Josh beat me to it by a good month, but I thought: “Well, better late than never.”
Here, now, are my favorite shows from the year that was. Please note: I moved here in June, then launched the blog in August. January through July was probably a trip, but I regrettably can’t share valid opinions on it.
5. Black Prairie, Canasta @ Schubas on October 21 (review)
The only non-Chicago act to be discussed on the list, Black Prairie was one of the more eclectic acts to perform in front of me from not so far away. Masters of the accordion and violin and other fun instruments, the Portland quintet brought down the house — or, as best can be done by Dobro guitar. Their silly banter was a joy to listen to steps away from the stage, and their mini-set in the middle of the tavern — sans amplification — was a sweet way to cap off the night. Pray that Schubas has the foresight to bring ‘em back to the city real soon.
4. Rachele Eve, Darling, Tin Tin Can @ The Hideout on September 16 (review)
I originally made it out to The Hideout in mid-September for Darling, who had contacted me at the start of the month to share with me their tunes and, well, the exciting news that they’d be celebrating their record release at a gem of a club in Wicker Park. Well. I showed up in time for most of Tin Tin Can‘s set, and remember being impressed by their sound, which was loud and nice and, yes, moved with a twist of twang. Darling hit the stage next and played a comfortable set as far as record releases go. They had an ease about them, a confidence, that was only hinted at in their record. And, when I saw ‘em again a few months later, I noticed big improvements. The night, though, belonged to Rachele Eve, who blindsided me with a terrific mixture of folk meets jam rock. I’ve been itching to see her since.
3. Elsinore, Canasta, The Bears of Blue River @ Lincoln Hall on August 20 (review)
Pairing Canasta‘s careful, orchestral melodies with Elsinore‘s rock-infused pop was an inspired choice by the folks at Lincoln Hall. I don’t know that I knew the bands well enough at the time to think to stick them in a show together myself, yet watching the finished project from the floor made total sense. They both made use of the brass family — a particular favorite of mine, right up there with strings — and they both, you know, released crazy good albums in 2010. Seeing them back-to-back for little to no money at all was a splendid way indeed to spend a Friday eve in Chicago. Opening for them was The Bears of Blue River, who I’ve seen another time since.
2. Santah, Jonny Rumble @ Schubas on December 22 (review)
Packed so tightly with bodies I very nearly wasn’t even allowed in, Santah‘s sold out show at Schubas was one of the great ways one could have wrapped up their respective years in the Windy City. The next a.m., I boarded an eastbound plane, never to be heard from again until I rang in the new year with some friends in Lincoln Park. Santah’s set, though, left me with plenty to get excited over. Not only had they discovered a way to go from mid-week opener to elbow-to-elbow headliner in a matter of months, they put on a production that I feel you’re only fortunate enough to hear, maybe, every now and again. Each tune was magic. Before them was Jonny Rumble, a group I was familiar with and who got reviewed in this space some time ago. They, too, impressed me — in the unexpected way that, oh, Rachele Eve did in September. Expect to read more about them and, of course, Santah, in the new year.
1. The 1900s @ The Empty Bottle on December 4 (review)
I like to think that, over the years, The 1900s have generated a following in Chicago (and beyond). If their record release show in support of Return of the Century was any indication, they have. The space was loaded with people who expected — and received — a kick-ass rock show, and I just can’t imagine a soul at all who may have walked out of the Bottle without a smile plastered on their face. If there was just one Chicago band that one could label must-see — I’m not attempting to belittle the scene here… I’m merely going for effect! — then, by god, it’s The 1900s. They’re so polished and unified and alive and fantastic, I don’t know that there’s much else in the city that — what, 10 bucks?! — is as entertaining as a 1900s live show.