Three bands that excel at trippy garage rock reminiscent of the 1960s played Feb. 6 in the Volcano Room, upstairs at the Bottom Lounge. The headliners, People’s Temple, have a new album, Musical Garden, out on Chicago’s consistently marvelous Hozac Records. The same label also just put out a new 7-inch by one of the other bands at this concert, Chicago’s Radar Eyes. The night also featured another outstanding Chicago band, Outer Minds. It was a solid night of great songs, though it seemed to fizzle out at the end, when some technical difficulties resulted in People’s Temple playing without drums for a couple of songs. Despite that anticlimactic ending, People’s Temple had sounded great when they were jamming out at the start of their set.
The Clean came to Chicago for the first time in some years on Thursday (Sept. 30), playing at the Bottom Lounge. The New Zealand post-punk trio has been making music since 1978 (with some time off now and then along the way). This was the first time I’d ever seen them, and it was a pretty cool experience. When the band switched from guitar to keyboards, the artsier side of its music came out. But the final stretch was more poppy and melodic.
Guitarist David Kilgour left the stage rather abruptly at the end of the main set and then again at the end of the first encore, almost seeming to surprising his band mates, drummer Hamish Kilgour and bassist Robert Scott. It seemed that the band was calling it a night at that point and the Bottom Lounge turned on the house music. But the audience wasn’t ready to leave, giving the Clean a loud and sustained round of applause, and finally the guys came back and played one of their best-known tunes, “Tally Ho!”
PHOTOS OF THE CLEAN
THE CLEAN’S SET LIST
The show started out with an energetic set by Chicago’s Mannequin Men, including a whole bunch of new songs. A new album must be in the works — or should be, in any case. www.myspace.com/mannequinmen
PHOTOS OF MANNEQUIN MEN
Serena Maneesh, a Norwegian band that plays the deliciously loud rock music known as “shoe gaze,” hasn’t toured the U.S. for a few years, but the group was back this week. The tour brought Serena Maneesh on Wednesday (March 31) to Chicago’s Bottom Lounge. It was an event worthy of a big turnout, but alas, attendance looked a little sparse. Despite that, the group’s front man, Emil Nikolaisen, made a gracious (and, I think, heartfelt) statement from the stage about how special it felt for him to play again in Chicago.
It was the last night that Nikolaisen’s sister, the tall and very Nordic-looking bassist-singer Hilma, played with the band on this tour before heading back to Norway to take care of her children. Lucky for us that we got to see Serena Maneesh with Hilma in the lineup!
With a sound that resembles the churning yet melodic noise of My Bloody Valentine, Serena Maneesh has some songs that seem more like pop than psychedelic hard rock, especially when Hilma takes over on lead vocals. In concert, though, the band was all about the loud jams on Wednesday night. Emil drapes some sort of fringed shawl over himself and occasionally sets aside his guitar just so that he can cavort and twirl to the waves of noise. No actual “shoe-gazing” for this Norwegian rocker! It makes for an exciting spectacle, both for the ears and for the eyes, and Serena Maneesh delivered a strong set.
But no encore? What’s up with that? The crowd clearly wanted more, but from what I hear, Serena Maneesh did not do encores at its recent New York shows, either.
Four bands played Wednesday, and the opening acts included Canyon playing instrumental hard rock reminiscent of Pelican. And sandwiched between all these bands was yet another bunch of noise-makers, Apteka, which played with impressive energy.
On Saturday night (Oct.10), as I was coming out of the play Fedra at Lookingglass, I decided on the spur of the moment to head over to the Bottom Lounge for a concert by Sweden’s Loney Dear. I showed up in time to see most of the set by Asobi Seksu, which was properly loud and shoe-gazy… But then I was disappointed to see that a number of Asobi Seksu fans left before the set by headliner Loney Dear. This terrific Swedish band ended up playing to a fairly small crowd. Maybe the crowd wouldn’t have looked so small if this show had been at a smaller venue like Schubas, where Loney Dear has played in the past, but the Bottom Lounge room tends to dwarf the audience. The Bottom Lounge vibe is OK for a rock show, but when the music’s mellower or folkier (as it is with Loney Dear) the old-fashioned concert-hall vibe at a place like Schubas somehow seems more fitting.
Since the last time I saw Loney Dear, I’ve been listening more to the band’s most recent CD, Dear John, which has a number of wonderfully subtle songs. I especially like the hushed, heartfelt track “Harm/Slow,” and I was glad to hear the Bottom Lounge quiet down as Loney Dear main man Emil Svanängen sang “Harm” (I believe he sang only the first song in this two-song medley).
I didn’t have my camera, so I can’t offer any of my own photos from the Loney Dear show, but check out this cool set of images from Kirstie Shanley