One of the best surprises this year at SXSW was a band from Athens, Ga., called the Whigs. They came to Chicago Friday (Nov. 2), with their next album in the can and scheduled for a January release. A hard-rocking trio with a touch of power pop and classic rock in their arsenal, the Whigs sounded pretty damn good once again, though it was the songs from their first album that still stood out for me, especially the keyboard-driven “Half a World Away.” I guess I’ll have to hear the new songs on record to see how they measure up.
I was also eager to see openers the Broken West, whom I’ve written about before. This L.A. band has a really good record out on Merge, I’ll Go On I Can’t Go On, though when I saw them play in concert earlier this year, I though the band was playing versions of the songs that sounded a little too safe and close to the studio recordings. What a difference a few months have made. Maybe the band was just “on” Friday night, or maybe they’ve loosened up during all of the recent touring. Either way, they really sounded alive, added that looseness that the songs needed. They also surprised with a couple of unusual cover choices: “Back in Your Head,” a song from Tegan and Sara’s new record, The Con, and Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.”
The first band of the night was Wild Sweet Orange. The group’s drummer had broken his ankle a few days earlier, hence the mostly drummerless performance. I’m not familiar with the group’s songs, but they sounded all right to me on first listen.