Chicago’s own roots rockers Freddy Jones Band on tap twice for 30th birthday at City Winery
Posted by Jim Ryan https://chicagoconcertreviews.com/
Swept up in the moment by a hit single, few artists look ahead pondering how their music will stack up decades later.
Emerging from Chicago’s explosive ‘90s alternative scene, Freddy Jones Band put a premium upon melody, crafting catchy hooks despite the angsty sound of the grunge movement blowing up around them.
Celebrating the 30th anniversary of its breakthrough album, “Waiting For The Night,” the uplifting spirit of the group’s most enduring single, “In A Daydream,” continues to connect.
In the ‘90s, local radio airplay could propel a band and, three decades later, the group remains a fixture on Chicago’s WXRT.
“XRT was everything,” explained co-founding Freddy Jones Band singer, songwriter and guitarist Marty Lloyd. “You know, it’s funny…Living in Chicago during those years, I remember waking up and the alarm was XRT. And so often it would be Lin Brehmer’s voice or his playlist going. There were even some mornings where the alarm would go off and it was our music being played on the air on his show. What a trip that was. He was so good to us.”
This past January, Freddy Jones Band returned to Chicago, performing as the opening act for Big Head Todd And The Monsters at the Riviera Theatre. The next morning Brehmer passed away following a battle with prostate cancer.
Headed back to town on Saturday, April 1 for a pair of shows at City Winery, including a special 4:30 p.m. matinee after the 8 p.m. set sold out, the group plan on acknowledging the beloved longtime XRT host during the performances.
“I don’t know how that guy had that much energy. He was everywhere all of the time. It’s crazy! He’s doing the seventh inning stretch, then he’s up all night with bands and then he’s on the air at some crazy hour,” recalled Lloyd of Brehmer with a chuckle. “I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but certainly we’d like the room to feel as though he’s being thought of and recognized for sure. Lin was very important to us. Not just in that arena, but as a person.”
Chicago Concert Reviews spoke with both Lloyd and Freddy Jones Band bassist Rich Ross in separate phone conversations about a forthcoming release EP, set to include the new singles “Connected” and “Mirror Ball,” as well as a reworked take on “In A Daydream” at 30, along with their return to town.
What’s it like coming back, especially with the legacy the band has in Chicago?
Marty Lloyd: Chicago is home. Even though I live out on the West Coast, Chicago will always be home. It’s funny…I try to describe where I grew up to people out here. Surprisingly, they seem to understand! It’s a complicated thing trying to explain that I grew up over along the beaches in Indiana, on the Michigan border, close to Chicago, Illinois. But some people get it. The Indiana Dunes! New Buffalo, Michigan! I’m always surprised. But that’s where I grew up, in Long Beach, Indiana.
Rich Ross: Chicago has become my second home. I literally have played more in Chicago than I think anywhere at this point after being in the band eight years. I love the city. We did some stuff with the Cubs. The owner of the team is a fan of the band. They treated us amazingly. We did the anthem and the first pitch. There is just a feel in the city that is a lot different than most cities. It’s a pretty cool place to be.
What can fans expect when you return to City Winery April 1?
Ross: The matinee show! Did you see the Jamie Lee Curtis thing? It’s f***ing brilliant. It’s like duh. She wants to see Coldplay at 1. Well, you can see Freddy Jones Band at 4:30. Be home, have dinner, go to bed. How perfect is that?
Lloyd: I’m super happy they added a second show. A matinee! It’s like, oh my god, I feel so old (laughs).
Ross: I love City Winery, personally, because it’s such an intimate setting. And there’s a real connection with fans in the crowd. We can hear people asking us stuff and requesting stuff. It’s a very comfortable environment. The City Wineries take great care of the band as well. So, for us, it’s a cool situation. We’re excited to do these.
You did a pair of local concerts with Big Head Todd And The Monsters, last summer in New Lenox and this past January at the Riviera. How were those shows?
Ross: Those guys have been friends of all of ours since the mid-‘90s, so it’s been exciting to play these shows with them. And it seems like, to me, the crowd is more enthusiastic seeing the two bands together, you know? I think that when you pair bands together, it makes everybody work harder. They’re a fantastic band and they work really hard. It’s a pleasure playing with them anytime. Hopefully we’re going to be doing it more this year.
Lloyd: New Lenox! That’s where it was! I keep trying to tell people, “God, we played this great show with Big Head Todd…” That one was so, so fun. Oh my god. I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to pull into there. And, wow, what a great, great night. A great scene.
Our bands go back obviously, almost to the origins. And we get along famously. We’re very good friends and love playing together as much as possible. But that was such a great time. Last May, we played in Denver at Levitt Pavilion and the lineup was Freddy Jones Band, The Samples and Big Head Todd, which was great.
Freddy Jones Band always try to explain to people who aren’t from Chicago that by the time winter is over, people in Chicago are hellbent on getting out and enjoying themselves. So the summer here is a whole different beast and the street fests are not what people expect Throughout the city and suburbs, they’re packed. You guys are coming back for the Belmont-Sheffield Music Fest, on Sunday, May 28 right?
Ross: We sure are. This is one that Marty will tell you back in the day people were hanging from the rafters. And it’s not far from Wrigley Field. So we’re excited to play that outdoor situation. There’s something about Chicago and the live music street fairs that’s pretty cool. There’s so many of them throughout the summer and it’s exciting for us to play them.
Lloyd: Being from there and having lived in Lincoln Park for years, I mean, that’s just what ya did. You went to those things. You looked forward to them all year long! And that was always a really great one. Whenever I see that pop up on the calendar, it’s kind of like, you circle that one.
There was a time when radio was really instrumental in breaking a band. Just how important was WXRT for Freddy Jones Band early on?
Lloyd: XRT was everything. You know, it’s funny…Living in Chicago during those years, I remember waking up and the alarm was XRT. And so often it would be Lin Brehmer’s voice or his playlist going. There were even some mornings where the alarm would go off and it was our music being played on the air on his show. What a trip that was.
He was so good to us. Years and years later, living out in California here, people would always send me a photo of their radio dial or the dashboard in their car with our music playing. It was often his morning show in particular. Lin was just very good to us. I think I had even heard that he played “In A Daydream” on his last day on the air before taking a leave of absence. It’s touching.
I heard you guys may acknowledge Lin during the City Winery shows.
Lloyd: I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but certainly we’d like the room to feel as though he’s being thought of and recognized for sure. Lin was very important to us. Not just in that arena, but as a person.
I don’t know how that guy had that much energy. He was everywhere all of the time. It’s crazy! He’s doing the seventh inning stretch, then he’s up all night with bands and then he’s on the air at some crazy hour.
When we were coming into town for that Riv show with Big Head Todd, we reached out to him. Aside from us knowing Lin personally, we had a lot of mutual friends that were kind of keeping us up to speed on things. But I had seen that he was back on the air. So Rich and I talked about it. “We’ve gotta reach out to Lin. Maybe he could make it out.” So, I reached out to him and he just wrote back, “I’m in bad shape.” And I just thought “Oh no…” That’s what I meant that night on stage, that we were gonna have to sing it loud for him from across town.
Freddy Jones Band
Photo by Barry Brecheisen
Then it was weird. I woke up the next morning. I looked out and there was snow falling. You know how that is. Everything just felt so still. And I thought, “Something feels weird…” I looked over at my phone and there it was. It was just awful. It was eerie that morning. Then we ended up driving by the Riv and it was already on the marquee, a tribute to Lin, at the venue we had just played the night before. Pretty crazy.
You guys are prepping the release of a new EP, which will include “Connected,” “Mirror Ball” and the anniversary take on “In A Daydream.” How’s that shaping up?
Ross: We’re working on the cover art right now. A lot of people want something tangible so they can listen to the song and look at the artwork, as we used to when we were kids. “EP23,” that’s kind of what the name is slated to be right now. One, it’s 2023. Two, Marty and I’s favorite basketball player is Michael Jordan. So that’s a reason as well. I wanted to highlight 23. It’ll be out within the next month. Then we’re gonna head in the studio in a couple of months here and we’re going to do three more.
Lloyd: It doesn’t hurt that’s my favorite number to begin with. Jordan wore it. Ryne Sandberg wore it. When I sang the anthem at Wrigley in 2017, it was 4th of July weekend, they asked us ahead of time, “We’re gonna give you a jersey and put your name on it. What number do you want?” I thought, “God, that’s so cool. Obviously, I’d like for it to be 23…” When I got there and they gave it to me, they said, “Now, look… that number is retired. You understand that, right? We made an exception for you.” And I thought, “Oh god, that’s crazy. That’s right, that jersey is retired!”
In the moment, nobody wonders if they’re going to have a song that continues to resonate with people decades later, but you’ve got that with “In A Daydream.” What’s it like seeing the way that song continues to connect with people as it turns 30 this year?
Lloyd: Well, it blows me away. The producer [of the “Waiting For The Night” album] was Justin Niebank. I remember years ago, after the song was successful, he had gone on a trip. He was driving through the mountains of Colorado and the song came on the radio. He reached out to me. He was like, “I get it!” This was years later! He was like, “I totally get why the song resonates with people. I was driving through the mountains and that song came on!” And it lifted him.
It was really wild to hear someone so intimately involved with that song say that it never really dawned on them until years later and they had a natural Freddy as we call it (laughs). Unprovoked, it just came on the radio and it was such a great experience for him. We hear those stories a lot.
Freddy Jones Band performs at City Winery on Saturday, April 1. For additional details, visit FreddyJonesBand.net and CityWinery.com/Chicago.