Outer Minds’ record release at the Empty Bottle Saturday night is what makes the city’s music scene so flipping exciting. I mean really, the scene’s upper tier all got booked to play the same evening, in the city’s best venue, and all in support, really, of a fearless fivesome known as Outer Minds, which was onstage celebrating not only the new record — reviewed here on Wednesday — but probably, too, the news that broke just a few days ago that they’d secured a block of set time at (!!) Pitchfork Music Festival.
Anyone — anyone — who made it out last night would agree that secured placement in one of Chicago’s two major music festivals was so totally earned by Outer Minds, and so totally deserved. Pitchfork would want on its stages, I’d imagine, not only bands of apparent talent, but bands that overwhelm their audiences in energy, and then, in turn, bands that feed into and bask in that energy. A kind of abstract system. That very thing was completely at work at the Empty Bottle last night — a sell out, I’d assume — and so made the night the best live event I’ve been to all year. Easy.
Clearly I’ve taken a liking to these guys, and the Empty Bottle as a venue, when I consider Radar Eyes’ record release in early February — with Outer Minds as support — as my other favorite. Outer Minds and Radar Eyes are so natural a pairing, really, even though their styles of jam — despite some overlap — are in fact quite different. And yet, I don’t know that I can think of a better one-two kick than a show that has Radar Eyes and Outer Minds sharing a stage. They’ve given me my fill the two times I’ve seen them play together at least.
That I’m more familiar with the music of Radar Eyes now than I was when I saw them in February, I can write that one of the best things about their live show — probably at or near the top of my list of things I like to see from any band under the lights — is their improvisation; their work at lifting what we know from the recordings and then changing it. For Radar Eyes, this mostly translates to powering through their tunes and then tacking on codas of noise for the sheer hell of it. You know, extending their pieces out by drowning out the vocals or dropping them completely, and then, obviously, amplifying the instruments that remain.
Like efficient machines, Radar Eyes don’t really let waste the bounce and pizzazz that collects over a song’s run time. They dust themselves off after a customary cadence, and then they’re off to the races again. They’re positively delightful.
If Radar Eyes is the “heavier” band in terms of how purposefully they tear into their instruments, then Outer Minds is better known, perhaps, for the ground they’ve staked in acknowledging the power in the flight of human voice. Outer Minds doesn’t have one lead vocalist, but three. And they share their mics so effectively — with such bold and glittering bellows — that as I said in a previous post, it simply smacks me on my ass when Zach, Mary and Gina twist their heads, position their mouths at the heads of their mics and then holler away. It’s positively silly the kind of might their voices command.
Snugged between Radar Eyes and Outer Minds was another established Chicago-based band, Mannequin Men, who I still need to formulate an appropriate opinion on, but whose live show I’d totally go and see again.
I’ve long been a follower of Miles Raymer’s work in the Chicago Reader, so it was a touch exotic for me to see him excelling in a different forum, armed with a guitar in lieu of a fine pen.
Here’s a sampling:
Mawrcrest @ Cole’s (4/7)
I think I can say that in the two years I’ve lived here, I’ve probably seen more Mawrcrest live shows than I have other Chicago-based bands. What was, in hindsight, a casual set at Beat Kitchen left the kind of impression on me that has had me go out and support these guys several times since.
In the time I’ve tracked them, they’ve changed their name — to Mawrcrest from Whisker Music — they’ve, for now, swapped out their guy tending drum kit, and they’ve successfully matured from comfy blues rock to something more coarse and restless.
I like this new one:
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