Tag: Empty Bottle Presents

Bottle Recap: Low & IN / VIA 11.12

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

Posted December 13th, 2018

Categories EBP, Review, Uncategorized

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Bottle Recap: Thurston Moore Group / Krista Franklin 11.12

Photo by Mike Bieniek

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.

Photo by Neil Rigler

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

Posted December 13th, 2018

Categories EBP, Review, Uncategorized

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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

Levitation Chicago 2016 :: Empty Bottle Presents

This past weekend of  LEVITATION CHICAGO at Thalia Hall was quite the time! Spring is upon us and we find ourselves on the other side of a killer three days of music at LEVITATION CHICAGO music festival.  Let’s dive on in to revisit how great of a time we had music-friendly-dancing (and drinking LAGUNITAS beer)all over Thalia Hall. [Pictures by Allison Taich ] Read More »

TONS of new shows this week!

We’ve got an almost-obnoxious number of awesome new shows coming to our stage (& LSA) in the next few months and they’re all going on sale this week. Some of them are even on sale now! Check it out (“after the jump”) and give a listen to the New Shows Playlist at the bottom of this post. What a world!

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