Schubas Tavern on Tuesday night was a showcase for competing levels of frenzy. Each successive band (three in all) outdid the one that came before it in terms of energy and tempo. By the end of Shonen Knife‘s set, I felt primed to essentially take on anything. Their swift beats were tremendously entertaining.
But before all that, the audience and I were treated to the smooth rock stylings of Santah, the Champaign-based quintet that created what I think to be one of the best albums of the year.
I must say, the group sounds as good live — if not better — as they did on White Noise Bed. Their music, in particular “Merry Ann” and the title track, had heightened intensity.
And lead vocal Stan McConnell’s stage presence, coupled with the lady to his right, sister Vivian, made the set a lot of fun. Watch their exchanges on “Neighbors & Cousins (Are We Lovers).” Their glances, smiles and laughs didn’t go unnoticed by me.
Ending with “Neighbors & Cousins (Are We Lovers),” actually, was an appropriate choice. Sure, it closes out their album, too, yet there’s something about it that screams “last call.” I think it’s a mix of the rolling orchestration and repeated Yeahhhhhh, I don’t knows. I hope they do the same for their Empty Bottle gig in November.
They just looked like they were having a lot of fun up there under the bright lights at Schubas. And that’s really what it’s about for me when reviewin’ newer acts.
Next up was Aleks and the Drummer, an electronic pop group that’s regrettably difficult to corner into a genre or relate to other groups with similar sounds.
Aleks (full name: Aleks Andra Tomaszewska) bopped around the stage like nobody’s business while the other members of the four-piece largely remained where they stood (or in the drummer’s case, sat).
It was like watching a tiny child waltz around crazily at Chuck E. Cheese while the adults chilled in the booth eating delicious pizza.
Aleks may have been most active, actually, in the video I fortunately captured. As you can see, she likes to break it down.
I think a major downside to the whole thing was that Aleks’ vocals were all but impossible to make out. Santah’s McConnell was as clear as a bell from the set before, so I wouldn’t say it was a mic issue. Or, something happened in the interim that decreased its loudness or clarity next to the rough synths and drums.
Shonen Knife, a three-piece touring all the way from Japan, pretty much brought the house down with their catchy J-pop.
Their music didn’t have any substance — in one song, they were singin’ about, um, banana chips — and I don’t know that I need to here ’em outside of a live show. Yet for what they were — a spunky, recklessly entertaining trio of rockers — I’d say their music is a lot of fun and worth a listen if they happen to play near you.
They’ll be in the U.S. and Canada through at least October 2.
- See my review of Santah’s debut album, White Noise Bed.
Santah performing “Neighbors & Cousins (Are We Lovers)”
Santah performing “Merry Ann”
Aleks and the Drummer performing at Schubas
Shonen Knife performing “Perfect Freedom”