On a tip, I was told to get there early to catch Skybox, and hot damn these kids are a great addition to the Chicago music scene. Recent transplants to Chicago from Arizona via Missouri, they must have traveled by electro-disco-folk-rock covered wagon. This kitschy 5-piece play an amalgamated sound, they don't want classified, though you can have fun picking out the influences on their songs. They opened their set with a knee-slapping, cotton-eyed inspired "Hoedown" definitely got the intimate crowd riled up and set the mood for the rest of the set. After the funky "Disco Duck", bassist Jeff Gonzales busted a string, a improvised disco break ensued whilst he tried to re-string, eventually borrowing a bass from the Figurines. The set list was packed a cabaret of song selections off their debut album Arco Iris, along with some non-LP tracks (I was compelled to buy their CD). Tim Ellis' lead vocals and active stage persona was thoroughly entertaining and engaging. He touched on vocal notes that call to mind Devendra Banhart and Julian Casablancas, especially on "Various Kitchen Utensils", a hodge podge of Tom Waits piano tickled to life by Christian Fields, and sprinkled with wooden box beats and other burlesque textures by Anthony Hornyak. The standout for me was "Cue Conversation", in which an argumentative sing-a-logue occurs between Christian and Tim, which may as well be the same person in context of the character's voice in the song. The instrumentation melds Muse-like soundscapes with the campy romp of the Black Rider, and a very Brechtian device of breaking the fourth wall inside of the lyric, "oh my god, look everyone is watching... I'm so embarrassed..." This hands down was the best performance I saw on Saturday. Hopefully, they will stay in Chicago long enough, so I can see them workshop their other material.
They are playing an Equip for Equality benefit show at Martyr's on July 20th. Definitely worth checking out.
Closing out the night, was the Figurines from Denmark, touting their newest album Skeleton (2005), which is a superb LP combining punk, folk, and pysch rock, into a genre-bending 45 minutes of aural brilliance even the snobbish indie guy will enjoy. Lead singer Christian Hjelm, who looks like he uses Jack White's barber, has an incredibly, impressive voice. He sounds a bit like Travis Morrison and John Darnielle at times, even though the Figurines are from Denmark, their sound is very stateside (they barely have accents). They plowed through their set with warm energy, their punk influences definitely shined through, especially with most of their songs clocking in at 3 minutes and under. They got the audience bopping with the quicker paced "The Wonder", as Christian belted it out with all its nasally charm. There's something about the more mild, yet infectious song, "I Remember" that made me feel all ready, steady, go; with the contagious bass riff making my head bob without thought. You could really hear the CCR influences on "Back in the Day", which has a slow, acoustic folk rock appeal. Though their stage presence was a bit on the mellow side, the sound these 4 Danish rockers evoked was enthralling, they moved effortless from the gentle, more folk driven tracks to the upbeat, punkier ones with great ease, the crowd was begging for an encore, but to no avail.
(Check out more pics, Here)