I didn’t know much about Coast Modern before they hit the stage at Subterranean for their slot on the Alt Nation tour with which they’re currently traveling. Luke Atlas and Coleman Trapp turn their indie pop duo into a strong foursome for live shows, and they keep the people moving. They opened the show with about 45 minutes of material, including some new stuff that might come up on their first EP or LP (they’ve only released singles in the two years they’ve been making music together).
The mostly-under-21 crowd seemed to know every song, even the new stuff. That caught the attention of Coleman, who asked one of the girls up front if she was following them on tour ( I didn’t hear her answer, but someone next to me said they were probably going to catch them again in Milwaukee tomorrow night).
Last night Canadian rockers Arkells brought about half of Hamilton along with them to Subterranean in Chicago. The packed house rocked and rolled as the band weaved their way through the hits from their 2014 release High Noon like “Leather Jacket,” “11:11,” and “Dirty Blonde.” Most songs ended or began with the eternally grateful Max Kerman offering thanks to the audience for “the best Chicago show” they’ve ever played.
The band is coming back to town for Lollapalooza in July, and now that I’m a little more familiar with them, I highly recommend checking them out if you plan on attending the festival. You can also check out their page for upcoming dates on the west coast.
I spent the better part of the past month hyping up this show that finally happened last night at Subterranean. For those who took my exuberant yammerings as gospel, you’re welcome. You got to see one of the best shows you’ll see all year. For those that didn’t…well, better luck next time I guess. I hope you enjoyed the Green Music Festival or whatever other complete waste of time you were busy with (this does not apply to those of you who attended Ezra Furman’s house show-totally understandable). It wasn’t just that Sons Of An Illustrious Father were playing in a real Chicago venue for the first time, but they hand-picked the lineup for our listening pleasure. They brought along Brooklyn songstress Lexie Roth and added two Chicago acts called Names Divine and Lionel O.
Names Divine played first, and I’m still not sure quite what to make of it. They feature three men and three women who seem to be playing a kind of organized chaos on stage. The man in the middle played violin and sang, but often he was just dancing and grooving out to the music. There was a girl on one side who only sang, and another on the opposite side that played electric guitar and sang. I’d call her the de facto leader of the band, and during the last song of their set she wailed on that axe like nobody’s business. Definitely an interesting group and something to keep your eye on.
The big surprise of the night for me was Lexie Roth. I’d only heard about her through Sons, and I listened to one song on Spotify just to see what kind of music it was. I didn’t really pay attention, but when she was on stage she demanded everyone’s. With just an electric guitar and her voice, she was entirely captivating. In a night of seemingly short sets, hers was the shortest. She played a few songs off her self-titled release that came out last year, including a great one called “Stay Or Go.” For the last couple she asked Lilah and Josh of Sons Of An Illustrious Father to join her. They played very well together, so maybe we were witnessing the formation of a Sons Of An Illustrious Father/Lexie Roth supergroup.
Next up was Lionel O, a Chicago transplant from Minnesota via Ohio. I enjoyed the music quite a bit. It often felt like Iron & Wine mixed with Death Cab, but the instruments backing singer/guitarist Matt Orenstein were an accordion (Julian Chin) and a sousaphone (Matt Davis), so make of that what you will. It sounded really good, and the songwriting and delivery by Orenstein were both top-notch. On his recordings he strikes a balance between the sadness of Elliot Smith and the humor of Jonathan Richman. Definitely worth checking out (find his songs on Spotify, along with Lexie Roth’s)
Finally we came to the main event. It had been just about a year since I last saw Sons Of An Illustrious Father live, and I was excited to see them in a real venue. Unfortunately their drummer had to skip the show due to an injury. The band on stage was a trio made up of Lilah Larson on guitar, vocals and drums, Josh Aubin on keys, vocals, and percussion and opener Lexie Roth on backing vocals and percussion. Despite the change, I lost no faith in their ability to put on a great show, and they delivered in spades.
Their set kicked off with Larson strumming the electric guitar and leading the other two towards the steps to the stage. They came down into the crowd and belted out a song so raw and powerful that if they had gone back to the stage, unplugged their instruments and left I would feel like I got my money’s worth. Sons’ music has a way of getting into your ear canals and finding its way straight into your soul. Much of the power is derived from Larson’s emotional vocal performances, which can turn even the most mundane of tunes into pure electricity.
Just having two members of the band limits the set a little bit, but Lilah and Josh did a great job of switching back and forth on vocals. When Josh would play one of his songs on keys, Lilah would play drums and Lexie would play percussion and sing backup. When Lilah was playing, Lexie would be on drums. They adapted very well to a situation a lot of bands would dread. Most of the material was from their debut self-titled album, but they did play “Glass Nor Stone,” which I think really struck a chord with the crowd. The energy in the room definitely ticked up after the first chorus of that single. It was a fantastic performance, no doubt. But I prefer this softer, sweeter number from their first album:
I was impressed with the harmonies between Larson and Roth as well. They did a duet during the earlier set, and they had multiple opportunities during the headlining set to sing together. It almost makes you forget about Sofia Ablam; or maybe Larson’s voice just makes anyone that sings along with her sound better. Someday I hope we can get a full band show, or at least a trio of people that are actually in the band. They made it work, though, and I’m thankful that they’re touring at all.
I wish more of Chicago had come out to see them play. Sunday’s are kind of rough in this town. Especially when there are free festivals going all day. Maybe I’ll recommend the band come in early December when there’s nothing going on and the promise of free heat and beer for purchase seems like the best offer available. For those that witnessed the performance, it was a thing of beauty and a moment in your lives I hope you never forget. I know I won’t.
For more photos from the show, check out our album on Facebook!
The excitement was palpable as we entered Subterranean on Saturday night for Vintage Blue’s record release show. The place was packed tighter than the red line during rush hour. The lineup for the evening was kicked off by Elisa Grace. After that Vintage Blue playing to a room full of fans, and then Ty Stone (a Detroit rocker who is signed to Kid Rock’s label). The crowd was already pretty jacked when we got there about halfway through Grace’s set, and they never really calmed down. Booze was everywhwere, but the crowd was laid back enough that I never imagined any kind of fights breaking out (unlike the time I saw Titus Andronicus at the same venue and thought EVERYONE wanted to fight). Vintage Blue is a party-type band, so this kind of audience is exactly what they want to be playing for. And they didn’t disappoint one bit. In fact, my only real issue was that I was standing so close that the sound was a little drum-heavy.
I want to highlight three moments during the show that were true highlights. The whole show was very good, and I recommend checking Vintage Blue out at a live performance because they have a lot of fun and it’s contagious. It’s hard not to leave one of their shows without a smile on your face. These moments that I’m discussing weren’t picked at random, they each represent something special about the band.
The first moment I want to mention is Ryan Tibbs’ performance of the song “Great Divide.” Most of the band left the stage, so it was just Tibbs, a cellist, and vocalist Caitlin Simone. It’s the most emotionally raw song on the new record, Strike The Mics, so it makes sense to bring the energy level down a notch. Tibbs’ voice matches the material so well, and his harmonies with Simone are spot on. This was about the halfway point, so it was a good time to hold off on the amped up rock and roll, and give the crowd something a little more introspective. It’s probably my favorite song of their original works, and they absolutely nailed it.
The second moment I want to talk about was a surprise. Vintage Blue used to go by the name Tanglewood, which many of their fans know. The shocker for the evening was the band bringing up their old guitar player, Seth Howard, to jam on one song. I’d never seen nor heard of him before, but the guy was crazy talented. His style reminded me a lot of Carlos Santana. He’s got a great rock attitude, as well. Standing up on stage with his aviators he looked like a guy born to do this. I don’t know what the song they played together was called (or if it was original or a cover), but it was great. I know they were playing their own record release show, but I would have loved to see more of that guy.
Lastly, I’d like to highlight the bands version of “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. It was by no means perfect, and I think they’d be the first to point that out. However, for a young band to cover a song that is as relevant today as it was in 1966, I must stand up and applaud. They also made good use of the song as one that they could break down and introduce everyone in the band. It’s hard to tell from the video I took, but Simone in particular really took care of business. On a personal note, I also covered this song. It was at a reception when I was four years old. I’m sure it was awful, but to hear my father tell the story you’d think I was Elton John singing at Princess Di’s funeral. Not a dry eye in the house.
Technically Strike The Mics comes out on Valentine’s Day, so the show went off a little early. I think it will work to Vintage Blue’s advantage because now people will be talking about what a great show they put on. Hopefully everyone in the audience buys at least one copy (though it kinda sounded like a lot of them either have it or have heard it already). Maybe those of you who weren’t in attendance need a gift for that special someone on February 14th. I couldn’t think of anything better.
Over the last eight months, there is one band that I’ve talked about more than any other-Chicago’s very own Chaperone.
From the first time I heard their song “Thomas” on The Deli‘s website, I’ve been hooked on their joyous rock ‘n’ roll. Sometimes it leans a bit country, sometimes a bit punk, but always compelling and sounding good.
Now, for some reason, all you people out there have ignored my cries of reason, attempts to show you that the music you’re listening to is terrible and Chaperone will show you why. So instead of wasting more of my words, I’ll just put up some videos and you can decide for yourself.
But first, a word on my videos: Sometimes they look bad. Other times they’re great. My main thing when I’m shooting a video of a song is that, I am no better than anyone else in this bar or club, so it isn’t my right to walk around in front of them and block the show. So, most of the time my videos are shot from the side and there isn’t much movement. If you don’t find them satisfactory, I’m sorry. Feel free to go to all these shows and record your own videos. Send me the link and maybe I’ll use it. Otherwise, shut the hell up and enjoy what I’m providing.
Now back to the videos. This first one, “Witches and Sailors,” is from the very first time I saw the band at their record release show in October of 2010.
Now here’s another one from Subterranean, but taken four months later. “Fed On Coal.”
This song, “Son of Love Control,” was written by Mark Sheridan, and this recording was the first time they ever played it live.
Continuing with new songs and appearances at Beat Kitchen, where the above song was taped, here’s another new one-“Wasserkinder”
And finally, here’s the single they’ll be releasing soon, “Raised By Wolves.” The sound quality on this one may be a bit poor because I was pretty close to the speakers, but you’ll get an idea of the energy behind the song.
If you enjoyed these videos, you can check out the first two songs on the EP Cripple King (which I voted the best Chicago release of last year). If you liked the last three songs, come to the next Chaperone show and see it done live. The sepia-toned beings in the videos look like real people when you view it with your own eyes!