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Andrew Bird at the Fourth Presbyterian Church, 12/16

December 30, 2010

(Review written by guest contributor Chaz)

Andrew Bird’s Gezelligheid

Knit caps and excited faces covered Michigan Avenue on Thursday evening for Andrew Bird’s second annual Gezelligheid event at the Fourth Presbyterian Church downtown. The 20-degree weather did little to deter fans from lining up on the street as early as an hour before the doors opened at 7.

Inside the church the usual reverent silence was absent, filled instead with discussions of ‘wild parsnips’ and violin looping. Although big for a church, the pews were packed quickly; indeed, this was Bird’s second sellout evening of a three-night set.

Though the lone musician on stage, Andrew Bird created his own band aided with his looping pedal. Beginning most songs with layers of picking on the violin, he would then add lush harmonies drawn from the bow, which somehow fit perfectly, ending many songs in a purposeful and slow retreat back to a simple bowed melody. Coupled with the sound his horn speakers made when they began to spin, all of this lent a dreamlike whirlwind effect to the music. Read more…


Delta Spirit and Darker My Love, 12/4

December 14, 2010

For an evening, the Metro Theater was dipped in the honeyed, golden warmth of California. Yes, in the guise of Los Angeles-based Darker My Love and San Diegans Delta Spirit, the cold outside became bearable, hearts became lighter, and Wrigleyville became insular, a bastion of psychedelia and incandescent folk-rock.

Darker My Love began the night – the name a cruel misnomer – with the sun that shone on fellow left coasters the Grateful Dead at their backs. Opening with “Backseat” off of their latest album Alive As You Are, Darker My Love essayed bright country-rock, their voices twangy, adenoidal, with the coy harmonies of early Kinks. The band, who successfully captured stone cold psychedelic fuzz – with a charming pop twist – on their self-titled debut and follow-up Two, masterfully incorporate Phish’s penchant for deft instrumental noodling, impeccable power pop and the jubilant, sometimes blistering soul of CCR’s John Fogerty. They careened through their new tunes and played a handful of the old, including “Even in Your Lightest Day,” a mirage of blissfully disjointed trips and changing meter woven into gauzy sparseness and dense thickets of noise. Read more…

This Week in Music, 11/30 to 12/5

November 29, 2010

I’ve made a pre-New Year’s resolution to keep up better on this blog. There have been good shows missed, but there are so many good ones to come.

Up this week…

Thursday, December 2nd:

9 PM At Lincoln Hall– which I’ve recently discovered, thanks in large part to Fang Island and a fog machine, is a great venue – jubilant indie folksters Freelance Whales will be delivering their uniquely sunny music to the masses. Debut album in March of this year to almost instant acclaim, its use of subtle instrumental textures (banjo, harmonium) and soaring harmonies the subject of much praise. Listen to “Generator: Second Floor” below and hear for yourself. Tickets are $15.

Freelance Whales – Generator ^ Second Floor by adamtaj

Saturday, December 4th:

9 PM In what promises to be a forceful one-two punch, Darker My Love, the devil-may-care attitude of 60’s psychedelia underpinning their excursions into fuzzed out rock and jazz-inflected imaginings, will open for the consistently impressive Delta Spirit. Darker My Love comes off the heels of their third full-length (released from ever-cool Dangerbird Records) Alive as You Are, while the bluesmen of Delta Spirit are previewing their latest EP, Waits Time. Delta Spirit consummately weave earthy folk into front porch blues, their tunes simmering with delightfully volatile cajun energy, at any moment apt to boil over under the ragged, soulful voice of Matt Vazquez. Check out “People C’mon” below. Show is $16 and takes place at the wonderful Metro.

Delta Spirit by mr-mecenas

ANNNND, providing stiff competition for best show on this fine Saturday evening, check out local faves MachineGun Mojo at the Wrigleyville Goose Island brewpub. Tickets are $8, show starts at 8. Support some fine local tunes!


The Bears of Blue River, 11/4

November 10, 2010

Gavin Wilkinson, clad in a trim-fitting, double-breasted jacket in a soft camel color, holds his vintage electric guitar – perhaps an early Gibson or Gretsch – coaxing from it pleasant, inviting tones as a smile gently creases his face, casting a glance towards bandmates Benjamin Janz and Justin Allen Spring, intuiting the signal’s meaning and setting in motion countermelodies that dip and dive, approach and recede. They’re envoys of the magical place from which the Bears of Blue River hail; a place where ambling folk-pop courts jangly country-rock in a playful dance, sweet and demure.

Patrons of the Subterranean that night (last Thursday, November 4th) were treated to a dose of “bop folk,” as the band calls it, dusted with confectioner’s sugar. The Bears of Blue River number six in all – Wilkinson, Janz, Spring, Brian Swoveland, Joseph Patrick-Sholes, and chanteuse Maggie Gard – and have at their disposal a lap steel guitar, a banjo, and a lively, spirited energy that culminate in their tuneful compositions. They began their set wordlessly, lustrous, Read more…

Horse Feathers & Anais Mitchell, 11/4

November 7, 2010

(written by guest contributor Chaz)

Thursday, November 4th, Anais Mitchell took the Schubas stage to open for Horse Feathers. Cradling a guitar that the petite songwriter seemed barely big enough to hold, Mitchell nevertheless played with a cool confidence that was evident from her line dancing leg movements mid-song. She began her set covering Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” bringing with her small, girlish voice a fresh energy to the classic tune.

Despite Schubas’ low attendance for the 10PM show, Anais Mitchell delivered a performance rife with enthusiasm. Her songs were a quiet showcase of sad and heartfelt melodies and stories. Indeed, her newest album Read more…

Halloweekend 10/27 to 10/31

October 26, 2010

In honor of All Soul’s Day…er…Halloween this Sunday, the weekend officially begins tomorrow. Well, there’s really nothing official about it, but tomorrow night kicks off a run of some really good shows around town. I’m excited to spend my first Halloween in Chicago and my first dressed as a character from a Christopher Guest film (hint: were he not a musician, he’d be a haberdasher and fashion chapeaus for men). And hopefully the near-hurricane-force winds will let up. But if not, be sure to take shelter in one of the following shows…

Wednesday, October 27th:

8 PM Over at Lincoln Hall, the pale, undernourished, utterly un-rockstar-like men to the right will rock your evening. Two Door Cinema Club,  perhaps the coolest thing to come out of Northern Ireland since Stiff Little Fingers, are touring in support of their debut LP Tourist History. And boy is it a doozy. There’s not a single misstep on the album, each track a lush, electropop marvel. Listen below and be astounded that the little redheaded man can write such a fine dance tune. Tickets are $15, but also sold out.

What You Know by Two Door Cinema Club

Read more…

Valpo’s Heroes: An Inside Look at Silhavey

October 21, 2010

The band in front of our hosts for the afternoon, Dynasty Buffet

There I was, on a Saturday afternoon, stuffed with pot stickers and tempura, sitting in a barn in Northern Indiana. I suppose you could say it wasn’t a typical Saturday for me.

But that very barn is much more than that to the men of Silhavey; it’s been their musical home for as long as they can remember. Though not always in this current lineup, the musicians that comprise this band – Stephen Dranger, Mike Regan, Lucas Sgouros and Matt Sigler – have known each other for what might be in the music industry an unfathomably long time. They discovered the Flaming Lips together, entered puberty together, spent much of their adult lives together, and now we find them here, on the heels of their first EP Maru, baked fresh full of pop gems. Silhavey has truly been a lifetime in the making. And it began in the barn of Stephen’s parents, where the band graciously took me after our bountiful meal at the Dynasty Buffet. Read more…

Silhavey & MachineGun Mojo Blow Roof Off Subterranean; Weekend Lineup 10/15 to 10/17

October 15, 2010

Wednesday night at the Subterranean Lounge on North Ave proved to be an exhibit of a very diverse array of Chicago acts. The four bands on tap (along with some Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale on tap) made for a great night out.

First up was Silhavey, hailing from northern Indiana. These dapper gents – pictured to the left – play power pop just the way I like it: quick and quirky. Lead singer Stephen Dranger takes center stage with his 88-key symphony orchestra. Yes, indeed, in Silhavey, the almighty, shapeshifting keyboard forms the center of their musical universe. Read more…

An Inside Look at MachineGun Mojo

October 13, 2010

[MachineGun Mojo is playing tonight at the Subterranean on North Avenue in Wicker Park at 8:30 PM. Tickets are $8]

Josh Kanuch’s eyes light up as we sit at the bar at Jake’s Pub, waxing rhapsodic about music: “All of a sudden it became what I wanted to do. In the way a priest is summoned to preach, you know? I mean that’s a bad analogy, but that’s how it feels. Regardless of what happens, I know I’ll be doing this, I just want to create music.” Josh – better known as Rooster – is the lead singer for Chicago-based psychedelic folk-rock outfit MachineGun Mojo, and he and bassist Matt Dimare were kind enough to sit down and chat about their music, their experiences in Chicago, and their upcoming show tonight at the Subterranean Lounge.

Equal parts rock, early country, late-60’s psychedelia and folk storytelling, MachineGun Mojo is comprised of Josh and Matt,  Shawn Haybic on lead guitar, and Mike Hauser on drums, at its core, though their many regular guests keep the lineup interesting. Matt tells me that they officially formed on January 1st, 2009 – a little tired from the festivities of the previous night, “we weren’t writing any gems that day.” But the combination of old buddies and college friends stuck, and the thick-as-thieves foursome immediately took to learning songs from each of its versatile songwriters. And it’s clear that they all have that ineffable passion for creating that propels Josh Kanuch. Key to MachineGun Mojo’s diverse songwriting is the diverse background of their musical tastes. Shawn tunes in to classic punk, Josh to acid jazz and avant-garde classical, Matt to more traditional folk, and, universally, the band adore the Beatles – certainly great places to start. Read more…

Up Ahead: Interviews with local rockers MachineGun Mojo and Silhavey

October 10, 2010

Hope you’ve had a great weekend! Coming up this week will be the first installment of profiles on totally-kickass, totally-local musicians. Heartland-inflected MachineGun Mojo borrows a page from the rich Americana tapestries and sophisticated country-rock of acts like the Band and the Dead, with a little more grit and some bar band muscle.  Check out their MySpace and give ’em a whirl – you’ll be glad you did.

Silhavey, also indigenous to the Chicagoland area, plays the sort of smart, hooky power pop that you might expect from OK Go or the Long Winters. They build clean, propulsive tunes around crisp guitar lines, artfully incorporated harmonies and even employ horns to great effect. Check out their song “Jungle” below and their Myspace here.

So what do these acts have in common? Well, they’re playing a show this Wednesday, October 13th at the Subterranean Lounge on North Ave in Wicker Park. Mojo headlines, with Silhavey and acts Chatty Cathy and Bear with Hawk Fist supporting. You can catch an interview with MachineGun Mojo right here tomorrow night (or Tuesday morning, if I’m lazy) and a post-show chat with Silhavey on Wednesday. Be sure to check it out! I’m told that money spent at the Subterranean is money well spent, so…yeah. Be there.

03 Silhavey Maru Jungle by illuminatedwax