For most of 2008, Howlin Rain’s sophomore release Magnificent Fiend has completely dominated my listening. For those of you who don’t know, Howlin Rain is Ethan Miller of Comets on Fire’s other band. The record came out at the beginning of March, but I’d received an advance copy early in the year and took to it immediately.
Howlin Rain’s 2006 eponymous debut was damn good, but in retrospect laid the groundwork that was undeniably built upon with this release. Where the debut was cautiously and deceptively unadorned, MF is full of vintage goodness, sounding like a lost gem from the golden era of album-rock. It brings us back to an age when organic chemistry and clever arrangements lead to an album sounding like a complete, cohesive thought. Ethan Miller’s marathon vocals lie atop a rich tapestry of organs, pianos, horns, and overdriven guitars set against a rock-solid rhythm section. Long story short – Magnificent Fiend kicks serious ass.
After 2+ months of immersing in the record, I was ready to see those tunes live. I finally got my chance March 27 at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. I’d spent so much time with the studio output that I’d conveniently forgotten about how the songs might play out differently live. From the opening moments of Death Prayer in Heaven’s Orchard off the debut, I was quickly reminded that Howlin Rain is a living, breathing organism just beginning to find its legs and navigate through life. Throughout the course of their hour set (which was WAY too short), there were moments of absolute brilliance and moments where the whole thing was hanging on by a thread. The biggest thing I noticed watching Ethan and company navigate through the set was how real it all was. Read on for more…
Last Thursday I had the pleasure of catching Brooklyn’s Bryan Scary and the Shredding Tears at the Subterranean in Chicago. I was not very familiar with the material going into it, but had heard of the band through a close friend who checks them out down South. Said friend played me their new Flight of the Knife (out April 4 on Black and Greene Records) earlier in the week, and a surprisingly large amount stuck after only one pre-show listen.
Flight of the Knife is a sprawling epic about The Knife, “the greatest flying machine to ever sail the skies” which no one had seen. The record follows Venus Ambassador on his quest to save the flying machine from the “furthest reaches of the world” where it teeters on a cloud. I don’t think I’ve listened enough to fully grasp the continuity of the plot (which I can only assume is there), but the songs themselves are delightfully poppy while remaining musically interesting and grounded in familiar sounds. They tumble and shift in erratic ways that end up making perfect sense, providing for an incredibly diverse listen.
On the whole, this record plays like Alice Cooper and Ziggy Startust arguing over McCartney melodies, while listening to Frank’s Freak Out having just finished some Gabriel-era Genesis and Beatles (you know, just as George was starting to become a forceful songwriter). Read on for more about this exciting new band…
Armed with a new record and a new guitarist, The Black Crowes brought their “One Night Only” tour to a capacity crowd at the Park West on Friday. For seven nights across the country, the Crowes will perform the new Warpaint record in its entirety along with a brief set of classics and covers.
In times of change, the band always seem to revert back to a club tour to get their bearings. They had a similar setup on the East Coast to kick off 2005’s reunion, and this run proved to be a similar situation – allowing the band the comforts of intimacy while road-testing the material before delving into their usual outdoor summer plans.
These shows also provide a means for new recruit, Luther Dickinson, to ease himself into the mix – a transition that is more than already under way. Luther’s stamp is all over Warpaint, making it a surprisingly focused record whose weak link appears to be Chris Robinson’s lyrics. The songs themselves are the most interesting to come from the Brothers Robinson since 1996’s Three Snakes and One Charm, something which Dickinson and bassist, Sven Pipien can be given a lot of credit for. Pipien finally seems comfortable in his role, and is downright assertive on the new material – a welcome change from his playing during the awkward By Your Side days. Read on for more…
Today, local blog Chicagoist reported that the Metro has decided to ditch Ticketmaster, and move all ticketing services for the Metro and SmartBar in-house.
This is a huge move considering the venue is 25 years old and has had a long-standing relationship with the event-ticketing overlords. The fact that it could signal the beginning of the end for TM amuses the hell out of this guy. It shows other venues that utilizing Ticketmaster’s “service” is no longer a necessity, which should (hopefully) bring costs down for us.
Props to Metro for being so in-touch with their audience and having the confidence to know they’ll remain one of the Midwest’s premiere rock clubs.
Somewhere, Eddie Vedder is smirking over a bottle of red wine.
On Saturday, Chicago promoters Triple Dot Mas will celebrate its sixth anniversary in style at the Double Door with performances from the Tim Reynolds Trio and powerhouse upstarts Van Ghost. You don’t want to miss this exciting pairing.
Widely known for his work with Dave Matthews, Tim Reynolds has recently embarked on his first tour with a full band in eight years. The Tim Reynolds band (or TR3) promises to bring “a mix of updated Tim classics to wild covers of everything from James Brown to Prince to Tim’s newest catalogue of material he is preparing just for this tour,” according to his website. Read on for more…
Hidden Track started as a New York City-centric blog, but we’ve always aspired to bring you content from around the country. Today we’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our reach towards Middle America.
Please welcome the newest member of our team, Joel Berk, who will head up our coverage of the Midwest. You’ll be hearing about a wide range of music from our new Chicago Bureau Chief, but he’s gonna start by recapping Wilco’s Riviera run:
Alt Country rebels…folk rock heroes…pop darlings…sonic explorers…
All of those clichés were probably used to (correctly) describe Wilco at various points of its career, but during the band’s Riviera Residency in Chicago last week, one thing became clear: Wilco is a rock band.
Photos by Joel Berk
Over the course of five sold out evenings, Jeff Tweedy and company worked with precision through every song to appear on an official Wilco release and sprinkled in a smattering of other rarities. A daunting task as each record has a different sound and lineup. But the band rose to the challenge with an ease that can only come from being at the top of one’s game.
The current sextet is unbelievably focused and locked in as a unit. They dusted off gems like A.M.’s Dash 7 and Being There’s Hotel Arizona, making them sound as fresh and vibrant as ever. The comfort with which the current incarnation handled the older/out-of-rotation tunes was shocking at times, most notably on Monday’s Summerteeth gem, My Darling. Urging the band into unfamiliar territory, Tweedy reassured “we can do this” before introducing the song as “a lullaby” to close the second set. Read on for more including downloads from the Wilco run…