Heavy Times at the Empty Bottle


It seems like most of my friends who are regular Chicago concertgoers have seen the local band Heavy Times a bunch of times. Somehow, I’d missed every opportunity to see Heavy Times — until Tuesday night (Aug. 20) at the Empty Bottle.

I thought I might have blown my last chance to see this group, which has put out some excellent records on the local Hozac label. Back in May, the Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf column reported that Heavy Times  “broke up onstage after more or less playing at Quarters Rock ‘n’ Roll Palace in Milwaukee on April 27” — and this was just a few weeks before the band was set to release its third album, Fix It Alone. But as Gossip Wolf subsequently reported, Heavy Times ended up losing two of its members and recruiting some new players to fill out the lineup. That’s a strange situation for a band to go through just as it’s releasing a new album, but Heavy Times seems to have made it through the turmoil.

As a group on the Hozac label, it’s natural for Heavy Times to get lumped in with other “garage rock” bands. It’s a genre label I use often myself, and Heavy Times seems to fit somewhere within the loose boundaries of garage. Like a lot of garage rock, this music is essentially punk, and Heavy Times plays it with serrated edges and a sharp focus. The songs are quite tuneful, with riffs and vocal melodies that stick in your mind, but there’s nothing ingratiating about the way frontman Bo Hansen sings those hooks. Each song is a short, tense burst. Tuesday’s set was a rapid-fire series of these blasts.

My photos of Heavy Times:

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Heavy Times was the middle band in a lineup of three groups playing Tuesday at the Empty Bottle. I confess that I did not stick around for the headliner, Survival. (I would’ve stayed, except for wanting to get some sleep.) The first band of the night was another local band, Vamos — who put on a fun, energetic set of punk rock.

My photos of Vamos:

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