Saturday night at Metro… I have a creeping feeling that’ll be the start of half of my dusty old fart nostalgic stories. Always a great time, this one no different. The crowd was packed in tight, butting right up against the naked stage (no press pit :/), doing what they could to prepare themselves for the hot piss and vinegar slinging act named Black Pistol Fire. I’ve seen these two feral cats play live twice before and, speaking from experience, I was personally worried for people standing within spitting distance of the stage.
Austin-based shredtress Emily Wolfe took the stage to open and wasted no time in establishing her dominance. Her powerful voice brought us to our knees as she liquefied and displaced our facial skin with her kerosene-soaked guitar licks. She took us on a journey, hitting airy, soaring highs before slowing down time to a near-crawl and diving into deliciously rudimentary, drawn out palm-muted sections. Emily is a solo musician, but was touring with a drummer and bass player, who kept up. The trio played tightly together, but it was no mystery who the star of the show was.
My one and only gripe, aside from the ridiculously over-the-top lighting, was that her methodical, calculated stage presence stood in contrast to her greasy, gritty, offensive style of playing. At times, it seemed like she hid behind her wall of dark hair. She moved around the stage like someone with sunburns on the bottom of their feet—gingerly, if at all. I know it’s about the music, not the flair, and Emily’s music does more than enough to counter-balance this, but at the same time, I felt like screaming, “Hey, move around a little!” Her concision of movement could, in part, be blamed on the megalithic drum set that lay waiting for Eric Owen’s impending beatdown, which took up nearly a third of the large stage.
She closed her set with a speedy cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades,” which, although paired with those goddamn seizure-inducing lights, was a hit. The crowd ate it up. All of the bullshit nitpicking aside, Emily played a hell of a show and is a musician I’ll keep my eyes and ears on for the foreseeable future. I have a feeling she’ll be kicking it around for quite a while. Listen to her self-titled February release here.
It wouldn’t be a Finn Hewes Metro Article ™ without doing a little dick sucking, so here it is: Metro’s audio is so solid. Every time, without fail. That bald guy with the beard (you know the guy) holds it down night in and night out. The mix is always mwwwah :* perfecto. It’s as loud as it can be without deafening the first three rows. Consider that within the context of an ornately beautiful picture-framed stage and a convenient location in a bustling part of the city, with a sleazy hot dog stand right across the street, its flashing lights a beacon of salvation for the stoned, drunk, and tired post-concert audience, and Metro may be my favorite venue. In Chicago and maybe even of all space-time. But guys, guys, really—you gotta fix those cracked out lights. Just take it easy. Moving on.
As we anxiously waited for Black Pistol Fire to take the stage, the grips frantically raced to batten down the hatches. The cloak was removed from the massive drum kit. I’ve never seen so many sandbags holding down a kick. I’d hate to be Eric Owen’s insoles. Their setup was almost absurd in its grandeur. Kevin McKeown’s literal wall of guitar amps deserve the slowest, most pregnant of cat calls. With 4 Fender beauties strung through various effect pedals and vintage mics, he probably didn’t even need to tap into the venue’s system. But hey, when you’ve got it, you’ve got to flaunt it. These amps were carefully adjusted so as not to interfere with each other—a balancing act no less impressive than those rock towers that yoga people stack up in scenic mountain lake photos seen on corporate desktops, approaching the rock medium in a less literal sense.
BPF took the stage to raucous applause from the mostly mid-30’s crowd. After singing Emily Wolfe’s praises (foreshadowing?) the duo wasted no time, lighting straight into their signature brand of gritty, blues-infused rock n’ roll. Their show reminded me much of the last time I saw them, at the Arlyn Studios Homecoming Party at SXSW, with a few notable exceptions.
Three or four songs in, the entire lighting scheme shifted from a high contrast, dirty feeling rock setup to a plush purple, slowly undulating along to an all-too familiar rhythm. They covered fucking “Redbone”. Who wudda thunk it? It was absolutely genius, and arguably a bolder move than grappling with an etched-in-stone rock classic, alá Wolfe.
Speaking of Wolfe, after another song or two, McKeown called to stage our heroine. I wasn’t prepared in the slightest for what happened next. In a visceral performance, Wolfe shed all aforementioned meekness, engaging McKeown in a sex and sweat-drenched guitar duel-to-the-death that I doubt anyone expected. Dropping to his knees in a humbled bow within reach of the front-row audience before leaping up in a gymnastic backbend that would gave Simone Biles a run for her money, McKeown was forced to up the ante on his already-electrifying stage presence to keep up with Wolfe. Butting heads like rutting rams, the two displayed a chemistry-laced competition not commonly seen on stage. The crowd was astounded. They didn’t know how to handle it. It was almost too much.
“That was nasty, wasn’t it?!” poked McKeown as Wolfe exited stage left, much to the crowd’s dismay. I thought I had seen them play before, but this was all-out performance. Wild. The rest of the show, though nearly impossible to emulate by any other group out there, felt lackluster after this passionate explosion. The boys ripped through a few more before calling it quits.
I sauntered down the stairs and out into the night air not really knowing what to do with myself… Do I shave my head? Call my mom? Join the Peace Corps? What’s next? Upon pondering these questions over a much-needed Camel Blue, I decided the only logical solution was to skip across the street for a greasy dog. A fitting end to yet another ego-death-inducing Saturday night at the Metro.
Thursday night at Lincoln Hall was set to be a big one. I was the first person to arrive, and I watched the crowd filter in from my perch by the streetside windows. After some waiting around, a disheveled looking Charlie Parr came ambling out into the bar, having just finished sound check. I managed to catch a quick interview with him, which you can read here if so inclined.
Just after 8pm, Phil Cook took the stage to open. Finally touring with Charlie after 20 long years of friendship, he proclaimed, “this shit better be worth the wait!” Phil, who plays guitar and banjo in the psychedelic freak-folk band Megafaun, was alone on stage. He belted out folky, soulful tunes backed by red-hot, blues influenced slide guitar. His lyrics projecting cheerful rays of sunshine to the ever-growing crowd.
Phil talked a lot. He talked about New Orleans as America’s cultural mecca, spent the previous night with all-time great soul singer Mavis Staples for her 80th birthday, and about his tendency to randomly break out in an English accent—something his British friends can’t stand. He talked about talking a lot. He was quite funny, really, and the crowd seemed to enjoy his comedic ramblings as much as I did.
He also talked, a bit more seriously, about the upcoming release of a solo instrumental album, made over the past 10 years. The record, he said, will include “live stuff, iPhone recordings, old stuff, rarities, et cetera.” This album is set to be released Monday, May 20, 2019, and will definitely be worth a listen. He closed his set with two soulful, New Orleans style tributes, and left the stage smiling as always.
After maybe five minutes of setup, and then a few more of general shuffling about, Charlie Parr took his seat center stage, confronted by two condenser microphones and flanked by two resonator guitars. He gave a shy hello and dove straight in to his feral brand of new/old blues. After bathing the crowd in aggressive, swooping slide guitar work and crooning out his miserable quasi-memoirs, Charlie settled down and started to open up a bit. He started chatting with the crowd. One guy, in particular, was happy to lend a hand in leading the conversation.
“Where ya coming from, Charlie?”
“Duluth,” he replied. Proustian and vast felt the word. What did it mean?
“Been in traffic all day,” he followed, after a lengthy pause.
With that, Chatterbox Charlie leapt back into his set, playing some of my personal favorites including “Cheap Wine” and “Bonneville” along with a new song I didn’t recognize. Charlie himself was the protagonist in an upbeat and fast-moving story about himself and his friend Ed accidentally stealing a sailboat—a story he claims to be true. Maybe we can expect to see that one on his upcoming album with Red House Records, due to be released in late August of this year.
Charlie brought Phil back out on stage for a good portion of his set, hopefully assuaging Phil’s lament of not having toured together before. They played through some more personal favorites, and didn’t hesitate to drag out certain sections, improvising and seemingly having a blast together. The chemistry was evident. Once, while Phil was trying to decide which song to play next, (Charlie doesn’t write out set lists) the pause got uncomfortably long. “Phil, they can see us. They’re right there!” Charlie joked, pointing out to the crowd. The duet blasted through “Coffee’s Gone Cold,” “Jubilee,” “1922,” “Jesus is a Hobo,” and “Over the Red Cedar” to name a few.
Before closing his set, Charlie left us with one more story about his touring with the fairly well-known Americana/Roots group Mandolin Orange. Charlie had been driving his Kia ahead of MO’s tour bus. Noticing he had pulled ahead by a decent margin, he stopped in middle-of-nowhere Alabama to wash the three shirts he had packed in a Flying J bathroom sink. While hanging his shirts to dry on a bush, a local spotted his Minnesota plates and figured Charlie was the perfect partner for a conversation about Bigfoot. This guy had a crackpot theory that the government is farming Bigfeet and harvesting their invisible fur to use in the production of invisibility suits for military application. The stranger proceeded to show him blurry and nondescript photos and videos of the woods (and supposed Bigfeet) on his Android phone. Sidestepping the numerous red-flags raised here, the conversation went on; introvert-Charlie smiled and nodded, wishing he were anywhere else. Suddenly the man stood bolt upright. “Wait a minute! Shhh!” he ordered, before taking off into the woods at full speed, camera phone in hand and at the ready. Charlie took the opportunity to crank his Kia and jet–literally leaving his shirts out to dry. With a sigh, he decided it wasn’t worth looping back for them and resigned to wear the shirt he was wearing at the time for the rest of the month-long tour. Just another day in the life.
This show at Lincoln Hall was the first stop on an eighteen-show tour for Charlie— nine of which feature Phil as accompaniment.
Charlie Parr is one of the most interesting human beings I’ve met to date. His life is a series of tragedies, with exciting intermissions that Charlie views, and writes about, through his characteristically bleak lens. To catch a glimpse of Charlie’s crazy life and wizened worldview, click the link here to read my brief pre-show interview.
7 years. That’s how long the Australian indie rock band Last Dinosaurs had waited to play in the United States since releasing their breakout debut album In a Million Years in 2012. I was just a freshman in high school, just starting to develop my own musical identity, when I happened upon their exciting version of indie music from ‘the land Down Under.” Fast forward seven years and the Last Dinosaurs were concluding their sold out US/Canada tour in Chicago’s Beat Kitchen and fans from across the midwest who had waited years to hear their exciting and enthralling take on indie and rock music.
Last Dinosaurs, composed of lead singer and rhythm guitarist Sean Caskey, lead guitarist Lachlan Caskey, and bass guitarist Michael Sloane, are originally from Brisbane, Australia. Their music fuses indie with punk, dance, and pop bringing a unique aesthetic that reflects the Caskey brothers’ Australian and Japanese heritage blending in musical and cultural harmony.
The group opened with a mellow version of “Weekend” from their debut album In a Million Years to cheers and smiles from the audience. Followed by songs from their newest album, Yumeno Garden which the group credited as the reason they were able to tour in the US, it was a reminder that even after three albums, the energy and vibe of Last Dinosaurs had changed very little if at all. Between songs, lead vocalist Sean Caskey casually asked the audience in a thick Australian accent if we wanted to be part of his cult and put up a hand symbol while joking that his cult had no rules while Michael and Lachlan seemed to be strumming their instruments in worlds of their own.
Much of the concert was filled with back to back hit songs from all three Last Dinosaurs albums with hits like “Time and Place” and “Sunday Night” from In A Million Years, ”Purist”, and “Stream” from Wellness, and “Dominos” and “Bass God” from Yumeno Garden.
One of my favorite moments was when Lachlan, strumming on his guitar for most of the concert off to the side of stage approached the microphone for “Italo Disco” in what brought the crowd to sway to his airy voice and the psychedelic instrumentation by his brother Sean and Michael.
The concert could be best summed up by lyrics from one of the last songs Last Dinosaurs played, a seminal classic and my own favorite, “Honolulu”. For the Last Dinosaurs, “the story only just, it just began. And surely it shall never ever end.” Luckily, fans of Last Dinosaurs won’t have to wait much longer for the group to return to Chicago, they’ll be touring the states again with the Born Ruffians and performing at the Metro this coming November.
This was it.
The Greeting Committee kicked off their first headlining tour at the Beat Kitchen, and they sure did act like a headliner. They made the intimate venue their space for the entirety of the night.
But before The Greeting Committee took the stage, Swatches got the room buzzing. If you were to look up “DIY garage indie pop” in the dictionary, you’d surely find this Chicago-based group as the primary example. The three softboys that made up the band got the crowd swaying and nodding through their combination of released and still-in-the-works songs.
Their little interactions with the crowd were sweet, but they couldn’t have prepared the room for the energy to come from The Greeting Committee.
Frontwoman Addie Sartino was the first to take the stage as she grabbed the microphone and began looping utterances surged with “Is this it?” at the forefront. As both their most recent album and their upcoming tour were named This Is It, it was evident from the start that we were going to find an answer to the looped question by the end of the show.
At first, it seemed Sartino’s choreography wasn’t meant for the roughly 200 people compacted into the tight backroom. As she yelled at us to jump and get low as she slid around on stage, it felt all too cliche and planned out.
But by the time she shed half her pantsuit, it was evident that it was her genuine excitement and passion sending her flailing across the stage and even into the crowd as she started her own mosh pit.
What really struck me was Sartino’s diversity in emotions presented not only through her music, but through her performance.
From crowd surfing during the extended guitar solo in “Don’t Go” to squatting in the middle of the sitting crowd with just her acoustic guitar during the tear-jerking ballad “Elise,” Sartino left every emotion not just on the stage, but in every corner she treaded in that room.
The Greeting Committee even threw in a few covers, including Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps” and the go-to karaoke song “Valerie.” But this version of Valerie included an eight-minute extension, guest appearance by Chicago artist Beach Bunny, and division of the crowd to take responsibility for different elements of the song.
After begs from the audience for more, the band casually returned to the stage one-by-one as “I Don’t Mind” crescendoed with the addition of each musician.
Sharing a single microphone, Sartino and bassist Pierce Turcotte played off each other’s lines until the final declaration from Sartino — “This is it.”
Danish punk outfit Iceage reek of rock ethos and testosterone-fueled carelessness. On Thursday, May 7, the band brought its thunderous, guitar-driven sound to Lincoln Hall.
As frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt gazed into the pit, commanding the audience’s attention, the crowd acted like dogs held on leashes during Iceage’s first few songs. Then the band launched into the percussive, chicken-scratch intro to “The Lord’s Favorite,” the tension broke and the audience exploded. Girls with dyed hair and chain necklaces, dudes with rainbow mohawks and dads in button-downs cashing in on their ‘80s punk nostalgia became one while the band glided through their country-inspired hit from 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love.
The line between the crowd and the stage became increasingly blurry as Rønnenfelt brought his head inches from the faces of audience members. Iceage tore down the fourth wall, so much so that the microphone cord even caught around people’s necks, roping them into the performance.
Rønnenfelt and bandmates Jakob Tvilling Pless, Dan Kjær Nielsen and Johan Surrballe Wieth tore through fan-favorites from the group’s critically acclaimed 2018 album Beyondless, such as “Hurrah” and “Plead the Fifth.”
On the growling “Pain Killer,” Rønnenfelt, donning a sweat-drenched shirt under a beige suit jacket, delivered a swaggering low-pitched slur. The song is pure rock ‘n’ roll—fast, heavy and driven by a distorted guitar riff. The only thing missing at Lincoln Hall was the horn section that typically completes the song with pop gloss. Sky Ferreira, who sings on the recorded version of the track, bobbed her head in the audience.
Iceage ended with “Catch it,” a tense slow-burner that picks up at the end but left the crowd craving more. (When the band exited the stage after a blunt “thank you,” and the house lights dismissed all hope of an encore, one audience member yelled out, “c’mon!”)
Frankly, Iceage is exactly what rock needs right now: a band that makes music for music fans—not commercialized leather-jacket punk. They’re edgy enough to draw a young crowd but accessible enough for your Clash-loving dad. They’re raucous enough to empower a mosh pit in the front but clean enough for an enjoyable show from the balcony. And they’re distinctive enough to spark critical interest but familiar enough to remind you of times when punk was prominent.
Oakland-born, LA-raised Tim Atlas has become a darling of popular “indie” Spotify playlists like “Indie Rock Road Trip” and “Feel Good Indie.” Inclusion on playlists like these has played a large role in the popularity of his hit song “Compromised,” which currently has over 15 million streams on the platform. With a new project on the horizon, Atlas is headed out on a quick Summer 2019 North American tour and Schuba’s Tavern in Chicago represents his first stop. WNUR was able to talk with Atlas before the show about his well-rounded musical upbringing, plans for the future and how music production is evolving.
Backstage at Schuba’s, 1 ½ hours remain until the show but Atlas seems at ease in the green room as he sips a black coffee. His white T-shirt reveals tattoos that take up the better part of his forearm, one of which is a forest green cactus. The whole picture exudes “California indie-pop singer.”
Growing up, Atlas had a very open mind when it came to music. Each of his family members had their own distinct tastes and he credits multiple artists with impacting his sound.
“My grandparents loved Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn, my dad loved the Beatles and Elvis. My mom was into all these power singers like Whitney and Mariah and my sister was, like, locked in her room listening to 90s R&B music. I just kind of liked it all, I was like a sponge.”
Atlas began releasing music to streaming services in late 2013, with his first EP “Lost in the Waiting.” The EP, coupled with various YouTube covers, led to his being discovered by Bay Area talent scouts and appearing on Season 9 of The Voice.
“The producers make you feel like it’s your last chance to do something, so you really give your all when you’re in that moment,” said Atlas of the high-stakes atmosphere. “But after the show is where the challenge is. It’s like ‘do I want to be a dude from a reality show for the rest of my career or do I want to be an actual artist?’”
It’s clear that Atlas chose the latter path. After his departure from the show, he got back into the studio to make three songs, one of which turned into Compromised. This song in particular cemented Atlas as a figure to watch in the indie pop scene.
“[When we made Compromised,] I remember thinking ‘I really hope people fuck with this sound because I want to make this forever. This is the type of music I want to make 10 years from now.’ Luckily, people responded to that song…and ever since, we’ve been pumping out songs in that vein.”
This tour represents Atlas’ 2nd as a headliner. In the past, he has opened for artists like American Pets, Mating Ritual and Daniela Andrade and he hopes to do more opening gigs in the future, a comparatively modest approach when it comes to aspirations. Similarly, he named venues like Los Angeles’ Troubador and Oakland’s Fox Theatre as his ideal shows to play, in favor of more well-known arenas like United Center and Madison Square Garden.
“I want to be opening for artists like Phoenix, Toro Y Moi, and Still Woozy. Those would all be sick support slots,” he said with a smile. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had my head up in the clouds that much where I’ve pictured myself in a stadium. It’s always been maybe, like, thousand-cap venues. Those are where all my favorite bands play, I’m not going to a stadium to see indie bands.”
With a capacity of 165, Schuba’s is definitely on the smaller side when it comes to Chicago venues. Regardless, Atlas received solid crowd support in spite of the show being at the same time as the new episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones. “I’m kinda tempted to run off the stage and see what went down [on the show],” he joked.
Two Chicago-based artists kicked things off. Self-described “nu-pop” singer/producer Carlile served as the first opener, holding her own vocally over thumpy club tracks. The EDM production did not shy away from risk-taking, featuring everything from woodpecker noises to a rattling effect reminiscent of the beginning of Monte Booker’s “Kolors ft. Smino.” R&B singer/rapper Rich Jones, a prominent figure in the Chicago music scene, followed. Jones took the stage alone and had some funky production of his own accompanying his nasal, yet soulful voice. He seemed very at ease in his hometown, making conversation with the small crowd that bordered on stand-up comedy. A personal favorite song was “Rainy Days,” which featured the kind of low-key hip-hop production one might see on a Saba song. Jones rode the beat perfectly on this track and even rapped the second verse. Both openers brought strong energy despite an audience on the sparser side.
Atlas’ trademark soft falsetto notes and lush guitar-heavy instrumentation gave his sound a transporting quality live. His set flew by; at times, it felt like it was just him and the audience on a trippy California beach journey. Atlas did a fair amount of experimentation with the set; his performance of “Dive” featured talkbox effects on the chorus that did not appear in the studio version. One tall enthusiastic white guy at the center of the crowd busted out a pretty aggressive toe-tap during the surreal track. He closed things up with a heartfelt, honest sentiment praising the crowd before playing Figure A: “There’s always this fear that you go to a city and like no one shows up.”
After Atlas finishes up the tour, he plans to travel to Southeast Asia in search of inspiration, namely the Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam.
“I just want to experience more life, so I can write more. I’ve just been in LA for a while kind of going through the motions and I find myself digging for things to write about,” said Atlas. “It’s been marinating in my mind lately, just to take a step back and be inspired.”
Thanks to technological innovations in music production, Atlas rarely has to wait to record. He has what he calls a “backpack studio” on tap for when inspiration strikes.
“I have a little keyboard, my laptop, and a mic if I’m just trying to do rough ideas. A lot of the stuff on the record, we just held an iPhone up to some drums. There are so many creative ways to record these days, so I don’t think I’m really limited when I’m on the road, not as much as you would think.”
Make sure to keep an eye out for Tim Atlas’ newest project, which he plans to drop this June. Beyond that, who knows? Maybe after some Southeast Asian soul-searching, “The Pho Tapes” will be the next addition to his discography….
Carlile – Spare Me
Rich Jones – Chicagoland
Tim Atlas – Dizzy
Tim Atlas continues on his tour on the Pacific, with dates in LA, Seattle and Vancouver coming up in early June.
Make sure to also catch Rich Jones at Subterranean’s Hoist Fest on Sunday, May 26!
One could compare Northampton crooner Bruno Major to Drake, in the sense that both artists “started from the bottom.” Before getting signed, Major sang covers at Italian restaurants for money. After being dropped by his first label in 2014, he could only afford to tour around in a van. Standing onstage in front of a sold-out Lincoln Hall, he mused about his humble beginnings and expressed gratitude that this time around, he had his own tour bus. The new music Major debuted from his upcoming album represented a sharp pivot from his first project, A Song for Every Moon. While A Song for Every Moon consisted primarily of sad-boy slow jams, he took a risk on the newer tracks by embracing elements of rock music.
Young lovers were abundant in Saturday’s crowd at Lincoln Hall, which makes sense considering Major specializes in love songs. His labelmate Eloise opened the night to a solid audience with a brief, five-song set. Eloise also hails from across the pond and she connected with Major when her cover of “Second Time” caught his attention. Her warm, authentic demeanor prompted fans to shout out “You’re so cute!” in between songs. Her soothing voice seemed to bounce over the guitar and her lyrics painted dainty pictures of her surroundings and told stories of love lost and love found. Her first song, the jazzy, unreleased “Subside,” sounded vocally similar to Madeleine Peyroux and Corinne Bailey Rae. A few devout fans even sang the backup vocals when she played “You Dear,” which made her elated. Eloise may have entered Lincoln Hall a relative unknown, but she left with hundreds of new fans eager for her to release more music.
Bruno Major’s set started off typically. His first two songs evoked the slow-burning feeling that he is known for. Until something changed. In the middle of the coffee shop-type track “Like Someone in Love,” he launched into an electric guitar solo, ramping up to rock concert levels of intensity as the bass elevated and the drums thundered. For a few minutes, he seemed to transform into Slash but seemingly as soon as the high-octane interlude began, he made the seamless transition back into the song’s down-tempo chorus.
One can tell how meticulous Major is during a performance. His plucking of the guitar resembled someone delicately making a finger painting. His intense facial expressions ranged from serious concentration during his low-key guitar solos to open-mouthed intensity on the more rock-influenced moments. He had such command of the audience that when he launched into “Places We Won’t Walk,” the crowd gasped from excitement. The slow, sad song which could tug on the heartstrings of a robot featured a disco ball, couples swaying to the hypnotic rhythm and a whispered “thank you” at the end.
After playing his hit “Easily,” Major treated the audience to a tongue-in-cheek “encore,” where he said with sarcastic charm: “I’m going to leave [the stage] anyway because I have a massive ego and I want you to cheer for me.” To bring the Drake comparison full-circle, he closed the night with a cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.”
One song to keep an eye out for on Major’s upcoming project is “Nothing,” where his knack for heartwarming lyrics shines through. With precious lines like “We’ll play Nintendo, though I always lose. Cause you’ll watch the TV while I’m watching you,” the audience was won over from the beginning, despite having never heard the song before.
Both Eloise and Bruno Major treated the Lincoln Hall crowd to a jazz-infused, lovey-dovey night this Saturday. Make sure to keep an eye on both artists, as both will be releasing new music this summer.
ELOISE – TTCL
BRUNO MAJOR – Home
Divino Niño had already taken the stage when we entered Thalia Hall. The band was a pleasant surprise and fit in well with the chill vibes of Crumb and their fans. Divino Niño’s lead singer has a deep impressive voice and an adorably awkward personality, addressing the crowd with a charming politeness. The band’s music was familiar-sounding, evoking 60s and 70s psychedelic pop with a modern twist and the inclusion of both Spanish and English lyrics. The band’s set included a cover of How Deep is Your Love? by the BeeGees, nodding to their 70s influence. Lead singer Camilo Medina’s unique voice paired perfectly with the throwback. I was glad to be introduced to this Chicago-based band and have been playing their song Coca-Cola nonstop since.
As we waited for Crumb to take the stage, I observed the crowd, which was pretty much what I expected it to be—young Chicagoans with edgy style and lots of piercings. The crowd was chilled out and clearly eager for the band to come on. Crumb hit it off with their most popular song and the title track of their second EP, Locket. Their music can best be described as lulling and chill, so the crowd spent most of the time swaying, with a few head bangs here and there during the more intense guitar riffs.
Most of the concert was slow, soothing music, but still kept me engaged as the songs were noticeably played with a lot of feeling and talent. The lucky audience at Thalia Hall got to hear some brand new music, including a never-before-played song that was well-received. The band went out with a bang with their most energetic performance of the song Vinta, which included an intense guitar riff at the end.
Crumb seemed as though they could be a college band performing in the local coffee shop. They repeatedly stated how grateful they were to be here and for us “spending a night on Earth” with them. They were low-key and made their music the star of the show, with little choreography. All in all, Crumb’s performance was pretty in keeping with their music–chill, relaxed, and calming. If you’re looking for a band to mosh to, this is probably not what you want, but if you just want to appreciate good live psych-pop and sway to some tranquil tunes, Crumb is perfect.
Hardcore punk and post-hardcore are genres that are flagrantly underrepresented in my personal music library; though I respect the genres, I just don’t listen to them that much. The exception is Fucked Up. Though when they were first recommended to me years ago, because of their name alone I instantly wrote them off as a cringingly edgy, Warped Tour-aspiring pop-punk band. When I found out they were Canadian (home to atrocities like Nickleback), that sealed their fate as a band I would never listen to. It wasn’t until last year in an attempt to overcome my unfair, unwarranted musical prejudices that I gave them another chance. And at the Metro, seeing the band live, I became exceedingly glad I did.
In actuality, Fucked up is possibly the most ambitious current punk band. Live, they are a six-piece act, but on albums, like their 2018 epic Dose Your Dreams, they recruit a plethora of mostly Canadian musicians and singers to collaborate on their tracks, ranging from Colombian-Canadian singer Lido Pimienta to violinist and composer Owen Pallett. Their songs pulsate with the contributions of the large numbers of people that work on them, creating intricate and layered arrangements surrounding big riffs and aggressive vocals. I was curious to see how these studio works would translate live. Before I could get to that, however, was opening act Wooing.
Wooing hails from New York City, and they are a three-piece indie rock/ post-punk band. The band consists of two guitarists and a drummer, eschewing bass for driving guitar lines played on the lower strings. The band excelled in the loud/quiet/loud format perfected by Pixies, and their songs rarely remained static. They were mixed very coherently, so the interplay between the two guitars and lead singer Rachel Trachtenburg was on full display. And yeah, maybe one of their songs sounded a little too much like a slightly more ragged Smells Like Teen Spirit, but overall it was a captivating set of pretty original sounds.
I’d like to reiterate that for Wooing the mix was well balanced, with every noise-making device audible. This was not the case for Fucked Up, who strolled onto the stage after Wooing left with much bulkier amps and three guitarists. They began with the title track off their latest project Dose Your Dreams, which starts with an extended noisy-psychedelic jam over a disco beat and baseline, and after a few minutes the lead singer (screamer) Damian Abraham sauntered onstage and started belting lyrics.
Even though I imagine he would have been shouting at a piercing decibel if he was the only person in the room, he was utterly drowned out by the three-guitar assault to the point that if my eyes were closed I would have thought they were an instrumental band. The whole show was pretty much like this, but while Damian was hard to hear as a lead singer, he was ever present as a hypeman. He has the hardcore frontman handbook memorized, lunging across the stage, thrashing, and looming over the crowd, and overall he helped create an intense, rowdy, but playful atmosphere for the show.
I realized that Fucked Up on album and Fucked Up live are great for different reasons; on album, they are great because they are a complex, catchy, and ambitious band that craft powerful songs which incorporate influences well beyond the traditional hard rock palette, creating concept albums with fully realized narratives. Live they’re great because they play really loud and really fast, and all that other stuff is still probably there but buried and certainly not the focus. Though unfortunately I had to leave before the headliner The Black Lips, I exited the building glad I gave the band another chance despite their name, and wondering if I had about ten years tops of hearing left if I kept going to shows like that.
With lamps adorning the stage and an abundance of dancing, The Slaps’ Friday night EP release of B at Beat Kitchen felt like an intimate house show. The three band members go to DePaul, and The Slaps have gained widespread popularity in Chicago among the city’s college crowd. B comes after A, the band’s first EP released at the beginning of this month, and their 2017 debut LP Susan’s Room.
The show opened with a comedy set by Haters Club, whose indie music critiques were met with few laughs. It was a relief when the two-woman, soft indie band Modern Nun took the stage, followed by Girl K. I spotted Girl K’s singer and guitarist Kathy Patino before the show started. She was hard to miss in green, heeled jelly shoes and a black jumpsuit over a pink-striped collared shirt — a sophisticated look with child-like touches. Patino’s choice of dress, the flower decals on her orange guitar, and her permission to fans before louder songs to go a little wild but stay safe were all indicative of the preschool teacher job that she mentioned.
She’s a pretty cool preschool teacher though, and a powerhouse when she opens her mouth to sing. Her mostly upbeat indie rock is invigorating and balanced out by quieter songs like “So Strange,” which Patino agreed to play after first claiming it was too sad when a few of her fans yelled for her to play it. She warned the audience that she hadn’t played the song in a while and slipped up a couple times but was met with encouraging cheers. Girl K has a relatively small following, and I hope the tour they are about to depart on brings the band closer to the forefront of the indie music scene.
The Slaps’ simpler clothing contrasted Patino’s colorful outfit: guitarist and singer Rand Kelly wore an oversized T-shirt over gray sweatpants, Bell a T-shirt tucked into tan pants, and drummer Josh Resing a purple, tie dye shirt. The band’s songs range from indie rock to their self-described “beach blues” music. Opening with “Cheers,” The Slaps played songs from A before moving onto their newest music.
A highlight of the show was “Being Around,” which Resing dropped his drumsticks to sing. His deeper, slightly raspy voice is comforting. The Slaps tend to steer clear of romantic songs — Rand saves these for his solo work — but “Being Around” voices an unwillingness to commit to a long-term relationship. It is filled with pleasing rhyming lines like “I’m a Jolly Roger, darling dodger bane,” and clever lyrics that feature repetition like “I’m trying, trying my best to write the words into phrases, phrases from all the phases, all for you.” Its self-deprecating nature evokes a melancholy and tenderness, but the song’s guitar plucking makes it pleasant to listen to.
My favorite song from the show was B’s “I Wanna,” which has tropicalia undertones. Kelly’s yearning came through throughout the song, especially on the repeated “I wanna be someone different,” and the desire to be simultaneously mature and young was clear with lines like “I wanna act our age when there’s nothing to do” and “I wanna wear my shoes on the top of my head.”
The Slaps were clearly excited to play, alerting the audience near the end of their show, “This is the last song. Unless you say encore.” They preceded to play four more songs after the “last” song, continuing even after a staff member who thought they were finished squeezed through the crowd to hand them beers. Few were opposed.