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

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

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

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 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

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

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

Cropped Out: Day 2

This is my report from Saturday, Sept. 24, the second day of the 2016 Cropped Out music festival in Louisville, Kentucky. To see my report and photos from the first day, click here. Bill Callahan’s performance was the highlight of the Cropped Out festival’s second day, Saturday, Sept. 24, in Continue Reading

Cropped Out: Day 1

Cropped Out feels like a homemade music festival. The website for the annual event in Louisville, Kentucky, hasn’t been thoroughly updated for a couple of years. Although the site displays pictures of the 2016 festival lineup, if you click on the drop-down menu for “FESTIVAL,” the most recent info listed Continue Reading

Hideout 20-Year Reunion

The Hideout, one of my favorite music venues, celebrated its 20th anniversary with a daylong mini-festival on Saturday — billed as a “20-Year Reunion.” In truth, the Hideout is much older than just two decades, as the city of Chicago’s cultural historian, Tim Samuelson, told the audience on Saturday in a Continue Reading

The Flat Five at the Green Mill

The Flat Five — that wonderful Chicago group I’ve photographed and written about many times before — played three sets on Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Green Mill. As the band’s members observed, it may be the first time anyone has ever played a Hollies cover (“Carrie Anne”) at this venerable jazz Continue Reading

BÖC, Rob Mazurek & Emmett Kelly and Horse Lords

Friday, Aug. 26, was another two-concert night for me. Talk about strange juxtapositions. I started out the evening by driving to Skokie for a free show by Blue Öyster Cult at the Backlot Bash street festival… which was pretty good, as far as classic rock band shows go. But alas, I Continue Reading

Tortoise and Ryley Walker concerts, in one night

Aug. 25 felt like a quintessential night of live Chicago music: seeing Tortoise at Millennium Park, followed by Ryley Walker’s late concert at the Empty Bottle. Tortoise’s instrumental music resonated beautifully in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, with the band members constantly shifting around the instruments, playing intricate patterns with almost astonishing precision. The show Continue Reading

Comm to Black and Cinchel at the Comfort Station Fundraiser

I always love seeing concerts at Logan Square’s Illinois Centennial Monument — that tall column with the eagle on top — but these shows don’t happen often enough. So it was cool that Comfort Station, Maximum Pelt and Tall Pat Records teamed up for a fundraiser festival on Aug. 20. I Continue Reading

Mbongwana Star at Millennium Park

The African band Mbongwana Star got the audience dancing on Aug. 11 at Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, playing wildly infectious beats and beguiling, highly rhythmic guitar riffs and solos. This group from the Democratic Republic of the Congo includes two singers (Yakala “Coco” Ngambali and Nsituvuidi “Theo” Nzonza,) who Continue Reading

2016 Pitchfork Music Fest: Day 3 Photos

My photos from the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival are featured on the A.V. Club website. Here are some additional pictures from Day 3, July 17. (Click here for photos from Day 1, and here for photos from Day 2.) Sun Ra Akestra Woods Homme Kamasi Washington NAO Neon Indian Jeremih Miguel Continue Reading

2016 Pitchfork Music Fest: Day 2 Photos

My photos from the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival are featured on the A.V. Club website. Here are some additional pictures from Day 2, July 16. (Click here for photos from Day 1, and here for photos from Day 3.) Girl Band RP Boo Kevin Morby Royal Headache Digable Planets Jenny Hval Continue Reading

2016 Pitchfork Music Fest: Day 1 Photos

My photos from the 2016 Pitchfork Music Festival are featured on the A.V. Club website. Here are some additional pictures, starting with a gallery from Day 1, July 15. (Click here for photos from Day 2, and here for photos from Day 3.) Car Seat Headrest Whitney Julia Holter Twin Peaks Continue Reading

Femi Kuti in Millennium Park

Femi Kuti‘s father, the legendary Nigerian bandleader Fela Kuti, created the extraordinary and exhilarating style of music called Afrobeat. As Fela’s eldest son, Femi is carrying on the family tradition. On Monday, July 11, he performed a joyous nonstop jam with his band, The Positive Force, at the Jay Pritzker Continue Reading

The Sadies at Wire

My photos of the Sadies — as always, one of the best live rock bands — on Saturday, May 21, at Wire in Berwyn. (My first visit to this venue.) Click here for a separate gallery of photos of the other band that played Saturday at Wire, the Waco Brothers.