Posted inBest of Chicago

Best concert for a cause

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, the Old Town School of Folk Music’s third annual Indigenous Peoples’ Day Concert shook the rafters of the auditorium with Opliam’s rock-tinged blues, Huguito Gutierrez’s Andean pan flute, and the NuFolk Rebel Alliance’s mishmash of folkloric music, acoustic Americana, and tropical punk. Artist and activist Opliam (aka Liam McDonald, who’s […]

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Best use of cicadas on a jazz album

The dense, iridescent drone of an untold number of singing cicadas seeps into Now, the 2021 sophomore full-length by Damon Locks’s Black Monument Ensemble. In August and September 2020, 11 of the collective’s members gathered to record at Edgewater’s Experimental Sound Studio, both inside and out back in the garden behind the building—and the environmental […]

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Best impromptu spiritual-jazz show to celebrate what turned out not to be the end of the pandemic

When the pandemic shut down live music, Chicago gallery Corbett vs. Dempsey began presenting great online gigs via Experimental Sound Studio’s Quarantine Concerts series. I remember the excitement I felt when the gallery made a last-minute, low-key announcement, mostly to friends and supporters, that the sixth of its Sequesterfest livestreaming events would also be open […]

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Best career breakout by a DJ

DJ Mochi soundtracked many of our 2021 nights. At first COVID-19 meant that those parties—including the Global Currency evening he hosts with DJ Iggy at Blind Barber—were virtual, but soon most everyone returned to the dance floor. Even in the midst of a pandemic, Mochi’s nights could pack rooms, with lines outside. He helped hold […]

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Best new west-side arts space

To activist Glen Kehrein, it was appalling that Austin lacked a center for fine and performing arts to showcase the neighborhood’s homegrown talent. His dream was to convert the unused auditorium in the former Siena High School expansion—one of the city’s finest remaining examples of midcentury modern architecture—into a professionally equipped community arts center. Kehrein’s […]

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Best R&B artist on a hot streak

Since 2018, Chicago singer-rapper Jean Deaux has released at least an EP or full-length every year, and there’s hardly a bum note in her growing discography. She harnesses the enticing aesthetics of R&B, reaching for the sublime with whispery percussion, lithe and steamy guitar melodies, supple keyboards in plush, downy drifts, and smokily smoldering vocals […]