Smart Bar is heading north to Detroit for the Detroit Electronic Music Festival, celebrating with an Opening Night party on Friday, May 28. In homage to the hometown of techno, Smart Bar will present a celebration of techno and tech house music with artists Stimming, Ellen Allien, Patrick Russell, Aran Daniels and Nate Manic. The party, presented in conjunction with Proper Modulation of Detroit and Bad Advice Inc. of Chicago, is the hottest kickoff to DEMF weekend. It all takes place at Detroit’s historic Majestic Theatre, located at 4140 Woodward Avenue in midtown Detroit.

Martin Stimming was born in Giessen, Germany, and began playing violin, piano and drums when he was just ten years old. After discovering electronic music, and then the techno genre, as a young teen, he soon started to buy vinyl and DJ in the town he lived in, Butzbach. It became quickly apparent that for him making music was more fulfilling than “just” playing a groove, or mixing a record, so he started to take his production seriously and moved to Hamburg to attend the School of Audio Engineering. He was the producer of Gebrueder Ton for two years, and met Diynamic, a record label from Solomun and Adriano. Soon, he made his own debut on Diynamic Records with Diynamic 006 Feurervogel EP, and since 2004 he has continually released albums. There is plenty more to come, from this talented young producer.

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Senses Fail Gives Chubbys…

Senses Fail
Chubby Rain’s House of Tunes – Poplar Grove, IL

A lesson in punk rock.

Senses Fail Chubby Rain's House of Tunes - Poplar Grove, IL 11/07/2008

A thousand feet away from the venue, not even close to any of the bands, I could feel the excitement and emotion flowing from within Chubby Rain’s House of Tunes. On this November night, alternative rock band Foxy Shazam, metalcore band Sky Eats Airplane, and post-hardcore group Dance Gavin Dance opened for pop punk favorites, Senses Fail.

Senses Fail Chubby Rain's House of Tunes - Poplar Grove, IL 11/07/2008Now, I realize I wasn’t there to report on the ambiance or crowd, but it’s worth mentioning that it was obvious tonight was going to be “one of those crowds”. From the moment Foxy Shazam took the stage, to the very second they stepped off, the crowd was taunting. Most of them booed, but there were a few stand out hecklers that added some wonderful comments such as “You suck!”, “Go fuck yourself!”, and “Get off stage!” Whether Foxy is used to these taunts or they just didn’t give a shit, they followed through with their notorious stage antics and silly stories to keep themselves entertained even if the crowd wasn’t. Those bits of comedy created a show that was completely watchable and extremely entertaining; too bad the crowd didn’t see it that way. Oh well…I’m sure they’ll get over it and live to play another show.

Sky Eats Airplane and Dance Gavin Dance both played shows without so much as a hitch. However, I was incredibly aggravated by a photo predicament that I found myself in. Chubby Rain’s House of Tunes did not have any sory of photo pit set up; No organized way of photographing the show. So, halfway through Gavin’s dancing, I improvised.

Heading down to the first floor and powering my way through more dirty looks than a George W. Bush support rally, I finally reached the curtain backstage where I triumphantly shot the remainder of DGD’s set and patiently awaited Senses Fail.

They started out strong with “Wolves at the Door,” track five off of their new CD, Life Is Not A Waiting Room which just dropped on Oct 7th. It’s a great song with lots of energy and was complemented by “Calling All Cars” from last years Still Searching. As a so-called “fan” of Senses Fail, I feel that the crowd had a much stronger connection to the songs off the older CDs: Let It Enfold You and From The Depths Of Dreams.

Front man for SF, Buddy Nielson was feeling good; Keeping the crowd engaged by jumping around, swinging the mic, falling to the floor, and even walking out on top of the crowd; it all seems like second nature for him.

Abiding by the theme of total chaos that Foxy Shazam started, Buddy Nielson brought Eric Nally, lead singer of Foxy, back on stage to send a less than polite message to the crowd. I’ll paraphrase; Buddy essentially told the crowd they should respect all the bands that get up on stage in order to follow their dreams. Buddy Nielson then grabbed Eric and planted a huge kiss right on his lips. The crowd immediately began heckling. One fan even went so far as to scream “Faggot!” He would soon realize the mistake he had made.

Buddy Nielson immediately flipped shit, shouting back, “If you’re going to call someone a faggot, you better make sure you don’t suck dick yourself.” and “If he’s a fucking faggot, that makes me a fucking faggot too.” The shit quite literally “hit the fan.” Then it was back to the show as though nothing even happened.

The Senses Fail set was just opposite of the Foxy’s; Aside from the rowdy fans that were put firmly back in their places by Buddy, it was a fantabulous display that will not soon be forgot.

Photos of Senses Fail:

Kings of Leon Dress to Impress and the Photos to Prove It.

Kings of Leon
Aragon Ballroom- Chicago, IL


Kings of Leon Aragon Ballroom- Chicago, IL 10/31/2008Nothing better than Kings of Leon on Halloween…FUCKING AMAZING. Check out the photos.

This Is War – Ben Kweller @ Bottom Lounge

Ben Kweller
Bottom Lounge – Chicago, IL

Ben Kweller Bottom Lounge - Chicago, IL 10/14/2008

Most Tuesday nights for me are spent finishing up home work that I’ve put off since the previous week’s class. Fortunately, Ben Kweller and his Aussie friend, Whitley, hijacked my night turning it into something more than a night to make up for my procrastination. Needless to say, Mr. BK plays a good live show…

Ok, so that’s the understatement of the year: Ben Kweller plays a phenomenal live show. Most artists strive to sound as good live as they do on CD but Ben has something else to worry about; he sounds better live than he does on CD.

BK’s new disc, How Ya Lookin’ Southbound, Come In…, infused the live show with steel guitars and a welcomed southern twang. I know, some of you may be skeptical but I promise there’s a whole new dynamic with the live show. Not only does it work, it works brilliantly.

After skipping the line of fans stretching close to a block, I was able to sit down with Mr. BK himself . We talked about the past (Radish), the present (How Ya Lookin’ Southbound, Come In…,) and the future (Changing Horses.) Look for the interview in a few days.

The show opened with Whitley, an Australian singer-songwriter I had the pleasure of seeing last year. He kept his set short and sweet while maintaining a level of intimacy with the crowd. The time between songs was filled by talking to the crowd and an impromptu song about “the gout” that was plaguing his knee. He didn’t hesitate when a member of the audience called him out on his glasses, asking, “Where’d you get your glasses, Walmart?” Whitley replied “Yeah, I got them in the dickhead aisle, where you obviously shop.” Before ending his set with “Head First Down,” he made sure to apologize to that dickhead, more than once. He even apologized again after he finished, which shows a lot about his character.

Shortly after, Ben took the stage, kicking off the set with a track from the new EP, “Things I Like to Do.” After the second song, “Fight,” I knew we were in for a night of new songs, which was a treat. Highlights of the night were new tunes, “Sawdust Man,” and “Gypsy Rosalita” while older tunes, “Sundress” and “This is War” anchored the show. After walking off stage briefly, BK returned to the stage to play a rockin’ version of “Penny on the Train Track.” The photo of Ben rockin’ out was taken during that song.

Photos of Ben Kweller:

Bayside Headlines the Involuntary Movement Tour @ Metro

The Metro – Chicago, IL

Bayside The Metro - Chicago, IL 10/09/2008Anthony Raneri (vox/guitar)

The last time I saw Bayside, they opened up for The Starting Line on their supposed “last tour.” Do any bands ever reach the point of a last tour anymore? I mean Zeppelin came back and the Dead even reunited for a gig this year…whole different conversation though.

Moving on, this was the first time I got to see Bayside headlining their own show and I’ve got to say, they made great use of their extra time! Thrown in to the set were several tracks from Sirens and Condolences including “Masterpiece” and “Guardrail.” A few more from their self-titled Bayside with “Montuak,” “Hello Shitty,” along with a surprise acoustic “Don’t Call Me Peanut,” that was a nice intermission from all the punk-rocking. The Walking Wounded and new album Shudder took up most of the set for obvious reasons.

Bayside The Metro - Chicago, IL 10/09/2008Jack O’shea (guitar)

My favorite part of the set started with “Roshambo” and went all the way through “Masterpiece.” I’d have to say my favorite song of the night was “They’re Not Horses, They’re Unicorns” …or was it “Landing Feet First?” I don’t know. I’m not the biggest fan of the new album since I didn’t discover Bayside until The Walking Wounded, many fans’ least favorite album. Anyways, a die-hard fan stood behind me all night calling out nearly every song on the setlist before they started playing it. He seemed like he had a better time than I did. So, my point is, this tour is for old and new fans alike. If you can catch one of the tour dates, make sure you check em’ out. The opening bands are worth seeing, Valencia and especially The Matches.

Bayside The Metro - Chicago, IL 10/09/2008

Bayside The Metro - Chicago, IL 10/09/2008

Bayside The Metro - Chicago, IL 10/09/2008

Ben Kweller – How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Come In… First Look


I have a confession to make; I like country music…

Before you stop reading, let me explain myself. I grew up in Iowa and had to put up with that crap for WAY too long. So, when I got a copy of Ben Kweller’s new EP, How Ya Lookin’ Southbound? Come In…, I was mortified to see iTunes list it as Country. I almost didn’t listen. But, because Ben is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, I figured either Apple fucked up or Ben crafted it that way for a reason.

Each track dissected when you read on…

With that in mind, I gave it a once-through and immediately the twang-y steel guitars, toe-tapping drums, and ragtime pianos stood out. Caught a little off-guard, I kept listening and by the time “Sawdust Man” came around, I was sold. The mixing of Ben’s talented songwriting with a band that belongs down in Dixie adds a whole new genre to my iTunes, alt-country. Imagine the last album, Ben Kweller, + Jack Daniels & steel guitar, and out comes HYLSCI, the best country album this country-hater has ever heard.

For those who don’t know, HYLSCI, is a prequel to a full-length country album that’s due out in February of next year. However great the 5 songs and 2 primitive recordings are, they’re definitely not enough to suppress my newly acquired appetite for Ben the Cowboy. Fortunately, I was able to see Ben live when he stopped at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge on October 14th with support from one of my favorite Aussies, Whitley. He plays a full version of “Gypsy Rosita” that the 25 second preview obviously doesn’t do justice. If you don’t like the new path Ben’s taken, go see him on his current tour and I guarantee it’ll change your mind. Here is a link to my show review with pictures and a full set list:
Ben Kweller @ Bottom Lounge – Chicago

The Tracks:

  1. Fight – An upbeat anthem about fighting until your dying day. I can’t get enough of the lines, “I’m like my grandma; short but I stand tall; playin’ every single card that’s dealt to me; you know some days are aces and some days are faces well some days are 2’s and 3’s.”
  2. Things I Like To Do – A short and sweet love song that runs through a list of the little things in life that make you happy. Nothing too special but it’s a solid track none-the-less.
  3. Sawdust Baby – Recorded on a New York subway, this 39-second track captures the precise moment the chorus for “Sawdust Man” was born, thus Baby. The track is only 39 seconds long but it leaves you feeling like you’re part of the creative process after hearing the final version.
  4. Sawdust Man – From infant to man, this is my favorite track on the EP. After listening, just try to get the lines “I’m on top; of the greyhound station” out of your head. You can’t. Around 2:40, when his voice cracks, by far my favorite part of the song.  Just FYI, I noticed it only in the live version, it’s there for a reason…to make me love it.
  5. The Biggest Flower – Not my favorite, but with time, I may get into it, it’s just not for me.
  6. F Train Blues/Gypsy Rosita – The first half is pretty interesting, I’d like to see where this recording goes on the new album. The last 25 seconds is where it takes off, Gypsy Rosita. I saw a live version of the song and I’ve gotta say, it might have been my favorite of the night.
  7. Somehow (Singlemalt Version) – A slower track heavy on the steel guitar as Ben croons, “Come on, come on, baby, I need you right now.” A nice addition to the album but I’d like to hear the colt 45 version.

One Night of Danger with The Virgins!

The Virgins
Abbey Pub – Chicago, IL

Donald Cumming The Virgins
Donald Cumming (vox)

After hearing The Virgins for the first time over a year and a half ago, I finally got to see them live and in person at the Abbey Pub. Last Monday, the Virgins opened for Black Kids, a band that I’m frankly not a fan of. I’m sure the hipsters won’t be pleased, but I chose to talk with lead singer, Donald Cumming in the catacombs of Abbey Pub while the Black Kids were playing their set…hate me.

Like the name suggests, The Virgins started the night off slow with “Private Affair” and “Radio Christiane” before heading to second base with “Hey Hey Girl” and “Teen Lovers.” After building up some confidence, the guys went for the home run with “One Week of Danger,” “Fernando Pando,” “She’s Expensive” and a personal favorite, “Rich Girls.” The act must have been consensual because no one seemed to decline the pursuit. After the show, some fans left feeling a little tricked because it was obvious these guys have done this before.

PS – The YouTube video of “One Week of Danger ” has a free download of the song in the more info section.

The Virgins @ Abbey Pub, ChicagoThe Virgins @ Abbey Pub, Chicago, il