Been about a month since I’ve posted, though I’m sure nobody is actually keeping track…
I’ve been to a handful of concerts since my last post that I’d like to share my experiences, and a couple shitty photos for.
Makaya McCraven & Marquis Hill – Constellation, Chicago, IL
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a jazz expert, nor am I cultured enough to comment on an Improvisational Jazz performance. I can, however say that this was one of the cooler shows I’ve been to in Chicago. The venue, Constellation, was merely a black box with some DIY seating including some deconstructed stadium seats and folding chairs. The ‘stage’ was just the center of the room with a bass, piano and drums set up with minimal lighting. Very cool vibe with an interesting crowd.
As the show started, I didn’t really know what to expect other than the fact that these musicians are renowned for their talent. I actually have seen Makaya McCraven open up for Hiatus Kaiyote, but this was with his full ensemble and a planned show with written tunes. This show was very abstract. Surprisingly enough, I wasn’t left craving locked in grooves or catchy hooks. I was totally and utterly satisfied by the way they would layer completely improvised parts over a very rough skeleton. Of course, there were some weird moments, but the creativity was truly impressive. Would recommend checking this group out if you ever have a chance to.
Sidewalk Chalk cover The Fugees’ “The Score” – Club Untitled, Chicago, IL
Sidewalk Chalk is one of my favorite Chicago local bands. I first saw them at the Wicker Park Street Festival in 2014, and I still have the t shirt from that concert. Since then, I’ve seen them a handful of times and they always bring something new to the table. For those unfamiliar, their core is two vocalists; a male rapper and female singer, drums, keys, horns and guitar. At one point, they had a tapdancer acting as a percussionist on stage (which I thought was mad dope) but they’ve since parted ways. They stick to primarily funk and R&B/hip hop but also tend to tread in some neo soul territory.
When I heard that they were covering “The Score”, one of my favorite all time hip hop albums, I knew I had to be there. Better yet, the show was free at one of my favorite whiskey clubs. These guys did their own renditions of each song, in order, with style and grace. In my mind, with their instrumentation, SWC is the best outfit to cover a work of this nature.
Lance Skiiiwalker & Isaiah Rashad – Double Door, Chicago, IL
The Sun’s Tirade and Introverted Intuition were two albums I held in very high regard since last year, and for that reason, I needed to check out this show. I originally had sold off my tickets to someone on facebook because it shared a night with the Sidewalk Chalk show so I didn’t think I’d be able to make both. However, the Sidewalk Chalk show ended early enough, and I found out the Isaiah tickets were not transferrable, so I ended up Venmo’ing the guy his money back and going to the show. If you’re reading this bro, which I’m sure you’re not, I’m sorry. But as you’re (not) about to read, you didn’t miss out on much.
I have one main beef with hip hop shows which is probably why I attend so few of them. No. Fucking. Instruments. Nothing irritates me more than attending a show to see them hit play on a Macbook and jump around. Honestly, I love the tracks, and the energy was dope, but the show displayed very little creativity. The last two TDE shows I went to were Kendrick Lamar’s Groove sessions and Schoolboy Q’s Groovy Tony Pit Stops and those were so excellently put together and produced (despite the hype and large crowds). Though Schoolboy’s show had no instruments, it was a varied show in an intimate venue that was straight up fun. Kendrick put together one of the most impressive musical performances I’ve ever seen with his band doing live renditions of all the beats of the songs he decided to perform. Neither show sounded like I popped on their albums and hit play. Definitely cannot say the same for Lance and Isaiah.
Now, I know that most hip hop fans aren’t going to a show to carefully observe the instrumentation like I do, however, it would be good to see some creativity and variety from artists who are backed by one of the most successful, respected labels in the business. I may be the only one complaining about this, but that’s just how I feel.
In any case, this was the last show I was able to see at the historic Double Door before they were forced to close their doors due to an eviction. The venue will be missed as the character in Wicker Park gets replaced with shiny gentrified buildings. RIP and Godspeed.
POS – Bottom Lounge, Chicago, IL
Ive historically been pretty indifferent on POS. I ended up tagging along for this show with a couple buddies who are way more into him than I am. But the show was hype and the beats sounded crisp, so no complaints here. If you’re a fan, check out his new album “Chill, Dummy” and perhaps a stop on his tour if you’re able to.
Sampha – Metro, Chicago, IL
Coming off a very recently released (and critically acclaimed) debut album “Process,” Sampha is embarking on his first ever tour. Chicago was the first stop, and I had to check it out, as I am a huge fan of the singer/so
ngwriter/producer. “Process” is just so damn good, I was eager to see how he brings his tunes to life.
Holy cow, what an ambitious show. Right off the bat, I was super impressed by the instrumentation. Lots of synths and electronic percussion, but not a guitar in sight. With lots of punctuated noises, it was pretty tough for the group to lock in, especially it being their first stop on the tour, and presumably their first time preforming this particular content for a live audience. But nevertheless, the show was awesome. They played all the tracks I loved from the album (Reverse Faults x Under back to back nearly sent me to space) with only minor, expected difficulties.
I’d really like to see what the show looks like towards the end of the tour. I’m sure they’ll be adding/enhancing bits and at the same time getting more locked in to what they have down currently. He’s got some super talented musicians with him, and I wish them all the best. Sampha, Godspeed.
Ravyn Lenae & Noname – Metro, Chicago, IL
Where to even start with this one. Noname, as you may know, took the spot on my top 25 albums of last year. Her music hits my sweet spot, and so did this show. What I look for in a concert is a good drummer, tight accents, and a balanced sound. This show exceeded my expectations in that regard. What I really loved about it, though, was how energetic and in touch with the audience she was, and how she
made everyone in the room feel like family. The night was kicked off with a groovy opening set by Ravyn Lenae who did a spectacular cover of one of my favorite songs of last year – Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky”. Noname then took over with some unconventionally cozy looking furniture on stage, but proceeded to bring the house with a combination of energetic ballads and soothing melodies. One of the highlights for me was her cover of Afro Blue that she used as an interlude in between other songs. A very creative use of a beautiful diddy. The best part however was how since we were in Chicago, she was able to bring out the entire cast for the song “Shadow Man,” – Saba, Smino and Phoelix. This was a great family-style way to end her hometown stop on the tour, and was very well recieved by the audience. If I were to encapsulate the show’s description into one word, it would probably be ‘warm’.
If you have an opportunity to check this show out on the current tour, I’d highly reccomend it. And if you haven’t had a chance to check out “Telefone” yet, please do yourself a favor and peep.