Mikal Cronin at Subt and Green Music Fest

Mikal Cronin’s second album, MCII, was one of 2013’s best albums — and his latest, MCIII, is shaping up to be one of my favorites this year. He played Saturday, June 20, at Subterranean, and Sunday, June 21, at Green Music Fest in Wicker Park, and I could both of these outstanding shows. Cronin’s something of a one-man orchestra and recording genius in the studio, and artists like that sometimes have difficulty translating their recordings into a satisfying live act, but Cronin isn’t having any trouble with that. His terrific tunes come across with just as much vulnerability in the vocals, but with an even more urgent force, thanks to his great live band.

The highly talented Chicago guitarist-singer Emmett Kelly, who fronts his own group, the Cairo Gang, played a key role in Cronin’s band, singing harmony vocals and doubling the guitar sound. When the song “Gold” reached its crescendo and all of the instruments stopped, it was Kelly who played that Middle Eastern-sounding solo, followed by Cronin adding on another guitar line — a moment of beautiful intensity that gave me goosebumps.

But really, these shows were all about Cronin, who sang with clarity and leaned into his guitar solos with a sense of purpose.







Green Music Fest

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Lydia Loveless at Green Music Fest

I’ve seen Bloodshot Recording artist Lydia Loveless perform in concert six times since March 2014 — seven if you count a brief appearance she made during a Robbie Fulks show at the Hideout. On Sunday, June 21, at Green Music Fest in Wicker Park, Loveless and her band were in good form, changing out their set list a bit from previous shows. As ever, “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” was a highlight for me.

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Yo La Tengo at Green Music Fest

Yo La Tengo was in fine form Saturday (June 25) at the Wicker Park street festival known as the Green Music Fest. It was an excellent little cross-section of most of the various moods and styles of music Yo La Tengo plays — only a little bit of the quiet, loungy stuff, but plenty of drony grooves, a handful of the band’s catchiest and most memorable songs (“Sugarcube” was a highlight for me) and lots of sharp-edged guitar solos by Ira Kaplan.