The Congregation
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The Congregation

Chicago, Illinois, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2010

Chicago, Illinois, United States
Established on Jan, 2010
Band R&B Soul

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Nov
07
The Congregation @ The Hideout

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Sep
25
The Congregation @ Chop Shop & 1st Ward

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Jun
13
The Congregation @ Andersonville Midsommarfest

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Chicago, Illinois, United States

This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos

Music

Press


"Chicago Open Submision Results: Tied on 3rd are The Congregation and Shuteye"

With a modern and vibrant take on soul music and the powerful vocals of Gina Bloom, The Congregation released a new instant classic in 2012 in the form of their full-length debut "Right Now Everything." The eight-piece band sports its own horn section in addition to keyboards, piano, guitar, drums (lots of drums). This is original gospel soul mix in an indie rock form, i.e. what critics love about Alabama Shakes, but so much more authentic. - The Deli Magazine


"CD Review - The Congregation "Right Now Everything""

Living, as we do, in a world that is comprised of virtual reality, computer replication, and manufactured culture, it is often difficult to find something that is organic and real to get excited about. Music fans are especially hard pressed in this department and can find it tough to discover new artists who can deliver the same levels of groove, sweat, and emotion as the great ones of days gone by. Those of you out there searching for a fresh breath of air need to discover Chicago’s new soul sensations The Congregation.

The band is an eight-piece, old school outfit comprised of guitars, horns, and keyboards and fronted by the passionate vocal stylings of the lovely and talented Gina Bloom. She is backed by the considerable talents of bandmates Charlie Wayne (guitar), Joe DeBord (bass), Chuck Sansone (keyboards, percussion), Dan Wendt (drums, percussion), Brian Crane (trumpet), Nick Nottoli (trombone) and Erik Eiseman (sax).

The sound is soul music on fire, touched by the blues, and wrapped up in the energy of rock and roll; it is completely infectious! It is the kind of sound that reminds us all how powerful live music can be.

The Congregation’s debut album, Right Now Everything, is a rollicking affair packed with a dozen original songs about love gone wrong and the wreckage left behind, all set to beats that are strong enough to rock any house in the world. The blending of soul music with elements of punk and garage rock has been attempted by others but has seldom been handled so well or so convincingly. Bloom really pulls the emotion out of each song and the band is equal to her intensity, putting a lid on the pot until it boils over rather than keeping things at a more traditional soul simmer. All the songs presented on the album work nicely with nary a clunker in the bunch. Especially worthy of a listen are “Real Thing”, “You Always Told Me (Terrible Things)”, and the title track that kicks the record off.

The coolest thing about The Congregation is hearing them play this kind of music, not with the bearing and grace of the old masters, but with the something-to-prove grit of a young band on the way up the ladder. This is not your grandpa’s soul music, but a new variety of the sound, one based as much in loud rock and roll as in Memphis funk. Right Now Everything is a record that needs to make its way through the Pitchfork and Lollapalooza crowds, as well as the roots and blues audience that already loves this kind of music. Far from being a revivalist act or some sort of history lesson, The Congregation is as vital and now as it gets. If too much pre-programmed canned music has got you down, spin The Congregation and remember why you fell in love with music in the first place. - Chicago Blues Guide


"11 Bands to Watch in 2011"

Already home to R&B legacy preservers Dusty Groove and Numero Group, Chicago certainly has room for a retro-soul ensemble. Led by vocalist Gina Bloom, whose bluesy pipes and aching timbres carry over her dapperly dressed band's rhythm section, The Congregation unapologetically hearken back to an era when music stands, brassy call-and-response lines and disciplined performances graced every concert stage. The wild card? Sass. Bloom and Co. turn in a sultry interpretation of the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on its "Not for Sleepin'" EP, complete with a bounding solo indicative of the octet's strut. - Bob Gendron, Chicago Tribune


"Chicago band bringing soul-based sound to Geneva as opening act for Wilco"

Led by the roof rattling vocals of Gina Bloom, Chicago soul-rock band The Congregation deserves all the attention it is getting.

The eight-piece band last year was named one of 11 Chicago bands to watch.

On Sunday, The Congregation will perform in front of its biggest crowd to date when it opens for fellow Chicago band Wilco at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, 34W002 Cherry Lane, Geneva. Chicago musician Andrew Bird is also on the bill.

Gates open at 4 p.m. and the show begins at 5:30 p.m. General admission tickets are $50, available at www.jamusa.com.

Bloom has a strong musical background. She is the daughter of Bill Bloom, who co-wrote the 1981 hit “Double Dutch Bus.” The Kane County Chronicle had the opportunity to talk to Bloom about the upcoming show and the band’s other activities.

Kane County Chronicle: I understand that the invitation to open for Wilco was a surprise.

Gina Bloom: Yes, actually it was. We’ve never met anyone from Wilco.

We’ve got a lot of Wilco fans, and I’ve been a fan of Wilco for a long time. Everyone in the band is ecstatic about going to open for them.

Will this be your biggest show to date?

This will definitely be the biggest audience we’ve played for. We’ve played a few festivals before that have had a decent audience.

The band has some other things going on. You guys just released the title track of your full-length album debut, “Right Now Everything,” which will come out in September. How have people been responding to the song?

I’ve been getting a lot of people saying they like it a lot and can’t wait to listen to the rest of the album. We haven’t put out a new song in a year and a half, so we wanted to get a new song in people’s hands.

Was there something you were going for with the song?

What I really like about it is that it kind of represents all the different elements of The Congregation.

Are you releasing the CD on your own?

We did the [do-it-yourself] thing. We produced it. At this point, we are an independent band.

Do you want to remain an independent band?

We all have full-time day jobs, which really limits our ability to tour outside the Chicago area.

I don’t know if we are an ideal candidate for a record deal. We are just trying to see how much success we can have locally and regionally.

It seems like there’s a new interest in soul music. You have a lot of different Chicago bands incorporating soul into their music.

There is kind of a great soul legacy in Chicago. For us, it was the common thread.

I think there is definitely a good environment in Chicago for those who are making soul music. We all encourage each other.

You guys are playing a lot this summer. Do you think the band is in its element on stage?

When we are on stage together, there is a great energy. We all kind of play off each other.

When people see us live, it is an energetic experience.

Do you have a dream bill?

This one is pretty cool. If we had a dream bill, I think Wilco would have been on it for a lot of people.

In August, we will open up for Garbage and the Flaming Lips at a ballpark in Madison, Wis. That’s another cool opportunity we are looking forward to.

I would like to perform with or meet Stevie Wonder. He is a big influence for me. - Eric Schelkopf, Kane County Chronicle


"The Congregation goes from the Ultra Lounge to opening for Wilco"

She's not sure of the entire back story, but singer Gina Bloom, does know this: The Congregation, the Chicago band she's in, will share the bill with Wilco and Andrew Bird at a concert this summer.

And the R&B/soul band got the gig because Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy wanted them. Asked for them specifically. You don't say no to Jeff Tweedy.

"Last week I got an e-mail from the production company that's putting the show on," Bloom said earlier this week. "It was kind of cryptic. 'We need to be in contact with you. It is time sensitive.' I wondered why Jam Productions would contact me."

She got in touch with Jam and was told about the show, July 8 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.

Tickets ($50) go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at etix.com and at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark ticket office. Tickets can also be purchased with no service charge at the Vic Theatre box office in Chicago.

"They . . . wondered if we'd be interested in being part of the show. He asked if we were available, and I said I had to check. (And here she laughed.) So I sent e-mails to the band. 'I don't know what you're doing July 8, but cancel it.' They all picked their jaws up off the floor."

Andy Cirzan, Jam's vice president/concerts, said as the concert plans were coming together and Bird was in place, "It was kinda like, This is cool. We've got two bands from Chicago who are also internationally known. So the idea got batted around between us and Wilco's management about a Chicago-centric bill."

They discussed a few names, but no decision was made. Cirzan later got an e-mail from Wilco's manager with a link to a Congregation video. He loved what he saw, he says, and approached the band.

Afterward, he said, "I was having conversation with Wilco's management. I said it was great how it worked out with Congregation. And in passing they mentioned, Yeah, Jeff came up with the idea. So that was very cool."

Tweedy is currently in the studio recording and was unavailable to comment. That leaves Bloom to wonder how he heard of the band. They've got a following, to be sure, but they're not that well-known.

"I didn't think we were on the radar of someone like him," Bloom said. "I know he's into soul music. We've seen him supporting other Chicago artists who play soul music, so it sort of makes sense."

"He's a music guy. He's super savvy," Cirzan said of Tweedy. "Between him and the guys in the band, you talk about some music goofs. They're working musicians, they play in multiple bands, there's no egos. They're just cool guys who like the idea of helping younger artists. And they're Chicago rah-rah guys."

The Congregation – consisting of Bloom, Charlie Wayne (guitar), Joe DeBord (bass), Chuck Sansone (keyboard), Dan Wendt (drums), Nick Nottoli (trombone), Brian Crane (trumpet) and Erik Eiseman (sax) – has been together for two years. They're familiar faces at such Chicago venues as Double Door, Subterranean, The Tonic Room, Ultra Lounge and Martyrs'. Last year they did about three dates a month. They haven't played as many shows this year because they've been recording their debut album, "Right Now Everything," due out in the fall. (Fortuitously, the first single is scheduled to be released around the time of the July concert.)

All the musicians also have day jobs. Bloom is a benefits analyst at Mesirow Financial, Wayne is an astrophysicist at Fermilab, Sansone works in IT at Navy Pier, Wendt is a photographer and works in public affairs at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, DeBord is a Chicago Public Schools teacher, Crane works in development at the Art Institute of Chicago, Nottoli is in PR at Carolyn Grisko & Associates, and Eiseman is an agent for Apartment People.

The band (Facebook.com/thecongregation and Myspace.com/thecongregationchicago) has played before big crowds, such as Taste of Chicago and Musikfest near Philadelphia. But a ballpark will be a new experience, made even bigger by the presence of Wilco and Bird.

"To be doing a show with Chicago's most beloved band, it's really huge. We're excited about it," she said. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to show a bigger audience what we can do."
- William Hageman, Chicago Tribune


"11 Illinois Bands You Should Listen to Now"

Cut from the same cloth as Alabama Shakes, Vintage Trouble and their fellow Chicagoans JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, these soul revivalists recently earned an opening slot for Wilco. While their most obvious influences include the likes of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, they can also rock with the best of them—they’ve even recorded a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” - Bonnie Stiernberg, Paste Magazine


"Pondamonium Part I: Opening acts set the stage"

Chicago soul collective the Congregation kicked off the festivities, performing in a steady rainfall for a small, waterlogged crowd of less than 100. Considering the size of the baseball stadium, the sparse early attendance made it look as though the band were playing in a deserted city at the height of a zombie apocalypse.

The group appeared unfazed by the conditions, however, swinging between grimy, funk-inspired numbers and heartbroken soul ballads that temporarily made it seem as though it were the heavens themselves crying.

Versatile frontwoman Gina Bloom, supported by seven suit-clad male musicians, dominated the stage, alternately bellowing, growling, crying and pleading. On one song, she channeled Janis Joplin, her ragged voice flashing the consistency of rough sandpaper. The next she displayed a silkier timbre, gradually easing her way between a slinky bassline and strutting brass courtesy of the band's three-piece horn section. At one point, the singer even inhabited the sinewy frame of Iggy Pop as she howled her way through a horn-spiked cover of the Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog."

Bloom and Co. also debuted a trio of tunes from their forthcoming full-length debut, "Right Now Everything," including the gospel-flecked title track, which would have had the rafters shaking in many a church, and "When There's Fighting," a surprisingly optimistic song that hit like a ray of sunshine in the wake of the group's more typically busted and bruised numbers. - Andy Downing, 77 Square


"Music reviews: Shemekia Copeland, Congregation, more"

The Congregation, "Right Now Everything" (The Congregation) (3 1/2 out of four stars)

Continuing Chicago's hot season for local releases, these two scorchers advocate forcefully for the city's soulful roots. Shemekia Copeland, nearly 15 years into a career but only as old as this album's title, seems to have been bequeathed Koko Taylor's title as Queen of the Blues. She deserves it, showcasing on "33 1/3" the worthwhile effort and resulting majesty in successfully blending old-world soul with new-age sass. Sticking with producer Oliver Wood (who guided her first post-Alligator Records outing, 2009's "Never Going Back") and restocking the cupboard with rich material (Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, her dad Johnny Copeland) -- and joined on one track by Buddy Guy ("Ain't Gonna Be Your Tattoo") -- Copeland delivers a moody, smoky set worthy of some kind of crown.

Meanwhile, the Congregation makes its debut with a formidable full-length filled with churchy soul and jazzy rock. After a summer sharing stages with Wilco and the Flaming Lips, this eight-piece ensemble arrives in the wake of buzz surrounding some other old-school contemporaries, Alabama Shakes. The Congregation's Gina Bloom, though, is a different kind of singer -- more eager, mischievous, alluringly androgynous (a female foil for Taylor Hanson?). The band, too, is nimble and highly caffeinated, applying gospel grooves (the title track) as easily as slinky sugar-daddy lovin' ("High Class"). Yes, they can get my amen!

- Thomas Conner, Chicago Sun-Times


"Hello, My Name is Gina"

IE: How well do you guys know each other?
Gina Bloom: I was playing drums for a band, and three of the others were in an alt-country band. We happened to be playing the same gig, they saw me sing during soundcheck, and approached me to put this band together after the show.

IE: So you were a drummer? Have you always been? Normally people are the drummer simply because they have a drum kit.
GB: Up until The Congregation, I only ever played drums in bands. I had pretty bad stagefright for most of my life, and playing drums was a way for me to be in the background. I always knew I wanted to sing, but I would get the shakes. It took this band to pull me out of it.

IE: You have a musical family?
GB: My dad [Bill Bloom] is a songwriter – he wrote for Philadelphia International Records [Harold Melvin, The O'Jays] in the ’70s. It’s funny, I was home a couple weeks ago and my sister was making fun of the fact that she has a tape-player in the car, so she salvaged this tape out of my dad’s house and it was a demo of something he’d written back then – and, as he’s working, you can hear me as a baby in the background talking to him and crying. That was what our childhood was like: my dad was always at the piano.

IE: So if The Congregation get successful, people will say, “She had a lot to live up to.”
GB: Yeah. I used to always tout my dad’s gold record, but now my band’s opening for Wilco!

IE: Exactly how did that come together?
GB: It was completely out of the blue. A couple months ago, I was like, “We need to get some shows. We have this record coming out – we need to get in front of some people.” We weren’t really doing much. I was at work, and I checked the band e-mail, and the subject line was “How do we get in contact with you?!” It was from Jam Productions, so I called back, and it was all this stuff – a festival, XRT’s 40th anniversary – and then, “We’ve already booked Wilco and Andrew Bird: would you like to be on the bill?” I started shaking so much I had to hold the phone with two hands, and then e-mail the band saying, “This is not a joke!”

The Congregation open for Wilco and Andrew Bird at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva, IL on July 8th. “Right Now Everything,” the title track from their forthcoming album, is available now. Q&A by Steve Forstneger. - Illinois Entertainer


"11 Illinois Bands You Should Listen to Now"

Cut from the same cloth as Alabama Shakes, Vintage Trouble and their fellow Chicagoans JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound, these soul revivalists recently earned an opening slot for Wilco. While their most obvious influences include the likes of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin, they can also rock with the best of them—they’ve even recorded a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” - Paste Magazine


"The Congregation goes from the Ultra Lounge to opening for Wilco"

She's not sure of the entire back story, but singer Gina Bloom, does know this: The Congregation, the Chicago band she's in, will share the bill with Wilco and Andrew Bird at a concert this summer.

And the R&B/soul band got the gig because Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy wanted them. Asked for them specifically. You don't say no to Jeff Tweedy.

"Last week I got an e-mail from the production company that's putting the show on," Bloom said earlier this week. "It was kind of cryptic. 'We need to be in contact with you. It is time sensitive.' I wondered why Jam Productions would contact me."

She got in touch with Jam and was told about the show, July 8 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.

Tickets ($50) go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday at etix.com and at the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark ticket office. Tickets can also be purchased with no service charge at the Vic Theatre box office in Chicago.

"They . . . wondered if we'd be interested in being part of the show. He asked if we were available, and I said I had to check. (And here she laughed.) So I sent e-mails to the band. 'I don't know what you're doing July 8, but cancel it.' They all picked their jaws up off the floor."

Andy Cirzan, Jam's vice president/concerts, said as the concert plans were coming together and Bird was in place, "It was kinda like, This is cool. We've got two bands from Chicago who are also internationally known. So the idea got batted around between us and Wilco's management about a Chicago-centric bill."

They discussed a few names, but no decision was made. Cirzan later got an e-mail from Wilco's manager with a link to a Congregation video. He loved what he saw, he says, and approached the band.

Afterward, he said, "I was having conversation with Wilco's management. I said it was great how it worked out with Congregation. And in passing they mentioned, Yeah, Jeff came up with the idea. So that was very cool."

Tweedy is currently in the studio recording and was unavailable to comment. That leaves Bloom to wonder how he heard of the band. They've got a following, to be sure, but they're not that well-known.

"I didn't think we were on the radar of someone like him," Bloom said. "I know he's into soul music. We've seen him supporting other Chicago artists who play soul music, so it sort of makes sense."

"He's a music guy. He's super savvy," Cirzan said of Tweedy. "Between him and the guys in the band, you talk about some music goofs. They're working musicians, they play in multiple bands, there's no egos. They're just cool guys who like the idea of helping younger artists. And they're Chicago rah-rah guys."

The Congregation – consisting of Bloom, Charlie Wayne (guitar), Joe DeBord (bass), Chuck Sansone (keyboard), Dan Wendt (drums), Nick Nottoli (trombone), Brian Crane (trumpet) and Erik Eiseman (sax) – has been together for two years. They're familiar faces at such Chicago venues as Double Door, Subterranean, The Tonic Room, Ultra Lounge and Martyrs'. Last year they did about three dates a month. They haven't played as many shows this year because they've been recording their debut album, "Right Now Everything," due out in the fall. (Fortuitously, the first single is scheduled to be released around the time of the July concert.)

All the musicians also have day jobs. Bloom is a benefits analyst at Mesirow Financial, Wayne is an astrophysicist at Fermilab, Sansone works in IT at Navy Pier, Wendt is a photographer and works in public affairs at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, DeBord is a Chicago Public Schools teacher, Crane works in development at the Art Institute of Chicago, Nottoli is in PR at Carolyn Grisko & Associates, and Eiseman is an agent for Apartment People.

The band (Facebook.com/thecongregation and Myspace.com/thecongregationchicago) has played before big crowds, such as Taste of Chicago and Musikfest near Philadelphia. But a ballpark will be a new experience, made even bigger by the presence of Wilco and Bird.

"To be doing a show with Chicago's most beloved band, it's really huge. We're excited about it," she said. "We're looking forward to the opportunity to show a bigger audience what we can do."
- Chicago Tribune


"Top 12 bands at Taste of Chicago 2011"

There just aren't many singers in Chicago that can own a room the way that The Congregation frontwoman Gina Bloom can; her voice is just that great. The 8-piece garage-soul band packs a lot of attitude and charisma into their set, and the Taste crowd won't be able to stand still. - Metromix/Redeye


"Top 12 bands at Taste of Chicago 2011"

There just aren't many singers in Chicago that can own a room the way that The Congregation frontwoman Gina Bloom can; her voice is just that great. The 8-piece garage-soul band packs a lot of attitude and charisma into their set, and the Taste crowd won't be able to stand still. - Metromix/Redeye


"Chicago band The Congregation bringing fresh take on soul, rock"

Led by the roof rattling vocals of Gina Bloom, Chicago soul-rock band The Congregation is a group that delivers music in a righteous fashion.

The Congregation, www.thecongregationband.com, has been generating a strong buzz after being together for only a year, being named one of 11 Chicago bands to watch this year.

The band will perform Sept. 29 at Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, www.doubledoor.com. VertiKal, Daryl Hance (former guitarist for JJ Grey and Mofro) and The Dirty Rooks also are on the bill.

The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $7, available at www.ticketfly.com.

Bloom has a strong musical background. She is the daughter of Bill Bloom, who co-wrote the 1981 hit, "Double Dutch Bus."

I had the chance to talk to her about a variety of topics, including how The Congregation formed. - The Total Scene


"The Bluesy Garage Souls of The Congregation"

The Congregation members are no amateurs. They play the old-fashioned way with real instruments and unapologetic vocals. Songs like “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “He’s Gone,” “Have You Seen My Baby” are inspired by the band’s influences: Otis Redding, Ike and Tina Turner, Howlin’ Wolf, Aretha Franklin and Bo Diddley, but that range doesn’t begin to describe the live experience. As soon as the stage lights go up at Martyrs late last Friday night, the room swells with one of the band’s harder rock songs likely influenced by the dynamo guitarist’s punk roots. Bloom’s voice is like a riptide. It doesn’t just hold up to blues rock songs. It’s aggressive but never out of control. The band members must know the fine line they walk between the Bloom’s soulful voice and the head banging vengeful wrath of Wayne’s guitar. - Fear No Art Chicago


"2011 Metromix Rock 'n' Vote Final Four"

This is almost getting ridiculous. First, eight-piece soul act The Congregation won a talent search at Underground Wonder Bar. Then they won a Battle of the Bands at Reggie’s that scored them a slot at SXSW. Now the band, led by Gina Bloom, 28, of Lincoln Park, landed in the Rock ’n’ Vote top four thanks to a straightforward barrage of online requests for support. “We’ve never lost any kind of competition before,” Bloom said, “so if we hadn’t won we would have been disappointed.” She adds that other bands should maybe be “a little scared,” and “when it’s a competition situation we are generally pretty fierce.” In other words: It. Is. On. - Metromix/RedEye


"Metromix Rock 'n' Vote 2011 Top 10 bands"

More than ever, our eighth annual Rock ’n’ Vote contest—which nearly 140 Chicago bands entered—proves that the music is all that matters.

Our picks for this year’s 10 finalists include a band that’s lived in Chicago for only a month, a band that’s gone through two lineup changes in a year and a band that hasn’t played live and has no music available yet on MySpace.

Now it’s your turn: Listen to the bands and vote for who you want to see play a free show May 4 at Hard Rock Cafe. The top four vote-getters (note: polls close midnight Sunday) will rock our concert, which will be headlined by Rock ’n’ Vote 2009 winners/Atlantic Records artist I Fight Dragons. Oh, and one concertgoer will win a trip to London, courtesy of Hard Rock Cafe.

Excited yet?

The Congregation
Home base: Lincoln Park/Oak Park
Band’s sound: Rough-around-the-edges soul
Live show: “A lot of movin’ and shakin’,” said singer Gina Bloom, 28. When a band has eight members, that’s a stage with work to do.
Influences: Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Aretha Franklin, the Animals, Iggy Pop
Claim to fame: Won Reggie’s battle of the bands to earn a slot at SXSW showcase - Metromix/RedEye


"Top 10 Chicago Releases"

Top 10 Chicago releases:

So much great stuff going on in Chicago this year that it was actually harder for me to make this list than my normal Top Ten. A good sign for the Chicago music scene and for fans around the world...

#5. Coming out just slightly above the old school jams of Mr. Buddy Guy is the newest addition to the Chicago blues family, The Congregation. I reviewed this record just a couple weeks ago, and I don’t have much to add. If you like the blues, or, more specifically, Rhythm and Blues, give this a shot. Gina Bloom’s voice is as powerful as it is soulful, and the band backing her up is dynamite. - Chicago Tunes


"Hambone’s Blues Party Top Spins for March 2011"

Local “garage soul” band The Congregation was recently picked by the Chicago Tribune to be one of the bands to watch in 2011. They played my show last month and knocked me out. They are headed down to SxSW to play Reggie’s showcase event. This self-produced EP demonstrates their bold and brassy soulful sounds. - Chicago Blues Guide


"Have Soul, Will Travel: The Congregation Talk Shop Before Hitting Up SXSW"

Just going with the flow has been working out pretty well for Chicagoan’s The Congregation, whose soulful sound has seen fairly smooth sailing since the December release of their debut EP, Not for Sleepin’. Shortly after the EP hit the streets, the Chicago Tribune picked it up and quickly named The Congregation one of their “11 Bands to Watch in 2011”. Making the list set them up to play in a SXSW Showcase Showdown at Reggie’s Rock Club, which the band dominated, thus sealing their fate to perform at this years SXSW festival. For a band that has never played outside of Chicago, we say one of the nations biggest and most important industry festivals isn’t too shabby for a first show out.

Forming roughly a year and a half ago, The Congregation is a smattering of musicians from different projects, friends and some guy they found hanging around a venue. “Charlie and Joe have been playing in bands together for years, most recently they were playing in an alt-country band along with Dan. They came up with the idea to start a Stax-era soul band, but they knew they couldn’t start one without a singer. Luck had it that their band and my band ended up playing a show together. The guys heard me sing and asked me if I wanted to start something with them. I did, and we did. A few months later we added a horn section, and a couple months later we found Chuck hanging out at Reggies and added him on keys.” (Gina Bloom)

The band recently played a SXSW sendoff and fundraiser at Reggie’s to help them prepare financially for their maiden voyage into touring and we look forward to their return to the Windy City to regale us all with what will hopefully be tales of stand out performances and successful schmoozing. Until then, we’d like to share an interview the band did with us just this past week. See what Gina Bloom, Nick Nottoli, Charlie Wayne and Dan Wendt had to say about the instruments they wish they played, who they’d like to take on tour and what plans they have for music in the next year.

Reviewsic: What are your top three musical influences?

Gina Bloom: Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder

Nick Nottoli: Trombone Shorty, Trombone Shorty, Trombone Shorty

Charlie Wayne: My top one influence is Slash.

Reviewsic: Is there any instrument you don’t play, but wish you did?

Dan Wendt: In my next life, I will be a singer.

NN: Yeah, I always thought talking would evolve into singing, but it never happened.

GB: I sometimes wish I could play the piano and a lot of other miscellaneous instruments, but I’m content with what I can do.

Reviewsic: What are the last three albums or bands you listened to?

DW: Right now I’m big on IRM by Charlotte Gainsburg, Strychnine Dandelions by The Parting Gifts and Face Tat by Zach Hill

NN: Outkast’s Idlewild, John Scofield’s 45 and The Stanley Clarke Band’s self-titled album.

GB: Broken Bells, self-titled, Aretha Franklin, Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of The Queen of Soul and Radiohead, The King of Limbs.

Reviewsic: If you could work with one person in the music industry (musician, label, producer etc), who would it be and why?

DW: Danger Mouse, he can do no wrong.

GB: Stevie Wonder, ’cause he’s my favorite musical genius.

CW: Slash, but it wouldn’t be working together as much as it would be a guitar duel.

Reviewsic: If you could book a tour with any 3 bands, past or present, who would they be and why?

DW: Black Keys, ’cause they’re huge now and their fans would dig us, and also Morphine and the Talking Heads.

GB: The Jackson 5, The Ike and Tina Turner Revue, The Rolling Stones (back in the 60s). They were all just awesome bands, and there would have been some serious drama to watch unfold.

Reviewsic: Lately we’ve been on this kick of revisiting bands we didn’t pay as much attention to in the past and wondering, “Why didn’t I listen to this 10 years ago?”- If you could go back in time and push 3 bands/records on your younger self, who/what would they be and why?

DW: Anything by the band Wire

NN: Otis Redding–in middle school I spent all this time listening to ska because I liked horns. I wasn’t really exposed to soul music growing up, so I never thought to listen to Otis. Good thing, I guess, because “Ban the Tube” by Reel Big Fish really changed my life.

GB: The Beatles, somehow I missed them when I was growing up.

Reviewsic: Tell us about your music- where does the inspiration for it come from? Did you set out with the specific intention to make the kind of music you make?

CW: The influences of The Congregation are very different across the band. Before forming this band, Dan, Joe and I played together in an alt-country/roots rock band, and going back further, we came from a heavily punk rock influenced background. Even within the soul genre, Gina has been more strongly influenced by Motown and Philly sounds, while Joe and I have listened to more from Stax and Chess. You might ne - Reviewsic


"Not For Sleepin' EP"

The soulful debut EP from The Congregation – seven songs from an eight piece Chi group steeped in classic soul styles from Motown to Memphis, Philly and Chicago! The sound is remarkably assured, almost perfectly realized live band soul, all the more incredible given their relative youth. It sounds like the work of a group that's been at it for decades rather than just a year – fronted by powerfully soulful vocalist Gina Bloom – with guitarist Charlie Wayne and drummer Dan Wendt co-writing the original songs, plus Brian Crane on trumpet, Nick Nottoli on trombone, Joe DeBord on bass, Jay St. Germain on sax and Chuck Sansone on keys. A little bit of funk, a little bit of rocking soul and a little bit of electric blues roll into their sound – truly strong, standout stuff from a group that's only getting started. You get the feeling that the best is definitely yet to come from them – and they're pretty great already! Includes solid originals "Not For Sleepin'", "This Could Be You", "He's Gone", "A Good Man Is Hart To Find" and "Save The Wine" – plus a sultry soul cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (yes, really!) and a sweet take on the ever adaptable "Little Sister". - Dusty Groove America


"Q&A: The Congregation"

On their debut EP Not for Sleepin', Chicago eight-piece The Congregation combine classic, bluesy soul with raw rock and roll energy and the power-packed vocals of Gina Bloom for a sound that dares you not to take notice. Tracks such as the heart-wrenching "Save the Wine," the down-and-dirty "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," and a funky cover of "I Wanna Be Your Dog" are prime examples of these musicians' bold, impressive collective powers.

This Saturday night, January 8th, The Congregation will perform at Martyrs' in celebration of what would be Elvis's 76th birthday. Get tickets and more info here (and listen to the their cover of the King's "Little Sister" below). To help get you pumped up for the show and better acquainted with the band, I recently sought answers to some questions from Gina as well as guitarist Charlie Wayne and drummer Dan Wendt. Read the Q&A below and find out more about Not for Sleepin', the band's history and influences and what they have planned for 2011.

WCR: Some indie bands in Chicago incorporate blues sounds, but to me, The Congregation stands out from most by taking on a vintage, more smoky and soulful kind of blues. When forming the band how did you decide on this style?

Charlie: When we first started playing together a little over a year ago, we set out to play music in the style of Stax-era or Memphis soul bands. We've really incorporated a lot of different influences and genres into our more recent songs.

Dan: We definitely wanted a timeless sound, but we also knew our backgrounds in punk, rock, country, etc. would influence the type of soul and blues we'd be making. If we were all traditional blues artists or super slick soul musicians I don't think it would be the same band. I know it wouldn't be the same band. I think our music is continuing to evolve and it's coming along naturally. We're writing some pretty dynamic songs these days.

Gina: Soulful is the only way I know how to do it.

When and how did you all come together?

Dan: Charlie, Joe and I were all in a country band together and Gina was in a rock/R&B cover band. We met at Darkroom, fell in love, started playing music and making a family one week later.

Gina: Yeah, it was love at first sound check. Our two bands were serendipitously put on the same bill together. The guys heard me singing and immediately knew I was they girl they'd been looking for. But they spent the whole night getting up the nerve to come talk to me. I was about to leave when Charlie finally came up and asked me to dance…er, I mean, start a band.

Tell us about the recording of your debut EP, Not for Sleepin'. There's a very cool “live” energy to the tracks. Did you set out for this kind of sound when going into the studio?

Gina: Yeah, we definitely wanted it to be true to what we were doing at our shows at the time we went into the studio. When we're on stage we all feed off each other's energy, but when I recorded the vocals, it was just me in the studio, so I really just focused on the emotion of each song to feed the performance. I think that emotion really comes across on the recording, but it's maybe not as fiery as what you might get at one of our shows.

Dan: Ideally we'd always like to record live, but that's not always possible. For Not for Sleepin' we tracked bass and drums together, but then went back to record other parts individually. We kept the very first take for the drums on "A Good Man is Hard to Find" and I consider that to be the most "live" sounding track. I think I only played that twice, and we stuck with the first take. That song really depends on remaining loose and easy, pushing it too hard would have ruined it. In general, you have to know when to accept what you have and move on.

The subject matter on Not for Sleepin' definitely lives up to the bluesy music. Who's responsible for the lyrics in the band? Do they come from personal experience?

Gina: Dan and Charlie were the primary lyricists on this record. And I would say the lyrics definitely ring true to their personal experiences…Charlie has been trying to find a good man for a very long time, haha.

Dan: My lyrics are based generally on personal things, but mostly just a line here and there. I have ideas in my head all the time and just write down a line or phrase as they come to me. I wrote the lyrics and melody for the song "Not for Sleepin'" as a country song. Then Charlie created music for another set of lyrics I had written and once I started thinking about it, his music worked under the lyrics for "Not for Sleepin'." "This Could Be You" came from a funny conversation with some friends in a bar. I wrote the lyrics around that one phrase. "Save the Wine" came from a dinner conversation. I wrote a different version of that song - it's not sad like Charlie's. Our songwriting process is very collaborative; even if Charlie brings in something complete it will often change once the rest of us get our hands on it.

In addition - Windy City Rock


"8-piece soul outfit keeps style and feeling alive in the Motown/Philly sound"

For years, Gina Bloom daydreamed about fronting her own group. Playing drums in a classic rock cover band, she would often bite her lip while the crew's singer belted out the tunes, her mind repeatedly drifting back to the same thought: “I could do better.” Yet until September 2009, when Bloom co-founded The Congregation, an eight-piece collective steeped in Motown and classic Philly soul, crippling bouts of stage fright prevented her from seeking out the spotlight.

“Growing up, I could sing anything if I didn't think people were paying attention to me,” says the 28-year-old, who was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburb of Doylestown, Penn. “But when they were actually like, 'Gina, sing,' I couldn't do it.”

It's a surprising admission from someone who grew up with music in her blood; the singer's father, singer/songwriter Bill Bloom, scored a minor hit when he co-wrote Frankie Smith's 1981 funk number “Double Dutch Bus.” Reached via telephone at her Lincoln Park apartment, Bloom discussed her love of Elvis Presley, the band's fashion sense and the process that fueled the heartache in “Save the Wine,” possibly the standout cut on the band's just-released debut, “Not For Sleepin'.”

Listen: “He's Gone”


Has the band always dressed up in suits? Or did you show up that first day in jeans and T-shirts, look around and think, “This isn't going to work?”

[Laughs.] We made a decision before we played our first show that we were going to wear suits, and we stuck with that even when we were playing outside in the middle of summer. We treat every show like it's a special occasion. We get dressed up and we go out there and play like we're never going to play again.

With a name like The Congregation, I'm curious if you grew up singing in the church?

No, I wish I could say that, though! I did grow up in a house that was full of music. My dad is a songwriter and singer, so family sing-a-longs were not uncommon. Growing up, there's not a time I can think of where I wasn't singing. I always knew I wanted to make music.

Is the eight-piece band a byproduct of your stage fright? Did you think it'd be easier to blend in with a bigger group?

[Laughs.] Not really. I don't really try to blend in. My last band was only three people, but I played drums so I could just hide behind the drum kit. There's an energy with this band that makes it easier for me to go out and do my thing.

Describe your sound in five words or less.

Seriously soulful rock and blues.

“Save the Wine” is such a tortured song. What were you thinking about while you recorded your vocals on that one?

I don't know if I put myself in another place, but I just tried to think about the fact that the song is kind of sung from this point of desperation, like, “Let's give this another shot. We can make things right.” I felt a heavy burden with that song, like, “I better nail this.” It was definitely exhausting because it was a late night. By the end of it I was like (feigns exhaustion), “Oh man.”

Did you do anything to prepare yourself mentally beforehand?

I drank some whiskey. That was basically it.

I was also curious about your Elvis Presley cover, “Little Sister.”

That was one that [guitarist] Charlie [Wayne] brought in. I've been an Elvis fan since I was 6 years old. Any Elvis song he brought in, I would have been like, “Okay.” I started taking guitar lessons when I was 6, but I only wanted to play Elvis songs like “Hound Dog” and “Heartbreak Hotel.” I became obsessed.

Have you ever been to Graceland?

I haven't, but that's something I need to do.

I wasn't sure if you would've made a trip down there to sing at his grave like they did in Spinal Tap.

[Laughs.] I'm not one of those creepy, he's-still-alive fans, so I won't be making any pilgrimage. But I do appreciate the music and the personality.

Andy Downing is a Metromix special contributor. metromix@tribune.com

Gina Bloom personality test
What's the last album you bought? Mavis Staples: "You Are Not Alone”
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? “Amy Winehouse singing a live acoustic version of 'Valerie' on The DL Show. She's my favorite crackhead.”
Song you never want to hear again? “I'll probably get any song I name stuck in my head for the rest of the day, so I'm going to abstain from answering this one.”
Best concert you've seen in the last year? Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings at The Vic
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? Kings Go Forth
Favorite movie ever? “Well, I don't know if it's my favorite movie ever, ever … but I love 'Forgetting Sarah Marshall.' ”
Chicago's best music venue? “I probably had the best overall experience playing at Double Door. They are great to work with, the location can't be beat, and they do a great job with the sound. The best venue where I've seen a show recently would probably be Lincoln Hall.” - Metromix/RedEye


"Congregation's soul in Philly, Motown"

For years, Gina Bloom daydreamed about fronting her own group. Playing drums in a classic rock cover band, she would often bite her lip while the crew's singer belted out the tunes, her mind repeatedly drifting back to the same thought: "I could do better." But until last year when Bloom co-founded the Congregation, an eight-piece collective steeped in Motown and classic Philly soul, crippling bouts of stage fright prevented her from seeking out the spotlight.

"Growing up, I could sing anything if I didn't think people were paying attention to me," says Bloom, 28, via telephone from at her Lincoln Park apartment. "But when they were actually like, 'Gina, sing,' I couldn't do it."

Born and raised in Doylestown, Pa., a suburb of Philadelphia, Bloom grew up surrounded by music — much of it penned by her father, songwriter/singer Bill Bloom, perhaps best known for co-writing Frankie Smith's 1981 funk hit, "Double Dutch Bus."

Bloom's initial forays into music, however, were inspired by someone outside her bloodline. When she picked up a guitar at 6 years old, the singer had designs on being the next Elvis Presley. Says Bloom: "I just became obsessed. I only wanted to play 'Hound Dog' and 'Heartbreak Hotel.'"

Unfortunately, Bloom's passion for the guitar proved less enduring than her love of Elvis (she still hopes to visit Graceland); the singer stopped playing the instrument after less than a year before taking up the drums, an instrument she studied privately through her college years at Northwestern University.

It was during a 2009 stint as a drummer that Bloom caught the attention of a trio of alt-country musicians — Joe DeBord (bass), Dan Wendt (drums) and Charlie Wayne (guitar) — struck by her sound-check version of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Shortly thereafter, the newborn group began rehearsing in a West Town practice space, gradually building a set of classic soul gems (Aretha Franklin's "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)"), surprising covers (a funky take on the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog") and aching originals.

Indeed, it's one of the group's tunes, the woozy, heartfelt "Save the Wine," that forms the emotional epicenter of its recently released EP, "Not for Sleepin'."

"I just tried to think about the fact that the song is kind of sung from this point of desperation, like, Let's give this another shot. We can make things right," says Bloom, who recorded most of the vocals alone during late night sessions with the engineer — a solitary feel echoed in her tortured delivery. "I felt a heavy burden with that song, like, 'I better nail this.'"

As for her bouts with stage fright? Bloom insists it's not a concern these days. "Having these band mates behind me has made it easy to relax and just do what I want to do," she says. "It's really not a big deal anymore." - Chicago Tribune


"The Congregation – Not for Sleepin’ EP"

It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about a new blues band. I always get amped for new releases by the legends, and I try to catch certain guys every time they’re in town (B.B. King, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Chicago’s own Buddy Guy), but new blues artists generally leave me cold.

With the exception of Indigenous and The Chris Duarte Group, I can’t think of anyone I’ve followed for more than a year. I did follow Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who were great, but they left the blues to follow God’s path, whatever that means.

So I was more than happy when I threw on The Congregation‘s debut EP, Not For Sleepin’. I got knocked down due to the amount of Soul Power pouring out of my speakers. Gina Bloom’s pipes are ridiculous. Lady sings the blues, indeed. Not quite on par with Aretha or Billie Holiday, but not too far off. Certainly better than anyone else I’ve heard attempt songs like these in recent years.

My one problem with The Congregation stems from the press release I read about their band. In it, they go through a lot of details about the bands personnel and sound, but they also make a remark so outrageous I must comment.

They make mention of doing music the way Otis Redding did it. Well, that’s a problem for me. I’m all for shooting for the stars and that jazz, but come on. That’s like me running for Jesus. It’s just ludicrous. Otis Redding is the epitome of rhythm and blues in my mind, so to compare ANYONE to the man is blasphemy as far as I’m concerned.

That said, they did it. And when I listened to the music, I wasn’t 100% dissatisfied. That in itself is remarkable. If you take that to mean I enjoyed the record, you are correct. The songs “Save the Wine,” “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” and “He’s Gone” are the highlights of the record for me. The vocals are out of this world, and guitarist/songwriter Charlie Wayne really shines on “Good Man.”

The only song I don’t really enjoy is a cover of The Stooges‘ “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” It’s a bit masochistic for my taste. Having a female sing the lyrics doesn’t make the song any better. Much like Dana Fuchs‘ version of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” from Across the Universe.

The horn section is lights out from top to bottom, as a good soul band should be. I’m sure that in a live setting they all get to show their stuff a but more than they do here, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing them perform.

This release doesn’t drop for a couple weeks, so consider yourself warned. You will be asked to pay money for this EP, and you should hand it over gladly. - Chicago Tunes


Discography

Record Collection
1. Record Collection
2. Gonna Get You Back
3. They Will Fall
4. Under My Skin
5. Sentimental One
6. Until We Die
7. Love Letter
8. Better Days
9. The Bottom
10. Record Collection (Reprise)

Right Now Everything (2012)

1.Right Now Everything

2.You Always Told Me (Terrible Things)

3.When There's Fighting

4.Real Thing

5.You'll Always Be Alright with Me

6.Darlin'

7.Have You Seen My Baby

8.High Class
9.You Need My Love

10.I Don't Wanna Fight

11.I Know You Will

12.I Will Forget You


Not for Sleepin' (2010)
1.Not for Sleepin'

2.He's Gone

3.I Wanna Be Your Dog

4.This Could Be You

5.A Good Man is Hard to Find

6.Little Sister

7.Save the Wine

Photos

Bio

Classic soul meets rock & roll in this dynamic eight-piece collective from Chicago. The Congregation features Gina Bloom, a singer whose raw and powerful vocals are underscored by Charlie Wayne’s dynamic guitar riffs, the band’s rock and soul rhythm section and the lively call and response of a three-piece horn section. When it comes to the songwriting, you won’t find any sugarcoated love songs here–you’ll get a little bit of longing and a whole lot of wronging.

"Record Collection", the Congregation's upcoming album release, is a love letter to the classic rock and R&B records that have shaped the band's sound since they arrived on the scene as one of Chicago Tribune's “11 Bands to Watch in 2011”. The record is an eagerly awaited follow-up to their debut album "Right Now Everything" which was featured in the Chicago Sun-Times as one of the ten best local releases of 2012 and hailed as an "instant classic" by The Deli Magazine. While the Congregation's band members feel most at home on the small stages of Chicago, the band's stop-and-take-notice sound and electrifying live sets have earned them the opportunity to perform on stadium bills with acts like Wilco and the Flaming Lips and on the small screen with appearances on ABC7's "Windy City Live", WGN's "Music Lounge", Science Channel's "Through The Wormhole with Morgan Freeman" and BBC's "Horizon".