May Shows We Recommend in Chicago & Atlanta

by That Guy on May 1, 2011

It hit 59 degrees yesterday in Chicago (which is 5 degrees below normal), but the sun was out so people were out in droves acting like they were on spring break in Jamaica. There were sleeveless shirts at Big Star. Rich d-bags were driving around with their tops down. I think I even saw my neighbor getting those cornrow braids with the multi-colored beads that white people like to get on spring break. So, with the promise of May truly being warm, I’m expecting a great month. Here are the best rock shows we see coming up. Let us know what we missed.


John Vanderslice – Lincoln Hall – 5/2

Tame Impala – Lincoln Hall – 5/3

Of Montreal –  The Vic – 5/5

Ted Leo – Schubas – 5/5

The Felice Brothers – Lincoln Hall – 5/6

Neil Young – Chicago Theatre – 5/6-7

Surfer Blood – Bottom Lounge – 5/7

Cory Chisel & The Wandering Songs – Double Door – 5/7

David Vandervelde – Schubas – 5/7

Peter Bjorn & John – Lincoln Hall – 5/7

tUnE-YarDs / Prussia – Lincoln Hall – 5/10

Jessica Lea Mayfield – Schubas – 5/14

The Devil Makes Three – Beat Kitchen – 5/15

Elvis Costello – Chicago Theatre – 5/15

Paul Simon – The Vic – 5/16-17

Radio Moscow – Double Door – 5/17

The Twilight Singers / Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – Metro – 5/17

Joe Purdy – Lincoln Hall – 5/18

The Wilderness of Manitoba – Beauty Bar – 5/19

Ben Sollee – Schubas – 5/21

Bonnie “Prince” Billy – Millennium Park – 5/23

Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit – Lincoln Hall – 5/26

Mother Hips – Schubas – 5/26

Justin Townes Earle – Pritzker Pavilion – 5/30

Friendly Fires – Lincoln Hall – 5/31


The Decemberists / Justin Townes Earle – Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre – 5/2

Sleigh Bells – Center Stage – 5/2

Pinback – The Masquerade – 5/4

The Twilight Singers / Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s – The Masquerade – 5/5

Twin Tigers – The Drunken Unicorn – 5/7

Phosphorescent – The EARL – 5/8

The Love Language – The EARL – 5/11

Dax Riggs – The EARL – 5/12

Brett Dennen / Dawes – Variety Playhouse – 5/13

Fleet Foxes / The Cave Singers – The Tabernacle – 5/14

The Flaming Lips – The Tabernacle – 5/19-20

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. / Generationals – The EARL – 5/20

Of Montreal – The Buckhead Theatre – 5/20

Okkervil River / Titus Andronicus / Future Islands – 5/31 – The Variety Playhouse


Ben Nichols of Lucero is embarking on a quixotic motorcycle trip through the South with a guitar strapped to his back.  While most musicians would take time off to relax between their band’s tour dates, Ben is spending his vacation on two wheels and in front of small crowds of Lucero’s most loyal fans. I, being one of these cult fans for many years, couldn’t pass up an opportunity to see Ben perform solo – even if it was on Easter Sunday in a spooky room called Purgatory at Masquerade in Atlanta.

I stepped onto a back deck outside Masquerade where much of the pre-show crowd congregated to take in the beautiful 70 degree evening under the stars.  Ben chatted with some fans and then briefly with me and HearYa longtime friend, Tim Sweetwood, who handles booking and promotion at Masquerade. I’d seen Ben perform solo only once before at our SxSW 2010 party and he killed it, but this night was different. Away from the hustle of SxSW, he (not surprisingly) seemed more serene. He had a rough draft of a set list in his mind that included most of the songs from his Last Pale Light In The West solo EP, but the majority of the show was driven by requests from the crowd.

In a day where bands are “social” with fans via Facebook and Twitter, but sometimes move through set lists with military-like discipline,  it was refreshing to see a musician and his fans determining the course of the night together, with mutual admiration for one another. And collaborative alcohol consumption. At one point in the night, Ben was handed a tin flask from a fan and he asked “What’s in it?” Before the fan could answer he said, “Fuck it, I’ll drink it.” Such was the night. Ben would perform a crowd favorite, sip (or gulp) bourbon, chase with a coke, and repeat. If he had trouble remembering words to the song requests, he’d get cues from the crowd before starting each verse.

Highlights from the two hour long set were everything from Last Pale Light In The West, Bikeriders, Sixteen, Kiss The Bottle, My Best Girl, Nights Like These, Slow Dancing, and covers of Townes Van Zandt and Joey Kneiser (of Glossary). The Kneiser cover was particularly special. If you haven’t already, download Joey’s solo album for free here. Ben introduced the song by saying that “Bruised Ribs” is a song he wished he’d written and that Joey offered these for free because they were “just some acoustic songs he threw together.” Ben sarcastically said something like “that fucking asshole,” then played the song.

It’s that humble, accessible stage presence that draws me back to every Lucero show. Ben feeds off of the crowd’s energy and strives to deliver a collaborative experience.  He remarked that he was shocked that so many folks came out to see him (the show sold out). It may be time for Nichols to recalibrate his expectations.  He may be underestimating the loyalty and passion of Lucero fans, even on Sunday night religious holidays.

You can get a taste of the night in the (low quality) video I took below.

Joey Kneiser – Bruised Ribs

Live Video: Ben Nichols – Toadvine (live at Masquerade in Atlanta)


Joe Pug and Strand of Oaks played an early show at The Earl in Atlanta last night. I’d review the show, but do I really need to say more about Joe and Tim? It’s impossible not to love both of these artists and I’m proud to have been introduced to their music very early on in their careers.  Take the time to check out the tour dates. It’ll be the best $10 you’ve spent in awhile.

Other than seeing Joe accompanied by upright bass and an incredible lead guitarist on this tour, one of the highlights from last night was seeing Pug cover an Austin, TX singer/songwriter named Tex Thomas. I don’t have the song title, but it’s a great two minutes of song. Anyone out there familiar with Tex Thomas?

Video: Joe Pug covers Tex Thomas (Live at The Earl in Atlanta, 4/6/11)


Tomorrow night at Smith’s Olde Bar, let’s drink in some country-folk jams courtesy of one of my favorite bands, The Deep Dark Woods. Luke Doucet opens and DDW will hit the stage at 9:45pm. I’ll be the guy flexing his muscles.