Wild Belle, Niki & the Dove, Chelsea Wolfe, and Jessie Ware
(Clockwise from top left) Wild Belle, Niki & the Dove, Jessie Ware, and Chelsea Wolfe

Let's be real. Since it started in 2005, the annual Tomorrow Never Knows has been kind of a dude fest. Yeah, we still rocked to Brooklyn's Theophilus London last year, and we loved being on the ground floor for Bon Iver’s first public show (and before the SNL barbs were set), but come on—now even the X-Men are more XX than Chicago’s cold weather rock-palooza.

But that's all about to change. Along with blowing out the festival (from a weekend showcase to a five-day extravaganza that includes comedy showcases and interview podcasts), Tomorrow Never Knows is about to show its feminine side with a slew of lady-led bands. Here’s a rundown of the lady-bands featured this week:

Thursday @ Lincoln Hall

Wild Belle
Singer Natalie Bergman and her brother Elliot hail from the Chicago area and have been doing the Chicago music fest circuit for the past year (including opening for Chairlift at TNK 2012). March’s Columbia Records debut will skyrocket this afrojazz psych pop band to the bigtime. See them in a small space while you still can.

(Check out Chicago’s story on Wilde Bell from last September)

Wild Belle’s “Keep You” video

Friday @ Lincoln Hall

Niki & the Dove
With her crystallized vocals laid over catchy, futuristic hooks, Malin Dahlström might be the heroine in a modern saga of synth pop. The Swedish trio have dominated dance parties since blips of their tracks were uncovered in 2011, and 2012’s debut LP Instinct nabbed them further international exposure.

Niki & the Dove’s “The Fox” video

Saturday @ Schubas

Chelsea Wolfe
This California singer-songwriter may not be a ray of sunshine (her gauzey clothes and cryptic contacts are as haunting as her music), but she is a breath of fresh air with a stunning body of work that represents a new version of American Gothic. Last year’s release Unknown Rooms: A Collection of Acoustic Songs features some of her most stripped-down, here-I-am releases yet.

Chelsea Wolfe’s “Flatlands” video

Sunday @ Lincoln Hall

Jessie Ware
Not since Adele has a British pop singer been catapulted to the spotlight this quickly. Ware’s 2012 R&B-influenced album Devotion was acclaimed by critics as one of the best debuts last year and was nominated for the honorable Mercury Prize. This week, Ware introduces her new EP If You’re Never Gonna Move, just in time to bring new tunes to the stage.

Jessie Ware’s “Wildest Moments” video

See all of the acts with a five-day pass; they’re still available for $100. Individual show tickets can be purchased for $15 at Schubas and Lincoln Hall’s websites. Each show starts at 9 p.m.

Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago.


Photography: (Wolfe) Kristin Cofer/Acoustic Press; (all others) courtesy of the artists