I’ve long been partial to the Empty Bottle for good, cheap entertainment in Chicago. But a great string of kick ass — these back-to-back shows I’m just now digesting, as well as Radar Eyes’ record release and an Apteka/Secret Colours show in January — have made this Uke Village hole-in-the-wall my favorite space to see live music in the new year.
Perhaps it goes hand in hand with my matured tastes in music. Were you to ask the me of a year ago whether I’d be excited to go and see, say, The Runnies, I don’t know what I’d say. But ask the me of last night, after their thick hooks and slam rock crawled up under my skin and gave me the shakes, and I’d say: “Heck yes. When’s their next show?”
I’ll begin things with The Runnies. Their set happened to be my favorite of three at the Bottle’s free-with-rsvp Valentine’s Day show. (My friend, at night’s end, said the same). Their front woman, Mary McKane, was a familiar face. I’d just seen her wailin’ it as part of Outer Minds, which opened for Bare Mutants and then Radar Eyes a week ago. Runnies bassist Russ Calderwood was there that night, too. He’s in Radar Eyes.
The Runnies, I think, seemed an even better fit — musically — for Mary, who I liked enough already in Outer Minds. She’s got throaty bite like Ida Maria and just lit it up from behind her keyboard when stepping up to deliver keys-voice combos. I’ve listened to “You Can’t Win” a lot today, actually.
Nones came next, and gosh, these guys are special. I had no idea it would be a full-contact show. You see, their front man, while performing at least, is a crazy nut with a mic. He exited the stage I think twice: Once to basically take a gentle stage dive all the way to the ground to lay on the Bottle’s cold, hard floor, and then a second time he rushed into and nearly knocked off a passerby making a beeline to the bar. I mean, two hundred pounds of flesh and hair came flying at this guy, and somehow he managed to stay upright.
And I’m just getting started. Some other things:
- The front man ended song one by flopping down on stage and, while seated, stared out at us blankly for a good 30 seconds. His band mates, of course, continued throwing it down.
- He stripped his shirt off and performed about half of the set with just a tie hanging on to his upper body.
- He ended a good amount of songs with non sequiturs like: “Didn’t we almost have it all?”
- He poured beer from a few feet above his head in the general vicinity of his face. He was targeting his mouth, I think.
And yet, wily antics and all, I kinda liked these guys. It’s the guy surrounded by three women. And while he’s off screeching into the mic and bastardizing the saxophone, they’re just shredding it on drums and guitars.
Tyler Jon Tyler lead out the evening with their snappy brand of punk. Not a lot of time was wasted, really. One song ended and the next began, unless Rebecca made a point to ask for chocolate — it was Valentine’s Day, after all — or reflecting on how much fun she was having.
These guys derailed a bit — once, I think the drummer lost the beat completely — but I happen to enjoy these moments of slip up. You remedy it with a laugh and a shake of the head, and then move on. And that’s exactly what they did.
Unicycle Loves You, Lightfoils @ The Empty Bottle (2/13)
I’ve had Unicycle Loves You’s new one, Failure, on my desk for at least a week now. One of the reasons it’s taken me awhile to spit out a review — I haven’t yet, still — is because I’m finding they’re harder than the average band to categorize and, well, put in a box. The needed idea that condenses what they’re doing on Failure into something practical is pending.
There’s absolutely nothing unique about guitar, bass and drums, and yet it seems Unicycle Loves You can scoff at that. It amazes me, really. I’ll dig into this more in my review of Failure.
As for the Unicycle Loves You live show, I’ll sadly say I was whelmed. Crowds play a role in my overall impressions sometimes, and it seems the people who showed up had a case of the Mondays. They were nothing like the gaggle of bouncin’ kooks who, last night, even gave Dan the Fan a run for his money. But they did put in a request for encore, and ULY accepted. So that was nice.
Right before them was a band I’ve just started tracking named Lightfoils. They remind me some of Twin Sister, but Lightfoils is way dreamier and psychedelic. They could get away with an all-instrumental tune, whereas Twin Sister probably could not. Twin Sister’s too dependent on Andrea Estella’s voice.
Unicycle Loves You on Monday night:
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