In the Heart of the Nation: The Titanic Spectacle of Taylor Swift

The first impression is a memory from high school. My mother and I attend a sold-out performance of Mamma Mia! and cursory examination reveals I am one of a dozen men in the audience. Rarely in my life have I felt like such an interloper.

Taylor Live

Saturday night was this multiplied by fifty-five. Soldier Field is jammed with women and girls, wearing a mix of official merchandise, homemade T-shirts, and their finest dresses. There is plenty of red lipstick and homemade electric signs casting light in the darkening sky. This is Taylor Nation, and they have come to experience the biggest singer-songwriter in the world.

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“We will get by, we will survive.” The Last Concert of the Grateful Dead


They were there for hours that hot summer day and I know because I was there for hours, too, walking through the greenery by the Field Museum and the south parking lot. I saw people begging for spare tickets holding up signs reading “I need a miracle.” I saw people in dirty khakis sitting on the grass playing acoustic guitars and selling everything from bottled water to jerk chicken burritos, from jewelry to bowls. I saw tailgaters who gave anyone who liked their little set-up a free beer. I saw elementary school girls bravely dressed in teddy bear costumes. I saw more tie-dye and vintage T-shirts (not thrift store vintage but owned and lived in for years, cherished vintage) then I’ll ever see in one place again.

It was the largest audience in the history of Soldier Field – 71,000 people – and they had gathered to see history that was not just Chicago’s but America’s. They came to see the last performance of the Grateful Dead.

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Barrel of a Gun: Guster Live at the Riviera

IMG_1120Last Friday night, alternative rock band played a high energy set at the Riviera Theatre at Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago. The band formed over 22 years ago in Boston, MA, releasing their first album in 1992. Since then, they’ve toured the world, just released their seventh album, and have brought joy and delight to countless fans who came of age in the early 2000’s. (Yours truly included)

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Three Poppy Punk Chicago Bands to See This Month

At a recent Swimsuit Addition show, someone turned to me and very sincerely asked “What if there are no rules anymore?” The four-piece sprawls over their music, and they’re in absolute control of evil beach punk.

Swimsuit Addition is celebrating the release of their new 7 song TANKS! EP with a free show at Emporium Barcade this Thursday, Dec. 11th. It’s great if they’re the only ones who know the rules.

Oh no, a pop punk band with fun synth bits who mention pizza. People do it, and Absolutely Not does it so much better. Their longest song is 2:39, but the number of stop-and-gape hooks they jam into each one is staggering.

They’re headlining a great (and free) Chicago Singles Club lineup at the Empty Bottle on Monday, Dec. 29th. If you don’t dance, you’ll be trampled.

The meanest band here, Meat Wave favors music that drives along non-stop until your chin is on the floor. Don’t worry, the payoff is consistent, and you’ll get up for more.

Go see them for a New Year’s Eve show at Reggie’s ($25-$30) before they kick off a U.K. tour. Then check back on their new EP landing around January 19th.

New Year Bonus Round: Ian’s Party starts January 1st and ends on the 4th. All the bands mentioned here will be playing various venues around Logan Square. Even if you dive in with no direction, you’ll get a fistful of quality local music.

Rock and Roll Rising From the Mud: 10.5 Observations on Riot Fest


1. Rock and roll is not dead…but it is very dirty.

Recently, Gene Simmons asserted that “rock is dead” – this article can be considered my dissent against that statement. Sales may be dropping, and manufactured pop, rap, and metal may continue to keep their footholds in the musical consciousness, but as long as artists reach the masses with passionate, high-energy performances full of unexpected surprises, rock and roll will never die. Riot Fest, celebrating its tenth anniversary in Chicago, is the ultimate case in point, as I witnessed on the one day of concerts I attended.

Saturday at Humboldt Park proved to be a beautiful day, albeit full of mud leftover from Friday’s rain.  I wore my old sneakers to the festival and immediately threw them out on my return home. Nobody emerged with clean shoes. None of us minded. For my part, I saw nine acts and change from noon to 10 pm, some of whom I was familiar with, some of whom I love, and none of whom did note for note recreations of their studio sound. It was an experience worth every penny.

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