A lot has happened in the four months since I last saw Molehill perform. Music. Defined. has taken off like I couldn’t have imagined, and the bands in Chicago that I’ve met seem to keep getting better. I wasn’t sure what I was walking in to when I went to Bottom Lounge and caught a set by this hard rockin’ foursome, but I’m glad I got to see them. Getting a second opportunity was even more enjoyable.
The evening kicked off with a set by Columbus, Ohio natives The Wet Darlings. As a member of the enormous group of humans who have attended Purdue University I am not at liberty to like anyone or anything from the home of the Buckeyes, but I’m willing to make an exception for this band (sorry everyone else in Columbus). I’d never heard them before, but I was pretty impressed. I’m always apprehensive when I see a band with a female singer for a couple of reasons: If you don’t like it, you’re labeled as sexist. If you do like it, it’s only because they have a female singer (sometimes known as No Doubt Syndrome). It’s a pickle that luckily one can avoid if the music is truly good. And their version of pop/rock was a perfect blend of loud guitars, driving rhythm and soaring vocals. They seemed to have a very large number of audience members cheering in the crowd, so maybe I missed the boat. My bad.
As Molehill took to the stage, one couldn’t help but notice the light show that had brought with them. You can see it a bit in the video I took below. It was fun, and added to the arena rock entertainment aspect of the show. They also went through a long process of making sure their monitors were at the right levels, and I wish more bands would take the time to do this before they start. It is SO annoying when a band asks for more whatever in between every song. And, impressively, the sound at Beat Kitchen on this particular night was far superior to Schubas the night before (I never thought I’d say that!)
My initial thoughts on the band haven’t changed at all. They’re still very much influenced by Muse, and to that end they pull off the sound amazingly well. A lot of the credit goes to Greg Van Zuiden on keys, who makes everything from subtle flourishes to psychaedelic jams seem effortless. His backing vocals are great too. They’ve found a great harmony between Greg and lead singer Pete Manhart that pays off on a lot of songs.
Speaking of Pete Manhart, have you ever seen anyone play guitar before? Well, forget it. You haven’t really seen it until you’ve witnessed Manhart explode into a solo like a rocket into the clouds. If I didn’t know better I’d think he was some sort of guitar android programmed by the spirits of Hendrix and SRV (ok, that’s a bit much maybe). The guy seriously wails, and it made me wonder…what would Molehill be like if they were a blues band? Freakin’ awesome, I assume.
I think what impresses me most about Molehill is their cohesiveness. A lot of bands tend to have one guy, maybe two that can really play and understand what they’re doing, while everyone else just tries to keep up. Manhart, Van Zuiden, bassist Trevor Jones and drummer Devin Staples all get it. And it helps that they’re all super talented.
They played a blistering 12-song set, including a new one, with only a song or two that weren’t turned up to “11.” If the Republic of Lights show Friday was a display of indie-rock, Molehill’s set was a masters course in RAWK! I normally don’t listen to heavier music like theirs, but when it works it’s damn good. I would make the claim that, for their style of music, Molehill is the best in Chicago. They don’t suffer from the same issue I have with other bands, which is live they are so good, but on record it just isn’t as vital. Go over to their website and take a listen to their streaming material. It’s really good! I still prefer the live setting, but it’s a nice substitute.
The band doesn’t have a lot of shows coming up, but for us Illinois residents, they’ll be playing a couple shows September 30th and October 1st in Libertyville and Champaign before heading down to STL for a show on October 28th. If you’re free or can break the plans you have tentatively set, take a little drive and go check them out. I guarantee it will be more than worth the price of admission.
Almost Broken (Heroes)
On The Wall
Untitled (the song in the video above)
I Hope You’re Happy