The Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
Even now that I am of legal age to get into 21+ shows, I am strongly against them. The true fanbase for the joyful and catchy Dominant Legs, for the TEENAGE Chicago Rockers the Smith Westerns, and for the Pitchfork-adored and critically-acclaimed Girls were nowhere to be found at this show. 400 people packed the Empty Bottle for two nights of sold out shows only sway during the three minutes of the Girls’ hit “Lust For Life.” Sonically, the show rocked, all three bands were instrumentally tight and impressive. The show itself was sort of lame, and the stiff aging indie fans felt it was more important to just be there, as opposed to interact with the live music.
The most refreshing part of the show was seeing Smith Westerns’ drummer, Hal James, outside the venue discussing the politics of rock, being 3 years younger than how old you have to be to enter the show, crowds, T-Rex, and – of course – most sincerely, how cool it is to be playing with Girls and a lot of the cool bands that play Chicago. I so rarely have negative show reactions, and I want to stress that the guys from Girls are awesome, they were super helpful to me before the show, they’re an all-around good band, and are way better than what you’d expect from the biggest buzz band with the most outrageous music video.
The early set was highlighted by “Ghost Mouth” – true to album form with the quivering voice of frontman Christopher Owens – and the slow-paced reflective “Summertime.” Correct me if I’m wrong, “Big Bad Mean Motherfucker,” with the killer opening “I gotta high school crush on a California girl, oh yeah,” was absent from the set. Otherwise, all of the songs of their strong debut album, “Album” were hit upon in some order. “Life In San Francisco,” the b-side to the “Lust For Life” EP was definitely one I was counting on.
Owens’ and the band wasn’t in the chattiest of moods, but before launching into the album-standout “Laura,” he introduced it by saying, “This is a song about a girl named Laura, it’s called Laura.” His genuine gratitude to the Smith Westerns’ was a cool moment, as he explained how much lamer he was when he was in high school. Although Owens’ two-song solo encore wasn’t as fun without the full-band (part of which was shared with pretty sweet openers, Dominant Legs), it did make their songs feel more “real,” important, and sent a message that their band might be relevant for the long-run as opposed to blog-buzz-bands like Voxtrot and the Black Kids. “Darling” was another star-earner in my scribbled notes, and while it was lame that “Lust For Life” was the only song that could wake up the crowd, it did rock – one of the year’s best songs.
For a band without a massive catalog, without boring us with extended guitar solos, incorporating a lot of covers, or having songs that fall into the five-minute category, they certainly play a full and thorough set, and let a pretty satisfied (though annoyingly boring) crowd out after 1:00 AM.