The overwhelming nature of life in a world-class city presents a multitude of opportunities, for better or for worse. In the age of oversharing and over-reflection, isolation can creep up on you. it’s easy to say ‘fuck it’ and fall into the cold world of Cap’n Crunch feasts and Instant Netflix pity parties. In order to combat the potential doldrums of the solitary urban experience, I take advantage of my surroundings and see as much live music as possible. In just 15 days, I saw 13 acts, ranging from the virtuosic to the epileptic, and everything in between.
This is how I spend my time. If it sounds like something you’d like to do, you are encouraged to join.
9/1: St. Vincent/Maps + Atlases @ 312 Block Party
Here’s an interesting phenomenon: the larger and more expensive a city, the more free events there are. This one was hosted by former craft brewery (now owned by InBev) Goose Island, and sported an “invite only” list, but there were plenty of ways to get an invite. Thanks also in part to 93.1 WXRT, the 312 Block Party was an absolute blast, and featured two of the most consistent acts in indie rock, Tulsa’s St. Vincent and Chicago’s Maps + Atlases. Both bands go down smooth with the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. The only downside to a free show is that you have plenty of people there just for the party and less for the show, but fortunately Annie Clark knows how to turn it up.
9/5: Oren Ambarchi/Cleared @ Empty Bottle
Whether it’s contemporary minimalist composers or the sounds of droning doom, my music listening has become a sort of thrill seeking activity, pushing my ears into weird and frightening places. This particular Wednesday at the Empty Bottle was both exciting and upsetting, as the classic venue welcomed the adept and progressive Aussie king of drone Oren Ambarchi, along with less than elegant Chicago droners Cleared.
Composing songs of indeterminate length based largely upon the manipulation of feedback, “drone” music is something that should be experienced live, but with caution. During Cleared’s unbearable and overbearing set of too much feedback and not enough manipulation, I questioned my place at this show. Then the guy next to me had a seizure. Like, a real honest to goodness, on the floor convulsing with eyes pried open seizure. As if drone wasn’t unsettling enough.
I booked it out of the club, took a long walk reevaluating my life and health, and returned for the headliner set, which was superb. Lesson learned: don’t write off a headliner for an atrocious and abrasive opener. Also, be wary of experimental music if you have a history of epilepsy.
9/8: Storm Thorgerson @ Public Works Gallery
It’s refreshing to take a break from live music, and learn about other processes that go into developing pop culture. Storm Thorgerson is perhaps–no, undoubtedly is–the best album artist of all time, producing timeless covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Mars Volta, Peter Gabriel and Muse, among others. Known for his surreal approach to photography, most of Thorgerson’s work was created prior to the age of digital graphic design, creating a both psychedelic and tangible effect. Now, Thorgerson is in his late 60s, and on a national tour presenting his work over the years. He’s also crabby, hard of hearing, sexist, hilarious and a genius.
9/10: Dustin Wong @ Empty Bottle
If you’ve been reading FP semi-regularly this year, you’d know we’re big fans of Dustin Wong’s newest record, Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads, released on Thrill Jockey in February. The former shining star in Baltimore’s experimental Ponytail, Dustin Wong is one of the best guitarists of his generation, building towering pieces of instrumental pop just from eight effects pedals and his own wits. Live, Wong essentially plays the album as it’s recorded; the delight of the performance is seeing how the sounds are created. A highly recommended show, if you go make sure you can see his feet.
9/14: Ami Saraiya and the Outcome/Moritat @ Lilly’s for Chicago I Love You
Tom Schraeder’s month-long “Chicago, I Love You” fest at Lincoln Park’s Lilly’s is well underway and over the hump. Eclectic is too weak of a word to describe this Chicago celebration, and last Friday’s performance fit the bill quite well. First, Chicago freak-folk outfit Ami Saraiya and the Outcome brought a feminine and strangely sexual vibe to the dive bar, with songs as off-putting as they were engrossing. Next, the jazzy, funky tones of three-piece Moritat showed the power of a fantastic rhythm section, and the importance of a great frontwoman. Moritat had one of the two.
9/15: Descendents/Dropkick Murphys/Minus the Bear/Slapstick/Gaslight Anthem/Andrew W.K./Hot Water Music @ Humboldt Park for Riot Fest
As I said in my preview, Riot Fest’s interests lie firmly in the past. I understand that old favorites sell tickets, but I didn’t see one band with any members under the age of 35 (edit: Andrew W.K. is 33 and Brian Fallon is 32). That is a serious problem, and the shows promoters are equally at fault as us attendees for allowing such a large event to be based almost entirely upon nostalgia. That said, it was an excellent time. The three personal highlights were Andrew W.K.’s afternoon party, Slapstick’s ska-tastic reunion and Descendents lively, but borderline geriatric punk set, also known as Milo Breaks A Hip.
Peter Lillis is Managing Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He’s going to see Cloud Nothings tonight, and John Cale, Conor Oberst, Bobby Womack and Zola Jesus this weekend. He’s got to fit in writing somehow. All images are his.