Ben Folds Five to rock Old St. Pat’s
BY TRICIA DESPRES June 27, 2012 6:22PM
Ben Folds and the rest of the band are currently recording a new album, their first studio outing in 15 years.
WORLD’S LARGEST BLOCK PARTY
♦ 5:30-9:30 p.m. June 29-30
♦ 700 W. Madison (Madison and Des Plaines)
♦ Tickets (includes entrance and four free drinks of beer, wine, soda or water plus two stages of live music, $40 in advance, $45 at the gate; 2-night pass, $75
♦ (312) 648-1590;
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:12AM
Ben Folds Five frontman Ben Folds can sum up the current state of the music industry in four simple, yet achingly revealing words — more freedom, less income.
“The process of recording has been demystified,” he half-heartedly chuckles during a recent interview promoting his show at Chicago’s Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party on June 29. “How you distribute your music and how you promote your music is so different than it once was. Now you have guys sitting in the studio with their iPhone, recording what’s going on and shooting it out on Twitter in a matter of seconds. That would have required a lot of meetings back in the ’90s.”
Since the groundbreaking piano-bass-drums pop trio’s amicable breakup in September 2000 after a decade of success, Ben Folds Five’s original members Ben Folds (piano, vocals), Robert Sledge (bass, backing vocals), and Darren Jessee (drums, backing vocals) have all been busy pursuing their own “dense schedule of amazing things they wanted to do.” In 2008, the talented threesome were approached to perform on the groundbreaking MySpace “Front to Back” series, playing their 1999 album “The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner” in its entirety and sparking talks of a reunion.
“We talked about getting back together when we could, but then four years went by,” says Folds. “I looked up and it was 2012.”
Currently in the studio recording the band’s first new studio album in 15 years, the creator of ’90s radio favorites such as “Battle of Who Could Care Less,” “One Angry Dwarf and Two Hundred Solemn Faces” and the Top 40 infectious hit “Brick” is ready to tackle the music industry yet again.
“I have been calling this album ‘the beast’,” says Folds, who has been enthusiastically documenting the recording process via Twitter. “Hopefully it doesn’t sound ambitious because you don’t want to burden the listener . . . but it is ambitious. I have never been one to jump up and down and congratulate myself for a record well done, but I think it’s a good and solid album. I consider myself very lucky to make records with two guys who can, just by putting some notes on tape, make something unique. We sound like us.”
Indeed, the resurrection of Ben Folds Five comes to the great delight of its loyal group of fans, many of whom reside in the Chicago area.
“Chicago is one of the few cities that have kept my career going,” says Folds. “If I was falling off everywhere else, Chicago didn’t seem to mind. There is a sense of musical loyalty there that I have always appreciated. It’s a confidence thing . . . or perhaps a Midwestern thing. They could care less if it’s not cool. . . . They are going to be loyal till the very end.”
Besides serving up headliners such as Ben Folds Five, The Old St. Pat’s World’s Largest Block Party will host nearly 18,000 people who flock to the annual event to enjoy two stages of live music, two nights of fun, and two blocks of great food and drinks — all while supporting a great cause. But if you happen to see Folds, make sure to get him a glass of water.
“The two hottest gigs that I have ever played in my life were in Chicago,” he laughs. “I remember playing a radio-type gig back in the mid-’90s and it was 104 degrees, with no tent overhead. I looked over and my tour manager had passed out. I finished my hourlong set, though. I seldom quit.”
♦ Ben Folds Five performs at 9 p.m. June 29 on the Main Stage.
Tricia Despres is a local free-lance writer.