I really had no idea what I was in for last night at Schubas. On a normal night, if you get there 15-20 minutes ahead of show time, being at the very front is not a problem. On this night, however, I arrived a full 20 early and was welcomed by a sea of people all crowded against the stage. Camera in hand, I had only one thought: “Goddamit.” Fortunately the punctual fans were mostly my height or shorter, so I had a decent view. Still a few minutes before the opener hit the stage and the venue was pretty packed.
I knew next to nothing about Handsome Ghost (if you count knowing that they’re a band) before the concert. With so many people there early, I assumed they had some kind of Chicago connection, but that doesn’t seem to be the case-also I looked it up and they appear to be from the Boston area. They’ve toured with Misterwives and Borns in the past year, so some of those that caught them before must have really enjoyed their sets. Not hard to understand why; Handsome Ghost plays a kind of pleasant synthpop that spreads its influences around. You can hear a lot of R&B/pop in the beat, but lead singer Tim Noyes has a real singer/songwriter vibe-like a cooler version of Gavin DeGraw (or whatever the 2016 comp to Gavin DeGraw would be).
I wasn’t blown away by their set, but they have some good songs. I think they’re still figuring some stuff out as far as the live set goes. The drummer was fantastic and the songwriting is strong. They’ve got some good songs and seem to be going at it the right way, so I’m sure they’ll be headlining their own shows soon enough.
The Great Good Fine Ok set took a minute to set up. A lifetime, by Schubas standards. The band brings their own light show and needed time to adjust the drum and guitar levels. It’s interesting to see how much goes into the set before a single note is played-they’ve taken some time and really figured out their aesthetic, both in look and sound. Once the music started in earnest you could tell they were proud of what they were doing.
Frontman Jon Sadler has a really strong voice and some sick dance moves, both of which were on full display during the hour-long set. I was a little more familiar with these cats, having listened to their available catalog on Spotify. It’s all good, but the newer stuff is definitely following in the popularity of bands like The 1975 and St Lucia. Whereas Handsome Ghost was a more laid back chill vibe, GGFO want people dancing and grooving.
The crowd was more than up to the request, twistin’ and shoutin’ all the way to the bar in the back while Sadler spun from one side of the stage to the other, effortlessly hitting Carey-level octaves that would make most men shiver with fear. Despite trying to take pictures I found my toes tappin’ and head bobbin’ along just like everyone else, and it’s a good sign when the photographers are feeling the music as much as the paying audience.
The highlight of the show for me was when Luke Moellman broke out the keytar solo. That’s the second keytar solo I’ve seen in the past month, and it always puts a big smile on my face. You can see a short clip of the solo on Instagram here. You could see the joy on Moellman’s face as he was playing, too. Something about the keytar just makes everyone happy, and when it’s played well it can sound amazing.
At the end of the day, I had fun and I think that’s the best thing I can say about any show. What’s the point if it isn’t fun? Even though I’m a bit/much older than anyone else in the crowd, I felt like I could relate to the music as well as anyone else. If you’re into synth pop, I definitely recommend checking these guys out. They’ve only got a couple shows left on this tour-tonight in Toronto and Brooklyn on Saturday-but I know they’ll be back on the road soon.