Something clicked in October, and I found myself at eight shows in just 15 days, likely due to a mix of early onset Seasonal Affective Disorder and rise in tours before the end of the year. It’s a lot of music to consume, and while I’m still digesting it all, I’m already planning for more. Below are the eight shows I saw in the last two weeks. Below that are the nine shows I plan to see before the end of the month. Care to join?
10/2 – She Keeps Bees @ Empty Bottle
In no way is this meant to be sexist: chicks rock 2012. Jessica Larrabee—lead singer and songwriter of She Keeps Bees—has got a voice as huge as it is real, not unlike Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond and Hazards of Love. Larrabee makes up for her shortcomings in songwriting by adding texture and warmth through her voice and guitar, which is further expanded by her excellent drummer Andy LaPlant. In a world where Florence Welch and Adele Adkins can become international superstars, it’s nice to be able to rock with an similarly as strong voice in a much more intimate setting.
10/4 – Woods @ Subt
Woods‘ growing popularity is further proof of the return of big guitar-based rock. Backed by warm tube amps and pea soup thick reverb, this Brooklyn foursome is the closest indie rock has come to Crazy Horse. With dueling 12-string guitars, there were as many as 28 strings vibrating at any given moment. Their newest Bend Beyond (out on Woodsist, their own label) doesnt reach these huge rock highs, but still worth a few spins.
10/6 – Dark Dark Dark @ Schubas
I first heard of Dark Dark Dark from Publisher Leo Lopez in his 2010 profile of the band in our short-lived “Local Frontier” series, despite not actually being a local Brooklyn band. Based in Minneapolis, this sometimes eight-piece group fronted by Nona Marie Invie make “adult contemporary” baroque pop for all the lost Rain Dogs out there. The packed, silent venue stood enraptured by their dramatic set, comprised mostly of tracks of their very recent and excellent Who Needs Who. Their performance reached its most haunting point during the mini-set of “How It Went Down” and “Without You”, two deconstructions of a destructive event.
10/9 – Saint Anyway @ Horseshoe
Here’s more old-timey Minnesota music, this time from Duluth and with a more masculine twang. Saint Anyway–a bluegrass trio–craft downhome jams in a similar vein to Punch Brothers or Mumford and Sons, but don’t read that as a slight. Despite an awfully weak audience, a grungy establishment and an late night/early morning set time, Saint Anywhere performed like professionals, playing originals alongside classic covers such as Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and Dylan’s “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry”. As personable and more than competent musicians, it’s likely you’ll hear more from these guys as folky sounds continue to gain popularity worldwide. We live in a post-Nickel Creek world, after all.
10/11 – A$AP Rocky/Schoolboy Q/Danny Brown @ Congress Theater
The absolute worst. Just as Jordan Mainzer challenged the excellence of The Master, I must challenge the quality of these artists, Danny Brown excluded. Having attended several supremely lazy and uninspired performances by these guys this year, I am forced to question the popularity of Q and Rocky. Last Thursday’s all ages pep rally further proved that live hip hop performed without care makes for a wholly uncomfortable and unsatisfying experience. Mix that with the awful acoustics and over-zealous security guards at the Congress, you’ve got one wasted Thursday night. Lesson learned: these ‘artists’ or this venue won’t sucker me in again.
10/13 – Rebecca Rego @ Schubas
Full disclosure: Rebecca Rego is a friend of mine. While some bias may exist, her warm brand of new folk/alt-country is both fresh and familiar, and entirely enjoyable. At a solo seated show at Lakeview’s Schubas, Rego gave the crowd a taste of the new music she’s been writing on her first national tour, which is currently in progress. The opportunity to watch an artist grow with their craft is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a music fanatic, and it’s even better when you talk about that growth over a few beers after the show.
10/15 – Calexico @ Lincoln Hall
A band of true performers and professionals. Spending most of their career on Chicago’s Quarterstick Records (an affiliate of Touch and Go), Calexico have built an impressive following in the Midwest, especially evidenced by the sold out crowd at Lincoln Hall. Their intoxicating blend of Ennio Morricone, Uncle Tupelo, Buena Vista Social Club and Tortoise is best enjoyed live, where you can feel the full presence of the seven to nine piece band, complete with mariachi section, steel string guitars and bilingual backing singers. Playing most of Algiers—their most recent and excellent release—as well as plenty of old favorites, Calexico further cemented themselves as one of the most talented and interesting bands of their generation.
10/16 – Flying Lotus @ Metro
The absolute best. No electronic performer has bridged the gap between high-concept art and the straight up party atmosphere of EDM (ugh) as brilliantly as Flying Lotus. While progressive composers such as Burial and Balam Acab invoke a sense of head down, navel gazing, FlyLo encourages the audience to open their mind and let the weirdness take over. His masterful Until The Quiet Comes is one of the best electronic releases in years, with a narrative arc that’s just as engaging as the beats themselves. Live, Steven Ellison (great nephew of John Coltrane) intersperses his own music with remixes from artists as diverse as Radiohead or Waka Flocka Flame. See. This. Show. Buy. The. Record.
10/18 – Sic Alps @ Empty Bottle
10/21 – John Spencer Blues Explosion @ Bottom Lounge
10/22 – Witch Mountain @ Empty Bottle
10/24 – Swans @ Metro
10/25 – Del tha Funkee Homosapien @ Reggie’s
10/28 – White Denim/Maps and Atlases @ Lincoln Hall
10/29 – Daughn Gibson @ Empty Bottle
10/31 – Thundercat @ Abbey Pub
Peter Lillis is Managing Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. Some might say he needs to get a life. He’d say he’s found one.