I had been planning this show for nearly a month and ironically I still managed to arrive late for Maximo Park’s first Chicago performance of their first big US tour. As I rounded the crowded sidewalk adjacent the venue, the muffled sound of the band’s opening song could be faintly heard over the street’s murmur. When I reached the door I quickly fumble through my wallet and hastily presented my ID. The doorman scratched my name off his clipboard, and causally told me the band had just taken stage. Chicago’s Bottom Lounge is perhaps one of the best venues in the city, and few spaces offer a comparable experience. With a low stage and minimal lighting effects, the burden of sustaining a crowd rests entirely on the simple abilities of the band performing. This challenge was easily met by the talented members of Maximo Park and no doubt helped to secure the band's steadily growing reputation in the Windy City.
I had seen pictures of the band on the internet and listened to their album enough times to know their live show was well worth attending, but any previous expectations were laid to waste by the sheer magnitude of their performance. Attending the live show was essentially like being reintroduced to the group all over again. In my head I had subconsciously developed expectations of Maximo Park’s stage presence. But when lead singer Paul Smith spread his legs wide as he jumped into the air, I felt my heart skip a beat. These guys were cool in the kind of way that gets you really day-dreaming about being a rock star. These are the types of musicians that inspire grade school kids to ask Mom for a Stratocaster for Christmas.
I remember the band just had a look that couldn’t be described as anything but cool. I remember thinking I haven’t seen a band look this cool without trying way to hard at it since maybe Death From Above 1979. The keyboardist started the night out wearing this awesome red Michael Jackson Thriller-looking jacket. I don’t think it was something he purchased in the States because it was well fitted and brand new. The rest of the band had a rebellious cubical kind of look that sort of reminded me of Edward Norton’s character from Fight Club. But the best part about the show was that the whole band dances, especially Paul and keyboardist Lukas Woller. The two have managed to perfect this frantic karate chop move, which is both nerdy and awkward while simultaneously being one of the most incredibly distinct rock moves I’ve ever seen.
I felt like the whole show was a VW commercial gone astray, complete with great music and disgruntled drivers. The crowd really got into the whole stage performance, which encouraged the band to heighten their theatrics. The all-ages show brought a string of adolescents chanting lyrics and throwing spastic fists into the air. The front row fan club also made a wonderful point of dancing to every song, even the few slower tracks. But the whole room was lit on fire for Maximo Parks performance of their soon-to-be hit single "Graffiti".
In addition to a lively show, the band made several very charming comedians. Although I usually frown upon artists talking too much between songs, their clever wit was actually very entertaining. Their dry humor helped keep the ball rolling even during the numerous sound difficulties the band experienced. The sound issues meant frequent on stage appearances by the band’s roady, who coincidentally looked a lot like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (the part in the movie where he is a basketball playing werewolf). It wasn’t that the guy was overly hairy on the shoulders, but the way his long hair and beard were tucked below his fashionable headband, made for an almost uncanny resemblance.
All together the night was really excellent, and Maximo Park’s performance was possibly the best live show I’ve seen in the last four months. As a new band who has fought their way up the specialty and college charts, the question remains, will we remember this band a year from now? I would be willing to bet your kids college fund that Maximo Park will stay relevant in the years to come. The band performed a total of three new songs at their performance, which is strong evidence of the band's ambitious nature to create new and exciting material. Believe me, their new stuff is as catchy as their current album, arousing early suspicion as to the immanent success for their second release.
photos by Matt DuFour