Carsick Cars at the Burlington

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Carsick Cars is one of China’s best-known indie rock bands, but they’d never played in Chicago until now. The Beijing trio finally made it to Chicago with a gig Friday night (March 28) at the Burlington. Like most shows at the Burlington, it didn’t have advance ticket sales, but by the time Carsick Cars began playing the opening riff, the room was packed — with some of the typical indie rock fans you’d expect, as well as a large contingent of young Asian-Americans.

So, what does a Chinese indie rock band sound like? Well, this one doesn’t sound that far off from American and British indie rock of the 1980s and ’90s — with a touch of that repetitive intensity that German bands like Can made famous as Krautrock. Or maybe that driving repetition sounds more like the Feelies at some moments? And yes, given the fact that Carsick Cars opened some shows for Sonic Youth, the comparison with Sonic Youth seems obvious. And there’s a bit of garage rock in the sound.

But there’s also something different about the sound, and not just the fact that Carsick Cars sings some of its lyrics in Chinese. Like so many great musical transformations throughout history, this is the sound of one culture’s sound as it’s heard by people in another part of the world, imitated in a way that’s a little off, transmitted back to the original culture, sounding like a fresh take on the original.

With Carsick Cars, it all comes together in springy, almost bouncy rhythms, catchy pop melodies and occasional shards of dissonant noise. The band has a terrific new album, simply called 3, which you can stream for at least a while on Time Out Shanghai’s website. Unsure of how readily available Carsick Cars’ records will be in the U.S., I bought all three of the band’s releases at the Burlington’s merch table, just to be on the safe side (and to demonstrate how much I like what I’d heard.) One source for Carsick Cars records is the Maybe Mars label’s website.

Friday’s show also included an opening set by White+, a more experimental side project featuring Carsick Cars’ singer-guitarist Zhang Shouwang (the only remaining member from the band’s original lineup). After wearing a plaid shirt during that set, he switched to a Carsick Cars T-shirt — apparently, Chinese rock stars are less wary of wearing their own merch.

The fans near the stage pogoed to Carsick Cars’ riffs, and the night climaxed with “Zhong Nan Hai,” off the band’s self-titlted 2007 debut.  Zhang dove into the audience with his guitar during that song, and Carsick Cars’ fans held him aloft for a minute. Here’s my video of that:

Some rock ‘n’ roll traditions truly are universal.

(Now, I have all the more reason to look forward to Chicago-Montana videographer John Yingling’s project The World Underground, which is documenting China’s underground rock scene.)

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The set list
The set list

The Cairo Gang at the Burlington

The Cairo Gang

This past weekend was filled with noteworthy live music, as you can see from my previous blog entries about Chris & Heather’s Country Calendar Show, Syl Johnson, Renaldo Domino and Expo 76, and Foxygen and Angel Olsen. And then on Monday came another fabulous evening of Robbie Fulks at the Hideout, this time featuring Kelly Hogan.

But perhaps the best performance of the whole weekend was a set on Sunday night by the Cairo Gang, in front of a small but appreciative audience at the Burlington. The Cairo Gang is the stage name of virtuoso multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Emmet Kelly, who shows up in Chicago clubs over and over again playing with various bands. Most famously, he’s been a sideman to Bonnie “Prince” Billy in recent years. On the wonderful album Wonder Show of the World, the Cairo Gang (aka Kelly) wrote the music while Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) wrote the lyrics. Kelly has also played with Angel Olsen, Joshua Abrams and David Vandervelde, just to name a few.

Under his Cairo Gang moniker, he recently released an exceptional record called The Corner Man, which makes it clear how much he and Oldham have influenced each other. In its quiet, acoustic moments, the album is reminiscent of the work Kelly has done with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, with delicate, subtle vocals carrying artfully constructed melodies. But as Time Out Chicago noted last week in an article about Kelly, the live version of the Cairo Gang is turning into something more like a band than a solo act. The lineup that played Sunday at the Burlington includes Ryan Weinstein (of the band Coffin Pricks) on bass, Sam Wagster (of the Father Costume) on guitar and Ben Babbitt (of This Is Cinema) on drums.

At the Burlington, the Cairo Gang was loud and intense, but no less subtle than the studio recordings. Some of Kelly’s quiet moments on record were transformed into dramatic, even epic rock. In the midst of the set, the band played two terrific back-to-back covers: the Mekons’ “Hello Cruel World” followed by Nick Cave’s “Shivers.” [ 🔥 | Best Price | ☀☀☀ Safest Way To Buy Cialis Online Wa ☀☀☀. We offer products that help you solve your health problems. Viagra For Sale Perth Wa The | Up to 40% Off🔥 |. Lowest Prices Buy Zithromax Online Cheap ,special reduced price.. Check More » | Best Price🔥 |. We collect what you are looking for here. Du Viagra Pour Les Femmes online ,Are You Searching Best pill?. Check More » 80 Mg Lasix online - Buy varieties of Zoloft dosages without prescription at cheapest price. Order genuine Zoloft pills to alleviate depression effectively. Buy Viagra Generic Online Cheap From Us Online Pharmacy Buy Online From Canadian Pharmacy Buy Online In Canada Same Day Delivery Buy Online Canadian Pharmacy Buy Legally Overnight Shipping Buy Online From Canadian Pharmacy Can you buy voltaren in canada - Best Place To Buy Online Without Prescription Confabulatory Rene euchring, his mosey very ordinarily. can you buy voltaren in canada chastizable and ult Stinky familiarized their tastings or can you buy voltaren in canada dibs in front. | instock🔥 |. We have special offers for you. http://audelicechocolate.com/?chp=Prescription-For-Cialis-Online&b80=58 , Free shipping, quality, privacy, secure.. Check More » | Up to 30% Off🔥 |. Free Shipping, quality. Worldwide delivery Viagra Prescription Medicine ,It solves the problem for you quickly.. Check More » | Best Cheaps🔥 |. Online Drug Shop http://audibledesigns.com/?voll=Get-A-Prescription-For-Cialis ,Online Pharmacy, Guaranteed Shipping. 24/7 Phone Support. Check More » Can Nexium Be Used For Ibs 1 nexium granules packet 2 nexium drug cost 3 go here 4 what is the generic medicine for nexium Augmentin 875 Mg Twice A Day - Order Generic Priligy without prescription - lowest prices guaranteed! Fast worldwide shipping! 24/7 Customer Support Correction: Oops, that’s actually a song written by Roland S. Howard and originally recorded by The Boys Next Door before they became The Birthday Party; Cave was a member of the band but not the writer of that song. The song is also covered by The Divine Fits on their 2012 debut.] The gang ended their show after midnight with the most hushed song of the night, but that one, too, built to a thrilling climax. There were 30 or so people in the room, including several faces I recognized from other bands. An enthusiastic couple near the front didn’t even know who they were watching, demanding at the end of the set: “Say your name again!” The Cairo Gang. Remember that name.

The Cairo Gang’s The Corner Man is available from Empty Cellar Records; and the whole album can be streamed on bandcamp.

The Cairo Gang
The Cairo Gang
The Cairo Gang
The Cairo Gang
The Cairo Gang

Angel Olsen at The Burlington

Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

The first time I saw Angel Olsen was back in 2007, when she was an opening act for Marissa Nadler at Ronny’s. “Cool downtrodden strumming, piercing pretty vocals,” I noted at the time. And then a few years passed before I heard anything else from this promising singer. She surfaced again in 2010, showing up as a singer in Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s band.

Earlier this year, Olsen finally put out the sort of record that could attract the sort of attention she deserves: a lovely LP called Half Way Home, on the Bathetic label. On the record, Olsen sings and plays with backup from another talented Chicago musician who’s spent time in Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s band, Emmett Kelly (who’s also the leader of the Cairo Gang). While this isn’t a solo acoustic recording, the production and arrangements are spare, and the feeling is that of an intimate, natural performance captured on tape just as it might sound in a bedroom.

Olsen played an in-store with Kelly on Sept. 4 at Reckless Records in Wicker Park, and the store was filled with listeners. And then, when she performed a Nov. 12 concert in New York, New York Times critic Ben Ratliff wrote a glowing review under the headline “A Singer Finds Her Voice, and It Can Silence All Others.” It seemed that this largely unheralded singer from Chicago might be finally getting more widespread notice. Jessica Hopper interviewed Olsen for a Nov. 16 article in the Chicago Tribune, and then Olsen made her triumphant return to Chicago for a gig Monday (Nov. 19) at The Burlington.

At least, it felt triumphant to me. Olsen’s still a fairly obscure singer in the grand scheme of things, and Monday’s show felt a bit like a private party where she was welcomed home by friends. After nice, folk-rock sets by two openers, Clouds and Mountains and I Ching Quartet, Olsen took the stage. This time, she was playing solo — calmly commanding the stage. She did show jitters at a few moments, forgetting a few of her own lyrics, but then laughed it off with self-deprecating humor. She played an electric guitar, but kept the tone clean and unadorned, sounding practically acoustic as she strummed and plucked spare but inventive chord progressions. She sang softly much of the time, but then she would step aside from the microphone as her voice rose in strength, hitting notes filled with plaintive pleading.

At a few points, in the middle of song, Olsen raised her eyebrows or said something like, “hmm,” as if commenting on her own performance as it was happening — gestures that could be seen as examples of her lacking confidence. To me, they felt — paradoxically, perhaps — more like signs that she is comfortable with her presence on the stage. As she sang, the room felt almost completely silent. I sensed some awe among the people gathered there.

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen

Here’s a video I shot of one song, “The Waiting,” which is preceded by a giggly introduction:

Thurston Moore and Frank Rosaly

Thurston Moore

Thurston Moore

In case you missed it … Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth played two shows this past weekend in a little Logan Square club called The Burlington. Despite Moore’s fame, the gigs seemed to be a bit under the radar. They were part of the four-day Neon Marshmallow, a diverse and sometimes daring music festival event that was held in the Empty Bottle and Viaduct Theatre in prior years. I wish I could’ve attended more of the festival this year, but other things on my schedule got in the way. But I did manage to catch Moore’s performance on Sunday night — which was especially cool because it featured Moore collaborating and improvising with Frank Rosaly, one of Chicago’s most inventive drummers.

Rosaly made skittering, clattering noises with his kit — occasionally holding cymbals and other percussion pieces instead of drumsticks — creating rhythms that skipped around in unexpected patterns. Moore was using old-school equipment — just one electric guitar, a few pedals, an amp and a couple of bars or tools to assault his strings. Together, they painted an abstract sonic landscape. Near the end, Moore laconically leaned back against his amp, taking his hands off his guitar and letting the feedback ebb and flow. Across the stage, Rosaly was the manic opposite of Moore’s frozen figure, attacking his drums with a rapidity that approached the impossibly fast hammering of woodpeckers. And then Moore abruptly lunged to the middle of the stage and stomped on a guitar pedal just as Rosaly shut himself off and brought the noise to a climactic halt.

Frank Rosaly
Thurston Moore
Thurston Moore
Frank Rosaly
Thurston Moore
Thurston Moore
Thurston Moore
Frank Rosaly
Frank Rosaly

Royal Headache, OBN III’s and Football at the Burlington

Royal Headache
Royal Headache

Last Thursday (June 7) was my first visit to the music room that Logan Square’s Burlington bar added a while ago. It’s small room with mostly unadorned brick walls. It feels a bit like an actual garage. Perfect for some loud punk rock played by musicians in sweat-drenched T-shirts.

And that’s just what I saw — a great triple bill, including Chicago’s own Football, the ungainly named OBN III’s from Austin, Texas, and Royal Headache from Australia. As I was taking photographs, I think I nearly got kicked in the head by the guys in Football. (No offense taken.) Then the OBN III’s frontman reached out to touch my head. (I wasn’t the only audience member he stared at with alarming intensity as the band slammed out some rough and rugged riffs.) Royal Headache’s frontman worked out his nervous energy by pacing back and forth across the stage, while the bassist stood with his back to the crowd. The members of the band looked oddly disconnected from one another, but the loud, pounding songs connected.

Football
Football

Football
Football

Football
Football

Football
Football

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

OBN III's
OBN III's

Royal Headache
Royal Headache

Royal Headache
Royal Headache

Royal Headache
Royal Headache

Royal Headache
Royal Headache

Cardboard Sangria Showcase

I love seeing live music in out-of-the-way places… holes in the wall, warehouses, bars without stages. Of course, as someone who takes concert pictures, I find it frustrating to attempt photography in the dim lighting at some of these places, but I’m always up for a good challenge.

The place to be on Wednesday night was the Burlington, a little bar on Fullerton in the Logan Square neighborhood. I’ve seen it mentioned lately, but this was my first visit. Several of the artists on the Chicago record label Cardboard Sangria were having a free showcase — five artists, each playing about half an hour. A performance by the excellent psychedelic folk-rocker the Singleman Affair was enough reason to draw me in.

Here’s the kind of concert venue this is. You walk from the sidewalk in through the front door and the first thing you notice is that the band is right there, playing next to you. No stage. Virtually no lights, alas. A dark bar in a narrow room, with antlers on the wall at various points, serving its own brew of beer with antlers on the tap.

I came in as the first band, Mean Sea Level, was playing, and enjoyed what I heard. Next came Rock Falls, a.k.a. Annie Reese, who managed to hush the crowd with her quiet songs, including a few played on ukulele. Her voice sounded lovely as she sang plaintive melodies over simple but sometimes quirky strumming.

The third band of the night was Darling, who played scrappy rock songs with some real 1960s “la la” kind of harmonies. The Singleman Affair (which, for this show, was Daniel Schneider on acoustic guitar and vocals plus Toby Summerfield on stand up bass) then played a few old and a few new songs, giving a tantalizing preview of the forthcoming album, the Silhouettes at Dawn. Schneider threw himself into the performance, shaking his hair wildly as he played finger-picked patterns on the guitar with the kind of intensity you’d expect in an electric-guitar solo. The last act of the evening, Poor Lister, was a solo project by Singleman Affair guitarist Gary Pyskacek.

And, yes, it did turn out to be a challenging evening for photography. You can see a lot of grain, blur and shallow focus in my photos. Most of the night, I was shooting at ISO 3200, f stop 1.4 and shutter speed 1/30th or 1/25th of a second. Those of you who know what that means will realize just how dark the Burlington was. But it also seemed like a hip and friendly place.

Photos from the Cardboard Sangria Showcase.