Chicago outfit District 97 ride a tenuous line between soaring progressive rock and intricate, technically challenging metal.
Fronted by dynamic vocalist Leslie Hunt, they quickly transcended their Midwestern roots in the early 2010s, finding a wider audience across the U.S. and Europe and collaborating with prog icon John Wetton on their 2012 release Trouble with Machines. Despite enduring a handful of lineup shifts, District 97 continued to expand their fan base and hone their creative approach, delivering ambitious albums like 2015's In Vaults and 2019's Screens while becoming a global festival mainstay and playing with genre legends like Yes and Marillion.
Formed in Chicago in 2006, the initial quartet of drummer/composer Jonathan Schang, keyboardist Rob Clearfield, bassist Patrick Mulcahy, and guitarist Sam Krahn cut their teeth as an instrumental group, pulling from a variety of influences that ranged from experimental jazz to metal. Within a few years, they were joined by singer Hunt, a former American Idol finalist, and guitarist Jim Tashjian, and shifted their sound to a still-complex but more melodic prog-rock style. They signed with Laser's Edge Records and released their 2010 debut, Hybrid Child, earning acclaim both regionally and within the global prog community. They also gained a fan in former Asia and King Crimson singer/bassist John Wetton, who agreed to collaborate with them on their 2012 follow-up, Trouble with Machines. Wetton joined District 97 for subsequent tours of Europe and the U.S., which were later documented on the 2014 concert album One More Red Night: Live in Chicago.
Following the release of 2015's In Vaults, founding members Clearfield and Mulcahy were replaced by keyboardist Andrew Lawrence and bassist Tim Seisser. This new lineup hit the ground running with further overseas tours and a coveted spot on Yes' Cruise to the Edge tour, where they gained another admirer in drummer Bill Bruford. In 2019, District 97 returned with their fourth studio effort, Screens, on U.K. label Cherry Red. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi