Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Hideout Block Party & The Onion A.V. Fest Preview | Chicago - Sept. 5-6

Ah yes, the Summer festival season is coming to an end here in the Midwest. Chicago plays host to a seemingly unending list of music festivals, from Lollapalooza to Pitchfork, Spring Awakening to Taste of Randolph, the festivals and events range from annoyingly large to ideally undersized.

Smack dab between North Coast and Riot Fest lies one of Chicago's hidden gems: The Hideout Block Party/ The Onion A.V. Fest, put on by local venue & bar, The Hideout and The Onion's entertainment partner A.V. Club.

Last year's Hideout/AV Fest featured Neko Case, The Walkmen, Young the Giant, The Hold Steady and other notable acts as the festival continues to grow, and this year shows the festival's growth even more clearly.

What makes this year so special? Well on the surface, headlining acts like Death Cab for Cutie and The War on Drugs are big enough to draw a sizable crowd, and undercards like Hamilton Leithauser (of The Walkmen), Mac DeMarco, Sylvan Esso and The Dismemberment Plan and others will provide entertainment throughout the two-day festival.

First, the big draw is Friday's headliner, and there's an extra, bittersweet bonus in play. Death Cab for Cutie has been one of my favorite bands since high school, (pre-Seth Cohen/The O.C. influence) and although their albums have decreased in overall quality over the years, that doesn't change my desire to hear their songs live, new and old.

The bittersweet lies within the band's guitarist/keyboards/production-extraordinaire Chris Walla, who announced last month that he would be leaving the band after the group's September shows. This means that Friday night will mark the last Chicago appearance for Walla as a member of DCFC. I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff, and will probably become a little emotional as one of my favorite musicians in one of my all-time favorite bands steps away. It's like Derek Jeter retiring from The New York Yankees: the Yankees will still be there, but Jeter's iconic #2 won't be; Death Cab will still make music, but their most talented musician won't be with them.

Also with an O.C. tie-in, Hamilton Leithauser will take the stage before DCFC on Friday, and alright, fine The O.C. thing is a bit of a stretch (The Walkmen played the series' staple-venue The Bait Shop in its opening season). Although I've come on record as saying Hamilton's solo material is second-tier to former Walkmen member, Peter Matthew Bauer's Liberation!, his album Black Hours is very good and I look forward to watching the crooner's new material live. I just pray no one yells, "THE RAT!"

Saturday brings in one of my new favorite acts, Sylvan Esso. With some hometown (Milwaukee) ties, Sylvan Esso features former Decibully/Megafaun member Nick Sanborn, and singer Amelia Meath performing some sneaky-good electropop. Comparable to groups like the xx, Feist, The Blow, and CHVRCHES, Sylvan Esso is likely to overcome many of these comparisons in 2014 and move forward into the new year. Ambient structures paired with abrupt, heavy synths and bass, all while Meath's sparkling vocals win over any listeners in earshot.

Also on Saturday is one of indie rock's most spirited live acts, Mac DeMarco. I was blown away at Mac's performance last year at Pitchfork Music Festival, playing feel-good summery songs like "Cookin' Up Somethin' Good" and "Ode to Viceroy". But it's DeMarco's voice that can really turn heads, ranging between a deep growl to a stonery, laid-back smoker's buzz.

Saturday's weather is supposed to be ideal in Chicago, and there couldn't be a better soundtrack than Mac DeMarco. Keep your eyes and ears open for a surprise cover or two from Mac, and make sure to watch him shred his makeshift guitar.

Saturday night will belong to The War on Drugs. Their latest album, Lost in the Dream is a heavy contender for 2014 Album of the Year, and for good reason. Its sound is epic, and true to the times its released in, yet is undeniably timeless. To further prove that 2014 belongs to The War on Drugs, the group performed a buzzworthy rendition of single "Red Eyes" for The Late Show With David Letterman (second only in buzz to the indescribable Future Islands). Check out that performance below, and get your asses to Chicago to catch one of the most mind-blowing live rock acts of our time.

Hideout Fest promises to be one of the best festival experiences of the summer. Is it packed with hundreds of acts, from 10am-10pm for three days? No. But along with that come many benefits: less neon attire (your retinas will thank you), less drugged-out frat/sorority parties, no VIP access passes for $1000+, accessible lines to food and drink, and the best thing of all - elbow room.

Single Day and Two-Day Tickets are available here: //
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