show review: Melt Banana, Torche, Hot Nerds at Empty Bottle (7-15-15)

150714 - Melt Banana - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – the 3 members of Melt Banana – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Can the Japanese Noise-Grind Core group Melt Banana bring the metal intensity without a drummer?

150714 - Hot Nerds - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Hot Nerds – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

San Fran natives Hot Nerds opened the show, but we walked in 3/4 through their set.  They played a type of carnival punk with guitar/vocals, acoustic drums and a synthesizer with songs clocking in under 2 minutes.  The vocals had an effect that he didn’t turn off during the entire performance, even when he was talking to the crowd.  The drummer pounded away on the drums with a ferocious intensity found in metal/punk drummers.  The singer was self deprecating about the songs but the group seemed to enjoy themselves. The crowd seemed to be into it.

150714 - Torche - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Torche – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Then Torche showed up.  This is when the place started to fill out a lot more and I had to weasel my way up. The music is heavy, but dude sings.  In the first song Steve was shredding a guitar solo with a leg up on the monitor, letting everyone know they weren’t going to sleep their way through the set.  He’d stick his tongue out and held the guitar up while acknowledging the first few rows of the crowd.  Their music is somewhat rowdy, but not enough that people would go nuts and throw each other around to any of their songs.  At least not on a Tuesday apparently. Or everyone there was older.  They played a good portion of tracks from their newest album, Restarter, but mixed in a good chunk from Harmonion.  Most of their songs are in the mid to uptempo range but the tune Minions really stuck out to me, and hearing it live was awesome.  I’m a fan of the more upbeat energetic songs and listening to this recorded seemed like the song would drag on, but seeing them perform it live gave me a new appreciation for it.  A crowd favorite was Letting Go,  but once they were Kicking in you could tell that was also one of the tunes that got the crowd hooked on the band. They played mostly straight through for their entire set, with just a few pauses to check the tuning, but even that was quick and they were appreciative that everyone was there to watch them, not see them tune, get a drink of water and dick around. Not sure if they played this song, but it’s one of my favorites.

150715 - Melt Banana Selfie - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Melt Banana Selfie – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

Melt Banana was a band I haven’t been able to truly appreciate until seeing them live.  I’ll listen to them on occasion but to see them live was a whole new experience.  Being a weak ass old man I figured I’d see about 20 minutes and just leave, but once they started playing She had such an amazing energy that she brought to the stage it was hard to tear myself apart.  As a drummer I’m of course saddened when a band uses a drum machine, although I can definitely understand the why behind it.  Heck Aaron and I moved forward as a 2 piece because we were done with guitar players for a short while.  That has passed.  But the drum machine was great, and to have actually seen someone perform what they had tracked would’ve made it that much better.  Aaron mentioned that he saw them with Dave Witte and I’m not sure if I would’ve been able to handle it if that happened.

150715 - Melt Banana - Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike
150715 – Melt Banana – Empty Bottle:photo by Drumnmike

The movement of the singer Yasuko Onuki was electrifying, and the coordination between her and Ichirou Agata and the fluidity between songs made them playing with a drum machine and samples that much more impression.  Save for a few occasions they weren’t concerned with walking over to line up the computer to start a song, but instead would have synced arm swings and starts, as if they’ve played these songs thousands of times to perfect them.

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show review: High Risk – Constellation (July 2 2015)

150702 - High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702 – High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

My main reason for attending this and thus staying was the Mark Guiliana drum clinic/after show.  I knew nothing of this group but I’m glad I stayed.  Remember when I mentioned that I have a hard time listening to newer jazz done with the instruments of old?  Well, this is something I can get down with and am excited to eat my words.  It was Mark Guiliana on acoustic drums, Dave Douglas on Trumpet, Shigeto on electronics and Jonathan Maron on Bass and keys.

I was obnoxiously annoyed right at the start, hearing the typical slow dramatic start that happens with most music, but that really is something I need to get over.  It lasted for a few minutes and got you adjusted to the group, and then they tore into it.  Although the songs were a jazz swing feel they weren’t your typical beat on the ride swing style jazz. The trumpet played melodies, but also veered on the edge of free jazz and drawn out sounds.  The electronics and the drums had a nice sync, complementing each other, but also having certain spots where they were allowed to breathe on their own and share their own voice.

150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation: Photo by Drumnmike

There were multiple times throughout the set when Dave would step away from the stage and let the remaining members find their voice and play off of each other.  Most of the times this would end in a drum solo by Mark, and they were always interesting.  It was also cool to see Mark’s drum solos after he had explained his thinking and building into them ahead of time.  They would add to the song and slowly build instead of just trying to fit as many hits as possible into the space.

One of my favorite parts, aside from the drum solos, was when everyone except Shigeto left the stage and he was able to explore his sounds for a few minutes.  Another favorite thing about getting exposure to a group like this with independent musicians coming together for an album is the ability to be exposed to these new musicians, then diving into their catalog.  Having only heard of Mark, barely, I’m excited to dive deeper into his catalog. Reading up on Dave Douglas he’s recorded 40 albums as a band leader and got his start with Horace Silver.  That’s a dedicated dude.  Expect reviews in the future regarding the members projects. If more new wave does projects like this I’m excited to finally open up my mind and explore what else is being done with the genre. Please pardon my ignorance. (I’m open to suggestions)

Judging by Dave’s past experiences with bands this might be the only tour with this group of musicians so if you can find them playing live near you I’d highly recommend checking them out.

150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike
150702-High Risk at Constellation:Photo by Drumnmike

show review:Four Star Brass Band – North Center (7-8-15)

150708-Four Star Brass Band - North Center:Photo By Drumnmike
150708-Four Star Brass Band – North Center:Photo By Drumnmike

Buy Four Star Brass Bandlisten here

Sometimes when you’re chilling at work and receive an email about a show that evening you get a little excited that maybe it’ll be super fun and you should probably go.  I met Kathryn after she finished her running session and she needed food.

We walked to the dead end street and the band was on stage, getting ready to play.  Surrounded by them in the dead end street were probably 50 kids, with about 1/3 as many parents. This was a very small neighborhood event, almost like a block party on a Tuesday, with kids running around like nuts popping balloons and hitting the great clips mascot with blow up bowling pins.  I had a brief glimpse into my future and my heart skipped a beat.

After making a comment about the insanity of the kids playing on the Divvy bikes at the nearby station Kathryn talked about not letting our kids do that, or keeping them in control.  I really hope she’s right.  Otherwise that’s what they call paper trading.

150708-Four Star Brass Band: Photo by Drumnmike
150708-Four Star Brass Band: Photo by Drumnmike

After getting her fed we moved from the curb to the seats. Since most folks were just hanging around trying to keep their kids from going nuts we somewhat had the seats to ourselves, although a girl walking a random dog (she didn’t own the thing) kept coming by us and so we pet it a few times, but mostly we were by ourselves.

The drizzle started but we were safely under a tree and so surprisingly we didn’t get wet.  We were commended by a local member of the community for sitting out there without an umbrella, but, really I got maybe 2 drips on my pants.  We didn’t melt.

150708-Four Star Brass Band: Photo by Drumnmike
150708-Four Star Brass Band: Photo by Drumnmike

They played some well known songs, My Girl, Chicago, and then played our wedding song, the Cissy Strut. My issue was that they called them the Funky Meters, but what’re you gonna do.  It’s cool to see some dudes bringing that song back. The music was a fun blend of New Orleans style jazz playing some known tunes.  The crowd was obviously a little mixed, but after spending an afternoon in the hot sun and hydrating all day I can see how this stuff can really throw down, and a good time could be had by all.  They had a nice swing and even though they were playing to a bunch of non-attentive kids adn their parents they were still having fun.  They cut it early so their instruments wouldn’t rust but maybe I’ll see them at Jeff fest.

Buy Four Star Brass Bandlisten here

150708-wet chairs: Photo by Drumnmike
150708-wet chairs: Photo by Drumnmike

show review: Rush Hour Concerts – Ravinia in Chicago (7-7-15)

150707-St James Cathedral, Ravinia Steans music Rush hour concert:Photo by Drumnmike
150707-St James Cathedral, Ravinia Steans music Rush hour concert:Photo by Drumnmike

One of the wonderful things about living in Chicago, especially in the summer (because let’s be real, that’s the only smart time to be living in Chicago) are the concerts that happen.  Started 6 years ago the Rush Hour concert series presents a free half hour concert starting at 5:45 pm CST every Tuesday from June – August. My Aunt and Uncle invited us but unfortunately had to bow out.  Kathryn & I still thought it’d be fun to attend.

I arrived shortly before 5 to a mixed crowd of folks standing outside the door.  Some were homeless and others looked like they were waiting for the concert.  After waiting til 5:05 I decided to go in and check out what was going on. There was a door lady greeting and directing people for the event. I told her that some people outside thought they weren’t opened yet so they didn’t know that they could come in.  She told me to tell them it was OK to come in since she couldn’t leave. I went outside to give the good news, then gave her the thumbs up when I came back in on my way to the lecture on the other side of the foyer.

The talk featured 2 musicians from the performance discussing the musical program they were attending for the summer (Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute), their plans for the future, etc.  Decent talk but I had to meet Kathryn.  I went back to the door lady and she mentioned “oh you know those people were waiting for the meal downstairs, and they just weren’t ready yet”.  oops.. I apologized, she told me it was no big deal, but now I know.

150707 - st james cathedral  - Piano Quartet:Photo by Drumnmike
150707 – st james cathedral – Piano Quartet:Photo by Drumnmike

The performance started promptly at 5:45 and was over just as soon as it started.  It featured members of Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, musicians who have or are finishing their bachelors degree and are continuing their musical studies. The Steans Music Institute is an intense summer program they attend and their rehearsals were outside of their regular training for the group. The quartet consisted of a violin, viola, cello and piano. They played 2 songs by Gabriel Faure (1845-1924), Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor, Op 45: I. Allegro molto moderato and II. Scherzo: Allergo molto. This was my first exposure to Faure but the songs were played beautifully and with ease, not giving off any impression they were new to this.

150707- St James Cathedral - Piano Quintet:Photo by Drumnmike
150707- St James Cathedral – Piano Quintet:Photo by Drumnmike

Next the quintet, consisting of 2 violins, viola, cello and piano played a piece  by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897): Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 – I. Allegro Non Troppo. This song is stunning and leads to a gorgeous climactic ending with the piano and strings playing off each other. The song shifted between intense to dreamy and back to dramatic.

It was a lovely performance in a beautiful space and I hope we can attend more of these before the summer ends. Come say Hi if you make it out.

show review:Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros with Letts

150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros:Photo by Drumnmike
150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros:Photo by Drumnmike

Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros
Although I can get down with this music when it’s on the radio or I’m at a bar, it’s typically not my thing.  I’m definitely not one of those guys the Onion talked about when it comes to popular music, but I’m just aware and typically don’t listen.  Going to this show was a last minute ordeal.  I mentioned to my Aunt & Uncle they were coming in town to help them out but they mentioned they already had tickets and we should go with them.  I mentioned it to the wife and she was interested so bam: we got tickets.

7-3-15 Letts at Thalia Hall:Photo by Drumnmike
7-3-15 Letts at Thalia Hall:Photo by Drumnmike

The first band, Letts, was the guitar player in ES and 4 other musicians from the band. The music was more subdued than the pop folk of ES, but the songs were interesting and cool.  They were somewhat somber and sounded like songs from a heavy, contemplative heart. Dude has a really great voice and he let it carry over the music, reminiscent of older style country and blue grass. They were a great intro group warming you up for what was about to happen next.

150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Thalia Hall: Photo by Drumnmike
150703-Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Thalia Hall: Photo by Drumnmike

By the time Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros played I was rocked and ready for the performance.  We stood where we sat when we saw Ginger Baker. That must be our spot at Thalia Hall. As mentioned above I only really know about 2 Edward Sharpe songs, but the show was still a blast.  Being only a singer (I use that lightly) Alex had great stage presence and took advantage of the fact he wasn’t carrying around an instrument.  For being blue grass pop music there was a lot of playful energy from the crowd and the band with the majority of the audience dancing along to their songs, not just the hits.  Behind the band was a massive video screen that displayed psychedelic colors, split screen and kaleidoscope style views of the band as they were playing.  Considering the band had so much energy and there were so many members the video wasn’t entirely necessarily, but it added to the total immersive feeling of the event and made it that much more fun.

The band waited until the end to play their hit song Home, but the audience was there to be the band and weren’t just waiting to hear there radio songs.  Although when they finally did play it the place erupted.  As a neat touch during the breakdown of Home the band really took it down and Alex was letting people in the front of the stage have the microphone and would let them tell a little story.  It was a nice touch.

It could be easy to think of them as a 2 song band but their entire set was fun and the crowd was interested in what they were doing.  The singer Jade parted ways with the band but it wasn’t until we got home that we did some research about it. During the show I was a little distracted expecting her to come out and sing.

I did have a strange feeling like Alex was an Andrew WK type person, that there’s some type of over the top hippy persona. However reading his Wikipedia is interesting as he used the Edward Sharpe character as a reinvention of himself.  Overall I had a blast.  I wish I was able to buy the tickets at face value but even for what we had to pay they put on a great show.

And yes, I’m looking into a new camera.

show review: SubT – Autonomy, RLYR, United Nations, Coliseium

Autonomy at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Autonomy at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 (drum brother in back) – photo credit: Drumnmike

I only have a few drum brothers, but Chris Avgerin is one of them.  We first met around 2008/09 when my band arbogast (for the love of god there’s 2 different arbogast bands on Spoitfy.  We’re all lowercase letters and a LOT different than those foreign dudes) played with his group Blood of the Tyrant and Heaving Mass.  Throughout the years he’s supported me with my various projects and I’ve done the same with him.  When he couldn’t perform at 2 Brothers brewery with his band Belleisle I filled in on drums for him, learning 20 some indie pop songs within 2 weeks.  Drum brother.

Anywho, that’s how Aaron, bassist of aforementioned arbogast, CaSK, and now Marinoan reminded me Chris was playing Friday at the Subterranean.  We walked in during the first song of Autonomy’s set, and was surprised.  Every time I see Chris play he seems to be with a different style band. Whether it be heavy metal, mid tempo metal, speed metal, prog rock (although I’ve just heard them, haven’t seen them), how surprised could I actually have been seeing him play with an 80’s new wave goth punk band. The bass player switched between keys and bass, and the singer had self deprecating humor about his band.  “Stick around for the good bands” he joked.  Chris per usual tore it up, mostly in the mid tempo range but the dude is always solid, and always gives exactly what’s needed for the band.  Last show I saw him play was in Nequient which was the speed metal band, and he tore it up, exactly what the music needed.  On Friday he tore it up in the exact way the music needed.  Dude can play.

RLYR at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
RLYR at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike

Next was RLYR featuring members of Pelican, Russian Circles, Locrian and Bloodiest. This band took the feel of those groups and did their own thing, as a 3 piece. They’re not in a rush to get where they’re going, and they take you on a walk through the mud.  Getting stuck every couple feet with pine and random tree branches scraping your face.  It was my first time hearing them and I was not dissapoint.  During their 30 some minute set they played 4 songs max.  They were clearly epic.  It was instrumental, heavy, loud, and they did a great job doing it.

United Nations at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
United Nations at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015- photo credit: Drumnmike

This band was also a first exposure for me, and they freaking ripped.  Especially right after the slow build of RLYR these guys were a great compliment to make you pay attention.  They had mostly shorter songs, but they jumped between death metal, technical metal and metal riffs.  As with most bands with a singer, he used the space between songs to talk and share his views of the world.  A few times when he sang I couldn’t put my finger on why he sounded so familiar, but drum brother Chris tipped me off to the fact they have rotating members, but Geoff Rickly, the singer from Thursday does the yelling in this group.  Pretty cool someone of that stature still tours small clubs with a power violence group.  Even more interesting was after they played, because of course I’m considerate of the people around me during shows, I read up on their Wikipedia page about their controversies. Of course having such a name as a band would lead to some issues that follow it, and the revolving yet not naming of members is quite an interesting way of moving forward as a band without getting in trouble.  Geoff makes a valid point stating that punk has gotten pretty safe and so continuing to tow the line between getting in trouble and not makes them that much more intriguing.  The music was extremely intense, if you’re into that sort of thing.  Which I am.

Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike

Lastly was Colesium, touring in support of their new release Anxiety’s Kiss.  As Aaron put it, they were refreshing.  They weren’t over the top on anything, they didn’t pull back on anything, but they were straight forward mid tempo rock, with a tendency towards the heavy side.  arbogast was lucky enough to play with them back in 2013 when Aaron and I were trying to push on with a temporary guitarist, and it was cool to see them again without having to worry about loading out gear. The guys have some of the coolest merch, typically focusing on cats and skulls, a shirt I purchased when we played with them. I must also add that one of my favorite things about SubT is that the shows are typically played on the 2nd floor (I know right) and surrounding the floor is a general admission balcony, so if maybe too many people are in your way or you just want a different view of the show you can enjoy it from above.  Although the views may be better from above, I had to walk down 1/4 through their set because the sound is a lot better on the floor.  Twas a cool show with a good blend of rock and metal styles, but still a lot of black shirts.

Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015
Colesium at SubT Chicago, June 26th 2015 – photo credit: Drumnmike