Carly Rae Jepsen Loves You and So Do I

Photo by  Morgan Martinez

The first day of pitchfork I woke up with my throat so swollen and dry that it barely allowed me to drink luke warm green tea. My entire head was pulsing as if 17 tiny men were pressing at the insides of my skull. And then suddenly at 3 PM, by The Grace of Carly, I levitated from my bed. I got dressed and walked to the train.

Emotion was released on August 21st, 2015. Otherwise know as, My Darkest Hour. It was the summer that included a breakup (the kind that wasn't really a breakup, just a car crash featuring me and my ability to romanticize absolutely anything) piled onto a several month long depressive episode. A summer that could easily be described as feeling like: pushing your legs as hard and as fast as you could on a park swing and biting your tongue into ground meat when you finally jumped off. It was messy, and so was I. When I couldn't quiet my brain, I would get in my car and drive to the suburbs. But anything that I listened to in that time always brought my mind to a place that I didn't want it to be. I was overwhelmed by negative thoughts that my brain kept projector-screen-flashing at me. One of the universal truths about being depressed is that you will always, without fail, pick the worst music for yourself. A friend suggested that I listen to Carly Rae Jepsen's new album; of which I was wary. I thought: I need lexapro, not “Call Me Maybe”.

I was so so wrong.

Carly's pitchfork performance coincidentally started with the first song I had ever heard from Emotion, “Run Away With Me”. The entire crowd lunged forward as if they were excited to run away to wherever Carly was going, and not at all concerned with the desitination. I clutched my chest and screamed from somewhere deep in my stomach as she continued to sing banger after banger.

Someone behind me screamed: QUEEN OF PITCHFORK, and I don't know how else I could've described her. She was standing on top of the speakers in front of me with her arms spread wide. Her 70's esque glam- as-hell mullet was somehow blowing even in the stagnant Chicago heat. She was just close enough to reach out and touch and she glowed, royally.

A song I usually skipped over, “I Didn't Just Come Here to Dance” caused me to grab the shoulders of the person in front of me, using them as a kind of catapult to bring myself closer to the stage with every dancey jump I made. Instead of being annoyed they just turned around and smiled at me (and had the most spectacular pink eyebrows I had ever seen).

I could feel a collective heart swell from the thousands dancing with and around me. I locked eyes with someone I didn't know and we screamed “Gimme Love” to each other. Every song played out like it were a number one hit and it was clear that nearly everyone had memorized the entire album. I had never witnessed a crowd at Pitchfork with that much energy, proving once again that women and femmes make for the most powerful audience. It seemed as though we had all met up beforehand and made a pact to just Be Chill and Smile at Eachother.

During each, albeit small, break between songs I saw friends grabbing each others arms, as a small symbol of “HEY. WE'RE ALIVE AND WE ARE HERE. THIS IS AMAZING. I LOVE YOU." Although, it's possible that I'm projecting, but one thing I knew for certain was that we were all celebrating. And for me it felt like a special kind of celebration, one for not wanting to die anymore. 

Andrew McMahon at Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre

By Colin Driehorst

When Hooligan asked if I was interested in covering Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheater in Tinley Park last weekend, I accepted without even having to think about it. I’m a huge fan of his music, dating back to the early 2000s when he was in a band called Something Corporate, through the time when he recorded under Jack’s Mannequin, and up to now with his newest act.

He was the opening act for Weezer and Panic! At the Disco. The band started on time, opening with “All Our Lives,” off of McMahon’s most recent self-titled album.

With the help of the band’s stage presence, combined with the July sunset and outdoor venue, it felt like summer. Fans were sitting on the grass or in stadium seats while others stood, danced, and sang. The band wore tailored pants and tie-dyed dress shirts with ties. A large tapestry of pastel colors and kaleidoscope shapes hung behind them.

During the chorus of one of the songs they played, three of inflatable, dancing men that you’d see at car dealerships moved behind them. At some point, Andrew brought out a parachute and had everyone pass it around.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the rest of our lives looked like this?” he asked.

They energetically played through most of their self-titled album, which is undoubtedly ten tracks of pop summer bliss. Bringing back both the past and introducing the future, they played the hit Jack’s Mannequin track “Dark Blue” and a few new hits.

When he wasn’t playing or jumping on his piano, Andrew bounded around the stage and sang his heart out. He seemed genuinely happy to be there, and excited to entertain a stadium full of people.

While they were just opening for this particular show, their set was no different than when I’ve seen them before, it was just shorter. They put the same effort into an opening slot that they did while headlining at the Hard Rock in Vegas. 

This show reflected Andrew's music as it has always been and will be - meaningful, passionate, and filled with energy.

PITCHFORK MUSIC FESTIVAL: Julia Holter, Carly Rae Jepsen, Circuit Des Yeux, and More

Heading to Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend? With performances by artists such as Beach House, Sufjan Stevens, Royal Headache, Blood Orange, Miguel, FKA Twigs + more, we'd be surprised if you weren't. We'll be at the festival all weekend weighing in on all of our favorite moments and capturing some of the best performances, but in the meantime, Hooligan writers wrote up a quick list of six artists whose sets we're not missing out on this weekend.
 

JULIA HOLTER
7/15, green stage, 4:35pm

PHOTO BY RICK BAHTO

PHOTO BY RICK BAHTO

By Eileen Marshall

I think it's safe to say that Carly Rae Jepsen is a big draw for a lot of this year's festival-goers. If you're planning to camp out at the Green Stage on Friday to await the queen of
E•mo•tion, you're in luck, because you're going to see Julia Holter, whose experimental orchestral pop acumen made her album Have You In My Wilderness one of last year's best.

Expect a string quartet supporting Holter's keys and silver-smooth voice (though she's from Los Angeles, her vocal style sounds accented; it's reminiscent of Françoise Hardy), backed by traditional rock drums. Her latest work moves away from the ambient abstraction of her other work and toward the kind of thing you'll want to sing along to, but the lyrics remain weird: her songs delineate dreamlike vignettes; the lines are dizzyingly vivid, complementing the rich swirls of the instrumentation. Lines like "Is it time to dance? / I'll fall; you know I like to fall / I'm hopeful for / The rush hour car" feel like a poem that evokes more than it explains, or a clue in Twin Peaks. Holter's wilderness may be disorienting, but it is an exceedingly pleasant place to be.

Fans of Beach House will likely appreciate Holter as well, which is convenient: the critically-acclaimed dream pop outfit closes out Friday's Green Stage lineup.

 

TWIN PEAKS
7/15, red stage, 5:30pm

PHOTO BY POONEH GHANA

PHOTO BY POONEH GHANA

By Genevieve Kane

For those unfamiliar with Twin Peaks, you may be thinking to yourself, “I swear I’ve heard that name before. Why do I know that name?” No, Twin Peaks is not the Dallas based chain restaurant. Or the hit cult classic show that suddenly just swarmed hip art kids by storm. Once you listen to the band Twin Peaks, you will never confuse any of these again.

Twin Peaks holds serious roots in Chicago, which of late has been a hotbed for new and promising artists. The band holds ties to the Smith Westerns, another Chicago band which has frequented music festivals such as Lolla and Pitchfork. Twin Peaks is known for their 60’s garage rock vibes, which are very reminiscent of later works of the Beach Boys. If the Beatles and the Pixies were to procreate and produce a musical child, the result would be Twin Peaks. A summer staple jam of mine is the song Making Breakfast, from their 2014 album Wild Onion. If you are a fan of The Walters, The Orwells, Joe Bordenaro, or everyone’s favorite dad Mac Demarco, then you will certainly dig Twin Peaks. These bands are on the forefront of this new wave of garage rock, which seems to be a fusion of 60’s psychedelia and 80’s punk, and they are making their mark on Chicago and trust me when I say that you do not want to miss out on it.

If you haven’t done so yet, I urge you to look up Twin Peaks right now. Their music videos border the bizarre, and never fail to amuse or perplex. Whenever I listen to Twin Peaks I feel as though I am being included in some exclusive friend group that somehow knows the secret to a halcyon life and, that by hanging out with them, am making the most of my youth. If you are looking for a good dose of garage rock on Friday, then make sure you include Twin Peaks in your lineup.

 

CARLY RAE JEPSEN
7/15, green stage, 6:25pm

By Rivka Yeker

Since releasing
Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen has reached the hearts of queers, femmes, and punks alike. With the help of releasing visually pleasing and socially progressive music videos like "Boy Problems", she has managed to shift perspectives on how pop music should be and what (femme) pop artists should say. Jepsen's music is unbelievably catchy, but her work is also great for relatable belting-in-the-car-with-your-friends summer jams. Make sure you grab the most excited looking person in the crowd and embrace your femininity at Carly Rae @ Pitchfork!

You'll dig this if: you didn't realize that full-length pop albums could be as good as ABBA's until you heard Emotion.

 

CIRCUIT DES YEUX
7/16, green stage, 1:00pm

BY SAMANTHA SATURDAY

BY SAMANTHA SATURDAY

By Eileen Marshall

"I just try to keep it real, and she was always keeping it so unreal." This is one description of Jackie Lynn, the elusive outlaw singer after whom Haley Fohr's new album is named, offered in the short documentary that accompanied the album's release. It's funny because Jackie is not real; Fohr, the Chicago-based experimental musician who records under the Circuit des Yeux moniker, invented her. On Jackie Lynn—released last month and credited either to Jackie Lynn or Circuit des Yeux, depending who you ask—Fohr pushes the trope of the mythic rags-to-riches-to-rags star by crafting a literally-mythical persona with a wild backstory and framing the record as her character's creation. It's an interesting project, and one that gave Fohr space to explore her range: her trademark tenor warble is gentler here than elsewhere, the songs are more compact, and drum machines and synths come to the fore, displacing the orchestral strings and woodwinds of her previous work.

My own introduction to Fohr came about a year ago when I went to one of her shows on a whim; I came away profoundly impressed. She is a commanding performer, and I'm excited to see her play again, though I don't necessarily expect to see much of her face: live, she's often cloaked by a curtain of her own hair, as though concealing herself as puppet master or playing Wizard of Oz. If she's styled as Jackie Lynn, however, that will mean white suit, red cowboy hat, and heavy-duty dust mask, for some reason. We'll see.

Circuit des Yeux kicks off Saturday's lineup, so be sure to get there early to catch this can't-miss set.

 

JENNY HVAL
7/16, blue stage, 3:45pm

PHOTO BY JENNY BERGER MYHRE

PHOTO BY JENNY BERGER MYHRE

By Eileen Marshall

Jenny Hval's 2015 album Apocalypse, girl opens with an imperative: "Think ... big ... girl"—the words are whispered but pronounced slowly and clearly; they are soft and sure. What follows answers the command while also challenging what it means to think big, and what it means to be a girl.

Hval is concerned with dualities and in-betweens, with the "amphibious, androgynous," to quote 2013's Innocence Is Kinky (whose title itself plays with the blurring of binaries). On Apocalypse, girl, she meditates on life and death, body and spirit, crucifixion and rebirth. Sonically, the record achieves a balance between atmosphere and hook, layering catchy vocal melodies over patchworks of found sound reminiscent of the Books, and ranging from the jazzy pop of "That Battle Is Over" to the hypnotic ten-minute drone of album closer "Holy Land", where Hval's voice swings between a low growl and an airy coo. It's an album you could fall asleep to, but you could just as easily attend to its every word as you would reading a book. In fact, Hval studied writing and has published a novel, and it shows in her lyrics, which have obviously been crafted carefully; Pitchfork's review of Apocalypse, girl aptly compares Hval's writing to the text art of Jenny Holzer and Tracey Emin.

It's music that's good to listen to when everything else makes you feel your feelings too much: while there is emotional content here, it's mediated by analysis and tempered by humor. "Feminism's over, and socialism's over. Yeah, say I can consume what I want now," Hval croons as though the lines would make good sexting fodder. Later she tackles gender roles in love relationships, musing, "It would be easy to think about submission, but I don't think it's about submission; it's about holding and being held"—even the album's most tender moments are filtered through Hval's "complex and intellectual" worldview.

Then there is her live show, which verges on performance art or something out of Beckett. Watch this excerpt (trigger warning: blood) and then decide whether you can afford to skip out on Hval's set on Saturday. Oh, also: you can expect to hear some eerie new material in advance of her forthcoming album, Blood Bitch; check out "Female Vampire", its first single.

 

THE HOTELIER
7/17, blue stage, 5:45pm

By Rivka Yeker

The Hotelier has been around for a while now, rounding up all the pop-punk kids with their first record
It Never Goes Out in 2011. Their progression has been impressive, and with the release of their second record, Home, Like NoPlace Is There, people were blown away (I know I listened to it once a day for a long time when it first came out). They matured in their lyricism, their sound, storytelling, and the overall production of (what I presume to be) a perfect record. They just came out with their most recent album, Goodness, which has taken me quite a few listens to truly understand the direction that this band is attempting to go in. I'm still not sure, but I know I like it. It's honest and pretty, and something I don't think anyone should miss live. Vocalist Christian Holden has always made intimate venues seem like tiny bedrooms, filling each corner with an impressive and powerful voice. This is a band you do not want to look over, but be prepared to be a bit shaken up and calmed down all at once.

You'd dig this if: you were into the whole emo revival thing, but are tired of white dudes yelling about ex-girlfriends in really straight-forward and aggressive ways and want to hear something with more substance and meaning, but with the same kind of pop punk/emo musical elements

Coming in on a Wave of History: Downtown Boys at West Fest

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  Photo by Christopher Grady. 

Photo by Christopher Grady. 

I'd cried at shows before, but never in the way where your face crumples into ugliness —  never in the way I cried while watching Downtown Boys play last Saturday at Chicago's West Fest.

You could say it was the ugliness of whiteness breaching the surface as though literally called out by the Providence-based band and its activist strain of punk. Each of their songs is a storm raging against American society's injustices, and if you fail to make out the message over the raucous noise and the furious shouts of frontwoman Victoria Ruiz, the snarling spoken interludes should help to clarify things. To paraphrase guitarist Joey La Neve DeFrancesco during one of these interludes: "If you've felt comfortable today, and you're thinking, 'This band is so political,' think about the things that make you comfortable. They're political, too." This is a band that restores punk to its radicalism, never hesitating to point the finger straight in the face of a predominantly white audience.

In fact Ruiz, in the course of decrying the way that marginalized groups are pushed out of their neighborhoods as affluent white tenants move in, did point an accusatory finger at a (white) man leaning from the window of his (probably expensive) apartment overlooking the festival stage. Then I watched as this man nodded along to "100% Inheritance Tax", a song calling for the redistribution of wealth. Perhaps it's a testament to the efficacy of marrying activism to the arts and entertainment: people come to move around, bounce, dance, have a beer maybe, and forget the world (another word for entertainment is distraction); they leave mobilized.

They also dance. The songs are fun and catchy, even if their subject matter is dead serious. They go hard and fast, they shout and shred, with a saxophone in the mix keeping things melodious. I think theirs would make good running music, as work by Titus Andronicus and Perfect Pussy have done for me in the past—it's exhilarating, motivating—and at just twenty-three minutes in length, Full Communism, their 2015 debut full-length, is more of a sprint than a marathon. At the same time, the music video for "Wave of History" is the most educational one I've ever seen.

I don't need to say that last week was hard. In the aftermath of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police, it was tempting to seek out a distraction, a forgetting. But the ability to do so is a privilege not afforded to all, and Downtown Boys didn't allow us that privilege. Ruiz took a moment to remind us that Black Lives Matter protesters were at that very moment taking over the Taste of Chicago festival downtown; I wondered if she and her bandmates wouldn't rather be there than here, playing a show; I wondered if I shouldn't rather be there than here, watching a show. Art should make us uncomfortable. I felt uncomfortable with my whiteness; I found myself thinking, "I'm sorry I'm white," which is a cop-out, the kind of self-hate that edges on self-pity. "I'm sorry about whiteness, and I will work to make it better," I tried to think instead.

I felt uncomfortable with my position toward the front of the crowd as well, because as much as I love this band's music, I came to see that it's not really for me, or at least not chiefly. I am not its priority. The lyrics are bilingual; at one point during the set, Ruiz simultaneously interpreted DeFrancesco's remarks into Spanish. The show's most touching moment came at the end, when Ruiz descended from the stage toward the barrier (finally—you could tell that she wanted to get nearer to us all along, that the festival's setup impeded her confrontational style) and ceded her microphone to a young woman in the front row during the chorus of "Monstro". "She's brown! She's smart!" she screamed, appearing thrilled with the honor, and thrilled to be brown, and smart.

Downtown Boys deliver hope along with heft; they remind us not only of our responsibility to fight injustice, but also of our power to do so. We must take on the world; we must also love ourselves. This is what Ruiz left us with, introducing "Monstro" with guidance meant for everyone but especially for the dispossessed and discriminated-against: "Make sure that the fire inside you burns brighter than the fire outside you, but that you never set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm." I'll leave you with that.

*

Check out one of Downtown Boys' upcoming shows:

7/23 - Denver, CO - Summit Music Hall
8/4 - Boston, MA - Middle East
8/24 - Washington, DC - Rock and Roll Hotel
8/27 - New York, NY - Afropunk Festival
9/8-9/10 - Raleigh, NC - Hopscotch Festival
9/17 - Asbury Park, NJ - The New Alternative Music Festival

Buy or stream Full Communism on Bandcamp.

They’re Nice as Fuck: M. Ward, NAF & Big Thief at Thalia Hall

Photo by  Robi Foli

Photo by Robi Foli

 

M. Ward is teamplayer. By the time the folk legend introduced himself on stage, the concert was half over. Yet, everything that needed saying had already been addressed.

Performing at Thalia Hall in Chicago on June 17, Ward’s opening acts Nice As Fuck (NAF) and Big Thief did much of the talking.

The Jenny Lewis-fronted NAF played an intimate set on the main floor illuminated by a dimly lit peace sign marquee. But this impression of a start-up band quickly dissipated once Lewis began signing. Rolling around on the floor and signing in concert goers faces, Lewis embodied the charisma of the decades-long artist she is.

Along with Au Revoir Simone's Erika Forster, and the Like's Tennessee Thomas, the trio’s confidence felt political. (They originally formed for a Bernie Sander’s rally.) Clad in matching green army jackets and dark green berets, the women stripped down to reveal stark white “Nice as Fuck” shirts and black & white bandanas tied around their neck.

So, it felt natural when Lewis elevated the crowd by singing a snippet of their new song "Guns":

“I don’t wanna be afraid/ put your guns away. There are children dying every day/ put your guns away.”

Photo by Robi Foli

Photo by Robi Foli

As the supergroup air high-fived and walked away, their name “Nice as Fuck” took on a richer meaning. Watching NAF perform is neighborly conversation. For a crowd expecting M. Ward’s signature melancholy folk, they provided the necessary positivity and energy—but with a needed bite.

Big Thief followed followed thirty minutes later, but a notable disconnect accompanied their set. With a haunting, frail voice, lead singer Adrianne Lenker struggled to overpower Thalia Hall’s noisy bar. Unlike the friendly atmosphere and proximity of NAF, a literal barrier stood between this new band and the audience.

Photo by Robi Foli

Photo by Robi Foli

It wasn’t until nearly halfway through their set that Lenker fully caught the audience's attention. And to do so, she too went political.

“This is for the people in Orlando who were shot. And the people who couldn't give blood because of their sexuality and the whole LGBT community.”

A moment of silence followed, accompanied with a masterful guitar riff. The hall was unified for the first time during Big Thief’s set.

Quickly shifting into their next song, the harmony passed as the crowd’s murmurs gradually rose once again. The distraction severely overshadowed the set. But, Big Thief didn’t back down.

Before kicking off their final song, Lenker had one last comment for the audience.

"What's funny is some of you will walk out of here having heard the show. And some of you will walk out of here having not heard the show. The first gets more for their money, I guess.”

Big Thief excluded a different kind of energy. Their work spoke for itself. With intricate instrumental combinations and dense lyrics, appreciating their set required concentration. Some bands never master this balancing act. For others, it comes naturally, like M. Ward.

So when he finally took the stage, it felt like he had already performed. NAF embodied the charisma while Big Thief had the sound.

Little needs to be said about M. Ward’s set. He delivered in all ways the audience expected. Predictably spotlighting his new album More Rain, Ward still satisfied with classics like “Never Had Nobody Like You” and “Here Comes the Sun Again.”

More Rain is sleepy, relaxing folk with a subtle doo-wop underlay. Sounds like something better fit for outdoor music pavilion with sprawling green space. It’s not the loud grit for the small, dark Thalia Hall.

But it is his energy that bridges the gap — and he does so in the most unconventional of ways.

Ward took a risk with an instrumental opener. It paid off. Setting a relaxing, familiar tone the audience eased into his set.                                                                             

Then came the endless switch ups. Whether it was bringing up Lewis for a duet, playing old favorites, or covering a Monsters of Folk song, Ward kept it interesting -- all while maintaining a relaxing familiarity.

It’s no surprise Ward has found immense success as part of the supergroup Monsters of Folk and as the male counterpart to Zooey Deschanel in She & Him. His live shows are equally focused on the opening acts and bandmates.

But, there’s an undeniable star power to Ward. He doesn’t need to promote himself; the spotlight always finds him. His masterful guitarist riffs rivals his signature vocals.

Afterall, that’s his best quality. He’s just as much singer-songwriter as he is producer-performer. Ward cannot be easily categorized. And it should stay this way. The man is at his best when he is uncontained.  

Spotify playlist 

Setlist via Faronheit

I’m A Fool to Want You & Michelle (The Beatles cover)

Radio Campaign (with Jenny Lewis)

Magic Trick

Little Baby

Time Won’t Wait

Confession

Whole Lotta Losin’ (Monsters of Folk cover)

I Get Ideas (Julio Cesar Sanders cover)

Primitive Girl

Girl from Conejo Valley

Poison Cup

Chinese Translation

Never Had Nobody Like You

Eyes on the Prize

Rollercoaster

Rave On! (Sonny West cover)

Requiem

To Go Home (Daniel Johnston cover ft. Kelly Hogan)

Bean Vine Blues #2 (John Fahey cover)

**ENCORE**

Duet For Guitars #3

Fuel For Fire

Here Comes the Sun Again

Helicopter

A previous version of the article miscredited Nice As Fuck's song "Guns" to The Minus 5. The Minus 5 had covered the song in a live performance. 

Reviving The Scene: Charly Bliss at Subterranean 6/2

By Rivka Yeker

Charly Bliss is a band you want to see live, as they bring forth every ounce of energy their bodies muster. Each member is excited to be on stage and makes it clear, working with the rest of the band in a well-done synchronized execution. Vocalist Eva radiates in a pastel pink dress, jumping up and down and smiling throughout their entire set. Even after breaking a string during their first song, the band managed to bring forth their all and get the crowd moving.

Check out their newest music video!

They’re described as grunge-pop, but all I thought about the entire time watching them was impressive sonic guitar rifts and an ultra sweet girly voice that hit every note perfectly, just like in their recordings.  Eva celebrates femininity and strategically embraces her aesthetic, by proving that girls can play the shit out of a guitar without exuding masculinity.

While it was only the second night of tour, it seemed like the band felt confident on stage, each visibly enjoying themselves, each other, and the crowd. Similarly to the other bands on the tour, Rozwell Kid and PUP, they all know how to have a good time. These are the kinds of people that make all these sub-genres less elitist and more inclusive; they’re reminding people that it really is all about having fun and singing & dancing along.

Although this was a pretty big tour for Charly Bliss, I have no doubt that people are going to be following them on social media directly after seeing them, because they’re a band that blows you away at a show, pushing you to listen to their entire discography. They have a sweet sound with indie rock vibes and an emphasis on guitars, and I couldn’t help but compare their stage presence to Looming, another incredibly talented group of folks that just love playing music.

The whole show made me leave feeling revived, like punk had let me down over and over again, but then I was reminded that good-hearted people that just wanna rock do exist. Charly Bliss are those people, and I’m stoked for everyone that will be touched by their sincerity and energy.

Young Magic's Musical Mapmaking

By Ivana Rihter

Photo by Steven Long

Photo by Steven Long

“The stage is going to be really dark,” Young Magic warned me, before retreating to the green room minutes before they were scheduled to perform. Young Magic breathes life into electronic sound and challenges the very notion of traditional music making, listening to them in the cover of darkness seemed right somehow. Duo Melati Malay and Isaac Emmanuel do not record their unique tone in studios. They move through far away towns in search of every day sounds and intimate moments. They observe the world around them constantly, and this is just where the music begins.

The field recordings used in all three of their albums create a detailed map of the world, almost like cartography with sound. The conceptualization of Still Life began in Iceland, manifesting in the recordings of thumb piano, but the album’s core lies in Indonesia, where Malay herself is from.

“Personal things influencing what we created in Indonesia. We recorded kids on the street playing instruments, ambient sounds and even conversations,” Malay said.

At the end of “Lucien,” you can hear samples of the gamelan, a tradition ensemble of music made up of percussive instruments which originates in Indonesia.

“Oh I love it. It was the first instrument I learned to play as a kid,” Malay said.

“Lucien” was created after months of gathering field recordings all over Indonesia. Malay began working on it in a shack by the water trying to find the perfect balance of sounds and feelings. The gamelan used is an integral part of Indonesian culture and its percussion patterns add an ethereal eeriness to the end of the album’s most recognized track. The entire album was a return to Malay’s roots, it can be felt in every intimate recording weaved throughout each song.

The ability to capture such detailed nuances lies in that fact that Malay and Emmanuel walk through the world with ears and eyes open.

“It is a lot of deep listening, but after some time it becomes second nature,” Emmanuel said.

Both came to New York from Australia, and found commonalities in their passion for traveling and dedication to actively listening as magic happens around them in the form of every day situations and sounds. All the album’s they have put out are rich with field records from their travels, from 2012’s Melt to 2014’s Breathing Statues, to the most recently, 2016’s  Still Life. The common thread in each of these albums is the collection of sounds that they borrow from the world. The next album may very well include the unique sounds of Brazil, India, and Japan as these are the next pinned locations on their musical maps. Although Young Magic’s sorcery lies in music, travel influences every aspect of their lives, their music and their sound.

“Travel opens your ears to human nature and you become adaptable as a person as well,” Malay said.

“It opened me up to the world after traveling entirely, as a child I didn’t travel much so for me it was huge. You realize there a lot more similarities between everybody than there are differences,” Emmanuel said. “Our system is made to think there is all this division and that we are separate from these people and different and travel blends those borders, it dissolves them.”

Young Magic’s sound spans across continents and cultures which they  beautifully blend together using analog synthesis, synth, and other electronic sounds as  extensions of themselves and the wandering they do through the world. Their music somehow flawlessly combines the elements of nature with structured electronic beats.

“That’s where we are in the world right now,” Malay said of the integration of nature into technology and technology into nature. The world the Young Magic creates with their homage to nature and their control over technology is one that is reflected in day to day life.

“We’re these organic creatures with these digital extensions of ourselves and we are interested in this meeting point as people, as musicians, between technology and the natural world,” Immanuel said. “We started like that and we are trying to find that middle ground. We sometimes miss and we sometimes hit it, but that is the thing that interests us the most.”

The elusive middle ground can be found in every album of theirs, all created in informal spaces and pieced together from their massive bank of recordings. Melt came together in a warehouse in Brooklyn. Breathing Statues was perfected in an isolated cabin up in the Catskill Mountains. Still Life did not see the polished inner walls of a studio session either. Instead, Young Magic is dedicated to their creative process, which to be frank, is unlike anyone else’s.

“We are just trying to put some life into a digital thing that might be lifeless,” Malay said.

Sifting through the field recordings is the great feat of any album they make. Throughout their travels, both together and independently, Malay and Emmanuel are constantly recording the world around them.

They do not stop trying to capture the essence of the place they are taking in through its sounds and this is how the overwhelmingly large bank of recordings somehow keeps growing. The sorting part of the process happens at home, which happens to be in upstate New York, some ways away from their origins in Brooklyn.

“You hear the gold,” Melati said

As their albums have progressed, Malay’s tender vocals have become a more central part of their sound but the field recordings remain a core part of any music they put out. Sorting through the cross-continental recordings takes an unreasonable amount of patience and organization — something both members of the group admitted they lack.

“We find sections or things or moments that have something to them that we really love and then re-pitch them, chop them up, and interpret them into something new,” Emmanuel said.

 

The stage was dark. I readied myself to hear the chopped up sounds that would teleport me into parts of the world I had never seen. I stood by the drums and every beat echoed in the hollows of my chest. They came onstage quietly, both wearing floor-length coats and effectively reinforcing the mystery that surrounds them. Malay swirled around the stage, fingers drawing intricate patterns into the air around her as projections filled the wall behind her. Immanuel stood fully in profile behind his machinery, looking almost stern within his focus.

The projections were continuous, colorful and abrasive. One was of an impossibly gold ceiling of a glitzy ballroom that lit up from behind Malay as her airy voice filled the room. Another showed the eerie chalked faces of dark haired women in kimono’s dancing behind Malay whose focus remained both out in the crowd and fully within herself. They were tongue twisters for the eye, filled with graphic projections that were impossible to follow. Below the stage, the audience synchronized their bodies to the heavy bass drum in “Sparkly” all moving as one. Everyone looking up at the constant motion happening in front of them.

You can hear the cultural influences of Malay’s native land of Indonesia in almost every track from Still Life, manifesting in the effervescent sounds of traditional instruments that can be heard even more acutely live. The set ended with “Lucien” which sent the room into a profound silence. The audience had been growing bit by bit as their set flowed on and now stretched to the very back of the ground floor. I left my place in the front row, wanting to see what this beautiful spectacle looked like from far away. In the back of the room, Malay’s movements seemed even more gorgeously exaggerated, following the music with rhythmic movement unapologetically. With the sound of the gamelan, the night was over. 

Another Eternity: A Night With Purity Ring at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee, WI

Photo by Tyler Dennen

Photo by Tyler Dennen

By Madalyn Dellenbach

I remember back to my high school days when I first discovered who Purity Ring was. They first caught my attention in 2012 when they had released their track Ungirthed. To say I was completely captivated would be an understatement. From the atmospheric melodies, to their raw, poetic lyrics - they have this way of resonating with you long after listening, giving you this feeling that their music was unlike anything you had ever heard in your entire life. I immediately found myself listening to them in my car every morning on my way to school, and even on those late night drives to nowhere in particular just to clear my head. Before I knew it, they became a very important element in my life, becoming not just my favorite artists - but my rock and my safe haven.

After many hours spent in my room watching live performances and interviews, I found myself dreaming of the day I would be able to make one of their tour dates in Milwaukee. Finally, in 2016, I saw they announced their Another Eternity Tour with the other supporting artist Lydia Ainsworth. I had to go. Despite not having much money in my bank account, I knew that whatever Purity Ring had in store for me was priceless. My partner and I both bought tickets the night they announced the tour and anticipated the day of June 1st show at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee.

June 1st. At last - I woke up completely energized and full of anticipation. I had been waiting for this moment for five years; I was finally going to experience Purity Ring’s live performance in person. Before hitting the stage, the first thing that caught my eye upon walking into the theater was their gorgeous stage set up. Lights were strung vertically in rows that went all the way up to the ceiling and dropped down to the floor, illuminating the entire stage. In the center was the setup for Corin - a full set of interactive light cocoons so that when he tapped on them, they lit up different colors and cued whatever sounds he wanted them to make during their set. The amount of effort they put into their stage production was beyond admirable and completely amplifies those same feelings you get when hearing their music.

When the time came for them to come on, the stage filled with smoke - the sound of people cheering and lights flickering made it feel like the room was shaking as they opened up with my favorite track off of their new album, Heartsigh. I instantly felt goosebumps take over my entire body, I threw my arms up in the air, and closed my eyes. Looking back at it now, I cannot believe how beautiful and memorable that moment was and I’m positive I was tearing up the entire set. Megan’s vocals were absolutely beautiful as she sang the entire time without a backtrack, and Corin completely killed it during the entire performance, playing those gorgeous light cocoons and dancing the entire time.

Seeing Purity Ring for the first time is something I will never forget. All of my friends surrounding me, seeing them smile, and sharing those occasional glances during songs that spoke holy shit I am so happy right now complimented the endless amounts of dancing we all did made it a completely euphoric night for everyone in the room. I left feeling so at ease, like I completed one of my biggest life missions. I will definitely be seeing them again, and if you haven’t seen or listened to them, check out a tour date near you.

My Love Is Average: A Sentimental Review on Hop Along at Thalia Hall

By Jaclyn Jermyn

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

The first time I saw Hop Along play, I didn’t really see them at all. It was my first summer in Chicago and they played Wicker Park Fest right before my (arguably) one true love, Laura Stevenson. I maybe heard the end of a song or two as I pushed and elbowed my way to the font barriers. Hey, we all sometimes do some dumb things for those we love. I don’t remember any of their set but I remembered their name.

Later that summer, I found myself with a hell of a crush on a boy that mentioned Hop Along once as we walked through the gardens in Millennium Park. Dropping a half-lie that of course I knew who they were—I had been to one of their shows before, I found myself at home that night, listening to their album “Get Disowned,” with the kind of fervor that’s specific to crushes. The music stuck with me much longer than the boy did.

I encouraged everyone I knew to listen to those songs with me. I took it as a personal affront when my best friend told me that it just wasn’t his thing. It was hard not to get attached to Frances Quinlan’s voice. Her voice both grated and soothed at a time where I felt unbelievably angry at the hand the universe had dealt me. I locked myself in my bedroom and learned all of the words with clenched fists. And the summer ended and I put the relief that these songs had given me, on the shelf.

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

The next summer they released “Painted Shut,” and I felt the same sense of relief wash over me after the hardest year of my life. I was tired and homesick but here were new words to love and listen to in a new apartment in a new neighborhood. You know that scene in the manic pixie dream girl classic, 500 Days of Summer where Joseph Gordon-Levitt dances through the streets? Yeah, that’s how I feel whenever I listen to Sister Cities.

I think I saw a Facebook event for their show at Thalia Hall way back in the dead of winter. Ever the planner, it was hard not to instantly file the show away for later reference. It was the day after my 21st birthday and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with a band that helped ensure that you made it that far? Just try listening to the lyrics “nobody loves you half as much as I am trying to,” and not feeling emotionally overwhelmed and eager to reflect. You know, good birthday emotions.

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

Being at Thalia Hall sort of feels like watching a band play in the ballroom of an abandoned mansion—you know that it was magnificent in its heyday but now it has shadows and corners and strangers wandering around like ghosts.

Once again, I pushed and elbowed myself to the front of the barriers and sat though bands I don’t remember much about. The second Hop Along took the stage, I felt a hopeful swelling in my chest like I was having a really pleasant allergic reaction or seeing an old friend for the first time in years. When Frances announced that they were going to play a song that they hadn’t played in Chicago in “a hot second,” I had my fingers crossed.

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

It’s hard not to hope that everyone will somehow read your mind and play your favorite songs—remarkably I actually got my wish that time. They played Sally II and I yelled along. In fact, I yelled along to everything. I left with sore legs, not much of a voice, and a smile so big, cheeks ached. I have listened to Hop Along every day since, showing these songs off to new friends like they’re my children and I’m a proud parent.

These are the songs that I have applied to every happy thought and crisis situation. They have been sung to many people, both drunkenly and sober, but every time the words leave my lips, I am reassured that these moments are for myself, despite who else may be watching.  

Photo by  Alison Hein

Photo by Alison Hein

 

 

 

 

 

LITTLE GREEN CARS: A Performance About Honesty and Vulnerability at Chicago's Metro

All images by Annie Zidek

All images by Annie Zidek

by Nohemi Rosales

The last time I saw Little Green Cars perform at Lincoln Hall in 2013, I was blown away. 

Though the audience back then was small, with less than half of the main floor filled up, they left a lasting impression on their Chicago audience. 

Three years and a new album (Ephemera) later, they returned to Chicago for their May 5th performance at Metro. This time the turnout increased significantly, filling up not just the main stage, but the balcony and both VIP sections - proving a true come-up for the band. 

If you don’t yet know who the Little Green Cars are, do not fret. I am here to tell you.

To put it simply, a harmonizing quintet of 20/21-year olds from Ireland who are honest, emotional, and a little awkward, but equally inspiring and breathtaking.

What makes them truly admirable, is that all members (Faye O'Rourke, Stevie Appleby, Adam O’Reagan and Donagh O’Leary) have been friends since secondary school and have been playing music together for just that long. 

Not all bands have come together under the unity of friendship – but for Little Green Cars, this unity is something obviously evident in their performances. From the setup of their stage, with four microphones lined up evenly apart from each other, to the way they take a step up at the exact same time when harmonizing, one can’t help but to see them as one magical, beautiful entity.

Standing under a shower of green lights and smoke, they began the show with “The Party” from Ephemera, their newest album (released in January of this year). It was a brilliant first song choice, as the lyrics were telling and set the mood for what the rest of the show would be like:

“Now it’s over. And they’re leaving. Did I try too hard to tell them how I feel? Did it sound like a joke? So I’m going to wreck your party. Because I’ll make you cry the tears that I can’t. I don’t wanna wreck your party.”

Little Green Cars’ music is known for being sad, intimate, and personal - though their upbeat melodies contrast these darker kind of lyrics. And what better way to be honest with your fans about your feels than to start a show with the song you wrote about it? 

But of course, they didn’t wreck the party, they light a match and had the audience captivated and singing along. Right before their 7th song,“John Wayne” from their first album Absolute Zero, Stevie Appleby stopped to tell the importance of the song - how a fan went up to him after one of their shows and told him how John Wayne had influenced him after a friend committed suicide. Appleby ended his short speech by saying,

 “I say this because I feel that when I’m up here, I have to say something worth saying. So I want to say that this song should inspire you to be honest about how you feel. To tell the people you love that you love them.” 

Something that really struck me while watching the show progress was the way that they performed - how they closed their eyes and relaxed while performing - truly focusing on the meaning behind the lyrics beyond their stage presence.

This is especially true for Faye, one of the two lead singers, whose killer vocals were like a cool wave of comfort the entire night. While singing “Ok Ok Ok” (which she wrote in High School) from Ephemera, the room grew incredibly quiet. Everyone had their eyes on Faye and became still; her voice transcending the audience to the pain and beauty in the lyrics: “But if you touch me and I scream, just remember what I mean. I'm alright.” Not only were her vocals outstanding, but so was her humble presence on stage - the way she clenched her hands, blew kisses, and bowed to the audience to say thank you. She definitely goes on my list of badass women.

As the audience looked up on stage starry-eyed and clinging to the last few seconds of “The Consequences of Not Sleeping” (what everyone thought would be their last song) Little Green Cars stopped and took to the floor. They climbed over equipment, the front barricade, and over people’s heads until they made it to the center of the floor, where they were engulfed by the audience that looked on in anticipation of what would occur. 

A warm yellow light that resembled a sunset flooded the hall as they played the last song “The Factory” from their newest album and the last words they sang,“I’m alive again,” echoed long after Little Green Cars returned back to the stage, bid their farewells, and left.

Stevie Appleby, lead singer aside Faye, who I got the chance to speak with after the show, told me about their ending. “You really have to have a lot of trust and be open to being vulnerable in situations like that. Our audience could have definitely shredded us to pieces if they wanted to, but it was a really intimate space for us to be singing in, surrounded by everyone.”

Stevie discussed the importance of honesty and vulnerability in their music, saying, ”I wish I had known how to be vulnerable when I was younger. And I know that now, so that’s what inspires me to make music - to be the person I needed when I was younger, maybe to somebody else. Because being vulnerable is the strongest thing you can do.”

For someone who believes in the power of vulnerability, I left the show humbled and touched. I haven’t been able to stop listening to the raw, but necessary reminders that manifest themselves in Little Green Cars’ music.

If you ever need to let your wounds bleed, to be honest about your pain, and to give into the beauty of feeling, you need this humble bunch of artists in your life.

For more info on Little Green Cars:
http://littlegreencars.com

The Perfect Summer Playlist Additions: Knox Hamilton and Coasts

By Genevieve Kane 

As we welcome in the month of May, we are reminded that summer is just beyond the horizon and approaching fast. No one wants to enter the summer season without a flame playlist prepared, and I know one band that has got you covered. The first time I heard Knox Hamilton’s hit song "Work it Out" on the radio two summers ago, it immediately caught my attention. I fell in love with it instantaneously. My sister and I listened to "Work it Out" on repeat and deemed it our summer anthem. Knox Hamilton is the perfect indie pop-rock band to deliver some fresh summer vibes when you need them most.

Naturally, I was very excited to see them live, and at a very intimate venue like Lincoln Hall no less. Their faces were lit by an electric blue light. Boots, the frontman of Knox Hamilton, entertained the crowd with sharp witty banter between songs. “You guys are a very polite crowd,” he joked at one point. And he was not wrong. Being in the audience felt like attending one big love fest. “I love you!” the infatuated crowd would shout to them. It was clear that not everyone in the audience was there for Knox Hamilton in the beginning, but it ultimately did not matter because they won every person over before they had even finished their set. Boots would jokingly ask the audience which songs they would like to hear, prefacing it by saying, “We’re not going to play Wonder Wall...not again.” They then broke out into another one of my personal favorites, "How's Your Mind." 

Knox Hamilton delivered a little nugget of summertime sublimity amidst the lingering fog of spring. By the time they had finished playing "Work it Out," there were salty streaks of tears rolling down my cheeks. Although the temperature outside may have been hovering around 40 degrees, Knox Hamilton made it feel like summer in my heart.

I wasn’t as familiar with Coasts as I was with Knox Hamilton, but I was on such an adrenaline high that my excitement at that point in the night was through the roof. As Coasts began their set, Liam Willford (guitar), James Gamage (bass), David Goulbourn (keys), and Ben Street (drums) graced the stage in their respective spots. The focal point of the stage was a lonely microphone, as the beginning riffs of "Wallow" rung throughout Lincoln Hall. Lead singer Chris Caines then emerged and grabbed the mic in one grand swoop. Their long legs and bobbing heads of hair, were a spectacle in and of itself. Coasts dominated the stage with large gestures and motions, which was then countered by their quiet English demeanor in between songs. Chris would say a few humble words in between songs; always ending with a little, “cheers” which of course would then be followed by an eruption of shouts from the audience.

I was really digging their Two Door Cinema Club vibe, despite the fact I felt a little out of place because it seemed as though everyone around me knew practically every word to every song the band would play. Regardless, it was a very fun crowd to be a part of, especially when Coasts played "Modern Love." However, the audience really went nuts when Coasts ended the night with "Ocean," which is the first song on their self-titled album.
 

Although we still need to fight our way through May, summer is coming up, and I know exactly who I will be listening to thanks to this killer show. Knox Hamilton and Coasts are definitely worth adding to the summer playlist.

BETWEEN A SEA OF JEAN JACKETS AND FLANNEL: The Thermals hit Chicago's Lincoln Hall for A Night To Remember

All images by Megan Leetz
Review by Genevieve Kane

I found myself enveloped in a sea of jean jackets and flannel as Lincoln Hall grew increasingly packed on a dreary Wednesday night. However, the melancholic weather did not deter the massive crowd from accumulating in the small Chicago venue. The house was cramped full, like a package of sardines, all the way to the back and up in the balcony. The driving force behind this coalition of Doc Martin wearing folk? Portland’s own punk band, The Thermals.

The band released their first album, More Parts per Million, in 2003 and has acquired a growing fanbase ever since, which was very apparent last night. The crowd was composed of people both young and old, equally writhing in anticipation for the arrival of The Thermals.

A fog lingered in the air in the typical fashion one has come to expect when attending a show at Lincoln Hall. All was dark, with the exception of the light emanating from the massive “LH” marquise in the center of the room. Then, it begun.

The first few notes of their song Into the Code rang out and reverberated against the walls of the venue. The room literally shook with fervor as the audience went nuts. The stage was lit by a spectacle of vibrant hues of reds and blues. Frontman Hutch Harris graced the stage alongside bandmates Kathy Foster (bass), and Westin Glass (drums). They were also joined on stage by Jessica Boudreaux, lead singer and guitarist, of Summer Cannibals (the opening act). The on-stage chemistry between the four of them was electric.

The night was kicked off by two songs from of their latest album, We Disappear. Their set was mainly comprised of songs off their 2006 album, “The Body, the Blood, the Machine.” The Thermals alternated between playing tracks off of those two albums throughout the night. They also made sure to incorporate some of their older work as well.

Songs flowed seamlessly into one another as they were transitioning between them, and the audience did not miss a beat. Hands flew to the sky in anticipation as the song, Hey You, started playing. Everyone was waiting for the lyrics, “Hey you” to ring out, so they could join together in pointing their fingers at Hutch as he extended his hand right back to the crowd. The band’s interaction with the audience was phenomenal; they presented themselves as being quite tangible to encourage crowd participation. Any quiet lulls between songs, which were few and far between, were filled with the enthusiastic hollers of the responsive crowd.

The Thermals began their encore by playing the song, No Culture Icons off of their first album. The satisfaction that swept over the crowd was palpable. It was a moment of overwhelming contentment and bliss for everyone-the kind of bliss that words can only go so far to describe. It felt similar to the sensation of putting socks on cold feet, or spontaneously hearing a song on the radio that you hadn’t heard in years but you knew once held great meaning to you.

The audience was great and everyone felt comfortable being in such close quarters with one another. The Thermals dominated with their killer stage presence, and gave a stellar performance that Lincoln Hall will be sure to remember.

Matthäus Debut Promising to not be a One Night Stand

By Jonathon Burkhalter

March 26, 2016— The bill for Saturday’s performance featuring the debut of Matthäus was a perfect storm. Between the floating vocals of Hanna Ashbrook and the gritty return of mid-century rock n’ roll via Modern Vices, Matthäus proved promising during Easter Weekend with every sense of the word “rising”.

Hanna Ashbrook played one of her final solo sets before she makes ties with a full band, but her set was nothing amiss without the extra stage members. The somber low-fi strings of her electric guitar bring gravity to her floating, bubbly voice. While she admits that even the happy songs have a sting of sadness, her ability to project raw emotion in an unabashed manner creates an atmosphere of peace and hope. Ashbrook’s style is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, featuring lyrical ballads in which she reminds guys to hold on to their girl and sends a farewell wish to a begotten lover, separated by a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep." Ashbrook studied music in her hometown at Columbia College of Chicago and is finishing an EP to be released this fall.

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Modern Vices is also based out of Chicago. Their charming, noir aesthetic included dressing in late century suits, a few mates sporting moustaches and skinny ties, as well as antique equipment and a cult following that broke out into a mosh-pit behind a row of fans reaching hands out to the shirtless lead singer Alex Rebek and the rest of the devastatingly romantic group. Their sound mixes 50s rock n’ roll with grizzly notes of post-punk, and a great vocal range from the serious tones of Ian Curtis to the same insurrection as Mick Jagger. This group is truly worth seeing live. Their next show is on April 21st at The Empty Bottle.

 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

Photo by Kevin Allen 

 

Matthäus (Matt-a-us) is a new project based out of Chicago that consists of nine men, including one member who came all the way from St. Paul Minnesota, with 13 instrumentalists behind front man Ben Edward pushing the vision forward.

“He is a great guy, but I wouldn’t bring just anyone down here from St. Paul just because I like them,” Edward said of drummer Lars-Erik Larson. Edward claimed that Larson’s ability to fill in with the band despite the distance spoke volumes to Larson’s abilities and the talent of the whole group. From the audience’s perspective, Larson looked like no stranger to the group— often laughing and joking with band mates between songs while Edward addressed the audience. A lighthearted energy radiated from the entire band, complementary to their seemingly jam session style that made it easy for audience members to stomp their feet. However, these guys are no jam band.

Photo by Kevin Allen

Photo by Kevin Allen

Every member of Matthäus has been professionally trained in music, most in jazz, while Edward and Joe Meland, the keyboardist, have been trained in music composition. Their vast knowledge of music was displayed in their odd meters and their ability to establish rhythm then dissect strands of their 13 instrument ensemble into pleasing dissonant noise for non-noise-show-goers. Their style is like the skeletons of classical jazz with the dressings of indie folk, similar to artists such as Bon Iver and Neutral Milk Hotel. They also paid homage to their hometown within the albeit wide realms of their style with a cover of Sufjan Steven’s “Chicago." 

Alex Blomarz, who plays saxophone and clarinet in the group, claims the ability for the large group to be so easily in sync with one another is due to Edward’s songwriting and composition abilities. Edward writes the majority of the lyrics and shares composition responsibilities with Blomarz and Meland. While their music is complex and layered, showing off their incredible talent and well employed music education, Matthäus’ lyrics wade into relationships between human and nature, often carrying a sense of solitude and strength while contemplating freedom or celebrating whiskey, bringing their indie folk borderline Southern Rock vibe about.

Photo by Kevin Allen

Photo by Kevin Allen

Between their indie folk and Southern rock sounds combined with their classical music and jazz compositional background, it is safe to say that the big band encompasses quite an array of style under the flag of Matthäus. This attribute widens their palpability for audiences across the board. Matthäus will be taking a short recess to record and produce a new album that should be available when they return to the booking calendar this fall. Until then, find them on Facebook and Soundcloud.

 

The Magicians Of Music: Stardeath and White Dwarfs at The Subterranean

By Charlene Haparimwi

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

Sometimes, magic can be created by the simple mix of strong vocals, creative instrumentation and an energetic crowd. Magic was definitely created at last night’s Stardeath and White Dwarfs show in the downstairs of The Subterranean.

Seven o’clock rolls around, and the lights go down. The dimly lit room and small crowd are reminiscent of a basement punk show, with the intimate atmosphere and camaraderie between concert-goers being extremely apparent.

The first band to step onto the open stage is a Chicago local called Wellthen. The indie rock group dives into their first few songs, really hyping up the crowd with their layered music and groovy rhythms. One can hear their music pouring out of the Wicker Park venue’s doors, and many passersby stop for a few minutes to listen to the vivacious sounds.

Three songs in and the flannel-wearing lead singer, Aurelio Damiani, already has a light sheen of sweat on his expressive face, as the crowd gets into his melodic vocals. The diverse group of young adults in attendance, strangers huddling together like close friends, eagerly listen to their 25 minute set. The songs that are playing seem to draw some influence by bands like The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The closing number is a crowd pleaser and the band finishes to thunderous applause.

The other opening band, The Symposium, has happily watched Wellthen perform from the sidelines. They help the band move their equipment offstage before they begin to move their own setup, including the bass drum that is emblazoned with Nirvana’s smiley face logo. The members of The Symposium smile and laugh amongst themselves and with the crowd, showcasing their easygoing and charismatic nature. They have been making waves in the Chicago garage rock scene lately, catching the attention of Mario Cuomo of The Orwells via Twitter and Julian Casablancas’ label, Cult Records.

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

The Strokes-influenced quartet begins playing their first couple of songs, and though their nervousness is apparent, they soon warm up to the enamored crowd and play their hearts out. Charlie Gammill’s Mac Demarco-esque vocals and expert guitar playing is a great asset to the band’s live set. Bassist Benny Goetz’s heavy rhythms really keep the band in sync as is appreciated by all who listen to him. Once Gammill switched to playing keyboard, the band’s sound took a psychedelic turn that was intricate and easy to listen to. The crowd favorite was a slower ballad, which had the feel of a love song dipped in honey. The band members’ sheepish smiles and great interactions with the crowd made them a hit.

Their closing number, “The Cowboy” had a great build up of instrumentation for about 45 seconds before the vocals came in. It had a strong choral structure, and simple riffs with lyrics such as, “Blazing like a locomotive racing down a railroad track/and now you're facing the wrath of a man who wants his lady back.” They close their set and go back to mingling with the concert-goers as the headlining band, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, take some time to set up their elaborate layout.

During setup, the audience can see a smoke machine, a light show coming from a group of poles onstage, and rustic wooden basses and guitar decorate the 8 x 10 foot stage. Around 9 P.M. five gentlemen clad in Doc Martens and battered Converse step onto the stage. The long-haired lead singer is Dennis Coyne, nephew of Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne. He is wearing an “End War” T-shirt, a bold statement for a Veteran’s Day show.

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

Courtesy of Kevin Allen

Their sound is unique, and it can be described as the slightly delusional child of a progressive rock band, or even the rhythmic section of a grunge band. Stardeath and White Dwarfs have a heavy, full sound with stunning backing vocals and great use of equipment. These are the guys you wish you were in high school, oozing with nonchalant coolness and theatrical versatility in their songs. Watching this Oklahoma City-based band play was like watching basketball players on the court, each team member knowing the other so well that they can predict their moves before they even execute them.

Each member is an entity of life and energy, and this energy is easily transcended to the crowd. At first, their songs are played blaringly loud. The music hits the crowd like a barrage of sound, demanding they pay close attention. The sheer volume of the set and the light show alone made the crowd lose control, inducing a wet dream-like lobotomy of sorts. Once the band adopted a softer sound, their set became even more mesmerizing and electrifying. We moved through each song fluidly until they carried us safely to the shores of their final song.

Each band that played brought their own sense of energy, character, expertise and creativity to this show. And each were unique in their sound and personality, something that was not lost on the appreciative crowd. Wellthen, The Symposium and Stardeath and White Dwarfs brought magic to The Subterranean last night and left the audience in awe of this extraordinary show.

 

      A livestream of the entire show with all three bands that played on November 11th at The Subterranean can be viewed here: https://gigity.tv/event/109631/

Wellthen (an indie rock band from Chicago):          

Aurelio Damiani - Vocals, Guitar, Bass

Andrew Berlien - Guitar, Vocals

Matt Perich - Guitar, Bass, Vocals

Christian Fields - Drums, Keys, Vocals

https://wellthenmusic.bandcamp.com/releases

 

The Symposium (a garage rock band from Chicago):

Charlie Gammill-Vocals

Sam Clancy -Guitar

Benny Goetz -Bassist

Jamie –Drummer

http://www.vivalasymposium.com/

 

Stardeath and White Dwarfs (a freak rock band from Oklahoma City):

Dennis Coyne

Matt Duckworth

Casey Joseph

Ford Chastain

Tommy McKenzie

http://www.stardeathandwhitedwarfs.com/

You Know That You Make It Shine: Years & Years At Park West

by Ian Kerstetter

Courtesy of  @e.eyun  /Instagram

Courtesy of @e.eyun /Instagram

Walking into the hum and chic club lighting of the Park West theater, I remembered buying the tickets that were now in my hand with a sense of fruition. It had been, in a small way, an act of faith. When I saw the tour dates, I had been working all year towards moving to Chicago to start graduate school. Not sure where I would be when Years & Years would perform in Chicago on September 22nd, I decided to buy two tickets- one for me, as a way of trusting in my own plans, and another one, hoping and believing that I would have a friend to go with me.

Now, descending the stairs to the open dance floor with my roommate, I knew that it had been a risk worth taking. I had taken a small but significant step in what felt like the right direction. Surrounded by the anticipation of the crowd, I felt relief. The rush and emotions of the past few months had led to this moment, and many other moments to come. I was here, about to see the band that had gotten me through the last finals of my undergraduate career and kept me company on sleepless nights looking through apartment ads and finishing scholarship papers.

As the lights changed to red and the silhouette of frontman Olly Alexander materialized on stage, I felt an electric current run through the audience and remembered feeling a similar electricity the first time I heard Years & Years. They were sampled in “Magic Tape 40,” a mixtape I stumbled upon last spring by The Magician, a talented Belgian producer and DJ with an ear for infectious dance music across genres and decades that is catchy and light hearted without being vapid or desperate to get your attention, a description that could also be used to explain the appeal of Years & Years.

After deciding I needed to know what song had gotten stuck in my head for days after listening to the mixtape, I discovered “Real,” the group’s third single and arguably the song that lit the wildfire of attention that the band began receiving in 2014.

Since the success of “Real,” the UK band has seen more success with every release. BBC named them the Sound of 2015 last December, and the band was awarded Artist to Watch at the 2015 mtvU Woodie Awards back in March. Since then, they have been nominated for seven more awards.

Joining an ever-growing list of young artists making music for their own generation, Years & Years satisfies my cravings for danceable, polished pop; moody R&B; and bright indie electronica. They’d be just at home in a playlist with Drake as they would be with Purity Ring.

When I saw you on that stage

I shiver with the look you gave

Don't you hear that rhythm

Can you show me how we can escape...

But as Alexander emerged from the fog on stage to sing the opening lines of “Shelter,” I thought that perhaps my favorite thing about Years & Years are their lyrics. Their polished but still complex sound is enough to make me dance, but the poetry of their lyrics truly move me. Honest and emphatically emotional, the words the whole room was now singing along to strike the perfect balance between personal and universal to transmit truth the way that poetry does.

It's shaking the sky and I'm following lightning

I'll recover if you keep me alive...

This poetry, written by Olly Alexander who is open about his sexuality, also inspires me as a queer person. When Alexander confirmed that he identifies as gay earlier this year, I and queer boys across the world celebrated the confirmation of something we already felt was true. Alexander’s lyrics and music videos seem to speak from a gay perspective without being explicit about pronouns, and it is powerful and refreshing to celebrate music by a queer person without seeing that queerness tokenized or used as entertainment.

Alexander told The Downtowner when asked about how his identity affects his music, “I’m definitely writing from that perspective. There’s a choice when you write a song with how you talk about someone else. I watched Joni Mitchell do this interview where she said songwriting became easier when she started writing about ‘you and me.’”

Whenever I see a musician perform live, it’s impossible to not notice how they sound live. Sometimes, you can tell when an artist’s recorded work has been heavily altered, for better or worse– but this was not the case with Years & Years. When the band began the opening verses of “Take Shelter,” a song with a sultry, jazzy vibe that made it a perfect opener, I immediately recognized that the album recordings I had been listening to on repeat for the last several months were largely unaltered, a testament to the band’s talent and consistent sound. What their live performance offered that is different from their recordings was their passion and enthusiasm that is invisible on an album. Seeing Alexander dance and smile as if not yet used to the waves of adoration coming from the audience especially made me feel closer to the band.

Perhaps because Years & Years only has one full studio album out for us to listen to, the crowd (myself included) seemed to know most of the words to their songs. This made for a feeling of camaraderie that is missing in other big concerts I’ve been to, and the energy of the band felt closely connected to the pulsing, dancing crowd.

The show was an energetic, perfectly executed performance that the audience responded to with abandon. While secondary to the music, the lighting was another exciting detail, as the color and light seemed to reach out and connect the audience to the band on stage; a visible metaphor for the sound and emotions being shared by the people on and off stage.

I could tell Alexander was having fun too– the singer would periodically cover his mouth as if in shock at his first international tour, or perhaps excitement at so many people all in one room singing along with him. When opener Tei Shi came out for a duet during one song, he became her biggest hype boy. His humility among such new success was refreshing to see in a world of confident but sometimes cold pop artists, and I felt that I was seeing someone unfettered, unabashed, as if I was at a friend’s house show.

This simple, understated perspective in Alexander’s lyrics, the well-crafted music, set and lighting, seeing the band’s success being held up by media without tokenizing his identity, combined with being at their show surrounded by other joyful, creative queer people simply being, made the Years & Years show at Park West more than just a great show and a fun night. It was a moment of clarity and celebration of who I am and who I am striving to be. It was the conclusion to a long year of working and hoping. It was a night of feeling completely at home in a new city with a new friend. It made me glad I bought those tickets.

Hooligan Mag Meets Up With Oberhofer For A Sunset Walk And An Exclusive Interview

By Jacyee Rockhold

                                                                                                  Credit: Oberhofer/Stereogum               

                                                                                                  Credit: Oberhofer/Stereogum               

When Brad Oberhofer first introduces himself, it’s clear that he’s endearingly odd. Dressed in all black except for a faux fur coat, Oberhofer is standing in the middle of an empty venue, thanking the man working the sound board every time the band bursts into a song for sound check. He’s polite, eccentric, and it’s obvious he knows what he’s doing as he describes to a small group of us how to make a cheap amp from Guitar Center work like a charm.

Oberhofer, not only his last name but the name of his band, has been gracing the world with a mix of heart felt indie pop and surf rock since 2008. Before his energetic show at Schuba’s, he was able to go on a quick sunset walk with Hooligan.  

 

Q: Do you go into a different headspace for DIY shows versus playing in actual venues?    

A: The house shows have a built in audience because it’s people that have friends that put together the shows. The venue shows are like a little bit different, and you don’t know if people are going to come or not. It’s a little bit sketchier. A house show is usually smaller. You don’t have a lot of space to move and you don’t know how it sounds, but nobody really cares how it sounds if the songs are cool or if there’s at least something cool happening. Venue shows are really where everything you play is essentially naked. Everything can hear everything you’re playing.

 

Q: Do you prefer playing one over the other?

A: The show we played last time was sick. I don’t really know. For instance, my favorite show we’ve ever played in Chicago was at Lollapalooza. I love it when I have space to run around, but I like both for different reasons. I like playing house shows because I meet cool people who get my jokes and also make funny jokes, and don’t get offended when you’re sarcastic because they think it’s funny too. A lot of people at more commercialized shows don’t understand sarcasm and I can’t connect with them as easily. They get really offended when I try to make jokes, and I’m like, what’s offensive about jokes? I like both.

 

Q: Do you think studying composition at New York University helped you expand your music or did it prevent you from diving headfirst into music?  

A: I don’t really know honestly. I think being around other musicians and seeing how much more better and talented everyone else is than you is really inspiring and it helps you work harder. I learned a lot from peope. I took an electronic synthesis class. I got my first job in New York working for this venue called Market Hotel through my friend Rick in a class at NYU. There was one day me and Ryan from Colts were sitting on a couch together and I was like ‘I’m playing my first big show ever tonight’ and he was like ‘Me too’. We were both kind of having a big show, and we’re sitting there and he was opening for Sleigh Bells. Weird little things like that, and meeting cool people, and recording cools parts…There was one room at NYU that had a grand piano and no one knew about it and I could just go in there and crank the speakers and lock the door and just cry to music alone in a classroom that had a really nice view of Washington Square Park. I benefitted a lot from music store. It was sort of a place for me to retreat to.

 

Q: Did you drop out to go to music?

A: Yeah, we toured for a month and a half during the semester, so I missed a month and a half of school. I failed a class and I worked really hard and I made up the work and handed it in late, but I failed because of it.

 

Q: You recorded in four different places for this new album. Did the vibe for each recording change with the environment?

A: Every place had a totally different vibe. However, every place that I record in, I try to control the environment. When we recorded in Seattle with this guy named Phil Eck. He was the producer. There was no vagueness about it, he was the producer. We ended up scrapping that whole album. He’s awesome and he’s amazing at his job, but something about having someone else in charge was a little bit uncomfortable for me. We ended up redoing everything, recorded a lot of stuff alone in my apartment in New York, recorded a lot of stuff in my friend’s studio called Strange Weather in New York…We recorded four songs in LA called Sound City at Fairfax Recordings which is Nirvana and Fleetwood Mac and Neil Young recorded…We did the mixing in Atlanta with this guy named Ben Allen.

 

Q: What are you listening to right now?

A: I’ve been listening to nothing new. I just discovered this French impressionist composer and I’ve been listening to some of his music online. I’m obsessed with this guy named Maurice Ravel. He’s really fascinating and there’s not really that much information on him. There’s a lot of things he kept secret. A lot of composers sex lives were open, like their affairs, or their arguments with other composers, and Ravel was pretty secretive. There’s a lot there that nobody really knows about his personality.

 

Q: Was moving to New York from Seattle a big change?

A: I was going to school, and those differences don’t affect me at all. I’m me wherever I go, and that’s the only constant that matters. What does change me is like whether or not things seem to be going well. When I got to New York, things seemed to be going really well, and I was still in school and making new friends or whatever so it didn’t feel like much of a change.

 

Make sure to catch Oberhofer if you can, and pick up their newest album Chronovision, out October 9th, available here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/chronovision/id1002166342