Our Fave “Local Bands”

It’s a big week for music in Chicago with the Intonation, Lollapalooza, and Warped fests all hitting. So we thought we’d ask ourselves who our favorite home-town music-making kids were.

Tom says:

My favorite local band, and maybe even my favorite band period right now, is New Black; I fell in love with them over a year ago when I listened to the song “Put It To Bed“. Liam’s and Patti’s voices complement each other beautifully; they may scream the lyrics, but they still sing them, and in tune. You remember the primal screams in John Lennon’s “Mother”. For some reason, I’m thinking of that.

New Black had to go on a couple month hiatus while Patti was in Germany, but she’s back, so look for new shows very soon. Also look for the release of their new CD Time Attack in September.

Officer Gleason says:

At the risk of being on the receiving end of Tankboy’s ire, for a while Wilco was my favorite local band… Summer Teeth was, and still is, one of my favorite albums.

However, my favorite “local” band has gotta be the Smoking Popes. I know they’re from Crystal Lake, but still, they considered themselves a Chicago act. (And to be fair, many a suburban kid considered themselves to be Chicagoan long before they moved into the city proper). It doesn’t matter if I’m biking or driving, if my iPod hits a Smoking Popes song, I can’t help but go as fast as I possibly can. I know that the Caterer brothers have a new band named Duvall, but it just isn’t the same…

Steven says:

I hate to admit it, but I’m not quite up to date on the local scene. I know there are some damn good bands out there, as well as some damn crappy ones. Who are they? I have no idea. I know R. Kelly calls Chicago home. Unfortunately for him though, he hasn’t gotten too much press about his music lately. Unless of course you count “Piss On You“…oh, wait…that was Dave Chappelle …my bad.

At least we have guys like Kanye and Common to pick up the slack.

Lauren says:

I know Tankboy is gonna whip my ass for this, but I have to say Cheap Trick. Unfortunately, my super-rabid local band fan phase only lasted while I was living in San Diego (which, luckily, is home to such awesome delights as Three Mile Pilot and Rocket From the Crypt). I am too lazy to be “hip” and “cool” enough to stay on the cutting edge of the local scene now. Besides, is there anyone who doesn’t crack a little smile of joy when “Surrender” or “I Want You to Want Me” comes on the radio?

Oh, and I would absoposilutely be beaten to a bloody pulp if I didn’t also mention Corsaire, of which our illustrious reader CP leads up on vocals and bass. They totally rock, and I am not just saying that because I have a vested interest in them.

Rod says:

The Reputation. They are the first band that got me into the “indie” scene when I was living in Champaign. Their first album resonated with my first year of grad school in a way like I identified with Weezer when I was 15. Raw emotion, smooth vocals, excellent live show. I can’t recommend them enough.

Tankboy says:

This subject is impossible for me to do. I mean, there are so many talented groups in Chicago that it makes my head spin. Seriously. And some of my all-time favorites (TripleFastAction, Woolworthy, Light FM, The Tarts, MarvelKind) are either broken up or on indefinite hiatus. As far as current functioning bands I just can’t pick a singular favorite.

I will, however, mention some bands I think are awesome up-and-comers that haven’t gotten much press but are deserving of everyone’s attention before they take over the world. I have excluded a truckload of groups for the simple reason that they don’t really need the exposure. Yes, I’m looking at you Ponys and Sybris.

Since it’s now okay to dance to the rock and/or roll at shows now I have to give the huge thumbs-up to glam-popsters The Ladies & Gentlemen. All their songs are just absolutely killer and their shows are always filled with dancing boys and girls. They’re just too much fun.

On the way to Reading Fest (within a year or so) are The Assembly. There are a few Chicago groups trying to bring back big guitar anthems with varying levels of success but The Assembly is doing it effortlessly while making Ash and Oasis look like a bunch of pussies.

Rockit Girl is also on their way to mega-stardom. Lead girl Gina Crosley writes terrific hooks and has the best female (unsigned) voice in Chicago rock and/or roll. Their only stumbling block are all the lunkheads who feel the need to pigeonhole them as “female rockers.”

Coming in under the radar is Milk At Midnight as they fuse Built To Spill with The Who and early Flaming Lips. Yeah, it is that awesome. Also awesome is the 70s stoner-boogie rock of Knife Of Simpson. Man, I could go on and on and on and on…

Finally, however, I’d like to close with a Chicago groups I’d like to officially break up with. Tweedy, it’s not me…it’s you. Ever since you fired Jay Wilco has started to seriously suck. Your last album was just awful and apparently no one noticed because they were all too busy sucking your dick and either making excuses for you or talking around the flabby material by indulging in “deep readings” of songs artistic validity. Actually, let’s just say we’re “on a break” a la Ross and Rachael. I’m holding out hope that Nels Cline kicks you in the ass and you start writing great music again. But I’m not holding out too much hope.

Fuzzy says:

Erica’s in the other room yelling “Andrew Bird! OK Go! PAL! Nora O’Connor!” but I’m going to have to go with Ruth Buzzy (and yes, I host their website, that’s how much I like them).

When I used to book music for the Guru Java Coffeehouse, down in West Lafayette, Indiana, I got a tape (yeah, a tape, that’s how long ago this is) from a three-piece band from Normal, Illinois called Honest Engine. I booked them, they drove over, did a great show, and then we had a great time hanging out at the Triple-XXX diner. And that’s the key for me — rock stars can be assholes, because I’ll never meet them, but local bands have got to be fun to hang out with.

Anyway, Honest Engine lost their guitarist and Matt and Phil decided to stay a two-man band and changed their name to Ruth Buzzy. Their goal was to be the loudest two men in rock and they did it, while somehow also writing catchy, poppy tunes and smart lyrics. And staying nice. By the time I got to Chicago, they were already here — eventually adding Busker Soundcheck‘s Paul Kamp on bass and now Jim Kamp on guitar. They only play out a couple times a year and it seems to be my fate that those rare appearances are on nights I also have a show. Boo that.

Nikkos says:

Does the fact that I don’t have a fave Chitown band say more about the “scene” or more about me? Discuss.

What should my fave Chitown band be?

32 Comments so far

  1. Justin (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 9:46 am

    Rock Star Club! Rock Star Club! We ARE local rock!

  2. nikkos (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 9:56 am

    First of many comments: stop caring what Tankboy thinks about your musical picks. You are as entitled to your opinion as he is.

  3. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:07 am

    That’s my fault, behind the scenes. The way I phrased the question to the authors set Tankboy up as a strawman of muscial snobbishness.

  4. erika (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:18 am

    you all stink. you should know califone and shellac rules everyone else out.

  5. sarita bonita (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:19 am

    oh, lauren. LAUREN. cheap trick???? cheap effin’ trick???? they’re from rockford, anyway, not chicago. also, they do not rock. now i wish i had responded to this one in the email rounds, at the risk of sounding like a hipster music nazi i’ma have to list some of my favorite chicago-based must-see acts:

    Can Ky Ree, a three-piece band, plays the most hauntingly beautiful french and gypsy-inspired songs about love and loss. Puerto Muerto, a married couple who split their time between here and St. Louis, sing wild and bloody songs about pirates and debauchery. Mucca Pazza is about 20 crazy kids in thrift store marching band uniforms who play everything from Romanian gyspy coceks to dixieland jazz. The Weird Sisters, a raunchy, uproarious trio decked in floor length victorian black lace and chiffon and gravity-defying boustiers sing the ABSOLUTE BEST cover of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that you will ever hear in your life. EVER. Alfonso Ponticelli and Swing Gitan regularly channel Django Reinhardt and do a good job of it too.

    that’s all i can think of off the top of my head. :)

  6. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:21 am

    I dunno Justin, I think I liked your Neil Diamond tribute band better …

  7. nikkos (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:21 am

    Well tank and I agree on one thing: Wilco sucks and is ridiculously overrated.

  8. Lauren (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:24 am

    See, this is why. This is exactly why I went the obvious route with Cheap Trick. Being a local fangirl is just entirely too much work, and I am just entirely too lazy to be cool.

    Ya, Califone and Shellac are good. So is Andrew Bird.

    And Cheap Trick so rocks. Sarah, you’re fired.

  9. sarita bonita (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 10:26 am

    you can’t fire me, i quit! :D

  10. tankboy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 11:10 am

    Did i tell you all I’m going to start a site more indie than Pitchfork?

    Seriously though, Nikkos hit the nail on the head. I do have strong opinions about music and believe in music criticism as a tool and a learning device…but in the end each person’s taste is their own and I don’t think anyone can tell you any differently.

  11. sarita bonita (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    true, except that it’s an incontrovertible, scientifically proven and clinically tested fact that cheap trick do not rock.

    (kidding! kidding. sorta.)


  12. steven (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 11:43 am

    I have to defend Lauren’s choice. Cheap Trick DOES rock. They might be a bit past their prime, but the history is there. Who can deny “She’s Tight”?

    I forgot to mention Andrew Morgan. Brilliant.

  13. Justin (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 11:59 am

    That was a true insult. I god dammed guarantee that after you see Rock Star Club you will put us on this list.

  14. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 12:49 pm

    I keed, I keed. Man, a guy pours his heart and soul into 4 albums and countless gigs of hard-rocking music and he gets all tetchy when you mention a band he was in where he had to wear a puffy white shirt. Damnnit, I just did it again, that joking thing. To make it up to you I’m downloading the 18 (impressive) mp3s available at the Rock Star Club website and I’m listening to nothing else this afternoon.

  15. Justin (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 1:14 pm

    sorry fuzzy, i just hate when a list of “local bands” is selected and most of the bands on the list are either dead or not local. Local band=unsigned band. Cheap Trick, Styx, Smashing Pumpkins, Veruca Salt, Kill Hannah are not local bands. They may have been at one point, but once they got signed they were not local anymore. My band has been playing in Chicago for the last 10 years and has 4 self-released albums and I will say that they represent Chicago rock better than Billy Corgan ever did.

  16. Fuzzy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 2:04 pm

    And let me then use this far-buried comment to make a disclaimer about these “Faves” lists we do — we’re making no attempt whatsoever to make a grand Master List of the Best Local Bands in Chicago — we’re just asking the 18 people who happen to post to the Chicago Metroblog to each individually answer the question “what’s *your* favorite local band”.

    I’ll also say that I get un-interested pretty quickly when we start playing the indier-than-thou game.

    And now, Justin, I’m going to walk over to your office and give you a candy bar.

  17. tankboy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 2:13 pm

    1. Cheap Trick DOES rock. Their first three albums are just about prefect. Without a flaw. Name another band with that kind of track record right out of the gate.

    2. Rock Star Club ARE one of the most unerrated and underappreciated groups in Chicago. I am sad I forgot to mention them in the first place. Go see them live. They will slay you.

  18. tom (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 2:24 pm

    gotta chime in i guess.

    * yes, Rock Star Club rocks. They’re awesome, and I’m sorry I didn’t mention them either. I speak from personal experience; they’ve slayed me.

    * I don’t like “definitions,” although when i think of a local band i think of the actual dictionary definition of “local:” one that’s FROM my town and plays often IN my town. I don’t see how whether or not a label has approached them or signed them changes where they’re from. in fact i’ll usually steer away from the term, and call them chicago bands, probably because of this confusion and peoples’ insistence on giving a word more meaning than it used to have. you know, like “indie.”

  19. steven (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 2:57 pm

    Man, that would suck if I was in a band and we got signed and I had to move.

  20. erika (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 4:24 pm

    oops, dont forget dianogah. rock.

  21. CP (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 4:59 pm

    I gotta say, I’m really glad that no one said Smashing Pumpkins, ’cause they suck, plain and simple, but I digress. How about the Ike Reilly Assassination/The Drovers? Anybody know who Tuesday is? or the Vindictives? Jesus….. Screeching Weasel? HOLY SHIT!!!! SLUDGEWORTH? Yeah, now that was a fucking band. And Erika…hows about Big Black? “Songs About Fucking” was truly a work of art. And this “Rock Star Club” thing is kinda shameless, if you get mentioned, you should feel good, but self promotion on a “best of” list cannot feel that rewarding. Good topic kids, keep up the good work.

  22. Lauren (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:04 pm


    If I could go back in time, I would so change my answer to Sludgeworth.

  23. erika (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:04 pm

    big black too. its kinda all the same for me in the end. steve albini just rocks. im gonna marry his bands one day.

  24. erika (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:20 pm

    Rock star club! no wait… umm. I mean Tortoise. Tortoise IS chicago, dammit.

  25. steven (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:23 pm

    yeah, it’s hard to have a chicago music list without steve albini. he has to be someone’s fave. and i can’t believe i left off red red meat, but at least tim rutili was represented with the mention of califone. rrm at metro at midnight was one of the best shows i’ve ever seen.

  26. Jason S. (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:42 pm

    I gotta put in for two of my fave Chicago queer acts, Scott Free and Ripley Caine.

    Aside to Fuzzy: wait, you used to be involved with Guru Java? Uh… I visited friends from high school who were going to college down in Lafayette once, years ago. We went to Guru Java and I think I met you. Freaking small world.

  27. tankboy (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 5:47 pm

    Tortoise can be lumped into my Wilco kiss-off, by the way. Their albums are now unlistenable. Though they’re still decent live, so I’ll give them that.

    Wow, Sludgeworth. That takes me back. And ike Reilly used to play the crap college bar I worked at down South in the early 90s…actually my friend Tommy plays bass for him. At least I think he’s still in the band….

  28. erika (unregistered) on July 14th, 2005 @ 11:16 pm

    The local Olive Garden’s mixtape.

  29. Alana (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 9:01 am

    Ok Justin. Put your money where your mouth is. Put us on the list. I’ll even shoot the show.

    And for the rest of you, while you’re here bickering about who’s the greatest local rock band, the Magik Markers are off touring Europe with Sonic Youth and the rest of the country with Dinasour Jr. You might be so wrapped up in nitpicking that you’re missing the launch of the next great loud and noisy thing.


  30. Justin (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 10:22 am

    You know I will. Our next show isn’t until September 29th at the Hideout with Vortis. Put it in your calendars now, for we will deliver the rock, Chicago style, no ketchup.

  31. Alana (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 11:32 am

    LOL! I just had to school my girls on the “no ketchup” rule the other day. They looked at me like I was nuts.

    But I get that a lot.

    Make sure you send out a reminder Justin!

  32. Robby (unregistered) on July 15th, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

    What about Stevie Starlite! Stevie ROCKS!

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