Gone are the days of a hibernating winter music scene. With the continued success of the Tomorrow Never Knows Festival at Lincoln Hall and Schubas plus an abundance of concerts on the docket, the winter months will be as flush with new shows as any other season. Here are our selections of some of the best of the bunch for early 2023.
Free Range: Free Range’s wistful, comforting tracks are a perfect balm for the bitter cold of a Chicago winter. And there’s no better place to view them than during the annual Tomorrow Never Knows Festival, now bigger and better than ever. For this latest set, Sofia Jensen, who performs as Free Range, opens for indie rock performer Tomberlin. Still, Free Range’s blend of indie rock and alt-country shines on its own, with a confidence and assuredness that hints at Free Range’s inevitable success sure to come in 2023. Last year, Jensen released “Want to Know” and “All My Thoughts,” Free Range’s strongest singles yet. 7 p.m. Jan. 18, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport Ave., $25 (18+); lh-st.com
Dearly Somber: It’s been nearly three years since Dearly Somber released their last EP and nearly five years since their album “Hourglass,” yet the group’s mournful tracks sound as relevant as ever in today’s dark, ever-confusing world. Here, they serve as a surprising, yet complementary opening act for Squirrel Flower’s wiry folk rock. The set is part of Sleeping Village’s five-year anniversary set of shows, and promises to please fans both new and old. 9 p.m. Jan. 26, Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont Ave., $18-$20 (21+); sleeping-village.com
Still Waters x Stuntsz Present: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: House heads rejoice! January may be a dead time in the dance music world, but Metro is here to shake things up with this special evening filled with back-to-back DJ sets by a mix of local and New York-based selectors. We are especially fond of Shaun J. Wright and Hiroko Yamamura. Arrive early for the full lineup and be prepared to sweat. 10 p.m., Jan. 27, Metro, 3730 N. Clark St., $19 (21+); etix.com
Plaid: After more than 30 years in the business creating music for themselves or in collaboration with other artists (including Bjork), this English duo continues to surprise and delight with their releases. Their latest, the full-length album “Feorm Falorx,” is a return to form, with the band seamlessly blending elements of IDM and techno for a sound that makes the synthetic sound organic. Catch them for this rare stateside set that will hopefully traverse the duo’s broad and rich catalog of music. 9 p.m., Jan. 28, Sleeping Village, 3734 W. Belmont Ave., $21-$25 (21+); sleeping-village.com
Mavis Staples: What is there to say about Mavis Staples that hasn’t been said before? Ferocious and fun, Staples’ live shows are always a treat for audiences, no matter the circumstances. And for her latest Chicago show, Staples will return to the Symphony Center for one night only to play a mix of her well-known hits and obscure contemporary jams. A Chicago icon, Staples’ performance is sure to please longtime fans. Singer-songwriter and spoken word artist Celisse will open. 8 p.m., Feb. 4, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., $40-$199; cso.org
Leezy: This Bay Area-bred, Chicago-based singer-songwriter makes ethereal yet piercing pop music far beyond her 21 years of age. This past fall, Leezy released “Metanoia,” a confident, 10-track collection of music that channels the angst and intelligence of her sonic contemporaries like Billie Eilish and Dove Cameron or early Lana del Rey. Think hip hop-like beats and propulsive percussion mixed with evocative synths to make a cinematic, world-building and one-of-a-kind sound. Catch her here (and at an excellent price) before she inevitably blows up nationally and internationally. 9:30 p.m., Feb. 11, Golden Dagger, 2447 N. Halsted., $12 (21+); goldendagger.com
The Roots: After a successful headlining slot at this past year’s Pitchfork Music Festival, The Roots return to the city, this time at the newly opened Salt Shed music venue. Although it’s been a minute since the group released a new album, that doesn’t mean their brand of righteous, instrument-forward hip-hop has lost its groove. It is the group’s signature blend of danceable grooves and poignant lyrics that continues to set them apart in an algorithm-driven music world. In recent years, a Roots tour has been rare, so make sure to catch them here in case they take another long hiatus between live sets. 8 p.m., March 18, The Salt Shed, 1357 N. Elston Ave., $59-$85 (17+); ticketmaster.com
Raye: She may only be 25 years old, but British singer Raye has had a seemingly long and flourishing career in the music industry. In the past, she’s collaborated with artists like David Guetta and written for superstars like Beyonce. Now, in 2023, Raye is set to release her long-awaited debut album, “My 21st Century Blues.” The album, which comes on the heels of previously released singles, is a stylish and potent mix of R&B, pop and dance music. 7:30 p.m., March 19, Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., $20-$25; lh-st.com
Britt Julious is a freelance critic.