Jazz, baby! Inclusions has an interesting take on free jazz, in line with the compositional strain of the genre that was really Ornette Coleman’s wizardly innovation. No free funk here though, just beautifully structured post-post-post-post-bop blessed with savvy Sun Ra influence, melody, and bursts of atonality. Where’s the album, guys?
Inclusions features two members of ADT — Carlos Chavarria on sax, Adam Tramposh on keys — plus Scott Dunkerly on drums and Jeff Wheeler on baritone guitar.
The video was shot by Erica Gamble at show organized by Jeff Wheeler.
You see a lot of things going to experimental shows, but string quartet is rarely one of them. Andrew Scott Young, consummate bass virtuoso, has assembled this group to perform his own compositions and they are admittedly is best experienced in the flesh. That’s when you really feel those vibrations agitating the air and worm through your body. But, honestly, this video still rules.
The ensemble can change around a bit, but this one includes Hanna Brock, Kimberly Sutton, and Ike Floor. ASY plays in Tiger Hatchery (supposedly working on a new album, potentially for ESP-Disk again) and has put in stints with Circuits de Yeux, Riley Walker, and Mines. Plus a bunch of other stuff.
The video was shot at by Erica Gamble at an entry in the Resonance Series organized by Ben Baker Billington and Sullivan Roger Davis.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Ahhh Blackerface!! Force of freaking nature. Blacker Face is a lot of things at once: activist post-post-post-punk, a prog band, confrontational, good as hell performers. They’ve been going for a few years now, but have really started burning hot in the 2017, also known as the year of atomic dumpster fire. Seeing Blacker Face live leaves you good and sweaty, and likely chewing on a rant frontperson Jolene W/E gave about white people. Jolene is really good at railing against white people. Really really good at it.
This one was filmed by Erica Mei Gamble at a benefit for Hurricane Maria relief I put together with the help of Ben Baker Billington. The RP Boo set from this night is forthcoming, and maybe I’ll up the little talk from the Logan Square Neighborhood Association as well.
There haven’t been a whole lot of Golden Donna sets proper in the past year, with Madison, WI’s Joel Shanahan often opting for the Auscultation moniker. Those Auscultation sets, like ones that Erica filmed at Voice of Valley and last month at The Hideout, tend to be of the heady rager variety. This Golden Donna live PA at Smart Bar, on the other hand, is an emotionally heavy one. It starts off with some really sweet ambient house synth work, working eventually to a storm of sirens.
JS is one of the survivors of the Ghost Shop fire last year and it’s really been a pleasure to see him playing out, bringing his best. Like many of his unfortunate cohorts, JS has been dealing with a lot of aftermath, so be sure to download his most recent Golden Donna release Memory from Bandcamp in support. The live set from WSUM on that one is a gut punch, encapsulating the project’s oft-visited dream states. There’s also a running gofundme, for those so inclined to help directly.
Some quick editorializing: as an underground scene, it’s our job to show love to the people who survived Ghost Ship. We can show love by supporting the music they’re releasing to raise funds (such as 100% Silk’s recent compilation) and, even more importantly, by working to hold each other accountable and make sure this never happens again.
You have to hear the Fastness album that came out this year. Emme Williams wrote a batch of songs that’s like a Big Gulp full of all the sodas blended together (a “suicide” I believe?) but instead you’re sipping all of the human emotions. Fastness’s singular electric piano vocal jazz is a classic example of “they just don’t make it like they never used to, anymore.” In this host’s opinion, the two Chicago songwriters who should be putting out records on the biggest labels doing it are EW and Brett Koontz.
This may be the last performance Fastness has done with a full band, and it’s a real delight to hear the EW’s material get this exquisite jazzy treatment. The way EW uses her voice and piano as one instrument puts her performance front and center always, and that means she managed to make some real heavy hitters melt into the background here. In this video, she’s joined by Carlos Chavarria on sax (of ADT, Tarnation), John Daniel (computer ambient maven behind Forest Management) on drums, and Brian Sulpizio (aka Health & Beauty) on guitar. Beautiful performance from a fleeting combo. Really, check out that tape.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Emme Williams.
Hard to think of a more remarkable member of the Chicago scene than Travis. There’s a good chance he’ll go down as rock and roll’s last great frontman if the historians manage to drag their asses to an ONO show (they tour pretty regularly, btw). Audiences are consistently floored as this super fit dude in his 70s hollers “I dream of sodomy!” or does that classic number about the Tuskegee syphilis experiments.
DJ PTSD is Travis’s solo performance project and it really is something else. Much of his performance is original work about the violence — structural but nonetheless very real, very physical violence — he’s been privy to as a black, queer American living since the (original) Jim Crow era. He has been known, though, to perform some Julius Eastman from time to time. For some context on the moniker, Travis is a former Navy man and a ‘Nam vet. Shortly after the war, he was tapped by P Michael Grego to front ONO, and the rest is a history that we should really tell here sometime.
This video was shot by Erica Mei Gamble at a show organized by Julia Dratel.