Freelance writer Selena Fragassi picks her “opener of the week”: Astronautalis
BY SELENA FRAGASSI
For Sun-Times Media
Support the support acts! Opening bands are more than a commercial break—it’s your preview of the next big attraction, and we know you don’t want a bad case of FOMO. Get to know our pick of the week, and get to the show early to see them live.
The Age of Enlightenment. The American Revolution. Greek mythology. These are the muses of Astronautalis, a self-described “historical fiction hip-hop” artist who was incubated in the competitive world of spoken word and battle rapping to emerge as one of the most cerebral freestylers of our time—really, find anyone else writing songs about Sisyphus and Russian inventor Dimitri Mendeleev.
Astronautalis is on the bill at Lincoln Hall on Dec. 31. | HANDOUT PHOTO
You could say it’s a way the 32-year-old wordsmith (birth name Andy Bothwell) tries to explore his own history with a lineage of swindlers, sailors and spies behind him. Like them, Bothwell was born a ruffian, letting loose with whiskey, tattoos, skateboarding and live shows where he really hones his own experience—and often lets the audience in on it by allowing them to choose the topics he will slam about in improv rounds. With the sweet talk and swagger, though, come impressive musical chops too, compounding jangly pop melodies with ruff-sewn blues odes that recall Everlast’s dynamite 1998 album Whitey Ford Sings the Blues with the modern touch of Macklemore.
It’s these real blurred lines that have found the Minnesotan attention in indie rock circles, most notably claiming the amor of Tegan and Sara who invited him on their European tour a few years ago; Tegan would later make an appearance on “Contrails,” from Bothwell’s 2011 album This Is Our Science. On that career-making album’s title track, Bothwell astutely declares,“You can waste your time tossing blades of grass at the wind / That you could swing fists and if it sinks ships / Bury me at sea with my arms crossed and a smile upon my pink lips.” Spoken like a true sailor.
See him open for Dessa in one of our top New Year’s Eve shows.
When: 10 p.m. Dec. 31
Where: Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln
Tickets: $30 (in advance)
Info: (773) 525.2501; lincolnhallchicago.com