The end of 2015 is quickly approaching, and what a year it's been..I can't say I'll miss it.
It was a year of mostly personal downs (cue: tiny violins), but luckily a few ups have been occurring as of late, enough to keep me sane. That being said, I do apologize for the lack of activity and show attendance. Experiencing live shows, writing reviews, and organizing the blog are a source of happiness for me, so here's hoping that there will be more opportunity in 2016 to start covering shows in Boston & NYC.
All of that being said, there is a handful of shows that I never reviewed - so bad, I know!! I had every intention of doing so, but things just never came together. So in order to close out the year and start fresh in January, here is a recap post of all of the "lost shows", with as much detail as I can remember. :-) Enjoy, and hope to see you in 2016!
George Ezra at Metro - 3.30.15
This crooning 22-year old from the UK peaked on the Billboard charts in May, but toured in early 2015 with fellow Brit, Sam Smith, on the In The Lonely Hour tour. Almost immediately after those curtains closed, Ezra headed out on his own North American tour, and I caught the first show in Chicago at Metro. The venue was packed, and I hadn't gotten there quite as early as I should have, so I didn't have a great view. But George was as charming as anyone, and with his bass-baritone vocals, he quickly won over the crowd (probably 95% girls). He captivated the audience by making real eye contact with his fans - I swear he looked directly at me a few times! - and obviously, by sounding great. Ezra opened with "Cassy O'", and continued to woo everyone with "Listen To The Man" (music video features Sir Ian McKellan!), "Blame It On Me", and one of my favorites, "Barcelona". He sang a few song solo as well, like "Benjamin Twine" and "Over The Creek", and then came back with the whole band to sing "Song 6", "Spectacular Revival", and of course, "Budapest". Ezra's performance oozed charisma impressive for such a young guy and definitely wasn't limited by one album's worth of discography, playing for well over an hour. The encore included a fun little song called "Blind Man in Amsterdam" and "Did You Hear The Rain?". I read/heard somewhere during an interview that Ezra wrote these songs while on holiday in Europe, travelling via train with his guitar - don't you wish Americans did that gap year after graduating high school? He must have written some great travelling songs while on tour this past year and we can't wait to hear more from this rising star. George Ezra is a talented young guy and his unique voice combined with song writing skills will be sure to take him far. (And did I mention he's super charming?)
Milky Chance at The Vic - 4.25.15
This show straight-up exceeded my expectations by a mile. From the openers, to the venue, to the set, to the insane light show - everything about it made my musicsoul happy. If you're looking to catch a show at a classic Chicago venue, The Vic is basically The Chicago Theatre, but on a smaller scale. Located steps from the Belmont brown line stop in the heart of Lakeview, The Vic (formerly known as the Victoria Theatre) opened in 1912 after three years of construction. When it's not a 1400 person venue for some pretty major bands like Pearl Jam and Wilco, the Vic moonlights as a Brew and View movie theater. The interior is still beautifully ornate, with vaudeville-style architecture - it's GA seating on the floor and first come, first serve for the balcony seats that have an awesome view. I was pretty stoked to find out that the balcony was also GA, and after doing a lap, decided to relax and watch the show without having to deal with taller heads obstructing my view. My somewhat older neighbors to the front that night were particularly interesting to eavesdrop on..and they weren't shy about blazing up either. But anyway, one of the opening bands called Mighty Oaks was really great - the four guys have a Mumford & Sons/Lumineers kind of feel, with raspy vocals and nimble licks. This indie rock group uniquely represents four countries - with a drummer from Berlin, vocals from the US, keys from Italy, and bass from England. Their full-length album Howl (2015) is a nice mixture of indie, folk, and alternative, and their three-part harmonies greatly enhance the songs - "Back To You" and "You Saved My Soul" are my favorite tracks. These guys put on a great live performance so I'd highly recommend checking out a Mighty Oaks show.
Milky Chance has had some notoriety in the US thanks to Starbucks playlists, but the duo probably has more fame in Europe, as they hail from Germany. Vocalist Clemens Rehbein teamed up with DJ Philipp Dausch in 2012 and released their first full-length album, Sadnecessary, in 2013. Their sound is unique, to say the least - an upbeat combination of reggae, electronica, and folk, they are fully talented in every genre. Unfortunately, their current discography has one shade (ie, the tracks all sound really similar), a fact that I was wary about going into the show - but they performed each song with such energy and subtle differences that the whole show was really just incredible. They added a third man to the show - who's name I can't seem to find - but each was able to showcase his raw talent. Setlist included (but not limited to) "Stunner", "Fairytale", "Flashed Junk Mind", "Sadnecessary", "Feathery", and closed with "Stolen Dance"; encore closer was "The River". Aside from captivating vocals, acoustic guitar, mallets, even harmonica, my favorite part was probably the light show. It's amazing how a really solid light show can elevate yet not overpower a performance - and obviously, leave it to the Europeans to design a mesmerizing lighting and stage design concept. [Strobe lights were definitely involved.] All I wanted to do was take pictures! Overall, this show exceeded my expectations and was just a straight-up fun performance by Milky Chance.
Catfish & The Bottlemen at Schubas - 2.24.15
I barely got into this show..Actually, I believe I called in a "music blogger" favor - to get into the gig at my favorite venue. For a Tuesday night sold-out show, the back room was packed! But deservedly so. The four-piece Brit band from Wales played their catchy, alt-rock songs loudly and messily, in true rock & roll fashion. Vocalist Van McCann actually started out the show by apologizing to the room for his shot voice. He even offered to buy everyone a round at the bar! [Which his manager reluctantly agreed to -.I only hope no one took advantage of the open tab.] Even though I had a photo pass for the night (cue: nice DSLR), I wasn't able to get up-front and unfortunately couldn't get any good shots standing behind many taller people. Oh well...The guys were truly humble, and engaged the crowd with both songs and funny anecdotes. Setlist included songs from their 2014 album, The Balcony, like "Pacifier", "26", "Homesick", and an acoustic version of "Hourglass". They obviously had to play "Cocoon" and their biggest hit, "Kathleen", and closed with "Tyrants". Sadly, there was no encore, but I'm pretty sure it was due to their vocal fatigue, not their lack of heart or enthusiasm. I'd definitely go see these guys again and hoping for a new album in 2016.
The Front Bottoms at Toad's Place, CT - 10.16.15
The first show since my move out East, I was stoked to see one of my favorite bands playing a show in CT! [Saw them open for Say Anything in July 2014] Toad's Place is a pretty notable venue in New Haven, right next to the Yale campus, and books mostly rock/alt-rock bands. To some, it might be just another dive bar venue (which it is), but to me, I felt right at home! It reminded me of a few Chicago venues, so I was loving it and feeling pretty nostalgic. Weird, right? TFB signed with Fueled By Ramen record label earlier in the year, and accordingly so, the guys have upped their game a little (new website, larger touring reach). Their latest release, Back on Top (2015), has a noticeably different sound. More refined in sound and song structure, it's definitely a new direction for the historically underground band who reached more of the emo/alternative angsty-teen fan-base. But the guys still know how to rock - and how can you not love the original duo, Brian Sella (vocals, acoustic) and Mathew Uychich (drums/trumpet). This band is a rare gem, not only for their talent in original song writing, but also for the ability to deliver a loud, rock show based on just acoustic guitar, drums, bass, and horns. Sella's signature sing-talk style pairs perfectly with fans who want to sing along at the top of their lungs. This was my second time seeing TFB, but the first time at a headlining show, and I loved it - so did the crowd (who got a bit rowdy at times)! The night's setlist included both new and old songs like "Au Revoir", "Help", "Skeletons", "Flashlight", "Cough It Out", "Backflip", "West Virginia", "Motorcycle", "The Beers", "Ginger", "Father", "Historic Cemetery", "The Feud", "Maps", "Laugh Till I Cry", and "Twin Size Mattress" - complete with a bubble machine! And if that wasn't enough for ya, the encore featured solo performances by Brian of "Twelve Feet Deep", "The Plan (Fuck Jobs)", and ended with "Victims Families". WOW.
Panic At The Disco/Radio 104.1 Fest at the CT Convention Center - 11.13.15
Local CT radio station, Radio 104.1, hosted a return of its Radio 104 Fest in November and the "lineup" included Local H, Atlas Genius, and headliner Panic! At The Disco. I've only been mildly obsessed with P!atD lately (sorry, but Brendon Urie's Periscope sessions where he sings at his piano will blow your mind. He's so freaking talented!), so I had to go see them for the first time. Although this band namesake (only real original member left is Brendon Urie) has been around ever since my own middle school/angsty emo days (yes, I know, it's been 11 years since A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was released), the band still continues to grab a teen fan-base. Probably related to their pop-rock anthem songs of late, which are disappointing, but also somehow satisfying. It's easy to see the influence of their label on their upcoming album (released 1.15.16) Death of a Bachelor...but I won't get into that right now. So the openers weren't great. Local H was not my cup of tea. And Atlas Genius is good (I saw them in Boston at EarthFest by Radio 92.9) but not my favorite. At least there was beer to drink. Even though this wasn't a typical P!atD show, they still played almost all of the tracks on Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! (2014). I'm not as familiar with their in-between albums (real P!atD nerds know what I mean..), but they did play "Nine in the Afternoon" and "Ballad of Mona Lisa", I believe. There were a few throwbacks to A Fever too - "Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off" and "I Write Sins Not Tragedies", for sure. They even did their famous cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody", which everyone loved (although I did question how many people knew the cover version and not the real Queen version...). It's those high notes... I probably looked like a huge idiot dancing around, but I loved it. And will definitely go see them again. <3 Beebo forever.
Jon McLaughlin at Fairfield Theatre Company's StageOne, CT - 11.15.15
I've lost count how many times I've seen Jon McLaughlin - it's up to 5 or 6 - but this incredibly talented Indiana-native released his 5th album, Like Us, earlier this year and is appropriately touring to promote it. This show was a part of the first half of the tour and I was again excited to see one of my faves coming to CT (yes, it's that rare to get a good show here that's not an arena-sized concert). I bought these tickets well in advance which paid off because our seats were LITERALLY 5 inches from his piano seat. It was almost uncomfortable how close we were. But it was incredible! Definitely the closest that I've ever sat to a musician, and while I was tempted to take photos galore, I tried to restrain myself and just enjoy it. But we had a bird's eye view of his "piano" and it was glorious. His new album is solid, but fairly predictable. With the recent birth of his second daughter, the tracks are easy on the ears and you can tell the amount of personal meaning that went into each one. Setlist included new songs like "I Want You Anyway", "Don't Mess With My Girl", and "I Am Always Gonna Love You", and oldies like "Without You Now", "Summer Is Over", and of course, "Industry". He even threw in some classical piano riffs, which were incredible, a Christmas song performed with opener Tess Henley, and a really cool cover of The Wknd's "I Can't Feel My Face". Encore included "Already In", "Indiana", "Jingle Bells", and "Human". The crowd was a mixture of adults and younger folk, which was awesome to see - and I even spotted a celebrity in the audience - fellow CT-native, Stephen Kellogg! The two toured together a few years ago and have remained friends, which is great to see because they're two quality human beings. A truly talented artist - if you appreciate the piano and want to enjoy yourself, go check out a Jon McL show!
Photos to be uploaded soon to the gallery page. Apologies again for holding back on these shows, but I've got a decent schedule set up for myself so far in 2016 - across a few state lines too! Should be fun, hoping to start a new project for FYMS so keep your eyes open on Twitterland and the blog for that!