Monday, August 29, 2011

Show review: Peter Bjorn & John, Moon Furies at Empty Bottle, 8/24

By Gene Wagendorf III 

Wittmann's manic trumpeting
Moon Furies capped off their 100 shows in 100 days project in style, playing to a sold out crowd at The Empty Bottle and opening for Peter Bjorn & John. The group had their trademark charisma and enthusiasm working overtime from the start, evidenced by the fact that bassist Jim Wittmann waited all of thirty seconds before launching himself off the stage to dance with the crowd. An inspired version of "Way Down," from the band's debut album Mercury, mashed together tandem vocals from Wittmann and guitar player Andy Kiel over a wiggling synth line that evokes the same party atmosphere as Salt-n-Pepa's classic "Push It." Some of the crowd, I'm assuming those at The Bottle specifically for PB&J, seemed a bit bewildered by Moon Furies at first, curious about what nonsense was interrupting their conversation or waiting for something to whistle along to. By the time Wittmann produced a trumpet to bellow out the finale of "Look At Me," those same people had turned the crowd into a dance club. Kiel joined his bass player in the crowd during the intro to "Logan Square," leaving drummer and Windy City Rock writer Andrew Hertzberg alone on stage. The song's fist-pumping melody trampolined around Hertzberg's snappy drumming, giving every bead of sweat the audience had worked up something to groove to. Just in case anyone in the back was feeling a bit disconnected, Wittmann meandered towards the bar wailing on his trumpet during "Fallen."

Kiel and Hertzberg
Playing 100 shows in 100 days is likely to do one of two things (maybe both?) to a band: dramatically hone their skills or drive them totally insane. The former is certainly true of Moon Furies, who played the last gig of their marathon like it was their last gig on earth. The set ended with the group's strongest tune, "Mercury 13," a song that takes everything great about the band and rolls it into 5 minutes of bliss. It opened with an airy hum before being yanked upwards by soaring vocals and thumping percussion. Slower verses bled into ultra catchy synth squeaks, rising and falling while maintaining ultimate danceability. The song/show's dramatic crescendo found Kiel melting on the stage with his guitar while Wittmann perched himself on the bass drum, armed again with his trumpet.  Hertzberg rolled and crashed on his kit while a trumpet solo softly faded out, ending the set.

Playing the first of four scheduled Chicago shows on their All You Can Eat Tour, Peter Bjorn and John took the stage to a worked up and enthusiastic crowd. The group leaned heavily on Björn Yttling's catchy bass licks and some fluttery vocal work, lulling the audience into blithe head-nodding. "Let's Call It Off," from 2006's Writer's Block, tantalized with moments of Clash-like swagger before dipping back into dreamier jangling. More satisfying was "Dig A Little Deeper" from PB&J's recently released album, Gimme Some. The song's combination of quasi-tribal percussion and crunch-and-rattle riffs make it a great summer party song. The band played a few internet requests, including a slower, harmonica-twinged jam and a cover of The Strokes' "Is This It." Of course, the song that ultimately drew the biggest pop from the crowd was "Young Folks." It's an easy, cool song to listen to, though without Victoria Bergsman's vocals it loses a little something- something that can't be replaced by drunk whistling. Tragically, the tune-challenged imbibers behind me didn't get that memo. Regardless, song's don't often explode the way that one did back in '06 unless they've got pizzazz, and that came through in PB&J's performance.


  1. This was an awesome show. Moon Furies killed it.

  2. bias bias bias bias

  3. haters gonna hate.

    well done.

  4. "bias bias bias bias "

    Ha. If it's worth anything, I became a fan of this band before meeting Mr. Hertzberg or beginning to write for this site. Also, if I don't like something, I may not slam it, but I'll try to find subtle ways to get that across while detailing the positives. If I'm heaping praise on Moon Furies, it's because they deserved it. I encourage you to check out their next gig and see for yourself if my review reeks of bias. They're pretty fucking fun.

  5. peter boring and john. i was there. zzzzz.

  6. Well said Gene - there's not point laying into an honest band. If you don't like it fair enough, but at least they're not polluting the airwaves with mass-produced crap!