Olivia Block @ Rockefeller Chapel, 4/21/17

Olivia Block is hands down one of the best current composers to cut her teeth in the underground scene, and her recent space- and structure-oriented work over the past few years has been a really exciting channeling of her talents. This performance was incredible. OB filled this chapel on University of Chicago’s campus with sustained organ tones and pre-recorded drones, causes hundreds or little pockets of new resonances to take shape. Laying on the altar and blissing out gave you different music than sitting in the pews, or standing under an arch, and so on. Really special stuff.

Olivia Block keeps the release schedule pretty steady, and put out a self-titled album on Another Timbre later last year. OB’s 2015 cassette on NNA is especially choice, if you need a recommendation.

This video was shot by Erica Gamble at an event put together by LAMPO.

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Fran @ The Hideout, 5/30/2017

Jesus Christ Fran is good. For a while it seemed like the chokehold pop punk and the emo revival had on the underground rock scene would never relent, but it seems like things are starting to change. Fran’s songs are catchy and complex, a little strange, bringing to mind the side of the fork in the road of ’90s alt rock that didn’t lead to Creed. I’ve heard the Aimee Mann comparison a lot with Fran, but I’m hearing more Paula Cole. Oh man, and Maria Jacobson’s voice is wild. It had the entire Empty Bottle rapt during those register leaps at Fran’s EP release show.

Speaking of EP, the band’s debut on Lake Paradise is really good. Just five songs, all of them basically ear worms. Wow.

Not sure who shot this video or who set up the show.

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Andrea Pensado @ Elastic Arts, 8/5/2017

Make this video full screen, turn it up loud, and watch the whole thing. This is what Andrea Pensado does and it is chilling. We’re lucky that she’s one of those performers whose live work actually translates to video so well, and the security cam angle here lends the whole affair an especially haunting quality. You feel just like you’re trapped in a prison cell with a ghoul, right? Oo!

The Argentina-born AP has been a Massachusetts scene presence for well well over a decade at this point, doing solo performance work making computer music something truly freaky as well as playing in the bands Phurnne (also an incredible project, alongside Jen Gellineau and Stephanie Germaine) and Los Condenados.

This video was shot by Erica Gamble at a show organized by Julia Dratel.

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Potions @ Situations 2/18/2017

 

If ever their were a man who knows the definition of “groovin'” it’s Tom Owens. Potions sets will keep you wiggling forever and ever, like this dude’s whole existence revolves around booogying. I booked Potions for this show. It was his live set in many months and he kept insisting he was only going to play for 20 minutes. I said, alright, but you really could play for longer if you want to. He played for much longer than 20 minutes. It reminded me of the first time I saw Potions after moving to Chicago back in 2014, when he did seven separate encores.

Potions has some great tapes out on 100% Silk and Hausu Mountain, and DJs every now and again for the fantastic community radio station in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago, Lumpen Radio. TO also fronted Distractions for a long while, a band that many Chicagoans still talk of glowingly. Pretty sure he also lived at Ball Hall?

This video was shot by Erica Gamble.

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A+E @ Peanut Gallery 8/10/2017

A+E had a real hot streak in 2017, making a strong case for Chicago’s most exciting act of the year. Consensus amongst those who have seen these two jam recently is that they have been passed Excepter’s baton whether Excepter knows it or not! In a year that saw Alex Beam and Erica Gamble (yes, the one who shoots all that good video and helps out with this site!) continue to perfect the blend of pseudo-techno industrial beats, Eurorack wormholing, and reverb moaning, this set from Peanut Gallery may be their finest.

Right around the end of last year, A+E recorded several hours of material, so hopefully get get a release or five out of them soon. In the mean time, be sure to check out their SoundCloud for some samples.

Video shot by Erica Gamble at a show organized with the help of Alex Beam.

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Jaimie Branch Quartet @ The Spot, 5/8/2017

Goddamn this is some good jazz. Jaimie Branch does some wild stuff with a trumpet and knows how to put together an ensemble to boot. There’s a good reason JB’s album on International Anthem from last year is getting a lot of praise, and it’s because this is an incredibly fresh take on free jazz. There’s no fear hear about making a lot of sound, which is so refreshing given the typical tip-toeing-until-you-slip-on-a-banana-peel-and-knock-over-a-shelf-full-of-china approach to free jazz/improv that’s the standard these days.

Check out that album Fly or Die if you haven’t. JB always gets real heavy hitters to help out, demonstrated by the presence of brilliant improv cellist Tomeka Reid in this video here.

Video shot by Soshull 78.

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RP Boo @ Elastic Arts 10/13/2017

Here’s another one from the Hurricane Maria benefit a couple of months back. Erica Mei Gamble filmed this one too. I’ve really never seen someone flip a switch and get an entire dance floor moving like RP Boo did. Literally every single person in the room was boogying, it was something else. Boo flipped “Funky Town” cementing the best vibe in the world.

This guy gets the credit for inventing footwork, but for my money RP Boo deserves a reputation as one of the most exact music-makers working today. If anyone understands the that music is a thing of joy, it’s Boo. His wife (whose name I forget and feel very bad about that) came out to blog about the event but I can’t find that blog post, most likely because I don’t remember her name.

Buuuu!

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