By Dan Morgridge
If you hadn’t noticed, summer has completely and totally arrived to the third coast. And spoiled kids that we are, the city is yet again throwing us a series of free Monday concerts downtown at the magical picnic-place marvel that is the hairnet, er, Jay Pritzker Pavilion. Cut out of work early, bring your good flask and your bad wine, and set up a picnic blanket for this summer’s fine lineup.
Occidental Brothers Dance Band International + Chico Trujilo
The funky polyrhythms and general West African goodness of Chicago-based Nathaniel Braddock and his Occidental Brothers Dance Band are sure to scoot your boot in the classiest way possible. The multi-ethnic genre-hopping quintet are joined from across the globe by Chico Trujillo, a Chilean orchestra with horns and sexy spanish guitars to continue your fancy footwork fun-times.
Joan of Arc + Daniel Knox
If you’re not familiar with the Kinsella brothers and their body of work, you’re either not old enough to rent a car, or simply missed out on some Chicago musical treasures. The band has occasionally morphed into Cap’n Jazz or Owls, but for tonight, the boys will be performing under the moniker that made them semi-famous. Daniel Knox, a generation after the Kinsellas, is certainly no junior. His somber piano pop is in the vein of Jon Brion, Magnetic Fields, and other lost troubadors of the modern era. Expect the skiniest of jeans splayed across the lawn tonight.
The Sadies + James Vincent McMorrow
Hey, The Sadies! They’re definitely a Bloodshot band – a little country, a little rockabilly, more indie than not, but generally just kickass and good to politely sip whiskey to. Meanwhile, James Vincent McMorrow is an Irish gent with a falsetto croon made to shiver spines. His cover of Stevre Winwood’s “Higher Love,” of all things, is actually pretty damn great.
Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires + Abigail Washburn
If you didn’t know that Charles Bradley had spent the first 51 years of his life failing to perform the music he loved, his voice will tell you the whole story. Pained, soulful, and rich with plaintive James-Brownian emotion, Bradley is the real deal. On a slightly different note, Abigail Washburn’s clawhammer banjo is Illinois-bred but Nashville trained, and her voice sounds traveled and rich. A little Alison Krauss, a little Sarah McLaughlin, and a lot of sunset-perfect folkiness by which to relax your Monday away with.
Ana Tijoux + Sidi Toure
She’s been an MC, she’s been a singer, she’s been French and Chilean and sung everywhere in between. Ana Tijoux might seem like an odd pairing with Malian guitarist royalty Sidi Toure, but it’s easier than you think – slip into the pensive guitarwork of Toure, become thoughtful, and then go on a little mystical journey during Tijoux’s exotic performance, which channels more of Manu Chao than Bow Wow.
SMOD + M.A.K.U. Soundsystem
Speaking of Manu Chao, the boys of S.M.O.D. worked with him on their last album, allowing his oddly charming production to enrich their oddly charming folky-hip-hop. The array of instruments employed by M.A.K.U Soundsystem is dizzying – synths and samplers dovetail with horns and Latin percussion, making for a spacey, Sun-Ra-lite journey into somewhere you’re pleasantly surprised to be.
Dan Morgridge runs an illegal blanket-holding operation out of Ukrainian Village in Chicago.