Category: Blog

Bottle Recap: TV On The Radio @ 312 Block Party 9.21

“Shit is fuckin’ weird right now. Be nice to people you know, be nice to people you don’t know…Lance that boil, pop that zit. Here’s another song.”

Lead vocalist Tunde Adebimpe expressed these sentiments and similar ones through his quips between songs and overall performance, and the rest of the band backed him up throughout their set that closed out the first day of Goose Island’s 312 Block Party. The show had a perfect balance of being about the turmoil going on right now and simply dancing away that negativity, the music cathartic and enjoyable in nature.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @Do312

What makes TV On The Radio special is their extreme eclecticism—they’re primarily a rock band, yes, but they pull from many sub-genres (including but not limited to punk and synth) as well as a multitude of other styles and traditions. And they do this with an energy that boils and melts it all together into a fine hodge-podge of sounds, in the studio—and as exemplified by their September 21 show—on the stage.

In all honesty, I was a bit nervous to hear how they would sound live—their records are so well-produced, countless layers interacting but never getting in the way of each other, pristine vocal tracks and their harmonies shining. Throughout the concert, there were great moments where each musician’s zeal was supremely prominent—a trombone and guitar rhythmically spitting back and forth, subtly and minimally used vocal effects resulting in controlled feedback atop everything else before being buried, unrelenting drums holding it all together.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @Do312

A high point in the show came after the aforementioned quote, with the moving chorus of “Trouble,” from 2014’s Seeds. Adebimpe—and the many fans singing along—belted out “‘Everything’s gonna be okay’ / Oh, I keep telling myself / ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ / Oh, you keep telling yourself” and following its introduction, the song that preceded recent events had a new meaning, one that evoked both a longing acceptance and bitter sarcasm, depending on how you heard and processed it. In a time when it seems every artist has to acknowledge the current climate, TV On The Radio navigated that well, not disregarding the immense power music has to deal with heavy subjects in abstract ways, nor the ability it has to—at the very least—help masses put their worries somewhere else and just dance and sing.

*A review by Izzy Yellen

Posted October 9th, 2018

Categories Blog, EBP

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Beyond The Gate feat. Grouper, Mute Duo Ensemble, & Hilary Woods 9.23

It’s not often you get to see a well-programmed concert at a cemetery on the Fall Equinox. And under the Harvest Moon. But Empty Bottle Presents’ Beyond The Gate was exactly that.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @312

Right off the bat, the setting was beautiful—blue lights illuminating the building behind, branches and handmade lit-up orbs adorning the stage, blankets and chairs packed into the lawn with bundled up fans.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @312

Once the crowd and the sun’s light settled, Hilary Woods began, twangy guitar accompanying her wispy but resonant voice. The atmosphere she created, especially in the cemetery, was reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s music for Twin Peaks—thick, muddy voicings on a keyboard and 50s-sounding guitar (she switched between the two) created structured songs that still allowed there to be an atmospheric, open quality.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @312

Mute Duo is Sam Wagster on pedal steel and Skyler Rowe on drums/percussion, but for this special concert, they were the Mute Duo Ensemble, joined by six others. An instrumental group (aside from wordless vocals from Bottle staple Bruce “Hesh” Lamont, who also played tenor sax), the collection of musicians played without breaks, going from unified drones to solos to prickly durations of time that had the many voices peeking out of the combined voice with their idiosyncrasies.

Photo by Danny O'Donnell, @312

Grouper was—in terms of the whole bill—a synthesis of her openers, bringing together chaos and stark songwriting. The fact that it was just a sole musician (Liz Harris) didn’t stop there from being layers and layers of sound enveloping the audience. Grouper’s outside music surrounded and comforted me, the powerful moments—emotionally and sonically—making the near silent moments even more silent, and the silent moments making the powerful even more powerful. The dynamic and emotional range of her performance was flooring, and this was only accentuated by its setting.

While the space and her interaction with it was an instrument itself, it would not have functioned as such without the sources—her elaborate but well-controlled setup of piano, guitar, affected vocals, and samples, all through a mixer she intently controlled. Melting and shifting together, these different instruments often took on similar forms in context of her larger work.

Hilary Woods, Mute Duo Ensemble, and Grouper evoked an unsettling creepiness at their concert space without forcing it at all, their music finding a home at Bohemian National Cemetery and, ultimately, being more moving thanks to the environment. I’m already excited to hear more bands find a home for their music at the cemetery next year.

*A review by Izzy Yellen

Bottle Recap: Gang Gang Dance / Deakin / Justindemus 9.10

Neither the fact that it was a Monday night or the start to the Jewish High Holidays deferred fans from a show with experimental rockers Gang Gang Dance and Deakin (of Animal Collective). GGD and AnCo have known each other since the early 2000s, renting a practice space together and sharing a bill at the Empty Bottle in their wee beginnings, and their reunion at this venue was something special—both bands spoke highly of each other and their host, showing this gratitude and energy through their music as well.

Photo by @deakin_joshmin

Justindemus opened things up with his dark beats and singing, fitting right into the bill of music that both grooved and warranted somber contemplation. Deakin followed him, armed with two guitars, a keyboard, a mic, an OP-1, and a whole lot of pedals. (Between two of his songs, he said with tongue in cheek, “Thanks for your patience…while pushing all these buttons.”) Despite the significant number of instruments, Deakin approached all the music with an intense concentration and consideration, subtly layering and melding drones, rhythms and more together. The meticulous control of the instrumentals was the perfect counterpart to his vocals—cryptic in lyricism (and often effects too), the voice was the instrument he really let loose with, going from collected lower register drawls to unbridled yells and back again. His voice wove in and out of his other sounds, peeking above frequently. It’s not uncommon to compare thickly layered music to a blanket, but Deakin’s live set wasn’t quite that, instead, a sheet providing warmth and protection (with the feet and shins sticking out for contact with cool air).

Photo by @izzyyellenart

The overall feeling of his live music was similar to his 2016 album Sleep Cycle, but only one song of the setlist was a track from his sole release—the album opener “Golden Chords,” which closed the set. Other songs were solo reworkings of two AnCo songs—“Wide Eyed” from 2012’s Centipede Hz and “DownDownDownDown” from their site-specific live show earlier this year—and a cover of a Tinariwen song with elements from his remix. In addition to this variety of songwriting sources, Deakin debuted several “sketches” of songs he’s working on, but had he not described them as such, we would most likely never have known. Performed with confidence and intention, these new tunes had the same grounded substance heard in Sleep Cycle. It’s clear he’s aware of all the sounds going on and what his lyrics mean to him, and even though I was transported into this world of creative sounds I hadn’t heard before and lyrics I didn’t have the meanings of, I felt—in one of those inexplicable, experiential ways—home.

While Deakin ushered in feelings of introspection and home, GGD ushered in cosmic and bigger-picture reflection. Tight grooves that slipped and slid from improvisation to intense composition pulled listeners in, getting many to dance, but unsettling harmonies and ambiguity of who was making what sound really gave the audience something to chew on. GGD’s live set was both carefree and thoughtful, occupying both ends of the spectrum and challenging what dance music is and what it can be. You could dance the night, mull over their musical choices, or both at the same time—hell, I know I switched back and forth through all of those.

Photo by @mikefitzge

At times, it was overwhelming, as if the physicality of the music and all its many components were grabbing you, yet I enjoyed this aspect of it. One of their more popular songs—“Vacuum” from 2008’s Saint Dymphna­—was as encompassing and intoxicating live as it was with headphones, if not more so. And that’s a chiller song of theirs. Other moments had three percussionists going full throttle, a guitar acting like a synth, a synth acting like a few synths, and one of the fullest basses I’ve ever heard—with Lizzi Bougatsos’ ethereal shrieks and organic oscillations atop, of course.

With all the controlled chaos throughout the set, their closer was even more expansive. Introducing the song as one about “the future of the universe,” the band launched into a soundscape-oriented rather than groove-oriented jam, with flowing swells from guitars and synth, rustling drums out of time, and breathy, spoken lyrics—all musicians leaving lots of space for each other to settle, expand, and continue the cycle. It ended the night with a misty, thoughtful energy, bodies tired from dancing and minds tired from thinking, both ready for rest.

I wish I could have been there in those early aughts to see how GGD and Deakin have evolved in a live setting, but who knows, maybe they’ll both be back a decade or so from now. And if they are, you can bet I’ll be there.

Posted September 15th, 2018

Categories Blog

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Empty Bottle and Pacifico present Joey Purp – A Valentine’s Day Special

Love was in the air last Wednesday night as The Empty Bottle and Pacifico Beer hosted Chicago hip-hop favorites JOEY PURP, KNOX FORTUNE and DJ THELONIOUS MARTIN for a very special Valentine’s Day Show. DJ THELONIOUS MARTIN, who was spinning on stage under the revolving shine of the disco ball, set the mood before anyone even had time to grab their first drinks. What a sweetheart. By the second sip he had the crowd grooving and swooning to everything from r&b classics, hints of remixed funk and even some Gwen Stefani. The transitions were smooth, and the vibe was set for the night. After a couple rounds, Chicago producer and rookie album releaser KNOX FORTUNE took to the stage to bring his late-night sounds to the hungry and energetic crowd. The anticipation was palpable, the energy sapable, you could almost drink the excitement stirring about. Pairing tracks together like an expert mixologist, KNOX, in signature style, flowed the likes of Connan Mockasin, Miguel and even some left-field Beatles for a truly unruly set. Last to take the stage was none other than the matchmaker of the evening, JOEY PURP. Alongside him was STIX and PETER COTTONTALE of THE SOCIAL EXPERIMENT band providing some live instrumentation, which created some very unique stylings of tracks from JOEY’s earlier recordings. He mused the crowd like everyone was his soulmate, impressing at all costs playing signatures off “iiidrops”, bringing out fellow Chicago rapper KAMI to join the party and even teasing new music from his long-awaited follow up project “Quarter Thing”. To seal the deal, JOEY’S debut at the Bottle wouldn't have been complete unless the crowd hauled him back onto the stage for a final nightcap track where he blasted his beloved song “Girls @” before finally saying goodnight. Blood was flowing and the taps stayed pouring as another Valentine’s Day at the Empty Bottle came to a close, till next year ya lovebirds! Review by Allen Stewart. Photography by Victoria Sanders.