I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t make it out to enough shows. It’s weird, you get comfortable diving into the vast expanse of SoundCloud and Bandcamp – thousands of independent bands at your fingertips with none of the swampy atmosphere of independent venues. You can absolutely carry on snobbish conversations, but it’s also a little devoid of authenticity. So, when I stumbled upon Snoozer two months ago, I made a commitment to myself that I’d break this awful sidelined streak and see their next Chicago show. The chance came around on August 11 at the Beat Kitchen and the entire lineup that night was killer, reminding me why I spent most weekends in high school at VFW halls.
Chicago’s own Clearance opened the night. The slanted poetry of these poppy, driven tunes lend themselves well to Pavement generalizations (any of the tracks on their Greensleeve 7″ could be slipped onto a Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain b-sides collection without detection). Halfway through the set, a string broke that was critical enough to take some time to change, giving Clearance the opportunity to talk a bit with the crowd: “When you’re in this band, you break a string. Every show.” They wore it as a badge of pride – it gave an edge to their otherwise at-ease stage presence.
Lady Bones was up next, an angular Boston-based trio that blasted through an excellent collection of bold and aggressively catchy songs. They find easy company with Pile, but Lady Bones absolutely highlights different areas of that aesthetic, bringing a bit more vulnerability and straightforwardness to both their lyrics and arrangements. My friend Corey summed it up best when she said they sounded like the title of the book “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” They were organic and clean, but definitely gritty. The similarities end there.
Personal mega-faves Snoozer then tore into a great set, making it obvious that they love playing live. Their banter was the best of the night – from introducing themselves as The Snorks, proclaiming “Oh Chicago, city of beautiful women: I am not a creep,” to their admission that “Everyone playing tonight is a guitar god. It sucks.” Their most recent tape, Cottage Cheese, sounds like it is quite possibly just a one-take recording, which might be the best (and only) way to capture their raw energy. They closed out with “Big Howl,” a powerful track that ended their set on a high note.
Geronimo! brought us home with a clean and high-octane survey of their discography, including their newest release Cheap Trick. Though the crowd was smaller than the first time I saw them (supporting Speedy Ortiz at The Empty Bottle), they were committed to giving us the best performance possible. Guitarist and vocalist Kelly Johnson is a dynamic front man whose towering frame accentuates every ankle twist and foot stomp. Ben (synth/bass sounds) and Matt (drums) were precise and found ways to have their own fun in support of Johnson’s outpouring. Notable banter: “Okay, so this next one is called ‘Mr. President’…” (crowd hoots) “Yeah? You guys actually know it?” (crowd hoots) “Oh cool, a lot of times we say the names of our songs and it’s silent. Cool.”
It must also be said that the sound engineer on board that night was excellent. They kept changeovers between sets short and their handling of each band (while complementary, there is a huge difference in sound between Lady Bones and Snoozer). Also, the bands seemed to feel comfortable and empowered in the space, which speaks volumes of Beat Kitchen as a whole.