Saturday Night on the Square: The Pillowhammer and Mawrcrest (3/22)

The Pillowhammer

I started the night out at the Café Mustache taking in some jazz and looking at clay masks staring back at me on the walls. I don’t normally seek jazz out but I had come to meet my brother to catch The Pillowhammer play. The Pillowhammer is the brain child of Jim Dorling who used to play in the iconic Chicago band, Town and Country. In his latest venture he’s put together some of Chicago’s heaviest hitters for what I can only describe as Mariachi lounge music. What had the looks of an Old Town guitar class performance (I-formation of three acoustic guitars) turned to out to be one of the best Pillowhammer shows I’ve seen. Not sure if it was the fact that I could hear every gritty detail of Jim’s lyrics or seeing Ben Boye roam around the room with a 1960s auto looking accordion. Beth Yates, the singer and flute player, had mentioned how weird it was not to play with any reverb and Adam Vida, guitar and percussionist, had mentioned how different his foot pedal tambo sounded in that room. All these factors came together quite nicely for an outburst of creativity well beyond the realm of their comfort zone. What stood out most to me was what Jim was trying to accomplish with this outfit. This was as far out as I could think of, some crazy hybrid between Neil Hamburger sipping whiskey and Bill Calahan speak-singing guttural lines of honesty, and I was sold into this mythical creature. I asked Jim if the lyrics were all true and he for good reason, responded, I can’t answer that. The performance peaked with the 1940s air raid siren in the middle of the song, “Isle of the Departed,” the namesake for their latest EP. It left the audience awe-struck with its urgency but the novelty of the performance as a whole is what made this show so memorable to me. You can stream the songs from their new EP off of their Bandcamp.

credit: Dan Schneider

credit: Dan Schneider

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Posted in Cafe Mustache, Cole's, Mawrcrest, Show Review, The Pillowhammer, Whisker Music | Leave a comment

Cate Le Bon, Kevin Morby @ Schubas (1/23)

credit: npr.org

credit: npr.org

This winter has shown little mercy to Chicago: the constant stream of snow, the ungodly gusts blowing down from Canada, the roads and trains packed with miserable commuters doing little to hide their miserableness. It’s downright demoralizing, sometimes bordering on dangerous. And it almost claimed Cate Le Bon.

Stuck in the aftermath of a horrific pile-up on I-94, Le Bon and opener Kevin Morby (Woods, the Babies) showed up two hours late, tired but thankfully in one piece. For the sake of momentum and a decent bedtime, Morby slammed through a three-song set of oozy strummers, a trio reminiscent of Dylan but still ripe with that sunny lilt found in any Babies song. While short, the set was the perfect primer for the evening’s headliner.

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Sunjacket — ‘Alligator,’ ‘Partition’

1778072308-1And that’s why you always follow up!

Carl Hauck reached out to me this month to introduce me to his new indie, Sunjacket. A band so new they’ve yet to grace a local stage. That gets rectified tonight at Beat Kitchen.

I remembered Carl’s name from an email exchange we’d done a few years ago in regards to his forthcoming (at the time) album, Windjammer. Josh reviewed the thing. It, he wrote then, “offers up some nice, soft ballads that tear at your heartstrings.” Josh thought Carl’s music “cerebral.”

Sunjacket doesn’t strive for these things. In lieu of them they’ve formed a murky yet elegant rock. A straightforward sound with a sprinkling of intrigue.

Sunjacket placed four demos on Bandcamp. I’ve handpicked a pair.

Recommended:

Extras:

  • The Chicago-based Sunjacket is Garret Bodette, Carl Hauck, Bryan Kveton, Tricia Scully and Ross Tasch. | Facebook
  • Their four demos are available for free streams and downloads. | Bandcamp
  • Sunjacket plays Beat Kitchen on Thursday. Eight bucks. | Tickets

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Caveman, Computer Magic @ Schubas (3/5)

credit: Jeff Schneider

credit: Jeff Schneider

I came to Schubas on a blizzardy Tuesday evening, one of those nights with an eerie peace and quiet to it. I thought most people would be hibernating from the elements but the show had quite the turnout. I walked out of this Chicago winter and into sunny Tampa-inspired synth pop of the band Computer Magic emanating from the back room.

Danielle Johnson fronts this duo with an intense gaze and a larger-than-life vocal styling. The set was quite dancey but at times would fade into an ’80s prom feel and even felt at times like a show at the Roadhouse from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. The entire set was bathed in delay from the intricate keyboard patches to the vocals. Danielle only had to ask the audience once to move closer and everyone heard it twice. I came away from this set wanting more and think the outfit would benefit from more band mates and the interplay that would ensue. Danielle told me that in New York she has friends come on stage to play guitar which I’m sure adds a lot to the live show, both in terms of energy and the interplay of parts. Here’s a clip of the closing tune from the Computer Magic set:

(Editor’s Note: The video cuts short the song “Running” by about two minutes.)

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Uh Bones — Only You

3608672434-1Band: Uh Bones
Album: Only You
Release Date: February 12, 2013
Recommended:

Eric has already written on this blog about Uh Bones, and I’m not sure I can add much more in regards to the good work they are doing for our mini ’60s revivalist movement. But this week the Chicago garage rock trio released a new EP, and any excuse to write about a band this exciting is good enough for me.

In fact, this hardly even qualifies as a new EP. Two of the four songs, “He’s Got It” and “Amess,” also appeared on their self-titled cassette released last June. This time they’ve been repackaged and the band is selling copies on vinyl through their website.

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Ty Segall, Ex-Cult, Zath [late show] @ The Empty Bottle (2/9)

credit: mtvhive.com

credit: mtvhive.com

Ty Segall Band approached their late show at the Empty Bottle Saturday like a seasoned competitor would a race. Having already headlined an early set a few hours prior for a different crowd, Ty opened set two — start time: half past midnight — with his signature fist pump signaling all was well and good, his “are you all ready to hear some songs?” assurances brief but to the point, and then off he and Emily and Charles and Mikal went hard and fast into the night.

Not long after such charged prelude — four songs in, maybe five songs in, actually around the time Ty broke his focus to greet us a second time — Ty Segall Band seemed to ease up and conserve. They then rode on easy momentum through the end of the gig save for a stimulating encore of mostly covers (“American Woman,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love” among them.)

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Posted in Ex-Cult, Show Review, The Empty Bottle, Ty Segall Band, Zath | Leave a comment

Hidden Era — ‘Until Morning’

credit: Hidden Era's Facebook

credit: Hidden Era’s Facebook

Hidden Era’s debut single, “Until Morning,” is a cry of prayer supported by throaty guitar. Its delicate vocals and burly strings are driven by unconquerable despair, forming an unexpected balance the longer I listened.

Elizabeth Burchfield seems coached by a young Joan Osborne. Her gentle voice projects the kind of funny anguish that had me ambling over to Joany in her prime. I like how Elizabeth so proudly refuses love and laughter and hate and hope to prove her worth, and yet she is still so obviously hopeless. Perhaps such assurance is her curse.

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Posted in Hidden Era, Song Review | 1 Comment