Spunk at Constellation

The concert Wednesday, March 16, at Constellation was the first U.S. performance by Spunk, a quartet of Norwegian woman who have been improvising music under that name since 1995. Actually, as it turned out, it wasn’t quite a performance by the full group; cellist Lene Grenager wasn’t able to play due to Continue Reading

Frequency Series Festival of Chicago New Music

“New music” seems to be catching on lately as a label for the stuff that we used to call “20th-century music.” Neither label really works, but what else should we call the new music composed for classically trained musicians? Whatever you call it, it’s thriving in Chicago these days, with Continue Reading

Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Maiden Radio at the Vic

Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham) returned to Chicago on Feb. 18, playing a concert at the Vic with the same band he played with last summer at the Old Town School of Folk Music — “The Bonny United Ensemble,” comprising Danny Kiely, Van Campbell, Roadie Rodahaffer and Drew Miller. Oldham was in Continue Reading

Disappears, Negative Scanner and Hide at the Empty Bottle

The Chicago band Negative Scanner made one of my favorite records last year — just narrowly missing out on my top 10. Released by the top-notch local label Trouble in Mind, Negative Scanner’s self-titled album is filled with short bursts of searing punk and garage, with singer-guitarist Rebecca Valeriano-Flores spitting out the Continue Reading

Stomatopod, the Rutabega and Thoughts Detecting Machine at the Empty Bottle

On Sunday, Jan. 31, the Chicago trio Stomatapod headlined an early show at the Empty Bottle — yes, an actual early show at the Empty Bottle, believe it or not — and it turned out to be a strong lineup of three noteworthy bands. Thoughts Detecting Machine The first act of Continue Reading

Chicago Psych Fest

For the seventh year, the Hideout hosted Chicago Psych Fest last week, with three nights of music from the more experimental, trippy end of the rock spectrum. What does “psychedelic” mean these days, anyway? This festival always offers an interesting range of answers to that question. I attended the first Continue Reading

Salad Boys, Clearance and American Breakfast at the Owl

The New Zealand band Salad Boys made one of my favorite recent records, the deceptively titled debut album Metalmania — which doesn’t sound the least bit like heavy metal. It’s sunny, tuneful rock with jangly guitars, occasionally slipping into rhythmic grooves. The group, whose record is on the Chicago label Trouble Continue Reading

Mahmoud Ahmed and Aziz Sahmaoui at Millennium Park

Mahmoud Ahmed is one of the greatest singers of Ethiopia — it may be no exaggeration to call him “one of the greatest singers in the world,” as the World Music Festival Chicago’s website asserted. Several albums in Buda Musique’s endlessly wonderful “Ethiopiques” series feature his songs, especially the recordings he made in the Continue Reading

Hailu Mergia at the Promontory

Hailu Mergia, a keyboardist and accordion player, was a musical star in Ethiopia in the 1970s, playing in the one of the country’s best-known instrumental groups, Walias Band. He’s been living in the Washington, D.C., area for the past three decades, working as a cabdriver and playing his music at Continue Reading

Ultimate Painting, CoCoComa and the Runnies at the Empty Bottle

Ultimate Painting The British duo Ultimate Painting’s debut record came very close to being my favorite of 2014, and its second album, Green Lanes, is just about as good. Both records might seem a little languid and low-key at first, but don’t let the lack of loud feedback deceive you — there’s some great rock Continue Reading

Earth, Disappears and Holy Sons at Bohemian National Cemetery

Out on Chicago’s Northwest Side, Bohemian National Cemetery has hosted a few concerts over the past few years, including performances by Wrekmeister Harmonies and the Silver Apples. But until this past week, I hadn’t made it out to any of these “Beyond the Gate” shows, which are presented by the Continue Reading

Thee Oh Sees, the Blind Shake and Make-Overs at the Empty Bottle

The prolific California band Thee Oh Sees released yet another fine album this year, Mutilator Defeated at Last, keeping up its run of catchy psychedelic-tinged garage rock records. Frontman John Dwyer completely changed the lineup of the band playing behind him a year ago, and the lineup had changed yet Continue Reading

Circuit Des Yeux at the Hideout

When I saw Chicago singer-songwriter-guitarist Haley Fohr open for Bill Callahan in 2013, she played solo. At the time, I noted that her set “set built from droning folk songs to ear-shattering primal screams.” Then as now, Fohr performs under the name Circuit Des Yeux. But when she played Friday, Aug. 28, Continue Reading

Royal Headache at the Empty Bottle

What a stark contrast it was on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at the Empty Bottle. On the one hand, the Australian rock band Royal Headache sounded fantastic as it ripped through one catchy song after another, including many from the fine new album, High, which comes out Friday. On the other hand, the group’s Continue Reading