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July 2011 Archives

What to see Friday @ Lollapalooza

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At the annual Lollapalooza cattle call over the weekend, 140 acts will perform on eight stages in Chicago's beautiful Grant Park. As always, it's a lot to choose from. Here are some notes for FRIDAY -- some surprises, some best bets and the run-down on each night's headliners ...

1991 Janes Addiction 2.jpg

Perry Farrell leads Jane's Addiction in concert during Lollapalooza's first stop in 1991 at the World Music Theater in Tinley Park. (Jon Sall/Sun-Times)

Lollapalooza wasn't supposed to last 20 years. It was a miracle it survived 20 dates. The tour was a death knell, a tick on a bucket list, the proverbial last hurrah. That first tour, Lollapalooza 1991 -- that was meant to nail a particular coffin shut.

"It was the farewell tour for Jane's Addiction," says Perry Farrell, leader of that storied -- and now revived -- alt-rock band and inadvertent founder of Lollapalooza. "Marc [Geiger, his agent] called me up to discuss what we wanted to do, how we wanted to send ourselves off. He said we could do whatever we wanted. Well, my background was putting on shows and parties in L.A. I would never play the straight clubs, I was always finding the weird loft or setting up in front of a hot dog stand or taking people into the desert. I was used to putting on parties that had extra things. And Marc said 'whatever you want.' So I said, 'All right, I'll call you back.' I wanted to really think about it."

Geiger, now head of music at William Morris Endeavor and still booking the new stationary Lollapalooza, recalls the idea for a roving festival being sparked in London.

After a Jane's Addiction club show, Farrell lost his voice, thus forcing the band to cancel its appearance the next day at Britain's Reading Festival, an annual multi-band music event dating back to the 1970s.

"I went on to the festival the next day and had an amazing time," Geiger says, "and we go back to the hotel, where the band is sitting around pretty depressed, and said, 'Man, you should have seen this. This is what we should try to do with the breakup tour.' Perry said, 'Absolutely,' and we sat in the lobby sketching out the format and making lists of bands. ... This being Jane's Addiction, there was a lot of interesting stuff going on. One day a while later, Perry called me at 1 a.m. and said, 'I've got the name!' He'd heard it on a Three Stooges episode."

Fried from drug abuse and exhausted from touring, by 1991 Jane's Addiction was ready to call it a day. Farrell and guitarist Dave Navarro were at each other's throats. They finished recording "Ritual de lo Habitual" and were able to agree on one last thing: the tour supporting that album would be their last as a band.

Farrell had no reason to think it would repeat itself.

"I wanted a longer lineup, just because I wanted to have a wilder, bigger party," Farrell says. "If it's a farewell, then let's invite some of our musical friends and peers. Nothing was supposed to come of it, you know. I had no intention of doing it again. I mean, the thing was over and William Morris and Marc and these guys are all really enthusiastic and saying, 'We think we can get the Red Hot Chili Peppers for next year!' -- and I went, 'Wait, what? Next year?'"

Farrell's musical Frankenstein (created also with help from Jane's manager Ted Gardner and booking agent Don Muller) would become the undead monster stomping through popular music and the summer concert scene for years to come. Lollapalooza lived, died, and in 2005 was born again as an annual, stationary "destination festival" in Chicago's Grant Park. This weekend the event is sold out, meaning 90,000 fans a day over three days will hear 130 bands on eight stages.

Two NBA stars -- Shannon Brown and Michael Finley -- have joined forces to present a four-day carnival and music festival this weekend to benefit their old Proviso high school district west of Chicago.

The WoodStars Festival is scheduled to take place 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thursday-Sunday on the football fields at Proviso East High School, 807 807 S. First Ave. in Maywood.

That's the latest information, anyway. Be advised the location for this event has changed a few times since its hasty announcement a few weeks ago, and there's a detailed account of production and security concerns about the event here.

If it comes off, it's a big show. After Thursday's carnival with games and rides, a huge roster of R&B, hip-hop and gospel talent has been announced for the event, including Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Naughty by Nature and SWV on Friday; Twista, Faith Evans, Chico Debarge and more on Saturday; and Ace Hood, James Fortune and Nelly on Sunday.

Kanye West, Jay-Z form The Throne, schedule tour

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News that they were recording an album together was exciting enough -- but wait, there's more.

Kanye West and Jay-Z announced today their hotly anticipated new album together, "Watch the Throne" -- finally scheduled for an Aug. 8 release -- will be followed by a joint tour beginning in September. They're scheduled to perform two nights, Oct. 6-7, at Chicago's United Center.

Tickets go on sale Aug. 8 via Live Nation/Ticketmaster.

In addition, as a unit the pair now call themselves The Throne. Today's press release says The Throne is a newly formed "group," though there are no further details of other members.

Amy Winehouse dead: hardly surprising, still sad

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I told you I was trouble.
-- Amy Winehouse, "You Know I'm No Good"

If you're searching "Amy Winehouse" today on YouTube, add the word "Mercury" and give yourself the gift of watching her performance at the 2007 ceremony for the Mercury Prize, a music award for British and Irish pop music. (Watch it below!)

Timid but seductively coy, a skinny, pale but already eye-lined and beehived Winehouse takes the stage backed only by an acoustic guitar player. She's a brand-new talent at the time -- fusing a rock persona onto classic soul traditions with a jazz singer's power -- but already she has the confidence and talent to pull off the kind of moment Sinatra and Sammy dared much later in their careers with Antonio Carlos Jobim and Laurindo Almeida, respectively.

Winehouse starts out looking nervous, hunching her bared and tattooed shoulders, but she slowly warms into the tune. She draws strength from what she knows she can do, which is to crawl inside a song and drag its deepest emotions into the light. This song is "Love Is a Losing Game." It's a rumination for wee, hushed hours, and the room is husher than hushed. It's so quiet you can hear a jaw drop.

When she finishes, she shrugs a shy "thank you" and tries to scurry off, leaving host Jools Holland to gush over the applause, "Amy Winehouse ... I've worked with a lot of people and I'm telling you she has one of the best voices of anybody of all time."

He was exaggerating, but not much. That's the problem -- now we'll never really be able to validate such claims.

CD reviews: The Cool Kids, My My My

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coolkidsfish.jpgIt's been a long wait for a proper album from Mikey Rocks (Antoine Reed) and Chuck Inglish (Evan Ingersoll), one of Chicago's most promising hip-hop duos: Cool Kids. After surfacing in 2007 in the wake of local breakouts like Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco, the Cool Kids released a series of fluid mixtapes and EPs and, because of some legal delays, are just now getting to a full-length platter.

Time has not blunted their rhyme skills, as they showed at SXSW, and the new album, "When Fish Ride Bicycles" (Green Label) (2<br />
and a half stars), is as easygoing as ever -- almost laid-back to a fault. Cheerily and often slowly, the Kids rap about mostly innocent topics, including a lot about cars ("Rush Hour Traffic," "GMC," "Gas Station") and the weather ("Summer Jam," "Bundle Up" ... I meant to ask MellowHype last week if their line "You faggots put on your jackets before it snow in the winter" was a dig at the Kids' "Bundle Up"), and they're joined by guests such as Ghostface Killah, Bun B, Asher Roth, Travis Barker and more. The reclined grooves come off as coasting on a few tracks, but overall this is sunny, smooth fare that should prop up the Kids' cred until things can get rolling again.

Summer Jam (featuring Maxine Ashley) by CBSIMG

In concert: The Cool Kids are at Reggie's Rock Club, 2105 S. State, on Aug. 5. Tickets: $20, available here.

Lollapalooza sells out for record crowd: 270,000 fans

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If you've been procrastinating your purchase of Lollapalooza tickets this year, you're too late. The seventh annual concert festival in Chicago's Grant Park sold out on Friday, according to promoter C3 Presents.

That means 90,000 people will attend each day of the three-day festival, Aug. 5-7, for a record total of 270,000. Last year's top attendance was 240,000.

Netherfriends: 50 states, 50 songs, 354 days

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Shawn Rosenblatt, the man behind Netherfriends, poses at the South Side theater where he lives this summer. (John Kim/Sun-Times)

Every now and then, a musician thinks he can do this. George Thorogood, being so bad to the bone, had no trouble. In 1981, the blues-rocker played a concert a day, each in a different U.S. state, starting Oct. 23 in Honolulu, winding around the mainland (including Nov. 11 at Chicago's Park West) and finishing Dec. 11 in Pasadena.

Others try to earn their stripes by recording songs for each of the flag's stars. In the '90s, the Dambuilders started writing a song for each of the 50 states. They only got to 15.

In 2003, indie-pop wunderkind Sufjan Stevens started his own 50 states project. He was going to write an album for each state, starting with "Greetings From Michigan," which was followed by his critical breakthrough, "Illinoise." That's as far as he got.

"That's the reason I've gotten no press for mine," says Shawn Rosenblatt, a one-man Chicago band called Netherfriends who earlier this year completed his own 50-songs-in-50-states project. "NPR knew about this but said they had no interest in it because of Sufjan, because he didn't finish. No one thought I would."

One of the first things you learn to do in journalism school is rewrite press releases, but when they come along as eloquently written as this one that arrived today -- from Between Friends, the Chicago domestic violence preventative organization that was one among several advocacy groups at the Pitchfork Music Festival last weekend trying to counter the frequently hateful message in the lyrics of rap group Odd Future and their Sunday performance -- I say run the thing verbatim.

It's a fine coda to an odd moment in a great festival ...

CD reviews: Bon Iver, Richard Buckner

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boniverself.jpgJustin Vernon did not perform at last weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, but on display there was so much of what fans have been debating about his divisive sophomore record as Bon Iver. From contemporaries like Fleet Foxes -- fellow delicate indie-folkies who faced difficult challenges on their follow-up but succeeded -- to the many acts (Destroyer, Twin Shadow, Ariel Pink) now mining this newly popular vein of early-'80s, soft-rock sonics, it seems much of the indie-rock world is wrestling with a lot of the same things giving Vernon fits on "Bon Iver" (Jagjaguwar) (1<br />
star), out now.

I say "fits," which implies movement, excitement, passion. Alas, despite a few moments of murky beauty, none of that is on "Bon Iver." Vernon is clearly trying to detour from the gentle, backwoods approach that made Bon Iver's debut, "For Emma, Forever Ago" such a breakout hit (to the point of attracting Kanye West's attention for collaboration). That in itself is admirable -- we want our Nells to stay in the cabin, but it's always best when they start talking and take on a life of their own -- but it seems Vernon took the turn before he knew where he wanted to go, and he sounds utterly lost.


Always a fair-weather fan of Sleater-Kinney myself, I checked them out one night in 2000 in New York City. As they took the stage at the Bowery Balloom and plugged in, some yokel in the balcony shouted, "I hope you're better than you were at Irving Plaza!" The crowd ooh'd, then booed. A challenge had been made, a gauntlet thrown. The next two hours were one sweaty, thousand-watt rebuttal.

There weren't many fair-weather fans of Sleater-Kinney. During their late-'90s, turn-of-the-century reign as the country's most intense and credible female alt-rockers (always with that gender qualifier, if not the dreaded "riot grrrl" tag), their emotionally raw performances and feminist convictions inspired fierce devotion among fans. Even Time magazine called them "America's best rock band." But by 2006, utterly spent, the trio announced an "indefinite hiatus" and hasn't regrouped since.

But late last year two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney, singer-guitarist Carrie Brownstein (now a co-star of cable sketch comedy show "Porlandia") and drummer Janet Weiss (also still half of the long-running indie-pop duo Quasi), reappeared in an emerging new band, Wild Flag, with ex-Helium guitarist Mary Timony and keyboardist Rebecca Cole (ex-Minders). You could say they're a supergroup -- but the Fugazi comparisons are closer than those of the Traveling Wilburys.

In March, Wild Flag made its debut at the annual South by Southwest music showcase, playing a rousing, irresistible set. The music was chunky, strong and urgent, but also lighter, bouncier, full of Cole's kitschy keys and layer upon layer of sunny ooh's and ahh's. Their energy positively crackled -- and they have successfully captured that on the band's self-titled debut album, due Sept. 13.

It's as if another gauntlet was thrown, and this new quartet feels they have even more to prove. We spoke last week with Weiss about that and more ...

The 15th birthday Hideout Block Party has been announced for the first weekend of autumn: Sept. 24.

Confirmed acts so far include ghostly indie-folk artist Andrew Bird, the queen of Chicago soul Mavis Staples, New Orleans bounce diva Big Freedia, soul keys legend Booker T. Jones, plus some great local bands including the Eternals, Opera-Matic, White Mystery, Kids These Days and, of course, Jon Langford & the Burlington Welsh Male Choir (his latest new band).

Tickets are $25, on sale at 10 a.m. this Friday (July 22) here.

Rebecca Black releases ... another song

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It's Monday, Monday, Monday ... and Rebecca Black's new single debuts tonight.

The 14-year-old singer -- whose music video "Friday" went kookoo-for-Cocoa Puffs online, racking up 167 million views thus far -- unveils a new song and video at 7 tonight on her official YouTube channel.

The song is called "My Moment" and chronicles Black's rise to fame, featuring clips from recent months of Black hosting MTV's O Music Awards and various TV appearances.

Black is currently finishing up a 5-track EP, due next month.

UPDATE: And here 'tis ...

... and, as expected, there's nothing here but a fluttery pair of eyelashes.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2011: The report

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Three days, three stages, 45 bands. I'm one man, I didn't see them all. But here's the table of contents from this blog's dispatches during another great year at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park:

Guided by Voices, Neko Case
James Blake
tUnE-yArDs, Animal Collective
Gatekeeper, EMA

DJ Shadow, Fleet Foxes
The Dismemberment Plan, Twin Shadow
No Age, Off!
Cold Cave

Cut Copy, TV on the Radio, Deerhunter
Yuck, How to Dress Well, Kurt Vile
Odd Future (interview with Hodgy Beats, plus more Q&A)

The CHIRP Record Fair (plus someone's find)
Sunday's heat, cooling opportunities
Take your photo with Rahm Emanuel
Pitchfork festival heads to Paris

Odd Future's show, the crowd, and fan reactions
Keeping cool in the heat
Out in the crowd
Interview with Battles
Interview with James Blake

Cut Copy was the hit of the Pitchfork Music Festival's third night, delivering a set of its '80s-inspired dance-rock that had Union Park jammed and jumping.

p4k-cutcrowd.JPGThey're just four clean-cut Australian blokes in nice shirts. But in the middle of "Saturdays," just as the sun was fading out a broiling afternoon, Dan Whitford called out a simple arena-rock, crowd-juicing trick -- "On the count of three, I want you to go crazy! One, two, three, go!" -- and craziness ensued. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing to watch a crowd of nearly 18,000 people jumping and waving hands in time, freaking the frack out, throwing inflatable things around and spraying water, with wide eyes and smiles from ear to ear.

The crowd was putty in Whitford's hand, a dynamic performer who makes up in audience engagement what he lacks in his pinched voice. Whitford commands the stage with a kind of authority that produces results; when he sings about something "in the sky" and points toward it, you look up.

Cut Copy is not a complicated band -- this is basic pop with disco grooves and lyrics about reaching for the stars, holding onto your dream and trying to get you on the phone -- and the crowd was full of fans, people who knew when to "ooh," when to "yeah!" and who cheered the songs they recognized just from the first synthesizer note. The band pulled from its whole catalog, including tracks from the latest album, "Zonoscope," and the new single "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" (a song from 2010, though it gained some note during the Arab Spring, so now it's a new single out July 25, packaged alongside a remix by fellow Pitchfork performer Toro Y Moi). When they started "Lights and Music," a propulsive tune with dissonant synths and the bassline from the Pretenders' "Mystery Achievement," the park went crazy without being told. Even Whitford was taken aback by the crowd's enthusiasm, blurting a "Wow!" when the song ceased.

As acts compete to fill the void left by LCD Soundsystem, the Oprah of indie dance-rock, Cut Copy might have a chance for a breakthrough.


Yuck jams together Sunday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

London quartet Yuck has been one of the biggest hypes this year -- the lines to see each of several showcases last spring at SXSW were long and futile -- and while they couldn't hope to live up to it, their '90s Shoegaze Fanclub shtick is growing on me.

Curly-haired Daniel Blumberg plays guitar and sings with a permanent crick in his neck, often stooped as he grinds out Lush swells on guitar. His longtime mate and fellow guitarist Max Bloom fills whatever spaces Blumberg doesn't -- he added a great slide solo to "Suicide Policeman" -- and the parts make for a pleasant whole. They were more laid back Sunday, swinging between the riffy fun of "The Wall" and a few songs so easygoing and with melodies so loping I half expected Jackson Browne to join them. In March I said "it should make for a harmless summer '90s revival," and voila.

Pitchfork Music Festival: CHIRP Record Fair

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Staff Reporter

Clint Pogue and girlfriend Courtney King, both 22, traveled from Missouri to attend the Pitchfork Music Festival, but it wasn't just for the concerts -- it was also for the record fair.

Since Pitchfork's inception, CHIRP Radio has hosted a record fair, which offers deals on vinyl, crafts and clothes.

"It's pretty awesome," Pogue said. "I really love the idea of having a true music library, and we get really sweet deals."

This year, 45 vendors participated in the fair, which is placed inside the festival area. Music Direct, a record store on Laflin, has been a part of the fair since it began.

"We like to expose a new generation to vinyl and give good prices," said Kyle Vanderlaan, 30, of Music Direct.

Jenny Lizak, vice president and marketing director for CHIRP, said the record fair is part of what makes Pitchfork great.

"When Pitchfork started, they wanted it to be more than just music ­this allows people to do some shopping, buy the bands' music and get out of the sun," said Lizak, 33. "It's park of the Pitchfork experience."


Clint Pogue Courtney King peruse the Music Direct table at Chirp Radio¹s record fair during Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday. (Ariel Cheung/Sun-Times)

-- Read our complete Pitchfork report
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Pitchfork Music Festival: Odd Future


Tyler the Creator performs Sunday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Tom Cruze/Sun-Times)

For controversial rap group Odd Future, Sunday afternoon at the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival began with a little damage control.

p4k-OFcupcakes.JPGLess than an hour before taking the stage in Chicago's Union Park, members of the group delivered boxes of cupcakes to the anti-violence organizations on site -- the same organizations manning booths and handing out paper fans containing domestic violence resource information specifically to counter what they saw as dangerous expressions of hate, violence and homophobia in Odd Future's music.

"They took some of the fans, too," said Amanda Wapiennik with Family Shelter Service. "One of them said, 'See we're nice.' I said, 'We never said you weren't.' ... That's exactly the kind of dialogue and exchange we're looking for."

It was nice while it lasted.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Cooling off

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Fans look happier after spending a few minutes inside one of the CTA cooling buses on site at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

And here's how they were beating the heat ...

Pitchfork Music Festival: The heat is on

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Beginning Sunday, a mass of hot air arrives in Chicago -- and we don't mean all the pundits debating the worth of Odd Future.

It's going to be hot, hot, hot -- the start of possibly the biggest heat wave here since 2006. The National Weather Service calls the impending heat "massive."

The forecast highs on Sunday are in the mid- to low-90s, but with humidity the heat index will make it feel near or over 100 degrees.

The heat will be around all week, but right now we care about Sunday in Union Park (and other festivals around town).

At the Pitchfork Music Festival ...

-- There is at least one CTA cooling bus on the grounds, parked at the end of Flatstock, and if needed, there will be an additional cooling bus at Ashland and Washington.
-- The first 6,000 attendees through the gate each day will get a free bottle of water.
-- On Saturday, the festival hooked up some free water fountains, the better for you to keep your water bottle filled. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.


Do as these folks were doing on Saturday: Fill up your water bottles at the free water fountains. (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)

Another rock writer and festival veteran taught me a nifty trick for these things: a wet washcloth in a Ziploc bag. Add a little cool water here and there, wring it out, wipe your face, neck, arms. Or, as one of the Pitchfork publicists was doing Saturday, simply wear it on your head.

Want more Pitchfork fest? Fly to Paris this fall

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Lollapalooza expanded internationally this year, launching Lollapalooza Chile in April. Now Chicago's own Pitchfork Music Festival has announced it's also going abroad.

Pichfork Music Festival Paris will premiere Oct. 28 and 29 in that city's Parc de la Villette. The lineup thus far includes Bon Iver -- who not only plays Oct. 29 but also selects the other bands on the bill -- as well as Wild Beasts, Cut Copy, Kathleen Edwards and more.

Tickets are 79.90 Euros (roughly $115), available via

Pitchfork has previously collaborated on performances at Britain's All Tomorrow's Parties festival and the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, Spain.

Pitchfork Music Festival: DJ Shadow, Fleet Foxes

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It's pretty funny watching a field full of people all staring at the same thing -- nothing.

DJ Shadow, the highly influential mixmaster Josh Davis, performed his turntable set from inside a large white globe. On the Red Stage on Saturday evening sat the globe, with various psychedelic projections hitting its surface (not the full array he's given to other crowds in the dark, however), and inside -- allegedly, at first -- was Davis, knitting together his breakbeats and samples. The crowd cheered, and stared at the white globe. On a video screen to the east, cameras within the sphere showed Davis hard at work spinning his tables, toggling switches, cradling headphones to one ear and syncing up the next sound, beat or piece of music.


His mixes are exciting, no doubt -- the thumping bass must have vibrated windows in Lakeview -- pushing funk, rock, slow jams, jazz, ambient music, whatever works through the stacks. But the gimmick was a strange gambit in a penultimate slot before nearly 20,000 people. Midway through the show, the back hemisphere of the globe spins around, revealing an opening and showing Davis to the crowd for the rest of the set. (A good thing, too, otherwise you couldn't help but wonder if Davis wasn't lying on a beach in Brazil, sending just the globe, a reel-to-reel of the music and that synced video out on tour.) The fourth DJ Shadow record in 15 years, "The Less You Know, the Better," will be out this fall, and here's hoping we next see him indoors and in the dark.

The transition from DJ Shadow's club atmosphere to the sweet, earthy folk of Saturday night headliner Fleet Foxes was a radical shift, emblematic of the catholic tastes of Pitchfork fans ...

p4k-dplan.JPGI'm not sure I've ever seen Travis Morrison this giddy.

Always a self-satisfied performer -- and a wicked-nerdy dancer -- Morrison's shows at the helm of the still-reunited Dismemberment Plan are never stiff, but Saturday he seemed exceptionally loose and free-spirited. We last saw D-Plan in February at the Metro; the band ceased activity in 2003 but reunited late last year to tour in support of a classy vinyl reissue of their 1999 masterpiece "Emergency & I." The tour finished, this was the only remaining show on the band's books. It's last? Again?

Maybe that's why Morrison was riding high even as he squinted into the late-day sun. The band certainly sounded crisp -- throughout this tour they've been sharper than ever, with bassist Eric Axelson and drummer Joe Easley strutting as one of rock's sharpest rhythm sections -- and dished out more wordy, jerky faves, still heavy on the "Emergency & I" tracks. In the outdoor summer heat, they hilariously started into their most anthemic song, "The Ice of Boston," a tale of cold New Year's Eve loneliness that in concert traditionally finds Morrison inviting fans to join him on stage during the song. "No, you can't come up on stage," Morrison said Saturday, noting the impossibility of crowd access to the festival stage, "and, frankly, I'm relieved. I don't need the microphone in the teeth, as usual."

Pitchfork Music Festival: No Age, Off!

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Los Angeles drum-and-guitar duo No Age bashed out punkish songs on Saturday's Red Stage in a set that just got more chaotic as it went. Drummer Dean Spunt is also the duo's singer, and watching him flail at his kit and still try to keep his mouth on the mike is entertainment alone. Meanwhile, guitarist Randy Randall ping-ponged back and forth on the stage, nearly toppling over during oldie "Neck Escaper."

Throughout the No Age set, water -- and water bottles (empty, the ones I saw, thank goodness) -- flew everywhere, in impressive fountains shooting straight up from the crowd or in thrown spray. Later, at the Blue Stage, Keith Morris of the punk band Off! advised his similarly inclined crowd: "Don't throw stuff around! That's not cool. DRINK the water. Stay hydrated."

After an opening homily -- in which Morris warned, in the understatement of the day, "We're gonna bring a different flavor to the party today" -- Morris and his band, a supergroup offshoot of the Circle Jerks, bashed out a ferocious set of hardcore and speed metal. Rare was the song that passed the two-minute mark, propelled down the fast lane by riffy guitarist Dimitri Coats (Burning Brides) and bassist Steven Shane McDonald (Redd Kross). The particular flavor added by Morris was his occasional off-the-cuff homilies ("F--- people" from a guy who actually seems so nice ...) and unearthly caterwauling.


Keith Morris lets us have it Saturday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival.
(Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Pitchfork Music Festival: Cold Cave on a hot day

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One thing I never thought I'd get at a Cold Cave show: a sunburn.

There was the New York darkwave trio, all pale and wrapped in black leather (pleather?), defiant in the fierce Saturday afternoon sun early on day two of the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival. I would have welcomed an environmental catastrophe that would've blacked out the sun and plunged these moody bastards into the dark where they belong, but the contrast emboldened their presentation.

Rahm Emanuel at Pitchfork Music Festival (in paint)

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A painted cut-out of Mayor Rahm Emanuel makes a fine photo opp at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)

Rain today ... purple or otherwise?

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A fan's three-dollar catch at the CHIRP Record Fair on-site at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Thomas Conner/Sun-Times)

Spotty rain chances throughout this afternoon. Keep an eye on it!

Talking to fans at the Pitchfork Music Festival

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(Reporter: Ariel Cheung. Video: Jon Sall. Sun-Times)

Stubbornly prolific band Guided by Voices returned to Chicago for the fest, still going with its reunited "classic" '93-'96 lineup last seen here at the Riviera Theatre last October (the band's "final" show was New Year's Eve 2004 at Chicago's Metro). But the longer this rascally band trundles on, the more fun they get. Lead singer Robert Pollard is growing into his natural curmudgeoness, and Friday evening's set was 45 minutes of pure kicky, catchy rock.

Pollard took the stage with a confident "1, 2, 3, kick it!" and opened with "Echos Myron," joined by Neko Case singing harmony and shaking a tambourine. Clutching a tequila bottle ("He's probably pretty hammered," one fan noted mid-set) and dangling a cigarette, Pollard and his jittery leg led the band -- with the rip-roaring twin-guitar attack of Tobin Sprout and Charles Mitchell -- careening through an oldies but very good set. It was the kind of rock and roll that actually sounds bettered by the off-key, absurdist warblings and occasional feedback from the PA. Not much was going to slow these guys down.

Pitchfork Music Festival: Battles interview and set

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A chat with the members of Battles (about two of the three's Chicago days) shortly after their Friday evening show:

More on their set after the jump ...

The intrepid Merrill Garbus, the central figure of tUnE-yArDs, won for best soundcheck of the day. Portents of what was to come, Garbus called out various wails and "day-oh's" into the microphone, which then looped back through the speakers in endless arrays to make a choir of one. The crowd gathered at the small Blue Stage cheered wildly, and the show hadn't even begun yet.

Garbus' proper set leapt to life with "Party Can (Do You Want to Live?)" on the strength of those looped vocals, a lynchpin of the tUnE-yArDs' engaging, exciting set. Singing, re-singing and playing her own abbreviated drum kit, Garbus, her face streaked with colorful war paint, wailed and cooed and hollered through a set bristling with punkish spirit -- at least in the defiant creativity of the electronically enhanced arrangements, amended here and there by two saxophone players -- and bracing composition, from the "wah-ooh-wah" vocal round and bleating jazz climax of "Gangsta" to the occasional instances of barking and guitar scraping.

Each song found dissonance and harmony tugging at war, never finding an easy truce but always a workable and tuneful solution. By "Powa," another track from this year's "W H O K I L L" album, Garbus was singing more naturally -- and soulfully -- her powerful pipes stretching out a bit as more than mere fodder for the sequencers. The tech never diluted the songs, the songs never lost their spirit of celebration and joy. "You're a wonderful sight to see out there," she said, catching her breath. "You're a massive bundle of love." Back at ya, m'dear.

We caught just a few minutes to sit down with soft-spoken London dubstep musician James Blake before his performance this evening at the Pitchfork Music Festival:

After the jump, a report on his beautiful set ...


Joel Janchenko, 18, from LaGrange dances to the music of EMA on Friday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival. (Scott Stewart/Sun-Times)

Oh, is this the way they say the future's meant to feel,
Or just 20,000 people standing in a field?
-- Jarvis Cocker

The first band scheduled to play the 2011 Pitchfork Music Festival was, of course, Gatekeeper. The electronic duo kicked off just after, of course, the gates opened at 3 p.m. sharp for this seventh annual indie-rock-and-more event at Union Park in Chicago's West Loop.

Nearly 50 bands will perform on three stages here in Union Park during the next three days, and more than 50,000 fans are expected to attend. Tickets (surprisingly) remain for tonight's acts and Saturday's bill. Sunday is sold out.

The first kids through the gate Friday afternoon began sprinting toward the main stage. The park was virtually empty; why in such a hurry? "If I didn't get a spot up close for Animal Collective, then the night would be a complete disaster," said Jimmy Chang, 17, from his blanket near the lip of the Green Stage. "I am NOT MOVING!"

Four days of Pitchfork Music Festival after-shows

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Perhaps you didn't score tickets to the Pitchfork Music Festival this weekend, or you've only got so much scratch, or you prefer your rock and roll in the dark where it belongs. Either way, here's a look at the related indoor after-shows where festival artists will appear during the weekend ...

The lineup for the sixth Pitchfork Music Festival is typically diverse and occasionally challenging, featuring headliners such as James Blake, Animal Collective, Neko Case, DJ Shadow, Zola Jesus, Fleet Foxes, Cut Copy, HEALTH and TV on the Radio.

There's a lot to see -- and hear -- so here are three don't-miss acts from each day of the festival:


EMA.jpgErika M. Anderson, 28, moved to California from her native South Dakota and honed her rock skills in indie bands such as the Gowns and the folk-metal mash-up Amps for Christ. Her recent solo debut, "Past Life Martyred Saints," ignited music blogs with its PJ Harvey-esque power and thunderous dynamics. Intense and moody, Anderson wields an old-soul lyricism that allowed her to transform Robert Johnson's "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" (on her first single, "Grey Ship") into a breathtaking 17-minute epic rather than the rookie stumble it could have been. The Penelope Houston of indie-rock?
3:30 p.m. on the Red Stage

tUnE-yArDs_MandN_squat_AnnaMCampbell.jpgMerrill Garbus' inventive weaves of recorded loops and fluttery vocals have expanded noise-pop to a level of joy not often explored. On the albums "Bird Brains" and this year's "W H O K I L L," she stretches and knits sounds for results at once urban, folky and sometimes worldly. In concert, she gets the audience involved, sampling the crowd's voices into a crazed choir, before bashing about with a ukulele and shrieking like a banshee. It's as if Bjork stars in the movie "Happy-Go-Lucky," and it's a blast.
4:30 p.m. on the Blue Stage

Das Racist.jpgSunday at Pitchfork is a hip-hop group that's generated a lot of controversy very quickly, but Friday there's one that's polarizing in a different way. This bi-coastal trio celebrates hip-hop almost as much as it makes fun of it, sometimes going for the joke a la the Beastie Boys but more often twisting the genre's natural wordplay into surreal pretzels. Call them deconstructive or damn funny, their albums and mix tapes inspire further thought about what exactly hip-hop still is.
6:30 p.m. on the Blue Stage


I'm not a f---in' role model
I'm a 19-year-old f---ing emotional roller coaster with pipe dreams
These motherf---ers think I'm supposed to live up to something?
-- Tyler the Creator in "Goblin"

They've been called "the future of the music business" for their freewheeling, Internet-based approach to recording and distribution. They've also been called "inexcusable," "reprehensible" and "dangerous" for lyrics that are frequently violent, misogynist, anti-gay and anti-police. They're called OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All), and they're a large, young hip-hop collective that's become one of the most divisive topics in music.

Odd Future, scheduled to perform July 17 at the annual Pitchfork Music Festival, has turned heads with some of the freshest sounds in hip-hop, heard mostly in tracks given away free online and on myriad solo projects by the group's members. (Odd Future, a sprawling bunch with 10 regular members, like a baby Wu-Tang Clan, performs together live but has only assembled tracks for two mixtapes.) Their songs are wildly aggressive and boundlessly creative, the wordplay crazy-clever and surprisingly sharp.

But it's those rhymes -- peppered as they are with rape, kidnapping, murder and torture fantasies, blasphemy, homophobia, you name it -- that's fixated the press and helped elevate this cult rap collective to the level of a Billboard magazine cover in March and last month's in-depth New Yorker feature, and it's the casual, matter-of-fact delivery of them that makes parents and activists apoplectic.

Some examples:
-- "Kill people, burn sh--, f--- school / Odd Future here to steer you to what the f---'s cool / F--- rules, skate life, rape, write, repeat twice" ("Pidgeons")
-- In the song "Splatter," Odd Future's biggest breakout star Tyler the Creator boasts of having sex with "your teen daughter ... always against her will" followed by the same with "this grandmother named Jill."
-- In "French" a business plan is hatched that, for some reason, includes a sexual act with the Virgin Mary.

Hodgy Beats, at 20 he and Tyler are the oldest of the mostly teenage group, spoke to the Sun-Times last week from a tour stop in London. As he and other members have maintained, Odd Future's lyrics, he said, are preposterous artistic expressions rather than reportage or incitement to action.

"Nothing is really serious," the laconic rapper said. "It's just like all the things in our music. It's in the atmosphere, it's in the world, and it's in our lyrics. ... I think it's funny that people flip out about sh-- like that."

Q&A with Hodgy Beats from MellowHype, Odd Future

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Hodgy Beats and Left Brain, members of hotly debated rap group Odd Future -- appearing Sunday afternoon at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago's Union Park -- also work together under the name MellowHype. The duo's self-released 2010 album "Blackendwhite" was reissued this week by Fat Possum Records with extra tracks, and a new album, "Numbers," is expected later this year.

We caught up with Hodgy Beats last week following Odd Future's performance at the T in the Park festival in Scotland, the last of a string of dates for the group across Europe. When we weren't rehashing the controversy about the group's violent lyrics, there was other stuff to talk about ...

Kanye West SXSW G.O.O.D. concert debuts online

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In March, at the end of the annual South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, Kanye West played an overnight concert, an unofficial showcase for many of the artists signed to Ye's G.O.O.D. Music label, including Mos Def, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Cyhi Da Prince and Mr. Hudson.

The show raged from after midnight till dawn inside a decommissioned power plant -- and it was filmed for a concert video that premieres online Tuesday. Here's a teaser ...

Tonight's Katy Perry concert has been postponed, promoters announced this morning.

The Friday concert at the Allstate Arena, as well as a concert tomorrow night in St. Paul, Minn., were pulled because of "an attack of food poisoning leading to severe dehydration," according to Jam Productions.

The Chicago-area concert has been rescheduled to Aug. 21 at the Allstate Arena. Tickets for tonight's show will be honored, or refunds are available at point of purchase.

"I apologize to my fans in Chicago and the Twin Cities for not being able to perform this weekend," Perry said in a statement Friday, "but I am going to return in a few weeks to give them the very best show ever!"

U2 at Soldier Field: Round two, far out

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Adam Clayton (left) and Bono perform with U2 Tuesday night
at Chicago's Soldier Field.
(Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times)

Bono's back is better, so Bono's back -- and a little bit better.

U2 returned Tuesday night to Soldier Field, making good on rescheduling a series of concerts postponed last year (including July 6, 2010, in Chicago) after the band's famous singer injured his back and required surgery. The band's 360° Tour began in June 2009 -- a few months after the release of its latest album, the creative if less commercially successful "No Line on the Horizon" -- and has lumbered around the world off and on since then.

In that time, the 360° Tour has become the most successful concert tour ever. Live Nation announced in April that ticket sales had broken the Rolling Stones' previous record of $554 million (for the 2005-07 Bigger Bang Tour). By the time U2 finally wraps this marathon on July 30, the take is expected to be $700 million. The show's monstrous, four-pronged, space station-like stage, dubbed "The Claw," also has been certified as the largest stage rig ever constructed for a concert tour. (Bono and The Edge have even suffered one of Broadway's biggest false starts with their beleaguered musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.")

If U2 is the biggest band on earth in so many ways, it's perhaps not surprising the final incarnation of the 360° Tour has its sights set on outer space.


What's a lover of pop starlets to do?

In making plans for this Friday night, Chicago concertgoers had a real dilemma -- likely depending on their age. It's the ultimate pop tart showdown: Britney Spears in concert at the United Center vs. Katy Perry at Allstate Arena.

The two music stars are only three years apart in age, though Spears has nearly a decade on Perry in the pop consciousness. They haven't crossed paths much creatively, though the Internet is currently buzzing with rumors that a remix of Spears' latest single "I Wanna Go" will appear next month featuring guest vocals by Perry.

Here's a look at the match-up ...

UPDATE: Katy Perry's show on Friday night has been postponed due to illness!


Dave Matthews performs at his first Caravan festival last Sunday in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP)

At the dawn of last summer's concert season, the Dave Matthews Band posted an announcement to its website: The veteran group would not be touring in 2011.

That's non-news for most bands, but Matthews & Co. had been out every summer for 20 years. The fact that they wouldn't grace some outdoor venue marquees for a full calendar was worth noting.

"We feel lucky that our tours are a part of so many people's lives," the statement read -- and that was a few months after Pollstar magazine declared DMB the most successful touring act of the previous decade, raking in half a billion dollars from 2000 to 2009 -- "and ... we're excited to make this summer one of our best tours yet, and look forward to returning to the road in 2012."

They played two nights at Wrigley in September. Then, allegedly, they were gone.

And then, this spring, they announced they'd be back.

"These guys love playing together, and when the reality of not touring started to sink in, they found they still had a desire to play -- just not to tour," Coran Capshaw, Matthews' longtime manager, told the Sun-Times last week. "So we took that and it sort of morphed into this festival concept."

That festival concept is the Dave Matthews Band Caravan: four three-day music festivals in strategic cities this summer, featuring 39 bands hand-picked by the DMB, including O.A.R., Ray LaMontagne, Drive-By Truckers, Ben Folds, David Gray and the Flaming Lips. The Dave Matthews Band also will headline each festival -- each night.

So, this summer (and maybe others), we add the DMB Caravan to Chicago's ever-growing schedule of three-day concert fests, including the Pitchfork Music Festival, July 15-17 in Union Park; Lollapalooza, Aug. 5-7 in Grant Park, and the North Coast Music Festival, Sept. 2-4 back in Union Park.

But there's more to this story. First, the Chicago Caravan will take place next weekend, July 8-10, at a brand new venue, a former industrial site near 83rd Street and the lakeshore that's never held a concert before. Second, in addition to assistance from the site's developer, McCaffery Interests of Chicago, the Caravan here is being produced by both Jam Productions and Live Nation/Ticketmaster -- fierce rivals in the local concert business, to say the least.

Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.


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