Monday, July 31, 2017

My limbs are all a-tinglin', feelin' like Needles//Pins.

Sometimes my immediate notes in my spreadsheet where I track everything I listen to, tell you everything about a band you really need to immediately know. Case in point these musings on Needles//Pins as I listened to their latest album, Good Night, Tomorrow.
Gravely, growly, shout-y punk rock. Sounds like lots of arms around shoulders, swaying and almost breaking into a pit populated by late-40-ish-year-olds remembering the old days and having a genuinely good time. In fact they're a younger trio out of Vancouver. Cool!
If I was gonna pick a "hit single" off the disc, it'd be "Miracle." Dig it.

Oh well, whaddya know! As I was typing this I dug back into my email for any other info I should include and it looks like the band agrees with me on "Miracle," since they made it into a video!

Boy, am I swift or what?

The band plays Quenchers in Chicago on August 13, and even though I no longer live around the corner from there, there's a good chance that's where you'll find me that evening.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Arcade Fire let their hair down.

Arcade Fire photo by Guy Aroch
The new Arcade Fire album is fun. Some people appear turned off by that in fear the band has traded their authentic intensity for marketability—listen to the lyrics and you'll se that's not the case, and in fact this is probably an intentional blend of art and accessibility that in the end I didn't really care about one way or the other as long as it kept the vibe going—but I find I keep playing it because it sounds good and makes me feel good. What a concept!

Read my full review of Everything Now on Chicagoist.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here's a new tune from Waltham to brighten your day!

I am bonkers busy today so I'll keep this short.

Waltham are masters of the power power-pop genre, and it's been far too long since their last musical outing, 2014's Wicked Waltham EP. Hopefully the new "Summer Nights," featuring backing vocals by ex-Damone singer Noelle Leblanc, is a sign that the band is back in production mode. But even if there's nothing more new forthcoming, this is a welcome treat from the band.

Peep the video above, download (pay what you want or free!) the track below.

Oh, and everyone give thanks to Keep for making sure I was aware of this as soon as it made its surprise appearance earlier today!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Paul McCartney last night? It's turning out to be a pretty jaw-dropping week for live shows for me.

Photo by me
I've seen Paul McCartney three times over the past few years, and each time I keep expecting him to start coasting on the nostalgia and phone it in, and every time he only puts on a more energetic show than the last. I strongly suspect that since he returned to touring in 2003 and locked in with his current band, and hasn't really stopped since, being on the road is the thing that just charges his battery and keeps him from growing any older. In fact, he might be aging in reverse!

Read my full review of last night's show on Chicagoist.

Also, last night was the closest I've been to the man—17th row, just off center—and I'm still feeling a little awestruck.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I finally saw Roger Waters and it was amazing.

Photo by me
Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands of all time,  and was one of the groups that not only got me through high school but sent me firmly down the road of music collecting as I searched out rare pressings and bootlegs of everything they put out. And I am also a big fan of Roger Waters' solo work—I believe The Pros Ad Cons Of Hitchhiking is terribly underrated and still listen to it frequently, and the original version of Radio KAOS was much more interesting than what was eventually released (even if it is hampered by '80s production tricks and tropes)—so it seems unbelievable that I had never seen him perform live.*

Sunday night I finally righted that wrong and had amazing seats to see an amazing show. You can read my full review of it over on Chicagoist. It includes video of local singer Eddie Vedder joining Waters for "Comfortably Numb" that was a pleasant surprise but not even nearly the greatest thing about the show.

I shouldn't even need to say this, but if you get a chance to catch this tour you need to BUY TICKETS RIGHT NOW if you still can.

*I've never seen Pink Floyd either, but for some reason not having seen Waters has always bothered me more.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy birthday Metro! Here's to 35 more years ... at least!

I still can't believe I happened across this and was able to snap a photo on my way in Saturday night. 
The Metro is celebrating it’s 35th anniversary this year, and last weekend was it’s official birthday party. It was a fun-filled evening of DJ sets from people with deep ties to the venue, film retrospectives of various eras of the club’s history, and a number of folks were invited ahead of time to share some of their own memories of what the club has meant to them. For some reason I was asked to join that latter esteemed group (I could not have felt more honored to be able to participate).

As I thought back to my own history with Metro I was amazed, though I really shouldn’t have been, how entwined out musical histories are. I tried to share some of the my personal firsts and highlights as I hit the stage for my allotted five minutes; which, of course, I sped through in three … how punk rock of me! Here's a video of it!* Oh yeah, and the intro got cut off, so magine Don Halls over-the-top energy when readig the following.

DON HALL: Our next speaker says about his first show at Metro, “If I remember correctly my first Metro show was House Of Love in 1990, and the venue had me thinking it was the hugest, coolest place to eve see a show. Obviously as the years have passed its still the coolest, but now I realize how awesomely intimate the space is.” Please welcome Jim Kopeny to the stage.

Now that you’ve seen what I actually said, here re my unused notes from the night. I had planned to go onstage and refer to my phone to make sure I didn’t miss any pertinent highlights. That was my plan until one of the earlier speakers, a teenage poet, went up there and absolutely stayed with an excellent pom he had memorized, with nary a cheat sheet or note card in sight. So I caved and braved it sans notes. And of course in doing so, missed a couple memories I wish I hadn’t skipped over.

So, now that you’ve seen the video, read the original notes below and you can probably fill in the missing pieces with my voice.
Thoughts on Metro - 7.22.17
Relative newcomer to the The Metro. I've only been coming here for 27 of its 35 years. 
Didn't get out much in the '80s, too busy collecting and building shows in my own head 
House of love - Guy Chadwick guitar string almost took my eyes out
Moved south so missed the early '90s
Hovercraft / Foo Fighters / Mike Watt - May 1995 (FF album July 4) - 1st show back in Chicago
Alanis Morrissette -1st photo pass - July 1995
Tuscadero - danced to rock music in SmartBar
Sloan - heard the heavy rock in their live sound made them one of my favorites 
Sarge - First band interview in green room (Elizabeth didn't recognize me ha!)
Flaming Lips through all various incarnations freaky 5-piece guitar band to trio
First celebrity meet and greet - Afghan Whigs 98 or 99 (learned celebrities hate meet and greets)
Naked Raygun - taste of what I missed the first time around
Triple Fast Action final show
Wife photographing band for first time
Carly Rae - broke perfect record of never getting kicked out of a show (misunderstanding over press pass and let back in)
Foo Fighters again - full circle
Written about and photographed so many bands and I felt lucky to witness every one even the ones I ended up not liking at the time 
Jane's Addiction - met Barb Glomski through Mich later and learned just how legendary that night was
Gish album release
Those are my only regrets. Why? Because Metro is the best rock club in the world. Everyone wants to play here. 
And the simple reason is every show here is special. I know that sounds like a cliche at worst and disingenuous at best, but it's true. 
There's a magic in the walls. A vibe in the room. An inescapable feel that everything in here MATTERS whether it's to a room of 5 or packed to overflowing. 
Oh yeah. Tonight is another first. This is the first time I've ever stood on stage in this room, looking out. Metro did it again. Always surprising me with new things no matter how long I've been coming there. 
Thank you again to all The Metro staff I’ve encountered since the first day I walked into that amazing room. And thank you most of all to Joe Shanahan, the man behind the legendary room. It is not an understatement to say that without Joe, your understanding of modern music might not have been the same. I’m not kidding. When you see the list of bands that have played that room, often before they were popular and still needed nurturing from the handful of clubs that could help sustain nascent touring careers, you will find you have to agree with me.

And the astounding thing is the man is a pioneer and you still see him in the balcony at shows more times than not, because the guy is just that in love with music.

Happy birthday Metro. I wouldn't be who I am now without you.

*Yes, it's shot vertically. Get over it. It was shot as a favor for me so if I can live with it so can you. Now if you want to complain about the dude talking, I can't do much for you there.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Quick thoughts on the new Lana Del Rey.

One of the major downsides to the new way of releasing music, to avoid digital leaks, is that music writers ten to have zero time to process any substantial thoughts as they race each other to be the first to post their reviews. I have largely avoided that trend, insisting that if I do review something the day it drops, it's only because I've been able to live with the album ahead of time.

But in this case, I am not really a Lana Del Rey fan—my review of her set at last year's Lolla reflects that—and don't plan on writing a full review of her new album, so I don't feel bad sharing my rough notes on Lust For Life straight from my spreadsheet that tracks all the music I listen to each year.
The first couple songs are actually good and the standouts are all duets. Overall it just gets mired in the downtempo melisma she seems mired in. In the end it still feels like more posturing than actual emoting. But I will admit there are more moments I enjoyed on this album than in any of her previous efforts. This would have actually made a really good EP.  
I also SWEAR she sang some of these songs at last year's Lolla because they sound exactly the same, but she didn't. Here work is just that repetitive.

Need further reinforcement? After I played the album for Mich (on the way to a Kesha concert that was unfortunately canceled to do dangerously bad weather) her immediate response was, "At least I never need to listen to that again. But at least I can say I gave it a try."

We both did.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Things I am doing this weekend that make me feel very lucky, indeed.

I'm going to see Kesha for the first time since 2009 on Friday, attend a neighborhood block party on my new neighborhood block party Saturday afternoon, then attend and speak at the Metro 35th anniversary party on Saturday night, and then see Roger Water live for the first time in my life on Sunday!

It's not gonna be a slow, relaxing weekend, but all of those things are awesome and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Maybe I'll even try and unpack a box or two so I feel like I'm not just spoiling myself with fun stuff the entire time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The Struts are back!

My love for The Struts runs deep. They craft the perfect kind of big ol’ fashioned rock and/or roll that makes boys fall in love with boys and girls fall in love with girls and everyone just fall in love with each other. They believe in scarves and floppy hats and skin-tight leather. They worship at the altar of Queen and the idea that every single show is supposed to be a really good time.

The group is in the studio working on their new album, the always fraught sophomore effort, but if this first taste of the new material, the single "One Bight Only," is any indication of what to expect from the rest this band will safely avoid any slump.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to be a rock critic.

Erik Jensen's channeling of Lester Bangs is both eye-opening and mind-blowing.
No, this isn't an entry of how to be a rock critic, but rather to recommend you see the play How To Be A Rock Critic playing in Chicago that's been extended through the end of the month. I saw it a few weeks ago, and highly recommend this one-person show based on the life and writings of Lester Bangs.

And no, you don't have to know who Bangs was, or even a fan of rock music, to really get a lot out of this show.

Read my review and then go get some tickets!

Monday, July 17, 2017

The close of P4K Music Fest always feels like the last day of summer camp to me.

This was perhaps one of the mellowest, most pleasant Pitchfork Music Festivals I've ever experienced. I am sore as heck from all the standing and walking, but the corwds, music, and overall vibe of the weekend was pretty great.

Here's all the coverage I contributed to if you'd like to catch up on what went down over the last couple of days in Union Park!

Photos: LCD Soundsystem Throw A Helluva Non-Retirement Party At Pitchfork Day 1

Photos: A Tribe Called Quest Brings The Stripped-Down Heat To Pitchfork Day 2

Photos: An Empowering Solange & Hometown Heroes Won Pitchfork Day 3

Photos: The Best Fest Fashion Seen At Pitchfork 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

The 2017 Pitchfork Music Fest is here!

Let's get magical, photo from last year's P4K by Annie Lesser for Chicagoist
I'm excite by this year's Pitchfork Music Festival bill, and am looking forward to seeing some old favorites and making some new discoveries. If you need some suggestions on who to see—aside from the headliners everyone is already going to see—I out together a guide with a few acts each day I'm most excited about.

But I'm most excited about the prospect of being surprised by acts I'm less familiar with!

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Today we move into our new house. I am SO EXCITED. And terrified. But mostly excited.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

I wish Carly Rae Jepsen would play a small, private show in Chicago every night of the week.

Carly Rae Jepsen played a small show last night, and Mich and I were lucky enough to attend. And it turned out to be the first time she's ever performed "Cut To The Feeling Live" so it's like we got to experience a little slice of pop history in the making! Read all about it and peep the action in motion.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Busy week, but this brief respite is for me.

Amidst all the insanity of moving and such, this evening will provide a musical bright spot when I get the chance to see Carly Rae Jepsen play a small, private show in Chicago. And afterward, I will return home and continue to pack in prepartion for our impending move. But for a blip of time, I'll just be in pop heaven and won't worry about all the stuff looking over me that I have to get done.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Gorillaz kicked off their world tour in Chicago and I was there.

Photo by me.
These days, I don't often get truly nervous about getting on a guest list or not. I figure I make a request, and if it's accepted that's great and if not, that's O.K. too. But anything Damon Albarn related is a whole 'nother story! Luckily for me the publicity gods and goddesses smiled on me, though, and granted me access to Saturday's Gorillaz show at Northerly Island in Chicago.

This show also brought me out of "live concert photography retirement," so you can read my review and see a ton of photos I took on Chicagoist today.

If the band is coming through your town BUY TICKETS. Gorillaz mutates every time the entity tours, and while this version isn't as quirky as, say, the Plastic Beach tour, it is a spectacle.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Last day of "vacation."

These stairs used to be covered in carpet!
That title up there is pretty tongue in cheek, since there wasn't a whole lotta resting and relaxing going on this week.* What there was a lot of was grunting and sweating and cursing and taping of boxes shut and moving heavy stuff from one end of a room to another and meeting contractors redoing floors and ceilings and walls and all kinds of fun stuff.

And there's still another week of this to go.

I think Mich and I are already looking forward to next summer so we'll have those handful of warm Chicago months to actually enjoy and not fritter away amidst a sea of stress and too much to do in too little time.

Let's hear it for being homeowners! Huzzah!

*O.K., I did bona fide pamper myself once, treating myself to an early screening of Spider-Man: Homecoming earlier today, and it was fantastic! Possibly my favorite Spidey flick yet, and another hopeful entry in the superhero movie canon of films filled with excitement and optimism and virtue and not saddled by angst and gritty cinematic textures. Mich hasn't seen it yet, so I suppose I'll have to force myself to see it again so she doesn't have to watch it alone.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

This song belongs over the closing credits of a 'Master Of None' episode.

The headline pretty much says all you need to know, huh?

But here's a smidge more background for you: the tune is by Dublin's Tiny Magnetic Pets and appears on their new LP Deluxe / Debris, out next month. The album reminds me of the dance rock, synth pop movement that flashed in Chicago in the early aughts, mixing beats and programmed lines with something that feels a bit askew and human. I've only given it a single listen, but my first impression is that it's a slow charmer of an album.

But this song, "Here Cmes The Noise (White)" caught my attention in its first 5 seconds, and I could immediately envision it as the cathartic release at the end of a particularly emotional episode of any of that genre of programming making intelligent attempts at deciphering big city survival by a generation of twenty- or thirty-somethings. Maybe even a segue from a long single camera shot into the credits. You know?

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

How much new music did I listen to in June 2017? Let's find out!

A drenched but happy post-Tom Petty concert June photo.
A few days late, but the breakdown is in—I picked up the pace in June and was rewarded with an unusually high number of pretty meh albums. But hey, the majority were pretty good! So let's just dive into the stats.

Oh, and in case you need it, here's a guide to making sense of my personal rating system.

Total number of new/upcoming releases listened to in June 2017: 83

Number of those releases that rated 7-10: 6

Number of those releases that rated 4-6: 50

Number of those releases that rated 1-3: 27

Highest rated album: San Cisco’s The Water. I recently gushed about how the fizzy and jaunty rock-pop this Australia group specializes in has helped kick my summer up a notch.

New band I’d never heard of that caught me off guard: Nana Grizol. On Ursa Minor this Athens band with Elephant 6 affiliations plays tunes that flirt with orch pop (it kind of reminds me of the more upbeat-era Belle and Sebastian stuff, and maybe a bit of Beulah).

Most surprising discovery: Dan Auerbach’s Waiting On A Song still surprises me with how simple and straightforward it is, and how genuinely likable I still find it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Happy independence (film) day!

I've gotta say, Keitel and Roth are still lookin' pretty fine.
The movie starring a bunch of the guys in the photo above, gathered in a reunion shot to celebrate said film, just came on the cable TV running in the background of our family room, prompting the cheeky title of this post and giving me something to write about today tangentially—ever so, so—related to the name of the holiday if, in fact, having really nothing to do with the reason we celebrate the 4th of July in the U.S.A.; this is not because I think we have nothing to celebrate today, because we, in the grand scheme of things, most certainly do, but more because goddamn is this still a good movie.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Fast Romantics slather 'American Love' with feel-good stadium hooks.

Fast Romantics photo by Jen Squires
Toronto's Fast Romantics have been around a while, but they're new to me. I played a game with Mich to see if she had the same reaction to the opening bars on the first song off their latest album American Love, and sure enough, she did.

"It sounds a lot like Bruce Springsteen."

And then the next few bars hit and starts to turn that initial read on its head. And then the vocals come in and you realize there's more to the band than Springsteen worship.

After a few songs I shared my mental musical equation regarding the band's sound:

It's like if Arcade Fire went to band camp with the E Street band, and then picked up the love child of Neil Diamond and Brandon Flowers to front the resulting sound.* And it totally works.

Here's a sampler of the new LP. You can buy the whole ting through the link in the player.

*I also admit thinking, "Is this the Canadian version of Steel Train?" But I like my initial equation better.