It’s weird going out to shows by yourself. Unlike going to the movies alone, when you’re out at a music venue everyone around you is talking, dancing, drinking, having a good time with their friends. So generally if Kari can’t come and I can’t get someone else to go with me, I’ll decline offers to check out shows. Exceptions exist, of course. Like if it’s a show that know I can enjoy while standing in a corner or if it’s a seated show where I won’t stand out. Last Friday was a rare for a couple of reasons-not only did I head out on my own, I hit two different places and saw five bands over the course of six hours. It was the longest night I’ve had in quite some time, but it was fun and I’m glad I went. I’m not feeling that great today, so I’ll just give you a short review of each band.
THE ACE BAR 7:30
Bears Of Blue River hit the stage first. Shrouded in darkness and using a vocal filter on his microphone, Gavin Wilkinson led the band through some old material and also gave us a glimpse at some new stuff they’re working on. I’m not sure of everyone’s name, so I’ll just say that the guy playing the lap steel guitar sounded great. They mix a couple different things together, but they remind me a bit of Okkervil River in the way they seem like a folk band wearing rock and roll masks. I’m surprised I haven’t seen them before now. Last year when I was trying to set up some stuff for South By Southwest I was in contact with Gavin, but nothing ever came of it.
Hannah Georgas and her band came on for the second set of the night. I’d never heard of her, but throughout the performance learned that she’s from Vancouver and just released her second record. A quick google search tells me that she’s worked with Dan Mangan, who put on a really good set a couple weeks ago at Schubas. She uses a lot of electronic drum and sample noises in her songs, reminiscent of fellow Canadian Feist. The lights were up during this portion of the show, which was nice. I also noticed that the sound system seemed a bit cleaner-not as much distortion as during the Bears set. Whether by design or not, it helped me enjoy the songs a bit more. Georgas seems to be an interesting songstress worth checking out.
THE EMPTY BOTTLE 10:00
After a short jaunt on the 74 Fullerton bus, I waited for the 49 south to take me down to TEB. By the time I got there, Quiet Corral had already started. These guys, from Lawerence, KS, play americana-rock that appeared to have the crowd grooving pretty good. All the guys in the band are talented musicians, no doubt there. The only thing I could really think of, though, was “When is this americana revival going to end?” Not that I hate the music, but so much of it is the same thing over and over. I feel like it’s time to move on. The performance of the songs was good, with a lot of energy and charisma from the lead singer. I could have done without it.
Communist Daughter played next, and this set I enjoyed quite a bit. I’ve never had the chance to see them live, and the harmonies between Johnny Solomon and Molly Moore are as close to perfect as you can get in a live setting. A lot of their songs are quite dark, but there is a feeling of hope at the foundation. Solomon wasn’t one for talking on this night, which I appreciated. Just play the tunes, man. No need to jabber on about nothing (unless you’re John Vanderslice-in which case carry on). This was a very good performance. Could have been longer.
The final act I saw was The Damn Choir. Last week I interviewed the band’s lead singer, Gordon Robertson, at the Forever Yogurt in Boystown and it ended up being one of the best I’ve done. He’s an interesting guy, and his lyrics bite like the bitter cold we here in Chicago are about to face. I was told the set was a bit more stripped down, only featuring acoustic guitar, cello, electric guitar, and drums. I thought it sounded really good, though. In my personal opinion I like to just hear the songs as they were written-all that extra stuff is nice, but gets in the way of the original thoughts and feelings. For some reason Robertson’s voice was making me think of Seven Mary Three (who I unfortunately have seen live), mainly when he was growling into the microphone on some of his more caustic words. It was nice to see Katy Myers in action, playing the cello more like an upright bass. Somehow playing standing up makes the cello seem like a much more rock and roll instrument than sitting behind it. They played a few new songs, including one called “Surgery” that I thought was the best of them.