Oct 26, 2015

Abstract Giants and Planet Booty at The Hideout on October 17, 2015

If you have only been to the garbage truck parking lot on Wabansia to attend the Hideout’s annual Block Party, you are missing out by not visiting the bar itself, on a regular weekend night.  Having only attended a block party or two in my day, it was time to experience the real reason the Hideout is an off the beaten path Chicago hidden gem.  My excuse to venture here was an invite to see Chicago born and bred hip hop/funk/world beat band, Abstract Giants opening for a soul/retro 90’s booty/hip hop band, Planet Booty.   Let’s face it, who wouldn’t be interested in seeing a band whose name had “Booty” in it?   I rallied a few friends to tag along with the promise of a fun night.  The night did not disappoint.

The Hideout, est. 1934, is an iconic bar similar to Marie’s Rip Tide in Bucktown, but with a music room and younger bartenders.   Both of these bars are landmark Chicago institutions and will hopefully be preserved as such for years to come.  The atmosphere at Hideout is throwback circa 1930’s complete with low ceilings, Christmas lighting, and the cheapest beer in town ($4 bottled beer).  The Hideout features talented musicians from various genres who are often under the radar and just launching their careers.  The best part about seeing a band in a place like this is that you often get to see musicians, who may one day be well known, in an intimate setting.  You get an up close and personal experience.  Sometimes the intimacy might be more than expected or desired (being asked to “share sweat” with the performer might be a bit over the top for some) but more on Planet Booty’s antics later!

We started out night with dinner at Irazu (1865 Milwaukee), a BYOB Costa Rican restaurant on Milwaukee less than 2 miles from The Hideout.  This family owned restaurant, serving traditional home-cooked Costa Rican food, has been around since 1990. This spot is also off the beaten path and has great food at low end pricing.  This BYOB establishment is another neighborhood gem worth checking out if going to the Hideout for a show or going out anywhere on Milwaukee.  It is not a glamorous spot since the majority of the restaurant is in a tented area with metal patio tables and chairs.  You might not want to wear white pants or you might have grill like chair tattoos decorating your backside when you leave.  I certainly hope they have outdoor heat lamps in the winter to help keep us warm while being well fed.  I had a chicken taco and spinach and cheese empanadas and my friends had the vegetarian burrito.  All were delicious.    My meal set me back a whopping $10 but my friends treated to the wine.  We left the restaurant, and including the time it took to squeeze four adults into a Mini-Cooper, arrived at The Hideout within 15 minutes.  With ample parking right outside, the night was off to a perfect start.




Abstract Giants






First up at the Hideout was the energetic Chicago bred urban hip hop band, Abstract Giants.   This band has been collaborating since high school.  To be honest, I cut my “rap artist” teeth on the trifecta of The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, RUN-DMC’s “It’s Tricky/Walk This Way” (I am a long time fan of Aerosmith) and  Grand Master Flash’s “The Breaks”.  I am not sure that being a white girl growing up in the suburbs of NYC (Hartsdale), dancing to “Rapper’s Delight”, makes me an expert or highly qualified to critique urban hip hop.  That said, I do like what I like and recognize talent when I see it.   At the very least, I know when I am having a good time and when the music is bringing it.

When performing at full capacity, Abstract Giants is a 9-piece group fusing organic hip-hop, jazz, rock, funk and world music. Tonight’s show featured Cary Kanno (guitar), Jake Samson (bass), Willow Wells (vocals), Cameron McIntosh AKA Abitight (vocals) and Andres Roldan AKA RonP (vocals).  The ten-song set demonstrated the bands versatility and talent particularly showcasing RonP as lead MC for the night.  In the interest of full disclosure, RonP is my personal trainer from my neighborhood health club, Southport Fitness.  Although I have some concern that writing anything other than a stellar review can result in extra sit-ups, lunges and squats, I will do my best to remain impartial.

AG proves that rap is not all about money, drugs and sex.   The music varies from dance, salsa, reggae and rock beats and the themes that they focus on are social commentary, love songs and battle rhymes.  They don’t rap about crime, drugs or violence.  From time to time there is an expletive thrown in for good measure and the occasional sexual reference, mostly in good humor.  We are all adults here right?  RonP’s talent lies in his rhythmic, crisp and syncopated approach to the lyrics, at times rapidly firing lyrics and “scratching” sounds usually created by a DJ turntabling.  It was impressive to say the least.  My trainer has some mad rapping skills!  In contrast, Abitight had a more melodic flow in his style and is capable of singing lyrics along with his rap.  Together they complimented each other well.  RonP led the group expertly engaging the audience, encouraging crowd participation and introducing the members of the group when they had solos or opportunity to be showcased.  Willow Wells was featured most during the last song providing haunting back-up vocals for “Rise and Shine”.  This gig’s set did not provide opportunity for her true talent to be appreciated.  Wells has a wide vocal range that is soulful and unique but tonight, until the last song, was not highlighted.  Wells , RonP and another MC, Homegrown, have another project, GREENLIGHTS, in which Wells is more front and center, as she should be.  Listen to “Truly Bold” from the GL3 album (link below).

Since I am prone to make comparisons, I would say that AG has a sound that is falls somewhere between Eminem’s rap style (with less made up words) and The Beastie Boys “Thee MC’s  and One DJ”.  The lyrics are more abstract requiring listener interpretation.   The apt rapping skills of RonP and Abitight is underscored in the "Rapcapella" – "Mind All Mine".  Check in out here:






AG has their own sound that makes you want to listen, put your hands up and dance.  The music is more of an upper.  If you need a boost, pop on one of their albums and you’ll find your happy place.  For more on Abstract Giants check out www.abstractgiants.com and iTunes and for the latest  release, GL3 and past releases of RonP, Willow Wells  and Homegrown's project, GREENLIGHTS check out  www.soundcloud.com/greenlights-2.

Self-described:  “GREENLIGHTS is a family at heart, and everything we do has that in mind.  From production, to lyrics, and visual art, our appeal is that it’s the music that shines, no “other things that have come to define hip hop music.”


Posted here are two more videos from The Hideout show:


Samson's Revenge



and Booty Cracker:




This blog entry motivated me to try my hand at writing a rap song, I mean how hard could it be to throw a few rhymes together?  Any similarity to "Rapper's Delight" is purely coincidental.


Lift Those Weights

Southport Fitness is a neighborhood gym
It’s much better than Equinox
Don’t come here planning to relax
It’s boot camp with detox

You can (hip) hop but don’t you stop
Lunging down the floor
Twist your body lift your leg
‘Til you can’t do no more

Lift those weights, shoulder press
Then I’ll count to ten
If your back starts acting up
You’ll just take Motrin

I could go on and on ‘til the break of dawn
But I’d better stop right here
Abstract Giants is the bomb
I think I’ve made that clear




Planet Booty





Electro-funk pop soul dance trio, Planet Booty met the expectations suggested by their chosen name and proved to be nothing short of entertaining.  I was warned that they were a somewhat “raunchy” but in the era of music videos like “Booty” performed by JLo and Iggy Azalea rubbing barely clad booties together and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” shaking hers with a harem of other booty baring women, this dance band is tame by comparison.  I even muffled a few yawns during the show (just tired not bored).  The Oakland, CA trio consists of Dylan Charles Germick (vocals, trumpet), Josh Cantero (vocals, trombone) and Ron Win (bass, percussion, electronics).  They currently have one EP and two full-length releases, the latest being “Futuresweat” released in 2014.

PB appears to have gathered some steam in Chicago gathering an appreciative audience willing to shake their booties upon request.  Several male fans wore white headbands (sweatband), a PB trademark, providing evidence of having a Chicago fan base.  Germick began the set innocently enough.  He wore a light brown three-piece tailored suit (possibly thrifted) with white button down shirt.  By the end of the third song, his hair and shirt were completely sweat drenched.  It was at this point that Germick asked for someone to come up to the stage and “share sweat” with him.  Someone (male) complied.  Can you say “ew”? By the end of the set, his shirt was so wet he apparently had no choice but to wring it out or take it off and perform shirtless.  The strip act eventually continued revealing his sequin booty boy shorts by the last song.  Let’s just say, if I were Germick and stripping down to my boy shorts before a live audience, I would make a real effort to do more ab and glute work.  He is no Chippendale (yes, a 90’s reference!).  He might want to consider getting a personal training package from RonP!

While the music might not be for everyone with lyrically,  sexually charged songs like “Take Off Your Pants”, “Ride That Booty” and “Spank Out”, the trio has energy, vocal talent, and plays brass instruments!  If you expect a parody of all things 90’s booty dance, you won’t be disappointed.  Think of combining Justin Timberlake’s SNL classic “Dick in a Box” with Flight of the Conchords “ The Most Beautiful Girl In The Room“.   It is worth checking these videos out on YouTube if you have not seen them.  You should then have the complete booty shaking picture. For more on Planet Booty check out www.planetbooty.org.

Check out my videos from The Hideout here:







Extra tip for readers making it to the end of this lengthy entry!
If you would like to have a night-cap and dessert after visiting The Hideout, I highly recommend walking down the parking lot to Ada Street (1664 N. Ada St.) for a late night craft cocktail and bread pudding.  Enjoy!


Mar 30, 2015

Dylan Gardner at Beat Kitchen on March 26, 2015





I was invited to review native Chicagoan, Dylan Gardner, an 18-year old singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist (guitar, piano, drums) at the Beat Kitchen. Having the opportunity to experience his type of talent is why "blogging as a hobby" is worthwhile.  Gardner just released his debut album, Adventures in Real Time and was picked up by Warner Brothers after his first single "Let's Get Started" reached 3 million plays on Spotify.  Apparently the song came up under "new releases" and found itself on multiple playlists and shared over and over again.

Gardner comes from a musical family.  His father, Mark, is a bassist and played with the Chicago 80's power pop band, The Kind.  His brother also plays drums with Gardner's band.  As a result of his father, Gardner grew up listening to 60's classic rock and was particularly drawn to The Beatles who greatly shaped his sound and songwriting and the musical direction he intends to take.  Heck, he even looks like a mini-Paul McCartney with his small frame, sport coat and brown "Beatle's styled" hair cut.  He is also a fan of The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, and The Doors.  During tonight's set, he also did a fantastic version of The Arctic Monkeys "Why'd You Only Call Me When Your High" and an Elvis Costello cover so I assume he has some other favorites.  Based on his flawless rendition of the Arctic Monkeys song, he could be a stunt double in the event that Alex Turner (lead singer) has laryngitis, a flight delay or other issue rendering him unavailable for a performance.  It was impressive (see video below).

Gardner and his bandmates, his brother and his bassist, played with high energy and a comforting familiarity.  His bassist was all the way in, looking like he was born to play with Gardner and loving every minute of it.  The crowd was likely filled with Gardner's friends and family members given his Chicago roots.  Beat Kitchen is a small venue so we were rewarded with an intimate performance and greatly entertaining show.  Gardner's songs while being diverse and interesting are also cohesive.  He has a distinctive sound that will flourish in the commercial world once he gets his television spotlight performances booked.  He is extremely confident on stage, maneuvering his guitars like a rock veteran.  He had three guitars with him for the set, and they looked like highly coveted instruments.  He also has charm and charisma demonstrated by moments such as mentioning his humble beginnings when he had "gigs" at home improvement or electronics stores. Not that there is anything wrong with that.  You can only go up from there right?  For more on Gardner, check out his website for shows and more at dylangardnermusic.com.








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Feb 13, 2015

AJR and Melanie Martinez at Lincoln Hall on February 10, 2015


(photo: Melody Perpich)



(photo: Denise Allen)

Adam (bass, vocals), Jack (vocals, guitar), and Ryan (guitar, piano, vocals) Mets are three brothers hailing from my hometown, good ol’ NYC.  Adam is a Columbia graduate and Ryan is currently a student there.  Will Jack, the youngest at 17, follow in their footsteps?  Jack was quoted in another interview as feeling a bit like “Hannah Montana” since he is still in high school and is experiencing fame now.  These brothers promoted their music busking in Central Park and Washington Square Park and most recently via internet and social media.  Their first electro-pop single, “I’m Ready” was tweeted out to celebs by the Mets boys and got notice from Sia Furler (one of my personal favorites originating from Zero 7 notoriety) who helped to promote the trio.  These guys are talented and smart also, taking advantage of the social media craze to self-promote.  I first heard the single on Sirius XM “Hits 1” station.    The song has pop hit written all over it.  They have since toured with The Wanted, Demi Lovato, Lindsey Stirling and Hoodie Allen.  AJR’s new album is slated for release on March 3 and is named “Living Room” likely due to the fact that they have written, produced and mixed their songs in their home living room.  How cute is that?  Sometimes the best names are in the obvious:  AJR and Living Room.  An acronym and a noun I can remember.


AJR opened for Melanie Martinez (famous from season 3 of The Voice) promptly at 7pm.  This was an all-ages show and all ages were there! Melanie does drop a few F bombs in her lyrics and is not shy about it so mom's, if you have a problem with that, I suggest that you drop your daughter's off and pick them up later (ha ha).   I ran into a couple of teenage (or tween) girls in the bathroom who informed me that they were there to see Martinez.  When I heard about the show I had assumed that AJR were headlining since I had heard their music on the radio many times but had not heard Martinez on the radio. Then again, I mostly listen to satellite and she may be heard on FM radio.  AJR was energetic and clearly had a great time entertaining the group of young and older fans.  They told the story of their new found insta-fame and their origins in Washington Square, busking for recognition and coin.  I think they are still humble about their unpretentious beginnings.  It is great to see a bit of wholesome fun and brothers who can play nice together.  Good job boys!  The Jonas Brothers went their separate ways but maybe these three can last longer.  It will be fun to watch them rise having seen them perform at one of my favorite small venues, Lincoln Hall, when they were just “starting out”.  See  video below from Lincoln Hall and the official video for the next hit "Infinity".








As for the headliner, I am now an official Melanie Martinez fan.  She has an amazing voice with a lot of emotion and soul.  Her outfit was so adorbs - milk and cookies!  How appealing to a young audience!  She still has her black and white cookie hair going too (half blonde, half dark).  She had great rapport with the audience.  One particular fan asked if "she would adopt her".  Martinez responded with "I can barely take care of myself, why would you want me to be your mother?".  She is after all only a late-teenager herself.  Her alt rock pop style is really top notch.  You can dance to her music one minute and then listen intently when she takes it down to just her and a guitar.  Her hot multi-instrumentalist back-up keyboardist and guitarist rocked bunny ears too.  The girls got schtick.  Looking forward to seeing her next time she is in town. See the video of "Bittersweet Tragedy" from Lincoln Hall, you'll fall in love too.

(photo: Melody Perpich)

(photo: Melody Perpich)

(photo: Melody Perpich)

Feb 9, 2015

Jourdan Myers at Uncommon Ground on February 5, 2015



Uncommon Ground is a great restaurant and venue that has been celebrating and supporting local talent for many years.  It also happens to be walking distance from our Lakeview home.  What I did not know is that Uncommon Ground expanded their space further to the north and changed the location of the “music room”.  The new space is the home to an old school analog sound board too (previously there was none).  The wood panels and spot lighting creates more of a “club” feel previously lacking in the old space.

Tonight’s event opened with locals Bittersweet Drive and Jack Byron. I managed to catch the last song for Bittersweet Drive and all of Byron’s set.  Bittersweet Drive, friends from Columbia College, were a harmonizing folk duo that I would like to hear more of.  Byron, dressed in a hairline-striped button down and paperboy cap, played his acoustic guitar and sang falsetto with no fear.  I believe he would have good stories to go along with his songs but he indicated that he was trying to play as many songs as time would allow.  Personally, I love the stories.  I say tell more stories and perform one or two less songs!  I enjoyed his Johnny Cash impersonation too during his song “Rhythm and Blues” and his lyrics in the humorous “Cream of the Crop” including “All I want to do is wreck your bed”. 

Headliner, Jourdan Myers was up next. She was adorable, perky and fashion conscientious, exemplified by her glam “bling” headband and white blouse with matching “bling” collar.  She is from Minnesota and is managing her own Midwest tour, driving from city to city, accompanied by her vocal chops, keyboard, and merch.  While on the topic, her merch consisted of hand knit scarves, headbands, CDs and Christmas ornaments “that did not do as well as expected” during the holiday season.  Frowny face. 

Myers opened with "Firelight" aptly demonstrating her nuanced, haunting, passionate and powerful vocals which immediately commanded your attention.   Her songs are strong, sultry and soft with jazzy undertones.  Myers told me that she had to learn how to sing and play piano/keyboards at the same time.  It was not intuitive.  With keyboard in tow, Myers comfortably demonstrated her vocal range and building crescendos with each song hardly requiring a mic! She is a pure chanteuse capable of any note.  Most of her songs build to an emotional crescendo, with lyrics that read like poetry, describing human longing and the inability for most of us to get everything we desire.  Her collaboration with producer Matt Patrick has been effective.  Her sophomore release, Ruin Me With Love, captures the growth of Myers and her desire to push herself.  My favorites on this 12 song emotional rollercoaster include “Wonderlust”, “Push Me on the Playground”, and “The Fight”.  Her vocal prowess and style has been compared to Sarah McLachlan by other reviews and her song “The Fight”, to Feist.  I think, if comparisons must be made, Tori Amos and Sia Furler should be added to the list.  Now that, my friends, is a good list. 

I would say that it was a good decision, to give up her prior mainstream career (in bonds, investment banking, and the world of finance) to pursue her musical dreams. Apparently Myers has both the left and right brain thing working for her.  Think of all the options when you are talented, pretty, and smart.  The world is her oyster. Go to www.jourdanmyers.com to listen to her entire CD on sound cloud.

Check out Myers music video for "Wonderlust" here followed by the video of "Push Me On The  Playground" I took at the Uncommon Ground show :





Jan 30, 2015

Bahamas at Lincoln Hall on January 29, 2015

Bahamas sold out in a flash last time they were in town and were likely to do so again.  I grabbed two tickets on my cell phone when I was alerted to this show three months ago.  Once again, a sold out venue, so this time I thought it might be nice to secure a table upstairs and have a bite to eat before the show and a place to be during.  Advance reservations were not really needed since I was able to get a table reserved for two the night before the show.  You have to guarantee $25 per person, which if you drink one or two, should be easy.  I had the chicken tacos, 3 for $7.  A good deal but rendering it necessary to have at least two cocktails to meet my financial obligations.  This was easily arranged.

Bahamas, a Canadian singer/band, featuring lead singer Afie Jurvanen and outstanding background vocalist, Felicity William were, as expected, flawless.  Afie is also a virtuoso on guitar and he took several much appreciated opportunities to demonstrate his skills.  Bahamas is self-described by Afie as "soft rock genre" and proud of it.  Hard and punk rockers, beware.  Barchords, their 2012 release, was relatively unknown to me but landed the Adult Alternative Album of the Year at the 2013 Juno awards.   The band has gathered considerable momentum and has secured a sizable fan base performing at music festivals such as Bonnaroo.   Songs from the recent release, Bahamas is Afie, were highlighted in tonight's show.  I find that Afie is a bit of a narcissist in that none of his other band members, including his songbird/muse, Felicity Williams, uttered a word during the show.  He is clearly the driving force and wears the bands pants.   The show IS Afie with significant enhancements courtesy of the vocal prowess of his side-kick songbird.  Ironic (or not really) that the new release is named what it is named.  Just food for thought.  He did introduce the band so we have to give credit where credit is due, at least he was not rude.  The last time I saw Bahamas they were a bit more dressed up.  He had two female vocalists, including Williams, that wore, if my recollection serves me, cute red dresses.  He might have even had on a jacket.  For this show they were clearly fresh off the bus and likely un-showered and un-brushed.  They sounded fabulous nonetheless, don't get me wrong.  Just close your eyes and you would be swept away by the soothing rhythms and harmonies.  It did dawn on me that Afie is very much a Jack Johnson sound-alike, and in doing further research, it turns out he has toured with him (glad that association did not escape my ears).  I do tire of Jack J but find the vocal harmonies of Bahamas mesmerizing.  Just listen and close your eyes. No need to dress up.

Take a listen to one of my favorite cuts from Barchords (love the retro look of the back-up singers too). Dresses and Jacket noted also:

Sep 14, 2014

John Legend at Ravinia on June 16, 2014

John Legend proved to live up to the hype AND his last name.  A true legend he was.  We were lucky to secure pavilion seats through my friend Kristin.  Being inside was incredibly fabulous because you wanted to be as close to this intimate experience as possible.  He performed with a string quartet and about ten lucky (deep pocketed?) fans had seats on stage right behind the quartet.  His charisma was unparalleled as he entertained the audience with stories of his humble beginnings in NY and his help from Kanye West who got him his first big break.  He even demonstrated how he writes songs by singing gibberish to the melody that he had written and then coming up with lyrics.  All I know is that I could barely speak (gibberish or otherwise) and was spellbound during his performance.  I wanted him to have "All of Me" sometime during the second or third song.  I went with my girlfriends which really is the way to go unless you are wanting to be romantic with your husband or sig other.  In my opinion, you will forget all about your husband or sig other within 5 minutes of the show anyway so you really can't lose.  One friend, who typically likes larger more muscular men, completely deleted this requirement from her laundry list by the second chorus of the 1st song: "I think I like more slight and shorter men now…" Legend not being particularly burly.  Another friend started crying during his cover of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" due to its shear perfect execution of the emotion and meaning of the song.  We were (and remain) in love with JL.

If you are a Springsteen fan or not, you will love this version of "Dancing in the Dark" maybe for some of you, more than the original.  It is such an amazing arrangement, so beautiful with the string instruments and piano accompaniment.  I dare you not to cry.

Girls! Rock Chicago at The Bottom Lounge on June 28, 2014

From the organization website www.girlsrockchicago.org: "Girls Rock! Chicago is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering girls’ creative expression, positive self-esteem and community awareness through rock music. Through our music education programs for girls ages 8 to 16, we are committed to educating girls about the musical, technical, and creative aspects involved in musicianship because we believe that young girls are rarely encouraged to explore self-expressive creative outlets and are less likely to be given access to musical and technical instruction or equipment. We believe that rock music can be a crucial tool in allowing young women to respond to preconceived notions of what they can do and what they can become."


Girls! Rock Chicago is a week long summer camp in Chicago for aspiring rocker girls!  Check out the group Meta3 below.  This 11-12 year old trio wrote the lyrics and music to "We are We" from beginning to end during this fantastic one week camp.  The end of camp culminates with a live performance at The Bottom Lounge club in Chicago.





Another, band named Cherie, comprised a dynamic duo of two very talented and more experienced older high school girls.  They were showstoppers and saved for last during The Bottom Lounge performance.  Can you say "I want the album" anyone?





The camp is run primarily by volunteers who donate their time and talents to the campers.  Each day goes from 9am until 4pm and the time is jam packed with music lessons, band practice, art activities (ie. Threadless t-shirt creatio), and girl empowerment discussions.  To get a spot in the camp the girls have to send in an "audition tape" which is loosely defined since it can even include artwork or reciting poetry.

I hesitated to post about this amazing camp because it is a very well kept secret (in the land of summer day camp experiences in Chicago) and I want my daughter to have a spot until she becomes too old to participate.   They also have a Ladies Rock program for us older wannabe rockers, just FYI.  So keep it on the down low peeps.  You are privileged to find it through my blog. Now SHUSH!