Spider Bags came to town last night touring behind their amazing new album, Frozen Letter. It didn’t take long for that LP to jump into my number one slot for best of the year so far, and their performance did not disappoint. This was my first time seeing the band live after discovering them a couple years ago via a tweet by Titus Andronicus front man Patrick Stickles. They released the new record via Merge, and the quality is a testament to both organizations commitment to excellence.
The night kicked off with a so-so performance from Life Parter that could most aptly be described as “loud.” They seemed to be having fun on stage, which made me enjoy it a little more, but all the songs kind of ran together aimlessly and most went on far longer than needed. The second band, Chicago’s own Flesh Panthers, was much more enjoyable. They were also loud, but married that verbosity with melody, harmonies, and a take no prisoners attitude. I’d never heard of them, and was fearing something more akin to Steel Panther, so I’m happy to say I look forward to more from Flesh Panthers.
Spider Bags set wasn’t at all what I expected, in a wonderful way. It was far more focused on the musicality of the band, especially vocalist/guitarist Dan McGee, than I would’ve thought coming in to the show. Wild guitar solos, instrumental jams, long outros-they all added to the experience of Spider Bags live. They played for about an hour, running through most, if not all, of their awesome new release, a bunch of Shake My Head, plus some old favorites. My personal jam didn’t come until very near the end when they delivered “The Shape I Was In.”
Crowd reaction ran the gamut of live show cliches-early on a flash mosh pit broke out for a song, later there was a couple spooning in the middle of the Hideout’s floor. McGee came out into the crowd for a solo and people kinda just moved out of his way like, “Do your thing, man.” Energetic and respectful audiences might be the best audiences of all. That kind of politeness was not on the agenda for bass player Steve Oliva, who was ripping grooves so hard he broke a bass string and had to play half the show on Life Partner’s instrument.
This marked the first time the band had played in Chicago for a while, and hopefully the wait until next time won’t be so long. It’s way too much fun to not happen again. Listening parties at work and in my apartment til then, I guess. You can pick up a copy of Frozen Letter here and party on your own time.