Last night The Tripwire put on the first of what will be a monthly series of showcases at one of Chicago's premier music venues, Schubas. We recruited three of our favorite new bands - Cracklin Moth, KUNEK, and The Bon Savants - to treat the cozy, intimate back room at Schubas to a WAY-better-than-average Monday night gig... all for a measly $5!
Local up and comers Cracklin Moth kicked things off and surprised even me with their insanely good live show. Frontman Matt Ammerman's voice is simply exquisite and devastatingly haunting, as it creeps from a quiet whisper to a heartbreaking, soaring explosion of caged beauty like very few vocalists I've had the pleasure of hearing. Time keeper Shawn Rios, who plays in two other up and coming Chicago bands - Slings & Arrows and Alison Breitman - provided a bombastic backbone for the alt-country tinged outfit, while pedal steel player Rocco Labriola's sleek and silky slide licks conjured up images of Nashville in autumn (I lived there for a bit, so I'm not just saying that).
A surprise appearance from Chicago's very own Darren Spitzer of local heroes The Changes added the perfect, all-in-the-family vibe to the small room, while his falsetto harmonies added an interesting dynamic to Cracklin Moth's sound.
Cracklin Moth |
Next up was a band we've written a great deal about on The Tripwire, KUNEK. Hailing from Stillwater, OK, this inspired six-piece creates engaging, atmospheric music that falls somewhere between Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Elbow and Pink Floyd. The band blasted through song after song from their stellar debut album, Flight Of The Flynns. Only intensified in a live setting, songs like "A Sign Of Life" and "Bright Eyes" (amongst plenty of others) captivated the crowd with an intensity that built to a climax, then released (and so on), over and over again. Adding to the excitement, was the game of musical chairs the members of KUNEK played while on stage, with the keyboard player switching to guitar, cello player Jenny Hsu trying her hands at the keys, and vocalist Jesse Tabish trading off between piano and acoustic guitar all night. In fact, it seemed almost every member of the band could add the "multi-instrumentalist" tagline to their resume.
It's hard to believe these guys are from Stillwater, OK... but hey, the Flaming Lips are from Oklahoma too, so I spoze I shouldn't be too surprised. If you haven't picked up Flight Of The Flynns, do yourself a favor and go get a copy.
KUNEK | "A Sign Of Life" MP3
Last but certainly not least, Boston's rocket scientist-fronted rock outfit The Bon Savants took the stage to an excited round of applause. Sporting a new line-up from just a month or so ago, The Bon Savants are at their best yet. The two new additions (lead guitar and keyboards) are head over heels better than the two men who held their positions prior, as they clearly know the difference between "playing" a song and "performing" a song. While speaking with frontman Thom Moran after the show, however, I found out that the previous incarnation of the band I had seen about a month prior was only a temporary unit who were together for under ten shows.
The Bon Savants, now firing on all cylinders, kicked the cozy Shubas music room in the face with their pop music genius. Halfway through the set, a solid group of dancers had taken to the front of the room to express their approval, while those in the back chose to just smile and drink whiskey with loving care. These guys are certainly a band to watch, but we here at Tripwire have been telling you all that for some time now. If you don't have their debut album yet, that's your own fault.
All in all, it was a fantastic win/win for everyone involved. Cracklin Moth, KUNEK, and The Bon Savants were all impressive and the crowd was great! Thanks to everyone who came out. See you soon!
Photos by Matt DuFour