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What to See at the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival

$75 buys unlimited to access to four days of prime live music, music-related films, panels, workshops and after parties.

Yo La Tengo perform on May 1 at Concord Music Hall   Carlie Armstrong

The Chicago International Movies & Music Festival (May 1–4) is a historically reliable celebration of the cross section where music and film meet. For the last five years its conference-meets-culture-style programming has brought the enterprising spirit of ’90s-era South By Southwest to Chicago.

This year, the organizers have doubled down with a lineup that makes buying the four-day pass (on sale now) a worthwhile investment. Here are musical highlights of the four-day fest:

May 1, Concord Music Hall

Critically-adored indie darlings Yo La Tengo’s body of work spans about 30 years at this point, meaning one of three things in this scenario:

  1. They’ll play a smattering of hits with some extended jams in between.
  2. They’ll play a respectable run of their latest record Fade.
  3. They’ll act out episodes of Seinfeld.

And given the good spirited fun the band continues to emit, you’ll be happy regardless.

May 2, Concord Music Hall

Enigmatic Brooklyn “disco orchestra” Escort pumps out some of the genres finest tracks since the early 80s.

May 3, Metro

In case you missed it last year, Italian prog-rock horror-soundtrack specialists Goblin returns, with founding member Claudio Simonetti behind the keyboards.

May 3, Logan Square Auditorium

Local alt-country stalwart Blood Shot Records celebrates its 20th birthday with a showcase headlined by Bloomington, Indiana-based Johnny Cash-worshipping collective Murder by Death and raucous blues-punk lech Andre Williams.

May 3, City Winery

The immitable Booker T. Jones tickles the Hammond B3 behind a new LP, Sound the Alarm, while working some his Stax hits into the mix.

 

The film offerings are also off the charts. Here are a few highlights:

20,000 Days on Earth

A pseudo documentary that follows praised songwriter and 80s goth god Nick Cave, which won directing and editing awards at South By Southwest this year.

Memphis

Tim Sutton’s Sundance buzzer starring former Chicagoan Willis Earl Beal makes its Chicago debut at the fest.

Looking for Johnny

A definitive look at the life of NYC glam-punk Johnny Thunders of the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers.

Bayou Maharajah

A doc about the life of flamboyant New Orleans R&B pianist James Booker, which unveils new live performance footage.

Battleship Potemkim

Under the name Mary Shelley, local free-jazz talent Matt Ulery, Scott Lucas of Local H and Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins are set to collaborate on a live film score for the famous 1925 Russian film 

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