Tag Archives: Empty Bottle

An Evening with The Growlers and The Hussy

27 May

“Don’t you guys have any freaks or weirdos in Chicago,” Growlers’ lead singer Brooks Nielsen sarcastically asked last night’s Empty Bottle Crowd after a fan flamboyantly danced on stage halfway through their set.  Nielsen later requested his “gay back-up dancer” before fittingly going into their song “Gay Thoughts.” Dancing was a regular occurrence throughout the Growlers’ set, culminating in 10-15 fans, including 3 Secret Colours, walking on stage to dance out the second to last song.

The Growlers were confidently awkward in front of a large Empty Bottle Crowd, a step up from last year’s Chicago visit to Ronny’s. Though nearly every song of their dirt psych surf set sounded similar to the last, as I said to a friend beside me, “It’s a great song.”  Once they had finished their set, the Growlers mingled with members of the crowd and then, I’m assuming, got back into their rickety bus with the basketball hoop nailed to the back (I have to assume that was their bus).

The highlight of the night for me, however was the Hussy’s set.  Their recent LP Cement Tomb Mind Control has been in regular rotation for me, and I told several friends to arrive early to see their set.

The Hussy are a two-piece noisy garage act whose songs live pack more energy  and if it’s possible seem even shorter than they do on recording.  Similarly to Ty Segall, the Hussy are loud live, but unlike Ty, singer and guitarist Bobby Hussy knows how to balance his love of noise and his respect for the audience’s collective eardrum (my ears continued to ring 3 days after seeing Ty at the Empty Bottle).


Empty Bottle Offers Up 3 Great Sets On Their Bandcamp Page

16 May

New Rabble Rabble 7″ out May 23rd

11 May

Rabble Rabble used to be the band that showed up on just about every single good bill in Chicago.  Then they were the band that documented their trip to Austin, TX, giving us one SXSW vlog a day.  As if they weren’t already the hardest working band in Chicago (didn’t they just release a live LP in March?), now Rabble Rabble is finally going to be the band that takes over your record player.

During their tour of the east coast last summer, Rabble Rabble recorded two songs at Gimme That Sound Studios.  The resulting 7″ will be released on May 23rd at the Empty Bottle.

Now, I’ve never been overly impressed with Rabble Rabble’s recordings; I think they have much more to offer in a live setting. But the new 7″ from Chicago’s psych poster boys (and girl)  is a different story. The lead off track “Why Not?” gives listeners that same psychotic psychedelia they’ve come to know and love from Rabble Rabble, but this time in a more controlled environment.  “Why Not?” would feel right at home in any movie chase scene (think Duel on Acid).

The b-side, “Long Hook” sounds like a lost track from the Kinks’, Village Green Preservation Society, but on speed and a whole bunch more acid.  Though most of the song is sung through three-piece chants, the lead vocals even sound like Dave Davies on this one.

Be sure to pick up a copy of Rabble Rabble’s new 7″ at the Empty Bottle on May 23rd with Distractions and We Are Hex

An Evening with the Reigning Sound and Last Year’s Men

29 Apr

I have a tendency to build my heroes up in my mind to a point where they could not possibly meet my expectations.  It happened the first time I saw Bob Dylan in concert.  I watched as he dropped his harmonica mid-song and kicked it across the stage in an attempt to bend over and pick it up.  Then there was Jack White. He played just fine I’m sure, but I had made him into such a myth-like figure that I don’t think anything he did could have satisfied my impossible standards, and so I left unsatisfied.  Since those encounters, I’ve made myself unavailable when certain people come to Chicago.  So it was no surprise that when Thursday night rolled around, I told my friends, who had made plans to go with me days earlier, I was “too tired” to go. Thankfully, they didn’t buy it.

As we walked into the Empty Bottle, Last Year’s Men, from Chapel Hill, was just about ready to start.  They had the recklessness of the Black Lips, though they seemed more in touch with their influences (I’m assuming The Seeds and maybe DC5?). They finished their set, tackling each other on stage during the final song.

With what seemed like a 5 minute wait, Greg Cartwright and the rest of the Reigning Sound popped out of a door that read “Bands Only,” and walked to the stage.  From the very first second they plugged in, the requests came pouring out. “Stormy Weather” is clearly the fan favorite.  The set list for me is a giant blur, which I can only attribute to the $2.50 Old Styles, but the Reigning Sound played several songs off of Too Much Guitar, my favorite album of any Greg Cartwright project.  It took only a moment for Greg Cartwright the myth to exit and for The Reigning Sound to enter. With his spastic head shake, Greg ripped through just about every Reigning Sound song a fan could want to hear, as well as a few favorites from his past bands, The Compulsive Gamblers (“Stop and Think It Over”) and The Oblivians (“Bad Man”).

One thing that was missed in an otherwise flawless set was the backup singing on songs like “Stormy Weather” and “Your Love Is a Fine Thing,” but the packed Empty Bottle crowd was obliged to help out.

When they had finished their set, Greg went back through the “Bands Only” door from which he came, leaving the other two members mingling with friends in the crowd.  I took the opportunity to throw in a request to the bass player, David Wayne Gay.  I asked for “If You Can’t Give Me Everything” during the encore.  His response showed me that even Greg’s bandmates put him on a pedestal.  He said, “You need to talk to the man with the guitar.  I’ll tell him, but we haven’t played that one in a long time.”  They didn’t play it, but I have little to complain about.

If the cheapest seats weren’t over $100, I might now have the nerve to see Elvis Costello in May.

Free Download: Half Rats @ Empty Bottle 3-14-11

2 Apr

Miss the Half Rats show last month at the Empty Bottle?  While that definitely sucks, today’s your lucky day.  The Empty Bottle has graciously given you the next best thing to a time machine: they’ve posted the audio of the entire show for free download on their Bandcamp page.  You can also download Ty Segall’s set from the same night.  Just look to the right under “discography.”

Half Rats @ Empty Bottle 3-14-11

Merlin Wall “Crushin’ From Afar” Review + Interview

12 Mar

Merlin Wall’s debut EP, Crushin’ From Afar, begins with an undeniable truth.  They try to slip it past us with their swirling reverb and a surf pop guise, as they comically inform us, “Everyone you know is gonna die someday.”  As if to press their luck, they try for more.  “Everyone you know is gonna die in a horrible way.”  Merlin Wall, similar to the likes of Woody Allen, is able to bring us so close to the truth about the inevitability of death, while allowing us, with a shrug of the shoulders and a slight smile, to simply keep on listening.

And that’s how fun Crushin’ From Afar really is.  One glance at the tracklist and its apparent.  With song titles like “Pizza Party,”  “Chick Track” or, my personal favorite “Hey Babes,” you get the feeling this band is not aiming to alter your life in any way other than to simply entertain.  When I asked the band to talk about about Crushin’ From Afar, they replied, “Our vision was to do for Chicago what Nelly’s Sweat/Suit did for STL, which is to mostly amuse / mildly confuse / give everyone a reason to party.”  Put Crushin’ From Afar on at a gathering of friends and you have just that, a reason to party.

With touches of surf pop, Jesus and Mary Chain, and the Ramones, Merlin Wall have created a fun sound that is all their own.  It’s drenched in reverb, perhaps more than is tasteful, which is just how I like my reverb.  If Phil Spector taught us anything, it’s the beauty in a wall of sound.

Merlin Wall was nice enough to sit down with me, me at my computer and them at theirs, to talk about Crushin’ From Afar, their influences, and their sound. Here ’tis.  Catch Merlin Wall this Sunday (3/13) at Empty Bottle.  3 bucks and they go on at 7.

1. Does the name Merlin Wall hold any significance or is it just word play?

-Our friend Marty has a sleep disorder where he falls asleep at parties at a very early hour.  It happens so quick it’s like magic!  That sleepy moment is when a Marty Party becomes a Merlin Party.  So yeah, Merlin is our friend and Merlin Wall sounded cool together as a play on words.  Also, we just found out some people are trying to push it as Tim Duncan’s official nickname?  It could just be a rumor, but I hear he does play D & D.

2. What were your 3 biggest influences while writing “Crushin’ From Afar?”
-Babes on Bikes

3. You guys have an undeniably west coast sound.  How did you attain that being from Chicago?
-With the internet it doesn’t matter where you’re from anymore.  Like some of the best tropical blisspop comes from Sweden and that place is usually pretty cold and dreary.  We are similarly dreary boys trying to get dreamy.  You could bring up escapism, but we’re pretty happy where we are.  Of course we still maintain a Chicago aura about us, whether it’s by having big shoulders and a gritty attitude or enjoying the best encased meats (except Wade…he’s vegetarian — and also we don’t have big shoulders we’re all pretty skinny beanstalks trying to get buffffff).

4. What was the last album each band member listened to?
-Derek: Cloud Nothings – Turning On
-Wade: Neu! – Neu!
-Erik: Jackie Wilson – Sweetest Feelin’: The Very Best of Jackie Wilson
-Stu: Fugazi – 13 Songs

5. Was there any type of artistic vision you had for “Crushin’ From Afar” or are they just  6 songs you recorded for an EP?
-Our vision was to do for Chicago what Nelly’s Sweat/Suit did for STL, which is to mostly amuse / mildly confuse / give everyone a reason to party.

6. What part does Chicago play in your music?
-Chicago is in a nice transition period right now and depending on how you look at it it can be a beautiful, sprawling mix of people trying to make their lives better, or it can be another dying midwestern former powerhouse of industry.  We don’t think it’s dying at all (even if it seems there’s a lot of shit going down) and we dig contrasts like that.  It’s all going to be a lot easier after the Singularity, but until then we’re going to keep making dumb pop songs for this lovely human race.

7. What are your 3 favorite local acts?
-California Wives
-Pagan Youth

8. What can we expect from Merlin Wall in 2011?
-A full-length album and a jump up in wrestling weight class.

Ty Segall, Half Rats, Heavy Cream, and Slushy at Empty Bottle 3/14

7 Mar


In case, like me, you missed their recent show at SubT with Paul Collins Beat, Lafayette’s Half Rats will be strolling into Chicago’s Empty Bottle next monday (3/14) to give us yet another dose of their beautifully minimal rock ‘n’ roll.  This time, they bring with them San Francisco’s Ty Segall, who specializes in frantic caveman beach stomps, and Nashville punks Heavy Cream. Slushy opens the show with their demented bubblegum pop.