Chicago was still recovering from the madness of Pitchfork weekend but it didn’t stop some people from venturing to yet another show the following night. Ironically, the temperature inside Double Door was as sweltering as Pitchfork with Double Door’s air conditioning being inoperable.
Brits Maximo Park took the stage with a dramatic entrance. The lights dimmed, music oscillated, then charismatic lead singer Paul Smith burst onstage with intensity in his eyes as he swung around, doing scissor kicks, and strutted his limber body to the overzealous crowd before segueing into singing “Graffiti” (off their 2005 debut A Certain Trigger). You’d think the Beatles just arrived. The keyboardist also got into the action. “Graffiti" was full of ebullience and so was an already profusely sweating Smith. Since he was the only member of the band who didn't play an instrument, he had to do something to keep the crowd entertained. The set wavered between Trigger and their latest, Our Earthly Pleasures. The next song was “A Fortnight’s Time” from the latter album. Smith exuded the right amount of vocal inflection and histrionics as he belted out his songs about love gone wrong. The crowd surprisingly knew most of the tunes and sang along. Smith emoted on the love ballad “Parisian Sky” then shifted into the first song off Trigger, the rambunctious “Signal & Sign.” Despite the unbearable heat in the club, Smith and group never showed any sign of fatigue. Smith paused to mention how he went to Pitchfork. He was still wearing the “verified to drink” wristband and joked he was going to keep it on for the rest of the tour. After the melancholic “Books From Boxes” and upbeat “By the Monument,” the band played the soon-to-be-classic and best song in their oeuvre, “Apply Some Pressure" (no wonder Mark Ronson covered it). Maximo Park finished with the boisterous “Going Missing.” After a brief respite, the band came back and played “Nosebleed” and “Limassol” ending the evening with high energy and dancing. Smith is the fulcrum of the group generating music that's equally romantic and rocking at the same time. He’s an ardent and cheeky frontman who knows how to hold the attention of his audience. Tonight, Maximo Park demonstrated why they are more Stone Roses than Kaiser Chiefs.
Los Angeles quartet Monsters Are Waiting opened up the night when lead singer Annalee Fery remarked it was hotter than the sun inside the venue. The group impressed and made me wonder why they haven’t garnered more attention. The crowd seemed to really enjoy it, too. “Ha Ha” started the set with Fery’s fragile, mannequin-like frame strutting across the stage stoping periodically to pose in “Vogue” positions. Her baleful, Kazu Makino inspired vocals filled the room along with propulsive drums and keyboards. She alternated between singing and playing keys and tambourine. The next track was “Fascination” from their titular album released last year. Her body breaked into sporadic spasms absorbing the beats. After the end of each song, Fery curtsied, a rare yet appreciated gesture. Her long black hair draped over her eyes forming a mysterious effect. The guitarist/bassist Jonathan Siebels oddly enough looked like Johnny Deep circa Edward Scissorhands. One of the best songs from their set was “Ones ‘n’ Zeroes” a new single not on their record. More melodic then the other tracks, it featured slower keyboards and guitar. The band followed it up with an excellent cover of The Stone Roses seminal hit, the British throwback “I Wanna Be Adored.” Their version rocked louder than the original. Fery deadpanned she just wrote the song in their tour bus. Half the audience got the joke, half probably believed her. The next couple of songs bordered on shoegaze sensibilities with blurry guitars and basslines drawn out. “Christine” ended the set as Fery continued to artistically pose while crashing the keys leading up to a delirious vortex of noise. Hopefully, Monsters will acquire the exposure and momentum they deserve during the remainder of the tour.
Download: Monsters Are Waiting - "Christine"