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Empress Of, Injury Reserve & Jen Stark for House of Vans

I arrived at the House of Vans at around 7 p.m., anticipating a long line waiting to see a free show being held in this notably cool venue. The doors opened at 7:30 p.m., and I gained access to the venue with ease. I strolled around the large skate park turned venue, taking photos at the various stations of artwork, which were created by the talented Jen Stark, and being projected onto the walls. Vivid colors of the rainbow were imposed around the room in swirly, drooping patterns that seemed to slide down the walls. I was amazed at the intricate light show that was being projected around the entirety of the stage. The oozing colors were a delight to the guests present at the show, sipping on complimentary drinks from Goose Island & Virtue Cider.

Photo: Kaylie Plauché (IG - @Keepngupwkp)

While in one of these colorful rooms where one could take souvenir photos to take home, I heard the blaring of an electronic bass begin. I walked out into the main concert area and saw a band announce themselves as “Injury Reserve”. The crowd bopped their heads to the first song or two, and then the lead vocalist of the group began to become aggravated after a few tracks. 

Photo: Daniel Boczarski (IG - @danielboczarski) 

He yelled, “If you guys are going to be doing this head nodding dance to all of my songs, then this is going to be a long night”.

This announcement changed the dynamic of the crowd. The band started playing some harder songs and the middle of the crowd began to violently mosh. The lead singer and ⅓ of this rap triplet, was extremely animated while on stage, running and jumping around, while another band member danced alongside him. The third member ecstatically hit every note on the electronic board while his facial expression and actions made everyone in the crowd feel his excitement. Injury Reserve raps and makes beats on themes of current day problems in society. This was a lively opening act that kept the crowd on their feet throughout their performance. 


Not much time had passed when the main act, Empress Of, galloped onto the stage. 

Photo: Kaylie Plauché (IG - @Keepngupwkp)

The projections intensified as multiple colors began to glow from the background of the already rainbow colored stage. Empress Of, otherwise known as Lorely Rodriguez, began the show by belting out a few airy lines of an electro-pop song. She was wearing a leopard print short sleeve button-down shirt that was open to reveal a tight black shirt, a pair of dark dickies, and custom old-school leopard print Vans (a perfect outfit for the skatepark converted venue). She was performing alongside her keyboardist who was just as into the music as Lorely was. 

Photo: Kaylie Plauché (IG - @Keepngupwkp)

Empress Of brought a bubbly presence to the stage throughout the show. She sang “I Don’t Even Smoke Weed” towards the middle of her set, a crowd favorite. The vibe in this audience differed from the opening act. The dancing changed from moshing sporadically, to playful and buoyant dancing. Lorely sang in both Spanish and English and had no trouble hitting those high, drawn-out notes in a few of her most popular songs. She ended the show on a slow song and thanked the crowd, her best friend, and the House of Vans before smoothly stepping off of the stage.

Photo: Daniel Boczarski (IG - @danielboczarski) 

The House of Vans, Injury Reserve, and Empress Of all put on a great show with the help of Jen Stark’s mesmerizing Animations. The music, artwork, and venue itself all came together for one incredible night that was truly a great experience, and I look forward to attending upcoming House of Vans events, along with looking out for these three artists.



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WLUW Recommends: Exhalants

Exhalants is a nice and noisy punk band from Austin, Texas. They're self titled debut was put out earlier this year on Austin local DIY label Self Sabatoge Records. WLUW DJ Tony Buitrago- host of Running on Punk Rock n' Roll on Saturday evenings 6pm-8pm, had the chance to check out the band wen they stopped in Chicago at the Subterranean on tour for the record. Check out his thoughts on the show and if you dig that then take a listen on the Exhalants Bandcamp page.


There’s something magical about seeing an unknown DIY touring band bring down a venue with 20 people in it. When you’re watching a band like Exhalants play SubT’s basement, you feel like you’re watching the next big thing before anyone else gets a chance to see it in. When something is so different, creative and a well-executed, it feels inevitable. Realistically, most of the bands you see won’t blow up and may never even play your city again, but that’s just part of life. It’s hard to make a living playing rock n roll. It just makes you appreciate bands while they last and appreciate the shows only handful of other people will have been able to experience.   

Exhalants are out of Austin, Texas and they have just over 500 Facebook followers. All 3 of the band members bring something to the table, and they sound like a band that writes and grows together, not just one person writing a song and people playing on top of it. There’s something very collaborative about the way all the instruments in the band interact.

And that makes them hard to box into a genre. They’ve got a lot of noise rock. They’ve got a lot of hardcore punk. There’s some shades of emo, metal, and sludge in there too. And lord, are they loud. Steve, the singer and guitarist of the band, told me he was working on about 3 hours of sleep, but you couldn’t tell with their live show. They're fast, loud, and they played hard. At the same time, there’s a mellowness to them that’s more apparent in their live show than off their self-titled debut album that came out earlier this year, but they can transition tones in a very cohesive way.

I mentioned how hard it was to describe their sound to Tommy, the drummer from the band, and he said something along the lines of “that’s why we just call it punk rock,” but I don’t think that does Exhalants justice. They’re incredibly skilled musicians and while the band is new, you can see their progression as musicians from their earlier projects like Innards (Tommy’s old band) and Carl Sagan Skate Shoes (Steve and Bill’s old band). Steve remarked to me that it was very important Exhalants didn’t sound like Carl Sagan, so it makes sense to see the band evolve. By the way, Exhalants blew me away so much that they made me want to check out their previous projects.

I asked Steve if he had anything I’d like to cover in this review, and he paused for a second. He was loading up his equipment by himself after denying my offer to help. It was their burden to bear, according to him. “Just be good to each other. There’s so much meanness in the world and we don’t need to add to any of it.” Nothing about his new record, nothing about the show he just played. That, in combination with their talent as musicians, is why I think we’ll hear a lot more good things from Exhalants. When bands like each other, love what they do and strive to always evolve, great things happen. And we’ve only just begun to hear from Exhalants.

The bill was altogether fantastic, so I want to give some shout-outs to the other bands. P I N K O and Pussyfoot also played great sets and I can’t speak highly enough of them. P I N K O is the first band to ever make me want earplugs after going to DIY shows for half of my life, and I mean that in the most flattering way possible. They’re loud, they’re hard, and they’ve got a sense of song structure and melodies.

Pussyfoot sounds like a sludgier Alex White (of White Mystery and The Red Orchestra) project. The singer’s voice reminds me of her and the song structure reminds me of her projects. Very dark, haunting melodies. The band also had this hypnotic Velvet Underground vibe about about them as well that makes you want to close your eyes, get lost in the song, and see where they take you next.

I missed Stuck, the opening band, because of who I am as a person. It was their second show and my friends tell me they did well. Some of those guys were in a band called Yeesh, and they have a talent for hooks and did some great emo/pop punk stuff before breaking up.

P I N K O and Exhalants’ just finished their tour and they put out a split. Check it out at and follow them on Facebook by searching for Exhalants, ya dinguses. They’re the only thing that shows up.

   <--------- Exhalants S/T Debut available here!

All Photos by Tony Buitrago

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Machine Girl, Le1f, and The Garden: Live from Cleveland

Over Thanksgiving break, I went home to Cleveland. When I saw that The Garden was coming to Mahall's, a retro bowling alley that doubles as a concert venue, I was ecstatic. On the day of the concert, I arrived at the venue early, knowing that it would fill up quickly. 

I secured a spot in the first row behind the amplifier. The lights went down, and the drummer from the first opening act, Machine Girl, sat down as he donned a chunky pair of headphones and started pounding on the drums. At this point, the lead vocalist began beating on an electric keyboard and starts wailing into an auto-tuned microphone. This breakbeat duo induced a massive energy into the crowd. Everyone in the room was pushing each other and screaming. Hearing from girls in the bathroom that the band had been spitting on the crowd the night before, I had no idea what to expect. 


The show Machine Girl put on was loud, aggressive, and energizing. If you are looking to mosh and get thrown around in a circle of sweaty twenty-something year old’s, Machine Girl will give you just that. 

After about ten minutes after the first opener ended, Le1f smoothly glided onto the stage. Already drenched in sweat after the first song, titled Koi, he ripped off his heavy fur jacket. Pulling dance moves from drag culture, this key figure in openly gay rap scene put on quite the show. His velvety voice filled the room, and everyone in the room was getting into it Le1f looked like a model: he was owning the stage and glistening while doing so. Hands came up towards Le1f from every direction. I turned around halfway through the show and saw Wyatt Shears, the lead singer of The Garden, standing on a table and nodding along to this luscious act.

He ended the show with an upbeat song, “Rage”, which put the crowd in the mood to dance, and prepared them for what was to come. 

The room was completely filled by now. Those who left after seeing Machine Girl were replaced by double the amount of garden fans. Looking around, I saw some covered in paint and dressed like clowns, a trademark of The Garden.

The entire room filled with smoke as I saw Fletcher Shears, half of The Garden duo, hop on stage and make his way over to the translucent orange drum set. He looked chic, his long hair covering most of his face, almond-shaped acrylic nails, and wearing a tight black turtleneck. He sits for a second and relaxes while his twin brother, Wyatt Shears, runs past me onto the stage. Wyatt looked a little grungier, wearing a cutoff tee-shirt, clear construction glasses, a black trench coat, and dress pants. His hair was dyed blonde in the front and brown in the back. 

I heard the blaring of an electric beat and I knew instantly what would come next. The crowd was swept off of their feet with the first song, “Clay”. The riff of Wyatt's guitar started to blare over the electronic track.  Everyone in the room was jumping around and singing along at the top of their lungs.

Switching out the original lyrics with vulgar words throughout the show, Wyatt kept the audience on their toes. The crowd lost their minds when “U Want the Scoop?” began playing on a loop. For this song, Fletcher emerged from behind the drum set and began bouncing around the stage, chanting alongside his brother.

At one point, Wyatt threw a plastic storage bin onto his head and shoved the microphone into the bin while still belting the lyrics to “Play Your Cards Right”.

The only time the band stops playing is when they thank the openers for performing with them. After Wyatt said a quick thank you to the openers, I started to hear dogs barking, and the riff of Wyatt’s base. Fletcher was drumming on the snare when the beat slowly escalated. 

“We’ll knock the other ones out” Wyatt repeated quickly into the microphone.  “Crystal Clear”, a fast pace punk-inspired song was the highlight of the show. This track live really showed what talent The Garden had to offer: the incessant, rapid strumming of the base, the quick drum beats, the electronic accents, and the clipped-singing style along with Wyatt’s hand gestures that he incorporated throughout the show. This song was truly the highlight of my night.  


After playing seventeen songs, The Garden ended with “All Smiles Over Here:)”, one of their most popular tracks. We were all head bobbing and jumping around, responding back at the microphone Wyatt pointed at us during the refrain. Wyatt finished by ripping on his bass one last time, and after this, the twins said thank you and walked off.


After the show, I then saw Wyatt hanging out in the venue. I got a chance to speak with him and tell him what a great show it was. He was easily approachable and was cracking jokes throughout the interaction. I said goodbye and wished him and his brother good luck on the rest of their tour. Overall, The Garden played a phenomenal show, and their music sounded even better in person. If you ever get a chance to see The Garden, buy your tickets early because these shows fill up quickly, and be ready to see an energetic, entertaining, and extremely talented band play. 



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WLUW Recommends: Typesetter

The music scene in Chicago had always been an endless font of cool bands - so endless in fact that it can sometimes feel overhwelming. WLUW is here to help you sift through the huge but amazing scene that we have here in the city! Today, you can read all about local punk rock band Typesetter, who recently put out their latest full length album "Nothing Blues" on 6131 Records! I had the pleasure of talking to Marc Bannes over the phone this past weekend who gave me some info on the band and their new album - take a look!

Q: So tell me about Typesetter, when you guys came together, what Typesetter is about?

A: Yeah - so myself and Alex Palermo our bass player and Kyle McDonald our guitar player all grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and our bands would play together, we always talked about starting a band but it didn’t happen for a few years. I cam to Chicago first and those guys kind of made their way to Chicago a couple years after that and we finally got the band we were talking about starting off the ground. We released out first EP in 2013, first full length in October of 2014, played a bunch of shows, toured our asses off, changed some members and stuff like that. Fast forward to now this record we’ve been working on for a year, Nothing Blue,  came out this year on October 26th - super proud of it.

Q: So you’re from St. Louis - what was it about Chicago that drew you in?

A: Well I moved to Chicago to go to school. I went to Columbia College. But also St, Louis is cool but there’s not much going on. I always wanted to play music and I was hip to a lot of bands in the city, a lot of bands I grew up listening to and loving were from Chicago so it seemed like a good fit. 

Q: Nothing Blues came out this past October - you said you were recording it all this past year?

A: Yeah we started recording in the summer of 2017 and we did drums, bass, guitars and then I took the tracks and did vocals, keys, more percussion an then I mixed it as well. Over the course of six months or so. And then we started submitting it to labels last winter and made things official with 6131, our current label earlier this year. Everything just takes a long time.

Q: So when it’s taking that long to record and make the album, is it difficult to decide when you’re finished?

A: Yeah it’s impossible. Absolutely. it’s so hard. I wrote 9 out of 10 songs on the record and wrote all the lyrics and mixed the whole thing I had no idea when it was actually done.

Q: So what was the deciding thing for this one, when did it actually end?

A: Eventually my desire to just put the damn thing out already outweighs day desire to keep working on it. So in the end i asked everybody to tell me if this is good or not, I can’t tell anymore. 

Q: So what is the theme of the album? Is there one What re these songs about?

A: I mean we didn’t set out to write a concept record or anything like that but you know the things I was going through in my life during the couple years these songs came about. i was having a really rough time, some mental health issues, I was having problems dealing with that and I felt admitting that was like admitting defeat or admitting some sort of fault with myself and realized that’s not the case and you know talking about the issues you’re having and the issues you’re going through is actually a strength. A lot of the record has to do with trying to be healthy, some soul searching and self reflection in ways you’ve never done before which can be scary. i think that people can take away from it that if you’re going through some stuff that’s not weakness it’s a strength and the only way to deal with all your shit is to do it with open arms. 

Q: So how is 6131? 

A: We ruche out to a ton of labels, and some got back to us with some positive stuff but 613 got back to us pretty much right away and seemed really stoked about it. I was really excited when they emailed us back because they really only put out really cool records. So many rad bands have passed through that label so I just have always respected them, cool aesthetic. It’s kind of validating in a way.

Q: How’s the tour going?

A: We’re in Omaha tonight and out release show is in Chicago tomorrow (Sat, 11/17) at the Sleeping Village. It’s bene great, we played in Gainesville, Fl. And then we did New Orleans, met up with this band Red City Radio in southern California and did some West Coast dates which was a big party, did some Northwest and now back through the Midwest.

Q: What are you guys listening to lately? What do you dig right now?

A: On this tour we’ve been listening to a lot of…um…Foxing’s new album, Antisocialites by Alvvays, thee’s this band called Waax from Australia - we listen to them all the time.

  <------------- "Nothing Blues" available now on 6131 Records!!!!!


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Eyedress brings his debut tour to the US

Idris Vicuña is Eyedress, a 28-year-old multi-instrumentalist, and producer based in the Philippines. Vicuña, born in Manila, Philippines, moved with his family to the United States at a young age where he began his music career in San Clemente, California, as the bassist in a crust punk band. Vicuña’s family moved back to the Philippines in 2005, where he and several friends thereafter formed contemplative surf rock band Bee Eyes.


Stepping away from the group, Vicuña sought to develop his own style as an individual musician, releasing his debut album under the name Eyedress, “Hearing Colors,” in 2014. He has since collaborated with musicians such as Edgar the Breathtaker a.k.a. King Krule, Pyramid Vritra, Jess Connelly and Jiin, and has continued to release music as Eyedress.


Released on November 16, “Sensitive G,” Eyedress’ second studio album on label Lex Records, is a comprehensive collection of laid-back indie beats. With varied influences – ranging from 90s R&B to lo-fi hip hip to bedroom pop – “Sensitive G” is beautifully multi-faceted from start to finish. Vicuña raps, sings and plays his way through the 20-song compilation, flowing from the simplistic guitar melodies of “Ancient Love” all the way into the alternative R&B bass line of the title track, “Sensitive G.”


Hypnotic and introspective, Vicuña’s cadence may come off as laid-back and breezy. Upon closer examination, it becomes increasingly apparent that his lyrics are anything but that; the musician dabbles in political and social topics of the modern world, which can perhaps best be exemplified in tracks, “Toxic Masculinity” – “I mask up my emotions, I try to hide the pain inside” – and “No Love in the City” – “There’s always a price to pay, radio sucks … it’s all about money and lust. I just want truth.”


Eyedress is hitting the United States on a 15-date tour in support of “Sensitive G” this winter and will be in Chicago at Schubas Tavern on Saturday, December 15.


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