Best shows to see: Come, Bitchin Bajas, Matt Ulery's Loom, Square Roots

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Matt Ulerys Loom
  • Matt Ulery's Loom
Summer music festivals are like a box of chocolates: too many to choose from. This weekend is especially crowded, and not just because Taste of Chicago has everyone taking up a little more space than usual. But Soundboard is here to help (with your live-music schedule for the next few days, that is—you'll have to look elsewhere to figure out how to return to your normal waist size).

Of course, Taste of Chicago continues. Robin Thicke and Estelle play tonight, Robert Plant tomorrow, Jill Scott and Maxi Priest on Saturday, and Neon Trees on Sunday. This weekend also brings (among others) multivenue garage-rock party They Liver, all the barbecue and country music you could want at the Windy City Smokeout, Jerry's Sixth Anniversary, the Irish American Heritage Festival, Square Roots in Lincoln Square, and West Fest in West Town (headlined by reunited Memphis garage-trash legends the Oblivians and Chicago postrock godfathers Tortoise).

But wait, there's more. Relentlessly curious composer Chris Brown plays at Elastic tonight, while Pritzker Pavilion offers its massive soundspace to someone who can maximize its capabilities, avant-garde electronic producer Dan Deacon. On Friday Bob Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Richard Thompson fill a bill to the brim at Toyota Park.

Sunday at Square Roots is especially notable, with performances by Scottish songwriter Alasdair Roberts and, before his show later that night at Constellation, New Jersey native Glenn Jones. Naam headlines at Reggie's, and Willie Nelson comes to Ravinia.

More Soundboard picks below:

Fri 7/12: Come at Saki and the Empty Bottle

Come are among the latest indie-rock veterans to jump on the reunion bandwagon, but their music has aged so well that it's easy to ignore the faint stock nostalgia of their comeback. "Their dark, murky blues-rock put feeling over form," writes Peter Margasak. "While [vocalist-guitarist Thalia] Zedek and [guitarist Chris] Brokaw wove together slashing guitar lines, the former sang with a smoky soulfulness about the ennui and loneliness of a life on the margins." Fresh off a deluxe Matador reissue of their 1993 debut Eleven: Eleven that includes a disc of live recordings from around the same time, they play an in-store at Saki in the afternoon and at the Empty Bottle at night. Brother JT and Wrekmeister Harmonies open the latter.

Fri 7/12: Bitchin Bajas at Constellation

Cave guitarist and organist Cooper Crain started this side project as a solo thing, often providing scores for underground filmmakers, but Bitchin Bajas has since become a proper band with the addition of former Mahjongg member Daniel Quinlivan and Rob Frye. The band's new LP, Bitchitronics, which comes out next week, "washes over you in soothing, reverberant waves packed with subtle instrumental detail that you can parse or ignore, depending on your mood," writes Peter Margasak. "There’s nothing too heady or academic about it."

Fri 7/12 and Sat 7/13: Matt Ulery's Loom at Green Mill

Aside from being one of Chicago's best jazz bandleaders, Matt Ulery is notable for how far his own compositions reach beyond just jazz. See both strengths onstage Friday and Saturday at the Green Mill, where he performs with long-running quintet Loom, with whom he just released Wake An Echo. Though the album features a Loom with a new front line, reedist Geof Bradfield and trumpeter Marquis Hill, the retooled lineup "tempers their fiery improvisational chops with a measured cool that complements the cinematic, thoroughly composed elements in Ulery’s music," writes Peter Margasak.

Sun 7/14: Alice Smith at City Winery

As R&B's hip-hop-ification continues, singer Alice Smith blazes her own trail on her second album, She, writes Peter Margasak, "serving up a melange of nostalgic girl-group sounds, 70s soul, taut singer-songwriter ballads, and rhythmic flourishes borrowed from go-go music. It takes guts to cut against the grain, but the music Smith is making more than supports her choice to do so." Nina Rae opens.

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