October 23, 2015

A Dose of Sweet Spirit / The Empty Bottle / Chicago

On Wednesday night, I got a righteous dose of Sweet Spirit.

Here's the story;

A buddy of mine, Robbie, messaged me earlier in the month about this band I needed to check out, along with the link of upcoming tour dates. They were a band from Texas called Sweet Spirit. He had seen them open for Spoon, as they opened on a number of their shows, and he had fallen in love with them. I was informed that Britt Daniel was a big fan of the band and would come out and jam with them during their sets. I love Spoon & I love Britt Daniel. I also trust the hell out of Robbie's musical opinion. I went ahead and purchased the tickets and decided to trust him even further by not even listening to them. He was completely confident that I'd dig the hell out of them. I wanted to walk in without having heard their music and fall in love on the spot. I am normally not that kind of girl. Normally I like to be really familiar with what I'm about to go and see. I even go as far as looking at set-lists ahead of time, which is horrible. I don't know why I cannot seem to go with the element of surprise anymore. I suppose it just depends on the show.

I was able to go without listening, with bubbling curiosity for weeks, until HOURS BEFORE THE SHOW. I CRACKED. I could not resist. I needed to know what was about to go down. I put on Cokomo and fell in love instantly. Check out Bandcamp for their EP, and donate some extra money, would ya? I went from excited to stoked and continued to play them until it was time to head over for the show, which was over at The Empty Bottle. This is a great little spot to go and check out artists that are rolling through Chicago for the first couple trips through and/or get exposed to new music of both local artists and those on tour.

We got there early and were able to see the two bands that went on ahead of them (there were four bands playing that night); Skip Church, which had this really incredible raw sound that made me think they were on the brink of something real good. The Mad Doctors were there reppin' Brooklyn and throwing around sound (and toilet paper), and third was Sweet Spirit, and sweet it was.

Now, I like to be hospitable for artists I love, along with those rolling through Chicago early on. This was a tasty combo of both. They were here back in April at The Burlington, but unfortunately was completely off my radar. I am glad I was able to catch them on this tour, while it's still nice and intimate. Next time they come through, I doubt that will be the case. I decided to bring them some boxes of cookies from my work. I figured I'd likely be able to leave them somewhere that they would be able to get them or pick them up, but then I realized it would also be a possibility to actually just hand them off to them. I wanted to make sure that they got some of that sweetness back and had some good to enjoy on the road. Luckily, the plan went off without a hitch and it was totally worth carting them around all night. I was able to hand them to Sabrina during their setup, which resulted in a quick, yet nice exchange. I didn't want to hold them up during their time to get prepared, but they sat on stage through the duration of the show and she even came back over to make sure I got a picture of them with her boots (they were some pretty rad boots).


They kicked up the set up with 'Poor' which is such a great starter jam, gets you right into the thick of the groove. The dancing started immediately. The kind of music that just kind of takes you and moves you. The stage presence is fantastic, definitely engaging and full force. Sabrina has a wonderful way of entertaining the crowd and taking command of the environment. Her vocals are right at home on the stage and they hold a unique sound. She belts out fantastic lyrics whilst dancing and throwing her body around in wonderful ways. The rest of the band compliments everything so well, they have a rather large group, and they all work together so well. There was this phenomenal energy that really takes you in. The crowd was definitely feeling that momentum and others joined in the fun of making their bodies move about.

Mid-set she says from the stage she gives me a shout-out from the stage and notes the cookies and gives a shout-out to the Bakery. It was a lovely moment and totally unexpected, since she had already thanked me and had chatted briefly. Hell yeah.

Highlights for sure included 'Chained & Tied'. 'If You Wanna', & 'Take Me To A Party'. It was such an enjoyable experience from beginning to end. I had such a great time and really absorbed everything that was being thrown down musically. I was lucky enough to snag their set-list, which was HANDWRITTEN! Oh, the glory!

We also bought a fair share of merch; a tshirt, 10" EP, & their 7" single with Britt Daniel (!!!), and we were more than happy to give our money to that band. I ended up going back and trying to get a picture with Sabrina and she was more than happy to comply. It was the cherry on top of a rockin' night and it was all exactly what I needed.

All in all, it was a great show that left me ridin' high. My ears were ringing and my brain was shaken about, rattled up by righteous tunes. I am so thankful that Robbie got at me and told me to check them out. I look forward to seeing where they go from here. They have such an awesome support base and I know that they have some real solid ability. Cannot wait to see them next time they swing through.

Their tour has pretty much wrapped, however, keep and open eye and ear to what is going on with this band. They will be well worth your time and energy! Here's to 'em! 



October 14, 2015

[REVIEW] The Musical Journey: Joan Armatrading

Last Wednesday night, the musical glory was all mine.

I saw THE Joan Armatrading at City Winery. It was the first show of her three scheduled for Chicago. I believe it was her 197th show of this tour. Also, THIS TOUR IS INSANE. I doubt I will ever see a concert shirt like this again.

The anticipation for this show was incredible since I had bought my ticket so far in advance. I never thought that would happen. I remember tweeting;

can we please rally for a Joan Armatrading concert??

I had NO CLUE she was on tour. I assumed she would remain on my artist bucket-list and that I would never have the glory of seeing her perform live. When I decided to see if this was a possibility and then saw that she was actually on tour, I lost it a little (okay, a lot) and frantically looked up tour dates. However, her Chicago shows in April had already been sold out and I could not afford what they were going for from other sources. I also expressed this anxiousness via twitter (yeah, I know) and was informed by Ryan Arnold (THANK YOU!) over at XRT that she would indeed be coming back to City Winery in October. Assurance was mine and I realized that this could actually happen. I snagged the ticket when they went on sale and let the excitement build. I had planned to go solo to this show for a multitude of reasons, which really just consists of the fact that no one I knew had really ever heard of her or wanted to spend the money to do so, but also, I figured it was something I needed to do on my own. I knew it was going to be an emotional night and wanted to just soak it all up without any distractions. 
Six months later, the time had come. October was just getting into gear and the 7th rolled around as quickly as I had wanted it to. I was absolutely over the moon for this show. I had been excited for plenty of other shows and artists before, each one holds their own bit of magic and unique talent. This felt different. I never thought this would happen. I had grown up with her music and then came back to it at a later age and re-connected with it. The songs that were once words and melodies became entangled with meaning and emotion. I needed to see her play those songs live before me. I needed to have that musical closure, the pleasure of seeing it happen.
If you haven't noticed, shows mean A LOT to me. For some people, it's just something they do. For me, it's some serious shit. I want to experience the hell out of that band. I want to dance, I want to feel the vibe of the crowd, and capture the energy in the room. I want to dress according to artist and venue. It's a lot of preparation, mentally and emotionally. So while I'm already rather giddy about shows in general, having a bucket-list show is something I can't necessarily put into words, but here's me trying.
I had never been to City Winery before this event. I had no idea what to anticipate or really where or how I'd be sitting. First of all, I don't like sitting at shows. It's just...sad. Initially, I had purchased a ticket near the back of the venue so I COULD dance. I thought "Perfect, this way, I will only disturb this back group of people!" I arrive and find that the seating is extremely close together, like, airplane style. I was squeezed in there pretty good and knew that this would simply not be my thing. I immediately asked where I could stand or if there was some sort of "groove spot" because dancing, or, well, moving, would not be happening in that seat. She pointed me to an area and I decided to check it out (don't worry, I ordered wine first). It was the most ideal space; tons of room, groovy lighting, and high-top chairs lined along the sides. It was also way closer and had a killer view of the stage. I decided this would be my spot for the show. I had gotten there much too early, it started later than I anticipated, but that's my own fault for not actually looking. When it's Joan Armatrading, you don't have time to read, you just find out a date and a location, and you just show up there. I had two glasses of wine, a fantastic staff, and a lovely crowd of people to keep me company in between sets.
The opener, Kristina Train, was quite fitting for Joan Armatrading. I love when opening bands blow me away. It's such an unexpected feeling, because you're pretty much just there to be there, and then you walk away getting wrapped up in a new artist. Satisfying feeling for sure. That girl was great.
It was requested that no photography took place, and I figured I'd respect that. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the actual concert, but I'm glad didn't have my phone out. I've learned to leave that to the professionals and to just enjoy the experience as it is. Take it in as it's happening.

Once the opener left the stage, Joan's guitars were polished, and the lights were dimmed, the show was ready to start. Joan took the stage to the sound of worthy applause and I dropped to my knees in excitement. That's just some of the random occurrences that will happen for me at a show ("I'm up here!", "I'm down here!", "I'm crying!", "I'm dancing!"). She was about to strum and sing her way into magic.
I had been sincerely hoping that she'd come out and play 'All The Way From America'. It's just the perfect intro song and what I always imagined she'd open with. AND SHE DID. It was absolutely what I had wanted. It reminds me of when I listened to it as a kid, a musical comfort for sure.

She continued to play all of my favorite songs, especially 'Love & Affection', 'The Weakness In Me', & 'Down To Zero', with the exception of 'Prove Yourself''. It was a killer set and it consisted of her doing it all herself. I would have loved to have seen her with a band, but it was nice seeing her up on stage, cranking it out solo. As expected, I cried, I danced, and I sang along. 'Down To Zero' was the one that tugged at my emotions the hardest. I was not expecting that, which made it even better, cathartic even. The range of emotions this show took me on was just as I expected. I'll refer to it as the emotional slap"I was in complete awe the whole time. I could not grasp the fact that it was happening, but I am so glad that it did.

Set-list chocked full of stellar tunes. I was so happy she played 'Rosie' and 'Drop The Pilot' back-to-back. That was a righteous little groove session. We all sang along to 'Willow' for the closer and it was a beautiful experience from beginning to end. Her fans are lovely people and I had some marvelous encounters. I always meet the best people at shows and it's an experience I am grateful for; great conversations about music and life, which for some, is one of the same.

I do have to say, that this time, unfortunately, I did NOT get the set-list. I was caught up in conversation with an awesome woman who stood next to me during the show and missed the chance. And so it goes... There was only one set-list and it belonged to Joan. The guy who got it was just as into the set-list game as I was and beat me to it. While it would have been the cherry on top, it was easy to be happy for him, for I knew how much it had meant to him. I even went to the sound check booth before the show started to see if they had one available and if they'd put it aside for after the show. No such luck. Oh the downfalls of technology (as I write an ONLINE blog)...
Once everything had fully wrapped, my t-shirt was purchased, and the building had cleared, I decided it would be worth it to stay after and try to meet her. I had gotten lucky at shows before and met some of my absolute favorite musicians by doing this. I went out by the tour buses to discover, luckily, that there were a few other people waiting already. I really didn't want to wait that out by myself, but figured that no one there would be into it. I believe I was the youngest one there. People literally came up to me after the show and thanked me for being there and for dancing (my pleasure, folks). I waited amongst some really rad people for a solid 90 minutes with no such luck. She seriously snuck out of that building stealth-style. There were so few of us, so it was a bummer that there wasn't a quick hello or a meet n' greet, but I completely understand that some artists are simply not into that vibe at all. While I understand it, I still wanted it to happen. I do not regret the time waiting one bit. The people I shared that time with made it so much fun. I love the bonds that come from the shared love of music and shows and hearing about show experiences from other enthusiasts.
A top-notch occurrence! At this point, it's like, "Who do I see now?!". I have seen so many musical artists that I never thought I'd get to see live and now I'm just filling in spaces. Trying to see any show and add on to the long lists of artists I've seen. Here's to the next wave of show excitement!

Oct 21. Sweet Spirit @ Empty Bottle
Nov 20. James Bay @ The Riv
Jan 22. Vance Joy @ The Riv