One of the things I found myself craving while in Taiwan was live music. I went to a few shows, but the music was from bands I wasn’t familiar with singing in mostly all Mandarin lyrics. So one of the perks of being back in Chicago was being able to see bands I listen to regularly.
Swimsuit Addition and Dude York opened for Tacocat on a Sunday night at Thalia Hall, a rugged, posh concert venue in the Pilsen neighborhood. I’d never heard of Swimsuit Addition before, but had heard of Dude York. Swimsuit Addition took a bit to warm up to their performance, as did the small crowd scattered around the hall. Most were getting drinks at the bar, sitting in chairs off to the side, or in back by the merch/pizza table. Some, including myself, were awkwardly clustered in the center of the floor.
Swimsuit Addition’s songs were pretty rad – a grungy surf sound – but the performance suffered from a faulty vocals mic. This issue persisted with the Dude York performance, wherein bassist Claire and guitarist Peter exchange vocal duties. Peter was able to emote enough to not really succumb to this issue, but Claire’s songs were too hard to hear. But they’re music was awesome and their performance was so lively. At one point Peter and Claire started doing the fingerings on each others instruments while the other strummed. Later, Peter used his looping pedal to go out into the crowd with the mic and encourage crowd members to shout loudly into it. The show was fun to watch. The funniest part was before every song, Peter would remind the audience: “We’re Dude York, America’s Band!” That’s their tagline and it cracked me up each time. In my opinion, what a good live show should be.
Thalia Hall set up the stage “in the round” so during the Tacocat show, once the crowd was packed around the front, I went behind the stage and got a closer view. Tacocat enjoyed every second of their show, which makes it that much easier as a audience member to enjoy every minute of it. They mostly played songs off their newest release Lost Time (“Dana Katherine Scully”, “The Internet”, “I Hate The Weekend”, “Talk”), but also stuff of NVM (“Bridge To Hawaii”, “Hey Girl”, “Crimson Wave”) and Take Me To Your Dealer (“Volcano”, “Spring Break-Up”). Before songs they would banter with each other, shoot bubbles out of a bubble maker they recently bought, and explain what the song is about (“This song’s called Volcano. It’s about a vaporizer.”). During their encore, members of Swimsuit Addition and Dude York dressed up in costumes and danced with the crowd. It was a fun party I enjoyed attending.
At that show I was able to swing a ticket to the sold-out Tuesday night Angel Olsen show. I had been listening to her new album MY WOMAN and thought it’d be a good show to see live. Because I got to Thalia Hall early and was alone, I decided to just kill time stand up against the front rail, inadvertently allowing me to be front row for the whole show.
Rodrigo Amarante was the opening act and he was great. He had a very intense, seductive stare as he played his acoustic songs to a room that was mostly not paying attention to him. As more and more people trickled into the hall, the din in the room also increased. This sort of thing pisses me off: why go to a show if you’re not going to listen? Why not just stand outside until Olsen comes on instead of talking over a performer. Amarante seemed fine, but I find it incredibly rude.
Apparently so did Olsen. After a long wait between Amarante’s final song and Olsen coming on stage, the room quieted to the level of whispers, at which point she said: “Oh now you’re quiet.” And smiled sarcastically. I’ve never been to any type of country rock show, but the atmosphere exuded by Angel Olsen and her band to me seemed in line with a fierce, rockabilly persona. (Like Loretta Lynch, based solely on my perception of Loretta Lynch based on this trailer for her biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter, that’s the kinda vibe I get.) “I’ve got a couple more things I’d like to say” Olsen said before diving into “Shut Up Kiss Me”. Between other songs, she told us about her uber driver and dedicated a song to him, she mentioned how we were all collectively on a date that she would swipe right on.
Despite being sick, Angel Olsen and the band banged out rad tunes. The songs were tight, which I think comes from the fact that the album MY WOMAN was recorded live. They also played tracks off Burn Your Fire For No Witnesses like “Hi-Five” and “Forgiven/Forgetten”. I was particularly impressed by the trippy, fully-band rendition of “Acrobat“. They closed with “Give It Up” and Olsen left the stage before the band wrapped up. It seemed like the audience cheered for several minutes before they came back on and did “Intern” and “Woman” for their encore.
I find the whole conceit of the encore frustrating. Like, making the audience sort of beg for you to come back on stage to play. Just stay on stage, play all the songs you’ve rehearsed and have time for, then leave. I love to hear more music, but I don’t like the whole “must cheer loudly and aggressively” in order to get it.
Regardless, I left both of these shows hyped up. Great live music is great. It’s meditative. Like a good book or a good movie, it entrances you such that time no longer matters. I can’t wait to watch more live music now that I’m back in the States!