I don’t think I’ve been in so packed a Bottle before. Not since that 1900s record release a year ago have I done a lap in the space and been struck so hard by the tally of heads.
A free-with-RSVP show on a weekend helps get it there, naturally. Yet the talent under the lights Saturday eve — and the hollerin’ and the chatter in the between-song breaks attests — is the true reason so much Chicago packed inside to sell the place out. And that’s exciting.
What brought me into Uke Village last night wasn’t the headliner, not the band whose new EP was being formally celebrated — more on those Secret Colours guys in a few graphs — but instead their support act, Apteka, whose album released several months ago was named by yours truly as the city’s best of 2011.
Most everything on that trusty list of mine I’ve seen at least once live. And while I don’t think the level of entertainment drawn from live performance determines the value of recordings, it inevitably becomes a factor. There’s certainly a hope that the bands I say sound good on record won’t disappoint — or won’t be too disappointing — live.
Knowing this, I handpicked Apteka and their Gargoyle Days as the city’s best without ever having seen them play so much as a song in front of me. Albeit a risk, I guess I just really flippin’ loved Gargoyle Days.
Thankfully, Apteka’s set last night in front of all those people confirmed my opinion of them. They’re a quality foursome that had me and several others up front flailing around all stupid and weird.
Apteka dug into “Striking Violet” — energy’s high point on Gargoyle Days — fairly early, and I thought it smart to do so. Its monumental riffs and screamed vocals emphatically grab you — on record and, as I learned last night, live. By that point Apteka had stolen our attentions and I dare say they kept it that way through what I consider a short set. I don’t think the Bottle allotted them enough time, though perhaps their setting up went on longer than planned.
Their show’s keystone, however, was “We Know Time.” I liked the song enough while researching for my review of Gargoyle Days, but its six and a half minutes soars higher than it did only a few weeks ago because of how it translates in a live setting.
What’s great about “We Know Time” — and I hadn’t noticed it, really, until the Bottle crowd did a funny thing — is that it’s got two climaxes. One at about the three-minute mark, and another they gently build to in the second half. At about the time Apteka’s drummer authoritatively pounded his cymbals, the crowd roared in the way crowds general do at the end of a song. (I laughed: “Just you wait!”) The guys got going on the song’s next part and climax two just killed me. I couldn’t have been alone in that. Probably the best moment of the night, Secret Colours’ set included.
Speaking of those guys, let’s hop over to them now because the night was in support of their EP3, you know.
It took me a handful of live shows to get there — I think I’ve seen them twice — but regardless of that, I feel like I get them finally. I discovered I like Secret Colours quite a bit, and this amuses me, you see, because I saw them open for Soft Speaker a month and a half ago at Beat Kitchen, and I wasn’t charmed at the time to say much anything about them in that review.
That block of text surely reads like a backhanded compliment, but I swear I’m merely processing my thoughts as transparently as I can. I’m in a bit of wonderment here, honestly, but I take it as another bit of evidence of my evolving tastes in music. (This was my other recent revelatory moment. Unfortunately, I’m not as kind there as I am being here).
I haven’t listened to EP3 yet so I won’t speak for it, but listen to “Redemption” and then listen to “Lava” off their 2010 self-titled EP. These songs, I think, are the backbone of the Secret Colours sound. If you like and appreciate them both, then inch closer to retrieve your gold star because you’re in the club. And that’s what I learned at the Empty Bottle last night.
Armed with that, finally, Secret Colours’ set unfolded like a dream of beautiful haze. Tunes melted into their successors, one after the other. After awhile it felt like one awesome, sprawling maze with between-song breaks for its six players to, you know, take quick breaths.
Apteka and Secret Colours are a pairing we can afford getting used to. My hope is we’ll get to hear them play together again real soon.
- Buy Gargoyle Days. Please. | Bandcamp
- Secret Colours’ just-released EP3 is available, too, for $4.95. Expect to see a review of it by me here shortly. | Bandcamp
- SC says their next show is at Schubas on January 25, but the venue hasn’t posted that up yet. They’re also returning to The Empty Bottle on February 10 for $8. | Tickets