Tuesday, May 31, 2005

New Releases Tuesday (5/31)

Local and Related Smog - A River Ain't Too Much to Love (Drag City) A River Ain’t Too Much to Love proves that still waters still run deep. Smog’s newest songs are like a cycle, with plenty of glints and highlights as it revolves. Smog will be touring all over Europe upon the May 31st release of the record, but before we let him go, he’ll be playing instore appearances at Amoeba Records in both LA and San Francisco as well as Waterloo Records in Austin. There will be some radio shows and maybe even paying gigs in this whirlwind promo tour... Other Notables Bjork - Army of Me: Remixes and Covers (One Little Indian) Her Space Holiday - Let's Get Quiet Vol. 1 (Mush) Four Tet - Everything Ecstatic (Domino) Maximo Park - Certain Trigger (Warp) [Sounds like nothing I've ever heard on Warp!?! This is straight up rock...] Melvins - Mangled Demos from 1983 (Ipecac) Oasis - Don't Believe The Truth (Epic) [New fookin' Oasis!]

Friday, May 27, 2005

LCD's James Murphy rockin' Metro (Courtesy of the-big-ticket.blogspot.com)

Live Review: LCD Soundsystem w/M.I.A. At Metro 5/19/05

I think I've reached that point where I've just simply attended too many shows. This was certainly a dance-tastic bill, and both artists did a great job of getting the crowd movin', but I wasn't inspired to do much more than some subtle hipster head-nodding for most of the night. Like many of my record-store workin,' rock critic lovin' brethren, I guess I too have reached that point where I've become "too cool for school" to move my feet to even the most infectious collection of live grooves. No wait... I don't want to be that guy. I'd still like to think that I can be inspired to dance, hoot and holler like a frenzied fan-boy if the performance is amazing enough. Well, actually I don't want to be that guy, either...but at the very least I should do more than nod my head to the beat with my arms crossed at a dance show. So, what was the issue at this show? Too much surliness from me, or lack of inspiration from the artists on stage? ------ Sri Lankan-born Londoner M.I.A is the toast of the underground music scene right now, thanks to her much-hyped debut album, Arular. An infectious blend of modern electronic beats fused with a global dance sound (heavy on the dancehall), the album has received glowing reviews in everything from uber-hip music zines to mainstream print outlets. M.I.A. has quickly skyrocketed to the top of everyone's "hot" list in 2005 and seems destined to become the next big thing. For her live show, M.I.A. was joined by a hypeman...err make that hypewoman (Cherry) and a DJ, her current beau Diplo. She sounded great live and you could tell she was definitely having some fun up there. The crowd was certainly enjoying themselves as well, to the point of starting a soccer-stadium worthy chant of "M-I-A" when she left the stage before returning for a rare opening-act encore set. It's hard not to like M.I.A. and seeing her live only reaffirmed this belief. However, the critic in me just wasn't quite satisfied with this show. When going out to see an artist perform, it seems to me that no matter how great their recorded songs are, the live performance should always be that much better. Whether you hear something in a song that you've never noticed before or the energy of the performance just makes you "feel" a song more, it seems to me that you always should get something more out of music in a live setting. Otherwise, what's the point of turning off your CD player and leaving your house? Arular is a really good record, and the songs sounded equally great live, but they were almost performed a bit too tightly. Not much variation, improvisation, expansion...everything was pretty straight and by the book (or should I say by the record). Even when M.I.A. came back for the encore and did some tracks off of Diplo's legendary mash-up exercise, Piracy Funds Terrorism, the songs sounded almost identical to the recordings. Granted many fans may not have heard these tracks before since the album was technically a bootleg, but Piracy... has been an Internet phenomenon for quite some time and you'd think Diplo would have came up with some new tricks by now. While M.I.A.’s live performance may not have exceeded her recordings, there at least wasn’t any loss in translation. Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for the set by LCD Soundsystem… If you’ve followed the underground music scene at all in the past few years, you know that LCD Soundsystem isn’t really a band, but just the performance moniker of producer James Murphy, best known as one-half of the DFA production team and record label. While his output as a musician has been rather limited (just a couple singles and a recent full-length debut), the few releases that have sported the "LCD Soundsystem" stamp have become underground classics. Tracks like "Losing My Edge," "Yeah" and, most recently, "Daft Punk is Playing My House" are already destined to become enshrined in the halls of the hipster-rock hall of fame. The brilliance of these singles, combined with his work for DFA (see Rapture’s "House of Jealous Lovers") really raised my expectations for this show. Here’s a man responsible for some of the best 12"s of the new millennium, so this show is bound to be amazing, right? Well, not exactly… Of course, in the back of my mind, I still realized Murphy is really a producer first…and a musician second. That’s not meant to be a knock on Murphy’s talent, but really just a reality check. (much like you can’t deny the talent of Pharrell Williams…but c'mon N.E.R.D?? that was totally gratuitous in the worst way) The brilliance of Murphy's soundsystem bangers is that they are simple and snarky. What I love about "Losing My Edge" is that it just sounds like some random asshole ranting over some archaic drum machine that he found in a pawnshop. It certainly doesn't sound like someone who would front an actual band that can sell out a 1,000+ capacity venue. However, Murphy did just that last week, bringing with him a full live band to play Chicago's Metro as LCD Soundsystem. The band was loud, raucous and energetic...but wait, this isn't the LCD Soundsystem that I know?? The one I fell in love with is a cynical-ass slacker...not someone who would actually go to the effort of organizing an entire band, let alone one that plays the songs really fast and with a lot of gusto. Murphy kept right up with them, too...delivering his vocals in more of a rambling quick rant, rather than his usual disinterested spoken word style. I'm certainly not one that condones not trying very hard just for the sake of being "indie" (in fact I actually quite despise this M.O.), however in this case I think Murphy may have actually been too ambitious in his live LCD performance. The genius of Murphy's songs have been in their tongue-in-cheek simplicity. With a full band, LCD sounded just like any other dance-party indie rockers. The uniqueness and, most importantly, the snarkiness, got lost in all the noise. Hell, I barely even recognized "Daft Punk is Playing at My House." The catchy bass line was drowned out by all the percussion and Murphy sang/spoke the damn thing so fast I missed all of my favorite lines. ----- Of course, all of this analysis is from a critical perspective. From a purely "let's get drunk and dance our asses off" standpoint, this show appeared to be a smashing success. In terms of inducing ass-shakin', I think M.I.A. may have narrowly won the contest, but Murphy and his crew certainly held their own up there. And even I have to admit that "Yeah" was actually really fun live. Judging by the crowd reactions throughout the night, perhaps my mild bemusement was purely a factor of my own surliness, not the quality of these performances. Maybe I've become that guy who Murphy enjoys mocking...I am, in fact, "Losing My Edge," not Murphy. No wait...it couldn't be me, it's got to be them. I've never been wrong about these things...after all, I did use to work in a record store.
M.I.A. w/ Diplo@Metro 5/19 (Courtesy of the-big-ticket.blogspot.com)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

RFC Night/MixTape Exchange

Don't forget to finish up those mix tapes, RFC night is tomorrow night! RFC Night Leadway Bar and Gallery 5233 N. Damen (near Foster) Friday May 27, 9pm ----- Is it just me, or is this month just flying by? It's already time for another installment of RFC Night, and this time we're packin' up the bandwagon and heading up north next Friday (5/27) to Leadway Bar and Gallery at 5233 N. Damen (near Foster). As usual, there will be more DJing and debauchery...but for an added twist we'll also be organizing a mix tape* exchange this time around. Make a new homemade mix for the event, or bring in a copy of a favorite from your archives and at the end of the night you'll get to randomly pick from the pile and take home someone else's mix for your musical pleasure. So get crackin' on those mixes this weekend and hold off your Memorial Day road trip plans until next Saturday and we'll see you out next Friday, the 27th (starting around 9p) at Leadway. Stay tuned to RFC next week for more info on the event, including the DJ line-up and swag giveaways... *Of course, this is 2005 and you don't have to bring in your mix on an actual cassette tape. CD-Rs seem to work the best these days, but I just can't bring myself to use the term "mix CD." It just doesn't have the same ring to it...

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

RFC Interview: Stereo Total

Last Thursday, besides the much-hyped appearance of LCD Soundsystem and M.I.A. w/Diplo at Metro, there was another hot dance party going on across town. Berlin-based Stereo Total (pronounced "toe-TALL") was gracing the stage of the Abbey Pub for a headlining show with Les Georges Leningrad. If you've never experienced Stereo Total, you are seriously missing out. Françoise Cactus and Brezel Göring mix up an infectious blend of electronic pop that fuses punk, electro, disco, new wave and hip-hop elements accompanied by vocals in a multitude of languages. Their music is classic, yet cutting edge...simple, yet brilliant. And most of all...fun as hell. RFC caught up lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Françoise Cactus after their show last week to learn more about this Euro-pop phenomenon known as Stereo Total... Radio Free Chicago: Your live shows are always a riot...what's the craziest live experience you've ever had? Françoise Cactus: We played once in the Philharmonia in Novrozibirsk (Siberia) at 6 p.m. On the huge stage we looked like 2 flies on a cake. The audience was expecting some classical music or maybe some jazz, so they were first a little bit surprised, but at the end some of them climbed on their armchairs and started dancing the kasatchock. RFC: The "Do The Bambi Tour" also includes Hawney Troof, Les Georges Leningrad and Gossip. How or why did you choose these bands to tour with? FC: Hawney is already an old friend of us. He visited us in Berlin and is singing with me on the song "I am Hungry" on the new Stereo Total CD. Les Georges Leningrad were recommended by a Canadian friend from Montreal who gave me their first record some years ago. The Gossip we don't know personally yet, but I am a fan of their music and I hope we will [become] friends on this tour. RFC: Do you have any other new favorite bands/artists that you'd like to work with? Any current music obsessions (new or old) that you've been listening to non-stop lately? FC: I would love to tour with Petty Booka, 2 Japanese girls who play the ukulele and sing cute songs about the rain. I just bought me a ukulele, so I could join them for one song or two. On this tour we're listening to the new Françoise Hardy record, to Green Day, to François de Roubaix ... RFC: How does touring in North America compare to touring in Germany, France or anywhere else in Europe? Of all the cities and countries you've toured, who has the most fun crowds? Who has the best dancers? FC: Here you have to drive a lot, because your country is so big...but [it's] more relaxed, the people don't drive so fast [like on the Autobahn], the landscapes look fabulous, and we enjoy the good food. I'm getting green asparagus every day, and some crazy stuff like blue soft shell crabs, we don't have that in Europe. We've got nice fans in every country, the Californian people seem to be always in a good mood, maybe because of the sun. There are great dancers in Spain and Brazil. RFC: Tell us more about the new album... FC: This is a long album with 20 songs. It is moody: some songs are funny, some are rebellious or sad. The sound is really good. Our mixer Cem Oral did a great job. A lot of songs are related to cinema...to the movies "Christiane F.", "Week end" and "Cinemania". RFC: By our count, this is your 7th album? How did you end up on the Kill Rock Stars label? FC: Really? I thought it was our 6th. Let me think a little bit ... "Oh ah", "Monokini"' , "Juke Box Alarm", "My Melody", "Musique Automatique", "Do the Bambi". That's it! The other one, "Total Pop," is a sort of Best of. Our former label "Bobsled" closed its boutique, So we were looking for a new label. Kathleen from Le Tigre spoke about us to Slim from Kill Rock Stars, and he adopted us in his music family. Cool! RFC: So, how does one actually "do the bambi?" Can you describe it verbally? FC: It's a little dance you do with your eyes. You look up to your lover and move your eyelashes in a charming way...an innocent sexy touch! RFC: Thanks for your time...anything else you'd like to add??? FC: I wanna kiss all our fans and invite them to come to our shows. Bisous bisous.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

New Releases Tuesday (5/25)

Gorillaz - Demon Days (Virgin) Graham who?? I'm sorry, but Damon is just on a roll...Think Tank was amazing and this Gorillaz project shows no signs of slowing down. Helping out the cartoon band this time around are Shaun Ryder, MF Doom, De La Soul, Roots Manuva, Neneh Cherry and even Dennis Hopper. Plus, manning the controls as producer is the red-hot mash-up master Danger Mouse. (love the cartoon symmetry!) Have you heard the first two singles ("Feel Good Inc.," "Dirty Harry") yet??? This album practically goes to the top of my "best of 2005" based on the strength of those tracks alone. Hell, if he keeps this up, Damon might as well just to drop the rest of his Blur mates so he can spend more time with his new cartoon buddies. Stephen Malkmus - Face the Truth (Matador) Solo album #3 from the former Pavement leader. Check out the CD release party Wed. night at aliveOne, or see the man himself gracing the stage of Metro on June 11. Sleater-Kinney - The Woods (Sub Pop) Album #7(!) from these veteran indie-rock grrls, but their first for Sub Pop. Belle & Sebastian - Push Barman to Open Old Wounds (Matador) All seven of the band's EPs released on Scotland's Jeepster label are collected here in an economical and convenient 2-disc package. Head of Femur - Hysterical Stars (spinArt) 2nd album from the Chicago via Nebraska indie-rock supergroup. They will be performing this latest release in its entirety, complete with a 21 member rock group/orchestra, this Friday at Subterranean. ALSO... Son Volt - A Retrospective: 1995-2000 (Rhino) Meat Beat Manifesto - At the Center (Thirsty Ear - Blue Series) Maria Taylor - 11:11 (Saddle Creek)

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dublab presents Up Our Sleeve

As has been the case throughout the month of May, this Friday is yet another night where I'd like to be two places at once. Besides the return of RFC Night, the 27th is also the night when Up Our Sleeve invades the Open End Gallery. Here's more from the event's website: What is 'UP OUR SLEEVE?' Music memories, paper, paint, ink, ribbons, paste, plastic, photos, metal, vinyl, trains, tape, mannequin heads, and magic. Out of wartime and low cash woes came inspiration for united creativity. We distributed hundreds of blank 12" record sleeves to our artistic friends who passed them onto their pals and on and on. UP OUR SLEEVE reflects the dublab community. We are rooted in Los Angeles while branching worldwide. dublab dj's are in love with vinyl and the deep culture that surrounds it. Sadly, album art has been shrinking: 12" > 5" > invisible MP3's. UP OUR SLEEVE is an opportunity to expand again. Our sleeves are big. A square foot of fun with a hole tossed in the middle. A blank 12" cover is an exciting medium. It's instantly recognizable and infinitely adjustable. Most often album covers are made to match existing music. UP OUR SLEEVE flips this paradigm. The pieces are influenced by music genres and albums while existing free of specific attachment. This is open artistic expression. Who knows, someday songs might be sung for these covers. UP OUR SLEEVE: the dublab covers project is a fundraiser. Each artist donated their one of a kind creation. The sleeves will be auctioned off online to support dublab's positive music transmissions. Keep your eyes on upoursleeve.org for auction dates. What is 'dublab?' dublab.com is a radio collective devoted to the growth of positive music and culture. We are a grassroots center for creative expression. dublab spreads beautiful future roots music via the world's best djs. Over the past five years, millions of listeners have connected to our audio streams. The event takes place from 7pm-2am this Friday, the 27th at Open End Gallery, 2000 W. Fulton. Price of admission is $10. Check out www.upyoursleeve.org for more info.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Herren pounding the skins last week at the Bottle

Live Review: Prefuse 73@Empty Bottle 5/12/05

A popular misconception among concert goers is that electronic music isn't any good live. I'm certainly not one that agrees with this, but I can understand the perception to a certain extent. It is more entertaining to see a guitarist strut his stuff front and center on stage than it is to see someone's head buried behind a PowerMac all night. Plus, any sort of live instrumentation is going to be more conducive to a more spontaneous and energetic performance than pre-programmed beats in a computer. Then again, if the music is brilliant and the artist is highly skilled in his craft, it really shouldn't matter what sort of tools are being used. Good art should triumph no matter what the medium is, right? On his latest tour for his Prefuse 73 project, it seems that Scott Herren is trying to bridge this gap. As Prefuse 73, Herren slices, dices and chops up electronic beats and blips, creating a hyperkinetic sound that's equal parts Afrika Bambaataa and Aphex Twin. It's clearly the kind of music that has been afforded only by modern technology. In his wildest dreams, John Coltrane could never have imagined the ability to cut and paste drum breaks as frenetically as Herren has on his Prefuse 73 records. So naturally, in going to see Prefuse 73 live, one would expect to see little more than a couple of laptops and maybe a synthesizer set-up on stage; with Herren being the lone man navigating it all. However, for this tour, Herren brought with him a complete supporting cast of live musicians consisting of a bass player (Chicago's Josh Abrams), a drummer, a DJ and an additional knob twiddler for the electronics. There was even an additional drum kit set up on stage that Herren used to add a twin skins attack on selected tracks. You've got to commend the Herren for trying to bring genuine organic elements to his live show, when he could very easily have just brought himself and a a laptop. Unfortunately, I can't say that I really dug the live band set up all that much. Rather than subtly augmenting the pre-programmed electronic beats, the live accompaniment almost seemed to detract from the quality of the source material. It wasn't like the live band made everything sound bad, it was just that they really didn't add enough to warrant pushing the electronic aspects of the music (the shit that makes Prefuse 73 amazing) to the back of the mix. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that the band was still tied down to those electronic beats. With a pre-programmed rhythm track, a band has little room or no room for any improvisation or additional jamming on solos. So despite adding the "live" elements, the basic structure of the songs changed very little from the recordings and the musicians were left with little space to truly showcase their talents. The one possible exception to this was when Herren get behind the second drum kit and pounded out the beats himself on a few of the tracks. The twin drum attack sounded great and it seemed to really loosen up the band and energize the crowd. (not to mention Herren himself, who looked like a kid in a candy store behind the kit) Another thing that seemed to be really lacking from this performance was vocals. While half (if not more) of the tracks on Prefuse 73 albums are usually instrumental jams, Herren also drops in some great vocal cuts on his albums with the help of various guests (Herren just produces, he always leaves the mic duties to others). In fact, his latest album, Surrounded by Silence, consists almost entirely of collaborations with rappers and vocalists. However, I think only a couple of vocal snippets were dropped during the entire night. Obviously, it's impossible to bring all of the vocal talent he's worked with on the road with him, but dropping in some samples here and there would have added some much needed variation to the show. Opening act Beans did come on stage for one track, but his lyrical contribution was a bit rambling and overall it was just a bit too little too late. Oddly enough, the first time I saw Prefuse 73, it was just Herren manning the electronics and I thought that the performance could of used a little more energy or live augmentation. Now this time I'm complaining that he had too much live shit going on. However, on his last tour (back in the fall of 2003), it seemed like he had the formula just right. The show still centered mostly around Herren, but this time he was joined by Tortoise's John Herndon on drums. Herndon seemed to compliment the music of Prefuse 73 perfectly and overall it was a really memorable performance. For some reason, this most recent show just didn't quite click for me like it did at that one. To be fair to Herren and his cohorts, this was still a good show. If I had never heard the music of Prefuse 73 before in my life and had blindly walked into this show, I probably would have been blown away. But, after extensively listening to his records for the past few years and seeing him perform live before, my expectations were set ridiculously high and unfortunately this show just didn't quite live up. I can't complain too much though, an average Prefuse 73 experience is still far better than seeing most other artists on their best night.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Collect all 8!

WHPK DJ writes the book on R.E.M.

Congrats to local rock critic and WHPK "Radio Zero" co-host J. Niimi for being the latest author to get his work published in the 331/3 book series. The series is a collection of short books about critically acclaimed albums from the past 40 years. Here's more from Continuum Books: By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music. What binds this series together, and what brings it to life, is that all of the authors—musicians, scholars, broadcasters, and writers—are huge fans of the albums they have chosen. Here's more from the snarky purveyors of all things hip, Vice magazine: These are for the insane collectors out there who appreciate fantastic design, well-executed thinking, and things that make your house look cool.… We love these. For his contribution, Niimi tackled the fable of R.E.M.'s legendary debut record, Murmur, which forever changed the landscape of college radio and underground music. I'll leave the in-depth analysis of the record to Niimi, but trust me, this is a title worth reading more about...even if you still hate R.E.M. for unleashing that debacle called "Shiny Happy People." This, and other new titles in the series are now available on-line here at Amazon.com or at such local outlets as Barbara's Books, Seminary Coop, Tower and Barnes & Noble. Other recent titles getting the 331/3 treatment include Led Zeppelin IV, Pet Sounds, Exile on Main St. and Jeff Buckley's Grace. You can check out more writing from Niimi in such fine publications as the Chicago Reader, the Village Voice and the Seattle Weekly...or check him out on the radio every Thursday from 10a-12p on WHPK-FM 88.5.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New Releases Tuesday (5/17)

Local and Related Keith Fullerton Whitman - Multiples (Kranky) Long awaited, "proper" second solo album (after two limited edition vinyl releases in 2004) from Keith Fullerton Whitman, aka Hrvatski. According to Mr. Kranky, "it pulls together all of Keith's interests (academic composition, musique concrete, psychedelia, prog) into one neat package." All Music Guide sez: "Multiples also shows Whitman to be as adept and comfortable in creating amazing textures with analog instruments as he is in using the latest in digital sound design, making it seem like an eight-song cycle paying homage to the analog forefathers while pushing the envelope for his contemporaries." Nudge - Cached (Kranky) Third album by the Portland, OR trio..."Cached is an equally groovy and subtle sound affair that walks the tightrope between electronica, indie, fluid jazz and even dub reggae with astonishing ease" -Mats Gustaffson Troubled Hubble - Making Beds in a Burning House (Lookout!) An old Jed James favorite...these pop-punkers, originally from Elburn, IL, played their first ever gig at the Fireside Bowl back in '99. After putting out 5 indie releases, they've now joined the Lookout! roster. Kill Memory Crash - American Automatic (Ghostly) (see last Friday's RFC post) Tight Phantomz - Crazy When Wet (Southern) (see yesterday's RFC post) Other Notables Mercury Rev - The Secret Migration (V2) Mojo recently called The Rev the "American Pink Floyd" and this album "their Dark Side of the Moon." Of course you've got to take everything from the hype-crazy UK music press with a grain of salt, but that's still some serious praise. Granted the new album probably isn't that good, but I'll tell you what, their recent show at the Vic (opening for Doves) absolutely blew me away. Seriously one of the best live performances I've seen in a long time.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Live Review: Stereophonics@Metro 5/9/05

Is it just me, or does this band get absolutely no cred in the States? Well, maybe they don't much cred anywhere else either (see "Mr. Writer"), but at least they seem to have a lot of fans in their home country (their latest single went to #1 on the UK charts in March). Over here, the masses love Coldplay, Oasis, Travis, etc. However, despite having a sound that's relatively similar to all of those bands, Stereophonics can't seem to buy a break in the U.S. All I have to do is mention the name to my friends and it's like "oh god no, I don't want to listen that." The funny thing is, I'm usually the one that's doing the scoffing when certain bands are mentioned. Granted, I do have a soft spot for Brit-pop, but even fellow Anglophiles I know seem to diss the band more often than not. So why am I so forgiving of this band, despite my usual rock critic-esque surliness? I've had my theories about this, but it became a lot clearer after seeing them live... -------- For the Chicago stop of their latest North American tour promoting the new album Sex.Language.Violence.Other?, the Welsh trio played Metro, an all-time favorite venue of mine that is equally conducive to quiet acoustic performances (thanks to its size) and loud, bombastic rock performances (thanks to its amazing PA). Much to my surprise, this night ended up markedly in the later category. In fact, I almost didn't even recognize the band when they came on stage. They came out dressed in black looking all punk rock. Lead singer Kelly Jones looked especially different up there, sporting some spiked up hair and Bono-esque fly sunglasses. (This wasn't the same pretty-boy I remembered from the "Have a Nice Day" video??) The band didn’t just look the part either, they had indeed arrived to rock. No acoustic numbers, no poppy ballads...almost the entire set consisted of driving rock songs. Of course, it's not like the band is a stranger to rock anthems. Last album's "High as the Ceiling" was a perfect match for a recent Nissan SUV ad, and I seem to recall Performance and Cocktails being a rather raucous affair. Despite this fact, I've always thought of Stereophonics as a pop/ballad type of band. From the looks and sound of it at this show, it's pretty clear that the band is trying to squash this image. Overall, I'd say they pulled off this feat quite well. They came out firing with the opening track from the new album and just ripped through the first half of the set with mostly new material. This section culminated with their ridiculously infectious new single, "Dakota," which benefited even more from the energy of a live setting. After experiencing this blistering new jam, the rest of the set was a bit anticlimactic. Luckily the band hadn't completely blown their wad in that first half, as they still saved a couple of secret weapons for the end. For the encore, Jones came out solo for a performance of "Maybe Tomorrow." In keeping with the night's theme, Jones opted to strum a distorted electric guitar rather than doing the usual solo acoustic approach. Regardless of whether this was a conscious decision to keep things "rockin" or not, it sounded amazing and was easily one of the highlights of the night for me. Perhaps, the highlight of the night, however, was their closing number. After being re-joined the rest of the band for two more songs, Jones then tore into the opening riff of "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and he and rest of the band capped off the night with a rousing rendition of the Stooges classic. ----- So...what is it about this band that makes me eschew my usual rock critic-esque surliness? I think the answer just may be in that cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Despite having a soft-spot for the band, I would have never thought of Stereophonics as being the type of band that could pull off a good Stooges cover; but I'll be damned if they didn't. I always did hear a bit of soul in this band, and seeing their live performance certainly reaffirmed my belief in this. No, I'm not talking about the Smokey Robinson/ Motown kind of soul...but the intense, spiritual kind of energy. Jones is actually quite a wee little man (I'd say like 5'4”-5'5"), but his intensity and powerful pipes give him an enormous presence both on record and on stage. It sounds like the lyrics he's belting out are actually bleeding right out of his soul. Of course, the raspyness of his voice certainly adds a bit of a dramatic effect, but there still seems to be a lot of intensity and sincerity behind those shredded vocals. Stereophonics are never going to be a band that's going to revolutionize the music world nor would I expect any type of OK Computer opus from them any time soon. Nonetheless, I think they're a decent little rock band that is seriously underrated on this side of the pond. While I probably wouldn't recommend picking up their entire back catalog, I would definitely recommend downloading some of their singles, especially if you dig the Brit-pop sound. Then, once you get hooked on them like me, go check 'em out live here at a small club sometime in between their giant outdoor festival gigs in Europe.

Free Monday Madness Continues at the Bottle

Headlining tonight's free show at the Empty Bottle is local trio Tight Phantomz, who are celebrating the release of their first full-length album, Crazy When Wet. The band formed in 2003 and features former Lustre King members Mike Lust (guitars/vocals) Jay Dandurand (drums). If you like your rock classic and southern fried with a touch of indie-rock irony, you'll want to check this out. Well, actually there's probably a bit more than just a touch of irony here... While not nearly as over-the-top as England's The Darkness, the Tight Phantomz definitely aren't shy in celebrating their tongue-in-cheek love of 70's arena rock. The artwork to their new album probably sums up their M.O. best...the front cover features a rather stoic shot of a Marshall (guitar amplifier) stack in a wooded area. However, the back cover is a cheeky shot of a dude diving head first into the stack using a slip-n'-slide. Yes, Tight Phantomz like to rawk, but they certainly don't take themselves too seriously. Also on the bill are Bible of the Devil, Call Me Lightning and tornavalanche. I don't know anything about these bands, but with names like those, you know the amps are going to be turned up to '11' all night long. Danielle from Southern Records says this show is "guaranteed to knock your lights out." The metal madness starts 9:30p at the Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western. Again the show is FREE, but as always you must be 21+

Friday, May 13, 2005

When it rains, it pours...

So...we're definitely in the heart of that magical time of year on the concert calendar between the stark winter doldrums and the giant outdoor summer tours. What this means is that we get pretty much anyone and everyone who's touring right now playing all of the best small to medium-size clubs in the city. No big tour hype, no trying to squint to see the band, no need to pack the bug-spray...just great music in great venues, without the hassle. (unless, of course, you were one of those poor bastards who got denied Coldplay tickets after waiting outside for hours) Naturally, I wish all of these great shows could be spaced out a little farther, but that's the breaks and like going to SXSW you've just got to suck it up and try to catch as much as possible. Besides all of the big national acts in town this weekend, there's also some good local shows to check out. Here's a couple you may have missed: Tonight (5/13) American Automatic: Kill Memory Crash Album Release Dance Party Congress Theatre 10p-5a $7 or $5 after 2a featuring... Kill Memory Crash Ectomorph Hidden Variable and DJ sets by Traxx Trancid and Rayaline For over 10 years, Alex and Adam of Chicago's Kill Memory Crash have been developing their own blend of dark electronic music without major release, until now. Having started their musical career in Detroit, Kill Memory Crash began performing at raves and warehouse parties in the mid-to-late 90's, slowly translating their leftfield influences into their own cryptic language. Standing on the dividing lines between techno and other musics forced the duo to develop their own style and early works resembled dark chasms of industrial noise. Their indifference to the popular styles of the day led them into an almost self-imposed exile from the music business and only extremely limited vinyl pressings ever surfaced. Alex and Adam have honed their music to its current state, a sinister blend of industrial, ambient and IDM, working away at the boundaries that held them as outsiders until now. Saturday (5/14) Palliard album release party Open End Gallery (2000 W. Fulton) Doors open at 9pm All ages, BYOB $6 featuring... Palliard Lesser Birds of Paradise Manatella DJ Mary Nisi from WLUW This Saturday night the wonderful Chicago band Palliard is having their CD release party and they have kindly asked us to take part in the evening's festivities. So....Saturday May 14th at Open End Gallery. Come on out. The evening will start off with the ladies of Manatella, followed by Palliard and then the Lesser Birds. There will probably be some record spinnin' and iPod blastin' between sets and if all goes well, and the beer don't run out, we plan on having a post-show dance party with DJ Mary Nisi. So yeah, the beer not running out...Its BYOB but we'll be providing a good amount of ammunition for you. But it wouldn't hurt to bring your hip flask or your 40s. Drinking you say? So it must be 21+?....Oh but its not. This show is All Ages. But that doesn't give you an excuse to drink. Professor Janka will be cracking down on some illegal activities. This should be an exciting night. It's really just an excuse to have a party and we're just happy to be part of it. We'll provide some new songs as well. Saturday (5/14) THE ROAD TO HELL PAVED WITH UNBOUGHT STUFFED DOGS... buddY (1542 N. Milwaukee) 9:30 pm All ages, $6 suggested donation featuring... Pictures on the wall in form of Xerox by: Brian Klein, someone named Carol, Anne, Jiha Lee, Nick Rahn, Eric Graf, Dolan Geiman, Michael Merck, and others... with music by: PINE*AM three-girl psychedelic pop band from Japan IT'S A TRAP Chicago panic party puslators FEMME FATALITY St. louis electropop pals
Days of future passed...

WOXY.com launches classic alternative stream

While the revamped Q-101 didn't turn into a full-time classic alternative outlet like I had hoped, leave it to my ol' pals at 97X to give me what I wanted. Today on their website, "The Future of Rock n' Roll" announced that they will be launching WOXY Vintage, a new streaming web channel that will spin classic alternative 24/7. Here's the official scoop: WOXY.COM: WOXY Vintage channel launches, debuts with Modern Rock 500 "WOXY Vintage," a new 24/7 streaming channel from WOXY.COM, will debut Memorial Day Weekend (May 28, 2005). WOXY Vintage is a new channel of programming dedicated to the history of Modern Rock, Alternative and Punk music. This exclusive WOXY.COM stream will guide listeners through nearly 30 years of adventurous, innovative and influential music from The Velvet Underground in the 1960's to The Clash, Talking Heads, The Smiths and Depeche Mode in the 70's & 80's right through Grunge & Britpop of the 1990's. Audio time capsules will combine with the expansive WOXY.com music library to provide an historical soundtrack unlike any other. General Manager Bryan Jay Miller: "WOXY Vintage is going to give us a chance to really dig into the 11,000 CD music library we've amassed over 23 years. Listeners that have been with the station since the early days will hear long lost favorites, and new listeners beginning to explore the roots of Alternative and Modern Rock will get a comprehensive introduction to the founders of the genre." The launch of WOXY Vintage coincides with the return of the annual WOXY.com Modern Rock 500 which will run Memorial Day weekend (Saturday, May 28- Monday, May 30). The Modern Rock 500 will repeat the week following Memorial Day, May 31 – June 3.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Snow Patrol invades aliveOne!

Tonight after their sold out show at the Vic, Scottish rockers Snow Patrol will be taking over the back room tonight at aliveOne for an exclusive post-show DJ set. They're expected to start at 11p (which probably means they'll start at midnite) and there is no cover to get in. Not sure what kind of tunes they'll be spinning...perhaps an all-Scottish rock set?? (if it's not Scottish, it's CRAP!) Nonetheless, I'm sure you could score some major points with the band if you request some Arab Strap, Belle & Sebastian or Mogwai. Or, if you really want to brown-nose, request some Reindeer Section when Snow Patrol leader Gordon Lightbody is on the decks. Ryan and the aliveOne crew will also be giving away tickets to see Mars Volta, who will be playing two nights at the Riviera next week. No drink specials tonight, however I hear the Maker's and Cokes at aliveOne are especially delicious. Remember, the party is in the back room...aliveOne is located at 2683 N. Halsted.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Live Review: Adult.@Empty Bottle 5/7/05

A couple of years ago, I bought an Atari 2600 system on eBay. Sure, the graphics were awful, the games were simple and the joysticks didn't work for shit (which led to my original Atari ending up in the garbage), yet I still couldn't resist the nostalgic urge to experience for those archaic blips and bleeps again. At first, having the Atari again was a riot. Hearing the aliens go "chug, chug, chug" in Space Invaders, seeing the unbelievably bad stick-man graphics on "Super Challenge" Baseball and hunting down the black-and-white ghosts on the notoriously awful Atari translation of Pac-Man amused me to no end. My re-infatuation with the 2600 lasted for a couple of weeks, but then inevitably the novelty wore off. A couple of games like Super Breakout and the aforementioned Space Invaders were still fun to pop in occasionally, but overall the simplicity and repetitiveness of the games got old really quick and I soon remembered why the Atari got kicked the curb the first time. When the so-called "electro-clash" movement hit a couple of years back, it was a very similar experience as playing those old Atari games. At first, I loved it...hearing those old drum-machine beats, cheesy synth lines and the robotic, vocoder-tinged vocals; it reminded me of watching the halcyon days of MTV in between games of Pitfall. But alas, there's only so much you can do with the keyboards/drum-machine/vocoder formula and after a while that novelty wore off as well. Fast forward to 2005...Adult., a Detroit-based electro duo who were releasing records way before the whole "electro-clash" trend started, is back and touring in support of their latest effort, D.U.M.E., an EP that marks their Thrill Jockey debut. The band pre-dated electro-clash, but are they going to be able to survive its fall out? Undoubtedly conscious of the electro fall out, Adult. seems to be mixing things up a bit lately. First off, they've put their record label, Ersatz Audio, on hold to focus more on their own musical efforts. (Besides putting out all of their previous releases on this label, they also released numerous records by fellow-minded electro artists like Magas, Tamion 12 inch and GD Luxxe) Second, they've added a third member to the live line-up. Tamion 12 inch now augments the band on guitar, with founders Adam Lee Miller on bass and Nicola Koperus on vocals. Perhaps the standard electro formula was starting to wear thin a bit for the band themselves? Don't worry, Adult. hasn't gone post-rock in honor of their new deal with Thrill Jockey. After seeing their headlining show at The Empty Bottle this weekend, it's quite clear that Adult. is still an "electro" band. Having a third member on stage added a bit more of an organic, live presence to their sound, but the cold drum machine beats still drove the songs along with Nicola's razor-tinged vocals. While I certainly wouldn't say this was a bad performance, I can't say that I was blown away either. It reminded me a lot of the Atari. It was fun, instantly gratifying, full of quirky metallic bleeps...and after 5 minutes I was bored and looking for something else to do. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh. It wasn't like I wanted to leave the club after only two songs, but my interest did fade rather quickly throughout the course of the set. Overall, the formula is just too repetitive...start drum machine beat, riff on the fuzz bass, add a bit of subtle guitar noodling, kick in the screamy vocals and repeat. I can't really fault the band themselves, they do it well and they seem to be enjoying themselves (especially Koperus). It's just that there's only so much they can do with it, just as there was only so much Atari could do with 4-bit graphics and 1978 technology. Then again, despite all of the limitations, there were always those few endlessly addictive titles on the Atari that always brought you back. Adult.'s version of Space Invaders is easily "Pressure Suit," a killer song with an insane bass line and great lyrical hooks. ("Do you like my handbag? It's filled with lots of money!") It's always been a favorite of mine and it clearly was the highlight of the night for everyone in the crowd as well. A close second to "Pressure Suit" was "Human Wreck." (shall we call it their Asteroids??) Probably the best track on their only full-length effort, Anxiety Always, this track also really got the Bottle crowd jumpin up and shakin' their asses. Even though now it mostly collects just dust in my TV cabinet, I still love my Atari and don't have any plans of throwing it in the trash again. I probably feel the same way about Adult. I'll always like them and undoubtedly will always enjoy cranking up their Ersatz Audio 12"s from time to time. It's just that they'll never be a band that's going to be stuck in my CD player for six months at a time.

Califone's Tim Rutili Monday night at The Bottle

Photoblog review: The Books w/Tim Rutuli@Empty Bottle 5/9/05

Newly updated on the RFC Live Photo Archive are pictures from Monday night's Empty Bottle show with The Books and Tim Rutuli. Check out the hot pix at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rfc/ Also stay tuned to RFC later today for a review of Saturday night's Empty Bottle show with Adult.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

New Releases Tuesday (5/10)

Spoon- Gimme Fiction (Merge) Insound sez: "It's here! Spoon's latest is a dizzying, soulful affair with some of the catchiest and most confident pop songs you'll hear. Gimme Fiction may finally push these guys into Shins-like popularity." However, I've talked to quite a few people with advance copies of the record who say they are really bored with Britt Daniel's latest. I burned an advance copy myself and I can't say that I have a verdict yet...it sounds alright so far, but it hasn't really grabbed me yet. Perhaps this record is just lacking an immediate classic like "Fitted Shirt" or "The Way We Get By"?? Whatever the case, Daniel and the boys will be back in town to promote the new record on June 11 at the Vic Theatre. ALSO... Athlete - Tourist (Astralwerks) Boredoms - Seadrum/House of Sun (Vice) Electrelane - Axes (Too Pure) Gang of Four - Entertainment! [re-issue] (Rhino) Mice Parade - Ben-Vinda Vontade (Fat Cat) Sloan - A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 (Koch) Weezer - Make Believe (Geffen) Lucinda Williams - Live at the Fillmore (Lost Highway)

Monday, May 09, 2005

Rockin' the Hawkeye State...

RFC Interview - 7inchwave

I recently heard from an anonymous source (who we'll call 'PVH') that this hot new band from Iowa called 7inchwave was coming to town soon. Sounds like a bit of dichotemy, right? You generally don't hear the words "hot band" and Iowa in the same sentence. However, PVH is a trusted source and knows his rock, so I decided to investigate further...

According to their profile on My Space, 7inchwave consists of three robotic humanoids named Danomatika, Karltron and Grantbotnik who play "Dancy Surfer-Robot Punk Rock." Hmmm...perhaps we've found this generation's Devo? Here's their official bio:

7inchWave consists of 3 human entities whose mission is to spread the robotic word of music through all space and time. This message goes out to all who have yet to unlock their own personal vices and programmed inhibitions: those who must strive to maintain sanity among the crowd of normals, those who behave abnormally in a most sub-human manner, and those who exhibit signs of severe frustration with the world. We will absolve all your worldly sins through sheer noise and harmony. Embrace the wave, people, and all shall be right with the robotic world. With upcoming gigs at both the Bottom Lounge and Buddy Gallery, I decided to track down the members of 7inchwave to get more insight on this mysterious new band from the nation's heartland... RADIO FREE CHICAGO: So what's the story behind 7inchwave? (how did the band get started, what is the origin of the name, are you guys really robots? etc., etc.) Danomatika: We are indeed robots. Our only mission is to execute our entertainment protocol. Adopting human form, speech, and mannerisms has allowed us to perform this task to the needed degree. The name comes from surf, new wave, and 7 inch records. Grantbotnik: Our unit has been performing in our current incarnation for roughly 11 lunar orbits. RFC: I hear that Ames, Iowa is the next "Williamsburg," is this true? D: Ames has its moments, its people, and its bands, but it is hardly big on its music scene. Let's just say that most students here pass the time by drinking, instead of drinking while going to shows. RFC: You've got a pretty solid tour booked for a band that doesn't have a full album out yet, let alone a record deal, how did you pull that off? D: We have the tunes and our persuasion algorithms are top notch. RFC: Are you guys really ready to rock Chicago? What can audiences expect from your live show? D: The real question: is Chicago ready for us? Our attempts at thwarting the unseen sonic invaders usually results in collateral damage to the surrounding area. RFC: If you could open up for any major artist or band (past or present), who would it be? D: DEVO G: The Talking Heads SPEED ROUND Favorite Chicago band/artist: G: Troubled Hubble, Shellac, Does Wilco count? Analog or vinyl: D: Pure analog is the ultimate in transmission of continuous signals, since it is directly from the source. A vinyl recording is analogous to the recorded sound, yet is not live. With the live energy taken away, the recording loses some of its human emotional impact. Best album of 2004: G: My favorite was The Black Keys' Rubber Factory Original Recipe or Extra Crispy: D: We consume food only for appearance. By nutritional standards, the skin is not "the best part" as it contains little to no important nutrients needed for daily energy restoration in organic bodies. Therefore, the question is invalid as we do not eat chicken, nor enjoy the skin. What does Iowa have more of...pigs, corn or mullets? D: An endless see of corn to feed throngs of humans.

7inchwave plays tomorrow night (5/10) at the Bottom Lounge with We Are Wolves, Birdnames and The Hot Love. They'll also be back in town on Friday May 20th at buddY with with Ad Astra Per Aspera, Yah Tibla La Blu and The Narrator. Check out MP3 samples of their songs at http://www.myspace.com/7inchwave

Friday, May 06, 2005

Prefuse 73 listening party at Tiny Martini

This Saturday, Koncept & Meiotic present a Prefuse 73 listening/preview party at Tiny Martini. In addition to hearing the latest release, Surrounded by Silence, you can also win tickets to next Thursday's Prefuse 73/Beans show at the Empty Bottle...plus other swag from Warp Records. Afterward, there will be live DJ sets from Tobias and Lee Chameleon. The night will be capped off by a live performance from Chicago electronic artist Warmdesk. Tini Martini is located at 2169 N. Milwaukee, must be 21+ to attend.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Spoon@Metro 5/3/05

Introducing...the RFC Live Photo Archive

As you may have noticed yesterday, there's now a "pictures" section in the right-hand column of Radio Free Chicago. This is where you'll find archived pix of the latest live performances at local venues around the city. Leading the new project is Nicole Chavas, who joins the crack staff of Radio Free Chicago as "chief image coordinator." Nicole is a fellow DJ, blogger and music junkie who will now be documenting all of her live music experiences for RFC. In addition to more pix from last weekend's Dizzee Rascal show, you can also check out pictures from this week's "secret" Spoon show at Metro as well as shots from Animal Collective's recent performance at the Empty Bottle. Stay tuned, many more pix to come... http://www.flickr.com/photos/rfc/

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Air America Returns to Chicago...sort of

After months of speculation and rumor, it was finally officially announced yesterday that Air America would be returning to Chicago airwaves after over a year absence. As expected, the network will be broadcast on WAIT-AM 850, which will be changing its call letters to WCPT to reflect the station's new identity as "Chicago's Progressive Talk." However, in reality, the station should actually call itself "Crystal Lake's Progressive Talk." So here's the catch...yes, Air America will be back on local airwaves, but it will be on a rather weak signal originating from far northwest suburban Crystal Lake. This wouldn't be much of a problem if the station was a full-power 50,000 watt behemoth like WLS or WGN...but with a paltry 2,500 watts, AM 850 barely reaches into the heart of the city. It is audible on the North Side, but it sounds all distant and scratchy like you're trying to listen to the BBC on an old short-wave radio. Trying to listen downtown or on the South Side? Forget it. Now here's the real kicker...the damn station doesn't even operate 24 hours/day! It's a "daytime-only" station that is licensed to operate only during daylight hours. When the sun goes down, the station shuts off. I'll save you the technical explanation of why this station does this, but basically what this means is that you won't be able to hear any of Air America's night-time offerings like Janeane Garofalo, and in the winter the station will be on the air for barely 10 hours a day. Don't get too attached to their afternoon show, because when December hits the show is going to get chopped off at 4:30! Yes, yes...I know...you can always listen to Air America on-line at their website. But not everyone has access to the Internet, some offices (like mine) don't let employees listen to streaming audio at work and you still can't take it in the car with you. (unless you have the cash to spend on satellite radio) It's great that someone in the area added Air America to their line-up, but for anyone outside of the north burbs, it's really more like a tease. Chicago is what makes Illinois a "blue" state, but for some reason red-state heroes like Rush, Hannity and Savage still dominate the local talk airwaves. It doesn't make any sense to me, but then again, nothing that goes on at commercial radio ever does. WCPT officially debuts tomorrow morning (5/5) at 8am on AM 850...good luck trying to pick it up

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New Releases Tuesday (5/3)

Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth (Interscope) After a 5 year hiatus, Trent Reznor returns with the follow-up to The Fragile. He'll also be in town this week supporting the new album with two sold-out shows at the Congress Theater. Steer clear of the area Friday and Saturday night if you're allergic to black leather. Ryan Adams - Cold Roses (Lost Highway) Is this guy a brilliant songwriter or just a pompous arsehole? I can never decide... Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm (SuperEgo) Who knew that the teased-haired singer of 'Til Tuesday would still be making relevant records 20 years later? Also... Caribou - The Milk of Human Kindness (Domino) The Raveonettes - Pretty in Black (Columbia) Oneida - The Wedding (Secretly Canadian) Tullycraft - Disenchanted Hearts Unite (Magic Marker)

Monday, May 02, 2005

Captain Rascal live@Double Door 4/30

Live Review: Dizzee Rascal@Double Door 4/30/05

For the last night of his first North American headlining tour, Dizzee Rascal invaded the Double Door Saturday for a rousing night of grime and rhyme. His first visit to America's third coast, Rascal tore up the place and left fans exhausted at the end. If you're not familiar with Dizzee Rascal, he is by far the breakout star of the UK's grime scene, a new style of music born out of the London underground that fuses good ol' American hip-hop with music evolved from England's underground "garage" (aka "2-step") dance movement. In reality that's a bit of an oversimplification, especially when it comes to describing the music of Dizzee Rascal. Dizzee's rhyme style is fast and frenetic and unlike anything we've heard here in the States. While the crowd at this show certainly attested to the danceability of his music, Dizzee sure as hell ain't Craig David and you probably won't be hearing his latest jam at your downtown trixie-infested dance club anytime soon. That being said, it was an interesting crowd at Double Door. The show had not sold out ahead of time, which lead me to believe that perhaps the grime phenomenon had not took hold into the inner reaches of the continent yet. However, the long and narrow confines of the Double Door quickly reached close to capacity and the room was filled with more than just the usual conglomeration of hip kids in-the-know. Trixies dressed up in their best club attire, Abercrombie-wearin' dudes, stoner kids, hip-hoppers and even a couple geezers (the American kind, not the ubiquitous English bloke) were all interspersed with Double Door's usual predominately young,white indie-rock crowd. So perhaps grime had infected the masses of middle America?? ...at least on a small scale? This theory was proven even more by the response to the live turntable set from opener DJ Wonder. The tightly squeezed crowd was groovin' along to every beat of his set that consisted solely of underground grime tracks. The crowd really erupted whenever Wonder dropped a track from the recently released compilation, Run the Road, the first grime primer released on this side of the pond. I'm guessing the comp hasn't sold thousands of copies in Chicago yet, but of those that have picked it up, I'd say 90% of them had come out to see this show. And yes, while everyone enjoyed shakin' their ass to DJ Wonder's set, it was really just a warm-up exercise for the main attraction, Captain Rascal himself. Jumping on stage to one of the most enthusiastic welcomes I've ever heard at Double Door, Dizzee started off the set with an acappella version of "Sittin' Here," the first track from his debut album, performed appropriately enough while sitting down with the stage lights off. A nice excitement builder and an essential introduction of his craft to the virgin audience who were experiencing Rascit for the first time in their city. After the intro, Rascal kicked it in to high gear and never let up the rest of the night. Aided by just a hypeman (Big Scope) on stage and a DJ behind him (DJ Semtex), Dizzee literally kept the audience jumpin all night. Even on a couple of his slower jams like "Jezebel" and "Respect Me," Rascal never let his energy down and always kept the audience engaged. I've been a huge of Rascal ever since his debut was released in the States last January and thought he and his crew sounded crew sounded great live. However, by the middle of the set, I have to admit that my enthusiasm was started to wane a bit. It certainly wasn't the quality of the material, nor was from a lack of energy and presence on stage from Dizzee. At the time, I thought that perhaps in my case, Dizzee was just preachin' to the long converted. His first two records just blew me away, and I had been listening to them for a while, so perhaps I couldn't be blown away anymore? I had maxed out on my enjoyment of these tracks? In hindsight, a more reasonable explanation for my mild malaise was that the first half of the set just really tight and by the books. Like I said, I thought it sounded great, but since I had heard these tracks a million times and they sounded almost identical live, I just wasn't getting the same euphoria as I did over a year ago when I first bumped Boy in da Corner in the car with the bass cranked up. But alas, like any good performer, Dizzee kicked in the reserves for the home stretch and really brought the house down to close out the night. The turn-around for me came at the performance of "Jus a Rascal." After a couple of slower tracks and a very brief break to talk to the audience, the hyper intro to "Jus a Rascal" started and the place just exploded. The floor of the old venue literally started to bounce along with the crowd and it was impossible not to start groovin' along with everyone to this infectious track. This was quickly followed by an interpolation of the Dead Pres' track, "Bigger than Hip-Hop," which got the crowd raisin' the roof and the floor at the same time. This momentum was maintained through the rest of the performance, thanks to more improvised (or, more likely, planned variations of) beats behind the rhymes, more interaction with the crowd from Dizzee and Co., and hot tracks like "Fix Up, Look Sharp" and "Stand Up Tall," which were naturally saved until the end. All in all, this was a really great show. Dizzee Rascal is truly one of the few artists that lives up to the hype, both live and on record. I think my only disappointment is that I wasn't able be experience this live show a year earlier. Experiencing tracks like "I Luv U" and "Fix Up, Look Sharp" for the first time in a live setting would have been mind blowing. Hopefully Dizzee will be back to tour the states sooner after his next record, but regardless, I'll still be first in line to see him again. In the meantime, keep buyin' his records and check out that Run the Road comp, maybe if they sell enough copies we could get an entire grime tour here in the states. Imagine, Dizzee and The Streets co-headlining a tour with a supporting cast of Wiley, Lady Sovereign, God's Gift, etc. Now that would be a hot tour...however they'd have to book it at somewhere else besides Double Door, I think the floor would literally collapse at that one.
Dizzee (right) with hypeman Big Scope