This blog was created to provide my opinion and reviews about the Chicago music scene. The commentary here is based upon what shows that I (as a lover of all things music) have SEEN. I also comment on the venues so that you can know what to expect during your night out, whether reserve tables are in order, what acoustical nightmares or pleasures you might experience, where you might go to eat before the show, and other random, noteworthy, or fun observations. I hope you enjoy the reviews!
Sep 15, 2012
Hideout Block Party on September 14 and 15, 2012
This was my first Hideout Block Party Festival and I needed to be prepared. The weather turned out to be perfect being sunny during the day and a mild high 60's for the entire night. I bought tickets even before they announced Wilco as the headliner. When you enter the venue, be prepared to wait in line to secure your wrist band. Having a last name in the M-R category turned out to be unfortunate. The line did not move for what seemed like an eternity. In fact, it took so long that we missed the entire set of The War on Drugs. Please HBF organizers, fix this for next year. Although we all remained civilized, there were some unsatisfied people on line. Having failed to secure a babysitter for this weekend, we decided to bring the kids, ages 9 and ummm, errrr, 10 (10 and under are free) to the event. Touted as a family friendly event, there is nothing for kids to do but eat and listen to music. On the first day I did not see face painting or other kid friendly activities. On day two, I almost missed the one small tent that was the home of some magic markers and white sheets, face paints, hula hoops, and some jump rope. There is no grass so hanging out on cement is what you can expect. Not sure which kids will tolerate a full day of "adult" music. My friend's 5 year old son commented, in the voice of Elmer Fudd, "What a wip off mom!". She reported that previous Hideout block parties actually had a whole row of kid friendly tents with activities. Having said that, there was a great spectacle put on by Red Moon Theater after Glen Hansard finished his fabulous set. The theme was "Birds". A vehicle carrying a large winged (think human puppet) bird was released into the crowd with drummers dressed as birds (kind of "Blue Man Group") and performers dressed as birds vocalizing bird calls into megaphones. This was entertaining to the kids and adults but lasted maybe 30 minutes.
What was great about the first night was that you could easily saunter through the massive crowd, even after the band started playing, to the front of the pack. The carpet of people was woven just loose enough making it possible to politely squeeze in to the front (especially if you are one or two people doing so). I did step on one woman's toes (but in my defense, she was wearing flip flops) and got a reprimand. I would recommend not wearing flip flops to a SOLD OUT SHOW that is OUTDOORS IN THE DARK. I did however tell her that I was sorry and that I am indeed not OBNOXIOUS.
Moving on. Glen Hansard and his amazing band were on fire. I am looking forward to seeing him at another event sometime in the future, already. Hailing from Swell Season, the movie Once and Irish folk band TheFrames origin, his versatility is remarkable. His vocals are both smooth and raspy/emotion packed as he deems fit. He is folky/singer-songwriter one minute and pure rock and roll the next. Having this violinist (please comment if you know his name) with him was a stroke of genius. Even my son stopped horsing around with his sister long enough to comment on the violinist's obvious talent. I am looking forward to buying and listening to his first solo release, Rhythm and Repose.
Iron and Wine
Afterwards Red Moon did there thing warming the crowd up for Iron and Wine. The crowd seemed to transition to a younger, one-hitter toting, crowd. Surrounded by cigarette smokers and the aroma of non-medicinal MaryJane, I had a hard time concentrating on the music at hand. My kids were outside of the music area with my husband - eating elephant ears so no harm done. Family friendly not. After establishing my contact high, I was in full groove with Iron and Wine. I did notice that one song with a more blues rhythm (Woman King) transitioned seamlessly into a down tempo ballad. I could not help but compare this choice with the Grateful Dead's typical set list antics. I now understood the obvious popularity of a one-hitter and it's relationship to Iron and Wine, sort of. Here is a snippet of the song:
I ran into friends that I have not seen in year(s) also. An added bonus although I was informed of missing a great party because one couple did not have my current email and another said I was no longer "on the list" or maybe I was put on the black list. We gave this group a ride home securing our place back on the proper list. Which reminds me, you can drive to the block party but be prepared to walk 10 minutes from where you park. Spots in front are unlikely.
One last comment about night one. The food trucks and restaurant representation were good. A mix of burgers, sliders, veggie options, coffee, and desserts. Big Star restaurant had THE longest line of all. So long after waiting in line 4-ever for a wrist band that I did not get a chance to taste one of their tacos which were sold out by the end of the night. I was informed that they will not be there for the second day. Guess I have to check them out at the restaurant in Bucktown (serving until 3am).
Not wanting to subject the kids or us to the kids inevitable whining for multiple hours, my husband was kind enough to drive me and drop me off to enjoy the daytime acts on my own. The plan was to meet up later, progeny in tow, for Wilco. More on how that worked out later.
Entry was a breeze on day 2 making me only moderately tardy for Wild Belle. The brother and sister duo was a must see if you are a soul, pop, indie junkie.
Natalie (vocals) and Elliott Bergman (keyboard, saxophone,
guitar) are a sibling duo from Barrington, IL.Together they are reaching new acclaim in the blogosphere
and music scene.Natalie, age 23,
has lilting sultry vocals that sound like a collaboration between Amy Winehouse
and Macy Gray.She wore a bright
red blouse with animal print skinny jeans, an outfit both current and
retro.With their first “hit”
single, “Keep You” we are transported to a fusion of soul-laced synth-pop
Caribbean reggae disco lounge music.That was a mouth full.Is
the new genre SSPCRDLM?In any
case the upbeat sound is completely enjoyable.The pair first performed together as part of Elliott’s band
Nomo known for dance instrumentals with an African jazz vibe. From what I read via Greg Kot’s review,
Natalie was fired by the band after a crowd stood still following a performance
of one of her songs (usually the crowd would be dancing).Blood being thicker than water, Elliott
decided to perform with Natalie forming Wild
Belle.Natalie is an aspiring
singer-songwriter and a debut album is expected in early 2013.Today, towards the end of their
set they did a cover of Evelyn Champagne King’s“I’m in love” (1981) transporting me back to my carefree end
of high-school start of college disco loving days. I am looking forward to Wild Belle’s upcoming release
and having seen them at the HBP might just turn out to be one of those
rare“I saw them when…” experiences.
I could not get my video from the Block Party to upload so here is a version from You Tube of "Keep You":
Wye Oak, named
after Maryland’s honorary state tree, is the Baltimore based couple Jenn Wasner
(vocals, guitar) and Andy Stack (drummer, multi-instrumentalist).Their style is considered “90’s
Indie Rock/21st Century Folk”.Live, they are more rhythm, volume and feedback-driven loud rock and
roll than would be obvious on their studio produced albums.There is surprising dimension to their
sound given that there are only two people on stage.This is due to Stack’s ability to play both drums (using his
feet) and keyboard simultaneously.Wasner is caught losing herself with the
fierceness of her guitar riffs throughout the set.Coupled with Wasner’s reverb soaked dreamy lush vocals, and
Stack’s command of his instruments, the duo packs a mean punch.Given the amount of feedback, volume,
distortion, and reverb that the band relies on for their sound, it can be hard
to extract and appreciate Wasner’s vocal prowess.I always love a live performance but listening to them
via stereo is a different experience for better or worse.I have recorded here the song “Spiral” which is not yet released.The
recorded studio version takes n a rhythm driven new-wave sound making use of
marimba and vocal special effects.Overall, they were great to see during the sun drenched block
party.Wasner commented that she
could see nothing and was “blind” as she looked out over the audience with her
“cheap $8 sunglasses” later taking them off to reveal her pretty face and
allowing for her sight to return.I recommend the album Civilian highly
as it drew me in completely rendering me as a fan of Wye Oak’s unique
sound.The Block Party ticket
purchase had me at “Wye Oak” even before Wilco
was announced to headline.
Have a listen to "Spiral":
Well what can I say about Wilco that has not already been
said?Even Jeff Tweedy wittingly commented
that they do so many (sold-out) shows in Chicago, in sequences of 5 (and
die-hards usually buy tickets for all 5 nights of the shows) that it is getting
near impossible to play something that the audience has not heard.He tried to find a “deep track” but
said that he was “riding on the edge of the blade” if my memory is
correct.This was my second time
seeing Wilco, the first time being at Metro.It was shockingly possible to secure a standing spot about 5
rows in from center in front of the stage.Having texted my friends who were standing there since 5pm,
I actually found them at 6pm to secure my place among the throngs of fans.Even more unbelievable was that it was
possible to leave said secure spot to go use the port-a-potty and find one’s
way back to a previously acquired location.The crowd was very accommodating.The stage was blinged out with scraps of tablecloth or cloth
napkins swathing light bulbs and dangling from the rafters.The effect worked well with the
lighting throughout the show almost forming miniature ghosts, the light bulbs
serving as the heads. The sound as expected was loud being way up front but I had a highly coveted multi-pack of ear plugs with me that I handed out to friends who scooped them up like they were breath mints. My
only complaint would be the necessity for folks to smoke their cigarettes in such tight
quarters.Thankfully there was a
breeze that dispersed the carcinogens and odor equally among the
concert-goers.Now the contact
high I received, on the other hand, was a welcomed antidote (with it’s calming
effect) to the periodic momentary claustrophobic thoughts that were teetering in the
forefront of my phobic brain.Fortunately,
I had help nearby, by having a friend that is a psychiatrist standing to my
left at the show, on call.
I had planned earlier to meet my family before Wilco.It would have been a historic feat to
leave my spot and return at a later time just prior to or during Wilco’s
set.My husband decided to arrive
with the kids and hang out by the food trucks.My daughter is an anti-smoking militant and my son has
asthma.Needless to say given
their age appropriate short stature along with these caveats, standing in the
back was a good decision at this “family friendly” event.Next time we will make sure we hire a
sitter or leave the kids home alone.What age can we “legally” start doing that anyway?
Wilco played in their usual, as expected, glory.Ho hum.Always putting on great shows, performing for multiple
hours, and sounding like they are in the studio with perfect as recorded
sound.Perfection is so dull and
so typical of them.If you
are not a fan then you would not be happy regardless.Otherwise you are always in for a treat to see and hear
Wilco live.My friend Joe, who
stood to my left, must be the number one fan of Wilco.He knew every lyric to every song, no
Here is a recording from the Block Party event of the song “Company
In My Back” for your listening pleasure.
Unfortunately I had to break free of the crowd prior to the
encore since my estranged family was ready to depart.Likely there was another 45 minutes of the show to play out
followed by another Red Moon
spectacle. Right before I
left, guitarist Nels Cline took out his white double-necked guitar for extra
extreme guitar riffs. I look
forward to hearing about what other antics I missed from my die-hard fan
friends that stayed for the
Misunderstood, 26 Nothings, Company
In My Back, I Might, Sunken Treasure, Either Way, Hummingbird, Impossible
Germany, Born Alone, Radio Cure, Handshake Drugs, Wishful Thinking, Whole Love,
Kamera, I Must Be High, Nothings ever gonna stand in my way (again), Heavy
Metal Drummer, Poor Places, Art of Almost.
Hideout Block Party Overall Review:
The line-up, venue, sound, weather and modest ticket price
get a 4 out of 5 guitar rating.The crowd was friendly and controlled
and the food truck offerings were of good quality.Of course less cement and a back-drop of mountains would
have been appreciated (ie. Telluride Bluegrass Festival) but you cannot have
everything.I took off one guitar
for the lack of organization on day one to secure out wrist bands and calling
the event “family friendly” since 4 crayons, 3 hula hoops, 2 jump ropes, and 1 tent do not a “family
friendly” event make.I recommend
the event but if at all possible leave kids that are still in need of
supervision at home.