When Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald formed Slightly Stoopid in 1994, they were just two kids from California trying to create something unique. It’s hard to imagine that they could have predicted the success that would come of this grand experiment. Having now spawned 24 years and 13 albums, Slightly Stoopid’s career has exceeded all expectations. They have managed to stay relevant longer than most groups, mostly due to their unique sound and pool of influences. Their sound has never sounded stale and their ambition has never been stagnant. Perhaps this is why “Everyday Life, Everyday People” struggles to capture the listener’s attention.
The album starts strong with the song “Glocks”. This bombastic jam begins with an encompassing and catchy synth line paired with some tight sounding reggae drums. This intro sucks the listener in fast before the song explodes with an array of horns and a guitar solo. While the chord progression stays simple, the nuanced and staggered nature of the song allows for that to work just fine. While this track starts the album with a bang, the tracks that follow it really do not follow suit. “Stay the Same (Prayer for You)”, “Fire Below”, and “Too Late” all lack the dynamic excitement of the opener and ultimately represent the downfall of this record. A group that was once described as “a fusion of folk, rock, reggae, and blues with hip-hop, funk, metal and punk”, has become an incredibly predictable pop-reggae oriented group. While there’s not anything too egregious about this, it hardly is the ingredients of a standout project. Most of the songs on this record sound completely uninspired and ultimately like background music.
Outliers include cuts like “Punisher” and “Everyday People”. Both tracks see the group embracing a more menacing attitude towards the world. “Punisher” really is a crazy contradiction of a song. The instrumental is quite possibly one of the most relaxed on the entire record, but the vocal performance mirrors something out of a Rage Against the Machine song. Expletive words and aggressive articulation really drive McDonald’s point home. The latter of these two songs sees a very old-fashioned hip-hop vibe coming to life. The more conceptual lyrics and simplistic beat ultimately make this song stick out from the rest of the track list. Still, these songs are too little too late. The monotony of this album really begins to take a toll on the listener and ultimately makes this album a slog to get through. While it is certainly not without its moments, “Everyday Life, Everyday People” fails to deliver on the versatility and promise of the group that constructed it.
See our previous review of their live show, here.
Franz Ferdinand hail from Glasgow, Scotland. Their first time playing Chicago was on March 26, 2004 at the Empty Bottle. This is their first show in Chicago since October 10, 2013. Officially, it’s a Lollapalooza aftershow, but maybe it should be called a preshow since the festival doesn’t start till tomorrow!
Surprisingly, they play “Take Me Out” as the fifth song in their set. The crowd goes nuts as they jump around and sing along. It’s a feverish moment that is matched again when they play “This Fire”. “We’re gonna burn this city, burn this city!” They put on a great show and Park West is a great venue for them.
See the full setlist here.
A large white sheet hangs at the front of the stage. Shadows are seen as the band takes the stage. The excitement builds as they begin to play a long extended intro. At last, the sheet drops and Charlie Puth is standing center stage bathed in bright spotlights. All the teenage girls scream and he begins to sing “The Way I Am” to their delight. It’s a very theatrical entrance that is very well executed.
Puth is very conversational with the audience. This makes it feel like a intimate show, despite it being in front of thousands of fans. He tells everyone about a time he was waiting for a girl to text him back at the Intercontinental in Tokyo. She wasn’t responding, so he decided to write. He came up with “We Don’t Talk Anymore”. Having this song is much better than her texting back, he says.
Lots of girls brought signs to the show. A few of them brought cut-out letters that spelled DOME. “What is dome?” asks Puth. Just as he finishes saying that, he figures it out and starts laughing hysterically. Oh, he says. That’s a naughty sign. At one point during the following song, he spots them again and he starts to laugh and is unable to sing the song for a second. It’s a great moment and shows that he is connecting with his audience.
Towards the end of the set, the band plays the opening notes to “Attention” and the girls scream. About one minute into the song, the bassist steps to the front of the stage and lays down the sick bass line and the crowd erupts into a dance party. This is his hottest song right now and should absolutely be the last song. Instead, he goes on to play “BOY” before he leaves the stage. After a few minutes of cheering, he returns to play “See You Again”. This is a great song that should have ended the set, leaving “Attention” for the encore.
Either way, it was a great show. He’s humble about his success joking, “I’ll be done in 4 years.” With his charisma and song writing talent, he’ll be around for much longer. That is, unless he decides to return to computer programming!
See the full setlist here.
With a brand new album and 51 tour dates under their belt in 2018, you’d expect Unknown Mortal Orchestra to be going through the motions at this point. The Portland-based band has certainly been known for being prolific over the years, but you could argue this year they’ve truly outdone themselves. This was above and beyond effort was on full display during their House of Vans performance in Chicago this past Friday.
Lead singer and guitarist, Ruban Nielson, got things off to a thunderous start on the opening track “From The Sun”. The track from their sophomore LP is a fan favorite due to its haunting lyrics and its charmingly beautiful guitar work. Its live rendition sees a complete transformation in the songs’ essence. What was once an intimate and laid back tune becomes a deliciously funky piece of psychedelic rock. Not only is a larger emphasis put on the drums and bass in this rendition, but Nielson’s relatively tame guitar work becomes a mountainous jam of fuzzy guitar bliss. The extensive solos loosened up the crowd perfectly for what was to come. The bouncy “Necessary Evil” had people dancing with this its light drum work and catchy guitar and key motifs. It is easy to envision the song being played in a blues lounge as it fills the vibe with a mysterious and smoky vibe with its effortless strut.
The contrast between the rowdiness of “From The Sun” and the mysterious and more reserved “Necessary Evil” perfectly exemplifies who the band has become. They live perfectly in a juxtaposition between melody and grime. Where one moment you can be singing the infectiously funky melodies that make up much of the band’s later work. The next moment you can be smacked in the face with an absolute assault of distortion and fuzz. While this lack of commitment to either direction may foreshadow disaster in the near future, you cannot help but love that this band is toeing that line quite perfectly right now. Friday’s show at House of Vans proved that sometimes cohesion can be overpowered by true talent and versatility.
Sylvan Esso is Amelia Randall Meath on vocals and Nicholas Sanborn on a sound board. They’ve been married since June 2016. Tonight is the first of two sold out shows in Chicago. Early on in the set, they play “Die Young”. “I was gonna die young, now I gotta wait for you honey” she sings. It’s a bizarre love song that is enchanting. Their sound is reminiscent of The xx but with more of a dance vibe. This vibe is enhanced by their great backdrop and the great lighting for the entire show.
Meath is a fantastic performer. She commands the stage as she dances and works the crowd. “Today is supposed to be a recovery day,” says Sanborn. “Not a Friday night rager!” Every night in Chicago can be a party, especially when it’s a packed house at the Riviera. Even though Meath more than makes up for there only being two people on stage, it would be great to see them form a live band to perform these songs, instead of just having Sanborn hit buttons and turn some knobs.
When they return for the encore, they bring with them the opening band, Collections of Colonies of Bees, to sing a song by local Chicago band, Califone. It’s not a very popular song, and the band doesn’t bring their instruments, so it’s a bit of a lost opportunity. To close, they play “Play It Right”. It’s a strong finisher and it leaves everyone with a smile on their face as they walk out in the a nice Chicago summer night.
It is fair to say that festivals often benefit from inertia. When things are going well, it is often going to stay that way. Following the miraculous events of Friday, Pitchfork Music Festival 2018 was off to a tremendous start. Not only did the undercard and headlining act Tame Impala bring ferocious, energy-packed performances to the table, but the audience was also blessed with surprisingly great weather. What was supposed to be dreary and thunderous day turned into sunny and melodic evening. Fans of indie rock, underground hip-hop, and experimental music alike all stood unified enjoying some of their favorite artists perform. This truly beautiful day, as alluded to earlier, was not an isolated incident. In fact, Saturday at Pitchfork was perhaps an even stronger showcase of music, art, and creativity.
While acts like Paul Cherry, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and The War On Drugs all put on terrific shows, the triumphant performances of the day were from Moses Sumney and the Fleet Foxes. While both performances were very vocal-centric, they held two completely different tones. Sumney’s set cast a haunting shadow on the entire audience. His incredible vocal range and control were paired with eerie instrumentation, consisting of oboe textures, violin sways, and some occasional sporadic drumming. On top of this, Moses added tons of vocal loops to the mix to create an atmospheric depth that few artists can attain. It was a uniquely beautiful experience that the audience will not soon forget.
On the other side of the coin, the Fleet Foxes’ furious momentum and compositional prowess shined in their headlining set. While Sumney had the audience perfectly quiet and still, Robin Pecknold and company were somehow able to create both a beautiful and boisterous audience experience. Fan favorites like “White Winter Hymnal” and “Mykonos” had fans regaling in nostalgic joy. Pecknold sounded as strong as ever and the rich layers present on their albums still shined through in their live performance. On top of this the vocal harmonies that define their sound, may have sounded even stronger live than on record. Even when they weren’t cranking out crowd favorites, Fleet Foxes were on top of their game. “Mearcstapa” left the audience in a whirlwind with its beautiful mess of guitar interjections. “On Another Ocean (January/June)” was another highlight as it triumphantly cut through the listener’s ears with a brass explosion in the second half of the song. Lastly, the band’s cover of Curtis Mayfield’s classic “Fool for You” saw the band indulging in a Motown feel that felt fresh yet not too foreign.
At the end of the day, Saturday’s performers left off right where Fridays did. The day was chalked full of energetic performances, creative art, and positive spirits for everyone to enjoy. The Fleet Foxes and Sumney may have stolen the show, but they were merely favorites as the whole day was an astounding experience for all.
This play is based on the true story of Chicago workers unionizing and fighting for worker’s rights in 1886. Tensions rise between the strikers and the police force. On May 4th, a bomb thrown at the police explodes resulting in the death of seven policemen. Eight labor activists are brought to trial in connection with the bombing. A memorial at Desplaines and Randolph marks the exact location of this historical event.
The cast does an excellent job in this production. They all play instruments, sing, and move around the stage with precision. Also, they recently recorded a cast album that is currently in the mixing process. They truly bring this Chicago history to life. The only issue is that there many be too many characters. Focusing on few main characters would allow the audience to care more about their outcomes.
Get tickets now for Haymarket through Sunday, July 22nd!