Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Piñata Recording Artists Go To Hideout Block Party in Chicago: Friday

Black Diet's Jonathan Tolliver and Southside Desire's Damien Tank went to Chicago last weekend for the annual Hideout Block Party (also called AV Fest, due to its recent synnnergy with the AV Club). They both wrote about their experience, so we'll publish both of them. Here's their impressions of Friday.

Damien says:
Friday 9/6/13:
Jonathan and I rode the 6 AM Megabus from Minneapolis to Chicago. Jonathan usually only takes the overnight bus, so he was disoriented. He also chose not to sleep before getting on the bus, assuming he would be able to sleep well on a bus traveling east at 7 AM. He did snore, but he later claimed that he didn’t really sleep. We stopped in Mauston, WI so the contents of the Megabus could shuffle into a crooked line at Wendy’s. I ate a sausage biscuit with egg and cheese that was really, truly great. It was an unexpected delight. Jonathan ate something with chicken and lettuce. We both bought coffee and we were happy. Back on the bus, we discussed the music business at great length. Blah blah publicists, blah blah regional markets, blah CMJ charts. It was nice.
Trampled by Turtles

We got to Chicago at about 2 PM and opted against any of the convenient public transportation options (including Chicago’s new bike-share that’s exactly like Minneapolis’, only blue). Rather, we chose to walk from Canal and Jackson toward North and Elston (where we would be standing in front of a stage for 4 hours). At Jonathan’s urging, we stopped at the most amazing Walgreens I’ve ever seen. When you enter, a be-suited bouncer greets you and asks what you’re looking for. Then you see the sushi bar attached to the sandwich and salad deli. Whoa, man. I thought this was a Walgreens. It was brightly lit in a good, natural way. They even had a really good-looking frozen yogurt bar. Begrudgingly, we left Walgreens and continued on toward the festival grounds.

It was a long, unscenic walk past industrial gunk on the riverfront, but that’s okay.

We thought music started at 5:30, but when we got within earshot of the festival, I could hear the extremely catchy riff from “Some Kind of Love” by Brooklyn’s Nude Beach. Dang! I really wanted to see them. I saw them play at the 7th St Entry in June and they were great. OK, we get our wristbands and go in. I was still able to hear “Walking Down My Street” and a few newer songs. Nude Beach are a drums, bass, guitar trio of young-looking brunette white guys. During their second to last song, their singer’s guitar came unplugged as he tried to take advantage of the big stage with by bopping over next to the bassist. It was a pretty endearing rookie move. Their record II is really good, and Tom Petty fans who think there aren’t enough Tom Petty records would do well to pick it up.

After Nude Beach wraps up, we tour the grounds a little bit. The festival consists of a single, very large, stage set up in a parking lot adjacent to a field of garbage trucks. Now I understand the promotional poster, which prominently featured garbage trucks blowing around in a tornado. In front of the stage, there is a roughly 300 foot by 300 foot space for people to stand. That space is bordered by a barbed-wire fence and a nearly unbroken wall of Port-o-potties. Outside of the fence there are several booths with food, beer, merchandise or opportunities to donate to children’s charities. Overall, it was very relaxed and the event really didn’t put sponsors in your face as much as a larger festival would.

We ambled back to the stage to see the next act: Minnesota’s own Trampled By Turtles. Minnesota loves these guys. They ably picked and strummed and crooned. Sometimes fast, and sometimes slow.

Next up was Mavis Staples. She’s a gospel/soul pioneer who used to sing with The Staple Singers. I’m mostly familiar with her from the part of Last Waltz where The Band play “The Weight” with The Staples Singers on a soundstage. I’ve never listened to a Staples Singers record, or any of her solo work, but I was eager to see a legend do her thing, in her hometown no less. And Jeff Tweedy from Wilco produced her last 2 albums, so I thought maybe he would show up. Mavis strolled onto the stage sporting a blonde hairdo and a sturdy cane. She explained that she had recently undergone a knee replacement and that this woud be her first performance with it. And so the new knee was named, “The Hideout”. Her band was surprisingly sparse, with just guitar, bass and drums to accompany Ms. Staples and her trio of vocalists. The vocalist in the middle had a very low voice. In the first song (a cover of Parliament’s “Can You Get to That”), he croaked, “I want to know…” and it was pretty dang cool. She performed only a handful of songs, including covers of “For What it’s Worth” and “The Weight”. The set closed with about 10 minutes of “I’ll Take You There”, which was honestly a little too much. But that’s okay because she’s a legend, she has a new knee, and by golly if we’ll put up with Bob Dylan after all these years, let’s give it up for Mavis Staples.

Neko Case closed Friday night, and she and her band were super-terrific. Along with veteran backup singer (and Chicago local) Kelly Hogan, Eric Bachmann from Archers of Loaf and Crooked Fingers joined on guitar. Their set was a perfect sampling of songs mostly from her last 3 albums, including the newest, named something like “The Harder I Fight the More You Love Me and the More You Love Me the Harder You Love”. She definitely played the following songs, along with some others, in some order:

Star Witness
People Gotta Lotta Nerve
Wild Creatures
Nearly Midnight, Honolulu (this was a highlight. Totally a cappela and very disarming)
Local Girl
Lion’s Jaws
I’m From Nowhere (also a standout. Introduced as “our Turn the Page”)
Night Still Comes
This Tornado Loves You
Hold On, Hold On
That Teenage Feeling
Maybe Sparrow (encore)
I Wish I Was the Moon (encore)

It was a stunning performance, and the perfect close to the evening of music. We kept our wristbands and walked around some more, going to a few bars until becoming drunk and tired.


Jonathan says:

Damien and JT hit the mean streets of Chicago in search of music and nuggets

Last weekend Damien Tank, Southside Desire drummer extraordinaire, and I ventured 7.5 hours south to the City of Wind to check out The Hideout Block Party and A.V. Fest, which is one event, to be clear. For those unfamiliar, The Hideout is a little hole in the wall music venue on Chicago’s west side that sits in the fallout of the artsy/bourgeois neighborhood known as Wicker Park. The Hideout, which opened its doors in 1934, is home to all kinds of experimental indie, jazz, Americana, and garage rock. It’s housed in a building that’s over 100 years old, and was built in two days. Jack White once threw up behind it. In short, it’s got cred, y’all.

It was in the spirit of checking out a festival hosted by an establishment with such gravitas, and with an insatiable desire to catch pop punk legends Superchunk, that we hopped on a Megabus at 6am Friday morning and set sail for adventure. Here is what we saw.

Day 1:

We got into Chicago round 2:30 and took a stroll downtown in search of the foods. There are a lot of breathtaking things in downtown Chicago. Most impressive? Walgreens, y’all. It sits at the corner of State and Randolph, just underneath the Joffrey Ballet in the space where a women’s clothing store used to sit. This place is goddamn immaculate. There are two floors! And a liquor section! It’s all too much.
Using phones outside The Local.

After catching our breath and finding some grub at The Local (yes, there’s one in Chicago, too), we decided to walk the one hour west to the venue, cause that’s what thugs do. When we arrived, the scene was deep. So deep. The first band we caught was NYC based act Nude Beach. I have to say, they ended up being one of my favorite acts of the weekend. For a 3-piece garage-pop act, they pumped out a ton of sound. It was all super catchy, and their frontman has charm for days. “Stick around…For legends!”, he smirked at the end of their set. Wonderful.

After a very low-key set from hometown heroes Trampled by Turtles, we settled in for the first of two big acts of the evening, gospel/soul legend and lifelong Chicagoan Mavis Staples. Some things to note. Mavis recently had surgery on her knee, and therefore had fairly limited mobility. Second thing, she’s 74. When her set began, I was immediately worried for her. Her voice sounded tired, like she was pressing a bit. Though it wouldn’t have mattered if she’d finished her set this way (legends), I was relieved to see her kick it into gear about three songs in. Her throaty, time-soaked voice boiled through hits like “Ill Take You There” and new jam “I Like the Things About Me.”

Being a 4 decades long stage vet also meant that she knew how to get the crowd on her side. She repeatedly thanked everyone for coming to support her, and told us that she loved us. She ribbed audience members, and made self-deprecating jokes about her knee. It was fun stuff. I laughed louder than I thought I would. The capacity crowd roared with applause when she took her bow.

Next up was Mavis’ Anti-Records labelmate Neko Case. Both Damien and I had been eagerly anticipating this set all night, each of us reaching our peak boozed upness as her show began. Maybe that was just me.

Her set was a stunner. I don’t remember the last time I smiled that much. Neko looks more comfortable on stage than anyone I’ve ever seen, and sings with a lyricism that feels at once maternal and troubled. Her voice yearns, pulls you forward in a way that makes you want to stand on the tips of your toes. The highlight was her classic “This Tornado Loves You.” When she rings out with the lyric What would make you believe me?, it floors you, stabs you.


She was backed up on vocals by the impeccable Kelly Hogan, who, in her own musical endeavors, traffics in classic R&B and country that feels just right. Her interplay with Neko, both during and between songs, added a lot to the set. They’ve both been singing a long time, and the confidence and rapport they have made the crowd want to get in on their world.

That was the end of the night. After that, we had a nightcap at the loud, sceney Flat Iron. It’s a nice place, and I think if I did cocaine, I probably could have gotten a lot of it there. Damien and I had a great first day, and tried to prep ourselves for a second day promising a lot more energy and an even more extensive list of bands.