Who to see each night at Tomorrow Never Knows fest 2017

Who to see each night at Tomorrow Never Knows fest 2017

It might be shocking to say that January is one of Chicago's best months for music festivals, but it shouldn't be if you've ever gone to the underground punk showcase Ian's Party as well as the near-weeklong indie rock and comedy fest Tomorrow Never Knows.

Happening Wednesday, Jan. 11, to Sunday, Jan. 15, across five different venues, the latter fest is now in its 13th incarnation and not losing any steam. It's perhaps the best showcase of acts to see who's going to have a good year going forward. Where last year's bill showcased sets by newcomers Julien Baker and Andy Shauf, not to mention the biggest local headlining from Whitney to date, this year has more rising acts on its roster.

Below, I've broken down the daily schedule to highlight who to see. Five-day passes ($100) are sold out, but there's still time to catch most of the acts playing. Tickets for all shows are available at TNKFest.com. 

Wednesday, Jan. 11

Pick of the day:

Big Thief, Sam Evian, Hoops and Campdogzz, at Schubas

Astoundingly, the first day of the festival is also the one with the hardest decision. Having to choose against local mainstays Tortoise and math rock heroes Monobody must mean this Schubas slate is an absolutely can't-miss show. Between some of the best surprises of 2016 with both Saddle Creek-signed acts Big Thief and Sam Evian, not to mention Indiana's Hoops and Chicago's Campdogzz, this is the best bill front to back of the entire week.

Alternate pick: 

Tortoise, Bayonne and Monobody at Lincoln Hall

You seriously can't go wrong with Tortoise, whose last album, 2016's "The Catastrophist," was their first album in nearly seven years and a fantastic comeback to boot. If intricate arrangements and a tendency toward experimenting are more your thing, this is the show for you. Get there early for Monobody and Bayonne, whose track "Spectrolite" was on repeat throughout much of 2016.

Thursday, Jan. 12

Pick of the day:

Ezra Furman, Weaves and Dream Version at Lincoln Hall

Songwriter and Chicagoan Ezra Furman has been one of the hardest workers in Chicago's music scene for the past decade, culminating in an excellent solo EP from last year called "Big Fugitive Life." He's leading an excellent Thursday night bill at Lincoln Hall with Toronto art-punks Weaves, one of my favorite discoveries of last year, in support. For Weaves, fans of Dirty Projectors or Chicago's Oshwa will find a lot to love with that group.

Alternate pick:

Wand, Acid Dad, Flaural and Joe Bordenaro & the Late Bloomers at Schubas

Los Angeles' Wand captures that throwback rock 'n' roll sound that can effortlessly jump from pristine psychedelia to a fuzzed-out blitz of garage rock à la Ty Segall (whose band the Muggers features Wand's Cory Hanson and Evan Burrows). If that sounds like a good night out, the rest of the bill will suit your fancy with NYC psych punks Acid Dad, Colorado's Flaural and local rocker Joe Bordenaro rounding out the night.

The rest:

Helltrap Nightmare Birthday Funeral, feat. with Stand-Up performances from: Sarah Sherman, Ana Fabrega, Jamie Loftus, Ruby McCollister, The Great Ghouldini, Sammy Arechar and more at the Hideout

This will undoubtedly be an excellent and outrageous comedy showcase. I once saw Sarah Sherman drink cold clam chowder as part of a bit at Hungry Brain's Therapy Sessions event, and it was one of the funniest things I saw in 2016.

Friday, Jan. 13

Pick of the day:

Into It. Over It., Pianos Become the Teeth, Mother Evergreen at Metro Chicago

With "Standards," Into It. Over It.'s Evan Weiss honed his songwriting thanks to an extended writing and recording session away from Chicago in Vermont and in San Francisco with producer John Vanderslice. We already know Weiss and his band can command the Metro stage, as a 2015 NYE gig in support of the Promise Ring proved. That said, it'll be nice to see a full setlist from one of the city's best songwriters. 

Alternate pick:

Caroline Smith, Xenia Rubinos, Overcoats at Lincoln Hall 

Caroline Smith has grown a great deal since her days fronting the folk pop group Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps, shedding the acoustic-led sweetness of those tunes for a new, soulful and pop-oriented approach—more Drake and less Mumford and Sons. Add on the mesmerizing voice of opener Xenia Rubinos and this will be a good night at Lincoln Hall. 

The rest:

Foxtrott, Ian Sweet, In Tall Buildings, and Woongi at Schubas

I can't say much about the headliner except the unfair observation that I still can't get over the fact that there have been bands called Voxtrot and Foxtrott in the past decade. I really enjoy Chicago's In Tall Buildings and Woongi, though.

Tensake and Savile at Smart Bar

If you like dancing, surely you'll have a good time busting a move to the party-minded sounds from German producer Tensake.

Michelle Wolf and Rebecca O'Neal at Hideout

Fans of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" will recognize Wolf. 

Saturday, Jan. 14

Pick of the day:

Title Fight, The Hotelier, Cloakroom at Metro

Just one of these acts would've made for the day's top pick, but all three together is just insane. It's also the perfect excuse for me to see the Hotelier for the first since the band released their excellent 2016 full-length "Goodness." Missing their Pitchfork set from last year is my only regret of that festival. 

Alternate picks:

Jeff the Brotherhood, Pile and Chastity at Lincoln Hall.

While I can't say I'm a huge fan of JEFF the Brotherhood, though many friends swear by that band as one of the best live acts around, openers Pile and Chastity, a Canadian band that killed it supporting Toronto's PUP on tour this fall, stand as some of the best supporting act combos of the entire festival.

Ceremony, Negative Scanner, Muuy Biien, and Hogg at Schubas. 

Chicago post-punks Negative Scanner are my favorite band on this bill. If you dig Ceremony, they're more than worth getting to Schubas early for. 

The rest:

Phoebe Robinson at the Hideout.

This comedian is the co-host of the popular 2 Dope Queens podcast. She also just released a book called "You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain," which sounds hilarious and features a foreword by former "Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams. 

The Black Madonna and DJ Rachael at Smart Bar

The Black Madonna is the moniker of local dance music veteran Marea Stamper. She’s been a staple of the local scene for some time now, and she’s definitely no stranger to Smart Bar—she not only has performed there often but also has served as the iconic venue’s talent buyer and creative director.

Sunday, January 15

Picks of the day:

Beth Stelling at the Hideout

Because I write about music, it must be obvious by now that I'm biased in picking mostly bands and not comedians as the must-see shows of the week. Well, Beth Stelling is such a great comedian, and her appearance on "Kimmel" is definitely one of my favorite late-night TV standup sets of the past few years. Plus, there's two shows you can go to on Sunday, the 7 p.m. (which gives you ample time to go see the awesome showcase at Schubas) or the 10 p.m., one for the late crowd.

Open Mike Eagle, Psalm One, Femdot, CrashPrez at Schubas.

After you see Beth Stelling at Hideout, hop in a cab to go see Open Mike Eagle, RedEye favorites Psalm One and Femdot, as well as CrashPrez at Schubas. With last year's collab album with Paul White "Hella Personal Film Festival," 2015's "A Special Episode of" EP and 2014's "Dark Comedy," Open Mike Eagle has had some of my favorite rap releases three years in a row. Also, I love Psalm One and her group the Rapperchicks. This will be a great show.

Alternate pick:

BadBadNotGood, Mattson 2, and Morimoto at Lincoln Hall. 

I definitely enjoy Canada's BadBadNotGood, especially their recent collaboration with Mick Jenkins "Drowning." You won't be making a wrong decision at all choosing this gig. 

The rest:

Sons of the Silent Age (performing David Bowie's "Low") at Metro.

I'm sure this will be a good time, but compared with potentially hitting both a comedy and a rap show, seeing a cover band isn't the highest on my list for Sunday.

@joshhterry | jterry@redeyechicago.com

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