Saturday, August 20, 2011

Show review: Close Hits at Weeds, 8/18

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Close Hits
Close Hits did nothing on Thursday night to tarnish their reputation as one of the most fun bands in Chicago to see live. The trio performed in front of a sardined and enthusiastic crowd, letting the cool evening breeze from the bar's open doors set the tone for an evening of stupid smiles and wild guitar solos. The show marked an interesting moment for the band: their final gig with snappy drum-smacker Evan Burrows. Close Hits' reliance on tight arrangements within songs that can't decide whether they're soul or punk jams makes a skilled drummer invaluable, and it'll be interesting to see what kind of talent singer/guitarist Dan Rico and bassist Ian Wisniewski recruit.

Live, the band's tunes channel energy from the chemistry between the trio. Close Hits opened up their set with a few song from their recently released EP, Hang On Me. "Do It Again" found Rico doing his best Freddie Mercury impersonation during the song's first verse, though he eventually exploded into more soulful wailing than you can expect to hear on "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Those heartache vocals were supported by Burrows' stuttered chugging and Wisniewski's waddling bass line.The bassist handled himself well onstage, ducking and bobbing around venue personnel, keeping his rhythm while they attempted to get his mic going. In those moments having a sense of humor and a background in DIY shows, where anything can go wrong (right?), pays off. Wisniewski simply smiled and shouted his backup vocals to a nodding, shimmying crowd.

Wisniewski and Burrows
Close Hits' versatility was the key to their show. One number started off sounding like a hive of giddy honeybees before swinging into a sock hop pop song, while another found Rico spinning on a beer-soaked floor to mosh with intoxicated show-goers while nailing his solo. Other songs drew on Tortoise-like melodies before melting into stomp-rock riffs over rat-a-tat-tat drumming. "Hang On Me" was played with a perfect mix of muscle and sincerity and showcased just how valuable each member of the trio is. Rico boogied on the line between Baby Huey and fluttering, punk pixie, alternating between saccharine crooning and laser-gun guitar quips. Burrows settled into a pleasant clap-along rhythm, squeezing in some tight punctuations, while Wisniewski was free to noodle in whatever direction he felt like taking the song.

Dan Rico, soaked and soloing
The set-closer wound up being one of the few Close Hits songs that isn't imminently danceable. That alone drew extra attention to the number, which didn't disappoint. It played out like a drunk and moody walk, complete with moments of fury and dips into sobriety. Wisniewski's bass work sounded like it was breaking up with an old lover, only interrupted by Rico's screams and needling guitar solo. Burrows' tumbling, feathery percussion again held the gumbo together, a role that someone else is going to be very lucky to fill in the near future.


Check out more show reviews:
Bullied by Strings at SubT
Eavesdropping on Paul McCartney at Wrigley Field
Blonde Redhead at Bottom Lounge
Jolie Holland at Lincoln Hall
Cibo Matto at Lincoln Hall

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