OK, so Broken Social Scene are one of my favorite bands. I've been listening to their latest album, You Forgot It In People, religiously since hearing it for the fist time near the end of last year. A couple months ago, BSS played a few shows in New York. I was in NYC a week later and everyone I talked to told me how amazing those shows were. As a big fan, I couldn't help but feel a little (OK, a lot) jealous that I had missed out. So, I'd been counting down the days until the band would grace Chicago with their presence, especially since back-to-back shows on Thursday and Friday nights were on tap. Thursday of last week, July 31, I checked off the final box on my Broken Social Scene countdown calendar and headed over to the Empty Bottle in hopes that my months of childish anticipation would not be all for nothing (like that time I was a good boy all year long just to get the Knight Rider talking car for Christmas, only to have it be the non-talking version when I tore the wrapping paper off).
Thankfully for me, and my horrible repressed childhood memories, Broken Social Scene put on an incredible show that surpassed even my ridiculously high expectations. The Thursday night show was at Chicago hipster haven, The Empty Bottle. The oddly-shaped, intimate room was packed (and HOT as hell) by the time BSS took the stage. The band sported seven members for this performance, including the beautiful and talented Amy Millan of Stars. The band traded instruments repeatedly throughout the night, normally opting for a four-guitar onslaught that provided an incredibly rich and textured sound. Thursday night's set was planned to perfection, with almost no extended pauses or long interruptions. The tempo seamlessly bounced back and forth, keeping the crowd completely attentive throughout the night. The album's more uptempo tracks, "Cause=Time," "Stars And Sons," and "Almost Crimes" exploded with energy, while downtempo tracks like "Lover's Spit" and "Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl" were scattered throughout as chillout tracks. A few new songs were played as well, including the show's opener, and if it's any indication of the band's next album, more good things are on the way from BSS.
The Friday night gig came as part of Schuba's annual Summer On Southport street festival. The festival has a daytime stage set up outside, but things get moved indoors around 10 p.m. Broken Social Scene were the first band to play inside for the evening and, as a result, they played a much more abbreviated set than their headlining gig a night before. The crowd for the Friday night show were less BSS fans and more neighborhood folks out for a good time, so the familiarity factor was not there, but there's no denying the power of good music. The proof lays in the merch sales.
Broken Social Scene will be touring again in the fall, and will be teaming with fellow Arts&Crafts artists Stars. Amy Millan of Stars, who moonlights with the Broken Social Scene is herself a star and has quite an engaging personality on and off the stage. My advance copy of Stars' Heart has taken on a whole new life since seeing Amy. Keep your eye out for them.
Thanks to Jeffrey Remedios at Arts&Crafts for scoring me tix to both nights. It was the musical highlight of my summer.
Photos by Amanda DePalma