CIMMFEST has returned to venues around Chicago for its seventh installment, and the rad team at Shotwell Booking have put together a killer Friday night showcase at Double Door. The lineup is both sublimely diverse and heavy on local talent, making attendance a damn near no-brainer.

Kicking off the night is MC/DJ/producer Fess Grandiose, an incredibly smooth lyricist whose measured pacing and casual flow belie how cutting his rhymes are. The fact that Fess is a student of classic rock and soul is clearly evident in his choice of samples; hit that little play button below and try not to dig the way he reimagines the Fab Four. After Mr. Grandiose drops the gem “useless/like a plastic bottle in a bar fight/my vocals so cold/my tongue got frost-bite” while sounding like his tongue is in fact frozen to a flag pole, he sets off Ringo’s tumbling drums and that deep, classic bass groove from “Come Together.”

Some of you may recognize the next band from 2010’s dreamy pop EP Violent Sun / Violent Fun by Stephen Paul Smoker– that’s right, Smoker is said dude’s five-piece psychedelic rock band. If you haven’t checked in since that first EP (as I was guilty of), Stephen Paul followed it up with Ripe Fruit, a logical next step that was more fleshed out, more aggressive and covered far more sonic territory. Smoker finds the frontman bringing back half of the team that played on that record, plus additions Guillermo Rodriguez Torres and Jamie Dull. The result of that chemistry experiment is a huge, unpredictable sound that feels limitless in possibility. Capable both of relaxed, meticulously-adorned ballads and psilocybin-infused squalls, Smoker should put on one hell of a live show.

Tucked in the middle of this Windy City sandwich are Detroit trap-pop trio Jamaican Queens, whose recent Bored + Lazy EP I wrote up for MWA last month.  The band’s latest single, “Joe,” might be their most ambitious and most enjoyable track to date. It’s wild while also hypnotic, it sizzles and booms at times, goes quiet and sweetly disturbing at others. As a live act, Jamaican Queens aren’t redundant, in respect to both their recordings and their previous shows. As the band’s sound has naturally evolved to where it’s at on “Joe,” or on the stellar Nick Speed/Dopehead remix of “Bored + Lazy,” the songs from their debut record Wormfood have also grown. JQ’s performances  are inconsistent in the best possible way- sometimes brooding and chillingly electric, sometimes bright and irresistibly kinetic (and often the full range in one night).


Following up the Motor City boys is goth pop group and Riot Fest impression-makers (wow!) My Gold Mask. Despite the clear dark wave/new wave influences in their music, the group’s tonal and melodic references seem to stretch much farther back. You can start at Metric, move back to Depeche mode, through Stevie Nicks, and yet there’s still this thing in Gretta Rochelle and Jack Armondo’s compositions that feels ancient, ceremonial, carnal and foreboding. It sounds weighty, but really it all just blooms into a spell-binding style that sets My Gold Mask apart from the obvious comparisons. And if that Riot Fest set is any indication of where the group are at as a live act, then CIMMFEST is in for a treat.

If you think it can’t keep getting better, guess again. Joining the lineup is (MWA-favorite) hip-hop/jazz/neo-soul outfit Sidewalk Chalk. The group’s regular cast includes an MC, a singer, a key tickler, bassist, couple of horns and yes, a tap dancer. Depending on the performance, you can sprinkle in a percussionist, guitar player,  two violins, a viola and a cellist. These are either small people or big stages, but however they figure it out, it’s worth it. Proof that this isn’t some form of studio wizardy is in the pudding, or on the disc, as it were. Sidewalk Chalk’s recetly released Shoulder Season is culled from live sets across the Midwest. The band conjures up a complex, rich sound that fits all their spacey and soulful tunes while providing the perfect compliment to both vocalists.

Tasked with headlining this stacked lineup are Bailiff, a rock band whose wide range of world influences (Indian raga, Celtic and Native American folk, among them) all pass through a blues filter. The trio’s ability to not only nail the diversity in styles, but to also put their own distinct spin on them, is a testament to their collective musicianship. Songs like “Build It Again” show off the band’s more manic side with a steady churning beat that builds momentum until eventually lifting off with spiraling guitars. On their remarkable 2014 release Remise, that track precedes “Love Like Mine,” a sweetly sentimental tune with a bright, elastic melody that sets the stage for Josh Siegel’s warmly affecting vocals. The latest video from that record is for “Helicopter,” arguably Remise’s stand out tune, and it features some incredible oil paint animation by artist Vicky Yen.


Sold? Good. Here are all the details you’ll need to enjoy everything this CIMMFEST happening has to offer. The show is Friday, April 17th at Double Door (1572 N Milwaukee Ave) and is 21+It kicks off at 7pm and you can snag Tickets here. RSVP on Facebook.

Bailiff |Sidewalk Chalk My Gold Mask
Jamaican Queens |Smoker Fess Grandiose Vicky Yen