Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
Although it was Valentine’s Day and the high in Chicago was around 15°F before windchill, people started lining up at the House of Vans around 2 p.m. in order to get into the sold out Lamb of God show. Once the doors opened, people began to flock inside to the warmth, art, and free beer. A line quickly formed for the free posters, hats, shirts, and bandanas being given away at the merch booth.
The art lining the walls was a special photography installation by Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe. Black and white photography depicting varying themes from isolation to corruption lined the walls. There was a special spot for the upcoming album’s artwork and tracklist in the corner. The room with the art was quiet, save for a few murmurs between friends, in order for the art to be completely absorbed.
Chicago-based hardcore band Harm’s Way started out the evening. Throughout the first song, people were beginning to find their way to the stage. That was the only moment of calm throughout the night. Chaos endured when the pit opened up. At some point during that set, lead singer and powerlifter James Pligge removed his shirt, showing off his tattoos.
After their set, the air was thick with anticipation. A few got a beer refill or some merch. Most stood, waiting for the main event: Lamb of God’s album announcement party. Only one single “Checkmate” has been released from the self-titled album, which comes out on May 8th.
The DJ was playing heavy metal and hardcore punk to keep the mood going. People were discussing how many times they had seen the headliners. Some had been lifelong fans but this was only their first or second time, but some were up in the double digits for how many times they had seen them live. There were a few couples there to enjoy Valentine’s Day.
It was finally time for what everyone was waiting for. With a flash of energy, Lamb of God took the stage. Beers were immediately spilled as the crowd went wild. A hole opened up, which the pit immediately filled. People were slipping on the wet floor, but were immediately picked back up.
Fans were screaming along, showing their horns. The energy was all the way up the whole set, both on stage and in the crowd. A fan had grabbed as many bottles of water as he could and was handing them out to people when they took a break from the pit so nobody would pass out.
The biggest break during the set was when Blythe introduced “Checkmate” as it was being performed live for the very first time. When they left the stage, there was a chant for an encore. After a few minutes, Lamb of God obliged and retook the stage for a few more songs.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Elder Statesman. Avant- garde poet. Professor of all things experimental. Sonic architect of one of the greatest rock bands of all time The Velvet Underground.
I could go on and on with the accolades about John Cale, but then, he'd say to me- "Get to the point already."
John Cale is not so easy to pigeonhole when performing live. At this late stage in the game, at the age of 77, he sparingly chooses events in which to perform. So The Art Institute of Chicago was the lucky recipient to have John Cale perform at the beautiful and classy Rubloff Auditorium, on the last day of the Andy Warhol exhibit, to a packed house.
A riveting and compelling performance, John flanked by a band that follows suit to his tastes. With a guitarist who slashes and burns notes like a keyboard, a drummer who's left hand the entire night of the show played sampled keyboard beats, and a bassist who brought the low end and turned his electric bass into a cello of sorts by striking a violin bow on the strings. This stellar band was of course rounded off by John himself, trading off between electric guitar and also electric keyboards.
And then of course, his voice--frail and strained at times, but not punishing or out of tune. Strained in such a way to convey the emotion, or novelty depending on his mood, on a certain lyric or phrase.
Having witnessed artists of similar stature who repel at playing the same song twice (Bob Dylan comes to mind)- it's refreshing in this day and age to see an elder statesman of John's stature still taking risks, and digging deep into a catalog of music that can easily go all over the map.
Such an extraordinary setlist, opening with "Helen of Troy" on electric guitar, and then into "Dying on the Vine" on keyboards.
From the first song to the encore of "Emily," you could hear a pin drop through the auditorium.
But works from the Velvet Underground, The Andy Warhol exhibit, the inevitable and extraordinary turn later in the setlist with the Velvet's "I'm Waiting for the Man", let alone the John Cale / Lou Reed song "Style it Takes", and of course "Gun / Pablo Picasso."
I could easily go on and on, but simply put, the stars aligned to make for a perfect Sunday evening, and witness an extraordinary performance with one of rock and roll's, one of avant- garde and art rocks true pioneers- John Cale.
John Cale, his solo work, The Velvet Underground and their ultra cool album covers designed by Andy Warhol, is still one of rock's hippest names to drop in any conversation and influencers.
It's definitely a conversation ender, considering- "How do you top this?"
Not many artists I can think of amongst the living can you compare him to.
And yet he's still questioning and experimenting with everything, even his band, mid song on whatever song, turning away from his keyboard on occasion to give cues, or to unleash the hounds at a moment's notice.
Stylistically diverse and creating challenging music up to the present day- that encompasses John Cale.
Still boggles the mind 24 hours later, John Cale performed at The Rubloff Auditorium at the Art Institute of Chicago in conjunction with Andy Warhol. Again- how cool is this?
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Oh my god. Where to begin? On a cold Monday night, Heilung gave a spellbinding performance to a packed Riviera Theatre in Chicago.
My review of this show is going to be all over the map, with quotes and thoughts that still leave me in shock and awe, even 48 hours after the performance.
First off: Heilung's music. There is no genre or category to define it, except maybe to use the band’s own bio as “amplified history from early medieval northern Europe and should not be mistaken for a modern political or religious statement of any kind."
To go a bit further, to the uninitiated, principal player and founder Christopher Juul discussed the origins of Heilung’s unique music and aesthetic:
“[Our] sound [is] from the Northern European Iron Age and Viking period. We used everything from running water, human bones, reconstructed swords and shields up to ancient frame drums and bronze rings in the songs. The lyrics contain original texts from rune stones and preserved spear shafts, amulets and other artifacts. Furthermore, poems, which either deal with historical events and texts or are translations/ interpretations of the originals. Every attempt to link the music to modern political or religious points are pointless, since we in Heilung try to connect the listener to the time before Christianity and its political offsprings raped and burned itself into the Northern European mentality. Heilung means "healing" in German and describes the core of the sound. It is supposed to leave the listener eased and relaxed after a sometimes turbulent musical journey."
Even with that context from Juul, there's still more questions of wonderment and classification regarding Heilung.
How is it that only metal magazines have covered Heiling and not much else? Is it because of the imagery, or the once in a while front and center throat singing by Christopher Juul?
Some reviewers liken the band to the bombast of power metal and black metal, combining elements of both genres. However, those reviewers are missing the point.
The point of unclassification.
The sole intent of their live performances is clearly communal, which was the case on Monday night at the Riviera Theatre in Chicago. The community of Heilung actually started way, way before the doors even opened for the show.
Walking around the Riviera Theatre and surrounding blocks, I counted license plates from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Not to say that all these cars are fans going to see Heilung, but I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.
What was the line like outside the Riviera on a chilly, Chicago day of 30 degrees? The line started to form at around 12:30pm, with doors not opening until 6pm. The costumes / state of dress of the first 40 people in line were dressed like members of Heilung to some extent.
Once in the venue, all the background music before the show was Mother Nature sounds. Birds chirping, insects sounds, running water, the gentleness of finding yourself in the middle of an old age forest, probably late afternoon into dusk. With ambient orange and yellow lighting hues, and projections of Heilung imagery that lit up the balcony.
The devoted Heilung fans on the main floor of the Riv, supplemented the sounds of Mother Nature with their own wolf howls. Wolf howls of all kinds, sometimes loud, sometimes soft, both male and female. Howling occurred all the way up to the actual performance.
And as far as their live show? Elaborate as all get out.
Sophistication abound, both in imagery and in lighting for striking effects, as well as amplified audio that wasn't taken for granted.
The three principal players of Heilung- Christopher Juul, Kai Ewe Faust and Maria Franz- all shared in the spirit of wonderment of a Heilung performance. Surrounded by backup singers, percussionists, and assorted Viking shield bearing soldiers, Heilung clearly knows how to make use of minimal staging and backdrops to full effect. The minimalism made for more impact and unforgettableness, allowing for striking and contrasting lighting. Focusing on the principal players, particularly Maria Franz, all the more evident, all the more beautiful.
The song selections themselves, 10 in all, told a story from beginning to end, with no English. But that didn't matter, because you can follow along to get the gist.
The ideas of "ceremony" and "ritual" revolving around Heilung, cannot be underestimated.
The opening ceremony, was a recitation of call and response, a communal prayer from performer to audience, which was magical to behold.
Everyone at the Riviera, front to back, recited back verbatim the words from Kai Faust. I had chills from the side of the stage, listening and taking it all in.
You cannot underestimate the power of thought in performance, not relying on the grandiose, but actually the exact opposite.
So it goes through the show with Heilung, up to the end, when Juul, Faust and Franz came to the front of the stage extension. Faust raised his staff to the devoted faithful, then lowered it with a boom to the floor, signifying the end of the show.
Magical, absolutely magical, this band Heilung.
As for the inevitable comparisons to bands such as Wardruna and Dead Can Dance? Can we give it a rest? All three are uniquely different.
I will say this in regards to Dead Can Dance in reference to Heilung, their album Spiritchaser has unique liner notes curated by Brendan Perry. In Spiritchaser, Perry uses quotes from Joscelyn Godwin’s 1987 book Harmonies of Heaven and Earth:
"In most musical instruments the resonator is made of wood while the actual sound generator is of animal origin. In cultures where music is still used as a magical force, the making of an instrument always involves the sacrifice of a living being. That being's soul then becomes part of the instrument, and in the tones that come forth, the singing "dead" who are ever present with us, make themselves heard."
Like Godwin’s quote used in Dead Can Dance’s album, Heilung amplified the “singing dead” of a pre-Christian, Northern Europe idenity with a meditative and tranquil trance.
Heilung left the audience spellbound and wanting the ritual and ceremonies to never end.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
TOOL came to play in the city of Chicago, relentless and uncompromising.
2019 was such a hyped up on steroids year for TOOL. Starting with headlining some festival dates in the late spring / early summer, with a stop at Chicago's Open Air back in May, news about a new release to come out (finally!) in late August, and the band playing a couple new songs on the festival circuit from Fear Inoculum- that being "Invincible" and "Descending."
Talk about putting all facets of social media in an uproar.
Fans couldn't get enough about hearing the new songs being performed live.
So then the album comes out, reviews being absolutely favorable, worth repeated listens, and lo and behold the strength in sales knocks Taylor Swift off being number one, and so enters TOOL.
And then the announcement that TOOL will be going out on the road in the fall with openers Killing Joke. Life can't get any better with a bill like this.
Of course, tickets on almost all the dates sell out immediately, with a fan frenzy at a fever pitch, fans making plans to see their beloved TOOL on multiple dates, not as nutty as following The Grateful Dead back in the day.
The TOOL army is a rabid and devoted fan base, collecting everything within earshot, and wearing their TOOL T's proudly.
And so the tour comes to Chicago a few days after Halloween, and let's just say, they played like monsters. opening with the song "Fear Inoculum," Danny Carey positioning himself comfortably behind his drum kit, wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey, looking menacingly left and right for the cues to begin the impending percussion punishment.
The setlist has not changed on this North American tour, most likely because of the complex nature of each and every TOOL song, and the amount of musicianship that goes along with each and every song.
Of course the heavy hitters from TOOL's catalog are on full display, from "AEnema", "The Pot", "Parabol" into "Parabola," and on and on.
Relentless, and breathtaking, song after song after song.
Four of the thirteen songs performed on Sunday came from Inoculum keeping in mind that virtually every song that TOOL plays is over ten minutes long, leaving little room in a two hour or so set to get more songs into the set.
No matter. The fans got what they wished, endorphins flowing times ten, all songs providing an instrumental showcase of the juggernaut kind.
Adam Jones? On his A game.
Justin Chancellor? On his A game too.
Danny Carey? What do you think? Of course he's on his A game as well.
Man, the thunder from these guys.
While in the pit for the first song, found it hard to maneuver around, with the twelve subwoofers on the main floor jutting out from stage left to stage right, providing that extra thump and wallop.
Absolutely riveting when this band is full on- with Maynard James Keenan being a key part in the tension from the swells of music ricocheting all over the place. Sporting a nasty looking and fierce mohawk, Keenan mainly worked in the shadows towards the back of the stage, from two risers to the left and right of Danny Carey, and depending on his mood, brandishing the necessary vocal lift as he saw fit. Maynard stalked the back of the stage with a sinister bent, like he just got out of the insane asylum, and was looking for a hearty meal.
This show was a twisting and mind- bendingly awesome roller coaster of a ride from "Fear Inoculum" to the end with "Stinkfist."
No weak link in the bunch, the heightened impact and revelry of exquisite showmanship intact and inventive and enthralling.
The heavy hitters that are TOOL, showing no signs of wear and tear, and in no need of Bengay to massage the joints after this punishing set, at least not yet.
As for Killing Joke: ‘Tis a shame half of the fans were not in their seats, but waiting in gargantuan long lines to get their TOOL merch, or waiting to get a selfie with the LED display that highlighted TOOL, or waiting for beers or whatever. Their loss.
Not to go unnoticed from me, that's for sure.
How can you not be present for Geordie Walker's crushing guitar fills, and the apocalyptic forces surrounding frontman Jaz Coleman?
This was a 45 minute set highlighting Killing Joke's massively influential catalog, from "Eighties," "Seeing Red," "Total Invasion," "Pandemonium,” "and of course "Butcher."
This band is deserving of a full audience, no matter the venue.
And as for the tech wizards and engineers for TOOL: let it be known that it would be worth your while after the first song to take down from the gargantuan LED screen the name of the band Killing Joke, and replace that with a live feed of Jaz's mannerisms up close and personal.
That way, fans at the back of the venue and in the upper sections can witness firsthand what Jaz Coleman is all about, and witness Geordie fire off riff after heavy riff.
They're opening for TOOL for a reason. That being TOOL certainly get how important and influential they are, and are worthy of your attention, some 31 or so years since fruition.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
What a better way than to join the fine folks at House of Vans on Halloween night for an extra special art and music takeover, featuring The Hu, Mongolia's finest export in all things Folk Metal?
So you have that, which is awesome, and then you have openers Lightning Born and also Doomriders.
Adding color to the festivities: Dennis McNett and and all things Wolfbat, which promotes shows, events, performances, and new works of art from Dennis McNett and Wolfbat Studios.
So try to take this all in:
Upon entering House of Vans, you encounter the usual trappings of their wonderful events- an open bar, splendid background music fitting for Halloween, gigantic murals emblazoned both stage right and stage left, looking like wicked Indian carpets with a mystical bent, and then of course the gigantic artwork of Dennis Mcnett and Wolbat studios: two eight foot Wolves, two eight foot crows, and two eight foot skulls.
All of these fantastic creatures are on rollers, with movable arms and other features, and they come out in full regalia for each act appearing onstage throughout the show.
Hard to take this all in, since you have a packed main floor obviously set in place to enjoy the show and performances, and your typical trappings of a raucous rock n' roll show.
Have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it worked out, both with sympathetic fans allowing the creatures to get close to the stage and maneuver around, and also security having not much trouble with the audience being unruly, or manhandling the artistic creatures.
None of that happened thank god, and everyone in the audience was respectful, even when losing their ground during the performances.
Most of the audience were brandishing their cell phones to document this one of a kind display of beauty and might, and it worked in conjunction with all three bands throughout the entire night.
From a photographer's perspective, and the massive scale of the creatures in relation to the venue and bands: that posed a challenge, to try to your best to get the full creatures, let alone the profiles of their magnificent and beautifully designed faces, let alone when they were rolled up to the front of the stage, the perspective of them in relation to full band.
Easier said than done, on many levels.
I hope my pictures do some justice to this fantastic display and the event itself.
As far as The Hu is concerned- what a splendid and magnificent performance from the Mongolian brethren, who hail from Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, ready to rock House of Vans Chicago, their second performance in two months to our fine city- the first being back in September at Riot Fest.
They still have that fearsome look of power and might, conveying their brand of dark folk metal that is sung in their native language, and not in english, which works on so many levels.
This band is so special to JBTV Music Television, having taken the time after their Saturday performance at Riot Fest to walk the grounds and come over to our tent for an interview and celebration.
From Jerry Bryant of JBTV, Lauren O' Neil of 101KQX, the JBTV crew, we had a blast documenting the going's on and hanging with The HU along with their devoted fans who showed up to our tent at JBTV.
An unforgettable and bucket list kind of day, that's for sure.
Openers Doomriders brought the "hard and heavy" throughout their performance as well, even with not much of a soundcheck because of plane delays from Boston apparently, but with there take no prisoners approach to crunching metal, it was a fast paced 45 minute set with no weak link in the bunch.
Same holds true with opener Lightning Born, featuring members of Corrosion of Conformity, Demon Eye and Mega Colossus, matching their songs with amped up and crunching blues riffs, and a wall to wall wail of a voice from Brenna Leath.
Again, a mighty fine 45 minute performance from them as well.
Have to say that Chris Vicente's spirit was evident during The HU's performance- tragically passing away a little over two weeks ago- he adored The HU, and did his best to get them to perform a live taping at JBTV.
it's a shame that this didn't come to fruition, but having said that, he would've been front and center at this show at House of Vans, and when the gigantic wolves rolled out for The HU's performance, with their jaws opened and arms flailing to the beats, Chris was smiling from ear to ear from the heavens.
So yes- this show worked on so many levels, all things onward / upward with House of Vans and JBTV.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Sleater Kinney arrived in Chicago for the first of two nights at the Riviera Theatre as a two piece, without the powerhouse drummer and founding member Janet Weiss. Weiss quit the band after the release of their new album The Center Won't Hold. Many critics have commented that there is a huge hole to fill with Janet leaving the band.
Finding a new drummer with capable chops is no easy task. However, Sleater Kinney pulled it off at the Riv in Chicago, with a whole new lineup and a whole new album of material. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker were front and center, while the other three new musicians were in the back and in the shadows, clearly marked as backup.
Back in the day, Sleater Kinney were noted for their incendiary sets, their no frills attacks, their trailblazing from one song to the next, all the while becoming a sweaty and lively mess.
The Center Won't Hold is a huge departure from Sleater's previous releases. More electronic and more pop sheen without the blistering attacks and "Riot Girl" esthetics that made Sleater Kinney.
Carrie and Corin are a bit older now, and dress kfashionably, even with Carrie donning a sexy lace top, hot pants, and bright red lipstick with a nice hair style.
Who thought that I'd be writing about fashionista this and that while describing and reviewing a Sleater Kinney show of all things?
Just goes to show how times change, and how new releases bring forth new ideas and new beginnings.
Keep in mind, Carrie and Corin can bring the heavy hammer to rock at a moment's notice, especially during their set dive bombing into "Price Tag” and "Animal," vocal empowerment intact, and also "Jumpers" and "The Fox" were awesome standouts.
As for the new drummer? The person with ultra heavy shoes to fill, and well let's face it- could give a crap about all the hoopla and build up before even playing the first note? That would be Angie Boylan, and she played great. Stoic and solid in the beats, and from my vantage point, hard hitting without breaking a sweat.
We all know that Sleater Kinney is no longer a three woman hard hitting crew. It's now two capable musicians front and center, presenting to the world a new version of themselves, with respect to the past, yes, but all smiles in presenting the new material as well.
Some hit and misses from The Center Won't Hold? Yes, as is the case with most established bands of any genre when you look at it with open eyes. Like any show as well, you hear the songs you love, and you leave more than satisfied.
You want some continuity, sure, but you also take what you like, and leave the rest. The breathless urgency of some new songs were galvanizing to hear live, such as "Hurry on Home" and "RUINS."
The Center Won't Hold has grown on me after repeated listens.
And now having witnessed most of this new album performed live, it reassures me that having Carrie and Corin back in any form performing as Sleater Kinney is a good thing, and something to treasure.
Words + Photos by Ava Butera
On the eve before the craziness of Lollapalooza hit, I made sure I was present at the Chicago stop of The Night Running Tour featuring Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon, and Wild Belle. Ever since I got wind of this co-headliner, I had been counting down the days until July 31st - eager to see two of my all-time favorite bands share the stage.
As I entered the venue, opener (and Chicago-natives) Wild Belle opened the show to a rather sparse crowd. Soon enough, with their sultry vocals, infectious instrumentation, and powerful stage presence, the crowd of few grew in size as attendees quickly shuffled into their seats to witness the band’s performance. As their short set came to a close, I found myself immediately whipping out my phone to download their music on Spotify. Talented bands like Wild Belle are hard to come by.
Shortly after Wild Belle’s set commenced, next up was Spoon -- Indie-rock darlings hailing from the indie capital of the world, Austin, TX. The opened up their set with the acoustic guitar-driven “Knock Knock Knock” that starts out slow but soon enough erupts into a crescendoing track. Spoon quickly went straight into “No Bullets Spent”, keeping their set a little mellow. Despite that, the crowd was absolutely loving it, screaming every lyric and dancing in the aisles. Soon enough, the band went straight into the Van Morrison-sounding classic, “The Underdog”, and the crowd was absolutely in awe of lead singer Britt Daniel’s stage presence. As the set progressed, Spoon played other notable hits such as “Hot Thoughts”, “Inside Out”, and of course closing out their performance with “Rent I Pay”.
Then, after about a half hour later, Cage the Elephant graced the stage -- each member dashing out on stage. Before he even ran out, the crowd had their phones recording, waiting to catch a glimpse of lead singer Matt Shultz and his infectious presence. Opening the set with “Broken Boy” and the quickly moving into “Cry Baby” and “Spiderhead”, fans could hardly take a breath. As I watched Shultz run through the crowd in his ‘Black Madonna’ garb for the tour and new album cycle, I was awestruck. And while I was fixated on Matt, I quickly noticed the crowd shift toward the opposite side of the pit. Guitarist Brad Shultz ambushed the crowd to play a little guitar amongst the fans. A Cage the Elephant performance is truly like no other.
Throughout the rest of the set, iconic tracks such as “Cold Cold Cold”, “Mess Around”, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”, and of course “Cigarette Daydreams” and “Teeth” were played and to great response of course!
Words + Photos by Ava Butera
The evening of October 12th was one filled with inclusivity, uniqueness, and of course a fantastic performance by everyone’s queen — Charli XCX. Promoting her latest and long-awaited album Charli, each person present at the singer’s sold out Chicago show was anxiously awaiting her House of Blues show ever since we saw her absolutely crush her set at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival only a few months prior. But before we could embrace Charli’s set, we had to witness her tour mates, Dorian Electra and Allie X’s performances.
First up was Dorian Electra. Accompanied by two energetic and talented dancers, Dorian completely won over the crowd with their dance-influenced music and electrifying choreographed move. By the end of Dorian’s set, the crowd was buzzing with excitement, ready for the next performance.
Next, Allie X took the stage. Unlike Dorian’s party-like performance filled with dancing and fun music, Allie sharply contrasted that by taking the stage completely solo, with only a microphone accompanying her. With her captivating performative dance routine and serious facial expressions, she left the crowd stunned.
Finally, the moment we were all waiting for, by 9:30 sharp the lights dimmed and our girl Charli bolted onto the stage by opening her set with “Next Level Charli,” “Click,” and “I Don’t Wanna Know.” Though the crowd was jumping and screaming the lyrics by now, by the time she broke out into the fan-favorite, “Vroom Vroom,” the audience absolutely erupted and the floor felt like it was about to burst due to the crowd’s energy and dancing. Before I knew it, Charli quickly went into two of my favorite songs from her new album, “Gone” and “Cross You Out.” As I looked around, the audience soon enough turned into a club, filled with everyone dancing and singing with one another.
As her set progressed and she breezed through a set filled with almost every new song from Charli, she finally ended her set on a high note by “taking us to the future” on “2099.” While we were still buzzing with excitement and screamed for an encore, Charli came back out moments later to sing an encore filled with her hits including “Unlock It,” “I Love It,” “Boys,” and of course her latest hit, “1999.”
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Like the hard working American farmers that are honored by this annual concert event, Farm Aid 2019 pressed on through the damp weather on Saturday, September 21st. Fighting the wind and occasional rainfall, the 30,000 plus crowd was let into Alpine Valley in East Troy Wisconsin to embark on listening to music from a who’s who of country and folk music. A who’s who that included performances by Wille Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews--the founders of the Farm Aid festival.
To show appreciation and support for American farmers, Farm Aid began with an opening prayer and dance from the Wisdom Indian Dancers and the Ho-Chunk Thundercloud Singers. This was followed by terrific, but brief, sets from Jamestown Revival, Ian Mellecamp, and Particle Kid.
Tanya Tucker was next with her short, down to earth country set. Tucker’s vocals were fresh and twangy and her ten gallon cowboy hat and outfit were the definition of "Country.” The crowd got on their feet for Tucker’s splendid rendition of her famous hit "Delta Dawn," and poignantly called attention to farmers’ plight with her song "Bidding America Goodbye.” Written in the realm of a foreclosure letter to a farmer, “Bidding America Goodbye” gave a harmonic voice to the struggles of American farmers, especially in this day and age.
The next performer was Yola, a force of nature with a dynamic vocal range. Hailing from the U.K. and a voice reminiscent of early ‘60’s soul, Yola’s currently getting well deserved attention here in the states. Her cover of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was the showstopper of all showstoppers. She elevated John’s anthem through the roof of Alpine Valley with her upper register vocal intact.
Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real had a grand old time onstage. Lukas was joined by his brother Micah Nelson and Nathaniel Rateliff onstage, along with Margo Price and Yola to sing a few songs.
The true star of Lukas Nelson’s set was Leon, the young son of Promise of the Real’s percussionist Tato Melgar. Strapped with a fender guitar, Leon busted out some moves during the set and helped the crowd have as much fun as he was having onstage.
No other performer on the line up was the true definition of a "Farm Aid Performer” than Margo Price. In 1985, the year of the first Farm Aid, Price's family lost their farm in Aledo, Illinois. This hardship gave inspiration to Price’s breakout album Midwest Farmer's Daughter.
A Farm Aid regular since the album’s debut, Price made it clear that this was her favorite gig of the year. Her set reflected this enthusiasm with a wonderful cover of Janis Joplin's "Move Over" and an uptempo performance of “Nowhere Fast,” with the band pushing on the gas pedals throughout the set.
Jamey Johnson took the stage, alongside special guest Randy Houser, and the two interjected fine and sincere vocals throughout. The persistent and windswept rain made it difficult to stay in one place and listen, but the crowd hunkered down and sought cover with plastic, blankets, and whatever else they could find. No matter, their song selection was sublime, and Johnson and Houser traded fiery vocals and guitar licks throughout their set.
Next, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats barn burned through their set. Hit after hit, the band was sweating from the first song onward. Farm Aid brought out the best in this soulful band and their set was very tight and in the groove. Rateliff flourished throughout each song, even throwing some James Brown dance moves with his feet on the slippery stage, grabbing the mic and tearing into "S.O.B.” and "You Worry Me" in particular. Definitely one of the highlights of Farm Aid 2019.
Bonnie Raitt, and her impeccable slide guitar front and center, reminisced on seeing Stevie Ray Vaughn’s last ever performance at Alpine Valley before his untimely death by helicopter crash. Raitt dedicated a solo acoustic cover of Skip James’s "Devil Got My Woman" to Stevie and fellow blues guitar artists. Raitt's set was a treasure of original and cover tunes, particularly the cover of the Talking Heads "Burning Down the House," which as Bonnie predicted, "blew the roof off this place!"
Luke Combs and his stalwart country band proceeded Bonnie with all of his hits, making the pavilion at Alpine Valley a downright beer swigging country dancing party. The relatability of Combs’s songs caused even the men in attendance to dance in their seats. His music was definitely smooth enough and catchy enough for country radio, and the Alpine Valley crowd certainly dug it.
Dave Matthews was joined by his acoustic companion Tim Reynolds, and the two blazed away during songs like "Ants Marching" and "So Damn Lucky." Free from the constraints of a large ensemble, Matthews and Reynolds let it rip on acoustic guitars throughout their set.
John Mellencamp had some mixing troubles during his set, which softened the sound of his vocals and the band, but that didn't stop the crowd from singing and dancing to "Scarecrow" and "Jack and Diane."
Neil Young took the stage with Lukas Nelson's band Promise of the Real, and Neil took time to vocalize his thoughts on the plight of America's farmers during his set. The crowd appreciated hearing Neil speak candidly about the importance of family farmers and how we need to take care of Mother Earth. Neil Young urged the crowd to buy from local farmers, to avoid processed foods, and to give a big middle finger to factory farms. Particularly, a giant “fuck you” to the food giant Monsanto, which drew a rousing and noisy applause from the audience. Fine moments in Neil's set abound- from the raucous and blistering "Rockin' in the Free World," along with the gentle "Harvest Moon," and plenty of good stuff in between.
At past Farm Aid events, Wille Nelson would introduce the opening acts, but not this year. The 86 year old Nelson, who's had some health issues as of late, saved his only appearance until the end.
Regardless of the recent health issues, Wille Nelson was in good form. Sprightly and all smiles, Nelson opened his set as always with "Whiskey River." Willie’s two sons Lukas and Micah Nelson joined him onstage to do renditions of "Still is Still Moving to Me," "It's All Going to Pot," and "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die."
Accompanied by his trusty guitar "Trigger," Willie Nelson ended Farm Aid with a spirited performance of “I’ll Fly Away” alongside Neil Young, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Nathaniel Rateliff and Margo Price. Willie Nelson solidified the end of the night’s festivities by tossing his cowboy hat out into the crowd.
A wonderful and splendid time at Farm Aid 2019 was had by all.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine, Wes Nott, and Freddie Benitez
The rains early in the morning of September 15 turned Douglas Park into a mud pit. As a crowd waited to turn those mud pits into mosh pits, the Riot Fest crew was putting down mulch to help soak up the moisture.
The first band on the lineup was Ultra Q. A small, but strong, group were waiting for the band to go on. Their sound drew in others who were waiting for other acts. The big mud pit was no worry for a small group, who proceeded to slip and slide while forming a mosh pit.
The sun came out and dried up a majority of the grounds, save for a few deep puddles. Later, on the same stage as Ultra Q, was Frank Iero and the Future Violents. All members on stage were in matching jumpsuits. The mud had mostly dried up, which was good because the pit did not stop during their set.
JBTV alum The Beaches took the stage that day. It was their second Riot Fest, but their first in Chicago. They have previously performed at Riot Fest Toronto. The crowd was drawn in by the loud music, coordinated outfits, and fun dance moves.
One of the acts that was highly anticipated were the Village People. The members came out in their costumes, and the front to the back turned into a dance fest. The group ended with their most famous song, Y.M.C.A.
Against Me! had a double-album play with Reinventing Axl Rose and Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Two completely different eras, blended together. Although 12 years and lots of changes separated the two albums, the sound was still the same. The same energy was there. As the crowd screamed “baby, I’m an anarchist” with the band, the 17 year old song felt brand new.
Another highly anticipated act were the B-52’s. Another classic band, taking the stage. The crowd had their lobster claws, or inflatable lobsters. The band had their costumes on, ready for a funky time.
As the sun began to go down, Patti Smith took to the stage. Born in Logan Square, Riot Fest was almost a homecoming. Her first breath was taken in Chicago. The giant crowd hung onto every last word she spoke and sang.
The two headliners were hard to choose between. Taking Back Sunday or Bikini Kill. Taking Back Sunday were playing their albums Louder Now and Tell All Your Friends. The crowd gathered, anticipating, ready for a wave of nostalgia.
Rows and rows of people were jumping around. It was a high energy, carefree crowd. The screaming fans almost drowned out Adam Lazzara. Lazzara thanked Riot Fest, and the staff who made the weekend possible.
The other headliner, Bikini Kill, were playing their first show in Chicago in 24 years. This energy was different from every other show that weekend. Rows and rows of girls and women were lined up in the front, ready for this act.
Kathleen Hanna did not say her signature phrase, “Girls to the front,” even though people were chanting for it. “I would join you, but there’s too many people here and I don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
Bright and sunny, the morning proved that the weather would be perfect for Riot Fest. Sunny and warm, but not too hot for walking around. Being in a pit might get a little too warm, but that’s expected.
Day two started out with alum Masked Intruder. Although it was shortly after the gates opened, there was still a sizable crowd. Although Intruder Purple is still filling in for Intruder Yellow, fans wore their yellow masks. During their set, Green found a dance partner from the crowd. A young woman even came on stage to sing the duet “Heart Shaped Guitar.”
On the neighboring stage, the band The Hu came out next. Once Masked Intruder ended, the crowd began to chant “Hu.” The band, which blends Mongolian throat singing and heavy metal, came on stage to quickly tune their instruments. Some members played traditional Mongolian instruments, which couldn’t be easily tuned by the Riot Fest crew.
The pit that broke out was different than the other pits of the day. It was more marching along with the beat. There was still pushing and shoving, but it was slower and more methodical.
The Hu walked from their tent to the JBTV booth to interview with Jerry. They were being filmed while Jerry walked with them back to their tent. Fans who saw began to chant “Hu. Hu. Hu.” at the members, but nobody could achieve the gutteral sound produced by the band.
The Damned Things are a side project of several bands. With vocals by Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, bass from Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, rhythm guitar from Scott Ian of Anthrax, and Fall Out Boy’s Andy Hurley on drums and Joe Trohman on guitar, this supergroup was not one to miss.
Their sophomore album High Crimes recently came out, 9 years after their debut album. The catchy lyrics and heavy rock instrumentals had the crowd singing along while fighting in the pit. Security sprayed several bottles of water through the audience, trying to make sure nobody overheated.
Grandson’s political laden songs were paired with matching video clips behind him. “Overdose” was matched with clips of drugs and celebrities who overdosed at a young age. After his set, he walked over to the JBTV booth to chat with Jerry and to enjoy the rest of the festival.
The Struts energy made everyone forget how tired they were. Songs were cut up, spliced together, parts separated. A majority of the crowd had seen them live before. There was a lot of engagement with the crowd, with call and responses.
The audience was encouraged to become fireworks during the climax of the set. Crouched down until instructed to stand up by frontman Luke Spiller. Once given the sign, everyone jumped up and confetti was shot loose.
The biggest conflict of the entire festival was from 7:15-8:30 on Saturday. It was the choice between Manchester Orchestra, Andrew W.K., Wu-Tang Clan, and Rise Against
A chant of “party” is what drew Andrew W.K. onto the stage. It was his eight time performing at the festival over its 15 year run.
Wu-Tang Clan had a huge crowd. They announced that they would be doing an album performance of 36 Chambers.
Rise Against thanked Slayer for everything that they have done over the past 40 years. JBTV was able to talk to vocalist Tim McIlrath from Rise Against. Jerry and Tim reminisced about old times and their first JBTV performance and interview, which was Rise Against’s first TV performance.
Slayer’s Riot Fest performance was their last Chicago/Milwaukee area show. A huge sea was there already to see them, and hoards shoved their way through. As Rise Against got off stage, the Slayer chants started.
Although they have been around for decades, it was hard to tell their age. They performed like it was 1983.
With their final show over, the night was also over.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
Although this Friday the 13th started out overcast, the sun came out as the first day of Riot Fest kicked off.
Patrons filtered inside, exploring the grounds. Five stages, a row of rides, a few attractions, and multiple vendors were spread out across the beautiful Douglas Park.
Some patrons headed straight for the Butter Stamos sculpture, sad that it wasn’t done. But instead, they got to check back over the day and see the stick of butter turn to the likeness of John Stamos.
Anti-Flag was the first alumni band of the day. They came onto the stage and exploded into “Die For The Government.” Although it was still early in the day, they drew a large crowd who were screaming along with the lyrics.
Frontman Justin Sane made it known that they have not changed their beliefs over the years. “We are taking a stand against racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia.”
During their set, Jerry and some of the JBTV team walked around the grounds. Jerry met fans, some of whom who have been watching the show for years.
As Anti-Flag finished up, I Don’t Know How But The Found Me was starting across the park. The electro-indie duo is fronted by Dallon Weekes, ex-guitarist of Panic! At The Disco, and supported by Ryan Seaman, the ex-drummer of Falling In Reverse. Their set ended with their two most popular songs: “Do It All The Time” and “Choke.”
Later that night were JBTV alum Lucero. A crowd of fans were ready for the alt-country band.
Dashboard Confessional were one of the bands of the evening playing an album set. Their choice was The Places You Have Come To Fear The Most from 2001. The band backing singer/songwriter Christian Carrabba came and went, as the songs alternated from acoustic to needing a full band.
The Flaming Lips were also playing an album performance. Their choice was Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots. It was an eccentric performance, like their performances tend to be. While Dashboard Confessional played on the other stage, Riot Fest crews were setting up the stage. Streamers hung down from the rafters, their “Fuck Yeah Riot Fest” balloon being brought on stage.
During their set, singer Wayne Coyne alternated from singing to picking up a trumpet. He also went into the crowd, but didn’t crowdsurf. Instead, he brought out a giant blowup ball and got inside. The security carried him through the photo pit and let him loose in the audience. Fans passed him around as he rolled around inside, before being carried back to the stage.
The final album performance of the night was JBTV alum Blink-182’s Enema of the State. As soon as the band hit the stage, the audience let loose. Within the first two songs, at least twenty people in the front had to leave, or at least move back.
During the song “Aliens Exist,” giant blowup aliens were let into the crowd.
A few songs into the second half of the set, after they finished Enema, Matt Skiba asked for all the girls in the crowd to make some noise. All the girls cheered.
“Is that it? Are those all the girls here? This is a sausage fest. Anyways, this one is for you. Guys, plug your ears or text your mom or something” introduced “I Miss You.”
Blink-182 and Jawbreaker played at the same time, and the sea of people for Blink-182 impressed the band. They would have all been at Jawbreaker.
They exited the stage, and that was the end of the day. The first day of Riot Fest 2019 ended on a great note.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
ZZ Top is without question one of the longest running bands with its original line-up, vocalist/guitarist Billy Gibbons, bassist/vocalist Dusty Hill, and drummer Frank Beard, still intact. A feat many groups with half of ZZ Top’s longevity and legacy can say.
"We're the same three guys, bashing out the same three chords," Gibbons told the audience at the Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre on September 7th. The group may only see themselves as “that little ol’ band from Texas,” but after 50 years together and accolades that include an induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, ZZ Top is sure as hell anything but little.
Being their 50th Anniversary Tour, ZZ Top’s performance was heavy on the hits, including songs from their massive selling Eliminator, the album that cemented the group as MTV video icons. With their fuzzy guitar and bass on full display, ZZ Top performed “Legs,” “Gimmie All Your Lovin’,” and “Sharp Dressed Man” to an eager Chicago crowd.
Even with a setlist stacked with their hits, ZZ Top didn’t shy away from doing a few covers. While introducing their cover of Merle Travis’s "Sixteen Tons,” Gibbons talked about how in St. Louis the night before none other than Jeff Beck came onstage to perform the song with them.
How’d St. Louis get so lucky? It’s hard to say, but even without the aid of Jeff Beck onstage, it was clear “Sixteen Tons” was a song that is deeply beloved by the group with their soulful rendition.
From the stillness of “Sixteen Tons,” ZZ Top shifted gears into the raucous "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers," with the vocal trade off between Gibbons and Hill. ZZ Top continued this high energy until the last song of the night, a cover of Elvis Presley’s "Jailhouse Rock."
Although ZZ Top weren’t accompanied by livestock and a live rattlesnake in plexiglass like they were during their 1977 Chicago Stadium performance on their Tejas Tour, the band still has the bite and energy that honors their strong blues roots and iconography. Iconography that has no peers, with their long beards front and center.
Eminently powerful, eminently soulful as always, ZZ Top’s power and influence has rippled far beyond the borders of Texas in their illustrious 50 years together.
As historic as this tour is, ZZ Top needed a heavy hitter group to help commemorate the occasion. Gibbons, Hill, and Beard looked at none other than Rockford's very own Cheap Trick to help with the celebration.
Consisting of the always fine vocals of Robin Zander, the crazy five-neck Hamer guitar antics of Rick Nielsen, the style and sophistication of bassist Tom Petersson, and backbeats provided by Rick’s son Daxx Neilson; Cheap Trick is a musical institution solidified as a power pop progenitor with catchy tunes like "I Want You to Want Me,” "Dream Police,” and of course “Surrender.”
Why three quarters of the people on the main floor chose to sit down for most of Cheap Trick's set, except for the notable songs, baffles me. Everyone in my section was standing and yelling out every lyric, some appearing older than me, and I'm well over sixty.
Local H’s Scott Lucas surprised the audience when he joined Cheap Trick to perform their biggest hit “Surrender.” A clear fan of the band himself, Lucas looked like he was having a grand ol' time, joining Rick towards the end of the song and flinging vinyls into the audience like frisbees during the song’s refrain "rolling numbers, rock and rolling, got my Kiss records out."
ZZ Top's 50th Anniversary Tour with Cheap Trick at Tinley Park was a night of musical legends showcasing the talent that made them superstars. Though time always marches on, ZZ Top and Cheap Trick’s performance on September 7th showcased how their music and live shows are timeless.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Curt Baran + Daniel Boczarski
The final show of the House of Vans House Parties season was curated by Converge. It was a show to end all shows. As it was a perfect day to wait outside, the line wrapped around the building.
As people began to filter inside, the art presentation started. Lights and sound lit up quotes on the walls from House of Vans alumni from all over the world. These quotes were what drew the artists to the punk music scene. Why they chose to pursue that path. The floor was even covered in art.
Photos by Daniel Boczarski
Sipping on free Goose Island, patrons enjoyed the art exhibit. Burlesque of North America was screenprinting live. The blank wall filled up with prints as the night progressed. In addition to the Burlesque of North America prints, Jake Bannon of Converge and Thomas Hooper were also working on prints.
Photos by Curt Baran
Djunah, pronounced like June-ah, was the first band up. This Chicago-based band consists of Donna Diane on guitar, bass, and vocals, and Nick Smalkowski on drums. Diane plays the guitar and bass simultaneously, the latter being played by her feet. This noise rock duo is releasing their debut EP November 1st, 2019.
Djunah finished their set and were immediately replaced with Cloud Nothings, who were setting up. The indie garage rock band captivated the audience. Dylan Baldi, the lead singer, said that it was his 28th birthday. The foundation was set for a pit, but one didn’t break out until the very end.
There was no pushing to the front after Cloud Nothings left. Instead, a space opened up. People went to get last minute refills of beer, bottles of water. Anything to hydrate before what was coming up.
It was time. Converge got up on stage and mayhem ensued. Goose Island was getting thrown everywhere. It was impossible to tell where the barrier of the pit was because it was so big and so dark.
Everyone was screaming along to the lyrics, getting beat up in the pit, getting soaked by sweat, water, and beer.
The chaotic movement of the pit went on the entire show. Although it was a mess, everyone was still friendly. Helping people as they slipped on the now-wet floor, making sure people found their phone or glasses even if they were destroyed.
The pit consisted of mostly men, with a handful of women joining in. It was a very welcoming environment. If you wanted to get beat up in the pit, you could.
As the last notes rang out, everyone left sweaty and bruised. It was a great end to the House of Vans House Parties season.
Photos by Curt Baran
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
A group of unsuspecting women, one with a guitar, buzzed up to the JBTV studio using the building’s front door. What the passerby didn’t know was the utter starpower they were walking past: Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes with her mentee Lion.
When they entered the studio, both introduced themselves to everyone working. Lion, using her given name Beth.
Linda is an alum of JBTV, having played both solo and with 4 Non Blondes, but has only been in the old studio. She was very interested in touring the new location, wanting to know what went on in every room.
Lion was more interested in what was on the walls. While she was looking at the posters, a performance by Jeff Buckley came on and she was starstruck. Immediately needing to know if she was about to perform on the same stage as her “husband,” as she referred to him, she took off to get an answer.
A decent sized crowd came out at 1pm on a Wednesday afternoon to see Lion’s performance. Although it was just her and her guitar in a stripped down set, it wasn’t an acoustic performance. Lion’s electric guitar was plugged in.
Linda Perry gave Lion’s introduction. Perry signed Lion and has been mentoring her. After the introduction, Lion came out. Boxed water in one hand, tea in the other. She set down her beverages and picked up her guitar and started.
Without the background of a large band, her vocals took center stage. Dramatic shifts from soft to loud. Her voice alone was captivating.
Lion has an amazing stage presence. Standing there with her guitar and singing, it was impossible to tear your eyes away. It was hypnotic.
That’s exactly what Linda Perry saw the first time she met Lion. Perry’s manager had quit, and all her calender said was “Beth, U.K.” Perry had no other details about who was coming in. When Beth came in, Perry was honest and said she had no music, no details, nothing. Beth offered to play demos, but Perry wanted to hear her live.
Lion was nervous about that first meeting. She expected it to go differently, with Perry having already heard her music and wanting to make an album.
Jerry noted that Lion has elements of Linda Perry. They have a similar stage presence. Perry and Lion had just found out that they have the exact same signature. It’s an L with a squiggle and then a little heart.
They wrote some of Lion’s songs together. Perry’s favorite song is “Wolf.” Lion was having a bit of a meltdown in the studio, and out of that came a stadium hit.
Perry is huge on mentoring young artists. She said that if she had been like other managers, she would’ve hit Lion and changed her sound. Instead, she’s creating a safe space for Lion to create. She misses the days where labels would work with new artists and help them grow.
It was a day full of firsts for Lion. From her first poster signing to her first television performance in the USA. It was also her first time in Chicago. “It doesn’t seem real. It’s like a movie set,” she noted.
Lion will definitely be back to Chicago. She and Linda Perry want to come back to JBTV with a full band and do a fully plugged in set.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
A packed crowd at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre awaited the return of Slipknot, who brought a galvanizing and barn burning show. Billed as Knotfest, Slipknot hit the road with an eclectic bill of metal stalwarts--Volbeat from Denmark, the technical prowess and might of Gojira hailing from France, and the brutal extreme metal from Polish metal band Behemoth.
Think about this for a moment, four bands that are equally important in their genres of metal, appearing together for a festival of the ages. All trailblazers, all deserving to be headliners, which says a lot about the boys in Slipknot, who are uncompromising in their production and aren’t afraid of showcasing such great supporting acts.
Bottom line, Slipknot still delivers. It’s only fitting that Knotfest in Tinley Park coincided with their sixth studio album release We Are Not Your Kind. Slipknot’s first album since the firing of longtime member Chris Fehn. Regarding Fehn’s termination, Slipknot have made it clear they'd rather not talk on the issue and move on.
Only two songs from their new album made the cut for their setlist. "Unsainted," a blistering and unrelenting song worthy of stature in the band’s canon, and "Solway Firth," which made its live debut at Tinley Park. The set started off hard and heavy, with a foot stomp statement of "People = Shit," then into "(sic)," followed by "Get This."
The beginning of Slipknot’s set was the definition of intensity, and we haven't even started with the vertical pyrotechnics. The three- tiered stage set up was perfect for the members of Slipknot, since there's so many of them, to equally lay waste to a normal rock n' roll show, having audience members’ eyes ping-ponging from one musician to another, watching the uncontrolled antics of Slipknot acting like gremlins to the tenth degree.
I say this with positivity and genuine appreciation.
A lot of thought has gone into this stage design, courtesy of founding member Shawn Crahan, otherwise known as "Clown" aka #6. Clown has his hands in everything Slipknot, from stage production, music videos, and songwriting. There were giant panelled video walls, air vent windmills below Jay Weinberg's drum kit, and a small treadmill below Sid Wilson's mixing table. Wilson’s mixing table set up added to the chaos by having an elevated percussion kits 20 feet up. Sid Wilson cemented his place in music as a genuine and unpredictable performer.
Of course, ringleader Corey Taylor was lively as all get out. From heavy and gnarly vocals to his costume and new mask, Taylor was as wicked as wicked comes. You can't keep your eyes off him.
An A+ show from Slipknot. These metal legends brought a setlist that was unrelenting from beginning to end in all things heavy. Being Midwesterns themselves, Slipknot’s from Des Moines Iowa, they made it known time and time again how important Chicago and the Midwest region has been to the band’s success over the years.
Each act of this Knotfest roadshow brought something different, something unique, something fresh.
Even with the sun shining brightly, openers Behemoth did not disappoint. With Nergal front and center, with his nasty, trademark corpse paint and unique headpieces on full display, was surrounded by a band that knows the definition of uncompromising punishment.
Same holds true for Gojira and Joe Duplantier, with patrons in the main GA pit in the center of the main floor thrashing about in unison to the band's plentiful set of heavy on top of heavy songs. Furious in approach and furious in might, Gojira have continued to develop into an inspired live act with lots and lots of touring in the states, and a polished set of songs that leave you drained and your ears buzzing for days on end.
After the two downright heavy openers, we were entertained by Copenhagen, Denmark's Volbeat. Led by frontman Michael Poulson, who was jovial and energetic, looked like a rockabilly rocker who's fixated on early Elvis, but has a passion for dark speed metal. Lots of wah wah riffing heavy guitars throughout, with a snippet from Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" before tearing into "Sad Man's Tongue," with over the top heavy guitar playing from Rob Caggiano, who is super underrated in guitar playing. A high energy performance from these dudes, before headliner's Slipknot took the stage.
A remarkable show from four awesome bands, and no loose ends in the line up.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos courtesy of Label27
What started out as a backyard event in Topanga has grown into California’s biggest reggae fest. Reggae on the Mountain is entering its 10th year bigger and better than ever.
Inspired by growing up in Topanga and charging a little money for events, founders Amit Gilad and Brooks Ellis decided create a festival. Originally hosted in the Topanga Community Center, it has moved and is doing it’s first year at the King Gillette Ranch in Malibu.
With the move to a bigger and better venue, it can truly become a proper festival. The new venue has room to add a campground and has an 11 p.m. curfew, far later than the old 8 p.m. curfew.
Although the festival physically has grown, it still holds onto its roots. For the anniversary, they are bringing back all-stars such as Julian Marley. The founders are still entirely grateful that they can put on the show.
The festival can unify everyone of different ages, races, and backgrounds. On a beautiful sunny day in Malibu, it’s a great family outing. There is a place for children to run around while adults listen to the music. Children under the age of 10 are let in free.
On the day of, it’s important to speed things up, so make sure everything is together before arriving. Get prepaid parking, make sure festival tickets are easily available, and get there early because the parking will fill up. Coolers with non-alcoholic beverages are allowed inside.
In addition to the music, this is also a wellness festival. On Sunday morning, some well-known yoga instructors will be leading early morning yoga. There is also a sound bath, to help heal through sound.
A vendor village is included to promote a healthy lifestyle. The booths include CBD vendors and yoga studios.
Some tips they gave to live a healthy lifestyle include listen to yourself, exercise, and try to eat raw and healthy foods. But, how to lead a healthy lifestyle varies from person to person. So it’s up to you to listen to your body.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
The latest House of Vans show was curated by mid-00’s electronica indie-rock band The Rapture. They featured performances by the bands Seedy Films and Tandem Jump with art by Rich Jacobs.
While guests were being checked in, those inside leisurely strolled around, the 21+ guests holding a cup of free Goose Island beer. They made their way over to the free shirt line, getting a green-orange ombre shirt that announced “The Rapture at the House of Vans.”
Some guests stayed inside, dancing to the tunes the DJ was playing. Others chose to go outside to get some fresh air, more beer, or to order from the food trucks parked. But, once the first act started, people started to filter inside.
Tandem Jump started out the night. Their music was very quirky, with comedic hints. One of their songs was an apology letter from the lead singer to her mother, apologizing for cheating on her with a different mom.
More people chose to stay inside after that set, dancing to the music playing.
Seedy Films followed Tandem Jump. The three women in the band alternated singing lead on their songs. The overarching genre was rock music, with notes of reggae mixed in.
After Seedy Film’s final song, everyone went back to dancing to the pre-show music coming from the loudspeakers.
Their music was loud and electronic and fun. The House of Vans was almost transformed into a dance club
From the first notes to the very end of their set, it was a non-stop dance party. Everyone was moving and dancing with each other.
One of the singers from Seedy Films and the singer from Tandem Jump sang backup, having fun the entire time.
They left the stage and the stage lights went out. Everyone was chanting for them to come back on stage.
They did come back on stage to play “How Deep Is Your Love.” After one last dance, they left the stage for good, leading the audience to filter out, grabbing posters off the walls as they left.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
When the Anderson .Paak RSVP went live, it almost immediately sold out. Everyone wanted to see the Grammy Award-winning artist.
Showday the line outside the House of Vans wrapped around the building. Excited fans had been waiting for hours to get inside, ready for a jazzy night of rhythm, blues, and rap.
Sipping on free Goose Island or Canned Water, guests wandered around, enjoying the art by Dewey Saunders, who created the art for Paak’s “Malibu.” The art was made using mostly black, white, and yellow, save for one giant picture of Anderson .Paak that hung by the bar. The giant Anderson .Paak picture was black and white, with pops of bright color.
In addition to the art, guests could experience skateboarding down Santa Monica Pier via a VR headset, YouTube, and skateboards attached to the ground.
The art included a photo corner. Foliage covered walls held up a bright green sign that read “Yes Lawd!” in script. There sat a drum set, covered in stickers and leaves.
While people were still filtering in, Kadhja Bonet started. Her 1950s-esque soul vocals overpowered the chattering crowd. Her entire set was jazzy and full of soul, with classical elements.
As Bonet left the stage, the crowd started pushing forward. The Free Nationals, Anderson .Paak’s band, was up next.
Paak joined the Free Nationals onstage briefly, leading to lots of cheers. He wasn’t performing with their set, but was up there to announce them.
“This is my first time seeing them live without performing with them,” he announced.
The Free Nationals’ jazz set was very music heavy, light on the vocals. The members encouraged the crowd to start a pit. They started the dance party and were a preview of what was yet to come.
The crowd was very friendly, chatting with each other, dancing to the pre-show setlist. People were sharing their water so nobody had to lose their spot. Strangers were dancing with each other.
The security guards started to flash their lights at each other, leading the crowd to speculate what was going on. People were guessing that someone had thrown up, or passed out.
The smooth sound of Maurice Brown’s Intro on a trumpet came from the crowd, where the security guards flashed their lights. The trumpet player made his way to the stage and took his place. That was the Free Nationals’ cue to take the stage again, this time joined by Anderson .Paak.
Anderson .Paak claims to have the best teef in the game, according to his late spring/early summer 2019 tour title. It’s confirmed: he does. Up on stage behind his drum set, his teeth looked great.
Everyone started dancing as soon as the first song, “Heart Don’t Stand,” started. The dancing lasted through his entire 20 song set. From the very beginning to the very end, the energy was at a very high level.
Although he spent most of the set behind his drums, he got up a few times to showcase his dancing. He danced his heart out while he belted out “Come Down.”
He also came into the audience and walked around while performing. From the VIP lounge to the bar, he went everywhere. A quick shirt change later, he was back on stage.
The entire set, the dancing was edging on forming a pit. But during the song “Bubblin” one started. Everyone went wild, dancing as hard as they can.
His final song was a tribute to Mac Miller. They made the song “Dang!” together, which was on Miller’s album The Divine Feminine. Anderson .Paak announced that he could feel Mac’s presence and that he was in the air.
Maurice Brown Intro
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
There is no wrong time for a dark and gritty rock show, as Badflower rocked out our studio at 1:30 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.
(L-R): Bassist Alex Espiritu, Singer Josh Katz, Jerry, Drummer Anthony Sonnetti, Guitarist Joseph Marrow
Dedicated fans starting showing up early, trying to secure their place and to catch a glimpse of the band. The first fans showed up before 11:30 a.m, a whole two hours before the show.
Badflower dropped their first LP “Ok I’m Sick” only a few months ago, but had already built a strong and steadily growing following. Some fans called off work and drove 9 hours to come to this show.
The stage was lit up for a big show, not an intimate crowd. Lights made by Katz stood in the background, ready to flash green and blue.
“Thanks for waking up early. I know it’s the afternoon, but I’d usually still be in bed,” joked Katz after taking the stage a little after 1:30 p.m.
Their first song, Jester, had everyone singing along, and their next song, Die, had everyone screaming along. The crowd were screaming out the political lyrics with Katz, dancing to the heavy rock.
Their biggest song, Ghost, was performed last. People in the crowd were crying as they sang the raw and emotional lyrics. Like many of their songs off “Ok I’m Sick,” it deals with Katz’s struggles with anxiety and depression.
The band went into the green room, but the crowd still hung out by the stage. They wanted to catch the band exiting the green room. Some people had brought albums and other merch they wanted autographed.
Katz and Joey Marrow, the lead guitarist, headed into the lobby to have a meet and greet with the fans. While they ate the food they got before the show, they talked to everyone who came. They gave hugs and took pictures, they autographed albums and posters. Fans were able to mingle with each other and with Katz and Marrow.
They had to be dragged away from the lingering crowd to do the interview.
During their conversation with Jerry, fun tidbits were released about each song off the album. The oldest song on the album is Jester. It wasn’t written specifically for the album, but it had been performed before. So they decided to add it to the album.
The song “Die” is one that causes some of their fans to stop being into the band. They shot a live video of it from the Epicenter music festival in North Carolina.
“During the video you can watch people who liked our band just crumble,” Katz joked about the song’s strong message. It’s a song condemning the political state in the United States and the meat industry. Katz and bassist Alex Espiritu are both vegans, and, even though Marrow and drummer Anthony Sonetti aren’t vegan, all four members are very conscious of what they put in their body.
Katz said that they are the superheroes here to save America. Espiritu is the biggest superhero fan in the band. His favorite hero is Spiderman. “He has been borderline kicked out of the band” Katz joked about the fact Espiritu claims that Batman would destroy Superman in a fight.
They are also on the lookout for aliens. They live together in the desert, in California City. Although they haven’t spotted any UFOs yet, they have heard some sonic booms from the nearby Air Force base.
Owning a house in the desert helps them creatively. Katz is able to work and write songs in peace.
Katz likes to be very hands-on with all creative production work. He writes all of his songs, helped build the lights that were on stage, and mixes all of his music. He said he would be just fine wearing all black and doing tech work. Although he loves to perform, it’s his least favorite part of the job. Although, watching their live performance, that’s impossible to tell.
Words + Photography by Bobby Talamine
With a slight rain delay to start, and the only casualty from the delay being Dreezy's set, the last day of Pitchfork 2019 was underway.
Having said that, things ran smoothly after the rain delay, and it was a weekend that celebrated musical diversity without question. A communal event where the spirit of mixing it up with strangers, dancing in place, or chilling out on blankets to simply take in the relaxed vibe held sway.
Once considered the cutting edge of music festivals, Pitchfork has branched out with bookings over the past few years, courtesy of Pitchfork's talent buyer Mike Reed. Reed has been bringing a keen perspective to all of the bookings, and selecting artists and bands from all genres, and all age groups.
To start Day Three of Pitchfork, a French- Cuban duo Ibeyi. Comprised of twins Lisa- Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz, their set involved keyboards, samples with electronics, assorted percussion, and a mix of hip hop. With their shared vocals and genuine enthusiasm, Ibeyi had everything come off as captivating as it was silky smooth.
Up next: Clairo, who is a definite do-it-yourself success story. A nice crowd showed up for her afternoon set at 4:15, witnessing first hand her homemade and laid back music and overall vibe.
Khruangbin was next on the line-up. A psych (with a hint of surf music) trio hailing from Houston Texas, and between most of my photographer friends, Khuranggbin was a must see for Sunday. These guys are cool factor times ten, from their stage presence and fashion, right down to the instrumentals they create and play. With a mix of South American, via the Middle East by way of Southern California vibe throughout, Khruangbin was definitely one of the highlights from Day Three at Pitchfork.
Chicago band and JBTV alums Whitney, led by Julien Ehrlich and Max Kakacek were next to grace the stage with their captivating and subdued psychedelic folk sound. A pleasant and laid back set from beginning to end, adding to the overall vibe of Pitchfork this year and the definition of "Chill."
All of that did a complete 180 when Charli XCX hit the stage, which we'll get to in a moment.
Up next, a rare performance from Swedish artist Neneh Cherry. Challenging herself musically at every turn, even through ear monitor problems at the start, she recovered nicely to bring forth her eclectic style of "all over the map" electronica and pop.
The brash, take no prisoners, even when performing solo with no band and just background tracks, JBTV alum Charli XCX was next and flipped the chillness that Whitney left on his head. What a sexy / take no prisoners stage presence, Charlie XCX ups the ante in her performance every time she hits the stage and knows how to party while performing.
The audience, bopped up and down during her set from beginning to end, with relatable and catchy tunes that jam and mix easily from one to another.
This was a set that by definition is "Party," and F everything else.
Another Up there highlight from Pitchfork 2019.
To close out Day Three from Pitchfork was headliner Robyn.
Robin Miriam Carlsson has established herself as a top tier dance-pop performer and innovator. Lots of white backdrops and various, fabricated drapes shrouded her stage and instruments, with the emphasis on the color taupe.
We got the announcement that us photographers were allowed to shoot approximately 40 minutes or so into her set, which was a change from the last time she was in town a couple months ago at the Aragon. The costume change we were allowed to photograph had her in a costume (white of course), dressed like a matador, accompanied by her dancer, and sitting on a throne of a giant hand.
Robyn is fascinating to watch and perform live, ever so confident in her style and presence, with a voice that's silky smooth and polished.
Definitely a free spirit, with her set building in momentum, and becoming an outright dance party.
With that, we close out Pitchfork 2019. A weekend that had a splendid array of styles and diversity in all things music.
Words + Photography by Bobby Talamine
Day Two of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and it was all things hot, humid and sticky.
From the start of day Two: Welsh musician Cate Le Bon. You can tell Le Bon is a ringleader with a lot of style and class, not just in her presentation and fashion, but with music that pushes gently into uncharted territories. A perfect start to the day, and a round of applause to the bookers of Pitchfork, for bringing forth an eclectic music cast throughout the entire festival.
Next up: Parquet Courts. And right from the get go, with the song "Master of My Craft," things got unruly with bodysurfers, lots of pushing and shoving from the front of the stage, and genuine hooligan behavior that added to the caterwaul of discontent and release.
The band was in on the fight, especially with guitarist Austin Brown releasing unholy wails from his guitar, taking it off and pretending to bash his head with it and sliding the strings along his mic stand.
As their set continues, the storm clouds come rolling in, and then the announcement comes to evacuate Pitchfork. The evacuation and suspension of Pitchfork lasted about an hour and twenty minutes, making Kurt Vile's and Amber Mark's set both casualties of the lineup for Day Two.
After the brief thunderstorm delay, we're back in business with English - French ultra cool avant pop from Stereolab. You know things are going to be fine and dandy with an announcement from Laetitia Sadler, saying "Hope you enjoy our set of light French disco."
Although that seemed weak when announced, Stereolab's music is anything but meek.
Lounge instrumentals abound, Sadler added the flair of comfort and cool, and possessing unorthodox time signatures intact, even after all these years.
A definite highlight from all things Pitchfork.
Up next: The quirky fun of chamber pop / folk rock coolness from Belle and Sebastian, with Stuart Murdoch enlightening everything and upping the ante as their set went forth. What started off their set with slight restraint, ended up celebratory when Stuart hopped off the stage and partook in some late afternoon fun with the audience jogging down the main runway in front of the stage. Lots of handshaking and sing-alongs, then back to the stage to finish off their set.
Belle and Sebastian know how to write songs that are impressive and hard to pigeonhole, presented in such a way that to classify them is nearly impossible. Another terrific set from Day Two at Pitchfork.
Headliners The Isley Brothers were up next, with Ronald and Ernie Isley still intact and going strong. Lead Vocalist Ronnie Isley, debonair and playing the flamboyant sophisticate, and his younger brother Ernie on lead guitar, looking badass and oh so cool down to his bandanna.
Ripping from the start, with opener "Fight the Power," into "Who's That Lady," with Ernie's swaggering guitar intro still sounding so fresh and clean, into the sexy and slinky "Between the Sheets."
This was a night of celebration of all things R&B, straight up Rock n' Roll, heavy doses of soul, and a mix of Funk with Doo -Wop. You could tell they were having a grand old time, with backup dancers and sexy models providing the necessary bells and whistles depending on whatever song they were playing.
A downright party from beginning to end with The Isley Brothers, closing out Day Two from Pitchfork.
Words + Photography by Bobby Talamine
So begins another year of the Pitchfork Music Festival: The hot and sweaty and sticky version of Day One.
Lots of drinking of water, lots of shade between acts to get out of the uncomfortable sun and humidity.
First up: Standing on the Corner. Formed by Gio Escobar, Standing on the Corner is an improvisational group in the realm of free spirit jazz, for lack of a better term- kind of like a mellower version of Lester Bowie's Art Ensemble of Chicago, and their version of Avant- garde jazz. Not much of a live presence, more musically inclined, with Escobar giving direction at various times with the horn section into the rhythm section.
A decent start to today's festivities.
Chicago rapper Valee was next up on the lineup. Having witnessed his live performances a couple times before, he's the definition of "Mellow." Lots of weed smoking, pacing the stage from left to right slowly yet assuredly, and well- a sleepy set for a mid afternoon performance in the blazing sun.
Next up: Sky Ferreira. Plagued with audio ear problems from the start of her set, Ferreira truly never fully recovered from the audio inadequacies. Trouble hearing her band, pulling out the ear monitors, looking at the stage hands for help, replacing portable ear monitors, awkward pacing, blazing sun, cover tunes, such as Aimee Mann and Till Tuesday's "Voices Carry." She can surely capture a crowd with all the mistakes, and yet- there's mistakes.
Earl Sweatshirt graced the stage next with his brand of cool vibe, American quality rap. An exciting rapper who lays down sophisticated beats, simple in performance, but yet powerful.
Next up: Julia Holter, an LA- based singer- songwriter, who creates challenging and sophisticated albums worth a listen, and when performing live, the sound collages are guaranteed to make you listen intently and assuredly.
Pusha T came out next with his forceful nature of rap and hip hop. He’s the kind of guy you don't want to mess with, and a guy with lots to say. There's a sense of unease when he stalked the stage, and it's fascinating to watch. Pusha T had fun, but you can tell he has lots on his mind, and needs to get it out, like expelling demons.
Next up: Sophie Allison and her band Soccer Mommy. Definitely one of the highlights of my day at Pitchfork. She sights Mitski, Taylor Swift and Avril Lavigne as some of her influences. But the opening instrumental of her set- I hear the Cure, and Jangly post punk. Definitely songs that are catchy, songs that are beyond the realm of the three influences mentioned.
All please hail and bow to Mavis Mavis Mavis. Mavis Staples was the standout set of the day, from beginning to end. A force of nature. A soul legend times ten. Oh so convincing, oh so brilliant with a voice from the heavens. From the mighty "Take us Back," to a cover of The Talking Heads' "Slippery People," up to the end of her set with "No Time for Crying," your in deep with soulful gospel, and a testimony to how gospel should be done righteous and with purpose and meaning.
Next up: The Minneapolis via Duluth trio Low, a band that challenges itself at every corner, every new release. The group still as unpredictable as ever. And before they played their first note, lead vocalist Alan Sparhawk wanted to know why everyone isn't over witnessing Mavis Staples perform live, saying that they don't compare, but they'll do their best to proceed. Alan said this not as a joke, but as a real head scratcher with everyone watching them play live instead of Mavis. Low proceeds brilliantly, and unrelenting.
And the headliner: Haim, in all their American pop band glory. visible on the giant LED screen behind the drum kit, live footage of their backs walking up the ramp to the stage, and the crowd going crazy nutty for their grand entrance. The three sisters- Este Haim on bass and vocals, Danielle Haim on guitar and vocals, and Alana Haim on guitars, keyboards and vocals, each came out one at a time to knock out some serious floor tom drumming, and then onto the hits. Captivating as they are, left to right on a shiny red lit stage, it was hard to navigate the pit to get decent shots of these three, with umpteen (and I mean plenty) of photographers filling up the entire pit. As decent as the girls are, not my cup of tea.
However- they do know how to put on a show.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photography by Patrick Luhrs and Daniel Boczarski
It was a hot day, the Chicago summer in full swing. Standing in the heat was a huge line outside the House of Vans. Tonight’s event was sold out. This House of Vans House Party was curated by Taking Back Sunday, featuring Pronoun and Rozwell Kid.
Tattoo artist Brian Ewing created the art for this show. The artwork spread all over the walls had horror elements to it, with a pop art aesthetic.
Pronoun kicked things off. Alyse Vellturo, the indie/synth artist, is based in Brooklyn. She revealed that she was asked to be a part of this House of Vans show the last time she was in Chicago. Her first full-length LP, i’ll show you stronger, was released May 24, 2019.
Continuing the indie genre, Rozwell Kid came on next. This West Virginia band likes to incorporate comedy into their performances. Jordan Hudkins, the lead singer, started many call and responses with the audience. He asked if he should take his glasses off or leave them on and if he should wear his hat backwards or not.
The entire floor was packed. Everyone was ready for Taking Back Sunday. People were chattering over the music playing through the speakers, waiting.
It was time for the main event. Taking Back Sunday came on the stage.
A pit formed almost immediately. A group of men, who have been fans since the release of Tell All Your Friends in 2002, immediately occupied it.
Adam Lazzara gave a lot of anecdotes and fun facts about their history. Before the beginning of the band, he lived with guitarist John Nolan. They had a TV but didn’t have cable. They had the preview screen, so they could see the names of the programs. Lazzara, one night, decided that all songs on the first album would be named after program names he saw a preview for.
The track “Timberwolves at New Jersey” is actually named after the Minnesota basketball team, playing in New Jersey. But Lazzara did not know that. “Do I look like a sports guy?” he asked the audience. “I thought the people in New Jersey were getting attacked by Timberwolves!”
Their usual drummer, Mark O’Connell, was missing during the show. He was at home because his wife was expecting a child. She gave birth to a daughter on Saturday night.
He was replaced with Atom Williard of Against Me! Lazzara joked that “Laura Jane is never getting him back.”
The set ended with “MakeDamnSure” and “Cute Without The E.” The pit expanded from a concentrated circle in the middle to the entire floor in front of the stage. Everyone was going nuts, losing themselves.
People weren’t only losing themselves, but were losing glasses, phones, and bags. The rest of the audience was helpful, searching. Many of the lost items were returned broken or cracked after being accidentally trampled on.
The crowd chanted for one more song. But, as the last notes of “MakeDamnSure” rang out, the night was over. It was another great night at the House of Vans.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photography by Bobby Talamine
The line outside of the House of Vans was long. Doors were at 7, but people had started to line up as early as 3. The BANKS show was sold out and everyone with a ticket wanted to secure their entry.
As people began to file inside, they spread out everywhere. Some went to get free Goose Island beer, some to the merch table, and some to look at the poetry. A few people made sure they were front and center for the show.
The poetry installment by Jillian Banks was an interest for most people. Her poems and drawings were printed on large sheets of crumpled paper, individually lit with colors that reflect the mood of the poem. The entire room was filled with low light and paper.
The merch table had an incredibly long line for the free “BANKS at the House of Vans” shirt that they were giving out. Next to the free shirt line was some merch for Samoht, one of the openers. They were giving out free fans because it was very hot inside.
Samoht was the very first opener for the evening. On stage, it was just him and his drummer. The microphone was hidden in a bouquet of flowers. The Brooklyn artist released his sophomore album, Exit, in June.
The second opener was billed as a surprise guest, so nobody knew who it was going to be.
BANKS’ friend, DJ Anna Lunoe, was the surprise guest. After playing a set of remixes, she began to perform songs off her album, Right Party.
The crowd was buzzing, waiting. BANKS was up next and nobody could wait. The entire space was filled. The energy in the air was electric.
Accompanied by two backup dancers, BANKS came on. They were backlit, dark figures against a bold red background. They had sharp movements, forming beautiful pictures with their bodies.
For most of the show, she was backlit. The band was hidden behind the bright lights, colored in bold hues of blue and green and red. It was a beautiful aesthetic.
For the songs that she did not have dancers on stage, she was also front-lit so the audience could see her.
She played a mix of songs from her old albums and a few newer ones. Her new album, III, came out July 12.