Lake Trout has come a long way since the quintet first formed in the mid '90s while attending school in Baltimore. The release of the band’s most recent album, Not Them, You, differs greatly from much of Lake Trout’s earlier work. With new, rock oriented influences the band is successful in expanding their repertoire and developing dynamic new compositions. On Not Them, You, Lake Trout has seemingly ascended from the jam band genre, maturing in ways that have coincidentally pushed them towards an indie rock existence. However, the band’s live performance in Chicago on Friday managed to incorporate a slew of various elements, making the experience an eclectic mix of melodramatic synth, reverberated rhythms and thunderous break downs. Lake Trout’s ability to recreate their recorded album on stage is at times miraculous, and although the band has undergone a few changes, they haven’t forgotten the importance of performing for a live audience.
I arrived at the venue in time to see the closing song of the second act, Kiss Me Deadly, whose front-woman, Emily Elizabeth, made quite the impression, adorning a skintight red metallic one-piece jump suite. The outfit made for excellent eye candy, especially considering the attractive young woman was going sans bra. But aside from the sharp looks, the band appeared to pack an immense amount of talent, encouraging the crowd to respond appropriately with a wall of unruly applause.
Only a few moments later, Lake Trout had taken stage and run through some last minute tuning while awaiting the return of their drummer, Mike Lowery, from the from the bar. When all five members had joined, the group began a slow progression into their set by working through a series of spacey, ambient melodies. What started as a series of seemingly unorganized sounds began to solidify and before I knew it, Lake Trout had moved into a very interesting rendition of John Captener’s theme from Halloween. Each member of the band, crowded by the confines of a relatively small stage, looked poised for the kill, which added to the amounting excitement.
Lake Trout’s new album features a whopping 16-song track list, which coincidentally made for a lengthy one hour set. With little time for pause, most songs simply ran into one another, retaining Lake Trout’s jam band roots. Drummer Mike Lowery is a formidable force within the band, working closely with bassist James Griffith to create wonderfully executed pauses and breakdowns. From my spot amongst the crowded venue floor, I witnessed the two throw cues to one another, like a catcher to the mound. The show came complete with theatrical smoke, which poured off the stage and clouded Lake Trout in a mysterious fog. The evening seemed to move in moods, as the band guided the audience through a series of epic build ups, only to let it all come crashing down in an onslaught of heavy percussion.
The band’s heavy use of pedals aided in capturing the atypical guitar sound Lake Trout exemplifies, while Matt Pierce’s use of both the keyboard and flute truly developed the band’s soul. There was an eerie element to the whole performance, which may have alienated some members of the audience. But for those enthusiasts in the front row, Friday night at Schubas in Chicago was certainly an unforgettable experince.