The Year of Living Musically (Pt. 5) – Best Live Music Moments of 2014

The 2014 recap comes to an end with my attempted summation of the year I spent going to more live music than ever before. After the dust settled, I attended 111 shows that featured 257 bands. Now for the actuaries out there, my “show” accounting goes as follows: one “show” equals one event worth of live music. In other words, a single day of seeing multiple bands at Pitchfork counts as 1 show. However, I do keep a running tab of all the bands I saw over the year. Some acts I saw multiple times, such as the National (x4), Lucius (x3), Lydia Loveless (x3), Wilco (x3), but despite “repeats” it is fair to say that I saw at least 200 different bands last year. Not bad for these 37 year old bones that don’t get paid to go see bands or work in an industry that subsidizes my concert-going. While the volume might impress some, I am struck more by how many truly magical moments I experienced and to the wonderful company I had with me along way. (Thanks to all you crazy, lovely friends, who share in these adventures with me, especially the dance parties! You are special beyond words.) From tiny halls to outdoor festivals to historical theaters to overstuffed showcases, I had the amazing fortune to see some of the best musical minds of my generation (and those that came before and are coming up) perform. So here were my most memorable moments…

  • IMG_20140416_154441The National (w/ Daughter), April 15th at the Chicago Theatre – The opening night of the National’s four night sold-out residency at the Chicago Theater (I went to nights 2 and 3 as well) absolutely melted my rock n roll heart. No band packs their live performance with depth of emotion and dynamism like these gents from Ohio. I had the amazing fortune of being 7th row center and having an intimate experience with a band that plays to arena-sized crowds. Crowd pleasers like “Mr. November”, “Fake Empire”, and “Sea of Love” always get me going but the epic majesty of “Terrible Love” or the acoustic sing-along “Vaderlyle Crybaby Geeks” that have become staple show-closers are what soothe my soul.
  • IMG_20141008_224107Lucius, August 2nd at Lincoln Hall and October 8th at the Metro – Nobody knows how loud my heart gets when I hear this band. I absolutely fell in love (all over again) with this band in 2014. It is a thing of utter joy to watch these five folks perform on stage and to hear Jess and Holly’s mesmerizing harmonies on “Don’t Just Sit There” or “Two of Us on the Run”. Or, to watch them get worked up and dance with the crowd and crowd-surf on their backs while singing!?! Oh, and at the Metro show, Jeff Tweedy came out and performed an acoustic version of “Jesus, Etc.” with Jess and Holly on backing vocals (#swoon). It is hard to top that. Well maybe my making their way into the center of the crowd and closing with acoustic sing-alongs. Yeah, they are a treasure.
  • IMG_20140914_094532The Get Up Kids, September 13th at Riot Fest – Matt Pryor and company played all of Something to Write Home About to a crowd of kids that had likely Sharpie-d or tattooed every line of that record on to their adolescent skin. The entire crowd was scream-singing at the top of their lungs with fists in the air to every single moment. And, for a brief 40 minutes, it was as though everything was right with the world.
  • IMG_20140719_090901Sharon Van Etten, July 18th at Pitchfork – It is the rare moment when a songwriter can bear their soul and heart in front of thousands of eager festival attendees in broad daylight and have everyone quiet and attentive. Sharon and her band absolutely owned a Festival filled with artistic giants by doing what is most essential: making us listen.
  • Weezer, September 14th at Riot Fest – For all my disappointment with this band’s work since the Green Album, hearing Rivers playing the Blue Album from start to finish was another moment of having your youth injected back into your soul. From the angst of “My Name is Jonas” to the dreamy pining of “Only in Dreams”, all us 30 something aging rock/hipsters relived our heartaches and our first loves through a raucous sea of nostalgic bliss.
  • IMG_20140907_000753IMG_20140907_001710Sylvan Esso & the War on Drugs, September 6th at the Hideout Block Party – The Hideout Block Party is far and away my favorite Chicago festival because it has the feeling of community and home. Sylvan Esso wooed us by day and War on Drugs wowed us at night. For those unfamiliar, the Hideout Block Party tends to be more rock and country, yet Sylvan Esso got the day drinking crowd grooving with their sumptuous and sultry beats. Their live rendition of “Coffee” floored me. 2014 was the year of the War on Drugs, the band. Set against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline, these guys played a guitar jam infused show that made your remember why you love rock and roll and evoked a timeless quality.
  • Moments I never thought would happen at Riot Fest Days 2 and 3, September 12th and 13th – Seeing Patti Smith play “Because the Night” (dedicating it to her late husband Fred Sonic Smith of the MC5), Television play “Marquee Moon”, Billy Bragg play “New England”, and the Afghan Whigs play songs from n
  • IMG_20140721_095727Perfect Pussy, July 20th at Pitchfork – A blistering, non-stop, nothing-left-behind, bullet of a set with Meredith Graves pouring every ounce of her soul and heart into the songs. It was sweaty and tear-filled. This is how every punk rock show should feel.
  • The Front Bottoms and You Blew It!, July 11th at Concord Music Hall – …and speaking of energy.  Watching the kids (because it was an all-ages show) screaming back every single word of the punk/emo tinged rock of these two bands was life-affirming. I’m happy to know that teenagers can still rock out and scream at shows without having their phones in the air and appreciating the immediacy of the moment.
  • IMG_20141107_161221The Flat Five, November 6th at the Hideout – One of the most talented, joy-bringing, mirth-making collection of artists I have ever seen perform, and, thankfully I see them quite often. The five members of the band, which includes Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor, play in and around Chicago in many different permutations. This project is devoted to singing old pop classics and standards from your parent’s day. The songs may at times sound silly and simple (remember we lived in a more “nuanced” world back then) but they are filled with such wonder and joy.  If you live in Chicago, watching them perform is a must.
  • wilcoWilco, December 8th, 9th, and 11th at the Riviera – Speaking of Chicago based bands…. I again had the good fortune to see these guys play on multiple occasions this year. Watching them is utter joy. They are masterful musicians in every sense of the word and love playing and giving their hearts and soul to their fans. I can’t pick one night because each had its brilliant moments of digging back into their archives with new arrangements (e.g., an acoustic “Misunderstood” or a punk infused “Passenger Side”) or playing deeper less heard cuts (e.g., “Poor Places”, “Reservations”, etc.) and outtakes from 20 years of brilliant music making.
  • IMG_20140426_130659Lydia Loveless, April 25th and 27th at Schubas – I love a good country rock song and I adore female fronted bands. Two nights of whiskey and romance-infused rock songs with this young woman and her ferocious band nearly did me in, in the best way possible. Lydia’s songs are filled with raw and unabashed desire and yearning that will speak to every broken-hearted, pining, and hopeless romantic in the house. And, her covers of “The Killing Moon” and Ke$ha’s “Blind” were awesome.
  • IMG_20140504_234734Angel Olsen at Lincoln Hall, May 5th – Every time I see Angel perform it feels like an otherworldly experience. With a voice that will both intoxicate and haunt, her songs are confessions, indictments, reckonings, and ruminations of this mysterious and perplexing existence we lead.
  • IMG_20141026_013449Ex-Hex, October 25th at the Empty Bottle – These ladies simply put on the best adrenaline infused guitar rock show from start to finish of the whole year.
  • American Football with Braid, December 30th at Bottom Lounge – The last show of the year and possibly the most “beautiful” show too. Despite only one album to their name and nearly a decade and a half of dormancy, American Football packed the Bottom Lounge with “older kids” intoning every sing line of their album, a delicate and gorgeous collection of songs about growing up and ebbs and flow of love.

…and I couldn’t leave out these amazing shows too

  • Lykke Li at Lollapalooza, August 1st
  • St. Vincent at the Riviera, April 5th
  • The Hotelier at Township, March 15th
  • Neutral Milk Hotel at the Riviera, February 6th
  • Phox at Lincoln Hall, August 9th
  • Mutual Benefit at Brooklyn Vegan Party (SXSW), March 13th
  • Anthony Saint at Schubas, August 26th
  • Tycho at Concord Music Hall, April 10th
  • Waxahatchee at Empty Bottle, April 26th
  • Neko Case at Chicago Theater, May 13th
  • Chvrches at the Vic, July 31st
  • Cloud Nothings at Pitchfork Day 2, July 19th
  • Jon Hopkins at Pitchfork Day 3, July 20th
  • Blood Orange at Lollapalooza, August 1st
  • San Fermin at Lollapalooza, August 1st
  • First Aid Kit @ the Vic, November 22nd
  • James Vincent McMorrow at Lincoln Hall, March 27th

…and if you really want to see a list of all the shows, well here it is:

IMG_0135 IMG_0136 IMG_0137 IMG_0138 IMG_0139

And to all my friends that joined me at shows, to the bands I watched and chatted with after their performances, to the strangers I geeked out over music with or with whom I danced, to the young woman at Lolla that called me the best fan ever, to Chicago, and to all the faithful and kind readers, don’t ever forget…


yours in music,


Chi-Live Music Fall Preview: Shows to Warm the Body and Soul as the Weather Heads South

I spent a summer wasting…”* my time at rocks shows that morphed into dance parties, watching the young minds of another generation relishing, gyrating, and breathing in the beats and rhythms of indie, punk, pop, dance, electronic (and sundry other eclectic styles) music’s past, present, and future. It was totally life-affirming. Despite seeing more live shows than ever (77 shows and counting), I’ve yet to tire of the experience and euphoria. #therewillbeplentyoftimeforsleepinglater

Highlights?  So many but to name a few…

  • Watching the ladies (and gents) of Lucius embrace a late night crowd, wooing us with their harmonies, impressing us with their backwards crowd surfing duet, and serenading us with an intimate acoustic set. They didn’t need to steal any hearts, we gave them willingly. 
  • Sharon Van Etten on a sun-drenched Friday afternoon at Pitchfork bearing her deeply intimate songs and weaving a magical spell on a crowd of attentive and thankful listeners.
  • Lykke Li whose onslaught of dense, layered pop and flair for the dramatic put to shame (for this listener) the headlining efforts of Eminem and Arctic Monkeys who despite the billing felt dated and sleepy.
  • Watching The Front Bottoms bring a room of 500 teens and 20-somethings to feverishly sing and shake with every note; confirming that the kids still love rock n roll.
  • Angel Olsen returning to Chicago casting us in her gorgeous dream-like world.
  • The National (as always) getting the entire crowd at the Chicago Theater revved up with fists in the air, voices to the wind, and reminding me that they are the best live act out there.

Despite this pleasing past as prologue, the Fall offers some equally grand potential. See the list below. I’ll definitely be at the “Purple Bold” ones but strongly considering all other dates. Feel free to make me join you for more…



26th – Anthony Saint and the Downers @ Schubas

27th – the Lemons at Empty Bottle

29– 30 – North Coast Music Festival at Union Park



4th – Owen Pallet at the Metro. 

5th – Hideout Block Party Day 1 w/ Death Cab For Cutie & Hamilton Leithauser (from the Walkmen)

6th – Hideout Block Party Day 2 w/ War on Drugs, Dismemberment Plan, Marc DeMarco, Sylvan Esso, Valerie June, etc.

12th – Riot Fest Day 1 w/ Jane’s Addiction, Pussy Riot, NOFX, Gogol Bordello, Pity Sex, The Hotelier . . .

13th – Riot Fest Day 2 w/ The National, Flaming Lips, Wu-Tang, Taking Back Sunday, Get Up Kids, The Afghan Whigs, Dashboard Confessional, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, The Orwells, The World is a Beautiful Place…, Lemuria

14th – Riot Fest Day 3 w/ The Cure, Weezer, Tegan and Sara, Patti Smith, Superchunk, Billy Bragg, The Hold Steady, Lucero, Kurt Vile, The Front Bottoms, Dads….

16th – Spoon and EMA at Chicago Theater

19th – Bonobo (DJ Set) at Metro

21st – Andy Stott an Demetre Stare at Thalia Hall

23rd – Justin Townes Earle at the Vic or Ty Segall and La Luz at Thalia Hall

25th – Slow Club at Schubas



5th – Tennis & Pure Bathing Culture at Lincoln Hall

6th – Buke & Gase at Empty Bottle

7th – Banks at the Metro

8th – Lucius at the Metro

10th – Sharon Van Etten with Tiny Ruins at Thalia Hall

13th – Charli XCX at Lincoln Hall

16th – Foxygen at Lincoln Hall or Ryan Adams at Chicago Theater

22nd – Tune Yards at the Riv

25th – Rhye at the Vic or Speedy Ortiz at the Empty Bottle

27th – Courtney Barnett & San Fermin at the Metro

30th – St. Paul and The Broken Bones



2nd – Alt-J at the Riv

13th – FKA Twigs at the Metro 

14th – Peter Hook at the Metro

21st – Stars at the Vic

22nd – First Aid Kit at the Vic

28th – Lydia Loveless at Lincoln Hall


See you at the venue!

PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Un-Abridged)

A tradition unlike any other… the Pitchfork Music Festival (Chicago) Primer


It has been awhile since my last musical missive. Why? Did I stop listening? Turn away from the sound?  Find my way into some ostensibly more mature passion, like wine or crotchet? No. Nothing of the sort. If anything, 2014 has been the year most filled with juvenilia and regression to adolescence than ever before. Perhaps attending too many rock shows (62 to date) combined with needing to maintain some semblance of a sensible work/life balance and sleep has cut into my writing.  Scratch that… it most definitely has. The nerdy music obsessive gene has not left the body; it’s just strolling around the venues rather than on the interwebs. Hopefully this will mark a return to form. But, let’s cut to the core.

Pitchfork Music Festival begins today (tomorrow as of this writing but when you read…) and the lineup is filled with an exciting array of acts from legends of my youth (e.g., Beck and Neutral Milk Hotel) to the next generation of musical visionaries (e.g., St. Vincent and Tune-Yards). Pitchfork’s annual festival has always been one of my summer highlights. In three music-and-sun-drenched days, you can legitimately see almost every performer on a bill that spans a wide range of upcoming musicians and heroes of yesteryear from almost every genre (indie to hip hop to electronic to experimental/indie electronic/[fill-in-the-genre) and there will always be at least a couple of killer dance party worthy moments (e.g., LCD, Robyn, Major Lazer, Cut Copy, B&S, MIA, to name a few…). Okay enough with the extended-LP intro… here is what I’m excited about by day, hour, and (stage). (For a condensed/abridged version of this go here.) (For the full lineup go here.)

But, while you read listen to this playlist as prep: PitchforkFest 2014 (Playlist)

Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

I saw HW open for Julia Holter a couple of years back at Schubas and they blew me away.  And, their newest record. The Moon Rang Like a Bell, is easily one of my ten favorite records of 2014. It is a sensual embrace of angelic vocals and lush electronic compositions. This should be a moment of afternoon beauty.

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

After one listen, I was totally entranced.

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

Sharon Van Etten’s music will to the attentive ear cut you to the quick. She speaks the emotional truths and questions we all contemplate in our search for understanding and meaningfulness. Her voice has the haunting beauty that will lull you to a euphoric reverie. And, she’s got an amazingly endearing stage presence. Don’t Miss!

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

…aka Mark Kozelek. His music I’ll admit is an acquired taste. It is a mix of storytelling and/or speak singing monologues over Lo-Fi folk-rock (think Neil Young but more poignant). SKM tell darkly comedic and disarmingly heartfelt stories from Mark’s personal life and observations of the world.

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

El Perdidor!  To be honest, I want to hear Beck play Morning Phase, his new record, from start to finish.  It is just that amazing and gorgeous of a record.  But, he won’t do that because many folks will want to hear the songs from Odelay and Midnight Vultures, admittedly not my favorite albums, and he should because life-long fans deserve that.  Regardless of what he plays, he is such a brilliantly talented musician and I’ll just sit or perhaps lay and revel in awe at the quirky and odd mix of mellow and psych folk mixed with soul and disco that he has cobbled together over the years.

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk song of same name  (and arguably a lot of what they did/do).

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

I saw her at the Moog Showcase at SXSW and was pleasantly surprised. She combines a Grimes experimental groove vibe with an M.I.A. like presence.

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

Get ready for some fist pumping and adrenaline churning punk infused indie rock! If there is any band that has found the way to channel and replicate the unique sub/urban-ennui punk and indie-rock/pop sensibilities of the Replacements, Cloud Nothings is my pick. There are angsty dirges, anthemic epiphanies, and heart-on-sleeve proclamations throughout, which is basically what growing up feels like.

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

The Range’s Nonfiction was one of the most exciting revelations of 2013. His music is a throwback to the early days of electronic dance music that is filled with rich, intricately layered grooves and samples.  Another performer I saw at SXSW, who totally captivated me.  Plus, post set, we chatted and he is a really smart and genuine dude.  Check him out!

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

Dance party alert!!! Merrill Garbus writes with a keen, critical, and comical vibrancy. Her music exudes life and energy and will infect even the dourest of listener.  While you groove to the beats listen to her keen wit.

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The mirthful and quirky maestro of Detroit descends on the Chi. XXX was the first rap record in years that completely captivated me. His rhymes float and flutter with a lyrical ease and his beat will keep you grinding.

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

There are talented artists and their next level visionaries. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) is the latter. Perhaps her art and commentary fly over the heads of many (see post SNL internet comments), but her self-titled 2014 album is on another level of genius (which is not to say her previous records weren’t great, which they were, see Strange Mercy).  But does her “art-rock” translate?  Hell, yeah.  I saw her perform earlier this year and it was a truly brilliant orchestrated piece of stage craft that blended authentic and carefully styled thematic tableaux.  In St. Vincent you will trust.


8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

For a generation of kids, NMH was “the band that got away”. We heard them as they were hitting their stride and then they disappeared.  It was young geek love lost. In the Aeroplane Over Sea is a masterpiece of dream-like hallucinatory imagery and heart-wrenching emotional brutalism. Jeff Mangum is a mystical poet and his return is a delight to all us geeks and weirdos that believe life is filled with every day magic.


Also worth checking out: The Field @ 615 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

Ahh… such a struggle!  I’m going to see MB because they sport a multi-member band of exceptional musicians with angelic vocals that play mesmerizing melodies. Prepare to be seduced by sirens…  But if you want to start your day with an adrenaline kick, Speedy Ortiz are just the musical hair-of-the-dog your mind/body ordered.

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

DIIV (pronounced “Dive”) blend the melodic Brit-Pop of the Stone Roses with the sprawling expansive Shoegazer rock of Slowdive (see below).  Although on record they sound precise and composed, their live set is dynamic.

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

I saw maybe three minutes of these guys at SXSW and found that aural amuse-bouche electrifying. They are loud, brash, aggressive, and captivating.  Yes please!  Don’t get there late or you’ll miss their set.

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

These ladies spin dark-black seductive dreams with hints of new wave, 60s girl group pop, and Smiths-like ecstatic dreariness. For those with a penchant for (David)Lynch-esque moments of devilish anachronism, check out the Dum Dums and their spellbinding sounds. I will swoon if they play “Trouble Is My Name.”  Is it your name too?

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

JH is a phenomenal electronic composer that produces pieces that go from folk-tinged meditations to floor thumping bangers.

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

Their sound is evocative of a West Coast surfer/slacker rock with the pleasant and mirth inducing whirl-in-the-grass jangle pop perfect for a summer festival.

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

Yes!!! The band that to me epitomizes Shoegazer…. extended jams of ethereal and distortion-laced soundscapes. Sit back and take in the sprawling “wall of sound” that Slowdive weave… The Return of the Shoegazer Kings! Reclaiming the sound that has bred so many disciples.

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

Another… Dance Party Alert. Finally!!! I’ve been dying to see Claire Boucher for way too long and keep missing her when she passes through Chicago. Her blend of experimental upbeat electronic jams and performance art –like compositions get the body grooving and the mind wandering. #theperfectblend

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

The good kid brings his backseat freestyle to the W.I.N.D.Y. city.  Start up that Maserati…   End of the fest/night smooth beat and grooves to relish and remember three days of musical brilliance. #dontkillmyvibe

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage or Majical Cloudz @5:45 at Blue Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,


p.s. Aftershows?  Seriously?  Okay…

  • Friday Bottom Lounge – Deafhaven, Perfect Pussy, Pink Frost;
  • Saturday Bottom Lounge – Dum Dum Girls, Ex Hex, and Speedy Ortiz
  • Sunday Lincoln Hall – Majical Cloudz and Hundred Waters
  • If you can get in… DIIV at Empty Bottle Friday (currently sold out) or Cloud Nothings at Schubas, Friday (also sold out).

PitchforkFest 2014: A Primer (Abridged)

…for those with a short attention span or who prefer not to read extensive ruminations, an abridged version of the bands/performers to catch at Pitchfork 2014. (Or, if you need to find me this is where I’ll be…)

And a playlist: PitchforkFest 2014


Friday, July 18th

3:30 – Hundred Water (Red) (Indie-Experimental Electronic)

4:15 – Factory Floor (Blue) (Electronic-Downtempo)

5:30 – Sharon Van Etten (Red) (Indie)

6:25 – Sun Kil Moon (Green) (Lo-Fi Folk-Rock)

8:30 – Beck (Green) (Genre-Potpourri)

Also worth checking out: Haxan Cloak @ 5:14 (Blue) – Meditative and introspective downtempo; Giorgio Moroder @ 7:20 (Red) – the 70s Dance/Disco avant-garde composer that inspired the Daft Punk of same name.

Saturday, July 19th

2:50 – Empress Of (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

3:20 – Cloud Nothings (Red) (Punk/Indie Rock)

4:45 – The Range (Blue) (Electronic/Dance)

5:15 – Tune-Yards (Red) (Dance/Indie-Folk)

6:15 – Danny Brown (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

7:25 – St. Vincent (Red) (Baroque Indie)

8:30 – Neutral Milk Hotel (Green) (Psych-Folk-Indie)

Also worth checking out: The Field @ 6:15 (Blue) (Chill-Downtempo-Electronic)

Sunday, July 20th (aka marathon day)

1:00 – Mutual Benefit (Green) (Folk) or Speedy Ortiz (Blue) (Indie-Punk)

1:45 – DIIV (Red) (Indie-Shoegazer)

1:55 – Perfect Pussy (Punk/Hardcore)

3:45 – Dum Dum Girls (Blue) (Dream Pop)

4:45 – Jon Hopkins (Blue) (Dance-Electronic)

5:15 – Real Estate (Red) (Jangle Pop)

6:15 – Slowdive (Green) (Ur-Shoegazer)

7:25 – Grimes (Red) (Experimental Electronic)

8:30 – Kendrick Lamar (Green) (Rap/Hip-Hop)

Also worth checking out: Earl Sweathshirt at 3:20 at Red Stage or Schoolboy Q at 4:15 at Green Stage.

…can’t believe how strange it is to be anything at all. – Jeff Mangum

Over and out,


Never Too Old To Dance – Winter/Spring 2014 Concert List (aka Dance Card)

headphonessavemylifeWhat? Is a little cold weather slowing your two step? I hope not. Well, if you are in Chicago, you know this City never really stops. We may sleep but we work through the frost and polar winds. Double digit negatives are nothing. In the words of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard, “I don’t mind the weather, I’ve got scarves and caps and sweaters.”

Now, if you really want to build up that inner heat without the extra layers (or doing some yoga but that’s cool too), I recommend getting the blood pumping by shaking those hips, pumping those fists, and moving those legs on the dance floor.  Or perhaps sharing your body warmth with one, two or twenty strangers in a tightly packed, sweaty music venue near you.  

In case, you need some suggestions on what and/or who to see, here you go. These are shows which I’m excited about. It’s not exhaustive so if i missed something, please, please let me know. I’m not musically omniscient. A bit clairvoyant but certainly fallible. …These are only for Chicago, but if the band is referenced here they are likely on tour so check out their site for a tour date near you.  

…and yes I do sleep.  but not much.  see you at the front of the house!

(legend… bold = definitely attending; italics = very likely attending;  hyperlinks for venues; thoughts for giggles)



  • Mar. 1st – Into It. Over It. @ Bottom Lounge
    • Emo-Alert!!!
  • Mar. 1st – Broken Bells & Au Revoir Simone @ the Vic
    • I’d go for ARS; BB put me to sleep last time
  • Mar. 7th – Classixx @ Double Door
    • Dance Party!!!
  • Mar. 13th –16th – I’ll be in Austin, Texas for SXSW… you guys will have to find your own shows for that weekend J
  • Mar. 18th – Lorde @ the Aragon
    • she’s lovely, the venue is awful…i’m kind of over going to all ages shows, be prepared to fight the young ones for a good view
  • Mar. 21st – So Many Dynamos @ Township
  • Mar. 23rd – The War on Drugs @ the Metro
  • Mar. 26th – Future Islands @ Lincoln Hall
  • Mar. 27th – James Vincent McMorrow @ Lincoln Hall
    • soulful, swooning, epic, engrossing vocals to soothe your soul
  • Mar. 27th – Real Estate @ the Metro
  • Mar. 28th – Warpaint with Cate Le Bon @ the Metro
  • Mar. 29th – Shearwater @ The Empty Bottle
  • Mar. 31st – Dum Dum Girls @ The Empty Bottle
    • Swoon… if they play “There is A Light…” I can die happy.



  • May 7th – Woods @ Subterranean
  • May 9th – The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo) @ the Metro
  • May 13th – Neko Case @ the Chicago Theater
    • The lovely mesmerizing voice of Neko, great acoustics and Kelly Hogan?  Does it get any better?
  • May 16th – Mogwai @ the Vic
  • May 17th – Haim @ the Riviera (sold out)
    • These girls rock


One day????

  • The Smiths… I wish.


2013 Pitchfork Primer – Youth Be Served, But Respect Your Elders

… it’s the freakin’ weekend baby, ‘m ’bout to have me some fun.  -r.kelly

20130710_pitchfork_91Yeah, it’s that time of year again.  Pitchfork’s showcase of young emerging artists blended with a nod to indie stalwarts and heroes of yesteryear.  Maybe more so than any year, the 2013 Pitchfork Festival illustrates the increased diversification and expansion of the indie online-periodical’s musical breadth.  Is this a good thing?  There are those who might claim Pitchfork has reached into realms outside its “proper reach” or beyond  the quirky, fan-boy zealotry for weirdo and curio bands, but I don’t know if I agree.  Music has right to all its children and over time tastes and predilections change.  But enough of that stuff, we can discuss this on the grass at Union Park.  In the meantime, some rather serious business is at hand.  Who should you go see at the Festival?  I’ll admit my unabashed school-boy enthusiasm to see Bjork for the first time after 20 years of hearing her on headphones.  Also, I can;t wait to see Stuart and co., aka Belle & Sebastian (or as my friend PG once dubbed them the Buena Vista Scottish Club) dance mirthfully dancing around on stage with that 60s baroque pop charm of theirs.  Or the grizzled vets like The Breeders (last time I saw them was in 1993!), Yo La Tengo, or Low, all of whom have made music for some time (ok Kim Deal and co. took some time off).  But, those guys you know….

What about the rest of the field?  I’ve got some suggestions (Don’t I always?).  Also for more details go to

Well, here are the 10 bands that I’m most eager to see:

Read below or listen along here:  Pitchkfork 2013 Primer: A Playlist

*(I recommend playing on shuffle)

Waxahatchee (Sunday 3:45 – Blue) – Katie Crutchfield’s work as Waxahatchee is a rare thing.  At one moment, it delivers a crushing blow to the gut with its lyrical sincerity and then evokes a euphoric impassioned angst the next minute.  In 2013, Katie (an Alabama native) has given us Cerulean Salt, my favorite 2013 record to date, a record that alternates between muzzled pop harmonies and raw-lo-fi punk-y folk/roots rock.  To the former, layer in Katie Crutchfield’s piercing and pleasing vocals and you have the perfect roller coaster ride of emotions to get you rolling around.

Angel Olsen (Friday 5:15 – Blue) – One of the most beautiful and captivating singers and songwriters I’ve heard in a long time.  I caught her sold out set at the Hideout (a small intimate corner of the world) in February and it was spellbinding.  Her sound is rooted in a/n America/na that is magical, otherworldly, and, at times, brutal and sad, yet authentic and redeeming, leaving you wanting more. 

Solange (Saturday 7:25 – Red) – Beyonce’s little sister certainly has the soul and voice to wow like her sister but she tends towards the slower grooves with a decidedly late 80s/early 90s pop R&B vibe.  Grab a girl or a boy and head over for a chill dance party break for the evening. . .

Savages (Saturday 4:15 – Green) –These English proto/post-punk rockers are loud, fast, and aggressive combing a little of the dark, relentless drone of Joy Division with the dance-like sensibility of Gang of Four but fronted by a Patti Smith sounding lead singer.  From all accounts they put on one of the best live shows.  I can’t wait! Note:  Bring earplugs and avoid the front (some slam-dancing likely)

Foxygen (Sunday 1:45 – Red) – The duo known as Foxygen come from another time or perhaps a world where time doesn’t exist because their music is rooted in a surreal past blending psychedelia and blues in such a pleasing way you wonder if you are dreaming.  Having seen them perform at Lincoln Hall earlier this year, I can tell you these gents are talented and brilliant live when they are on.  About half way through their set that night something was off and watching them deal with imperfection was a sight to behold.  For the flower-power kids this is your chance to spin and whirl like dervishes.  Drop in and tune out, man.

Autre Ne Veut  (Sunday 1:55 – Blue) – Another opportunity for grooving to some pleasant pop R&B.  Don’t worry.  You don’t need to get too low, move too fast, or juke for this kind of music.  It’s more of the close your eyes and just let Autre Ne Veut’s Prince-like falsetto serenade you and guide you through the early afternoon.

Julia Holter (Saturday 1:55 – Blue) – What does walking into a dream feel like?  For me the music of LA based experimental pop artist Julia Holter is just that.  Gorgeous gossamer layers of baroque pop juxtaposed with sparse classical-like compositions will get you floating into. . .

Chairlift (Sunday 5:45 – Blue) – Many people complain about 80s synth-based dance music.  I don’t understand what is wrong with them.  Perhaps they just dislike fun.  Chairlift’s sound is ecstatic, energetic, emotional, and ebullient, bursting through 808s or moogs, entreating you to let go and dance with abandon.  How can you resist?

Phosphorescent (Saturday 2:30 – Green) – Nestled somewhere between the languid and expansive rock of Joshua Tree era U2 and the southwestern flair of Calexico, Alabama native (that is two if you are counting at home) Matthew Houck’s music is reverie inducing and the perfect way to let the week and the world melt away.

Andy Stott (Saturday 7:45 – Blue) –Downtempo electronic music is still somewhat under-appreciated in the U.S.  People are never quite sure what to do with or how to move to it; at times it has a film soundtrack quality and at other times it seems almost sleep-inducing.  Watching English DJ Andy Stott spin could help ameliorate this problem.  His work is layered with pregnant beats and an unrelenting bass groove that keeps one constantly at attention.  By evening’s end you’ll likely find your shoulders and hips shaking. (Stream here on YouTube)

…and yes there is so, so much more and very talented artists I’ve missed, but that is what I’d recommend and will be prioritizing.  However if you want to see my full dance card day by day (which always makes me think of Godspell #musicaltheatregeek) see below.  Note: Bold denotes my can’t miss; Italics are also recommended.


3:20 Frankie Rose (BLUE) (Dream Pop)

4:35 Mac DeMarco (GREEN) (Folk Rock)

5:15 Angel Olsen (BLUE) (Americana Folk)

5:30 Woods (RED) (Neo Folk/Surf Rock)

6:15 Mikal Cronin (BLUE) (Pop/Surf Rock)

8:30 Björk (GREEN) (Sui Generis)



1:55 Julia Holter (BLUE) (Dream Pop)

2:30 Phosphorescent (GREEN) (Neo Folk)

2:50 Parquet Courts (BLUE) (Punk)

3:20 …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (RED) (Rock)

4:15 Savages (GREEN) (Post Punk)

6:15 The Breeders play Last Splash (GREEN) (Baroque Pop)

6:45 Low (BLUE) (Baroque Indie Rock)

7:25 Solange (RED) (Pop R&B)

7:45 Andy Stott (BLUE) (Downtempo/Electornic)

8:30 Belle & Sebastian (GREEN) (Baroque Pop)



1:00 DJ Rashad (BLUE)(Hip Hop)

1:45 Foxygen (RED) (Psychedelic)

1:55 Autre Ne Veut (BLUE) (R&B)

2:50 Blood Orange (BLUE) (R&B)

3:45 Waxahatchee (BLUE) (Folk/Punk/Lo-Fi Rock)

4:15 Yo La Tengo (GREEN) (Baroque Indie)

4:45 Sky Ferreira (BLUE)(Pop)

5:45 Chairlift (BLUE)(Indie/Baroque Pop)

7:25 M.I.A. (RED)(Hip Hop/R&B)

8:30 R. Kelly (GREEN) (Hip Hop/R&B)


Bounce, bounce…. 



SHOWS!!! – Tomorrow Never Knows 2013

Although it is winter in the Windy City, the music never stops. Starting tomorrow, the Tomorrow Never Knows (“TNK”) festival will continue its tradition of bringing great bands and artists on the rise (e.g., Father John Misty (!!!), Jessie Ware, Niki & the Dove, the Orwells, Wild Belle) mixed with some old favorites (e.g., The Walkmen, Lucero, Urge Overkill). In addition, this year there will be a live taping of The Low Times Podcast (with Tom Sharpling) featuring Steve Albini (of Big Black and producer of the Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, Nirvana’s In Utero, Cloud Nothings’ Attack on Memory, and many more) at the Hideout, which should be a really interesting evening/discussion.

For those who have yet to purchase tickets to the shows, the good news is that there are still plenty of chances to see some great new bands in some fabulous and intimate locations like Lincoln Hall, Schubas, and The Hideout; the Vic and the Metro are also in the mix but they are bigger venues although no less exquisite.

For more information on all the bands, dates, locations and to purchase tickets go to:

Unfortunately, some shows are already sold out but this shouldn’t deter you as there are always people who will falter at the last-minute so check on Craigslist or if you are willing you can still buy a five-day pass (but it comes at a hefty $100 price tag) here.

For those who are planning to go or on the fence, I’ve put together a playlist sampler of the bands I am eager to see as well as those who are worth checking out, including The Walkmen, Father John Misty, Niki & the Dove, Lucero, The Orwells, Freelance Whales, Hundred Waters and more.

Click on Tomorrow Never Knows 2013 to hear the music.

Note: I haven’t included all 50+ bands & DJs, just a handful.

Also, check out the TNK playlist via their website here.

I’ll see you at the venues!