Best shows to see: Plague Bringer, Jenny Hval, Pink Frost, and more



Jenny Hval
  • Kristine Jakobsen
  • Jenny Hval
Although summer festival season is technically over, the biggest musical event this weekend is yet another festival, with numerous performances taking place in open air. This year's installment of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival ranks as its best ever, with national headliners in pianist Gerald Clayton and reedist Anat Cohen and a veritable who's who of Chicago's jazz community, including Ken Vandermark, Dee Alexander, Ari Brown, Tomeka Reid, and many more. But why wait for Saturday to go see some live music?

Tonight the great saxophonist Ravi Coltrane kicks off a four-day stand at the Jazz Showcase, the XX and Nite Jewel indulge in retro-futurist new wave at the Aragon Ballroom, and Japanese experimentalist Tomomi Adachi gets weird on a collaborative program with Japanese experimental filmmaker Takahiko Iimura at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

On Friday singer-songwriter Sam Beam brings his Iron & Wine juggernaut to the Chicago Theatre, Allmann Brothers vet Dickey Betts brings his southern-fried choogle to the Copernicus Center, and the diabolical Biz Markie headlines an old-school hip-hop extravaganza at the Venue at the Horseshoe Casino. Saturday Billy Bragg wraps up a two-night stand at SPACE in Evanston, a Burger Records package tour invades Subterranean, and Birmingham doom-metal heavies Esoteric play Reggie's Rock Club. If you're still standing on Sunday, Buena Vista Social Club and its young firebrand pianist Roberto Fonseca play Symphony Center, erudite singer-songwriter country folkies Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott perform at the Old Town School, and Claire Chase plays a free CD-release show at Constellation (full disclosure: I programmed the last).

Fri 9/27: Plague Bringer at Metro
"Local duo Plague Bringer made a big splash around town with their 2006 debut LP, As the Ghosts Collect, the Corpses Rest, combining Agoraphobic Nosebleed's frenzied cybergrind and Emperor's epic black metal," writes Luca Cimarusti in this week's Soundboard. "But after their 2008 follow-up, Life Songs in a Land of Death, guitarist and drum programmer Greg Ratajczak and vocalist Josh Rosenthal gradually stopped doing much of anything as Plague Bringer." Now, as he notes, they're back. "Pretty much out of nowhere they released a new track in May, which seems to have been a warm-up for a full-blown resurgence: a double LP titled One in Two Parts is on the horizon, as are vinyl reissues of their first two LPs (by Gypsyblood Records, a new imprint run by Stavros Giannopoulos of the Atlas Moth). Onstage Plague Bringer blast their pummeling drum-machine beats through gigantic speaker cabinets at punishing volumes, and they make their live return this weekend."

Sat 9/28: Roy Roberts at Checkerboard Lounge
Roy Roberts is a blues journeyman from North Carolina who spent time as the touring guitarist for Solomon Burke, but he's had a prolific career on his own, operating and releasing music on his own Rock House label. Writes David Whiteis of his rare Chicago gig this weekend, "His mellow vocals achieve an emotionally resonant balance with the instrumental backing, and he uses his exploratory yet low-key guitar solos to convey deep feeling rather than proclaim his prowess. A gift for storytelling informs his lyrics, whether he's crooning a love song (the pop-sweetened 'I Truly Love You'), celebrating the joys of clubbing and juking ('I'm Going Out Tonight'), or contemplating the beauty of a Mediterranean night ('Sicily Moon')."

Sat 9/28: Pink Frost at Empty Bottle
"The dudes in Chicago alt-rock outfit Pink Frost (formerly Apteka) obviously love guitars," writes Leor Galil this week. "Granted, only Theodore Appert and front man Adam Lukas actually play guitar in the band, but they've packed all the six-string action they can into the tight pop-rock tunes on Pink Frost's brand-new sophomore album, Sundowning (BLVD/Notes & Bolts): the nimble, chimelike cycling patterns on fast-paced ripper "Ruins," the heavy, hazy psych licks that color the 60s pop-rock hooks of 'Dead Cities,' the pent-up, downcast melody that intersects with swelling shoegaze riffs to give the slow-burning 'Who I Belong To' its cathartic gravitas."

Sun 9/29: Jenny Hval at Empty Bottle
Writing of the Chicago debut by Jenny Hval, Kevin Warwick opines, "The Norwegian singer-songwriter gives plenty of nods to Kate Bush (the theatricality, the flair, and sometimes the pomp) and regularly ventures into poetry-slam territory, wrapping her airy, delicate vocals around jagged, faux-tribal postpunk noise just as easily as she weaves them into faint, crystalline guitar. Sometimes she allows her singing to float off into the far reaches of an arrangement, as though she's whispering into the ear of someone across the room but you can hear everything perfectly; sometimes she gets right in your face with stark, unforgiving lyrics ('I want to sing like a continuous echo of splitting hymens,' for instance, from the chilling 'Give Me That Sound'). "

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