Waco Brothers, Chris Mills and the Distant Stars

Waco Brothers

Chris Mills and the Distant Stars

Wed · April 13, 2016

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 8:30 pm

$13 Advance / $15 Day of Show

Tickets at the Door

This event is 21 and over

Waco Brothers
Waco Brothers
Time-honored country-punk formula of Half-Cash/Half-Clash, with the sound turned way up and the polish way, way down.
— Rolling Stone

Waco Brothers are a five-piece, mostly Chicago based band consisting of Dean Schlabowske and Joe Camarillo - both Dollar Store band members - and three British expats: Jon Langford (Mekons, Skull Orchard, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Tracey Dear, and Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones). The group’s most recent releases include Waco Express: Live & Kickin’ at Schuba’s Tavern (2008), Great Chicago Fire (2012), and Cabaret Showtime (2015) – respectively, a live recording, a joint project with Nashville songwriter Paul Burch, and a limited-quantity b-sides and covers album. Going Down in History is the group’s first formal studio album since 2005’s Freedom and Weep. Waco Brothers were initially forged in the mid-1990s as an outlet for rowdy live performances and to celebrate Chicago’s burgeoning country scene, and have since put out seminal, genre-defining albums, including To the Last Dead Cowboy, Cowboy in Flames, and others.

The new album:
The Waco Brothers have been standing at the corner of punk urgency and Three-Chords-And-The-Truth country for 20 years now. They started at a time when it was deemed patently absurd to mix the two types of music, but the Wacos knew the score; they are different sides of the same coin, the personal wrapped in the political. And instead of travelling calculated creative boulevards during their career, the Waco Brothers have explored dark alleys and winding gravel paths through nine releases, all with the headlights off and the pedal to the metal, worrying (or not worrying) about end results later. With a body of work known for the indelicate and raucous, this may be their most deliberate and punchy yet—no one’s more dangerous than a man with nothing to lose. The title can be read two different ways, after all.

With a devil-may-care attitude towards polish and finesse, Going Down in History captures the thrill ride rush of the Waco Brothers’ live shows. Through the improvisational and fluid approach they adopted at Chicago’s Kingsize Sound Labs with longtime collaborator Mike Hagler at the knobs, the songs took on a muscularity and cohesiveness of an album unlike any previous Wacos recordings. Their pioneering Cash-meets-Clash jet engine mash up is still there, to be sure, but the Wacos have turned their well-scuffed boot heels towards their roots as never before. They have gone back to the future, down in history to celebrate and transform that which came before them.

Going Down in History pulses with the energy and excitement of first wave garage punk and ‘70s glam that first captivated singer/guitarist Jon Langford (Mekons, Skull Orchard, Pine Valley Cosmonauts). “We Know It” and “Building Our Own Prison” are distorted T. Rex via Bo Diddley-beat punk that will get you grooving towards the end times. “Receiver,” a gritty pub crawl from Wire to Dead Weather, and the short-circuiting grind of “Devil’s Day” harken back to singer/guitarist Deano’s time in the Chicago noise rock scene with his band Wreck. The raspy, push and pull tension of the title track, with its hard-learned life credo “you gotta walk before you can fall down on your face” might make it the Patron Song of Lost Causes. At the heart of the record is the Small Faces’ “All or Nothing,” a liberating, sing-to-the-skies rock and roll masterpiece, brimming with jagged guitars, booming drums and rousing organ. Ian McLagan, The Faces’ keyboardist (who died in 2014), was both hero and friend to the Wacos, and the song is permanently dedicated to him. Wrapping up the album is a cover of Texas songwriting ace Jon Dee Graham’s “Orphan Song,” cementing the Wacos’ cosmic link between Chicago and Austin.

With an improbable longevity, an impeccable rock and roll resume, and a go-for-broke live personae that can distract from the sharpness of their subject matters, it can be easy to take the Wacos for granted. But what was true at the beginning of the siege remains so today: in these fraught times, no one’s out there writing and performing with the political and personal so intertwined. Like a strange, colorful and possibly poisonous toad that lies dormant in the mud of an Amazonian rain forest, only to emerge when it seems like it’s necessary, the Waco Brothers are back, and, perhaps, we need them now more than ever.
Chris Mills and the Distant Stars
Chris Mills and the Distant Stars
[Mills'] hidden elegance lies in the twist of lovesick metaphor, the wistful chord, the revisionist take on the slamming door. – NME

It’s been 17 years since Chris Mills released his first EP, “Chris Mills Plays And Sings.” That record’s plainspoken title laid out the disarmingly simple tone for his career; the development of his craft since then has resulted in sharper songwriting, more musical ornamentation, and tours with the likes of Andrew Bird and Califone. Now, with ALEXANDRIA, Mills has increased his band’s numbers (bass player Ryan Hembrey, pianist Christer Knutsen, and drummer Konrad Meissener) and geographic scope—the Brooklyn-based troubadour’s sixth studio album was largely conceived in Scandinavia, and recorded at Chicago’s Wall To Wall Studios. (Grammy-winning engineer Ryan Freeland mixed the album.) At once intensely personal and incredibly ambitious, ALEXANDRIA is a leap forward for Mills, yet it retains the wit and keen eye for human behavior that have defined his records up to this point.

The seeds for this record, Mills’s first since 2008′s LIVING IN THE AFTERMATH, were sown by his own maturing. “There was a lot of personal upheaval and renewal going on throughout the entire writing process,” Mills recalls. “I got married; I went through some rough times and pulled myself out of them. I began to refocus on how I thought about music and art, and playing and recording. This album looks backwards and forwards at the same time.”

As such, the characters populating Mills’s have weathered life’s storms, but are by no means swept away by their tumult; instead, they look for salvation in the world around them. The loneliness precisely described on “The Sweet Hereafter” is tempered by the knowledge that there’s “magic in the mountains,” while “Castaways”—a sea shanty turned rave-up—looks for redemption in the water.

“I spent a lot of time in Scandanavia when I was writing the songs and when Christer, Ryan and I were working on the demos, and I definitely feel like that informed some of the tracks. I feel like there’s a bit of desolation in a lot of the lyrics, and a sort of ‘no man’s land’ vibe, which reflects where we were at times in the Norwegian countryside. There’s a stillness at night when you get into the mountains over there, or above the Arctic Circle, and a little loneliness that I think crept into some of the songs.”

ALEXANDRIA’s opening track “Wild Places” opens with Mills singing, simply, “I have wandered in the wild places/ and I’ve brought a message back for you”; that sentiment sets the tone for this expansive, exploratory album, which is full of heartfelt words set to indelible melodies.
Venue Information:
Union Hall - Brooklyn
702 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY, 11215