I was a little late to the We Are Scientists game. Their first album came out in 2005, but it wasn’t until their song “After Hours” appeared on the soundtrack for Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist that I took notice. I went back and picked up With Love & Squalor. About a minute in to “Nobody Move, Nobody Gets Hurt” I decided that they were one of my favorite bands. The week after I moved to Chicago, they played a show at Bottom Lounge that I didn’t go to. Until a few nights ago, I think that was the last time they came to this city (I could be wrong). So when Thrillcall announced that they were exclusively selling tickets through their app, I instantly bought two tickets. This was the only show that could have possibly taken my mind off the Justin Timberlake concert coming up in five (5!) days.
I checked out the opening band, The Avantist, on the day of the show. I’m being generous in saying that I didn’t care for it. Still, I wanted to get a good spot for WAS, so I made sure my friend and I got there early. The Avantist came out and thrashed through one of the most aggressive songs I’ve heard performed at Schubas and I felt like my initial assessment was correct. A funny thing happened after that, though. Their sound changed from screams and distorted guitars to a nice balance of post-punk and power pop that I found most agreeable. Toward the end of the set they played a slower song called “Deep In The Red” or something to that effect, and I thought it was great. Their singer, Fernando Arias, has a great voice but I don’t think he’s convinced of that yet.
There was a long break between bands-something like 25 minutes. A few people in front of us were buddies with the opener, so they moved away from the stage and allowed a slight re-shuffling of those hanging toward the front. The girls in front of us had to go get more drinks and asked if I’d hold their spot for them, promising a free drink if they were able to get back to where they were. Idiots! I would have held their spot anyway because I’m a good concertgoer. If you were in front of me already, I have no problem letting you back to your initial spot. So I got a free drink that was pretty terrible. It did help to pass the time as I was jittering with excitement for the headliners to arrive in front of us.
When We Are Scientists finally got up there, I was a bit surprised. I’d never seen them before-never really looked up any pictures or anything and I’ve watched videos but mainly for audio purposes. They’re very slight guys. Goofy, hipster doofus-type dudes who remind me a lot of skinny versions of myself. They said hello and launched into their first song, and I was amazed how much power the trio brought with a fairly minimal setup.
The concert was an hour and twenty minutes that had all the qualities of a great buddy cop action film. Three to four minute bursts of frantic thrashing around the stage while the crowd did the same, and then a few minutes of Keith and Chris chatting about anything and everything. My favorite was the first instance of humor, when Keith’s boat shoes came untied, and there was a conversation debating the merits of the Kurt Russell’s films Captain Ron and Overboard. Later, on the one song that kicks off with Chris’s bass, he asked us to raise a glass and toast the song with a message of hope that they come more often in the future. Keith announced “If anyone sees me drinking right now, it’s not because of this.”
Those two guys play off each other so well, it’s no coincidence that their songs are so well crafted. Even the two new songs that they played (from their new 7″ that dropped yesterday) got the crowd moving. Not as much as say, “The Great Escape,” but still. I was really impressed with Keith’s guitar skills. I suppose you can really forget about the guitar work in some of their songs because the bass and drums are so heavy, but he’s super talented.
There really were too many highlights for me to point out one or two. They played all the songs you would expect, and the crowd (the show was 18+, which usually makes me cringe) was one of the best I’ve been around at Schubas-like Neutral Uke Hotel good, and those crowds are amazing. Everyone danced and sang along to every song as they tore through a discography that, to me, is filled with hit after hit. The biggest hit, “After Hours,” came at the very end. I’d say the crowd reaction to “I Don’t Bite” was actually a little bigger though.
At the end of the set Keith said that they would be back soon, and I hope they do. I’d go see them every night if they were around. If you haven’t familiarized with their work, pick up With Love & Squalor first, then catch up to Barbara. Maybe this new 7″ is leading up to a new album later this year. Even if it doesn’t, I’m fine with the material they have out now. They are one of the few bands I can put on at any time and it makes me want to dance (but I don’t).