The last time I did one of these — in February — I didn’t yet know whether a monthly handpicks column would become a “thing” here. Turns out it didn’t, and that’s great. I don’t know that I like the structure of producing these month by month anyway. Music is feeling; an impulse. And I don’t think I’ve been as excited about a month of music in Chicago since, well, February.
If this is your first time reading one of these things here — that should cover just about all of you — then essentially I’m going to list a bunch of shows worth checking out.
Saturday, June 2: Do Division Street Fest 2012 @ Division Street (between Damen and Leavitt), 12 – 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 (suggested donation)
Recommendation: Mannequin Men on April 7, 2012 @ the Empty Bottle
I don’t know that there’s a more productive way to spend five bucks all weekend than at the front gate of Do Division Street Fest. In its sixth year, the outdoor party — which runs along Division between Damen and Leavitt — assembled some fairly impressive bills.
This is especially true of what it has on tap for day two of three on Saturday. I’d say White Mystery and In Tall Buildings are must-sees. (White Mystery because the one time I saw them — in the middle of a huuuuuuge tour — the brother-sister duo began their set and then didn’t let up until they were done. One song bled into the next. It was awesome. As for In Tall Buildings, the simple setup of guy on guitar/guy on drums produces music that soars. I’ve only ever seen them play inside venues with great sound — Lincoln Hall and Evanston’s SPACE — so I’m curious to see how they hold up outdoors).
Sandwiched between both bands are two garage groups I’d like to point out. I caught a song of Magic Milk’s set at the Empty Bottle the other day when they opened for Outer Minds and Mark Sultan. They piqued my curiosity and I enjoyed them. Stay for the whole thing — gig starts at 3:45 p.m. — or shoot over to the fest’s other stage at 4 for Mannequin Men.
Saturday’s lineup, with my picks bolded in black:
Peanut Butter Wolf 8:30 p.m.
Besnard Lakes 7:00 p.m.
Craig Finn 5:30 p.m.
Mannequin Men 4:00 p.m.
Peter O’Connell 3:50 / intro
In Tall Buildings 2:30 p.m.
Chris Connelly 1:00 p.m.
Le Butcherettes 9:00 p.m.
O’ Death 7:45 p.m.
White Mystery 6:45 p.m.
Brown Bird 5:45 p.m.
The Blind Staggers 4:45 p.m.
Magic Milk 3:45 p.m.
Saturday, June 2: Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s @ Lincoln Hall, 10 p.m.
Cost: $15 | Tickets
Other acts: Dinosaur Feathers, Whispertown
The last time, I think, Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s played Chicago, I had just completed a review of their 2010 album, Buzzard — which I liked quite a bit — and I happened to miss their set because I was either busy or out of town. If memory serves me right, that early fall show was at Lincoln Hall, which is the same space they’ll be playing at on Saturday.
In the time since, Margot released another record, Rot Gut, Domestic, which admittedly I wasn’t immediately fond of. Parts of it are growing on me, though. In particular, the pair of songs — “The Devil” and “Christ” — that end things on Rot Gut.
Thursday, June 7: Caught in Your Pockets @ Subterranean, 9 p.m. (8:30 doors)
Cost: $10 | Tickets
Other acts: Suns, Train Company (record release)
Recommendation: “3 Plus 4”
There might be no better way to find new music than to stumble upon it at a live show. There’s no more natural way, anyway. This is what happened for me when I went out for Elsinore and came home with Caught in Your Pockets. Their explosive mix of drums, bass and synth seemed like a weird cousin of The Runnies that downed a happy fun pill and studied up on what a contemporary take on the ’80s would sound like.
I do like them on record, but I so fondly remember their live show that I’ve been itching to see it again since. This night they open for two other local acts. One of them — Suns — I’ve been bandcamping while writing this and have enjoyed their stuff, and the other — Train Company — is releasing a record.
You know, I mentioned The Runnies in the CIYP write-up, and I did so purposefully. Their live shows are more kindred than their recordings might have you realize. I think on record Caught in Your Pockets comes off softer. That’s probably a fair assessment since they’re more sugary poppy, and Brynn Bixby’s vocals are pronounced, whereas The Runnies’ Mary McKane’s aren’t. But both groups are super high energy on the stage.
If Caught in Your Pockets is the go-getter, The Runnies is the schlub in the back of the room that doesn’t mind if it’s the center of the room or not. These guys, and I haven’t said so in quite this way yet, might be my favorite act working today in the city.
I found them on Valentine’s Day this year when they opened for Tyler Jon Tyler, and their peppy garage hasn’t escaped my system since. Their You Can’t Win, of late 2011, continues to get big play for me, and I’m excited to see where they go this year.
Friday, June 8: White Mystery @ Township, 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 | Tickets
Other acts: Total Slacker, Swimsuit Addition, Night Manager
Recommendation: “People Power”
In case you miss White Mystery at Do Division — or you prefer them in intimate setting (and in the dark) — they’re playing Chicago again about a week later at Township. Township, as you might know, I think sits somewhere in my top venues of the city list.
White Mystery is a total party. Siblings — Alex White on guitar; Francis Scott (Key) White on drums — so close that they front a garage rock band together. They also play a ton of shows all the frickin’ time; perhaps one of the hardest working (in live hours) bands I can think of offhand.
Friday, June 15: Cains & Abels @ Schubas, 10 p.m.
Cost: $10 | Tickets
Other acts: The Other Ceremony
In my review of My Life is Easy, I said without saying that Cains & Abels had released the best album by a Chicago-based artist in 2012. I think it true, still. David Sampson has such a distinct voice that it’s one you mistakenly think you might have to get used to after a first go around. Then you listen to My Life is Easy a second, third and so on time, and you wonder what you fuck you were thinking then.
I so wish I could share with you “Grow Me Home,” but record label restrictions stifle such enthusiasm. At most I can say they may play it for the room on June 15. The lead out on My Life in Easy, “Grow Me Home,” I think, is one of the best things I’ve heard all year.
I found out about Tyler Jon Tyler the same night I found out about The Runnies, actually. I’d been moved to scoot over to the Empty Bottle by a good friend with a good ear. Thank god for her, then, because I’ve since taken both The Runnies and TJT under my wing.
Maybe my attention is off, but I don’t know that TJT has played a Chicago gig since that Valentine’s Day show at the Bottle? I know they’ve played some in the ‘burbs. At any rate, after an early June set at Ball Hall, they’re celebrating the release of a record at Cole’s!
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