Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Show review: The Orwells, Twin Peaks, Slushy at Space Club HQ, 1/5

By Gene Wagendorf III  

Slushy | Photo Credit: Gene Wagendorf III
"Party at the Moon Tower. Full kegs. Everyone's gonna be there."

Set Dazed and Confused in 2013 Chicago and what you get is Slushy, Twin Peaks and The Orwells playing a show at Space Club HQ. What better way to celebrate the end of Winter Break than catching three of Chicago's finest rock bands in a pitch-black warehouse for five bucks? Yeah, it's been a while since I was a CPS student, but these three bands did a damn fine job of making me feel like all I had to worry about in the world was making out and scoring beer. Ok, fine, so maybe much hasn't changed since high school (save that now I can buy booze anytime I want because I'm an adult. Sort of.).

Local two-piece garage outfit Slushy was up first, slinging their blend of bubblegum, surf and Ray Davies-swagger at a sizable and absolutely giddy crowd. "I Wanna Die Young," from the band's 2011 release Slushy (Red), carried a weird and infectious weight, in part because of its fuzzed-out Kinks jangle and in part because of the cavalier sincerity of Chris Kramer's vocals, both of which were aimed at an audience made up mostly of wide-eyed, sweaty teenagers. This wasn't rock cliche so much as it was classic rock; a youthfulness in tone matched by Slushy's exuberant bopping, determined percussion and big solos slapped against brick walls and crushed beer cans. The band threw a wink to the past when they whipped out a rabid cover of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart's two-straw milkshake pop hit "I Wonder What She's Doing Tonite." Kramer channeled a bit of Joey Ramone's drawl on the vocals, while Brent Zmrhal's pop-punk pounding infused the tune with a little angst. That was the formula for Slushy most of the night, taking the lessons they learned from oldies radio and dragging them through leather jackets and pools of spilled Schlitz. The result was simply fun- a delicate balance of overflowing elasticity and slacker cool that left toes tapping and ears ringing. When the lights kicked on after the candy buzzsaw of "Elephant," my two thoughts were Why haven't I seen this band since May? and When can I see them again?

Twin Peaks| Photo courtesy of Twin peaks
Twin Peaks picked up right where Slushy left off, riding the dribbling opening bass of "Stand in the Sand" straight into the song's wave of washy guitars. If Slushy transported the kids at Space Club to a punky malt shop sock hop, Twin Peaks promptly abducted them to go skinny dipping. That party mood shifted a little when drummer Connor Brodner and bassist Jack Dolan launched into the brooding beginning of "Fast Eddie," from 2012's Sunken. The rest of Twin Peaks dropped fizzing bursts of guitar over the rumble, forcing the audience to brace themselves for the impending explosion. However, when the tune did finally erupt it did so without aggression; celebratory lasers bouncing around the warehouse and Cadien James' taffy vocals bubbling over the jam. A surprising highlight of the set came in the form of "Irene," a warm and mellow track from Sunken that shimmers without ever really shining. The boys leaned into this rendition, picking up the pace and forcing their instruments to match the manic pitch of James' voice. Every yip was forced into a howl, and every howl ripped into a shriek. The end result was a mesmerizing adrenaline rush, which is itself a pretty adequate description of the whole fucking show.

The Orwells | Photo Credit: Eric Kolkey
Now, much as I love me some Twin Peaks and some Slushy (and I think that's well documented at this point) the band I was most looking forward to seeing at Space Club was The Orwells. The Elmhurst quintet has generated a hell of a lot of buzz; I guess the combination of wild shows, run-ins with the police and a blisteringly Stooges-esque debut record will do that for you. Frontman Mario Cuomo stammered about the stage like a ring leader, directing his band through rattling punk fits while pushing the crowd into a frenzy. Ringing in at just about three minutes, the dizzy blur of "Mallrats (La La La)" showcased much of what The Orwells do best- Buzzcocks-like swirls of scuzz, smart pop hooks and violent scribbles of noise. Listening to the band's debut album, Remember When, it's hard not to be impressed at both how mature and how instantly classic it sounds. Seeing them live isn't much different. The Orwells are a tightly sutured bunch; a band that bends ferociously but never breaks, that appears out of control while never losing the tune. While the production on Remember When is stellar, it's clearly not covering any weaknesses. As much fun as the all-out moshers were, The Orwells really shone in their more restrained moments, when the wrinkles in each song had time to develop and snap. There are big things in store for these guys, especially if they continue to temper the bacchanalian tantrums and teenage angst with solid musicianship and smart songwriting.

That said, let's not keep gushing about the potential of bands like these and musing about what they could do when they get a bit older. Like Cynthia said in Dazed and Confused- "I'd like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin' else." Right now is rocking pretty fucking hard. Enjoy it, Chicago.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent review! I have seen The Orwells quite a few times and they deliver all the goods!