Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Schubas' Tomorrow Never Knows features the best of indie rock

by Cory Robertson

We're smack dab in the middle of winter, and despite the recent bout of tropical weather, we've still got a long way to go before spring pops up to lighten our dispositions.

Why not let Schubas warm you up a bit, then? The tavern's annual mini-indie-winter festival, Tomorrow Never Knows, is specially designed to do just that. Talent buyer Matt Rucins (full disclosure: Rucins is a UR Chicago staff writer) knows that winter, to use his words, "can be tough in the Midwest." He's put together a lineup that, Jan. 16 through Jan. 20, will bring a refreshing influx of indie talent to the stage.

In past years, Tomorrow Never Knows has turned out to be one stop in a winning streak for groups like Tapes 'n Tapes and Chin Up Chin Up, and the 2008 festival shouldn't lack excitement, either. "This year's lineup is probably the most diverse," says Rucins. "Or as diverse as indie music at Schubas gets." He gives a nod to Wax Fang, an ensemble of innovators with a southern twang that pays homage to their Kentucky roots, as well as the eerily poignant folk songs of soloist Bon Iver and the uplifting ditties of White Denim.

That's not all the nearly weeklong festival has to offer, though. John Vanderslice and the M's headline opening night Wednesday, and the following night, Baby Teeth cuts into the classic arena of epic grandeur that's been compared to Elvis Costello and The Fiery Furnaces. Illinois, the playful imposters from Pennsylvania, will make you feel like you're ready for a down-home dance-off with an experimental edge when they take the stage Jan. 18.

With so many known names and up-and-comers, Tomorrow Never Knows seems like a jumping board for things to come in the still-young year. "I think as the fest progresses its national impact will greater," says Rucins, who already sees Tomorrow Never Knows as a possible career-booster within Chicago.

But whether or not this little festival is important across the nation, it's surely a wintertime destination for music lovers looking to cozy up inside Schubas' welcoming interior. The whole building is open during the festival, so patrons are free to roam upstairs and down, catching the spinning beats of DJs from the likes of the Prairie Cartel or Maradona on the upper level or taking in the ever-changing plethora of applause-worthy sounds downstairs.

Musical preferences aside, Tomorrow Never Knows will cure one ailment for sure: cabin fever. "The audience seems generally happy to be out," says Rucins, who notes that January isn't exactly the height of winter's musical season.

So mix and mingle, and chat up some indie rockers while you're at it. Don't let the chilly weather outside freeze the music lover within.

Tomorrow Never Knows begins Wednesday, Jan. 16, and runs through Sunday, Jan. 20. Tickets are $15 per show, $55 for a five-show pas and $10 for family shows on Saturday and Sunday. Visit for more information.