The City of Chicago has announced plans to designate 2020 as the “Year of Chicago Music.” This citywide, yearlong initiative focusing on music is one of the first of its kind in the United States. Preliminary plans include grants to the local music industry, including support for live music on the South and West Sides, and a 17-day celebration of music starting Memorial Day weekend across Chicago including the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and free and ticketed performances at venues across the city. The campaign will also include support for neighborhoods and venues as well as pop-up performances in vacant, underutilized and nontraditional spaces on the South and West Sides in addition to permanent venue space development programs. The initiative will also feature a promotional marketing campaign focusing on music as well as professional support for musicians, including career development opportunities and a Chicago Musicians Roster. Additional details will be announced in early 2020. PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF CHICAGO
Red Bull Music Festival returns to Chicago this November, hosting eight events featuring more than 40 artists at venues across the city from November 17-30. This is the third year of the event, which began as the month-long “30 Days in Chicago” in 2017 and was changed to Red Bull Music Festival last year. The 2019 event kicks off with a 50th anniversary all-venue celebration at Metro/Smart Bar on November 17 honoring Chicago’s iconic Gramaphone Records with back-to-back sets from local house music legends including Derrick Carter, Jesse de la Pena, DJ Psycho-Bitch and more. Black Monastic plays the Garfield Park Conservatory on November 19, Lupe Fiasco will headline the Riviera on November 21, Smino and his Zero Fatigue label/collective will showcase at Thalia Hall on November 23, and Jamila Woods performs at The Geraghty on November 27. The event concludes with the two-day John Walt Day at Metro on November 29 and 30, headlined by Saba and members of Pivot Gang, with 100% of ticket sales going towards mentorships and scholarships for young Chicago artists via the John Walt Foundation. For more information and tickets, visit the festival site.
by Jake McKenzie
photo by David James Swanson
When a group of famous musicians forms a new project together, it’s often reflexively labeled a “supergroup.” And no doubt Jack White, Brendan Benson, Patrick Keeler, and Jack Lawrence were individual icons in the blues rock world before they formed The Raconteurs. But they soundly reject the term “supergroup,” claiming it describes something temporary. They prefer to think of their ragtag group as “a new band made up of old friends” and their 2019 release, Help Us Stranger, feels a lot like meeting up with old friends. Their first record in 11 years, this album may not have conquered much new ground, but it proves The Raconteurs can still deliver the same ass-kicking sound that fans love. In true Jack White fashion, the band has been playing a handful of secret shows in tiny clubs, and stalwarts of the bluesy garage-inspired rock sound of the aughts will attest that they rock as hard as ever.
by Anthony V. Fraccalvieri
photo by Tony Nelson
Robert Pollard is nothing if not prolific. The Guided By Voices founder has led an ever-evolving lineup through 35 years and a ridiculous number of albums, two of which were released this year. It wouldn’t surprise most that a third album, titled Sweating the Plague, is ready to drop this fall. The lead single “Heavy Like the World” delivers another helping of the sound Pollard is now synonymous with: big, loose, anthemic guitar pop. To quote the press release, the LP was “constructed as a classic 12-song album experience, meant to be played loud.” An efficient offering, given the double length of the last two records, Travis Harrison’s production sits nicely on the precipice of lo-fi while not sacrificing too much luster. The current lineup featuring guitarist Doug Gillard, drummer Kevin March, guitarist Bobby Bare Jr., and bassist Mark Shue promises to bring forth a marathon set spanning their entire catalog. Pack plenty of beer.