Low at Saki

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Saki record store in Logan Square was packed Thursday evening (March 7) for a free performance by Low, followed by a Q&A including the band as well as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who produced the new Low album, The Invisible Way. And as if all that weren’t enough incentive to bring out a crowd, there was also free beer. This was part of the monthly “Off the Record” series of free listening parties, presented by the city of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and saki. “Listening parties” tend to involve a new record being played, and that happened, too — The Invisible Way, which comes out March 19, was playing in the store before the live performance.

The performance was billed as a “stripped-down” show by Low. But of course, Low has always played some pretty bare, stripped-down music. So some of trio’s live renditions probably weren’t all that much different from what the band will play when it returns to Chicago for a full concert March 22 at Metro. In any case, it was a beautiful set of serene yet passionate music, with intimate harmonies between guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker. Steve Garrington, who has normally played bass with Low since joining the band in 2008, played on the record store’s piano throughout this set. The new record features a lot of piano, too. As the group explained during the Q&A, that’s because the album has more songs than usual by Parker, who writes her songs on the piano — despite, by her admission, not really knowing how to play the instrument.

WXRT’s Marty Lennartz asked questions during the Q&A, before opening it up to the audience. Tweedy emphasized how he tried to stay out of the band’s way, producing the record with a light touch. “It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. The interview concluded with Tweedy displaying the albums that members of Low were purchasing at Saki, including (pictured below), Pat Travers’ Makin’ Magic.

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Foxygen and Angel Olsen

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On Sunday (Jan. 9.), Logan Square’s Saki record store once again hosted an afternoon of free live music. One of the performers was Chicago singer-songwriter Angel Olsen, whom wrote about recently when she played at the Burlington. So… not to belabor the point, but she once again wowed a crowd into silence with her beautiful voice and songs.

Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen

In a much different vein, Sunday’s in-store at Saki also featured Foxygen. The California duo-turned-band’s debut, Take the Kids Off Broadway, was released this year by the Jagjaguwar label. It’s a giddy psychedelic party, and the band lived up to its occasionally goofy studio recordings with a daft live performance that included lots of hair pulling, ironic stage banter and keening vocals that sometimes reminded me of the Oklahoma band Evangelicals. I’m looking forward to the second Foxygen record, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, which comes out in January.

Epitonic recorded both performances for its Epitonic Saki Sessions.

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Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen
Foxygen

Ida at Saki

Four and a half years have passed since the last time indie folk-rock band Ida played in Chicago. And the group hasn’t had a new record since Lovers Prayers, one of my favorite albums of 2008. But the trio was finally back in town Sunday (Jan. 29). One member, Elizabeth Mitchell, was playing a concert of children’s music early Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music, which led to an opportunity for Ida to play a free show in the evening at the Saki record store.

The members of Ida remarked that they’d barely had any time to prepare for the show, but they certainly didn’t skimp on playing a generous selection of songs for the 40 or so fans at Saki, performing for 90 minutes. It was a delightfully intimate show, showcasing the hushed harmonies of Mitchell, Daniel Littleon and Jean Cook. They played some of Ida’s best songs, along with covers of songs by Richard and Linda Thompson, the Band, Bill Monroe, the Minutemen, Michael Hurley and the Secret Stars. A former member of that last band, Geoff Farina, opened the show and joined Ida for a couple of songs. Jon Langford also sat in with Ida for one song. But the main attraction was seeing Mitchell, Littleon and Cook sitting together and quietly meshing their singing, guitar, harmonium and violin into lovers’ prayers.

This show was the latest in a series of performances at Saki recorded by Epitonic, so look for a recording of it to show up in the Epitonic Saki Sessions.






Geoff Farina

Saki Opens With Live Music

PHOTOS

Chicago has new record stores! What a nice development to happen in 2010, just when it seemed like everyone was predicting the demise of the record store. It seems to me that Chicago has enough music fans to support at least a niche market of these shops, and it’s nice to see some new ones on the scene.

Saki opened Memorial Day weekend at 3716 W. Fullerton in Logan Square, run by the same folks who own Carrot Top Distribution. Saki has received a good amount of press coverage, including a short report I did for the Crain’s Chicago Business blog, another piece in Crain’s, Miles Raymer’s column in the Chicago Reader and an interview with Alison Cuddy on WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight show, among other stuff.

I stopped by Saki Saturday and took a look around. It surprisingly lacked the usual record-store sense of clutter. (Maybe that will come later.) The choice of CDs and LPs seemed to be pretty good on first glance. It looks like they’re aiming to offer an interesting selection rather than attempt a comprehensive inventory. My one purchase for the day was a pretty cool find: A self-published book of sheet music by the Handsome Family, which looks like a hymnal.

Saki had an impressive schedule of live music and DJs over the weekend, and it could turn out to be a great space for that sort of event. Steve Krakow a.k.a. Plastic Crimewave Sound was DJ’ing when I walked in, and the store also happened to have a bunch of his art for sale. Then I caught a live set by Chicago rock duo Love of Everything, who were charming if a little ramshackle. Is the disconnected quality of the guitar and drums an affectation and style, or is the band still learning? In any case, it was fairly fun.

Saki’s events continue this coming weekend, with Astronomer playing at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 5, and Jonboy Langford playing at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 6.

And this Friday, another Logan Square record store is scheduled to open, as Miles Raymer reported: Bucket o’ Blood Books and Records, 2307 N. Milwaukee.

See my photos of Love of Everything at Saki.