Chicago Jam Scene Has Moved to Soundfuse Online Magazine

This was the official website of the Chicago Jam Scene â€‹ until March 2012. Content below is from the site's 2011 archived pages.



All of our content is now at Soundfuse Online Magazine. This website will expire in March. Please head over to for all same coverage you loved on CJS and much more.


Chicago Jam Scene has moved to Soundfuse Online Magazine

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to 2012!!

The time has come for a change. After 29 months as Chicago Jam Scene, it had become apparent that we had completely outgrown our name. As we expanded well beyond the jam scene, and even Chicago for that matter, it was time we created a new website to accommodate our expansion. As of this post, nothing new will be published at this site, all of our content will now be published exclusively at the new site.

Enter Soundfuse Online Magazine ( With the new website we will still focus largely on live music reviews, photography, and video. But now we will also have a greater emphasis on show previews/promotions, album reviews, contests, and commentary on music & culture. Essentially, everything we do outside of show reviews is going to receive a lot more attention. Multiple daily posts will be common, especially since we will now have a dedicated photography page, where concert photos will be available with in one week of the show. Soundfuse is going to a much more up-to-date and user friendly music website than CJS ever was.

Since Chicago has America's best live music scene, we will continue to be based here and highlight all of the amazing music this city has to offer. However, we will also be expanding our territory, with contributions coming from a wider range of Midwestern locations and more summer festival coverage as well. We have big plans for Soundfuse Online Magazine and we're happy to have all of your support. 2012 is going to be a great year!


11.25.11 | Nicolas Jaar

Words by Zlatko
Photos by David Goldman
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To say Nicolas Jaar had a good year would be a massive understatement. Compared to where he stood one year ago, it was a wildly successful 2011 campaign. The twenty-one year old Brown University student topped Resident Advisor's Top 20 Albums and Top 20 Live Acts earlier this month, not something many other kids his age can say they have accomplished. Hell, there are men twice his age that do not get that kind of recognition. Having had the pleasure of seeing him on my birthday this past March with Orchard Lounge, I really looked forward to his return to Smart Bar on Black Friday. After becoming more familiar with his music and really getting into his album Space Is Only Noise throughout the year, I was even more excited for this show than I was for the one back in March. Jaar even released a new track several weeks before this show called Don't Break My Love" that is in my humble opinion, one of the finest of 2011. This show only solidified RA's notion that he is one of the premier live acts going in the electronic music scene these days. 

11.26.11 | Umphrey's McGee, Cornmeal

Words, Photos & Videos by Frazier
11.26.11 Umphrey's McGee, Cornmeal at Aragon Ballroom-29

Night one of Umphrey's McGee's Thanksgiving run at Aragon Ballroom was a solid show. The first set's unexpected cover of "Burning Down The House" lit a fire under the room. And the second set's "Triple Wide" was one of the best versions I've heard of that song in a while-- that "Smooth Criminal" jam was money in the bank. Yet, I felt like there was a lot of room to improve, especially considering the Chicago Mass Choir was going to make an appearance. Where there wasn't room to improve, however, was in the sound quality department. Remember how I bashed Widespread Panic for having the worst sound in Aragon? Well, UM's sound engineer, Chris Mitchell, had them at the opposite end of the spectrum; the sound was as dialed in as possible within the limitations of the venue. The conditions were right, and with the people packed in tighter than the previous night, Umphrey's came out and played a gem of a concert.

Best Live Performances of 2011

Words & Photos (unless otherwise noted) by Frazier

I wanted this list to be a top ten. And then a top 11 for 2011. And then 2011's Top Dozen. And then it was the Baker's Dozen. And then... Then it was at that point when I decided to stop limiting myself to some arbitrary number. Essentially I shook up all the shows in my memory from the past year and let them settle naturally into layers. The shows below are the top layer: the most powerful music experiences of the year. This is in no way meant to be an objective ranking of bands/artists, it's just what I feel impressed me the most over the year. And keep in mind that the difference between number three and, say, number eight really isn't all that much. Any show that's on this list was incredible.

14. A-Trak at The Mid on 5.5.11
Definitely the most skilled DJ I've ever seen perform. Completely ambidextrous scratching. Lightning speed. Effortlessly flawless transitions. I challenge anyone who believes that DJs aren't musicians to watch this guy and say with a straight face & a clear conscience that A-Trak isn't a musician. Because it's impossible.

11.25.11 | Henhouse Prowlers

Words & Photos by Sean Petykowski
Henhouse Prowlers at Mayne Stage

Growing up in southern Texas, blues, Tejano and country were sounds I frequently heard switching through radio stations or when listening to my parents music as we drove down Highway 48 in my father’s third generation Chevy Bronco on our way to South Padre Island. I’ve looked at the liner notes to Eric Clapton's’ Unplugged album so many times that I could recall every word, lyric and image that graced each page. This past Thanksgiving after sharing an incredible meal with the family that had introduced me to such great music I made my way to a benefit concert to support the Greater Chicago Food Depository at Mayne Stage. With my can of food in hand I made my way inside the venue and quickly grabbed a seat to watch Henhouse Prowlers and Chicago Farmer thrum the night away.  

Best Guitarists of 2011

Words & Photos (unless otherwise noted) by Frazier

Since Zlatko is dropping a ton of electronic knowledge in his year-end lists, I figured I needed to really represent the instrumental talent I saw in 2011. I couldn't rank the bands but ranking the guitarists makes a little more sense, if only to emphasize just how mind-blowing number one was to hear. The order was determined by a combination of guitar skills and repeated incidences of amazement, which, once again, indicates that number one on this list was basically in a world of his own. (And before you get in a tizzy, yes, I recognize the pure genius of both Trey Anastasio and Jimmy Herring. But these guys could be at the top of this list every year and I'm trying to mix things up.)

6. Fareed Haque

No list of amazing guitarists that comes out of Chicago would be complete without Fareed Haque. He is a jazz guitar wizard and made over a dozen appearances in the city in 2011. I made sure to send as many different writers as I could to cover Fareed this year and the response across the board was indentical: "WHOA." If his activity in 2011 is any indication of his 2012, expect to see him pop up all over the city in a variety of groups, with his main focus being the blossoming electro-jazz group MathGames.

Favorite Albums of 2011

Words & Photo by Zlatko

What an incredible year of music to reflect back on, 2011 was truly a special one. The overall landscape seemed to shift in a new direction and electronic music continued to expand and grow, even reaching popular culture and attaining mainstream credibility (is that an oxymoron?). Compared to my 2010 List, I found myself listening to more electronic music than ever this year. It may have been my tastes shifting, or the amount of talent and depth in the genre, but I constantly found great albums within that sphere. Some of the albums on this list I discovered myself, others I was given recommendations by fellow audiophiles. I know I did not hear every great album that came out this year but I feel like I came across many of them. If you have any recommendations, please send them my way!

This list is in alphabetical order, I chose to not rank these albums sequentially for this simple fact: music is art and art is subjective. Every work of art should be judged on its own merits and stand alone from another unique piece of art. I can't find a way to say James Blake's album was any better than Martyn's or that what The Field did was any better than what Tycho did. I listened to each of those artists because they evoked different reactions and sensations inside my mind. That being said, I present to you my favorite music from this year...

11.25.11 | Umphrey's McGee, Beats Antique

Words by Brianna Kelly 
Photos & Videos by Frazier
11.25.11 Umphrey's McGee and Beats Antique at Aragon Ballroom-28

The only thing that got me through a 10-hour shift at America’s biggest—and greediest—department store on Black Friday was my favorite band…and 40 mg of Adderall. I had the displeasure of experiencing retail hell at 4 a.m. to sell clothing to plus-sized ladies like a corporate zombie, while simultaneously counting down the hours until Umphrey’s McGee took the stage at the Aragon Ballroom to play two back-to-back shows. I was so hyped for these Thanksgiving shows, it was all I could think or talk about all day; even though my fellow associates at Macy’s initially thought Umphrey’s McGee was some type of rare disease.

Best Midwestern Bands in 2011

Keeping with our year-end tradition of laying kudos on some deserving bands, I present to you a list of the best groups who called the Midwest home in 2011. It wouldn't be fair to rank these bands considering I love them all, so this list is in no order at all. These bands all made a huge impact on me in 2011 and I expect them to have huge 2012s.

Strange Arrangement

These guys were on the list last year and I suspect that this will be the last time they'll be eligible-- they will be hitting the national circuit very soon. These guys have matured tremendously in 2011, cultivating a complex & well-developed jam-rock sound that gets dancey as well as it rocks. With no genre holding them down and an uncanny ability to cover just about anything, Strange Arrangement isn't long for the Midwest.

11.23.11 | Van Ghost

Words, Photos & Videos by Frazier
11.23.11 Van Ghost at Schuba's-11

It's one thing when a band grows and matures before your eyes. Any band worth its salt will come together over time, strengthening their chemistry while getting tighter and more polished-- that's what happens with talented & passionate individuals becoming a cohesive unit over time. But it's another thing altogether when a band undergoes a true metamorphosis, literally transforming from a solid group to an absolute powerhouse. Yet, Van Ghost has done this very thing. Over the past 18 months, this band has morphed from an easygoing, alt-country outfit to a free-wheeling jam-funk-rock animal, capable of delivering explosive material in a wide variety of genre fusions. VG is a band I saw a number of times in 2011; there were some ups and downs but the overall trajectory was pointed directly at the sky. Then there was this show, which I now refer to as the Batman show, a Black Wednesday celebration at Schuba's where everyone was invited to dress in all black & white. Quite formal and conservative - that is, until the second set, when the band and their stage hands reappeared onstage in Batman t shirts & hoodies. Yes, black, mostly, but definitely cool and very presentable. I also glanced a Batman shirt or 2 in the crowd. I realize it's a distraction to focus on their wardrobe, but you have to understand the allure of this particular super hero - he's super popular in a motivational sense. People dress in his branded apparel for a reason. And I believe the Dark Knight actually motivated some changes I didn't catch in the first set. I learned later that the members of VG are genuine Batman mavens. It was already a special night by design, and then the level of raw energy & musical precision went and pushed it to another level. Twenty-eleven was a crucial chapter in the evolution of Van Ghost and this show handed Chicago a massive exclamation point to plant at the end.

11.18.11 | MiM0SA

Words & Photos by Sean Petykowski
MiMosa at The House of Blues on November 18, 2011
 Mix 1 from Mimosa at The House of Blues on November 18, 2011 by Sean Michael Petykowski

 Mix 2 from Mimosa at The House of Blues on November 18, 2011 by Sean Michael Petykowski 

It was approaching midnight as I entered the House of Blues to be a part of what would be one of the most out-of-control shows I had seen all year. The wonderful team at Silver Wrapper put together a chaotic night filled with dubstep, electro and post-dub by DJs MiMOSA, The M Machine and Sleepyhead. From the start I knew that this was going to be a unique experience based solely off the ridiculous stories I had read from the countless reviews of MiMOSA’s last visit to Chicago when he performed at Wicker Park Fest 2011. With my expectations high I walked into the pit and waited.

11.19.11 | Dave Clarke

Words & Photos by Zlatko


"The Baron of Techno" is a moniker that conjures up evil thoughts when thinking of where its meaning comes from. And Dave Clarke's brand of punishing techno and electro certainly doesn't dissuade a listener from thinking otherwise. The nickname, given to him by BBC Radio One legend John Peel, has stuck throughout his career and also speaks volumes about his anarchist and libertarian philosophies. All that aside, he has built a career that has spanned over three decades and continues to be a relevant figurehead within international techno and electro circles. His recent Fabric 60 mix is a testament to that claim; the monthly series of compilation mixes from the famous London club has always stayed on top of what is relevant in electronic dance music for the last decade. It exemplifies what Clarke's style is all about: dark, twisted, raw, and merciless. It is certainly not for the faint of heart as he does not let up throughout the entire mix. He came to Smart Bar last month, his first visit to the United States in over eight years, and brought the same fire and energy you hear in his mixes. The club was quite packed for a Saturday night and showed that techno is still thriving in this great is not a "lost art" as some dubstep enthusiasts would like to claim. This show wasn't for everyone, however. Your ear drums had to be prepared for an incessant walloping the likes of which they probably had not heard before. The energy that flowed throughout the club that night was unmatched by few shows I'd seen there all year.

11.18.11 | Broccoli Samurai, IndigoSun, RamZ

Words, Photos & Video by Frazier
11.18.11 IndigoSun and Broccoli Samurai at Tonic Room-8

This was quite an interesting night of music that ended up being impressive at every turn. On the one hand, there was IndigoSun, a band I've seen as many times as any this year and I've been able to watch them evolve & mature to an incredible degree. Then on the other hand, there was Broccoil Samurai, a band I'd never heard a note from previously but who was equally exciting and demonstrated a tightness that blew me away. I left the Tonic Room--my first experience there--with a belly full of body moving jamtronica. Just the way I like it.

11.15.11 | Hiromi Uehara and The Trio Project feat. Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips

Words by Zach Zeidner 
Photos by Frazier
11.15.11 Hiromi Trio at Theater-25

When it comes to creating a rock/funk fusion project, the most important aspect is carefully deciding which players will make up the proper array of sound and support needed to allow a fluid movement of the music. Casting players that exploitatively exceed others causes strife within the sound, yet proper support of members is essential for a cohesive organism of music. These fundamental aspects of fusion allow for a leader to meticulously choose who they would desire to support their vision. For Hiromi Uehara, using Anthony Jackson on bass and Simon Phillips on drums allowed for the perfect array of a deep funk and rock basis.