California Wives and Santah paired up last night in Wicker Park for a show at Subterranean, my first visit there. What intrigues me about Subt is the stage isn’t in a basement as the name implies, but actually a level up from the street. Even better, a windy staircase sits off to the far left with string lights wrapped around the banisters, giving the impression — as a friend pointed out to me — that you are, in fact, underground. It’s a nice touch.
As for the space, Subt is a delightful parlor-like club with dark green walls and hardwood just about everywhere. A separate staircase opposite the sound guy opens up access to a second story walkabout, allowing onlookers who don’t wanna get to close a place to stand.
Anyway, we got there just as Santah was kicking off with “Bat Suite” — one of my favorites off their debut LP, White Noise Bed. It’s got great driving electric guitar parts once things speed up about a minute in. A solid choice for an opener if it indeed was their opener. We maybe missed one.
I don’t know when Santah’s thinking about releasing that next record they hinted at last night and when I saw ’em at Schubas in December. But if the unfamiliar ones they played at Subt are any indication, LP #2 will be a reputable followup. The new tunes are darker and more dependent on jamming and getting lost in the shuffle. They’re more in line with “Bat Suite” — but even that comparison doesn’t feel quite right. The new Santah is maturer.
I brought some Santah newbs along with me and I’m delighted to report that they both enjoyed the set. I mean, they came on their own accord and had a great time, so that was nice. One of ’em, though, made a poignant observation that it was at times pressing to get into Santah solely because of what was going on around us. She was right. There was a good amount of people near-ish the front that had not a clue of the talent standing feet in front of them and proceeded to talk about whatever they deemed necessary whilst making exaggerated expressions with their faces and arms. I feel like this was more true of the first part of the set. As time went by, the distractions subsided some.
After a set change, California Wives kicked things off with a pair of songs off their Affair EP before launching into about four new ones from some unknown album of the future. I have to say, their show didn’t meet what may have been lofty expectations. I think what did it for me was the disjointed chemistry among the men. Jayson and Dan seemed to work together fine, but Hans perplexed me in how removed he was from the group at large. He got lost in a world of closed eyes and sleepy body movements. It just didn’t mesh with what the other three were doing.
Dan, though, is the group’s secret weapon. He’s got a good stance about him and plays guitar with remarkable ease. Dan’s also a gem in terms of between-song banter. He’s a witty guy, like blaming the late start on making two trips to the bar for bottles of water.
I say secret weapon because singer-guitarist Jayson Kramer is usually, I think, the face of California Wives. He stands front and center, surrounded by an L-shaped setup of guitar, keys and Apple laptop. He was the one who was interviewed in Redeye/Metromix this week. And so on. He’s very matter-of-fact, which I like about him. “I’m Jayson. We’re California Wives. We’re a band. We’ve got some songs for you.” And other factually true statements.
California Wives played everything off Affair, and I think “Blood Red Youth” — which they saved for last — sounded the best. I consider it their anthem, and they seemed most comfortable playing it.
- Art Majors, of St. Louis, opened for California Wives and Santah, but I missed their set.
- California Wives, Santah and Art Majors will be paling around all weekend. Tonight, they pay a visit to Mike ‘N Molly’s in Champaign. Sunday eve, they’ve got a gig booked at Firebird in St. Louis.