Sure what I saw

Pardon live show reporting ettiquite, I need to geek out for a moment. Through the magic of free Monday night shows at the Empty Bottle, I had the pleasure, nay, privilege of seeing the end of a great band I never knew and discovering a handful of other interesting, still thriving groups.

Beginning at the end were Killer Whales, one of three Chicago groups to playing that night. I walked in during the middle of their first song, which threw me off kilter with a gust of earnest energy. To classify would be a lie, as there was far more shit going on than simply following genre rules. Didn’t stop them from shacking up twangin’ old rock and roll with elastic post-punk (picture Desperate Bicycles having fun, if you can), and dosing afrobeat with a bit of lean whipped cream. Two drummers, each on their own creating a mesh of beats to bounce on; two singers, one on “thunderous” bass (his words, not mine) and the other on guitar. The guitarist flicked papercut thin strums and sawed away, slasher movie-style on his instrument. Either took on affected, high on helium voices conveying a serious good time being had, ’til the lower octaves stopped by and busted open in harmony. The songs had jam, paced deliberately with just enough minute change to keep things interesting. This was often provided by a rarely seen member and a guest saxophonist, dropping in casual cameos of recorder and tambourine. Between numbers the bony figures onstage looked ecstatic at both their own tenacity and the crowd’s voracious response.

I briefly talked with the guitarist who most resembled an Eastern Bloc immigrant and quickly found that the band had nothing to sell its hungry consumers and was now broken up. My disappointment at their peaked out demise was met with encouragement to stick it out for the next band. A short moment later a friend told me he’d tried to access the Whales Myspace page before the show and found it recently deleted, as if the band wanted no memories of the group beyond its farewell performance. (In reality it was silly Myspace politics which dismantled their page, but the myth is better than the truth.)
Chandeliers needed plenty of time to hook up their fortress of keyboards, as well as a projector. When they lurched off the ground, the five members took a song’s length to warm up and get comfortable with the groove. Once sweating and happy, the band conjured up live synth house music that jammed and broke “it” down. The drummer from Killer Whales was also a fixture in Chandeliers, complicating the rhythms and keeping the proverbial needle inside a real-time groove. The accompanying short films were repetitious but ultimately fitting the theoretical score. The group closed with a cover of Joe Jackson’s “Stepping Out” that upped the sweat content in the room and spread more smiles on faces.

Between sets was dj and label guy Michael Broers played classic hard & acid house. Turns out he owns Ghost Arcade, who put out Chandeliers new 7″ and is slated, I hope, to release a Killer Whales joint as well. His set was massively loud and str8 jacking.

I didn’t get to stick around for all of Michael Columbia, which is deceptively a two-piece of drums/vocals and a multi-instrumentalist. The latter spat out blatted melodies on a sax and undulations on a keyboard, subtle bass touches and threw a handful of switches and twisted all the right knobs. Their experimental back and forth also kraut rocked, bouncing back and forth between Popel Vuh and Robert Wyatt solo records. Very interesting, very unexpected. If the Bottle keeps treating me this way, I’m going to become a Monday night regular.


1 comment so far

  1. mbroers on

    thanks for the awesome review. im waiting for members of the whales to get back in town to release a record (one of them is a math genius away at a masters program and one of them is working on a farm in hawaii or something).

    i have a mix cd available, if you send me an address i will mail it your way.


    ps.. ghost arcade is owned and run by all the members who have/will have releases, i just facilitate manufacturing and kick peoples asses into putting their releases together 🙂

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