The U. of C. Folk Festival celebrates 60 years on Valentine’s weekendon February 11, 2020 at 7:45 pm

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Mariachi Sirenas perform at the U. of C. Folk Festival on Saturday, February 15. - COURTESY THE ARTIST

The University of Chicago Folklore Society has been booking marquee acts at its annual winter Folk Festival since 1960–the first one featured legends Roscoe Holcomb, the Stanley Brothers, Willie Dixon, and Elizabeth Cotten. Coming to Mandel Hall on Friday, February 14, and Saturday, February 15, the festival’s 60th edition includes Pennsylvania-born traditional bluegrass pickers Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass, Cajun accordion powerhouse the Jimmy Breaux Trio, Tennessee golden-era country squad Bill & the Belles, fiddle-piano duo Medicine Line (who specialize in music of the Metis people along the western U.S.-Canada border), local Cuban dance band Orquesta Charangueo, and Mariachi Sirenas, who bill themselves as “Chicago’s First All-Women Mariachi.” Evening concerts are ticketed, but the workshops and jam sessions at Ida Noyes Hall from 10 AM to 5 PM on Saturday are all free. For tickets and info, visit

In case you’re like Gossip Wolf and can’t afford tickets to Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game at the United Center, there are lots of related activities on the block. You could camp out for the Joe Freshgoods New Balance gear drop, but this wolf recommends Sunday afternoon’s Metro show–the bonkers lineup includes Polo G, G Herbo, Calboy, NLE Choppa, Ann Marie, Tink, Dreezy, and SBG Kemo. Tickets are $41 and benefit Polo G’s Amateur Athletic Union basketball team, the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, and depression-awareness nonprofit Erika’s Lighthouse.

On Saturday, February 15, Mississippi Records hosts the first annual Marz Record Fair at Marz Community Brewing’s McKinley Park headquarters. The fair’s dozen-plus vendors include several local labels (International Anthem, Black Pegasus, Maximum Pelt) and record stores (Tone Deaf, Electric Jungle, Shady Rest); some sellers will also DJ throughout the day. The event runs from noon till 8 PM. v

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Blues guitarist Jimmy Johnson is much more than just Syl’s big brotheron February 11, 2020 at 9:45 pm

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Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who’ve been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place.

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Beach Bunny jump straight to the championship roundon February 11, 2020 at 11:35 pm

The current Beach Bunny lineup, from left to right: bassist Anthony Vaccaro, guitarist Matt Henkels, drummer Jon Alvarado, and singer, guitarist, and songwriter Lili Trifilio - BRANDON HOEG

When Lili Trifilio shakes off the cold in a Wicker Park coffee shop in the middle of a January snowstorm, her asymmetrical pink hair feels beamed in from a sunnier dimension. Since Trifilio’s band Beach Bunny evolved from a solo project into a regular group, their heartfelt, punky indie pop has built a devoted audience so quickly that they’ve barely been able to keep up.

Trifilio is the lyricist and lead singer, backed by guitarist Matt Henkels, bassist Anthony Vaccaro, and drummer Jonathan Alvarado. The first Beach Bunny lineup only started doing shows in suburban parking lots in summer 2017, but within two years Trifilio and the band have played Riot Fest and Lollapalooza and landed a song on the Billboard charts for 12 weeks. In April, they’ll make their first appearance at Coachella. Even more impressive, they’ve done it all before releasing an album: Honeymoon, their full-length studio debut, arrives on Valentine’s Day.

Trifilio, 23, grew up in Chicago and took guitar lessons in middle school, encouraged by her parents, who wanted her to try a variety of after-school activities. She sang in school choirs but didn’t otherwise perform much, aside from playing cover songs at talent shows. Trifilio’s interest in modern rock began when she was attending Resurrection College Prep in Edison Park and she and her friend Rachel Vogrich started looking up bands they saw on Lollapalooza lineups. In June 2015, the two of them went to see Hippo Campus at Lincoln Hall, knowing only a single song from their discography. “After we saw them, we were both like, ‘Whoa, that was the best concert we’ve ever been to ever,'” Trifilio says. “I was like ‘I’m ready to write music, let’s do this.'”

Trifilio and Vogrich began writing together, forming the short-lived duo Fingers x Crossed. “A lot of our songs consisted of singing of heartbreak and loving guys that didn’t love us back,” Vogrich says. They played shows as a two-piece at Wire in Berwyn and at Bottom Lounge–both sang, and Trifilio played guitar. Vogrich recalls passing hand-burned CDs of their EP to Nashville group Coin at Lollapalooza in summer 2015, hoping that their band name’s similarity to the Coin song title “Fingers Crossed” would catch their eye.

Beach Bunny began as an outlet for Trifilio’s songs following the duo’s dissolution in fall 2015. Though Honeymoon is the first Beach Bunny studio album, the band already has four EPs, a single, and a live Audiotree session–and the majority of those releases are basically Trifilio solo projects. She recorded her first two EPs, Animalism (December 2015) and Pool Party (August 2016), at home on acoustic guitar and ukulele, putting them out herself via Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and various streaming services. For Crybaby, which includes early live favorites “Boys” and “February,” she had her friend Ryan Adams add drums. Around the same time that EP came out–in summer 2017–she put together the first Beach Bunny band.

Beach Bunny Honeymoon Eve Party

Listening party for Beach Bunny’s new album, Honeymoon, plus DJ sets from Beach Bunny, Chris Salty, and special guests. Thu 2/13, 8 PM, Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont, free with reservation (required by Thu 2/6), 21+

Beach Bunny record-release celebration and performance

Fri 2/14, 6 PM, Reckless Records, 1379 N. Milwaukee, free, all-ages

Beach Bunny, Field Medic, Niiice

Sat 2/22, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, sold out, all-ages

Trifilio was already playing shows on her own, but she wanted to compete in a battle of the bands–a battle where one of the other groups included an ex-boyfriend, which she maintains was a coincidence. “It wasn’t like a vengeance thing, and it wasn’t to get back together with him or anything. I just wanted to compete,” she says, laughing.

Trifilio knew Henkels and Alvarado through mutual friends and invited them aboard. (Alvarado was also in the ex’s group.) “I think that we both adored Lili’s songwriting from the start,” Henkels says. “It’s super memorable and charming.”

After the battle (which the ex’s band won), Beach Bunny solidified their chemistry with steady practicing and gigging. By now, Trifilio can anticipate their instrumental parts as she writes songs. “Matt and I would butt heads sometimes, where my vocal melody and what he wanted to play on guitar would sometimes clash,” she says. “But just by jamming over time, he knows how to complement my voice.”

Her bandmates share the sentiment: “When Lili brings us a demo, we can quickly kind of piece it together into a full-band thing by writing our own instrumental parts and tweaking them where it’s necessary,” they explain, in an e-mail sent as a group.

Beach Bunny had added a bassist by August 2017, and they went through a few before finding Vaccaro–he came aboard in January 2019, so Honeymoon is his first recording with the band. Throughout 2017 and 2018, the members of Beach Bunny split their time between college classes (Trifilio and Henkels had started at DePaul in fall 2015) and driving out to the suburbs with friends, where they found a place for the band in the DIY scene–especially in Elgin, where Alvarado and Henkels had gone to South Elgin High. They learned about booking, songwriting, and gear from their peers.

“There was a ton of guidance that I don’t think I would have had without having that DIY community,” Trifilio says. Those connections helped the band smoothly transition into Chicago’s scene, where they gigged frequently, playing DIY shows and ticketed concerts at clubs. “Everyone I’ve met through DIY has still stuck around over all the years,” she says. “That’s been really sweet, to still see people at bigger shows buying tickets, when I’m like, ‘You’ve seen me enough, you don’t need to do that, thank you.'”

Beach Bunny had their breakout hit in summer 2019, when the title track from the 2018 EP Prom Queen peaked at number 26 on the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart–it’s now closing in on 39 million Spotify plays, boosted by its popularity on video-streaming app TikTok (which had just helped propel Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” into orbit). The song confronts oppressive female beauty standards using the language of grade school toys and high school popularity contests, which make it an irresistible incitement to lip-synching or singing along: “I’m no Quick Curl Barbie / I was never cut out for prom queen.”

Prom Queen and the stand-alone single that preceded it, “Sports,” were recorded in part at Lubeck Studios in Mount Prospect with engineer Ray Ortiz, who’d worked with one of Alvarado’s other groups, the recently disbanded Mt. Pocono. “With a band like Beach Bunny, there wasn’t a need to be super experimental with the studio,” he recalls. “They all knew what they wanted to hear, which was great.”

“Prom Queen” departs from Trifilio’s usual romantic themes because she wrote it for a friend who was struggling with an eating disorder. “I knew they were a big Beach Bunny fan,” she says, “so it’s like, ‘All right, maybe this song can help in some way.'”

Trifilio’s lyrics mostly reflect her own perspective, but they resonate easily with listeners going through their own rough patches. “I think Lili makes music that allows people to react in a way that’s like, ‘Oh shit, I’m not alone, and I’m not the only person out there that feels this way,'” Vogrich says.

Beach Bunny fan Jimmy Kemper, who lives in River North, describes the band’s music as “powerfully simple, catchy songs that nail the universal angst of the teenage experience.” Meagan Hughes, a fan from Wicker Park, elaborates: “The vulnerability and genuineness of their music is really what gets me. Lili’s not afraid to be called naive or show how deeply she falls for someone. Their music is somehow never cheesy regardless of this, because it’s so genuine,” she says. “Also their live shows are dope, ’cause everyone knows all the words and it’s a big community.”

Trifilio doesn’t take this kind of reaction for granted. “If I’m singing something sad, and someone listens to it and they feel some closure or comfort, that’s amazing,” she says. “There’s a ton of younger girls who have come up to me after shows and been like, ‘Hey, this helped me get through this, it was a wake-up call.’ Anytime someone says something like that, I just start crying because I’m a sensitive person, so I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m glad you’re better!'”

Beach Bunny’s Honeymoon is the kind of album best heard through the aux cord in a decades-old sedan packed full of sweaty friends on a sunny day. Though its nine songs are mostly about heartbreak, it’s dressed up in vibrant colors–and the group ornament their straightforward guitar-bass-drums sound with overdubbed vocal harmonies and occasional keys. With grooves built from springy bass lines and tight drums, their emo rock is danceable enough for terrestrial radio and festival stages.

“Promises” opens the album with the drums and bass locked in like a syncopated heartbeat, and then the guitar drops in with straight eighth notes, boosting the song’s metabolism like a shot of adrenaline. “Part of me still hates you–how could you love someone and leave?” Trifilio sings on the chorus. “When you’re all alone in your bedroom, do you ever think of me?” She says it’s her favorite song on the album because it’s the “most honest.”

“Ms. California,” the second single from Honeymoon (it came out in early December, following October’s “Dream Boy”), is the band’s first to center envy. It introduces a third character, beyond the usual you and me, to talk about the pain of learning that an ex has found someone new (and being reminded of it constantly because “she’s in all your pictures”).

Beach Bunny originally intended “Rearview” to be a solo song, and it begins with just Trifilio’s voice and guitar. But the group jammed on it enough to realize that it needed what Trifilio calls a big “head-bopping” ending. In its coda, the song abandons metaphor to convey the emotional vortex of a breakup in a few blunt phrases: “You love me, I love you / You don’t love me anymore, I still do / I’m sorry, I’m trying / I hate it when you catch me crying.”

“I have a pretty good habit of using music as a therapy session,” says Trifilio, laughing.

The band recorded the majority of Honeymoon in May 2019 at Electrical Audio, scheduling the sessions over two weekends to leave time for final exams at DePaul during the week. (Trifilio was finishing a degree in journalism, Henkels in secondary education, and Vaccaro in photography.) Though they’d finished Prom Queen in about a month, Honeymoon had a gestation period of nine months–a process the band call “super exhausting and complicated but ultimately extremely rewarding.”

Beach Bunny hired Joe Reinhart to produce. They liked the work he’d done for Remo Drive and Prince Daddy & the Hyena, both of whom they’d played shows with, and they were fans of his own bands Hop Along and Algernon Cadwallader. Reinhart focused on creating a comfortable environment for the group, so they could take full advantage of the studio.

Trifilio especially appreciated the salve of the producer’s calm while she worked on recording vocal harmonies–because she hadn’t planned out what she’d do before entering the studio, it was the most difficult part of the process for her. She workshopped her vocals over loops of the backing tracks, a frustrating process of trial and error. “Maybe I get the first two lines and then just yell ‘fuck’ because I mess up one note,” she says. “And then Joe’s like, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK!'”

Trifilio also credits Reinhart with suggesting ways the band could flesh out their sound without fundamentally changing the songs. Her bandmates agree: “He’d push you, but not in a bad way,” they say. “That recording process made all of us better musicians in the long run, thanks to him.”


Beach Bunny originally intended to self-release Honeymoon, like all their other music, and they’d set a date for themselves in the fall. But then this summer the band got multiple offers from record labels. Trifilio had graduated that spring and was already suffering from job-hunt anxiety, but this label interest did away with that. “It was like, ‘Oh, I can just do music? For real? This is a thing that can actually happen?'” she says.

In August the band signed with New York indie Mom + Pop Music, joining a roster that includes Courtney Barnett, Cloud Nothings, Metric, and Sleater-Kinney. “Mom + Pop just had the best artist-friendly conditions,” Trifilio says.

Beach Bunny’s relationship with the label has already helped the band reach a new level of popularity. They’d already landed the Lollapalooza gig on their own, but since signing, they’ve benefited from a few new promotions. They’re giving away tour tickets through a brand partnership with roller-skate company Moxi, and “Prom Queen” is playable on Rock Band. And the band’s Coachella date will be followed by a set at Primavera Sound in Spain in June.

“Ultimately, we like to look at every show the same way, no matter the scale/importance or whatever,” say Henkels, Alvarado, and Vaccaro, speaking collectively via e-mail. “We’re getting on each stage and doing the same thing every night as any other stage we play, so we really just make sure that we’re tight and ready to play.”

Trifilio calls the band’s set at last year’s Lollapalooza a “teenage dream” come true. Her remaining goals include collaborating with and doing songwriting for other performers–and she’d also love to work with Marina, Hayley Williams, or any other “pop icons,” she says. Beach Bunny’s contract with Mom + Pop lives up to the label’s artist-friendly reputation, allowing Trifilio to pursue outside work that doesn’t interfere with the band’s release dates. She’s already released a four-song EP under her own name called Book Club, which came out in September 2019. In December she dropped a solo cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas” (under the Beach Bunny name) as a fund-raiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, inspired by her father’s work in cancer research and her younger brother’s successful fight against leukemia a few years prior.

Earlier this month, Trifilio performed onstage with Hippo Campus–the band she’d seen with Vogrich almost five years earlier–at First Avenue in Minneapolis. She sang their song “Way It Goes” with the fervor of a fan who’s belted along with its wordy verses countless times. “I am literally living in a dream,” she tweeted the next day.

Trifilio is working on a batch of Beach Bunny songs to follow up Honeymoon, though she’s unsure if they’ll come out as singles, EPs, or another album. She’s been making a conscious effort to address topics besides romance. “Less like ‘This is my relationship with someone’ and more like ‘This is my relationship with something I’ve observed in the world,'” she says. “Growing up, self-love, feminism, something like that.”

“We just want to keep making music that we’re proud of and keep being best friends while doing it,” say her bandmates. “If people keep liking the music, that’s amazing!”

Beach Bunny has gotten big enough fast enough that Trifilio worries about the reception Honeymoon will get, an anxiety she’s never much felt with previous releases–for the first time, she has to deal with the pressure of expectations from a large fan base. “We’ve got the indie-pop kids, we’ve got these super punk emo kids that just want to thrash, and then the younger high school TikTok crowd,” she says. “It’s super strange seeing that combination at shows. It’s interesting that all those groups can somehow relate.”

To kick off a national album tour that’s already mostly sold out, Beach Bunny play Saturday, February 22, at Metro, a venue they played most recently as openers on Death Cab for Cutie’s Lollapalooza aftershow in August. Trifilio has been considering playing keyboards at the show–something she’s only ever done in the studio.

The songs on Honeymoon, like most of what Trifilio has written so far, are about heartbreak, but by the time they’re ready for the stage–to say nothing of recorded and released–the emotions don’t weigh on her too heavily. “At this point, I’m mostly thinking, ‘Is the crowd enjoying it? Is my voice OK?'” she says. “I’m yelling the word ‘cry’ with a smile, you know what I mean? I try not to get too sentimental about that kind of stuff.” v

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Overdressed for this party on the gig poster of the weekon February 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm

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ARTIST: Noelia Towers and Josh Zoerner
SHOW: Venus Doom: A Dark Valentine’s Party co-organized by Someoddpilot and featuring a performance by Girlboifriend and DJ sets by Fee Lion, which closes the exhibit “You Will Die” at Public Works Gallery on Fri 2/14
MORE INFO: Josh Zoerner and Noelia Towers

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Mako Sica headline a showcase of challenging homegrown experimental musicon February 14, 2020 at 7:34 pm

Since it opened two years ago, Sleeping Village has become a hub for some of the city’s best (and most affordable) local shows. A fine example is this concert, headlined by Chicago underground stalwarts Mako Sica. They’ve been at it since 2007, with core members Przemyslaw Drazek (formerly of intense rockers Rope) and Brent Fuscaldo steering the band’s expansive ship. Drummers and collaborators, including legendary percussionist Hamid Drake, have come and gone over their numerous LP releases (via adventurous labels such as La Societe Expeditionnaire, Feeding Tube, and Permanent), but Mako Sica have always retained a certain fluid consistency in their sound. They travel in spacey, often dissonant soundscapes; Fuscaldo’s airy vocals and primordial, rhythmic guitar and bass guide the way, perfectly complementing Drazek’s delayed, psychedelic guitar and trumpet excursions, which can make the music feel like the soundtrack of an obscure, heady film. Mako Sica have recently added drummer Jacob Fawcett, who studied with free-improv legend and former Chicagoan Frank Rosaly, so you can expect a slightly jazzier approach and some new material from these prolific cosmonauts. Opening the show is Natalie Chami, who’s been operating under the sobriquet TALsounds since 2009, exploring electroacoustic sonics in a solo setting or in collaboration with folks such as Brett Naucke and Whitney Johnson (aka Matchess). Using treated voice, synthesizers, and a variety of more mysterious devices, Chami resides at the forefront of avant-garde ambient experimentation. Also on the bill are Traysh, one of many bands to feature guerrilla booker, drummer, synth noodler, and scene mainstay Ben Baker Billington, who also plays as Quicksails and in a trio with guitarists Mark Shippy and Daniel Wyche. Billington is mostly known for his crazed yet nuanced drum-kit attack, and in Traysh he’s joined by bass Svengali Andrew Scott Young and keyboardist Daniel Van Duerm for outre excursions whose gnarly, difficult sounds might test your strength of will. These artists are all leading lights of the local experimental scene, and for a mere $5 ticket you too can contribute to this often overlooked but essential part of Chicago’s musical tapestry. v

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Polish death-metal legends Vader return, proving you can’t keep a bad Sith Lord downon February 14, 2020 at 7:52 pm

Polish death-metal legends Vader have seen many major world changes in their 35 years as a band, some of which have directly impacted their career. Following the fall of the Iron Curtain in the early 90s, for instance, they became the first Polish death-metal band to sign a record contract with a Western label. They’ve since been reliably prolific, bringing a sense of martial discipline to every track they lay down. On last year’s Thy Messenger EP (Nuclear Blast), they package their talents for circle-pit thrash and sweeping, primal death into a neat bonbon of a release. The record includes a rerecording of the pile-driving title track from their 2000 album, Litany, that enhances the multiple-buzz-saw-orchestra quality of its guitar sound and perfecting its pummeling drums. Vader have a busy year ahead, with the release of their 16th studio full-length, Solitude in Madness, on the horizon. Though they haven’t announced a date yet, they’ve dropped the new single “Shock and Awe,” with an official lyric video that’s as gloriously retro in its flame effects as the song is of-this-moment in its raw force. The album also includes “Emptiness” and “Despair” from Thy Messenger, and “Emptiness” is reportedly one of only two slow numbers–come ready to rumble at high speed. Vader are also planning anniversary events in celebration of their classic albums–De Profundis turns 25 this year–but I expect their set at this show to mix older tunes with previews of their upcoming material. Also on the bill are LA’s solidly vicious Abysmal Dawn, Italy’s cleverly horror-inspired Hideous Divinity, Portland’s sadistic Vitriol, and Chicago’s fantastically grand and crunchy Blood of the Wolf, who show off their blackened-death chops on the recent EP III: Blood Legend. v

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Postgrunge outfit Daybreaker drop a double-edged new videoon February 14, 2020 at 7:55 pm

Daybreaker: Garrett Ramage, Cameron Wentworth, and Alex Petrov across the front row, with Jason Perez in the back - ALEX ZAREK

Two members of Chicago hardcore band Daybreaker, guitarist Alex Petrov and singer-guitarist Cameron Wentworth, are headed to Hollywood Spirits, at the intersection of Hollywood, Ridge, and Wayne in Edgewater. They need to talk to the owner about using his store’s stocked coolers and shelves of craft beer as a backdrop for their next video–and they’re expecting director Alex Zarek and the band’s other two members to meet them for the shoot in less than an hour.

Posted on the door is a small sign handwritten in black Sharpie on a scrap of torn green paper: the owner will be back in 30 minutes, it says, but there’s no way to tell when it was written.

Petrov and Wentworth aren’t fazed. Petrov lives around the corner, and he’s used to the sporadic hours at Hollywood Spirits–the owner regularly closes up shop when he decides to make some extra money doing Uber Eats deliveries. The two of them head back down the street to meet drummer Garrett Ramage and bassist Jason Perez, and they all sit down with Zarek over a spread of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins and coffee.

Petrov, 21, formed Daybreaker in October 2018–they played their first show in January 2019–but he’s wanted to be in a band with Daybreaker’s melodic grunge sound since he was a teenager. Back then, though, he didn’t have the support and connections to get off the ground.

“I always wanted to start an alternative grunge band, after seeing Superheaven play live for the first time when I was 13,” says Petrov. “I tried to start a band–I played one show, but it didn’t really work out. When you’re 14, you don’t really know any other bands to play shows with.”

Over the next six years, Petrov would play in several other bands–since summer 2016 he’s been in Decay with Perez and Wentworth, for instance. But it wasn’t till late 2018 that he decided to make another committed attempt at a melodic hybrid of grunge and hardcore.

Daybreaker began with Petrov on guitar and Wentworth on drums and vocals, and over the course of about seven months they recorded early demos with a couple different bassists and second guitarists. The constant personnel changes slowed the band down, though, so it was a huge relief when they solidified a lineup with Wentworth switching to guitar and vocals, Ramage on drums, and Perez on bass.

Daybreaker moved fast after that. They spent summer 2019 playing every backyard DIY gig they could book, and in October they released their five-song debut EP, Fall. For their release show, they sold out the downstairs venue at Subterranean.

Petrov is definitely happy not to be reliving the frustrations of his 14-year-old self. “We came into the scene at a very good time in Chicago. It’s very rare to have a show in a backyard where 150 people come out. And it’s not a one-time thing–it’s almost weekly where shows like that happen,” he says. “It was definitely a lot easier this time, but it still wasn’t as easy as one would think. No one wants to book the new band–that’s how it is. But fortunately, we had friends that supported us from the start who were in other bands. It felt like starting over again.”

“But that’s what we were doing,” interrupts Wentworth, referring to Daybreaker’s rebirth with its current lineup.

Petrov continues: “It was a good feeling because it was more hopeful–it was a fresh start, and we could do whatever we wanted with it.”

As part of that fresh start, Daybreaker have teamed up with Chicago-based videographer and director Zarek to create two music videos for songs from Fall. The band learned about Zarek after they were booked to play a show at Live Wire Lounge with Pennsylvania underground group the Standby in May 2019. Hoping to learn more about the Standby, Petrov looked them up and found a series of videos that Zarek had created for them.

“They were really good,” said Petrov. “It actually made me think that they were famous and professional because of their videos.”

Zarek’s first Daybreaker video, for the EP’s title track, was released in December 2019 and modifies live performance footage with glitchy postproduction effects. The second, a more ambitious clip for “Porn and Fame,” came out the morning of Valentine’s Day.

Once Petrov and Wentworth leave Hollywood Spirits and meet Zarek, Perez, and Ramage, they gather around Petrov’s kitchen table, surrounded by unopened cases of Lagunitas beer and small chests filled with Dungeons & Dragons dice. The band are explaining to Zarek the idea they have in mind for “Porn and Fame”–a narrative that Perez and Wentworth have been referring to as a “Weekend at Bernie’s storyline.”

Despite the video’s comic premise, “Porn and Fame” isn’t a lighthearted song. Wentworth, the band’s main lyricist, says it addresses a real problem that many young people face–when partying with friends crosses the line into substance abuse. “You’re feeling numb and out of touch,” he sings. “You try so hard to give it up.”

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Videographer and director Alex Zarek films Ramage and Wentworth for the "Porn and Fame" video. - NICOLE ROBERTS

In keeping with that tone, the hard-driving music doesn’t sound like party punk. It’s thoughtful and even morose, which conditions the way the video’s profusion of cheap beer and goofy antics comes across. The whole thing can even be read as a subtle subversion of the time-honored “dirtbag fuckup band dudes” subgenre.

That said, Daybreaker’s brainstorming session is hardly serious. They want somebody to pretend to be passed out the whole time–to be the “Bernie” of the video–and they decide it’d be funny to pick Ramage, the only member not big into partying. He’ll be fake-unconscious on the couch while Wentworth pours himself a bowl of “beereal”–that is, Boo Berry cereal with Miller High Life instead of milk. Perez is excited about shooting dice in the alley after the band finish the scene in Hollywood Spirits. Did Petrov ever talk to the owner? Someone needs to check on that. Zarek wants to know if there will be any skateboarding in the video, because, well, it seems like there should be a skateboard.

“You don’t have to overthink a lot of this stuff, and that’s a misconception for a lot of people,” Zarek says. “You don’t script out or block out a music video in the same way you would with a show or a short or a documentary. You can be so creative and so random with music videos, because all it is is a three-and-a-half-minute visual supplement to something that already exists.”

The filming process is mostly silly and fun, and all of it takes place on Petrov’s block, between Bryn Mawr and Hollywood on Wayne. While Wentworth chokes down his beereal, the rest of Daybreaker watch from behind the scenes, pretending to gag and muffling their laughter. When Wentworth and Petrov carry Ramage down the front steps and into the windy 16-degree weather, Ramage stifles a grin and tries to control his shivering–he’s still supposed to be passed out.

“One of the shots was us shooting dice in an alley, and for continuity’s sake we couldn’t put a jacket on Garrett,” says Wentworth, laughing. “So we had to sit him down in this alley in 16-degree weather and have him stay completely still for every shot.”

The laughter and horsing around behind the scenes aren’t reflected on the screen, though. The way the video is edited, three guys are simply going about a mundane day–they eventually meet in the alley to have a few beers and shoot dice–but they have to drag around their passed-out friend the whole time. Nobody ever remarks on this or treats it as odd. Even the gross-out jokes (the beereal sequence, a shot where Petrov brushes his teeth with Fireball) are played straight, as though these are totally ordinary things to be doing.

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Wentworth and Perez perform with Daybreaker at a DIY venue in Pilsen in August 2019. - ANGELA TUMALAN

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Petrov and Ramage with Daybreaker at the same show - ANGELA TUMALAN

That leaves the “Porn and Fame” video as something of an open question: Is it supposed to be funny? It’s certainly not much of a party video. Sometimes it seems to be commenting instead on how laughing off red flags and dysfunctional behaviors serves to normalize them–which is one way substance abuse goes undetected, even in tight friend groups.

“The lyrics for ‘Porn and Fame’ do have quite a bit about partying too hard, dabbling in things you probably shouldn’t. Flying too close to the sun with substance abuse,” says Wentworth. “Singing about something as serious as substance abuse, you have to do it respectfully, but . . . I don’t think we should have gone in on this very serious storyboarding. Not to make fun of people who suffer from substance use–like myself–but you have to take everything in life with a grain of salt. You can’t take yourself too seriously.”

Daybreaker hope their fans will be able to see that they’re more involved and more passionate about the “Porn and Fame” video than they were for “Fall,” where they deferred more to Zarek due to their own inexperience. The band are split on how they think viewers will interpret the new clip, but they all agree that their goal was never to solicit a specific reaction–they hope each fan will make a unique connection.

“I’m a really big believer that art is subjective to the person,” says Wentworth. “So however the fuck you want to receive [the video] is how you should receive it, and I don’t think we as artists should tell you how to receive our art. I think it’s entirely a personal thing.”

The “Porn and Fame” video is live on Daybreaker’s Facebook page via YouTube. The band’s next live show is at a DIY space on Saturday, April 18, with Natural State, Mannequins, the Kreutzer Sonata, Lower Automation, and Sawbuck. If you want the address, as the old saying goes, “Ask a punk.” v

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Dorian Electra’s Flamboyant is an ode to being extraon February 14, 2020 at 8:06 pm

With their ruffled shirts, baggy Tripp pants, and signature painted-on mustache, Dorian Electra always look like they’re ready for a goth meetup at the Renaissance Faire. The nonbinary pop star is all about being too much, and though they’re still a relative newcomer, that energy has already earned them a fervent indie-pop following. Electra’s debut album, last year’s Flamboyant, consists of 11 energetic hyperpop tracks that explore a wild array of sounds and subjects: The campy “Career Boy” satirizes cubicle culture, and “Live by the Sword” (cowritten by 100 Gecs’ Dylan Brady) sounds like a backing track for an intergalactic joust. But the best example of Electra’s maximalist style is the album’s title track–an ode to going “all the way” that features over-the-top Auto-Tuned vocals, sweeping piano melodies, striking synth chords, and spicy whip cracks. The music video plays out like a Liberace fever dream: champagne, candelabras, sequins, and feathers abound, while Electra lounges in front of a roaring fire in a red silk robe. They’ve released videos for five Flamboyant tracks so far, and each is worth a watch; their songs are solid, and their sense of theatrics makes them even more fun. Electra’s most recent tour involved dramatic fashion, backup dancers, and crowd surfing–they even hired two sword fighters to serve as an opening act in London. This show offers another chance to spend an evening in Electra’s dreamy, chaotic world. v

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Musa Reems and David Ashley bolster the lineup for one of the winter’s best Chicago rap showson February 14, 2020 at 8:24 pm

Chicago rapper-singer Rich Jones brought his multigenerational monthly hip-hop series All Smiles to a close in April 2019, but its spirit lives on at this Subterranean show he’s headlining. The bill includes great local MCs who might not otherwise have any reason to cross paths, beginning with up-and-comer Musa Reems. On his recent self-released EP, November’s To Whom It May Concern, he speeds through hard verses atop sleepy synths and snaggletoothed percussion; he enlivens “Zombies” (which features Chicago great Mick Jenkins) by switching between thick staccato bars and quick stanzas of rhymes. I imagine Reems will have more music coming out soon, including what he’s been making with new multi-city hip-hop collective Dumb Intelligence, which also includes both members of Free Snacks. Also on the lineup is gifted storyteller David Ashley; this is one of the first local shows he’s performed since dropping his latest album, Deep Down Inside (Helpful Music), in September. Ashley’s songs combine dry vocals, understated delivery, and flair for grimy, warped instrumentals, and he can impart his briefest narratives with affecting pathos. On his January single, “Plight,” he confronts Black death and drug abuse via raps that corkscrew through dreamy synths, and his performance brings an air of hard-won triumph to an otherwise bleak song. v

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