Monday, August 22, 2011

Show review: Paper Mice, Lechuguillas, Snacks at Treasure Town, 8/20

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Magic Ian of Snacks
Chicago's music scene is filled with good people, kickass shows and raucous parties. Every now and then those elements collide for a cause and it turns into something both ludicrous and magical. Such was the benefit show at Treasure Town on Saturday where organizers reportedly raised $1,100 for housing, employment and prevention services for 1,400 Chicagoans living with HIV/AIDS.

The bill was loaded with local talent, but none stood out more than Snacks. The group was well-lubricated before their set and after a brief conversation with vocalist Magic Ian I couldn't help but wonder what the hell I was about to see. Was this about to be some fantastic debauchery fueled rock or was the group going to implode before this sweaty, punchy crowd? Guitarist Oliver Langrall halted my inner monologue with a flurry of distortion and a plodding riff that sent the band into motion and Magic Ian crashing into the crowd. The audience collapsed into a massive mosh pit with the singer leading the charge.

The songs were mostly drunk punk tunes in the vein of the Dead Kennedys and the Stooges, but manic violin shredding courtesy of Electric Ian (not to be confused with the Magic one) gave Snacks an added dimension of slap-happiness. The rhythm section was made up of the singer's Close Hits band-mates, with Dan Rico slugging the bass and Evan Burrows on drums. Every song played out like a race to the next- the flow only interrupted by the occasional diatribe from Magic Ian. The crowd ate up Snacks' confrontational demeanor, slamming into Rico and Langrall throughout the set with little worry at the possibility of being beheaded by a flailing instrument. By set's end the singer was crumbled to a fetal position, dotted with confetti and pants-less, howling into the mic over violin shrieks and tumbling percussion. I came away with a sense of disbelief, not at the chaos that is the band's live show, but at how tight they stay musically through it all. The songs are catchy- both deceptively melodic and adrenaline pumping. It's kitschy and pretentious to drop the "punk is dead" line, and just plain fucking stupid after you catch a Snacks show.

Lechuguillas is a band that I've been hearing buzz about for a while, mostly centered on how damn impressive they are live. The brash metal outfit is gearing up for a tour to promote the release of a new album, Insurrection of an Erection, in October. Lechuguillas' was full of winding, nail-on-chalkboard swells and throbbing drums. The kind of stuff that's great for headbanging, or pissing off your upstairs neighbor, The jerking guitars would occasionally lean on something near a hook before spiraling off  into beer can howls. The singer is obviously pissed about something, that much comes through in his yawps, but damned if I could figure out what it was. Stronger numbers featured Lechuguillas' bass player furiously noodling beneath the molten wall the rest of his band was erecting, driving the songs past angsty noise and into something tumultuously digestible.

Paper Mice
Paper Mice, whose 2009 release Paint It Pink refuses to get off my turntable, provided just the kind of show I'd come to expect from them: technical and spastic math punk that carries bizarre, urgent lyrics, all delivered with precision and swagger. Though the crowd had thinned a bit in the wee hours of the night, Paper Mice had a sizable contingent of booze-addled enthusiasts bopping along to their trippy bass lines and nerve-wracking melodies. The set came off like the score to a cyberpunk noir, transporting the crowd to an alien landscape where mystery skittered in every shadow. Is that a red-dressed blond in the alley calling to me, or a sloppy, squid-like alien who's likely to chomp my gonads? Turns out it was a song about "the time Dolly Parton lost a Dolly Parton look-alike contest to a man in drag." I can't make this stuff up, and neither can Paper Mice, to a degree, as most of the night's tunes were inspired by wonky news stories. The group's singer shouts his goofball lyrics with a mesmerizing conviction that's usually reserved for lyricists wailing about relationship problems.That delivery over the group's cohesive jumbling makes for an undeniably fun live experience. Zig-zag guitar riffs and stuttered percussion kept the audience on their toes throughout the show, and in the end Paper Mice left everyone sweaty and grinning. Not a bad way to be after all is said and done.


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

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