Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Highs and Lows of the Bottom Lounge

Hello once again, can't believe it's almost been two months since my last update, guess it's time to do a little catching up.

I've been heading out to a bunch of shows as of late, including two recent ones at the Bottom Lounge, a bar/club that's been hosting shows for a year or two now just west of the Loop. I first went there about a year ago to see M83, and the big problem I had with the place was that they had rows of speaker cabinets hanging from the ceiling that blocked a large chunk of the viewing area from the floor.

I first went back about two weeks ago to see the piano/drum duo Matt and Kim, who I had to miss at the Pitchfork Festival this year to save our spots while Michele and Bella tried to check them out. I know you probably think you've never heard of the band at all, but I promise that if you've seen the commercials for the new show Community, or if you saw the right Heineken commercial, you've heard their songs.

I first saw Matt & Kim I believe at Lollapalooza 2007, when they were a very last minute addition to fill a couple of suddenly empty spots in the schedule. They had just released their debut album, and looked like they were both having the time of their lives playing to one of the biggest crowds they ever had to that point.

The band has been building a loyal audience since then, based around their goofy, giddy blasts of poppy punk. The band has been gaining recognition as well, both in the previously mentioned commercials, as well as video plays for the great newer songs "Daylight" and "Lessons Learned" from this year's Grand. They even won a MTV video award for their great video for Lessons Learned, but sadly it wasn't telecast, so Kanye couldn't interrupt them. Oh well.

The good news is the duo was just as giddy and thrilled to be playing as they were two years ago. I've been going to concerts religiously for about 15 years, and in all that time I don't think I've ever seen two people so happy to be performing. It's an infectious energy that their young crowd eats up and feeds right back to them throughout their short set.

The band had about an hour to play, but they could have easily played every single song they've released on two albums, plus a cover or two in that entire time. So the band instead had fun dancing around and frequently breaking to tell the crowd how happy they were to be there and thanking everyone for being a part of it. After closing with "Daylight," both band members even jumped into the crowd to "dance" with them the rest of the night, which basically mean them getting shoved around constantly while people tried to take pictures with them.

About a week and a half later, I headed back to the Bottom Lounge to see Thursday, a great New Jersey band I haven't seen playing live in about 5 or 6 years unfortunately, despite the fact that they've put out three fantastic albums in that time. The last time I saw them, they were playing on the side stage in a parking lot at a Q101 festival, and the guitarist got so into the first song, he didn't notice where he was, and fell off the stage a good 7 or 8 feet to the concrete below. To his credit, he got right back up and finished the entire set despite the fall. At least at the Bottom Lounge, if he fell again, it would only be about a three or four foot drop.

There were 4 bands on the lineup that night, and thankfully the show started around 5:30. Of the three opening bands, only the middle one, I believe their name was Broken Windows, was worth watching. They reminded me of Girls Against Boys, minus their whole disco rock angle, with a bit of Queens of the Stone Age thrown in.

Thursday took the stage around 8:15, which was shockingly early for a headliner. They plowed through "Resuscitation of a Dead Man," their opening track of their newest album, "Common Existence." They jumped around their catalog, focusing on alot of track from their two previous great albums, "War All the Time" and "A City By the Light Divided." The band's lead singer, Geoff Rickly, was a great band leader, as he threw every ounce of energy he had into every song, looking like he was nearly going to hyperventilate at some points in the night.

Despite his performance, something seemed a bit off with the band overall. The songs just sounded muddy live, it was hard to decipher the lyrics live, and rest of the band just sounded sludgy and it was hard to tell one song apart from another.

I was nearly one of the oldest people in the audience in the show, and seeing that alot of the crowd was still going nuts and loving the show was actually making me wonder if I was losing it. I'll chalk that up to either it being a Wednesday night in the middle of a long, busy week, or just one bad show night out of a good streak, but I was wondering if it was time to slow down on seeing concerts after that. Thankfully, I went to another show two nights later that quickly changed my mind. More to come on that.

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