Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Show review: MMOSS, Jacco Gardner at the Empty Bottle, 3/19/13

By Andrew Hertzberg

Jacco Gardner
Trouble in Mind is a record label you should know by now. Based in Chicago, they offer a variety of acts that can mostly be classified as garage or psych-rock, but generally should never be pigeon-holed so dismissively. Two such bands played at the Empty Bottle Tuesday night.

First up was five-piece MMOSS, whose set only expanded upon its own energy, growing with intensity towards a climactic (and noisy) conclusion. Though the band hails from New Hampshire via Boston, they could fit well with many in the Chicago scene. The driving basslines and Krautrock-inspired structure are reminiscent of Cave, the pure aural assault of Verma, and the farfisa organ stands out like Libby Ramer in Moonrises. Only Children was a late release from last year, but certainly deserving of attention, if only for "Spoiled Sun" and the epic "Wander.

Although toned down several notches, I found Jacco Gardner the most impressive act of the night. His debut album Cabinet of Curiosities is quickly becoming one of my favorites of the year. While Gardner plays everything except drums on the album, he mostly helmed the keys for the show, backed by an acoustic guitar, bassist, and drummer live. Many are quick to compare his baroque style pop to Syd Barrett and the Zombies, Pet Sounds and Sgt. Peppers. And those influences are certainly there. But throughout the set I found myself hearing elements of Jon Brion, the Beta Band, Todd Rundgren circa A Wizard/A True Star, even Ratatat and Air. His music is whimsical without being nostalgic, despite the throwback sound. While it’s easy to get lost in how effortless Gardner provokes a feeling, you can also try to pick out where he’ll go next with his chord progressions and have no idea how he transitions between major and minor keys so smoothly.

There was one slight hiccup at the beginning of the set with a cable being unplugged. But the 24-year old kept his cool, solved the issue, and carried on with a fantastic set, culminating in lead single "The Ballad of Little Jane" and "Where Will You Go" to close it out. Despite complaining of a sore throat (which made itself entirely unknown in his performance), he accepted the crowds cheers for a legitimate encore and shouts of “Chicago loves you!” In the review of Cabinet of Curiosities on Pitchfork, the reviewer claimed that Gardner is “a studio wizard.” While true to a point, he proved last night that he is just as capable of a musician on the stage as well.

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