Sunday, May 18, 2008

Clinic, Shearwater--The Empty Bottle, Chicago, Illinois

Admittedly my initial draw to this show was the fact that Jonathan Meiburg, lead singer of Shearwater, was also the keyboardist for Okkervil River. In preparation for the show, I crammed in iPod listening sessions of Palo Santo and Winged Life on my westward commute to the ‘burbs the morning of the show. Without paying close attention, I realized that my favorite tracks from the albums curiously were the ones that Will Sheff partook in. Knowing that he was not likely to be present at the show, I had to listen to the Sheff-less songs. Save for the occasional horn and banjo, Shearwater bore little resemblance to Okkervil River. Meiburg, who is also an ornithologist, was quite leggy and bird-like in appearance. Banging on the drums behind him was Thor Harris, who I hoped desperately was wearing an awful, awful wig because I couldn’t fathom that people intentionally wish to look like that. It was long, nappy and curly down to his belly with cowlicked bangs parted in the middle. I couldn’t stop looking at him!

I was only able to pick out a few of their songs, including “Seventy-Four, Seventy-Five”, “Red Sea, Black Sea” and “White Waves” which featured a wicked, sure-to-get-your-head-bobbing guitar lead-in. Intermixed were songs from their forthcoming album, Rook. Meiburg’s voice can be both gentle and scolding, sometimes in the same song. Shearwater has a very intense sound that occasionally drifts into a dreamlike state with a xylophone and electric stringed instruments.

In the break before Clinic came on I stood alone waiting for my friend. Conscious of my aloneness in a growing sea of chatty scenesters, I took refuge by staring at the walls of the Empty Bottle. Plastered haphazardly from floor to ceiling are posters from shows past. Behind the bar is a framed medical diagram of the liver, so we can take guilty pleasure in the irreversible destruction of our “tox box” every time we throw one back. Unmatching vintage lanterns hang above the bar, creating quaint and cozy confines. The Empty Bottle emanates a feeling of unassuming coolness, providing further (unnecessary) evidence that Chicago music venues just plain rock.

Clinic took stage donning their surgical masks. If it wasn’t for their festive Hawaiian shirts, one might think they just robbed a bank. Or maybe they are just ugly or they don’t want to be recognized in public. Their masks were a bit gimmicky, but these Liverpudlians whipped up some catchy, pulsating tunes to my delight. If their masks were to represent their cold mechanical house beat sound, then the Hawaiian shirts reflected their whimsical surfy side. It was an odd combination that worked. Songs like “Free Not Free” that were pretty at first occasionally freaked out. The packed house and freelance dancers amongst the audience were loving it. Clinic has been around for over ten years, but only landed here in Chicago for the second time in seven years. I liked them, but from the sound of their music they might be best paired with some bean bags, lava lamps and mind-altering substances. Other notable songs included “The Witch” and “Corpus Christi”.

The early show afforded me a good night’s sleep and an evening better spent than on my couch getting hip to Gossip Girl. The bar is set low for Monday nights. Shearwater and Clinic zapped a little life into what would have otherwise been a drab start to the week.

--Audrey Wen

No comments:

eXTReMe Tracker