Fans of psychedelic rock couldn't have asked for a sweeter show at this evening's performance at the Empty Bottle. The evening had cohesion--something that, to their credit, the Empty Bottle manages to get right a lot more often than some of the other venues in town. The acts flowed well from one to the next, and complemented each other well: they had enough in common in terms of sound that a person could go there only knowing one of the bands and enjoy them all, but had distinctive enough sonic pallettes from one another that you didn't feel like you just heard the same band play each set.
Opening act and recent Chicago transplants Black Wyrm Seed set the mood for the evening with a solid set of straightforward, trippy psych-rock that was familiar without feeling cliche, and I am eager to hear what they come up within the future.
Imaad Wasif's stage presence was mesmerizing. He jumped and danced and played fuzzed-out electric guitars (and a 12-string acoustic, which was a bit of a surprise to see plugged in to a pedal board, but resulted in some very cool effects) and sang in his haunting tenor with an urgency that made you feel a bit more alive while you watched him. At one point, he hopped down off the stage and started hugging people as he sang/chanted about life and death. Drummer Adam Garcia's controlled freneticism on the drums matched Wasif's performance well, and bassist Greg Burns provided a sonic (and visual) anchor to the trio onstage. Adding to undertones of blues and folk, Wasif's live sound has a raw, almost dangerous quality to it that hints at the darker side of psychedelia, and makes it incredibly appealing.
Headliners Dead Meadow lived up to their place on the bill, delivering a formidable set of bluesy, shoegazy psychedelic rock that was satisfying and hypnotic. Bassist Steve Kille's sound was thick and meaty--something you could really latch onto and let it carry you away--and Stephen McCarthy's drumming was complex and inventive. I don't know why, but something seemed a bit off with the band's live sound (at least from where I was standing up front, close to the stage)--frontman Jason Simon's vocals were so quiet they were practically inaudible, and there were many times during the band's set that I would've liked to hear his guitar soloing pop a bit more sonically--there were many times that he seemed to get eaten up by the booming power of the drums and bass. In spite of that, it was a really good set, and the parts of his guitar work that managed to come through were impressive. The band deserved (and played) a brief encore, and the evening came to a satisfying close.
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This article also appears on the Chicago Indie Rock Examiner website.