Grant support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts
Downtown Sound, Millennium Park’s popular Monday night music series, is expanding this year to showcase contemporary and electronic music artists (formerly Loops and Variations) and world music artists in addition to its eclectic mix of cutting-edge indie rock, pop bands and rock veterans. Concerts are now scheduled Mondays and Thursdays, June 1–July 23 at 6:30pm (except where noted).
(Headliners appear first in the line-up below, schedule is subject to change)
San Fermin is the brainchild of Brooklyn’s Ellis Ludwig-Leone, an artist with a broad musical background who pursued musical studies at Yale and sharpened his teeth working with the avant-garde classical composer Nico Muhly (Björk, Grizzly Bear, Antony & the Johnsons). Brooklyn-based ensemble Sō Percussion is a quartet of percussionists who play contemporary classical works as well as a mixture of music from other genres. Since 1999, Sō Percussion has been creating music that explores all the extremes of emotion and musical possibility.
The Very Best is Malawi’s Esau Mwamwaya and London-based producer Johan Hugo (We Don’t Belong in Pacha). Their chance introduction over the purchase of a bicycle in 2008 led production duo Radioclit to invite Esau Mwamwaya into their studio to collaborate on the mixtape that would launch their career. Containing an infectious cross-pollination of samples and rhythms anchored by Esau’s soaring vocals, the mixtape quickly went viral. Glass Lux formed in October 2010 when producer/DJ Alfonso Mayen met vocalist Emily Morse. The resulting project led to a slick dance-and-synth-heavy sound showcasing Le Fonz’s catchy production and Emily’s hauntingly mature voice.
Andrew Belle is a Chicago-based singer-songwriter who splits his time in Nashville. He released his debut album, The Ladder, in 2010 and its follow up, Black Bear, in 2013. Both were selected as iTunes Albums of the Year. His most recent EP Black Bear Hushed includes reimagined versions of tracks from Black Bear, while his music continues to be featured on hit shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Castle. Birds of Chicago is a collective built around husband and wife duo JT Nero and Allison Russell. Since forming in 2012, they have toured internationally 10+ months of the year, with their unique brand of rock and roll poetry.
The London Souls unique reinterpretation of classic hard-hitting rock and roll recalls elements of the past with an ever-present boundless energy. Tash Neal and Chris St. Hilaire have been nothing short of a best-kept secret among New York City concertgoers since the band’s formation in 2008, building a fervent and dynamic fan base. Eggnoise is a Czech music group formed circa 1994 by Ondra Kopička and Ondřej Galuška. The group’s most recent album, 4, features songs from the film “Holy Quaternity” by Oscar-nomined director Jan Hrebejk. They have toured with dEUS, the Levellers, Longital and Lenka Dusilova. This performance is a part of Prague Days Chicago.
The Mighty Diamonds (Donald “Tabby” Shaw, Fitzroy “Bunny” Simpson and Lloyd “Judge” Ferguson) formed in 1969 in the Trenchtown area of Kingston, Jamaica. They are the longest-running vocal trio in Jamaican musical history, entertaining and educating the world with their sweet harmonies and conscious lyrics – and producing more than 60 albums. Charley ‘Organaire” Cameron is a harmonica player and singer born in Kingston, Jamaica. More than 50 years ago, Organaire performed in the instrumental section on a plethora of pivotal early Jamaican ska and rocksteady recordings. Since 1976 he has lived in Chicago. His latest release, Friends, features collaborations with Charlie Hunt and Steve Bradley.
The 39-year-old Texan Hayes Carll connects with music lovers across genres lines. Playing rock clubs and honky tonks, Bonnaroo, Stones Fest, SXSW and NXNE, he and his band the Gulf Coast Orchestra merge a truculent singer/songwriter take that combines Ray Wylie Hubband’s lean freewheeling squalor with Todd Snider’s brazen Gen Y reality. Mother Falcon began as a jam session among a few adventurous high school cellists. In the seven years since, violins, saxophones, trumpet, piano, accordion, banjo, guitars and bassoon have joined them in an indie orchestra of 20 classically-trained young musicians.
LA-based multi-instrumentalist Patrick Grossi, aka Active Child, will present the Chicago live premiere of his highly anticipated sophomore full-length album, Mercy. Known for his porcelain falsetto and cascading harp, Active Child’s live show shimmers with lush arrangements, stunning visuals and a talented team of backing musicians. Chicago bassist-composer Matt Ulery creates resplendent, lyrical, transportive chamber-jazz music. Ulery has forged a unique signature sound, with three-time Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird plus a core rhythm team: UIlery, double bass and voice; Rob Clearfield, piano, Jon Deitemyer, drums; vocalist Grazyna Auguscik; Aurelien Pederzoli, violin; and Dominic Johnson, viola.
Snarky Puppy seamlessly fuses a deep knowledge and respect for musical tradition with sonic and conceptual innovation. The New York-based quasi-collective has gone from the best-kept secret to one of the most respected names in instrumental music. The internationally renowned percussion ensemble Third Coast Percussion will lead an army of Chicago’s finest musicians in a performance of “In C” to celebrate the 80th birthday of composer Terry Riley – featuring members of Spektral Quartet, Ensemble Dal Niente, New Music Chicago and numerous educational institutions. Considered the first piece of “minimalism,” this landmark 1964 work changed the course of contemporary classical music. Formed in 2005, Third Coast Percussion has developed an international reputation with concerts and recordings of inspiring energy and subtle nuance.
Poi Dog Pondering, “the little big band with the strong back and supple, stubborn heart," has been following their intuition for over 25 years. From bohemian street buskers to impossible-to-market major label sacrificial lambs, the Chicago-based group has ripened into staunchly independent musical voyagers. The vinyl version of their latest album, Everybody’s Got a Star, will be available for the first time at Downtown Sound. Caroline Smith earned her place in the Midwest music community with her characteristic alto timbre, quivering with the presence of Billie Holiday, Leslie Feist and Joanna Newsom. Smith’s new music merges ’90s R&B and neo-soul with her indie-rock roots.
Born in a Brooklyn warehouse in 1997, 12-piece ensemble Antibalas is credited with introducing Afrobeat to a wider global audience, influencing countless musicians and developing a live show that is the stuff of legend. On the heels of the hit musical FELA!, on which several members collaborated, Antibalas has reunited with former member and producer Gabe Roth. The debut album from Sonny Knight and The Lakers, I’m Still Here, was released in 2014. In person, Sonny Knight defies his 66 years of age. Nearly 50 years have passed since Knight’s first recording, but he says for the first time he feels like the center of attention.
King Sunny Ade is the undisputed king of juju music, the dance-inspiring hybrid of western pop and traditional African music with roots in the guitar tradition of Nigeria. Ade launched his own record label in 1974 and has released more than 100 of his own recordings in Nigeria. This tour marks his first visit to North America in 7 years. Mathew Tembo’s music fuses indigenous Zambian vibes with contemporary sounds to create a truly unique form. His latest album, Dadi Mwana, resounds in upbeat, Afro-fusion, reggae-fueled tracks featuring lyrics in various languages skillfully performed on handmade instruments.
Judah & the Lion (Judah Akers, Nate Zuercher and Brian Macdonald) is a modern pop band with a feel as old as hills and holler. They are the happy sum of disparate parts, Southern grit, Midwestern (Chicago) openness, the exuberant freedom of the West, all brought together to make a truly joyful noise. The band has released two successful EPs, First Fruits and Sweet Tennessee. The latter blasted onto the Billboard charts, hitting the Top 20 in a variety of genres, and “Sweet Tennessee” made it to #1 on the iTunes “Singer/Songwriter” chart.
After spending the ’80s as an unappreciated jangle pop guitarist and solo artist with albums released on Columbia and A&M Records, Matthew Sweet emerged in 1991 as the leading figure of the American power pop revival. Sweet made his most recent record, Modern Art (2011), with Velvet Crush founder Ric Menck on drums and Dennis Taylor on guitar. Erik Hall worked patiently and solitarily for four years to craft Driver, his sophomore album as In Tall Buildings, produced between his home studio in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and a ’60s farmhouse in Leelanau County, Mich. His music is powerful in its restrained simplicity.
Colombian musician Mario Galeano, the force behind the band Frente Cumbiero, and English producer Will Holland (aka Quantic) have joined forces to create the Ondatrópica project – supported by the British Council to explore and expand the tropical sound of Colombia in its rawest form, and to marry it with the cool sound of London. A South Florida native, born to Ecuadorian immigrants and based in Brooklyn, Roberto Carlos Lange (aka Helado Negro) says his upbringing provides essential elements to his songwriting. Helado Negro presents a new shivers-down-the spine concert experience, with costuming and movement developed during his recent 42 city tour.
On the surface, Murder By Death is a Bloomington, Ind. quintet with a wry, ominous name. But behind the geography and moniker is a band of meticulous and literary songwriters matched by a specific brand of brooding, anthem-riding balladry and orchestral indie rock. Their latest release, Big Dark Love, is the band’s seventh full-length album. Originally from Birmingham, Ala., Banditos is a group – more like a gang, actually – of six twentysomethings, operating out of Nashville. Their self-titled debut album bodaciously appropriates elements of ’60s blues-fused acid rock, ZZ Top’s jangly boogie, garage punk scuzz à la Burger Records and more.
Los Cojolites was born in 1995 as part of a project dedicated to recover artistic expressions of indigenous people in the ancient town of Cosoleacaque, Veracruz, Mexico. In December 2014, they presented their fourth production, Zapateando, which includes traditional sones. David Wax and Suz Slezak form the artistic core of the David Wax Museum and together fuse traditional Mexican folk with American roots and indie rock to create a Mexo-Americana aesthetic. They have built a reputation among concertgoers for “kicking up a cloud of excitement with their high-energy border-crossing sensibility” (The New Yorker).
Mondays & Thursdays; June 1-July 23, 2015
6:30 pm (except Thursday, July 9 at 8 pm)
Millennium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavilion
201 E. Randolph St.
Chicago, IL 60601
FREE; Seating area opens to the public at 5:30 pm
Every aspect of Millennium Park was designed to be fully accessible to all patrons. The following services are available:
For travel information, visit www.transitchicago.com.