White Mystery / photo by KPL

Editor's Note
Welcome to issue #9 of Chicago Crowd Surfer! This issue we have write ups for White Mystery at The Empty Bottle, 56 Hope Road at Martyrs, and Priests at Lincoln Hall. Along with reviews of the new Varsity and Van Morrison albums and more, plus all the new music you should check out.  

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 chicago.crowd.surfer@gmail.com. We are now up to eleven 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!


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The Empty Bottle

Apr. 30th

White Mystery / all photos by KPL


Free Monday shows at The Empty Bottle are one of the best kept secrets of the Chicago music scene. Well, it’s not a secret, but you wouldn’t think so based on attendance. Sure, there was a rowdy, fun crowd this past Monday for White Mystery but you could tell that they were mostly friends of the bands. Not that it makes for a negative experience. Quite the opposite. It makes for some of the most intimate shows by some of the best acts in Chicago. When you’re playing for so many people you know the nerves and pressure slip away and it becomes a big party. 

The Drinks sauntered onstage without their fearless leader and began to tune and line check their instruments. As they neared being ready,  guitarist Aaron Ehinger called for her: “Beverly Rage to the stage!” She came out of the back donned in a wig from which sprouted various food items: pizza, burgers, hot dogs all emerging from the bright red wig; and a black, white and yellow striped jumpsuit and a gold sequin fanny pack. After strapping on her guitar they all went into a tune about eating junk food, appropriate given the wig. A couple songs into the set she commented “I’m the Blind Melon Bee Girl and I’ve had a hard life.” Commenting on her striped jumpsuit. “I think most of us are old enough to know the reference.” 

Bev Rage writes straight up punk music with hilarious lyrics containing subject matter that most punk bands wouldn’t think to cover. From tunes about hookups on Grindr, to dealing with gender issues, to “Having a Trist With a Narcissist,” about dating people in their 20’s. We even got a Little Debbie picnic with the drummer Trevor Cole during “You’re a Bitter Old Queen.” This is the stuff that opening bands should be: fun, in your face, and daring. 

After a quick change over and line check, Bryce Cashman and his band took the stage and immediately the energy in the room grew. His hand drum raised over his head Cashman led the band into the first tune and from minute one the classic metal sound vibrated the floor and they were off and going. He is a performer, that is for sure, falling to his knees, laying on his back, pounding on his hand drum, all the while bellowing his lyrics out to the world. 

Towards the end of the energetic, quality set, they invited Alex White (guitarist of White Mystery)  onstage for a song. While they sang Happy Birthday to her, she emerged from downstairs in a white leather jumpsuit that screamed rock n roll. Donned her guitar and they went into a song they had recorded together that is set to be released soon. If you get the chance to check out Bryce Cashman, you should take it, intriguing hard rock that leaves you wanting more. 

You may think that a decade playing as White Mystery would dull the blade of Alex and Francis Scott Key White’s sound, but it has remained as sharp as ever. When they launched into the first tune the room exploded, dancing began everywhere and never stopped through their near hour set.  Francis pounds his drums while Alice shreds and the sound is so much bigger than the two of them should be able to make; yet there it is, right in front of you: the two of them playing some of the best garage rock you’ll ever see. They blazed through a bunch off tracks off new album Hellion Blender and quite a few off their previous seven albums.  

Their music is frenetic and tight. Wound around Alex’s chords comes Francis’ beat and it gets you right in the gut. Even through hijinks like Alex playing here guitar while sitting on the drummer’s stool and pounding the bass drum pedal, not an easy task, as those that have tried know; the quality never wavered. At one point Alex thanked us all: “I know almost all of you. Thank you for supporting us all these years and for coming out on my birthday to celebrate with us!” and Francis added: “I have to say thanks to my sister, for putting up with me all these years.”

Thank you White Mystery, for yet another killer show. I hope for another ten years and beyond of great rock n roll from the two of you.  


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The Empty Bottle

Apr. 28th

Maypole Fest / all photos by KPL

Sometimes life deals you surprises and something you wanted to get done, doesn’t make it all the way. We here at Chicago Crowd Surfer had a moment like that for our coverage of Maypole Folk Festival, but we say such is life and at least want to share with you some pics of the acts we did catch. It was a damn fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon and we heard the rest of the day was really great as well. Here are some shots of Joybird, Jarochicanos, Square Dancing with Glass Mountain, and The Lawrence Peters Outfit. 

We have to say, we have never seen that many people square dancing in the heart of Chicago. Everyone had a blast. Thanks to the organizers and The Empty Bottle for making this event happen every year! 
See you next year Maypole!


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Anniversary show



Apr. 27th

56 Hope Road  / photo by JNC

56 Hope Road & The Right now (final bow) / photo by LPL

Congratulations to our friends of 56 Hope Road. They rebanded and conjured up all of their talent to celebrate their 20 year anniversary together at Martyrs on Friday night! If you missed the show, you missed a great one. Dave Hamilton crushed it on on vocals and guitars, Anne Katzfey brought the house down with her powerful, soulful vocal chords (and dazzled our eyes in a gold sequin number) and Mat Cashman’s pride glimmered through his sax and out the bell. We are proud to call these three our friends, but their family of a band wouldn’t be complete without Steve Goveia (guitars and vocals), Greg Fundis (drums), Matt Katzfey (percussion), Chad Sanders (bass), Casey Fitzpatrick (saxophones), Chris Corsale (guitar). It is a big family, full of big hearts and so much love. 

To more clearly share the feeling of just how much excitement filled Martyr’s that night, Jessica Cashman, wife of saxophonist Mat Cashman, shares how she feels 20 years on:

“My boyfriend is in a band! ”

…I must have said/shouted with joy those words 100 times in my younger years..and now THAT boyfriend is my husband.

And seeing him onstage Friday night- I got to say/shout again with incredible joy “my husband is in a band! ”
It never gets old. It never gets less exciting. Seeing him onstage brings me back to the early days of our relationship, where I would stand in the crowd- mesmerized by his talent and of those he played with. 56 Hope Road isn’t just a band- they are a family. And it shows. You can see it in their stage presence. You can feel it with their amazing energy.  You can not only see their happiness, but you can feel it. That happiness fills you up as you watch and listen.

When I see my husband onstage- up there, in front of the crowd- it’s as if I’m the only person in the venue….just listening and in awe. Playing his heart out- as is every one of his fellow band members.

I love watching him play - always have, always will.

Friday night was a reunion for 56 Hope Road- they only had one rehearsal. One. But they sounded just as amazing as they ever have. And they had a BLAST at rehearsal and a BLAST onstage. How could they not? They are in a band. An awesome band. 

Music transcends through time, and always gives you a memory.

Thank you 56 Hope Road for giving me one of the best memories of my life- “my boyfriend is in a band!”
I couldn’t be more grateful.

Cannot wait for the next Reunion Show- I’ll be there, in the crowd, mesmerized and incredibly happy.


That night we discovered another band who truly performs as a family: The Right Now. Last April, their vocalist’s partner passed away as a result of suicide. She closes each show with an inspiring and brave account of what the band experienced through their loss, and encourages others to join them as they continue to cope. The Right Now has partnered with Hope For The Day - a local organization providing suicide prevention through outreach and mental health education. “It is ok not to be ok.” 

Check out their latest album Starlight and hear for yourself why this pop/soul band is a group to follow. They are Stefanie Berecz (vocals), Lucas Gillan (drum), Brendan O’Connell (keys/guitar), Chris Corsale (guitar), Caleb Mitchell (trumpet) and Jim Schram (tenor sax) who bond together to create an engaging sound. One that is still following me days after the show. 


The Right Now is currently on tour. They return to Illinois to play at Wire in Berwyn on May 9, 7:30 PM.

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priests  /  mellow diamond /  forced into femininity


Lincoln Hall

May 1st

Priests  / all photos by KPL

Forced Into Femininity

Uncomfortable moments can be exhilarating at a show, or debilitating to the entire evening. Forced Into Femininity walked that line on Wednesday at Lincoln Hall (LH), tottering from one side to the other through their short set. Jill Flanagan’s sometimes solo, sometimes duo, group may be more performance art than musical act. Set up on the floor of LH, her keyboards and mixer on a folding table, her vocalist close at hand, she began with several screeching notes and some feedback, announcing this was not your typical piano/synth act. In fact nothing was typical about Forced Into Femininity, but who decides what is typical is the point.

Behind them on LH’s screen was a video depicting in detail the facial surgical procedures to transition from male to female, mixed with stock footage and video art pieces of this procedure. After several songs the large mask she was wearing was thrown off, and the performance turned personal. She told a story of sitting some cats and crawling under a house to retrieve them when they had escaped, which led to her singing the next song on top of the venue bar. Knocking some cups off the bar and turning on a tap. The tender looked unamused. Then venturing over to the middle age man leaning against the stage (you can see him in the photo) she began unbuttoning his shirt. At first we all thought it was part of the act. He was standing just to the side of them. But when he asked repeatedly for her to stop and then grabbed her hands to make her stop, the whole room realized this was real. And the line blurred and, personally, I felt very uncomfortable. With everything going on in our culture associated to events like this, it seemed in poor choice. 

Now, was it kind of his fault, as I later thought? He was standing right beside them, unwilling, I deduced to give up the spot he was holding for Priests. There was only 30 or so people in the large room at the time. No one was going to take that spot. However, a few choice words would have worked to shame him. Physical contact did not need to occur. I’m sure she thought it was funny and meant no harm, but it took many out of the show and the dancing with the crowd during the last song was no longer fun and games, but left a dreaded feeling she might do something else inappropriate. I was relieved that it all passed without another incident and the set came to an end. She has an interesting and important message it seems, I just wish that line would not have blurred.  

Mellow Diamond was already starting as I came in from my bathroom break. I hadn’t looked up this solo act and was pleasantly surprised that it was Janel Leppin, who I had read was playing bass for Priests. Her first several songs were at the keyboard, and her steady baritone delivery started to pull at my heartstrings. As soon as she switched to the cello it was all over, she had me in her hand and proceeded to wrench my soul with the gorgeousness of her tunes. It was no surprise when she mentioned her husband is Anthony Pirog, an avant garde musician who moves me every time I’ve seen him. She finished her too short set with a canned music song in which she only sang, but it was the reverbed claps and snaps during the bridge that brought the tune to a new height. 

I had been looking forward to seeing Priests again since their scorcher of a set at Pitchfork last year, turning me on to their album from last year: Nothing Feels Natural. Which made my top albums of the year. Katie Alice Grier’s vocals are a thing to behold and as soon as they launched into their set, the room filled with everyone from the front bar to check them out. 

Daniele Daniele’s drums rattle through your skull as GL Jaguar’s guitar rends the air around you and Grier growls and blurts the powerful lyrics, that actually have something to say (what used to be a rarity in indie rock, but is now coming back in a big way, wonder why . . . ). The crowd shouted along to “If I walk a hundred days does it mean I get to say you can’t talk to me that way / This is when I’d give a god a name but to people in sanctuaries all I can say is you will not be saved” from “Nothing Feels Natural” and “Accept the triumph of the machine / Accept the triumph of the machine” from “Puff.” It felt similar to being at a punk show without the machismo bullshit that can drag those down. 

Everyone was accepting and accepted. It’s a release from the everyday box that each of us lives in. Even if I still used the Men’s room though both restrooms were labeled Gender Neutral for the evening, it still feels good to know the option is there. We can be who we want to be without judgement. And as I made my way past the gathered line at the merch booth it was a great sight to see all four band members talking with fans as I made my way out to the real world. Where all those feelings have to be put back into place one after the other.




Just in time for spring comes this fairly sunny album from Chicago’s own Varsity. Well, sunny in music that is. Lyrically it has a darkness that juxtaposes the rather melodic guitar and rolling drums. This sophomore effort is full of tunes like “Must Be Nice” and “Isolation” where Stephanie Smith croons lyrics like :“Isolation/comes to find me/I can’t solve it /Contemplation/does remind me/of my problem/Alone alone alone again.” The lyrics are in direct opposition to the the brighter indie rock tune, making it all the more compelling.  Brother bass and drum team Paul and Jake Stolz create a great back beat for Patrick Stanton and Dylan Weschler to work with on guitars. While Smith’s synth and voice flows through it all. They have a bright future. Especially if the eight minute plus last song, “Along In My Principles” shows where they may take this thing in the next few years.


They just had their record release at Empty Bottle a couple weeks ago and have no new Chicago dates as of now.


Exploding out of the gate with burner “Boy Next Door,” brother/sister duo White Mystery produce another great album with Hellion Blender. Ten tunes, and only three break the 3 minute mark. This is rock for the low attention span, power chord lover in all of us. Not to say there is no substance here. Around the fun funky tracks like “Paint Yo’nails” and “White Mystery Tv” are interspersed songs with plenty of meaning, such as “Two Flats” which gives an outlaw version of the history of Chicago or “Ghost Signs” which may just be about gentrification. Or maybe we are reading way into it. However last track, “Part Deux” finds Francis giving a spoken word poem that is as introspective as it is interesting.

We’re not sure how we missed this album last week, but we can’t think of a better date for a White Mystery album to come out than 4/20. Just listen to this one. It’s 22 minutes of your life. We can think of plenty of things you could do while jamming to Alex and Francis’ jams. 

See our show write up above to hear about their show at The Empty Bottle last Monday! 


Van morrison/Joey Defrancesco
you're driving me crazy

Van Morrison’s third album over the past seven months follows the same trend as the last two – jazz, blues and R&B tracks that span both standards and covers of his originals. This one features eight originals and seven standards. What makes this record stand apart is the inclusion of Joey DeFrancesco’s quartet. What is also impressive as how fluid the 72 year old legend sounds throughout the 70 minutes of pure joy. 

The breezy album, recorded in just two days, opens with a ballad, “Miss Otis Regrets,” that shows off Morrison’s vocal athleticism as well as Joey’s trumpet acrobatics. To the chagrin of my mother, I can’t say I paid much attention to Morrison’s deep catalog in my youth. However, the way his voice plays along to the backing organ track just like Troy Roberts’ sax does is a delight. In many occasions while listening to this record, I couldn’t tell if he was singing what was originally an instrumental stanza. In a chat with mom earlier, she reminded me that ‘Van has always been rooted in blues and soul. He always sung like a tenor sax, dancing around… and within… the music.’ Maybe I should have Mom do some guest reviews…

The new takes on back to back originals “All Saints Day” and “The Way Young Lovers Do” remind me of the Prestige and Blue Note records I grew up with – inspired performances from a ragtag group of pros that highlight timelessly great songs by cutting the track live and moving on to the next. The short recording session was obviously purposeful, and it paid off in spades. For a highlighted cover – I think every single person has heard BB’s “Everyday I Have the Blues” enough to sing along mindlessly. I’m impressed that the group doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel here, instead underscoring the classic with double saxes and a perfect snare. It feels like a brand new pair of converses – nothing surprising, but pleasing nonetheless. 

Only 14 minutes to spar? Check out these 3 tracks.

Miss Otis Regrets

The Way Young Lovers Do

Have I Told You Lately

Postscript: Three albums in seven months by a 72 year old? I think I’ll stop saying I don’t have enough time.


Speedy ortiz
twerp verse

Sadie Dupuis’ lyrics have always been confessional and introspective, but she hits new heights with third full length Twerp Verse. Through the frenetic guitars and chord progressions her voice rises above it all in protest to the world and it’s transgressions. She says this is her most political album to date, but I would argue that she has always been political. Just more about the politics of relationships than culture. Though here she comes at the politics of culture in tunes like “Can I Kiss You?” and “Villain” which still carry a grunge tinged rock tune but have a deeper layer when you start to put together what Dupuis is singing. “ ‘I want to know what kind of porn you like/I want to know what kind of porn you like" / He asks me these questions / Did he earn the right? / No way”  A fairly obvious call out of some men and their abject disrespect for women. Though there are plenty of tunes exploring relationships and their ups and downs like “Lean In When I Suffer” which poetically speaks to the panic of the unknown, when a partner doesn’t get back to you. If this is what she and the band have in store for the future we are all in luck.


They are playing next Saturday, May 12th at the Sub T and last we checked there were still tix available. Why has this show not sold out yet!

twin Shadow

I’ve always thought George Lewis Jr. was a genius. He first caught my attention in 2012 with the underappreciated, now classic, Confess. An album the wife fell in love with and still throws on when she wants to improve her mood. But he solidifies that genius with this new collection of pop perfection. Funky, eighties inspired synth pop may not be everybody’s bag, but it fits real nicely into mine. 

Here Twin Shadow starts with several duetish tunes with artist Rainsford and then solid indie pop group HAIM who hold their own on clear single “Saturdays”, but as the album progresses we get more of the break up and rebuild tunes Lewis Jr. is known for.  Tunes like “Littlest Things,” where he sings “Maybe I'm faded in love / Maybe I don't try enough / But my hope is just to find you / And I know it's the littlest things;” and the highlight spoke sung ballad “Runaway”,  just make the album more complex than what you’ll find in most indie pop.


We are hoping for a Northcoast spot. He has played the fest before and he is in the neighborhood playing KC and Minneapolis around that time. 



A folky, soulful tune from this half Chicago based duo. Their 3rd and last single off new album Love in Wartime, which comes out Friday. Look for a review in our next issue!  

They played here a couple weeks ago and have no dates set for Chicago at the moment.


Ballads can almost always work if done correctly and this one from South Carolina’s NEEDTOBREATHE is rather moving. It’s off their new LP Forever On Your Side, due out Aug. 28th. 

NEEDTOBREATHE is playing Northerly Island on September 8th. Tix start at $30.

snail mail
heat wave

Yet another single off Lindsey Jordan’s upcoming record, Lush, due out June 8th. As we have said before this is indie rock gold, and at only age 19. Damn. 

We can’t wait to see her at Sub T on Saturday June 16th. Tix are still available for $15.

oneohtrix point never
black snow

Atmospheric beauty from note one. The first single off new album Age Of, out June 1st.

Unfortunately they have no Chicago dates yet in support of the new album.

kailee morgue
f**K u

A little tween pop ditty from this Phoenix phenom with just an EP under her belt. We expect a full length in the fall or winter for sure. 

No Chicago dates yet for Kailee Morgue. Come to Chicago!



  • Saltwater Tap - Lockdown

  • Aloe Blacc - Brooklyn In The Summer

  • illuminati hotties - Patience

  • River Whyless - Motel 6

  • Meg Myers - Numb



Our favorite pop album of the year by far, and will most likely stay there. A spectacular funkified feast for the ears and soul. 

Ms. Monáe is playing in the area twice: July 5th at The Chicago Theatre. It is sold out, but of course there are plenty of resale tix; and at Summerfest in Milwaukee on July 6th where you could see her for $21!



Gorgeous in craft. Sleek and sultry, Nandi Rose Plunkett’s 3rd album under the Half Waif moniker is everything we were promised and more. 

She is opening for Hovvdy tonight, May 3rd at Beat Kitchen, it’s only $12!



Folk rock extraordinaire Will Sheff and company have delivered another great album. We think it may be  their best. 

They are playing Thalia Hall on June 13th with Star Rover in support. $25 - $35



Leaning on electronic elements in this stunning debut LP  Aisha Badru produces a lush beauty that lasts a short nine songs. We had to listen twice in a row. 

Not any Chicago dates in support of this one yet. We hope there will be . . .



Brandon Kinder’s (The Rocket Boys) solo project is full of great lyrical folk. Check this one out. You’ll dig it. A fitting follow up to 2016’s Long Play. 

There are no tour dates as of now for The Wealthy West.



willie nelson / last man standing / sony

What can you say about a man who can put out this kind of quality at 85? An album as a rumination of being the last one of your peers to be alive. It’s kind of genius. 

Willie is playing Champaign, IL on May 22nd with Alison Krauss in support. Tix are still on sale for $30 and up.

grouper / grid of points / yellow electric

Liz Harris knows how to craft an album. A beautiful effort here. A genre Lars Gotrich from All Songs Considered coined as “Fog.” It is the perfect one word explanation of what Grouper does. 

No Chicago dates on the horizon for Grouper.

forth wanderers / forth wanderers / sub pop

The new Sub Pop act had us from the first tune. Great self titled full length here!

No Chicago dates coming up for Forth Wanderers. Come back to Chicago!

cicada rhythm / everywhere I go / New West

This Georgia based duo writes great folky tunes made for the long days of summer. Good thing those are on their way. 

Currently on a Southern tour we’re hoping to see them hit Chicago in the Fall. 

elohim / elohim / elohim, BMG

Perfect pop album, and second self titled. Hey if she is gonna deliver this product she can call it whatever she wants. 

Sadly she has no Chicago dates booked as of now.

dr. dog / critical equation / we buy gold

The eleventh studio album and a rebirth of sorts for the rockers out of Philly. We dug it, and think you will too. 

Dr. Dog is playing The Riv this Saturday May 5th. Only $30.

steve angello / human / size

Great producer who puts out his second full length and it’s solid all the way around. 

Not playing Chicago this summer. But no fear, we are sure he’ll be back soon.

Tom rush / voices / appleseed

Folk legend who puts out only his second album of all originals at 77. This album is full of should be classics. 

He played last fall at Old Town so he probably won’t be back soon, but we hope we are wrong!



  • Taste of Chicago released their headliners on Tuesday.  We are really excited for the Madame Gandhi / Black Star show as well as The Flaming Lips with Half Gringa and Le Butcherettes in support. And if you show us a person who can’t dig on Parliament, we’ll point out a person who is dead inside. Tickets for seats go on sale Friday at 10am and are between $18 and $50.

Wednesday, July 11, 5:30 p.m.
Brandi Carlile / Martha Redbone Roots Project

Thursday, July 12, 5:30 p.m.
Juanes / La Santa Cecilia

Friday, July 13, 5:30 p.m.
Black Star / Madame Gandhi

Saturday, July 14, 4:30 p.m.
The Flaming Lips / Le Butcherettes / Half Gringa

Sunday, July 15, 4:30 p.m.
George Clinton Parliament Funkadelic / BJ the Chicago Kid / The Boy Illinois

  • We’ve had our first bought of 80 degree days which means street fest season is upon us! Check out our street fest guide in two weeks for all the details and suggestions from our team about the best festivals around! Tell then . . .

See you at the show Chicago! 

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