Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Up-and-coming bands showcase promise by channeling the past

LoveLikeFire at Schubas Sunday night

It was an impressive showcase of up-and-coming bands on Sunday night featuring two local favorites, Company of Thieves and Tenniscourts, and a touring band from San Francisco, LoveLikeFire. At times rough around the edges, all of the bands showed great promise and, most importantly, youthful exuberance.

Did I say youthful? Sure, openers Tenniscourts may have some collective years behind them, but being a relatively new band, the songs sounded fresh and the performance was urgent. Wes Hollywood, sporting Elvis Costello specs and an orange button-up (a little too close to the roadside-convict-clean-up-crew shade) seemed a little nervous at times in front of the slowly filling-up Schubas, but the slack was picked up by the downright goofy antics of their drummer. All in all, it was their instant catchiness that hit the spot, with songs like "Victoria & Monica" in my head as I was driving home. Even after two other bands!

Next up was San Francisco's LoveLikeFire, who proved they knew their way around a stage without delay. The first guitar strum brought laser lights from each side of the stage, beaming through the haze of the already-chugging fog machine. My immediate reaction was "I hate this," and my showmate's immediate reaction was nausea so bad that she almost had to step out. Once the initial shock had passed, LoveLikeFire were quite impressive. The combination of Ann Yu's vocals and the dirty late '70s / early '80s almost new wave guitar pop reminded me of the Pretenders or early Blondie. It was a very nostalgic sound that hopefully left people smiling as opposed to coughing.

Last up: Chicago's own Company of Thieves. If Tenniscourts transported you to '77 and LoveLikeFire had you reminiscing of 1982, then Company of Thieves would land you right smack dab in the middle of 1997. It's not a terrible thing, and it's a nice cap off to a night full of nostalgia. What they lacked in instant catchiness they made up for in charm and charisma, personified by singer Genevieve Schatz. Her vocals shifted from near whispers to operatic roars -- often in the same song -- channeling Harriet Wheeler, Bjork, and a whole lot of Rainer Maria's Caithlin De Marrais, the latter likely a coincidental influence given that Schatz was 10 years old when De Marrais was queen of Midwest post punk (OK, OK, emo). The band seemed seasoned and together, weaving grandiose, angular tunes underneath her soaring voice. (I liken the whole thing to a fresh, flowing bed sheet lightly tossed over a foam egg crate mattress topper.) There was one very distracting and, at times, downright annoying aspect to their performance involving hair, a tank top, and some hammed-up posing, but I have to stick to the high road here. They're a new band, and the rough edges will hopefully be smoothed out with experience and time. - B. Nanna