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.