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by Allison Taich

7 Dec 2009


Approaching Chicago’s Vic Theatre, I was anticipating a sweaty and exhausting night.  Americana extraordinaires Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) were in town, and listening to their panoply of sound (everything from bluegrass to folk, country, gospel, jug band, traditional, rock and blues) could be an endurance event, as their youthful exuberance easily trumps any old-time music stereotypes.

Regrettably, I showed up halfway through the band’s first set.  As expected they were in the midst of tearing up the stage, with a packed main floor absorbing every note.  On stage musicians Ketch Secor (fiddle, harmonica, banjo and vocals), Willie Watson (guitar, banjo and vocals), Kevin Hayes (guitjo and vocals), Morgan Jahnig (bass), and Gill Landry (slide guitar, banjo and vocals) were picking and stomping out their original “Raise a Ruckus.”  Sparks practicaly flew.

Soon they toned it down and followed with “Next Go Round,” a slower bluegrass ballad.  It was symptomatic of the entire show as OCMS toyed with each song’s mood and theme by intertwining fast, knee-slapping jug songs with crooning serenades.  Between sets they sang traditional roots tunes “Hard to Love,” “Tear it Down,” “CC Rider,” and “Tell it to Me,” intertwined with covers “Corrina Corrina,” “Minglewood Blues,” and “Down Home Girl.”  Singing original compositions of love, heartbreak, distressed cities, living the good life, partying, hustling, trafficking and boozing transformed the Vic Theatre into a back porch nestled deep in Appalachia.  All that was missing was moonshine.

The band mostly played acoustic, with an occasional crossover to electric guitars, bass, keyboard and a hint of drums, as they performed selections from all three of their studio albums with an emphasis on their 2004 eponymous debut.  The strongest crowd response came from OCMS’ classic “Wagon Wheel,” a tune Secor wrote by completing fragmented Dylan lyrics from 1973.  A crowd pleaser for sure, it got everyone singing along to its sweet intonations.

While the band raged on stage the theatre remained absolutely packed making it difficult to both maneuver and claim a suitable spot.  Strangely, there weren’t many people dancing.  I noticed several people standing tall with their arms crossed across their chests and some sitting down, blockaded by standing spectators.

Though it seemed that audience enthusiasm was lacking (shocking for any Chicago gathering), the fans saved their true appreciation between numbers.  It appeared that those who went wild during actual songs were those girls lusting over the band’s good looks (including one particularly hysteric woman screaming out Secor’s name, followed by “you’re sexy!,” at the top of her lungs.)  At one point during the second set one bold fan tossed a bra onstage towards Watson and Landry stage left, making them feel like true heart-throbs.

The evening was brought to a close with a two song encore, featuring an electric country rock rendition of “Get Back” by the Beatles.

by Kirstie Shanley

7 Dec 2009


Chicagoans were lucky to experience the treat of seeing Toronto’s The Hidden Cameras after so long.  Unfortunately the band had to cancel their last tour date here due to visa complications.  For over an hour, and with no lack of energy, lead singer Joel Gibb and his entourage brought a vigorous set with guest appearances by openers, and fellow Canadians, Gentleman Reg.

by Thomas Hauner

3 Dec 2009


Returning to the Garden for the first time in seven years, and on the band’s 26th birthday no less, Phish played an epic opening night concert for their first of three shows at the hallowed venue.  It was a night marked equally by what did and did not transpire; the audience never managed to sing “Happy Birthday,” and no cake and few balloons were present, but the band did reclaim Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia” after a decade long hiatus from their shows.

by Allison Taich

3 Dec 2009


The Vic is normally entertains concert enthusiasts by exploiting the ample open floor space that then tiers upwards toward the sound booth and two bars. Those who prefer their own seat can enjoy views from the venue’s second level auditorium-style seating. But for the contemporary poster child of eclectic-folk, Devendra Banhart, rows of fold-up chairs occupied every inch of floor space. Oh, and no assigned seats. Was this encouraging people to remain seated or was migrating towards the stage ok? Was the performance going to be eerily quiet, just a man and his guitar?

by Mehan Jayasuriya

2 Dec 2009


Strange though it may seem, the jury is still out on the Pixies’ live show. For every fan who insists that the band’s live sets are life-changing, you’ll find another who asserts that the Pixies are shoddy performers and always were. Lingering behind this polarization is the band’s considerable legacy; it weighs heavily in any discussion of its merits, inviting revision from the few who did witness the Pixies in their heyday. Regardless, this year’s reunion tour—on which the band played its 1989 classic Doolittle from start to finish—has reignited the debate regarding the Pixies’ live prowess or lack thereof. Chicago Sun-Times critic Jim DeRogatis slagged one of the band’s Chicago dates, dismissing the Pixies as “a cynical corporation cashing in on blatant nostalgia.” The Washington Post‘s David Malitz, meanwhile, described the band’s Monday night set in DC as the musical equivalent of a “slam dunk contest,” a performance that could win over “even a cynic.” So which is it: are the Pixies an incredible or terrible live act? Actually, they’re a little of both.

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