Child Bite, Meth & Goats, Daddad, Eyes Empty Bottle, Chicago - May 10, 2009
I think clubs like Chicago’s Empty Bottle are the best places you can see music. The place is small, intimate, up close and personal – the true indie experience. No need to stand on your toes to see the stage, because you can see the band wherever you are. You don’t have to worry about washy sound, because it’s always crystal clear everywhere – it even sounds good when you’re taking a piss. The dark-like-a-cave setting adds to the mystique of the performance, as does the fact that Empty Bottle shows kick off past your bedtime. I was very happy to find Child Bite here last Sunday (May 10, 2009), in an environment that suited them perfectly. The opening acts had their ups and downs, but overall the night was a great success.
The first openers, Meth & Goats, score immediate points for their excellent name. You can immediately tell they’re not going to sound like Death Cab For Cutie. Their stop-and-start rhythms and twisted take on punk rock made them perfect appetizers for the main act. Before “Filling Up On Sweets”, the singer announced that “This song’s about a lady [he] met at a gas station wearing an all purple jumpsuit.” Hey man – great poetry comes from writing about what you know! The guys stayed tight through their often tricky rhythms with some very involved drumming that steered the bass and guitar extremely well. Though I’d never heard of the group before tonight, I would definitely see them again.
Eyes followed, making absolutely no introduction before they dove into their difficult electronic set. They stood out strongly from the rest of the groups – still obnoxious, certainly, but more Public Image Limited than Blood Brothers. And even PiL fans would have a tough time getting down to this – anyone would. I was more confused than intrigued by the mumbling, white-man dancing lead vocalist, and the ocean of noise behind him might have translated better in a studio than in did live. The vocalist kept promising us that “We’re almost done – I swear!” and I think he thought he was being ironic or funny or something, but I felt my heart breaking every time he broke that promise! The saxophone was an interesting touch, adding to the “strange art project” vibe, but it wasn’t interesting enough. I can give ‘em creativity points, but Jesus Christ this was difficult to sit through. Overall Eyes sound like the future, if the future sucks.
Daddad came on stage to a Minutemen soundtrack, and the bassist instinctively began jamming along to the track, almost flawlessly. So then it came as no surprise that the band sounded almost exactly like the Minutemen: quick, short, frenetic songs with funky overtones. The guys could really jam, but they didn’t seem like they were very into it, which made it tough for them to 100% hold my attention. Maybe they were tired – I mean, I was too. It was a Sunday night and I had an office job to look forward to the next morning, but I come to shows like this to get as far away from the work world as I possibly can, and so on that objective, they failed.
On the other hand, musically, technicality-wise, Daddad were experts. Plus the bassist wore a cape and the guitarist wore a goofy hat – all good things. There could have been more energy to it – especially for such an energetic type of music – but honestly, after the devastation that was Eyes’ set, I was just thankful to see a live drumset again.
Child Bite took the stage next, and their set was well worth the wait. Before the show, I was surprised that they all just looked so serious! Turns out van problems had gotten them down, but as soon as the music started, the spirits of the audience and band seemed to be totally lifted. The set kicked off with an excellent new track – the first of several that they’d be unveiling throughout the night. If this show was any evidence, the next release is going to rock our faces off (and be prepared, because they’ve got three EP’s coming out this summer alone!)
I knew the band’s bass-heavy sound and stop-on-a-dime precision would be perfect in a live setting, and they sounded even better than I had anticipated. The songs from their 2008 LP Fantastic Gusts of Blood really came to life in this little club, and it really felt to me – as I’m sure it did to every other individual watching the show – that they were playing directly to me. That’s partly because shows at the Empty Bottle are just like that, and it’s also because the group gave it their all, even if there weren’t all that many people watching.
Child Bite added some all out blasts of sound for good measure, included a feedback solo manipulated by what seemed to be an Atari joystick. The group played loud enough and hard enough to set off car alarms blocks away. Shows like this make me embrace tinnitus. In fact I was so intrigued by the show I took so many notes I ran out of paper. I ended up writing on a speeding ticket to get those last thought down. And they were this: “Holy fuck.”