It’s a few days past the sell-by date, but I caught a great show this past weekend at Subterranean in Chicago’s hipster haven, Wicker Park. I arrived early, grabbed a $3.50 PBR and took in the sights and sounds of one of my favorite venues before the music set in. It was a 17+ show, so there was more shrieking than I was accustomed too, and, strangely, some actual dancing in the balcony. I suppose if the younger folks are good for anything it’s for amping up the energy for all us quickly surpassing our quarter life crisis.
Hotel Ahead opened with a solid set of songs. Their Villa Park home grown version of indie rock did a good job of keeping the crowd entertained even if they spilled water onto one of their amps mid song (ouch!). I was salivating a little over the lead guitarist’s orange Stratocaster – which, by all accounts had a clearer, purer and better tone than the guitar he began the set with. The singer’s punkish and whiskey tenor wasn’t out of tune and he did a good job of pounding through the tunes. The rhythm section was solid, nothing too crazy to speak of, but kept the beat and kept it strong. I was trying to listen for a little double kick drum action, but sadly, never got it.
Brighton, MA – has a fantastic sense of dynamics. Although led by an acoustic guitar toting troubadour, they do not sound like O.A.R. or Dave Matthews – which is both surprising and awesome. I have to say that I was more impressed with the simplistic nature of the songs, but everything came together and worked like clockwork. This is a touring band who knows preciscely who they are and what the stand for. Their lead singer looks like a mix between Eddie Vedder and Shooter Jennings, and has a great baritone voice to boot – mad respect for putting on a great set.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t as enamored with The Appleseed Cast. I suppose it takes a certain type of listener to be able to pay strict attention to instrumental prog rock music (think Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky) at a live venue, and they had me for a little while. While listening to the album though, it’s not just the form of their songs that I enjoy, but it’s the recordings that really get me. The snares that morph from super loud and reverb addled to small and tinny are just a small example of what could never be emulated in a live show. I, and the audience included stood at attention for some of the larger builds off the new album, but the vocals, again did not have the same power they do on the record.
There are three really great shows upcoming in the city – one of which is a truly amazing band that I can’t wait to see live, The Appleseed Cast, playing tomorrow night (June 26th) at Subterranean – for those of you who can’t make it I’ll have a live review up and posted of the show as soon as I can. The other two are previously reviewed Those Darlins, playing at the Beat Kitchen on July 17th, and also playing on July 17th is Makeshift Prodigy, headlining Metro for the second time this year. Links to video, music, and tickets soon to come. Makeshift Prodigy and Those Darlins are both featured on Metromix as one of the top 25 shows to see in July – including the likes of Beyonce (I know, I know, I thought the same thing – but nobody said Metromix was the best guide to awesome music, did they?) and Green Day.
What a weekend for music! If you didn’t see any live music this weekend, I pity you, truly. Between Randolph Street Fest and Mobfest alone, I was hard pressed NOT to see any music – it seemed like all of my favorite haunts had good bands playing, and I was having hard time making it to shows on time. None the less, I was on time for Incredible Shrinking Boy – and actually early enough to also catch a little bit of singer/songwriter Matt Ryd as well.
Matt Ryd has a smooth, raspy voice which is remarkably similar to John Mayer. His songwriting is stellar and his guitar playing is pleasant. Unlike most singer/songwriters stuck in the down up, down up down, holding pattern, his strums alternate between different styles, accenting the songs. One of his songs has been featured on Zach Braff’s “Scrubs”, and he deserves it – overall he put on a good show ending with a montage of covers, the most notable being “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” by Stevie Wonder.
Poor Incredible Shrinking Boy; despite horrendous sound at Fiesta Cantina and a broken bass string in the middle of the first song, ISB played a decent set for us at the Natiiv Media showcase. I could sit here and rag on the sound guys for probably an hour, although the hard wood floors and walls probably had a lot to do with it – here’s a hint though – turn down the drums! Anyway, after an incredibly awkward minute of ISB reaching out for some help in the bass guitar department, they stumbled through one of their piano-lead older songs, but once the nervousness wore off – and a Samaritan lent his bass they hit their stride. They rumbled through the rest of their set – what I was most intrigued about was how they still kept in touch with the depth/density of their songs using only one guitar, a keyboard, a drum kit and a bass. Good job guys, next time I’m sure will be better.
The Manifest annual urban arts festival is a celebration of all Columbia College
Chicago’s graduating undergraduate and graduate student bodies of work, representing each department. All events occur on Columbia’s vibrant South Loop Campus. Manifest 2009 will feature an artwalk & sale, music on five stages, screenings, readings, live radio, Web casts, the TICTOC performance art festival, the Transmission art car exhibition, and Spectacle Fortuna’s parade of creativity. Unless otherwise noted, events are free and open to the public.
Where else are you going to find free concerts by some of the most talented young people in Chicago? I’ll see you there.