Monthly Archives: December 2014

Comedy Review: Trap at iO in The Mission Theater

The iO has relocated to West Old Town from its former location in Wrigleyville.  The new building looks fantastic.  Upon entering you see a large bar which is perfect for grabbing a drink before and after a show.  Second City should take note.  Tonight’s show is in The Mission Theatre, located just down the hall covered with pictures of famous alumni.  The theatre has 144 seats and stadium seating, so there isn’t a bad view in the house.  Upon being seated, a waiter gave us a drink and food menu.  At past shows, someone quickly returned and asked for our order, but on this night, nobody stopped by our table the entire evening.

Trap is a two act sketch review with a few improv scenes tossed in the middle.  The opening scene features a man threatening to blow up a building.  Various characters speak to him via a megaphone.  The best is a standup comedian who says he needs to do every open mic he can find.  This earns a great laugh from the audience.  Later on is a scene of an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s who is asking for donations door to door.  The resident answers the door and soon dismisses her.  She quickly returns and the resident informs her that she was just here.  “I know, you inconsiderate asshole.  Your dome light is on in your Honda! Geez!”

The best dramatic scene featured a woman being chased by a killer in the woods.  The lights were completely turned off and all that could be seen was the flashlight of the madman. It was a very intense atmosphere as the actress portrayed real fear and loud screams.  The scene ended with a one liner, which seemed very out of place for the mood created.

Overall, it was an entertaining show, but the price of $20 is a bit steep.  Most shows at the iO are closer to $10, and this one should be the same.


Chicago’s Best Rock and Roll: The Shams Band with Dan Price and Terrance J Haefner at The Tonic Room

It’s unusually warm for a late December night.  It won’t be a White Christmas this year.  Hence, it’s not surprising that the Tonic Room is hot tonight.  Terrance J Haefner (from Oak Park) is making it even hotter with his excellent rendition of Let’s Get It On (originally recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1973).  His entire set displayed excellent musicianship.

Next on the stage is Dan Price.  He plays a song that sounds very country with a good dose of reverb.  It’s hard to get a good view of the stage from the bar as the stage is no more than a foot above the ground.  So, the available view is of the lazily decorated bar.  There is a sign stating no “Wagon Wheel”, a song that had been over played in the past, but is no longer relevant.  There is also a sign warning that requesting “Free Bird” will result in ejection from the bar.  This is a fantastic rule. Figgy pudding is a special on the menu tonight, but nobody is ordering it.

At last, The Shams Band takes the stage.  Directly in front of the stage is a space where people step to dance shortly before retreating back into the crowd.  Behind this space is an elevated portion at the same height as the stage with a bench across the wall.  This area provides the best view in the bar.  Before long, it’s clear the lead guitarist knows what he is doing with a guitar.  His solos are definitely a major strength of this band which at times sounds like bluegrass version of The Rolling Stones.  Also a strength is the songwriting, as displayed in the catchy “The Des Plaines River”, during which most of the crowd sings along.  The entire band is singing along too.  Throughout the set it’s clear the band is having a great time, and the audience is along for the ride.  A live Shams Band Show is like a great house party, and you don’t want to miss it.

A Fine Christmas Tradition: Scott Lucas and the Married Men with Wolvereen at The Hideout

It’s a cold December night in Chicago.  However, the crowd has become adjusted to the weather and no complaints are heard as they shuffle in to see the fifth annual Scott Lucas and The Married Men Christmas Show at The Hideout.  Wolvereen, formerly known as Purple Apple, are first to take the stage.  These four girls rock out to some Christmas classics mixed in with originals.  One of the best moments is when a few children are invited on stage to sing  “I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas.”  They sing the first part and then leave the stage.  The lead singer then says, “We’re not finished yet!” and launches into a heavy rock version of the song strongly contrasting the cute version just sang.  It was very well done.

Next up, The Married Men take the stage.  They follow the same strategy of rocking Christmas songs mixed with originals.  Midway through the set, Scott Lucas adopts a very low growling voice.  It seems very strange until he begins singing the next song, “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” as performed by Thurl Ravenscroft in the original TV Soundtrack.  His re-creation is spot on.  Later on the rock is kicked up a notch as they play “Run Run Rudolph”, which was originally recorded in 1958 by Chuck Berry.  To close out their set, they invited Wolvereen back on stage.  They go on to perform a fantastic version of Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), with the girls singing backup vocals.  It’s a great finish to what the lead singer of Wolvereen calls, “The Best Show of the Year!”

Maek Showcase

Maek –  Independent Record Label. Free music. Free videos. Catchy tunes. FREE.

This is Maek. Maek is an independent free music record label based out of Chicago, IL. The artists on this label are Zaena and Jason Maek. The label centers itself around Electronic music, but does not restrict itself to one genre specifically, as you can hear sounds similar to Lana Del Rey, Kendrick Lamar, Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike, Flume, and Beyoncé all on the same album.

Zaena – @zaenaworld

Zaena is a dynamic electro-popstar who shines on the “Maek Pandamonium” visual album. In the visual album, Zaena acts as a fitness instructor, portrays herself as a robot, wears a onesie, and so much more, all while belting out lyrics and dropping sick dance moves. Zaena is a truly unique musical talent, with a catchy voice that traps itself in your head. Some of her hits on the album that will push her to the next level in terms of musical recognition are “Fire” and “UFO”. Zaena’s dedication to creating a new musical mold is unmatched by other rising artists for the upcoming year of 2015.

Jason Maek – @jasonmaek

Jason, along with his best friend Tiffany, founded Maek, and is the heart and soul of everything that Maek stands for. Maek gives life back to the music, choosing to give away his music for free, which is unheard of nowadays. Jason is not afraid to use his lyrics to spark conversation, as he often touches on racial issues, homosexuality, and domestic violence. He wants his music to speak to his listeners, and make them think. Jason reminds me of Kanye West in this way, he does not follow the traditional rappers who talk about money, girls, and success. Rather, his lyrics delve beneath the surface of what is usually unacceptable to talk about in modern music.

Maek Pandamonium (

I am at a loss for words about this project. Maek Pandamonium offers a one-of-a-kind project that has never been done by an Independent record label before. It has racked up over 300,000 views on Youtube, was featured on the front page of VEVO, and has accumulated a huge amount of attention from the Youtube community, as well as music bloggers. Many YouTubers made reaction videos to begin to put into words what they just saw.

Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. I would love to hear some of your reactions to this. It is one of the most controversial, unique, and thought-provoking music experiences I have ever witnessed. I don’t even want to spoil the surprise, but some of the visuals you have to look forward to are a three-minute video of a girl twerking, people robbing a store, and a dead-on accurate “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” depiction.

Check out Maek Pandamonium. Jason & Zaena will be on festival lineups before you know it. Catch them on their way up, this is going to be huge.

Matt Peters (PlaylistHQ Intern)

Pick of the Week: Scott Lucas & the Married Men and Wolvereen at Hideout (December 20, 2014)

Scott Lucas & The Married Men

A Festivus miracle! They’re getting the band back together for the holidays! After taking all of 2014 off to play music with their other bands — Scott Lucas is the frontman for long-running, two-man band Local H, while several of the Married Men also play in Celtic Punk band the Tossers — Scott Lucas & the Married Men will reunite for their 5th Annual Hideout Holiday Music Hour. Their first and only performance of the year will be recorded and broadcast from the band’s website around Christmas.

The show will feature plenty of holiday classics — in the past they’ve taken on “Feliz Navidad,” “Last Christmas” by Wham!, “Mr. Grinch,” “Father Christmas” by the Kinks and many more. Lucas and his six-piece backing band, the Married Men — a collective that includes violin, organ and accordion and has drawn comparisons to Wilco, the Waterboys and Nick Cave — will also perform original songs from their most recent records, Blood Half Moon and The Cruel Summer EP, as well as Married Men staples, drawn from their first two releases: George Lassos the Moon and The Absolute Beginners EP.

Wolvereen is made up of four Chicago girls, Liv, Nonie, Madison and Devin, who have written and played together for the last six years. Friends since they were three and now they are 16 and 17 (and 25), Wolvereen’s sound is a combination of Blondie, Joan Jett and Haim. Having played Lollapalooza, toured with Lissie and are the youngest band to headline at Metro Chicago, Wolvereen (formerly Purple Apple) is gearing up to release their new EP, produced by veteran music writer/producer, Mike Chapman.

Scars on 45 with Augustana at House of Blues San Diego (December 8, 2014)

It’s the end of a sunny day in San Diego.  Scars of 45 takes the stage and begins playing their style of indie rock love songs.  The combination of a male and a female lead singer works well for this style.  Midway through the set, they challenge the audience to be very quiet so they can come out into the crowd to play a song completely acoustic.  The two singers come out with just a guitar and play in the very center of the floor.  It’s a very intimate moment between band and audience and it works splendidly to gain the full attention of everyone there.  They return to the stage and everyone stays quiet.  The band says it’s no longer necessary to be quiet, let’s get loud.  Then they jump into one of their faster paced songs.

Later on, they tell the story behind Crazy for You.  It’s about friends of theirs in Bradford, England, who had been friends for a long time.  Others had urged them to date but they insisted that they were only friends.  Finally, they went on an official date and it went very well.  Eventually they got married.  And now they are divorced.  “Just kidding,” the bands says; they’re still together.  It’s these stories and the band’s playful nature that make their show such a joy to attend.  Through their near constant touring, they’ve learned all the tricks to put on a great performance.

The headliner for the night is Augustana. They take the stage and immediately launch into their set.  They go on playing song after song without saying anything to the audience.  Halfway through a song, the right side of the audience starts getting loud.  A man drops to his knees and proposes.  She accepts and they embrace while everyone applauds.  Throughout the band plays and smiles as they realize what is happening.  After the song, the lead singer finally breaks his silence and mentions the proposal.  He goes on to congratulate the couple on comment that it’s a really great vibe here on this Monday night.  It’s true, love is in the air.

A few songs later, they play their biggest hit, Boston.  “I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather” they sing.  Augustana is from San Diego, but now they are located in Nashville.  It’s a joy to hear this song and see how it foreshadowed their move out of town.  San Diego is always happy to have them back, and this night was no exception.


Must See East Coast Concerts in December

The Script

Saturday December 13

Mid Hudson Civic Center – Poughkeepsie, NY

This Irish pop rock band is just plain fun to listen to. Their lead singer’s voice is unique and distinctive, and their songs make you want to sing along and turn up the sound.

Justin Timberlake

Saturday December 13

Mohegan Sun Arena – Uncasville, CT

Or, you could go see Justin Timberlake performing at Mohegan.   It’s tearin’ up my heart trying to decide which show to see, but either way, you’re in for an awesome night.

Chiodos & We Came As Romans

Sunday December 14

The Chance – Poughkeepsie, NY

For those who haven’t heard of these guys, here’s a taste of their tunes. Personally, I’m in awe of the We Came As Romans cover of “I Knew You Were Trouble.”

The Airborne Toxic Event

Tuesday December 16

Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel – Providence, RI

With an addictive sound that will make you want get up and dance, ATE is an indie favorite that you won’t want to miss. Just check out their song “Changing” and see how long it takes for your head to start bobbing along.

Andrew W.K.

Monday December 29

The Loft – Poughkeepsie, NY

Slick back your long hair, tie your sneakers, and prepare to party hard with some awesome (head-banging) songs at this show.

– Kacey Rainone

The New Dave Matthews Band: Phillip Phillips with Saints of Valory at RIMAC Arena, UC San Diego (December 5, 2014)

It is often the case that an opening band is ignored.  The crowd talks during the opener or doesn’t show up until after they have played.  Almost everyone was present for the opener this time, most likely because an opener was not well publicized.  Neither Ticketmaster or Songkick listed an opener.  As a result, when Saints of Valory took the stage the crowd was without expectations.  About halfway through the set they asked the crowd who had never heard of the band and almost everyone raised their hand.  The lead singer smiled and said he believes they’ll be making a lot of new friends tonight.

One of the goals of PlaylistHQ is to familiarize concert goers with opening bands by automatically adding their songs to the playlists created for a show.  However, it relies on the openers being publicized.  Here’s hoping openers get more press in the future.

After a set break, the lights go dark and the band takes the stage.  Phillip Phillips approaches the mic and says “Hello”.  Every woman in the audience screams.  The band consists of a trombone/trumpet player, cello, electric guitar, bass, keys, drums, and Phillips on acoustic.  This is a very similar lineup to the Dave Matthews Band, and the similarities don’t end there.  When he sings the chorus to Thicket, “Our love was just a dream, just a dream”, it felt like discovering Matthews’ lost twin.

A new song starts slowly with just the cellist playing.  The cello grows to a crescendo and the band joins in.  These slow builds lead to big payoffs.  This is especially true in “Fly” when he finally reaches the chorus and proclaims, “Been trying to tell you what’s on my mind!” The band then launches into an excellent extended jam reminiscent of a DMB show.  At one point during the jam, the stand up cello player drops to one knee and starts rocking the cello like a guitar.

Throughout the set, it was common to see ladies screaming, fans jumping up and down, and people running up and down the aisles.  It was a fantastic set and everyone left with a smile on their face.  Phillips could easily become as big as Dave Matthews and he is definitely talented enough to do it!


Comedy Review: Toys 4 Tots Comedy Show at The Comedy Store in La Jolla, CA

It’s a dry night in San Diego after a few rare days of rain.  The plants are fully soaking it in and the air feels fresh. Upon entering The Comedy Store, the bouncer informs you not to heckle and that there is a two drink minimum.  On the wall just inside the door is a definition of heckle.  In a Google review of the club, the writer mentioned that the staff took care of a rude audience member.  They don’t mess around.

Tonight’s performance is a special event called Toys 4 Tots sponsored by The Marines.  A donation of $10 or a children’s toy gets you in for the night.  We are guided to our table on the right side, directly under a vent blowing cold air.  If you are cold and shivering, you won’t fall asleep!  Lou is playing lounge music until the start of the show when he announces the first comic.

The comedian takes the stage.  He says “you may recognize me as the man who showed you to your seats!”  He says he didn’t imagine this is where he would be five years after starting in comedy, but he’s having fun anyways.

The second act is the oldest one to take the stage that night.  His style of comedy is old school, delivering one liners, mostly about his age.  Some may say it was so bad it was funny.  Whether he was in the joke was hard to tell.

The host for the night is a local radio DJ, Woods from 94.9.  The loudest laugh from his first joke is from a lady sitting on the left side.  He explains that is his possible future mother in law.  And sitting next to her is his girlfriend.  He is 39 and she is 25.  Being a radio DJ used to make you famous, he says, but now at least he still has a hot young girlfriend.  Later on, a comic finishes his set and looks for Woods to hand off the mic.  Apparently he has left and Lou steps in and announces the next comic.

The next comic is pissed off.  He says he hates radio DJs.  He goes on about this and begins to lose the audience.  He explains he’s annoyed he left before his introduction and smartly moves on.  It wasn’t a classy move for Woods to skip out, but calling attention to it wasn’t the right move.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable night.  A few large boxes filled to the top with toys were visible as you left the comedy club and entered the warm San Diego air.  It’s great to be in Southern California in December!

Pick of the Week: Phillip Phillips at RIMAC Arena, UC San Diego (December 5, 2014)

Phillip Phillips at RIMAC Arena, UC San Diego (December 5, 2014)

Phillip Phillips

While touring the U.S. and beyond all throughout last year, singer/guitarist Phillip Phillips kept up with a songwriting practice built on his lifelong passion for rugged, rootsy rock-and-roll music. The follow-up to 2012’s The World from the Side of the Moon (a platinum plus-selling album that debuted at #4 on the Billboard Top 200 and featured the 5x platinum smash hit “Home”), Phillips’s sophomore album Behind The Light finds the 23-year-old Georgia native offering up a batch of songs marked by a more ambitious and refined sensibility but still powered by the earthy authenticity that’s long shaped his sound. With each song written or co-written by Phillips, Behind The Light also showcases the guitar skills he began honing by learning to play at age 14 and recently sharpened by joining Matchbox Twenty and John Mayer on tour and sharing a stage with Bruce Springsteen at the 2013 Rock in Rio festival.

Similar Artists: Dave Matthews Band, Matt Nathason, Jason Mraz