Chad VanGaalen at the Empty Bottle

Chad VanGaalen, a singer-songwriter from Calgary, Alberta, makes his recordings practically alone, writing every note and playing nearly every instrument. VanGaalen’s most recent album on Sub Pop, Light Information, offers an outstanding example of what he does so well: richly layered indie rock, with tuneful melodies but plenty of strange Continue Reading

Jon Langford’s Four Lost Souls at the Hideout

Oct. 11 was Jon Langford’s 60th birthday, and it was also the date of a release party at the Hideout for his latest record. Of course, this prolific Chicago musician who never seems to stop creating would spend his birthday on a stage. His latest project is a great one: Continue Reading

Hideout Block Party 2017

I missed the first day and a half of the Hideout Block Party this weekend — I was in Louisville for the Cropped Out music festival — but I got back into Chicago on Sunday afternoon and caught the final few hours of the Hideout’s fun shindig, which I was Continue Reading

Cropped Out 2017

Cropped Out, an underground music festival in Louisville, Kentucky, lined up a blockbuster band for the top of its lineup this summer: The Fall. I was already eager to attend Cropped Out again after having a fun time there last year, and this sealed the deal. Alas, The Fall later Continue Reading

Freakons at the Hideout and the Shitty Barn

When the Mekons teamed up with Freakwater, of course they called themselves the Freakons. As they’ve joked, the other option was Meekwater, a far less formidable-sounding portmanteau. Actually, this collaborative group — which played a few shows last week, recording one of them for a forthcoming album — doesn’t include Continue Reading

Amadou and Mariam plus Frank Waln at the Pritzker Pavilion

Amadou and Mariam played a truly delightful concert of lively music from Mali on Monday, July 24, at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. I’m looking forward to the duo’s new album, La Confusion, coming out September 22. The opening act was Frank Waln, a hip-hop artist of Lakota heritage, who Continue Reading

Jason Molina tribute at the Hideout

Chicago journalist Erin Osmon has a new book about the life of a great singer-songwriter who died in 2013 — Jason Molina: Riding With the Ghost. Last week at Chicago’s Hideout (July 22), Osmon read some passages from her biography — readings that served as introductions to performances by many Continue Reading

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Day 3 Photos

Photos from July 16, 2017, the third day of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, Chicago. (Click on these links to jump ahead to the photos of an artist: Kilo Kish, Colin Stetson, NE-HI, Derrick Carter, Isaiah Rashad, Joey Purp, Hamilton Leithauser, Ride, Jamila Woods, American Football and Continue Reading

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Day 2 Photos

Photos from July 15, 2017, the second day of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, Chicago. (Click on these links to jump ahead to the photos of an artist: Jeff Rosenstock, Weyes Blood, Cherry Glazerr, Arab Strap, Mitski, George Clinton, The Feelies, Angel Olsen, PJ Harvey and A Continue Reading

Pitchfork Music Festival 2017: Day 1 Photos

Photos from July 14, 2017, the first day of the 2017 Pitchfork Music Festival in Union Park, Chicago. (Click on these links to jump ahead to the photos of an artist: Madame Gandhi, Priests, Dawn Richard, Hiss Golden Messenger, William Tyler, Vince Staples, Thurston Moore, Danny Brown, Kamaiyah, Dirty Projectors Continue Reading

Solid Sound Festival 2017

As promised, Wilco performed its 1996 album Being There from beginning to end on Friday, June 23. Being There had won an online poll asking Wilco fans which of the band’s records it should perform on the opening night of Solid Sound, a festival Wilco curates every other year at Continue Reading

Big Ears: Photos of the Gavin Bryars Ensemble

(See more Big Ears Festival coverage) March 25, 2017, at St. John’s Cathedral Performing Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet on March 26, 2017, at the Mill and Mine Performing The Sinking of the Titanic on March 26, 2017, at the Tennessee Theatre More Big Ears Festival coverage: Read my Continue Reading

Big Ears: Photos from Day 4

Photos from Day 4 of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 26, 2017. (See more Big Ears Festival coverage) Pauline Oliveros’ ‘Rock Piece’ Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Directed by Aram Demirjian Oliver Coates St. John’s Choral Evensong Colleen Henry Threadgill’s Zooid More Big Ears Festival coverage: Read my Continue Reading

Big Ears: Photos from Day 3

Photos from Day 3 of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 25, 2017. (See more Big Ears Festival coverage) Lisa Moore Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of ‘Twin Peaks’ Musica Elettronica Viva Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum and Frederic Rzweski Joan Shelley Colin Continue Reading

Big Ears: Photos from Day 2

Photos from Day 2 of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 24, 2017. (See more Big Ears Festival coverage) Maya Beiser Matmos Performing Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives (Private Parts) Robyn Hitchcock Gyan Riley Richard Teitelbaum Ståle Storløkken and Arve Henriksen Jóhann Johannsson Drone Mass featuring ACME and Theatre Continue Reading

Big Ears: Photos from Day 1

Photos from Day 1 of the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, on March 23, 2017. (See more Big Ears Festival coverage) Carla Bley with the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra Emilia Amper Matana Roberts Anna Meredith My Brightest Diamond Blonde Redhead More Big Ears Festival coverage: Read my main blog post about Continue Reading

Robbie Fulks’ Final Hideout Residency Shows: Photo Gallery

My photos of the final three shows in Robbie Fulks’ seven-year-long series of Monday-night concerts at the Hideout. (Read my blog post about the finale of Fulks’ epic residency.) February 6, 2017: With Nora O’Connor February 20, 2017: With High Plains Jamboree February 27, 2017: With Robbie Gjersoe

Mirror of Nature at the Hungry Brain

I’ve written before about my friend Jason Shanley, who performs guitar and electronic music under the name Cinchel. He is part of a new group called Mirror of Nature, which performed a cool set of improvised instrumental music on Jan. 7 at the Hungry Brain. Cinchel’s guitar, Mike Weis’ drums, Continue Reading

Ultimate Painting at the Hideout

The British duo Ultimate Painting keeps turning out one splendid record after another — three albums in the past three years. James Hoare and Jack Cooper’s newest collection, Dusk (on Chicago label Trouble in Mind), is basically more of the same: pretty little pop gems with glittering, interlaced guitar lines Continue Reading

Makoto and Nakatani at the Empty Bottle, plus Spires and Brian Case

Two master musicians from Japan — guitarist Kawabata Makoto, who’s the leader of Acid Mothers Temple, and percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani — created a beautiful instrumental epic onstage at the Empty Bottle on Nov. 29. Both used bows at many points during the concert, with Makoto bowing the strings of his electric guitar Continue Reading

Joshua Abrams’ Hideout residency

The masterful Chicago musician Joshua Abrams played five concerts at the Hideout in November, playing with different collaborators on each Tuesday night. The one constant was the group he calls Natural Information Society Residency — but even that ensemble has a shifting lineup. It’s essentially a setting for Abrams to Continue Reading

Finally… a Record by The Flat Five

The debut album by the Flat Five, It’s a World of Love and Hope, is a strange and wonderful thing. I doubt you’ll hear any other record this year that sounds anything like this. It feels like a throwback to some other era … but when, exactly? And what exactly is this? Continue Reading

Gonerfest 2016 Day 3: Nighttime Show

My photos of the nighttime show at the Hi Tone on Oct. 1, 2016, the third day of Gonerfest in Memphis, featuring emcee Tom Scharpling, Couteau Latex, Sick Thoughts, Bloodshot Bill, Control Freaks, Midnight Snaxxx and Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds. Also see: My roundup of Gonerfest and Continue Reading

Gonerfest 2016 Day 3: Daytime Party

My photos from the daytime party at Murphy’s on Oct. 1, 2016, at Gonerfest in Memphis, featuring Casual Burn, Bloodbags, Fire Retarded, Archie & The Bunkers, Iron Head, Zerodent, Oh Boland, Bloody Show, The World and Spray Paint. Also see: My roundup of Gonerfest and my visit to Memphis More Continue Reading

Gonerfest 2016 Day 2: Nighttime Show

My photos from the nighttime show at the Hi Tone on Sept. 30, 2016, the second day of Gonerfest in Memphis, featuring Opposite Sex, Aquarian Blood, Power, Buck Biloxi and the Fucks, the Blind Shake and Black Lips. Also see: My roundup of Gonerfest and my visit to Memphis More Continue Reading