Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana
Each year since Riccardo Muti became music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 2010, the orchestra has launched its season with a free performance, and two of the three have been at the Pritzker Pavilion for a massive lawn crowd. For this year’s concert it will play an appropriately massive piece of music: Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, an innovative orchestra-and-voices setting of 25 medieval poems about life, love, and luck. At its 1937 premier in Frankfurt, the Nazis weren’t sure what to make of this powerful and/or bombastic work, but they soon embraced it—and later, once the Hitlerian aura had worn off, so did lots of filmmakers and commercial directors. You’ve heard it in everything from Excalibur and The Doors to ads for Old Spice and Audi. Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is augmented by the CSO chorus and Chicago Children’s Choir; guest soloists are soprano Rosa Feola, countertenor Antonio Giovannini, and baritone Audun Iversen. —Deanna Isaacs Fri 9/21, 6:30 PM, Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, free, all ages.
Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees
At this summer’s Pitchfork Music Festival there were a few precious moments that helped restore my faith in rock ‘n’ roll, and some of the best happened because an inexplicable scheduling decision had resulted in overlapping Sunday sets by Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall—two like-minded acts with like-minded audiences. Thee Oh Sees started first, and their bizarre but magnetic front man, John Dwyer, hollered on mike at Segall, who was setting up across the park; once Segall started playing, the garage wunderkind commanded his crowd to yell “DWYER!” on the count of three (and Dwyer, who was done with his own set and listening from backstage, laughed along). The good-times vibes and camaraderie that both of these out-there songwriters exude onstage make it easy to understand why they’re so prolific: they aren’t just insanely good at what they do, they also enjoy the hell out of it. Segall has already released two records this year—a disjointed but stellar collaboration with White Fence called Hair and a full-band session called Slaughterhouse—and he’s dropping the solo album Twins on Drag City in October. On Thee Oh Sees’ new full-length, Putrifiers II (In the Red), Dwyer dials back the bounce with chilled-out, hanging-on-the-beach tracks that tap into his weird psychedelic tendencies. From the vintage hard-driving Oh Sees of “Wax Face” to album closer “Wicked Park,” which sounds like an acid trip in Swinging London, he commands the album with easygoing flair. Segall and Thee Oh Sees are coheadliners on this tour, and even if Segall doesn’t cover “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” again, their Chicago stop is bound to be rowdier and more fun than pretty much any other show this fall. —Kevin Warwick Ty Segall headlines; Thee Oh Sees and Bare Mutants open. Fri 9/28, 7 and 10 PM, Logan Square Auditorium, $18, early show all-ages, late show 17+.
This annual collaboration between the Empty Bottle and British music magazine the Wire has long distinguished itself with bills that combine startlingly different types of music in the best possible ways. The variety of artists booked for this year’s five-day festival is just as impressive as ever: the roster includes Manchester-based minimal techno producer Andy Stott, New Hampshire black-metal band Vattnet Viskar, Norwegian electronic ambient artist Biosphere (aka Geir Jenssen), outsider-pop legend R. Stevie Moore, moody atmospheric solo guitar project Hallock Hill (aka New Yorker Tom Lecky), a duo of percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani and butoh dancer Vanessa Skantze, hypnotizing New Orleans sound artist Duane Pitre, and bicontinental fusion group Sao Paulo Underground, in which cornetist Rob Mazurek and three Brazilians combine jazz, tropicalia, postrock, and more. For the past two years Adventures in Modern Music has branched out to include other venues, but for 2012 everything is at the Empty Bottle. —Peter Margasak Wed-Sun 10/3-10/7, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, various acts, emptybottle.com, $10-$22 depending on show.
A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown
Rap is currently experiencing a generational revolt, with relatively old-school artists like Jay-Z and Kanye finding themselves competing against rappers who’ve come up in the age of social networking, which has removed many of the genre’s stylistic constraints and helped to herald in an age of unprecedented experimentation. At this concert three of the most significant figures in the younger generation—all of whom have collaborated with one another—share a stage. A$AP Rocky is a New Yorker with a Houston rapper’s flow and star potential out the ass (and the cockiness that comes from knowing it). Schoolboy Q comes from hip-hop’s insurgent psychedelic fringe, with horrorcore-inspired lyrics and a penchant for rapping over pileups of weird synth sounds. Danny Brown is, well, Danny Brown—a sui generis performer out of Detroit who not only approaches beats from an oblique angle like Ol’ Dirty Bastard but also has the substance-abuse habit and hairstyling philosophy to match. —Miles Raymer A$AP Rocky headlines; Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown, and the A$AP Mob open. Thu 10/11, 6 PM, Congress Theater, $35, all ages.
Keith Rowe is the most profoundly radical guitarist of the past 50 years. Working for decades with free-improv collective AMM, which he cofounded in 1965, and more recently as a peripatetic collaborator and solo performer, he’s developed an entirely new language for the guitar: by placing it flat on a table, worrying at it with all manner of hardware, and activating fans and radios near it, he transformed it from an instrument with clear rules about how it should be played into a limitless generator and conduit of sounds. On his new solo album, September (ErstLive), which the 72-year-old Englishman recorded in NYC on the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Rowe juxtaposes the sounds of electrical currents, layered like oil on canvas, with snatches of vintage classical recordings and serendipitously captured radio chatter to create a haunting meditation on a changed world. This concert, organized by Lampo, is his first Chicago appearance in seven years. —Bill Meyer Sat 10/13, 8 PM, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis, Cobb Hall 418, free, all ages.
Vijay Iyer Trio
It’s been three years since sublimely talented and original jazz pianist Vijay Iyer rolled through town with this excellent trio—which also features bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore—and since then he’s seemed to rack up one honor after another. He won in five categories in a recent Downbeat magazine critics’ poll—including artist of the year, album of the year, and best pianist—and his trio’s latest record, Accelerando (ACT), demonstrates how worthy he is of such accolades. Both the album’s Iyer originals and its carefully chosen covers—reinventions of tunes by Michael Jackson, Henry Threadgill, Flying Lotus, and others—are marvels of sophistication and efficiency that transcend any single genre, with multiple moving parts operating in glorious synchronicity. —Peter Margasak Thu 10/18, 8 PM, Mayne Stage, $20-$35. 18+
Given the recent emergence of a full-blown avant-garde in the world of R&B—which exploded last year thanks to the Weeknd and Frank Ocean and now includes relatively mainstream artists such as Jeremih—it’s the perfect time for the XX to deliver their highly anticipated sophomore album. The London group made waves in 2009 with their unexpectedly popular self-titled debut, which stripped R&B to a skeleton and draped its bones with sensual whispered vocals, splashes of reverb, and minimalist instrumental hooks that nod to 80s goth. On the trio’s new Coexist (Young Turks/XL), that sound remains intact even as it evolves. Over cool, rippling instrumental tracks, guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim trade velvety vocals about tragic romantic entanglements, and beat maker Jamie Smith—the band’s driving force—weaves in threads from far and wide. The funky “Reunion,” for instance, includes hollow percussive sounds borrowed from early dubstep, an up-tempo beat that approximates a reggaeton riddim, and flashes of steel-pan drum—but it’s all just as clinical and restrained as anything else in the XX’s small discography. —Leor Galil Sat 10/20, 6:30 PM, Congress Theater, $37.50, all ages.
Crystal Castles, Health
A couple decades after rave culture swept Europe, the United States has finally caught the bug. Much of the credit for this goes to groups like Crystal Castles and Health, who nurtured a glow-stick-friendly underground that then trickled up, resulting in such fascinating phenomena as frat boys wearing face paint and “Drop Bass Not Bombs” T-shirts. Toronto’s Crystal Castles have been mixing ravey synths, eight-bit bleeps, and the goth-punk vocals of front woman Alice Glass since 2004. The recent single “Plague,” from their as-yet-untitled third album (if history is any indication, it’ll probably be self-titled again), is more of the same, which sounds like a complaint but isn’t. Los Angeles band Health are noisier, with rock roots that come through more clearly, but their music still has enough of a tribal-rave feel to inspire a bit of liquid dancing. —Miles Raymer Fri 11/2, 6:30 PM, Congress Theater, $32.50, all ages.
Squarepusher‘s latest, Ufabulum (Warp)—nearly an hour of herky-jerky, breakneck drum ‘n’ bass—is a serious endurance test. The UK electronic musician also known as Tom Jenkinson spins glitchy labyrinths of funk bass, drum samples, and ethereal synths that can sound like being frantically chased down or gently pulled toward an omniscient radiance. Like any good EDM nutball, he puts on overwhelming live shows, with computer-controlled lights and LEDs on every available surface and the man who’s usually behind the curtain standing front and center manipulating God knows what at his grand pedestal. This isn’t necessarily stuff to dance to—save that for the dumbed-down dubstep blowouts—but rather schizophrenic electronic music for the tweaked-out spaz in all of us. It just happens to be heavy on the Amen break too. Breathe it in. —Kevin Warwick Mount Kimbie opens. Sat 11/3, 10 PM, Metro, $25. 18+
Umbrella Music Festival
This annual showcase of cutting-edge jazz and improvised music returns with another packed five-day extravaganza. The Chicago Cultural Center hosts the first two evenings of programming, called European Jazz Meets Chicago. A free fest within a fest, it features artists from nine European countries, most of them in collaboration with locals: Swedish drummer Sven-Ake Johansson, Italian reedist Daniele D’Agaro, and Swiss pianist Jacques Demierre, as well as players from France, Austria, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands. On the three remaining nights the festival moves in turn to each of the venues where the Umbrella Music collective presents its three weekly series—the Hideout, Elastic, and the Hungry Brain, in that order. These ticketed concerts showcase local talent (the Harrison Bankhead Sextet, the Chicago Underground Duo) alongside high-profile visitors, which this year include the Darius Jones Trio, William Parker’s In Order to Survive, and Flemish pianist Fred Van Hove and American guitarist Joe Morris playing solo sets. —Peter Margasak Wed-Sun 11/7-11/11, various times and venues, umbrellamusic.org, Wed-Thu F A, Fri $20 A, Sat $20, Sun $15 suggested donation.