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TNK Spotlight: Nine Artists You Can't Miss at Tomorrow Never Knows 2019

It’s mid-January in Chicago, and you know what that means, right? Tomorrow Never Knows Fest kicks off this week! You’ve got your 5-day pass (or at least I hope you do—they’re already sold out), and now all that’s left to do is plot out your schedule for this annual indoor winter festival extravaganza that takes place across different venues in the city, like Lincoln Hall, Schubas, Sleeping Village and Metro. If you didn’t happen to snag five day passes, some of the shows still have individual tickets available, but read up on our recommendations and act quickly so you’re not left out in the cold for this year’s TNK!


Active Bird Community

Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry

Photo Credit: Eleanor Petry

Brooklyn-based four piece Active Bird Community combines long-term friendships with a candid, yet playful demeanor to deliver a live show full of punchy riffs and inside jokes told between songs. Tom D'Agustino, Andrew Wolfson, Zach Slater, and Quinn McGovern have been playing music together for more than ten years, which translates as a true sense of camaraderie both onstage and on their records. Every time I’ve seen this band, I spent their set bopping my head along to their upbeat melodies and laughing at their stage banter, making their set one not to miss at TNK. This past Fall, they released their third album Amends, which follows up 2015’s I’ve Been Going Swimming and 2017’s Stick Around, so their set at Lincoln Hall will be sure to feature some new music. For more on Active Bird Community, check out our interview here.

For Fans Of: The Frights, together PANGEA, Vundabar

Start With: “Pick me Apart,” “Virginia,” “Amends”

Where to catch them: Wednesday, January 16th at Lincoln Hall with Charly Bliss and Girl K

Lala Lala

Photo by Matthew James-Wilson

Photo by Matthew James-Wilson

The project of London-born, Chicago-based singer songwriter Lillie West (AKA Lala Lala) has been garnering buzz throughout the city the last few years, and recently nationally since West and her band toured nearly non-stop last year with bands like Frankie Cosmos, Wolf Parade and WHY?. 2018 saw the release of Lala Lala’s second full length album, The Lamb, which showcases West’s knack for honest and introspective storytelling through her lyrics. West also fearlessly dives into different sonic territories on the album’s twelve tracks, blending together different genres that portray the various emotions explored in the songs. The Lamb is easily one of my most listened to albums of 2018, and the band puts on one of the best live shows. If you need even more reason to add this to your TNK itinerary, this gig will be the last chance to catch Lala Lala in town for a while (they embark on a two month tour afterwards). Don’t miss it!

For Fans Of: Madeline Kenney, Jay Som, Soccer Mommy

Start With: “Water Over Sex,” “Scary Movie,” “I Get Cut”

Where to catch them: Thursday, January 17th at Metro with Varsity and Snail Mail

Pool Holograph

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

What began as a solo, bedroom-recorded project of songwriter Wyatt Grant has since blossomed into the full four piece that is current day Pool Holograph. With Zach Stuckman and brothers Paul and Jake Stolz joining Grant, their sound has filled out and developed in order to transition well in a live setting, making Pool Holograph’s show a must-see at this year’s TNK. The group recently followed up their 2017 album Transparent World with two new singles “Contours” and “No Escape,” which both highlight the band’s versatile sound that blends together elements of post punk, art rock, and lo-fi genres— or as Grant describes their sound, it’s like “a closed Urban Outfitters store circa 2008.” For more fun facts about the band (if that one didn’t already sell you), check out our interview with them here.

For Fans Of: Omni, NE-HI, Clearance

Start With: “Heat Map,” “Contours,” “Stratus Sheets”

Where to catch them: Wednesday, January 16th at Schubas with Bad Bad Hats, Video Age, Con Davison

Varsity

Photo by Kristina Pedersen

Photo by Kristina Pedersen

With their polished indie rock sound and memorable melodies, Chicago’s Varsity has an air about their music that is familiar without being derivative. Over the past few years, the group has toured regularly and shared stages with the likes of Japanese Breakfast and SALES, earning them a well-deserved fanbase that extends outside of the city. In the midst of touring (and sharing members Paul and Jake Stolz with Pool Holograph), Varsity still managed to release their sophomore album Parallel Person and two singles, “The Dogs Only Listen to Him” and “UFO,” in 2018. On top of all of that fresh music, the band teased the possibility of another brand new song being ready for their TNK set this week, so hopefully you already snagged tickets to this sold out show!

For Fans Of: Japanese Breakfast, No Vacation, Alvvays

Start With: “UFO,” “Downtown,” “A Friend Named Paul”

Where to catch them: Thursday, January 17th at Metro with Lala Lala and Snail Mail

Jordanna

Photo by Juliet Cangelosi

Photo by Juliet Cangelosi

Whether it’s her musical transformation from lead singer of a punk band to a sweet and soulful solo artist, her thoughtful marketing strategies, or her humor on social media (I mean have you seen her lip-sync videos??), Jordanna’s artistry knows no bounds. Her buttery vocals and sultry, smooth tempos are equally enthralling and soothing for her listeners and audience members, and she brings a sense of authenticity to everything she does. Jordanna’s debut EP, “Sweet Tooth,” features tracks like “Lucky For You” and “Sugar” which will be sure to have you grooving and swaying along. Her show at TNK is sold out, so hopefully you have a ticket or a 5 day pass— but if not you can also check out Jordanna at her own annual event on February 23rd: Candyland.

For Fans Of: Your Smith (FKA Caroline Smith), Tasha, The Marías

Start With: “Lucky For You,” “Eu Quero Você,” “I’m Your Girl”

Where to catch them: Thursday, January 17th at Schubas with Still Woozy, Victor!, Monster Rally

Yoke Lore

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Adrian Galvin (aka Yoke Lore) is part musician, part visual artist, part dancer, and part spiritual guru. He’s even an expert on pirates (more on that here). Despite the fact that Galvin has so many creative passions, he still manages to excel in all aspects of his art. Through his message and his music, Galvin radiates motivation and positivity that can’t help but lift your spirits when you hear it. By blending ethereal vocals, the occasional twang of a banjo, and sweeping melodies, Yoke Lore’s music is easy to love and hard to forget. Yoke Lore’s show is one of the sold out ones on this list, but if you were smart enough to snag tickets ahead of time, be prepared to be blown away at his show on Saturday night.

For Fans Of: Overcoats, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Lewis Del Mar

Start With: “Beige,” “Goodpain,” “Cut and Run”

Where to catch them: Saturday, January 19th at Schubas with Sontalk, Shortly, Ester

Bad Bad Hats

Photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash

Photo by Zoe Prinds-Flash

Minneapolis’s Bad Bad Hats earns a place on this list as one of the few non-Chicagoan bands with their bright, effervescent indie pop-rock. The trio, consisting of Kerry Alexander, Chris Hoge, and Connor Davison, has released two albums (the most recent, Lightning Round, just came out in August), and both records deliver a multifaceted, layered and diverse soundscape. Their sophomore album especially explores different genres and hues that set each song apart as a separate chapter, yet each track seamlessly complements the rest of the album perfectly. Their show at TNK will certainly keep the audience on their toes with the band’s dynamic catalog of songs.

For Fans Of: Hippo Campus, Maggie Rogers, Hala

Start With: “It Hurts,” “Midway,” “Psychic Reader”

Where to catch them: Wednesday, January 16th at Schubas with Video Age, Con Davison, Pool Holograph

Sports

With their groovy bass lines that you can’t resist dancing to and their live production that adds an extra layer of sparkle and shine, it’s impossible not to smile while at a Sports show. The band’s feel-good, synth laden music and the infectious energy that the band members all exude with their stage presence will make their show on Sunday night at TNK the perfect end to the five day festival. This past August, Sports followed up 2016’s album People Can’t Stop Chillin with Everyone’s Invited, so their set will be sure to feature some new tunes since their last show here in Chicago.

For Fans Of: POND, St. Lucia, Triathalon

Start With: “Panama,'“ “You Are the Right One,” “Don’t Tell Me”

Where to catch them: Sunday, January 20th at Lincoln Hall with Pavo Pavo and Arlie

Girl K

Photo by  Xitlaly Viveros

The brain child of Chicago-based singer songwriter Kathy Patino, Girl K, has provided a refreshing addition to the local rock scene, making a huge splash in a relatively short amount of time. Much like a few of the other artists on this list, the project began as a solo endeavor for Patino in 2017 before she added a full roster with musicians Ajay Raghuraman, Alex Pieczynski, and Kevin Sheppard. Girl K has kept Chicago music fans hooked by regularly playing shows around the city and releasing music— In 2018, Patino released three singles to follow up her debut full length Sunflower Court, and her recent live shows have featured performances of brand new material. 2019 is gearing up to be an even bigger year for Girl K, so don’t miss them kicking off TNK on Wednesday night.

For Fans Of: Beach Bunny, Lunar Vacation, Slow Pulp

Start With: “Dog Year Lungs,” “Cinnamon,” “80’s Baby”

Where to catch them: Wednesday, January 16th at Lincoln Hall with Active Bird Community and Charly Bliss


TNK Fest 2018: Five Must See Acts

Ahh, it's January in Chicago, which means snow and sub-zero temperatures. On the bright side, it also means it's time for Tomorrow Never Knows Fest, the annual multi-venue, 5-day, indoor (thank god) festival. Last year we wrote about our five most anticipated bands playing the festival, but we also discovered some new favorites, like Dream Version, Overcoats, and Acid Dad. While we're excited for pretty much all of the bands playing this year, and looking forward to even discovering some new favorites, here are our top five most anticipated acts of TNK Fest 2018.


HINDS

This Madrid quartet consisting of Carlotta Cosials, Ana García Perrote, Ade Martín, and Amber Grimberge crafts irresistibly lively and light-hearted lo-fi rock tunes with melodies that'll get lodged in your head for days, but their live show is where it's at. The four piece exude crazy chemistry and project so much positivity and energy whenever they take the stage, making their set at TNK 2018 one you absolutely cannot miss. Although they're based in Spain, 2017 saw HINDS over in The States quite a bit, performing at Coachella, and co-headlining a tour with Chicago's Twin Peaks. It's been a minute since they headlined a packed Empty Bottle here in the city back in May, though, so make sure you snag a ticket to welcome them back to Chicago. 

When/Where: Lincoln Hall //January 21st, 9PM. Grab tickets here. 

Start With: "Bamboo," "Garden," and "Warts"

ANCHR Recommended Local Bands Playing The Show: PEEL

For Fans Of: Twin Peaks, The Big Moon, Cherry Glazerr 

Photo By Aaron Serrano

Photo By Aaron Serrano

Ron Gallo

Speaking of incredible stage presence, the Nashville-via-Philly singer songwriter Ron Gallo puts on an unforgettable show. 2017 was quite the year for Gallo, which saw the release of his debut solo album, Heavy Meta, following Gallo's time with his band Toy Soldiers.  Heavy Meta sees Gallo exploring serious subjects in a quirky and blunt way, wrapped up in raw and rowdy rock tunes. Gallo toured heavily last year as well, not only touring Europe and The States, but appearing heavily on the festival circuit; playing Lollapalooza, Shaky Knees, Lou Fest and more! This year he's already been booked for Coachella and Hangout, but help him kick things off by grabbing tickets to see him with Diane Coffee at TNK Fest! You can get ready for the show by re-visiting our interview with Ron Gallo here

When/Where: Lincoln Hall //January 19th, 9PM. Grab tickets here. 

Start With: "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me," "Put The Kids to Bed," and "All the Punks are Domesticated

ANCHR Recommended Local Bands Playing The Show: Yoko and the Oh No's

For Fans Of: Cage The Elephant, The Districts, Naked Giants 

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Snail Mail

The brainchild of the Maryland musical prodigy Lindsey Jordan, Snail Mail brings honest alternative rock narratives that deserve your full attention. Following her 2015 and 2016 EPs, Sticki and Habit, Jordan toured extensively with the likes of Waxahatchee and Beach Fossils in 2017. This year is already filling up quickly for her, with Snail Mail being booked for Coachella and national tour dates announced through April. Help Snail Mail also kick off a sure-to-be successful year by coming to her show at Schubas Tavern, which features a stacked lineup of fellow badass bands and artists, including Stef Chura and Ratboys

When/Where: Schubas Tavern //January 19th, 8PM. The show is sold out, but you can grab TNK 5-day passes here

Start With: "Thinning," "Habit," and "Slug"

ANCHR Recommended Local Bands Playing The Show: Bunny

For Fans Of: Priests, Japanese Breakfast, Beach Fossils 

Photo By Audrey Melton

Photo By Audrey Melton

Liz Cooper & The Stampede 

Nashville based trio Liz Cooper & The Stampede blend multiple genres together to create a recognizable yet refreshing sound. The nomadic and multi-talented Liz Cooper fronts the group, and the trio's folk rock melodies mesh perfectly with Cooper's soulful and raspy vocals. The group has caught the eye of many lately; recording Audiotree sessions and performing at their annual festival last year, as well as making an appearance at the massive ACL Festival in 2017. The three piece will perform at Lincoln Hall with Rayland Baxter, and you can get ready for the show by re-visiting our interview with Liz Cooper & The Stampede here

When/Where: Lincoln Hall //January 20th, 9PM. Grab tickets here

Start With:  "Mountain Man," "Hey Man," and "Dalai Lama"

For Fans Of: Desert Noises, Big Thief, Julien Baker 

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Photo by Rachel Zyzda

Okey Dokey

Also from Nashville, the duo of Aaron Martin and Johny Fisher (guitarist for The Weeks) blend retro and soulful tones into psychedelic rock tunes that completely capture their listeners with the stories told in each song. Okey Dokey's show at TNK fest marks nearly a year since the release of their debut album, Love You, Mean It, which brought on an incredible year for them in 2017. Their show at Schubas will undoubtedly showcase their fun and dynamic spirit, and the lineup also includes former Chicagoan Cut Worms and Sonny Smith, so don't miss it!

When/Where: Schubas Tavern //January 18th, 8PM. Grab tickets here

Start With: "Wavy Gravy," "Coffee Boi," and "Low Rent/ Blue Skies"

ANCHR Recommended Local Bands Playing The Show: Cafe Racer

For Fans Of: Mt. Joy, Omni, Hoops

Photo Courtesy of Okey Dokey

Photo Courtesy of Okey Dokey


There you have it! Again, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Check out the full line up here, and make sure you get to all the shows early. So many of our favorite hometown bands are playing these shows, and they all need to be on your radar this year! Lastly, get ready for the show by listening to the official TNK Mixtape below.  

Big Thief Deliver a Powerful Set at TNK Fest Night One

The Brooklyn-based band headline a sold out Schubas as part of Chicago's annual Tomorrow Never Knows Festival

“Best song of 2017!” exclaims at audience member, after the Brooklyn based band Big Thief finish their popular track “Paul.”  It’s a Wednesday evening at a completely packed Schubas Tavern, and the first night of Chicago’s annual 5-day festival Tomorrow Never Knows.  “We’ve got a long way to go….I hope we can make it,” lead singer Adrianne Lenker responds. 

Forty minutes prior to this exchange, give or take a few minutes, the usually four-piece Big Thief made their way on stage sans guitarist Buck Meek, opening with a new track “Cut My Hair.”  It’s nearly midnight by the time the band starts, headlining a stellar line up of Campdogzz, Hoops, and Sam Evian, but from the minute Adrianne sang out the first line of her narrative-style lyrics, the crowd was mesmerized.  After playing new tracks called “Those Girls” and “Shark Smile,” Big Thief played some crowd favorites, “Vegas” and “Real Love” from their debut album Masterpiece.  The title track of the debut album immediately followed, the crowd singing along with Adrianne’s cutting, yet delicate vocals. 

Big Thief at TNK Festival 2017

Big Thief at TNK Festival 2017

The streak of older tunes ended and more new tunes followed, each still possessing Adrianne’s signature story-telling structure and emotive delivery.  Before playing the tune “Parallels” from the first album, Adrianne addressed the heavy presence of new songs on the set list, saying “We’re doing a lot of new songs, and we’re gonna do a few more…but not at this moment.”  Cut to the band playing “Paul,” and the exchange that happened between an enthusiastic fan and Adrianne.

Despite the fact that they were missing a band member, the remaining three bandmates all displayed incredible musicianship, with a no frills stage set up (they even had handwritten set lists) that allowed for the crowd to focus solely on the music.  Adrianne chatted briefly a few times between songs, connecting with the audience, but the rest of the time it was like Adrianne, James, and Max were in their own world with a magnetic energy coursing between each of them on stage.  The band managed to further lure in their audience by being so well connected and in-tune with each other.  

The hour-long set winded down with a couple more older tracks, including “Velvet Ring” and the single “Humans.”  Adrianne chatted to the still-mesmerized crowd before their final song, thanking everyone for coming out and mentioning they already have a new record finished.  “We’re just getting ready to make some copies of it.  It’s gonna come out in the spring, and a lot of these songs will be on there,” she continued.  The set wrapped up around 12:50AM, with a new track shown on the set list as “Terminal.” 

Keep up with all the latest on Big Thief and their upcoming album by heading to their website and signing up for the mailing list.  To hold you over until you can hear the new stuff, grab a copy of Masterpiece here.