If you’ve never witnessed a full-grown, bearded man crowd surf to a skinny white girl screaming about grilled cheese, you’ve never seen Cherry Glazerr at Bottom Lounge.
Last Saturday night, Palehound warmed up the stage. Or rather, they blasted the radiator too high, producing not quite the desired temperature. They seemed a bit high school-esque in their bright pink and yellow dress up, banging their heads to every noisy note. It sounded like they were sampling that stereotypical sound from Rockband, and it looked like that’s where drummer Jesse Weiss drew from for his all-too-predictable smashing solo. I definitely respected their passion and excitement on stage — isn’t that a huge part of rock music? — but I felt it was just a little too over the top in a cliche GarageBand way.
But as soon as I saw giant inflatable cherries being dragged to the stage, I knew I was in for a treat. I had only listened to a few of Cherry Glazerr’s songs prior to this show, but I heard someone behind me describe their style as “grunge pop,” and I haven’t found a better way to label them since.
Lead vocalist Clementine Creevy’s energy was electric and just plain wild. I hadn’t realized I’d been waiting for someone to throw up their arms and scream CHICAGO since I moved here, but when Clementine did just that, everyone in the audience came to life.
By the time she growled during the second song of the night, “Had Ten Dollaz,” the crowd was livid. One song after another, from “Nurse Ratched” to “Juicy Socks,” Cherry Glazerr — but more specifically Clementine Creevy — became more and more eccentric, hopping across the stage and tweaking her face with every stroke of her guitar.
While a preliminary mosh pit began pretty early on during the performance of “White’s Not My Color This Evening,” mosh pit 2.0 — set off by the newly released song “Daddi” — sent the security guards pushing through to the center. That seemed to hush the crowd for a total of 20 seconds before the electricity from the stage sent the audience into unpredictable movements yet again.
As Cherry Glazerr played one song after another, mixing songs from their less-than-a-month-old album Stuffed & Ready with older songs (which helped pick out the diehard fans in the crowd), the animation and commotion exuding from the stage and bouncing through the audience escalated steadily. The energy fueled by the crowd’s pleas for an encore sent Clementine crawling off the stage and into the crowd with every jerky, twitching movement.
By the end of the show, sweat dripped from both the band members and the screamed-out crowd. And after their last encore song “Told You I’d Be With The Guys,” Cherry Glazerr retired from the stage, leaving the vibrant energy stagnant in the air.
My ears were still ringing with Miya Folick’s poignant voice as I walked away from Schubas Tavern Saturday night. Her notes pierced the foggy forty-degree night she performed on. It might’ve been her first headlining tour in Chicago, but it definitely wouldn’t be her last.
When I got to Schubas fifteen minutes before the opener started, a crowd had already gathered. Barrie, a dream pop band from Brooklyn, took the stage quietly and with a mutual head nod, they started playing. The band had a relaxed look, with a member rocking a rolled beanie hat, one in a velvet shirt, and the lead singer wearing pants that looked like sweats.
They caught the crowd’s attention once they reached their fourth song of the night, “Clover,” a new track on their upcoming first full-length album. Their synth-heavy sound and lulling voices made for, what I described in my notes as, “indie elevator music.” The group gave off an all-around “chill” vibe which was only emphasized when the lead singer, Barrie herself, pulled her hair back while she was playing guitar. After their drummer decided to take off his shoes and socks, and Barrie took a drink of what she said was water out of a Le Croix can, the band played a song from their first E.P “Singles” called “Tal Uno,” which had a very 80s feel to it. When their set was over the sheepishly thanked the crowd, but no one seemed to notice. Overall, Barrie’s soft opening performance didn’t seem to excite anyone in the crowd.
Contrastingly, when Miya Folick ran through Schubas side door and onto the stage the crowd gasped collectively. She was wearing a white satin shirt that had a western feel to it with fringes on the chest and down the arms, paired with matching white satin pants. Her outfit was fitting for her performance—something she could do but if anyone else tried they wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Folick didn’t grin when she walked on stage; instead, she gazed out into the room with a haunting expression and began to snap. The crowd, entranced, was silent waiting in anticipation. The first few lines she sang were from a short unreleased song titled “I’m Hard.” The synth built behind her until the room shook, then suddenly the beat shifted and she began to moan the first few lines to “Premonitions,” the namesake of her first full-length album that came out this past October.
Premonitions is an album that explores the contrasting nature of everyday life, how we’re empowered and powerless all at once. This contrast came through in Folick’s performance Saturday night when she followed her ballad-esque songs with her upbeat, syncopated bassline tunes. Like when she sang “Stock Image,” the crowd screamed as she slowly crawled across the front of the stage, making serious eye contact with everyone in the first row. Then she immediately followed that intensity with the lighthearted, “Leave the Party,” a song that warranted singing along and pony-stepping from everyone listening.
Folick’s lyrics are a sign of the times with lines like, “Read Wikipedia til my eyelids fall down,” or “‘Cause I scroll and don’t see new anything,” and during her performance she took time to talk about issues of the time we’re living in right now. She encouraged our generation to focus on effective communication, after singing “Stop Talking,” a song about someone obsessively talking about a person they’re interested in. She gave a speech about feeling unworthy and how the negative perception people have of themselves needs to be changed before singing “Thingamajig.” Although these messages are important and uplifting, I felt like she delivered them in a rehearsed and cliché way which didn’t add to my overall experience. It was Folick’s powerhouse voice, the tears in her eyes, and her body language that I felt evoked these messages more effectively than her saying it outright.
Over the course of the night her dancing got wilder, her singing got stronger, and her entire performance became more captivating. She ended her set with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock,” and it was easy to see why she chose to close with that. With every note, her raw vocal talent haunted the room. When the song ended, the crowd stood there dumbfounded—what had we all just witnessed? All I walked away knowing was that the next time Miya Folick is in town, I’ll be seeing her again.
Evanston’s Space was the perfect venue for A&O’s annual benefit, hosting Chicagoland-natives DJ King Marie, Kaina, Monte Booker, and Kweku Collins for an intimate, energetic, and emotional evening. A fundraiser for Young Chicago Authors, these artists’ performances got at the heart of Chicago’s music scene: community.
DJ King Marie hour-long set came first, a dynamic collection of beats, songs, and sounds that touched on Chicago’s deep roots in Hip-hop and R&B. Sporting a navy blue jumpsuit, she brought a particular swag to the stage, sampling songs with deep female vocalists backed by mellow beats, giving a fresh and danceable feel to traditional R&B tunes. The deep blue illuminating the stage-matched her cool vibe, drawing a timid audience closer. As more listeners piled in, she transitioned to high tempo beats, featuring crowd (and Chicago) favorites such as Ravyn Lenae’s “Sticky,” Chance the Rapper’s “All Night” and Jorja Smith’s “On My Mind.” DJ King Marie’s transitions were smoove, and by the end of her set, the crowd clearly wanted to keep grooving.
After a short transition, a guitarist, bassist, drummer, and keyboard player drifted to the front, playing jazzy scales as the crowd patiently waited for the next performer. Kaina finally graced the stage, grabbing everyone’s attention with her glittery top and luscious curly hair. Another young Chicago-based performer whose Instagram and Twitter bios read “I work hard and love my city,” Kaina’s music tells of family, love, intimacy, and gratitude.
Within minutes of her entrance, she had enchanted the room with her soft, savory voice, inspiring the crowd to sing along to 4u, a pleasing set-opener and featured song on her 2018 EP. “I could be anything for you,” she sang in a slow, almost seductive manner, as some voices in the crowd joined in. She followed up with Cry, then f*cked up, which she playfully preceded by asking: “Do you ever regret not making a move?” We all laughed, and the positive, silly energy flowed into her slow repetition of the Spice Girls’ notorious lyrics ‘If You Wanna Be My Lover’ — an instant crowd pleaser. A cover of “Dos Gardenias” by Buena Vista Social Club came next. A beautiful, relaxed rendition of this Cuban-inspired hit showcased Kaina’s proud Latinx roots, and with disco lights overhead and a magical piano solo, the passion reverberated through the room.
She finished up the set with Happy (off 4u), dedicated to those in life that “ground you,” featuring a polished guitar solo. Finally, came “Honey,” her #2 Spotify hit from a 2016 EP, a collaborative piece with Chicago’s own Andrew Bedows and Burns Twins. A dreamy drum solo sparked the crowd into song, and as we followed along to the song’s catchy bridge, repeating “You’re sweet Asl, give you all my love,” the sugar in her voice flowed through us. “You’re sweet as hell, Northwestern,” she said, as we begged for more. Thanks to her Chicagoan, community-driven heart and endearing vocals and lyrics, Kaina made everyone feel loved.
Monte Booker came up next, shifting the soft, intimate vibe into yet another upbeat atmosphere. He sampled many crowd favorites, beginning with Childish Gambino’s trap hit “This is America,” which initiated an instant crowd sing-along. The melodic backdrop to Gambino’s song blended beautifully into a series of major scale runs on a harp, creating a dreamy feel to the already relaxed room.
Booker did not stick to the slow pace for long, though. As the harp sounds fizzled out, he shocked the audience with an explosive beat behind “Like a Light” by Travis Scott, sparking another crowd outpour. He kept this energy up by adding tropical undertones to the 2007 throwback “Pop Lock and Drop It,” which gave the traditionally pop-y song a more groovy fix. He finished up his set with three more hits: Amine’s “Reel It In” (2018), “Anita” by Smino (2017), and one of his earliest songs from his 2015 album Soulection white Label, “Kolors ft. Smino.”
Monte Booker left the high-energy crowd full of excitement, gearing up for A&O’s last performer, Kweku Collins. An Evanston native, Collins was delighted to be back in his hometown, as he mentioned in an after-show interview. “It’s fairly surreal,” he said. Indeed, Collins’ connection to the space was clear, as he nodded at familiar faces in the crowd and shared anecdotes about his beloved hometown throughout the dreamlike set.
Collins began with “Dec. 25”, a deeply emotional song about loss, nostalgia, and the fleeting nature of time. This may have been a bold move, but Collins does not stray away from shocking his audience with emotion. Blending his signature groans with bursts of song and bass, this powerful set-opener, from his latest album Grey (2017), immediately engaged the crowd.
He then came on with his 2018 single “ET,” followed by a series of songs from Grey, including “Oasis2: Maps”, “International Business Trip”, and “Aya.” He also featured some of his older hits, such as “The Last” from his 2016 album Nat Love, and, closing his eyes throughout most of the song, he sang his Spotify #1 hit “Lonely Lullabies.” As the meditative song slowed to a stop, he awakened and admitted that he had forgotten we were all there.
He finished off his set with “The Outsiders,” another crowd favorite from Nat Love in which he shouts out the four directional neighborhoods of Evanston. The Evanstonians (including myself) in the room loved it, sharing a particular joy and pride with Collins for our hometown.
It is no wonder Collins enjoys performing in the place he grew up. He, like the other three performers, is proud of where he comes from, and as he spoke a bit more in depth about the various types of crowds he encountered while touring, he noted that the blended Northwestern/ Evanston audience made him feel “physically subdued” and “at home.” That’s all an audience could ever want, right?
On Sunday, February 17th Atlanta-based indie rock eccentrics Deerhunter headlined a predictably cacophonous set at Lincoln Hall.
Opening for them was local post-rock/ noise outfit, Facts. They were just OK. Perfectly serviceable, gritty experimental rock that wasn’t melodic enough to really hook the audience, nor abrasive enough to command their attention by force. The band mainly served as a showcase for the appropriately tatted drummer, who was positioned front and center and whose rhythms were the focal point for most of their songs. He was the only member of the band who seemed to have any life in him, pounding out complicated but repetitive rhythms and bestowing some intense looks upon the audience while the bassist plodded away and the singer occasionally mumbled something into the microphone. If their delivery had matched the intensity of the sound they were going for, I think they could have have been captivating; instead, they mainly served as exceptionally noisy background noise.
After about half an hour of Facts, and an elaborate sound check, Deerhunter came on, opening with a soaring wall of sound that morphed into their introverted hit “Agoraphobia.” Deerhunter has historically had two modes; the distorted, rawer sounds of their early ambient-dabbling album Cryptograms and the frenetic, lo-fi Monomania, and their layered, cleaner dream pop of Halcyon Digest and Fading Frontier.
Much of their newest album, Why Hasn’t Everything Disappeared? is in the latter camp, albeit notable sonic detours; however their live show successfully bridged the two settings, and relatively tame studio cuts, with polished production like “No One’s Sleeping” appeared drenched in fuzz. Through extensive pedalboards, the band members are experts on making their instruments not sound like what they are (even the bassist had 5 pedals!), which made for a night of diverse sounds.
The band, for the most part, plowed through the setlist, occasionally stopping to switch off instruments. Finally, during the encore (which Deerhunter preemptively assured us was coming but encouraged us to be surprised about anyway), lead singer Bradford Cox addressed the audience and told us to welcome thirteen-year-old bassist Asher, a family friend of Cox’s, to fill in on the song “Cryptograms.” He held his own on the fast-paced bass part, passing it back to the band’s bassist for the closing track, one of my personal favorites, “Monomania.”
As I’d seen him do on Deerhunter’s fabled live performance on the Tonight Show, after the first minute, Cox exited the stage, dazedly ambling into the audience, his path quickly cleared by the stage attendants while the band played through the song’s extended outro. There came a point 6+ minutes in where everyone (audience members, crew, and other band members) seemed tired of Bradford’s act, but he stayed committed to the bit, generating guitar on amp feedback for a solid minute after everyone had left the stage. A fitting ending to an enjoyably off-kilter set.
With the stellar combination of opener Michael Seyer and Men I Trust, Subterranean was able to sell out the venue and deliver an unforgettable night of euphonious melodies.
As Michael Seyer breezed onto the stage, a wave of tranquility swept across the audience, allowing the once anxiously anticipating audience to be put at ease. Accompanied by six other musicians, including a saxophonist, Seyer was able to fill the space with mellow, well-rounded sounds that radiated to the audience like a warm light. Similarly, with Seyer and his fellow musicians’ comfy and cozy attire, the atmosphere was only further set as a warm and inviting space.
It must be said that Seyer is not the type of musician to ease up or be carried away during live performances. It seems that he has reached a level of such talent that he is able to focus on multiple aspects of his music at once, while still interacting with the audience. To his right, Seyer managed to control the pitch of his voice using some sort of sound system, as well as accompany the keyboardist with mellow intermittent notes. Furthermore, Seyer mesmerized the audience with velvet-like notes on his sparkly teal electric guitar, which illuminated the room when shone on by the opalescent background lights.
While Michael Seyer delivered a solid performance, the energy from the audience for Men I Trust was unparalleled. Lead singer Emmanuelle Proulx was left in utter awe at the energy Chicago demonstrated, leaving her to wait quite some time to even introduce the band. With Emma on voice and guitar, Dragos on keyboard, Mathieu on drums, and Alexis on bass, the band as a whole embodied the notion of the chill vibes Canadians are said to radiate.
As soon as the band took over the stage, warm, bright lights illuminated the room and the audience condensed. Soft, mellow notes melted into the walls and Proulx’s wispy voice flowed like honey. The nature of Men I Trust became clear very quickly; the band has so much raw talent that sound modifiers are nearly deemed unnecessary. Everything was beautifully in tune and the light and airy tone of the band lifted the mood of the audience. Moreover, the band was able to express to the audience the smallest change in dynamics and pitch with the lightest touch. During the last few songs, blue light accompanied their darker, more heavy-hitting numbers, and it was as if the doe-eyed audience was put in a trance of utter realization. As the performance ended, the audience was slow to exit, for everyone needed at least one minute to process the pure talent that had been before them only minutes previous.
As an audience member of live concerts, I am especially particular when it comes to performativity. The concerts I most enjoy are those in which the artists appear well-practiced, yet comfortable enough on stage to have fun and allow their confidence to show throughout their set.
Beirut met all the marks last Friday at the Riv. Besides being incredibly well adept at their individual instruments, the members all seemed nonchalant and unhurried, qualities that I value greatly when reviewing concerts. I also came to realize that while Beirut uses a variety of effects/midi beats in their music, nothing was pre recorded or programmed, everything was played 100% live. This was tasked mainly to frontman Zach Cordon (who manned not only trumpet, ukulele, and vocals, but also an almost organ-like keyboard and synth board), with assistance from Aaron Arntz on electric keyboard and a classic upright piano. Cordon and Arntz were accompanied by the full band: Nick Petree on drums, Paul Collins on bass, Kyle Resnick on trumpet and harmony, and Ben Lanz on trombone and harmony. It’s no surprise that Beirut is so proficient on stage, they have been performing live as a group for over a decade, since their first show in New York in 2006.
Miami born Helado Negro opened the show with tracks from their soon to be released album (drop date is March 8th if I remember correctly). Their simple bedroom pop sound wasn’t really my thing, but they’re worth a listen – I would recommend their 2017 NPR Tiny Desk concert, in which frontman Robert Lange is joined by saxophone, synth/keys, drums, and bass.
Beirut worked their way through an hour and a half set that included mainly songs off of their newest album, Gallipoli (2019), but that was also sprinkled with older tracks, like Postcards From Italy off their first full album Gulag Orkestar (2006). The chilling harmonies, uplifting horns, and silky smooth voice of Condon were coordinated beautifully with a stunning lightshow (if the Riviera light techs are reading this, I love you) that fit the energy of Beirut’s music perfectly. The set was punctuated by breaks from Beirut’s typical discography with an experimental synth-y instrumental block, as well as an improv section in which the horn players and Condon took turns soloing over a polka-y background.
Beirut’s music is motif heavy, but this only contributed to the overall experience of the show, it felt for a second like I was encapsulated in a Riviera-shaped bubble of pretty lights and indie/folk/world music. Thank you Beirut!
Current Joys brought all the sad boys (and girls) out of the woodwork Tuesday night for their show at Lincoln Hall.
Chicago locals Pool Holograph opened the show as the crowd filed in, surprising me with their new wave-esque sound and ethereal vocal distortions. Think The Jesus and Mary Chain, but instead of dressing all goth they just look like normal guys. I found myself really enjoying their set, nodding along to catchy riffs and dreamy accents. What’s more, I actually found myself listening to them on Spotify the next day – a rare achievement for an opening band.
The second opener, Gap Girls, still rode the new wave vibe but in quite a different way. The solo project of Jacob Rubeck, who plays guitar for Surf Curse (Nick Rattigan of Current Joys’ more upbeat project), the entire delivery was a desperate grab for 80s nostalgia. Sporting a jean jacket, one fingerless leather glove, and a quasi-mullet, Rubeck dramatically delivered seemingly INXS-inspired ballads to the guide of synth-heavy backing tracks. It was a little much for me. At the end of one song, he even raised his fist into the air à la Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. Despite his look, I didn’t find his music that interesting either – it was a lot of repetitive lyrics, and the synths kinda sounded like drowning in a swimming pool at a house party in 1983.
The four-piece outfit that is Current Joys started off in quite an emotional spot with “Become the Warm Jets,” something I did not expect. Rattigan stayed true to his signature wriggly-worm dancing and gravel-y crooning, making everyone’s hearts grow a few sizes too big for their bodies. But we were soon ripped out of that feeling as the first drum beats of “Desire” rang out and suddenly the crowd was ready to mosh to their deaths. The show seemed to constantly swing between two extremes, providing a cathartic experience for all no matter if they were sad, angry, or a mix of both. Other highlights of the set included “Neon Hell,” “New Flesh,” and “Kids.” Before beginning the latter, Rattigan explained that his family was at this show, which seemed to make him a bit nervous. Soon enough, the set slowed back down with “In A Year of 13 Moons” and “A Different Age,” leading the band to play a few new tracks as well. They featured Rattigan’s transparent songwriting, and he led the crowd in a sing along so that they could participate even though they had never heard it before. After the mosh-inducing “My Motorcycle,” the band exited the stage, leaving Rattigan to end the show with a heartbreakingly-honest new song detailing the end of a relationship.
Throughout the show, it was proven to me that no matter the pace of the song, watching Rattigan perform is a truly immersive and personal experience. He can truly do both – and he does it so, so well.
What do aliens, potatoes, and elbows all have in common? They’re all intertwined in Adrianne Lenker’s first song of her set Wednesday night at Lincoln Hall, “Spud Infinity” — a track not released on any album of hers.
Perhaps better known as the lead vocalist of band Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker produced yet another solo album Abyss Kiss in late 2018 alongside opener Luke Temple.
Stepping through the doors of Lincoln Hall, I could read the aura of the room immediately. Everyone could have traded their Carhartt beanies and turtlenecks under their T-shirts and would have left with the exact same outfits. Opener Luke Temple reinforced this very vibe. Up on stage with only his guitar and his dad-hat, he jammed like a quasi-hipster dad might. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised whether he was 25 or 55 years old. So Luke, if you’re reading this, would you be so kind as to DM me your age?
He played a few mellow lullaby songs that all managed to sound the same, with a few upbeat songs thrown into the mix. All in all, it was pretty low-energy, and the lack of movement from the crowd underlined just that.
Although Adrianne Lenker was also a solo performer with just her acoustic guitar and a ceramic mug, her performance was anything but boring — her engagement with the audience was personable and intimate in the most charming of ways.
At one point during “Spud Infinity,” a loose strand of hair swept over her mouth. She nonchalantly stopped, moved it away, giggled, and continued right where she left off. The beauty of her solo performance was her jurisdiction over what happened on that stage.
Between the songs “Hours Were the Birds” — a cheery tune from her first solo album back in 2014 interjected with playful zoom, zoom, zooms — and “Cut My Hair,” she shared a dream she had the other night starring a little girl with big scissors who chopped a good chunk of hair off of Adrianne’s head. Then she went on a little tangent about how you really can’t rush the hair growing process. The way she simply shared this monologue was obviously her thinking and connecting thoughts out loud and into a microphone, speaking slowly and a bit stuttery. It was so pure and childish in the sweetest sense.
I was scared to cough, it was so quiet and peaceful, with only her fragile voice and her fingers picking on the guitar. In fact, I don’t think she strummed a single chord until the very last song of the night.
She then invited Luke Temple back on stage and they performed the majority of their collaborative Abyss Kiss.
Her acoustic guitar and his rounded electric guitar filled the hall with warmth as the crowd reflected the duo’s own bobbing heads and swaying bodies.
I’d say a good third of the concert was just them re-tuning their guitars before every new song, but honestly, that sounded like a lovely little tune in and of itself.
After their final song together, Womb, Luke left the stage and Adrianne continued. There was a collective sigh of relief from the audience as she began to pluck the melody of her next tune mixed with her gentle humming.
She announced she had one song left, but after a suggestion for her to play Kerina from someone in the crowd, she added that to her setlist to finish the night. Again, another illustration of her interaction with us, bringing a collaborative energy to the room.
With her missing tooth gaping as she spoke of all of us together “on this speck of dust, feeling and wheeling and dealing,” Adrianne made the hall feel like a living room filled with friends sharing stories and following the whims of conversation.
With a twirl into the back curtain, she left me feeling warm and lighthearted as I exited Lincoln Hall that night.
Many who know New York-based electronic duo The Knocks think of them in terms of their collaborators. Such is life for most groups in the EDM scene. The collaborations are certainly impressive; their sophomore album New York Narcotic featured the likes of Foster the People, Method Man and Big Boi. But B-Roc and J-Patt have come a long way since their days of getting noise complaints from their New York neighbors. Their unassisted song “Shades” appeared in a recent Hyundai Sonata commercial, showing that they might just be able to hold their own without the high-profile features.
Fiery bassist Blu DeTiger kicked things off at Concord Hall for this Valentine’s Day show. Her stage presence was indisputable, as she sported an electric blue jumpsuit and a bass of the same color. She delivered some funky bass riffs on top of oldies like Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” and an intriguing mashup of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” To close, she played an unreleased original song called “Mad Love” where she took on lead vocal duties in addition to bass-playing. Blu proved that, while she’s still just a 20-year-old student at NYU, she’s already an Ace of Bass.
Dutch artist Young & Sick followed, meshing traditionally indie vocals and guitar sounds with EDM production on the choruses. He did not put much effort into annunciating the lyrics, but it became clear that the set was more vibe-driven anyway. During the verses of his first song “No Good,” his guitar playing gave off an outer-space mood. He pivoted on “Bitter End” to more of the slicing sound you might hear on a Tame Impala record. On “Jet Black Heart,” his higher notes meshed cleanly with the danceable production, reminiscent of Years & Years. I look forward to seeing if Young & Sick has a full-length project in store for 2019, as I imagine it will feature further genre-bending.
Even if you went to this concert with earplugs and a blindfold, it would be difficult to not sense where the Knocks were from. The set oozed New York, whether it was their glittery Knocks jackets in the style of the New York Knicks logo, the two huge inflatable pigeons on either side of the stage wearing gold chains and sunglasses or J-Patt’s declaration that “this is already our best show of the tour, deadass.” Perhaps no tour has stayed truer to its name than the New York Narcotic tour.
You could tell that the Knocks were ecstatic to be in Chicago as they praised the Concord crowd on multiple occasions. Throughout their set, they gave more stage time to their lesser-known openers, as Blu DeTiger played bass on numerous tracks and Young & Sick joined them to sing on “Wizard of Bushwick.”
Yet having two openers may have been the set’s Achilles heel, as the enthusiasm of the audience waned as the night progressed. Expecting the energy to stay consistent over nearly four total hours of EDM was an ambitious ask for the predominantly middle-aged hipster crowd. Save for a select few drunkenly busting moves on the balcony, the crowd lost its pep for the better part of the back half of the set. It didn’t help matters that tracks like “Tied to You” and “Classic” lingered for longer than they should have.
The popular closer “Ride or Die,” reengaged the crowd, who at this point must have been getting antsy to sing along to something. To the surprise of many, J-Patt stripped down the first verse and showed off his vocal chops, accompanying himself on a grand piano. This capped off a night where J-Patt wore many hats, whether it was spinning the turntables, rapping, playing the role of motivator or showing off his instrument prowess.
I knew that The Knocks were going to bring some disco heat with their DJing. But this performance reflected the kind of growth that characterized New York Narcotic – the album had eight unassisted tracks in comparison to just three on their previous album 55. I hope The Knocks continue to explore their vocal talent. Some J-Patt acoustic covers would also be welcome for their next project, but maybe that’s too much to ask…
Blu DeTiger – In My Head
Young & Sick – Jet Black Heart
The Knocks – Brazilian Soul
THE KNOCKS SETLIST
I walked into Space at 8:15. Doors were at Eight, and the openers had already taken the stage and were bathing the growing crowd in a slew of trance-inducing ambient post-punk rock. The Chicago-based three-piece call themselves Luggage, and as I write this article, they have just north of 500 likes on their Facebook page. Their sound was a bit rough around the edges and their stage presence felt somewhat reserved and calculated, but overall, they played well together and effectively warmed the crowd up for the main attraction.
One of Luggage’s Michaels (2/3) took his chance to fangirl, saying, “You’re about to see Gang of Four… we’re about to see Gang of Four… and you can see how much we rip them off.”
This closing comment garnered a few chuckles from the mostly older crowd, who had now filled every nook and cranny in the small venue, not leaving much room to shuffle around and take photos. Everyone seemed surprised to see me and asked if I knew the band through my dad. I got a few comments on my 35mm film camera, and the nostalgia it induced– back when the songs we were all waiting to hear were fresh on the airwaves.
After mulling about long enough for the piss drunk leatherjacketguy in front of me to drop two consecutive cocktails (9:18pm, in human time), some grips and the sound guy initiated a sequence of choreographed flashlight flashes—a language of their own. And I, a traveler in their domain! We took the cue to part, and through came the band, led by Andy Gill, the current lineup’s only original member.
Gill absolutely destroyed a Fender Squier. He slung it over his head and smashed it on stage, kicked it around a bit, and then pretended to piss on it. It was plugged in, by the way, so anyone who wasn’t 100% at attention before was now.
Gill picked the guitar up and, without stopping to retune, proceeded to plow through “Anthrax” to start the show. (Side note: At the end of the night, I saw the guitar on sale at the merch table—signed— for $120. A steal.) When the song was finished, Gill proclaimed, “Hey, I recognize like 20% of you!”
Clearly the Gang has established and maintained a strong and loyal fan base.
Overall the show was good. The newer members of the band were somewhat showy, to say the least. They seemed to be seeking out the cameras in the crowd, and I got a few dreamy eye-contact shots. My heart set aflutter!
Some of the older, “more hardcore” fans in the crowd around me complained that the new guys oversang. I thought the music was fine, but the stage presence admittedly felt aggressively arrogant, if somewhat forced.
The set list for the night included “Anthrax”, “Natural’s Not in It”, “Damaged Goods”, “At Home, He’s a Tourist”, “Ether”, “Paralysed”, and “I Love a Man in a Uniform”— Among other hits.
The show was enjoyable. Though it felt like a “best of” tour, the music was great. I’ll have to tell my dad.