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Nap It Up With V.V. Lightbody: An Interview from Audiotree 2018

Getting to sit down with Chicago’s V.V. Lightbody at Audiotree 2018 was an absolute delight. As we chatted over sandwiches on a lovely Saturday afternoon, Vivian McConnell shared some insight on her latest record Bathing Peach, as well as her appreciation for the support of fellow musicians within the Chicago music community. She spoke with us about her coining of the term “nap-rock,” which she uses to describe her music. With dreamy flute flutters woven in throughout and refreshing melodies blended into her sound, I couldn’t agree more. McConnell transports you away to sleepytime bliss with her voice, which she also acknowledges as a key instrument in her music. V.V. Lightbody was the most refreshing set of the weekend, and I already can’t wait until I can see her perform again next. 

Check out some highlights from our conversation down below and listen to the whole thing above:

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You describe your music as “nap rock.” Could you tell our listeners what that means? 

I like to sleep a lot. And I don’t know many people who dont like to sleep. Some people don’t sleep a lot, but I don’t know. I listen to a lot of soft music, and I used to play in two louder rock bands, so I was always writing these soft songs in my bedroom, thinking they were just sleepytime, nap songs. But also, when I play with a live band, there’s drums and bass. So it’s kind of like rock and roll at its core, but you can take a nap listening to it. You know when you like fall asleep on the train on accident? That’s what I want my music to be for people. And then you feel really refreshed.

Where did the name V.V. Lightbody come from? 

My great grandmother’s full maiden name is Virginia Lightbody, and I just thought that was such a beautiful name. My grandmother’s a piano player. My great grandpa Lightbody played in a big band, too. So I though, first of all, what a cool last name. It sounds fake. And I was also thinking about carrying on the matriarchy and it’s cool to be able to draw something from my family.

How has your previous work in bands influenced your work as a solo artist? 

I think about this a lot. It’s been definitely a shift. In the past, I was in a band with four or five other members, and so it was always a democratic thing, everybody deciding what to do, what sounds good here. But for my solo work, I’m making the decisions. Which is really liberating and scary at the same time. It’s made me a better musician, it’s helped me learn what I want. It is really empowering, but sometimes I wish somebody would be like “that doesn’t sound good."

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V.V. Lightbody kicks off her North American tour with a show in Chicago at The Hungry Brain on October 17th, more info and tickets can be found here!

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In Conversation with Ne-Hi Guitarist Jason Balla at Audiotree 2018

WLUW team members Scott Clancy and Elise Mcgannon sat down with Jason Balla, guitarist in the Chicago band Ne-Hi at The Audiotree Music Festival 2018 - They discussed the music scene in Chicago, recording plans, and Jason's solo venture Accessory. Disclaimer: Written below is not our full conversation - which devolved into a back and forth about coffee and Roland S. Howard, among other topics, so if you'd like to hear it all, the full conversation is available to stream above.

Jason how are you doing today? I’m doing really great

How do you think your set went today? It was a great set to watch but what was your opinion on it? I had a blast, I kicked my cable out by accident and I had a string fall off of the guitar but otherwise clean and clear, it was a blast.

I wanted to start and ask you about the music scene in Chicago, I wanted to know your opinion on what it’s like in the scene because my impression of it is that a lot of bands in it are intermixed and very supportive of each other. Would you say that’s the case? Yeah 100%, everyone’s super supportive. Everyone comes to each other’s show. You know the band Ohmme? They just had their record release show at so Vivian [VV Lightbody] played, The Hecks which are my favorite Chicago band played, and it’s just across all genres everyone’s homies, supportive and it’s a place where everyone is kind of doing different stuff, similar things as well but even across far different things people are interested and I think in some way inspired by what they’re doing or how they’re doing it and everyone’s driven to come and play in Kalamazoo. I think it’s an overwhelming time right now especially for people willing take their art out which is cool.

So then how did the song you guys did with Jamila Woods come about? Was it a similar, did you guys know each other? We had met a couple times but honestly our kind of idea was that we had that song exist on our first record and actually our manager had the idea, what if you tried and reimagined a song and so obviously Jamila’s music is super awesome and we’re all big fans of hers so we kind of went back into a studio and kind of deconstructed the song and took the main elements of what made it like a cool and interesting as a rock song and repurposed it and gave it way more groove and then we sent it to her and she dropped some versus and we kind of chopped it all up and that’s kind of what you hear. It was really fun and totally different for us, it got us out of our whole zone we’ve operated in which I think going forward is where we’re kind of headed towards, not just like a straight rock and roll band anymore, there’s a little bit more going on which we’ve been working on right now.

Are you guys recording? We are - endlessly! tirelessly! Basically we’ve been writing all year and we started demoing seriously and recording starts in October into next year.

Do you have a set demo period or does it just kind happen however it happens? I mean you can make plans but we’re pretty unreliable guys. Keeping a schedule is a bit tough but we’re doing alright and we’ve been getting serious now.

So you mentioned how exciting it is to take your music elsewhere, outside Chicago, I know you guys have toured obviously, has it always been more exciting to travel around or is it more so now because as you mentioned it’s sort of picking up? I mean I don’t think it makes any difference. It’s fun to go somewhere else, you can’t play in Chicago every night, so you might as well go on tour and play every night.

What’s you favorite spot that you’ve travelled to? Oh my God. There’s a lot of cities in the world. I could give you like a top five: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Total Drag Record Store, the best people run it, also just the sickest people live there. I like playing in California. Also obviously Chicago, Cincinnati. Cincinnati is a funny place and I love playing there. My favorite coffee shop is there, and the people are really great and the bands are really sick and I feel like people skip Cincinnati all the time so when you go there it’s fun because people are down. They have a great music scene, They have great music already but when you go into town it’s like an extra excuse to hang and see something new I guess. There are a lot of cities in the country that people just skip because it’s not worth it for them or whatever and i think we make a point to go to a lot of those place because its fun. 

So your stage presence, your actions on stage are very energetic, very noticeable - is my impression and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but is that a conscious decision on your part or something that you feel and it happens? I just kind of wanna have fun on stage, honestly if I just stand around I can’t play very well cause I’m just acting out what I’m playing basically. If I were to stand still it would just kind of sound like Guitar Hero flubs, all the clangs and boinks. It’d be terrible, you would boo us. I don’t know, playing roc and roll music is what we’re doing and it’s supposed to be fun, it doesn’t have to be this serious matter, I wanna have a good time and I think also having fun allows people who are watching it to maybe get loose. It’s a transfer of energy. 

I want ask you also about Accessory, your side project. We just talked to Vivian and she mentioned it and I was curious if you approach that in a different way? Songwriting or performance-wise? Yeah it’s a much different animal as far as music goes. I’m interested in a lot of different things musically and so that is my opportunity to write songs completely free of having to fit in any realm. I just made this record with sort of pure freedom in mind. I wasn’t even thinking about putting it out but it just kind of happened. 

What kind of stuff inspired it musically or otherwise? I guess I was really inspired by the art ensemble of Chicago. It’s like this jazz group from the 70s. That kind of really wild jazz era of stuff was pretty inspiring. There’s a certain amount of joy in exploration sonically that was interesting to me. And then I love things like Sonic Boom, his solo records and Jesus and Mary Chain, kind of anything that’s kind of fucked up and kind of dark. It’s like a conglomerate. 

Well that’s all I have - thanks so much for talking to us!

 

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Common Holly chats with WLUW

Hailing from Montreal, Québec, Brigitte Naggar of Common Holly drove her way down to Kalamazoo, Michigan for Audiotree Festival 2018. We got the chance to sit down and chat with her and her producer Devon Bate about their work on Playing House, Common Holly’s 2017 release. In the interview, we discuss the process of creating the record, the history of Common Holly, and her personal connection to her music. Naggar sees a clear parallel between her soft, “navel gazing” tunes and the fragile common holly plant which inspired her project name. Through her genre-encompassing and minimalist yet powerful sound, Naggar works outside of the box. As an artist whose thoughtful words and music haunt her listeners, there are no limits to where she is going and we are excited to see what’s in store.

Her 2017 release Playing House has taken her on tour all across the world. Keep scrolling to read our convo and to hear about what’s up next for Common Holly. 

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How does it feel playing Audiotree this weekend?

It feels great, It’s super exciting. I think it’s gonna be a really nice weekend. Weather is good, bands are good.

This is perfect festival weather… I prefer it a little cold.

Yeah, it’s nice to be able to wear a cool jacket and not be disgusting.

Exactly. So, we were curious, what is the inspiration behind the name “Common Holly?”

Quite honestly, it started out by googling a bunch of random words. I think then I decided that plant imagery would suit the music quite well, so I did some researching there. I found Common Holly, I decided the symbolism was cool, it’s like fragile, red berries and dark, sharp leaves. So I think that that sort of symbolizes the aesthetic a bit of the music.

When you were putting Playing House together, what was the process behind that? How did it all come together?

So I met up with my producer Devon Bate for a playing session, I showed him some songs just with voice and guitar, and he took down a bunch of notes, sort of vision boarding. And then we came together again and we just started working through song by song, laying down guitar and vocals, and then throwing on various bits of the vision. It took about 8 or 9 months, I would say.

How about the Playing House cover art?

I commissioned an artist, but I found that it wasn’t really working. I found the perfect portrait of my grandma and her cousin as children. It’s from Egypt of my grandma, she’s probably like six or seven years old. I thought it seemed fitting as a young album.

You’re playing Chicago Oct. 26th at the Empty Bottle, how do you feel about that show? Are you excited?

I am so excited, I love playing in Chicago. Everytime I play in Chicago it’s a great success. There’s always really nice people there, there’s always really good pizza afterwards. And there’s usually good thrifting before.

In your album, we hear notes of all different genres throughout, so what is your inspiration when you’re writing and creating music?

I think that when I write just on guitar, I always kind of opt for music that is sincere but also not boring. It’s kind of like if you say someone is... nice, sometimes it’s an insult. But if you say someone is really nice, then it’s a compliment. So, I guess, writing music that is sincere but not boring is kind of the name of the game. So it means, like, changing up the chords, doing things that are not particularly predictable.

Not fitting in a box.

Yeah, not fitting in a box. And with bringing it to Devon, we sort of unpack that. And we go song by song asking - what does this song call for? What will bring it out of its shell?

So what’s up next for Common Holly?

We just finished another album, pretty much. It’s in mixing stages. I think it’s better than the last one.

In what ways?

I guess it’s just maybe more mature. There’s more of a sense of - both songwriting wise and production wise - it’s more referential. It’s less inward looking, there’s still a couple love songs and it’s still personal, but I also think that its not as navel gazing. Not to discredit the last one.

Is your album cover going to be your Grandma but just a little bit older?

Possibly. That’s a good idea.

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Be sure to catch Common Holly live in Chicago October 26th at The Empty Bottle alongside Anna Burch and Fred Thomas. Tickets and more info can be found here!

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WLUW at The Audiotree Music Festival 2018

WLUW spent this past weekend in Kalamazoo, Michigan at the 2018 Audiotree Music Festival! The festival is put on by Chicago based company Audiotree and brings indie rock and folk acts from across the US (and Canada), including some Chicago bands and WLUW favorites. Check out our coverage below of the different sets we saw and some pictures of the acts! And be on the lookout for some interviews conducted at the fest by WLUW team members Olivia Cerza, Elise McGannon, and Scott Clancy!

 

SATURDAY

 

Stuyedeyed

The band of hard rockers from Bed-Stuy, NYC blasted through their set on Saturday afternoon - September 22nd (the first official day of Fall 2018 btw). That morning’s chill still lingered as the sun was beginning to blaze over the Arcadia Festival Place. They play a face-melting blend of metallic punk that swirls through a wah pedal and guitar feedback”NO ONE IS IMPORTANT - NONE OF THIS MATTERS - WE ARE ALL HUMAN!” and later a manifesto exclaiming “BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK WOMEN ARE POWERFUL!” was shouted at the modest crowd at the start of the set and the tone was set right then. The band delivers a political message in their lyrics rooted by the members’ experiences growing up on welfare and Section 8. While they pummeled through their songs like “Funeral,” “Mr. Policeman,” I couldn’t help notice their look - that classic garage rock look of denim jackets and long hair. A good set - though it was a shame the crowd was so small early on in the day.

-Scott Clancy

 

VV Lightbody

Self described as “nap-rock,” Chicago’s Vivian McConnell walked out on stage with the intentions of putting the crowd to sleep. With gentle and comforting sounds, McConnell hopes her music reminds you of the rejuvenation of “those 30 seconds when you accidentally fall asleep on the train." McConnell’s set began with “Fish in Five,” which kicked off a lovely and refreshing performance on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. McConnell seamlessly glided through songs off her 2018 release, Bathing Peach, and all the while it felt like I was floating on a fluffy, pretty cloud. McConnell encouraged the crowd to put up their “V.V.s,” between songs, and as the audience raised their peace signs into the air, it was so clear that the love was really real during this inviting V.V. Lightbody performance.

Our interview with Viv was so fun, listen here!

-Olivia Cerza

 

Melkbelly

One of Chicago’s finest - noise rock lives and it’s played by a band of brother/sister guitar players and a kick-ass rhythm section. Really and truly I mean that - Liam Winters on bass and James Wetzel on drums are a duo to behold. James’ drum fills are manic and pummeling and Liam attacks his bass with such fuzzed out might. Plus, he looks like he could crack me in half in a second...but I’m sure he’s a very nice person...Guitar player and singer Miranda Winters, who was on double duty today with a solo set later at the fest, growled and rambled her way through tracks from their 2017 debut, Nothing Valley. “Kid Creative” is my favorite and was thrown into the set to meld with power riffs, snarls, and abrasive electric guitar leads played by left-handed Bart Winters. It was primal and loud and so good to see the mighty Melkbelly do their thing. Listen to our interview with the lovely Miranda Winters here!

-Scott Clancy

The Regrettes

With new bandmate Drew Thomsen on the drums and Destroy Boy’s Violet Mayugba on the bass, this energy-packed set featured a perfect blend of both old and new songs, celebrating how much The Regrettes have accomplished so far in their career as well as how they don’t plan on slowing down any time soon. During “Picture Perfect,” lead singer Lydia Night got up close and personal with the audience as she crawled around the floor, encouraging the crowd to dance and sing along with her. “Come Through,” a single off their 2018 EP Attention Seeker, was a personal highlight of the set, as I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the band’s most recent work holds up as well as their previous releases. With her simple and creative  harmonies, Genessa Gariano provided an essential backbone to The Regrettes classic sound. This impressive performance also featured “Lacy Loo,” “Hey Now,” and “A Living Human Girl,” an anthem celebrating both the ups and downs of being comfortable with who you are. This set was easily one of the most fun performances of the weekend, and as the band was rocking away on stage, I couldn’t help but think about how they are basically the same age as me and that I should probably start getting my shit together.

-Olivia Cerza

 

Miranda Winters

After a powerful performance on the Main Stage as the voice of Melkbelly, Miranda Winters took to the WIDR FM stage to share a more intimate performance of her own. Following her release of Xobeci, What Grows Here? earlier this summer, Winters has shared a personal look into her life through her solo work. With just her and her guitar, Winters’ vulnerable set included “The Futuristic District,” “Mickey’s Dead Stuff,” and “Glitter House.” As Winters introduced us to a different side of her music, I sat in the grass and closed my eyes as her storytelling took me away. With a focus on the random happenings of her life as well as the thoughts that often clutter her mind, Winters’ lyrics feel like she’s sharing a captivating memory with friends. This intimate setting was a perfect spot to listen to Winters share her work. Check out our interview with Miranda Winters coming soon in our coverage from the fest!

-Olivia Cerza

 

Ne-Hi

Two albums and a slew of singles down on wax, Chicago’s own Ne-Hi is a real solid live band who kick out some stellar rock ‘n’ roll that’s got a little more intrigue to it than standard garage power chords. The group’s two guitarists Jason and Mikey both delivered to the somewhat modest crowd at their Audiotree set some slinky distorted notes over the rhythms of tracks like “Since I’ve Been Thinking” and “Stay Young.” To me, the groove that the band finds their way into ensures an interesting, unique set while retaining the element of   good time guitar rock and their live moves add quite a       bit to the show - sounds trivial but stage presence can really make or break a live show. Ne-Hi is energetic but by the time they started to breeze through the short but sweet set, the sun made it just a little   too hot and the crowd was shamefully stagnant, but I had a really good time - they’re a great band and were one of my favorites of the weekend.

Check out our interview with Ne-Hi guitarist Jason Balla from the fest!

-Scott Clancy

 

Diet Cig

Music festivals are supposed to be fun...right? Diet Cig brought more than enough fun for the entirety of Audiotree. Alex Luciano, lead singer and guitarist, bounced around stage, jumping, twirling, and grinning like this was the most fun she’d ever had. Despite having torn her ACL afew months ago, her leg in a bulky cast and everything, Luciano managed to kick  all the way to her head many times. Noah Bowman provided the backbone for all the songs, killing it on the drums. Luciano paused in between songs to make a few political statements. She gave thanks to all of the women, trans, and queer people in the audience for making the space so special. She made a    point to say that rock n’ roll was created by a queer woman of color in the first  place, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and finished off by encouraging the audience to register to vote for November. Easily one of my favorite sets from Audiotree, Diet Cig knows how to have fun.

Find our convo with Diet Cig here

-Elise McGannon

 

Basement

Pop-Punk is going through a revival. I had a feeling it was coming and from the UK, Basement’s Audiotree set sorta kinda proved it...and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it was a really cool set. I’m not too familiar with the band’s three albums to date (with their fourth, Beside Myself, out later this year on Fueled By Ramen). Lead vocalist Andrew Fisher sang strong and added to his performance in true pop-punk fashion with a scream here and there. The band’s sound was heavy and melodic and a lot of the songs had a rather cathartic and emotive quality to their grit that sparked the first pit of the night - up until then the crowds were a bit still, but Basement brought it out of a few of them. Their set felt like the right  transition from the sunny afternoon into the night’s headliners - with a heavy wallop of English angst.

-Scott Clancy

 

Khruangbin

Imagine, if you will - it is 1967. You are in New York City and walk into the Cafe Wha and there’s some group playing that night - Jimi something...Heeder? Howard? Hendrix I think? Never heard of him but your only words after watching him play are “holy crap...what?” That’s what I imagine it was like anyway and that’s what it was like after Houston, Texas psych face melters Khruangbin. Guitar, bass, and drums never sounded so entrancing, so full. The sun was setting and the shining moon arose with the band’s music. They played pretty much all instrumental music and the crowd soaked up every second of it, which was impressive in front of an indie rock audience - it’s hard to keep a crowd so engaged with hardly any lyrics of pop hooks. But here’s how they did it - a drummer named DJ Johnson who played with no frills and a simplet, steady beat, a bass player named Laura Lee (“the sexiest woman I’ve ever seen” according to Elise) who wore shiny rainbow pants and was the epitome of suave while she plucked out groove after sexy groove, and Mark Speer - probably the greatest technical guitar player I have ever seen in my life. It was like watching somebody make love to a guitar. They didn’t sing much - a few times they sang some beautifully haunted croons, Laura pretended to be a phone menu voice, and Mark introduced the band to the crowd at the end. Clearly inspired by eastern scales, neo-soul and surf, Afghan-funk, the soundscapes transported the crowd into the deserts of outer space even when they launched into a spaced out guitar medley of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg hip hop hits. Only a handful of times have I seen a show and not known what to do right afterwards but stand there - so I said “holy crap...what?”

-Scott Clancy

 

Local Natives

Performing directly after the explosive performance of Khruangbin couldn’t have been easy for California based indie-rock group, Local Natives. But they held their own, especially in front of an audience who clearly loves the genre and the band. Guitarist and lead singer, Taylor Rice, really moves to their music, almost violently dancing in the center of the stage. For us, the WLUW team didn’t find Local Native’s sound to be the most exciting act of the festival that Saturday, however, fans can depend on them to produce consistent chill and almost tribal vibes, reminding us of live performances by Fleet Foxes or Ra Ra Riot. Prior to the set, the band announced on social media that their upcoming shows would be their only ones for a little while as they begin writing and recording new music - some of which was played during their Audiotree set - “When Am I Gonna See You” being one of them. Fan favorites like “Dark Days,” “Jellyfish,” and “Breakers,” among other all made a live appearance. Their song “Ceilings” was dedicated to band member Taylor Rice, who was married last month. Their brand of dancey, anthemic pop music closed out Saturday in Kalamazoo to the jovial pleasures of the fans and put an end to WLUW’s favorite day of the weekend.

-Elise McGannon & Scott Clancy

 

SUNDAY

 

Common Holly

Driving into the states all the way from Montreal, Québec, Brigitte Naggar of Common Holly blessed us on a beautiful Michigan Sunday morning with the first set of the second day. As festival attendees arrived, the hypnotizing voice of Naggar pulled them in to the Main Stage. Naggar describes her sound as “dark dad folk/sloth punk,” which is shown through the slow and steady build of sound and intensity found within her work. This set showcased Naggar’s haunting and thoughtful lyricism, especially during songs like “The Rose,” where her writing abilities pair hand in hand with heart aching instrumentals. Guitarist Devon Bates produced and worked alongside Naggar throughout the production of her record Playing House, which explains the clear and ever-present chemistry between the two during their set, especially during their passionate performance of “The Desert.” Although I wish Naggar would’ve gotten the crowd size she deserved for such a captivating performance, I am sure that Common Holly has gained quite a few fans out of those who were lucky enough to have been in attendance.

It is said that Canadians are very nice, take a listen to our interview with Brigitte and Devon to decide for yourself... (the answer is yes, they were very very nice).

And be sure to catch Common Holly live in Chicago October 26th at The Empty Bottle alongside Anna Burch and Fred Thomas: more info here!

-Olivia Cerza

 

Lushh

Lushh’s music is quite literally lush. Their classic take on smooth jazz could put anyone in a good mood. Kalamazoo natives, the group of five guys incorporate a plethora of instruments in their music, including some killer saxophone. Eddie Codrington quietly dominated the center stage with his saxophone, showcasing a talent that blew me away. There was a special chemistry between the members, proving a bond on and off stage. They played a few original songs and some covers as well, reminding me that there’s nothing quite as pleasing as some good jazz.

-Elise McGannon

 

 

 

 

Major Murphy

Every now and then, in the middle of a harsh Chicago winter, I get a hankering for the beach. That’s when I put on some Major Murphy. Their music transports the listener to easier sunnier times. The group made sure to play fan favorites, such as “One Day,” and “Mary,” from their first full length album, No. 1, during their Audiotree set. Major Murphy has been together for about three years now and each of them, Jacob (guitar and vocals), Jackie (bass and vocals), and Brian (drums), clearly have a tight bond that manifests onstage as intense musical chemistry. Each of them are attune to one another’s next moves and they manage to create a space just for them, despite being in front of an audience. Their live music is so good that they recorded the majority of No. 1 live.

-Elise McGannon

 

 

Jake Simmons & the Little Ghosts

“We’re from down the street!” exclaimed Jake Simmons at the start of the set. Kalamazoo’s own Jake Simmons & the Little Ghosts came to Audiotree determined to make the most of their set as they moved from song to song without wasting any time. I wasn’t even surprised to learn that they have been working together for almost a decade, because their chemistry was so present in their performance. Their impressive guitar work and alternative pop punk sound packed a punch into Sunday afternoon’s lazy atmosphere. The band introduced the political “Them (Evil)” by saying it’s a song that hasn’t been relevant for about 8 years but unfortunately is again. By making their opinions loud and known, Jake Simmons & the Little Ghosts are making a strong wave within the Kalamazoo music scene. With a new album out November 2nd, these hometown heros had a meaningful performance on the WIDR FM stage, sharing the love with both their local support as well as their new fans.

-Olivia Cerza

 

Caamp

As I was sitting in the grass, I was alarmed by a loud but beautiful wail coming from the main stage. That wail belonged to Taylor Meier, the lead singer and guitarist of Ohio’s Caamp. From then on, I was intrigued to learn where this soothing, raspy voice was coming from. Folk music is not my cup of tea per se, but I would argue that any fans of the genre would fall head over heels for the music of these small town boys. This passionate set included some intense banjoing, impressive harmonies, and passionate lyrics. Once the “ooo’s” started to sound like wolves howling in the distance, I realized that a band name has never felt more fitting. Caamp’s music takes you right back to sitting around a campfire with friends on a warm summer night. After a few songs, though, it all started to sound the same. Although Caamp really fit the bill for the Sunday lineup of folksy tunes, and did draw a large crowd of folksy fans to dance around with them,  I’m not gonna lie, this set was not one of the most memorable moments of WLUW’s weekend.

-Olivia Cerza

 

Post Animal

Sunday continued with another band from Chicago - the sun made it too hot for a Fall day, too hot to stand around and watch Post Animal. The band’s album When I Think of You In a Castle was released earlier this year and is full of your typical chorus effected guitars and jangly melodies so trendy in a lot of today’s indie rock. The band’s look is like that of a lot of their contemporaries - long hair, mustaches, and tucked in t-shirts, but their live set was a little surprising actually, given how tame their album sounds. They played a set that was reminiscent of some of those prog-bands from the 1970s, but with less developed or interesting visual imagery. The band’s crunchy and jumpy riffs that were interspersed with math-rock psych guitar solos and jittery synths that sounded like they were lifted from a video game seemed, to me, a little underwhelming and not a very interesting way to keep up festival energy as the late afternoon began dragging in the draining sun. Though some of the crowd dug it, I took the time to explore the vendors and the festival site’s playground.

-Scott Clancy

 

Blitzen Trapper

The sleepy and sunny afternoon continued along on the main stage with an appearance from Portland, Oregon’s country-tinged-synth-space-folk-band, Blitzen Trapper. Why such a confusing descriptor? Because in all honesty, I do not know how the hell to peg this band’s set. Country rock? Harmonica? Extended synth jams? Correct, all of the above, which felt a little odd. Their set opened with electric guitars complete with a country rock solo, then segued into a few acoustic, folky songs that sometimes had these long synth passages that were rather spacey, a harmonica here and there and none of it really peaked our interests. Most of the crowd was into it, however, as was the case with a few of the bigger acts this Sunday, being dominated by some more indie acoustic, mellow jangle pop bands, Blitzen Trapper and their set did seem to elicit some enthusiasm from those fans of such folksy music, though we, from WLUW, reacted a tad less energetically - in fact, Olivia doesn’t even remember sleeping through it... I will end with this visual, which I believe sums up my thoughts on the set pretty well: I was laying in the grass for part of the set and upside down I watched a waving American Flag with birds flying overhead, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky above, and Blitzen Trapper’s Americana drifted to me from the Main Stage speakers - it felt very American...in an odd way.

-Scott Clancy

 

Slow Mass

This set was just what we needed late Sunday afternoon. Chicago’s post-hardcore band Slow Mass was a shining star on the 2018 Audiotree lineup. Volume itself seems to be a whole other instrument in this band, as each band member manipulates their own sound in their own unique way. As their songs seamlessly shift from noisey face melters to soft moments of recovery, Slow Mass guides their audience through a rollercoaster ride of music. With a performance including songs like “Suburban Yellow,” “Gray Havens,” and “Blocks” off their 2018 release, On Watch, the band showcased their chemistry and talent with smiles on their faces. Slow Mass closed their set with a wall of noise, which featured an added touch by flautist Vivian McConnell of V.V. Lightbody. As the speakers blared, I stood there with my jaw on the floor. With this being the weekend’s closing performance at the WIDR FM stage, Slow Mass sent an extra boost of energy into the festival goers for the rest of the evening. This set was hands down the highlight of my weekend.

We got to sit down and chat with the members of Slow Mass about their recording process, the Chicago music scene, and what’s up next for them. Check it out here!

-Olivia Cerza

 

Chicano Batman

Sunday continued to pick up a bit with an appearance by LA favorite, the soulful yet playful Chicano Batman. They combine psychedelic and tropicalia roots with funk rhythms and rock stomp to create a listening and concert experience that exudes cool and excitement. The band was dressed formally, in grey, skinny suits, but retained a casual look with sneakers, long hair, or sunglasses. This is a band of dualities that were on display at Audiotree. As mentioned, their cool and excitement, formal and casual look, but also in the performance from singer, keyboardist, guitarist Bardo Martinez, who plays and sings with such talent and competent quality, yet makes it look easy, casual, natural. The band grooved through tracks from their three albums to date, like last years Freedom is Free and another highlight for me came from the bass playing by Eduardo Arenas. Thumping with a kind of sexual bop, his playing echoes funk and provides the best vault for the other members’ playing. Oh and of course the band’s trio of backup singers, just another element of the style the band showed the crowd on Sunday evening as the sun set on Kalamazoo.

-Scott Clancy

 

Real Estate

If Chicano Batman was the day’s upper, Real Estate was its downer. The sun was going down and the sky turned to a tiered stack of shades of blue. It looked calming and fit the music of Real Estate well. I must admit, I expected a rather subdued set as their music isn’t the most energetic on record. It was, for the most part, rather relaxed though what did surprise me was the slightly harder edge a live treatment of their reverb and jangle guitar style gave the songs. The guitars cracked with a bit of distortion over the washes of ambient keys and their rhythm section had a nice heavy bottom, which added some power. This was the band’s first show in Kalamazoo and during it they showcased some new songs and told the crowd they’ll be recording a new album soon. As with many of the day’s more subdued sets, the crowd seemed to appreciate the more folksy trend of the band and looked happy to listen to Real Estate’s watery rock. Here’s the best visual of the fest, seen during the tail end of the band’s appearance - A man, bald and with ginger mutton chops, proudly wearing a 2018 Ozzy Osbourne “No More Tours Vol. 2” t-shirt, waving melodically around, eyes closed, feeling Real estate. Very tranquil.

-Scott Clancy


Father John Misty

In the name of the Father and of the John and of the Holy Misty, Amen. After barely being able to see Daddy Misty last weekend at his packed Riot Fest performance, WLUW traveled to Kzoo for a more intimate setting. FJM swaggered onto stage, was handed his guitar, and started his set with a soulful kick in his voice. Misty began with “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” off his 2012 album Fear Fun. We were mesmerized and slightly surprised by the way Misty moved to his music with a feminine and  purposeful demeanor, dramatically swiping at his guitar and often executing  a modified and more tame version of “the twist.” As the fancy lights lit up his silhouette, Misty put the entire festival under a spell, unlike a number of his predecessors in the Sunday lineup. Although many artists aim for his level and quality of stage presence, his persona is highly unique and untouchable. His performance was objectively great.

-Olivia Cerza and Elise McGannon                                                                                                                       

All Photos taken by Elise McGannon

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RIOT FEST 2018 INTERVIEW BONANZA

WLUW was lucky enough to interview several amazing acts at Riot Fest this year. Listen to our interviews with Beach Goons, Arkells, and The Districts on our Mixcloud page!

 

 

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