Monthly Archives: March 2010

Sound Citizen Radio 7: Road Trip!

Ahhhh… spring. That much closer to summer and road trip season. So, we have three excellent road trip bands lined up for you this week. They’re from all over the country, too. Of course, we’ll tell you where to see them live in the coming days and months, as well as play a round of “Screw the Scalpers,” where we tell you about some shows sure to sell out and when they go on sale – so you don’t get screwed.

A big thanks this week to Jon, a Sound Citizen reader who suggested Root Hog, and to everyone who subscribed this week to Sound Citizen Radio on iTunes. Keep it going – the more we spread the love, the closer these bands get to living the rock and roll dream.

This week’s lineup:

Root Hog, Lafayette, IN (pictured)
Saturday, April 10, Lafayette Brewing Company, Lafayette, IN
Sunday, April 11, Lakeshore Theater, Chicago, IL  UPDATE: This show has, unfortunately, been canceled. We’ll let you know when another local show is scheduled.

The Soft Pack, San Diego, CA
Thursday, April 8, Magic Stick, Detroit, MI
Friday, April 9, Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL

Drive-by Truckers, Athens, GA
Thursday, April 8, St. Andrews Hall, Detroit, MI
Friday, April 9, The Vic, Chicago, IL
July 17, opening for Tom Petty, United Center, Chicago, IL

Review: South Memphis String Band, Chicago

Rarely — almost never — do I see a band appear nervous at the beginning of a performance. But that was the case with the South Memphis String Band last week at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. They appeared tentative and spoke very, very quietly before beginning their set. Now, it was a quiet room. And, if you’re going to play bluegrass or folk music, you might not find a more suitable place north of the Mason-Dixon Line than Old Town. So, it makes sense that they might feel some added pressure playing in front of such a discerning crowd.

Rightly so, it turns out. It was the crowd that was responsible for making this such a serious occasion — a feeling not normally associated with fine bluegrass music.

I’m conflicted on this show. The main draw here is Luther Dickinson, guitar player for The Black Crowes and front man for the North Mississippi All-Stars (he’s playing guitar and mandolin in the video below.) As a guitar fan, he’s one of those guys you go out of your way to see. So we did. I knew what I was getting into. People were there to hear the music — to study this performance even. But when I leaned close to my brother to ask a question about his soon-to-be one-year-old daughter … we got “shushed” by a woman next to us. That’s right — shushed at a show. Another time, a fan’s mobile phone rang. As he scrambled to dig it out of his pocket to silence it, icy stares bore into his skull and head shaking spread like a disapproving virus. Here’s the thing:

  • It’s a bluegrass show. As in, the knee-slapping, beer-swilling, hootenanny style of music.
  • They sell beer outside the theater. People drink beer, usually not in total silence.
  • It’s a bluegrass show.

Look – I understand that, to many people in the crowd, this was a special occasion. Many of the songs played are taught at the school and practiced for hours on end by aspiring musicians across the city. I get it. But it’s a show, after all – it’s not a symphony. In part, I blame the band, too. They could have amped it up a bit. A little bit louder and whispered words might not have been an issue.

As for the music itself? Pretty great, actually. As an added bonus, we captured some excellent video before an Old Town employee politely asked us to shut down the camera. You can watch it below.

I want to be clear about one thing: Old Town School of Folk Music is a wonderful place and a pillar of the local music community. We love them. But music is made to be fun, a celebration. Can we lighten up a little, perhaps?


A New Sound We Like: Warren Buckler

Warren BucklerOne of the most difficult parts of writing about music is that much of it starts to sound the same after a while. Try listening to Q101 for an hour straight and you’ll get my point – posers proliferate. It’s one of the reasons we like Minus the Bear around here and also why I’m telling you about Warren Buckler. It’s refreshing.

Chicagoan Warren Buckler falls under that umbrella of “experimental musician.” He’s spent the last several years writing and composing songs and just recently polished them up for the masses. Now, ususally when I hear “experimental” it means “lack of direction.” Not the case here. Listening to Buckler’s Like that of the Coral, it’s clear that this guy knows what he’s doing.

There’s a mix of classical guitar and upbeat tempos; you’ll hear some violin and the vocals are understated but not insignificant. It all comes together effortlessly – although I know it took a tremendous amount of effort to compose. And that’s always the sign of a strong musician.

Here’s a few other reasons I like Buckler:

  • He’s self-taught on the guitar.
  • He wrote, recorded and produced Like that of the Coral on his own.
  • He uses some technology to round out the sounds on his recordings – he does not let the technology use him.
  • He’s been known to cover Portishead.

You can stream and purchase Like that of the Coral here (my favorite so far is Arlington Place — have a listen).

You can catch him live March 26 at Uncommon Ground and March 27th at Urban Butterfly (it’s BYOB).

Learn more at

Sound Citizen Radio 6: March Madness!

Weclome back to Sound Citizen Radio! It’s March Madness time, which means the NCAA tournament and the biggest gambling event of the year. What’s not a gamble, are the three bands featured in this week’s podcast (at the bottom of this post). We have a Detroit band playing their own style of rock, and two rising Chicago bands with a couple of weekend shows.

So, get out there and support these bands. Your bracket will be blown up by day two anyway.

If you want to get your band featured on Sound Citizen Radio, please send an email to Also, feel free to send suggestions, comments, tips, or anything else.

Have a great weekend.


Deadstring Brothers (pictured), “Smile”
Friday, March 26, Double Door

Sissy Mena, “Young Girl”
Sunday, March 21, Lincoln Hall
April 8, Subterranean

The Right Now, “Ain’t Going Back”
Friday, March 19, Lincoln Hall

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Chicago

JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound

Last Wednesday was one of those times when you stumble into a show you won’t soon forget. You usually stumble out, too.

As it were, we hit up the Tonic Room on Chicago’s north side to see little-known but soon-to-be-famous JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound. And we couldn’t have had better timing. JC and the crew are breaking out. They’ve been on the scene just a year or so but have managed to capture soul, funk, R&B and even rock in their sound. And it’s all Chicago, as it should be. But don’t expect these cats to pull up stakes and leave if they hit it big. As guitarist Billy Bungeroth told Centerstage Chicago’s Jeff Minn:

A lot of people think Chicago is the step on the road to another destination. It’s not. Chicago is the destination. We live in the greatest city on Earth. Mind it, support it. If you dig music and you like to dance and you like heart-drenched ballads and funky post-punk workouts then there’s a dude named Mr. JC Brooks in Chicago I think you ought to go and see.

JC is a student of soul music, but he started in an indie-rock band. That should give you an idea of the versatility of the sound. Need further proof? In the video below, you’ll hear King Floyd’s “Groove me Baby,” and “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” a Wilco cover that has become JC’s most popular song.

It was a good night for Chicago music – a rising star with soul, in a small venue with an eclectic crowd.

These guys can bring it.

Below is some video from the show at the Tonic Room. Watch it. Also check out this photo gallery from Wednesday night.


Hear more JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound.

Subway Music from Around the World

You know those guys who play the saxophobne in the subway? Well, the other day we came across a talented underground musician and decided to investigate further to find out what other hidden gems are harmonizing beneath the streets. It turns out, those guys are all over the world; playing mandolins in the metro, electric guitars on the el, and tubas on the tube. (I made that last one up, but it’s probably true.)

In most parts of the world it’s called “busking,” defined by Wikipedia as “…the practice of performing in public places for tips and gratuities.” Some people might call it “annoying.” But in every case, it’s not wrong to simply call it music. And some of these subterranean musicians are immensely talented.

Since we couldn’t hop on a plane and start traversing the globe for our search, we were limited to YouTube — which actually turned out to be quite effective. What you find below are some of the finest examples of subway music, or busking from around the world. Some are in the stations, and some are on the trains themselves. They are all quite interesting.

Moscow, Russia. These gentlemen play classical music of the highest caliber. I’m not certian, but people are commenting that this is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.


Seoul, South Korea. This is an actual underground band, Los Andes. It’s music from the Andes, Chinchaysuyo. How cool would it be to see this on your way to work?


Paris, France. Paris is famous for musicians playing in the stations and on the trains themselves. This is Volare.


New York, United States. New York is truly a melting pot. This is Norteño music, from northern Mexico.


Chicago, United States. I’m proud to have these guys in Chicago. They capture the essence of this great city. Here’s It’s Alright.


London, England. This guy should be in a jazz hall. But then London commuters would be deprived. Here’s Sixteen Tons.


Prague, Czech Republic. Another underground band, of sorts. Incredibly elaborate — but I wouldn’t want to be commuting hungover with this…


Budapest, Hungary. Well known in the region, this is Club Era. Seriously this doesn’t look easy.


Stockholm, Sweden. These gents do it the old-fashioned way — simple harmonizing and no instruments. Starts at about the 25-second mark.


Montreal, Canada. I’ve never been there, but this guy seems entirely appropriate for Montreal.


There are surely plenty more out there. Do you have a favorite in your city? If so, we’d love to see them. Share a link below or, better yet, get out there and record them, and then let us know. We’ll post your locals in an upcoming Sound Citizen post!

In the mean time, here are three more that we didn’t want to leave out.

Budapest, Hungary. Playing glasses.


Tokyo, Japan. Only in Japan…


Philadelphia, United States. A little soul in Philly. Anthony Riley has a voice, and apparently a following.


New York, United States. Reggae in Union Square.