I started the night out at the Café Mustache taking in some jazz and looking at clay masks staring back at me on the walls. I don’t normally seek jazz out but I had come to meet my brother to catch The Pillowhammer play. The Pillowhammer is the brain child of Jim Dorling who used to play in the iconic Chicago band, Town and Country. In his latest venture he’s put together some of Chicago’s heaviest hitters for what I can only describe as Mariachi lounge music. What had the looks of an Old Town guitar class performance (I-formation of three acoustic guitars) turned to out to be one of the best Pillowhammer shows I’ve seen. Not sure if it was the fact that I could hear every gritty detail of Jim’s lyrics or seeing Ben Boye roam around the room with a 1960s auto looking accordion. Beth Yates, the singer and flute player, had mentioned how weird it was not to play with any reverb and Adam Vida, guitar and percussionist, had mentioned how different his foot pedal tambo sounded in that room. All these factors came together quite nicely for an outburst of creativity well beyond the realm of their comfort zone. What stood out most to me was what Jim was trying to accomplish with this outfit. This was as far out as I could think of, some crazy hybrid between Neil Hamburger sipping whiskey and Bill Calahan speak-singing guttural lines of honesty, and I was sold into this mythical creature. I asked Jim if the lyrics were all true and he for good reason, responded, I can’t answer that. The performance peaked with the 1940s air raid siren in the middle of the song, “Isle of the Departed,” the namesake for their latest EP. It left the audience awe-struck with its urgency but the novelty of the performance as a whole is what made this show so memorable to me. You can stream the songs from their new EP off of their Bandcamp.
Saturday, March 22 was one of those nights when you defy the laws of time and space and manage to see two shows at two bars in one night. The Milwaukee Ave. corridor of Logan Square made this a very tangible goal, what with Cole’s being right across the street. After getting sufficiently dizzy/hypnotized in the Cole’s bathroom, I readied my self stage left with a little Kleenex in my ears getting ready to hear Mawrcrest. This was Mawrcrest’s record release show and they brought the sonic attack. The soundscape of the show went from Nirvana Bleach beginnings to solos sounding like something from Iggy and the Stooges’ Search and Destroy, all the while speckled with flavor notes of the Weezer Blue album. It was quite a juxtaposition from the laid back acoustic set I had just seen moments earlier. As much as I love the incorporation of odd instrumentation and genre-bending, there is something near and dear to me with the guitar bass drums combo. Lena Rush’s Driving bass line synced in with Mike Mazzola’s drumming all the while Anthony Ferretti bounced between solos and singing in true power trio fashion. The only thing I was left wanting more of was vocal harmonies, which I enjoyed from the Whisker Music days. Regardless, the show reminded me of the heavier bands I loved growing up that managed to interweave melodies within their songs. Songs like “Astro Zombies” by The Misfits, “Havelina” by the Pixies, and “Drain You” by Nirvana differentiated these heavier bands much in the way I feel Mawrcrest does with “Grandma” and “Run Through the City” which bookended the Cole’s set. Now I’m a Cresthead through and through, lingo cred goes to Eric on this one. Mawrcrest played to a full house, as is evident from the photo below, and gave their new record the celebratory sendoff it deserved. You can stream their brand new EP on Bandcamp.
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