Molehill@Bottom Lounge 4/8/11

As I walked out the door to head over to Bottom Lounge last night, Kari said to me “Don’t get mugged.” I assured her there was nothing to worry about, though I had never been to this venue I was positive it couldn’t be in too bad an area. Boy was I wrong. As soon as I stepped off the bus I was like, “Oh.” Luckily I didn’t see a single person during my three block jaunt. I’ve never wished for daylight so hard in my life.

But I made it in one piece, wallet intact. It’s a good thing I did, too. If I had missed this show I would have been kicking myself all week.

The band that was playing when I walked in is called Jackson Bailey. They have a very polished sound and the group was tight. I assume they’ve been together for a while. Their music didn’t blow me away, but it was well done and they had a good deal of admirers in the crowd. Their style, to me, was something akin to a Gavin DeGraw or something like that. Just enough guitars to call it pop/rock.

That’s the impression I got from the couple songs I heard, but I could always be wrong. The sings that I missed could have been fusion jazz, but I doubt it.
I expected the next band to be Nathan Kalish and Wildfire, but to my great delight, a man from Chicago Acoustic Underground took the stage and introduced the next band with these words: “Prepare to get your face melted. This is not a mountain. This is Molehill.”

At first I was a bit apprehensive. I did not, under any circumstance, want my face melted. In fact, had I known that it would be a possibility, I never would have come to the show. After a couple songs I realized he must have been using a euphemism that I’m unfamiliar with.

Molehill is a 4-piece group that reminds me of some different bands that I wouldn’t have put together on my own: Muse, Dream Theater, the Chris Duarte Group, and for some reason, Sublime. Not sure how I got Sublime from the songs I heard, but I think it’s definitely in there.

I was very surprised to hear/see a great deal of the audience bouncing up and down, headbangin’, and singing along with every song (except for a new one called “Heroes” that was played for the first time ever). It seems that Molehill has a pretty decent following already, and I can see why. They play music that fits a lot of different demographics without watering it down.

Another reason they’ve hit a chord with so many people is that their stage show is nothing but loud guitars and keyboards being played by guys jumping around yelling and dancing. It’s great fun to see a band that enjoys itself up there and the audience responded accordingly.

The thing that stands out the most from the show is lead singer/lead guitarist Pete Manhart’s hot licks. That cat shreds it hard. If you haven’t caught Molehill yet, the price of admission is easily covered by the “face melting” you will receive. He’s got nimble fingers and a lot of swagger, which is a deadly combination.

The drummer, Devin Staples, seemed to be playing at two different speeds, “Are You Kidding Me?” and “Ludicrous Speed.” He was bangin’ that set so hard I think my heart stopped a couple times. Keyboardist/synth player Greg Van Zuiden seemed to have the most fans out amongst the crowd. Everytime he played a little ditty or sang a backing vocal the people around me went wild.

The second to last song, which I didn’t write down for some reason, was my favorite of the night. It opened with a long keyboard intro and then slowly builds to multiple explosions of guitar fuzz and heavy bass courtesy of Trevor Jones.

Overall I think I had a better time than I was expecting. Molehill could be looking at a very bright future. If they keep playing shows like last night’s, they’ll have no trouble growing their fanbase. If you get the chance, check them out soon before their tickets are only available on Live Nation and you have to pay nineteen dollars in fees to get in.

If you’re up for a drive, they’re next show within a couple hours of Chicago is on April 22nd at The Verve in Terre Haute, IN (home of the Indiana State University Sycamores!)