Saturday, June 15, 2013

Show review: Mikal Cronin at the Empty Bottle (early show), 6/11/13

By Stuart Ross

Mikal Cronin brought his long-haired axmen & short-haired female drummer to town this week.

We caught the early show because the late show sold out quickly.

Ah, early shows.

We filed in at 6:05 p.m. and filed out at 8:35 p.m.

Here’s to bringing a change of jeans to work and the sun never going down again.


The decision to gulp Lone Star, the official beer of Texas, was a simple one: with the exception of Phyllis’ Musical Inn, few Chicago music venues have a cozier Austin feel than the Empty Bottle.

Sweet, lo-cal beer of Texas.


Mikal Cronin is a busy guy, and not only because he had two shows to play on a Tuesday night.

Wiki-listed as being in 4 other bands, he’s also a frequent collaborator with noisier, fellow Laguna Beach, California native Ty Segall.

Finally, The Real OC.

(Overheard at the show: that bro still cries when he listens to Sublime. )


What with all the flowing hair, it’s hard to see Cronin’s face on stage, but when you do catch it there’s more than a hint of the young John Cusack.

He’s on tour to support his new record, MCII, which is bringing him well-deserved recognition.

“Jangle pop” has rarely described music better than when these hooks kick in.

That is, you can actually see the bangles jangling from the tatted wrists of his fairer fans.

That is, you understand once again about not being able to make out the dancer from the dance.

In one of those jangling clasps, Cronin warns: I don’t want apathy.

His band agrees with him.

Cronin’s touring guitarist directs no apathy toward his whammy bar.

The Bottle’s preeminence as a venue is indisputable, but it was difficult not to wish that some of the technically proficient whammy shredding had the state-of-the-art sound system of The Chicago Theater to back it up.


The 1990s comes up a lot more these days than it did in the 1990s.

The 90s might pop up when hard rock critics think deeply about Mikal Cronin.

Concertgoers of a certain age might recall the 90s as a time when the “student loan crisis” meant not being able to cash in your Pell Grant, and the dream of the 90s was more oneiric than a hit-or-miss comedy show on sort-of-basic-cable.

Though I have no problem with this new and improved, revamped 90s (sure, Cronin’s “Change” is reminiscent of Hole’s “Violet”) it’s all so much more about the 2010s.

Cronin is, as my friend noted, Kurt Vile with a pulse.

(Or as my friend noted 3 Lone Stars later, imagine if the 90s were happening right now.)

Or I want to say “Peace of Mind” from MCII sounds like Yuck’s “Suicide Policeman” instead of saying it sounds like a song from the 90s.

Call me progressive.

Hear Cronin cover Kiss Me, the hallmark love song of late 90s.

Okay, maybe it’s because I just watched that Nirvana concert on Palladia, but the band I most thought of watching Cronin and his long-hairs rock out was…. well …. you know.


Shannon and the Clams opened.

Band names are best when you must contemplatively nod the first time you hear them.

I first heard the unadorned surf bliss of S&TC coming over the speakers at Reckless Records.

I did this technology/anti-technology thing I do when I’m at Reckless and hear music I don’t know: sure I take out my phone and Shazam-it, but I also go to the counter and ask, “hey, what’s this you’re playing right now?”

It’s not that I don’t trust ad-supported Shazam, I just trust wage-supported Reckless employees more.

Especially when they’re introducing me to Shannon and the Clams.

S&TC played a strong set to the thickening crowd, who knew how to appreciate their twisty gnarly rooted glory.


If you missed Cronin and his cronies at the Empty Bottle this week, don’t fear.

They are on a massive tour.

They’re just back from the Eurozone, headed to the American east coast, and then back here for, IMHO, Pitchfork’s second best day.

Then it’s back to Europe.

They’re playing the Surfilm festival in San Sebastian at the end of July.

Here’s your chance to tour the coast with the excuse that you’re going to see Mikal Cronin at a festival sponsored by Patagonia.

May I suggest the King Leopold II suite at Hotel du Palais for your night in Biarritz.

1 comment:

  1. Written like a guy who has neither researched his subject much, been to a lot of shows at clubs (particularly the Empty Bottle), nor listened to a lot of the music he's reviewing.

    It's sensationalist and lacking concrete descriptions of what went on that evening in lieu of cheeky references to 'Portlandia'. Those kinds of forced pop-culture references read like you're deflecting the reader's attention in the hope that your lack of substance isn't discovered before they close their browser tab.

    I long for the days when there were professional music writers, not just pitchfork copycats and wannabes...