On Our Radar

The Ten Commandments of Rocking

Posted by Jason Petros on October 23, 2009
On Our Radar / 3 Comments

The Ten Band Commandments – brought to us by The New York Times Culture Beat.

1. Thy main goal, and what it’s really all about, is putting on a great show, with great songs. Thou shalt have no other goals before this.

2. If possible, thou shalt refrain from using painful strobes, pointing stage lights directly into the eyes of thy crowd and projecting corny psychedelic images onto thyself. It hath been done.

3. Thou shalt put real thought into choosing a name. There hath been enough bands named after wolves and bears and whales and goats and every other beast that creepeth upon the earth.

4. Thou shalt not be late for thine own gigs.

5. Honor thy publicist and thy booking agent and whoever is doing thine sync rights.

6. It’s O.K. to slay, and it’s O.K. to shred, but thou shalt not murder the vibe by complaining too much about the sound or being unprepared for common occurrences like broken guitar strings. See No. 1.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery while on the road. It’s just a sleazy thing to do.

8. It’s O.K. to wear thine influences on thy sleeve, but thou shalt not make a habit of stealing from other bands, especially ones from the 1980s. For that hath been done an awful lot.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness to journalists by being coy about thine ambitions or artistic influences. No one will begrudge thee for wanting to be a rock star, or for loving the Jesus and Mary Chain. Actually, wait, that last one might be a bad example. Let’s say loving the Velvet Underground.

10. Thou shalt not covet other bands’ success. Work hard, write great songs and keep an eye on thy business, and thou might get a break too.

Written with the inspiration of “The Ten Commandments” by the Fugs.

Whats the difference between…

Posted by Jason Petros on September 21, 2009
On Our Radar / 1 Comment

A rapper and a right wing conservative talk show personality?  Apparently not much – here’s a very funny article the New York Times had just put out:


On Our Radar: Hammertorch – Lions Don’t Cry

Posted by Jason Petros on September 17, 2009
On Our Radar / 22 Comments

bush_dance2hammertorchIt’s a countrified sound, a truly American twang delightfully merged with rock and roll.  When I hear Hammertorch, a picture pops into my head – illustrating their sound.  Take a mental walk with me if you will, and picture this: we casually stroll into a saloon – not an old timey saloon from the Old West, but a fancier place that says “saloon” on the outside, but on the inside has nice tables, lush padding on the stools, and is regularly visited by the upper echelon.  Sitting at the bar is our former President in Chief, casually puffing on a cigar – and, after some country music comes on, does a fancy little dance – just like those little gif’s your friends always email you with – it’s a goofball dance both arms at right angles, going up and down and back and forth, and his legs taking turns supporting his body  – think of that hilarious Russian dance your friends like to do when their drunk –which consistently results in them falling and you laughing.   Ok, so where is this going?  Hammertorch doesn’t take itself too seriously, but, unwillingly, the music always gives you pause.  It makes you stop and say, there is something magically deep to this fun music – there are secrets lying in wait that we have yet to discover.  The discovery to which you are searching is the overarching quality of musicianship and songwriting.  These guys are steeped in the knowledge of those who came before them; and certainly indulge their influences – but are not so pretentious that they aren’t above ordering a domestic beer and calling the barkeep “darlin’”.  See; they are immediately lovable and affable –but underneath the soft exterior lies some darker meaning – some sinister truth, and some painful loss.  Once you can get past the name, and the album cover, you’ll find a nice little gem, sitting proudly, displaying it’s roots and not falling, like so many others into the “alt-country – I’m a singer/songwriter who wants to be like Wilco so bad I recruited an upright bassist , a violinist, and a lap steel player to augment my amateur acoustic guitar playing”.  Instead, Hammertorch is more of a rock band with a little bit of twang in their step – not as pop as Kings of Leon; but they are certainly on their way.  I highly recommend “Too Little Too Late” for all your ears.

“Sound Off”: Chicago Public Library Announces Music Competition

Posted by Jason Petros on September 04, 2009
On Our Radar / 4 Comments

Chicago Public Library - Sound OffHey all you fantastic CIMR readers – musicians, this one is especially for you!  Check it out, it sounds like an awesome contest – and I have to say that I am personally of the opinion that the more readers and writers we have in this nation; the better off we will all be.


Chicago, IL – The Chicago Public Library (CPL) announced that they will be holding another competition, this time in support of local musicians. The competition hopes to draw attention to the library’s updated music services which include CDs, music downloads, sheet music and concerts. Running from August 27 to September 27, CHIPUBLIB Sound Off invites Chicago musicians to submit original compositions inspired by their hometown city of Chicago. The winners will each perform live at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert – a free, public event held at Pritzker Park in late October. Judges for the competition include Publisher and Editor of Chicago-based Alarm Magazine Chris Force and music & culture critic and author of The Girls’ Guide to Rocking, Jessica Hopper, among others.
CHIPUBLIB Sound Off is part of Chicago Public Library’s Not What You Think Campaign. “Our ‘Not What You Think’ campaign challenges perceptions and highlights the library’s lesser known free services,” said Ruth Lednicer, CPL’s Director of Marketing. “Given the positive response we received from the design community with our previous contest – CHIPUBLIB.ORG Design Contest – we looked to continue the momentum by engaging Chicago’s vast music community to connect with the diverse population that we serve. We hope that through our efforts more people will become aware of the large catalog of free music we offer. Beyond CDs, we have performance DVDs, music downloads and sheet music ranging from The Beatles to Mariah Carey.”
Joining the panel of judges for the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off did not require a second thought for Chris Force. Started in 1995, Force began Alarm Magazine – a quarterly magazine that prides itself in publishing the best in new music and art – using the library’s resources.  Headquartered in Chicago, carrying a Chicago Public Library card is a “must have” for those who work at Alarm.
“From Robert Johnson’s Sweet Home Chicago to new tunes from our favorite local punk bands and folk singers, it’s no wonder that Chicago has inspired hundreds, if not thousands of songs, each with a unique perspective that reflects Chicago’s incredible energy,” said Force. “Chicagoans have a special pride for their city. Why not sing about it? Chicago’s unique energy runs so deep it’s no wonder that musicians as diverse as Rise Against, and even the Rolling Stones have relied on the city as a muse for their songs.”
Submission Guidelines
The judges will choose winners based on song creativity, quality of performance, and original expression embodying the essence of the City of Chicago. All entries must comply with submission criteria posted at www.chipublib.org/notwhatyouthink.
Ten finalists will be selected by the official judging panel, and of those, two winning entrants will receive distinction as the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Winners.
The Grand Prize Winner, determined by the panel of judges, will headline the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert in late October, where they will perform their composition as well as a set featuring their other music. In addition to their headlining status, the Grand Prize Winner will receive a studio package courtesy of Electrical Audio – founded by legendary recording engineer Steve Albini.
The People’s Choice Winner will be selected by online voters who, from September 28 to October 3, view the top 10 submissions at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Vimeo channel and then visit the Not What You Think tumblr blog at www.notwhatyouthink.tumblr.com for online voting. The People’s Choice Winner will open for the Grand Prize Winner at the CHIPUBLIB Sound Off Concert performing their submission as well as a small set of their other music.
For rules and submission guidelines visit www.chipublib.org/notwhatyouthink. For more help, visit your local public library, browse the music sections, or ask the librarian for tips on inspiration.

On Our Radar: The Winter Sounds

Posted by Jason Petros on June 25, 2009
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The best part about being a music reviewer is the music. Besides the obvious idiocy of that statement, you have to understand that besides getting free music – 80% of it really isn’t that great, or fun to listen to. Every now and again though – somebody will throw you a disc to listen to before it’s even been released to the public. Luckily for me, I’ve been blessed with a recent sprinking of great tunes. This band is one of the more exciting one’s I’ve heard in a while – and the album, is fantastic. If you have a little bit of extra cash – visit the website and order a copy as soon as you can – the album’s due out on July 7th.

The Winter Sounds um, sound, on their studio album, ‘Church of the Haunted South’, like a live band with an impeccable mix. Beginning with Pink Floyd sounding vocals and a slow-to- develop melody the tunes quickly make you feel and believe their heartbreak. Overall the music is quality, the production is good – it includes Sigur Ros-like swells on the cymbals – which goes to show the band understands the concept of dynamics. They consistently change guitar riffs, vocal harmonies and drums – from soft to loud and back again. ‘Candlelight’ is undeniably catchy, the verse is like the alphabet song or ring around the rosy – you just want to bounce your head like a Muppet when you listen to it. Actually a lot of the songs contain real sing song melodies offset by Patrick Keenan’s baritone – giving the music a darker quality than one might expect. “Marry Me” is a little Decemberisty in its subject matter and antiquated language – but ends in this sweet Latin flavored drum programmed jam with a Violin solo. The Winter Sounds are a fantastic band coming out of Athens, Georgia – one that ‘gets it’ – they have pop songs that are experimental, but don’t stray into the “I know I’m a great musician so look at all the cool shit I can do” territory. It’s a band with a rock solid identity after three full length albums – they know who they are, what they stand for, and exactly what they are going to bring to the table. Check them out at www.thewintersounds.com.

Just for Fun – Drew Danburry covering Weezer

Posted by Jason Petros on June 24, 2009
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So I don’t know how many of you read up on my previous review of Drew Danburry, one of my favorite singer/songwriters I’ve heard in a while, but he makes some great music – he sent me a link to this vid and so I thought I’d share it with everybody – he’s a great musician and a great guy.

On Our Radar: Action Painters

Posted by Jason Petros on June 18, 2009
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The Action Painters are balanced. Their song writing is poppy, their musicianship above par, and their genre, Indie Rock. In all of their songs, a catchy, resolute chorus sits adjacent to tension building verse; and this is a direct contributor to them becoming a nationally recognized presence in the indie rock circuit. They don’t need fancy production tricks to get their sound across (one of my pet peeves is the obviously digital Yamaha strings holding the sustained first, third, or fifth throughout a chorus – it’s pure cheese, and Action Painters don’t do cheese). What they do, and they do it well, is illuminate basic arrangements with well thought out guitar solos, consistent bass lines and lyrics that never go for the easy rhyme – for example, on my favorite track, “How Could it Be So Wrong”, their lead singer croons – “even when you shine it’s not too bright, when the days out it’s just fine, but when the night comes it’s not so easy, baby now” – he doesn’t purposely go for the obvious ABAB rhyme scheme, but instead plays coy, not feeling content to leave us with a Chris Martin dunker. Nope, the Painters are better than that – they sound comfortable with themselves and lean hard on Indie tradition while embracing pop melody. In my head, to use the insanely cliché metaphor of X + Y = Our Band!, they have a kind of a Colin Oberst-y singer mixed in with some clear and punchy guitar tone and a bass that isn’t afraid to go up the fret board every once and a while. They aren’t painfully love-sick – they give off a warm glow. They use electronics sparingly which is incredibly appropriate for the music – the tunes are kind of like that guy or girl in high school who was never a star athlete, or super nerd or anything, but was totally comfortable in his or her own skin – not, like the rest of us, awkwardly wallowing in the usual trappings of pubescent adolescence.

On Our Radar: The Kickdrums

Posted by Jason Petros on May 11, 2009
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“That beat is raw.” is probably a phrase The Kickdrums hear all the time.  Pounding bass, tight snares, a little bit of electro dance hall and a whole shit load of tight production make up the songs that put the Kickdrums on CIMR’s map.  There’s a little bit of Ratatat influence evident, but only because of pulse pushing nature of the music they choose to make.  Unlike Ratatat, these guys throw some rocking vocals in the mix as well – they’re crate digging workers who’ve risen to the top by sheer force of their own creative ambition.  They are unafraid to mix sweeping strings with hip hop beats and dashes of real guitar, because this has done before to varying degrees of success (or failure) people will sometimes make the comparison to Gym Class Heroes or bands of that ilk.  Although having produced songs for a cache of rappers, including 50 Cent, they stay away from trying to be rappers and when singing, do things that feel comfortable to them and therefore, it sounds more comfortable to the listener as well.   Top notch production and a feel for what is relevant is what’s going to keep the Kickdrums behind some banging tracks for a long time.

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Tonight at The Whistler

Posted by Jason Petros on April 14, 2009
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Hey all – we’re going tonight to see a singer/songwriter previously featured as one of our Top 5 to watch for March…Drew Danburry. He’s from Utah and is swinging through Chicago tonight – I would highly recommend checking him out as it should be a great show. The Whistler is located at Milwaukee and Fullerton and Drew goes on at 9.

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On Our Radar – Friday Feb. 6th

Posted by jptros on February 04, 2009
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Hey all – it’s going to be a busy weekend here for the Review. This Friday there are 2 excellent shows going on – all at close to the same time:

I Fight Dragons at the Elbo Room

I Fight Dragons is led by local songwriter Brian Mazzeferri – they play an awesome mixture of Electronica and Indie Pop Rock – I met these guys at Pragma studios right after they got done recording some of their newest album, and let me tell you – you will not be disappointed – 8 bit goodness – truly.


Makeshift Prodigy at Enclave

This band is a great friend of the review and they are playing for an excellent cause. You can buy tickets here or at the door – Enclave and The Make a Wish Foundation Present: Music for a Cause. 20$ gets you a premium open bar from 8:30 until 10:30, so if you’re worried about money, this is it – although you might have to wear your sunday’s best to get in…

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