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Live Recap: Ryley Walker, OHMME, and Ben LaMar Gay Brought Improv and Collaborations to the Empty Bottle

On Friday, December 28th, Ryley Walker, OHMME, and Ben LaMar Gay brought a sold out crowd to The Empty Bottle for a night of improvisation, collaboration, and celebrating live music.

The bill of Chicago natives kicked off with Ben LaMar Gay, whose set was definitely the most freeform and jazzy of the evening. The composer and cornetist took the stage right around 10PM bringing along a full band that included a tuba player. Throughout his 45 minute set, the audience got to experience elements of hip hop, avant-garde, and soul that focused more on the instrumentals and melodies over lyrics. Instead of a traditional set where you recognize the transition from song to song, Ben LaMar Gay’s set played out more like a theatrical play, where it moved from scene to scene or segment to segment. As an audience member, you could hear the improvisation happening, but the band worked so well together through the winding transitions that sometimes you doubted that any of it was free-form playing.

OHMME, the duo of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart, took the stage next, bringing the audience back to a more traditional place of arranged songs, but their show still had some surprise guests and songs. The set began with the song “Water” from OHMME’s debut full length Parts, which was released earlier this year. With its bold, distorted guitar and layered harmonies, the explosive opening song showcased why OHMME is one of the best live acts around and just how well Cunningham and Stewart work together. After the pair performed the title track from their album, they welcomed a friend onstage to play the drums and jingle bells, in place of their usual drummer Matt Carroll, for a rare performance of a Christmas cover song: “Jing-a-Ling Jing-a-Ling” by The Andrews Sisters. “In Chicago we do special things like that,” Cunningham told the packed room after the Christmas cover. During the performance of their single “Icon,” the pair were once again joined by a special guest to fill in on the drums, which celebrated the collaborative nature of the Chicago music scene.

Just after midnight, Ryley Walker and his band took the stage to close out the special evening with a performance that once again celebrated free-form and improvisation by blending elements of jazz and folk music. The show on Friday marked the end of Walker’s most recent tour in support of his album Deafman Glance and his own version of The Lillywhite Sessions by The Dave Matthews Band, both of which he released this year via Dead Oceans. The unique set began with a trumpet player center stage for the first few songs, which the crowd loved (at one point, an audience member yelled “More horn!”). Despite it being a late night, the venue remained completely packed as Walker and his band jammed out, delivering extended arrangements and feeding off one another’s energy. For the majority of the set, the songs blended into one another, smoothly transitioning very much like Ben LaMar Gay’s set had done. Walker would occasionally check in to see how the audience was doing, but surprisingly, he didn’t make any banter between songs. Based on his hilarious Twitter feed, I had been expecting some between-song jokes, but the focus of the set remained solely on the intricate musicianship displayed by Walker’s live band. While the set heavily featured songs from Walker’s 2018 projects, he did throw in some older tracks, like “The Roundabout” from 2016’s Golden Sings That Have Been Sung.

Overall, Friday night’s show highlighted what a wide array of talent the Chicago music scene has to offer at the moment, and captured the magic of friends playing live music together. If you missed out on a ticket to the sold out evening, check out our photo gallery below for a glimpse of what you missed.

PHOTOS: BRONCHO at SubT 12.02.17

BRONCHO returned to Chicago this past Saturday night to play Wicker Park's Subterranean for the second time this year. Check out photos from their set below, and see the rest of their upcoming tour dates here

Keep up with BRONCHO on social media:

Facebook // Twitter // Instagram

LIVE: Molly Parden and David Ramirez at Schubas 12.02.17

Molly Parden felt right at home opening up for David Ramirez at Schubas Tavern Saturday night. The two complimented each other in the most unique way. Molly's presence warms you up with soft ballads, silky measures, and heartbreakingly raw lyrics. Then, David jumps on to stretch that out, do a little yelling, and turn up the volume to make you feel emotions aplenty during their one night at arguably Chicago's most charming venue.

Molly's guitar makes way as an extension of herself carrying light chords with heavy hitting lyrics to reach every person from wall to wall, talking soul search to heartbreak. The ease on stage lent to this beautiful conversation between her, her severing sound, and the crowd in front of her. Her reflective nature makes you sink into every love lost, love gained, and love you hope to have someday away. She was joined by David's keyboardist, Matthew Wright, for the back half of her set. The pair were nothing short to an explosion of intimacy and pristine melodic banter. They shared a sort of ping pong match between Molly's daring words and Matthew's striking heartbeat through the keys. 

Molly also carried a subdued humor that set an affable tone for her show while noting her break from a contemporary Christian music upbringing, finding her space in the Nashville scene, and her ongoing new discovery of 90's music. Following that up, she surprised the crowd with her impassioned take on Gin Blossom's classic, "Found Out About You." Her music spins around very pointed moments in time, spaces and traces in a lifetime. She shared her lust for Kentucky in Kentucky, her influential Georgia roots, and just how much Chicago means to her. 

Molly Parden is a powerhouse wrapped up in a soft package; Wearing white Chuck Taylors, playing an acoustic guitar, she helps hearts navigate waves of longing and loss. Her latest transparent single, "Sail On The Water", follows her fervent 2016 With Me In The Summer album release, and she admittedly adheres to a slow moving writing process. It's hard to wait, but at least that means she nurtures these seeds with such care and grace that it is worth the passing time.

Molly will be riding along with David through December. You can follow the rest of their tour here. 

For more on Molly Parden, check out our interview with her here!

PHOTOS: Alex Lahey at SubT 11.24.17

Alex Lahey rocked The Subterannean this past Friday night. Check out photos from the show below, and see the rest of her upcoming tour dates here.

Can't get enough Alex Lahey? Listen to her debut album below, and check out our interview with her here!

LIVE: Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile Bring a Lotta Sea Lice and a Lotta Talent to Empty Bottle

Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett-- and their band of Sea Lice--closed out their three night sold out streak in Chicago at the legendary Empty Bottle. The pair took the stage just around 9:30, forgoing an opener, to perform songs from their recently released collaborative album Lotta Sea Lice. Their stunning performance began with Vile and Barnett's debut single from the aforementioned album, "Over Everything." 

From the get go, the crowd at the intimate venue radiated their excitement, displaying as much enthusiasm as a crowd of a larger size. Vile and Barnett radiated a similarly infectious energy, and an electric current of chemistry flowed between the duo and their other bandmates, which included Janet Weiss of Sleater-Kinney. While the pair performed songs from their Lotta Sea Lice album, they also bounced back and fourth between performing their own songs and covers from other artists. Although they both performed songs from their past albums, Barnett and Vile reworked their songs to make them duets, with Barnett taking on parts in Vile's songs like "Life Like This" and "On Tour." Vile also contributed to the live performances of Barnett's songs like "Depreston" and "Dead Fox." While they performed, the two would often back away from their microphone stands to meet in the middle of the humble stage, facing each other as they strummed their guitars. Whenever they did this, the musical chemistry between them only grew stronger, making the show that much more special.

Other highlights of the set included the performance of Belly's song "Untogether" and Gillian Welch's song "Elvis Presley Blues." The latter opened up the band's three song encore, and Vile and Barnett performed that cover as a duo without their band. The stripped back performance allowed for the duo's harmonies and flawless vocals to really shine through. As the night wound down, Barnett mentioned that the Empty Bottle had been where she played her first show in Chicago, so it was great to be back. The set closed out with two more of the pair's own songs; "Pretty Pimpin'" and "Avant Gardener."

The pairing of Barnett and Vile on this album and the accompanying tour showcases the magic that can happen when artists come together and instill a sense of community and camaraderie in the music industry. If you missed out on the spectacular evening, check out our photo gallery of the show below. 

If you can't get enough Kurt and Courtney, check out some photos from their second night in Chicago, at Thalia Hall.

See the rest of the Courtney and Kurt tour dates here, and listen to Lotta Sea Lice in full below!

Thumbnail photo taken at Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile's show at Thalia Hall on 10.27

PHOTOS: LANY at House of Blues 10.20.17

LANY took over House of Blues in Chicago to perform two nights in front of a packed house, and we were there to experience the first night. Their setlist included songs from their self-titled debut album, early EPs, and even a cover of Harry Styles' "Sign of the Times." A customized light show and changing visuals combined with frontman Paul Jason Klein's charismatic stage presence further enhanced the show for the crowd. If you missed out on the shows, get a glimpse of the experience by looking through our gallery below. 

LANY's North American tour continues through next month, and you can check out the remaining tour dates here. Get ready for the show by listening to their album in full below, and stay tuned for an interview with their opener, Dagny.

Warble Daze 2017 Highlights the Best of Chicago's Scene

Presented by Notion Presents, Warble Daze took over Logan Square Auditorium for a two day celebration of music and art, featuring some of the best up and coming rock bands around. Sourced mostly from buzzy local acts, Warble Daze called attention to the growing and tight knit music community that Chicago has to offer at the moment, but curator Stef Roti also selected other budding bands from Nashville, LA, and New York to diversify the lineup. Another factor that set Warble Daze apart from most other musical events is the addition of vendors stationed around the venue each night. From record labels and shops like Shuga Records and FeelTrip Records to local artists like Spaceburger COMIX and EO Lightshow, the event focused on the many facets of art that our city has to offer. Members from popular local bands like Post Animal, Bunny, and White Mystery also DJ'd between live sets. 

Friday highlights included local bands The Voluptuals, Lucille Furs, and Yoko and The Oh No’s, as well as the out-of-towners Levitation Room. As the crowd still trickled in, The Voluptuals opened up the evening with their glamrock wardrobe that caught the crowd’s eye as much as their ears. Lucille Furs kept that same level of energy up during their set, drawing one of the largest crowds of the evening despite their early time slot. Emulating the warm tones of your favorite 1960’s rock bands, Lucille Furs takes their listeners back in time while also putting their own refreshing spin on their 12 track self-titled debut. Their Warble Daze set also included a few unreleased tracks, despite their album being released less than a month ago. Levitation Room echoed those same retro and psychedelic vibes during their set. The receptive audience welcomed the Los Angeles band with open arms, dancing along and at one point attempting to crowd surf. Although the crowd was a bit sparse for surfing, Levitation Room definitely appreciated the effort. Yoko and The Oh No’s rocked the closing set, delivering nonstop energy and positive vibes despite their headline set starting around midnight. Lead singer Max Goldstein commanded the crowd’s attention, working all sides of the stage and playing harmoniously with his bandmates, which includes event organizer Stef Roti.

The same community spirit picked right back up on Saturday night, despite the pouring rain and thunderstorms going on outside. New band Town Criers opened up the evening, performing their new single "Rip It Up," along with a handful of other unreleased songs from an upcoming EP. Their lively stage presence and grungey garage rock tunes got the early crowd geared up for the bands that would follow. Cafe Racer and Joe Bordenaro, who have both become regulars on lineups at venues across the city, also made Chicago proud with their sets that followed. Touring bands Acid Dad and The Nude Party really stole the show though, winning over the Chicago audience with their boisterous and rowdy performances. Similarly to the local acts of the night, both Acid Dad and The Nude Party performed a mix of newer tracks from upcoming releases, but they also got the crowd grooving to familiar favorites. By the time Modern Vices closed out the weekend, it almost felt as if the auditorium had been transformed into a retro high school dance due to the 1950's style that the band have mirrored so perfectly in their music. Lead singer Alex Rebek's full and rich vocal tone perfectly compliments the old school vibes of Modern Vices, and it's no wonder the group was picked to headline Warble Daze 2017. 

The twelve bands and the audience of Warble Daze reaped mutual benefits by the end of the weekend; with the bands getting a chance to showcase their new work and the crowd getting the opportunity to discover new music. The Chicago music scene has been on a steady incline the last couple of years, and events like Warble Daze help shine a light on the influx of new talent. To relive the magic of the weekend, check out photos of all the performances below!

Friday Photos Featuring The Voluptuals, Lucille Furs, No Men, Steelism, Levitation Room, and Yoko and the Oh No's

Saturday Photos Featuring Town Criers, Cafe Racer, Joe Bordenaro, Acid Dad, The Nude Party and Modern Vices

If you missed out on Warble Daze, catch some of the local acts at upcoming shows around the city. Check each band's social medias or our gig calendar for all of the updates. 

PHOTOS: LPX Closes Out Tour With RAC at Metro Chicago

We recently caught LPX's Chicago debut at The Riviera Theatre with HAIM and we were so blown away by her energetic whirlwind of a performance we had to catch her closing night of tour with RAC. Check out photos from that show below.

Keep your eye out for more new music from LPX!

LIVE: Fleet Foxes and Nap Eyes at Chicago Theatre

This past Tuesday night, lingering Summer vibes clung to the air as concertgoers stepped into the Chicago Theatre to be transported to a different place, where they would spend the evening with beautiful souls and people willing to open up their hearts to music and art. Who better to facilitate the journey but the Seattle based Fleet Foxes and Nap Eyes, who set the mood with indie rock vibes all the way from Nova Scotia.

After the tone had been set, Fleet Foxes graced the stage for the first of two sold out nights at The Chicago Theatre, as part of their Crack-UP Tour. They surrounded us with those soothing folk jams, and their signature, powerful falsettos that juxtapose beautifully with a rich, full sound. To complement that all, their stage setup engulfed us in a beautiful watercolor setting with the most satisfying color pairings.

Fleet Foxes treated the crowd to half of their latest album, while also carefully taking us back to their beginnings. Frontman Robin Pecknold also indulged audience requests like "Textbook Love," a song from their self-titled EP, and even Phish snippets when someone yelled “Play more Phish songs!"

The evening felt very intimate, despite being in a spacious venue. During the encore, Pecknold performed solo, addressing the madness of the previous day: the Vegas massacre and Tom Petty’s passing. As a protest, he delivered a very touching cover of Petty's "Don’t Come Around Here No More."

Photos of Nap Eyes and Fleet Foxes

See all of Fleet Foxes' upcoming tour dates here, and listen to Crack-Up in full below.