I spent last Saturday night at the Cubby Bear, located just across the street from Wrigley Field. This notorious Chicago bar was comfortably filled for Dopapod and Spread to play a long night of improvised music. Now this particular show came highly recommended by some of my most respectable friends in the jam scene. Plus it was cheap, so why not?
Spread opened up, warming the Chicago crowd as they began filling up the Cubby Bear. This local Chicago act has a vast approach to their live performances and their music is constantly interchanging, yet thick with improv.
I couldn’t help notice how much potential exists within this group of young musicians. Bass heavy foundations grounded most of Spread’s jams until guitarist Dave Petrizzo locked into beast mode. You can’t deny this band’s compositions offer limitless potential especially with songs like, “Elbow Slap”. They contain progressions so diverse they’re just asking to be explored.
This was my first Spread show since summer and I was extremely impressed with how much this band has grown over the past few months. Their weekly residency at the Cubby Bear this past fall has undoubtedly resulted in a growth spurt. And that was just the opening act!
Hailing from the east coast, Dopapod recently embarked on a massive multi-state tour in the middle of some crazy winter weather. Little did they know, snow storms and below zero wind chills never holds back a Chicago crowd.
Even though Dopapod played Summer Camp before, this was the first time I’d seen a full concert. I must admit, experiencing their live show gave me a deeper appreciation for what improvisational music is all about.
Basically, Dopapod was all over the place, and I mean that in the best possible way. The skill level of this quartet is beyond impressive. In fact, keyboardist Eli Winderman was so flipping good, I often found myself distracted by his talent. He has a fantastic ear for what is happening on stage and the most impressive ability to read Dopapod’s jams.
Guitarist Rob Compa resembles the great Jimmy Page and the late Frank Zappa. Especially when he lowers his head and locks into a jam. You couldn’t even see his face hiding under his shoulder length hair, but the melody of notes coming from his guitar was intoxicating. Bassist Chuck Jones and drummer Neal Evans supplied the heavier elements to Dopapod’s sets. This band tossed up everything from a punk vibe to a funkadelic jam in the matter of seconds. Still, one thing stayed consistent throughout the show: it was heavy.
Dopapod’s songs offer the type of variety that has no limits and there is a freedom to this expansive approach. Their minimal reliance on lyrics and avant garde approach to improv enabled their jams to grow deep, infiltrating our souls.
Overall the music produced at the Cubby Bear that night was heavy, yet extremely organic. The beauty of improvised music is how everyone in the room is experiencing a fresh sound. While Spread will continue to establish residency in Chicago, Dopapod is on their way to Colorado, then they will be heading back to the Midwest. Tour stops include Urbana, Iowa City, Indy, and Cleveland.
You can also get your hands on a few of their studio albums through the magic of Spotify and iTunes. They’re good, I bet you’d dig them.
This weekend Phish will be taking over Chicago for a three night run at Northerly Island. With Saturday already sold out, Kuroda sporting a new light rig, and a completely revamped venue, this is bound to be a throwdown! But the party doesn’t stop there! Quite a few Summer Camp favorites are playing late night shows all around Chicago this weekend. Here’s a little heads up on some don’t-miss late nights for those of you heading to Phish….
Friday night the funk machine better known as Dumpstaphunk will be playing the House of Blues in Chicago. Their newest album, Dirty Word (available for pre-order), is about to drop at the end of the month, so this late night is guaranteed to get DIRTY!!! ”We are touring in support of the new Album, so people will definitely hear new material,” says drummer Nikki Glaspie. Not to mention that the HOB is one of the few venues in the Midwest to have a spring floor, which means you have no choice but to get down the minute the music starts and getting down is exactly what NOLA’s Dumpstaphunk is known for.
Chicago holds a special place in Dumpsta history. It was at the Mid back in 2011 that drummer, Nikki Glaspie, played her first show as an official member of Dumpstaphunk. In two short years she has brought the band to a whole other level. This late night will be a funky dance party through and through. What a great way to kick off the weekend!
If you are not familiar, Gamehenge was the setting of a musical masterpiece Trey Anastasio developed in college for his senior year project way back in 1987. It is basically the story of a man on a journey to get the goods. I won’t give away too much, but lets just say this album was the platform on which Phish was constructed. So in the same fashion that Phish grew into the beast it is today, Spread throws down some heavy improvisation in every song they play. They are guaranteed to split open the Hard Rock Cafe and we might even get a ”Wiiiillllllsoooon” tease thrown in the mix.
Finally, Summer Camp’s favorite late night act is doing what they do best by providing a Talking Heads dance party until the wee hours of the morning. This Must Be The Band will be playing Martyrs 7/20 and 7/21. Their first set on both Saturday and Sunday will be all request, where the loudest person in the crowd gets to choose what gets played next (so long as it’s Talking Heads music). The second set each night will be Speaking in Tongues, note by note. How neat is that?!
Needless to say, Summertime Chi is in full swing, SCampers! This weekend is going to be the type where the party just doesn’t stop…. So get out there and get your groove on!
Summer 2012 Festival season in review
So what has ChickenHeadFan been up to since last Summer Camp Music Festival? Well, I was doing my normal thing, going to shows, taking pictures and videos to share with all of you. As we all know Summer Camp Music Festival is ChickenHeadFan’s true home! There is nothing he loves more than the 4 days he spends over Memorial Day weekend with all of you at Camp. This summer I did some branching out and I was lucky enough to go to four other music festivals and each one had many unique things that make them special. I like to keep the Summer Camp Spirit flowing all summer long and I figured trying out some new festivals was a great way to keep that spirit going! In this blog I will give you some highlights of each festival.
Bonnaroo was a great time. It was my first time going so I didn’t know exactly what to expect. The experience was a lot different than Summer Camp, but that can be expected as there are as many as 80,000+ people at Bonnaroo. We were lucky and accidentally found a back way in so we were in line for 2 hours instead of 6-8 so that was a positive right off the bat. We got in line around 2am and were not done setting up till 4am so that was an adventure. We had really great neighbors and even made good friends with one group and they are planning to visit in Chicago soon! It was a long walk over 1 mile to get to “Center-Roo,” where all the shows are, so you didn’t want to go back to camp very often. The food selection was amazing with vendors everywhere that were open all day and night. You could eat anything you wanted at anytime and you never had to walk far or wait long for food. We even bought some good ol’ Tennessee moonshine from one vendor! The bathrooms were also pretty awesome. I never once saw a port-a-john that was anywhere close to overflowing and they were always clean.
Musical Highlights: Radiohead, Phish, Rodrigo y Gabriella, Alice Cooper, Umphrey’s McGee. The first band we saw was Mariachi el Bronx. I had been looking forward to seeing them after learning about them a few months before. These punk rockers turned mariachi band (mariachi outfits included) put on a high energy show that was lot of fun. Radiohead and Phish were obvious highlights for me. It was my first time seeing Radiohead and what an epic show it was. They played all my favorite songs and their stage show with the video screens moving all over the stage was a cool touch. Rodrigo y Gabriella’s new record, Area 52, that they recorded with the band C.U.B.A. has been one of my favorite albums this summer. It was amazing to see them play such complex music so perfectly live. Alice Cooper was also awesome, but we were only able to catch the last half of his show. His stage show includes costumes, giant puppets, and a guillotine. I was excited to see more later in the summer when I was going to see him open for Iron Maiden. We caught a surprisingly fun set from Ludacris during the afternoon. The set struck memories of driving to school with my older brother when he played a montage of hits including my favorites “Ho” and “Southern Hospitality.” Umphrey’s also played the best set I have seen from them in 2012. They played from 2-6am with Big Gigantic taking over at set break for a half hour. They were only supposed to play till 4am but put on a full show instead. The set including a rocking version of “Thunderstruck” which was exactly what I needed to keep me going as the sun was rising.
Whippersnap Music Festival is one of the many smaller local festivals that happens in the northern Illinois region. Here you can check out a lot of the great bands you might hear at the Starshine, Camping, or Campfire Stages at Summer Camp. The festival was located in Lyran Park near Rockford, IL. The main stage was set on a hill so there was a “natural amphitheater” with a river as the backdrop. It was beautiful! As for food, my favorite Summer Camp vendor Minglewood Brick Oven Pizza was on-site so I was happy. The bathrooms at the festival were clean as well which makes festival life so much easier. Camping was very relaxed. There was plenty of space and there was no rush to find a place to set up camp. It is always a problem at larger festivals and can make the first couple hours a mad dash to get your preferred spot.
Musical Highlights: Family Groove Company, SPREAD, Old Shoe, The Funky Meters, and Digital Tape Machine. I also was only able to attend the Festival for Saturday and Sunday so I missed some great music, but was still able to catch some of my favorites. Family Groove played an awesome set that included a Beck cover and featured Joe Day from Old Shoe on vocals. I also woke up early Saturday to see SPREAD, a Summer Camp Battle-of-the-Bands contest winner the last 3 years, play a rocking set that included a Ween Cover, and some of their staples like “Deep Plunge” and “Feel my Heat.” I also got to catch a late afternoon set from Old Shoe. This was sadly the first time I have been able to catch a full set from these guys, and I was truly blown away! I have seen them twice since then, once at the Abbey Pub and once at Shoe Fest and they never cease to please.
Shoe Fest is put on by Old Shoe, hence the name. This festival was held in Manteno, IL at Camp Shaw-wa-na-see. This is another beautiful setting for a small festival. There were many families and children present and you can bring your furry family members too, pets are just as welcome here as anyone! You could pretty much camp anywhere so there was plenty of space for everyone. They actually had real bathrooms which was nice, but sometimes were out or order with a lot of people using them. Foodwise there were options but since my favorite, Minglewood Brick Oven Pizza was at the fest, I had to get my fix of delicious pizza and baked ravioli. They did have two local craft brewers on site which was awesome, but one other bonus was that you could bring your own alcohol anywhere at the festival including the stages, which helped keep the cost of going to a festival down.
Musical Highlights: Keller and the Keels, Ben Miller Band, Old Shoe, Jaik Willis. I missed Friday night because of my day job so, the Ben Miller Band was the first band to rock my world at Shoe Fest. They come from Joplin, MO and have a unique sound that blends bluegrass, blues, and mountain music with an occasional trombone thrown into the mix. Ben Miller provides acoustic guitar and vocals for the band, sometimes singing into a telephone converted into a microphone that gives his voice a distorted 50′s sound. Doug Dicharry plays drums, mandolin, electric washboard, trombone, and electric spoons. His strange mix of talents add to the spice that makes this band so unique. Scott Leeper plays a self-made washtub Bass for the band. This is no easy instrument requiring the player to provide the correct tension on the neck to play the right note, but Scott is an expert at it. The band played mix of covers that included “I wanna be Sedated” and “Helter Skeltar” and some originals like “Meth Mama” and “Get Right Church.” Keller and the Keels put on an amazing show. The talents of Larry and Jenny Keel compliment and add to the talents of one-man-band Keller Williams. They played a few Keller originals like “Goofballs” and “Crater in the Backyard” along with many of their bluegrass covers such as Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” Jaik Willis is the last person I caught at the festival before I left Sunday afternoon. This is sadly one of the first times I have been able to catch Jaik play, and it won’t be my last. This man is über talented. He not only is one of the best guitar players in Chicago, or anywhere for that matter, he has a voice of gold, and he beat boxes! He holds a special connection with the crowd and has the rare qualities that make up a great solo performer. Shoe Fest was a great time and it felt like home. I cannot wait to go back next year!
North Coast Music Festival is practically in my backyard. We probably walked less to get from my house to North Coast than when we walked from our camp to the shows at Bonnaroo. I had a great time at North Coast, but since it is not a camping festival it has a completely different vibe, and the lineup, consisting of mostly DJ’s and electronic groups, draws a younger and slightly different crowd than most festivals I go to. North Coast usually gets a couple big headliners and fills in the line-up with smaller acts. Although it can be a really great place to find a great smaller band, there are a lot of performers there that I’m just not interested in. The late night shows usually make up for the sometimes lackluster line-up.
Musical Higlights: EOTO, STS9, Umphrey’s Mcgee, Papadosio. The first show I saw was EOTO. I always enjoy seeing them because I can hardly believe two guys can make all those weird noises, and with real instruments too. I was able to catch Papadosio for my second time at one of the smaller stages. They put on a good show as always. STS9 is always a highlight anytime I see them, and between their headlining spot at the festival and their after party show at the House of Blues they played every song I wanted to hear including some of my favorites “Unquestionable Supremecy of Nature” “Evasive Maneuvers”, and “Inspire Stikes Back.” Unfortunately, due to restrictions put on the festival, STS9 got their sound cut when their last song went few seconds past the 10pm cutoff. The second day at the festival the weather was unpredictable and I had to miss out on Family Groove Company’s main stage performance because the festival had a no re-entry policy. I saw Strange Arrangement at one of the smaller stages at the festival where I saw some of the best shows. I was able to catch Atmostphere and Future Rock before the nights headliner and one of my favorites, Umphrey’s McGee. This was their second year headlining the festival after playing the inaugural North Coast Fest 2 years ago. I went to the STS9 after party at the House of Blues because STS9 only comes to Chicago so often so you have to see them when you can. Sunday I got a late start but I as able to see Digital Tape Machine and Big Boi from Outkast perform. Big Boi was a fun experience, and someone who I typically might not see, he played “Sorry Ms. Jackson” and “Hey Ya” , so it was a pretty good time. The real highlight of the night was seeing Umphrey’s play at the Congress Theater, which is the only major theater I have not seen them perform at in Chicago. The show was rocking, and included a cover of Toto’s “Rosanna” and teases of “Another One Bites the Dust” and “Bulls on Parade.” North Coast Music Festival always ends up being a great time, but the after party shows always seem to be the best part for me.
So that is pretty much the story of my festival season this year. I had a great time but you know I was busy catching shows in between each music festival as well! What kind of shows you ask? Well to find out you will have to wait for my next blog post that will be Coming Soon!
Photo Credit – Andrew Feigl for both Bonnaroo photos
Photo credit – Adam Alexander for Chickenheadfan North Coast photo
Thursday “pre-party” sets at Summer Camp Music Festival have always, in my opinion, produced some of my favorite sets of the entire festival. Last night was no disappointment. After we got camp situated we hit the shows almost right away.
The set that popped my Summer Camp cherry this year was Spread hailing from Carbondale, IL. They have been a staple at the festival the last three years after winning the Summer Camp battle of the bands competition. They came out in full force playing some of their originals like “Chocolatte Magna Cum Latte” and even busting out a song made famous by the Grateful Dead, “Corrina, Corrina.” The will be playing numerous festivals in the midwest this summer, and often play in both Carbondale and Chicago.
The next set I caught after a brief break at my campsite to re-hydrate was Family Groove Company. As always they brought the party. Let me just confess I LOVE Family Groove Company! I don’t think there is a band that exist that is more fun to watch than Family Groove. You can feel the energy that is flowing through the band not only by the music coming from them but by the smiles on their faces! They killed it as always playing many of their best numbers including a personal favorite of mine “Professionals Here.” The intensity level kicked it up to 11 when Allie Kral of Cornmeal stepped out to play a few including “Benny and the Jets” by Elton John. I also got to check out the show with fellow Family Groove fanatic and CIT Dave Weckstein. The set ended with one of Janis Wallin’s infamous stage jumps.
As I was leaving FGC I was drawn in to the 312 Vibe Tent once again by some of the funkiest bass I have heard in a while. Spare Parts was bringing the jazz-funk to Summer Camp, they are a band to I hate to say I am not that familiar with but see that changing now. I was blown away by there sound. I am from Chicago and will be seeing them there ASAP as they frequent the local live music bars.
Digital Tape Machine was the next to play. I am a huge Umphrey’sfan and I love their side projects as well. They are self described as video game music, and I think they are selling their selves short. Their music is video game inspired, but is so much more than the typical 8-bit electronica band you have heard.
Cornmeal took the stage after dark and played an amazing set. The love for bluegrass music is alive and well here at Summer Camp. Cornmeal has been a staple here for years and the fans love them. Everyone in the crowd was on their feet dancing the whole show.
On the way to the Red Barn we caught a song from Floodwood just as they were bringing up Allie Kral from Cornmeal. It seems like everyone wants to play with Allie! She always brings the extra energy to the show!
The Werks was the last band I saw last night in the Red Barn. I really enjoyed the music they were playing. Again, this is a band I am not the most familiar with but am soon to become a super fan. I also was able to meet another summer camper with a chicken obsession, only they had their chicken strapped to their totem.
What has also made my Summer Camp extra special so far is all the Love I am receiving from you guys! I wear the Chickenhat to meet new people and have fun. If you see me out at the festival come and say hi, take a picture, give me gifts, whatever you feel like. You all are amazing and I love ya’ll!
Happy Summer Camp!