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Kasbo at House of Blues

By Rachel Kupfer

Nov 17, 2018

I think – I’m going to try something new. I know show reviews aren’t supposed to be personal. They’re about the music, after all. They’re about the artist’s stage presence, and their lights, and the atmosphere created by the crowd. But Carl Garsbo, the Swedish DJ and producer known as Kasbo, managed to pull out some emotions I hadn’t felt in quite some time. It couldn’t help but be personal.

Kasbo and I go way back. His remix of Mutemath’s “Monuments” was the track of my junior year of high school, and even today he holds a special place in my heart. When Places We Don’t Know, his debut LP, came out in March of this year, I remember playing it on repeat for the entire next week. It’s still my go-to for something mellow and emotional to listen to. That’s a hard combination to pull off, mellow but emotional. For some crazy reason, Kasbo accomplishes both. Driving house beats, a blanket of reverb-y synths, and sparkling ornaments on his sound create a sound that echoes. It has depth, but stays light and optimistic. His lyrics are about finding oneself and leaning into the unknown, and about the highs and trials that come with young love.

On Saturday, this music was perfect. After an exceptionally hard quarter of self-growth, all I wanted to do was get out of Evanston for Thanksgiving break. I hadn’t felt so low in a long time. But something told me to wait one more night and stay for Kasbo’s show. After feeling so connected to his music for so long, how could I not?

My conclusion for the night: If you just want to feel good, or happy, or light and airy – this show is a staple. It will put a bounce in your step and lift you up. Places We Don’t Know translated perfectly into a live performance, with dreamy visuals and foggy lights. Music that felt like home to me became a literal home: Kasbo’s sweet, unassuming presence welcomed me into an ocean of sound, light and color.

He sampled other artists from his Foreign Family Collective like Jai Wolf and ODESZA, and even some Porter Robinson. Soft builds dropped into heavy deep house once or twice. My favorite moment was when Kasbo brought the volume down until it was a steady, almost nonexistent rhythm that was easygoing and ethereal before dropping the bright and earnest “Aldrig Mer.”

The show brought me from such a low to such a high in just an hour. While it was just a temporary relief, it gave me the energy to put myself on a plane the next morning and fly home to take care of myself. It made me hopeful, and, for just a little bit, the world felt so light and simple. It was exactly what I needed. I know this sounds more like a diary entry than a show review. I suppose it is, just a little bit. But if Kasbo can put me this deeply in my feels and make me want to TALK about it and TELL someone, then that is my sign to you that this show was something profound and special. I just want to share that.

Daughters at Beat Kitchen

By Ellise Shafer

Photos by Thomas Kikuchi

Nov 18, 2018

Daughters’ performance on Sunday night at Beat Kitchen was like watching a horror film without the ability to cover your eyes.

I’d heard talk of their show being “visceral,” but I did not expect the cacophonic, angry, and primal experience that it turned out to be. It was as if the combination of frontman Alexis Marshall’s aggressiveness and the foreboding instrumentation that accompanied him unleashed the inner animal in everyone.

But before that could happen, the crowd was subjected to two opening bands.

First up was Ganser, a local act that seemed to fuse post-punk with noise rock. Their set was dark and moody, as vocalist Nadia Garofalo supported her speak-singing with animated facial expressions and hand gestures. Her vocal style immediately prompted comparison to Debora Iyall of Romeo Void (particularly on “Never Say Never”), though their musical composition was more akin to that of Sonic Youth. Guitarist Charlie Landsman stood out immediately due to his choppy, unbridled riffs and wild thrashing. This carried the band into the noise genre, often creating that wall-of-sound effect.

Kentucky four-piece Jaye Jayle was next. With the deconstruction and subsequent building of their compositions, they stood out to me as a true noise rock band. Most of their songs felt like the sonic equivalent of someone coming toward you, with paired vibrations from the bass and drums penetrating every part of the body. Vocalist Evan Patterson’s impossibly low and husky tone combined with generally dark lyrics elevated the instrumentals, forcing one’s body to sway like a pendulum. The band even incorporated a saxophonist, and all I can say is that I have never heard a saxophone make those sounds before. Overall, Jaye Jayle was simple and droney, but incredibly impressive.

Now, for the feature presentation: Daughters. Six band members came on stage, most notably Marshall, who was wearing a black suit and button down shirt. Marshall screamed “No talking!” at a man in the front row, and then immediately launched into their first song, which was jarring. The red strobe lights and Marshall’s demonic wrist movements established the scary movie vibe, and the fact that Marshall kept grabbing people and yelling into their faces made it all too real. The energy of the crowd was animalistic, ensuing in moshing that was definitely dangerous.

With their newest album You Won’t Get What You Want having received a rare perfect score from the Internet’s Busiest Music Nerd Anthony Fantano, any breaks in their set were stifled by audience members yelling “10/10!” One could tell that Marshall hated this. Or maybe that was just part of the act. The band powered through their set, some highlights including “Long Road, No Turns,” “Satan in the Wait,” and “Daughter” all from their new album, during which Marshall’s antics continued. He deep throated the mic, wrapped the cord around his neck like a noose, and spit constantly. Whenever he took a sip of water, he didn’t swallow, instead letting it drip down his face. At this point, he had ditched his suit jacket and was down to his unbuttoned shirt, exposing a white tank top. As he sang, he ripped his undershirt, letting the audience take it entirely off. Clearly on a roll, he then grabbed the hand of an audience member, sucking his fingers in a manner that can only be described as sexual. By the end of their last song, he began to kick and hit his band members, knocking over the cymbals of the drum set and unintelligibly yelling at the crowd. It was extremely entertaining, but also a cause for slight concern.

On the train home , I looked more into Marshall to try and determine if his violent stage personality was all an act. The answer is yes, after finding on Instagram that he is happily married with two adorable sons. I have to admit, looking at pictures of him enjoying Christmas lights with his little family definitely made me feel a little less violated by the experience.

Since John Mayer’s 2003 hit is still the first result when googling “Daughters,” it would be an understatement to say that they deserve more recognition for their innovative-yet-horrifying music – and yes, visceral  performance. Indeed, seeing Daughters live was like watching a horror movie, but maybe I didn’t want to look away after all. It was just too damn captivating.

slenderbodies at Chop Shop

By Beck Dengler

Photos by Abigail Everding

Nov 9, 2018

Lava lamps, as defined by Wikipedia, are “a decorative novelty item.” As indie pop duo slenderbodies performed their set at Chop Shop in front of three lava lamps, it became clear that slenderbodies are the lava lamps of music.

I dig lava lamps! Most people dig lava lamps. There’s nothing to hate about lava lamps. Sure, lava lamps might not be life changing like the light bulb, but they still have a purpose. They’re bubbly. They’re colorful. They’re the type of thing you put on and then forget that it’s on but everytime you remember it’s on you’re like “Ahhh. Pretty.” A lava lamp can even make your day.

Max Vehuni and Ben Barsochinni, both dressed in black jeans and black t-shirts, met center stage to play the sickeningly sweet opening guitar riff from their track “Gray” behind the rainbow lettering spelling out “slenderbodies.”  And of course, the red and green lava lamps were there too.

Before breaking into the chorus, lead singer Max announced, “We’re slenderbodies and we came to rock out. Dance a little bit.” And the audience did dance–a little bit. Everyone in the open standing room of Chop Shop couldn’t help but sway side-to-side and bob their heads. Lead singer Max’s persistent falsetto and the group’s consistently catchy guitar lines are infectious. In what was the last show from their first headlining tour, slenderbodies milked everything they could from the audience. Max serenaded the mic as Ben took every guitar solo as an opportunity to approach the audience and smirk at the phone cameras fans shoved into his face.

This level of fun is never fully realized on slenderbodies’s recorded discography. From the group’s first project sotto voce, they played songs such as “one of us” and “homestead” which ooze nostalgia. The groups other two EPs,  fabulist and fabulist:extended, continue this aesthetic. Their song “anemone,” which is their most popular single, literally has Max nostalgically singing “ I like it better underwater,” reminiscing on escaping to a place where “you’ll never get the best of me.” These songs were all fun live and they’re enjoyable at home, but they also all meld together. Slenderbodies performed their own renditions of songs from Britney Spears, Sade and MGMT, each of which fit their sound so seamlessly it could easily be pulled straight from any of their three EPs. At the end of the performance, they played an unreleased track “King” from their new EP soraya set to release later this year. The track was good! But if they hadn’t told me it was new material I wouldn’t have known.

This is where I bring up the lava lamp. A lava lamp doesn’t change. Its colorful bubbles continue going up and down in the same exact way over-and-over. But you still like looking at it. All music doesn’t have to be lyrically mind-expanding or so musically game-changing that the sounds aren’t fully recognizable as music. There’s a place for that too, but when I’m sitting down to do work or needing to go to bed or just wanting to brighten up my day: there’s the lava lamp. Max and Ben are gifted performers and it’d be awesome to see them expand their stylistic repertoire. But if they don’t, that’s fine too!

So turn on one of their EPs –it doesn’t matter which one– and maybe you’ll fall for slenderbodies’s charm.

Ratings:

12/12 times I used the phrase “lava lamp” in this review

7.75/12 real lamps

Los Campesinos at Thalia Hall

By Zoe Huettl

Photos by Avery Adams

Nov 8, 2018

Los Campesinos played a high-energy, though unlucky, show at Thalia Hall on Thursday. As lead singer Gareth David explained, half of their gear was stranded somewhere in Oklahoma. The indie-pop group didn’t seem to be too bothered; their set was long, dedicated, and peppy. On the tenth anniversary tour honoring their debut album Hold On Now, Youngster, the group pushed themselves on borrowed instruments and had a great performance.

Adult Mom, a queer rock band, played a solid opening set. Their quirky, fun style works well in a venue as intimate as Thalia Hall. “Told Ya So,” “Route ‘59,” and “Full Screen” were great examples of the band’s smart instrumentation and catchy hooks.“First Day of Spring” was a slight tonal shift, paring the sound down to its singer-songwriter origins for the first verse.

Stephanie Knipe’s lyrics can stand up to this minimalist arrangement, but the band was at its best with the full rock setup. Knipe’s semi-solo moment (the lead guitarist was the only other performer on stage) was the first time where the acoustic guitar could actually be heard. It’s a unique part of their instrumentation, but it practically couldn’t be distinguished on any other song. The gesture to the band’s start as a solo act, though, is a thoughtful one.

Los Campesinos opened with “Ways to Make It Through the Wall,” and right from the beginning the energy onstage was impressive. Gareth David, lead vocal, sings with his whole body. While some of the band members were fairly stationary, like Tom Bromley on lead guitar, singer Kim and bassist Matt were dancing, pacing, and sustaining the high energy that characterized their performance. Their instrumentation was tight, mostly synth-based and very pop-influenced. For their set, they chose a great mix of old and new and showed an interesting cross-section of the band’s ten-year career. Despite some changes to the musicians, Los Campesinos has maintained their distinctive brand of indie-pop.

That same distinctness was partially what made their animated set start to drag slightly towards the end. The energy of the fans was unceasing, but the synth runs and heavy guitar feedback started to sound the same as the band got deeper in the setlist. Gareth’s forceful singing also made the lyrics (usually clever and interesting) more noise than sound unless sufficient attention was given to parsing them out. That said, the vocal contrast between Kim and Gareth added a cool dimension, even at the most lazy listen. “What Death Leaves Behind” showed an interesting synth-guitar interplay, and “The Sea is a Good Place to Think of the Future” had a great guitar line, but for the most part the most catchy runs were electronic. The excitement of the crowd was contagious, though. The audience kept up with the band’s energy and danced, sang, and shouted their way through an extended, involved set.

Kero Kero Bonito at Thalia Hall

By Thomas Kikuchi

Nov 14, 2018

How many shrimp do you have to eat before you become a hit internet sensation?  It’s pretty typical of bands/artists that gain fame from memes to not know what to do with that fame and end up falling off.  I mean, when was the last time you heard Mason Ramsey do something? That being said, Kero Kero Bonito had every intention of keeping the sound that claimed their fame on their sophomore album Graduation; an album filled with infectious hooks, cutesy production with a lot of depth, and enough songs to satisfy those looking for more fun.  This begs the question: where do they go from here?

With the release of their new EP, TOTEP, into their new touring album, Time ‘n’ Place, KKB proves that their success was not a mistake, but that they are a living, breathing band with every intention of coming into their own.  On their latest wave, KKB has adopted more noisy sounds while still keeping their branded soft, floaty, sweet, optimistic flair. Whether this is provided from Sarah Midori’s softer voice, or the newer, fresh, catchy melodies throughout the song, or the random samples that creep on you while you listen, one thing is for certain: KKB shouldn’t have much to prove on this new tour.  From their promotion and their seemingly new direction that has received much approval from audiences and critics alike, KKB has had no trouble selling out venues and drawing a large crowd in America. However, I can’t say that you will not be surprised by what you will see.

One thing that instantly caught me off guard was the diversity of the crowd.  Both the opener, Tanuki-chan, and KKB are active in a current wave of Asian women in rock music, and a larger movement to push more representation in the music industry, enabling more people to come to concerts and feel comfortable in more public spaces.  All of this resulted in an atmosphere that one couldn’t but feel safe and happy to be a part of.

Tanuki-chan’s opening set was the perfect mood setter.  Her fun, catchy grooves and soft melodies was a great way for audience members to leave their worries at the door and focus on the music.  What came next was a sound that I think nobody could have predicted. KKB trickled onto the stage, one by one, with their opener track on “Time ‘n’ Place,” Outside, and their energy completely encapsulated the room.  This band sounds like it’s changing; that they want to change.  Each band member to their own right displayed a level of tight-knit competency that allowed Midori to move freely around the stage and interact with the audience.  While they played the songs that people knew them for, they sounded different. But one thing was for sure: KKB puts on a show that you should be a part of.

There was one moment towards the end of the concert when she addressed the audience to state how she couldn’t believe that she was on a stage performing in front of an audience like this, and how fortunate she was for her situation.  To which she gave a piece of advice: “If you want to do something, just do it. It will all work out soon.” I think that this very much sums up the night, and the ethos of KKB. This new direction they’re heading stands as a milestone for them, a chance to cement themselves in musical history as a band that is pushing for more representation in music.  Yet, while their future is completely unknown, Midori and crew are living in the moment, approaching the future with an optimistic smile on their face.

Yellow Days at Lincoln Hall

By Jordan Walker

Photos by Finn Hewes

Nov 15, 2018

As individuals packed into Lincoln Hall on Monday night, all were unsuspecting of the utter astonishment they were soon to witness. With an audience connecting to the music while experiencing slight unfamiliarity, it’s safe to say that Yellow Days brought forth an unforgettable appearance. With nine songs on the setlist, Yellow Days won over the audience once again with an encore.

However, the audience seemed to be most engaged by the artistic choices made by singer George van den Broek, drummer Milo Goldsmith, bassist Hector Delicious, and keyboardist Oliver Cadman. Allowing their emotions to guide them, the musicians varied the tempo, intermittently slowing for a deeper effect, and speeding up to increase the audience’s energy. Similarly, lead singer Broek intermixed his personal taste in which he lifted the pitch of his voice with the end of each phrase. With the combination of of each individual’s artistic input, an intimate sound was created that Yellow Days and the audience alike knew would forever only live in that moment.

Another incredible aspect to Yellow Day’s performance Monday night were the visual effects that accompanied each song. Depending on the mood, colorful lights would shine a pleasant mix of warm and cool tones, reflecting ambient vibes of mellowness and energy. Similarly, smoke would become visible through colorful beams of light and add to the visibly pleasing effect of the performance.

After Yellow Days performed, the crowd roared for an encore and the musicians returned to the stage with intent to unite the crowd in melody. They proceeded to execute Etta James’s ‘I Saw The Light,’ with the classic Yellow Days hypnotically beautiful flair. The cover itself provided an intimacy that allowed the audience to feel as if they were with Yellow Days in a practice session.

Furthermore, Lincoln Hall itself proved to be an impressive venue. With seats lining the upper balcony and ample floor space below; there was it was impossible to have been in an inconvenient spot. Given the energy of the room, it’s safe to say that Yellow Day’s put on an unforgettable experience in Lincoln Hall.

Profile: Beach Fossils at Bottom Lounge

By Ellise Shafer

Photos by Christian Wade

Nov 7, 2018

Brooklynites Beach Fossils may be considered the pioneers of bedroom pop, but after the critical success of 2017’s Somersault, the band has reached new heights that are difficult to confine.

The last stop on their co-headlining east coast tour with Wavves and opener Kevin Krauter brought them to Chicago’s Bottom Lounge for two nights. Before Wednesday’s show, WNUR got the chance to catch up with Beach Fossils about touring in Asia, the indie music scene and what Post Malone really smells like.

From left to right: Tommy Davidson, Jack Doyle Smith and Dustin Payseur of Beach Fossils.

Beach Fossils had its genesis with the self-titled solo project of lead singer Dustin Payseur in 2010 and eventually added touring members, most notably Zachary Cole Smith, who eventually left to form DIIV. Clash the Truth was released in 2013 after bassist Jack Doyle Smith and guitarist Tommy Davidson joined, but it was not until Somersault that the Contemporary Beach Fossils Experience (as put by Payseur) was born.

“Writing with other people definitely changes stuff up rather than just writing by myself because we all have a different style,” Payseur said. “I don’t think that what we make together would sound like any of us by ourselves.”

Although their mellow, synthy sound and ocean-related name seems to lend itself more to LA than their native New York, Payseur likes to think of their sound as an antithesis to the hectic nature of the city.

“There are certain artists with a very New York sound that’s noisy and abrasive like the sound of the city,” Payseur said. “For me, making Beach Fossils sound pleasant was almost escapism from living in New York.”

Last year’s Somersault was the first of their albums to be released on Bayonet Records, a label started by Payseur and his wife. Payseur said that releasing on his own label was a natural step, adding to the DIY quality that Beach Fossils’ music has had since Payseur recorded their first album in his bedroom.

Wavves, who co-headlined the tour with Beach Fossils.

It is this DIY approach that has inspired a slew of artists in the increasingly present bedroom pop genre. Payseur said that its rise has allowed for a lot more variety within the industry.

“I just love that anyone who owns a computer now essentially has their own recording studio,” Payseur said. “The cheaper equipment gets, the more creative people have access to the medium. Making music shouldn’t be an exclusive thing.”

Although Beach Fossils started out in a bedroom, their range has since expanded worldwide. Last spring took the band on tour in Asia, where they experienced an entirely different culture surrounding their music.

“[In Asia] they’re very adamant about wanting to meet you,” Davidson said. “They’re very patient and enthusiastic, but a very reserved audience.”

“They’re extremely appreciative in a very different way than they are in the U.S.,” Payseur added. “It’s a little nerve-wracking because we’re used to playing for crowds that go crazy, but they are very silent. They’re really paying attention.”

This observation has affected the way that the band performs now.

“It made us kind of change our live game a little bit,” Smith said. “Now, we have a little bit less dead air in between songs.”

This turned out to be true. Beach Fossils played a 15-song set in pretty much 45 minutes. After an SNL-style introduction of each member, there was not much talking in-between songs except for the occasional exaggerated “Ohhh yeah,” from Payseur. The fast pace of their set lent itself beautifully to the crowd’s bouncy moshing against their lo-fi yet guitar-driven sound. Eventually, crowd surfers emerged, with Payseur himself joining in during “Generational Synthetic.”

However, the highlight of their set was toward the end, when Payseur traded the venue lighting for the crowd’s phone flashlights during an intimate performance of “Sleep Apnea.” Although most people’s phones were in the air not to provide light but to record the song (as I admittedly did), it was a moment that brought together a few hundred strangers.

For the encore, Davidson asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a bop or a banger. The response was unintelligible, but when the band launched into “This Year,” everyone was content. “Careless” followed, and then they played Oasis’s “Wonderwall.” Like, for real. Normally, this decision would make me cringe to no end. But honestly, it was kind of heartwarming. Beach Fossils called out members of Wavves and Kevin Krauter’s band, which resulted in about 15 people on stage, playing each other’s instruments and belting that famous hook. Even though that many people gave the impression of musical cacophony, the cover actually sounded pretty good.

Although it may seem out of place for a band of their caliber to play a cover for their last song, Payseur finds them overlooked in the music world. In fact, he just released a cover of Yung Lean’s “Agony,” paired with a music video he filmed while walking the streets of New York.

Yung Lean is not the only rapper the group has been associated with – there are rumors of a collab in the works with none other than Post Malone. Although this was neither confirmed nor denied in the interview, the band was extremely enthusiastic about their love for “Posty.”

“Right after Stoney came out, I was watching Youtube interviews with [Post Malone] and I was like, this dude is fucking hilarious. He just reminds me of people that we hang out with and ourselves,” Payseur said. “So I hit him up on Twitter and he DMed me his phone number. When we went to LA, we went to his studio and hung out for a week.”

Smith then addressed something that had been at the forefront of my mind: what does Post Malone actually smell like?

“People say he smells bad and I’m like, ‘Dude, he smells so good,’” Smith said. “He’s a millionaire, do you really think he smells bad?”

“He smells like leather,” Payseur added. “He’s fresh as fuck.”

Payseur and Davidson think that the indie genre could actually learn a little bit from contemporary hip-hop artists such as Post Malone.

“I feel like the cultural renaissance in hip-hop right now is embracing much more variety than indie music is,” Davidson said.

“[Indie music] is just become a little stagnant,” Payseur added. “Breaking down barriers in genre is essential, because indie’s not a fucking genre – it just means that you’re releasing something independent of a major label.”

When asked if there is a new album on the horizon, Payseur replied, “We’re always recording. If we’re in New York, we’re recording, whether it’s for an album or whatever. It’s just what we do when we hang out.”

“We’re either at a diner or recording,” Smith clarified, which spurred a debate on the best diners in New York and Los Angeles.

After a six-minute digression, the band agreed that the best diners are Court Square Diner and Champs Diner in New York, along with Fred 62 and Cafe 50s in LA.

Of the milkshakes at Cafe 50s, Payseur said, “Those are fucking flames.” And then, after a pause: “Sorry, we’re way more passionate about diners than anything.”

Although they were strangely passionate about diners (and Post Malone’s leathery scent), I’d say that Beach Fossils are at least equally as passionate about their music. With a solidified lineup, captivating live show and a hunger for innovation, they have definitely outgrown the bedroom. Now, they’re ready to take over the entire house.

Gus Dapperton at Subterranean

By Slade Warnken

Oct 26, 2018

One of the most annoyingly catchy and persistent genres of today’s trendy online world is bedroom pop. Feeling like an 80’s synth-pop dream, bedroom pop is largely defined by its lo-fi nature and the fact that it’s often created in the homes of the artists themselves instead of through a music studio. Because of this, almost anyone with a Mac, Logic, and a half-decent stringed instrument can put out a bedroom project, but it takes a lot more than that to stand out.

The genre’s most recent star is a singer that goes by the name Gus Dapperton. Dapperton is a New York recording artist whose raspy high-pitched vocals seem to have cut through the noise of mediocrity. Unsigned and self-produced, Dapperton’s first hit came with his pop single I’m Only Snacking, and he hasn’t looked back since. Performing at the Subterranean on Chicago’s West Side, Dapperton was assisted by a minimal band of only a keyboard player, drummer and bassist. Switching between playing guitar and simply singing, he did not disappoint the hungry crowd of bedroom pop connoisseurs as Dapperton’s sister played the shiny synths the genre has defined itself with.

While Dapperton’s charm and flying kicks captured the attention of the audience, his opener Beshken immersed the audience in a thick ocean of sound that left little room to do anything but listen. When he first walked out onto the stage, it was just him, his guitar and his laptop. Yet somehow with only these tools, Beshken’s music had a thickness that seemed to envelop the hearts and ears of the audience. As each song seamlessly transitioned into the next, whenever there was a break in the music it almost came as a shock that such a thing as silence could still exist.

Maybe it was his charisma that filled in the empty sonic space, but looking at the crowd it seemed like it didn’t matter what Dapperton did. They seemed to be simply in awe that someone so similar in age and experience to them had been able to manifest a music career out of the inner workings of a MacBook. Watching him tease the audience with his presence as he allowed the front row to reach out and touch him for the briefest of moments before pulling away, it was like he was experimenting with just how much power he truly had over the audience–something I think any person would be curious about if, over the span of a year, they suddenly had thousands of screaming fans all over the country. Finishing their set with a cover of the Isley Brother’s single Twist and Shout, the cover felt like a promise for more synth-poppy goodness that would be coming our way very soon.

Grapetooth at Thalia Hall

By Ellise Shafer

Photos by Layton Guyton/Ellise Shafer

Nov 11, 2018

“Sunday night! Up all night! Red wine in my blood tonight!”

This was the mantra of Grapetooth’s album release show on Nov. 11 at Thalia Hall In the Round. Having just dropped their self-titled debut record two days before, the concert’s sold-out status was quite impressive – though not surprising.

Grapetooth is a Chicago duo consisting of Clay Frankel (of Twin Peaks fame) and Chris Bailoni (also known as producer Home-Sick). Their New Wave-inspired sound harkens back to 80s pacemakers such as The Cure and New Order, resulting in infectiously danceable synth melodies.

Their show was part of Thalia Hall’s series In the Round, in which a stage is placed in the middle of the floor, creating an intimate DIY environment. This concept was perfect for Grapetooth, who started out playing rowdy house shows around Chicago.

Openers Sports Boyfriend and Dehd, also local bands, laid a great foundation for the main event. Most notably, Dehd got the crowd moving around with their heavy surf-rock vibes, especially during their last song “Fire of Love.”

Before anyone was ready, Grapetooth cut through the crowd to get on the tiny stage, joined by Cadien James of Twin Peaks on drums and Justin Vittori on bongos and chimes (an interesting role). James and Vittori were dressed in all black except for white bucket hats, whereas Frankel and Bailoni donned camo hooded jumpsuits complete with neon green stripes.The band launched directly into “Violent,” their first single. The crowd immediately went crazy, forcing those directly next to the stage to bend at the waist. Grapetooth’s energy was unmatchable, although the only person who seemed to be consistently playing an instrument was James, the drummer. Bailoni touched the keys occasionally, while Frankel made his way around the stage with his mic. Vittori only seemed to play the bongos during the repetition of the mantra after each song (“Sunday night! Up all night! Red wine in my blood tonight!”), and who knows what those chimes were for. However, it’s possible that – despite my second row spot – I just couldn’t see well enough to know. The crowd was that mobile. Still, it was one of the most fun sets I’ve been to. I felt like a part of something great while getting splashed with red wine during none other than “Red Wine,” not being able to feel my feet during “Blood,” and waving my arms during slow jam “Hallelujah.”

But the best was yet to come. As Frankel announced that it was time for their last song of the night, a realization was felt throughout the audience– they had not yet played “Trouble.” As the first few notes rang out, a crowd-wide consensus resulted in the rushing of the stage by more than half of the concertgoers. Suddenly, I was basically on top of Frankel as he sang the catchy chorus: “Trouble/ Trouble comin’ down/ I don’t mind livin’/ I don’t mind givin’ it up.” As the stage overflowed, people fell off, but found their way right back up again. It was exhilarating.The afterbuzz of Grapetooth’s show stayed with me throughout the rest of the night. Somehow, the shitty pizza I ate afterwards tasted delicious, and as my friends and I got off of the L at Howard, the purple line was miraculously waiting for us.

Windhand at Subterranean

By Finn Hewes

Nov 7, 2018

As Satan’s Satyrs took the stage Wednesday night, the mostly middle-aged crowd filling out the cramped, beer-soaked room at Subterranean seemed largely uninterested. Seeing jackets, shirts, and beanies in support of the main attraction of the night all around me, it was clear that the four-piece would have to earn the crowd’s attention despite their history of collaboration with the fellow Relapse Records signees Windhand.

The lead singer and guitarist Clayton “Claythanas” Burgess chose to sport a leopard print tank and leather jacket, corresponding nicely with his luscious, curly power bangs and a cheetah print Marshall head. The whole band gave off a very Guitar Hero vibe. Songs “Show Me Your Skull” and “Permanent Darkness” flexed their technicality and otherworldly psychic connection to each other, ripping through chunky breakdowns in near-perfect unison without any visual communication with each other. Some diversity was displayed in “(Won’t You Be My) Gravedancer”—best described as a doo-woppy, rhythmic ass-pounding. Fan-favorite “You Know Who” showcased the band’s unique take on 80’s speed-riff metal.

All in all, the Satyrs effectively communicated their stated intentions of exploring the metaphysical realm connecting the lawlessness of biker horror films (such as the band’s titling inspiration Satan’s Sadists), the speed and aggression of 70’s and 80’s American punk rock icons Black Flag, and the psychedelic, doom-infused atmospheric metal produced by the band Electric Wizard (who, in 2014, accepted Burgess into their band after hearing SS’s demo tapes).

My only gripes: they played fast the whole time. Which, I know, is kind of the point. But had they slowed down in certain strategic spots, letting the audience marinate in some of the breakdowns and solos, going for a thicker, goopier vibe, they would do a better job of attracting the sludge and doom crowd we all know and love. They closed out their set with a jarring rendition of “Creepy Teens”, a fitting segue into the cascading hellfire to be produced by Windhand.

Ghostly organ music and the sound of creaking wood set the stage for the spooky shit to come as the three horsemen and one horsewoman who compose Windhand emerged from the mist, carefully inspecting their instruments as if polishing swords in preparation for battle. I thought immediately of the infamous stand at Helm’s Deep. After opening with an absolutely unrelenting delivery of “Fake Pariah”, the band fixed some issues with the mix, giving the audience ample time to brace themselves for what was to come.

The short breaks in between songs, usually filled with small talk, stalling, and jovial banter about the musicians’ careers, politics, and the like instead left the audience treading water in goopy sound soup–probably with some sort of melted cheese on top. It was dense. It was muddy. Anticipation built, and the tension mounted, and just when you thought it would never end, the silence that was actually not a silence at all was snapped, like a diver leaping from the platform, and with perfect form and without producing a splash, Windhand laid into yet another face melter, spewing sparks and lava as they blew through “First to Die” followed by “Forest Clouds”.

They selected randomly throughout their entire discography, which was came as a pleasant surprise seeing as how they released Eternal Return, their fourth full-length studio album, just a month and some change before the show. Mixed in were expertly cascading, feedback-heavy, distorted guitar solos that made prominent use of a wah pedal and felt like avalanches piling onto the crowd. I noticed that lead guitarist Garrett Morris sported a Satan’s Satyrs shirt. G Move. Windhand slid effortlessly into a ¼ speed actuation of “Grey Garden” that then shed its cocoon as if a mummy suddenly come back to life, ripping through centuries old layers of resin-coated linen to reveal a shrieking and angelic guitar solo, sequenced differently than in the studio-version of the song.

Lead singer Dorthia Cottrell’s anguished, groveling voice was met with a performativity I didn’t expect. She wandered around stage in a ghostly trance, gazing out above our heads at something we could not see. Spooky indeed. The set was reminiscent of the atmosphere conveyed by an Edgar Allan Poe poem—simultaneously frantic but pessimistically resigned. Imagine a kerosene-soaked witch at the moment of ignition, but rather than scream or cackle as you might expect, she just sort of sighs.

Often overlooked, drummer Ryan Wolfe consistently laid down light, splashy cymbal work overtop of heavy, even bone-shattering tom and bass rolls, providing a delightfully complex undercurrent to the set—subtext, if you will. This in combination with Morris’s stylistic doom shredding conjured thoughts of ancient mammoths struggling against an eminent wave of hot tar, or maybe a vicious overtaking of an ankylosaurus by a small but battle-hardened pack of deinonychuses.

Windhand has been one of my favorite doom bands as of late, and for good reasons—all of which were reflected in their live show. They are one of the best groups around when it comes to the metered, spaced out riffs that deal mostly in mid-tones but somehow feel sludgier than anything else I’ve ever heard. Their songs all sound the exact same, yet almost completely unrecognizable. Like the same piece of meat cooked in entirely different ways. They can be technical, they can sweep pick, and they can be brutal sounding, like a dark churning ocean as it meets with a jagged, moonlit cliff side, or maggots chewing through a rotting appendage. They’re great to listen to while you read, sketch, ride your bike, dismember a corpse, or fold your laundry, and they’re absolute must-see’s if they’re coming to your town. They made one thing abundantly clear: Don’t sleep on Windhand.