Archive for July, 2009

Josh Ritter at the Metro.

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Ritter at Metro

Last night, Apryl and I attended a free Josh Ritter concert at the Metro. Well, it was free for us because I managed to win a Ticket Giveaway contest from Radio Free Chicago. As for the show, my keenest observation is this, Josh Ritter loves his job. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone performing on stage so excited and carefree. Throughout the evening, as Ritter would look out into the large, appreciative crowd, he would grin wildly as he literally bounced, jumping up and down in place. He must have thanked the crowd (as well as his band, the Metro, Chicago, etc.) at least a dozen times. And never did it seem like an act. Towards the end of the show as the Ritter’s faithful screamed with adoration, he shared, “The world is weird. But this makes it a lot easier.”

While I typically don’t like the singer/songwriter genre, Ritter seems to go beyond some of the genre’s simplicity. Being backed by a highly skilled, tight band helps. But he is also a very clever even romantic writer. And he has his own voice, even if at times, it channels Bruce Springsteen (which makes sense since he covered The Boss’ “The River” during the encore). He also reminds me a lot of Memphis’ Cory Branan who I could easily see on a double bill with Ritter. Both Ritter and Branan write music that’s instantly catchy with lines that are memorable enough that shows become sing-a-longs with their fans. And boy did Ritter have his fans! I’m not sure if it’s like this on the entire tour but Chicago (and the Midwest) sure loves their Ritter. The club was packed, and Ritter could do no wrong.

Below, a very short video of Ritter and his fans:

Uni Sox

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

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Check out this article from one of my favorite sports blogs, Uni Watch. For those unfamiliar, Uni Watch is an obsessive look at the sports uniform. It might not sound very exciting but believe me it’s highly addictive!

The day I met a Malnati.

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Chicago Deep Dish Pizza | SpikeTV | SPIKE.com

I worked on this segment of Food Dude where I learned the art of making a Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. The best part was that they fed us pizza for lunch!

Grumpy Old Men (and Ann) aka Chicago vs. Memphis!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Has anyone seen these reviews from Breakfast at Sulimays? Breakfast at Sulimays is an online video segment where senior citizens review current releases in hip hop, indie, and rock? Typically, they don’t like it. The above episode gives us the brutally honest opinions from Bill, Ann, and Joe on Chicago’s hip hop act BBU and their number “Chi Don’t Dance” as well as Memphis’ own Jay Reatard and his latest single, “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me”. Enjoy!

Buehrle’s Top Ten List – Update!

Monday, July 27th, 2009

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Tune into the David Letterman show tonight as White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle reveals the Top Ten “Things That Went Through Mark Buehrle’s Mind During His Perfect Game”. Should be a hoot!

UPDATE: If you missed Buehrle’s appearance (along with Josh Fields and Dewayne Wise) on Letterman, here was the Top Ten:

10. “I did it! I did it! Oh wait, it’s only the fourth inning.”
9. “If this doesn’t get Kate Hudson to notice me, nothing will.”
8. “Too bad I’m not on my own fantasy team.”
7. “My brother-in-law bowled a perfect game.”
6. Fields and Wise: “We’re going to Disneyworld!”/Buehrle: “and I’m running for the Governor of Alaska.”
5. “Did I remember to Tivo ‘So You Think You Can Dance’?”
4. “I’m leaving after the 7th inning to beat the traffic.”
3. “Should I shave my back?”
2. “Sunflower seed… lodged in my windpipe… Get Help!”
1. “Maybe I’ll give up one hit so I don’t have to appear on Letterman.”

Wicker Park Music Fest

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Junior Boys

Junior Boys on the South Stage.

Elvis Perkins

Elvis Perkins in Dreamland on the North Stage.

It’s tonight!

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

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History!!!!!

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game today! For non baseball fans, a perfect game is one where a pitcher doesn’t allow a single opposing player on base, meaning no hits, no walks, or hit batters. A perfect game is so rare that it has only happened 18 times in Major League Baseball and now twice in the Sox franchise history. It was such a major accomplishment that even the visiting team took time to applaud Buehrle before retreating to the locker rooms. And amazingly, this is Buehrle’s second no-hitter of his career. You can check out the last out here. However, perhaps even more exciting than that, is Wise’s home run stealing catch that he bobbles out of his glove yet still manages to grab barehanded. You can view that here. For those really pumped, you can watch there entire 9th inning here. Only act fast before YouTube takes it down. ESPN coverage here. And oh, photos here.

SHELebration

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Shel crowd

    If you are a dreamer, come in.
    If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar.
    A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
    If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
    For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
    Come in!
    Come in!

    “Invitation” Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends

Last week, Apryl and I partook in SHELebration, a free musical and poetry event celebrating the life and work of the late Shel Silverstein. Famously known for children’s books like Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree, Silverstein was also an accomplished songwriter (“Cover of the Rolling Stone,” “A Boy Named Sue,” etc.), cartoonist, and screenwriter. The tribute, which was held at the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park , was put together by Bobby Bare Jr. and starred a slew of guests including Bobby Bare Sr., Patrick Hallahan (My Morning Jacket), Sally Timms (The Mekons), Jon Langford (The Mekons), Will Oldham (aka Bonnie Prince Billy), and acting as the house band, The Bare Family Band. Why Chicago, you ask? Well, Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago in 1930. He even sold hot dogs at Comiskey Park when he was a kid and remained a lifelong White Sox fan. For more information about SHELebration, check out this great article from the Tribune.

Here are a few photos from the event:

Miss Lori

Miss Lori and the Campus Kids from PBS read and act out the works of Silverstein.

Sally Timms

Sally Timms sings “One’s on the Way,” made famous by Loretta Lynn.

Bare Jr

Bobby Bare Jr. performs Silverstein’s most famous songwriting contribution, “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” originally recorded by Dr. John.

Will Oldham

Will Oldham dons a ladies wig and performs another tune originally sung by Loretta Lynn called “Hey Loretta”.

The hilarious Bobby Bare Sr. entertains the kids as well as the adults.

And, here’s a short video of the finale, “Unicorn”:


Pitchfork Music Festival – Recap

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Hayden at Pitchfork

Well, it’s over! After 3 days and 40 artists, the annual Pitchfork Music Festival is now officially in the books. Without doubt, this was the highest attended Pitchfork since the festival’s conception three years ago (four if you count the Intonation Music Festival curated by Pitchfork in `05). With cheap tickets and headline acts such as The Flaming Lips, Built to Spill, and The National, it’s easy to see why the festival was sold out.

While it would be an extremely long post if I started reviewing each act from this past weekend, I will mention a few of the highlights. So here we go:

Day 1 had a gimmick behind it. Labeled “Write the Night,” all four bands’ playlists were predetermined by the fans who were able to vote on what they wanted to hear that evening beforehand. Theoretically, the idea seemed strong, but with only an hour on stage, there were a lot of requests that had to go unfulfilled. It also lead to some disappointing choices such as when Yo La Tengo played “Pass the Hatchet, I Think I’m Goodkind”. Sure, it’s a great song, but it was on their last album and had been played numerous times on their last tour. On top of that, it’s a long song so it took up a chunk of Yo La Tengo’s playing time. It didn’t help that the group cheated and added three new songs into the mix.

Yo La Tengo

Yo La Tengo rockin’ it out!

The strongest set was probably from Built to Spill, despite the fact that it contained very little material from the band’s early career. Built to Spill are just an amazing live band, and it was great fun hearing so many of their classics in a row. It also didn’t hurt that they played one of my all time favorite songs, the Halo Benders’ “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain”. The experiment probably worked the best for openers, Tortoise, making their set an almost “best of” collection. However, I had to overhear the majority of their set while standing in line for Will Call. More on that later.

Built to Spill

Doug Martsch of Built to Spill gives the fans what they asked for.

On Day 2, I was excited about seeing Final Fantasy, Beirut, DOOM, and The Black Lips. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself the most impressed with Plants and Animals, Wavves, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. (OK, Final Fantasy was just as amazing as I had expected.)

The first group I caught on the second day was the Canadian group, The Plants and Animals. The band is clearly an indie band but one that was raised on classic rock. Their 2008 release, Parc Avenue, even has an album cover that reminds me of a cross between the Allman Brothers’ Brothers and Sisters and Bob Dylan’s The Basement Tapes.

Plants and Animals

The Plants and Animals are from Montreal though the singer dons a Yankees cap.

The Wavves, which is basically a moniker for the 22 year old skater Nathan Williams, are a group that take lo-fi to the extreme. The Wavves’ sound consist of Williams’ highly distorted vocals drenched in noisy, pop guitar strumming. And as if the songs shouldn’t be taken too seriously, 5 of the 14 tracks on the self-titled debut (out on Oxford’s Fat Possum Records) include the word “goth” in the title. Despite Pitchfork’s high rating for this album, I was immediately put off by the amateurish production. The live version of the Wavves shines out a bit of the studio’s rough edges even though Williams’ vocals are still completely muddled through an effect pedal. At one point, Williams forget to step on the foot pedal after talking to the crowd without effects, and his lyrics came through clearly. It was nice, but I guess not the Wavves. Realizing his error, Williams immediately tapped his pedal, and the Wavves sound was restored.

The young Williams kid is also a bit of a loose canon, and his recent antics in Barcelona have been well publicized. I’m not going to go all into that but there certainly was a feeling around the crowd on whether or not Williams would have a breakdown. This feeling was heighten by the fact that the Wavves’ set was delayed starting due to technical issues. The most alarming part about the Wavves set was the shock of seeing Williams playing a guitar with a cast on his right hand. It seems he hurt it falling off his skateboard. Ah, kids.

Wavves

Wavves, frontman Nathan Williams, performs happily with cast and a Chicago Bulls cap.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have a horrible name but they create wonderful songs that are short, noisy, and poppy. The whole sounds reminds me of a marriage between My Bloody Valentine and bubblegum music. Too bad it took me seeing them onstage before I started to really appreciate them. But hey, that’s why bands tour, right? One of my favorites performances of the entire weekend.

On Day 3, everyone’s minds were set on The Flaming Lips. Without argument, the Lips are the largest booked act in Pitchfork’s history. With a reputation of over the top performances, just what did the Oklahoma boys have up their sleeves for the festival’s finale? We would all have to wait, but luckily we were given plenty of great music to tide us over.

Day 3 front entrance

Can you pick out The Flaming Lips fans?

The biggest surprise on Day 3 was Blitzen Trapper. Like Built to Spill, Blitzen Trapper are a great live band. And also like Built to Spill (and Plants and Animals) a lot of their influences are grounded in classic rock. However, on top of the classic rock, the group hodgepodges an assortment of genres that include indie, hard rock, and jam band. Even the band members themselves all look like their all different bands. Somehow it all works!

Blitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper aren’t a band I would typically seek out but there they were blowing my mind!

Another highly anticipated act was M83. The French group are getting a lot of exposure lately after their music was included in the new Palm Pre Flow commercial. Of all the acts throughout the weekend, I don’t think there was another band that was more appreciative of being a part of the festival. Though their set seemed short, they still managed to play a lot of their favorites (“Couleurs,” “Kim & Jessie,” “Don’t Save Us From the Flames,” etc.). Unfortunately, the guys didn’t cover any material for their debut, Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts. Still, great stuff.

M83

80’s fashion was very popular for concertgoers as well as M83.

The best dance act I saw was DJ/Rupture who entertained a smaller crowd than usual since The Thermals were also performing at the same time. Typically, I don’t care for watching DJ’s since it’s basically watching a guy in front of his computer. However, DJ/Rupture is so creative that it’s amazing to watch him. My favorite number was one where he slowed down Joy Division’s “She Lost Control” and created a trance version out of it that had all the hip kids dancing.

The hipsters shaking their hips!

As the sun went down and Grizzly Bear’s set came to end, the crowd got ready for the Lips. Like Phish (and at once, The Grateful Dead), the Flaming Lips are a group that have a traveling fan base with many of them dressed up as animals or space aliens. A Lips’ show is all about fun and fantasy so it makes sense that folks would want to go out of their way to be a part of that. There was no doubt who were the most loyal of the loyal.

Lips fans

Aliens.

As for the show, The Flaming Lips didn’t disappoint. I was afraid they were going to have to scale down the theatrics because of the park setting, but little seemed to be spared. Everything about their performance (art) was grand, including the band’s entrance where each member was “birthed” on to the stage. I’ll let you leave that one to your own imagination.

If you’ve seen a Lips’ show in the past couple of years, you are familiar with a lot of their antics such as Wayne in the bubble. Still, it’s always funny to see Wayne rolling over the crowd.

Wayne bubble

Wayne Bubble!

One of the main attractions on stage is a large screen that plays video that is often in sync with the rhythm of the music. Also, the screen is used to show an upclose image of Wayne as he addresses the fans.

Wayne Cam

I like to call it “Wayne Cam”.

For some reason, Wayne had some misconceptions about the Pitchfork Music Festival. Now, it’s true the fans picked the playlist for the bands on Day 1. But Wayne was under the assumption that all the bands throughout the weekend were bound by these rules. So, the Lips also participated in the online fan requests. However, Wayne was quick to point out that the Lips always played what the fans wanted to hear. And then the band followed with the requested “Bad Day,” which Wayne confessed they hadn’t played in 10 years!

Due to time constraints from the park, the Lips taking a long time talking to the fans between each song, and the addition of a few new songs, the Lips didn’t make it that far through their fans’ list. Still, it really didn’t matter. It was the “awe” that everyone came to see from the Lips. And the “awe” is what everyone got!

Flaming Lips celebration

The Flaming Lips making everyone smile!

However, the real story for this year’s Pitchfork was the weather. Typically, the temperatures are in the low nineties but this year the highs never even broke the mid 70’s. At night, it was time to break out the sweaters and blankets as temps averaged in the mid 50’s. Because of this, I’m not even sure this year’s Pitchfork should qualify as a summer music festival. Not that I’m complaining. I thought it felt wonderful. I can only hope for such agreeable weather in August while I’m working at the Lollapalooza festival.

Obviously, at a festival the size of Pitchfork, not everything is going to be perfect. For one, Will Call was a mess. It took 40 minutes to obtain our holding tickets! I blame this one on a lack of direction for the folks in line as well as an understaffed Will Call booth.

Will Call Line

Thankfully, Will Call was right next to the stage where Tortoise was playing or I would have nearly missed the first act completely!

Another misstep was the lack of food vendors on the opening night. Now while the first night is the shortest, the evening (thanks to the strong lineup) is still well attended and coincides with dinner time. So, obviously there’s going to be a lot of hungry people. Unfortunately, there were only two vendors opened and food was going fast. I should note that on Saturday and Sunday this wasn’t an issue, and I hardly saw a wait for grub.

There was an issue with a lack of port-a-johns on Saturday creating extremely long lines full of nervous folks. Seeing this as a problem, more port-a-johns were added for Sunday. Highly commendable.

One final gripe. The sound was a bit sketchy. A lot of this depends on where you are positioned from the stage. However, there were multiple occasions when the sound was too soft or there was too much bleed from another stage.

I suppose you could also suggest the idea that the festival is growing too fast. Compared to Lollapalooza where one can get worn out just walking from one stage to the next, Pitchfork is easily manageable. Obviously, there will come a day when the Pitchfork will outgrow Union Park and when that day comes it will be a real shame. Especially since, this is one of the few music festivals Apryl is able to manage crowdwise.

Apryl and Hayden

Apryl and I lying under our favorite tree.

Still, any qualms I have about the festival are almost trivial when it comes to the chance to see so many great bands all in one place for such a bargain price.

Tower thru trees

See you next year, Pitchfork!

– Check out all my photos and videos from Pitchfork here.