The very intimate venue of Schubas in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood played host last night to one of the music industry's most talented and energetic young stars, Ben Kweller. It was my second time seeing him in under a year, the first being in a support slot on the Dashboard Confessional tour at the much larger Chicago House of Blues. He was awesome then, and he was even better last night.
Ben Kweller seems to have been born with a guitar in his hand. From start to finish, he didn't miss a note, even while leaping, running, and spinning around on stage. The other three members of his band have really come together with Kweller to form a cohesive unit, feeding off of each other as the night wore on. Ben basically ran through his entire ATO debut Sha Sha over the course of the evening, save for two or three songs. The crowded room at Schubas was very receptive to the young star, singing along on many of the songs, including "Wasted & Ready," "How it Should Be (sha sha)," and a great rendition of "Commerce, TX," one of my favorite songs from the album. The band played for about an hour before giving thanks and leaving the stage. However, as there is no real back stage area at Schubas, they quickly returned to the spotlight to finish things up with a memorable encore.
First, Ben hopped up on stage solo with an acoustic guitar and harmonica to play a quirky new song before calling the "super friends" back up. Someone from the crowd, who was shouting out all sorts of lame requests ("Freebird," "Stairway to Freebird," "Freebird to Heaven") finally shouted out something that piqued the band's interest: the Beach Boys' "Kokomo." Finding the humor in it, Ben and company quickly figured out the tune and actually played the whole fucking thing off the top of their heads. It was hilarious and amazing at the same time. How the hell did Kweller know all the words? He must have been like 6 years old when that song was dominating the airwaves. Anyway, it was fun. They then launched into the final song of the evening, a 15-minute version of "No Reason" with a huge jam session in the middle - with dueling guitars and the whole nine yards.
After the show, Ben hung out and talked to fans at the merch table, which was being run by his girlfriend Liz (hence the song "Lizzy"), and later hit the bar with rest of the band as well as members of Local H and a host of other industry cats. I did some shots of ice cold Sambuca (mmm, smooth) with the lovely Allison Smith, toasted to a great show by chugging an Irish Car Bomb with the previously mentioned cast of characters, and called it a night when some random dude started barfing all over the bar. It was a great evening all the way around, except for that barfing part... yuck! At least it didn't land on me. Some others were not that lucky.