Posts from the ‘Music’ Category

Music: Over The Rhine at SPACE in Evanston

This is a guest post by my lovely wife, Amy, of the April 28th Over The Rhine concert at SPACE in Evanston.

Greetings! I’m excited to be a guest blogger here, though my late posting date might not adequately reflect my enthusiasm. Aaron and I have a hard time learning how not to be busy. I’m actually writing this from my in-laws’ home in South Carolina, over a week past the show date. While I consider myself a big Over the Rhine fan, and I will admit to weeping on my first listen to their last studio album, The Trumpet Child, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this concert. I saw them tour on this album two years ago & feared a repeat performance. At the same time, I lamented having missed them on their last few trips through Chicago and was pleased with the venue. SPACE (The Society for the Preservation of Arts and Culture in Evanston) offers a great backdrop for music; its exposed brick, alternating sheer and velvet curtains and overhead lamps (which resemble nothing so much as the exposed gills of a mushroom cap’s underskirt) give a relaxed and comfortable, not too ritzy, feel.

Lucy Wainwright-Roche started the show, and though I initially wished for reprieve from an opening act (your dear writer struggles with a late school night), she quickly won me over with her dulcet voice and self-deprecating humor. The Bruce Springsteen cover “Everybody’s Got a Hungry Heart” which turned into a sing-a-long didn’t hurt either. I love a cover and a sing-a-long, as evidenced when I forced Aaron to attend one in Door County a few years ago on our vacation. Who can ever get enough of wholesome good times round the piano? To clarify, Ms. Roche played the guitar, not the piano, and her singer-songwriter fare, tales of the road and of heartbreak, was a far cry from a Door County meeting hall filled with 80 year old war veterans and scores of Scandinavians singing patriotic hymns. But we take our pleasure where we can.

The show was fantastic and further cemented this act as my favorite band. Over the Rhine, the husband and wife duet of Linford Detweiler (keyboard & back up vocals) and Karin Berquist (guitar, lead vocals, keyboard) took the stage joined by Jake Bradley (upright bass, electric bass and electric guitar) and Kenny Hudson (mandolin, dobro, pedal steel and lap steel). This was my first time seeing Hudson and his soulful feel provided complementary country warmth to Berquist’s vocals. While I had some trepidation about experiencing this show as “same old”, I was thrilled to find that OTR’s songs, instead of sounding more rehearsed, sounded simultaneously raw and beautifully broken in. The thirteen song set, followed by a three number encore drew from The Trumpet Child, Drunkard’s Prayer, Ohio (featuring Karin for two songs at the keyboard) and Good Dog Bad Dog (“All I Need is Everything”).

Several new songs were introduced, and they did not disappoint. Detweiler and Berquist are up front about an increased awareness of mortality in the wake of their parents’ illnesses and death. This is reflected in new songs like “Johnny & June” which asks ‘who’s gonna bury who,’ and “Only God”, a let’s-laugh-or-we’ll-cry look at the characters inhabiting the nursing home shared by Berquist’s mother following her stroke. Detweiler joins in for some duet vocals in the new songs and the connection between this couple is evident. That’s part of the appeal of this band. It feels like the songs they write are lived-in and true; their yearning for love and the divine permeates. Their new song “Infamous Love Song” (Aaron’s favorite) illustrates this perfectly, beginning, ‘I sing the bebop apocalypse / I lean in to you, God’s hands on my hips,’ and moving towards a chorus of, ‘Baby, our love song will survive.’ For someone raised with both tradition and taboo, this mix up of God and sex is magnetic. It obviously had a strong pull on the rest of the crowd too, as they were drawn to their feet twice in appreciation of the night’s offering.

If you’re not familiar with OTR’s music, check them out at http://www.overtherhine.com/. Letters, tour dates and sweet graphics now sit alongside Karin and Linford’s invitation to fund a new album, giving a uniquely authentic slant to the term “indie music”. They’re headed to the west coast to record and, in return for your financial support, you’ll receive advance shipping on the album, recognition on the website & other perks depending upon how generous you can afford to be. (For example, I’m already enjoying demos of nine new songs!) Regarding Aaron’s pricing rules: this show was $40 each as we sprung for secured table seating. This means that a few weeks back, we didn’t see any performance at all to save up. We also paid $4.50 fees per person to buy tickets online. Thanks to Aaron for the opportunity to guest write & for stealing a set list post-show!

Music: The Future Laureates and Todd Kessler & The New Folk at Double Door

FULL DISCLOSURE: My brother-in-law is a member of The Future Laureates. If I write something bad about them, Grandma Helen will kick my ass. I know that too many of my posts are full of disclosed conflicts. I promise we’ll attend something soon where I don’t know anybody in the play or the band or whatever.

As I mention here, our weekly theater allowance is really a live performance allowance. So it encompasses music and whatever other live performance we decide to attend. And on Wednesday, April 28th, we’re going to go see Over The Rhine at Space in Evanston. I’m trying to get Amy to write a guest post on that one… stay tuned.

But as I said, my brother-in-law is in The Future Laureates, and this was their first gig at Double Door. ¿Muy bueno, sí? We were pretty excited to go, and Amy’s parents came into town, too. Most of the bands that were on the bill are members of the Chicago Roots Collective, which is a more diverse group than that name suggests. Todd Kessler & The New Folk played after The Future Laureates. The Shams Band and The Giving Tree Band were also on the bill, but an intersection of other varying priorities prevented us from staying through the end.

We had a great time. The Future Laureates nearly packed the house–quite a feat for an opening act. They’re adapting quite well to a recent line-up change, after losing one of their guitarists. This change appears to have stimulated some healthy pruning and refining of the set list. Some of the sappy love songs written by the former guitarist have been replaced by new, punchier, smarter songs by Danny Surico, Matthew Daigler, James Hyde and Steve Minogue. I hope they keep writing more new songs as good as “Convert Them in Convertibles” and “Nuclear Winter.” I hope their next album is full of songs of this caliber.

I was pretty snarky about Todd Kessler & The New Folk as they were setting up. Kessler has yard-long white boy dreads, and they filled the stage with instrumentalists. I’ve seen other folky bands do this with little positive impact on the music–lap steel guitar as prop rather than valuable musical contribution. But the minute they started playing, my attitude changed. This might be the most orchestral sounding folk music I’ve ever heard; full of rich, vibrant layers of sound, particularly the horns. So, Mr. Kessler, I look forward to hearing you play again.

These bands have their own webpages, their own Facebook and Twitter accounts, albums for sale on iTunes, etc… One easy place to look for all this information is http://www.chicagorootscollective.com/. Something that is hard to find there, unfortunately, is information on upcoming shows. The Future Laureates will be playing at Loyola on April 24th, and at The Bog on April 29th according to their pretty new website. Todd Kessler & The New Folk will be playing at Space in Evanston on May 19th, according to their Facebook page.

Since the theme of this blog is affordable live performance, we paid full price: $10 for each ticket. It was a magnificent bargain, even if the beer is overpriced at Double Door.