REVIEW: Julia Jacklin brings her wisdom to Chicago's Schubas


by Mackenzie Werner

Julia Jacklin just drips with charm; from the masking tape on her guitar -- telling her she can do it(!), to her inability to fight off a fit of laughter halfway through one of her saddest, quietest songs. She carries the presence of someone you could sit comfortably with in silence, she seems like she gives good advice. She carries exceptional Big Sister Energy: she doesn’t have it all figured out, but she’s one step ahead and offering comfort and wisdom from the path.

The first thing about Julia that should be noted is her exceptional taste, which was on full display with her choice of Black Belt Eagle Scout as the tour opener. Black Belt Eagle Scout front-woman Katherine Paul and her accompanying band did a wonderful job of warming the room with tight instrumentation, dynamic vocals, and no shortage of shredding. Katherine is easily one of the best guitarists I’ve seen live and if you haven’t heard or seen her you should find a way to do that soon. They released their debut album Mother of My Children last year on Saddle Creek.

(A second notable example of taste was Jacklin’s sporting of Blundstone boots, which hail from her native Australia. I’ve seen her in these boots in every press photo and live appearance for the last three  years and have to admit I broke down last winter and bought a pair on her implied recommendation, they’re incredible and I wear them every day now too. Thanks, Julia!)

Queen of the slow burn, she held the sold-out room at Schuba’s enraptured through a headlining set featuring songs from her exceptional debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win (2016), and newest full-length, aptly titled Crushing (2019), both out now on Secretly Canadian. It was a pleasant surprise to also hear “Eastwick”, a song I’ve played so many times from a 2017 7” release that I was almost surprised to experience it coming from anywhere but my record player. This was just one of the many moments from the evening when I couldn’t wipe a stupid grin from my face.

It’s always special to be in a room practically bursting with people and to realize the sea of spectators is maintaining respectful silence through each song, only interrupted by stray sniffling. I got to experience one of these sniffly moments quite intimately during the song “Turn Me Down”. The final two or so minutes of the song feature Jacklin repeating the words “please just turn me down, why won’t you turn me down”, which build from an almost timid question to an impassioned plea. Singing this live, she gained power with each repetition, clearly belting by the end, while the woman standing directly in front of me slowly progressed from stray tears to open weeping to match the energy coming from the stage. I felt a contact high of cathartic release just from witnessing, and I hope she left that room feeling better than when she entered.

There are places that a good break up record touches you that other records just can’t, in my opinion, and Crushing immediately joined the ranks of the classics when I first heard it. Up there with hard hitters like Kelela’s Take Me Apart and of course Lorde’s Melodrama, both of which were my life rafts during my last big break, Crushing manages to weave in and out of so many emotions that flood you during your rawest moments.

To become acquainted with this exceptional collection of songs is a privilege, and to be able to experience them live in a room full of other hearts that have broken and mended time and again, is an honor. The room was alive with energy with each tune as different people danced harder or screamed louder for the moments that struck them hardest.

There are the high-energy hits like “Pressure to Party”, with the line, “nothing good can come from me drinking, I would run shoes off straight back to you, I know where you live, I used to live there too,” and “You Were Right”, which perfectly captures the feeling that comes weeks or months after a separation when you realize that something you were avoiding trying out (like a restaurant, or a band) at someone else’s suggestion, or maybe insistence, is actually quite enjoyable. It’s hard to describe that comical realization, but she does it in a way that is almost revelatory. Live, it becomes a communal recognition of this phenomenon, we’re allowing ourselves to grow, and we can laugh together. There are also the ballads, like “Don’t Know How to Keep Loving You”, which details the hardest considerations that arise when ending a relationship with someone so close to you that you hardly know who you are without them any longer. Or “Good Guy”, with the lines, “tell me I’m the love of your life just for tonight, even if you don’t mean it,” and, “I don’t care for the truth when I’m lonely”. I could continue on song by song, they’re each fantastic in their own right, but the point is there’s something here for everyone. If your heart is broken, if you’ve ever had your heart broken, whatever stage of healing you’re in, whatever memories you hold, my advice is to  get to a Julia Jacklin live show, and feel it out publicly with 200 strangers.

Click here for all Julia Jacklin tour dates.

Stream Crushing below on Spotify


REVIEW: House of Vans brings together Lala Lala, Torres, Wolf Parade


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Photos by Cody Corrall


by Genevieve Kane

There are three words that have been on the lips of every DIY kid and concert junkie this summer and those words are: House of Vans. For those of you who are not familiar with the House of Vans, I’ll set the record straight. No, it is not a warehouse filled with boxes of old checkered sneakers and abandoned beanies.

The venue is actually held in an indoor skatepark in the West Loop which is repurposed as a concert venue equipped with a photo booth, luxurious beanbag chairs, a bar with complimentary beer, and wonderfully wacky art covering the walls. The great reputation House of Vans has earned is so pervasive that people will line up one to two hours before doors even open just to ensure that they won’t miss out on the concert experience of a lifetime. I also found myself waiting in that massive line to see Lala Lala, Torres, and Wolf Parade, who would all be the last to perform at House of Vans this summer.

The moment I set foot inside the venue I knew that the wait had been more than worth it. Lala Lala was the first band to perform, and they were who I was most looking forward to seeing. Lala Lala is Lillie West’s Chicago-based project and possibly the most slept on band to come out of Chicago’s music scene, which is not just my opinion but was the consensus of everyone I spoke with at the show. If a garage band and a grunge band had a musical lovechild it would be Lala Lala.

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Their songs have a reverberant quality that will ring throughout your body and steal your soul. When they performed the song “Okie Dokie Doggy Daddy,” off of their album Sleepyhead, I witnessed a bunch of bearded men succumb to the power of West’s deep and resounding vocals which resulted in some pretty vivacious head bobbing. The band also debuted a song off of their upcoming album The Lamb (out September 28th on Hardly Art), which promises only great things.

Overall, Lala Lala’s performance not only lived up to the hype, but blew any expectation I had out of the water. Watching West command the stage was so inspiring and I think I may have to dye my hair pink now.

The next performance of the night came from singer-songwriter Mackenzie Scott, also known as Torres. The way Torres began their set was the definition of iconic. Scott’s back was turned to the audience as she began moving her shoulder up and down. Picture that one vine where the girl with frizzy hair and athletic sunglasses is dancing to A-ha and whips around as the song begins, but imagine it in slow motion and with more allure than hilarity. Basically, it was riveting. Scott was in motion for more or less the entire set.

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Her spooky dance moves were heightened by dramatic lights that bathed the entire stage in crimson. The lighting and dancing combination was particularly powerful when Scott sang “Righteous Woman” these lyrics echoing throughout the warehouse: “Next time you're in the city/ Should you decide to call me/ Just know that I am dealing/ With a flesh that's far too willing.”

Torres finished strong with the song, “Helen in the Woods” off of the album Three Futures, which was incredibly raw and reminiscent of gothic new wave music. I was extremely jazzed after seeing back-to-back stellar performances from female-fronted groups. Throughout the whole concert I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This is why I am queer.”

The Canadian band Wolf Parade took everyone home with a power hour curated of classics and deep cuts. They opened with the song, “You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son” which is the first track on their 2005 album Apologies to the Queen Mary. Wolf Parade was beckoned back to the stage to play a 3 song encore, closing the night out on a song from their 2008 album At Mount Zoomer, “Kissing the Beehive.”

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One would think that after watching Wolf Parade perform a song that clocks in at a whopping 10 minutes and 52 seconds, I would be ready to call it a night and head home to my Hulu. However, I was genuinely disappointed to see the night come to an end. I was fully prepared to pound free water and jam out to some Canadian indie rock until the sun came up but unfortunately, this was not the case. Like all great things, the show came to an end, forcing us to vacate the building and kiss the sweet House of Vans goodbye. 


WHO TO SEE: The non-men who rule this year's Pitchfork Music Festival


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Celebrating its 13th year, Pitchfork Music Festival makes Chicago's Union Park its home again for the weekend of July 20th. With less than a month left, Hooligan writers have come together to highlight some of this year's non-men playing the festival who have undeniably proved to be music's emerging artists right now and forever - with performances by legendary talents like Chaka Khan, Ms. Lauryn Hill and Courtney Barnett, to rising artists like Syd, Ravyn Lenae, and Lucy Dacus, we've put together the perfect list of must-see sets throughout the weekend, our favorite lyrics, and why you're gonna dig them. 


FRIDAY

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melkbelly

red stage
1:45-2:25pm

by Tim Crisp

An unforgiving early afternoon sun is an ideal set piece for experiencing the relentless attack of Chicago rockers Melkbelly. The quartet plays a brand of Breeders-influenced grunge, with squealing guitars that beat down on your ears, while vocalist Miranda Winters seeks to give you nightmares with her all-seeing command. Crunchy low down guitars center the songs while everyone works to add to the fury. It’s the product of DIY veterans from several subsets of your host city’s music community, with members’ previous projects spanning from dark folk to jazz to noise. The music of Melkbelly is chaotic and deliberate, foaming at the mouth to insight discomfort while you, the listener, can’t help but ask for more.

Favorite lyrics: “Concrete is raw, concrete is cold / This slouch is weighted too” - “R.O.R.O.B”
You’ll dig it if: You came for feedback and paranoia


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lucy dacus

green stage
2:30-3:15pm

by Rosie Accola

Lucy Dacus’ sophomore release, Historian, is one of the most well-crafted records of 2018. The tracks move seamlessly between upbeat laments (“Addictions”) and gritty, rock ‘n’ roll treatsies (“TimeFighter”). Dacus’ is a master lyricist, incorporating a sense of narrative that mirrors the structure of a short story rather than a song. In “Nonbeliever” she sings, “You threw your books into the river/ told your mom that you’re a nonbeliever./ She said she wasn’t surprised/ but that doesn’t make it okay.” Other songs like “The Shell” contemplate the merits of making art, a good old existential crisis accompanied by some killer riffs. What’s not to love?

You’ll dig it if: You’re in the middle of a compelling short story collection or a break up, you know the merit of a good air guitar solo, you’re enraptured by the vast unending beauty of the south.
Favorite lyrics: “Freeze frame, tidal wave in the passenger side/I'm still a nervous kid/after all this time” - "Addictions"


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julie byrne

blue stage
2:45-3:30pm

by Rivka Yeker

Singer-songwriter Julie Byrne takes you back to quiet memories we reflect on during train commutes and long car drives. Her humble voice, while filled with power, rests as a lullaby, quietly soothing and calming the nervous system. She sings of an arms-width loneliness, a songwriting trademark, riddled with the vastness of emotion and physical distance. Her most recent record Not Even Happiness resembles the strange discomfort we feel when we find love, after spending so long being alone.

Favorite lyrics:  “Couldn’t hold my misery down, not even for you / It bore me on all the places I ever gone /I grew so accustomed to that kind of solitude /But I long for you now even when you just leave the room” - “Sleepwalker”
You’ll dig it if: You like Mazzy Star but folkier, poetry, falling into a deep self-reflexive trance


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syd

red stage
5:15-6:10pm

by Owé 

The former sultry and sexy R&B singer from The Internet recently wowed us with her Solo album Fin. Syd has a slick, sexy, and confident sound that immediately puts you into her trance. You might know her from any of the three albums she put out with The Internet and is now truly finding and defining her own sound. Fin, while a hot album, is especially exciting for queer listeners as Syd explores some sensual moments in tracks like “Drown in it “ or “Body”. Her decision to go solo is an important moment for queer visibility in rap and it will be exciting to see how she continues to wow us with her talent. This is definitely the show to pull up with a boo or crush. The romantic and intimate energy of this album is sure to promise a vibey time.

Favorite lyrics: “The bed is your stage/Take it away/Put on a show/Put on a play/Don't ask babe/know I'm your number one fan babe “ - “Body”
You’ll dig if : You like sexy and sensual music, you liked The Internet, if you appreciate all the nuances of  R&B.


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julien baker

blue stage
5:15-6:00pm

by Caitlin Wolper

The deeply affecting Julien Baker combines her raw, yearning vocals with ruminations on faith, sobriety, and mental illness. Her journey of self-reckoning, revealed both on sparser first album Sprained Ankle and the lush follow-up Turn Out the Lights, expound upon mental illness and an ever-changing sense of self-worth. But despite the oft-heavy lyrics and subject matter, Baker’s folk-tinged music has a certain warmth to it, inflected with hope: beyond the vulnerable tracks, on Turn Out the Lights’ final song “Claws in Your Back,” she tells us: “I take it all back, I change my mind / I wanted to stay.”  

You'll dig this if: You want to hear intimacy


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big thief

blue stage
6:30-7:15pm

by Sara McCall

With their debut LP Masterpiece (2016), the four-piece Brooklyn band showed up with powerful guitars and punchy drums, pandering to both folk and alt-rock audiences. However, it’s Big Thief’s most recent release Capacity, which shows off a kind of control and composition that bolsters the band as serious musicians, changing the landscape of folk music. Listening to either album, Masterpiece or Capacity, entirely through bears with it a catharsis— between guitars soft and harsh, lyrics that hide and reveal, vocals that whisper and yell these songs sweat with an intensity and depth. Singer-guitarist Adrianne Lenker sings heavy-heartedly of family dynamics, love, trauma, beauty, and corporeality whilst co-writer and guitarist Buck Meek creates an unassuming but complex musical backdrop for Lenker’s alluring voice, offering a gorgeous new folk, a new representation of the midwest — an almost myth-y one that lives in shrapnel, headlights, oak trees, boyfriends knives, blood and long stretches of highway, oh and lots of reverb.

Favorite Lyrics:  “There is a child inside you/ who is trying to raise a child in me/if you want to leave/ you just have to say/ you’re all caught up inside” – "Mythological Beauty"
You’ll dig Big Thief if you party to Frankie Cosmos but wake up to Sharon Van Etten —specifically Tramp at 7:30 am. 


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courtney barnett

red stage
7:25-8:25pm

by Cody Corrall

Courtney Barnett’s sophomore studio album Tell Me How You Really Feel provides a rambling retrospective on her personal evolution as well as her identity as a songwriter. Barnett cemented her cult following with her often monologue-like lyricism in her debut album Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit as well as well as her two EP’s: I’ve Got A Friend Called Emily Ferris and How To Carve A Carrot Into A Rose. Barnett’s strengths lie in her lyrics, which are equally poignant as they are nonsensical, and are underscored by strong psychedelic and rock sensibilities throughout the album. Tell Me How You Really Feel discusses the complexities of rape culture, relationships and what it means to be at a loss for the right words - even when there are so many bubbling at the top of your tongue.

Favorite lyrics: “I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Men are scared that women will laugh at them / I wanna walk through the park in the dark / Women are scared that men will kill them / I hold my keys / Between my fingers” - “Nameless, Faceless”
You’ll dig it if: You like the folksy lyricism of Angel Olsen’s Sister, the tender rock’n’roll of The Cranberries’ Tomorrow, the guitar stylings of Margaret Glaspy’s Emotions and Math and the emotional retrospective of Lucy Dacus’ Night Shift.


SATURDAY

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zola jesus

green stage
2:30-3:15pm

by Rivka Yeker

I said, “I want something powerful, dark, and feminine,” and someone dropped Zola Jesus onto my lap. Her music is a wall of sound, a climactic crescendo all rooted in a goth influenced pop foundation. Her is the combination of Lana Del Ray and Chelsea Wolfe, which allows for a cryptic yet bold sensation. I envision an intricate and intense dance number choreographed to all her records, especially when the strings and choir paired with electronics all create a full body listening experience.

Favorite lyrics: “Take me to the water / I am not free but I am sorry, I am stone /
You should know I would never let you down” - “Soak”
You’ll dig it if: you loved Evanescence, goth shit, you love feeling your body entirely moved by sound.


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nilüfer yanya

red stage
3:20-4:10pm

by Charia Rose

British born and bred, Nilüfer Yanya has made guitar centric music sexy again. A delicious smoothie of jazz, pop and indie-rock, Nilüfer has created a world all her own with her EP’s Plant Based and most recently, Do You Like Pain? The music feels like a dream; sounds that would play softly out of a 10th floor apartment on a breezy summer evening, t-shirts sticking to sweaty skin after a long, joyful day. Her lyrics take on a storytelling quality, making that cool, loose vibe all the more vivid. There is a infallible confidence in the music, her self-taught guitar style leading the way with slick riffs taking center stage.. Her vocals remind you of the void Amy Winehouse has left; that jazzy alto timbre creating a sense of raw passion. Nilüfer takes the notions that guitar music is dead, gives a hearty “fuck you” and creates something all her own.

Favorite Lyrics: “You just watch that coming tide / We won't even have to shout / 'Cause not even words can find a way out / You just relax and I'll kill the time” - “Keep on Calling”
You’ll Dig it If: Your favorite Amy Winehouse tracks are the stripped down demo versions, indie-rock with soul, music that takes you on a journey.

Bops to Get You Started: “Golden Cage”, “Baby Luv”, “The Florist”


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circuit des yeux

blue stage
4:00-4:45pm

by Rosie Accola

There is something about Hayley Fohr a.k.a Circut Des Yeux’s voice that reaches into your bones -- it’s rich and raw, born to tell a story. I first saw Fohr two years ago at Thalia Hall when she opened for everyone’s goth-rock Godfather, Peter Murphy. From the moment Fohr picked up a guitar and started to sing, I was enthralled. I’d never seen someone command their voice as a vocal instrument with as much strength and precision, it reverberated through the venue from the rafters to the historied floorboards. Fohr worked with a pedal board and guitar to create a multifaceted sound piling seemingly endless layers onto reverb and vocals with a thoughtful intensity. I imagined that this was how audiences felt watching Patti Smith get her start in the ‘70s, as if they were witnessing someone experiencing a revelation onstage, letting their voice and their guitar take them wherever they needed to go.

Favorite Lyrics: “There is something deep/ inside of you/ something that’s worth reaching into” -- “Do the Dishes”
You’ll Dig it If: You’re into artists with an alt. Country vibe, “Horses” is still one of your “Top 10 Greatest Albums”, You like your narratives and your pedal boards to be stacked.


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girlpool

blue stage
5:15-6:00pm

by Violet Foulk

LA-born indie rock duo Girlpool, comprised of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, released their sophomore LP Powerplant last spring. The record is chock-full of delicate vocals churning out poetic lyrics, paired with steady, powerful guitar chords. The band’s sound has become fuller since their debut track, ‘Ideal World’ in 2015, which had no drums, singing “Put me on a food stamp / And a Hallmark card / Tranquilize me with your ideal world.” Powerplant is home to more genius songwriting, beginning with the ethereal first verse of ‘123’ that quickly builds into a powerful introduction to the band’s completed new sound. The record includes a total of twelve cohesive tracks; highlights include pretty title track, ‘Powerplant,’ and the steady drumbeat-driven closer, ‘Static Somewhere.’

The duo just dropped a new single, ‘Picturesong’ - an unexpected collaboration with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. Beginning slowly, the track is a slow-building melodic dream featuring the classic vocals known of Girlpool, with a climax of hazy guitar chords at the bridge.

Favorite lyrics: “You say you'll cut your bangs / I'm calling your bluff / When you lie to me it's in the small stuff” - “Cut Your Bangs”
You’ll dig it if: you love driving with the windows down, blasting spunky indie artists like Adult Mom and Diet Cig.


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kelela

blue stage
7:45-8:30pm

by Charia Rose

With the voice of a whispering angel, Kelela (pronounced Kuh-luh-lah) has set the r&b world on fire with her EP Hallucinogen, and now, her debut studio LP Take Me Apart. Her vocals slip through lyrics of redemption and heartbreak with an ease so stunning it may leave you in awe, whispering, “what the hell” to yourself over and over (maybe it’s just me!).  In a renewed era of whisper queen r&b, Kelela has a depth to the softness of her voice. It’s a bird calling you awake, harmonies filling you like a warm broth on a cool day; her voice is comfort. She sings with a brutal honesty, songs like “All the Way Down” take on the rollercoaster of overthinking a relationship before leaning in and no longer “giving a fuck”.

“Altadena” serves as a love letter to the often forgotten black and queer folks hustling to get by.

Deciding at 29 to quit her corporate job to pursue music, Kelela embodies the notion that following the things that uplift and embolden you can turn into something beautiful, healing and completely you.

You’ll Dig it if: You like crying, soft bops, Solange, stacks on stacks of harmonies, queer black women laying their hearts open so that, we too, feel seen.
Favorite lyrics: “That other thing is you keep holding back / All the light you keep brings out the darkness in me / You're so bottled up inside / Spell it out before we divide” - “Turn to Dust”

Bops to Get You Started: “All the Way Down”, “Take Me Apart”, “LMK”, “A Message”


SUNDAY

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kelly lee owens

blue stage
2:45-3:30pm

by Genevieve Kane

As any well versed Pitchfork goer knows, making it for the artists earlier on in the day can be a difficult feat; however, you will seriously regret not making it for Kelly Lee Owens’ set. Owens is a producer, songwriter, and singer from Wales who got her start working with artists like Daniel Avery. Her first EP Oleic, which dropped in 2016, features songs governed by a strong beat and impressive synth-work, reminiscent of old-school garage. Her first self titled album came out in 2017 which takes dreamy synths and layers Owens’ eerie voice on top of it all. The album itself shows great range, tracks like “Bird” are bops which instantly turn my bedroom into a club dance floor; whereas, tracks like “S.O” are so moody and captivating that they put me in a semi-meditative trance. Kelly Lee Owens helps me embrace my inner club kid.

Favorite lyrics: from the track Anxi. (feat. Jenny Hval) “I have come to believe family and reality/Keeping it together, keeping it together/This is the narrative of reality”
You’ll dig it if: You really liked the movie “Party Monster” and spend your free time watching old videos of illegal raves


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ravyn lenae

red stage
3:20-4:10pm

by Cody Corrall

Chicago native Ravyn Lenae echoes disjointed poetry over bubbly, dizzy and colorful instrumentals. At just 19 years old, Lenae is already making a name for herself with three EP’s and has spent the last year opening for Noname’s Telefone tour and SZA’s CTRL tour. Her most recent EP, Crush, is a dreamy collaboration with 20-year-old producer Steve Lacy that questions intimacy and romance in the digital era. Lenae’s vocals are ephemeral: they seem to float over Lacy’s guitar grooves as they explore their various musical styles and find harmony. In 5 songs, Lenae is able to encapsulate a longing for closeness that has been lost in an online age of romance and the expectations that come along with it.

Favorite lyrics: I get jealous / When you don't wanna give this a chance / But then you wanna hold hands (what do you want?) / I get jealous / When you can move around how you please (Ooo, you never thinking of me) - “4 Leaf Clover”
You’ll dig it if: You like the android soul of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer, the groove of Steve Lacy and The Internet’s single Come Over and the disconnected dystopian romance of Rina Sawayama’s EP Rina.


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japanese breakfast

blue stage
4:00-4:45pm

by Rosie Accola

Japanese Breakfast’s sophomore release is aptly titled Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Singer/ guitarist Michelle Zauner creates lush soundscapes that ooze extraterrestrial synth that calms and elevates your consciousness. If aliens had a five star spa, they’d pipe Japanese Breakfast through speakers in the lobby. Rather than ambient, I’d pose that Zauner’s songs have the capacity to transport the listener, these songs don’t just create a mood, they take  the listener to another astral plane. As a lyricist, Zauner has a talent for exploring the most intimate nooks of a weathered partnership, several of the songs on this record deal with themes of , domesticy and what it takes to really stick around. On “12 Steps” Zauner sings, “So tell me, "I can’t blame you, we let love run its course/And it's a little bit lonelier/I don’t blame you / It's just our love ran its course/ and that's a little bit hard." Yet, rather than succumb to a bout of cynicism over the tenuous nature of human connection, Zauner uses the innately fragile nature of relationships as a source of strength, reminding us all that it’s incredibly brave to just… show up.

Favorite lyrics: “We aren't bound by law/We aren't bound by anything at all/Just you/If you decide to show/Just if you decide to show up on time” -- “Jimmy Fallon Big!”
You’ll Dig it If: You’re directing your own queer rom-com in your head, “Stranger Things” makes you wish synths accompanied your every waking moment, you like it when your rock ‘n’ roll feels a little celestial, you have big dreams and thoughts about how everything’s cosmically connected.


noname

red stage
5:15-6:00pm

by Owé

This is a performance you really won’t want to miss. It’s been two years since the release of her debut album Telefone, yet I still find myself constantly returning to this masterpiece. Noname’s raps, like poetry put to music, are weary yet hopeful. She tells tragedy and beauty together in a way that draws you in and really resonates in the soul. With features from Chicago locals like Akenya, Saba, and the Mind, Telefone is a deeply intimate project that captures and narrates the energy of Chicago and in a very important way. With the announcement of a new album Room 25 this performance is sure to be a magical one.

Favorite lyrics:  “I used to have a name that look like butterflies and Hennessy/ I’ll trade it up for happiness but joyful don’t remember me” - “Sunny Duet”
You’ll dig it if:  You love rap and the Chicago sound and appreciate music that finds itself at the intersection of art and the political. If Smino, Saba, Chance the Rapper and Tierra Whack are your sounds then you’ll definitely bop to Noname


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chaka khan

red stage
7:25-8:25pm

by Charia Rose

With a career spanning over 40 years, Chaka Khan is a name that, if you were raised in a home filled with an appreciation for funk and simply good music, you know. A vocal powerhouse who has worked with Stevie Wonder, Prince, Quincy Jones, and other artists that we can only classify as legends, Chaka has reinvented herself throughout the many years and changes in the industry. She has transcended funk to rock to jazz to dance as easy as the deep breaths she takes before a well supported note. There is no denying her influence on the industry, her ability to fuse multiple genres into timeless bops and tear jerkers that artists are still sampling today (“Through the Wire” by Pre-Kardashian-Slavery-Was-A-Choice Kanye West may come to mind). Seriously, she is responsible for one of the longest running “who did it better” arguments between music lovers: Chaka or Whitney’s “I’m Every Woman”?

Even if you don’t know her catalogue, there is no better history lesson than experiencing one of the original Divas live.

Favorite lyrics: “And without me you'd stumble / And without you I'd fall / Without each other we would not be at all” - ”I Know You, I Live You”
You’ll dig it if: You appreciate legends, want to hear vocals that will blow your wig back, love funk and find yourself saying “man, they don’t make em like this anymore!”

Bops to get you started: “I’m Every Woman”, “Tell Me Something Good”, “Through the Fire”, “And the Memory Still Lingers On (A Night in Tunisia)”


ms. lauryn hill

green stage
8:30-9:50pm

by Charia Rosie

Ms. Lauryn Hill is another level of iconic. She released one solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill exactly 20 years ago, and the world has been turning differently ever since. Her life has been one worthy of a biopic; baby daddy drama, tax evasion and taking fashionably late to an extreme that makes Mariah Carey look like Father Time. Regardless of all that, Ms. Lauryn crafted some of the most memorable moments in r&b and hip-hop (she was rapping and singing her own hooks before the men could figure out autotune). Songs like “Doo-Wop [That Thing]” tackle the conversation of how both men and women can damage each other in relationships. Her songwriting ability has never ran from brutal honesty and consistently questions society and how we exist within it. Her life is her own, and her decision to leave music at the apex of her career because she wanted to live a new life is empowering beyond measure. Being the sole female member of the hip-hop trio the Fugees, her contributions of thoughtful and rock hard bars have made her one of the most respected female MC’s of all time, and in my humble opinion, one of the best to ever do it regardless of gender identity. Her voice is so deep and rich it’s like drinking a good cup of coffee, with just a dash of Bailey’s. She may not be on the stage at the exact start time, but stick around and you might hear a live mash-up of her hit “Ex-Factor” with the song of the summer, Drake’s “Nice For What”. You will realize that even after all these years, she needs no introduction and has always been worth the wait.

Favorite Lyrics: “Woe this crazy circumstance / I knew his life deserved a chance / But everybody told me to be smart / Look at your career they said, / ‘Lauryn, baby, use your head.’ / But instead I chose to use my heart” - “To Zion”
You’ll Dig It If: You appreciate 90’s hip-hop neo soul, respect legends, believe that music can be healing and uplifting


HOOLIGAN MAG x PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL 2018


GET ON BOARD: A Celebration of Women's Skateboarding featuring The Kills at House of Vans Chicago


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All photos by  Cody Corrall

All photos by Cody Corrall


by Cody Corrall

Skateboarding is no longer a boys club. Dozens of women varying in age, race and experience level congregated at the House of Vans in Chicago on Saturday night for a girl’s skate jam. The event, known as “Get On Board,” aims to encourage young women to not only to start riding, but to use skateboarding as a tool to promote confidence and self discovery.

Members of The Skate Kitchen, a New York based skate collective, were invited to the event and were grateful that safe spaces for women in the skateboarding scene existed. “It was an incredible experience having so many girls in a safe space,” they said in an Instagram post. “It's so gratifying to be learning alongside so many passionate ladies.”

Skateboarding has a powerful impact on Nina Moran, a member of The Skate Kitchen, and it has the ability to empower others. “When a girl starts skateboarding, something magical happens” said Nina Moran in her TedxTeen talk. Skateboarding is not just an hobby or a sport. To many, skateboarding can be a lifestyle, and that comes with tight knit communities. This is especially so with women in the scene, who often stick together and build a strong community to engage with their passions in safe environments.


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The venue was decorated with murals and artwork by Robin Eisenberg, a graphic illustrator based in Los Angeles. Eisenberg was one of the first women artists to collaborate with Thrasher, the renowned skateboarding magazine. For the event, Eisenberg designed and painted the space with various women on skateboards and sold prints and pins at the artist market.

The event closed with a performance by British-American rock band, The Kills. The duo, composed of Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince, performed at the skate jams in Brooklyn and Chicago. Mosshart credits her ties to skate culture growing up for her interest in music and her success today.” I loved the artwork on decks and I loved all the punk rock music that went with the imagery,” Mosshart said in a personal essay. “I skated just to hang out and then at one point [my friends and I] decided to form our own band, at around 14.”


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Mosshart is stage presence personified. She contorts her body and whips her hair, chaotic but purposeful — moving perfectly in tune with Hince’s guitar. Mosshart and Hince are opposites on stage: Mosshart dons thigh-high black boots and can’t stand still as she spitballs intense lyrics while Hince is cool and collected, accompanying Mosshart’s wild side with leather loafers. And yet, Mosshart and Hince are effortlessly in tandem — no doubt due to having 18 years of working together under their belt. They know each others idiosyncrasies like the palms of their hands, making for an eccentric performance.

Get On Board encourages young women that all you need to skate is to pick up a board, fall down and get back up again. What needs to happen next is to figure out how to maintain this sense of community outside of this event, so that skateboarding can be fun, accessible and life changing to women everywhere.


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REVIEW: Haley Heynderickx at Lincoln Hall


MORGAN MARTINEZ

MORGAN MARTINEZ


by Sara McCall

Beneath cerulean light, sans band (at home in Portland), a composed and graceful Haley Heynderickx opened her solo set with “The Bug Collector” — a symbolic tale of an effort to spare a loved one of the paranoia and anxiety that plagues them.

Following a reverent applause from the crowd, the artists’ deep and round voice earnestly declared “I don’t like writing romantic songs.” By “romantic”, I’d guess she meant “flowery” or “lovey-dovey”, because the driving force of Heynderickx’s writing style is how beautifully and romantically she writes about the unromantic parts of love.

With lyrics like “Fate is a sundress, / ripped at the thigh” or “I showed you a body like a cluttered garage” or even the playful interior monologue of her most popular song “Oom Sha La La” it’s no wonder Heynderickx easily awes her crowd.

Later on she bantered, “I realize I have this curse that, when people date me they find their soul partner right after.” Sympathetic coos erupted from the crowd, only to be met with “Oh no it’s okay. I feel like I’m helping.” Heynderickx then launched into, “Show You a Body” - a song known for its haunting mantra, “I am humbled by breaking down.”

Heynderickx is absolutely right— she is helping, her recently released record I Need to Start a Garden, helps. It helps if you’re healing from any kind of separation: from a partner, from your city, from your youth.

MORGAN MARTINEZ

MORGAN MARTINEZ

I Need To Start a Garden is a kind of emotional “spring cleaning” of one’s identity— a real-time account of which perspectives and behaviors from our past can stay and which must go.

Heynderickx’s lyricism and lush use of imagery make her one of my favorite new singer-songwriters. The minimal (but not at all lesser!) nature of Heynderickx’s performance commanded a level of attention and dedication from the audience that is seldom given to the opening act. It was a feeling more akin to witnessing.

Haley Heynderickx is easily my favorite new singer-songwriter, and one whose name I’d wager will continuously pop-up in the months to come.


REVIEW: Goat Girl's Self-Titled Debut Album


Photo by Holly Whitaker / Courtesy of  Chromatic Publicity

Photo by Holly Whitaker / Courtesy of Chromatic Publicity


by Ava Mirzadegan

Goat Girl doesn’t care what you (or your fancy hair) think. The South London band’s full-length debut is a dose of cyanide with apathy on the side. With drowsy vocals and eerie backing accompaniment, every song seems straight out of the Peaky Blinders soundtrack. Each of the album’s 19 songs act as vignettes of unrest and despondence.

The first track, “Salty Sounds,” gives a taste of what the album has to offer. A slightly de-tuned piano plays a dingy half-step circus tune, leaving the listener uneasy for a minute. Similarly, most of the album’s songs are under or around 3 minutes long, allowing the constant shift between sonic landscapes and subject matter.

Album standouts: “Creep,” “Viper Fish,” “The Man,” “I Don’t Care Pt. 1,” “I Don’t Care Pt. 2”, “Throw Me a Bone,” and “Tomorrow”

Unemphatically violent, “Creep” addresses the pervasive experiences of women on public transport. The outline of a bass guitar is colored in by a fiddle, giving a western ghost-town vibe, while Lottie’s voice drawls about the scummy behavior of a fellow passenger. “Creep on the train/ I really want to smash your head in.”

The fourth track, “Viper Fish,” is spurred along by a stop-and-go drum beat, lingering drones, and two-part vocal harmonies. The song picks up with fuzzy guitar licks and jangly chords as they implores the listener to find an antidote to phallic influence and “this accumulating smoke.” The build up consists of the repeated phrase “Don’t shed a tear/ we all feel shame.” It crescendos into an abrupt transition into the next track, an echoey spoken word piece.

Despite the song’s title, “The Man” is less about a man than it is about shifting the romantic narrative of heteronormative gender roles. The declaration “you’re the man for me” is more empowering than infatuated in nature, asserting a more active stance in the relationship. Lottie is telling said man that she’s made her decision… and he might have what it takes to be her’s. The music video, a clever reversal of Beatle-mania, shows the four piece establishing their dominion over countless fawning fanboys.

Perhaps the most up-beat song on the album, is the guitar-driven “I Don’t Care Pt. 1.” It is a  jagged ballad of apathy, punctuated by snare drum and tambourine. Reciprocal guitar and bass riffs make way to the cathartic chorus, “I don’t care.” Picking up a few tracks later, “I Don’t Care Pt. 2” has an equally 50’s-style country-tinged guitar. A continuation of the chorus is followed by heightening hums.

In a modern gothic-folk take on 70’s acid rock, “Throw Me a Bone” warns against concession prizes. “If you throw me a bone/ then I’ll throw you back a sharp stone.” Goat Girl isn’t looking for a pat on the back or a participation ribbon. They’ll earn what they work for, no thanks to anyone- a theme that is mirrored in the album’s final track.

“Tomorrow,” demands for the rightful destinies they are entitled to. A drab look into the future of “all work and no play,” Goat Girl refuses to be a fool for tomorrow. They are both regretful and unsatisfied in their remembrance of giving up their yesterdays. “I was born to be a dancer/ I won’t take no for an answer.” Teetering off into a field recording of birds and wildlife, the album ends on a semblance of optimism and hope for the future.

Goat Girl is a collage of feminism, politics, and just plain badassery. In what reads like an erratic series of journal entries, the band of young Londoners takes you on an unsettling merry-go-round of despair. The album was released April 6th on Rough Trade Records and is available on all streaming platforms. They will also be coming stateside for a handful of support dates with Parquet Courts this summer.

Stream Goat Girl on Spotify:


GOAT GIRL TOUR DATES

April 12th Liverpool, UK @ Shipping Forecast
April 13th Dublin, IE @ Grand Social
April 14th Sheffield, UK @ Picture House
April 16th Birmingham, UK @ Hare & Hounds
April 17th London, UK @ Garage
April 19th Leicester, UK @ The Cookie
April 20th Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
April 21st Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
May 5th Hebden Bridge, UK @ Trades Club
May 14th Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
May 15th Brussels, BE @ Ancienne Belgique
May 16th Paris, FR @ L’Espace B
May 23rd Boston, MA @ Royale*
May 24th Providence, RI @ Fete Ballroom*
May 25th Portland, ME @ Port City Music Hall*
May 26th Montreal, QC @ Theatre Fairmount*
May 27th Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Theatre*
May 28th Detroit, MI @ El Club*
May 30th Madison, WI @ Majestic Theatre*
May 31st Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line*
June 1st Lawrence, KS @ The Granada*
June 2nd St. Louis, MO @ Ready Room*
June 3rd Nashville, TN @ Basement East*
June 5th Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel*
June 6th Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle*
June 7th Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club*
June 8th Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer*
July 21st Thirsk, UK @ Deer Shed Festival
August 16-19th Brecon Beacons @ Green Man Festival
Sept. 6-9th Portmeirion, UK @ Festival No. 6

* supporting Parquet Courts


REVIEW: Queen of Jeans Record Release at Underground Arts



By Arthi Selvan

If falling in love seems hard, then falling in love with four people on the same night seems impossible, yet watching Queen of Jeans perform at Underground Arts for their record release show on March 31 felt like gaining a handful of new crushes. Their album, Dig Yourself, follows the story of a romance, either with someone else or with yourself, and has a ‘60s school dance, first love feeling to it. Dig Yourself is just as much about a romance with someone else as it is having a relationship with yourself. As the band states, Dig Yourself has two meanings -- it means to love yourself and all that entails but it also means to move past the surface layers of yourself and analyze what’s underneath.

Falling in love with a band that can shred on stage is not a hard feat to accomplish. The three founding members of Queen of Jeans, Miriam Devora, Mathson Glass, and Nina Scotto had all played in other bands but each were made into an accessory and told to hold a tambourine in the back of the band. This misogyny still follows them as they all left their previous acts to form the formidable band they’re in now with drummer Patrick Wall.

The band says that the misogyny they feel as a band comprised of women is something they use to “ignite a new, more assertive energy that has only [continued] to empower [them].” Unlike their previous arrangements, all their talents are prioritized in this band. It is evident that each member holds significance to the music being produced. This shows through with their choice of having backup vocals. Devora, the lead vocalist, may sing most of the lyrics but the harmony vocalists, sung by guitarist Glass and bassist Scotto, bring the band and album an airy, ethereal feel which is reminiscent of 60’s pop bands.

The nod to 60’s girl groups is satirized by the backup vocals, roles primarily held by only women while the instruments and lead vocals were played and sung by men. Backup vocals once started as a subpar misogynistic role, but Queen of Jeans uses them as forefront of their music.

As a romance progresses, there are the natural highs and lows of the relationship which are tracked in this album as well. The album starts with the upbeat single “More to Love”, released at the end of January, which notes the beginning of the relationship. The melody is buoyant, similar to when you first fall in love. The fourth track on “Dig Yourself” is one of the slower songs on the album. Stripped of the bass guitar and drums, Devora’s heart-rendering voice sings with Glass and Scotto, “you are never alone with me, you say / You’ll never be alone with me / you can try, you can try, but you won’t succeed / you’ll never be alone with me.” A soft tempo song that is less sorrowful and more similar to a more familial or platonic love, one that seems everlasting. The song is backgrounded by the sounds of waves crashing on a beach.

It is followed on the album by a single released a month before Dig Yourself’s debut, “U R My Guy” which embodies 60’s girl groups, without the misogynistic part. While the lead singer proclaims “you are my guy”, the harmony singers softly carol “he’s so fragile when he belongs to me” flipping the sexist stereotypes usually put forward by all male bands singing love songs.

This indie-pop harmonic quartet proves they are a band that needs to be paid attention to through their killer live sets. With only an EP out, their musical abilities earned them a spot in WXPN’s XPoNential Music Festival, Made in America, and SXSW and helped them win a full US tour with Balance & Composure and From Indian Lakes. It is no secret why they have been gaining such popularity before their debut album even released. Watching Glass shred during “Sick Day” during the record release show felt transcendent. Instead of her hitting every single note, it was like her and the guitar were playing and riffing off each other. The second to last song of their set, all the members except for the front person put down their instruments and left the stage, leaving Devora some time to express her gratitude to the audience but also to her family.

She dedicated the next song, “You’re Never Alone” to her supportive family and started strumming on her guitar as Glass and Scotto came to join her on stage with only their vocals. Together, they serenaded us with the same emotion that went into writing the song. Unadulterated by most instruments, the band felt raw and honest with utmost sophistication.

Queen of Jeans’ debut album feels like the coming of age story for this dreamy quartet from South Philly. Their full album was released on the March 30th everywhere through Topshelf Records.

Stream Queen of Jeans Dig Yourself below:


TOUR DATES

w/ Pianos Become Teeth, The World is a Beautiful Place & I am No Longer Afraid To Die
4/27 - Raleigh, NC @ Imurj
4/28 - Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
4/29 - Orlando, FL @ The Social
5/1 - Austin, TX @ Barracuda
5/2 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
5/4 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
5/5 - Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg
5/6 - San Francisco, CA @ Slims
5/8 - Portland, OR @ Holocene
5/9 - Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
5/11 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
5/12 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
5/13 - Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
5/14 - Nashville, TN @ Exit/In

w/ Oso Oso
6/29 - Amityville, NY @ Amityville Music Hall
6/30 - Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Park Brewery
7/1 - Washington, D.C. @ Songbyrd
7/2 - Cleveland, OH @ Mahall's
7/3 - Indianapolis, IN @ Hoosier Dome
7/5 - St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
7/6 - Springfield, MO @ Outland Bar

w/ Citizen, Oso Oso, and Teenage Wrist
7/7 - Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th St
7/8 - Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
7/9 - San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
7/11 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
7/12 - San Diego, CA @ The Irenic
7/13 - Los Angeles, CA @ Sound & Fury Festival
7/14 - Los Angeles, CA @ The Lodge
7/15 - Berkely, CA @ Cornerstone
7/16 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Catalyst Atrium
7/18 - Portland, OR @ Hawthorne
7/19 - Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
7/21 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
7/22 - Colorado Springs, CO @ Black Sheep
7/23 - Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room
7/24 - Dekalb, IL @ House Cafe


REVIEW: Diet Cig's Kanye West Tribute



I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, and I’ve been frequenting shows at the Bottom Lounge since 2012 when I saw Bowling For Soup perform a really intimate set (on a school night of all nights). I speak for most Chicago concert-goers when I say, no one is really that stoked to see a show at the Bottom Lounge. I mean, it definitely has all the perks of a smaller venue, but there is a built-in discomfort in the anatomy of the building that has always made me feel awkward at shows. However, the Bottom Lounge has never felt less like the Bottom Lounge than last Thursday at the Diet Cig show. I don’t know what kind of pixie magic, lead singer, Alex Luciano was casting, but I found myself in a completely transformed and reinvigorated space. In my head I kept having to ask, “Is this really the Bottom Lounge?”

The room was completely packed with an eclectic assortment of people, ages ranging from 17 to 40. When I first walked in, I was assessing what kinds of assholes I’d be dealing with in the crowd (as one does when they make the initial plunge into the sea of humans surrounding the stage). I was oddly surprised by the polite demeanor of everyone I encountered on my quest for the perfect spot. People were too busy focusing on the stage, in an intense anticipation, to feel anything other than an excited bliss.

The lights flashed purple, the band took the stage, and the crowd went nuts. Alex Luciano practically danced her way onto the stage, wearing a red beanie, and more glitter than I have ever seen on one human in my entire life -- and it was magnificent. Meanwhile, Noah Bowman took his seat at his drum kit, slightly removed from the spectacle that is Alex Luciano. Before even beginning to play music, or any formal introduction, Luciano did not miss a beat and made an announcement about her expectations for how the audience should behave. The ground rules: no touching anyone who does not want to be touched, no invading another person’s space, and above all else, no being a dick. And with that, they broke out into the song “Sixteen.”

Maybe it was the size of the venue, or maybe it was the larger than life presence of Luciano, but the I felt like I was at a house show among great friends. The commentary between songs was absolutely unreal, and definitely contributed to the intimacy of the show.

Luciano’s quips were hilarious, and her interactions with the audience were candid. At one point in the set, Luciano made the classic, “Wow Chicago is my favorite city to play shows in” comment that every visiting artist makes (but doesn’t really mean). But she didn’t stop there! She went on the talk about Kanye West, Kanye’s baby, Space Jam, and most importantly, “Midwest charm with that city slicker booty.”

That moment was a turning point in the evening. It was as if, all of a sudden, the clouds parted ways, the sky opened, and great voice said: “thou shalt dedicate the evening to Kanye West.”

The show was a pop-punk montage of high kicks, Kanye references, shoutouts to “all the shitty dads out there,” something called, “Leo magic,” and tales of 21st birthdays gone wrong. A ceramic penguin hanging out on an amp in the corner watched over it all.

The song “Scene Sick” was introduced as a tune about being “petty.” Noah Bowman, started playing the drums for but a second before Luciano exclaimed: “I know y'all feel petty… Kanye is from here!”

The introduction to the song “Apricots,” from their newest album, Swear I’m Good At This, went similarly. Luciano has the crowd quiet down for a “tender” moment.She let the crowd saturate in introspective silence for a moment before announcing: “This is dedicated to the future Saint West.”

On a more serious note, amidst the playful nature of Diet Cig’s live performance, was an effort to lift up marginalized voices. The culture of seeing a pop-punk concert is very male-centric, and the pop-punk community is pretty exclusionary towards non cisgendered men. Pop-punk shows are typically thought of as a place for violent moshing and crowd surfing; when you are in the pit at a pop-punk show, you are in no-man’s land and it’s very much every man for himself. Diet Cig not only prevented this kind of oppressive violence, but made an active effort to call attention to those who don’t have the privilege to thrash around at shows and still feel safe.

I’m not going to lie, I definitely cried a little bit when Luciano said, “Thank you to all the non-cis white males. You make these spaces so much more special! You don’t take up space!

The night was beautiful. I mean, they closed it out with a cover of the classic Semisonic song “Closing Time.”

Who could ask for anything more?

REVIEW: Youth Code and Chelsea Wolfe and the Metro


"It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs."

 

by Rivka Yeker

As a kid I dreamt of being goth and looking as cool as Evanescence’s frontwoman Amy Lee. She was my idol (next to Avril) and the foundation of my music taste, specifically the part that loved metal. I wanted black nails and black outfits and corsets and in every game that I was allowed to customize a character, I’d make the goth self I’d always aspire to be.

Years later I feel more like an androgynous Emo person than a goth queen like Amy, but those goth-loving roots never escaped me. They still rest idly by deep in my taste in just about everything. Seeing someone as powerful and all-consuming as Chelsea Wolfe felt like my younger self’s dreams coming true.

The night started with Youth Code, a band I discovered by once making a Facebook status looking for new music recommendations. It was right after their recent tour with Code Orange so I spent hours of watching live footage of them going absolutely nuts on stage. They’re pretty much everything I could ask for in an industrial sounding electronic hardcore band. The band consists of Sara Taylor (vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling) and Ryan George (backing vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, sampling), two very passionate and talented humans who know how to put on an exhilarating set.

The two of them didn’t stop moving. Sara Taylor stood strong with a shirt that read “eat my entire fuck” and her voice, a strong surge of deep screams, filled the room in harmony with the vibrating synths. There was a moment where she came down to the crowd during my personal favorite song of theirs, “Transitions”, off their latest record Commitment to Complications and let the person in front of me (who had clearly seen this band before) take the mic. To which me and a few others joined them in yelling “I'm nailed to this earth in the wrong fucking skin / The pain of pushing forward giving way to caving in.” I felt like I was 16 again and it was perfect.

It had been years since I was last at the Metro so seeing a band like Youth Code allowed me to dance and mosh and get just as wild as them, but the crowd was a little stiff. It was an 18+ show and I’m sure everyone was mostly just there to be blown away by Chelsea Wolfe’s set, but Youth Code makes too catchy of a sound to not lose your shit. Afterwards my friend and I started talking about what it means to get older and what becomes less okay at shows, how there is a sort of unwritten rule created to sustain coolness. I shrugged it off since I was on such a high from Youth Code’s energy.

Shortly after Youth Code left the stage, the tone had shifted into something just as heavy, but darker, slower, and with more guitars. Chelsea Wolfe has a presence that encapsulates an entire entity. She wore these huge chunky high-heeled shoes that lifted her taller than she already was at 5’9. Her eyes were masqueraded with black make-up that made her look haunting and powerful. With her long black hair and long black dress, she had successfully embodied the goth queen that I think everybody in the crowd, including me, was prepared to worship.

She had started her set with songs from her latest record Hiss Spun which was just released in September. The record itself is filled with more metal elements than folk, which makes Wolfe’s discography so interesting since each album seems to achieve a different sound while still managing to maintain the same overarching dark mystical aura. The lights that lit up the band were mostly a deep red at first and during the track “Vex” off the new record, Sara Taylor from Youth Code joined Chelsea Wolfe on stage. It was a powerful and moving collaboration of two women who reclaimed genres that have traditionally been dominated by men as they gripped the mics with a sort of ferocity that exuded confidence and control. I felt my body shake from the intensity of the two of them together, knowing my younger self would’ve been elated and inspired by two women looking like badasses fulfilling something I wish I could’ve done.

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Chelsea Wolfe played for a solid hour and a half but it didn’t feel that long at all. Even as she approached her encore songs, I didn’t want her to leave the stage. She finished the night with a mind-blowing performance of “Scrape”, the last song off her newest album. She sung in a few octaves higher than any other song and did not hold a guitar. She held the mic closely and used the entire stage as a platform, allowing the lights to guide her and to consume her. Her silhouette was seen moving along with the music, guitars and drums all synchronized at once, and then the lights flickering off and then on, she stood and then fell while singing “My body fights itself inside / I feel it bow, this mortal hold.”

After feeling like I was held in a chokehold throughout the entirety of that last song, when it ended, I felt free, but all I wanted was more. She was mesmerizing, a magnetic pull into a dark embrace; one that felt grounded in femininity and fierceness.

I think that’s what made the show so important for me. It was refreshing to watch women take other women on tour and reclaim heavy music as theirs. I think we often pair heavy music with masculinity because it is a fairly male-dominated genre, but when women like Chelsea Wolfe take the stage, she presents and performs femininity while simultaneously melting the room with guitars. To me, femininity can be just as dark and just as brooding, just as intense and as deep as masculinity is perceived to be. There is so much power in a feminine essence and I feel moved by it when it takes on a form that defies feminine standards and celebrates them at the same time.

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REVIEW: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, SPORTS, and Diet Cig at SubT


IN ORDER: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya by A Klass, SPORTS by Jess Flynn, Diet Cig by Andrew Piccone

IN ORDER: Nnamdi Ogbonnaya by A Klass, SPORTS by Jess Flynn, Diet Cig by Andrew Piccone


by Jess Mayhew

Going to a show that features three artists you’re excited about isn’t the easiest to cover. I’ve been having a love affair with Nnamdi’s DROOL for the past few months, but I’ve been digging Diet Cig’s discography for a while – not to mention all the great things I’ve heard about SPORTS. So which one shines in a review? Which one gets the bigger word count, or the brighter verbiage? As it turns out, all three of the performances glittered in different ways, highlighting their uniqueness as musical acts.

Nnamdi Ogbonnaya opened the show. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, it ranges from indie guitar music a la “Art School Crush” to the avant-hip-hop, synth-heavy stylings of DROOL. And most people at Subterreanean that night weren’t prepared for such a leap in genre, let alone Obgonnaya’s outward performance. At first, singing and rapping over tracks off of his iPod, we got the goofiness of the “let gO Of my egO” music video, with perhaps a little less grandiosity.

But then he picked up his SG and let loose a cacophony of noise, with the help of his drummer and bassist, throwing in full-band covers of DROOL tracks, older songs, and some jamming that could have opened up a Bongripper show. While the audience might not have known what to make of it, it was dramatic, dynamic, and all-around enjoyable.

SPORTS was up next, and I have to say, I was intrigued not only by their sound but by the fact that I hadn’t seen a band successfully snag the name “SPORTS” before. Thankfully, they lived up to my interest and provided some solid, fiery indie rock with a polite punk attitude. With most songs clocking in at a little over two minutes, they ran through a gamut of them in their half-hour slot. It was like speed-reading through my college journal, but in the best way possible and if I had been witty and brave enough to throw shit at the people who deserved shit-throwing.

Guitarist/vocalist Carmen Perry drew most of my attention with a powerful voice capable of dishing out scorn and snark while still remaining vulnerable, and some lightning-quick guitar skills. Not to mention she plugged right into her amp. Right into her amp! No effects! Definitely a cool thing to see in an age where pedalboards weigh about 40 pounds.

Finally, of course, Diet Cig comes out. The stage is relatively bare, with Noah Bowman on drums in the far back and the pixie-esque Alex Luciano on guitar and vocals and high-energy magic. Face painted in glitter, Alex Luciano has officially taken the cake for how many high-kicks and jump-twists can be done at a pop-punk show. Plugged into a wireless system and free to move about the empty stage, her energy was utterly unmatchable. And the energy she managed to work out of the crowd matched her own.

With a sweet, lilting voice that sometimes swells into a belt and a reckless abandon in her playing, the lyrics she sings are mirrored back by a frenzied, joyful crowd. Starting out with the searing “Sixteen” and moving on to others from previous their repertoire, including Diet Cig’s newest album Swear I’m Good At This, each song is dealt out like an ecstatic blow to the crowd, which happily takes it and swallows its energy. Of course, the music is what brought us all there that night, but it seems like the rush of watching Luciano and Bowman combust into elated energy was the real delight.


REVIEW: Molly Burch at Schubas

by Eileen Marshall

KEVIN ALLEN

KEVIN ALLEN

It's hard to know what to say about Molly Burch. Her music rather goes without saying; it doesn't require any special interpretive framework. Hear thirty seconds of Burch's recently-released debut album, Please Be Mine, and you'll know what you're dealing with: love and longing, laid out in the mode of pop-country singers and "girl groups" of the fifties and sixties. Reviews of the album invariably describe it as "nostalgic" or "retro", which is accurate, to a point. But Burch's work isn't merely an homage to a past era; it's a new entry in a tradition that feels timeless.

A beautiful voice never gets old, and Burch's voice is her chief asset. In the live setting, Burch sings with the same practiced ease that you hear on the record. This isn’t surprising considering that she and her band recorded most of Please Be Mine live in a single day at the studio.

Singing came before songwriting for Burch, and when she eventually did start writing, it was with the goal of crafting songs that would suit her voice, she says. In this she's surely succeeded: both on the record and in her live performances, Burch's striking range is on display. Equally powerful in high and low registers, she swoops from a delicate warble to an emphatic shout with confidence and grace. It's the kind of vocal skill that makes you forget that singing is hard work.

KEVIN ALLEN

KEVIN ALLEN

Though you'd be forgiven for mistaking Please Be Mine for the product of an earlier time, her Schubas set featured arrangements that belied the impression of temporal displacement. Lead guitarist Dailey Toliver's solos pointed to more modern influences with their harsh frenzy, their buzz and growl. These moments were a highlight, and a good reason to see Burch and her band play live, rather than just sticking to the record. Hearing Burch work her vocal magic in person is, of course, another compelling reason.

Then there's the intimacy that comes with being in a room with Burch while she performs material that is personal and raw. Burch's lyrics are about rejection from both sides; she sings of desire and regret, always vulnerable and aching.

The album's title track, with which Burch opened her set at Schubas, is an abject supplication. After breaking up with her partner, Burch hopes for a reconciliation she doesn't feel she deserves: "I'd love a hand to hold / Is yours still for me? / I know I don't deserve you back," she sings. The song's chorus is plain and to the point, repeating, "Please be mine," in a drawn-out, heartrending wail. Her set's next song, "Please Forgive Me,” runs along the same lines, as its title would suggest.

From there, Burch played a couple of her more upbeat songs, "Wrong for You" and "Try," before setting aside her guitar to focus solely on the vocals for "Loneliest Heart" and "I Love You Still,” two slower ballads. Self-denigration colors all of these songs, as Burch chastises herself for hurting her beloved—like Fiona Apple, Burch has been a bad, bad girl—and promises from now on to exercise not just kindness and care, but also meek obedience. "I'll be your pet," she sings on "I Love You Still", an image she repeats in two other songs. It's a typically feminine attitude that recalls old songs performed by jazz singers like Billie Holiday, whom Burch cites as a major influence.

But there are moments where Burch affirms her self-worth. On "Downhearted,” one of her stronger songs and the one she chose to close out her set at Schubas, she sings, "I know there is much more to me than thinking about you / I've got a lot to give, I know that this is true." There's a push and pull between subordinating herself entirely to her love and asserting her independent value. These themes aren’t new, but they bear revisiting; Burch’s take on them is skillful and moving.

Burch continues her US tour supporting Sallie Ford through April, before heading to Europe in May and June.

Music As A Healing Force: Julien Baker and Ben Gibbard at Thalia Hall

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Sometimes, records show up when you need them to.

After years of half-heartedly listening to poorly recorded lo-fi demos in my friends’ basements in exchange for relief from boredom on a Friday night, Julien Baker’s Sprained Ankle entered my life as a record I can truly get behind.  It’s a record that speaks to the nonlinearity of healing, and the relentless nature of any mental health struggle.

After a particularly draining semester, I was drawn to the lyrics of Sprained Ankle’s title track: A sprinter/ learning to wait/ a marathon runner/ my ankles are sprained. For the first time in months, listening to this record, to this song, I was able to relax.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Julien's set was transcendental, to say the least. She opened with Good News,my favorite track off of Sprained Ankle. The lyrics are one of the best depictions of anxiety that Ive ever heard; its a song that is painfully affirming. That night, as Baker's voice filled the room, volleying past the balconies, I was in awe that such a powerful emotive force could be generated with just vocals and a guitar.

This next one goes out to some friends who are here tonight, who treat me so much better than I deserve.At this point, already in a vulnerable state thanks to the opening number being my lets process your feelingssong, I was a wreck.

The balding rock dad in a track jacket standing next to me looked concerned as I blubbered Im just really, really proud of her,between sobs. That poor rock dad couldnt have known that earlier that day I took Julien and some other Hooligan compatriots to all my favorite places. For all the strangeness and hurt of 2016, it was the year I learned that being proud of my friends is my favorite emotion.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez
Taken by  Morgan Martinez

The first time I heard Death Cab for Cutie, I was eleven years old. I saw the music video for I Will Follow You into the Dark” on VH1 and quickly downloaded the song off of iTunes like a law-abiding citizen. I loved the microcosm of a narrative contained within the song and I similarly thought that 6th grade was, as vicious as Roman rule.” Death Cab continued to be a musical touchstone for me throughout my teenage years and twenties.

Transatlanticism got me through my first facsimile of both a long-distance relationship and a break-up, Expo 86” is my anxiety anthem, and I like to walk to the train while listening to Plans.

Ben Gibbards set was a solid mix of Death Cab, solo material, covers, and Postal Service songs. Gibbard opened with Women of the World,” an Ivor Cutler cover fitting for the current political situation, which made me grateful for his self-awareness as a listener.

Since the show itself was an acoustic set, I was skeptical as to how the techno anchors of a Postal Service track would translate into an acoustic setting, but the stripped down guitar made me realize the power of the lyrics. Without the joyful synths, I was able to comprehend how Brand New Colony” is devastatingly romantic without resorting to platitudes.

The gravity of Gibbards presence didnt hit me until he launched into the Death Cab classic, 405” and I couldnt help but smile as I sang, misguided by the 405/ it lead me to an alcoholic summer.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

Death Cab for Cutie is one of those bands whose discography can appear deceptively small. As the set continued I kept having to reconsider my favorite Death Cab song — it was Cath! No, it was Brand New Colony! Oh fuck, it was definitely Soul Meets Body”, how could I forget about Soul Meets Body? Hearing these songs live when they usually entered my life through tiny laptop speakers was surreal; the live rendition of Passenger Seat” gutted me. When I started listening to Death Cab, I never imagined Id be able to one day hear I Will Follow you Into the Dark” live. It was magical. I told my co-worker that, Ben Gibbard was amazing and he melted my face off,” to which my co-worker responded, I dont know if anyones ever reacted to Ben Gibbard like that.

However uncanny it may seem, I was in awe of Ben Gibbard even when he gently critiqued the skill level of a drunken crowd members mouth guitar. The fact that I get to write that sentence is a gift. Thus, I never realized that Ben was a breathing sentient being until he was standing in front of me. I was so used to putting three hour Transatlanticism” on loop to study that my brain couldnt comprehend that he was a real person, capable of banter and mannerisms just like myself
 

When I was younger, I couldnt shake the feeling that music was going to act as a conduit for something greater within my life. I didnt know what it would be, but I knew it would be important and worthwhile.

Last year, I lost some of that reverence for art. I stopped listening to records and I doubted why I bothered to go to shows in the first place. Listening to Ben Gibbard strum the final chords of Such Great Heights” as the audience clapped along, I remembered the incredible capacity that music has to unite and heal. Ankles [get] sprained, people hurt you, but sometimes all you need is the perfect record to get back on your feet.

Taken by  Morgan Martinez

REVIEW: Conor Oberst at Thalia Hall

JONI JONES

JONI JONES

By Katie Burke
Photos by Joni Jones

Conor Oberst is not a hero, but he was mine for a while. When I was 14 I wrote the lyrics to a Bright Eyes song on my bedroom wall. Because I was emo and mostly because my parents let me. Sunday night I got the opportunity to feel the freedom of my twenties and the ache of my teens. By the looks of the crowd I can assume that is what we were all doing in some way. I was sitting toward the back and ahead of me I could see people who had just met arm in arm, careening back and forth together. Several times throughout the show I heard a shout of “I love you, Conor!” It was as if the fandom of a boy band had entered the bodies of 30-somethings.

Oberst opened with “Tachycardia”, allowing those of us (read: me) who only knew his popular solo work to get our ya-yas out. His new album feels familiar enough for those who aren't acquainted with it to sway comfortably and almost mouth the words as if you knew them. I'd never been to a show alone and instead of feeling lost I felt comfortably singular. I got to cry to a delicately bare album with my hands in my pockets and no one was there to half-heartedly ask if I was okay.

JONI JONES

JONI JONES

A common and quite frankly, boring observation that many have had of Conor Oberst is that his voice is flawed. But I think that the cuts you feel when he sings is reason enough to understand that talent is completely relative. As always, Conor displayed his ability to tell stories. He remained at the piano for the first three songs. One of them being “Gossamer Thin”, a song that sounds like escape. His back was turned toward the crowd while he alternated between the harmonica and sweeping the keys. The songs off Ruminations felt lonely in a way that was different from his other work. Without much musical accompaniment (there was one other bassist) the lyrics were allowed to take control. Each song began to feel more and more like an extended poem.

By far the most beautiful part of the night was Oberst's closing song, “At The Bottom of Everything.” Which was coincidentally, the one I had written on my wall as a teen. Before the opening chords he pleaded with the crowd a bit. Asking us that if we believed in humankind, in equality, in love, that now was the time to make it known. Someone who I had been sitting next to put her hand on my shoulder, as I saw so many other people in the crowd begin to do. In that moment, “I” became “we” and singing along turned into screaming along.


“And into the caverns of tomorrow / with just our flashlights and our love / we must plunge, we must plunge, we must plunge”

Of all the ways art can function in our lives, I most value its ability to unify.

JONI JONES

JONI JONES

Dumpster Tapes Presents: DEMOLICIÓN

By Elmer Martinez

Cabrona by Elmer Martinez

Cabrona by Elmer Martinez

Upon arriving at the Auxiliary Art Center for DEMOLICION, Dumpster Tapes’ Latinx artist showcase, I was immediately excited about the amount of brown people in the small gallery-turned-diy-venue. Being a recent transplant from a small town in Northern California I was never a part of a young music loving community of Latinx people and allies. As soon as I approached one of the members of psych rock outfit Bruised outside of the gallery, I was drawn into the inner circle of close friends that were either performing or supporting all of the bands that night.

After exchanging stories of how horrible it can be to get around LA and the current gentrification going on in Chicago neighborhoods, I wandered over to the front of the small, dimly lit stage and watched as Mia Joy opened up the night. Breaking the ice with an intense blend of shoegaze, the young quartet captivated the room with masterful reverb drenched vocals and a wall of sound.

Divino Niño  by Elmer Martinez

Divino Niño by Elmer Martinez

After the set I looked back and saw a packed house at 8:30pm on a Friday night, a not so easy feat that deserves recognition. As I talked excitedly to Alex Fryer, one half of the Dumpster Tapes, I could see why the night was already a success. Fryer is passionate about her work and understands that giving this group of Latinx performers a literal stage will bring a diverse group of people together. This cross-pollination of ethnically and culturally dissimilar crowds serves as a way to strengthen the DIY community as a whole.

The night progressed and many $1 PBR’s and Hamm’s were consumed, the stage glowed a deep red as Bruised began their aural assault. Bodies excitedly moved and the energy in the room was palpable. By the third act, there was barely any room to navigate in the small space as Divino Nino had everyone in the room falling in love with their dreamy brand of Latin American pop.

Bruised  by Elmer Martinez

Bruised by Elmer Martinez

Spirits were high as RAI played a set almost completely in Spanish. Someone next to me was even asking them to cover Cafe Tacvba (which didn’t happen much to my disappointment. Friends and admirers moved close to the stage as the empowered and unabashedly feminist Cabrona firmly poised themselves for a powerful performance. Cabrona’s (trans: “Bitches”) set encompassed the energy of punk with a definite nod to the stylings of traditional Latin American music by way of Fatima “Fatale” Gomez’ masterful violin lines.

Cabrona  by Elmer Martinez

Cabrona by Elmer Martinez

It was a real honor to be a small part of DEMOLICIÓN . Growing up in rural Northern California I never had the privilege of being part of such a strong community of Latinx artists and supporters. I truly felt like I was at an intimate gathering with mis primos and I am eternally grateful to the people at Dumpster Tapes and all of the performers for creating such a special experience.

Mia Joy  by Elmer Martinez

Mia Joy by Elmer Martinez

Alex Fryer of Dumpster Tapes 

Alex Fryer of Dumpster Tapes 

The Symposium and L.A. Van Gogh At Sofar Sounds

By Lauren Ball

Photos by C arlos James

Photos by Carlos James

It’s never entirely clear what you’re getting into with a Sofar Sounds session – a secret show that isn’t exactly a secret. In the case of my first experience with Sofar, I was whisked away into the darkened lobby of Wicker Park’s Den venue after bidding adieu to a group of confused friends outside because, naturally, it’s guest list only. Once inside, I called upon my instinctual solo show-going survival mechanisms and searched for the cornerstones one would typically find at a small concert – a merch table, the bathrooms, the stage where a largely ignored opener might be strumming along, and the bar for a good ol' consoling vodka soda.

Most of those vital show elements, however, were nowhere to be found. I attempted to shoot my friends outside a scared puppy-like glance, but the windows were obscured by large blackout curtains. Ah, of course. It’s a secret show, after all. I wandered over to the hushed bar where two men were talking in hurried whispers, a painted portrait of some general or another hanging above the two of them. Where was the typical underground show rowdiness? Where was the spilled beer and deafening amp feedback? Had I accidentally wandered into a secret society meeting?

While sipping my drink and pondering the sequence of events that had led me to a Freemason meeting, I heard applause from what seemed like the depths of the bar. A hidden show behind the bar? Unlikely, but worth a shot.

After a bartender kindly directed me out of the tequila closet, I finally discovered what I’d been haphazardly searching for in a backroom – a stage, a crowd, and the promise of music. Charlie from the Symposium had just taken the stage, and warmed the crowd out of their awkwardness with self-depreciating though endearing lines like “I hate most things I do, but this song’s a keeper.”

“Intimate” is how Sofar likes to characterize their sessions, and this much is true. Bearded men and teenage girls alike sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage as Charlie sang on ‘Tony Stark’, “Don’t wanna grow up old/Don’t wanna die alone with anybody else,” aided by nothing but a tiny amp. There was a sense that we weren’t strangers in a strange, shadowy backroom at all, but a group of friends in Charlie's living room. Throughout his set, Charlie continued to make jokes that lifted the mood, even criticizing his own set with semi-disgusting food metaphors like, “We wanna get to the meat and cheese and biscuit that’s been in the slow cooker for sixteen hours, man.”

After Charlie left the stage, the atmosphere was considerably sunnier. The crowd buzzed and laughed with each other, despite the fact that most seemed to have come alone. L.A. VanGogh arrived next with chants of “Don’t forget the G H!” A sharp divide from the prior solo guitar set, L.A. VanGogh’s smooth jazz sounds melded with an undeniable hip-hop influence. Though the audience bopped their heads along enthusiastically, VanGogh’s Digable Planets-esque performance would have been better suited to a summertime rooftop, or an environment where onlookers felt comfortable enough to move their bodies along to the band’s honey-like rhythms. 

Remedying Heartbreak with Damn Good Pop: Jarryd James & Broods at the Metro

By Jess Mayhew

I walk into the Metro, one of the musical Meccas of Chicago, for the first time. In the four or five years that I’ve been living in and around the city, I feel like Chicago is finally welcoming me into her center, but I’m too rushed to appreciate it. Spurred on into the venue by the sounds of an already-beginning show and dragging what feels like my consciousness and clarity of mind behind me, I am ushered into a space that feels like it balances on the precipice of being something sacred. Too big to be intimate, too small to become an overwhelming throng of bodies, the Metro greets me with the pounding drum pads and crooning voice of Jarryd James.

It’s been a tough day; engaging in an intense argument with a person who once occupied a large amount of anxiety-ridden space in my life will do that. And pushing myself into the crowd of people chatting amongst themselves, drinking, or already enthralled in the show, in preparation for a three-hour pop concert seems like the worst thing I could be doing for my state of mind.

Tuning in to the Australian’s intense pop songs, the drum and bass mixing together to provide a heart-rending, ear-splitting backdrop to James’ soaring falsetto, I find a heaviness in the music that mirrors the one I’ve been carrying inside of myself. But instead of feeling weighed down, or burdened, I feel anchored to the floor in a way I wasn’t expecting. I feel grounded. I hear whispered comparisons to Sam Smith from the concertgoers around me.

Looking at James’ face and stoic demeanor on stage, it’s easy to see that perhaps he’s not the most comfortable in front of a crowd of people. He seems to have turned inward, singing his intense and entrancing songs to himself while occasionally looking out at the audience for something — though what that is, I don’t know. Although he’s been in and out of the music industry for years now, there’s still something relatively green about him, something refreshing and earnest that makes the show feel more about his voice and music than anything performative he could do on stage.

About halfway through a considerably banter-less set, James quietly says, “I’m just going to keep singing my love songs until it’s time to go home.” As if on cue, Georgia Nott, lead singer of Broods, joins James on stage to perform their duet, “1000x,” to much excitement and applause from the audience. Their voices mingle together in a delightful way, his more soulful and subdued while hers takes on a strength indicative of her upcoming performance.

And, what a powerful performance it is. After James finishes a fantastic set, Nott and her brother Caleb take the stage. The overall run of the show feels as though it has a calculated emotional ebb and flow, starting off with the edgier, vivid “Conscious,” the closing song and namesake of the band’s most recent album.

When her brother’s harsh, buzzy synths double her vocals during the opener’s chorus, Georgia shouts the lyrics as if screaming into the void, as if she could not be heard enough: “Sweet paralyzation/No one here to keep me safe/Hyperventilation/I’m about to go insane.” Despite myself, despite my mood, I find myself getting goose bumps at the obvious rawness of the song and her emotions. She doesn’t care about sounding pretty, though she does; she doesn’t care about how she looks; all that matters in the context of this song is survival.

As Broods continues their performance, Nott’s voice modulates from powerful yells to soft, reedy whispers. All throughout, she moves her body across the stage, sometimes graceful, sometimes goofy, but never unsure or awkward. Nott commands and owns the stage, which has been turned into a honeycomb of hexagonal lights dousing the duo and their backing band in purples and blues and sometimes even, aptly, honey-yellow gold.

About halfway through the set, Caleb steps down from his platform, from which he has been orchestrating much of the instrumental content of the performance, to join his sister in an acoustic two-song interlude consisting of, “All of Your Glory” and “Taking You There.” After presenting the audience with their more emotionally intense and taxing songs, this brief, quiet intermission gives us all a little breathing room and provides a tactful lull in energy just before the upswing.

Bringing my own personal feelings of overwhelming heartbreak and negativity into the experience, I respect and appreciate Broods’ slow creep into their more upbeat, ecstatic work. It’s as if they spend the entire concert preparing you for the emotional climax, which begins at the joyous “Heartlines” and hits its peak at “We Had Everything” and “Full Blown Love.”

Though I might not have been prepared for a song as ecstatic and, well, loving as “Full Blown Love,” I find myself sold by Nott’s exuberant proclamations during the chorus, jumping up and down and pumping her hands to the sky as if to thank whatever deity for the love that inspired the song in the first place. I find myself loving along with her.

As the show comes to a close, the audience carries on their applause and shouts for a full minute before Broods takes the stage once more for an encore, performing “Four Walls,” “Bridges,” and “Couldn’t Believe.” By the final song, Nott is practically glowing, bright lights glinting off of her white outfit and providing an apt visual metaphor for the entirety of the performance: despite what emotions they were conjuring up, Broods always did so with a glowing conviction.

After the nearly three-hour show, despite having to walk back into the life I briefly left outside of the venue, I find myself with a slight smile on my face. I guess truly good pop music can soothe heartbreak, if only for a moment.

Mothers Open For Frightened Rabbit at Thalia Hall

Photo by  Kristin Karch  

Photo by Kristin Karch 

By Eileen Marshall

This was a Lollapalooza aftershow, and so it didn't start until 11pm at night; I work nine to five, which my body resists; by Thursday night, I'm tired, so Mothers was my main focus that night.

I did look up Frightened Rabbit’s recent set lists. While I haven't kept up with them, I thought I would have liked to hear "The Modern Leper", a song that wrecked me on the regular back in college. They do still play it, sometimes early in the show, sometimes late; so it was kind of a toss-up.

Frightened Rabbit's songs, including the one I most wanted to hear, are about that tension between understanding and enabling when two troubled people become intimate. From "The Modern Leper":
 

Well is that you in front of me
Coming back for even more of exactly the same?
You must be a masochist to love a modern leper on his last leg
Well I am ill, but I’m not dead
And I don’t know which of those I prefer.
 

I thought about this, and I thought about Mothers' music, how it treats the same subjects, and how the pairing of these two bands made a lot of sense. 

Mothers' debut album, When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired, is one of my favorites released so far this year, but it’s hard for me to write about it, because listening to it rips me to shreds. Like Frightened Rabbit’s, singer/songwriter/guitarist Kristine Leschper’s lyrics center on self-loathing, on mental illness or something like it. They describe feelings of inferiority relative to one’s partner: for example, in “Burden of Proof”, with which the band opened their set last Thursday, Leschper sings, “Everything you touch turns to gold / Everything I touch turns away,” stretching the syllables into something aching, wailing. But the songs also insinuate a dynamic of abuse, suggesting that their “you” has some problems, too. "I cut out my tongue / Seeing yours would speak for the both of us"—these lines conclude "Lockjaw", one of the album's stand-out tracks. "Nesting Behavior" also ends with self-deprecation in which an accusation is embedded: "You always made it easy / Reminding me not to bloom." But the album's last words express a tentative hope of rising from the ashes stronger and kinder: "I burned up all my songs / And left them out for the dogs / I think I could learn to love."

As live performers, Leschper and her band are skilled and appear to know it. Presumably, many members of the audience that night had spent that day at the festival, likely hitting up its bars a few times; they came primarily or solely for Frightened Rabbit, and it showed. Opening for a better-known act is of course a crucial way for new artists to gain exposure. Mothers maintained a steady and confident professionalism despite the persistent crowd chatter; their set was brief but by no means a throwaway.

Even though softer songs, like the aforementioned "Burden of Proof", struggled to overpower the crowd's loudness; others, like "Copper Mines", fared better, with their revved-up tempos and more assertive rock style. Particularly impressive was the band members' success in coordinating tempo shifts with barely a glance at one another. Their setup is a standard four-piece rock band's, built of crashing drums offset by guitars that zigzag and ping like pinballs. It's reminiscent of Palm, who opened for Mothers when I saw them the first time back in May, and Ought. Leschper's vocals round out the sound: if Tom Waits or Bob Dylan has a voice like steel wool, perhaps Leschper's is the inverse, softness shaped into something hard and gleaming. It's beautiful, haunting.

Buy or stream When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired. See Mothers live.
 

Power Play: the Coathangers, Diet Cig, and L.A. Witch at Beat Kitchen, 7/23/16

By Eileen Marshall

The room's temperature was warm, and so was its mood.

Fans braved heat topping ninety degrees (plus a pretty fearsome thunderstorm dwindling into drizzles) to pack Beat Kitchen in Chicago's Roscoe Village neighborhood last Saturday evening. I don't know if I'd ever gotten so sweaty at a show before, but the Coathangers, as well as opening acts Diet Cig and L.A. Witch, made it worthwhile by delivering the fiery yet playful punk rock we all wanted.

The Atlanta three-piece is made up of Julia Kugel, Meredith Franco, and Stephanie Luke (AKA Crook Kid Coathanger, Minnie Coathanger, and Rusty Coathanger, respectively), who got together a decade ago on something of a whim, mastering their instruments after the fact. Their fifth and latest studio album, Nosebleed Weekend, sees the band bolster their long-sustained attitude and energy with a solid technical proficiency; their chops were on display in the live setting, too.

The Coathangers. Photo by Mark Little.

The Coathangers. Photo by Mark Little.

Like fellow fierce and fun riot grrrl revivalists Kitten Forever and Skating Polly, the Coathangers' members trade off vocal and instrumental duties over the course of their performance; even with these shake-ups, they played a mostly-uninterrupted set Saturday night, never really needing a breather despite high temps augmented by body heat and stage lights. They executed the role rotations seamlessly, and their passing around of the mic meant lead vocals ranged from a Kathleen-Hanna-like sassy squeal to a menacing growl closer to Courtney Love. Their music melds (girl) power and playfulness, a dynamic that's especially evident on standout number "Squeeki Tiki", where the aggressive refrain—"You can have it / I don't want that shit / It's just a bad memory / Of what I did"—prefaces a squeaky-toy solo that actually manages to be quite catchy.

Sorry-not-sorry to harp on the heat: you might expect warm bodies in close quarters to succumb to sour moods, but this crowd stayed overwhelmingly positive throughout all three sets. Mosh pits and crowd surfing were friendly; applause was generous. Some even called for an encore! (There wasn't one; however, the Coathangers turned up at the karaoke bar where I was hanging out later on that night, suggesting that they really do love their jobs.) And, though not big on banter, the band did take a moment to express their gratitude for the audience—not just the obligatory thank-you, but something that felt heartfelt.

Diet Cig, the night's second act, also made sure to show the crowd their appreciation. Alex Luciano, the Brooklyn band's guitarist and vocalist, gave a special shoutout to the women and trans and nonbinary folks in the audience: "It's hard to be a marginalized person in this world ... but you're not alone. We love you." (The "women in music" trope is tired, but when the scene is still largely dominated by dudes, I can't avoid mentioning that of the eight musicians on stage that night, only Diet Cig's drummer, Noah Bowman, was a man.) Bubbly and undeniably cute, Luciano shared that she was turning twenty-one in two days, showing us the "x"s on the backs of her hands. For someone so young, her confidence and skill with managing a crowd were impressive.

Diet Cig. Photo by Maggie Boyd.

Diet Cig. Photo by Maggie Boyd.

Musically, what Diet Cig does is not unique: theirs are fast-paced pop-punk earworms; stripped of words, they'd blend into the œuvres of countless other bands. But the project is special in what it has to say about punk femininity. Luciano's lyrics, as well as her stage presence, dispose of dichotomies between cute and edgy, vulnerable and tough. (A comparison with Perfect Pussy's Meredith Graves is partly superficial but seems apt nonetheless.) The complex interplay of hardness and heart is encapsulated in the closing lines of "Sleep Talk": "If I told you I loved you, I don't know who / It would scare away faster." Luciano brings no shortage of energy to her performance, which featured plenty of high-kicks, a jump up onto an amp, and tireless bouncing and bounding across the stage (did I mention how hot it was?). She proves that a high-pitched voice doesn't have to be a small one.

L.A. Witch kicked things off with a solid set of songs that take a surfy sixties-girl-group sound and imbue it with punk edge and a dark sensibility.

***

Check out a Coathangers show when the band resumes touring mid-August, and see Diet Cig, too.

Review of TEENS OF DENIAL; or, Review of Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork Aftershow at Empty Bottle, Chicago, 7/16/16; or, Review of My Pesky Emotions (The Ballad of A)

Photo by  Morgan Martinez .

Photo by Morgan Martinez.

FIRST VERSE:

And how should I begin?

Last Friday: I went from zero (an unhurried forty-five-minute walk from my apartment to Union Park for day one of Pitchfork Festival) to sixty (impatiently bemoaning the amorphous blob-line waiting to get through the gates over which Car Seat Headrest's first song drifted) in three seconds flat.

Last Friday, Saturday: I went from zero (fine with missing Car Seat Headrest's sold-out Pitchfork aftershow, they'll come back, I'm not that into them, no big deal) to sixty (leaving the festival five hours early to lurk around Empty Bottle for three hours waiting to snag one of a few door tickets; though sleep-short and body-weary and standing-sore, I held my place at the front of the crowd through two opening bands [not to say that Detroit's Stef Chura and Chicago locals Pool Holograph didn't themselves play super solid sets]) in three seconds flat.

Last week, this week: I started at zero (Teens of Denial sounds pretty good, but I'll probably not listen to it more than a few times), slid a foot lightly onto the pedal (I'm tired and feeling lousy at work, but at least I really like this album now, hm), and shot up to sixty (setting up an enormously goofy Facebook page named "True Car Seat Headrest Fan Club" [aiming to dodge the trouble I might get in for designating the page "official"]) in three seconds flat.

I can't write this without admitting that I'm having to reread my recent piece on Jessica Lea Mayfield and parasocial relationships to calm myself down; it feels almost unethical to omit that.

I tweeted to Will Toledo requesting a brief interview even though (because?) I've been posting many wildly lascivious tweets about him.

I'm in a place where listening to Mitski is an act of self-care, because it's not listening to Car Seat Headrest.

I'm in a state.

*

CHORUS:

I give up I give up I give up I give up
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

SECOND VERSE:

How can I move on after beginning?

Teens of Denial reminds me of another of my favorite records released so far this year, Mitski's wonderful Puberty 2. But where Mitski masters the thirty-minute album and the three-minute song, Teens stretches above an hour and recalls other expansive albums that have affected me profoundly in the decade since I started to find myself musically. (In our post-"epic win" world I kind of hate using that first word but feel I can't avoid it here.) With The Monitor it shares elaborate ship metaphors and battle-cry choruses; themes of death and rebirth emerge over the course of Teens, The Moon & Antarctica, Lifted or the Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground, and Kendrick Lamar's works. Like Broken Social Scene's self-titled record (and the others I've mentioned, really, now that I think about it), Teens is exhausted by living and yet manages a great deal of genuine tenderness. These albums feel giving: halfway through them you're satisfied, and then they offer you more. They also approach (in my opinion) perfection: no filler, nothing superfluous. (I have to wonder if women artists don't yet feel quite comfortable taking up so much space and time. It's hard to come up with Infinite Jests or Blonde on Blondes by women—Joanna Newsom's Have One on Me, with its appropriately generous-tending title, is one example that does come to mind. But conciseness is a skill, too.)

Musically, Teens doesn't sound new. It sounds classic, which is not at all a bad thing; it also sounds really good, marking a departure from the lo-fi quality of Toledo's previous releases and featuring exhilarating guitars and vocal crescendos. Toledo's great accomplishment, though, is his lyrics. It's not so surprising that this album and Mitski's latest both refer to adolescence in their titles: both are about angst (if not mental illness proper), self-knowledge, growing up, and the hard slow work of all that. I'm twenty-five. These things are interesting to me.

*

CHORUS:

You will always be a loser
I give up I give up I give up I give up

*

THIRD VERSE:

What might I have asked Will Toledo, had he responded right away to my request? Some ideas:

How does it feel to finally get this kind of recognition after working unsigned for so long? Is it strange, or does it just feel earned? Were you always ambitious as far as eventually attaining some level of fame? In "1937 State Park,” you sing: "I didn't want you to hear that shake in my voice; my pain is my own"—do you write for an audience, or are your songs, above all, your own?

Teens is concerned with self-improvement and includes a lot of advice, or self-talk that doubles as advice. Did you worry about crossing from earnest over into corny? (I don't think that he does.)

What comes first, lyrics or music?

Do interviewers ever annoy the hell out of you?

And what comes next?

*

BRIDGE:

“Unfortunately I am afraid, as always, of going on. For to go on means going from here, means finding me, losing me, vanishing and beginning again, a stranger first, then little by little the same as always, in another place, where I shall say I have always been, of which I shall know nothing, being incapable of seeing, moving, thinking, speaking, but of which little by little, in spite of these handicaps, I shall begin to know something, just enough for it to turn out to be the same place as always, the same which seems made for me and does not want me, which I seem to want and do not want, take your choice, which spews me out or swallows me up, I’ll never know, which is perhaps merely the inside of my distant skull where once I wandered, now am fixed, lost for tininess, or straining against the walls, with my head, my hands, my feet, my back, and ever murmuring my old stories, my old story, as if it were the first time.”
―Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

Let's take a look at the lyrics:

"Stop your whining, try again. No one wants to cause you pain. They're just trying to let some air in, but you hold your breath. I hold my breath." I'm going to make a playlist called "I Choose Sadness". It will include Teens's opening track, Mitski's "A Burning Hill", and Rilo Kiley's "The Good that Won't Come Out", among other songs I wish I didn't relate to.

"We're just trying, I'm only trying to get home: drunk drivers, drunk drivers. Put it out of your mind and perish the thought—there's no comfort in responsibility." We're growing up, let's get uncomfortable.

"This isn't sex, I don't think. It's just extreme empathy. She's not my ex. We never met, but do you still think of me?" These lines hit close to home and don't help at all with the wreck of a parasocial relationship I've found myself in.

"I've been waiting all my life. I've been waiting for some real good porn, something with meaning, something fulfilling. I'd like to make my shame count for something." Neither do these.

"How was I supposed to know how to not get drunk every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and why not Sunday?" My college years could have been so much more productive had I only known how. Lately I am learning to appreciate the experience of not getting drunk at shows. It feels so good.

"Hangovers feel good when I know it's the last one. Then I feel so good that I have another one." Learning is difficult. Living is difficult.

Keeping this brief is difficult.

"We're dancing, right? This is dancing."

*

CHORUS:

It doesn't have to be like this
It doesn't have to be like this

*

OUTRO:

"How am I supposed to [open up my heart] when I go to the same room every night, and sleep in the same bed every night, the same fucking bed with the red comforter with the white stripes, and the yellow ceiling light makes me feel like I'm dying? The sea is too familiar; how many nights have I drowned here? How many times have I drowned?"
—Car Seat Headrest, "The Ballad of the Costa Concordia"

(Even just thinking about some of Toledo's lyrics makes me cry.)

Back to last Friday: after Car Seat Headrest's Pitchfork set, I headed to another of the festival's stages to stake out a good spot for Carly Rae Jepsen's. That crowd did grow large, and it might have been the most ecstatic one I'd ever been a part of. But then it's Saturday night and spirits are just as high amid Car Seat Headrest's Empty Bottle audience.

Jepsen's latest album has won over a diverse swath of listeners with lyrics that feel universally accessible as well as intelligent and mature. (Emotion is a bit like a kids' movie that adults praise as being "actually really smart".) Toledo's lyrics are more likely to make you suspect they were written especially for you: they're complex, verbose; they describe experiences and emotions that don't get a lot of radio play. But the thing is, they'll make you and you and you believe they were meant just for you and you and you. The crowd at the Bottle that night shouted along with the same kind of passion that Jepsen's fans had expressed the day before.

CREDITS

Buy or stream Teens of Denial, ASAP. Try your best to see Car Seat Headrest play live whenever you're graced with the chance.

Please and Thank You: Mitski at Lincoln Hall

From Mitski's  Instagram

From Mitski's Instagram

By Jaclyn Jermyn

 

Mitski Miyawaki is just like you and I. Maybe you and I don’t manage to sell out a majority of shows on national tours with Japanese Breakfast and Jay Som—her Chicago performance at Lincoln Hall sold out nearly three weeks before the date—but she is sincere and earnest, offering examples of the human experience without frills.
 

Because of my work schedule, I get to Lincoln Hall after the show has started. The crowd is quiet and I find a place in the back with enough elevation that I get a decent view of the stage. I’m not sure how much I’ve missed. A handful of people dot the stage, prepping for the next set, but the crowd doesn’t have that anxious buzz of anticipation. I assume I just missed Jay Som, but no, Mitski appears on stage with her guitar. Quietly tuning. Dressed in black jeans and a gray long sleeve shirt, she appears underrated. It’s just her and her drummer tonight. They’re positioned parallel to each other on either side of the stage front.
 

Once she starts playing, everyone seems either completely rapt or uninterested. From my vantage point, the audience is motionless except for a tapping foot or bobbing head. If the show wasn’t completely sold out, I would assume that they had all wandered into Lincoln Hall unknowingly. In the space leading up to the June release of her newest album: Puberty 2, the 24-year-old garnered thoughtful reviews from the likes of NPR and the New York Times. It seems unlikely that the audience would be here unwittingly—they were just polite.
 

As she finished her first song, “Townie,” off of her 2014 release, Bury Me At Makeout Creek, there's an audible relaxation. People let out cheers. Someone shouts, "be my best friend," and then a faint, “you’re so pretty.” There's a mysterious breeze that keeps catching a lock of her hair just so. It mimics moments in her music video for “Your Best American Girl.” There's smoke and blue and orange lights. It's all slow and cinematic without many peaks and valleys in her demeanor. After the second song, she looks up from her guitar and quietly says "hi, I'm Mitski. Thank you for being here." And goes right back into what she's playing. Typically, I would find this lack of chatter alienating, but here it seems honest. The crowd is charmed by every word she utters, even if it's a simple, "thank you so much." People cheer for this one.
 

Her cover of Calvin Harris’ “How Deep is Your Love” is enough to put you in a trance. Imagine a scene in a show or movie where someone is moving slowly through a packed club with strobe lights flashing, looking for someone. This cover would be playing in the background. This suggestion is funny to me in hindsight because I just watched the music video that goes along with the original song—it involves someone wandering through a packed club. Maybe I missed my calling.

Her volume creeps up as her set list grows. By song eight—a biting rendition of My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars, lyrics like "I want to see the whole world. I don’t know how I’m going to pay rent," have us all hooked. It’s like she really gets us. And she’s loud in her understanding—her voice is elegantly grating at top volume. She’s shouting to be heard. We’re always shouting to be heard.

Naturally, seeing her live was bound to be different than listening to her songs off of my computer, but in some instances, it's the first time I'm really comprehending some of the lyrics. In "I don't smoke" I finally hear "I am stronger than you give me credit for." Her voice arcs over the words and my heart gives a little pang like I forgot to turn the stove off or my crush finally texted me back.

The first time I hear the audience is in the middle of "Your Best American Girl." Their voices are faint, but clear and even—a whole room of people who have had their own, "I think I'll regret this" moment.

She smiles and thanks the audience for listening so politely, but also for letting her work be a part of our lives. I want to yell back, thanking her for making music that feels like a part of my life. Instead someone yells, “stay in Chicago forever.” She laughs and pauses, “what if I said okay?”


Her drummer leaves the stage before the penultimate song, leaving her to finish out the set even more quietly than she began it.


"I'm so tempted to say I love you, but I don't know you,” Mitski says. “I feel a lot of love for you. I don't want to seem insincere.”
 

She concludes the night with “Last Words of a Shooting Star,” a song about the end of things—the last word is actually “goodbye.” And then she’s done. One more “thank you,” and she exits the stage. The lights come up and everyone is blinking like it was all one brief, hushed dream. We didn’t even get a chance to say thank you.

Mitski at Lincoln Hall

1.  Townie
2. First love/Late Spring
3. I Want You
4. Thursday Girl
5. Cover of "how deep is your love?"
6. Once more to see you
7. Francis Forever
8. My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars
9. I don't smoke
10. Best American girl
11. I Will
12. Drunk Walk Home
13.  A Burning Hill
14. Last Words of a Shooting Star