Friday, July 15, 2011

Show review: Local H, Hollows, Liturgy at West Fest, 7/9

By Gene Wagendorf III

Liturgy (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
Last Saturday at West Fest was hot, sticky and loud. Really loud. Ever find yourself at a party, mid-conversation with a cute girl, only to be frightened into a momentary shrivel when some drunk doofus cranks the volume on the stereo up to ear-bleeding levels? Such was the effect Liturgy had when taking the stage. The crowd was immediately split into two factions: those that had come to see the buzz-heavy black metal band, and those that took a step back, slightly dumbfounded.

Long distorted drones and crawled towards the audience over furious, run-away train drumming. The vocal work, provided by the inconspicuous-looking Hunter Hunt-Hendrix, was limited to the occasional high-pitched screech and proved to be ultimately unnecessary. While his grimey howls added little to the music they didn't take much away either. The quartet quickly worked at winning over portions of the unsure by hammering on riffs for as long as they would sustain. With a less musically tight band the repetition may have been nothing more than boring or obnoxious, but Liturgy managed to come off hypnotic and captivating. "Returner," from the band's recently released and highly-lauded Aesthethica, began in a breakdown before erupting into a needle-y joy ride. "Red Crown" also built an anxious atmosphere with its almost military drumming and rising guitar crunch before Hunt-Hendrix let out a banshee cry that kicked the rest of the group into a brick-shaking meltdown. I came away from Liturgy's set slightly drunk, slightly dehydrated and definitely marveling at their ability to live up to the hype. While Aesthethica is palatable for black metal, it's a record that requires the absolute mood to fully digest and enjoy. Live the band simply pulls you in their direction and you're better off for it.

Hollows (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
Chicago-based ladies (and gentleman) Hollows were the group that I figured, when glancing at the West Fest lineup, would be the hit of the day. Seemingly on a mission to prove that they're the second coming of The Tammys, it's not a stretch to consider them the perfect summer festival act. Maybe it was the heat, but Hollows didn't seem to be feeling their music as much as I was. Having caught the group during their energetic set at February's Windy City Winter Ball, I was looking forward to pulling out my best beach party moves and playing off their energy. Musically Hollows were tight and friendly. "Johnny Appleseed" did prove to be the catchiest song I heard all weekend and totally left me wanting more. The group seemed somewhat revitalized by the end of their set, smiling and bouncing a bit more. The audience responded, dancing a bit closer to the stage and clapping through the end of the set.

Local H (photo: Gene Wagendorf III)
Local H, veterans of West Fest and just about everything else in Chicago, closed out the night. As a 26-year old, I was coming into music just as these guys were playing some of their most radio-friendly tunes. As I got older I kind of forgot about them and it appears to be my loss. The first thing I have to address is the size and diversity of the crowd Scott Lucas lured to Chicago and Damen. While the earlier bands were playing to loose crowds of hipsters and the occasional double-wide stroller, Local H turned the intersection into a mini-Lollapalooza. I initially assumed that many of the people were there to hear "Bound for the Floor" or "All the Kids Are Right," but every song the band played turned into a sing-along. Never have I seen more rock and roll hand gestures, fist pumps and spilled beer. Early in the set Lucas attempted a move which goes badly more often than not: covering The Beatles. After a bit of a jam on one of his own tunes, the singer began crooning Paul McCartney's vocals from "I've Got A Feeling." Rather than try and imitate McCartney's gravelly stylings, Lucas put his own spin on it and turned the song into a cool moment. Brian St. Clair led the charge on an up-tempo version of "Half-Life." His deliberate drumming turned the pavement into a trampoline and made wanna-be percussionists out of all the little kids who were propped up on shoulders. "Hands on the Bible," also from 2002's Here Comes the Zoo, showcased the duo at their most angsty. The driving percussion and minimal, repeating guitar slowly build into a headbanging masterpiece. Even WCR's normally stoic Andrew Hertzberg was caught nodding along.

And yes, Local H did play "All the Kids Are Right." The familiar opening hook got a rise out of the crowd before Lucas took a step back from the mic and conducted some mass-scale live band karaoke. They did close with "Bound for the Floor," again causing audience members to wet themselves. Ok, it was either Local H or all the alcohol. The song is ripe for being turned into and extended jam, which is exactly what happened. After a crescendo that seemed to signal the set's end, St. Clair's drumming normalized and accelerated before launching into a raucous cover of The Stooges' "TV Eye." After a few more minutes of jamming, Local H thanked the crowd and left the stage in a swarm of feedback. The crowd hung around a few minutes, clamoring for an encore, and it wasn't until the feedback was cut that people began to shuffle towards the gates.


Check out more show reviews:
The Rosen Association, Chants at the Whistler
Briar Rabbit at Double Door
Jason Webley at Panchos
Not in the Face, Moon Furies, Man Your Horse at Memories
The Kent McDaniel Band, Kraig Kenning at Custer's Last Stand fest
Project Film, Exit Ghost and more at Reggies

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