It's 10 minutes to nine on Friday night as I stroll through the door at Chicago rock & roll institution The Double Door. This venue will be my home base for the entire weekend, as during the next 48 hours, I will see The Little Ones, The French Kicks, Birdmonster, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and Catfish Haven.
As the unusually friendly door man checks off my name from the guest list and says it's cool for my +1 (who's running routinely late) to say my name at the door in order to gain admission, I realize that there are only about 25 people at the club. "I swear their website said the show was starting at 9:00pm," I say to myself, and this venue normally runs like clockwork.
The Little Ones are all congregating near the merch booth at the back of the venue and are joined by some sort of family members... I'm guessing. Aunt and uncle... Mom and Dad... something like that. They all seem really friendly and relaxed. I grab a beer and head upstairs to sit at one of the many vacant tables overlooking the club and scribble notes while I wait for someone I know to arrive - actually, make that someone I know AND someone I want to talk to.
It's now officially 9:10pm and the room is still far from full. Why isn't all of Chicago out to see The Little Ones? Haven't they heard "the buzz"? Well Astralwerks obviously HAS, and they scooped up this young, slightly nerdy looking Benetton ad of an indie rock band with the quickness.
I have personally never seen The Little Ones live. I love the EP. Like many others, I flipped when I found out that these guys were unsigned and have since been giving them a great deal of ink on Tripwire. I'm ready to see if they're going to live up to the hype that I have admittedly been feeding for a few months now, and the suspense is killing me. I'm sitting here listening to two guys talk about Notre Dame's chances for a national championship this year and thinking to myself, "Let's get fucking started!"
It's after 10pm before the band takes the stage. The room still isn't full, but it's getting pretty damn close. Luckily, there is still enough room up front for myself and another photographer (with a fancier camera than me) to have full access to the front of the stage.
The band comes out with guns blazing, ripping through songs from their debut Sing Song EP. "Let Them Ring The Bells," "Lovers Who Uncover," "Cha Cha Cha" - all of them played with both precision and youthful exuberance. Frontman Ed Reyes and his bassist bro Brian Reyes have smiles plastered across their faces. A guy next to me in the front row is break dancing... seriously... it's pretty awesome actually. The crowd of remarkably attractive people continues to fill the small room as the Little Ones launch into some new songs.
The new material holds its own against the Little Ones' fan favorites. It's bouncy, pop-filled indie rock with sing a long choruses, tight instrumentation, and infectious melodies. It's not challenging (i.e. I think my mom would have no trouble liking it), but it's not boring either. The songs are thoughtful and fun. The band is charming and energetic and they are clearly having the time of their lives. I look forward to seeing these youngsters become a staple of the indie rock circuit in the years to come. Who knows... maybe they'll even make it on one of Zach Braff's film soundtracks (or an iPod ad) and become pop culture icons...
Brooklyn's The French Kicks were the headliners for the evening. The beautiful people in the crowed were there to see this band. Though they're based on the East Coast, it seems like the French Kicks play in Chicago at least once a month and the anticipatory crowd is awaiting yet another chance to see them in action.
Since drummer/singer Nick Stumph became frontman/singer Nick Stumph, effectively ending his drumming duties for the band and the novelty associated with a singing drummer, the band's live show has become a well-oiled machine. With three full lengths of material to pull from, the band has quite an extensive catalog of tunes. However, stylistically, The French Kicks haven't really taken any great strides to set each album apart from the next. The French Kicks sound like The French Kicks and they've made a pretty nice little niche for themselves amongst the indie rock crowed in doing so. You always know you are in for a good time with some good tunes and of course, the good lookin' ladies always come out to see the heart throbby Stumph in action.
Having seen The French Kicks about 10 previous times, I decide to bolt out before the end of their set to rest up for tomorrow's festivities. Take a peek at some photos of both bands below.