Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Virgins, Lizzy Trullie, Anya Marina--Schubas, Chicago, Illinois

Almost.

This was the sense I repeatedly had throughout the night on Thursday evening when I visited the neighborly Schuba’s to see The Virgins, Lizzy Trullie, and Anya Marina. Everything seemed almost really, really good.


Actually, the opener, Anya Marina was the least guilty of this “almostness.” It was a cold night in Chicago, and her bright stage presence and golden hair warmed up the room as soon as she took to the stage. She is a DJ by profession, so she was never at a loss of words and was not afraid to tell a lengthy-but-worth-it story about her experiences in getting cups of hot water from gas stations in the south. She is supporting her new album Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II which boast producers Louis XIV guitarist Brian Karscig and Spoon’s Britt Daniel. She played her songs either solo with guitar (an amazing Gibson acoustic and a beautiful Gibson hollow-body) or backed by some nice driving, sparse, non-bubbly programmed beats. She played “Move On” from her new album, and it was one of the night’s highlights. She seemed at her most comfortable all night in this song. The only reason that Anya fell into the “almost” category that the other two bands truly earned is that while she seemed completely at ease while talking on stage, she seemed a little less certain about playing her guitar and singing. It sounded really good, but she was distracted by looking down to make certain that all of her guitar chord changes. Of course, we want the chords to be right, but we also want the singer to be there with us. Anya delivered what we (my wife and I) thought was the most “delightful” music of the night. My wife had a large smile on her face the whole time, which means she is enjoying the music but also enjoying the person.


The crowd enjoyed her music as well, but really came alive when Anya did a fantastically adapted cover of T.I.’s “You Can Have Whatever You Like.” Now, I am already a fan of this song on its own merit. But Anya did not just go the easy party style route, but instead, went with a slower, heartfelt mood that suited the songs chord structure. Well done, Anya. Just look up at us so we can see your beautiful face and see your personality while you are singing, as well as entertaining us in between songs and you will be quickly rise above the aforementioned almostness.

Lizzy Trullie and her band were next up. Their whole set seemed almost good. At the beginning of the set, Lizzy said her dad was a teacher at Northwestern and was in the audience this evening. Could this be the reason that she never seemed to depart into the music? Nervous because dad was watching to see what all this rock and roll nonsense she had been wasting her time on was all about? Their first song, “Boy Boy” opened well, and “With You” was strong, but then the rest just kinda chugged along. Their music sounds like a Velvet Undergroundy and a 70’s New Yorky style. Three or four chords, simple, subtle, rocking slowly. I kept thinking that perhaps this would sound better on an album with the vocals given the space and front stage they need. But because of the style music, I bet if I heard it on an album, I would think, “I bet this is amazing in concert.” This does not bode well. Indeed, I did listen to her recorded stuff post concert and enjoyed it. I think Lissy’s lack of ability to let go into the music on this particular evening was the thing that kept it from popping into place. She sings in a way that it is more rhythmic than melodic, so without feeling like she was there, it was hard for me to be there with her. To close, the band came together with a different sound for a great cover of Hot Chip’s "Ready for the Floor" and mopped said floor with it. Over all, we’ll blame Dad on this one. Lizzy did not seem to be her same “bad ass” self this evening. Maybe she was just fueling up on parental rebellion angst that evening to get her through the rest of the tour.


So then the Virgins come out. Yes. They “almost” sounded like The Strokes. This is obviously the easy, but true comparison. Much of Donald Cumming’s phasing and inflection is very akin to Julian Casablancas, so that fact must go up front. The rest he seemed to have lifted from Mick Jagger and an '80s band I can’t quite place. The band, however, pulls a bit more funk and disco into the mix. Cumming’s was having a good time on stage prancing around. However, I did get the feel that there was a little burnout in the air. “What town are we in?” The band was into amusing themselves as they played. They almost delivered.


They were loud, rambunctious, and high energy, yet it didn’t quite work. They played through their hits. The crowd enjoyed. They closed with a cover of INXS’s "The Devil Inside." Now, I had already had grown a bit weary of Cumming’s over-pronunciation during the course of the evening. Words like “really” were pronounced “ree-ah-lee-uh.” So when he went into the never ending repeating of “The devil inside, the devil inside, every single one of us, the devil inside” at the end of the song, I grabbed my coat. (Incidentally, one realizes the genius of Michael Hutchence when hearing someone else sing that song.) The band was ripping it to shreds though. Big ending! The occurrence following summed up their set. The band after slamming the last chord said, “Thank you. Good night,” and abruptly left the stage. The house lights came up to half. Everyone turned and started looking for their coat. Conversations were mounted concerning the rest of the evening. Hugs were given and people started making their way toward the door. Then the band walked back out on stage. “We are gonna play a few more songs for y’all. I hope that is alright!” The folks in the front jumped up and down. The folks that were already wearing their coats kept their inertia away from the band, and the remainder of the show was played for a half house (which did not include me).


Were we supposed to cheer for an encore? Did we miss our cue? Were we guilty of breaking rock show etiquette? I think not. It seemed most people had had a good time, had gotten their fix of the catchy pop rock they came to hear, and decided getting home 30 minutes earlier than planned sounded better than 30 more minutes with the Virgins.

--Scott Rudolph

Photos by Scott Rudolph.

2 comments:

Alex said...

Scott, is it Lizzy, Lissy, or Lizzie?

Anthony Berbiglia said...

I can't remember when, but a question was posed as to whether a DJ playing Girl Talk was cheating. I forwarded this question to a friend of a friend, who happens to own the website residentvibes.com (they sell electronic type dj music). His answer, "Absolutely." Question answered. Also, Anya Marina looks like she would create nasty thoughts in my head.

 
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