Thursday, January 31, 2013

Indie pop band Donora bringing sunny side to Chicago


Fronted by the spunky vocals of Casey Hanner, Pittsburgh-based indie pop band Donora has just released an album that is bound to get anyone in the mood for warmer days ahead - the sunny but not too sweet EP "Play Nice."

Comprised of Casey on vocals and guitar, her brother, Jake Hanner, on drums and bassist Jake Churton, Donora,, will perform Feb. 7 at The Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western Ave., Chicago.

TeamMate and Warm Ones are also on the bill. The show starts at 9:30 p.m. and tickets are $8, available at

I had the chance to talk to the members of Donora about the new EP.


Q - I understand that you came up with the band's name after seeing a road sign for Donora, Penn. What was it like to actually play there?

We were asked to play on the Donora-Webster bridge for the 100th anniversary celebration of the bridge.  That was our first experience in Donora, and we were all for it!

However, it was snowing so hard that day, that the celebrations were moved into a firehall on the Webster side of the bridge.  So technically, we've never actually played in the town of Donora! Ha ha.

Q - Of course, your new EP was just released. In sitting down to make the record, what were your goals and do you think you achieved them?

The inspiration for this EP came from a photograph Jake H took in downtown Pittsburgh. He was walking around taking pictures and came across this amazing piece of artwork someone had created on the wall of a construction site. 

The artist made this keyboard out of plywood, glued it to the wall, and spray painted the words "Play Nice" underneath. We hung this photo on the wall of the studio when we started working on the new EP. 

Our goal was to make an EP that sounded like that photo.  We wanted to make something really cohesive, and we kept referring back to that photo.  I think we managed to achieve that.

Q - Your music has been described as "New Wave." Do you think that is an accurate description? How would you describe your sound and who are your biggest musical influences?

I think that's accurate to a certain degree.  We have definitely been inspired by some 80's music like The Cars and Billy Idol, but we try not to be too derivative. 

There are also other influences that creep into our music, from late 50's girl group pop (like Brenda Lee) to current pop (like Robyn) and even some old Walt Disney whimsical sounds (like the original Sleeping Beauty score).

Q - Your music has been used in various projects, including TV shows and a movie. Do you see that as just another way to get exposure for your music? How do you think your music fit into those projects?

It's definitely great exposure for us, and I think our music lends itself to these projects well. 

Our music is happy and upbeat, but it's also meant to make you feel something. And I think that aspect of the music is appealing to music supervisors.

These days placements are also a great way to fund other projects.  Commercial placements allow us to keep focusing on writing new material and touring.

Q - What are the pros and cons of siblings playing together in a band? Would you recommend it?

When you play with your sibling, I think you can communicate better.  You both come from the same place and upbringing, so it's easy to be on the same page. 

There may be annoyances or silly sibling arguments that come up, but at the end of the day, you're family.  I definitely recommend it, as long as you let family be the most important thing!

Q - Your dad, Dave Hanner, has had a successful music career. What kind of influence did he have on you and what kind of advice has he given you?

We grew up around music, but our dad never pushed music on us.  In fact, I think it was the opposite. 

When I (Casey) wanted to learn how to play guitar, instead of teaching me himself, my dad gave me a guitar chord book and told me that if I really wanted to learn, I would learn on my own. 

My brother (Jake H) learned so much from my dad about recording music. Any time we have a question for him, he's always ready to help out or give his opinion. Sometimes we ignore his advice, but he usually ends up being right in the end!

Q - What are the advantages of being signed to an independent record label? With all the resources available to musicians these days, do you think it is easier to be a musician than it has been in the past?

Working with Rostrum had been great. We personally know each employee and have a great relationship with everyone involved. 

We consider the head of the label (Benjy) to be a great friend and supporter of our music. That may seem normal, but I think it's a very rare thing these days. 

Making music, playing music, recording music, and promoting music has all gotten easier. However, that means there are a lot more bands out there trying to make it work.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Our short-term goals are to promote the new EP and get back into the studio for a follow up. I think the long-term goal for any band in our position is to be able to sustain a living by making music. 

Specifically for our band, we want to make people happy with our music.  We want to encourage one person dance parties all across the world!

Chicago musician Andrea Dawn touring on new album

Garnering comparisons to Jewel and Fiona Apple, Chicago musician Andrea Dawn will bring her hypnotic vocals on Feb. 1 to the newly opened Rivers Edge Theatre in downtown Yorkville,

The show starts at 8 p.m. will also feature local songwriters Ben Thomas and Pat Moynihan. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.

 In 2008, Dawn was voted one of Illinois Entertainer's "Best of Around Hear," and in 2009 she won the grand prize for Backthird Audio's Songwriter Showcase. For more information, go to

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Benefit show set for blues musician Eddie C. Campbell

The tight-knit Chicago blues community will come out in force Feb. 17 to raise funds for fellow Chicago bluesman Eddie C. Campbell, who suffered a stroke and heart attack while recently touring in Germany.

The benefit show will be from 6 to 11 p.m. at Rosa's Lounge, 3420 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago. Tickets are $25, available at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Chicago band Common Shiner plugs in on new album


Chicago band Common Shiner is the kind of band that keeps people guessing.

After releasing the folk-oriented "Before They Sold Out: Part 1" last year, the band turns up the energy on its new CD, "Before They Sold Out: Part 2."

Common Shiner will celebrate the release of its new album with a show on Feb. 2 at Schubas Tavern, 3159 N. Southport Ave., Chicago.

The show starts at 10 p.m., and tickets are $10, available at

I had the chance to interview Common Shiner frontman Morgan Foster about the new album.

Q - What made you want to release "Before They Sold Out" in two parts? How did you decide what songs should get both the unplugged and plugged in treatment?

Well, it was partly a musical decision and, to be honest, partly a financial one. We've historically always had songs that were very low volume and intimate that we really liked playing in concert as sort of a "take a breath moment" between higher energy songs. 

Our fans have always really enjoyed those songs, and while our full band sound has gone more and more in a rock direction, we've still found ourselves writing those songs and wanting to use them here and there. 

So what better way than to just make a whole album of those songs, and it's just a fact that making an album of those songs is going to be far less expensive. So it was actually while recording Before They Sold Out (Part I), that the idea of creating a companion album that gives the rock "yang" to our folksy "yin" was born.


Q - The band has a unique name. Any meaning behind the name?

We liked the name because it can mean a variety of different things to different people. A usual interpretation is that it's a standard black eye, which made me feel like a real tough rock star until my relentless neurotic thoughts kicked back in and then I just went back to feeling like me.

I've always enjoyed the idea of the "shining" of the "common" experience, but truth be told it's the name of a fish, and I thought it sounded kinda cool.  :)

Q - How do you think the band has fit into the Chicago music scene since moving here from Grand Rapids, Mich.? What made the band want to move to Chicago?

When we moved to Chicago together, I think we were all really in need of a change. There wasn't necessarily anything wrong with where we were, but we had been there for a while and we needed a new adventure. 

Chicago was a great fit because we had always felt a certain kinship with it (since we're all Midwesterners), and it also wasn't too far away from our base in Michigan, which was nice too. 

I think where we really found our home here was with all the songwriters in town, as we started bumping into all of them at open mic nights and even started hosting our own get-togethers where we could all share songs, talk about songwriting, and create together. 

That's really what being a musician is all about, and we'll be forever grateful to that wonderful community of songwriters that exists in Chicago.

Q - It seems like folk and roots music is popular again. Why do you think that is and what do you think the band adds to the scene?

Well, I think folk and roots music will always come back and be popular because it isn't a fad; it's really at the center of all music. And I think that's because it's always so focused on the song itself, not the sound, and that's what will never die. 

I think what we add to that is that we have a focus on songwriting and making songs that really speak to people, which is what we have in common with folk and roots music. What our new album adds to that is a little bit of an edge or epic-ness to those songs.

Q - How do you think the band has evolved since first forming? Where do you see the band going from here?

Well the band first started as a two acoustic guitarists with an almost jam-band kind of quality, so we certainly have evolved quite a lot since then. I think we've evolved more and more in the sense of the drive and passion that we play with live. 

We've always had a pretty passionate type of stage presence, and so our music continues to evolve to match that drive. As far as where we go from here, I think we'll probably just keep adding to the depth of our songs while striving to find ways to move people. 

I can't claim to know where that means we'll go, but the ride seems to be getting more and more exciting.

Q - What goals does Common Shiner have this year?

This year I think one of our biggest goals is to tour again. We toured the East Coast a few years ago, and we really haven't hit the road for any length of time since then. 

There's a certain freedom and energy to going on the road, and we definitely would like to do that with this album. Beyond that, I think we'd just love to really get out there regionally and just spread the love that we poured into this album. 

And if we're dreaming big, I think we'd like to be the first rock band to play on the space station, so if you know anyone that can make that happen, that would be pretty rad.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pearl Jam to play Wrigley Field in July

Pearl Jam has announced that it will play July 19 at Wrigley Field in Chicago.

Tickets go on sale Feb. 9 at

Friday, January 18, 2013

Chicago's The Jordan Years releases vibrant new album



One of the things that sets the Chicago music scene apart is the sheer diversity of it.

Chicago band The Jordan Years,, is adding to the vibrancy of the scene through its first full-length album, "Homemade Hustler," set for release on Feb. 1.

The band, comprised of Wes Restless on vocals, Michael Andersen on bass and Roger Panella on guitar, will perform the album in its entirety Feb. 1 at Subterranean, 2011 W. North Ave., Chicago.

The show will also feature The Congregation, DJ Intel and The Skinny, and will be hosted by Andrew Huff of Gapers Block. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and presale tickets are available at, or at the door for $10. 

I had the chance to talk to the band about the new album.

Q - Great to talk to you. I understand you will be playing the new album live in its entirety on Feb. 1. Do you think "Homemade Hustler" is made to be played live? What made you want to do a concept album for your first full-length album?
Thanks for having us. The album is 10 songs in 30 or so minutes.  It's great to play it live. 

It moves along nicely and gets to the point. The audience is kept on their toes. 

It's a story of a guy who gets cast aside by the corporate world, takes matters into his own hands, falls in love, makes some money and ends up getting in some trouble, but realizes that he wouldn't have it any other way.  

Eric, you're intrigued...yes?  The concept is true to our own lives and tells the story of a lot of our friends.

Q - In sitting down to make "Homemade Hustler," what were the band's goals and do you think you achieved them?

We wanted to to step our game up as songwriters, musicians, collaborators, and project managers.  We're proud of the way we're presented here but there are always things that you wish you could fix.

Q - The album has a real '70s vibe to it. Who are some of your musical influences? Why do you think there is a renewed interest in soul music these days, including on the Chicago music scene with such bands as The Congregation and JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound?

Well we're all huge fans of Queensryche.  They originated in the late '70s  I maybe that's the connection.  

People are interested in live instruments nowadays because they like to watch musicians play their hearts out.  We love The Congregation and JC Brooks.  Gina Bloom is wow.

Q - Explain the band's name. Is it a homage to Michael Jordan and/or Chicago?

It's an homage to Chicago's winning spirit and it's ability to produce champions.

Q - "Homemade Hustler" was self-recorded and produced. Do you prefer making music on your own? Do you think today's technology gives musicians freedom they didn't have before? Would you ever sign to a label?

We're very fortunate to be able to produce and record our own music.  Technology definitely gives us an amazing level of freedom.  

We will never sign with a label no matter how many tacos they feed us.

Q - Is writing songs a collaborative effort for the band? Did the band's chemistry come together right away or was it something you worked at?

We write together and separately.  The final product is always a group effort though.  

We also work with a lot of talented musicians/friends who help our vision become real live audio cassettes for the children.

Q - How do you see The Jordan Years fitting into the Chicago music scene? How do you think the Chicago music scene compares to other parts of the county?

The Jordan Years are the band that makes you proud to be from Chicago.  No frills, no hype, just hard work and heart.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Short Term = Have Fun

Long Term = Get Money

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Liquid Soul celebrating 20th anniversary with Double Door show


With its innovative blend of jazz, hop-hop, world music and other genres, Chicago band Liquid Soul caused quite the stir when it burst onto the scene in the mid-'90s.

Led by innovative saxophonist Mars Williams, the band quickly gained a following that included Chicago Bulls player Dennis Rodman and President Bill Clinton.

Liquid Soul,,  will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a Jan. 20 show at the Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

I had a chance to talk to Williams about Liquid Soul and its recent activities.

The show starts at 8:30 p.m., and tickets are $10 to $20, available at

Q - All of the original members of Liquid Soul will be featured in the 20th anniversary show. Was it hard getting everybody together?

It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be to get everybody together. Five years ago, we did a 15-year anniversary show at the Double Door and most of the guys were there. 

Everybody had a great time, so getting those guys on board for this one was pretty easy. Then word got out to the other guys that missed the first show about how much fun they missed out on and they all jumped in for this one.

Q - Why was it important to do a 20th anniversary show?

Liquid Soul was a big part of the Chicago music scene in the 90s. Liquid Soul Sundays was the happening place to be and be seen. It wasn’t just a concert, it was an event! 

We had loyal and amazing fans. They were the reason for our success. The buzz about our Sunday night residency became known internationally!

The 20th anniversary show is a way for us and them to relive those amazing times.

Q - Will this anniversary show be the start of new activities for the band? Are you guys working on new music?

Except for the couple of years when I put the band on hold, the band really never stopped performing. There have been different musicians throughout the years, but the band still continues to kick ass!

A new record is definitely in the near future, and I’m compiling a lot of live archived recordings from the Sunday night shows at Elbo Room and Double Door.

I’m also in the process of finding a venue for Liquid Soul to do another residency. Residencies give us the opportunity to hash out & try new ideas. I also plan to record a live record and a record of freestyle jams.

Q - When the band formed, did you think you were breaking new ground?

In the early 90s, there was some experimenting going on with DJ’s mixing hip-hop and jazz. Especially in England, NYC, and LA. DJ Jesse De La Pena was very knowledgeable of this scene, and would spin a lot of this new style called “acid jazz” in his sets. 

He was responsible for bringing this music to our attention. When Jesse, Tommy and I first came together, we were experimenting with playing jazz standards over beats Jesse would lay down, and just improvising over these beats. The Sunday night residency gave us the opportunity to continue exploring and layering different styles.

From there, I started writing music that would work in this context. I don’t really know if we broke any new ground, but I think that bringing together our diverse musical personalities created a unique new sound!

Q - What were the band's goals and do you think you achieved them?

What I wanted was an outlet to play and collaborate with great musicians in a FUN musical environment, encompassing & fusing all the styles of music I love to play, with a focus on groove. I think we achieved that!

Q - In 2001, Liquid Soul received a Grammy Nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Record. How did you view that? Were you surprised?

Being Grammy nominated wasn’t on even my radar. It definitely wasn’t a goal of mine when we started out. When I found out about the nomination, I thought they made a mistake! Seriously! Eventually it sunk in that “Wow, we’ve been Grammy nominated!”. It was humbling to know that there was recognition from our peers.


Q - You have been very much in demand over the years. What do you think it is about your saxophone playing and musicianship that attracts bands like The Waitresses, The Psychedelic Furs and others to want to work with you?

I don’t know, you would have to ask them... Maybe my warm fuzzy personality! Ha!

Q - It seems like you are always working on different projects. Do you have any new projects for 2013? Will we hear more from Soul Sonic Sirkus this year?

Hell yeah! They are so new that I don’t even know what they are yet!

I intend to remain active in the Chicago free jazz/ improvising community, where there are always new opportunities and collaborations with international artists, and I plan to continue the Monday night series at Beat Kitchen with Extraordinary Popular Delusions. 

The Soul Sonic Sirkus is an on going project. I’m hoping we will be invited to more festivals this year. It is
an extremely unique, spectacular show that must be seen!

You can stay up to date with my projects and events by visiting

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Supporting Chicago's pop-punk scene

By Eric Schelkopf

From Screeching Weasel to Sore Subjects, Chicago has been at the center of the pop punk scene since the beginning.

Bradley Adita knows how important Chicago has been to pop punk's evolution. And he is helping to support and promote Chicago's pop punk scene through his website,

I had the chance to talk to Adita about his website and other topics.

Q - How did you get involved in the punk/pop punk scene?

During adolescence I was a huge fan of three bands: Weird Al Yankovic, R.E.M., and They Might Be Giants, but I didn't know a thing about punk rock. 

In February of 1994, I was a freshman at Glenbrook South High School, in Glenview, Illinois. I was looking for a place to showcase the juggling skills I had developed in Junior High and found a small, student-run theater group called Paradox. 

While rehearsing for the show, I met a Junior named Emily who made me a punk rock mixtape with Screeching Weasel, The Queers, NOFX, Op Ivy, Rancid, Pseudo Hippies - to name a few. My family didn't have cable or MTV, but a couple months later, I started hearing Green Day songs on Q101. 

As I drew connections between the bands on the radio and the songs on the mixtape, I began to embark on my path into the mysterious vortex of punk rock.

Q - You took over Pop Punk Dot Com in 2009. What made you want to get involved in the website?

Yeah, it was late 2009 when Steve Neurotic and I negotiated a purchasing price, but I didn't officially take over the site until around March 2010. When I moved back from Iowa to Chicago in 2003, it was a time of taking stock of my previous experiences and trying to figure out a plan to go forward. 

While in Iowa, hardcore had become a way of life for me, but as I transitioned back to the area I had known growing up, it seemed like pop punk kept popping back up, and I remembered all the fun and good music from earlier times, and I started focusing more attention on the genre of pop punk. 

The more I listened and the more bands and music I discovered, the more I wanted to learn about this often maligned punk rock subgenre. Soon, I was doing research and hoping to find a book about pop punk, but when I couldn't find one, I realized that it was an opportunity to somehow produce one myself. 

So the original impetus to acquire the domain was out of service to the idea of creating a book about pop punk.

Q - PPDC celebrated its 15th year anniversary in 2012. What can people expect from PPDC in 2013?

Actually, was registered on June 8, 1998, so the 15th anniversary will be on June 8, 2013. I guess that's good, because I didn't do anything in 2012 to celebrate!

In 2013, I hope to continue with the Weekly Featured Shows series. I also plan on continuing to try new things to figure out what works and what doesn't. One plan I've been thinking about involves completely re-hauling the website, but that's gonna take a lot of time and money and I'm not sure if its going to happen in 2013, but a good goal would be to have the update done and ready to launch for 2014. 

So there's that, and now that I'm aware of it, I'll probably plan to have a PPDC party on Saturday, June 8th, 2013, for the 15th anniversary - so look for details about that.

Q - How does PPDC go about about choosing the bands to feature in its weekly concerts?

For the Weekly Featured Show, I keep abreast of concerts and shows around the Chicago area and keep a schedule of possibilities. Based on a number of factors, I decide which show seems most likely to be the best match for the week. 

I have a really great relationship with, which books shows at Township, Ultra Lounge, Stage Bar, and sometimes at Reggies and Bottom Lounge. They have been super helpful in getting this series off the ground. In addition, I've also promoted shows at Mayne Stage, Brauerhouse, Beat Kitchen, and more recently, Quenchers and Elbo Room.

Q - How does the pop punk scene in Chicago compare to the rest of the country?

It definitely depends on who you ask, but Chicago really has one of the best pop punk scenes in the world. 

What's great about pop punk in Chicago is we've got a solid punk rock history dating back to at least 1977. Then we've got bands like Naked Raygun who survived hardcore's heyday, but who nevertheless kept a strong sense of melody in their songs. Then, in the mid-to-late 80s, you've got Screeching Weasel coming up and laying down many of the main components of what pop punk would become. 

In the early-to-mid 90s, the underground suburban scene really made waves with bands like Smoking Popes, Winepress, The Vindictives, The Bollweevils, AYA, The Fighters, The Mushuganas, 88 Fingers Louie, Allister, and on and on. 

Underdog Records, Rocco Records, and Harmless Records were just some of the many labels that had sprung up and released some of the best pop punk records at the time. Even Victory Records has released a handful of notable pop punk records over the years. 

The pop punk scene kind of boiled over in the late 90s, but even then you have bands like Lawrence Arms, Rise Against, and Alkaline Trio busy cutting their teeth. By the early 00's you've got the whole emo-influenced style of pop punk coming into the forefront with Fall Out Boy leading the way, followed by others on Pete Wentz's Decaydance roster and also Spitalfield, Plain White T's, and beyond. 

Then in the mid 00s you have The Methadones, The Copyrights, and others turning back to a sound and style more similar to that of the early-to-mid 90s. In recent years, Red Scare has easily become the best local pop punk label (even being named Chicago's Best Local Label 2012 in the Chicago Reader). 

And now you've got newer bands coming up such as Sore Subjects, Sass Dragons, Downtown Struts, Stay Golden, and The Fur Coats representing just some of the best of the latest crop of artists who mix their punk with some pop. New York City city has a richer punk history, and the San Francisco Bay Area may lay claim to Gilman St., Lookout Records (RIP), and Green Day, but no scene is as layered, consistent, and multifaceted as Chicago.

Q - Where do you see Chicago's pop punk scene going from here?

Obviously, no one can tell the future precisely, but I think Chicago will continue to have one of the best pop punk scenes in the world, and now with Pop Punk Dot Com located in Chicago, hopefully we can build even more connections and strengthen the scene at large. 

And while there are many pop punk sub-scenes (which don't always get along and see eye to eye), it's my hope that Pop Punk Dot Com can be used to build bridges between these factions, and provide more opportunities for dialogue and idea sharing, but only time will tell.

Q - You've been involved in other projects, such as the zine "A Day In The Air." What made you want to publish your own zine? What other projects are you working on?

Projects, projects, projects! Yeah, I guess I am sort of notorious for always having some kind of project that I'm working on. My history with zines and self-publishing goes back many years (I even found a small zine/book I made when I was 5 years old), so in some ways, self-publishing comes second nature to me. 

My mom is a CPS Special Education teacher, so I think having her around a lot when I was growing up, with all those creative ideas she exposed me to, really helped to foster my own creativity. I've always got one or two other projects going, but recently, I have narrowed it down to really focus on Pop Punk Dot Com. 

One auxiliary project for 2013 is do the final sale and distribution of the CD which I put out as A Day In The Air #15, in 2003. I have around 300 copies left and it's time to celebrate the 10 year anniversary since it came out, so I'm looking at the possibility of organizing an anniversary tour around Iowa and free bandcamp anniversary compilation. 

So if you are interested in that, please get in touch with me. I'll also be tabling at this years Chicago Zine Fest, which is March 9 at Columbia College's Conaway Center (