Posts tagged Chicago
I had the good fortune of catching Parachute perform twice this past month – first as a full band and then acoustically, with only guitarist Nate McFarland and lead singer, Will Anderson. And it has taken me weeks to come up with the right words to properly introduce them to you – to give this amazing band the justice they deserve and genuinely express my feelings without sounding cliché.
It’s ironic really, when I think about how difficult it is to write blogs about the bands I love the most. Because I go to some weird, vulnerable place as I contemplate sharing my emotion with you all (I don’t know how people write songs, when I can barely write blogs.) But considering what Parachute has given me through their music, I feel I owe it to them to get this blog out – finally.
The band had their break-out hit with a song called “She Is Love,” which was featured on a Nivea commercial three years ago. Since then, we’ve seen so many bands utilize TV ads and shows as an outlet for their music. But Parachute was really one of the first and the song stuck with me. It is a beautiful, acoustic track and I knew from the opening chords it was a song that would forever rotate on my playlist. When I was able to hear it performed live and acoustically for the first time, it took me right back to that first moment I fell in love with it. Here’s my video from the show (I’m not a videographer by any means, so don’t judge on what you see)… it’s all about what you hear:
I can’t honestly say that I’ve been a huge Parachute fan for the past three years, though. In fact, outside of my obsession with “She Is Love,” I really didn’t listen to the rest of their first album – until recently. I rediscovered the band this year when iTunes offered “What I Know” (from their sophomore album) for free. I instantly connected to the track. Then Amazon featured the entire album, “The Way It Was” for a price I couldn’t refuse. And I was also being encouraged by a good friend to give them a chance. And I remember the day I listened to the album so vividly. I was in a park outside my church in Chicago doing some writing and was taken aback by the quality of each track. I felt like I was swept into their world, I understood the places they were coming from in each track. I spent weeks listening to only this album.
Parachute really won me over with their live performances and the brilliance of their lyrics. After seeing them live it really took my love for them to another level. “Under Control” is now always on rotation in the bar where I work. It’s soulful (infused with a pop/bluesy vibe) that I just can’t resist! Simply put, it brightens my mood beyond belief. “She (For Liz)” is another one of my favorites from their first album, “Losing Sleep.” The way they are able to express almost a desperation to have someone but the relationship just not working out – we’ve all been there at one time or another.
You may have heard “Something To Believe In,” when it was circulating various football promo’s on ABC and ESPN. Now, it’s being played on select radio stations. The lyrics perfectly describe how I feel about the band and their music – heres the big cliche statement, ready for it? – they give their listeners something to believe in. Sorry I had to, but really their music serves a purpose. Every single song tells a vivid story in a way that you can easily relate to, even if you haven’t had that exact same experience, this band takes you there.
The connection I’ve made with Parachute’s music is rare and difficult to describe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cried to “Forever and Always” because it’s so easy to visualize the song as it plays. It’s a track that truly comes to life with a story that if I told you about it here in this blog, would be like spoiling the end of a movie. It’s something that you will just have to experience for yourself. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how many times I have danced in my apartment and down Chicago’s city streets to “White Dress,” which is my anthem! I swear, it’s like it was written specifically for me. And even though I have never been the girl shouting things out from the crowd, I had to ask the guys to play it on Friday. And they did. It was a really cool moment for me. To hear a song that resonates so deeply, so up close and personal, made my day. My current obsession since the full band show has been “American Secrets” which starts out up-tempo, and evolves into something soft and beautiful. During their performance, they take the most sincere moment of the song and stand around the mic singing acapella. It was definitely a highlight of the show for me.
You know, it’s so easy for a band to jump on stage and tell the audience they have the best fans in the world. But these guys are genuinely appreciative of all the support they get. Parachute really reaches out to their fan base and treats them with respect. They come off stage at the end of their set and immediately set out to meet the crowd. Both times I’ve seen them, they didn’t leave until everyone that wanted to talk, get an autograph or picture with them, was met. They also utilize social media exceptionally well. Parachute has 120 videos on their official YouTube page and make it really easy for their fans to interact with them.
I could sit here and describe all the technical aspects of the music for you, doing what you’d normally expect me to do. I could also try to place them in a genre and compare them to other bands that you like to try and get you to listen to them. But there is so much more about Parachute that makes them compelling and different from any other band that I know. Just take it from me – it’s not so much what you hear when you listen to their music; it’s how their music makes you feel. And I realize this feeling won’t be the same for everyone, thats the beauty of it and the name of the game. But for this band in particular you can’t go wrong. It’s about everything they represent through their music and all the things in life they flawlessly capture – faith, God, love, raw emotion, sadness, excitement and beauty.
Parachute is extremely dedicated to their craft and that passion exudes through every line of every song. And even though I much prefer their newest album “The Way It Was,” both albums feel complete, like every track exists for a reason and has its perfect place. There’s something to be said about a band that can fully develop and release a record. I have the upmost respect for Parachute and am proud to be able to introduce you to this incredible band.
Oh how do I express my love for Meiko? The editor of Paste magazine, Josh Jackson, saw her perform at Sundance Film Festival in 2007 and declared her a big success story waiting to happen. She first came across my radar when a few of her songs made appearances on some TV shows I watch. Actually by now her music has probably unknowingly made its way to your ears with as many shows she has been featured on in the last couple years. Her name has been floating around the industry for awhile but I wasn’t familiar with her outside of knowing her name until recently. After seeing her perform a couple weeks ago at House of Blues in Chicago, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head.
It has taken me a couple weeks to let Meiko settle into my musical brain in order to write this blog without sounding like a blabbering fool (which is bound to happen anyway). I am really excited about her, and I just can’t help it. So I will take a deep breath, and start from the beginning. I saw Meiko perform twice in Chicago, opening up for Hanson, per usual – as you already know many of my new favorite artists come from Hanson tours. She has already done some tour stints with Brett Dennen (whom I love dearly), Mat Kearney, Joe Purdy, Jewel, Joshua Radin and she was featured on the Hotel Café tour. Upon moving to LA, Meiko began waitressing and performing at Hotel Café. She was able to drop the waitress gig after her song “Reasons To Love You” made its national TV debut on Grey’s Anatomy. She still performs at Hotel Café regularly, so if you’re in the LA area I recommend checking the calendar out.
I think there’s something to be said about a female that writes her own material. And I guess not only writes music but makes songs that are genuine, true to herself, and about something real. I am constantly inquiring the people I meet about what bands or artists they listen to, specifically in the realm of females. I’m always searching for a female musician that makes me feel something. It just doesn’t interest or captivate me to be constantly bombarded with the over-sexualized female pop artists singing about absolutely nothing relevant to the world I live in. I can understand how it can be entertaining to people but where is Stevie Nicks when you need her? I’m not saying that female talent doesn’t exist, rather it’s just not easily discoverable. Music fans want to feel connected, and authentic female artists has been hard to come by. I think that’s why Adele has become so beloved in our industry. I have to believe that with Adele having so much mainstream success it will only help the female singer/songwriter sector grow commercially.
Meiko has a unique, soft, and soulful voice. Her talent stands alone in her music but seeing her live changed everything for me. I definitely think the more she tours and the more people she connects with, the more success she will have. She walks out on stage with minimal make up on, modest clothing, and you instantly feel connected to her normalcy. She is adorable, sweet, and funny. Meiko has a story to tell, she speaks openly about her heartbreaks and triumphs. Her music makes me feel empowered, inspired, and proud to be a woman. She stole my heart and she will win yours over too, guaranteed.
Check her out here singing “Good Looking Loser” live:
It’s no secret that my favorite venue of all time is House of Blues in Chicago. In my mind, nothing compares to the architecture, history and overall vibe of the place. However, I stopped by Lincoln Hall on Sunday night to catch Chicago’s very own Andrew Belle perform and I will say that Lincoln Hall has definitely made its way up there as another one of my favorite venues, at least in Chicago anyway.
Seeing a show at House of Blues is an experience in itself, no matter which band you’re going there to watch. Lincoln Hall instead, absorbs the vibe of the crowd to create a different atmosphere at every show. The sound quality is fantastic – probably the best I’ve ever experienced. The size is very intimate and the place is simple, allowing you to focus on the brilliance on stage.
He’s a fairly new artist, he’s from Chicago, and I’m always curious to see what kind of musicians this city is putting out. (I’ve also been somewhat consumed in the hip hop industry for the last couple months and have been needing a break so, I was looking forward to checking out this show.) You may have noticed recently that Andrew Belle’s music has been making the rounds on all your favorite TV shows. I’ve always liked what I’ve heard from him. My favorite track “Open Your Eyes” was featured on Grey’s Anatomy last season.
Overall, it was a good night. Belle played with his full band, which added a lot of different layers and elements to the music that really don’t come across on his albums. However, the constant fog emanating from the stage was a bit of an annoyance. One song after another, starting off softly, building into an eventual explosion with the band blowing your face off, this became tiresome as well. In the grand scheme of things there is nothing wrong with that type of vibe, but when it happens during every song, there’s no opportunity to appreciate it.
Sorry to say that I guess mostly, Belle’s performance was disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of Andrew Belle. This guy is a lyrical genius who tells some incredible stories through his music and he has a beautiful voice. But the band overpowered him and were a distraction from the real talent. However, the performance did show me that Andrew Belle is a diverse artist and not your run-of-the-mill acoustic, singer/songwriter.
In general, the show was very Coldplay-esque. If you’re into that type of sound, I definitely recommend checking Belle out. However, if you’re expecting to hear what you have on his albums, there’s not of much of a connection there.
The night wasn’t a complete disappointment. It was actually far from that. Matt Hires flew in from Tampa to open the show. I thought I knew what to expect from him. I had seen him 3 and a half years prior at House of Blues here in Chicago. I liked his performance back then, enough to remember his name. More recently I had heard his song, “Honey, Let Me Sing You A Song,” here and there. I was looking forward to catching him perform again, but not necessarily excited.
I can now say that watching Hires perform made me want to come home and book a flight to see his next show. I am completely blown away by how much he’s grown as a performer – it was like night and day. And although it was obvious that the talent was always there, the performance quality was lacking before. Hires went from shy and slightly boring (sorry Matt!) to an incredibly charming, seasoned musician – and talk about someone that can tell a story! His set was completely captivating and I’m not sure I ever took my eyes off of him. (Not bad for someone that’s on stage with only his guitar). Matt Hires has so much character in his voice (think Mumford, Bob Dylan, Wilco, Ryan Adams), but at the same time he has a sound all of his own. With a vibrato unlike any I’ve ever heard before, plus his whistling which packs a punch slightly less than that of Andrew Bird, but adds more of a soothing melody, I had no idea what just hit me. He made it all look so easy.
What Hires is able to do on stage is anything but simple. It is raw, honest, and real. I think I even used the word “magical” that night and I was revived. It reminded me of my passion for music.
Sometimes it’s hard to remember why I wanted to work in this industry in the first place, as Lady Gaga and American Idol are what people are paying attention to. It’s so easy to become jaded and cynical. But Matt Hires reminded me why I love this business and the kind of music that matters to me. I feel like I owe him something for saving me. I definitely needed someone to kick me into gear so I could keep pursuing my dream, and to remind me what I’m fighting for. One listen to his song “Rock N’ Roll Heart” and I knew that we had an understanding of one another. Finally my dear Stylebust readers – someone I can share with you guys that is a complete life changer! He stole the show.
This isn’t the last you’ll hear about Matt Hires from me. Check out his latest Live Sessions EP. He’s also going to be on the West Coast touring with Marc Broussard in a couple weeks (maybe I’ll see you there)! There’s also been a lot of buzz recently surrounding his cover of MGMT’s “Kids.” Check out the video of him performing it below:
I met Alisha Espey back in July. She was very enthusiastic to write about music for Style Bust. She became a great addition to the team and has pumped out many compelling stories. She has introduced me to a handful of new bands, all within a couple of months.
During November, Alisha proved her writing and PR skills are worth noticing. She wrote the article Bieber Fever. This article received more attention in one day than most articles published on Style Bust receive in a week.
To thank her efforts, Style Bust gave her a $50 gift certificate to tobi.com. We assumed this achievement was also worthy of an interview with Alisha since we still don’t know that much about her. She’s a mystery!
Style Bust: What did your parents listen to while you were growing up?
My mom tells me stories about how she would put her belly up to large speakers in our house to Bob Dylan, so thanks to her I think I’ve been listening to him since before I was born. My dad’s roots are really based in blues and rock and roll. He would take me to blues fests during the summer and that’s where I first fell in love with live music.
Style Bust: Did they influence your taste in music at all?
Absolutely. However, it wasn’t cool when I was younger to like what my parents were listening to. I rebelled for awhile and found my own music taste, but my love for Bob Dylan and those classic songs, it’s almost hard to put into words. You just don’t hear that kind of music anymore.
Style Bust: Who was the first musician or band that you really got into?
My first couple albums were TLC and Alanis Morrisette. TLC – CrazySexyCool is such an all around great album. I love the soul in R&B and Hip Hop music. And Alannis Morrissette has so much attitude, like the end of punk era, total angst music, female domination.
Style Bust: How did music become such an important role in your life?
Music has always been my passion. The way a song or artist reaches all different people and touches them in a different way, from a theology perspective I find it so intriguing.
In middle school I was at an O-town concert and happened to meet one of their opening acts, Chicago based boyband, Vi3. I met their manager and started to become really involved with their fanbase. When I saw everything that went on behind the scenes was when I realized that I was already doing promotion for bands without even really knowing what public relations was. I couldn’t believe that I could do that for a career. The idea of helping an artist achieve their dream of performing music and on the flip side of that help people discover new music and artists, it’s certainly a way for me to give back. Knowing how music has changed my life, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is share that feeling with other people.
Style Bust: What is your most memorable concert experience?
I’ve seen so many amazing shows that I love for all different reasons. A couple years ago I was in New York visiting a friend and having lunch in Central Park when I saw a group of screaming girls across the street at Trump International. They were waiting for the Jonas Brothers to come out. At the time I certainly knew who they were but didn’t know much of their music. Out of curiosity and a free night to myself I decided to see what the excitement was all about. Talk about a production. I was third row among a sold out Madison Square Garden crowd. I bonded with a 7 year old, felt completely out of my element and thought I would regret forking out so much money for a ticket. Once they got on stage it was magical. I will never forget the energy in the city or in MSG that day.
Style Bust: What are you doing for work?
Right now I’m doing freelance writing. I thought it would be cool to do some weekly segments and interview the most influential people in the music industry in Chicago. Right now I’m in the midst of landing interviews and pitching it to different publications. I have developed a love for writing but I’m certainly looking for a more steady full-time position but haven’t found the right fit yet. I’m one of the few people that had a vision and a dream from an early age that I’ve been determined to follow. There are so many great places that I would love to work in Chicago; Radio Disney, House of Blues, Lincoln Hall, Jam Productions… now if any of them were just hiring.
Style Bust: How does your love for music help you be successful in your career?
It has taught me so many things, a lot of it has to do with being ambitious and having confidence, to stand up for the things I believe in. Music is so personal to me. Despite feeling so passionate about music I struggled for a long time with sharing my opinions. I am not afraid to express my musical taste now. But unfortunately there aren’t enough open minded people in this world and I lose credibility when I say Hanson is my favorite band, or I am up on all the news about Justin Bieber & the Jonas Brothers. In a perfect world, people would just get it. It’s like I don’t get the whole Taylor Swift craze. I give her props for her songwriting skills but when it comes to her live performances I don’t know how anyone can really love her sound. She’s such a sweet girl that people have a hard time criticizing her because they basically feel bad about putting her down. But I would never go to a huge Taylor Swift fan and tell them they are stupid for liking her, that she sucks or that I hope she dies. I’ve been through that junk as a Hanson fan. It’s just not fair and should not be happening. Music should be making people come together. I would love to start an anti-bullying campaign that revolves around music.
Style Bust: Name an artist or song from the 90’s you love.
I’m truly a pop princess so the 90’s were a dream for me. But there’s one band in particular that hit me and hasn’t left my life since and that’s Hanson. It was so cool to be listening to a band that was my age and singing songs that I could relate to. And I’ve gotten to grow up with them, they have changed, grown and evolved with me. Since 1997 I have been continually inspired by their music, creativity, marketing and philanthropic movement.
Style Bust: What new group or artist are you recommending to you friends these days?
For the Rap/Hip-Hop scene, hands down Zack Crawford. I am obsessed with his 100 proof mixtape. For indie-rock folk lovers – Mumford and Sons. They have a great sound and are awesome live, if you can get a ticket. They have had to upgrade to bigger venues then they originally booked and selling out shows in the States. Indie-pop – I’m loving Sherwood. They are a super fun group, their music always puts me in a good mood. Oh and for people that like a more bluesy sound, Serena Ryder. She was the most amazing female singer that I’ve seen live. She is so incredible.
Style Bust: How do you discover new music?
It wasn’t so easy years ago to breakaway from top 40 radio. Outside of sticking by Hanson I was your average teenager brainwashed by consolidated radio and mainstream media. The story behind the music business, specifically the crash of the recording industry I find so compelling. The internet is a truly amazing thing and has allowed me to research and find new artists. I like using Pandora to give me suggestions of bands I would like. I also use Grooveshark, when a friend tells me to check out an artist, that’s a quick way to find and listen to music. Also I have discovered the joy of opening bands, I know most people hate sitting through opening bands but I’m always excited to see a new band. Openers are like a bonus for me. Hanson has introduced me to some truly incredible, little known indie bands. I have them to thank for a lot of the music I listen to.
Style Bust: How has your music taste evolved?
I was able to completely expand my collection more recently. In college I met some friends with a cool indie collection. In particular, Chicago based musician, Louis Holland influenced a lot of what I’m listening to now. I think he’s mostly doing film stuff now but his myspace is definitely worth checking out. He writes some incredible lyrics and you can just feel the emotion in his music. But he has been the first person that I met that has felt the same way about music as me. We had some philosophical discussions about music and its effect on people, emotions and how it means different things to different people. He always respected my musical taste and got me into the band Wilco. Which I wish I had discovered sooner and lived through the makings of each album. But the nice thing about music is it’s timeless, it’s like I may not have lived through the Bob Dylan era but his effect on me is just as strong as if I had.
Photographs: 1. Alisha with Mike Leibovich of Sherwood. 2. Alisha with her friends. 3. Alisha with Taylor Hanson in August, doing a charity walk for AIDS and poverty.
Shout It Out, sounds like the commercial for laundry detergent. But the sold out crowd this weekend at House of Blues Chicago were very clear that this had nothing to do with the cleanliness of their clothes. Rather, the overall message for the past couple years of the Hanson fanbase has been about starting a movement and spreading the word.
Familiar with Toms Shoes? Toms Shoes started the One for One movement, where you buy a pair of shoes and another pair gets given to a child in need. I can personally tell you that these shoes are the most comfortable shoes you will ever own. I already have 4 pairs and you can wear them with just about anything.
Back in October of 2007 Hanson went to Africa on a shoe drop with Toms. After the inspirational trip, Hanson began doing one-mile barefoot walks before each of their shows on tour. For each person that registers and does the one-mile walk with them, 1 dollar will be donated on their behalf from Hanson. And you can choose the cause your dollar will be donated towards, whether its building clean water wells, helping with education or providing HIV treatment for pregnant women. This weekend I took my 7th charity walk with Hanson. I find what they are doing to be extremely admirable. Taking the walk is about taking action. After I did it once I was hooked. Taking a barefoot walk is such a tangible thing for me to do and feel like I am truly making a difference. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who feels this way because 500 people showed up to take the walk in Chicago on Saturday. For more information and to find out how you can get involved check out www.takethewalk.net.
On to the concert review, I prefer not to share the number of Hanson concerts I’ve been to throughout the past 13 years. But it’s been quite a few so it’s hard for me to write a concert review that can be appreciated by the general population because I will always compare them to so many of the other shows that I have seen. But nevertheless, let’s start with the openers. I love going to Hanson concerts because their supporting acts seem to always be bands that I truly appreciate. So many of my favorite bands were introduced to me on Hanson’s stage and for that I will be forever grateful. Rooney (pictured below) has been supporting Hanson on their first leg and soon A Rocket to the Moon will be on the dates. I could do without ever seeing Rooney again. Don’t get me wrong; I think they have some good things going for them. It’s very guitar based and driven. But the lead singer just needs to be let go; he comes off so arrogant and annoying on stage. I really couldn’t take my eyes off his ridiculousness.
Hanson put together an opening band contest for this tour as well. Each show features a different local band. I love this because it can give so much exposure to the little guys. Friday night was Wes Kirkpatrick. Decent, but it’s one of those bands that would be better off sticking to little coffee houses, because that’s more of their element. Saturday was HappyGoLovely with a Justin Bieber esque but more of a badass with piercings guitar player. Overall the band had a great sound. Fans of The Rocket Summer or NeverShoutNever! will certainly appreciate this band. Afterwards I found out they are from Cedar Rapids, IA. Not too far from my little hometown, I will be cheering this group on and wish them the best of success.
Hanson’s show was amazing as usual. With a catalog of hundreds of songs I’m always eager to hear the set list. Most of the songs they played were from their 5th and newest studio album, “Shout It Out.” (click here to buy it on amazon!) They also played quite a few numbers from 1997 era. And for those of you wondering, yes of course they played Mmmbop. Personally I think the song choices for these two shows could have been better, but performance wise this was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while from them. If you take anything out of reading my writing on this blog please please pleaseeee check out Hanson. I am confident that you will be pleasantly surprised. Here’s the remainder of their tour dates….
19 Cleveland, OH House of Blues
20 Pittsburgh, PA Carnegie Music Hall
21 Columbus, OH Newport Music Hall
23 Cincinnati, OH Moonlight Gardens
24 Indianapolis, IN Egyptian Room
25 Tulsa, OK Cain’s Ballroom
14 Mesa, AZ Piper Theater
16 Anaheim, CA House of Blues
17 Los Angeles, CA House of Blues
18 San Diego, CA House of Blues
20 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
21 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
22 Portland, OR Wonder Ballroom
23 Seattle, WA The Moore
25 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom
27 Spokane, WA Knitting Factory
28 Boise, ID Knitting Factory
30 Salt Lake City, UT The Depot
1 Boulder, CO Fox Theatre
Frankly it’s extremely difficult to wrap up 3 days of Lolla into words, let alone limit my thoughts into one blog post. This was my first year of having the benefit of attaining an all access pass. And I can say that the experience is one that I will not forget but next year you will probably find me in the crowd with the rest of the masses.
First of all I may be one of the very few that say Lolla is completely overrated. I always get excited about the lineup and then once I get there it’s like the festival is so huge, its impossible to get a good spot to see all your favorite bands. It’s a lot more work than it should be. And it’s overcrowded, so to truly enjoy the performances it’s a difficult task. My suggestion is to find the stage that is hosting most of your favorite bands and park yourself there for the entire day. You may miss some bands you wanted to see but most likely you will discover so many new bands that you will be happy as a clam.
I think it’s completely necessary to mention Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zero’s. Clearly their following was underestimated, they were put on a smaller stage and their crowd was insanely large. Hands down the best performance at Lolla that I saw. I remember a friend of mine out in LA mentioning a couple years ago that she had met someone that managed a band that had 10 people in it. Her and I had our doubts that such a large band would find success. But as all 10 unique members walked barefoot onto the stage I quickly realized how powerful this band had become in such a short time. Literally, they have a cult following. Other not so surprising highlights of the fest include… Phoenix, MGMT &Arcade Fire.
One of my favorite things to do at Lolla is people watch. Perfect place to look for new trends. I can’t begin to count how many times I saw people in Hunter rain boots… even when there was no rain in the forecast.
These have been around for awhile and I have seen celebrities such as Kate Moss & Mary Kate Olsen rock this style. The trend was in full force at Lolla 2010 – and let me tell you another crazy trend… mom jeans are back. I literally felt as though I should have ran back home to my mothers attic in Iowa – pulled out her old Levi jeans and cut them off. Take a red bandana from my closet and wear it as a shirt.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about this can be a hit or miss trend. But by the end of the festival I saw some really great outfits and girls that definitely pulled this look off. These were the essentials for Lollapalooza 2010. I feel as though I may not ever recover from this weekend. Hollywood definitely overtook Chicago and I’m ready to have my city back. I will be at House of Blues all this weekend and look forward to writing about one of my favorite bands here on Style Bust next week.