Soundtracking Your Fourth Of July BBQ, Chicago-Style

By Marcus Gilmer in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 3, 2012 8:40PM

The most American of holidays is on our doorstep and with it countless burgers, brats, and beers will be consumed at barbeques across the city. And as any host knows, an underrated key to a successful barbeque is the backing music. Play something too slow during the earlier, sunny hours and people are liable to fall asleep; keep things raging too late into the night, you’ll hurt at the office on Thursday. Sam already got a head start with her awesome hot-weather playlist yesterday but this being Chicagoist, we thought we’d also give it a go using Chicago-specific artists. Below, find our BBQ soundtrack schedule, a great mix of Chicago artists providing a great soundtrack for a hot afternoon.

[All the albums below are available at various online download sites like iTunes, eMusic, and Amazon though most are also available at many of the city’s great local record shops which we heartily encourage you to check out.]

3 p.m. - Wilco, A.M.
The debut album for one of the city’s most popular rock bands, the country-fried A.M. leans heavy on the Uncle Tupelo influence on jukebox rocker “Casino Queen” and twanger “That’s Not The Issue.” The second half is a bit mellow but it’s still good background music for the early stages in the party when not many folks have shown up. By the time the stomper “Too Far Apart” closes out the album, attendees will be wide awake and just getting loose. [Marcus Gilmer]

3:45 p.m. - Cheap Trick, Live at Budokan 1978
It’s time to kick things up a notch with another legendary Chicago rock band. This definitive live album is noteworthy for the way it manages to captures Cheap Trick’s raw live energy. The band charges through “Come On, Come On” and buzzsaws through the power-pop of “Lookout.” The energy never lags as they close out with thundering renditions of “Goodnight” and “Clock Strikes Ten.” The entire set is a double album so pick your favorites to keep energy levels high as the sun does its best to sap the energy from partygoers. [MG]

4:30 p.m. - Gold Motel, Summer House

Local indie-poppers Gold Motel have a new LP out today (which we’ll have more on later this week) but their debut, Summer House, is just as sunshiney and worthy of a spin. While not as blistering as Cheap Trick, Gold Motel keeps things upbeat enough to keep heads bobbing. The chugging chorus of “We’re On The Run” is too hooky to pass up and the warm buzzy tones of “Stealing the Moonlight” and the title track are fast enough to keep you moving but breezy enough to not wear you out. [MG]

5:15 p.m. - Oscar Brown, Movin’ On
It’s hot so it’s time for some gritty funk and soul. We went with this 1972 album because Brown's socially-conscious lyrics and storytelling is crouched in a subtle humor and tongue-in-cheek delivery that makes the message go down sugary sweet. Movin' On bridges the gap between the urban unrest of the late 60s and early 70s and touches on the early stages of hip-hop’s birth (to which some consider Brown as something of a godfather). And on the Fourth, why not remember the right to free speech? [Chuck Sudo]

5:45 p.m. - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, ...And The Horse You Rode In On
It’s amazing how Elia Einhorn can make the bounciest pop songs so forlorn. But it’s a talent and the rest of the band is pretty damn sharp, too. Scotland Yard Gospel Choir is still alive and well despite Einhorn’s recent move to NYC and this album is a good reminder why we should all be happy the band is still making music. The band’s bouncy pop - tinged with Einhorn’s sad, sometimes funny, lyrics - have set the band apart from a lot of similar sounding groups. Be it the sweet, lovelorn “I Pretend She’s You” or the fist-pumping, hilarious anti-anthem “Tear Down The Opera House,” SYGC’s music is great for blaring at a party but even greater for so often catching you off-guard with its charm. [MG]

6:30 p.m. - Kevin O'Donnell's Quality Six, Control Freak
Before Andrew Bird became an indie rock darling he played second fiddle—pun totally intended—for the talented drummer and songwriter Kevin O'Donnell. O'Donnell has scored music for dozens of plays, films and dance recitals. But it was his band the Quality Six that put a cheeky twist on the Swing genre, anchored by Bird's singing and violin playing. [CS]

7:15 p.m. - Curtis Mayfield, Superfly
Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack to Superfly was both the highlight of that film and the greatest moment of his musical career. It not only served as a score, but the film's Greek chorus and its conscience; Priest, Eddie and the rest weren't lionized like the protagonists in other blaxploitation films. His lyrics were unvarnished truths and accounts of inner-city life. The 70s were the decade where Mayfield established himself as a master storyteller and an urban grit; some even called him a prophet. And the music still grooves well enough to play at a BBQ, setting the funky mood for an early evening. [CS]

7:45 p.m. - Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor
At one point dubbed “the next Kanye,” Lupe hasn’t quite risen to Mr. West’s level of fame but that doesn’t mean he’s not churning out some great music. On the contrary, his official debut, Food & Liquor, shows why there was such hype around his career six years ago. Injecting a breezy soul into his hip-hop, songs like “Kick, Push” and “He Say She Say” take on a laid back air even as the beats still resonate.

9 p.m. - Fireworks!
It’s finally dark enough to switch of the music and watch the fireworks explode overhead or from a parking lot down the street. Crank some John Philip Sousa. Or Metallica. Or, if you really want to keep with the local theme, crank out some the theme music from e.r. because that’s where a lot of clandestine firework shooters will end up later. [MG]

10 p.m. - Numero Group, Twilight’s Lunar Rotation compilation
With the main fireworks displays trailing off - even as those illicit neighborhood shows are just getting started - it’s time to start mellowing out a bit. Tomorrow is a work day, after all. But that doesn’t mean the party has to completely shut down. Reissue label Numero Group is the best at what they do and this compilation proves it: unearthed uptempo and slow jam soul from the city’s long and oft-overlooked soul history. It offers up an underrated slice of Chicago’s music history and the bonus is that the music itself is damn good. It’s a perfect set to wind the night down. [MG]