Chicago is definitely a city of music. I’ve been here a couple months now, and am just getting started exploring the music scene. Here’s what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks:
November 7th – Frontier Ruckus @ Subterranean
A very good friend of mine (who I met in Maastricht when we did the same Masters degree and lived in the same building) has a brother who also recently moved to Chicago. Naturally, it wasn’t long until he decided to take the short flight from DC to pay us both a cheeky weekend visit. None of us particularly knew who this band was, but we headed down because the tickets were pretty cheap and it’s a good wee venue. Also it’s nice and close to where I live, which on a cold Chicago night is a bonus.
I seem to have accidentally deleted the pictures/videos from this show, so you’ll just have to imagine what it was like from my fantastically descriptive writing… The support acts (Odd Folk and The Wild Family) were pretty decent, and Frontier Ruckus themselves came out with some pretty catchy numbers. A little nasal and whiny, but instrumentally and melodically very pleasing. The highlight was definitely their very talented multi-instrumentalist who was a dab hand on the bendy saw thing. And also on the melodica, which is something I now want.
(this is not really music related, but the next night it was decided by the male-dominated group that we should go see a Star Wars themed comedy burlesque show. Which, unexpectedly was bloody fabulous. Thankfully it leaned more towards the comedy side than the sexual side, but there was definitely a lot of rather wobbly arse on show.. It’s called A Nude Hope, in case you were wondering, and it really is a splendid way to pass the evening)
November 13th – Ryan Hemsworth @ Double Door
I actually only discovered Ryan Hemsworth the day before the show, when my downstairs neighbour, who we affectionately know as Lower Sam, played some for me and informed me that he and a friend of his had tickets to see him the next day (again at a venue close by!). I liked the sound of this guy’s stuff, so I explored a little more, bought myself a ticket and that was that. Before the show, we went to this pizza place called Dimos, which is possibly the closest thing to heaven you might ever get. They have some super rad pizza toppings on offer (purists, be warned), serve up big steaming slices on paper plates with all the Sriracha you could possibly want, and serve local craft beer in cute little jar things. It’s pretty hipster, but we are in Wicker Park, so it’s par for the course really. Naturally, there was also a bloke playing the alto sax in the corner. You can follow them on Instagram at @dimospizza if you’re the sort who likes to torture yourself by looking at delicious things you’re currently not able to stuff in your face…
Anyway, Ryan Hemsworth was a reeeeally good show. The dude pumps out some hefty sounds and mixes things up by straying from hip-hop to electronic and back again. He even brought on a few guest performers, which was quite nice of him. And he’s hot. And Canadian. Winner. DJs have been getting some stick recently for just standing on stage, pressing buttons and bobbing their heads, but who really cares? The music was good, and he looked like he was having a good time sharing it with Chicago, so what do I care that he’s not playing an actual instrument? He was still putting on a good show. We edged our way forward all night as ever-thirsty Chicagoans vacated their spots to purchase beverages, and by the end of the set we were pretty much at the front getting up-close and personal with his pleasing face and bangin’ beats.
Apologies for talking more about the pizza than the tunes. I’m not a music blogger and probably never will be…
November 24th: Big Data/Fitz and the Tantrums @ The Riviera
This is the biggest show I’ve been to so far in Chicago. Alex, another of my downstairs neighbours (I live in an awesome building), had a couple of tickets to go see Fitz and the Tantrums and invited me, presumably because I’m cool and Scottish, to go along with him. We had a few nice beverages in a nearby bar before going in, so we were nice and tipsy before having to pay exorbitant prices for the beer inside.
Big Data, the support act, were awesome. I was actually more familiar with their music than that of the headliners, which is always nice, as you can get nice and close to enjoy the show before the masses descend for the main event.
Here’s a rudely truncated taster of the kind of show they put on. You’d probably enjoy it.
We were stupid and went to the bar in between the acts, not knowing that they would fence off the front zone where we were before, forcing us to do an awkward backwards shuffle through the crowd, in the midst of which an angry husband-and-wife team decided to yell at us for not getting out of the way quickly enough. It was probably about to get violent (these middle-aged Sunday crowds have zero chill), before a nice gentleman diffused it all, and we eventually found an empty spot near him where we could stand without offending anybody. Other than that mild drama, the show was great.
I’ll leave you with a couple of clips, even though I know that nobody wants to see 14-second low-quality clips of a show somebody else went to…
The moral of the story is a simple one: If you like live music, move to Chicago.