In case you haven’t noticed, it’s cold as hell outside. It’s the kind of weather that makes you never want to leave the house. But it’s hard to stay in and not do anything when there’s a weekend like this that is completely jam-packed with great shows and events to catch.
For one, starting Thursday there’s the four-day Twenty Years of Kranky event, which celebrates two decades of cutting-edge experimental music from the local label. Acts including Disappears, Grouper, Tim Hecker, and Stars of the Lid will be performing over the course of the festival. There’s also a ten-year anniversary party for WLUW’s Reality Radio show, headlined by local punks Claw Tow, at Quenchers on Friday. And there’s always local hip-hop group L.E.P. Bogus Boys playing tonight at Abbey Pub and Saves the Day and Walter Schreifels of Gorilla Biscuits and Quicksand performing acoustic sets at Bottom Lounge on Friday.
Take a look after the jump for some of the weekend’s best show picks, and see what our writers had to say about them.
Toronto singer/rapper superstar Drake comes to the United Center after his tour was postponed this fall. “Defenders of ‘real’ hip-hop have been up in arms about Drake ever since his breakout 2009 mixtape, So Far Gone, with which he first found substantial success with brazen pop hooks and a deeply unhard image—and thereby became one of a long line of artists who’ve ruined rap music forever,” says Miles Raymer. “His latest LP, Nothing Was the Same (OVO Sound), sometimes seems like an album-length trolling of his haters in the way it juxtaposes conservative hip-hop touchstones—Houston rap, the Wu-Tang Clan—against sensitive-guy deep thoughts that occasionally reach James Taylor levels and cover art that might as well have been stolen from a 70s jazz-fusion LP. At the same time, Drake and longtime producer Noah ’40’ Shebib have darkened the mood since 2011’s Take Care, with beats that are both minimalist and sonically luxurious, making Nothing Was the Same one of the year’s best headphone records.”
Peter Margasak says that country-rock mainstays the Bottle Rockets “pretty much perfectly embody the too-rock-for-country, too-country-for-rock career dilemma, but in their fealty to Harlan Howard’s famous definition of a great country song—’three chords and the truth’—they can match anyone making music today. Front man and songwriter Brian Henneman is an unpretentious blue-collar sage who despises racism, religious dogma, and inequality even more than he hates highfalutin phonies, and his lyrics get extra muscle from some of the most satisfyingly hooky country-rock and choogling southern-fried boogie waxed in the past two decades. The Bottle Rockets’ first two albums have long been out of print, so last month Bloodshot Records did us all a big favor, releasing their self-titled 1993 debut and its 1994 follow-up, The Brooklyn Side, in a single package.”
It’s that time of year again: for Chicago’s favorite beer-soaked garage-rock Christmas carolers, the Snow Angels, to come out of hibernation. “Now in their 11th year, the Snow Angels remain devoted to smearing Christmas cheer all over ragged, bluesy, garage-influenced covers and originals—delivered with a soulful growl and a hearty belch or three from sleigh-bell jingler Santa Coz, aka Outer Minds drummer and occasional Reader contributor Brian Costello,” writes Kevin Warwick. “Also featuring current and former members of Vee Dee, Mannequin Men, and Bare Mutants, the Snow Angels enlisted an assortment of guests to play and sing at their tenth-anniversary show, but according to Costello they’ll be getting ‘back to basics’ this year. I encourage you to leave what the ‘basics’ are to your imagination, but I feel comfortable guaranteeing ‘CTA X-mas Train’ (a rare expression of CTA love during the Ventrapocalypse), ironic Christmas outfits and decorations, plenty of punning, and nine flying reindeer soaked in canned beer.”
Legendary technical death-metal band Gorguts bring their retooled lineup to Cobra Lounge on Sunday. “Quebec-based technical death-metal band Gorguts (largely the brainchild of front man Luc Lemay) formed in 1989 and have been granted legendary status in the scene thanks to their third album, 1998’s Obscura—it took a quantum leap into a realm of philosophical torment and rhythmic convolution that no one had envisioned in quite that way before,” says Monica Kendrick. “Like the new Colored Sands (Season of Mist), Obscura ended a hiatus for the band, but in that case it was only five years—Colored Sands is the first new Gorguts studio album since 2001. It might not have happened at all if guitarist Steeve Hurdle (whose group Negativa featured Lemay) hadn’t persuaded Lemay to re-form Gorguts for its 20th anniversary. Hurdle died in 2012, and his contributions are sorely missed, but the lineup on Colored Sands is a supergroup of sorts, featuring guitarist Kevin Hufnagel and bassist Colin Marston (both of Dysrhythmia) and drummer John Longstreth of Origin (replacing Steve MacDonald, who committed suicide in 2002). And they take another massive leap with Colored Sands—a concept album about Tibet, more or less, it’s as painstakingly constructed as the sand mandalas it references.”
Local emo supergroup Their/They’re/There headline Schubas on Sunday evening. Says Leor Galil, “Fourth-wave emo will be outgrowing its DIY roots soon, if the debut of local three-piece Their/They’re/There is any indication. They played their first show on Record Store Day this past April at Reckless Records in Wicker Park—it was also a release party for their self-titled debut EP—and a swarm of kids suddenly flooded the already busy shop just before the band’s set, bypassing a line of RSD customers that stretched out the door. The shop got so packed that I felt claustrophobic after a couple songs and listened to the rest of the show from the sidewalk. T/T/T’s pedigree in midwestern emo helps explain why they had such a draw, even though they’d announced their existence just a month before: singer-bassist Evan Thomas Weiss is the main man in Into It. Over It. and plays in Pet Symmetry, guitarist Matthew Frank is in Loose Lips Sink Ships and Lifted Bells (alongside Bob Nanna of Braid), and drummer Mike Kinsella has been performing as Owen for more than a decade (plus he’s been a member of American Football, Owls, Cap’n Jazz, et cetera).”