It seemed like a million years between the time I got to the venue and the point in which Robbers On High Street took the stage. Although their two openers were both excellent performers and musicians my heart had been set on the headliners since the week before. At about a quarter 'till eleven the band emerged on stage and those still stuck at the bar quickly moved into the main hall. Despite the bands arrival on a Sunday night, Robbers On High Street managed to garner a very enthusiastic audience.
As the eclectic four-piece quickly moved through their sound check, the band’s lead vocalist explained that the evening's performance would bring them to the end of a grueling tour. With those simple words put in place, Robbers On High Street aggressively jumped into a wildly impressive set. Small Chicago venue The Bottom Lounge made for an extremely intimate performance and helped provide the music with an almost dream-like quality. The band’s new album, Tree City, develops a series of passionate motifs by juxtaposing guitar melodies with a series of almost epic piano riffs.
The band’s music is simple in form, but the passionate execution of each note accompanied by their eerie vocal harmonies creates a level of depth not easily duplicated. The band's bassist utilizes a pick method, where most often he follows either guitar or keyboards. But the rich tones he produces give Robbers On High Street a warm roar, which in a live show can be felt passing through your body. The band has a very full sound that creates the illusion they are playing with additional musicians. The band's new album moves through moods, which range from soft and subtle to heavy handed.
On stage the band consisted of eight skinny legs saran wrapped in denim, fiercely beating the floor with one foot. The group is tight and when necessary, they are able to move as one solid machine. The most interesting performer was the bands drummer, who's simple conviction was inspiring enough to make me want a drum kit of my own. With no wild lights and a relatively low stage, the musicians were presented to the audience as human beings. It felt like you actually had the opportunity to get know the artists over the course of their 40-minute set.
A humble audience welcomed the band and the lack of pretentious attendees helped to put everyone at ease. From the corner of my eye I caught a very plain young woman put almost into a trance by the band. The young woman’s head hung low and when she would occasionally lift her face into the light, I could see her mouth chanting lyrics as passionate as band themselves. Robbers On High Street plowed through their most upbeat songs, before slowing things down for the end of the night. The performance was something very special, but like all good things, it had to come to an end. As the main hall began to clear out, I made my way to the merchandise table. To my surprise, former Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha was selling t-shirts (the band is on his Scratchie imprint). It didn’t seem like anyone had noticed, and I thought perhaps the crowd was still absorbing all that had taken place during the performance. Robbers on high Street are truly talented individuals who have the bravado to become legends in there own time.