Best shows to see: Freakwater, Michael Vallera

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Michael Vallera
  • Michael Vallera
From time to time, especially in the dead of winter, it so happens that only a handful of Soundboard writeups fall on the first few days of the week. But there's always more going on than we manage to write about, no matter how cold it gets.

This week—aside from the critics' picks after the jump—Monday's shows include fingerstyle guitarist Ryley Walker at the Burlington and Femi Kuti & the Positive Force at Metro. Tuesday you can catch the second-to-last installment of the Bitchin Bajas residency at the Hideout, plus two great concert of jazz and improvised music: Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker solo at the MCA (as part of the Face the Strange new-music series) and cornetist Rob Mazurek (whose Pulsar Quartet recently earned a recommendation from Peter Margasak) with the Throne of the House of Good & Evil at the Whistler. Lastly, among Wednesday's entertainments are female-fronted Bay Area doom-metal trio Castle at Cobra Lounge and the venerable NRG Ensemble, carrying on the legacy of eccentric genius Hal Russell, at the Hideout.

And those are just the shows that caught my eye. Read on for Freakwater and Michael Vallera!

Mon 1/21: Freakwater at the Hideout

"Janet Bean and Catherine Irwin, who both grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, started singing together in their late teens for the joy of it—they'd break into song while, say, washing dishes—and in the late 80s they formed Freakwater," writes Peter Margasak. "This week they'll perform in Chicago for the first time in more than seven years, supported by longtime bassist Dave Gay and guitarist Jim Elkington (Bean's partner in the Horse's Ha) and focusing on material from 1994's Feels Like the Third Time. In all likelihood the distinctive weave of their voices, broken in after so many years like a favorite pair of jeans—Bean's is refined, Irwin's relatively coarse—will make it feel like no time at all has passed."

Tue 1/22: Michael Vallera at the Empty Bottle

"In the duo Cleared, multi-instrumentalist Michael Vallera launches surges of jagged guitar chords and looming electronic fog banks against Steven Hess's unyielding drumbeats," writes Bill Meyer. "In solo settings, without another player to establish a rhythm or set boundaries, he stirs up masses of sound that feel as big as weather systems. Tone and texture can vary drastically from one set to the next; I've heard him drone like a squadron of WW II bombers and swirl like he was auditioning for the Cocteau Twins, and on the upcoming EP Dead Suns he lets fly with some shredding that sounds like someone fed steel girders into a lumber mill." Johnny Young headlines.

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