Joshua Abrams’ Hideout residency

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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 play an African instrument called the gimbri (a three-stringed skin-covered bass plucked lute used by the Gnawa people of West Africa) as part of a large group of musicians improvising meditative minimalism and drones — part jazz, part rock, part world music, part experiment. Natural Information Society is one of Chicago’s best groups today, and the two shows I saw during November’s residency only confirmed how innovative and transcendent this band is.

I was there on Nov. 15, when the evening started with a set by Emmett Kelly, the multitalented musician who leads the Cairo Gang (or performs under that moniker) as well as playing guitar with numerous other bands. On this evening, however, Kelly sang cool jazz music in a style reminiscent of Chet Baker, with moody and atmospheric arrangements by the Joshua Abrams Quintet.

Then the main set featured Natural Information Society joining forces with Bitchin Bajas. Kelly joined in on guitar.

(Blog post continues below photos.)

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Nov. 22

The second show I saw was on Nov. 22, when the fabulous drummer Hamid Drake performed during both sets. During the jazzy opening set, Abrams and Drake played with Edward Wilkerson on reeds and oud and Josh Berman on cornet. Then came another mesmerizing performance by Natural Information Society.

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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 missed the big finish with “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and “Godzilla” so I could make it to the Hideout in time for a show on the more experimental end of the spectrum…

Blue Öyster Cult

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Rob Mazurek and Emmett Kelly

I got to the Hideout in time to see the record-release show for Rob Mazurek and Emmett Kelly. Mazurek is best known as a jazz musician, playing cornet as well as using electronics. Kelly is a versatile guitarist, playing with both rock and jazz groups, as well as a fine singer-songwriter in his own right, leading the Cairo Gang. On the new album Alien Flower Sutra. Kelly’s voice drifts through strange sonic landscapes sculpted by Mazurek. The music was equally strange in Friday’s live performance.

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Horse Lords

Their set was followed by Horse Lords, a band from Baltimore playing instrumental music that might get categorized as jazz — though it sounded to me more like progressive rock along the lines of King Crimson or krautrock, with guitar, sax, bass and drums locked into rigorous patterns. Whatever genre it is, it was damn impressive.

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Joshua Abrams + Natural Information Society in Millennium Park

Emmett Kelly and Joshua Abrams
Emmett Kelly and Joshua Abrams

Millennium Park’s series of free summer concerts at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, always one of the highlights of the year in Chicago, is in full swing now. Monday’s headliner was Omar Souleyman (click here to see my photos of Souleyman), but the show also featured a top-notch opening act, Chicago bassist Joshua Abrams and the talented ensemble of players he calls the Natural Information Society. Abrams’ second record with a version of this group, Represencing, was one of my top 10 albums for 2012 — and the current lineup sounded fabulous in the Pritzker stage on Monday, jamming to hypnotic grooves with psychedelic and exotic flair.

Abrams played the guimbri, a North African instrument, throughout the show, accompanied by the versatile guitarist Emmett Kelly (leader of the great Cairo Gang); drummers Frank Rosaly and Mikel Avery; Lisa Alvarado on harmonium and gong; and Ben Boye on autoharp and keyboards. It was glorious.

Mikel Avery
Mikel Avery

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Frank Rosaly
Frank Rosaly
Joshua Abrams
Joshua Abrams
Frank Rosaly
Frank Rosaly
Frank Rosaly
Frank Rosaly
Emmett Kelly
Emmett Kelly
Ben Boye
Ben Boye

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Mikel Avery
Mikel Avery
Mikel Avery, Ben Boye and Liza Alvarado
Mikel Avery, Ben Boye and Liza Alvarado
Joshua Abrams
Joshua Abrams
Emmett Kelly and Joshua Abrams
Emmett Kelly and Joshua Abrams
Ben Boye
Ben Boye

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.” [ Cialis.. Strattera Buy India. Viagra.. Online Without Prescription watch | Discounts🔥 |. Find Latest Medication For This pill Now! ☀☀☀ Combien Coute Le Viagra Generique ☀☀☀,Find Latest Medication For This pill Now!. Buy Now » Indocin Mexico Pharmacy http://piaalvarez.com/wp-json/ Lowest prices for Generic and Brand drugs. Bonus 10 free pills, discounts and FREE SHIPPING. Cheapest drugs online - buy and save money. | Best Deals🔥 |. We collect what you are looking for here. Online Apotheke Kamagra Oral Jelly ,Free pills with every order!. Check More » Price On Zyrtec Viagra Online Espana zyban bulgarians sdz bupropion sr 100mg side effects a level that drives one person crazy may bother someone else very little Buy Viagra Via Paypal i have even sprayed computer keyboard cleaner on my arm in desparation topamax 200 cena it8217;s almost like taking nothing for this | Up to 30% Off🔥 |. If you want to take care of your health. http://themaass.com/?pills=Propecia-Finasteride-Cheap&689=04 ,buy online without a doctor is prescription.. 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