The upstairs room at the Smiling Moose on a Tuesday evening is not the most crowded place in the world. People have work and classes, and not many care to come out to see a show. Those who did come to the venue last Tuesday at around 6:30, though, were in for quite a treat. The dimly-lit little room became the backdrop for a very enthusiastic night of indie-punk music featuring local acts Look Out Loretta and Bluebird Midwest as well as touring headliners The Front Bottoms and Mansions. All-in-all, the show was dynamite.
Upon arrival, there were only maybe 5 other people there. The air smelled faintly of smoke and sweat and there was equipment piled by the stage. By the time the first band, Look Out Loretta, came on, the number of people hadn’t even doubled. The band played a good set full of Wonder Years-style pop punk, complete with strong harmonies and loud guitar playing. The band was a bit stiff at first, but managed to loosen up by the end – by which time there was a decent addition to the crowd.
After they finished and got offstage, one man got up there alone with his acoustic guitar. Tall, awkward-looking, black-haired, and wearing a very interesting black shirt featuring a grizzly bear, the man sat down on a stool and checked his microphone. Roger Harvey, member of local punk rock band White Wives, played an emotionally-charged acoustic set under the name Bluebird Midwest. His solemn voice, reminiscent of Conor Oberst’s, was powerful and soft all at once, floating from melody to melody effortlessly. The songs were powerful, and he even did a cover of Woodie Guthrie’s “Deportee”, a song that Harvey described as “the saddest song ever written.” The crowd clearly enjoyed his set, though by the end everybody seemed to be ready to move around to some faster, more energetic music.
Thankfully, The Front Bottoms were on next and they certainly delivered. For a band with only two members, they really rocked out. Their energy was owed in part to drummer Matt Uychich, who also operated a slew of pre-programmed beats, horn sections, and other various odds and ends on a Macbook perched next to his drumkit – a very interesting addition to the songs that brought a lot of fun to the tunes. Most of the audience at least nodded their heads along to the driving beats, which is a lot to say for a standard concert audience. It seems even the most droll, statue-like crowd members couldn’t resist the Front Bottoms’ punk-pop jams, all of which have fantastic lyrics as well as being packed with ferocity. The band closed with their ridiculously catchy “Maps”, even calling up a second drummer to play a second drum kit for some extra percussive power.
The second drummer turned out to be the drummer for Mansions, the headlining band. Featuring primary member/creative mind Christopher Browder on vocals and guitar as well as a bass player and aforementioned drummer, Mansions spat out an extremely raw and inspired set that showcased some of their best musicianship. The punk rock/emo band also occasionally indulged in some stage banter, such as when they got into a conversation with an audience member about the board game Sorry!, in which they had apparently competed against The Front Bottoms members the night before while hanging out.
“Who won?” asked the audience member.
“They beat us in Sorry!,” replied Browder. “But we beat them in watching The Bachelor.”
“I can’t believe you just brought that up,” said the band’s bass player as she shook her head and smirked.
After bantering and playing a set full of some of their best songs (including the spirited “Seven Years”) while the crowd jumped and cheered, two of the band members left the stage. Christopher Browder remained onstage alone, and closed out the evening with a solo rendition of the snappy, bitter “The Worst Part” from the album New Best Friends. It was the perfect, calmer resolution to a high-octane night in the upstairs room of a South Side bar on a Tuesday night.
|Indie music fan, guitarist, and gamer at heart, Dylan is dedicated to attending concerts of bands that you should know about .Dylan Bahney DJ of WPPJ E-mail: senorlopez1|