The three members of Michael Columbia, wearing summer clothers, sit on a dilapidated park bench in front of a cinderblock wall.
Michael Columbia in 2008: Dylan Ryan, Chris Kalis, and Dave McDonnell Credit: Jeremiah Chiu

Sixteen years ago, Michael Columbia were one of Chicago’s most compelling bands, combining smooth jazz, twitchy progressive rock, the occasional wacky time signature, and sometimes even a pop-adjacent melody. Dave McDonnell (saxophone, keyboards, bass, vocals) and Dylan Ryan (drums) were cozy with several groups linked to local label Obey Your Brain and South Loop recording studio Shape Shoppe, including Icy Demons and Bablicon—and all of them enriched the world’s weirdo-rock quotient. Chris Kalis (guitar, synthesizers), who’d cofounded Chandeliers in 2005, joined the duo of McDonnell and Ryan the following year—after the recording of Stay Hard, to date the final Michael Columbia release. The band played the Pitchfork Music Festival in 2009 and broke up that summer, when McDonnell left town for Cincinnati (he now lives in Philadelphia) and Ryan split for Los Angeles. For a while they continued working together remotely, but that tailed off in 2010. After a 12-year hiatus, though, Michael Columbia are back. “The band will be recording at Jamdek studios and finishing a record of material that has been on the shelves for over a decade,” Kalis says. They’ll also reunite for a show at Co-Prosperity on Saturday, December 3, which will be livestreamed on Lumpen.TV; Oui Ennui headlines, and Courtesy and Chelsea Bridge open. Welcome back, fellas! 

Michael Columbia are rerecording this track for their upcoming album.
This Michael Columbia track, which appeared posthumously on a 2011 compilation, will also get redone.

In August, Gossip Wolf caught a set by local indie-rock quartet Shoulderbird at Golden Dagger, where the mellow, jazz-tinged phrasing of guitarist and vocalist Meredith Nesbitt made an immediate impression—as did her crackerjack band, which consists of guitarist Kyle Paul, bassist Miles Allen, and drummer Lily Finnegan. In November, Shoulderbird released the mini album Parade via Bandcamp, and its five songs are even better than this wolf remembered. They glisten with warm, spacious reverb and more than a touch of soulful Americana.

Guitarist and vocalist Meredith Nesbitt wrote all the material on Parade.

Local culture outlet These Days has been on this wolf’s reading list for years. Its twice-yearly feature “Chicago Artists to Watch” is always a must-read, and the fall/winter 2022 iteration came out in November. To celebrate, These Days will host two consecutive Schubas concerts featuring acts covered in this year’s two “Artists to Watch” roundups. Fingy, Godly the Ruler, and Cece Maravilla perform on Thursday, December 1; Pretty Liyah, CP, and Semiratruth hit the stage on Thursday, December 2. Tickets are $15 per night or $25 for both. The shows are 18 and up and begin at 8 PM.

These Days’ promo video for “Chicago Artists to Watch,” shot and edited by Audiotree Media

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