I hadn’t really planned on going out last night at all. It was my day off and hot as hell outside, and I just wanted to kick back and enjoy some terrible tv and video games in the comfort of my central air. But then I got an email from Donnie Biggins (The Shams Band) asking me to come out and check out a set by Michele McGuire at Schubas. I was already a fan of hers from the album she put out last year called Mid-Western. The fact that she just won the RedEye’s Rock N Vote contest and is quickly becoming one of Chicago’s rising stars made the decision a lot easier for me.
If you haven’t checked out her album yet, you should do so now. It’s available on Bandcamp and Spotify if you don’t feel like paying for a copy. It’s definitely country-leaning music, but she does well to add in some pop, folk, and even jazz elements to spice it up. She’s got a great voice and surrounds herself with talented musicians to bring her songs to life. They’re well-written and arranged, and when you hear them live they make for a pretty fun night.
I had only ever heard the records, so I didn’t know how well she and the band performed live. I actually prefer the live versions of all the songs I heard. McGuire seems pretty comfortable on stage and in front of a crowd. Even though she was the opening act, the place was filling up pretty quickly. One hilarious moment in banter occurred when people in the audience were asking for the song “Mama Can’t Save Me Now.” McGuire said “We’re not gonna do Mama yet. Don’t worry, Mama’s gonna come later,” followed quickly by “Yikes!” It was a joke straight out of the Gabe Liebowitz playbook (and if you get that reference, you probably already know Michele McGuire and anyone else I’ll mention here).
McGuire ran her players through a bunch of tracks off Mid-Western and a couple covers. The first cover was “Ophelia” by The Band. That one was really well done. I probably would have liked it anyway just because it wasn’t “The Weight,” but they really sounded great. I really enjoyed the guitar work of Ryan Anderson (Go Long Mule). He never tried to be flashy or do anything that would overpower the song, and that’s exactly what you want in a situation like this. The other cover was Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” I didn’t care for this one as much. It’s a great song, but they didn’t nail it like they did “Ophelia.”
A new song was played as well. I don’t know how far McGuire is into writing a new album, but if this song was indicative of the sound she’s going for, I can’t wait to hear more. I took a video of it-note the audio is not perfect quality because I was right next to the stage (sorry):
This set was the warmup act for Caitlin Rose, and honestly if I set up the show Rose would have been the opener. McGuire may not be a nationally known name yet, but she will be-and it will probably happen soon. Do yourself a favor and catch her in a club while you still can.