Jon Gilbertson

Recent Articles

Rock Roundup: The Ultimate Singer Songwriter?
Rock Roundup

The Ultimate Singer Songwriter?

Josh Rouse continues to endure. He plays Turner Hall Sunday.

Rock Roundup: The Sheer Spirit of Split Single
Rock Roundup

The Sheer Spirit of Split Single

Jason Narducy’s single project has resulted in a ton of sparkling songs; he plays (with Wilco’s bassist) at Cactus Club.

Rock Roundup: Jenny Lewis All By Herself
Rock Roundup

Jenny Lewis All By Herself

Former Rilo Kiley singer is still doing great music, and will perform at Turner Hall.

Rock Roundup: Japanese Noise Rock Loudly Comes
Rock Roundup

Japanese Noise Rock Loudly Comes

Melt-Banana comes to the Cactus Club, ready to discombobulate.

Rock Roundup: The Overlooked Artistry of Alejandro Escovedo
Rock Roundup

The Overlooked Artistry of Alejandro Escovedo

A great musician who effortlessly mines country, Tex-Mex, folk, punk and more, he plays at Shank Hall.

Rock Roundup: Death Cab for Cutie Gets Angry
Rock Roundup

Death Cab for Cutie Gets Angry

After its leader’s divorce and despite glossy new album the band is playing harder and angrier on its new tour.

Rock Roundup: The Beautiful Agony of Sufjan Stevens
Rock Roundup

The Beautiful Agony of Sufjan Stevens

Singer songwriter’s latest album takes on his parents. He performs at Riverside Thursday.

Rock Roundup: Steve Winwood Can Still Thrill
Rock Roundup

Steve Winwood Can Still Thrill

Longtime rocker comes to Riverside. And James Hunter comes to Northern Lights.

Rock Roundup: Why Robbie Fulks Matters
Rock Roundup

Why Robbie Fulks Matters

The “insurgent country” artist can confuse audiences. But he’s edgy, funny, and good.

Rock Roundup: The Mavericks Are Still Hard to Define
Rock Roundup

The Mavericks Are Still Hard to Define

They mix country, Latin, pop and even vaudeville. They play two shows at Northern Lights Theater.

Rock Roundup: TV on the Radio Still Won’t Compromise
Rock Roundup

TV on the Radio Still Won’t Compromise

Indie rock group, playing at the Pabst, has won popularity without sacrificing its artistry.

Rock Roundup: Dan Bern Is Dead Serious
Rock Roundup

Dan Bern Is Dead Serious

Maybe even when he’s being silly. The singer songwriter comes to Shank Hall and should be a treat.

Rock Roundup: Of Montreal Lands In Milwaukee
Rock Roundup

Of Montreal Lands In Milwaukee

The group’s leader, Kevin Barnes, might be called twee, pretentious or emo, but Of Montreal can no longer be dismissed as minor.

Rock Roundup: Best Rocking Scot You Never Heard Of?
Rock Roundup

Best Rocking Scot You Never Heard Of?

Midge Ure comes to town, with a long, impressive history behind him as musician and songwriter.

Rock Roundup: Still Eccentric After All Those Years
Rock Roundup

Still Eccentric After All Those Years

Three decades on, English rocker Robyn Hitchcock is still a unique charmer. He plays Tuesday at Shank Hall.

Rock Roundup: Kacey Musgraves Comes to Town
Rock Roundup

Kacey Musgraves Comes to Town

Grammy-winner at Pabst Saturday; or there’s bluesy Hozier at the Riverside.

Rock Roundup: The Return of Sleater-Kinney
Rock Roundup

The Return of Sleater-Kinney

Reunited band comes to town, as does Fleetwood Mac and B-52s.

Rock Roundup: The Mellow Side of Marilyn Manson?
Rock Roundup

The Mellow Side of Marilyn Manson?

After years of making controversy, the man and the group have settled into making music.

Rock Roundup: Rocking Out at Alverno College?
Rock Roundup

Rocking Out at Alverno College?

The ever-productive Jon Mueller and his Death Blues ensemble celebrates life -- anywhere -- with a vengeance.

Rock Roundup: Folk, Prog-Rock and New Age?
Rock Roundup

Folk, Prog-Rock and New Age?

That’s the sound of The Soil & The Sun, known for “Are You” and coming to Turner Hall.

Rock Roundup: The Power of Pablove
Rock Roundup

The Power of Pablove

Chicago’s Sons of the Silent Age headline a rocking benefit that features four bands and great guests

Rock Roundups: Two Great Bands You Probably Missed
Rock Roundups

Two Great Bands You Probably Missed

Marshall Crenshaw and the Bottle Rockets come to town, with decades of good music to draw on.

Rock Roundup: The Legacy of Frank Zappa
Rock Roundup

The Legacy of Frank Zappa

Zappa Fest celebrates his music. And Trampled by Turtles plays Riverside on New Year’s Eve.

Rock Roundup: The Return of Sam Llanas
Rock Roundup

The Return of Sam Llanas

He’s quit the BoDeans, his music has gotten darker and he's ready to rock at Shank Hall.

Rock Roundup: Jazz That Entertains. Honest.
Rock Roundup

Jazz That Entertains. Honest.

The Bad Plus, playing at the Jazz Estate, mixes jazz with rock, covering songs by Nirvana and Pink Floyd

Rock Roundup: 5 Top Shows, 5 Different Venues
Rock Roundup

5 Top Shows, 5 Different Venues

Best shows are all over town and all over the musical map.

Rock Roundup: Five Wildly Different Concerts
Rock Roundup

Five Wildly Different Concerts

From the great Wilco to folk rocker Shakey Graves to Dillon Francis’s electric dance music, it’s a crazy week.

Rock Roundup: Why Volcano Choir Matters
Rock Roundup

Why Volcano Choir Matters

Justin Vernon’s real band heads up a weird week of music.

Rock Roundup: Ready Or Not, Here Comes GWAR
Rock Roundup

Ready Or Not, Here Comes GWAR

Imagine Vikings from outer space. But funnier. The thrash-metal band lands this week at the Rave.

Rock Roundup: New Pornographers Best Pop-Rock Group?
Rock Roundup

New Pornographers Best Pop-Rock Group?

The best of this century, our critic says -- and the best of this week’s top five shows.

Rock Roundup: The Restless Style of David Bazan
Rock Roundup

The Restless Style of David Bazan

The Seattle-based musician revisits his songs with Passenger String Quartet at Turner Hall.

Rock Roundup: Best Shows of the Week
Rock Roundup

Best Shows of the Week

Five best shows include Reigning Sound, John Prine and the Milk Carton Kids.

Rock Roundup: Five Best Shows of the Week
Rock Roundup

Five Best Shows of the Week

From home-town act Field Report to NRBQ and tUnE-yArDs, it’s a week of wild variety.

Rock Roundup: The Legend of Patti Smith
Rock Roundup

The Legend of Patti Smith

Alverno College show boasts top musicians reinterpreting Smith. Other nights feature Ryan Adams and Kina Grannis.

Rock Roundup: The Angriest Funny Man Alive
Rock Roundup

The Angriest Funny Man Alive

Comedian Lewis Black returns. And top music shows include David Gray and OK Go.

Rock Roundup: The Indelible Impact of Erasure
Rock Roundup

The Indelible Impact of Erasure

‘80s synth-pop band comes to town. As do the Wood Brothers, Braid and Warpaint.

Rock Roundup: Majical Cloudz and Lorde, a Peculiar Pairing
Rock Roundup

Majical Cloudz and Lorde, a Peculiar Pairing

Naked vulnerability in a cold bed of beats comes to the BMO Harris Pavilion

Rock Roundup: Spoon Brings Un-Fussy Rock to Riverside Theater
Rock Roundup

Spoon Brings Un-Fussy Rock to Riverside Theater

The Austin natives take their summer album to a cooling Midwest, Club Garibaldi prepares to host a Brooklyn gem.

Rock Roundup: The Black Keys, Rock Music’s Arena-packing Purists
Rock Roundup

The Black Keys, Rock Music’s Arena-packing Purists

The Ohio natives evolve, but stay true to their bluesy roots

Rock Roundup: The Return of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott
Rock Roundup

The Return of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott

A huge influence on Dylan and others, the legendary folk singer comes to town.

Rock Roundup: The Dutchess and the Duke’s Strange Journey
Rock Roundup

The Dutchess and the Duke’s Strange Journey

The Pacific Northwest duo have reunited -- yet again -- playing their dark folk music at the Cactus Club.

Rock Roundup: Is Alejandro Escovedo the Ultimate Survivor?
Rock Roundup

Is Alejandro Escovedo the Ultimate Survivor?

A key rock innovator since the 1970s, he headlines a week that also features Jeff Bridges and the Abiders

Rock Roundup: Red Headed Stranger No More
Rock Roundup

Red Headed Stranger No More

Willie Nelson & Family sell out two nights in a week that includes metal-influenced Spanish guitar (Rodrigo y Gabriela) and a 19-member collective (The Polyphonic Spree).

Rock Roundup: Why I Love Future Islands
Rock Roundup

Why I Love Future Islands

They’re at Turner Hall this Sunday, and definitely worth a try.

Rock Roundup: The Secret to Pat Metheny’s Success
Rock Roundup

The Secret to Pat Metheny’s Success

He’s a prodigy who pleases, as his Tuesday show at Northern Lights should prove.

Rock Roundup: Everything But Natalie Merchant
Rock Roundup

Everything But Natalie Merchant

Alas, Merchant cancelled her Pabst concert, but lots of other shows on tap this week.

Rock Roundup: The Long Life of Dick Contino
Rock Roundup

The Long Life of Dick Contino

The famed accordionist, 84, will play Festa Italiana, in a week that also features Jack White and Jackson Browne

Rock Roundup: Sarah McLachlan Turns Down the Volume
Rock Roundup

Sarah McLachlan Turns Down the Volume

After the thundering decibels of Summerfest, it’s a quieter week of music, led by the Lilith Fair founder.

Best Albums of the Month: The Return of Bob Mould
Best Albums of the Month

The Return of Bob Mould

Plus, great albums by First Aid Kit, José James and Gabriel Kahane.

Rock Roundup: Top 5 Summerfest Shows
Rock Roundup

Top 5 Summerfest Shows

Bonnie Raitt, Hold Steady and Phantogram lead the list.

Rock Roundup: Summerfest and Beyond
Rock Roundup

Summerfest and Beyond

The week’s five best concerts aren’t all at the Summerfest grounds.

Rock Roundup: Why Nick Cave is Hated — and Loved
Rock Roundup

Why Nick Cave is Hated — and Loved

Cave provides the dark side of a week also featuring Nikki Lane, The Features and the Old 97s.

Rock Roundup: Old Gold
Rock Roundup

Old Gold

Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Richard Thompson head up a great week of concerts featuring veteran performers.

Music: Five Best Albums of May
Music

Five Best Albums of May

Tori Amos, Haley Bonar and the Roots are three of the best.

Rock Roundup: Everyone Loves Vampire Weekend
Rock Roundup

Everyone Loves Vampire Weekend

And if they don’t, the week also features Tony Bennett, Holy Wave and Sandra Bernhard.

Rock Roundup: Man of Many Bands
Rock Roundup

Man of Many Bands

Ever-busy Conor Oberst, the Safes and the Monkees come to town.

Rock Roundup: The Greatest ‘90s Band You’ve Never Known
Rock Roundup

The Greatest ‘90s Band You’ve Never Known

Failure, revived after 17 years, is the latest success and heads top concerts of the week.

Rock Roundup: Rodriguez Tops the Week
Rock Roundup

Rodriguez Tops the Week

Rediscovered soulster comes to town, as do Truckfighters and Wye Oak.

Monthly Musical Musings: April’s Top CDs
Monthly Musical Musings

April’s Top CDs

The Both, EMA and Fear of Men lead the list.

Rock Roundup: Shooting for the Fences
Rock Roundup

Shooting for the Fences

Week’s heavy hitters include Flamin’ Groovies, Chicago Afrobeat and Queens of the Stone Age.

Rock Roundup: Gods and Rock Stars
Rock Roundup

Gods and Rock Stars

Zeus and Leon Russell and Uh Huh Her come to town.

Rock Roundup: Get Psychedelic, Man
Rock Roundup

Get Psychedelic, Man

Cactus Club’s four day, Milwaukee Psych Fest features some 20 different bands.

Rock Roundup: Death & Taxes & Good Music
Rock Roundup

Death & Taxes & Good Music

Never mind the IRS deadline, there’s great music coming this week.

Rock Roundup: Great Music, Less Regurgitation
Rock Roundup

Great Music, Less Regurgitation

Five great acts coming to town, none of whom feature any Lady Gaga-style grossness.

Monthly Musical Musings

Monthly Musical Musings

March’s best albums include new ones by Future Islands and by Ambrose Akinmusire.

Rock Roundup: No April Fool’s Jokes Here
Rock Roundup

No April Fool’s Jokes Here

Sorry, just a roundup of the week’s best five shows.

Rock Roundup: Play Ball, Soon
Rock Roundup

Play Ball, Soon

Opening Day is here and so are five shows that are much warmer than the weather.

Rock Roundup: After the Hangover
Rock Roundup

After the Hangover

Five shows that may help you get over that Post-Paddy’s Day funk.

Rock Roundup: Who Says You Need St. Patrick’s Day?
Rock Roundup

Who Says You Need St. Patrick’s Day?

Not much Irish music in the weekly round-up, but plenty of other great stuff.

Monthly Musical Musings

Monthly Musical Musings

February’s best CDs include those by Beck, Neil Finn and Neneh Cherry.

Monthly Musical Musings

Monthly Musical Musings

Five new CDs of note and one to avoid, with apologies to The Boss.

Religulous

Religulous

This was supposed to be about Nickelback, but that will have to keep for next time, or another time. By all indications, that horrible Canadian band will still be here by the time I get around to tearing into them with vituperative insight. The delay was caused by the release of Religulous on DVD in […]

Stupor Bowl

Stupor Bowl

As I begin to write this, my inaugural blog as Vital Source’s Heartless Bastard, it is less than 24 hours after the latest Super Bowl, in which a bunch of physically overdeveloped, mentally underdeveloped men representing Pittsburgh narrowly defeated a bunch of physically overdeveloped, mentally underdeveloped men representing Arizona. That’s about as much as I […]

Various artists

Various artists

A few years ago, after attending a Christmas-charity show featuring several metal-styled acts, I posited a reasonable question: are rock ‘n’ roll and Yuletide cheer compatible? After all, this is the season of comfortable sweaters, chestnut visions, and a jolly old fat man who apparently helps remind us of the birth of Jesus Christ — […]

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

This might not be the Smashing Pumpkins you remember from seven years ago—or, as seems more likely, from around 1995, when leader Billy Corgan symbolized the meld of artistic and commercial ambitions of alternative-rock as it went mainstream. Back then, the Pumpkins were really his baby, and Zeitgeist discards any pretense of a “band:” the […]

Crowded House

Crowded House

Fourteen years since their last album, 11 since their last show and yet it feels almost effortless the way Crowded House pick up where they left off. Admittedly, Time on Earth represents an incomplete reunion – original drummer Mark Hester died in 2005, and keyboardist Mark Hart wasn’t part of the initial lineup – but […]

Low

Low

Two years ago, The Great Destroyer marked a period of incredible transition for Low. Not only did the album itself bristle with challenges to the band’s established method of slow and steady and hauntingly beautiful, but the period shortly after its release also saw bassist Zak Sally leave the band and founding member Alan Sparhawk […]

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

Ted Leo might occasionally feel nostalgic – one of his best-known songs, “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?,” yearns for old-fashioned ska – but he’s not. Better than any other current musician, he understands that punk rock is unfinished business: a promise that needs to be kept. He also understands that punk rock is […]

The Apples in Stereo

The Apples in Stereo

As any negative nabob can tell you (and in fact is telling you right now), it’s extremely difficult to favor the pop – or pop!, onomatopoeically speaking – in pop-rock without coming across as a chirpy Pollyanna. Even the Apples in Stereo, for all their honest effervescence, have periodically seemed like the token frown-upside-down representatives […]

Beck

Beck

No artist is ever completely unpredictable: patterns form and grooves are worn. Some have no need to pull themselves away from the paths they’ve already beaten. Sometimes, like Björk or Beck, they simply realign, rearrange, rethink. At its most functional, The Information is a rethink of Beck’s creative relationship with producer Nigel Godrich (now highly […]

Rammstein

Rammstein

From the title track that opens this album, you might get the idea that Rammstein remain the same: Till Lindemann growls verses and operatically chants choruses, everyone else stomps up a blitzkrieg behind him, and the song fades in a swoon derived from both beer hall and dance club. Yet even here, Rammstein sound more […]

Lydia Lunch

Lydia Lunch

First, Lydia Lunch was the girlfriend of Dead Boys frontman Stiv Bators; then she took over the mic herself in Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, then Eight Eyed Spy; since then, she’s been on her own. But she’s always been a mercurial figure, a no-wave queen and a hot-and-cold seductress. That continues with Smoke in […]

Interpol

Interpol

as it is to loathe, but Interpol actually make it comprehensible and appealing. Because, even more on their current album Antics than on their 2002 debut Turn on the Bright Lights, the NYC quartet view that time through their own artistic lens, focusing the best of the (largely non-American) music of that period into something […]

Buddy Miller

Buddy Miller

New West www.buddyandjulie.com Nashville might not be what it used to be, but the city must have something to recommend it still, because Buddy Miller lives there. Perhaps he serves as a reminder—like better-known friends Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris—of precisely what Nashville used to be: a place where a man like Miller, who ordinarily […]

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

RYAN ADAMS Rock N Roll Love Is Hell, Pt. 1 Lost Highway www.ryan-adams.com So this new Ryan Adams album is called Rock N Roll — the title’s printed and spelled backwards on the artwork, presumably as a symbolic gesture — because it features a lot of, y’know, rock ‘n’ roll. And this new Ryan Adams […]

Sarah McLachlan

Sarah McLachlan

SARAH McLACHLAN Afterglow Arista www.sarahmclachlan.com When Sarah McLachlan disappeared half a decade ago, it wasn’t the artistic equivalent of Patti Smith’s retirement, but in hindsight it helped to clear the way for the Parade of Candy-Striped Sluts. In the meantime, too, her adult-contemporary niche was subdivided (“Here’s your slice, Alicia; here’s yours, Norah…” ), which […]

The Twighlight Singers

The Twighlight Singers

THE TWILIGHT SINGERS Blackberry Belle Birdman Gore Vidal wrote it first: style forms the crux of art. Without it, an artist must fall back on his obsessions, which never adequately support his muse. As frontman for the much-missed Afghan Whigs, Greg Dulli freely intermingled his musical and thematic fixations — rock/decadence, rap/violence, Prince/sex — but […]

Pretty Girls Make Graves

Pretty Girls Make Graves

PRETTY GIRLS MAKE GRAVES The New Romance Matador In a ranking of best current band names, Pretty Girls Make Graves (also the best use, period, of a Smiths song title) would have to be up there with … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, but it proves to be a misdirection […]

Josh Rouse

Josh Rouse

Josh Rouse 1972 Rykodisc www.joshrouse.com Mosh Rouse slides away from easy comparisons today’s demographic culture requires. He manifests some of the shyness of Nick Drake; he sings with some of the grainy charm of Paul Westerberg; he can move with the quiet heard in late-period Yo La Tengo; and he reveals his romantic side in […]

Frank Black and the Catholics

Frank Black and the Catholics

Frank Black and the Catholics Show Me Your Tears spinART www.spinartrecords.com/bands_frankblack.html The standard spiel about Frank Black could apply to any other seminal rock ‘n’ roll figure (Bob Mould, say) who presaged the alternative-rock insurrection but neither profited heavily from it nor died conveniently young. The line goes like this: “He hasn’t done anything great […]