a tour we’ll let you know if they are stopping by Chicago.
A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
Brooklyn may be the home to hipsterdom in this day and age; but it sure has, over the last, well, many years, produced some killer acts that break the mold. A Place to Bury Strangers is most definitely among them. A driving and decimating musical experience, new album Pinned feels like the result of this particular time and place.
Oliver Ackermann’s half spoken lyrics lay over the top of his screaming yet muted guitar, while Dion Lunadon’s bass drives these tunes onward (in the mold of Peter Hook), and drummer Lia Simone Braswell’s own voice adds a haunting layer to harmonies that are beautiful in their own creepy and disturbing way. This is not party music. It’s more of a sit at home in the dark and ponder kind of record. While the waves of sonic resonance rattle in your skull you’ll be treated to songs akin to Joy Division or early Fugazi in feel and texture; but with a refreshing take on the noise rock genre.
No Chicago dates at the moment, but plenty of fests left and plenty of year. My prediction, a Lincoln Hall show in the fall seems most likely.
THE CITY OF BOOTMAKERS
SUNDAY BEST, [PIAS]
Every once in awhile an artist comes along that defines their own sound and sticks out from the usual parade of musicians that, in the internet era, has increased with astounding speed. L.A. Salami is just such an artist. The pseudonym of London musician Lookman Adekunle Salami, L.A. Salami is one of those rare acts that can tie so many genres into a sound that is all their own. New album The City of Bootmakers contains the storytelling of Dylan or Simon paired with the fun of his English contemporary Beans on Toast, without the silliness the later can contain.
There is loads of information packed into these lyrics, and if you can start to really listen, you can begin to see how complicated modern life is and that seems to be exactly how Salami wants you to feel. With tunes about Brexit, Isis, religion v. science, generational gaps, and, of course, relationships; this is a powerful and rending album that captures life as we know it in the second half of this messy and disturbing decade.
We just missed him. He was here at the end of March. Hopefully he’ll be back in late Summer or early Fall!
WHAT WE'RE JAMMING TO THIS WEEK
A FRIEND NAMED PAUL
The third single from the upcoming album from local indie lo fi pop outfit Varsity. A bouncy, jaunty tune about a, well, a friend named Paul.
They are holding their record release party, for new album Parallel Person (which we will review next week) at the Empty Bottle on Friday, and it’s only $8! With Divino Nino and Beach Bunny in support. Role on in there and support local music, Surfers!
BIRDS OF CHICAGO
NEVER GO BACK
This americana group spans from Chicago to Vancouver and produces some really fine tunes. This is the second single from upcoming new album Love In Wartime (out May 4th), and it soul’s up the place for sure!
Birds of Chicago are currently touring Europe but just played Thalia two weeks ago and, by all accounts, rocked it.
THE SPACE TRAVELERS LULLABY AND FISTS OF FURY
Two long singles from upcoming album album Heaven and Earth, which it seems will be a concept album of sorts. Plenty of room for Washington to spread the wings of his sax and let it soar.
He will be at The Riv Nov. 3rd. Tix go on sale this Friday, but pre-sale is up and running and it shouldn’t be too hard to get a code. $36.75 before fees.
First new tune since last year’s Apocalipstick, and it is indie pop gold. Blast this one in the car for sure.
No Chicago dates for Cherry Glazerr yet this year.
LIVING ROOM WORKTAPES (ep)
There is something about that old school country sound that this twenty four year old evokes that caught our attention, but it’s her heartfelt lyrics and modern stories that kept us around. These four tunes are a testament to this artists talent, and she has a bright future.
She is slated to open for Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town this summer but she is opening for Steve Moakler at Joe’s on Weed Street on May 18th. It’s $10 / $12 door, we call that a steal to check her out before she becomes a country music star.
OTHER NOTABLE JAMS FROM THIS WEEK
Brothers Osborne - Weed, Whiskey And Willie
Calpurnia - Louie
Sigrid - Raw (EP)
Frank Turner - Make America Great Again
Speedy Ortiz - Villain
Florence + The Machine - Sky Full of Song
Half Waif - Back in Brooklyn
Le Butcherettes - spider/WAVES
NEW RELEASES WE MISSED
KHRUANGBIN / CON TODO EL MUNDO / NIGHT TIME STORIES, DEAD OCEANS
A true worldly sound comes from this Texas trio who blend soul and some R&B with rhythms and time signatures from around the globe.
There is a reason their show at Lincoln Hall this Friday is sold out. We think this is the shit. On our shortlist for top ten so far.
BEN HARPER AND CHARLIE MUSSELWHITE / NO MERCY IN THIS LAND / BEND HARPER, ANTI
The blues has always been an important part of the Ben Harper sound. He has teamed up with a variety of musicians throughout his near 25 year career. This is his second album with blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite and the two can do no wrong in our eyes.
They are playing Thalia Hall on July 30th and it sold out as soon as it went on sale. But as we have told ya’ Thalia always saves a couple dozen tix for night of, so who knows. You might get lucky.
WHYTE HORSES / EMPTY WORDS / CRC
Just listen to opening track “Counting Down The Years” and if you’re not onboard it is time to question your taste in music. Just kidding, but really you should check this one out. It will be a great summer record.
Whyte Horses is not making a trip from Manchester anytime soon. We’ll let you know when they do!
THIS WEEK'S RECOMMENDED NEW RELEASES
PRINCESS NOKIA / A GIRL CRIED RED / ROUGH TRADE
Flying high off last years album 1992, NYC MC Princess Nokia returns with a genre bending eight song EP that transcends her previous sound and goes into the rock and pop realm for many tunes. But it’s so good, you’ll find no complaints here.
Princess Nokia is performing at the Metro on Sunday, April 29th at 7PM and it is Sold Out. But there are plenty of third market tix out there, we checked, be careful out there.
LAURA VEIRS / THE LOOKOUT / RAVEN MARCHING BAND
What is an artist to do after collabing with the likes of KD Lang and Neko Case? Well, release an excellent solo album, that’s all.
Chicago isn’t a stop on the current tour. We’re banking on a fall show at Thalia!
KING TUFF / THE OTHER / SUB POP
This marks Kyle Thomas’ (of Ty Segall backing band The Muggers) solo projects fifth album and it is rather spectacular. You should give this one a spin….
He is playing Lincoln Hall on May 25th at 9PM, with Cut Worms opening, $18 ($20 door)
TINASHE / JOYRIDE / RCA
R&B might be the freshest, pushing the envelope, genre. And this album from Los Angeles artist Tinashe is the sounds future babies are made from.
She is not stopping by our city soon. Please come to Chicago Tinashe!
NOTHING, NOWHERE / RUINER / FUELED BY RAMEN
This project, headed by Joe Mulherin, is a bit emo with hip hop and R&B influences and it roots itself into your consciousness in an interesting way. We dig it.
He played here at the Sub T in early March, so we will most likely see him again in the fall or winter.
MORE NOTABLE RELEASES
John Prine / The Tree Of Forgiveness / Oh Boy
Folk legend puts out excellent album at 71, and we buy into it 100%.
He is playing next Friday, April 27th at Chicago Theatre and it is Sold Out but like always there are plenty of overpriced third market tix out there, if it’s worth it to you, be careful out there.
Juliana Hatfield / Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton John / American Laundromat
Boston folk rock veteran does a covers album of Olivia Newton John songs and we say…. “What? We gotta hear that!”... And it’s good. Nuff said.
Ms. Hatfield has no current tour dates.
Brazilian Girls / Let’s Make Love / Brazilian Girls , Six Degrees
A decade absence has not unsharpened the knives of this NYC synth pop trio.
We wish they had a Chicago date coming soon….. you hear that Brazilian Girls …. that’s Chicago waiting for you.
Goldmund / Occasus / Western Vinyl
Gorgeous ambient piano album from Keith Kenniff that left us wanting to sleep for days but was so good we listened to it twice in a row.
No tour dates for Goldmund as of now.
Josh Rouse / Love in the Modern Age / Yep Roc
Singer songwriter Josh Rouse has put out an 80’s influenced record that we dug quite a bit.
He is playing SPACE in Evanston on May 17th, $20 - $35
Robert Glasper Experiment
In an earlier day this would be called the Robert Glasper Quartet, but with so many electronic elements here and there in this modern jazz excellence, experiment is exactly the right word.
Skipping Chicago on this leg of the tour, we hope to see them come back around.
Ciaran Lavery / Sweet Decay / AllPoints
Irish folk rocker puts out his most polished and emotional album yet.
Not making it to the U.S. anytime soon. We’ll let you know if he does. We want to see him too.
NOTES & ANNOUNCEMENTS
- Do Division (curated by The EB) announced their line up is rather killer: June 1st, 2nd, and 3rd : $5 donation. On Division between Damen and Leavitt.
La Luz , Ted Leo and the Pharmacists , Antibalas, Deerhoof, Bear vs Shark, Wooden Shjips, Martin Rev, Bad Bad Hats, Frankie Rose, Low Down Brass Band, Chris Farren , Surfbort, AM Taxi, Modern Vices, Jovan Landry, Carla Dal Forno , Holy Wave, Shortly, HIDE, Peel, Cold Beat, Divino Nino, ESSO!, Goon Sax, Many Rooms, Bad Veins , Deeper, Hidden Hospitals , Ganser, CASE, School of Rock Chicago, Little Kids Rock
Day schedules will be out when the fest nears. $5 a day for a ton of music. We sure hope it’s not 50 degrees again….
- This Friday, 4/20, is the first ever Waldos Forever Fest! in Andersonville. At Argyle and Clark Streets. An outdoor fest sponsored by Do 312 and 1833, that is “a full day of music, education, and fun for cannabis lovers” Headlined by local rockers White Mystery with Makaya McCraven, Sam Trump, Dave Mata and DJ Tess all playing as well. Sounds fun, if it’s not snowing!
Join us next week for a write up on the Kid Koala DJ symphony at the Art Institute and a review from LPL on the Waxahatchee / Hurray for the Riff Raff show at Thalia!
Till Then . . . See You At The Show, Chicago.
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