Lincoln Hall beat all expectations Thursday night, not only with the bands, but the venue itself. A stellar addition in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Schuba's younger bigger brother has an exceptional new venue smell; clean, multiple bars, an enviable dining menu…and coat hooks! A far flung collection of indie rock stopped by; NYC's Bear Hands, Washington's The Lonely Forest and Scotland's We Were Promised Jetpacks.
Giving Chicagoland a first taste of the burgeoning Brooklyn indie scene before their April return with Passion Pit, Bear Hands opened to a slim crowd. Word to the wise, music slots never correlate to talent, so those lucky few received an wholly impressive set with the drum driven indie rock of Tapes 'n Tapes infused with irresistible beats and vibrant vocals. Bassist Val and drummer TJ take up percussion duties, splitting a pair of maracas to doubly drop the beats when needed. The representatives of the Big Apple's rock revival presented new material off their upcoming debut album, beginning with "Wicksey Boxing" and "Blood and Treasure." While unreleased, the new additions build upon Bear Hands' momentum to be fresh, diverse, and textured enough to separate the talent from the followers in the new indie danceability movement.
Percussion and bass made Bear Hands' set a stunner for the openers. Like our Chicagoland Dr Manhattan, an additional floor tom spoke volumes when needed-the indie equivalent to rap's trunk rattling bass. Maracas balanced the beat over bright-as-Vampire Weekend guitarwork, uniquely supplementing one of TJ's drumsticks. Of all the upcoming songs gracing the wood stage Thursday night, "Tablasaurus" reigned as most promising with its African sample sandwiched into this foundation. It's a jolting spark to the hashed and rehashed beach pop vibes permeating indie rock these days. Lead single "What A Drag" closed the evening, an aforementioned summery track best served with SPF 30, with Ted's plucked guitarwork prolonged through pedals until it and the set faded from the stage.
Chris Walla recently picked up The Lonely Forest as his first signing, an Anacortes, Washington indie rock band making performing for the first time in the city. Fronted by John Van Deusen and flanked by plaid clad lads, they perform music more fit for pop radio than the discerning college radio stations they visually look to target. Personally, it wasn't the best of the night since I couldn't exactly feel what they were doing-the lonely, nice guy "Why me?" plea seemed better done before. However, their pop has a kick to it as John Van Deusen was jumping on stage, focusing the attention on him and the emotional tracks laid out in front of us. They do a great job on stage, evoking a mix between '90s Ben Folds and Weezer, and Van Deusen's got the chops when he goes out of the comfort zone and into screaming.
The headliner trekked their way from Edinburgh to Lincoln Park, a recent addition to my musical repertoire, We Were Promised Jetpacks. They play a style similar to fellow Scotsmen, The Twilight Sad, yet their orchestral drifting replaces the spaciousness with an urgency akin to those sage forewarnings in tales. It is a restrained, epic sound as a bird netted against the ground. The perfect example also was the opener, "Keep Warm", introduced by the grainy, indecipherable, nearly ghostly numeric code of "A Half Built House". Once unleashed into the driving "Quiet Little Voices", Michael Palmer blurred the steel of his guitar as Adam Thompson's heavily accented singing demanded unwavering attention.
While not used to playing in "places with a balcony," the setlist covered much of These Four Walls except a lone track from their newly minted EP, The Last Place You'll Look. Split in half, the 2s, 5s, 1s, and 0s came back in as a theatrical intermission. The crowd, although restless, held on unlike nearly all audiences I've ever seen before Adam led the charge into "It's Thunder and It's Lightning". The constant and heavy Sean Smith bass line constructed the iron-like skeletal framework reinforced enough for Thompson's leadened screaming. It is something else to witness, as even stepping away from the mic his unaided voice can fill the venue. Towards the evening's end, Thompson was rather comically blunt in regards to encores; "Cause that's silly, isn't it? There's no Santa Claus. There's no encore."
There wasn't, and needn't be, as Lincoln Hall was swallowed by "Ships With Holes Will Sink" and "Short Bursts." Even the disco ball stirred to life as the band hung their guitars, closing the curtain. Those lucky to have seen them in the Empty Bottle were still raving, while the unaccustomed like me were seeking confirmation. I am proud to place myself in the first category now.