Friday, June 3
Gates open at 5:00pm
LORD HURON, 8:45 PM
Ben Schneider conjured Lord Huron from the depths of Lake Huron during a trip to his family home in northern Michigan in 2010. Ancient memories, smoke over the moon and nights full of perilous laughter all bolstered the brew from which Lord Huron emerged. Ben brought Lord Huron back with him to Los Angeles, where strange young things are known to flourish, unhindered.
As the songs grew, so did the need for a band to play them. Answering the call ringing out from California, grand brethren from years past, friends and fellow Michiganders, Mark Barry, Miguel Briseno and Tom Renaud, left their respective paths, or bent each road to their own will, to reconvene out west. An old crew reformed in a new harbor.
After a pair of EPs, a debut album, Lonesome Dreams saw release in 2012. Tours followed that found the boys in blistering deserts, reveling in sinister paradises, wandering frozen coasts and lost among the hanging fog of bygone forests. Who can say but the soles of their shoes how far they travelled and how wide?
In 2014, trail-weary but intrepid, Lord Huron set up camp deep in Los Angeles at Whispering Pines Studios to notch their latest songs and abet the journeys of others. Lord Huron will release the next chapter of their adventures, Strange Trails, in April 2015.
THE LONE BELLOW, 7 pm
Then Came the Morning, the second album by the Southern-born, Brooklyn-based indie-folk trio the Lone Bellow, opens with a crest of churchly piano, a patter of drums, and a fanfare of voices harmonizing like a sunrise. It’s a powerful introduction, enormous and overwhelming, as Zach Williams, Brian Elmquist, and Kanene Pipkin testify mightily to life’s great struggles and joys, heralding the morning that dispels the dark night: “Then came the morning! It was bright, like the light that you kept from your smile!” Working with producer Aaron Dessner of the National, the Lone Bellow has created a sound that mixes folk sincerity, gospel fervor, even heavy metal thunder, but the heart of the band is harmony: three voices united in a lone bellow.
KEVIN ANDREW PRCHAL & THE WHEELING BIRDS, 5:30 pm
“While others in Prchal’s genre of alt-country/folk have been stomping and clapping their way to calculated sunshine, he remains a vital artist coming to terms with our biggest fears, spinning yarns on par with the darkened honesty of Johnny Cash’s American series.” – Jim Hanke, Vinyl Emergency
Kevin Andrew Prchal is a singer/songwriter from Chicago who’s released two full length records: Eat Shirt & Tie (2010) and Sorrow Sings (2014). With plans to record his third LP in the summer of 2016, Prchal continues to explore, discover, and define his artistic voice.
Saturday, June 4
Gates open at 3:00pm
COLD WAR KIDS, 9 pm
Ten years have come and gone since Cold War Kids first took to the stage in their homegrown Southern California scene. Time is typically unkind to indie rock bands. So how is that Cold War Kids are still here in 2014, selling out tours and releasing their fifth album in a decade amidst these 40 seasons of torrential fate winds, while so many of their peers have vanished?
“We worked really fucking hard, that’s the answer,” says Nathan Willett. “We worked really hard and we were successful, which is freakishly impossible, and we should embrace it. That’s our story.”
From his post at the front, Willett—along with the band’s bassist and visual director Matt Maust—has led Cold War Kids through the tricky 21st century rock and roll landscape, soaring over the peaks and facing the valleys head-on while carving out a place of the band’s own. Reaping sky-high praise from a mid-2000s blogosphere then growing wings as a live show juggernaut, they stand now with their fifth studio album Hold My Home as both a different animal and an unaltered beast all at once.
The band wrote and recorded the album in their own San Pedro studio, with guitarist Dann Gallucci and Dear Miss Lonelyhearts collaborator Lars Stalfors at the production helm. It is at the same time a more pure and also more bombastic album than anything they have ever made, utilizing their environment, experience, energy and cohesion while still driving home the familiar Cold War Kids sound that has been honed and perfected over this past decade. “This record is a testament to some of my strengths—loving words and stories—but also getting out the other side and creating a fun song that is in the spirit of the band,” says Willett. “This fifth record is probably the most simple, in a way, since the first one.”
Cold War Kids began as a four-piece of college friends but has undergone a couple of lineup changes in the past few years, from the fulltime addition of guitarist/producer Gallucci (Modest Mouse, Murder City Devils) to the departure of two original members, including most recently drummer Matt Aveiro. Replacing Aveiro on the album and on tour is seasoned veteran Joe Plummer (The Shins, Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly), and also onboard is touring keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Schwartz. Willett admits the alterations, while not easy, have been for the best. “For a band getting past that several-year hump, everyone figures out their role or contributions and are either content or not. The idea of what we’re doing evolved. It was the right kind of work for Maust and for me. We’re on the same tip that way; we want to live this artistic life.”
By now, it’s clear that Cold War Kids starts and ends with Willett, Maust and Gallucci, the creative yin and yang and three-chambered heart of the band. Willett stars as reluctant leader, like Moses in the wilderness, the cerebral center and refined song-crafter, shouldering responsibility; Maust is the spontaneous punk rock locomotive, constantly pushing the group forward as the conducting engine of their artistic spirit; Gallucci, who worked for Cold War Kids doing live sound for three years before officially joining, has the wide experience, taste and encyclopedic knowledge of music to make it all click. (“No one knows the sound of this band better than Dann,” says Willett. “He’s opened many doors for us.”) Together, they are the perfect complement; to wit, when Willett and Maust formed the side-project French Style Furs last year, that experiment only brought more energy and ideas to Cold War Kids.
“French Style Furs showed us how fun it needs to be making a record,” says Willett. “And that sometimes you have to tear something off to create a new energy.”
The rounding out of their main project’s lineup has created a dream team of sorts, hitting on all cylinders. As Willett says, “We have everything we need: hunger, energy, guys that come from bigger bands who know how things should work… There’s a lot of space for these guys as musicians to be creative, but we have our musical common ground in that we’re serving the song. As Maust understands about art, you elevate it to a place where it’s bigger than you and you serve it.”
The one-two elevated punch that launches Hold My Home is undoubtedly the band’s strongest leadoff since Robbers & Cowards. “All This Could Be Yours,” the first single, packs influences from Patti Smith and Them with its chugging piano chords and sing-along refrain, while the second song, “First,” is perhaps their biggest sound yet. One of the final songs to be completed and originally intended as a B-side, Willett calls “First” a “morning-after song with the usual Cold War Kids self-doubt: ‘Who am I, what am I doing, who are these people, do they love me, do I love myself?’ The songs that strike a nerve emotionally are the vulnerable ones. But it got an immediate reaction. I want to still learn what roads I can go down that are working.”
“Hotel Anywhere” is an escape from expectations and responsibility, a song inspired by an energetic experience listening to Oasis in the van after a gig. “There was this sense of abandon,” says Willett, “and I realized that’s what we feed off of as a band, that kind of energy that’s not cerebral. I feed off of Leonard Cohen but I feed off a good rocker, too. ‘Hotel Anywhere’ has a space and time and it’s poetic, but it has some Oasis drunken pub fun.”
“Harold Bloom” is an introspective number named after one of literature’s foremost critics and inspired in part by a confrontational moment in a John Lennon documentary. A torch song of sorts, it toes the line of the artist’s obligation to let go, regardless of who may be watching closely, while cautioning to not “lift your heroes up so high/that you can’t touch.” “You cannot let the potential for criticism come before your own creative release,” says Willett. “You have to make mistakes, and run forward knowing you may trip. Powerful art often happens accidentally and I have to work to make myself that way. I understand the dynamic of needing criticism or self-awareness but I am reminding myself to be childlike about it.”
In that sense, Willett and Cold War Kids have circled back to the beginning, as self-sufficient artists creating for the sheer love and joy of creation, surviving and thriving as they go, running off of the same steam they started on. Picking up some essentials along the way, they remain, ultimately, themselves—exemplified by the title track. “It’s about battening down the hatches when trouble comes and seeking control in a chaotic world,” says Willett. “To ‘hold my home/where the seasons never change.’
“We come from that time of bands that either don’t exist anymore or do in some smaller form. We’re somewhere in this middle ground, which is really great because we still get to do exactly what we want. In that way it does come back to Maust and me. We’ve existed 10 years and five records, we’re still making art that is very vulnerable and singular but we are ambitious and honest with ourselves, knowing that we want success and to reach people and have them understand our art. There’s something great that comes from having to knock on doors, and some of that hunger is back in this record. That’s where depth comes from, when you can tap into that place that has you digging deep and trying to find something true. I think Hold My Home is about all those things.”
PHOX, 7 pm
PHOX is a bunch of friends from the Midwestern circus hamlet, Baraboo, WI, a place where kids often drink poisoned groundwater and become endowed mutants. They make music that straddles Feist and Monty Python.
It was in Baraboo that the six unlikely musicians attended high school together, some playing on the soccer field, others on video production sets. But in a town with a drive-your-tractor-to-school day, they didn’t last.
They did the thing that most people do when they are 18: they fled the coop, each going their separate ways (to film school, cosmetology school, a job with Homeland Security…). But promises were made that couldn’t be kept, and as they fell in unrequited love and lost their respective jobs, in spite of themselves, each simultaneously pulled the ripcord and came home.
The sextet promptly (-ish) got a house together in the Portland of the heartland, Madison, WI. As prolifically documented in their online video series, PHOX rekindled their onetime A/V production house while discovering how to live as a family (i.e. how not to berate each other about the hair in the sink).
After two years of cohabiting, PHOX beheld a demo reel of bedroom-recorded music (and home movies) that made Bon Iver and The Fray recording engineer Brian Joseph blush. Donning his producer’s cape (and occasional lab coat), Joseph cheer-led the band through its debut album at April Base Studios in Eau Claire, WI.
Joseph’s enthusiasm propelled the band through the production of more than a dozen songs that have been swimming in the think tank for two years.
Mixed by Michael Brauer at Electric Lady in NYC, their debut album is a school of simple folk-pop songs swimming amidst a chaotic eddy of rock, psychedelia, and soul.
If the goal here is friendship, PHOX is doing quite well. If the chosen path is blue collar pixel-pushing and church camp trust falls, they’re on the way. And if their only coping mechanism is to lay down their arms and, for 30 or 45 minutes a day, shut up and listen to each other, you can’t be too upset.
MILES NIELSEN AND THE RUSTED HEARTS, TBD
Rockford, IL-based Miles Nielsen has spent nearly a decade enthralling audiences with music that draws force from the prime years of Western-influenced rock music and classic ‘60s soul. Claiming influences as diverse as Otis Redding’s classic soul and Jellyfish’s cult power pop recordings, Nielsen has thus far released two albums – his debut in 2009 as a solo artist, and then his sophomore album in 2012 as Miles Nielsen and the Rusted Hearts – to critical acclaim and an ever-growing fanbase.
Recent years have seen The Rusted Hearts sharing stages with similar artists including Dr. Dog and Rhett Millerto extensive fanfare and acclaim. The Hearts’ time on the road allowed the band members’ interpersonal chemistry to blossom, driving them to reimagine Nielsen’s past solo songs as vivid, full band anthems. This kind of transformation can be attributed to Nielsen being raised in a household that appreciated the classic rock band setup – yes, this is the same Nielsen blood that runs throughout Cheap Trick lead guitarist and main songwriter Rick Nielsen’s veins – but it’s more strongly a result of his extensive background in classical voice and recording engineering, two vital musical areas he has degrees in. Heavy Metal’s aching, heartfelt vocals and pristine, lucid production attest to Nielsen’s extensive skills in these areas, but more importantly, they remind listeners that they’re listening to a truly talented musician and songwriter.
RIVER VALLEY RANGERS, TBD
What began as a few friends playing songs on the banks of the Fox River has formed to become the bluegrass/newgrass band that is River Valley Rangers. They have developed a high-energy stringband sound that will keep you stompin’ your boots all night long! The Rangers have shared the bill with acts including the David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, The Larry Keel Experience, Pert Near Sandstone, Hot Buttered Rum, Horseshoes and Handgrenades, Henhouse Prowlers, and many more. Burning like a Midwestern prairie fire, the Rangers aren’t slowing down any time soon!
Not only does Two Brothers Brewing Company release Hop Centric Double IPA, but this year we will have special archive beers on tap and in bottles to take home as well! Please visit our Facebook page as we unveil our archived beers for this year’s festival!
One of the most popular tents at the festival is our Guest Beer tent. We call on a bunch of our good friends throughout the country to send us special beers you can’t get in the area. Then we tap them one at a time throughout the day so craft beer fans can all get a chance to try some of the coolest beer anyway. We are building our list right now. We will post them soon.
Two Brothers Summer Fest 2016 is moving across the street to RiverEdge Park in Aurora, IL.
RiverEdge Park is located at 360 N. Broadway, across the street from the Two Brothers Roundhouse.
The move to RiverEdge Park ensures we can accommodate as many festival goers as possible and have a larger stage for national headliners.
There is ample parking very close to the festival grounds. The access to the festival via public transportation is second to none. The Burlington Northern train line’s Aurora stop is (literally) across the street from the festival gate. You can also take the Pace bus system right to the festival.
Proceeds Benefit Make-A-Wish Illinois and other local charities. To learn more about Make-A-Wish, visit their website.