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 night of this year’s festival, on Jan. 29 — which turned out to be the Night of Flutes. Four bands played, and three of them included flute. The final group of the night, Spires That in the Sunset Rise, even had a flute duo, meaning that the overall ratio of flutes to bands was 1:1 for the night. (Oddly enough, the last band I saw in a previous show at the Hideout, Expo 76, also played flute!)

The evening started with the duo Lavasse (Whitney Allen and Mark Fragassi of Toupee) playing a sinister set that culminated with some onstage gardening. Then came the Singleman Affair, Daniel Schneider’s band, which released a great record last year called The End of the Affair. Schneider really threw himself into this performance, singing and playing with passion. The third group of the night was ADT, playing psych music closer to jazz. (But no flute!) Finally, Spires That in the Sunset Rise explored the idea of duets featuring wind instruments and vocals — and it was quite captivating.


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The Singleman Affair

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Spires That in the Sunset Rise

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Singleman Affair at the Hideout

Earlier this week, I reported about the Chicago band the Singleman Affair — led by Daniel Schneider — on WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight program. (Hear it here.) After seeing the Singleman Affair perform several times over the past few years, it’s a delight to hear the group’s second album, Silhouettes at Dawn, at long last. It’s a beautiful record, with orchestral flourishes fleshing out Schneider’s smartly composed and passionately performed folk rock. The Singleman Affair celebrated the release of this record, the band’s second, with a grand show Friday night (Feb. 11) at the Hideout, featuring an expanded, seven-piece lineup. Schneider looked lost in the music as he rocked out on his acoustic guitar, and the rest of the band was with him every step of the way.

The opening act Friday was also notable — singer-songwriter Angel Olsen, who’s been seen lately touring with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Her band last night included another regular with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Emmett Kelly, on bass. Her gothic country-folk-rock songs sounded strong. Watch for a new Angel Olsen record next month.

Cardboard Sangria Showcase

I love seeing live music in out-of-the-way places… holes in the wall, warehouses, bars without stages. Of course, as someone who takes concert pictures, I find it frustrating to attempt photography in the dim lighting at some of these places, but I’m always up for a good challenge.

The place to be on Wednesday night was the Burlington, a little bar on Fullerton in the Logan Square neighborhood. I’ve seen it mentioned lately, but this was my first visit. Several of the artists on the Chicago record label Cardboard Sangria were having a free showcase — five artists, each playing about half an hour. A performance by the excellent psychedelic folk-rocker the Singleman Affair was enough reason to draw me in.

Here’s the kind of concert venue this is. You walk from the sidewalk in through the front door and the first thing you notice is that the band is right there, playing next to you. No stage. Virtually no lights, alas. A dark bar in a narrow room, with antlers on the wall at various points, serving its own brew of beer with antlers on the tap.

I came in as the first band, Mean Sea Level, was playing, and enjoyed what I heard. Next came Rock Falls, a.k.a. Annie Reese, who managed to hush the crowd with her quiet songs, including a few played on ukulele. Her voice sounded lovely as she sang plaintive melodies over simple but sometimes quirky strumming.

The third band of the night was Darling, who played scrappy rock songs with some real 1960s “la la” kind of harmonies. The Singleman Affair (which, for this show, was Daniel Schneider on acoustic guitar and vocals plus Toby Summerfield on stand up bass) then played a few old and a few new songs, giving a tantalizing preview of the forthcoming album, the Silhouettes at Dawn. Schneider threw himself into the performance, shaking his hair wildly as he played finger-picked patterns on the guitar with the kind of intensity you’d expect in an electric-guitar solo. The last act of the evening, Poor Lister, was a solo project by Singleman Affair guitarist Gary Pyskacek.

And, yes, it did turn out to be a challenging evening for photography. You can see a lot of grain, blur and shallow focus in my photos. Most of the night, I was shooting at ISO 3200, f stop 1.4 and shutter speed 1/30th or 1/25th of a second. Those of you who know what that means will realize just how dark the Burlington was. But it also seemed like a hip and friendly place.

Photos from the Cardboard Sangria Showcase.