By the look of what's taken place this week, it may seem a lot like this is the Hi-Dive blog. I may have spent the better part of this week seeing shows there, but that's because the Hi-Dive does a great job consistently booking shows I want to see, which is what brought me back to the venue for the second night in a row Wednesday night. The night before, Concerted Effort writer Erin Yepis gave her take on the three varied bands that put on Tuesday's show, so now it's my turn to reflect my thoughts. Once again the Hi-Dive featured imported and local acts to provide a steady balance between variety and similarity,creating another good start to finish show.
The night began with a performance from Chicago-based indie band Young Man. The five-piece lineup of Colin Caulfield (vocals/guitar), Emmett Conway (guitar), Joe Bailey (bass), Jeff Graupner (synth), and Darien Williams (drums) was back again - Young Man had just performed at the Hi-Dive just a few weeks ago. One wouldn't expect drastic changes in such a short time, so there was little surprise this time around. Young Man continued to perform their style of indie rock that to me, combines modern rock aesthetics with shoegaze, krautrock, and other touches that stays atmospheric when it needs to behind Colin Caulfield's smooth vocals but turns into an enveloping forefront of sound during instrumental stretches.
Young Man's set was similar to what they performed before, electing to play songs off their forthcoming album Vol. 1 out later this month. It was interesting to see if performing in the first opening slot instead of in the middle slot that they performed in last time would have any effect on the band. As they began their set with the performance of "Fate", Young Man proceeded with as much fervor as I'd seen before, despite the admittedly smaller crowd this time around. They were able to capture the crowd that was there, however, with another energetic performance, and it helped that there were several return customers based on the familiar faces I recognized from a few weeks before. They shuffled the middle of their set up a bit but still elected to end on the powerful song "School", a sweeping piece that almost seemed like three songs in one. It's a rare opportunity to catch an out-of-state band perform in the same place in such a short time, and I enjoyed the second round as much as the first one that initially made me a Young Man fan with the added benefit of recognition this time around.
|The Raven & The Writing Desk|
Speaking of seeing bands perform repeat performances in a short span of time, not even a week had passed since the last time I saw the next band on the lineup, The Raven & The Writing Desk. The six person crew of Julia LiBassi (vocals, keyboard), Scott Conroy (guitar), Ryan Self (bass), Adrienne Short (violin, vocals), Neil Mitchell (marimba, melodica, percussion) and Matt Murphy (drums) had just rocked the Brass Tree House the weekend before, but their art rock sound had me so enamored I didn't mind seeing them again in such a short span. Besides, I wanted to see how their classical and progressive rock influenced sound with elements of folky gypsy jazz would hold up in front of a venue crowd as opposed to a small handful of people at a house show. I'd say it help up, and it held up extremely well.
|The Raven & The Writing Desk|
Set list wise, The Raven & The Writing Desk didn't vary much, opening their performance with "Wooden Lover" off of their album Recidivist, but the seemingly Victorian era piano and vocals backed by a whirlwind of rock 'n' roll had the same enthralling effect on this much larger crowd as it had the weekend before. I think the standout piece this night was actually two pieces, a mash-up of "The Haunting" from Recidivist with a new song called "Heart Black", a suite that seemed to me what would result if one placed gypsy jazz, folk, King Crimson and Renaissance into a blender to make a delicious art rock smoothie. The band ended their set with two new songs that should appear on their forthcoming album, including a song called "Dirt" that they performed live for the first time. Despite having just seeing this band, they still blew me away and definitely captured the night's audience. They have so much energy and employ so much skill it was easy to be swept away by them again. By all means check this band out!
Suckers took the stage shortly thereafter to perform their headlining set, and as the lone band on the bill I hadn't seen before I stood among the crowd with much anticipation. Suckers performed as a five-piece band; the masterminds Quinn Walker (vocals, guitar, sampler), Austin Fisher (guitar, keyboard, sampler, vocals) and Pan (bass, trumpet, drum pad, vocals) joined by a supporting keyboardist and drummer. Together they created a quirky form of indie-pop with hints of art-rock sensibilities. Fun rhythms and beats worked together with creatively textural synths, samples, melodic guitar, and whistles. It set the instrumental canvas for Suckers' carefree vocal delivery, heightening their clever lyricism by sharing vocal duties and often coming together with well crafted multi-part harmonies.
With a venue not packed but comfortably full, Suckers opened their set the same way they began their latest album by performing "Going Nowhere" from Candy Salad. Right away it was apparent that plenty of Suckers fans were in the house, as the audience was not afraid to crowd near the front of the stage and dance feverishly from the very first note. The dancing continued, whether Suckers were performing more upbeat songs like "Turn On The Sunshine" or mellower pieces like "Lydia" or somewhere in between like "Chinese Braille".
Suckers first album, Wild Smile wasn't neglected either. They performed older favorites like "Roman Candles" and "Save Your Love For Me". Whether or not Suckers was planning on including songs from their debut album in their set, the audience really didn't leave them much choice. All throughout the night, between songs shouts would come from audience members from all corners of the room requesting different song titles. For the most part, Suckers kept to their planned set list, but as their performance neared the end, they eventually gave in to some of the demands to the audience's delight. With a couple people celebrating their birthdays in the crowd, Suckers appropriately performed "Before Your Birthday Ends". One song that was requested early and often, the standout single "A Mind I Knew", was later obliged, and when it finally came the entire audience sang along word for word. So too was the case when Suckers ended the night with "It Gets Your Body Movin'".
If Suckers' fun-loving style and approach to songwriting and performance wasn't enough, the addition of a rabid and raucous audience set the energy level over the top. Suckers showed that an art rock approach to indie-pop can be achieved without overbearing seriousness or pretension. That's probably why their music attracted the crazy crowd that it did and a leading reason that their set was so much fun. Suckers strikes a great balance between fun, catchy music while still offering a sound that is innovative and different. I would definitely recommend Suckers to lovers of fun indie rock.
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