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Red Bull 30 Days in Chicago: Daniel Caesar

Daniel Caesar with SiR and Cherrie at Reggies Rock Club

Write-up and Photos by Michael del Rosario

 

On Monday, Nov. 20, rising star Daniel Caesar brought his growing catalog of gospel-infused soul ballads to Reggies Rock Club in Chicago’s South Loop. The sold-out show was part of Red Bull Sound Select’s 30 Days in Chicago, an ongoing concert series that has hosted a roster of artists in high demand this November.

Caesar has had a breakout year, dropping his debut studio album Freudian in August and getting pegged as one of Apple Music’s Up Next artists. Hailing from Toronto, Caesar has started to build worldwide appeal by fulfilling a largely unoccupied niche for crooning RnB with inflections of gospel music. Freudian possesses universal appeal; it could be a hit on your local top 40 radio station, be a slow jam for your date night or be the soundtrack to your long drive home.

I get off at the Chinatown red-line stop, a short walk away from Reggies. It’s cold. Like really cold outside. When I arrive at the venue, I’m surprised to find only 6 other people in front of me waiting. I almost second guess if I’m at the right location until I see the glowing neon-blue sign that Red Bull has put up in front of the entrance to Reggies.

It’s 6:30 and the doors are supposed to open at 7. Where is everyone? A representative from Red Bull pokes her head out of the entryway and announces that doors are actually opening at 8. Did I mention it’s cold? There’s a shared groan of disappointment from everyone in line, dreading another hour outside in the 30-degree weather and the continual brisk, face-slapping gusts of wind.
As the line grows to around 30 people and the clock nears closer to 8, it becomes hard to ignore the fact that nearly everyone here is with a significant other. Confined to the outer walls of Reggies and snaking down a small stretch of sidewalk on State street, couples brace the winter chill together, sharing headphones, faces illuminated by phone screens to pass the time.

It only seems right that you go see Daniel Caesar with your boo. Freudian basks in the light of new love, providing a joyous depiction of the peaks of being in a romantic relationship. At the same time, Caesar also explores the pitfalls of heartbreak with striking honesty and self-reflection. The result is a vulnerable, emotional journey that listeners can connect with, while Caesar weaves in elements of his personal experiences.

A communal sigh of relief fills the air as doors open and people rush straight to the stage. Within 15 minutes, the tight 400-person space is nearly packed and the crowd starts to overflow onto the balcony.

The first opener, Cherrie (pronounced like “sherry”,) hits the stage shortly after. Hailing from Sweden and singing in Swedish, she’s an unfamiliar artist for most of the audience. However, by the end of her short set, she leaves a noteworthy first impression. Multiple times throughout the performance, she explains how she’s surprised that the Chicago audience still shows her love despite the fact that the vast majority of the room has no idea what she’s saying. Language barrier aside, Cherrie’s mix of electronic production and seductive pop melodies raise the hype level in the room significantly.

Burgeoning soul singer SiR takes the stage next. He starts things off with a set of downtempo, sensual love songs. It’s a somewhat unexpected change of pace from Cherrie, but the California native connects with listeners nonetheless. At times it gets hard to focus on his performance as everything gets drowned out in an overblown wave of bass. SiR’s silky vocals still come through in the end and hold the crowd’s interest, leaving everyone asking for more.

A four-person crew promptly gets the staged ready for Daniel Caesar, moving a DJ set off the stage and putting a white drum set in its place. A full band of instruments of the same pearly hue also gets brought on stage, with an electric Fender positioned front and center–Caesar’s guitar. When the crew finishes, the lights dim and it’s show time.

Caesar’s band gets behind their respective weapons of choice as a choir-sung interlude builds in the background. The steady first drum taps play, followed by the opening chords of “Japanese Denim.” Caesar graces the mic just in time to sing the first seductive notes, and the floor of the stage gets clouded in a layer of smoke. He grins through the first verse as bouts of applause and screams ensue.

The most powerful qualities of Caesar’s music get accentuated in his live set. The smoothness of his voice is more noticeable when he has free reign to hold out notes as long as he pleases, unconfined by a recording booth. Performing with a full band, the simple instrumentation gets elevated, each guitar strum more poignant and each kick drum more punchy. When Caesar straps on his own guitar and plays it interchangeably throughout the night, he navigates each song with confidence, nodding his head in approval of his own abilities. Caesar comes off like a seasoned veteran on stage, commanding the audience with relaxed finesse.

As the night winds down, everyone knows it’s not quite time to go home yet. Not until Caesar plays his biggest song to date, “Get You,” will the night feel complete. The song’s muddled bassline emanates and Caesar fulfills everyone’s anticipation. When he gets to the first chorus, the whole room joins in. He tilts the mic toward the crowd, bringing everyone together for the finale. Arms wave, faces glow and Caesar gives one last thank you as his band plays him out.

The lights come back on and clusters of people make their way outside, calling Uber’s and hustling to train stations. I hitch a ride with a couple of Loyola students, and we wait around the corner to be picked up. It might be even colder now than it was waiting for the show to start, but I don’t really notice. My mind is still inside Reggies, encapsulated in the wake of Caesar’s soothing melodies. The warmth resonates with me all the way home.

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile at Thalia Hall

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile at Thalia Hall

Photos and Write-Up by Leah Dunlevy

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile played a sold-out show at Thalia Hall, or Tilapia Hall, as Vile calls it, on Friday. Thalia Hall was the first of three sold-out shows in Chicago beginning with Rockefeller Chapel and ending at the Empty Bottle. Barnett and Vile are touring North America with a rotating band, The Sea Lice, which featured Rob Laasko of The Violators on guitar, Katie Harkin of Sky Larkin, and Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney on Friday.  

Jen Cloher, a Melbourne-based singer-songwriter and Barnett’s wife, opened the show with a bold, independent performance with a compilation of songs from older albums including In Blood Memory and off of her newest album, Jen Cloher. Her raw, earnest renditions created an exceptional ambience for Barnett, Vile and The Sea Lice to take the stage.

The show was mostly comprised of songs off of their joint album, which features and highlights the best of the two artists. Vile’s laid-back, twang complemented Barnett’s deadpan vocals. Barnett’s role on the new album was more relaxed and acoustic than the more preppy yet intense rock style of her last album, Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett and Vile had clear musical chemistry, both on the album and on stage, replete with playful banter and witty guitar riffs.

The band provided a unique multidimensionality to the performance, without undermining or distracting from Barnett and Vile’s modestly unrefined style. Their apparent musical modesty, however, is not to suggest that the performance was lacking in any way. The complex interplay of instrumentals and vocals that could only arise from a collaboration as quirky as Barnett and Vile was both musically rich and unequivocally interesting.

Kamasi Washington at the Riviera Theatre

Kamasi Washington at the Riviera Theatre

By Lizzie Zhang

One specific spotlight projects a circle of bright rays around Kamasi Washington. As this circle of light revolves around him in his painted, floor-length garb with abstract compositions and his tarnished, worn sax, a multitude of uniquely different sounds ooze from the stage, flooding the audience with rich, dense audio information; yet the audience is not overwhelmed by the technical complexity of this sound, as by the time each vibration hits the ear drum, the various textures are one. As the mind processes this harmony, the source of it becomes increasingly clearer: difference. And as one remembers hearing the harmony and then thinking the difference, the overpowering relief of finding Harmony of Difference hits like a high dose of endorphins. Bodies sway in euphoria as the human body that society constantly divides and mandates compartmentalized is all of a sudden realized as whole, all by an artist who refuses to be reduced to only one thing.
Following a three-disc debut album The Epic, this shorter EP Harmony of Difference continues to display Washington’s tireless dedication to maximalist compositions, spiritual performance, and existing outside but being of jazz. While The Epic can be interpreted as the grand entrance, Harmony of Difference is the preceding speech. Kamasi had already introduced himself, and now, it was time for him to deliver what he had to say —both the introduction and the main speech, of course, done in absolute grandeur.

To warm the audience up, opener Pho, a Twin Cities-based progressive funk band took to stage with their groovy, high energy tunes. With modern taste but classical influences, the funk collective started the musical discourse Riviera, Chicago had in store for its visitors that night. Throughout the opening segment, the two guitarists, Spencer Christensen and Joe Paris, faced and observed each other, coordinating their melodies to suit each other’s sound. The duo’s arrangement shifted in tangent with each other, constituting the backbone of the group’s combined sound, while the rest of the band contributed towards this neo-funk experience.

Part of the weight of Kamasi’s performance lied in the recurring theme of memorialization. “Henrietta Our Hero” and, later, “Malcolm’s Theme” — both songs dedicated to figures significant to Kamasi’s life— were musical shrines. One of the highlights of the show was when Kamasi brought out his father to perform Henrietta with the band. To preface the song, Kamasi quoted his late grandma, “It’s not about what you have. It’s about what you do.” Powerhouse vocalist Patrice Quinn belts out the tale of Henrietta —the first instance of the night when lyrics were sung in a song. As Washington and his compatriots performed the lyrical tale of Henrietta, her legacy is slowly laid out in front of the audience’s eyes. Washington’s father who is a flutist broke out into a solo towards the end of the song. As the accompanying band members all played the same melody, creating harmony, not in traditional chords, but in texture, the flutist riffed away, rendering the end of the song an emotional invocation of a mother and son’s bond. Like how one memorable lyric of the song asks, “Can you see her? Her light is here,” the musical resplendence of the song mirrored Henrietta’s soul helped the audience see her and bathe in the aura of her light.

Having set the stage as a space for memorialization, Kamasi ended his set with “Malcolm’s Theme,” leaving the audience with yet another facet to the act of remembering. Layering Malcolm X’s eulogy with loud minor chords, the piece started cleanly but continually and collectively built and got messier till it hit a screeching, chaotic cloud of sounds that defied not only jazz norms, but what is conventionally considered music. Yet as the vocalist literally shrieked on stage, overcome and completely vulnerable with grief, the disorder seemed natural in its brave exhibition of human honesty and was gut-wrenching and impactful beyond measure.
Beyond this musical shrine Kamasi built on stage, the venue also acted as a box of sound for Kamasi to experiment with. “Humility,” for one, was a track that acted as a canvas for Kamasi to splatter paint across. The song starts out simple with a steady beat, accompanied by an equally rhythmic melody. Once again, all band members were performing the same melody, harmonizing with their varying textures. Just as it steadily built to its maximalist peak, the tune dissembled and slowly dissolved into a round of individual solos. The layers that had piled upon each other removed themselves as seamlessly as they had inserted themselves and before one could notice, only one performer was playing. As each player displayed their musical genius on stage, other members stepped aside to observe and admire; as much as the audience was witnessing the band’s craft, the band members were also appreciating each other’s craft. This round of solos end with everyone returning to their positions on stage, reintegrating themselves into the musical formation of “Humility.”

Towards the end of the concert, as if giving the conclusion to a speech, Kamasi elaborated on the purpose behind Harmony of Difference. “I don’t think our diversity should just be tolerated. It should be celebrated,” said an empowered Kamasi, standing under a bright spotlight, looking onto the crowd, observing the very diversity he was speaking to. With that resounding message drifting in the air, Kamasi introduces Truth: the final track on the EP that consists of five difference melodies played at the same time. The song is the physical embodiment of Harmony of Difference and seeing it play out in front of one’s own eyes is parallel to seeing harmonious chaos function in action, proving its legitimacy and helping the audience fully realize its possibility and complex beauty. As the rich compositions rung through the concert hall, the people in Riviera coexisted despite differences. They collaborated in uniting to appreciating great music despite their differences. They were harmonious in their differences as they witnessed and internalized Harmony of Difference.

The Lemon Twigs at Thalia Hall

The Lemon Twigs Bring Their Old-School Flair to Thalia Hall

Write-up by Emily Pappin; Photos by Leah Dunlevy

There will always be those bands whose sound varies wildly between studio recordings and live performances, for better or for worse. The Lemon Twigs are certainly one of those bands, though not because the music itself is any different—it is because of the energy they possess. The Lemon Twigs consists of brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario, only 18 and 20, hailing from Long Island, New York. These two bring retro rock-and-roll into the 21st century with their incredible musical talent and ability to put on a spectacular show.

The evening began with opening act The Symposium, a Chicago-based four-piece band. Their psychedelic pop rock music was fun, and a cool contrast to the electric presence The Lemon Twigs brought to the stage. The guys in the band were clearly local, and seemed to have brought a few friends out to support them that night, as there were calls of “I love Kevin!” between songs. All members were dressed very casually, another disparity between the bands, and the bassist spent his time between songs drinking a beer and smoking an e-cigarette he had gotten from somewhere in the crowd. The music had a similar vintage flavor to The Lemon Twigs, but nothing could have prepared the crowd for the main act.

Though The Lemon Twigs may not be well-known, they obviously have a very devoted set of fans. Just as the band took the stage, the group of women behind me went wild, and their enthusiasm didn’t wane as time went on. Throughout the night, the D’Addario brothers switched between playing the drums and performing on both guitar and vocals, something I’ve never seen a group do before. For this performance, they were also accompanied by a bassist and a synth player.

Brain and Michael were channeling looks that were en vogue several decades ago, with haircuts straight out of the 70s, open shirts and high-waisted pants. Even the old wood of the venue and the pale yellow lighting at the start of the show fit the retro air of The Lemon Twigs. Thalia Hall, located in Pilsen, seemed to be the perfect venue for the band. The well-worn hardwood floors of the ballroom and the tea lights strategically placed behind the bar, along with the denim and muted colors favored among the younger audience, became the perfect backdrop for the bold look and sound of the D’Addario brothers.

Brian started the show on guitar and vocals, kicking things off with the song “I Wanna Prove to You” from their first studio album Do Hollywood, released last year. Staying on guitar for “Haroomata,” another song off the same album, Brian took some time during the song to quite literally skip around stage and just jam on his guitar, showcasing his incredible skill.

Around half an hour into the show, Brian and Michael swapped places for the first time. Before this, Michael had been barely visible behind the drum set, but he seemed to be determined to make up for it. Michael’s performance gave away nothing of his young age, as he confidently made his way around the stage, showing off his abilities with some seriously impressive guitar solos that whipped the crowd into a frenzy. At one point, he even pulled out a pair of aviator sunglasses, nonchalantly claiming “I just found these, I don’t know. I just found them,” with the confidence of an experienced performer.

Throughout nearly the rest of the set, all attention was on Michael. With his strong voice and insane skill on the guitar, coupled with gravity-defying high kicks and jumps around the stage, he has the strut of a seasoned rock star. Nearing the end of the show, the band performed “As Long As We’re Together,” another song off their full-length record. The band then left the stage, only to come back for an additional few songs to close the evening. This last leg of the show featured a great rendition of “Light and Love,” a slower number off their new EP, Brothers of Destruction. Brian returned to vocals and guitar, delivering a much softer, more vulnerable performance than his brother.

As the crowd was exiting Thalia Hall into the cold October night, there was a look of joy on everyone’s faces. For one night, The Lemon Twigs had transported the audience back to some other era of rock music, a time full of inescapably bright colors, blistering guitar solos and iconic style. No one was ready for it to be over.

King Krule
King Krule
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King Krule at Metro

Write-up by Slade Warnken, Photos by Lizzie Zhang

Six feet under the moon, The Metro in Northern Chicago is packed yet eerily silent. Blue lights shine down on a thin pale Archie Marshall. A single gold tooth glints between his lips as the rest of King Krule stands silently behind him awaiting the hit. Waiting to disrupt the simple beauty of Archie and his guitar, they watch with the crowd as his fingers slowly slip into position on the neck of his Fender Stratocaster. “This song’s about the sky” Archie mutters to the crowd. Like water from a dripping pipe the opening chords of the King Krule Ballad “Baby Blue” fill the concert hall. Shivers run down my spine as the lonely rasp of Archie Marshals voice scrapes against my bones. Its hallows eve, King Krule is making my ears bleed, and I love it.
Coming off the release of their brand new LP, The OOZ, an album full of ambient instrumentation and sound effects, King Krule worked seamlessly to mix and meld old and new material into a cohesive concert. With raw emotion propelling the show forward, anger and loneliness took center stage as Archie’s vocals hovered above the sounds of the band. Slowly building off of each other, the band was able to masterfully render their sound into moments of powerful chaos. Moments that without warning would suddenly dissipate into an intimate clarity of emotion as Marshall stood exposed and vulnerable to the greedy gaze of hundreds.

The tone of the show itself was set by the openers, Show Me the Body. With a sound like the love child of New York Punk and Death Grips, what truly sets their sound apart from the rest is their frontman Julian Pratt. Utilizing an electric distorted banjo, along with Noah Cohen-Corbett on drums and Harlan Steed on bass, the band left little time to breathe as they went from one hard hitting song to the next. Political and angry, Show Me the Body was unapologetic and blunt with its sound. Through combinations of electrically distorted bass, high pitched banjo, and screaming vocals, the air thickened as the intensity of the band reverberated throughout the crowd. Leaving the crowd sweating and energized, Show Me the body created the perfect atmosphere for the brutally honest intimacy of King Krule to shine through.

One of the highlights of King Krule’s set was their resident DJ, Connor Attanda. During the performance of the new track Half Man Half Shark, as Marshal repeated its opening phrase, “Half man and the body of a shark man,” Attanda silently sampled the vocals in the background. Playing the loop, it continuously accelerated and rose in pitch until suddenly the bass and drums struck like a locomotive and the song began. Utilizing the vocals of his band mates, Attanda sampled phrases and screams live layering echos of sound that seemed to come from nowhere. With the ability to effect the pitch and tone, echoes of Archie’s voice enveloped the concert hall and collapsed on themselves to create mind numbing climaxes of sound.
Any space left empty by Attanda was usually filled with the jazzy musings of Saxophone player Ignacio Salvadores. One of the additions to King Krule’s sound since their last release, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon, Ignacio’s saxophone enhanced already beautiful moments while maintaining clear lines of melody as the band’s sound ascended into chaos. Especially during the moments when the band around Archie cut out, Salvadores’ melodies rose along with Archies voice above the band to help give its aimless chaos direction.

As King Krule performed their final song, Easy Easy, I realized their music was anything but. Utilizing sound effects, live sampling, along with complex melodies and chord progressions, it made their performance all the more impressive. All of these factors came from different members of the band working to create a platform to elevate the poetry of Archie Marshall. At constant conflict with each other yet in perfect harmony, lonely and angry and blue, King Krule’s Hallows Eve performance gave me chills I’ve yet to shake.

MCA Hearts Chicago

Concert Review: MCA Hearts Chicago feat. Lupe Fiasco, theMIND, and Kaycee Ortiz

Write-up by A’Lexus Murphy, Photos by Michael del Rosario

With 50 years of existence under its belt, the Museum of Contemporary Art has consistently been an icon for modern creativity and expression. As someone who went into the event relatively blind and with only a vague understanding of what the artists were like, I came out feeling cultured, livened, and like I could do anything I put my mind to. This, arguably, is the essence of the Windy City itself, and the MCA brought every flavor of Chicago out for anyone to taste. From Avery R. Young and de deacon board’s funky mix of jazz with hymns reminiscent of a Southern black church, to Kaycee Ortiz proudly repping the modern sexually expressive woman.

This wide variety of music and diversity of artists rang true to the MCA’s mission to celebrate the present, pay respects to the past, and look forward to the future. The 50th anniversary event was one that not only was important in celebrating the museum’s existence of half a century but also crucial in shining a light on the up and coming artists from Chicago along with those like Lupe Fiasco whom have already found their way. Seeing these two sets of artists in the same venue brought out a sense of hope unlike I’ve ever experienced before.

theMIND performs at MCA’s 50th anniversary event. Photo by Michael del Rosario

Before headliner Lupe Fiasco, there was a number of performers all of which had their own unique sounds but yet maintained a common demanding stage presence that is unique to Chicago performers. First up was Avery R. Young and de deacon board in the theater. The angle of the seats compared to the stage was rather steep, and yet the moment the lights dimmed to a deep blue and Young came on stage to introduce every member of the group by name, the setting felt extremely intimate. Young put a clever funk spin onto classic black songs that many would recognize; songs like, “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” that resonated with the hearts of many in the crowd regardless of color. Even more so, the show took several spiritual turns like when one of Young’s backup singers, Megan McMill, had a solo in which she sung “If I Can Help Somebody” and for just a moment as the crowd yelled out encouragements like, “Yes Lord!” and “Sing the song baby!”, I felt like I had left a museum event and had stepped into church. Young and De Deacon Board took classic black Christian songs and turned them into something that everyone in the diverse crowd could understand even while celebrating black culture.

After the theater show, we moved up to the After Hours in the Atrium where DJ CaliXta played a few songs as the crowd well-dressed, relatively young audience trickled in excitedly, ready for the show. The stage here was relatively low to the ground, surprisingly small, and pretty accessible to the crowd. The atrium got packed fast and it wasn’t long until the crowd was getting antsy for the artists to start gracing the stage.

Chicago rapper Kaycee Ortiz pumps up the crowd at MCA Hearts Chicago’s evening event. Photo by Michael del Rosario

First up was Kaycee Ortiz who had an excellent stage presence and didn’t hesitate to interact with the crowd personally from the start. She started with 30 Dollar Coat which was enough for the crowd to start dancing around, sticking their hands up in the hair. Though the crowd wasn’t extremely hyped yet, Ortiz got them way more excited when she boldly asked, “Who likes to smoke weed?” which elicited quite a bit of response from the audience, so much so that I briefly forgot that recreational use of weed is only decriminalized in Illinois rather than legal. This interesting question was then followed by her unapologetic performance of “Tam”.

Following up was theMIND who took the crowd from jumping around and singing excitedly to a slowed down, more laid-back vibe with much more relaxed, alternative type of R&B. Unbothered by the fact that not everyone would know who he was or of his music, he played one of his more popular verses from, “Sunny Duet” with Noname. He then took the time to tell his touching story of how he had met Lupe Fiasco in an airport a few years ago and promised that someday he’d open up for him, and that his promise had been fulfilled as he was opening up for him now. It was with that that he strongly encouraged the crowd to chase after their dreams unapologetically before strongly wrapping up the stage and leaving the crowd dying for more.

The moment Lupe Fiasco stepped on stage, the crowd’s excitement shot through the roof, with nearly every person in the venue singing along to the songs he played and even throwing out a few suggestions of their own that he gladly took. He started out with his newer song, but nothing quite excited the crowd like his old songs and so when, “Superstar”, “Touch the Sky”, “Kick Push” and “Daydreamin” came on it was nearly impossible to hear Fiasco himself. He took great control of the crowd and stage, jumping around here and there, standing on speakers, and even pulling a couple of women on stage, though he deemed the first to be too young. The connection between Fiasco and the crowd was riveting and insanely personal as he even took the time to tell the story of how his father told him once that if they were to put all of the buildings of the Chicago skyline together it would form a transformer. Lupe then went on to mention that if they put all of the buildings together now the MCA would be a toe, and then Trump tower would be the penis, though he quickly switched back and claimed it’d be the asshole instead. Fiasco wrapped up with “The Show Goes On” which immediately gave the crowd one last boost of excitement.

Lupe Fiasco shares a moment with his nephew Nas during his headlining performance. Photo by Michael del Rosario

All in all, I can’t help but give full props to the MCA for putting on such a well-rounded, and more importantly, diverse concert. There wasn’t a single lull during the concert, and it’s hard to believe that such an event was free. Each artist was amazing in their own right and showed a color of performance that is unique to Chicago, and one can only wonder about when such talented, diverse people will be under one roof again performing.

Big Thief
Big Thief
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Big Thief and Mega Bog at Thalia Hall

Write-up by Max Totsky, Photos by Finn Hewes

When I call a concert “intimate”, I’m typically referring to a barrier removal, where the performer connects with a (usually sparse) audience on a level that transcend your average spectacle and turns into something more cathartic. Such an experience is characterized by a sustained attentiveness projecting itself onto the space, where audience members are more likely to be caught gazing in awe than succumbing to the distractions that tend to arise when watching a band perform for over an hour. An atmosphere like this is not quite tangible, but when it is there, it is very obvious.

You probably get the message. Big Thief’s show at Thalia Hall was one of those performances. However, Big Thief took it one step further. Unlike the standard concert set-up, with everyone in the crowd facing the same direction, the stage was a square in the center of the floor, erasing any barrier between performer and audience. The band members had to walk through the crowd to get to the stage, and when they were onstage, crowd members could potentially smack the performers just by stretching out their hand (I did not see anyone try this, thankfully). It was a major win for people like me who had a direct view of all three members, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the people who were limited to a view of the back of lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s, until she pointed out the beauty in it. “I feel like there are so many of you I can’t see right now,” she whispered, bending her head backwards. “But I feel like the energy in this room is so much deeper than vision.”

It was some #deep shit, but it was valid. Throughout a set that was a carefully curated whirlwind of cathartic outbursts and hushed, solemn instrumental mewling, the aura was so sustained, I almost felt guilty every time I made a comment to my friend, or glanced at my phone. Bands often capture your attention, but they don’t always lather themselves in it. Big Thief emerged onto the scene fairly recently with last year’s Masterpiece establishing itself as a polished, immersive statement in modern indie rock. However, it wasn’t until this year’s Capacity where they truly collected a diverse array of songs that managed to tiptoe the line between purgative and restrained so relentlessly. It all translated beautifully onstage, to the point where the set almost felt career spanning. Opener Mega Bog, who also fared wonderfully with the dimly-lit centered stage, introduced them as one of the “best bands of all time,” and while I’d never burden any new artist with such a grandiose claim, I must say that I was much more convinced by the time the left the stage.
That being said, it’s always impressive when a show transcends its gimmick, a term I’m hesitant to use because of how well the centered stage complemented Big Thief’s charisma. I left the show wondering why more artists don’t do that with their performances, but then I realized not all of them deserve it as much as Big Thief; when a show becomes this immersive, it’s extra satisfying when they bring the stamina to boot.

Weekly Concert Picks

Weekly Concert Picks: 10/22 – 10/29

October is a month jam-packed full of bands touring through town with their latest releases. To help you cut through the noise, we’ve put together a list of our concert recommendations for the upcoming week. 

Monday, October 23rd: Boris at Thalia Hall
I’ve never seen Boris live, but someone told me they “shred” and it takes something very real to get a total stranger to vouch for you that hard. The Japanese experimental band are decades into their career, and with over twenty-four albums under their belt, it’s pretty impressive that they continue to churn out projects that have staying power in the “drone” circles. For this show, they are celebrating the 25th year of existence and touring their new record Dear, a mix of nostalgia and adventure that is bound to manifest itself pretty intensely in a live setting. 8:00 p.m. at Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport, $20, thaliahallchicago.com

-Max Totsky

Tuesday, October 24th: Chelsea Wolfe and Youth Code at Metro
It’s the spookiest week of the year, and there’s nothing spookier than the piercing misery that goes into Chelsea Wolfe’s songs. She’s always been on the darker side of gothic chamber rock, but her latest album Hiss Spun is a dismal exercise in purging the psyche only to torment it. It’s also her heaviest, which means she will be performing with a very newfound aggression. Fresh! 8:00 p.m. at Metro, 3730 N Clark Street, $21, metrochicago.com

-Max Totsky

Wednesday, October 25th: Girlpool at Logan Square Auditorium
Wednesday, folk punk duo Girlpool is descending on Logan Square Auditorium with Philly rockers Palm and local trio Lala Lala in tow. While Girlpool is headlining the event, Wednesday offers a dynamic triple bill with groups spanning from angular rock to dense grunge punk. On tour for most of Fall, guitarist Cleo Tucker and bassist Harmony Tividad of Girlpool are building on the abrasive roots they laid with their debut Before the World Was Big by bringing a drummer into the mix. Powerplant, Girlpool’s sophomore release, offers a more expansive version of the caustic, candid punk for which they’ve become known.
6:30 p.m. at Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 North Kedzie Ave; emptybottle.com

-Maddy Ashmun

Wednesday, October 25th: Making Movies at Schubas Tavern
Making Movies, an American band, is playing their third album I Am Another You, at Schubas on Wednesday, October 25. Based out of Kansas City, MO, the group consists of two sets of brothers. I Am Another You is replete with unique Afro-Latino rhythms and represents a form of protest, featuring the message: We Are All Immigrants. The album has received positive reviews from Remezcla, Clrvynt, and American Songwriter and was listed on NPR’s Alt.Latino “Favorite Music of 2017 (So far).”
8 p.m. at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave; $12, www.lh-st.com

-Leah Dunlevy

Thursday, October 26th: The Lemon Twigs at Thalia Hall
Long Island sibling duo The Lemon Twigs are bringing their brand of 70s’ rock to Chicago this Thursday. With their most recent EP, Brothers of Destruction, out September 22nd, the D’Addario brothers continue to expand their repertoire of quirky pop with songs that range from smart to saccharine. Still a young band (Michael and Brian D’Addario are 17 and 19, respectively), The Lemon Twigs are sure to light up Thalia Hall Thursday with their signature flair and unbridled energy.
8 p.m. at Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport St; $16; thaliahallchicago.com

-Maddy Ashmun

Thursday, October 26th: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith at Schubas Tavern
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith is playing her newest album The Kid at Lincoln Hall on Thursday, October 26. Smith integrates mellow vocals into synthesized sounds representing organic processes including rustling leaves and weather. She further used visual aids as a catalyst for her work or creates imagery to match her compositions. Her fifth studio album Ears was received well by the music community, featured in end-of-year album lists by sources including NPR and Norman Records.
8 p.m. at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave; $15; www.lh-st.com

-Leah Dunlevy

Friday, October 27th: Nai Palm at Lincoln Hall
This Friday, the Melbourne-based band Hiatus Kaiyote’s lead singer Nai Palm will be debuting her solo album, Needle Paw. On this very day, the self-taught composer, instrumentalist, producer, vocalist, and poet will be performing at Lincoln Hall, Chicago along with a special guest, who has yet to be announced. Nai Palm, who championed the world over and musical icons like Questlove, Erykah Badu, Anderson Paak, and the late Prince, will be showcasing her new sound: the end result of a self-imposed challenge to explore immortality and timelessness within music by stripping away production to spotlight what she believes to be the core of the human soul, the voice. Fans can expect extremely honest, beautifully transparent, and complexly vulnerable arrangements of her guitar playing and layered vocals —Homebody and Crossfire/So Into You, the two singles from Needle Paw already out, are exactly that. About the main message behind this album, Nai Palm proclaimed, “I want to remind people that there are humans behind the music. Not just compression and reverb. The urgency for accuracy is not human. The exposed process is human, without the cheat codes.”
8 p.m. at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln Ave; $25, www.lh-st.com

-Lizzie Zhang

Saturday, October 28th, Ariel Pink at Thalia Hall
If you’ve thought about Ariel Pink as a presence even a little bit, it’s hard not to have a strong opinion about him. If you’re like me, you’d think the absurdist pop deconstructions that exist in sketch-like forms on albums like the essential Pom Pom or the more recent Dedicated to Bobby Jameson, it must be fascinating to see how his clammy, lo-fi melts into the air in a bright space like Thalia Hall. 8:30 p.m. at Thalia Hall, 1807 S Allport, $26.75, thaliahallchicago.com

-Max Totsky

Sunday, October 29th, A Thrilla Music Festival at Subterranean
Sunday night, a collection of local artists is descending on Subterranean for a night packed with fresh Chicago music. Jean Deaux, R&B singer and collaborator with top-notch talents like Mick Jenkins, Mykki Blanco, and Smino, leads the event, supported by equally as exciting local artists like rapper BIGBODYFIJI and up-and-coming singer Sundé. With a bill that is as deep as it is wide, A Thrilla Music Fest makes for a unique opportunity to see a collection of promising local talent in one place.
7 p.m. at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave; $5-15; www.subt.net

-Maddy Ashmun

Sunday, October 29th, The Courtneys at Beat Kitchen
Sometimes music is nice. Nice music is nice to hear live. Especially where it’s jangly, it has some twang to it, it’s clearly reaching for some sort of simplistic bliss. It’s a good time, and it sounds an awful lot like what seeing Vancouver ban the Courtneys at Beat Kitchen this Sunday would be like. The singer is the drummer! Wild. 8:30 p.m. at Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont Ave, $12, www.beatkitchen.com

-Max Totsky

A&O Blowout 2017 feat. Lil Uzi Vert and MØ Bring the Energy

A&O Blowout 2017: Lil Uzi Vert and MØ Bring the Energy

BY TALLEY MORTON

PHOTOS BY TYLER ENNIS AND TALLEY MORTON

A&O Blowout on Friday was everything it promised to be. The night began with MØ, whose upbeat performance came complete with flashing blue and purple lights and accompanying DJs. The Danish singer-songwriter started on the stage, but soon continued her performance into the crowd and alongside the balcony. She began with popular hits “Coldwater” – a song recorded with Justin Bieber and Major Lazer – and “Don’t Leave” – a collaboration with British music duo Snakehips. The crowd stayed vibrant the whole time, screaming out lyrics along with MØ while she bounced around the stage. Her songs “Nights with You” and “Drum” also had her signature electronic sound and didn’t disappoint either.

 

After MØ thanked the crowd, there was a stretch of an hour or so where the air buzzed in anticipation of Lil Uzi Vert (also known as “Lil Uzi”), a Philadelphia rapper whose extensive discography has no shortage of catchy and well-known songs. Some students wondered if he’d exclusively perform songs from “Luv is Rage 2,” Lil Uzi’s latest album, or an array of both old and new songs from other albums and mixtapes.

After over an hour of waiting, Lil Uzi took the stage with full energy, performing his old and new songs for an awaiting crowd. The screen behind him changed from a cartoon image of him, to a dancing skeleton, to his name written in a lightning bolt-like font. Mosh pits and dance circles formed in the pit, the room breaking out into full party mode. G Herbo, a Chicago rapper, also joined the headliner and performed a few songs.

Photo by Tyler Ennis

With his iconic shoulder roll, Lil Uzi danced around the same with even more energy than MØ, starting on stage, moving towards the balcony, and even getting into the pit for a second. Before anyone could process it amid the star hits being performed, the rapper had made his way to the center of balcony facing the stage. Many thought he was poised to jump, but instead he made a request to the crowd below him: who knew all of the words to “XO TOUR Llif3,” one of the biggest singles from his latest album? Those in the pit quickly broke out into mayhem pointing at friends or themselves, eager to get Lil Uzi’s attention. Eventually, he dropped the microphone down and Chris Starr, a sophomore, rapped the song along with the music and the entire crowd.

To wrap it all up, confetti and balloons fell from the ceiling, signifying the end of A&O’s 2017 Blowout. It ended as yet another Northwestern night to remember.