Friday, June 26, 2009

Our Latest Concert Weekend

We decided to kick off Bella's concert season with a bang, with not one but two concerts in three days! It would have been 3 in 3 days, but we woosed out and didn't go see the Hold Steady on Sunday since we'll be seeing them in a few weeks.

We headed down to the Taste of Randolph Street on Saturday on what turned out to be one of the first real days of summer. Of course that meant everyone and their brother were heading downtown as well, so the drive in was loads of fun. Once we got there, we found a good shady spot and spent the night hanging out with some our friends.

We got to see the Posies, who I never really paid attention to before and didn't that night much either. They were followed quickly by a band I haven't seen in almost a decade, Urge Overkill. UO was a great Chicago band that made possibly the greatest album ever by any band from Chicago, Saturation. They could have played the majority of the album and the crowd would have loved it, but instead they actually played a lot of new material along with the Saturation tracks and some older stuff.

The last time I saw UO, they were pretty sloppy to say the least, but they were surprisingly on that night. The new songs sounded good too, so it wasn't a case of running to the bathroom or getting a drink while the new stuff was on. No idea when a new album will be out though.

We finished off the night with the new "supergroup" Tinted Windows, which features members of Fountains of Wayne, Smashing Pumpkins, Cheap Trick, and, yes, Hanson. The band performed exactly as expected, which is a good thing, as they pretty much knocked out their entire album of power pop nuggets in barely a half-hour. There was a decent sized contingent of young girls still screaming for the guy from Hanson, but it was easy to ignore. Bella loved the band, so much so that she said she'd be asking her mom to play their cd in the car on the way home from school. Knowing Bella, I have no doubt she'll remember to ask.

After a very good Fathers Day to rest, we hopped on the L Monday night and headed downtown again to see a show at the gorgeous Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park. There were two acclaimed indie rock bands there, Dirty Projectors and Sea and Cake. The best part of all was the show was free, so it was definitely worth the effort.

We first let Bella hop around for a while in the cool fountain thing they have outside of the park, so she was extremely happy about that. We parked ourselves on the lawn and listened to the Dirty Projectors, who weren't bad, a little difficult to get into, but could be better with a few listens. After their set, we took Bella back out to the fountain for another good round of hopping around the giant puddles.

We checked out the Sea and Cake after that, they were still good this time around as when I saw them at Pitchfork last year. It was a very cool thing to see bands like this playing for free in such a gorgeous venue on such a perfect night.

Side note: There's apparently a lot more "security" there at the Pritzker Pavillion for these free shows than there was for the previous shows by Wilco and Tori Amos that we have seen there. They must train these guys very well though, early on when we got there, I took Bella to the bathroom, and was stopped at the door and told I could not go into the men's bathroom with her. Reminder, we are talking about my 3 YEAR OLD DAUGHTER!! After a minute or two of discussing this, he finally told me there was a family bathroom on the other side of the pavillion, so instead of waiting with him for his supervisor (and having Bella's bladder burst), I walked as quickly as I could to the other bathroom. I hope the city of Chicago was able to sleep better Monday night knowing that that bathroom was safe from my 3 year old daughter.

We Finally Did It...

We finally decided to flush Bella down the toilet. At least she was happy about it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Lollapalooza 2009 Schedule

Once again, the annual tradition of one of my favorite days of the year has just occured. After weeks of waiting, the schedule for the 2009 Lollapalooza weekend is finally up. As I've written before, this day is annually as exciting for me as a combination of christmas and the day people fill out their NCAA basketball tournament brackets is for everyone else. So once again, a good solid hour of my work day was spent on this.

Overall, I'm very pleased with how the schedule has turned out. I was dreading that they were going to put every band I wanted to see at the same time, but luckily things are spread out (with a few exceptions), so I should be getting my money's worth that weekend.

That Friday, August 7th, will start early at 12:15 for me, with Manchester Orchestra, an emo-ish band, on the north side of the grounds. I'll then walk the mile or so to the south end of the park, of course grabbing my first (of several) Robinson's rib sandwich of the weekend along the way, and getting a good spot to see one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend by the Gaslight Anthem. It'll then be a fast walk/run across the grounds once again to make it to the north end to catch all of the also highly anticipated set by Bon Iver. Here's hoping that I'll actually be able to hear his/their set this year, as opposed to Pitchfork last year.

Luckily, I will be able to just turn around to catch then next set by a favorite, Ben Folds, who I haven't seen in a few years. Then, thankfully on the same side of the field again, I'll be able to see another set by Fleet Foxes, who didn't do much for me at Pitchfork last year, but whose album since then became one of my favorites of 2008. The rest of the night will be easier, I'll stroll to the south end again, most likely picking up rib sandwich #2, seeing a bit of Peter, Bjorn and John's set (despite their disappionting set at Metro a month or so ago), then heading back up north again to round out the night with sets by Andrew Bird (second to last? Really??), and Kings of Leon.

Saturday may not be as bad as past years thankfully. It'll start around 12:45, with another set by Living Things, whose bluesy T-Rex flavored stomp was enjoyable at Lolla a few years ago. After fueling up with most likely rib sandwich #3, I'll head to the smaller street stage to see another anticipated set by Ida Maria, whose debut album from this year is getting a lot of play in our house. I'll hustle north to catch as much of Los Campesinos! as I can from there, then head back south to watch Chairlift, even though they too were a bit disappointing a few weeks ago at Metro.

Thankfully there's an hour break right at dinner time where two bands I can't stand, Arctic Monkeys and Coheed and Cambria, will be playing, so definite rib sandwich #4 there. I'll definitely check out the set by lo-fi punks No Age, then head up north slowly to get a good spot to see one of the bands I'm most excited for all weekend, TV on the Radio, winner of the highly coveted Scott Pacyna Album of the Year award for 2008. Unfortunately, they scheduled another band I'm dying to see, Animal Collective, immediately after TVOTR on the south end of the grounds, so that will be a fast mile run to see as much of their set as possible. Thankfully, that will be a short night for me, since I don't care about Tool or Beastie Boys, who are headlning, so I'll actually head home early that night. Unless I attend an aftershow somewhere of course.

Sunday is actually the busiest day for me, which is the first time that has happened in the last 4 Lolla's in Chicago. It'll all start at 12:30, to see Ra Ra Riot, an orch pop band I was supposed to see in FLA in March, until the festival they were supposed to play at was cancelled. Next, it'll be a short walk to check out Bat For Lashes, a British band that mixes some of the best parts of Tori Amos and PJ Harvey to good effect.

After a short break with no one I want to watch, I'll have to make a decision between two bands I was really looking forward to. On the north end is the Raveonettes, a great Danish band who sound like a 50's girl group backed by the Jesus & Mary Chain, or the south end has Dan Deacon, an electronic artist whose live shows are supposed to be on par with Girl Talk's live shows in terms of spectacle and fun. This is the hardest decision of the weekend for me, we'll see which one I go with later.

Another decision follows that time slot, with Vampire Weekend going against Neko Case. Case has an absolutely amazing and gorgeous voice, but her song quality has always left me a little cold. I just saw VW at Pitchfork last year and highly enjoyed their set, but I don't know if they'll be playing the new material they are currently recording at this show. I'll most likely go with VW, mostly for the proximity to the next set by Passion Pit on the smaller side stage.

Passion Pit is the last of my highly anticipated sets of the weekend, as their debut album from this year is already one of the best of 2009, and they're riding a massive wave of hype and buzz into this show. Their infectious dance rock should make wading through the massive crowd that will be at their set worth it though. after a brief side stop to watch some of Cold War Kids, and yes, consume one of the last Robinsons rib sandwiches of the weekend, I'll head back to the same small stage to catch Deerhunter, whose set opening for Girl Talk in FLA greatly impressed me, and we'll see if they can continue impressing me here.

My last schedule conflict of the weekend follows that, with Band of Horses going against Silversun Pickups. I've really wanted to see SSPU, as I missed them at Lollapalooza two years ago. However, their release from this year, "Swoon," has left me pretty cold and didn't grab me as much as their previous album, so I'll most likely go with the Neil Young-inspired bombast of Band of Horses. I'll close out the weekend by catching most of the Killers, half while there and half while walking to take the train home.

Looks pretty good, I count 7 must see bands for Friday and Saturday each, then 9 on Sunday, so 23 bands I'll be making every effort to see, along with the ones I'll randomly see while killing time, walking around and eating even more rib sandwiches. Guess I should start working out now to prepare.

Monday, June 15, 2009

3 Concert Reviews for the Price of One!

Since I'm slacking so much on blogging lately, I figured I'd cram three recent concert reviews into one post. Yes, it's been a while since the last time it happened, but I went to 3 concerts in a week last week. Okay, technically 3 concerts in 8 days, but that's still pretty good.

First up was St. Vincent last Sunday at Metro. St. Vincent, like Nine Inch Nails and Smashing Pumpkins, is basically a one-man band (or woman in this case), with Annie Clark being the main member. She's a former member of the giant Polyphonic Spree band, but that is true of roughly 20 other people as well, so that isn't what makes her stand out.

I first saw her open for the National at their show in Chicago following the release of their brilliant album "Boxer." She really impressed me then, she performed solo with some prerecorded and looping stuff, but was pretty impressive with what she could pull off live. This time around, in support of her newest album "Actor," she was touring with a full band in tow, which detracted in some ways from her original impressive performance, but filled out her sound and allowed her to be more creative.

The show was opened by the Philadelphia band Pattern Is Movement. The band was amusing since they looked about as much like rock musicians as the fat guy sitting in that cube next to you at work. However, they managed to mesmerize the crowd with their complex rhythm, using only a drum set and keyboard to keep the crowd silent and entranced for a good half hour.

St. Vincent took the stage shortly after that, performing as a five piece, including band members switching between woodwinds, guitars and keyboars as the songs needed. Clark is still great as the center of the band, as her lulling guitar strumming would give way to outbursts of strangled guitar and would settle back down again with little warning.

Side note: I'd tell you what songs I enjoyed the most that she did, but I can't because I haven't bougth any of her cd's yet, since they are very difficult to find and can't be found for less than $15, so that breaks my no-cd-over-$10 rule.

St. Vincent's set was very enjoyable though. Clark says that with her latest album, she watched a bunch of the old Disney cartoons like Sleeping Beauty and imagined rewriting the soundtracks. You can tell this in her new songs, as they moved from lulling harmonies to sharply contrasting jagged passages and back again. She is definitely an artist to watch to see how she will grow and mature from here.

Friday night brought a very different set from British punks Art Brut at Schuba's. The band, touring on their recently released (and awesomely named) "Art Brut vs. Satan," wrapped up a 5 night stand at Schuba's that night, having played a different set each night of the week. Their main member, singer Eddie Argos, is known for writing hillarious lyrics and basically talk/singing them. He also embraces the "anyone can do it" spirit of punk, which he wholeheartedly encourages his audience to do every time he plays.

The show was opened by a new California band called Dusty Rhodes and the River Band. No, sadly, it's not THAT Dusty Rhodes, it's instead some younger dude with an affinity for giant afros. Sorry, but the Mars Volta are the masters of that. DR's set was pretty bland, tried to blur some genre lines (70's rock, country, whatever else), but didn't do much either way. They are perfect for a summer street fest band (which they ended up playing the next day in Chicago), since you could easilly ignore them and move on to the next thing.

Art Brut took the stage and didn't waste any time as always. You can always tell the band is having a great time, and Friday night was no exception. They played a good chunk of songs from the newest album ("Alcoholics Unanimous," "DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes"), while sprinkling in a few classics from their debut "Bang Bang Rock & Roll," including the classic "Emily Kane."

The band fittingly threw in a cover of the Ramone's "the KKK Took My Baby Away" as one of their encores, and was jovial and chatted and joked with the crowd throughout the night. It's pretty sad that most people still have no idea who this band is yet, but then again, as Argos sings in "Demons Out!", "the record buying public shouldn't be voting!" Art Brut will be back in Chicago later this summer at the Green Festival in August, definitely do not miss them.

Last up was Metric at the Metro last night. Metric is a Canadian dance/rock band fronted by the lovely Emily Haines, whose newest cd "Fantasies" is already a stand-out for one of the best of 2009.

There were two openers last night, Smile Smile and Sebastien Grainger. Smile Smile is a duo who played guitar and piano, with some pre-recorded drum loops helping them out. They came off well, their harmonies were pretty good and they seemed to be enjoying themselves as well. They were only on for about 20 minutes, so they didn't get much time to impress, but they did well with what they had.

Next came Sebastien Grainger and the Mountain. Grainger was half of the duo Death From Above 1979, who were poised to become a big breakthrough band, but instead broke up in 2006. Grainger, who played drums in DFA1979, has moved out from the kit and is now playing guitar and singing in his new group. His new stuff is much more dance rock than the sludgy stomp of DFA, and it fit in well with the sound of Metric. For some reason though, the crowd did not seem to connect to Grainger, despite his pleas to get them dancing and to loosen up.
After a brief wait, Metric came out to a welcoming crowd. The band kept its focus on this year's great cd "Fantasies," playing all but one or two of the songs from it. Most of the songs translated very well live, losing some of the dance grooves here and there, but it was not a problem. Emily Haines is an excellent lead singer, she reminded me alot of Shirley Manson from the early days of Garbage, as she would stalk around the stage, make plenty of eye contact with the crowd, and just generally looked like she was having a really good time and wanted to be there.
They did throw in a few older songs to make their old loyal fans happy, but they showed with the set that they are firmly set in the present and are even ready to look more to the future. Their closer "Stadium Love" was epic, and a great sign of where they could go from here.
It was a very good week of concerts overall, 3 for 3 ain't bad. We're taking Bella to her first concert of the year this weekend at the Taste of Randolph Street to see Urge Overkill and Tinted Windows. We'll see if the streak keeps up.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bella's New Favorite Pasttime

Bella has recently become a huge fan of playing Bags in our yard now, that is probably going to be her big obsession through the summer, besides riding her bike.

I know, I know what you are saying, "oooh, Bags, that's so 2007!" Well, considering Bella was barely 1 back then, deal with it!
And yes, the Froggy Boots are very critical to her bag throwing style, aim and precision.
Should have some other updates coming this week, including (hopefully) the Lollapalooza schedule later this week. Crossing my fingers now...