A brand spankin' new street festival takes place this weekend on Milwaukee at Armitage and Western, and lucky for us, the focus is mainly on the music. Metronome Celebration puts Logan Square in the spotlight with all your classic Chicago street fest stuff including food, beer, and booths from local merchants, artisans and non-profits; but boasts five stages featuring over 40 bands. The stages, separated by genre, include: a Rock Stage (curated by Empty Bottle), a Punk Stage (curated by MP Productions), an Electro Stage (by the Congress Theater), and a Folk Stage (booked by The Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival). There will also be a Local Stage featuring local talent from the Logan Square neighborhood and from Chase and Goethe Elementary Schools.
Metronome's other big focus is on being "green". The festival's goal, following in the footsteps of Lollapalooza, is to leave the neighborhood better off than when they came by promoting recycling, using biodegradable products and encouraging use of public transportation. Organizers also hope to inspire innovation with the Sustainable Project Award which will "fund a project to improve recycling, composting, energy efficiency, green space development or any other project that will help reduce the burden of the local community on the environment and improve the lives of the citizens of Chicago."
But, let's get back to the music. Here we take a look at some of the artists hitting Metronome's stages this weekend.
Rock Stage: Saturday, June 6th
Canadian rockers Apostle of Hustle aren't strangers to Chicago clubs. They've often graced the third coast's shores. But this weekend, they'll be a rising star on the rock stage at the Metronome Celebration on Saturday, June 6th with their thinky lyrics and heavy head-bob yet danceable tunes. Touring in support of their latest album Eats Darkness, their latest studio effort brings unconventional indie rock experimentation to a place where you're bopping around your living room like a kindergartner on field day. So hey, why not catch their set at 5:30pm on Saturday and bring all that energy outside. You might just burn off the beer and elotes from the day. (And if you miss them Saturday outdoors, hit them up June 7th at the Empty Bottle — shhh. It's ok, the Bottle curated the Rock stage at Metronome.)
Headlining the evening Saturday on the Rock Stage is John Vanderslice. Vanderslice, a former member of the Bay Area band MK Ultra, released his seventh solo album, Romanian Names, just last month and it's already being called the best of his career. The indie rock singer/songwriter has garnered the most attention for statement making lyricism such as referencing the 9/11 attacks and Baghdad, and for his single "Bill Gates Must Die," but he has a gift for producing melodic pop songs that will be sure to shine through.
Electronic Stage: Saturday, June 6th
After arriving in here from Boston some three-plus years ago, disc jockey Willy Joy didn't waste much time making a name for himself on the Chicago club circuit. On the local scene, he's become known for his Flybynight events at Empire Liquors and Debonair; and on the national level, he lately been name-checked due to his tracks and mixtapes, for having landing on URB magazine's "Next 100" list for 2008, and for rocking the crowd at this past year's SXSW festival. Joy's sets are eclectic and engineered for maximum bounce — whether he's mashing Radiohead or They Might Be Giants over a banging beat, or slipping some Southside juke tunes into the mix. He's also one of more lively and animated DJs in town, so whether or not he'll be dialing down the energy level of his usual club set for this afternoon's open-air appearance remains to be seen. If you haven't caught him in action before, Saturday afternoon might be a good time for an introduction. On the North stage by the Congress Theater at 3:30 p.m.
At this point, it may seem a bit oxymoronic for a band that traffics in electronic music to include the word "future" in its name. In the case of the local trio Future Rock, the emphasis falls more on the latter half of their moniker. While the group drapes its instrumental tunes in sleek textures and slight synthetic melodies, at their core lie the rhythms laid down by drummer Darren Heitz, who keeps everything anchored in a fluid rock tempo. Underneath it all, the trio's semi-improvisational method of developing tunes reveals an indebtedness to Tangerine Dream and other early psych/prog pioneers of electronic music. Future Rock is the headlining act at Metronome's North stage on Saturday evening, and is scheduled to take the stage at 8 p.m.
Punk Stage: Sunday, June 7th
In the past two months, Chicago's own Deal's Gone Bad have played shows in Germany, Croatia, Austria, Poland, and Spain. These guys have been around for over a decade, albeit with few line-up alterations, releasing four albums of their unique mix of ska, reggae, and soul. Sunday night they'll be headlining the punk stage at Metronome, which I believe is their first local date following their recent world tour. They're the kind of band I'd throw on the stereo while spending a hot summer night drinking with a few friends on the back porch, which will prove to be a perfect fit to headline the start of the summer street festival season. Deal's Gone Bad hits the MPShows.com stage at 8:30 p.m. sharp. Check out their video for "Movin' On" off the album The Ramblers below.
Directly before Deal's Gone Bad hits the stage, be sure to check out The Methadones (also at the MPShows.com stage) at 7:30 p.m. Featuring former members of Screeching Weasel and The Vindictives, they represent a more grown-up, polished-without-sounding-manufactured aspect of power pop/pop punk. Like any good power punk, their songs are short, catchy and danceable. They've been cranking out solid tunes since the early '90s, and I'm stoked to catch them live for the first time this weekend. Watch out for the remastered release of their 2004 album Not Economically Viable on colored vinyl this summer.
And for something a little harder, faster, and more raucous, check out the MPShows.com stage a bit earlier in the afternoon for The Effigies. This band has been around for longer than I've been alive, disbanded in 1990 and
reformed in 2004. It's not often you'll find a band who goes through a 21 year hiatus between studio albums. These guys are legends in early Chicago punk world, and luckily for people like me who were too young to catch them the first time around, their new material is just as hard-hitting and angsty. Catch them on stage Sunday at 4:30 p.m. and be sure to wear closed-toe shoes.
Folk Stage: Sunday, June 7th
To me the term "Folk" conjures up images of Joan Baez or Woody Guthrie, people sitting around strumming on acoustic guitars in a grassy field. Yet the Folk stage at Metronome Festival this weekend is a far cry from my mental image, offering up foot stomping bluegrass and country mixed in with a little dose of rock 'n' roll.
The line-up was hand picked by Chicago Bluegrass and Blues, the folks that put on their stellar festival last fall at the Congress theater with headliners the Avett Brothers. The stage packs an impressive line-up of local and national acts, all boasting a sound that throws back to more Americana roots music.
At 4:15pm, The Giving Tree Band will bring their brand of bluegrass twang to the stage. The Giving Tree Band describe their band as "a group of Illinois boys who share not only their music but a love of nature," and their creed of "doing right by the song." The band creates a crisp and vintage sound, all while spreading their green gospel. The band is all about a culture of sustainability, and use instruments built from naturally fallen trees and reclaimed wood, produce music with renewable energy, and use recycled materials for all their packaging. Using your music to help spread a cause is totally acceptable and honorable when you've got infectious guitar picking and harmonies to back it up.
Immediately following is Ezra Furman & The Harpoons with their brand of choppy indie rock. Reminiscent of Bright Eyes with vocals that sound like the Violent Femmes, Ezra Furman & The Harpoons create raw and rollicking stripped down rock music. Their national debut album, Banging Down the Doors, released on local indie label Minty Fresh Records, garnered attention for the detailed and creative storytelling layered over earnest vocals. The album is pure sunshine in the form of music, and will fit in perfectly in a summer festival setting.
Finishing up the night is Justin Townes Earle, another artist on another great local label, Bloodshot Records. Justin Townes Earle creates the type of dusty country music that makes you yearn to be down South sitting on a porch listening to the radio while drinking sweet tea. His latest album, Midnight at the Movies, is a slice of vintage songwriting style, perfecting the art of the classic roots of country and bluegrass music. This is music Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, or Chet Atkins would listen to and would be proud to call country.
The festival takes place June 6-7, 2009 on Milwaukee at Armitage and Western in Logan Square. Full information, including the weekend's lineup and set times can be found at the Metronome Celebration website.