The Hideout Block Party, Electrical Audio 20th Anniversary
Man Or Astro-Man?, Screaming Females, Danielson, Nina Nastasia, Shannon Wright, Meat Wave, FACS, Mint Mile, Dianogah
1354 W. Wabansia Ave
Chicago, IL, 60642
This event is all ages
The Hideout Block Party
1:30 - Guitarkestra
2:00 - Crowd Out Rehearsal
3:00-3:40 - 75 Dollar Bill
4:00-4:40 - Antietam
5:00-5:40 - Condo Fucks
6:00-6:40 - Jon Langford & Skull Orchard
7:00-8:30 - Eleventh Dream Day
1:00-1:30 - Mint Mile
1:50-2:20 - FACS
2:40-3:10 - Meat Wave
3:30-4:00 - Shannon Wright
4:20-4:50 - Dianogah
5:10-5:40 - Danielson Famile
6:00-6:40 - Nina Nastasia
7:00-7:40 - Man or Astroman?
8:00-8:40 - Screaming Females
Electrical Audio 20th Anniversary
Man Or Astro-Man?
Some years ago, a young collective of extraterrestrials arrived on this planet and happened upon a small college town in Alabama. Home to both otherworldly jazz guru Sun Ra and rocket scientist Wernher von Braun, it is clear that Alabama is a direct linkage to outer space. In order to integrate into human society, these aliens would disguise themselves as a rock band, the perfect vehicle in which to traverse the globe and further their research. They would soon be known to the people of Earth as Man or Astro-Man?.
Unearthing thrift store records by the likes of Link Wray, The Ventures, Dick Dale, Duane Eddy, The Marketts & The Safaris – Man or Astro-Man? began to formulate their own blend of the retro-futuristic inspired by their offbeat musical discoveries. Innovative stage sets and designs by Kraftwerk, The Spotniks, The Residents, Devo, Sun Ra, and The B-52s also had an impact on the emerging ensemble.
Man or Astro-Man? began playing countless shows in the Southeast with bands like Southern Culture on the Skids, The Woggles, Hillbilly Frankenstein, The Subsonics, and The Flat Duo Jets. The group soon caught the attention of Estrus Records' owner Dave Crider who released their full-length debut, Is it...Man or Astro-Man? (1993). The label's design aesthetic revolved around the other-wordly concepts of designer Art Chantry whose works melded perfectly with the Astro-minds. Destroy All Astro-Men (1994), Project Infinity (1995), and several EP's were also released by Estrus.
Touch and Go Records released all later Astro-transmissions. Experiment Zero (1996) was recorded in three days with engineer Steve Albini at Zero Return Studios in Alabama. Now drawing influences from the future (as well as the past), the band began to extend their use of samples, computer programming, homemade instruments, electronic gadgetry, tape splicing, and other bits of Earth technology. Both the 1000X EP (1997) and Made From Technetium (1997) were darker steps into the futuristic soundtrack realm.
Now, Man or Astro-man? have returned to Earth and unveiled their finest recorded work to date. Defcon 5...4...3...2...1 is here now with a striking validity that the band is unquestionably as both tuneful and energetic as they ever have been. The record combines ever-familiar Astro audio tones and the well-established playing ferocity that the band is known for, but yet now, there is an undeniably evolution to the band that is both intuitive, logical and well crafted. Man or Astro-man? has arrived in the present (and future, of course) with imminent purpose. And of course, they still bring an over-the-top, sensory overloaded show, which has always gained them a reputation for always being an undisputedly amazing band to see live.
Screaming Females had such a clear goal for their new album that it became almost a mantra: they wanted songs that were concise, crisp and melodic. That’s exactly what the New Jersey punk trio delivers on Rose Mountain, their sixth LP, due in February on Don Giovanni Records.
The album is a milestone in a number of ways. Not only does Rose Mountain reflect a new approach to the band’s songwriting, the LP marks the first time Screaming Females have worked with an outside producer, and comes as the trio celebrates 10 years together.
“I’m very pleased and proud of us as a band for playing together for so long,” says singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster, who formed Screaming Females in 2005 with bassist Michael Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty.
Their longevity helped prompt the concise-crisp-melodic mantra for Rose Mountain. Although melody has always been a central part of the band’s music, the musicians have often layered them into massive thickets of interlocking sound on previous albums. They were ready to try something more streamlined with the 10 new songs on Rose Mountain.
“Our last three releases were dense musically,” Dougherty says. “This time, we tried to really hone in on what was important about the songs and get rid of what wasn’t important.”
The trio decided the vocal melodies were particularly important, and were careful to leave room for them while they were writing the new songs. “Before we got to that point where we had a complete, complex, intricate thing instrumentally, we stopped and said, ‘Let’s not finish this off, let’s let the vocals finish this off,’” Dougherty says.
The restraint they showed in writing the tunes didn’t affect the riveting intensity the band brought to playing them. You can hear it on “Empty Head,” the taut, lean album opener. It’s there in the interplay between serrated guitar and a buoyant bassline on “Triumph,” and in the airy verses that build into a tough, determined chorus on “Wishing Well.”
Many of the songs on Rose Mountain deal with Paternoster’s ongoing battle with chronic mononucleosis, which became so severe in 2012 that the band went on hiatus from touring for nearly a year. “I just could not get my act together,” Paternoster says. “We had to take time off, I couldn’t sleep, I wasn’t eating.”
Writing about the pain and uncertainty that accompanied her illness proved cathartic for Paternoster, who was already paying more attention to her lyrics than she did in the band’s earlier days.
“A lot of time it was just an afterthought, and I would just punch in whatever fit phonetically,” she says. “From playing hundreds of shows, I’ve realized that people do actually listen to the words. And if they’re going to take the time to listen to the words I’m singing, then I ought to take just as much time to write something that’s well thought-out.”
If leaving room for Paternoster’s vocal melodies was part of the band’s strategy for Rose Mountain, working with producer Matt Bayles was the other part. With a deeply rooted DIY streak, Screaming Females had self-produced their previous releases (with Steve Albini engineering their 2012 LP Ugly and the 2014 concert album Live at the Hideout) before overturning a long-standing, self-imposed rule and deciding it was time to bring in outside help. “What’s the best way to challenge yourself as an artist? Do something you told yourself you’d never do,” Dougherty says.
Bayles is perhaps best known for his work on albums by heavy metal acts like Mastodon and the Sword, which helped make Screaming Females confident in their choice: they figured he would be right at home with a loud, raucous band. Bayles joined the group in New Jersey to offer advice on composition before the musicians spent a month recording the album with Bayles in Seattle. They delved more deeply than ever before into the intricacies of guitar tones and drum sounds, and experimented with subtle touches that you wouldn’t expect on a Screaming Females album: listen for the organ buried beneath the terse guitars on “It’s Not Fair,” or the eerie, distorted tack-piano that brings the title track home.
“It’s definitely the most eclectic record in terms of instrumentation and dynamics that we have done to date,” Paternoster says.
It’s a fitting way to celebrate 10 years together, a period that has taken the band from playing basement shows in their hometown of New Brunswick to touring with the likes of Dinosaur Jr., Ted Leo & the Pharmacists and Garbage, who teamed with Screaming Females to record a cover of Patti Smith’s “Because the Night.” They’ve been featured on NPR and performed on Last Call With Carson Daly, building an audience without losing the focus and drive that inspired them in the first place.
“It’s pretty amazing that the three of us have been this committed this way,” Dougherty says, and Paternoster agrees.
“At the end of the day, what we really try to do is challenge ourselves musically, so that the three of us remain interested in this project we love very much,” she says. “Hopefully we can continue to do so and make music for as long as it’s feasible for us to do so.”
“The broad outlines of the story are by now familiar. How a certain young man from Clarksboro, NJ, one Daniel Smith, having for a time turned his back on the culture and musical milieu in which he was raised up, which is to say having (temporarily, to go off to school) turned his back on impeccable folk and gospel bona fides in the person of his father, and having left behind the aggregation of his family, a large, singing musical brood, headed out into the world to see a few things. And yet in the course of doing so this Daniel Smith realized, with the kind of suddenness that we might associate with insight or revelation, that his family was a blessing, and that he needed to sing about this family. And not only did he need to sing about his family and the faith that sustained it, he needed, again, to sing and play with his family. The year of this revelation was 1994.
Not such an unusual tale, really. It’s one that goes all the way back to St. Augustine. And yet in this case, the young man was no ordinary musician. On the one hand, in his not-really-missing years, Daniel Smith, had drunk deep of the dark fringes of indie rock and outsider art, including and not limited to the likes of Sonic Youth, Captain Beefheart, Yoko Ono, Pere Ubu, Andy Warhol, Howard Finster, et al. And on the other hand he was not kidding about the purity and complexity and seriousness of his faith. He wrote (and writes) fearlessly about spiritual experience, in a way that ought to be the envy of all these gauzy and simulated gospel artists you hear out there. This Smith was loaded down with paradoxes. He was alpha and omega, he was light and dark, he was sacred and entertaining, he was folk/gospel and he was indie/prog/punk.
All of which is to say: the vision was fully articulated, was perfected, at the moment at which he assembled his brothers and sisters, Megan, Rachel, Andrew, and David, to play in the band (at his thesis exhibition at Rutgers, excerpts available online and in the documentary Make A Joyful Noise Here, for those who need proof), although a host of later collaborators didn’t hurt, including Chris and Melissa Palladino, Sufjan Stevens, Daniel’s wife Elin, and many others. Fresh from the success of the first Smith family recording sessions, immortalized on A Prayer for Every Hour, Smith moved with his brothers and sisters through an incredibly fertile period including the drone-oriented Danielson Famile release Tell Another Joke at the Ole Choppin Block (1997), the two-disc Dante-esque epic poem of Tri-Danielson (1999), and the summa of the Danielson Famile output, Fetch the Compass Kids (2001), a Steve Albini-produced effort that benefits from a perfect mix and the increasing vigor and confidence of the two-brother percussion section of Andrew and David. And if this music’s inspired qualities were not enough, there was also the visual art and the performance art sideline to the Danielson empire, which was just as singular–the nurse’s uniforms with hearts painted on the sleeves, the tree outfit in which Daniel often strummed his acoustic guitar, as well as a myriad of spin-off products, creams and eye shades and t-shirts, all designed to amuse and instruct in equal measure.
Yet what began as an evocation of family commenced in the first post-millennial decade, to suffer with some of the complexities of family life in general. In short, the Smith family, first wellspring of Daniel’s musical work, began to grow up. Sisters got married, became mothers themselves, moved far across the country; the drummers, barely out of their single digits on the first record, grew up and went off to college. In order to preserve some forward momentum, as well as the possibility of experiment, Daniel became Brother Danielson, which personage effectively reared his head first on a portion of Tri-Danielson. Now he was anew this solo artist, on Brother Is to Son (2004). Likewise, on 2006’s Ships, Smith metamorphosed again into that third part of his tripartite recording entity, Danielson, a collaborating and more outwardly directed version of himself, with a more wide-angle intensity and focus.
Trying Hartz samples the first decade of the Danielson/Danielson Famile/Br. Danielson oeuvre (all the years before Ships), attesting generously to the movement of the work as a whole, from proto-minimalist eccentric gospel band to prog-metal-dread outfit to music hall choir to indie rock one-man band to outsider art celebrity to family man and family member. It’s a perfect starter volume for listeners who have not had the pleasure of engaging with the evolution of this unusual, surprising, and incredibly moving musical consortium. And yet: please note that no verbal account of the work can possibly summon the effect of the decade digested in this assemblage. After all, as Daniel sings, “My Lord is known by His song.” Not by His press releases. The ecstatic vision of the Danielson project is the unnamable part, the impossible to describe part, and this ecstatic vision is cumulative. It’s not what Daniel says, though he always says it well, it’s the circumstances in which he says it, with family gathered around him, whether related by blood or not; it’s the reiteration of the spiritual thematic material, a reiteration that sounds nothing like early 20th century gospel–it’s far more poeticized, it’s far more elemental–but which has all the seriousness and all the joy of that long ago music. Ecstatic vision. You won’t get it by reading these lines, nor even by reading the lyrics. You will get it by listening to this distillation of ten years’ work and the earlier albums and going to the shows. Then you will experience the humble but devious and complicated grassroots movement that is Danielson. Trying Hartz is an essential place to start.”
–Rick Moody (The Ice Storm, Garden State)
Ask any music lover about their first concert, and instead of describing a great performance, they'll likely recount a formative life experience. Singer and guitarist Shannon Wright remembers that moment in exquisite detail. She was 13 years old, a self-described punk rock girl in Jacksonville, Florida, experiencing the unhinged self-exposure of staple DIY bands Pylon and Minutemen. She saw herself reflected in the musicians onstage, and that emotional vulnerability still defines her songwriting. “What is still true to me, is to be completely slayed by a show where, for 45 minutes, I experienced this exceptional moment that I’ll always carry with me,”. “There’s nothing like an earnest and committed live show to bring you back to life,” Wright says.
Her latest album Division, released February 2017, harnesses the same vulnerability, but in a stripped-down context. The album came about when renowned French pianist Katia Labéque approached her after a show, offering her studio and access to a beautiful Steinway piano. Division represents a crucial arc for Wright’s career, where the rawness she witnessed at the all-ages club in Jacksonville still underscores her music, even when she's a continent away.
In late 2014, Meat Waves 24-year-old frontman Chris Sutter found himself facing the end of the relationship he had been in since he was 12 years old. "When youre in something like that for so long, it doesnt shield you from the world, but it softens your reality," he explains. "A long relationship like that gives you confidence." He likens the experience of being single for the first time in his adult life to being an Amish kid on Rumspringa. "I was just going nuts, making all the mistakes that you could make. It made for a really whack, fucked up time-very confused, always unsure-and that led to a bunch of shit," Sutter laughs grimly.
The Chicago punks had already made their second album Delusion Moon, a hardcore blast that castigated the weak excuses we ply for poor behaviour. That would come out in 2015. In the interim, Sutter started keeping a notebook to try and document the profound mood swings and torrents of anxiety that he was experiencing in the wake of the split, writing stream-of-consciousness poems about his feelings from day to day, city to city. One term kept coming out: The Incessant.
"I think that was the best way to describe this feeling-and I think a lot of people can attest to this-of this overwhelming, oncoming emotion," says Sutter. "Feeling overwhelmed by the biggest thing going on in your life and the smallest fucking thing: theyre all oncoming, like dominos. Its a swelling. A pyramid. A crescendo. It stems from living recklessly. And selfishly. And regrettably. During this phase of my life, this feeling would come up a lot-out to dinner with my dad, in the van on tour-and I never used to have this kind of anxiety."
Putting a name on it made Sutter feel a bit better. The Incessant became both the title and guiding light for Meat Waves third album, but not before some wobbles on Sutters part. Whereas Meat Waves previous albums had meted out judgements on the world, now he was writing brutally unvarnished lyrics about himself: about his self-indulgence, arrogance, fear of the future, isolation, and feeling totally at the whim of uncontrollable emotions. On tour for Delusion Moon, he began reflecting on the "grey cloud" he felt the material would cast over Meat Waves past and future. "I got cold feet," he says. "I had never written music that was this personal and confrontational with the self. I expressed to the others that I wanted to scrap the songs and start over, which they respected. I was uncomfortable to share songs with people that reflected on a destructive period in my life." But despite Sutters conviction, something in the back of his head told him he would be a fool to abandon the material.
"There was this realisation that I felt like the music I had written prior to this was more of a defence mechanism of sorts by not writing about what was going on in my life and not confronting myself, and instead looking outward at other people and what they were doing," he says. "There are artists like Fiona Apple who I love and always look to-she bares herself and her soul and is so honest about her life, whats going on with her emotionally. I realised I could either write something that doesnt mean as much to me or I could write what means absolutely everything to me. I couldnt keep doing the same thing. I had to try and grow as a writer and musician."
And thank god he did. The Incessant is a bracing, emotional punk record that confronts taking responsibility for your actions with dark humour and self-deprecation, drawing influence from acts like The Breeders, Hot Snakes, Drive Like Jehu, and, yes, Fiona Apple, as much as Franz Kafkas Metamorphosis, Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex and the poems of Emily Dickinson and Sutters friend Hannah Gamble. On that literary tip, Sutter majored in journalism, and says his studies applied here more than ever. "I had this amazing professor whose whole thing was-and its very simple, but it stuck with me-what were doing is trying to uncover the truth, or truths. I applied that exactly to what was going on with me, because I tended to run away from the truth or ignore it."
He cites the assaultive vocals and terse riffs of opener "To Be Swayed" as one of the truest realisations of that impulse. "My only question going into that song was, why the hell am I so wishy-washy and so controlled by my very changing emotions? Trying to describe your true feelings is really difficult, really exhausting, but I feel like I really nailed what I was experiencing." That wave of changing emotions is evident across The Incessant: Sutter is self-lacerating on "Mask" (written in a 10-minute blast after seeing Thee Oh Sees live), the choppy "Bad Man", and the spiny, drawling "Leopard Print Jet Ski", whose ace title came from looking an old friend up on Facebook one day, to find him bragging about having bought precisely such a thing. "I loved everything about the phrase," says Sutter. "How it looked, the imagery. It stuck with me, and I viewed the leopard print jet ski as a metaphor for liberation and freedom and confidence. The song is this ironic first-person narrative of fucking taking the leopard print jet ski out and getting away from everything, in a very selfish, wrong way. Its a metaphor for how I was living my life, and much like a lot of other songs on the album, running away from my problems."
Elsewhere on The Incessant, Sutter exposes his most vulnerable side. Sounding like a less jubilant Japandroids track, "Tomosaki" is a nakedly sincere love song to the cat that he lost in the split, written while ugly-crying on the floor of the shared apartment he was about to leave behind. "Entranced by the mist of life / Does he sense Ive gone awry? / My guy / Let him roam outside / Meditate on his afterlife," Sutter roars. "That was huge for me as a songwriter. Ive never written a song like that. I think thats the power of something that touches you so deeply, like a cat that youre not going to be able to see any more." On the Ella Fitzgerald-inspired lament "Birdland" and rampaging snippet "At The Lake"-propelled by drummer Ryan Wizniaks stark charge-he reflects on a loss of innocence, and ultimately finds serenity.
Bassist Joe Gac produced Meat Waves previous records, but for The Incessant, the three-piece achieved their dream of working with legendary Chicago engineer Steve Albini, tracking and mixing the album in just four days. "Between his music and the things hes done, bands hes recorded, hes the real deal," says Sutter. "I dont know if Joe would admit this, but the way he works and records, hes like a student of Albini. It felt like the next step for us, and it was a good, quick, raw experience." Albinis famed dynamic range is best heard in "Killing The Incessant", the records epic, raging crescendo of a closing song. "Incessant / Tried to see it / Ended eaten / Though now fear couldnt blanket me / No hand / Discriminates the other / Heres to killing / The Incessant / I dont need it / Heres to killing / The Incessant is defeated", Sutter rails in stark, stabbing fragments. A tumult of noise churns, before giving way to a peaceful fingerpicked acoustic pattern.
"Towards the end of writing this album, I began to wonder exactly what The Incessant sounded like," says Sutter. "Like, can I soundtrack that feeling? So thats how the crescendo came about. All that fucking tension. It was about shedding the ego. I think as humans we have more control than maybe we choose to believe sometimes. So this is trying to put it all at ease. Reject the fear and shame and the things that arent relative to my betterment and wellbeing. The acoustic ditty at the end is the sigh of relief. And a moving-forward of sorts."
Of sorts. In July 2016, Sutter was due in Denver to be best man at his fathers wedding. The week prior to departing, he started feeling the same minor stomach pains that had plagued him (and which he had ignored) a year earlier. Upon boarding the plane, the sensation intensified; once he landed in Denver, he couldnt sleep from vomiting and shitting all night long. His new girlfriend suggested that it might be his appendix, so they took a trip to the emergency room. After a CT scan, the doctor confirmed Sutters girlfriends suspicions, and said they had to remove the appendix-which was two to three times larger than it should have been-immediately.
"I woke up unable to walk, or move," says Sutter. "It was the most physically traumatic experience of my life. I spent five days in the hospital-basically our entire vacation-and missed the wedding. The doctor told us that it was in the top five worst appendectomies shed ever seen, and that I could have died if Id waited any longer. I guess Id had a ruptured appendix for about an entire year, and it had ruptured again this past summer."
Recovery took months, though he played shows against his better judgement. Sutters final face-off with The Incessant, that long, dark year of staring his darkest parts in the face, gave him a lot more empathy for the people he used to slam in songs in the past. "In general, writing about what I was going through made me more of a compassionate kind of person," he says. "I think theres a lot more to uncover within the self than to look outward at whats going on and annoying you around you." Another grim laugh. "I wouldnt want to write a song bashing anyone, besides myself."
FACS features Jonathan van Herik, Noah Leger and Brian Case of Disappears. Using minimalism and space, FACS make abstract and modern music.
(members of Bottomless Pit, Silkworm, Songs: Ohia)
Chicago, IL etc.
Jason, Kip and Jay have played together as Dianogah (pronounced Dye-ah-NO-gah) since January 1995.
Dianogah's core instrumentation is as a trio of two bass guitarists and one drummer. They have toured the US extensively, traveled throughout Europe and played in South America.
Their last album, qhnnnl, features guest appearances by friend Andrew Bird on violin, Stephanie Morris (The Pawners' Society, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir), Billy Smith (Hubcap) and Mark Greenberg.
qhnnnl shows that the band has progressed since previous efforts to make a mature, consistent album that visits extremes at both ends of the spectrum of tender and abrasive.
For a trio consisting of two bassists and a drummer, Dianogah have proven that they are more than just an instrumental post-rock band with mathy time signatures. qhnnnl is their third full-length on Southern and is a camouflage affair with ventures into the dark and lighter spectrum of their songwriting. And what we can make out from qhnnnl is exactly that - they are mainly songwriters. Bassist Jay Ryan steps up to the mic on more than one occasion on this album. At other turns, he can be found shouting along with the rest of the band, "...this is how we fight!" Besides the addition of vocals, the band play with more ferociousness in their instrumental moments, such as on the heavy, thudding title track.
“... Dianogah is a Midwestern musical gold mine” - Magnet
“Dianogah have two bassists, no guitarists and one drummer, but , in defiance of establisthed scientific principle, they're great.”
- The Sunday Times, Culture.
Wed, December 13
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