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Fest Curated By Wire DRILLs Into Chicago This Weekend

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 11, 2015 7:20PM

Photo of Wire by Marylene Mey, from the band's Facebook page

While Wire is often described as the ultimate post-punk band, they're really not that simple to pigeonhole.

As a kid, we remember hearing how genius Pink Flag was, but unable to find it we instead bought 154, since it was the only album our small record store had. Instead of the sharp, terse pop we expected to hear based on all the reading that led us to the band (thanks Trouser Press Record Guide!), 154's far more experimental sound threw us for a loop. But we found the album intriguing enough to continue to comb through the band's catalog and were delighted to encounter a group unafraid to challenge both themselves and the listener without ever losing their own personality during the journey.

Wire has applied that restless spirit to DRILL: CHICAGO, one in a series of ultra-focused festivals. The second of two festivals, one of which already took place in London, DRILL will bring together a wide variety of acts. There are three performances in Chicago—one tonight, Thursday June 11 at Hideout, tomorrow at Thalia Hall and Saturday at Metro—and the only thing each bill has in common is each will feature a performance that reinterprets an item from Wire’s back-catalog.

The most intriguing of these will be the collaboration between Wire and St. Vincent tomorrow at Thalia Hall as they tackle “Drill,” a song whose history is built on its constant evolution. I mean, can you believe they got away playing it on The Tonight Show in 1987? Anyway, it should provide an excellent opportunity for St. Vincent’s guitar work to push the song into a whole new level.

The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, photo by Jim Kopeny / Tankboy
The other collaborations will include both Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley performing “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W” off of 154 with Wire at Hideout tonight and the Pink Flag Guitar Orchestra closing out Metro on Saturday. Never heard of them? Neither have we, though according to the band we will see “performers, friends and allies join Wire onstage to play the song "Pink Flag" at full volume." In other words, while St. Vincent has us most excited, all of these collaborations sound pretty mind-blowing.

In fact, the entire festival line-up is amazing. In addition to Vandermark and Wooley, sound artist Olivia Block will appear at Hideout. So the evening’s aesthetic seems to be the one most built on possible improvisation and soundscaping, which should provide an interesting introduction and opening for the festival overall.

Friday’s bill at Thalia Hall features The Fly and raucous noisemakers White Lung. But to us the real treat will be headliner The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. When we saw them at Pitchfork Music Festival a few years ago just after they broke their hiatus, the band was still white freaking hot. And since then they’ve released two albums of new music, most recently this spring’s Freedom Tower - No Wave Dance Party 2015, which sees the band hitting harder than ever before. They heroically rescued whatever last remaining layers of grit there was on the Lower East Side and are keeping it all for themselves and their music.

Saturday’s line-up at Metro features local favorites Disappears along with Tim Hecker. Of course the real gem will be Wire’s headlining set, especially if it closes with the loudest version ever of “Pink Flag,” as promised. You know what? Earlier we mentioned that the only thing each evening's line-up had in common was the reworking of a Wire song, but that’s not totally correct. The other thing they all have in common is the fact that DRILL: CHICAGO seems custom built to push against the predictable and deliver beyond expectations.

Full DRILL: CHICAGO schedule

Thursday, June 11 at The Hideout
Ken Vandermark and Nate Wooley
Olivia Block
Ken Vandermark, Nate Wooley and Wire perform “Map Ref. 41°N 93°W”

Friday, June 12 at Thalia Hall
The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
White Lung
The Fly
St. Vincent and Wire perform “DRILL”

Saturday, June 13 at Metro
Tim Hecker
+ the Pink Flag Guitar Orchestra