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Friday July 26 2024
  8:00PM doors -- music at 8:30PM
 indie folk rock
Hrishikesh Hirway
 electronic chamber music chill pop dream pop
No Lights
 alt rock post hardcore

-Chicago, IL
-Spanning more than two decades, Mike Kinsella's widely influential songwriting has steadily
sharpened and evolved with each new chapter. In his solo vehicle as Owen (in addition to his
roles along the way with American Football, Cap'n Jazz, the more recent LIES, and other
collaborative ventures), Kinsella’s ability to seamlessly stitch jagged emotional currents into
crushingly beautiful songs has remained at the forefront of his art. This contrast has become
more distinct as Owen expanded from unassuming acoustic beginnings into more ornate
production, reaching new levels of complexity and clarity by the release of 2020’s The Avalanche.
The Falls of Sioux, Kinsella’s newest Owen full-length, levels up even further. As much as these
nine songs represent a type of reinvention, they also feel like the natural next step in Kinsella’s
growth, both artistic and personal. The album perforates an established sound to explore unlikely
musical ideas, while the songs document a time of moving through life-altering turmoil into
brighter days. Heavy themes are turned over with a gentle hand, and Kinsella inhabits the
deeper perspectives that come with hard-earned life experience.

The Avalanche was an unbuffered exposition of some of Kinsella’s darkest days, laying bare
the emotional fallout of his divorce along with several other gradients of grief and loss. Those
days aren’t forgotten, but the pieces have been picked up on The Falls of Sioux. Solidly on the
other side of a painful chasm, moments of intensity now come across as confident and exploratory
rather than tormented. The songs detail interpersonal situations that might have instilled panic
and self-loathing in younger days, but now Kinsella meets them with a relaxed smirk. It’s there
in the way gliding synths and warm vocal harmonies juxtapose brutal lyrics of doomed love on
“Virtue Misspent,” one of the album’s most upbeat songs. It’s also there in the jaunty, nearly
classic-rock bounce of “Mount Cleverest,” a lively banger that feels like the highpoint of a sunny
summer day but boils down to exhausted, “fuck all y’all” sentiments.

As with the past few Owen albums, Kinsella worked with co-producers Sean Carey (Bon Iver)
and Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Low, Waxahatchee) and also brought in Now, Now’s KC Dalager
to contribute backing vocals. Russell Durham (Fleet Foxes, Andrew Bird) composed the string
arrangements, Corey Bracken (from American Football’s touring band) played synths, and a
few other friends stopped through to add upright bass, pedal steel, and various auxiliary
contributions. Kinsella’s sound palette was influenced heavily by his recent work with his cousin
Nate in their boundary-pushing group LIES. Experimenting with the limits of electronic production
inspired Kinsella to lean into sounds he hadn’t considered before when writing for Owen. The
acoustic guitar strums of “Beaucoup” are slowly washed up against by a bedding of shoegaze
texture, a deep synth bass sequence, and waves of noisy electronics. “Hit and Run” is steady
and restrained chamber pop, speckled with gorgeous strings and distant piano, while the
Western-noir vibes of opener “A Reckoning” are emphasized by tubular bells so dramatic Kineslla
had to fight with his producers to keep them on the song. The aim was to embrace the excitement
of the unknown rather than make safe, surefire choices.

The open-ness of the music offers even Kinsella’s weariest lyrics an almost playful
counterweighting, giving The Falls of Sioux a new positioning that hasn’t quite appeared
before now in the Owen discography. It’s like watching a difficult winter melt into a
nicer-than-expected spring, with the kind of distance from bad times that makes them easier
to laugh at in retrospect. More than anything, the album is marked by a sense of self-acceptance
that can be felt regardless of how cutting the one-liners or how melancholy the songs. Kinsella
seems comfortable with himself and his craft in a way that only happens when artists round
a certain corner on their creative path. On The Falls of Sioux, he’s unafraid to share any and
all angles by which he might be viewed. To some extent, this has always been Kinsella’s M.O.,
but it’s different when the songs stop being about the hungover guilt and communication
breakdowns of early adulthood and move into the very real disappointments and discontinuations
that inevitably surface as life keeps happening. Never one to retreat, Kinsella portrays the
confusion, regret, and renewal of where he’s at presently with grace, honesty, and of course
some biting humor. Throughout The Falls of Sioux, the things about Owen that have changed
become just as valuable as those that have remained the same.

Hrishikesh Hirway
-from Los Angeles, CA
-Hrishikesh Hirway makes music and podcasts. His most recent EP, Rooms I Used to Call My Own, was released March 2022. He’s the host, creator, and executive producer of Song Exploder, an award-winning podcast and a Netflix original television series, where musicians break down the creative process behind their songs. Vulture called Song Exploder “probably the best use of the podcast format ever.” As a musician, he’s released four albums under the moniker The One AM Radio, and an EP with Moors, his project with Lakeith Stanfield. Besides Song Exploder, Hrishikesh produced and co-hosted the award-winning podcasts Home Cooking, with chef and author Samin Nosrat; and The West Wing Weekly, with actor Joshua Malina. He’s also the host and producer of the Partners podcast. He helped Google launch their first original podcast, and is the executive producer of Shirley Manson’s podcast, The Jump, for Mailchimp. As a composer, he has written and recorded original scores for movies and television, including the Netflix series Everything Sucks!, the film Save the Date, the CNN documentary Our Nixon, and the video game The Red Lantern.

Hrishikesh gave a TED Talk on how to listen to people to connect more deeply with them and their stories, and has contributed to CBS Sunday Morning. In 2022, he collaborated with the ice cream company Salt & Straw to create a new flavor for their Thanksgiving menu – Mom’s Mango Pie – based on his mother’s pie recipe.

Fast Company named him one of the Most Creative People in Business in 2021, and he was one of AdWeek’s Creative 100 in 2022. He serves the Library of Congress as an  advisor on digital strategy.

No Lights
-from San Francisco, CA
-There isn't an obvious phonic principle that connects the post-punk, indie pop of No Lights to more than two decades of Bay Area hardcore and metal. Perhaps it's more a family resemblance than anything else, sharing members with KOwloon Walled City (Ian Miller, Dan Sneddon), and a formidable list of past projects that includes Early Graves (Matt O'Brien, Dan Sneddon), Set Your Goals (Israel Branson), and Grace Alley. Like the streets of San Francisco in a Hitchcock movie, there is something familiar here, but never obvious whether it’s more beautiful or more troubling than real life. The references don't evoke nostalgia, aren't reverential.
And trying to pinpoint specific influences is like trying to tell the difference between the digital and the analog, between tubes and tape and bits and bites: an exercise in feeling rather than precision. No Lights released their double EP, "Stay Awake, June Bug," just before the world shut down in early 2020. 2023 brings their debut full length record, "Dream Eraser."