Thursday, September 30, 2004
This weekend boasts a stellar line-up of big name acts coming to town...but you better bring your Visa card, because you might be a little short on cash come Monday morning after buying tickets for all of these shows. Friday 10/1 Ok, so maybe you don't have to own a gold card to see all of the good shows this weekend. Headlining the late show (10p) at the Bottom Lounge for only $8 is Chicago's very own Flying Luttenbachers. The Bottom Lounge may be the bottom feeder of all the local venues, but you can't argue with the price. If you're not down with the quirky jazz cacophony of Weasel Walter and Co., head over to "the crotch" and see slide guitar legend Junior Brown at Subterranean. I'm not sure which is stranger...the fact that this honky tonk guitar hero is playing the Sub-t or that the Sub-t is presenting a honky tonk guitar hero. Brown is an amazing talent who'll probably rock the roof off the joint...so even if you don't usually get a hankerin' for twangy guitar, I'd to consider going to check out this show...trust me, you won't be disappointed. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Saturday 10/2 In the past decade, former Beach Boys brainchild Brian Wilson has accomplished two things that seemed almost unfathomable 30 years ago: 1. Touring and performing his songs on stage 2. Completing his "teenage symphonies to God" album, Smile Wilson finally released Smile as an official, completed album last Tuesday and now he'll be performing his mythical lost album live at the Auditorium Theatre this Saturday. Even as little as 15 years ago, the prospect of Wilson being able to perform anything on stage was probably unthinkable...now he's performing Smile??? On the road??? Who would have thunk it? Despite being a seemingly monumental event, tickets were still available for this show as of Thursday afternoon. Here's the catch though...tickets start at $33 and go all the way up to $73. But hey, it's pop music history in the making. If pop nostalgia isn't your thing, you might want to check out PJ Harvey at the Riviera. She's touring in support of her fine new album, Uh Huh Her, a great minimalist and stark follow up to her unabashedly pop release of 2000, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea. Tickets were still available for this one as well (as of Thursday), but again, the price of admission is a bit steep at $30 bucks a pop. Going to any of these shows this weekend?? Drop us a line at RFC and let us know they went. Click on "comments" below, or send an email to: rfceditor(at)hotmail.com. Cheers! -bk
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Concert Review: RJD2@ Logan Square Auditorium
So I finally made it over to the Logan Square Auditorium... There have been a handful of good shows booked there in the past year or two, but for some reason I just never made it over there. However, soon after arriving there Friday night, it quickly became apparent that I was not missing much. The most glaring criticism of the venue so far has been its lousy sound. And sure enough, the sound did indeed suck. Not in a muddy, distorted, or shredded speaker kind of way, but in a harsh, metallic...waaay too much treble kind of way that makes you run to the bar to grab some earplugs. (thank you Bottle staff for providing earplugs!!) Now that MP Shows will be utilizing the space as a full-time venue, plans are in the works to correct the poor sound with a new, permanent PA system. Hopefully the new installation will also include extensive acoustic paneling as well, because the sound problem seems to be caused more by the poor acoustics of a big square room with numerous windows and high ceilings, rather than the poor sound of a particular PA system. Also, while I'm bitching...the drinks sucked big time as well. The beer selection was awful, (I actually drank a Corona)and the mixed drinks were small and full of ice. Certainly not up to par with the fine selection and quality service found at the Empty Bottle. Again, like the sound, this might completely change once MP Shows takes over the space on a full-time level. OK, so I was a bit annoyed with the harsh acoustics, and I couldn't get a decent buzz from the bar...but most importantly, how were the actual performances?? I walked in just as the DJ set from Diplo began. He started off strong, mashing up some classic alternative tracks with some hot beats underneath. However, his set ran thin rather quickly and soon the crowd, like myself, was losing interest. His transitions started to become a bit disjunct and random, and his set was never able to gain any real momentum. I'm not sure if he just had too much time to fill, was having a bad night, or is still a bit inexperienced playing live on the road. Whatever the case, the Diplo set was a bit disappointing. Fortunately, unlike everything else that night, the set from RJD2, did not let me down. Once his set heated up, all thoughts of poor sound and watered-down drinks were completely forgotten. RJ provided yet another brilliant and seamless set that was impressive in both terms of its technical skill and in its pure musical enjoyment. What I think I like best about RJD2 is that not only is he able to recreate the magic laid down on his records, he's actually able to improve upon the experience in a live setting. (sort of like how the Flaming Lips are somehow able to make their genius Soft Bulletin album an even more amazing experience live) For an encore, RJD2 pulled out yet another trick, but this time it didn't come from his DJ bag. He actually stepped out from behind the decks and sang a ballad from his new record, accompanied by just an acoustic guitar. A seriously gutsy and potentially catastrophic endeavor, RJ nailed the song, and put a completely brilliant but unexpected end to an already great night of music. RJD2 is easily my favorite DJ/Producer of the moment, and is arguably one of the finest talents out there right now. If you haven't seen him live yet, definitely mark your calendar the next time RJD2 comes to town. In meantime, run out to the record store and check out his amazing full length records on Def Jux, 2002's Dead Ringer and this year's Since We Last Spoke.
Monday, September 27, 2004
New Releases Tuesday (9/26)
Again, not many local label releases this week. Perhaps no one wanted to complete with the release of Interpol's sophomore release?? Anyway, here's some of the best releases coming out this Tuesday: Local Labels: Split Lip Rayfield - Should Have Seen it Coming (Bloodshot) Other Essentials: Interpol - Antics (Matador) Brian Wilson - Smile (Nonesuch) Paul Weller - Studio 150 (V2) Wolf Eyes - Burned Mind (Sub Pop) Delgados - Universal Audio (Chemikal Underground) Supergrass - Supergrass is Ten (Capitol)
Friday, September 24, 2004
Hideout Block Party 2004
So maybe "outsider sounds" aren't exactly your thing, or perhaps you're still hungry for more shows this weekend...well, there's another great venue holding a festival this weekend boasting a great line-up of shows. This weekend marks the return of The Hideout's annual Block Party and some of the highlights include... Friday 9/24 If you like your music a bit more organic, the Hideout provides a nice alternative to the electronic, beat-heavy offerings at the Bottle and the Logan Square Auditorium on Friday. At 7:30 pm, Seattle's Jesse Sykes and Sweet Hereafter take the stage with their haunting but beautiful alt-country ballads. Then at 8:30, it's Chicago's very own Califone. Tim Rutili and company always put on a great live show, so if you've always dug their records, but never made it out to one of their shows...definitely make a point to check out this performance. Saturday 9/25 Festivities get under way early on Saturday, with Chicago via Virginia's Manishevitz kicking off things at 2:45 PM. Performances continue throughout the afternoon, with appearances by Kelly Hogan, Andrew Bird, Archer Prewitt and more. Then, at 8:30, all guitars are cleared off stage for Germany's Mouse on Mars. This veteran electronic duo will be performing in support of their latest LP, Radical Connector, released last month on Thrill Jockey. (If you miss them at the Hideout, afterward they'll be playing a FREE DJ set at Rodan, 1530 N. Milwaukee). Headlining the night will be the eclectic funk soul electronica of Chicago's Mahjongg. Sunday 9/26 Sunday Bloodshot Sunday! Local alt-country stalwarts Bloodshot Records celebrates their 10th anniversary with a full-line up of twangy goodness from Bloodshot artists. Festivities begin at 2pm. The Hideout is located at 1354 w Wabansia. Suggested donation for the 2004 Hideout Block Party is $10. Proceeds benefit P.L.A.Y. , Tuesday's Child and Literacy Works. For a full line-up of events, go to www.hideoutchicago.com.
Thursday, September 23, 2004
New Adventures in Hi-Fi
Billed as "A Five Day Celebration of Outsider Sounds," The Wire's Adventures in Modern Music 2004 kicks off tonight at the Empty Bottle. Here's a quick scouting report: Saturday 9/25 One of the highlights of this night's show is the appearance of Kranky recording artist Keith Fullteron Whitman (aka Hrvatski). He's playing in support of his latest record titled Schöner Flußengel, a vinyl-only release limited to 1,000 copies, which is due out on Oct. 4. I recently checked out an advance copy of the record, and it lives up to his stellar previous releases. Another great collection of lo-fi ambient/experimental music that is both compelling and tranquil at the same time. Sunday 9/26 Wrapping up the festival Sunday night are Drag City recording artists Ghost along with experimental art rockers Xiu Xiu. Hailing from Japan, Ghost are performing in the U.S. for the first time in over two years. They've been around since the mid-80's, but they may be best known for their fine collaboration with Damon & Naomi, the aptly titled Damon & Naomi with Ghost, released in 2000. On their own, Ghost are generally referred to as a mix of psychedelic, experimental and lo-fi rock. San Jose's Xiu Xiu also fall under the "experimental/psychedelic" category, though they lean a bit more toward the indie-pop side of the spectrum. While personally not my cup of tea, Xiu Xiu is a favorite among many of my indie-rock lovin' friends. The Empty Bottle is located at 1035 N. Western Ave. Tickets for each night are $15. For a complete line-up of events, check out www.emptybottle.com
Tuesday, September 21, 2004
New Releases Tuesday (9/21)
Not much on the local front this week, but still plenty of releases worthy of a trip to your local record store. Here's the rundown: Local label releases: RTX - Transmaniacon (Drag City) Other Essentials: MF Doom - Special Herbs 7&8 (Groove Attack) Kid 606 - Do Sheep Dream of Macrobiotic Humans ep (Soul Jazz) VHS or Beta - Night On Fire (Astralwerks) Solvent - Apples & Synthesisers (Ghostly Int'l) Tim Hecker - Mirages (Alien 8) The Clash - London Calling: 25th Anniversary Edition (Epic)
Monday, September 20, 2004
Free Tortoise Show Tonight (9/20)
As a part of the World Music Festival, Tortoise will be playing a live show tonight in Millennium Park. Show begins at 7pm at the Pritzker Pavilion, the new hi-tech band shell that makes Grant Park's Patrillo Band Shell look like ass. Now here's the best part...the show is FREE. As much as I try to avoid downtown events like the plague, I have to admit that the Pritzker Pavilion is a beautiful outdoor performance space. We can only hope that they'll start booking some high profile shows there...remember when Radiohead played Grant Park? Great atmosphere, great sound, a beautiful back drop...how great would it be to get more outdoor tours that right here in the city?...instead of having them an hour south of the city in the debacle of a venue known as the Tweeter Center. Keep your fingers crossed...
Friday, September 17, 2004
Concert Review: M83@Empty Bottle 9/16
Theoretically, M83 should be my favorite new band...(at least according the music press). The universal description for this French duo is that they are a cross between Air and My Bloody Valentine. I absolutely love Air and I've always enjoyed cranking up MBV really loud on the stereo. M83 is also on a record label that I like, Mute, and their North American tour is sponsored by one of my favorite radio stations, KEXP.org. Of course, you can't always believe the hype and usually when a new band is described as "the next _(insert your favorite band here)_," they are usually a big let down. The M83 show was another fine example of this. The show started off with a decent build of synths, and a tasty dose of drone-y, heavily distorted guitar. I thought this was just an intro...but then the music just ended. Then another song started with the same result...a melodramatic crescendo, some synth and guitar jamming at the middle and an anticlimactic end. OK guys, you've demonstrated your jamming ability and you've got some really cool fuzz boxes...now how about a song or two? Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much more in M83's repertoire. Even from a "jamming" standpoint, nothing really came across as extraordinary. There was certainly nothing special about the guitar playing and the synth parts were even less impressive. Most of the atmospheric electronic elements weren't even done live...they were pre-recorded and sounded really stale when mixed in with the live elements. The bass player happily danced in place during most of the show, and the lead guitarist/synth guy was really trying to evoke a sense of emotion, but I wasn't feelin' it. They seem to have received a lot of positive hype and acclaim from the music press, so maybe it's just me?? Maybe they just don't cut it live? Regardless, I'm not going to throw out my 180-gram Loveless reissue anytime soon.
Tuesday, September 14, 2004
Adventures in Modern Music...and Film
Like me, you've probably already marked Wed, Sept. 22nd to Sun, Sept. 26th on your calendar for The Wire's Adventures in Mordern Music Festival at the Empty Bottle. However, if you only attend the 5 days of music at the Bottle, you're actually missing half of the event. In addition to the stellar live show line-up, the festival is also presenting underground music films at the Gene Siskel Film Center throughout the month of September. This Thursday(9/16) at the Siskel Film Center is the screening of Participation, an anthology of work by Sweden's Steina and Woody Vasulka. Since 1969, the duo have been documenting jazz performances, rock concerts and the underground activities of "illegitimate culture." On Sunday (9/19), the film center is screening a tour documentary of noise-rock heroes Lightning Bolt, titled The Power of Salad & Milkshakes. For a complete schedule of events, check out the Empty Bottle website at www.emptybottle.com. Stay tuned next week for a preview of The Wire's 5 nights of shows at the Bottle
Monday, September 13, 2004
New Releases Tuesday (9/14)
This Tuesday, September 14th, the fall album release schedule hits full stride with a slew of great albums hitting the shelves. Here's a quick run-down of this week's releases: Local label releases (9/14): Sally Timms - In the World of Him (Touch & Go) Giant Sand - Is All Over the Map (Thrill Jockey) Silkworm - It'll Be Cool (Touch & Go) Thalia Zedek - Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness (Thrill Jockey) The Ex - Turn (Touch & Go) Viva Voce - This Heat Can Melt Your Brain (Minty Fresh) Other Essentials (9/14): Dizzee Rascal - Showtime (XL Recordings) The Faint - Wet From Birth (Saddle Creek) The Thrills - Let's Bottle Bohemia (Virgin) Stay tuned...more great releases coming in the next several weeks
Tuesday, September 07, 2004
KEXP...Where the Music Matters
Continuing the "Future of Radio" series with another out of town station, today's featured internet station is Seattle's KEXP. While still broadcasting on the good ol' FM dial (90.3+91.7) in the Seattle-Tacoma area (viva Sea-Tac!), KEXP has evolved into the nation's premiere non-commercial internet radio station. Imagine the accessible college rock playlist of WLUW, combined with the smooth production qualities of XRT, combined with the technological resources of BBC radio...all rolled into one great station. KEXP started out humbly enough in 1972 as a 10-watt FM station broadcasting to the University of Washington campus. Over the years, the station (known as KCMU at the time) slowly picked up more wattage and exposure in the area. The station's big break came in 2001, when, thanks to a partnership with the Seattle-based Experience Music Project, the station doubled its power from 400 to 720 watts and moved into a brand-new, technologically advanced studio. The station, now dubbed KEXP (as in K-EXPerience Music Project), also expanded its eclectic music programming and upgraded its web presence. Thanks to its expansive music playlists, talented DJs and technologically advanced website, KEXP quickly became a national favorite, eventually becoming one of the top 10 internet streams in the country and winner of the 2004 "Webby Award" for best radio website. Awarding KEXP a "Webby" for best radio site must have been a no-brainer. Besides boasting a very aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly interface, KEXP.org is loaded with live streaming options, 2-weeks worth of archived programming, live in-studio sessions, real-time playlists and DJ profiles. There are also complete club and event listings covering the Seattle music scene. Of course, all of the bells and whistles are worthless unless the programming is good. And yes, KEXP delivers with a great mix of music spun by live DJs 24/7. Night jock Cheryl Waters is a personal favorite of mine, but "Jon in the Morning" seems to be the overall KEXP fan favorite. Check out their profiles, view their archived playlists and sample some of the archived shows to find your favorite. The best feature of KEXP.org is that you never have to miss your favorite show(s) or DJs because everything is available whenever you want via the streaming archives...it's just like having TiVo for your radio! KEXP has also expanded into promoting nationwide tours. They are currently sponsoring the North American tour of French electronic pop band M83, who will be playing the Empty Bottle on Sep 16th. The station has also set up local yahoo groups in cities across the country where fans can get together and geek out with fellow KEXP listeners in their community. You can join the Chicago contingent by clicking here: email@example.com Go to www.kexp.org to find out what all of the hype is about. Or, if you happen to be in the Seattle area, tune to 90.3 or 91.7 FM.
Friday, September 03, 2004
97X...The Future of Radio?
Last week I posed the question of whether the future of radio might, in fact, be on the Internet via streaming audio. Yes, even with all of the great independent stations we have here in Chicago, sometimes I still can't find exactly what I'm looking for on the FM dial. However, the Internet is quickly becoming an essential alternative to traditional radio, since you can not only listen to great college and community stations from other cities, you can also find some great internet-only stations that cater to even the most obscure niches. As I teased before, we have some good internet stations based right here in Chicago, but in honor of the big traveling weekend coming up (aka Labor Day), I thought I would start off the "future of radio" series with some of the best internet stations based in other parts of the country. 97X (BAM!) The Future of Rock and Roll Based in Oxford, OH (about 30min north of Cincy), 97x started as a locally-owned, small town mom and pop radio operation. In 1983, the station adopted an "alternative" rock format to cater the young progressive minds at the town's local university, Miami of Ohio. 97X was one of only 6 commercial stations at the time to adopt this format (keep in mind this was some 10 years before "alternative" became an MTV fad) and soon the station became a local cult favorite around Oxford and the greater Cincinnati area. In fact, when producers came to the 'Natti to film Rain Man they caught wind of this local favorite and used a station jingle in the movie. Remember the Dustin Hoffman character repeating it endlessly after it came on the radio??(97x...BAM! The Future of Rock and Roll!) Yes, this is THE 97X from the film...it wasn't a Hollywood creation and that was a real station jingle that they used. Of course, the Rain Main plug was the station's primarily claim-to-fame for years. However, this soon changed in 1998, when 97X went nationwide via streaming audio. Soon, 97X was picking up national recognition from the likes of Rolling Stone and Spin, in addition to their usual accolades in the local Ohio press. By this time, local FM radio had become victim of government deregulation and corporate homogenization. The late 90's were also about the same time that rap-rock and teen-pop took over the musical spotlight, effectively killing the brief popularity of independent and alternative music. However, while 99% of the local radio owners in the country had now sold out to the big media conglomerates and all of the "alternative" stations were now playing Limp Bizkit and Hoobastank, the owners of 97X stuck to their guns and retained their independent credo that they established back in 1983. Hungry music fans disenfranchised with their local stations, soon found 97X on the web, and the station became a phenomenon almost entirely by word of mouth. Unfortunately for the local Ohioans, the owners of 97X finally sold their beloved 97.7 FM broadcast earlier this year to an out-of-town radio company. However, the owners of the station vowed to continue the format and legacy of 97X as an internet-only station. After a couple of months off the air due to funding problems, 97X returned in July in a brand-new, internet-only incarnation. Retaining three of the station's weekday DJs, the new version of 97X broadcasts live from 9a to 11p (EST) Monday-Friday. During the overnights and weekends, the station runs an automated playlist...however, current song IDs are always displayed on your Winamp player and playlists are archived in real-time on the homepage, so you'll never have to scramble to Allmusic.com to figure out what just played. While part of me misses the small-town charm of hearing local commercials for Kroger, Meijer and the Oxford book exchange, 97X actually sounds better than ever. While they used to throw in an occasional mainstream alt rock track from someone like STP or Everclear (as to not completely alienate the local rock fans I assume?) , 97X now plays nothing but true alternative and underground releases. New tracks from the likes of The Faint, Interpol, Belle & Sebastian, Clinic, Spoon, etc, etc. are combined with classic altrna-staples like R.E.M., Elvis Costello, The Cure, Pavement and local heroes Guided By Voices...it has really become the ideal commercial "alternative" station. Now more than ever, 97X is easily my favorite station right now (internet or otherwise)...and probably one of my favorites of all time. But, as always, don't take my word for it...check it out for yourself at: www.woxy.com PS: If you are leaving town this weekend and will be embarking on a long road trip, here's a quick tip for finding the good tunes on the radio. If you're heading into a large metropolis or a small college town, start your dial at 87.7FM and scan the dial up to 91.9. That area of the dial is allocated for non-commercial use only, which means that is where you'll always find the local community or college stations. You'll usually find the true independent stations at 88.1 to 88.9, while the more mainstream "NPR-type" stations seem to be at or above 89FM. Of course, some "NPR-type" stations actually do air progressive music and news programming, but these are few and far in-between. It seems most cater to the mainstream...sticking to the usual formula of combining "Morning Edition" with classical music or un-offensive jazz.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
Replacement for the 'Bowl is found
Well...that was quick. The Reader's Bob Mehr reports that former Fireside Bowl bookers, MP Shows, has already found a new venue to put on shows, The Logan Square Auditorium. For the past year or so, the Empty Bottle has been putting on occasional acts there, but MP Shows is planning to turn it into a full-time music venue. It sounds like the "Empty Bottle presents..." shows at the auditorium might be numbered, but this latest announcement will not affect previously booked Bottle events...like the RJD2 show on Sept. 24th that you don't want to miss. (trust me on this one, mark your calendar now) For the full story, go to www.chicagoreader.com/TheMeter/ Also check out www.mpshows.com