Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees

Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees played a couple of shows last Friday (Sept. 28) at Logan Square Auditorium, along with Chicago’s Bare Mutants as the opening act. And a raucous, good time it was (despite the typically muddy sound for this venue) … making up for the Pitchfork Music Festival’s cruel decision earlier this summer to schedule Segall and Thee Oh Sees on different stages at the same time.

My photos and video:

Bare Mutants
Bare Mutants

Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees

Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees

Ty Segall
Ty Segall

Ty Segall
Ty Segall

Ty Segall
Ty Segall

Ty Segall
Ty Segall

Ty Segall
Ty Segall

Also, check out the video of Ty Segall’s wild appearance on WGN-TV’s morning news show on Monday (Oct. 1), which prompted one startler viewer to comment on WGN’s Facebook page: “what in the heck was wrong with that ‘band’ u had on … where the bone head just kept screaming Chicago?????”

Invasion From Iceland

It’s a rare pleasure to hear Icelandic musicians performing in Chicago. On Wednesday (Oct. 28), the Logan Square Auditorium hosted not just one, not just two, but three Icelandic acts. The headliners were one of the island nation’s better-known bands, Múm (pronounced “moom”), who are touring in support of their new album, the delightfully titled Sing Along to Songs You Don’t Know. Actually, most of the songs they played were ones that I did know — including a lot from that new CD, which is one of the best that Mum has ever made.

When Múm began in 1997, the group was known for making electronic music with subtle textures. I enjoyed that music, and I’m sure there are fans out there who prefer it to Múm’s more recent recordings, but some of that early stuff was so chilled-out and low-key that it barely ever stuck in my mind afterward. Seeing Múm in concert, however, was a revelation, with more emphasis on the singing. Everything felt more organic and natural. There’s more of that feeling on recent records, including Sing Along…. There are some precious moments when Múm gets a little too cute for its own good, but then there are sublime hymn-like harmonies, when it sounds like this is a bunch of Icelanders getting together in a little room somewhere and singing to their heart’s content. Actually, that is exactly what it is.

And that’s what we were treated to on Wednesday, too. The mix of instruments included Melodica, cello, violin plus the usual keyboards, guitar, bass and drums. There wasn’t too much of the tinkly techno textures from the early Múm records, but there was a lot of joyous singing. In the final song of the main set, one of the band’s friends (a roadie? I’m not sure) came onstage and held up signs with the lyrics to the title song about singing along. It was a perfect way of summing up Múm’s communal spirit. http://mum.is

Singer, cellist and violinist Hildur Guðnadóttir was perhaps the liveliest presence on the stage during the Múm set, making sweeping gestures and opening her mouth as wide as she could to deliver the choruses. Guðnadóttir was also the first act of the night, playing an impressive set of her compositions on cello. She asked for quiet from the audience, and got it. Check out her music at www.hildurness.com. A free mp3 of her song “Erupting Light” is here.

The middle act on the bill was another noteworthy Icelandic group. It was the first Chicago appearance by Sin Fang Bous, the stage name for Sindri Mar Sigfusson, who’s also lead singer of the Icelandic band Seabear. Both of these bands play tuneful folk-pop, though the new album by Sin Fang Bous, Clamour, gives the songs more of a psychedelic or experimental sheen, with an eclectic variety of twinkly sounds livening up the songs. The live show featured less of that nuanced sound, with more emphasis on Sigfusson’s voice and acoustic guitar chords. Although the concert lacked all the glittering surfaces you hear on the record, it was still a good, heartfelt performance, and I look forward to seeing Sigfusson with Seabear if they show up in Chicago someday. (Maybe after they released their next planned album in 2010?) www.myspace.com/sinfangbous

Photos of Múm, Hildur Guðnadóttir and Sin Fang Bous.

Yann Tiersen at Logan Square

A couple of things surprised me about the concert Tuesday (April 21) by Yann Tiersen at Logan Square Auditorium. First of all, this show sold out, or came very close to selling out. Pardon me if I’ve been on the wrong planet lately, but where did all these Yann Tiersen fans come from? The guy is best known as the composer of the soundtrack to Amelie, and a certain percentage of the crowd may have been the cult followers of that movie.

Second surprise: I was expecting something like an orchestral rock concert, with the sort of music Tiersen composed for Amelie. Instead, this was a full-on rock show with some moments of wailing feedback along with quieter violin bowing and symphonic touches. A clue to this French rocker’s direction was the T-shirt he wore during the show: My Bloody Valentine. (At first, it had seemed strange that Brooklyn rockers Asobi Seksu were booked as Tiersen’s opening act, but after hearing what kind of music he plays live, that made a lot more sense.) Tiersen put on a good show, and the music showed a lot of power at times, though it probably would have connected more with me if I’d been familiar with the tunes. I can definitively say Tiersen’s a talented composer and performer after seeing this show.

Photos of Yann Tiersen and Asobi Seksu.

Detroit Cobras, Blacks at Logan Square


Two of Bloodshot Records’ great bands were playing a free concert March 2 at Logan Square Auditorium. How could I resist? (It was free because of a sponsorship from Camel cigarettes… but it’s a no-smoking venue, so no one could smoke the Camels indoors.) The Blacks were just as good as the show I saw recently at Schubas. I made sure to move around this time to get good photos of all the band. See my photos of the Blacks.


The Detroit Cobras were fun, too, very lively. Man, those gals really have a “wrong side of the tracks” look. See my photos of the Detroit Cobras.

Konono No. 1 at Logan Square Auditorium

NOV. 11, 2005
Logan Square Auditorium

One of the stranger recent concerts… Konono No. 1’s from Congo, playing thumb pianos and banging on some sort of cowbells, all amplified through primitive equipment including big speakers like the one above… The rhythmic songs are long (like, half an hour long) and highly repetitive. The grooves are great, but after a while the repetition starts to wear thin… and then you come back around again and feel it all moving to another level. Maybe. They’ve been compared to electronic dance bands. Think of it as Kraftwerk with really primitive equipment.

Other than the two dancing singers, most of the members of Konono No. 1 stood impassively on the stage, staring out at the strangeness of America. I wondered what they made of it all.

SEE PHOTOS OF KONONO NO. 1.

A Weekend of Concerts

It was a busy weekend of concerts, and I didn’t even go to Farm Aid. It was a pretty remarkable three days of music, with at least three performances that rank among the year’s best.

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She was just the opening act, followed by the impressive spectacle of SUFJAN STEVENS and his seven-person backup band/cheerleading squad. The songs from Illinois sounded great in concert. If listeners hadn’t already realized these are complicated and well crafted compositions, it became obvious watching Stevens and his band pull it off in concert. The mostly young crowd was wildly enthusiastic. Who’d have thought we’d see a crowd of 20-ish rock fans whooping at a trombone solo or the unfurling of an Illinois state flag? The band, dressed in Illinois shirts, with the three female musicians decked out as cheerleaders, performed cheers in between the songs and even formed a human pyramid onstage. It was a strange mix of the seriousness of art rock with giddy silliness.

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF LAURA VEIRS AND SUFJAN STEVENS.

SEPT. 17: The Hideout Block Party is always a great event, and this year’s featured a couple of especially noteworthy shows. ELEVENTH DREAM DAY played a set of new songs, which will be on a just-recorded CD. This band plays only once or twice a year, but whenever it does, it’s one of the best rock shows of the year. The new material sounded great, and the members of Eleventh Dream Day again showed that they’re all outstanding musicians. The band’s core trio was supplemented by keyboard player Mark Greenberg.

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF ELEVENTH DREAM DAY.

The headline of the day, however, was the first gig anywhere by the reunited original lineup of THE dB’S. They look a lot older than I remember, but then, I saw them twice back in the mid 1980s in Champaign, so I probably look a lot older, too. The dB’s played a couple of new songs, which sounded good, but the set focused on the classic power pop songs from their first two albums. It still sounded fresh. The band came back for a rare festival-set encore, “Neverland.”

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF THE dB’S.

I also caught sets at the Hideout Block Party by Kevin O’Donnell’s Ensemble General, an intriguing big group led by drummer-around-town O’Donnell. His monologue during one song about blue states invading red states was a highlight. And with his between-song banter, O’Donnell revealed himself to be one funny guy.

I’m not sure what to make of the Sam Roberts Band, from Montreal. The songs were OK, but the sound was too jam-band for me.

The always-excellent Ponys were going strong when I had to depart the block party for…

BOUBACAR TRAORE, a Malian guitarist and singer who played a spellbinding set at Park West. (I also saw him the following night at Logan Square Auditorium.) Traore plays a style of percussive acoustic-guitar music that will remind American listeners of the blues. Using just his thumb and forefinger to pick the strings, Traore rarely plays actual chords, essentially soloing throughout each song, even as he sings. Traore was the opening act for…

AMADOU & MARIAM, a married couple of blind singers from Mali, whose new album is one of the best of 2005. The music sounded great in concert, too, with Amadou taking the chance to stretch out with some pretty amazing guitar solos. Another difference from the studio recordings was the stronger emphasis on percussion, one of the reasons the crowd was dancing almost nonstop. (Why no photos of Amadou & Mariam? Because I idiotically left my camera in my car, thinking the Park West does not allow photos, though it turns out I could have brought it in.)

SEPT. 17: After another exceptional opening set by Boubacar Traore, Brazil’s SEU JORGE played tonight at the Logan Square Auditorium. Like last night’s concert by Amadou & Mariam, this was part of the Chicago World Music Festival. Jorge is a commanding singer, and his songs (which I wasn’t familiar with) sounded excellent. At times, he sang softly with gentle guitar or ukulele rhythms carrying the beat. At other times, the music was heavy on percussion (the band included Jorge on guitar, a bass player and three percussionist) with Jorge growling, rapping or singing full-out in a more rock-music style. After Jorge left stage, the three percussionists led the crowd for a while in some clap-alongs, then Jorge returned for an acoustic set, including three of the David Bowie songs he covered for The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.  At the end of the night, Jorge stood before the crowd and gave an impassioned speech about the people of his generation trying to make Brazil a better place.

SEE MORE PHOTOS OF BOUBACAR TRAORE AND SEU JORGE.