Monthly Archives: June 2017

Pick of the Week! 311 with The Skints and New Politics at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (July 2, 2017)

311 was formed in Omaha, Nebraska by singer/guitarist Nick Hexum, singer S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut. The band now resides in Los Angeles, California.

311 mix rock, reggae, hip-hop and funk into their own unique sound. After years of consistent touring, 311 have developed a reputation as one of the most entertaining & dynamic live bands in the U.S.

They have just released their 12th studio album MOSAIC (BMG) with its unique album cover–which is made up of nearly 10,000 photos submitted by fans.  Even the image of the 5 band members on the cover is made up of tiny fan photos–to solidify the concept of band and fans as one. Fans can view a high-resolution pan & zoom mosaic of the cover image now at


“This cover captures the spirit of the collective nature that is 311–band and fans together to form something greater than the sum of its parts.” says Nick Hexum (singer/guitarist). Chad Sexton (drums) adds, “We have a very symbiotic relationship with our fans that see us on tour year after year.  We wanted to have an album title that would describe our fan base, our band & our music. And to tie all of this into a concept that could be presented in the album artwork as well.”

311 with The Skints and New Politics at Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island (July 2, 2017)

Underground Chicago Hip Hop Duo: Palmer Squares Interview

By Justin Cabrera

The advent of the internet changed the hip hop scene forever. Back in what many call the “Golden Age” of hip hop, aspiring artists had to physically mail their mixtapes to record labels, and to even be considered they’d have to have multiple connections within the industry. Obviously today those connections still matter, but with the rise of independent music publishing and streaming platforms such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp, it is easier than ever to get your music out there. Underground Chicago hip hop duo, The Palmer Squares (@PalmerSquares), used the internet to kickstart their ascent to cult favorites, releasing project after project and gaining a dedicated fanbase. I sat down with them before their sound check in the green room of 1st Ward at Chop Shop, and asked them about their formation, their influences, and the Chicago hip hop scene.

(Interview edited for clarity and brevity)

PlaylistHQ: How did the Palmer Squares project begin? How’d you meet, how’d you get your name, etc.

Terminal Knowledge: We were always friends, and we always wanted to make words rhyme. But we didn’t think that we were supposed to, you know…as white suburban kids.

Acumental: We were always rap fans for a long time, and I hit a point of listening you know? Listening as a student of fucking rap music. I got my own ideas you know?

PHQ: So you wanted to participate?

AC: Yeah! But it didn’t feel natural I guess. We didn’t grow up with it.

TK: So we started with goofy shit. Almost like parody, like Weird Al-y type stuff.

AC: And Weird Al is white.

PHQ: Very white.

TK: [laughs] And then the first stuff that we started to write that wasn’t a joke, I look back on it and laugh. Yeah that stuff we didn’t share really. We were like closeted rappers.

PHQ: So you would record it and just keep it?

TK: Yeah we’d just show it to some of my friends.

AC: In a very self-deprecating way. Like “oh it’s just something stupid that I whipped together.” Sometimes we’d just undercut ourselves. Like, we’d know our stuff was getting better and be like “oh, we’re just goofin.” And then at some point we made the transition and we were like “I think we’re on to something different. The sound is growing.”

TK: It was putting our stuff on YouTube, and receiving feedback from all over the country and the world. Surprisingly for YouTube, most of the feedback wasn’t things like “go kill yourself.” [laughs] That was the first thing that gave us the idea of “Hey, maybe we don’t suck.”

PHQ: So YouTube comments actually gave you confidence. Because they’re usually, you know, so fucking horrible.

TK: They started saying, and they keep saying, keep doing what you’re doing. We got encouragement from YouTube and the internet.

AC: It actually took lots of mini-steps of encouragement, and I’m actually gonna tie this into some personal stuff. My dad called me last night, at like 11 o’clock. Just to talk. And my dad and I, we’re not super close, but we’re friendly. I’d seen him recently for Father’s Day, and he basically called to tell me he thought I was on the right track. Which is weird, because I’m almost thirty and [my dad is] divorced. People have been going out of their way to tell us that we’re on to something. My boss at work asked me how I was able to do all this. And my coworker told me he was inspired by the project. I’m not trying to toot my own horn or anything, but there have been all these signals of people acknowledging that we’re going in the right direction. And now we know it’s not just a goof. It’s great to have people come up and say “Hey, that’s a really good idea” or “Hey man, I really like this song.” That’s originally why we were “closeted” or insecure of our work. I’d rather have feedback, because without anything, all I have is my own idea of the music. And I’ll just be like “No, this is stupid.”

Last year was a good year for us. We had an album come out and we recorded more than we ever have. We’re trying to follow a formula and make sure we have music to put out, and we just did that with NaPalm. We haven’t played for like a year in Chicago so we wanted to put all of our eggs in one basket for a big summer show. I think we did it right. We’ve gone over the hump of our insecurities. We know we’re onto something. We notice our fans and how supportive they are. Even if we wanted to quit rapping tomorrow I don’t wanna let my fans down.

TK: At this point, the fans are why I do it.

AC: Business is a big part of it too. We’re still learning. We have a lot to learn. Music is just a percentage of the whole musician thing. We gotta learn it by just diving in head first.

PHQ: Especially with hip hop. A huge part of it is image.

TK: Especially for us, since we picked our gimmick as being “uncool.” It’s a big part of it, so it’s a hurdle.


PHQ: From In Context on the song “Knock ‘Em Down” you mention MF DOOM as an inspiration. What are some other rappers or musicians that inspire you guys? And which ones are your favorites?

TK: To the first question, MF DOOM was a reason I started doing less parody shit. He showed me that I could do what I do being a white kid from the suburbs. My main thing from that was, if every rapper I’d ever seen was autobiographical, and they talk about their struggles in the streets and that stuff, I don’t have that. He was the first one who showed me it doesn’t have to be all autobiographical, because he’s playing a character. He’s rhyming violent mob with Silent Bob.

AC: It was original and unique, it was on another level with the lyrical gymnastics.

TK: And like us, [MF DOOM] is not really the poster child of cool. He’s got the big belly, and the mask. But other than that, Talid Kweli, The Roots, Little Brother was the first duo I ever got into. Also Method Man and Redman, Canibus…

AC: But that’s like the old OG stuff, listening to Pete Rock and all that. And now music is changing and it’s hard to keep up. Fans are like “Hey, did you listen to that?”, I’m vaguely familiar with tons of artists. And I’ve been trying to stay on top of album releases, like I just got into J. Cole. Now I got into him and I get it now. I’m trying to catch up with the new stuff because my collection isn’t vast like it used to be. I get nostalgic, and listen to old Roots albums or Beastie Boys, because I love that stuff.

PHQ: You two are known for your complex rhyme schemes. How do you sit down and write something like that?

AC: It takes time. It’s rare that I sit down and just write something from beginning to end. It doesn’t just flow out of my fingers. Sometimes you hit those strides and it feels great. But for the most part it starts with little notes. Seth [Terminal Knowledge] mentioned the violent mob Silent Bob thing. You think of that while watching a movie or something. I hear a word and get an idea or angle for a song.

TK: We both write in a Word document. I got free time, I open up the text file while I got a few hours to watch TV with the beat playing on loop.

AC: Yeah that might be a rhyme session for me. If it’s a movie then for an hour and forty-eight minutes I’m gonna try and write rhymes while I’m trying to watch this movie. So it’s a pretty casual approach.

TK: A show might say a word or a phrase I’ve never put in a rhyme before.

AC: For example, I read something that described a character as rarely seen and rightly feared. And I was like, that’s fucking awesome, and they didn’t rhyme it but I like the alliteration. So I turned that into “Rarely seen and rightly feared / My parents think I’m kind of weird / The Square routine I pioneer”, like you just hear something and you want to just bite the littlest piece and write your verse around that.

TK: Like I said, “Body parts in a glass jar upon the mantelpiece”, because fuckin Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood goes [Daniel Day Lewis voice] “GLASS JAR ON THE MANTELPIECE!”

AC: That’s funny because we were known for movie references too. And I’ve heard that song a million times but I didn’t even know that’s where that came from. [laughs] You never know where it’s coming from. Growing up on music, finding something out like that later was really cool. Like, a rap song might sample Scarface or something, and then when I see Scarface for the first time I get it. We like to bury gems like that in the verses, so hopefully there are still some gems to be mined.

PHQ: How’s the underground Chicago hip hop scene?

TK: I don’t really feel like part of any particular scene. I live in Chicago so I feel like I’m there, but I don’t think of it as MY thing.

AC: We can be shut-ins, or socially awkward or whatever. We’re not big networkers.

TK: If we do shows with big intros we do the show and then stand in a corner.

AC: So there’s a whole underground scene that we definitely don’t participate in. We’ve done some open mics and stuff. We’re at this point because we have been building and we’ve been doing that. We’ve played shows to nobody, but at this point we’re trying to establish ourselves as a headlining act.

TK: Back to YouTube, that was our first launching pad. That was before social media was really a thing, and I feel like we kind of utilized that internet outlet before other people. That’s why we never really built ourselves into the Chicago scene, because we established ourselves on the internet. That’s why a lot of people who are seeing us tonight are migrating to Chicago for the show from other states.

AC: We’re going to see a lot of familiar faces tonight. We do have a dedicated support group in Chicago.

TK: It wasn’t so much a choice for us to avoid networking face to face, it’s just how shit happened. Where we saw a little thing going on YouTube, so we got into that.

PHQ: Like you have nothing against the Chicago scene, but you found your niche on the internet and YouTube?

AC: You have to cut your teeth somewhere, and there is a great Chicago scene. Whether or not we’re a part of that, I don’t want to be the one who dictates that. I want our music to speak for itself. We’ve played plenty of shows in Chicago with artists who don’t sound similar to us. And there’s never been any bad blood or beef. But we’re also not super bumping elbows with everybody.

TK: As much as those guys are way bigger than us in the scene, we had five times the hit on YouTube.

AC: We’re lucky to have that.

TK: That’s part of why we never built ourselves into the scene, because we had that online scene.

AC: Lots of artists are one or the other. They could have no online presence but could be underground freestyle masters in the community. And then there are some people who are Vine celebrities or whatever, and that’s all they do, but they’ve never rocked a mic. I hope we’re somewhere in the middle where we can do shows, we can tour, we can do it live, we can deliver our shit, but also you can find fun videos of us online.

PHQ: I think people appreciate that balance, because you have that authenticity of being part of a scene, but you can also use the internet to reach people and have them listen to your music.

TK: We grew up in the suburbs. White dudes who never had a “struggle”. A lot of rappers from Chicago do have that. I don’t want to raise any trouble by being that suburban kid who yells “Chi-Town!”. I didn’t go through that trouble in Chi-Town. City pride, I’ve always found that weird too.

PHQ: [to Acumental] Do you agree?

AC: [To Terminal Knowledge] Yeah, but like, you’re a Bulls fan. And we suck! So there’s something to be said about where you’re from. Our name is the Palmer Squares because we grew up there. There’s something about repping where you’re at, and I don’t know why, but that is important. And I look forward to the day where we live somewhere else for a year and try out another scene. I’m not so attached to my hometown that we have to stay there forever but I get it I guess.

TK: I don’t think it’s better than anywhere else though.

PHQ: So you’re saying you want that more universal appeal, beyond Chicago.

AC: There’s layers to this shit. Most musicians, unfortunately, don’t have fans. And the rest make it to these little tiers. Wherever we’re at, I look up to the tier of people like Danny Brown, or George Watsky, who aren’t the biggest rappers, but they’re established and respected. Beyond that, there are the A-listers like Drake and Kanye, and we don’t need to be anywhere near their level to be successful. If this is as far as we go, it’s still way farther than we ever expected to make it a decade ago. Even if we keep going, hopefully we’re a cool underground word of mouth act. If we’re not some huge thing, we didn’t do nothing. We contributed something to the scene. We’re putting out albums; we’re bringing our ideas to life. We respect anybody who can do that because it’s not easy to fit that stuff into your non-musician schedule. Like after work, you’re gonna go film a video and everybody else might just shit all over it, but you know, you gotta make those leaps. Hopefully in the future people will look back and say we have good tracks, that might be as far as we make it, or much more. But we’ll keep at it for a while.

PHQ: One more question. I saw that after you guys released NaPalm, you guys were super popular on Bandcamp. Was working on NaPalm different than your other projects? And what’re your plans for the future?

TK: NaPalm was different. It was like a five-year anniversary celebration of Spooky Language. Spooky Language was different than all of our other projects, it was the first time we recorded in a studio. It was a commercial voice over studio, not a music studio. And it was a favor of a guy Brandon knew. We did it in two days, two eight hour sessions. We had all the songs written, all mapped out, we went in knowing what we wanted to do in each song. We did each song in like 2 hours. It was super quick and precise like that. We’ve never done it like that after that. This time, we set a deadline, like Spooky Language, and we know what these are going to sound like before we go in.

AC: We don’t usually work this quick but this is just one of many homages to Spooky Language. It was in our spare time in the spring, February, March, and April. We had one song drafted before we went out on tour. But we knew we wanted the album out in time for summer.



A Great Love Story! About Face Theatre Presents Bright Half Life at Theatre Wit (June 21, 2017)

Vicky is Erica’s supervisor at work, so she is hesitant to go out with her. Eventually, she relents and they go on a Ferris wheel together. Before long they are in a committed relationship and they have twin girls. Afterwards, they get married. This is the order of events that things happened, but in the play the scenes take place all out of order. They are often short and cut back and forth in time. It’s a lot like an improv show. It’s especially like the game where the last line in a scene has to be the first line in the next scene as they use this technique often. It’s a fresh style of storytelling that keeps on the audience engaged.


The acting is excellent. Elizabeth Ledo as Erica is head over heels for Vicky and shows it expertly through her body language. Watching her beg Vicky to go out with her and then later on to jump on the bed is a joy. Patrese D. McClain portrays Vicky expertly as the hesitant supervisor. Vicky dated a man previously, and McClain captures this in her performance. She’s definitely the more grounded person in the relationship and it’s so real to watch them work things out together. The ups and downs of the relationship (especially the tension caused by Erica’s career path) combine for a great love story.


Get tickets now for Bright Half Life through July 1st!

Quinn Delaney

Intense! Hail the Sun and Eidola at Beat Kitchen (6/14)

As I stormed through the door of the Beat Kitchen to avoid the pouring rain outside I was greeted by a stern looking bouncer with a long blue beard. He eyed me puzzledly, as my boyish good looks clearly betray my legal drinking age. He sighed and asked me to have a good time, clearly relieved he wasn’t letting a 15-year-old into the bar. The lighting was dim throughout the venue, with a warm red glow produced by strings of Christmas lights above the bar. I was handed a menu made out of old record sleeves. The spicy catfish sandwich I got was fantastic, and as I finished, the soundcheck in the other main room got louder and louder.

This band turned out to be Eidola (@eidola), an experimental post-hardcore band from Salt Lake City, Utah. The band’s music replaces the cartoony aesthetic of their post-hardcore labelmate band, Dance Gavin Dance, with a more spiritual, crystalline aesthetic. The composition of their songs shines with polish and technical proficiency. Their tightly packed, frantically paced song structure lends the band a sparkling, futuristic sound.


The vocals, performed by Andrew Michael Wells, show an impressive range that is able to hit shrieking highs as well as full-bodied lows, and display a type of confidence that is charming without being overpowering.  The crowd was incredibly energetic, and a pit opened up almost immediately. The friendliness of the people in the crowd was equally juxtaposed by their intensity in the pit, with people throwing each other in the air and knocking each other over only to immediately extend a hand to pick them up. There was none of that tryhard hardcore dancing or crowdkilling nonsense, just a mosh pit in its purest form.

Later that night, after much anticipation from anxious fans, headlining band Hail the Sun (@hailthesun) finally took the stage. Based out of Chico, California, Hail the Sun is a post-hardcore band that, like Eidola and Dance Gavin Dance, is signed by Blue Swan Records. Their sound is technically advanced, with math-rock influenced guitars and drums, but their time signatures are conventional and their song structure is intentionally concise and simple. This unusual combination lends their music a sense of fanatic energy, allowing them to stand among the giants of the genre while still allowing room for more free-form experimentation. Front man Donovan Melero’s voice is sweet and vulnerable, but it is no way soft. His voice can carry passionate anger just as well as quiet introspection. Interestingly, Melero also serves as the band’s drummer, which was odd but mesmerizing to see up on stage. Melero repeatedly thanked his fans and the other bands on the tour for their support, and the atmosphere of the show was warm and inviting, but also hectic and energetic. Complete strangers in the pit were throwing their arms around each other and screaming at the top of their lungs. It was definitely one of the most intense shows I’ve ever been to, and I would happily see them again.

Hail the Sun Photo credit: IG @smashed_into_pieces_

Justin Cabrera

Powerful! Pass Over at Steppenwolf (June 15, 2017)

Moses and Kitch are a pair of young black men dreaming about escaping to the promised land. They are hanging out on the street corner talking trash when a white southerner approaches them. He says he has lost his way heading to his mother’s house and just wants to share the food he has brought instead of letting it go to waste. Moses is skeptical and doesn’t want to take any charity. Kitch is willing to give the stranger a chance. The intentions of the southerner are mysterious and the audience is left guessing what the real story is.

Pass Over 6

The set is very impressive. A full street is recreated, with asphalt, sidewalk, and streetlamp included. Surrounding the street is sand, representing the desert the children of Israel wandered in for 40 years seeking their promised land (hence, the title).

Pass Over 7

This is not an easy play to watch. It addresses some strong important issues in an intense and shocking fashion. However, it is important to watch. As the program states, the time of this play is “now. right now”.

Get tickets now for Pass Over through July 9th!

Quinn Delaney

Dramatic and Hilarious! Native Gardens at Victory Gardens Theatre (June 9, 2017)

Pablo and his pregnant wife Tania have just moved into a fixer upper. They plan on upgrading the ugly chain link fence in their backyard, and their neighbors, Virginia and Frank, couldn’t be happier. Before installing the fence, Pablo goes to measure their backyard. The audience gasps as he extends the measuring the tape past the fence and across their neighbors flower bed! Will they insist the new fence goes where is it meant to be? Will the Virginia and Frank invoke adverse possession, aka, squatters rights? The drama rises and the laughs just keep coming!


The set is incredibly impressive. On the right is the two story fixer upper with a tree taller than the house. The ground is mostly dirt and rocks. On the left is another two story house with a pristine green lawn filled with flowers. Frank says there used to a large tree in their backyard, but they had it removed because it was ugly and posed a risk to their house.


The acting in this production is superb. In one scene, Pablo (played by Gabriel Ruiz) takes a folding lawn chair out into his backyard. He tries to act cool and unfolds it with only one hand by whipping it about. He then sits in the chair and then sinks down into it unexpectedly. He can’t help but smile. Patrick Clear as Frank is absolutely hilarious. Every time he rants about the neighborhood competition, everyone is laughing. Janet Ulrich Brooks as Virginia is solid. Watching her support Frank no matter what he says is so funny. Lastly, Paloma Nozicka as Tania is fantastic. When she gets really upset, she swears in Spanish in a burst of emotion to the audience’s delight.

Get tickets now for Native Gardens through July 2nd for Native Gardens!

Quinn Delaney

Dazzling! Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series at Harris Theatre (June 8, 2017)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series is a collection of eight very different dances. It’s a large dazzling variety of styles showcasing the wide range of the company. The following describes the best pieces of the night.

The 40s : Lou Conte, Choreography

The 40s displays the joy in America after World War II ended.  “Opus Number One” as performed by Ralph Burns starts and the full company dances happily out on to the stage with jazz hands waving. The song has that big band feel and swing is incorporated into the piece with a lot of twirls. Alicia Delgadillo stands out displaying a big ball of energy and enthusiasm. Lou Conte, the founder of Hubbard Street Dance, has remounted this piece expertly and exhibits the best of this troupe. What a joyful way to end the night.

A Picture of You Falling : Crystal Pite, Choreography

This piece features one dancer repeatedly falling. Over electronic music, a voice narrates the fall: knees, hip, elbow, shoulder, head. It’s a very unique piece that is truly a work of art.

The Golden Section : Choreographed by Twyla Tharp


This piece features music by David Byrne (of the Talking Heads). The dancers emerge joyfully in yellow 80s style workout clothes.

One Thousand Pieces (Water Section) : Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo

1000 Pieces

The dance floor is completely covered in water. The dancers swoop in and dance with water flying off their feet and hands. They glide around like they are on a slip and slide.

Georgia : Lou Conte, Choreography

This beautiful dance features Jacqueline Burnett and Jason Hortin dancing to “Georgia on My Mind” as performed by Willie Nelson. It’s a slow romantic dance that perfectly accompanies the music. It’s short and sweet (about 5 minutes), just like the song.



Get tickets now for the final two shows tonight and tomorrow!



Infectiously Fun! Lucky Boys Confusion and Black Marble at Do Division (June 2, 2017)

I had never been to a street festival by myself before, so I didn’t know what to expect going into Do Division 2017. The entire street was lined with dozens of DIY tents, showcasing everything from candles, to metal sculptures, to paintings and homemade dresses. I came so close to buying many of these trinkets not only to fuel Chicago’s thriving DIY scene, but to decorate my room next year and flex my interior decorating skills to my friends.


The armada of food trucks filled the air with the smell of heart-stopping greasy bliss. Unfortunately for my aching stomach, the line for the taco truck proved insurmountable. To address this, I purchased a deep-fried pickle, the consumption of which probably took a year off my life. The crowd was quite diverse, and the friendliness in the air was contagious. I was surprised to have multiple complete strangers approach me to discuss the festival, the food, or their dog, my favorite of which was a stout French bulldog named Hippo.

As the night progressed and more people started showing up, I started to hear slow, droning guitars played over distant speakers. As I approached the sound, I saw two men anxiously fiddling with pedals and synthesizers. “We’re not much of a daytime act,” one of them spoke softly into the mic, his voice warped by a subtle tremolo effect, “so maybe we should wait till it’s dark out.” This was Black Marble (@blackmarblenyc), the dark yet endearing synthwave/post-punk project of Chris Stewart. The paradoxical combination of the upbeat 808 kickdrum with the slow, dreamy textures of the guitars resembled a cynical yet respectful take on 80’s bands like The Cure and New Order. While the tones of the synthesizers and guitars were undoubtedly dark, Stewart’s charming stage presence and the energetic kicks of the drum machine kept the mood light, with many in the crowd dancing hazily. The shadowy yet optimistic atmosphere of the show was incredibly unique and fun, and I would happily see Black Marble again.

Later on, the crowd swelled considerably as I approached the western stage. The band that was set to play, Lucky Boys Confusion (@luckyboysmusic), was not one that I had heard of before, despite them being based out of Downer’s Grove, which is close to where I grew up. The crowd was incredibly hyped even before the band took the stage, with many of them discussing how they’d been following the band for years. Once the band started playing, it immediately became apparent why the crowd had been so electrified. The band, led by the incredibly charismatic lead vocalist Kaustubh “Stubhy” Pandav, played song after song of energetic ska-infused pop-punk ballads.

The crowd would perfectly scream every lyric whenever Stuhby would point the mic at them. The lyrics perfectly encapsulated the early 90’s to mid-2000’s era of pop punk music, with themes of alienation, heartbreak, aimlessness, rebellion, and friendship. Ska punk has always had a special place in my heart, as the genre rose and fell within my lifetime. The genre’s focus on relatable lyrics, energetic ballads, and catchy power cords make listening to it both uplifting and nostalgic. Lucky Boys Confusion was clearly very happy to be performing in their native Chicago, and their passion was clearly felt by the crowd, who moshed and danced frantically, hardly taking a breather between songs. Stuhby spoke proudly of the band releasing their first LP in years, Stormchasers, with the crowd shouting congratulations at him. That show had one of the strongest connections between crowd and artists that I’d ever seen, which made for a fantastic and infectiously fun performance.

Justin Cabrera