Songs: Molina-A Memorial Electric Co. | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Songs: Molina-A Memorial Electric Co. Agenda Sold Out (Music) Soundboard Recommended Image

When: Sat., Jan. 11, 9 p.m. 2014

Though he was raised in the northern rust-belt town of Lorain, Ohio, singer-songwriter Jason Molina had deep Chicago roots. His group Songs: Ohia consisted of a loose, rotating cast of support musicians, but the majority of its regular personnel—older classmates of his from Oberlin who’d moved to Chicago—formed the Butchershop collective in a space on Lake Street in the late 90s (which also hosted the Butchershop Quartet). Molina arrived here in 1999 after a stint in Bloomington, Indiana, home of his longtime label Secretly Canadian. Songs: Ohia played in the Butchershop loft space and at favorite haunts such as the Hideout and Schubas, where Molina’s infectiously simple songs and twangy singing soaked into the corners of the indie-rock and alt-country scenes. His workingman’s prolificacy earned him the respect of Chicago peers, including country crooner Lawrence Peters, who’d later appear as a guest vocalist on Molina’s 2003 magnum opus, The Magnolia Electric Co., recorded at Electrical Audio. That album signaled a shift in Molina’s creative direction, and he immediately retired the Songs: Ohia name and became the bandleader of the Magnolia Electric Co. He’d moved to Bloomington in 2002, but at first he’d kept working with Chicago players; when he changed the name of his group, though, he also switched to Bloomington musicians. It wasn’t an easy choice. When Molina sang “It broke my heart to leave the city” (from “Leave the City” on 2005’s What Comes After the Blues), he was talking about Chicago. He returned to live in the Windy City two more times before his death in March 2013: the first was immediately preceding a move to London in 2008, and the second was in April 2011, when his Chicago friends and collaborators from the Songs: Ohia days got him here briefly in an attempt to help him in his struggle with alcoholism, which runs in his family and would soon claim his life. Tonight members of Songs: Ohia, the Magnolia Electric Co., and Hiss Golden Messenger gather at the Hideout in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of The Magnolia Electric Co. According to Magnolia alumnus Jason Groth, this will likely be the last time such a memorial happens—those who knew the man or simply knew his songs can’t count on another chance to witness this sort of onstage channeling of his spirit by the musicians who loved him best. —Erin Osmon

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