Choir gets a little help from friends

As you may have heard if you follow the Chicago music scene, the local band Scotland Yard Gospel Choir was in an accident Sept. 24. As the band headed out on tour, its van crashed, injuring everyone in the group and destroying a lot of musical gear. The good news is that everyone survived. On Thursday (Nov. 12), the Hideout hosted a benefit show to help the SYGC pay its medical bills. The 1900s played, along with Brighton MA, a group featuring former SYGC member Matthew Kerstein.

As Brighton MA was playing, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir frontman Elia Einhorn got up on the stage. Until recently, Einhorn had been wearing a neck brace as he recovered from injuries to his head and vertebrae. He still looked a little bit stiff as he stepped up to the microphone, but he was all smiles. Elia announced that the most seriously injured member of his band, Mark Yoshizumi, had just been released from the hospital. Another Choir member who was seriously injured, Mary Ralph, was in the crowd, standing near the stage with a cane for support.

After previewing some strong new folk-rock songs, Brighton MA closed its set by playing three of the songs that Kerstein played with Einhorn back when they were together in Scotland Yard Gospel Choir. First, Kerstein sang “Bet You Never Thought It Would Be Like This.” And then, after Elia made his announcement and thanked the crowd, he played the harmonica solo that kicks off “Mother’s Son.” It felt like a truly celebratory moment as Matt and Elia sung together into the same microphone. Then the set closed with Elia taking over lead vocals for the buoyant “Tear Down the Opera House” (which SYGC originally released on the 2003 CD I Bet You Say That to All the Boys and then re-recorded on 2009’s …And the Horse You Rode In On.

Elia couldn’t dance around as much as he did when SYGC played this same tune in September at the Hideout Block Party, but he made it clear he isn’t going to let these latest setbacks stop him from making music. This morning, I dug out my copy of that 2003 CD and listened to it for the first time in a while. I was struck by the lyrics of “Would You Still Love Me If I Was in a Knife Fight,” in which Ellen O’Hayer sings: “I would still love you if you were in a car crash, your glasses smashed, your hair in a mess with broken glass. I’d come to see you inside your hospital room, I’d bring flowers and brush your hair and sing to you.”

Up next were the 1900s, a band I’ve seen, oh, countless time. Well, I guess I could count how many times I’ve seen them (and photographed them), but let’s just say I’ve been a regular at their shows over the past few years. It had been several months since the last time I’d seen them, however, and Thursday’s show reinvigorated my enthusiasm for this band’s delightful ’60s-influenced music. The 1900s debuted a few new songs, and also pulled off the unusual trick of reinventing some old ones. It sounded especially cool when the 1900s melded together two of the songs from their 2007 CD Cold & Kind, “Two Ways” and “Acutiplantar Dude,” bridging the songs with a psychedelic guitar jam.

For more information on how to help out the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, visit And while you’re at it, buy one of their albums.

Photos from the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir benefit.

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