The Empty Bottle works with a wide variety of venues for their Presents shows, but perhaps none of them are as intimate and stunning as their Rockefeller Chapel concerts. For EBP this past Friday, Low took to the stage with opener IN / VIA. Both groups used the space to their advantage, crafting stark, emotionally wrought songs that were mollified by the Chapel’s acoustics.
IN / VIA, the solo synth project of Nona Invie, was an apt way to set the tone for Low. With swirling and twirling synth lines that were as mesmerizing as the vocals, IN / VIA created structured soundscapes that moved freely. Synth sounds warm and cool basked in the Chapel’s openness providing a lush backdrop for somber, heartfelt lyricism.
While Low didn’t use synths (their consistent instrumentation is guitar, bass, drums, and vocals), their set followed IN / VIA’s smoothly, with poise and admiration—for their opener, the Chapel, and the listeners. The fact that it was an EBP production was particularly resonant for them, as their first show in Chicago was at The Bottle about 25 winters ago.
Despite it being just the beginning of the cold months, the harmonies of Alan Sparkhawk and Mimi Parker (the group’s core members who are also married) instantly instilled the imagery and feeling of the last bit of snow and ice melting at the end of winter. Their haunting vocals are what really set Low apart, and experiencing these voices live—attached to their sincere sources and heard in the reverberant space—was a highlight of the show.
“It’s such a beautiful space, I can’t say anything to ruin it,” Sparkhawk said simply of the Chapel.
Much of its beauty was manifested in its sonic qualities, but both these and the visual aspects were only accentuated by the lighting that accompanied Low. Frequent collaborator and engineer/producer Tom Herbers (who has also worked with Andrew Bird, Why?, and many others) instead focused on the lightboard, controlling three panels of lights that reacted to the sounds with abstract textures and other visuals. The lighting echoed the evocative, solemn music well, playing a much larger role than lighting usual does at a concert.
About half of Low’s set was made up of their recent album, Septembers’ Double Negative. Sonically, the record is a huge shift from previous records, with different production and recording approaches greatly molding their sound.
But their Rockefeller Chapel concert showed that their distinct songwriting and minimal compositions were still at the heart of this new sound. Sounding more like previous records rather than Double Negative, Low’s feeling and energy is what is most important about their music, and the fact that they can convey that purely no matter the sonic approach is a testament to their genuinity and emotional sentiment.
*A review by Izzy Yellen
*Photos by @bblane_photography
This past Monday, the Thurston Moore Group and poet Krista Franklin shared new work at the Art Institute, and the two contrasting performances filled the sold-out room with rejuvenating and motivating power amidst the the Chicago snowfall and nation’s ever-present negativity. While Franklin conjured up these powers with weighted words, Moore’s band instead premiered a lengthy instrumental piece.
Franklin shared three poems to open up the event, each with a distinct style. The third led into the Thurston Moore Group perfectly. The poem was explicitly a call to action and reflection, and Moore’s new composition certainly allowed inward-looking and was rooted in activism.
The piece was entitled “Alice Moki Jayne,” after its three inspirations—musician Alice Coltrane, visual artist Moki Cherry, and poet Jayne Cortez—all key figures in the sixties due to art and activism. While Moore is known for his heavily improvised noise jams in his group and Sonic Youth, “Alice Moki Jayne” was much more restrained and conceptual, allowing him to explore his instrumental compositional voice and the sound of the 12-string electric guitar.
Joined by guitarist James Sedwards, bassist Debbie Googe, and drummer Steve Shelley (also a Sonic Youth alum), Moore “conducted” the group minimally, signaling new sections, segueing and stitching together the ambient and heavy seamlessly.
Opening with a minimal, reverb-drenched section, the group played to the room with no problem whatsoever. This elastic moment was disrupted by a strum of gravitas from Moore, moving the quartet into the second part.
The lush ringing the 12-strings brought to the palette were particularly accentuated by the venue—the Chicago Stock Exchange Trading Room—a boxy, resonant location.
The piece was a journey through many sections—some short soundscapes, some longer fuzzy jams—each one unpredictable yet satisfying. There was direction that came from its structure, but the variety of the sections kept the work snaking and hard to pin down. Not only that, but the maintained cohesiveness was even more impressive thanks to mixed bag.
With all the false endings from the movements, the actual end took the audience by surprise, and after awe and applause, Moore leaned into the mic for his only words—sharing the basis for the piece and his gratitude to Franklin “for sharing what’s on her mind” as well as the concert-goers. The Thurston Moore Group has performed “Alice Moki Jayne” a few times, so if a studio recording happens, you’d better keep your ears open.
*A review by Izzy Yellen
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Glitter CreepsAlong with being at the helm of Glitter Creeps, Donnie and Madison Moore make up two thirds of local glam punk outfit ABSOLUTELY NOT. With Donnie on vox and guitar, Madison on keys and backup vox and Santiago Guerrero on drums, ABSOLUTELY NOT has carved out their own unabashedly queer and tenacious space in the Chicago music scene with multiple performances at The Bottle. Where did the idea for Glitter Creeps come from and how did it end up at the bottle? Donnie: Most of my young adult life I searched for cool rock or punk related LGBTQIA events, but the options were extremely limited. After living in Chicago for a couple of years, I found out about things like Fed Up Fest, Homocore, and Queer Social Club (QSC) night at Archie's. After attending and guest DJing a few QSC events I became good friends with Pete, who was the organizer at the time). He asked Madison and I if we wanted to take over QSC, and refresh it with a new name and style. My dreams had come true! I was now a part of organizing a night geared toward the LGBTQIA+ community with the style of music and culture that I identify with. I was was excited to provide such an event for like-minded people that had very little options. After successfully doing many Glitter Creeps at Archies, Madison and I just couldn't shake the nagging feeling of wanting to go even bigger where we could have live bands performing at our events. One day I walked my silly ass into the Empty Bottle, and had a very long, nice talk with Christen Thomas who was the talent buyer at the time, and she was 100% into the idea of Glitter Creeps. Three months later, on November 19th 2014, we launched Glitter Creeps at Empty Bottle with THE CELL PHONES, PAPER MICE, and SPACE BLOOD. What does making an LGBTQIA+ inclusive space mean to you? Donnie: Glitter Creeps is an event where everyone should feel comfortable. Gay, Straight, Black, White, Male, Female, Transgender, Genderqueer, etc, literally ANYONE with an open mind and an open heart are welcome. Obviously, the event is heavily geared toward the LGBTQIA+ community, but we're not trying to be one of those events that say they are only there for one part of the community. In my dream world, there would be something for everyone in every establishment. Unfortunately, the world isn't like that, so that's why events like Glitter Creeps are extremely necessary. It's a place where the entire LGBTQIA community are safe to express themselves fully, and feel very comfortable doing so! That same offer goes out to open minded heterosexual males and females as well! If you are supportive of all races, and all sexual preferences and identities, you are welcome at Glitter Creeps! Any memorable Glitter Creeps moments from the past two years that stick out? Donnie: Honestly, I have a favorite memory from each show. Every single band that has played Glitter Creeps so far has really given us spectacular performances. It really makes me happy beyond words to see bands going balls to the wall because they know there will be no judgement at Glitter Creeps. That's literally what I live for. I love when music is truly genuine, and performers are bringing their highest levels of expression. GET WEIRD! GET REAL! You only live once, so BE TRUE TO WHO YOU REALLY ARE! Madison: I couldn't agree more with Donnie. However, if I had to choose, I'd probably have to go with the show where, along with SODDY DAISY, our band got to open for GOGGS (Ty Segall’s latest project). Such an awesome night. Donnie: Oh yeah, duh. [laughs]. What do you hope to continue/change/explore with another year of Glitter Creeps? Donnie: Honestly, we just want to keep having great bands and amazing shows. We are trying not to repeat any bands for as long as humanly possible, so wish us luck with that! What does the 2 year anniversary mean to you? Donnie: It means growth, and it means happiness. We've definitely experienced personal growth from running Glitter Creeps for two years, and hope we've helped encourage further growth in the happiness and comfort levels in punk/rock side of the LGBTQIA community as well. With bands like NOBUNNY, Micachu and The Shapes, Royal Headache, and GOGGS playing and showing mega love for the event, that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter and brighter for the community. Any news about your band Absolutely Not? Donnie & Madison: Yes! We are working on finishing the new LP, and we just released the first single/music video from it recently!
Interview with NOBUNNYJustin Champlin crashed onto the scene in 2001 with his explosively lovable punk/rock n’ roll persona NOBUNNY. With gloriously crusty glam stage antics filled with costumes, nudity and a very special bunny mask, NOBUNNY has captured the hearts of cuties all over. How long have you known about Glitter Creeps and what does it mean to you to be a part of the two year anniversary? Nobunny: I met Donnie and Madison right when they started doing Glitter Creeps two years ago. I'm stoked they invited me! Any favorite Empty Bottle memories? Nobunny: Setting up an interview with a band when I was 19 and Bruce letting me in, as long as I stood on the radiator by the front door. Taking acid for free jazz improv nights. My grandmother attending a Nobunny show and commenting on how dirty the bathroom was. How integral is your live performance when writing new material? Nobunny: I don't generally think about performing live when writing. I suppose sometimes though, I think "this is gonna sound killer live"or, "this will never work live". One song at a time! Can we touch base on the Elvis impersonation time in your life? Nobunny: Elvis impersonation is a decent way to pay the bills, but Nobunny is more creatively fulfilling.
Chairlift We are thrilled welcome back NY synth pop duo CHAIRLIFT on Saturday, July 30th for a Lollapalooza aftershow with New York artist ELA MINUS and DJ OSHWA. CHAIRLIFT have been on our radar since their 2008 breakout hit Bruises which catapulted the band into the ears of millions after being featured in an Apple commercial. Now signed to Columbia Records, they released their third album this past January entitled Moth. On July 22nd, the duo teased new music with the release of a single titled, Get Real. CHAIRLIFT is no stranger to The Empty Bottle stage, having played in both 2008 and 2012. We just opened up more tickets to this show - get 'em before they're gone! (If you miss out, limited tickets will be available with doors at 9 PM). Chairlift plays Lollapalooza on Saturday. Read More »
With the impending arrival of the 25th Anniversary of The Empty Bottle (t-minus less than a year) we’ve been feeling all kinds of nostalgic. Earlier this month we had the two-night book release of The Empty Bottle Chicago: 21+ Years of Music/Friendly/Dancing complete with prolific headliners BLONDE REDHEAD and THE PONYS. To continue our celebratory streak, let’s take a look back at some iconic shows from Bottle’s past:
May 2nd, 1998-For just $7 you could see Modest Mouse touring their then-recent album The Lonesome Crowded West with support from Portland garage rock vets DEAD MOON and longtime Bottle friends JOAN OF ARC, a Kinsella brother project.
May 12th, 2010 -Just six years ago we housed the Louisiana experimental pop group GIVERS along with electronic project PAPER BEAR and Chicago natives ABBOTT SMILE for a mere $8.
May 26th, 2005 -Over a decade ago the badass female fronted alt-rock piece HEARTLESS BASTARDS (who recently played Thalia Hall) graced our stage with LOCKED SOUND and classic rock lovers BIG WHISKEY.
June 7th, 2009 - What cost $12 in 2009? A ticket to see psych pop heroes PORTUGAL. THE MAN, a year shy of going from indie to Atlantic. With Spanish-infused pop act APOSTLE OF HUSTLE and bi-coastal Chicago/Portland indie group YOURSELF AND THE AIR filling out the lineup, the bottle was anything but empty that night.
June 14th, 2009 - An important band now more than ever, indie electronica icons PASSION PIT synthed out to “Little Secrets” back in 2009 with support from indie pop outfits HARLEM SHAKES and frequent PASSION PIT opener CALE PARKS, best known for his contributions to Polyvinyl Records’ band Aloha.
June 28th, 2003-From Brooklyn indie newcomers to "the most vital, current band in America," (Associated Press) TV ON THE RADIO co-headlined with English post-punk band THE FALL for a two-night Bottle appearance starting the 28th.
June 30th, 2000-Talk about a time warp. Split up into seven lovely parts for your internet browsing attention spans, THE WHITE STRIPES entire summer 2000 set is available for your nostalgia-craving pleasure. They hit The Bottle stage with STERLING and THE RACE.