Best concerts this weekend | Feb 22–24
There are a lot of inexpensive concerts worth seeing this weekend, and some free events too. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Baroque Band and the William Ferris Chorale make this weekend enjoyable for classical and opera lovers.
Friday, February 22
Beyond the Score: The Tristan Effect
1:30pm, Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall), $24–$142
Guest conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen leads an exploration of why Wagner's mature opera, Tristan and Isolde, had such a groundbreaking influence on his contemporaries and successors in music, literature and the visual arts. Wagner's pioneering technique, which forever signaled a shift in composition, will be examined through excerpts from the opera, in addition to other works.
6pm, The Whistler, free
The former Karate frontman brings his signature guitarwork to the Logan Square cocktail lounge.
Dropkick Murphys + Old Man Markley + Jim Lockley & The Solemn Sun
7pm, Aragon, $25.50
St. Patrick's Day is almost here, and you won't forget it at this show featuring Boston's Dropkick Murphys, who play a besotted blend of lunkheaded but stirring Irish-influenced pub rock. Live, they're a riot (sometimes quite literally).
Passion Pit + Matt and Kim + Icona Pop
7:30pm, UIC Pavilion, $34
Massachusetts synth-pop sensation Passion Pit was slated to tour the States last summer in support of its latest, Gossamer, but notoriously troubled frontman Michael Angelakos pulled the plug. ("In order for me to ensure that there will be no further disruptions," he told fans, "I am going to take the time to work on improving my mental health.") A cobilling with irrepressibly bubbly NYC duo Matt and Kim should ensure that he's back in high spirits in time for this rain-check date.
Music of the Baroque
7:30pm, Harris Theater, $27–$75
Nicholas Kraemer leads the orchestra in Handel's complete Water Music, which was composed for a royal trip down the River Thames. Two of Haydn's symphonies, No. 64 in A major and No. 97 in C major, complete the program.
Grupo Bien + Detenidos Musical + Xtraviad2 +Amistad Caracas + DJ Payito
7:30pm, Congress Theater, $10
This celebration of sonidero music gathers some of Chicago's finest practitioners.
Marquis Hill Quartet
8pm and 10pm, Andy's, $20, students $15
Rising local trumpet talent Marquis Hill plays behind recent release Sounds of the City.
Vieux Farka Toure
8pm, Old Town School of Folk Music (Maurer Hall), $10
Vieux Farka Touré became a musician without the blessing of his father, the late Malian bluesman Ali Farka Touré, but it's no surprise that père eventually came around. An accomplished artist in his own right, Vieux last year released new CD The Tel Aviv Session, with the Touré-Raichel Collective featuring Israeli multi-instrumentalist and composer Idan Raichel, who just had a gig at City Winery.
Dana Hall's Spring
9pm, Green Mill, $12
Former Chicago Jazz Ensemble artistic director Dana Hall is also a dynamite drummer, as he reveals here with his burning postbop quartet Spring. Reedists Geof Bradfield and John Wojciechowski fill out the band along with bassist Clark Sommers. Saturday's performance features guest spots from Etienne Charles and Victor Garcia on trumpet, flugelhorn and percussion.
Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials
9:30pm, Rosa's Lounge, $15
Ed Williams is known for his slashing slide work with the Blues Imperials; his live show will leave you sweating.
Country Mice + Birdcloud
9:30pm, Empty Bottle, $10
Unpretentiously poetic Brooklyn indie-folkies Country Mice head up a bill at the Bottle with a new record, Hour of the Wolf, an endearingly fuzzy and, at times, rough 'n' tumble collection.
Dee Alexander Quartet
10pm, Katerina's, $10
Vocalist Dee Alexander's utility work shows off an impressive range of skills—with everyone from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians' free-associative large ensembles to straight-ahead trumpeter Orbert Davis. Ultimately, that chameleonic ability may be the workaholic jazz vocalist's calling card.
10pm, Smart Bar, $15, advance $10, before midnight $12
Producer/DJs Danny McLewin and Tom Coveney had years of vinyl collecting and warehouse-party spinning under their belts before they united as Psychemagik. The Canterbury-based duo were known around the U.K. as the go-to guys for ultra-rare vinyl. Deep-pocketed DJs would call them with mythic records in mind and they’d find them. Sounds like some kind of 12" alchemy, huh?
Hector Guerra + Rebel Roots + The Go Down + Son del Viento + DJ Ringo
10pm, MultiKulti, donation $10
This array of international and local world-music acts, dubbed "Roots, Rock, Reggae," features a performance by Hector Guerra, whose fusion of Latin hip-hop and reggae draws from his Bolivian roots as well as his current home in Spain. Roots reggae act Rebel Roots, featuring members from the U.S., Poland, Ghana, Ethiopia and Jamaica, supports with future rockers the Go Down, Mexican Son Jarocho act Son del Viento and dancehall purveyor DJ Ringo.
10pm, Beauty Bar, free
This long-running monthly may be called "Panic," but there's no disco played here. DJs Pogo and Arturo hold it down with their to-die-for collections of Britpop, new wave and ’90s alternative, so expect to hear some shoegaze in the mix as well. A staple at darkroom for years (and Smart Bar before that), it now calls Beauty Bar home.
Saturday, Febraury 23
5pm, PianoForte Chicago (Fine Arts Building), $10, students $5
Ensemble Dal Niente pianist Mabel Kwan offers a skill-testing performance of George Friedrich Haas's Trois Hommages, which requires the musician to play two pianos simultaneously. One piano is tuned conventionally, while the other is detuned by one-quarter tone in its entire range, effectively creating a palette of 176 pitches. Each of the piece's three movements pays tribute to an influential composer who profoundly altered the shape of 20th-century music: Ligeti, Hauer and Reich.
Trinidad James + FortBowie
7pm, Reggie's Rock Club, advance $20, day of show $25
"All Gold Everything" rapper Trinidad James is a promising young 'un boosted by The Source and recently inked to Def Jam.
William Ferris Chorale
7:30pm, Loyola University (Madonna della Strada Chapel), $20–$25, seniors and students $15–$20
Renowned British composer Grayston Ives takes front-row center in the audience as the WFC gives the North American premiere of his Requiem, which was commissioned by Magdalen College, Oxford, to mark the university's 550th anniversary. Though the piece was originally scored for chorus and orchestra, a new version for chorus and organ was created by Ives at the request of WFC's music director, Paul French. "Sacred and Profane" includes a survey of Ives's secular works, including folk songs and his imaginative arrangements of Beatles tunes.
The Fall of the House of Usher
7:30pm, Harris Theater, $45–$125
Director Ken Cazan leads his cast on a 90-minute psychological roller-coaster ride in Philip Glass's chilling two-act opera, based on the gothic story by Edgar Allan Poe.
7:30pm, MCA Stage, Edlis Neeson Theater, $28, students $10
The local period instrument ensemble makes its MCA Stage debut with three distinctive concerts that pair each of Bach's legendary Brandenburg Concertos with compositions by six leading contemporary composers. On Thu 21, the First Concerto is paired with a new work by Elbio Barilari, and the Second Concerto gets matched with a new piece by David Fulmer. On Sat 23, the Fourth and Fifth are performed alongside Jason Seed's Brandenburg 4.2 and a new work by Jennifer Jolley. The project wraps up Sun 24 with Anna Clyne's Within Her Face, paired with Concerto No. 3, and Christopher Theofanidis's Muse, partnered with Concerto No. 6.
Eels + Nicole Atkins
8pm, Vic Theatre, $28
Wonderful, Glorious is Eels' first album in three years following the trilogy of Hombre Lobo, End Times and Tomorrow Morning, a heavy, concept-driven series informed by one very long, dark night of the soul. By contrast, the new track “Peach Blossom” sounds like a summer car-radio hit from an alternate universe where Julian Cope and XTC sold as many records as U2.
8pm, Bottom Lounge, $20
Through she apparently grew up in the shadow of big sis Beyoncé, Solange Knowles, who on Twitter made the best case ever for singer Brandy's deep cuts, has come into her own with a hipster-approved blend of pop and R&B. New EP True is a testament to the younger Knowles's individuality and decidedly un-Bey voice, though tracks like f-bomb-laced "Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work" seem a bit of a stretch for the sugary chanteuse. However, we dig throwback house-party jam "Losing You" and soulful, ’80s-tinged "Locked in Closets."
Pictures and Sounds: John Wiese + Bill Vermette + Jason Soliday + Peter J. Woods + Lucky Bone
8pm, Film Studies Center (University of Chicago), free
The University of Chicago Film Studies Center hosts its annual "Pictures and Sounds" show, which this year features an appearance by hotshot West Coast sound artist John Wiese, known for projects LHD and Sissy Space but who's also performed with a number of notables including Sunn O))), Wolf Eyes and Spencer Yeh.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra with Esa-Pekka Salonen
8pm, Symphony Center (Orchestra Hall), $31–$239
Legendary Finnish conductor-composer Esa-Pekka Salonen kicks off a two-week residency at Symphony Center with a performance of the hugely influential second act from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde. Soprano Evelyn Herlitzius, tenor Stefan Vinke, bass-baritone John Relyea and tenor Sean Panikkar make their anticipated CSO debuts, along with returning fave Michelle DeYoung.
Renee Baker Artet
8pm, Experimental Sound Studio, $10, members $8
Violinist Renée Baker leads a quintet of players from her Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, whose mission is to make creative, improvised music that doesn't resort to clichés. Here they perform the world premiere of "Ord Street Horizon," a semi-suite composed by Baker.
Kindred the Family Soul + Musiq Soulchild + Avery*Sunshine
8:30pm, The Shrine, $37.50
The married couple who constitute Kindred the Family Soul—Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon—spare us the mushy pillow talk. Their earnest songs celebrate love, relationships and socially relevant issues. Musiq Soulchild is silky smooth Atlanta R&B hit maker Taalib Johnson, who should win some kind of award for his album titles alone (The first two? Aijuswanaseing and Juslisen). Recent collab partners include Santana, Mary J. Blige and Estelle, and tonight you can expect to hear tracks from the new MusiqInTheMagiq
Beak + The Swan King + Mares of Thrace + Sun Splitter
9:30pm, Beat Kitchen, $8
Local metal act Beak, which recently hit Electrical Audio for a follow-up to its excellent debut, Eyrie, headlines this punishing bill with Chicago’s Swan King, which plays angular indie-rock that veers from metallic crunch to tightly wound punk. Canadian doom act Mares of Thrace expanded into a three-piece last year with new drummer Rae Amitay, a Berklee College of Music grad, and, for the first time, a bass player: Chicago artist and musician Scott Shellhammer (Tetsuo, Ghosts & Vodka, American Heritage) and Thérèse Lanz on vocals and guitar. Art-metaller Sun Splitter combines that genre's usual chug and riff action with intriguing electronic tomfoolery enlisted to blur the edges of the music and shape it into something new and extra-menacing.
10pm, Rodan, free
Mixing up a little modern day Bad Brains and an added world music sensibility, the Eternals are a refreshing reggae-fied change of pace from the in-yer-face indie scene. Band member and DJ Wayne Montana takes over this modern Asian-themed and always-packed-with-beautiful-people haunt on Milwaukee for early evening dubby jams to get your Saturday off on the right track.
Roc Marciano + Julian Malone + Scheme x DJ Scend
10:30pm, Schubas, advance $12, day of show $15
Roc Marciano started in Busta Rhyme's crew, Flipmode Squad, before forming hardcore underground trio UN in the early aughties. He hits town behind 2012's Reloaded, his second solo effort and a masterful union of the rapper's rugged stream of consciousnesses and beats that put a fresh spin on East Coast boom-bap nostalgia, with help from producer Q-Tip. Young local Julian Malone is an MC and producer from the South Suburbs who's become one of the scene’s latest breakout stories with the recent announcement that he signed with pioneering L.A. indie hip-hop imprint Stones Throw, home to artists like DOOM, Madlib and the late J Dilla.
Sunday, February 24
The Grapes of Wrath
2pm, Northwestern University (Cahn Auditorium), $18, students $8
Based on John Steinbeck's 1939 novel, Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie's opera follows the story of the Joad family as they travel from Dust Bowl–ravaged Oklahoma to California in the hunt for a better life. Baritone Robert Orth, who performed as Uncle John in the opera's 2007 Minnesota premiere, will reprise his role in Northwestern's production, which also features a large cast of students from the Bienen School of Music.
Delta Rae + ZZ Ward + Martin Harley
7pm, Lincoln Hall, $15
Rootsy, harmonious ensemble Delta Rae's folksy power pop tops a bill with harmonica-toting, hip-hop-loving L.A. singer-songwriter ZZ Ward—the initials stand for Zsuzsanna—who worked with Ryan Tedder, Pete Rock and Freddie Gibbs for her debut album, Til the Casket Drops. Opener Martin Harley is a singer-songwriter who draws on old-time blues, folk and world music, and plays slide guitar in the unusual Weissenborn style.
7pm, SPACE, $15–$28
Local drummer and bandleader Sunny Jain heads Red Baraat, said to be the first Indian marching band in the United States. The live-wire group explores the exuberant Punjabi wedding-band tradition, as well as Bollywood classics and original tunes.
The Ruby Suns + Painted Palms
8pm, Schubas, advance $12, day of show $14
The Ruby Suns' latest, Christopher, finds frontman Ryan McPhun in breakup mode, but that's not to say it's a downer. In a stark departure from the group's previous efforts, the new LP's glossy pop tunes are as wistful as they are danceable. Kevin Barnes–approved opener Painted Palms has a new 7", Carousel, due Mar 5 on Champaign, Illinois, label Polyvinyl.
Snowden + Sybris + The Ragtones
9pm, Subterranean, $10
Atlanta indie rockers Snowden released a debut, Anti-Anti, way back in 2006, and while the group has kept itself busy releasing EPs, we’re curious about the upcoming sophomore full-length, No One in Control, due sometime this year. Sybris's insistent guitars easily cut the gossamer separating the Cocteau Twins from My Bloody Valentine. Vocalist Angela Mullenhour's Robert Smith–like moan captivates as the group continues to impress live.
Sunday Transmission Series: Shofar with Josh Berman and Jason Stein
10pm, Hungry Brain, donation $7
Traditionally, a shofar is a ram's horn played in Judaic religious rituals. Here it's an improvisational trio with reedist Mikolaj Tzraska, drummer Macio Moretti and guitarist Raphael Roginski who tonight perform with noted local Josh Berman on cornet and Jason Stein on bass clarinet.