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MUSIC Pink Avalanche; Waldo Fest Forever; Alice Merton
by Vern Hester
2019-04-30

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April had more than a few surprises for music fans and a whiff of what springtime in Chicago could be.

First up was out rocker Che Arthur and his band, Pink Avalanche, who played a CD-release show at The Empty Bottle on April 18 in support of the album III ( on Past Future Records ). The band started and recorded its two releases ( Wraiths and The Luminous Heart of Nowhere, both on Past Future Records ) as a quartet but have since reformed as a trio ( aside from Arthur on guitar and vocals the band includes Kortland Chase on drums and Adam Reach on bass ) while reshaping their sound. What sounded like goth wave in the first two editions has evolved into more of a crunchy guitar-driven metal sound with Arthur's deceptively inelegant vocals floating around like a ghost caught in a bottle. Without getting arty or arch, Pink Avalanche seems to be shifting into accessible art rock for the masses.

"Lord love 'em, give the people what they want and they'll come out in droves," said film director Billy Wilder in reference to the attendance at studio head Harry Cohn's funeral in 1957. The same can be said for the second edition of Waldo Fest Forever 420, a musical and educational celebration of marijuana and also the first festival of the season.

Although the prospect of local legalized medical hemp may be in the near future, this festival kept policy and politics on the low end—and music and mirth as the main attractions. Ramona Slick and Lucy Stoole hosted an afternoon jamboree that offered something for everyone, with queer favorites White Mystery pounding through a hard-rocking set, vocalist Tatiana Hazal vamping her way through light beats and girly pop, rap duo Air Credits ripping through a well received segment, and headliner Big Freedia leading her crew and the overflow crowd through a rowdy lesson in ass-shaking. That the weather behaved and the temperature stayed in the 70s the entire afternoon with the sun out made this event feel heaven sent.

Fast-rising vocalist and muti-instrumentalist Alice Merton hit The Bottom Lounge on April 26 for a sold-out show celebrating her sudden emergence. She has conquered music charts in Europe and the United States with her self-released single "No Roots" and recently dropped her full-length debut, Mint ( on Mom + Pop Music ). After hitting the stage with fierce readings of her songs "Speak Your Mind" and "Leave to Live," she thanked the packed house for its support and for making this stop the first sold-out show on her tour before tearing through a full set that kept the capacity crowd dancing all night.

Heads up: Highly regarded local band Avantist will join queer-flavored psychedelic rockers Lollygagger for a show at Sleeping Village on May 6. George Clinton and his P-Funk Army will hit the Aragon Ballroom on May 31 for what has been touted as his farewell Chicago appearance. Out rocker Mike Maimone and his band Mutts will join local goofball Archie Powell and his band, The Exports, to celebrate their 10th anniversaries at what promises to be a rowdy hoedown at Cobra Lounge on June 29.


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