Man or Astro-man?
  • Man or Astro-man?

September is here and music-festival season is still going strong. The Hideout Block Party & A.V. Fest starts Friday night with a headlining set from Death Cab for Cutie—it will be one of their final shows with cofounder Chris Walla, who recently announced he’s leaving the band after a 17-year run.

That two-day bash isn’t the only show worth seeing this weekend. Tonight Bishop Allen hits up Schubas and Garth Brooks kicks off his lengthy stay at Allstate Arena. Tomorrow night Astronautalis headline Lincoln Hall and the English Beat visit SPACE. On Saturday Weekend Nachos celebrate ten years together at Beat Kitchen and Joyce Manor drop by Bottom Lounge. On Sunday Carrie Underwood performs with the Ravinia Festival Orchestra at Ravinia Festival.

Jump over to Soundboard to scope out all the Reader‘s concert listings and read on for picks from some of our critics. You can also find our weekly “Best shows to see” Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post—follow us on Spotify while you’re at it.

Thu 9/4: Owen Pallett and Foxes in Fiction at Metro

“Canadian songwriter Owen Pallett can devastate a festival crowd with just a violin and a string of loop pedals, but he’s done plenty more than that in 2014,” writes Sasha Geffen. “He attended the Oscars, having been nominated for his work with Will Butler of Arcade Fire on the score to Spike Jonze’s Her; he put out his second solo album, In Conflict (Domino/Secret City); and he arranged the strings on the forthcoming second full-length by Foxes in Fiction, the recording project of 24-year-old New York-based songwriter Warren Hildebrand. That album, called Ontario Gothic, comes out via Orchid Tapes on September 23, and its name nods to the Canadian province where Hildebrand and Pallett grew up; they became friends and collaborators while living in Toronto. Pallett’s arrangements streak its seven songs of gentle dream pop with a sort of high drama unheard on Foxes in Fiction’s more ambient debut, Swung From the Branches.” Owen Pallett headlines.

Fri 9/5: Vijay Iyer at Pianoforte Studios

“Earlier this year pianist and composer Vijay Iyer demonstrated his commitment to notated music with Mutations (ECM), which sometimes augments his piano with a string quartet, electronics, or both,” writes Peter Margasak. “Even in that setting, though, Iyer couldn’t help but draw upon improvisation, both in his own playing and by providing the string players with a palette of notated material from which they could draw spontaneously. Few pianists have shown such curiosity and range in recent years, and Iyer gets much of his wide-eyed openness and adaptability from his skills as an improviser—which will be on display in tonight’s rare solo sets, his first ever in Chicago. His most recent recording in that format is the 2010 recital Solo (ACT), where his playing flows between close reading and on-the-fly rearrangement while incorporating a long-view compositional logic, particularly on familiar material such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ or the standard ‘Darn That Dream.'”

Sat 9/6: Man or Astro-man? at Empty Bottle

“In case their name didn’t tip you off, Man or Astro-man? are a bunch of kooks,” writes Kevin Warwick. “They call themselves Birdstuff, Coco the Electronic Monkey Wizard, and Star Crunch, and their onstage costumes are usually radiation suits or overblown spaceman costumes. Plus their albums contain more than their share of sampled dialogue prophesying peril from beyond the stars—in one case, an announcer relays eyewitness reports of alien ‘Dragonmen’ invading New York City. They also channel that geeky energy into expertly played, mostly instrumental surf-punk with a frenetic, wiggly bounce—spring reverb always knocks a riff at least a tad off-balance.” This is the second of a two-night stand at Empty Bottle.

Sun 9/7: Travis Laplante’s Battle Trance at Constellation

“On his splendid 2011 solo release, Heart Protector (Skirl), tenor saxophonist Travis Laplante exploits the potential of free improvisation to instantly generate music of such complexity that it would be almost impossible to write down,” writes Bill Meyer. “He brings a similar protean intricacy into the realm of composition on the new Palace of Wind (New Amsterdam), an album-length piece by his tenor-saxophone quartet Battle Trance. The band, which includes fellow horn men Jeremy Viner (Steve Lehman, Weasel Walter), Patrick Breiner (Zhirtz n Zkinz), and Matthew Nelson (Zongo Junction, Tune-Yards), uses hocketing patterns, furry multiphonics, and drones fueled by circular breathing to create a constantly changing piece that wends from the parade-ground precision of Philip Glass’s small-group music to the emotionally extravagant expressionism of storefront gospel.”