Writing and Photography by: Bobby Talamine
Pritzker Pavilion - Millennium Park Chicago
What a welcome return to Chicago with Jeff Tweedy and Wilco, along with special guest and co- headliner Sleater-Kinney. We can all breathe a sigh of relief to actually attend an event of significance- albeit outdoors at the gorgeous Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park Chicago.
How significant- with two awesome and co- headlining bands? None other than Marty Lennartz from WXRT Chicago- Introducing Wilco to the stage, stated as such at how much he was so looking forward to this special show and getting back to some kind of normalcy, witnessing great live music, with two special bands and getting communal with like minded folk.
Marty meant it - all from the heart- no script.
And if that wasn't enough- Jeff Tweedy of Wilco chimed in as well, after their second song, stating: "WE missed this. WE missed that. But WE definitely missed this."
And the audience laughed out loud at the comedic sentiment- from the heart like Marty Lennartz, but with a joyous laugh at all things that got us to our current state of affairs.
And to have this show at Pritzker close out their summer tour- that too brought out the performances as well- with Jeff and Sleater-Kinney all smiles from my vantage point, along with lead guitarist Nels Cline, who usually stoic by nature and by- the- book- walks out on stage bowing with hands held in prayer to his guitar spot perch, and receiving the loud and joyous applause, and also all smiles in reciprocation.
That kind of introduction makes you feel good all over, and looking out at the vastness of the crowd- all jubilant and excited and standing and stomping their feet, even before a note has been played...man oh man- you stand there like the band and soak it all in.
And as far as the actual show- let's just bounce back and forth between the two headliners to give you an idea of the excitement and overall positive feel goods throughout.
Because when you think of it, both bands have foundational members, both bands have terrific musicianship, both bands have a vast catalog of songs to pick and choose from, and both bands have had their fare share of tumultuousness and have come out the other side- somewhat unscathed.
Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker of Sleater- Kinney: throughout their set, they looked like and felt like they had a blast being up onstage and performing to a raucous crowd, which was provoked by Carrie two songs in, when she motioned the audience to come forward and party close to the stage, since she noticed there was no pit barricade set up at all, making this photographer get boxed like the other five photographers to get some decent shots for the first three songs of their set.
It wasn't as bad as I expected- mostly jubilant fans surrounded me and were dancing in place, singing to Carrie and Corin and reciting every lyric throughout.
And the fans were allowed to stay there for Sleater's entire set, making it feel like a club set at the venerated Metro Chicago from back in the day.
As for Sleater Kinney's set: 19 songs in total, even with a guest appearance from none other than Fred Armisen towards the end of their set, standing next to the keyboard player on a riser and banging out a beat on a tambourine.
Their set- opening with "High in the Grass", and bolting into "Hurry on Home" and then into "Price Tag"- a one- two- three punch of volatile fun, with Carrie maniacally shredding notes at a fevered pace.
The band has expanded a bit since the last time through town, with three guitarists in total banging and clanging off one another, enhancing their sound, flushing out their sound, and adding a dimension of ping pong craziness which harked back to their chaotic and crazy younger days.
Sleater's set was like this throughout, with a fierce commitment to showmanship along with brash interpretations to elevate the songs to heightened po- going frenzy.
Have to say I was transfixed throughout, as when their set dug deeper, with songs such as "Path of Wellness" and "Worry with You" being highlights, let alone the amped up "Entertain" to close out their set.
Entertain? Indeed. In spades.
As far as Wilco's set- why not bring out Carrie and Corin to sing backup vocal right off the bat, with the song "A Shot in the Arm"- both looking so happy to perform it with Jeff and the boys, giddy and having a blast stage left / audience right.
And then into "Random Name Generator"- a song with such swing and energy, made more poignant and refined with cool from Nels and his guitar fills, intertwined with the tweaked and awesome yin and yang notes from Jeff.
All smiles these two- stated again, and such a pleasure to see these two cast of characters having a blast trading notes with one another, barreling through their catalog of awesomeness.
"Love is Everywhere" into "Via Chicago"- again a momentous moment of classiness and swing, and outright shock and awe- with pummeling backbeats worthy of more hard rock, and yet polished nice and clean when played by the Wilco participants.
Drummer Glenn Kotche looked like he was having a blast throughout the set, with unbalanced and wayward hits that mixed in nicely to whichever song you so choose, as if making a statement time and time again that Wilco's catalog of songs are meant for interpretation and most of all improvisation.
Everything about this special night to close out the tour in Chicago was so warm and inviting, with Wilco's audience at one with the band, and reciprocating in kind, all the way up to and into the encore, with "The Late Greats" and "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" to close out their set.
As for the future- going forward with this pandemic and fighting through the variants, and making our way hopefully and successfully into 2022 and beyond:
More Wilco and Sleater-Kinney please.
As for Chicagoan and opener Nnamdi Ogbonnaya- his set was uplifting and enlightening, even with a wounded wrist and forearm. Nnamdi is blessed with an innocent demeanor, topped with openhearted vocals that mix succinctly with the worldbeat musicianship of his whip-smart band.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Hardcore and punk intertwine with American Nightmare, a band that started back in 2000 with singer Wesley Eisold, also known by his other popular band Cold Cave. American Nightmare is nothing like Cold Cave in sound and presentation- this is all for intents and purposes, a bare bones kinda set, with minimal load in.
Simply arrive at whatever venue for the evening, unload the musicians and their instruments, and that's it.
Should have known and investigated a bit further on the amped up nature of American Nightmare fans. Simply for the fact that I'm getting older, and physical punishment from all angles to my body is just not as fun as it used to be back in the day.
I was perched on the lip of the stage front and center, surrounded by other photographers and patrons, when not even thirty seconds into American Nightmare's first song "Love American," I was pummeled and crushed repeatedly.
I made the mistake of vacating said spot in front of the stage to the center of the opened mosh pit, to kids going counter clockwise in full tilt by the dozens, not relinquishing their forward march for anybody, especially this photographer.
American Nightmare? Indeed. On many levels.
From the relative safety of stage left audience right, I got my composure to get some decent shots of Wesley and his band, then went up to the balcony to see the rest of the show from there.
I'm not much of a hardcore / punk guy myself to be honest. I do know of some bands in the genre that I've photographed in days of yore, such as GBH, Black Flag, Minor Threat, and of course The Dead Kennedys and The Misfits.
The scene was (and still is), a band / audience communion, with a relentless release of energy to everyone's mutual satisfaction.
I guess I didn't want to investigate further, knowing Wesley from Cold Cave over the years, and frankly, just loving everything he sets his mind to tour and perform with.
And since we had Ceremony in our JBTV studios a few years back, I figured to some extent there'd be some aggression, but nothing I can't handle.
From the balcony watching the show, I get the connection with Wesley and the audience at the front of the stage. When Wesley, dressed in black, including a black baseball cap that shrouded his face, wasn't whirling around the stage or standing on the drum riser, he was kneeling front and center within inches of his audience most of the time. Everyone involved in the sing along and companionship.
This was made more so, because there was no barricades at all for this show.
It was fun to behold, this simple set with simple lighting, and music having to be pushed that much further into the forefront to everyone's satisfaction.
The same holds true with the opening band Ceremony from California.
Although not as relentless as American Nightmare, they still have quite a few songs in their catalog that are in the genre of hardcore, with singer Ross Farrar for the most part swinging his microphone with physical might from his shoulders to the ground with relentless and physical might, over and over and over again.
With Anthony Anzaldo on guitar, Justin Davis on bass, Andy Nelson on guitar, and Jake Casarotti on drums, they're are definitely an odd looking bunch, with no one in the band truly playing the part of a rock n' roller, more like a bunch of cab drivers convening in a garage after a shift to work on some songs.
Trust me when I say that's not a bad thing, because these guys are tight and can play. Ross loved the communion with the audience, equal to Wesley and American Nightmare.
Have to say both bands brought the heavy, with plenty of angst, and yet, there's some solid songwriting chops in the songs for both bands.
Kind of unique having this show at Thalia Hall as well. Nice to know the venue can hold up and take a pummeling from the relentless mosh pits from show beginning to show's end.
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 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 + 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 + 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 + 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 + Photos by Bobby Talamine
From the soggy confines of the Hollywood Casino Ampitheatre in Tinley Park, another edition of the annual 101WKQX PIQNIQ occurred on Saturday, June 15th. The day started with steady rain for all the acts appearing on the second stage, which forced me to miss The Strumbellas, The Glorious Sons, Shaed, and opener Friday Pilots Club.
With nowhere to stay covered for the opening acts, I didn't even attempt to go in the venue to start reviewing and shooting the show. Safe to say, soggy, wet consistent rain and expensive camera gear are not a good combination.
Although, I did venture to the second stage for the headliner Blue October, a cool alternative American rock band from Houston Texas. The band didn’t seem to mind the rain that was now a consistent drizzle, which at least made it tolerable to shoot something from the second stage. Blue October even seemed to enjoy the gloomy weather, playing with excitement and verve to make the performance that more special. Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld is a charismatic performer, and worked the sloppy and wet stage from left to right. not caring about the rain and chilly weather. A nice way to get the 101WKQX PIQNIQ off the ground for me.
By now we had the protection of the pavilion for the main acts, starting with AJR, a band made up of three brothers from Manhattan. The kids sure did like them, knowing the lyrics to every song, with their infectious mix of Indie Pop, a bit of white boy dubstep, and some doo wop. Which when all thrown into the kitchen sink, makes this photographer think of high school glee club, and this is the final assignment of the year.
Harsh as that sounds, the kids dug them (LOTS). Maybe I'm out of the loop or something. Nevertheless, they were quite the performers, and they made most of their 30 minute ish set.
Now we're back to business with heavy guitar and showmanship, with Tom Morello starting his set unannounced from the GA floor pit, enticing the crowd with his riffs of heavy metal / punk hybrid- inspired sounds. Morello relished in his verve for political activism, brandished with his trusty guitar that stated "Arm the Homeless," and wearing a hat that states "MADIBA"- referring to Nelson Mandela.
Outside of Morello's obviously renowned guitar playing, his way of enticing audiences to reach out, rise up, and not take crap from anyone never gets old. An all too brief set, clocking in under 45 minutes, with a surprise appearance from Tim Mcllrath of Rise Against handling some of the vocal duties for the Rage and Audioslave songs. Midway through the set, Morello did his rendition of Springsteen's "Ghost of Tom Joad," making the song more relevant, and downright gloomier than Sprinsgsteen's version. To start the show with audience accompaniment, and end with audience accompaniment from the stage, it just goes to show Tom Morello is a man of the people.
Up next, Catfish and the Bottlemen from Wales, who the day before played at Bonnaroo, and made it in time for PIQNIQ.
They were full on from the first note, with a neon sign all vertical and lit up right behind the boys, a design from their recent album release The Balance, with lead vocalist/ guitarist Van McCann wailing away from the get go, swinging his microphone with stand all over the place, a sweaty mess even after the first song. The boys of Catfish were unrelenting from then on, all downhill song after song, showing once again how badass these guys are, and how cool to say that we at JBTV had them play on our intimate stage back in the day.
A band that's unmistakable in sound and fury and might, and oh so convincing.
The mellower (but still cool) vibes of Irvine California's Young the Giant were next onstage. The crowd at PIQNIQ totally dug their music and moved to the beats provided from these dudes. All over the venue I looked and everyone was dancing and swaying in their seats to Young the Giant, with Sameer Gadhia providing the necessary lead vocals and stage presence needed to elevate and captivate the masses. Young the Giant- a band that commands your attention, commands you to listen. This adage was apparent by the performance the band gave at PIQNIQ.
Now on to the headliner. From Denver Colorado, The Lumineers were dressed like they were right out of a tavern from 1867, with the only thing missing from the set was tumbleweeds.
A very popular band, with a mix of folk rock and Americana that's hard to ignore. Wesley Schultz lead the way with upper register vocals, the occasional foot stomp, and big bodied guitar sounds intact.
Jeremiah Fraites provided the steady backbeat, Lauren Jacobson the violin, Byron Isaacs the vintage/cool bass, and Brandon Miller the guitar/ Mandolin and some percussion. This band truly lives in a bevy of influences that defy their age, and make music that is cinematic in scope, with a soulfulness that comes off sincere and definitely not fake by any measure.
So all n' all, a nice cross section of past and current indie/alternative music to spend a Saturday in Tinley Park.
Until PIQNIQ 2020....
40 Years of Machine Gun Etiquette: The Damned Live At House of Blues Chicago With X and The Detroit Cobras
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
When Punk was truly PUNK, The Damned formed in 1976.
Fast forward to now, the band is currently on a tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of their third album Machine Gun Etiquette, which brought The Damned to House of Blues Chicago on Thursday, May 30th.
Still as debonair and renegade cool as he was back then, lead singer Dave Vanian showed he still has that dangerous, sonic baritone at age 62. Softening Vanian’s dangerous vocals were lead guitarist Captain Sensible’s goofy and light hearted stage antics and keyboardist Monty Oxymoron’s eccentric looks and otherworldly hair. Finishing off the lineup with Pinch on drums and Paul Gray on bass, The Damned are still relentless in approach and might. Pushing forth with the terrific songs from Machine Gun Etiquette, and then onto other Damned nuggets such as "Liar,” "So Messed Up," and of course the iconic "Street of Dreams." Man, what a show.
For opener X, an awesome band from Los Angeles, celebrated over four decades of quintessential L.A punk with their performance. John Doe, Exene Cervenka, D.J. Bonebrake on drums, and rockabilly veteran Billy Zoom on guitar firing off riff and riff like he's channeling Chet Atkins and Eddie Cochran all rolled up into one-- left the audience in complete, splendid awe.
And with Billy Zoom coming off his stool for a bit on baritone sax, and some vibraphone added in to close their set, it left the audience wondering- what the hell just happened? Can we all just take a breath and rewind the tape for a minute?
Confounding and awesome confusion prevails, because the experiment and intuitive improvisation works- on many levels. The X are it man, making for a double whopper of music along with The Damned. X is always a blast, like last summer for Riot Fest Chicago, John Doe and Exene Cervenka gave one of the best interviewers JBTV did for the festival. They never ever disappoint.
As for the other openers The Detroit Cobras, let's just say things get outta hand quickly. From the first couple of notes onstage, lead singer Rachel Nagy literally tumbled right into me. Laughing out loud, kinda embarrassed and smiling, she proceeded to sing the first song lying down on the stage.
Nagy is something else. All party and not much stage banter talk. She apologized for the fall from the drum riser, and blamed the fall on her high heel boots. Which she took off, socks included, and proceeded the rest of the set barefoot. With other original player Mary Ramirez on all things rockabilly guitar, they more than made up for all the miscues.
After all, it's rock n' roll baby.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Even with an early downpour of lightning and thunder, day two of Chicago Open Air had all the bands perform. No cancellations.
Alien Weaponry was the first up to perform. Their drummer started the show with a Maori War Dance and chant from behind the drum kit and displayed a tribe's pride--showing the unity and strength within this band. For such young dudes, they have presence times ten.With some of their songs spoken in their Maori language from Waipu New Zealand, it was a short and riveting set.
The Black Dahlia Murder were next up, and presented great guitar playing from Brandon Ellis and Brian Eschbach. Although in regards to vocalist Trevor Stmad, things fell flat. Almost like a phoned-in set from these guys.
Wicked as wicked comes was Fever 333’s set. Definitely one of the highlights of the day, with all three band members going apeshit at any given moment. Unpredictable to the core, making the most of their 35 minute - ish set, with vocalist Jason Aalon Butler worked his way into the crowd, and on top of the roof of the two story building stage left to belt out the last song. Drummer Aric Improta did lots more than drumming by jumping around and standing on top of his kit to get the crowd riled up (as if it's even necessary). Guitarist Stephen Harrison also worked his way into the crowd playing guitar in the middle of a heavy mosh pit. Fever 333. Crazy. Nutty. Awesome.
The next band on the lineup was In this Moment. In This Moment’s set was like a scene from Spinal Tap. It took what seemed like forever for the roadies to adjust and tweak the stage props, fog machines, and whatnot. And for what? To open the set with a David Coverdale / Whitesnake tune, followed by a hallowed occult instrumental to actual band--equals awkward. And for what?
Lead singer of In This Moment, Maria Brink, has the vocal chops, but with the stage cluttered with too many distracting props, it was hard for her to maintain the audience’s attention. Even for a brief 40 minutes.
Onto the mighty Gojira, lead by brothers Joe and Mario Duplantier. The Duplantier brothers--who hail from Bayonne, France--brought the fierceness like Meshuggah did on day one. Gojira was relentless from beginning to end with a vertical pyro...I mean jesus! No skimping with these guys. Gojira: caffeinated times ten.
Then comes The Cult, lead by Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy with accompaniment by drummer John Tempesta, which was cool. But talk about falling flat...what a bummer. Yeah, the music's still there, sort of. Hard to screw up and sink the ship with Billy Duffy, that's for sure. What was irritating during the show was mid performance, Astbury expressed trepidation with Chicago fans by explaining the lack of community and brotherhood he felt from Chicago to a rather tepid audience. With the lukewarm enthusiasm from said band, which for all intents and purposes- is flat with a capital "F.” News flash to Ian Astbury, don't piss off Chicago. Come to play, and do your damnest to try to sing upper register if at all possible please.
Now all things TOOL. Sophisticated with a simple and striking production, aided by vivid vertical LED backdrops, and solid musicianship still intact. Danny Carey came out in his trusty Kansas basketball jersey to the drumkit, followed by Justin Chancellor in a fine vest and long sleeve shirt, looking clean cut, but played as wicked and as heavy as ever. Hermit looking Adam Jones came onto the stage, hoodie up, all eyes down to guitar pedals and ready to go. Maynard James Keenan was the last one to get onstage, costumed up from head to toe in a wicked leather jacket emblazoned on the front with some alien ish cartoon, a red and black checkered tight fitting pants, sporting a shaved head mohawk of mohawks, and wicked joker makeup that gives you the feeling of dark and sinister. Keenan’s get up screamed “don't fuck with me.”
I'm exhausted in writing that, without even getting to the music of TOOL, opening with "Aenema" and "Learn to Swim" in refrain over and over and over. I'm in full bore, with Tool heading directly into "The Pot," followed by "Parabola" and "Descending"--a new song Tool has added to their setlist--along with one other new song "Invincible," which is appropriately titled.
Again - utter exhaustion from this lengthy edit for JBTV Music Television, but nevertheless...TOOL rules.
A splendid day of assorted metal, with a few hiccups, but still - oh- so- cool.
Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Thunderstorms, high winds, and lightning win the first couple hours of Chicago Open Air Day One, delaying the opening time from 2:30pm until approximately 4:30 pm, and delaying fans from entering Seatgeek Stadium to start the show.
The first three opening acts got knocked off the bill: Code Orange, Knocked Loose, and Vein. Leaving four remaining once the storms cleared: System of a Down, Ghost, Meshuggah, and Beartooth.
System of a Down were the usual volatile and relentless self. A long set with plenty of piss and vinegar, and the crowd eating it up and wanting more. Unfortunately there were no photos for this performance, just the quick review, and the fact that System of a Down, even though playing just a few festival dates, still brandish a mighty wallop.
Before System of a Down: Cardinal Copia and the Ghouls of Ghost. This version of Ghost front and center- showmanship. Lots and lots of showmanship, a stage dressed up with steps like a mantel to a cathedral. Heavy on backlit murals that looked like stained glass windows of sophisticated dark imagery. Musically, these guys are spot on with Cardinal Copia who lashed out vigorously from the first song "Rats" by hanging on to the last vowels with the "T" to no end, sending chills down your spine. Cardinal Copia worked the stage left and right, preaching to the masses all things dark and sinister. And so it goes with the said showmanship, with all the Ghouls making their mark with heavy guitars and drums and bass and keyboards. Nasty and oh so polished - that's Ghost.
How about Meshuggah and their version of extreme and mathematical metal? Still as fiendish and unrelenting as ever. No one comes close in the onslaught of all things Meshuggah, with Tomas Haake heavy on the backbeat and percussion, one song blasting into the next, with Jens Kidman front and center with the howl of deep throated vocals, and never losing his range or his might in song after song. The mindbending guitars of Marten Hagstrom and Fredrik Thordendal, still wildly inventive and tight as ever. Vicious- these two, both in improvisation, and physical might of said song, with Dick Lovgren holding down the fort in all things low end and complicated bass.
Openers Beartooth provide wicked party time, with the rain soaked crowd in attendance bursting forth with mosh pits after mosh pits.
As for the four bands on Day One of Chicago Open Air: It is what it is.
That said- you can never go wrong with Meshuggah and Ghost.
Might mighty fine players, these dudes.
Brendon Urie and his band Panic! at the Disco. Always changing. Always evolving. All for the better, especially when it comes to live performance.
Since the departures of guitarist Ryan Ross, Bassist Jon Walker and drummer Spencer Smith- it’s down to Lead vocalist / Songwriter Brendon Urie to carry all things Panic! by his lonesome.
And that he does in spades, what with a second stop in Rosemont (Chicago) since back in the fall of 2018, on his “Pray for the Wicked” tour.
It’s basically the same show since the first time around, but with some tweaks and extra polish- more to add in regards to the Las Vegas glitz and showmanship throughout.
The screaming kids don’t mind, with parents in tow, what with his wholesome sense of humor and obvious good looks: a boy next door who makes it big and doesn’t forget his roots or where he comes from.
That said, you can tell Brendon Urie puts a lot of time and energy into this touring production: sophisticated lighting, terrific staging, a band that blasts away at a moment’s notice, down to a horn section that can tear the roof off of the Allstate Arena when full on, as is the case with the song “Crazy=Genius”: a fire infested number that has everyone in the venue on their feet and dancing madly in place.
All things considered with Brendon and Panic! at the Disco: anything is possible in the presentation of his music, and it definitely packs a wallop.
Even when Brendon brought his band to JBTV Music Television back in 2015- he scoped out our listening / taping room during soundcheck to get a feel from every possible angle if you were an audience member, to make you feel welcome, and part of the family, and part of the party.
I guess that since then, nothing’s changed in his approach prior to performance, only on a much grander scale: how do you reach and engage the persons sitting in section 215 and 216, the furthest reaches to the Allstate Arena?
It wouldn’t surprise me if Brendon himself ventured up there to give it a look from that perspective. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
So during the show you have to ask the question: how the hell does he hit those high notes each and every night? I swear the place goes crazy each and every time he does, and successfully.
And those damn catchy songs. During the show, there’s not one weak link in the bunch, and there’s plenty of songs to go through, over 28 in all, counting the encore.
Over the years, Brendon has metamorphosed into the definition of a showman’s showman: a ringleader of constant positive energy with an attitude to kick all ass.
Lets’s keep it simple: Go see the show. You won’t be disappointed — from beginning to end.
Also, openers Two Feet and Betty Who brought the synth pop to the masses who showed up early in their abbreviated sets.
Panic! at the Disco’s setlist:
1. (Fuck A) Silver Lining
2. Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time
3. Ready to Go (Get me out of My Mind)
4. Hey look Ma, I Made it
5. LA Devotee
8. The Ballad of Mona Lisa
9. Nine in the Afternoon
10. One of the Drunks
11. Casual Affair
12. Vegas lights
13. Dancing’s Not a Crime
14. This is Gospel
15. Death of a Bachelor
16. I Can’t Make You Love Me — (Bonnie Raitt cover)
17. Dying in LA
18. The Greatest Show
19. Girls/Girls/ Boys
20. King of the Clouds
21. High Hopes
22. Miss Jackson
23. Roaring 20s
24. Bohemian Rhapsody — (Queen cover)
25. Emperor’s New Clothes
26. Say Amen (Saturday Night)
27. I Write Sins Not Tragedies
Filed by Bobby Talamine
Photos by Bobby Talamine
The Soft Moon
Criminal Tour 2019 - with HIDE and Thoom
Also DJs The Pirate Twins
Thalia Hall Chicago
JBTV Alumni Luis Vasquez and his band The Soft Moon start their performance at Thalia Hall in Chicago with an all out assault on all things heavy percussion and beats with the song “Deeper”, a majestic stab of scattershot rhythms and wicked vocal, the perfect song on a cold and dreary winter’s evening in Chicago.
Have witnessed The Soft Moon performing live a multitude of times by now, and without question, Luis Vasquez and his band- Luigi Pianezzola on Bass, Matteo Vallicelli on drums and electronic percussion, just keep getting better and better and better.
Most of Luis Vasquez’s songs revolve around pain and sorrow and anger, but undeniably the songs are mostly cathartic, especially when performed live, with an enthusiastic rumble and might which revs up the crowd, no matter what day of the week it is.
The show itself delved into Luis Vasquez’s most recent release “Criminal” with the painstakingly gorgeous and frenzy of a song “Burn” being front and center the third song in.
I bring this song up for a reason. “Burn” along with “Far”, from the album “Deeper”, are staples of all things that consist of “Industrial Swing”, a term that’s a throwback of Wax Trax! days of old, a blend of dance, with heavy beats and might.
Songs like these two never get old, and make you thirsty for more and more.
A Soft Moon show is a performance diving into wicked disorientation, not knowing what comes next speeding along, with no sympathy if you can’t hold on for the ride.
The strengths of this band are clearly evident, mostly in the musicianship and jovial fun between Luis, Matteo and Luigi, but also in the presentation, down to the lighting, and not having Matteo’s drum kit buried in the back, but stage right and visible.
If ever there was a show to cleanse the soul and make you feel whole, and that you’re back on track, and that for the most part all things are well and good, its a Soft Moon show.
This photographer and reviewer simply can’t get enough, and doesn’t mind singing the praises of Luis Vasquez and his band the Soft Moon.
Opener HIDE, a Chicago industrial / electronic duo consisting of vocalist and all around mesmerizing performer Heather Gabel and Seth Sher providing all the necessary beats and samples, are unrelenting in their performance, down to lighting only provided by floor standing white strobes, blinding when on for that brief second of time, and completely dark on stage when not.
A multi-sensory experience without question from beginning to end, punctuated by the steely and fierce Heather Gabel, who prowls the stage in cathartic fury that has to be seen to be believed.
Heather takes nothing for granted performing live, a menacing presence when visible through the blinding strobes and heavy fog, like a praying mantis just waiting to devour you in one big gulp.
Hide are a momentous live act, perfect for these times we’re in, with everything oh so unpredictable, and everyone walking around angry, ready to snap at any given moment.
We need to hear more from HIDE, sooner rather than later.
Opener Thoom started the show off with intoxicating samples and beats with scorching vocal, followed by Middle Eastern rhythms and exotic otherworldly dance moves.
Chicago’s very own DJ’s The Pirate Twins ( Scary Lady Sarah & William Faith) provided the perfect mixes before and in-between the sets.
Filed by Bobby Talamine
Photos by Bobby Talamine
On November 30th, I had the pleasure to witness recent JBTV alums, The Regrettes take the tiny stage at Wicker Park’s very own -- Subterranean. Despite the small size of the venue as a whole The Regrettes made sure the make it feel like a huge crowd, not letting the intimate setting affect their stage presence and show. Having only been on the Sirius XM AltNation Advanced Placement Tour for two days prior, I had yet to see any praise regarding each artist on the tour. But I knew The Regrettes would put on a stellar show regardless.
After watching openers, Micky James and Welles, hype up the crowd and put on equally great sets, the crowd was anxious for The Regrettes take the stage. Once the clock hit nine, the lights dimmed and each member walked onto the stage with “Dancing Queen” by ABBA blaring. The band was welcomed by the crowd shouting the lyrics, each fan ready for a good ole’ punk show.
The Regrettes opened with one of their newest songs, “California Friends”. Although the song shows the band playing around with new sound elements and doesn’t necessarily fit the band’s old sound of punk & doo-wop, it’s a refreshing track about friendship and love. After listening to it way too many times on Spotify, it was a nice feeling to scream the lyrics and dance around, while also watching The Regrettes dance around and feel out the crowd’s energy.
The band then went on to play fan favorites from their debut album, Feel You Feelings Fool! “Lacy Loo” and “Picture Perfect”, both featuring lead vocalist, Lydia Night having complete control over the audience. During “Picture Perfect” -- one of my favorite Regrettes’ songs -- Night even demanded the audience make an all-female mosh pit -- a staple at Regrettes shows. Although I could not participate in the mosh pit full of badass women, mainly due to me not wanting to damage my camera, I was sure to step onto the stairs and capture some sick shots of the crowd having a good time.
They then transitioned into another one of my favorite songs, “Come Through”, from their EP, Attention Seeker. “Come Through” is super fun and interactive live, I noticed crowd members singing to strangers and dancing with one another during this track. The Regrettes then played “Whatta Bitch”, “A Living Human Girl”, and “Red Light,” all three songs garnering praise from the audience.
For the rest of the set, the crowd never seemed to die down. By the time the band started their final song, “You Won’t Do”, the entire venue was singing along to the opening, “Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh Oh!” Shortly after the band departed from the stage after the infectious performance, they came back for a two song encore featuring a new track, “Pumpkin” and a fan-favorite, “Hot -- one they also played here at JBTV.
By the end of the show, a smile stayed plastered on my face. Not only is The Regrettes a band that discusses current topics within their lyrical content, but they also know exactly how to please their fans. Be sure to catch The Regrettes on The Advanced Placement tour in a city near you.
Filed by Ava Butera
Photos by Ava Butera
Thom Yorke / Tomorrow's Modern Boxes
- - -
Thom Yorke writhes, shakes and moves when he performs on stage, like he wants to shed out of his own skin and morph into someone else altogether. Fans of all things Radiohead knew what to expect from Thom's solo production, and that is the exact opposite of a Radiohead show.
The performance had elements of a sophisticated electronic / minimalist production, but with five giant vertical LED walls behind the musicians from stage left to stage right, this was something different entirely. Minimalist indeed, with Thom accompanied by longtime collaborator and producer Nigel Godrich, and artist Tarik Barri--who created striking and crisp visuals that weren't overblown or too pushy. The visuals moved to the beat of Thom's samples and synths like ink wading it's way through water and oil. It may seem like a lot to take in, but suffice to say, it works when seen live and in person. It's trance inducing.
From the first song to the last, I was amazed at how well behaved audience was in attendance. No shouting out of songs, or talking over one another, just eerie silence throughout the main floor of the Chicago Theatre. Everyone was standing as far as I could see, swaying to the beats, and keeping in place. This just added to the cool ambience throughout the nearly two hour show, witnessing a sophisticated production, with like minded music hounds.
Beyond Thom's ready made beats, we also had the occasional live bass, guitar and piano. All musicians taking turns playing each other's instruments, seamlessly moving about in a methodical and groove heavy order, not intruding in any way at all, but each contributing to the songs and making them whole.
This current tour is based on Thom Yorke's solo album Tomorrow's Modern Boxes. An album that didn't quite take off when released, but yet still holds some captivating music embracing electronica and ambient beats and samples. Visually, the music from Tomorrow's Modern Boxes sucks you in with artistic programming showing striking detail of flower petals, orange balls dropping or rising vertically, and waves crashing into a psychedelic maze. The imagery only enhances the listening experience, making you once again go back and listen to Tomorrow's Modern Boxes one more time, and connect the music of the live performance.
Many of the songs that Thom performed were detached, with little in the way of constant repetitive beats or hooks, but more mellow and subtle. All the more to suck you into the improvisation. This is clearly not your normal live show of extravagance with a party atmosphere, like when we at JBTV Music Television documented Radiohead's live performance at the Metro when the band was starting out. And for this listener, that is a welcomed change indeed.
"Atoms For Peace" played during the encore, and looked and felt like an electronic lullaby with the song's gentle overtones. Like most of this show, it was a somber moment, preceded with many just like it.
Hard to totally grasp exactly what this reviewer just took in. I have the visuals from shooting the show as record of this live performance, but I feel like if this was a two or three night residency, I would have to go see all the shows, just to pick up on things I might have missed the first time out.
Everything about this show was a little different, and most compelling.
Probably the way Thom Yorke likes it.
Thom Yorke Setlist from the Chicago Theatre:
2. A Brain in a Bottle
3. Impossible Knots
4. Black Swan
5. I Am a Very Rude Person
6. Pink section
7. Nose grows Some
8. Cymbal Rush
9. The Clock
10. Two Feet Off the Ground
12. Not the News
13. Truth Ray
16. Reckoner (Radiohead Song)
17. The Axe
18. Atoms for Peace
The days leading up to Laura Jane Grace & Devouring Mothers’ much anticipated performance on the JBTV Stage were ones filled with an anxious me, eager and ecstatic to get to witness the band live in action. In preparation, I watched a ton of Devouring Mothers’ music videos, streamed their music, fell in love with their sound, and read tons of articles about the band -- to say that I was excited for the show on Nov. 7th was an understatement.
As soon as the band arrived to the studio, gear in tow, I was dreaming of 12:30 -- the time they were set to grace the stage. With each member showing gratitude for the invite to play on the JBTV Stage and extending their cordialness to each staff member, it further solidified my new love for Laura Jane Grace & Devouring Mothers.
As a casual fan of Against Me! and knowing their immense contribution to the punk community, rock music, and later the LGBTQ+ community, I partially knew what to expect from Devouring Mothers, knowing rock legend, Laura Jane Grace would definitely add her musical flare and insane talent to the new band. I did not realize though that I would be highly anticipating the release of Devouring Mothers’ debut album, Bought to Rot, shortly after the band’s performance ended. However, knowing prior that the band’s debut would be released through Chicago’s own, Bloodshot Records, I was extremely hopeful since the label is highly regarded, not only in the music industry but in the Windy City itself.
During the band’s soundcheck, I had the pleasure to sit through it and witness a sneak peek into their performance. In the past, most bands who have played JBTV simply soundcheck individual elements and maybe play one song. However, after checking their individual instruments and ensuring everything was properly working for the show, Devouring Mothers’ played four full songs during their soundcheck. This made the entire staff of JBTV hyped up for the performance.
After the room filled up to maximum capacity and the entire crowd filled in, the anticipation further heightened. Moment later, Laura Jane Grace & Devouring Mothers walked onto the JBTV Stage and applause erupted amongst everyone present. They kicked off their set with the track, “Manic Depression.” Although it sounds upbeat and fast-paced, when examining the lyrics, it details the story of a protagonist dealing with the issue. Songs like these -- although can be touchy at times -- help listeners realize that they are not alone in times of loneliness and worthlessness and that even musicians struggle with mental health issues.
The band then zipped through songs like “Reality Bites”, “Friendship Song”, and “Born in Black”. All great new tracks from their debut album. They then also included “Hotel Song” and “Amsterdam Hotel Room” -- two track obviously detailing Laura’s experience in hotels. Before playing the songs, she explained how most of her life she spent long periods of time living in hotel rooms, due to life on the road and vast amounts of touring.
Before playing every song, Laura made sure to explain the meaning behind each one, where she wrote them, and what they meant to her. I especially loved her choice to inform the crowd and fans on the true meaning behind Devouring Mothers’ music. Barely any of the artists and bands I’ve witnessed live have ever shared the meaning behind their music with attendees, but Laura made sure to.
As Devouring Mothers’ performance was coming to a close, I was still ready for more. Between drummer, Adam “Atom” Willard’s mesmerizing drummer technique, bassist Marc Jacob Hudson’s insanely catchy bass lines, and of course Laura’s passion and willpower, I was considering making it out to the band’s show at Cobra Lounge later that evening. However, I very surprised to hear the last song the band had in store for all of us, one titled “I Hate Chicago”.
Since I am a Florida-native myself, just like Laura Jane Grace is, and moved to Chicago, like her too, I was shocked to discover a song detailing the grievances about the city I dreamed about living in since I was a child. However, by the end of the song, I was whipping out my phone and downloading it. Instead of a negative, in-your-face song, it was more of a fun song. I found myself laughing at the lyrics, due to the relatability of each phrase spoken. Because yeah, as a recent Chicago transplant, I hate O’Hare, don’t necessarily care about the Smashing Pumpkins, and could care less about the Cubs, the White Sox, the Blackhawks, or the Bulls!
All in all, Laura Jane Grace & Devouring Mothers put on an incredible performance on the JBTV Stage.One I will remember for a long time!
Be sure to stream and purchase their debut album, Bought to Rot, which is out now!
Filed by Ava Butera
Photos by Katie Hovland & Ava Butera
“What’s more rock n roll than participating in the democratic process, am I right?”
When the word grandson comes to mind, reassuring cheek pinches or home made cookies may be the initial thought, but New Jersey born, Toronto raised musician Grandson slaps those pinches away, and crumbles up those cookies to demand accountability from those in power.
“We’re being force fed culturally into a sense of apathy,” remarked Grandson during his interview with Jerry Bryant after his JBTV debut on September 13th, “but I do think that they’re people that care and [are] trying to imagine a system that is held accountable. Untethered from the best interests of corporations or big money, and responsible to their voters that elected them there in the first place.”
Grandson is often compared to Rage Against the Machine given the highly political subject matter touched upon in his songs, but unlike his predecessor, Grandson offers more optimistic and constructive ways for his audience to utilize their anger to make needed changes in their communities. This is not an indictment of Rage Against the Machine; they are one of the greatest bands of all time, but in this current political climate in America—where subtlety lands on deaf ears—people need more from artists other than shared anger. What people need is an artist like Grandson, who not only creatively articulates people’s anger and sadness, but also gives them a road map on how to transform those emotions into empowerment and hope.
“I’m excited about being able to go city to city and talk to these kids. I do believe that there is this incredibly, exciting, progressive wave of young people that care and are pissed off, and I’m just trying to give them a soundtrack,” remarked Grandson. Not only is Grandson giving these young people a soundtrack, he is giving them one with incredible musicianship and stage presence—evidently seen in his first song that he performed on the JBTV stage “6:00.” The song starts off with a mournful riff from guitarist Ramón Blanco that quickly gets interrupted by David Rehmann’s drumming, Renzo Bravo’s keyboards, and Grandson’s lyrics. “6:00” is an audible blitzkrieg of festering anger and clenched fists.
While one could easily appreciate the song simply for its ability to make a crowd mosh and take the title at face value, Grandson Trojan horse’s social commentary on how apathetic the evening news has become reporting on racial injustice. “I wanted to create an urgent backdrop around this headline that is coming across the 6 o’clock news of ‘A Man Dying’ someone like Eric Garner being choked to death in broad daylight,” explained Grandson. “I was frustrated and confused as to what it means to be an American. What it means to be an ally for people that are being persecuted, disproportionately.”
It’s true. While many people do want to help eradicate these horrid occurrences from happening, many people—specifically white people—get confused on how to help out. For some, that confusion leads to researching how they can help diminish systemic oppression, but for most, that confusion leads to indifference as a way to self preserve their emotional well being. With lyrics like “how can we stand by” and “he held his hands high,” Grandson says fuck your well being and do your part.
After Grandson’s call to arms against police brutality, he tackled another issue in his next song that is plaguing America—drug addiction. Beginning with a strung out bass line and the withdrawn lyrics of “I was higher than the nosebleed,” “Overdose” musically sounds like the beginning of a drug stupor with no end in sight. “[It’s] a song about our relationship to addiction as a form of escapism.” Although the song paints drugs in a negative light, Grandson’s not trying to demonize users. “It’s not to vilify people that naturally find themselves in this situations. The more empathy we can have and understanding of how people got to that point, we can understand how to help them get out of it. Addiction is a mental health issue—which shouldn’t be incarcerating people that have addiction to narcotics or illicit substances. We should be helping them through rehabilitation.” Instead of running from our problems using drugs as a source of transportation, Grandson’s suggests through the atmospheric “Overdose” that we face our problems head on and help others that are still riding the rail.
His next songs on the JBTV stage were “Bills,” “Despicable,” and “Best Friends” and discussed the more internal journeys we all face. Whether it’s the stresses that never-ending “Bills” cause, navigating self hatred in “Despicable,” or cutting off toxic people in “Best Friends,” Grandson knows that in order to expect change in the world, one has to do change within themselves. “You can be your best self, I believe in you, but sometimes you might have to cut off some people in your life that are holding you back.”
Following this detour into inner struggles, Grandson returned to his social commentary with “Thoughts and Prayers”—an ode to the complacency of America’s relationships to guns and mass shootings. He introduced the song with “I can’t wait until this song is no longer relevant and is up in a museum somewhere.” The crowd could hear the anger and desperation in Grandson’s voice as he belted out “Another press conference/Nothing gets accomplished/The shooter's an accomplice/Money is the motive/The wars in the street/Watch history repeat.” The repetitive nature of the lyrics and music of “Thoughts and Prayer” critique the cyclical nature and frequency of these travesties. “At what point do your thoughts and prayers lead to tangible change being made to mitigate what is now an unprecedented epidemic?” Sadly as an attempt to answer Grandson’s question raised during his interview— months prior to the most recent Pittsburgh synagogue shooting—we have yet to reach that point.
Grandson ended his set with “Stick Up” and his most famous song “Blood // Water.” With their blood pumping bass lines, guitars, and passionate singing by Grandson, “Stick Up” and “Blood // Water” caused the JBTV crowd to mosh to the point that Grandson jumped offstage to join the pit. Both songs deal with the desperation we all feel with the politicians in power, but instead of wallowing in that desperation; Grandson energizes the listener to use their individual power to change the cultural landscape.
Reform. Rehabilitation. Power. Accountability. These are all reoccurring themes in Grandson thunderous songs and lyrics. Whether it’s regarding the institutions of society, or the journey through self-reflection and self-acceptance, Grandson’s music is not for the stagnant. He holds a mirror to society while also holding one up to your face and his own. Society is made up of individuals, and while Grandson addresses the overarching issues with society, he wants us to hold ourselves accountable. Grandson is America’s canary in the coal mine regarding issues of race, class, addiction, and gun control in America. We are fortunate that this canary isn’t waiting to keel over to tell us we are in trouble.
While introducing “Stick Up,” Grandson exclaimed the importance of voting to the audience, “[Find the] candidates out there with your best interests in mind, that are not influenced by corporate money. That’s something I’m passionate about, it’s a part of having this power, we gotta use it, and make the world just a little bit of a better place. Can we do that?” The JBTV crowd answered with motivated cheers. Grandson followed this comment with a slight joke, “What’s more rock n roll than participating in the democratic process, am I right?”
Although it was meant to be taken as a joke of sorts, there is nothing more rock ‘n’ roll than participating in the democratic process by voting. Giving a voice to the voiceless and allowing people to address problems within their communities in a cathartic, constuctive way—applies to both rock ‘n’ roll and voting.
Hopefully you allowed your voice to be heard by voting in the Midterm Elections. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer Grandson to have a harder time finding subject matter for his music—and I’m sure he would agree.
Filed by Alex Ghere
Photos by Bobby Talamine
Welsh alternative band, The Joy Formidable graced the JBTV stage for the third time this past weekend, not only to a packed venue, but also to an extremely eager crowd, anxious to witness the band’s Chicago return. The band themselves were very excited to play at JBTV, and gushed about how much they enjoy being in Chicago, since based on their experience, the Chicago music fans truly enjoy the music and have a love for it, unlike the fans in any other city they’ve played in previously.
Unlike The Joy Formidable’s past two JBTV performances, lead singer Ritzy Bryan and bassist and vocalist Rhydian Dafydd decided to employ acoustic guitars and foot drums for this stripped down performance -- something quite different for the band, but definitely a treat to all present at the show. Having to leave drummer Matt Thomas in Minneapolis due to a logistics issues and almost not making it to the studio themselves, Ritzy and Rhydian utilized what instruments they brought with them. Ritzy even saying herself that it was nice to switch it up, but sad to not have Matt with them for the performance.
Since the band just released their sixth studio album, Aarth, fans were unsure whether to expect a set full of new material or one filled with old favorites. But to everyone’s surprise, The Joy Formidable perfectly chose a mix of old and new songs to create an awesome set. Not to mention each song having a different vibe, due to them being played acoustically.
The set kicked off with the raring and foreboding song, “Little Blimp,” a fan-favorite from the band’s album, Wolf’s Law. When played normally with a full band, it’s a loud and boisterous one however, even played acoustically, The Joy Formidable brought the heat and had the entire crowd off their feet and excited for the rest of songs they had in store.
Next the band played older tracks, “Whirring” and “The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade”, both from their sophomore effort, The Big Roar. Between Ritzy’s soft vocals and Rhydian’s exceptional guitar skills, both songs sounded effervescent and beautiful in their reimagined acoustic form.
When The Joy Formidable transitioned into their next song, “Y Bluen Eira”, the crowd danced along, but soon realized that it was not in fact in English but instead entirely in Gaelic, Rhydian’s first language and Ritzy’s second. Despite fans not understanding what it meant, The Joy Formidable continued to play the song from their newest album. Afterwards, they explained that the track was in their native language and informed the crowd on some facts about Wales and Gaelic.
The Joy Formidable then went on to play another new song “Dance of the Lotus”, which received a very positive reaction amongst the crowd, as well as the staff here at JBTV. Lead singer Ritzy also discussed the different approach they took when choosing a music video idea of the song, when chatting with Jerry. The band decided to collaborate with Boston-based animation company, TRLLM to bring this track to life in the visual form.
For the rest of the band’s set, they continued to mix it up between old favorites and new releases, surprising fans with each song played. The entire crowd was floored by The Joy Formidable’s superb performance and were left wanting more, long after the band left the stage
Filed by Ava Butera
Photos by Ava Butera
Nine Inch Nails
The Jesus and Mary Chain
with Gabe Gurnsey
Cold and Black and Infinite
North America 2018
Night #1 from the Aragon Ballroom Chicago
- - -
Trent Reznor took the stage commandingly for the first of a three night residency at the Aragon Ballroom in Chicago, to the strains of "The Firemen", a song from Angelo Badalamenti, an American composer best known for his work scoring films for David Lynch.
How fitting. And that's so badass, and so unmistakably Trent.
The opening salvo for night number one is unrelenting- a full on onslaught of the aggressive and in your face Nine Inch Nails. "Mr. Self Destruct" into "The Perfect Drug" into "Wish".
I mean Jesus.
Trent's shirt and hair were soaked through even after Mr. Self Destruct". The blinding white strobes front / center / back and both sides of the stage may have had something to do with as well. This is truly live performance to extremes, and that says something for a guy who's over the age of fifty.
Easy songs to perform righteously and with unrelenting abandon? I think not. Most of Trent's early back catalog when performed live, have a look and feel of a "pain driven stage act", acted out accordingly. Although, we're far removed form the days of throwing mics and mic stands, smashing guitars to bits, and tossing synths and keyboards into the drum kit.
Still, the look and feel of dread is in the air. You can smell it. You can taste it. You cannot fake that delivery of passion and pain. The songs command it front and center.
And for the first of three nights, we're blessed to hear "The Perfect Drug" performed live for the first time ever on this current North American tour, a song that buries itself in pain and utter defeat. And with a break midway through which has an experimental freeway jam of punishing drums, courtesy of Ilan Rubin.
Ilan is one multi talented dude. Not only an accomplished and excellent drummer, but he also fronts his own band The New Regime, on lead vocals and guitar. We actually have had his band play on our JBTV stage a couple of years ago.
So even on the first of three nights at the Aragon, everything performed live is still unexpected, and to extremes.
What an electrifying show from beginning to end, and guess what? We're graced midway through the show with Trent playing a saxophone, for the song "God Break Down the Door", a song from recently released EP "Bad Witch".
It's fits the freestyle swing that some of Trent's new songs are all about. Not necessarily out there like an Ornette Coleman or Charlie Haden, but still you can't help but hear some of that when it comes to instrumentals and free jam solos.
The whole night is so full of surprises, such as guitarist Robin Finck giving it a go singing vocal , singing his lungs out for "Shit Mirror', and convincingly as well. How about bringing out David Bowie's "I'm Afraid of Americans"? Well done again., with a blistering guitar solo from Robin Finck.
The whole night, wonderful and exhausting, mentally, physically and spiritually.
But it has to come to close sometime, and before the encore, prepare yourselves for the bludgeoning from "Head Like a Hole".
Some minutes later, the encore blasts away with three songs, ending with "Hurt".
"Hurt" all over and by this time exhausted. That is me. And so well worth it.
The Jesus and Mary Chain make full use of their 45 minute set to open the show, with not much stage banter, but plenty of piss and vinegar from their first release "Psychocandy", dating back to 1985, and opening with "Just Like Honey".
Nice to see the brothers Reid attempting to get along as well.
This is a feedback laden times ten wall of sound that they produce, with Bill Reid cranking his Orange amps to 11, and Jim Reid all chameleon like, wrapping his long vocal chord into a bundle along with his mic.
A set from Jesus and Mary Chain so concise and on point, with nothing but pure noise rock delights one after the other, and bathed in solid blues and reds, punched with some white strobes to add flair to the mix.
A true feedback lover's dream, and a great way to open the show.
The Firemen (band intro)
1. Mr. Self Destruct
2. The Perfect Drug
4. Less Than
5. March of the Pigs
6. The Lovers
7. This Isn't the Place
9. Shit Mirror
10. Ahead of Ourselves
11. God Break Down the Door
12. Copy of A
13. Gave Up
14. I'm Afraid of Americans (David Bowie cover)
15. The Hand That Feeds
16. Starfuckers, Inc
17. Head Like a Hole
18. All the Love in the World
19. Over and Out
Jesus and Mary Chain Setlist:
1. Just Like Honey
2. Head On
4. Between Planets
5. All Things Pass
6. Some candy Talking
7. April Skies
8. The Living End
9. Cracking Up
10. Teenage Lust
11. I Hate Rock n' Roll
Filed by Bobby Talamine
Photos by Bobby Talamine
SOCIAL MEDIA ROCKSTAR