The experience I had at Lincoln Hall Thursday was, I think, a first for me. The show, the last one I’ll see in Chicago this year — I fly out Friday eve for the hometown, and don’t get back ’til 2012 — was the only time I’ve intentionally gone to a show to see a band I enjoy, was blown to pieces by that band’s opener and then, consequently, skipped out on a full set by the group I made the trip out to see because I’d gotten my fill from the opener.
The culprit is In Tall Buildings. And I won’t bullshit here: I know they’re Chicago-based, and that’s about all I know. I may have seen their name on bills before — maybe — but before tonight had not a clue what they sounded like nor what they could do on a stage. Practically, what I can take home from their Lincoln Hall show is that this will in no way be the final time I see them. It’d be nut-so not to keep up with these guys.
So In Tall Buildings… they’re as smooth as anything. Their front man is a natural under the lights. I liked his voice, I liked his guitar play, I liked his dress, I liked the way he walked to and fro from the mic between vocal breaks. I liked it all.
He’s every bit as commanding a presence as a guy like Ryan Groff (Elsinore), but in a different way entirely. Ryan can grab my attention because of his fantastic vocal range, his body language and giant, gigantic mouth. In Tall Buildings’ leader is commanding in his subtleties. He’s playing for you and presently there, but could very well be just as content playing that same show for an audience of one. He’s a performer, yes, but like Ryan he’s more a musician.
Like its front man, In Tall Buildings doesn’t subscribe to gimmicks nor, say, request a pump from the smoke machine nor really anything beyond decent sound amplifiers and a warm room to play. For the gig tonight they borrowed Santah’s drum kit and another thing for god’s sake, and I don’t think they’d kid about it.
As I said, these guys are smooth. They’re fluid and they just fluidly jam. There’s a chillness to their sound and chatter that in a hostage situation or what have you, they’d keep the space calm.
I look forward to writing about these guys more once I’ve done some research. I mean, I’m amped to write about their live show mere hours after seeing them. And that kind of turnaround hasn’t happened here in a very, very long time.
So if In Tall Buildings is the band that knocked me off my feet, then Santah, well, is the one that didn’t. And what makes this scenario so interesting to me is that a) I usually love Santah and b) I saw them literally — literally! — a year ago to the day and called that show, among many things, “unstoppable” and “about as unexpected as Bush’s re-election.” What’s happened in the year between?
A few tunes into their set, I turned to my friend and asked her, rather hypothetically, whether my tastes have changed that dramatically in a year’s time. I mean, Santah’s a band I’ve liked a lot since rooting myself here a year and a half ago. Their White Noise Bed was a top five local release of 2010, and that Schubas show — again, on December 22, 2010 — was one of the best live things I saw all year. Second only to The 1900s.
Santah started doing its thing and I just wasn’t connecting. And I feel awkward writing that because, well, it’s Santah. But it’s the truth. Them live just didn’t feel as real and raw as the trio that preceded them. And when my friend said she needed something firm to lean on for a few songs — we’re working people, you know — I one upped her by saying we could just get up and leave if she was up for it. She was, and I was, and so we left.
This isn’t to say we led some grand march out the doors. In fact those around us — and there was for sure a crowd — seemed to be enjoying themselves. They’d come to see Santah and were mostly jumping around.
Prior to both groups was a mega band named Elephant Gun. And I use the term “mega” here because about an average of eight performers were up front at any one time. I’ve familiarized myself with them some through a recently released album, and was anxious to see what they could do live. What they looked like, even.
Those first few numbers were awfully chaotic. I felt like they were trying extra hard to impress with their horns and keyboards and shirtless drummer and the rest of it. But once we got over that sound hump, Elephant Gun settled into a comfort zone of rock pop that I could respond to. Like a different show entirely.
But dude. In Tall Buildings. Happy to know ‘em.
- In Tall Buildings, based in Chicago, has an EP for sale on Bandcamp for $5. They said Thursday they’re working on a new album.