A reason to be cheerful in cold, dark January: Tomorrow Never Knows

January 6, 2010


Dedicated Chicago music lovers aren't daunted by much, but as the temperatures drop and the snow mounts through dark and dreary January, the temptation grows to stay home with the latest envelope from Netflix rather than heading out to the clubs as usual.

"Getting people to come out when the high for the day is 10 degrees probably is the biggest hurdle," Matt Rucins says. But six years ago, the veteran Schubas talent booker conceived of a way to celebrate both the seasonal adversities and the always vibrant local music scene: the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival.

"Jeremiah Wallace, who was in Paper Airplane Pilots, used to work here, and they were doing a record release show on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend," Rucins recalls. "We were trying to come up with support [acts], and there were a lot of available bands that were really good, so I think we did the first fest as two days with six local bands. Then we gave it a shot again the next year, expanded it to three days and got some regional acts.

"The third year is when I think it went to four or five days, and we started to reach out and get other bands to come to town for it. When we went to five days, I think I started to be more diverse with different kinds of music--you'll notice that this year, there's a night of soul music, a night of dance music and a night of kind of up-and-coming indie-rock/blog-type bands."

From the beginning, the musical aesthetic of Tomorrow Never Knows has been less about the mysterious psychedelic-pop sound of that classic Beatles track from "Revolver" and more about the Ringo malapropism that gave the song its name: Think of it as "tomorrow never knows what great things may happen to these up-and-coming acts"--or, tonight, Schubas and Lincoln Hall, tomorrow, the United Center and Lollapalooza.

Speaking of Lincoln Hall, the addition of a second venue makes 2010's festival the biggest and potentially the best yet. After two decades of running one of the best-sounding, most-welcoming but smallest spotlight clubs in Chicago, sibling owners Chris and Mike Schuba announced plans late last summer for a second club at 2424 N. Lincoln, in the building that used to house the Three Penny movie theater. Lincoln Hall's opening was delayed several times, but when it finally began hosting shows in the fall, fans generally gave it good marks for expanding the familiar small-club vibe to a new room able to accommodate about 500 people.

"It was a tough time to open up a new club, and the city doesn't make it any easier," Rucins says, referring to Chicago's notoriously harsh scrutiny of music venues. "Through December, we really couldn't promote most of the shows the way we wanted to--we could only promote them four to six weeks in advance, and we usually do six to twelve weeks. Then we hit winter.

"I'm kind of reserving judgment on how it's going [at Lincoln Hall] until late February. But in terms of artist and fan response, everybody seems floored by it."

Tomorrow Never Knows will offer club goers one more reason to check out the new venue, as well as visiting the Schuba brothers' original club at Southport and Belmont. A look at the roster of acts at both locales follows the jump.

Schubas, 3159 N. Southport

Wednesday, Jan. 13

A new addition to this year's fest is an evening of comedy dubbed "Laugh It Up, Kid" featuring Prescott Tolk, Cameron Esposito, James Fritz, Adam Burke, Mike Sheehan and hosted Bradley LaBree. The show starts at 9 p.m. and individual tickets are $5; you can also buy a five-day pass granting admission to all Schubas and Lincoln Hall Tomorrow Never Knows shows for $75. (Visit www.schubas.com or call 773-525-2508.)

Thursday, Jan. 14

Bringing a touch of summer--or at least some warm and breezy sounds--from their native Palm Beach, Florida, Surfer Blood headlines this bill, which also includes Freelance Whales, Bear In Heaven and Lasers and Fast and S--- starting at 9 p.m. Individual tickets are $15, but they are sold out.

Friday, Jan. 15

The swirling, mysterious electronic music project by Texas composer Alan Palomo, Neon Indian tops a bill that starts at 9 p.m. and also includes Hood Internet, Truman Peyote and Only Children. Individual tickets for this show are $15; you can also buy a five-day pass granting admission to all Schubas and Lincoln Hall Tomorrow Never Knows shows for $75. (Visit www.schubas.com or call 773-525-2508.)

Saturday, Jan. 16

The Paul Green School of Rock will present a celebration of "Women Who Rock" at a special all-ages show at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door.

Later on, the 18-and-over crowd will be treated to a headlining show by the much-buzzed violin-and-loops virtuoso Owen Pallett, who performs under the name Final Fantasy. Sharon Van Etten and Peter Wolf Crier open starting at 10 p.m., and individual tickets are $15.

Sunday, Jan. 17

The Paul Green School of Rock returns with an encore of its "Women Who Rock" show at 2 p.m., while the evening bill is topped by the Montreal indie-pop band Clubes. Skybox, Pomegranates and Netherfriends open starting at 9 p.m., and individual tickets are $15.

Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln

Wednesday, Jan. 13

Things kick off at Lincoln Hall with an appearance by the English quartet the Cribs. Sharing a bill that starts at 9 p.m.: infantile rocker Adam Green, formerly of the Moldy Peaches, and the Dead Trees. Individual tickets are $15.

Thursday, Jan. 14

Day Two's headliner is Voxtrot, an Austin, TX band that offers a winning mix of '60s pop and modern dance sounds. The show starts at 9 p.m. with Solid Gold and Gemini Club, and individual tickets are $15.

Friday, Jan. 15

My top pick for the highlight of the whole festival is Atlas Sound, the solo electronic project of Bradford Cox from indie/psychedelic-rock heroes Deerhunter. He headlines a strong bill that also includes Icy Demons and Shapers starting at 9 p.m. Individual tickets are $15.

Saturday, Jan. 16

Lulling and entrancing on album, Bowerbirds are a captivating and surprisingly powerful live act, thanks to the impressive stage presence of Beth Tacular. The group is joined on another strong bill by the Rural Alberta Advantage and the always charming Julie Doiron starting at 10 p.m. Individual tickets are $15.

Sunday, Jan. 17

Tomorrow Never Knows 2010 comes to a close with a night of old-school soul starting at 9 p.m. and featuring Lee Fields & the Expressions with JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound and Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers. Individual tickets are $15.