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Tomorrow Never Knows 2019: The 10 must-see acts at music, comedy fest

Taylor Bennett makes his Lollapalooza debut, Aug. 3, 2018. | Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

Taylor Bennett makes his Lollapalooza debut, Aug. 3, 2018. | Kate Scott/For the Sun-Times

No need to wait until summer to enjoy the best of Chicago’s music festivals. Since 2005, the folks behind Lincoln Hall and Schubas have done a brilliant job of offering a multi-day cultural event in the middle of humdrum January. Known as Tomorrow Never Knows, the fest — which also includes comedians — cheekily references the Beatles song, but also tips its hat to emerging talent.

When: Jan. 16-20
Where: Various Venues
Tickets: $10-25 per show (5-day passes are sold out)
Information: lh-st.com

In past years, TNK has booked acts that have gone on to success including Sharon Van Etten, Father John Misty, Hannibal Buress and Cameron Esposito. This year’s festival takes place over five days beginning Jan. 16, at multiple venues including Lincoln Hall and Schubas as well as Metro, Smartbar, The Hideout and the newer outpost Sleeping Village. Here are our picks on the fest’s must-sees:

Charly Bliss
The ‘90s have been coming back in a big way, riding a wave of nostalgia for cult classic remakes, grunge fashion and Insta filters that are straight out of the disposable camera era. Music has also been given the throwback treatment with bands like Charly Bliss that tap into everything pristine about the era — guitar-driven hooks, a love of imperfect first takes and scratchy-sweet female vocals reminiscent of Veruca Salt and Letters To Cleo.
9 p.m. January 16 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln

It’s a rare treat to see this eclectic Portland instrumental troupe on a handbill anywhere in town. Tours are few and far between since their dawning in 1999, but always worth the wait. Grails is the very definition of avant-garde, shrouding its evocative compositions in a haze of heavy metal, free form jazz, stoner psychedelia and artsy folk that gratefully defy convention.
9 p.m. January 17 at Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont

Comedian Neil Hamburger performs during the Nashville Comedy Festival presented by Outback Concerts on April 20, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee. | Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Comedian Neil Hamburger performs during the Nashville Comedy Festival on April 20, 2018, in Nashville, Tennessee. | Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Neil Hamburger
The king of anti-comedy believes in the philosophy that something can be so bad it’s good. With his askew comb over, overly formal suit and bow tie and predilection for Q&A jokes taking jabs at the most obvious celebrities, Hamburger (the alter ego of Gregg Turkington) is a big-time recipient of slow claps — and has a built a successful career around all of it, with albums on Drag City, appearances on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” and the feature film, “Entertainment.”
10 p.m. January 17 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia

“It’s A Guy Thing”
There are just some things in life a gal can’t understand. To the rescue comes the comedic trio of Catherine Cohen, Mitra Jouhari and Patti Harrison — along with a lineup of special guests — to woman-splain it all. It’s routinely voted as one of the best alt comedy shows in New York City.
8 and 10 p.m. January 18 at The Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers | John Gessner Photo

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers | John Gessner Photo

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers
Bloodshot Records has a unique way of describing their label signee as “a new voice for a new country.” Sarah Shook carries on in the outlaw spirit with a raw brand of gritty songwriting that has a punk rock ethos — rebelling against a fundamentalist upbringing in North Carolina to find her true self as an outspoken atheist liberal. Backed by the Disarmers and plenty of twangy guitar, “shook” is one way to describe the set.
9 p.m. January 18 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln

DJ Hell
The influential German DJ and producer will feel right at home at Smartbar with his unique brand of techno spawned from vast influences including punk, New Wave, hip-hop and Chicago house, as well as vintage ‘60s and ‘70s Euro electro he grew up with outside of Munich. Rarely does he tour outside Europe, so this is a big get for TNK.
10 p.m. January 19 at Smartbar, 3730 N. Clark

This podcast and online magazine finds itself in real-time with this showcase. Talkhouse is where musicians, actors and other creatives can share experiences with each other in interviews or write about another’s work in essays and reviews. For this exposé, Joan Of Arc/Owen/American Football musician Mike Kinsella speaks with Manchester Orchestra frontman Andy Hull.
2:30 p.m. January 19 at Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont

Taylor Bennett
The Chicago hip-hop artist shares DNA with Chance The Rapper, whose brotherly love extended to a guest appearance on Bennett’s 2015 track “Broad Shoulders.” But it’s Bennett’s 2018 release, “Be Yourself,” that really sets him apart with layered production, catchy vocal-rap style and songs about being okay with who you are.
7 p.m. January 19 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark

Fee Lion
The pseudonym for Chicago artist Justina Kairyte, the atmospheric solo project combines slick pop overtones a la Grimes with synth heartbeats that could have been on a new Depeche Mode album. Combined with a love of fashion (Kairyte was just featured in a Nylon magazine spread), Fee Lion is the face of something fresh. Opening for Negative Gemini, but go early for fellow Chicago dark sire Panic Priest.
9:30 p.m. January 19 at Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont

It’s been a hard pill to swallow that Disappears may be gone forever. But in the wake of the very extended hiatus of the local krautrock-shoegaze heroes comes Facs. The trio, who released their 2018 debut “Negative Houses” to wide acclaim, features former Disappears frontman Brian Case (who also carved time in The Ponys) and drummer Noah Leger, along with another Chicago veteran Alianna Kalaba on bass.
5 and 8 p.m. January 20 at Metro, 3730 N. Clark

Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.