Lately I’ve felt the passage of time with an acute definition. Perhaps it’s because I can’t walk around without noticing the tree leaves transform and crumble to the ground. But it also has a lot to do with what I’ve chosen to listen to in my free time. Hearing Angel Olsen perform with nearly a dozen string musicians on her recent All Mirrors has made me think about how far she’s grown since her 2012 Reckless Records in-store performance celebrating the arrival of Half Way Home. She headlines the Riviera next month; I’ll turn 34 a few days later, which is the most obvious reminder of the passage of time.
Nearly a decade has passed since I interviewed Olsen for the Reader’s People Issue. I’ve written for the Reader long enough that I’ve been able to use my old stories to help me keep track of time. Students have quarters and semesters; I’ve got my feature on downstate Illinois rockers the Funs to help me recall winter 2016. The Funs make an appearance on Terror Management, the newish album from celebrated New York rapper Billy Woods. The Funs worked on a song called “Dead Birds,” and listening to it made me recall how long it’s been since I’d gone to see them at the Empty Bottle.
As much as these instances can make me feel old (and they do!), they also remind me how much joy I get out of my Reader job. I love being able to delve into scenes and seek out emerging or forgotten musicians, and learn more about a song or sound that’s enchanted me. I’m not terribly interested in “discovering” the next big thing, though it’s always nice to know that other people get satisfaction from listening to an artist whose work I find profound. My concerns lay with how a musician’s deep thoughts and desires inspire work that has the power to move other people, and how the people behind the music fit into the world around them.
These people are all around us, and I still get such a thrill learning about them and seeing them perform. There are plenty of opportunities to do so this week. Beat-scene stalwart Uncle El headlines a record release show at Emporium in Wicker Park on Thursday, extraordinary drill rapper Polo G opens for Young Thug at the venue formerly known as the UIC Pavilion on Friday, and footwork veteran DJ Roc hosts an album release party at Astronaut Feel Dance Studio on Saturday. I’ve got my eye on Dan Friel’s Friday night Cafe Mustache headliner—he’s a New Yorker, but Chicago’s Thrill Jockey released his new full-length, Fanfare. I saw Friel’s old band, Parts & Labor, about half a dozen times in college and my first year out of school, which is another statement that makes me feel a little older.