It’s been a nice, long summer in Chicago. There are street fairs and music festivals nearly every weekend from May through September. But the unofficial end of summer music in the Windy City is typically the Hideout Block Party.
(left: Monotonix engages the crowd by playing drums right on top of them.)
In a dead end alley leading to the Department of Fleet Management, the Hideout takes the show outside for its block party that’s moved from the street into a nearby parking lot for big events in recent years, such as 2006’s Touch & Go 25th Anniversary. This year they were part of the World Music Festival with musicians from Canada, Czech Republic, England, Hungary, Israel and Mali.
(right: Neko Case, twice in one weekend? Indeed.)
The past weekend’s big draw was Neko Case and the New Pornographers headlining back-to-back nights. Saturday evening Neko and her band performed an array of songs from her history, including numerous cuts from Blacklisted, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood and an upcoming album that’ll include her take on “Don’t Forget Me” by Harry Nilsson. (Isn’t it odd that everyone from Astrud Gilberto to LCD Soundsystem has covered Nilsson, yet two of his most recognizable songs are actually covers?) Her voice was incredible as she ranged from the sweet and sincere to the mighty and powerful. Of course, she delved into the latter much more on Sunday with the New Pornographers. Even though it’s Carl Newman’s band, it wouldn’t be the same without Neko and Dan Bejar’s input. They rolled through chunks of Twin Cinema (Who knew “Sing Me Spanish Techno” was so popular?!) and Challengers, but old songs from Mass Romantic and Electric Version still excited the crowd. Though, it was the surprise closer “Don’t Bring Me Down” (Yes, that one) that caused arguably the most hysterics. In hindsight, it was a no-brainer that the power-pop band would nail an ELO cover, but the proof was all there on Sunday evening.
The weekend also featured a lot of Michael Jackson love, such as alt-country singer Robbie Fulks covering an arsenal of tunes from “Ben” to “Billie Jean” to “Black and White”, Hideout staff and regulars performing the “Thriller” dance, and Rhymefest dropping “Man in the Mirror” into his short set.
(left: I’ll take some Dark Meat and a pair of pom-poms please.)
Other highlights included Czech psychedelic rock band Plastic People of the Universe and Vancouver stoner rockers Black Mountain, Brooklyn’s eclectic Tim Fite singing children’s songs and giving away watermelons, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip‘s abrasive hip hop, Vieux Farka Toure‘s hodgepodge of north African R&B, reggae and pop, Ratatat‘s eardrum-bruising instrumental electronic post-rock, and Chicago’s Mucca Pazza indie-rock marching band being crazy but Athens’ southern rock ensemble Dark Meat having a bit more substance with just as much gimmickry.
However, it was Monotonix (top of page) who impressed me most. The Israeli rock band who’ve apparently been banned from venues all over Tel Aviv (and probably a few elsewhere) entertained the audience like no one else. Their set began with the drums and cymbals in flames. A few songs in, they moved the drums 30 feet out into the audience. A few songs later, they moved the gear back near the stage. All the while, the three members forced the audience to be part of the show. Whether it was singer Ami Shalev disrobing and crowd-surfing in a trashcan (reminiscent of Tim Harrington all the time, but especially at this year’s Pitchfork Festival), Ran Shimoni drumming from his elevated bass drum while other kit pieces were held up by the crowd or Yonatan Gat riffing like gangbusters, the trio didn’t leave a second for anyone to be distracted.