Live Sessions

Field Report, Live Session #113

by Shirk on May 8, 2013


As the snow began to fall on a March morning, I wondered if this session was even going to happen.  Luckily, Field Report, aware of the impending blizzard in Chicago, left Milwaukee early to beat the weather.  This would be my first session since relocating SHIRK studios to its new location.  The wiring and equipment had barely been tested and to say I was nervous would be an understatement. The band’s early arrival gave us some extra setup time and by the time I was ready to hit record, everything was sounding and behaving like I thought it should.  The guys in Field Report were  relaxed and friendly and made the setup process really easy.  Turns out, Ben Lester (pedal steel) had been in for a HearYa session with A.A. Bondy a few years back.  So it was great to have time to reconnect.

This would be our first session with “StubHub! guests” (as we call them).  A few days prior to the session, the band announced on Facebook that they’d be recording a HearYa Live Session in Chicago.  The first to respond were admitted into the session on behalf of StubHub!.  Four guests were invited but due to the heavy snowfall, three of the guests (Chicagoans mind you) had to cancel. The fourth guest however, made it just in time.  How, you ask?  Because he flew in FROM BOSTON just for this session and their show at Space in Evanston later that night.  I have no idea how his flight even landed at O’Hare – they must have closed the runways just as his flight touched down.  His cab dropped him off as we were about to start and he was smiling from ear to ear.  Kirk, I’m glad you could join us.  Kirk is a Field Report super-fan and a gentlemen and couldn’t have been more excited to witness them playing live in-studio.

The band eased into the session with a beautiful rendition of “Route 18” followed by “Circle Drive” at Kirk’s request.  After that, Field Report gave us a treat, performing an unreleased tune that they had just begun to play titled, “40/40”.  The song has a great dynamic that builds from a repetitive floor tom pattern then closes out with a ferocious jam.  The band finished the session with most of the band members huddled around one mic performing and acoustic rendition of “Taking Alcatraz”.  I think we captured a nice roomy vibe on that one, but next time I’ll remember to turn off all the buzzing/hissing guitar amps before we cut the track.

Following the session, the band and I spent the next hour or so pushing their van and trailer out of the parking spot we had them wedged into behind my studio.  Eventually we just removed the trailer and pulled it out by hand and drove the van down the wrong way of the one-way street.  Much to the chagrin of a shouting soccer mom in her SUV.  I drove home with soggy shoes, cold hands and a big smile on my face, having just completed my first session in my new studio and spending the day with a great group of musicians.  I clearly recall saying to myself, “I love my job.”

Be sure to check them out on their spring/summer tour.  They’ll be at Schubas in Chicago on May 11th.



Exclusive: Field Report – Route 18

Exclusive: Field Report – Circle Drive

Exclusive: Field Report – 40/40

Exclusive: Field Report – Taking Alcatraz

Download the Field Report Live Session as a zip file.



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Hey Rosetta!, Live Session #108

by oz on November 12, 2012

I started listening to Hey Rosetta! years ago after hearing them on XM Radio. Their 2008 release, Into Your Lungs, fueled many bike commutes to work when living in the Bay area. Then they released Seeds in February of this year via ATO Records and that album assured its place in rotation in my house. Seeds is one of the lesser talked about albums of the year, but one worth jotting down in your “best albums of the year” lists.

Tim Baker (vocals/guitar) writes spellbinding lyrics while the rest of the band consisting of Josh Ward (bass, backing vocals), Adam Hogan (lead guitar), and Phil Maloney (drums) Kinley Dowling (violin), and Romesh Thavanathan (cello), creates lush layers of sound to bring the songs to life. Their sound blends folk, rock and pop with slow building songs that erupt into emotive anthems.

It’s hard not to compare the band to Mumford and Sons and Arcade Fire and it’s surprising that songs like “Young Glass” from Seeds haven’t been heard on mainstream radio. It’s one of indie musics greatest conundrums. What is it that allows one band to break through while others are just below the surface? Hey Rosetta! has all the right stuff to reach audiences across the world. We’re thankful they stopped in the studio during their visit to Chicago for Lollapalooza. I think y’all will be pleased with the results.

Hey Rosetta! Band Introduction

Exclusive: Hey Rosetta! – Bricks

Exclusive: Hey Rosetta! – Yer Spring

Exclusive: Hey Rosetta! – Yer Fall

Download the Hey Rosetta! Live Session as a zip file.


Delta Spirit, Live Session #106

by Woody on September 20, 2012

One of the blessings and downfalls of writing for a music blog is the deluge of music we are lucky enough to experience. Sometimes something worthwhile gets lost in the shuffle and we don’t get enough time to spend with a particular release.

Back in March when Delta Spirit’s self-titled third LP came out, Oz and I both spun it a few times and had a tough time connecting. Our buddy Ryan, their manager, kept telling us to stick with it and you’ll grow to love it. So I would revisit it periodically, each time enjoying a song that I didn’t connect with before. As Lolla approached, I dug in again. I was looking forward to catching their set, but then as luck would have it, we set up a session with Delta Spirit. As the session drew closer, I connected deeply with the album and my anticipation grew like a 5 year old on Christmas Eve.

I grabbed my 5 year old, Hank, and headed downtown for one of the most enjoyable sessions I can remember. A number of the folks were there and everybody was in a great mood on this Lollapalooza Eve. The band was in good spirits and extremely generous with their time, and especially with Hank. Keyboardist Kelly Winrich even went down to the van to get him a Delta Spirit tee.

A couple of days later I grabbed my eight year old Teddy and his buddy Brooks to head down for the Delta Spirit set at Lolla. We managed our way backstage to watch and, right before the band took the stage, the boys met lead singer, Matt Vazquez. Again generous with his time, the boys were blown away when 10 minutes later – he was up on stage in front of a sea of fans.  Delta Spirit’s set at Lolla was one of the best I’ve seen all year and one of the better ones I have ever seen at Lollapalooza. They tore through a blistering hour long set that ended with Vazquez melting countless Smart Phones as he dumped a dozen water buckets on the crowd.

So at the end of the weekend, I gained an even greater appreciation for their latest effort, a greater appreciation for them as people, and a greater appreciation of their live act.

Delta Spirit Band Introduction

Exclusive: Delta Spirit – California [Video: YouTube | Vimeo]

Exclusive: Delta Spirit – Time Bomb

Exclusive: Delta Spirit – Tear It Up [Video: YouTube | Vimeo]

Download the Delta Spirit Live Session as a zip file.


Plants and Animals, Live Session #105

by oz on August 16, 2012

My favorite albums are the ones that sneak up on me. The slow growers that don’t make an impact at first, but slowly seep in.  Canada’s Plants and Animals released The End of That back in February and it filled up all the little cracks and broken splinters of my life for the rest of the year. The album filled all those spare moments in airports, on planes, in hotels, or at home while doing yard work. I’d somehow put the album on without thinking about it and later wonder why I was so drawn to it.

Here I am, almost seven months since it’s release, and The End of That has become one of my favorite albums of the year. Much like White Denim’s D, released last year, Plants and Animals have an ability to craft some seriously complex tunes (Crisis!) but they don’t overdue it throughout an entire album. Those jammy experimental tunes where electric guitars are the focus are offset by ballads like “No Idea” where Warren Spicer’s vocals are center stage and the electric guitar and piano serve as a backdrop.

Plants and Animals have played together for a decade and that experience shows in their albums and live performances. If you’re looking for hit radio singles, the closest track you’d find is “Lightshow,” but let’s be honest. Mainstream radio isn’t sophisticated enough to understand artists like Plants and Animals that don’t box themselves into the conventional confines of songwriting.  They create texture and atmosphere in their music and their canvas is three dimensional. The lay listener won’t get chills in moments like at 1:33, 1:55 and 2:20 in the “Lightshow” video below when the electric guitar changes the course of the song. Or the slow build at 2:40 that slows things down to allow Spicer to breathe new life into the song before the band joins in with the “Oh-oh-oh-Ohhhhh” finish. I could call out similar details in the “Crisis!” session video, but we’d be here all day. That track is like 10 songs in one.

It’s in those finer details where Plants and Animals shine and where only those playing close attention can appreciate. I’m sure these flourishes and tempo changes are painful to arrange and rehearse and the songs could probably survive without them, but that’s what makes bands like Plants and Animals so compelling. I guess that’s the reason my subconscious is drawn to the album and it gets repeated play every month. There’s just so much to appreciate.

Plants and Animals Band Introduction

Exclusive: Plants and Animals – Lightshow [Video: YouTube | Vimeo]

Exclusive: Plants and Animals – Crisis! [Video: YouTube | Vimeo]

Exclusive: Plants and Animals – No Idea

Download the Plants and Animals live session as a zip file.


Bhi Bhiman, Session #102

May 16, 2012

Bhi Bhiman is a one-man folk music force of nature. He’s a Sri Lankan-American who grew up in St. Louis and later re-located to San Francisco, where he lives today. His debut album, BHIMAN, was released in January of this year and is winning over music critics, musicians, fans and long-time folkies with impeccable acoustic […]

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WATERS, Live Session #99

March 8, 2012

Port O’Brien were one of those bands that resonated with us. We had a real connection with them from the first time we heard “I Woke Up Today.” They had a Neil Young-inspired folk-rock sound that was at times rocking and electric, other times organic and acoustic, and sometimes tribal and trippy. Over the years […]

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Little Hurricane, Live Session #98

January 27, 2012

Little Hurricane had quite a year in 2011. While many bands struggle for years to fight for the attention of fans, labels and the media, Little Hurricane found the buzz almost immediately. The two-piece band formed after lead singer/guitarist Anthony Catalano posted an ad on Craigslist for a drummer. I’ve used Craigslist to sell a […]

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Bailiff, Live Session #97

December 15, 2011

I’ve been following the growth of Bailiff for a few years now.  After hearing the band at Lincoln Hall back in January of 2010 I was eager to get them in for a HearYa session.  After speaking with the band, I learned that they probably weren’t ready for a session at the time, but were […]

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Mates of State, Live Session #96

November 18, 2011

Mates of State are a husband wife duo consisting of Kori Gardener and Jason Hammel.  I first learned of them through my friend Bill Racine who co-produced their album Bring It Back in 2006.  “Punchlines” and “Running Out” are two of my favorite songs off that album that I’ve returned to many times over the […]

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Mount Moriah, Live Session #95, featuring unreleased “Swannanoa”

November 4, 2011

Mount Moriah is my favorite discovery of 2011. Founding members, Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller, admit to resenting their North Carolinian Southern Gospel roots in their former bands. In creating Mount Moriah, however, they embrace folk, gospel and alt-country in pursuit of a gorgeous and melancholy batch of songs that underscores the changing season. After […]

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