ChicagoVerseUniteD: Chicago Scene Salvation

New CVU Live Review: Scattered Trees!

Posted in Live Review,Scattered Trees by Jaime Black on May 4th, 2011

Scattered Trees

Scattered Trees
, Chicago
Saturday, April 30th, 2011

In an interview last month with the CVU podcast (available directly below this review), Scattered Trees frontman Nate Eiesland discussed the gravity of the band’s recent full length, Sympathy, an album haunted by the death of Eiesland’s father. In the episode, the artist admits to looking forward to producing more upbeat material that won’t take such an emotional toll in the live setting. But if this past Saturday’s performance is any indication, Sympathy‘s emotive core provided plenty of charge to the band’s live set, which found the act infusing the somber material with invigorated energy.

Moving through the album in its running order, Scattered Trees made use of warm guitars and vocal harmonies to bring Sympathy to life onstage, evident in Eiesland and bassist Ryne Estwing’s shared singing on “A Conversation About Death on New Years Eve.” Talk of broken hearts didn’t impede on the musical muscle of the more rock-driven “Four Days Straight,” and even “I Swear to God,” Sympathy’s most lyrically vulnerable offering, proved no less than a barn burner live, with combination drum, guitar, and keyboard thrashes acting as audio catharsis. One of the night’s strongest deliveries, however, came during the uneasy “Five Minutes,” wherein building guitar, low bass undertones, and a hypnotic drum rhythm came together in an emotional climax, with Eiesland
declaratively admitting “I can’t relate / To what I say / ‘Cause I’m not myself.”

Elsewhere in the set, a more somber style took hold, like in the soft-spoken “Where You Came From,” which found Eiesland solo with his voice and guitar for the somber ballad. Similarly, the showcased album’s title track proved sparse and brief. Yet an as-of-yet-unreleased late set selection took a different approach, sporting upbeat guitar and featuring the Scattered Trees frontman repeating “The war is gone.” In an evening of raw and exposed emotion, an encouraging ending hinted at a hopeful future.

-Jaime Black

Find the CVU podcast with Nate Eiesland below, followed by a stream of Sympathy in its entirety!

CVU67 – Scattered Trees

Scattered Trees

Live Review: Patrick Stump W/ Rockie Fresh @ Schubas | Local 101 Audio Archive: Patrick Stump!

Posted in Audio Archive,Fall Out Boy,Live Review,Local 101,Patrick Stump,Rockie Fresh by Jaime Black on April 4th, 2011

Patrick Stump

Sunday night’s Local 101 interview with Patrick Stump is now availability in its entirety, markedly longer than the edit that aired last night on Q101. Click below to stream Chris Payne‘s interview with the artist, in which Stump opens up for a candid chat touching on viewing his solo ventures as a parallel musical project, working with Rockie Fresh in the studio, why the Fall Out Boy break is just that, and much, much more. (For Rockie Fresh’s take on the collaboration, check out a recent interview via the good folks at Ruby Hornet.) And following the streaming interview below, find a live review of the musician’s sold out Schuba’s event last night.

Patrick Stump W/ Rockie Fresh
Schubas, Chicago, IL
Sunday, April 3, 2011

At 2010′s SXSW, the then-newly solo Patrick Stump performed a one-man show at the Dirty Dog Bar, with no new music released and no real explanation of what to expect. The set proved to be an experiment, with Stump moving between different instruments over prerecorded backing tracks to deliver early versions of his solo catalogue. It’s a credit to the artist, then, that one year later, the project that is Patrick Stump as a solo artist has gained much more definition and ability to impact.

Sunday night’s show at Schubas, the first of two sold out concerts with a follow up tonight, proved to be a dramatic upgrade from last year’s 6th St. beginnings. The success of the evening can be attributed to a few factors, not the least of which include the release of Stump’s Truant Wave EP earlier this year, a full and more than fully capable backing band onstage, and Stump’s newfound confidence as not only the voice but the architect of his musical arsenal. Playing to a room of predominantly female fans still brightly burning the Fall Out Boy flame, the artist delivered a set drastically different from anything his previous power pop unit ever approached.

The night moved between the handful of cuts off Truant Wave, as-of-yet unreleased songs likely to end up on the Stump’s forthcoming Soul Punk full length, and crowd pleasing covers including a hard funk version of Gym Class Heroes‘ “Cupid’s Chokehold,” a keyboard-led rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” and a full band performance of “All Of The Lights.” The covers contributed to the evening’s overall celebratory vibe, while Stump’s sold the crowd on unknown selections through entirely embedding himself within the material. One unfamiliar production, titled “Cryptozoology” and sporting chiptune keytar and funky guitar and bass, found Stump declaring “I don’t have to prove myself to you.” An interesting sentiment during a night of rebirth.

Throughout the evening, Stump, sporting a tux and vinyl fingerless gloves, proved electrified onstage, possessed by a hyper-kinetic energy. From his live band, Stump’s secret weapon came in the form of back up vocalist and guitarist Michael Day (hat tip to the Sun-Times for name confirmation), who the frontman revealed holds a master’s in guitar, though the other members of the outfit proved their worth throughout different performances. The lounge jazz pop of the heavily energized “Cute Girls,” for example, incorporated Casey Benjamin’s sax in its breakdown while Skoota Warner’s drumming worked overtime to bring the song home. Stump himself, meanwhile, used his voice as a weapon during “Love, Selfish Love,” switching between high and low octaves for the infectious number.

The most engaging moments of the night, however, came late in the set in the form of Truant cuts “Big Hype” and “Spotlight.” Between the two songs, the former prompted huge singalongs from the crowd to accompany the thunderously echoing delivery and undeniable melody, while the latter elevated the song with the addition of keys and a fast paced marching band beat. With the benefit of recognition, the energy between the stage and the crowd proved undeniably reciprocal.

Similarly energized was Chicago rapper Rockie Fresh. Through coincidence or design, Fresh proved himself a kindred spirit in opening for Stump at these dates. Both artists benefited greatly from a full live band during their sets, and both were out to prove themselves. Fresh, to his credit, converted a room of pop punk princesses, many of whom might have never before experienced a live hip hop set. Donning a pair of black shades through the entirety of his half hour set, the MC brought out material from last year’s The Otherside mixtape, including slower and lower fare like the drum and bass-aided “A.C. Green” and the laid back and guitar-enhanced “They Don’t Understand Why.” It was “Sofa King Cole,” however, that truly saw Fresh ignited, with the rapper breathlessly powering through the song’s closing flow. By the end of the set, the MC had demonstrated who he was to a room that, prior to the concert, didn’t know him. In some ways, Patrick Stump did the same thing.

-Jaime Black

SXSW Live Review Patrick Stump

Patrick Stump
Dirty Dog, Austin, TX
Friday, March 19, 2010

(The newly svelte Stump onstage last night at Dirty Dog in Austin)

As a musician and vocalist, Patrick Stump has proved himself skilled with some of Fall Out Boy’s more ambitious selections, among them “What A Catch, Donnie” and “(Coffee’s For Closers),” as well as offbeat one-off tracks like his cover of Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” So when video hit earlier this year showing Stump presumably working on a solo project, it came as no surprise to see the singer playing a variety of instruments.

In that sense, the format for the artist’s Friday night show at SXSW shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, although for many it still did. Following reinvention performances from members of Panic At The Disco (The Young Veins) and Gym Class Heroes (Travis McCoy’s The Lazarus Project), the once (and future?) Fall Out Boy frontman took to the stage to minimal fanfare and immediately started playing drums. If the crowd was unresponsive at first, it was almost certainly because the man performing onstage in almost no way resembled Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy. Sporting short-cropped hair and a blazer in place of his trademark messy mop/hat/glasses combo, not to mention startlingly skinnier, the new Patrick Stump represented a clean break from his power-pop past, ready to embrace a more experimental future.

And experimental it is. Midway through playing drums at the start of his set, Stump stood up and moved to play keyboard, the guitar, then back to drums, followed by bass then moving on to adding big synthetic flourishes, all while prerecorded tracks kept running. It was a risky approach, and not one that necessarily went over flawlessly. The format was no doubt at first confusing for the crowd, and just for a second before beginning to sing, Stump looked paralyzed, unsure whether he’d be able to fully make the plunge into a live solo venture. Then, almost as soon as he started singing, the first song abruptly ended. From there, the artist moved between styles and instruments, with a funkier guitar-driven song finding Stump admitting “this is me confessing” before copping to “all the weight of the world on my back.” Other performances in the surprisingly succinct five-song set moved between more blues-leaning material to keyboard-oriented cuts. By the riff-led and funk-fueled last song, Stump seemed more than confident, declaring “I’m not broken hearted I’m just kind of pissed off,” his vocals stronger than they’d been all set. Which is where the artist chose to leave things, exiting almost as abruptly as he entered. It was a somewhat polarizing set, with a challenging structure and miles away from anything attempted by Fall Out Boy. But then, that was almost certainly the point in and of itself.

-Jaime de’Medici

And for more life after Fall Out Boy, check out the ChicagoVerseUniteD podcast with Joe Trohman from December 2009, streaming below!

SPIN Earth Brand New Live Review

Posted in Brand New,Live Review,SPIN Earth by Jaime Black on October 12th, 2009

My review of Brand New‘s October 3rd show at The Aragon, up now at SPIN Earth.


Lollapalooza Kick Off Party Live Review

Live review of Lollapalooza 2009 artists Dark Wave Disco, He Say, She Say, Moneypenny, and Yello Fever, as well as Lolla 2008 alums Flosstradamus. Up now at The Onion‘s A.V. Chicago site.


MSTRKRFT MySpace Secret Show Live Review

Posted in Chicagoverse Exclusive,Live Review,MSTRKRFT by Jaime Black on April 3rd, 2009

**Chicagoverse Exclusive**

MySpace Secret Show
Co-Prosperity Sphere, Chicago
Thursday, April 2, 2009

As a rule of thumb, underground, low profile, or secret shows with big name artists typically adhere to a few reliable cliches. Among them, an industry only guest-list, for a show happening at unsuspecting venue, and a cramped audience area that’s standing room only, if even that. For MSTRKRFT‘s gig at the south side’s art-house studio space Co-Prosperity Sphere, the event apparently adhered primarily to the first two factors.


Part of MySpace’s nation-wide series of secret shows featuring premiere talent, MSTRKRFT’s south side shindig snuck up quickly and quietly, only building up hipster hype on Facebook a few short days in advance. As the hour of the event drew near, word rang out across text messages and status updates that the venue had already reached capacity. No surprise there, as entry at a first come, first served free event with such a sizable act would certainly be limited. Yet, inside the Co-Prosperity Sphere, it was an entirely different story, as the art-house venue was hardly even half full at the time of MSTRKRFT’s set. Reports emerged through word of mouth of attendees turned away at the door, despite the venue’s abundance of available audience space. As it was, the electro duo performed to a meager crowd of maybe 150 patrons, if even that.

The back of the Sphere, where a surprisingly sizable portion of the room remained unoccupied.

Fortunately for the lucky few who did get in, the men of MSTRKRFT — Jesse F. Keeler and Al-P — held the crowd in rapt attention throughout their set. Stationed between two monitors flashing through random pop-art sequences, the pair performed as flashing neon lights illuminated them from behind, with rows of multi-colored light strips flashing in sync above them. Over the course of an hour-plus set, the duo unleashed a steady supply of sliced up samples, repeating synth waves, and a sonic stream of spacey, stressed out sirens. Occasionally, sudden and sizable notes would hit, and the tone and mood of the music would switch up — though the outfit rarely strayed from their hard-hitting, low-bass heavy electro attack. All the while, cuts from the pair’s two records surfaced in the mix, such as “Easy Love” off 2006′s The Looks, and the more recent “Bounce” off this year’s Fist Of God. The latter of which incited a clap-along, while other moments ignited enthusiastic crowd-surfing. In addition to their own catalogue, the master kraftsmen also worked in surefire crowd-pleasers like Justice smash “D.A.N.C.E.” and Daft Punk’s giddy “Celebrate,” with the mantra “Music’s got me feeling so free” repeating until getting buried under a bed of sound.

Keeler and Al-P in action for the crowd who made it in.

At times, largely vocal-free portions of the group’s mix bordered on repetitive and fairly indistinguishable, though the majority of the crowd hardly seemed to mind or even notice. About 45 minutes in, however, the already sparse room began to thin out even further. It was at that point that Keeler even looked down at his wristwatch while performing in full view of the venue. (No joke.) Thankfully, perhaps for the artists themselves, the end was in sight for the obviously and inarguably under-attended event. Finishing with a surprisingly straightforward version of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” MSTRKRFT went out emphasizing Fun with a capital Fuck Yeah! (One has to wonder if the selection was nod to a certain IL-set movie that famously featured that same track.) Unleashed at a thunderous volume at the height of the pair’s set, the selection inspired no small amount of obligatory head-banging amongst the room’s frenzied hipsters that held until the song washed out. And while the track would hardly prove indicative of the acts’ sound as a whole, it stood as an inspired climax to a night that aspired to be nothing more than the soundtrack to its own party. With many more attendees present, it could’ve been huge.

-Jaime de’Medici