If you were not part of the crowd upstairs at Subterranean in Chicago January 13th, you have my condolences: for you missed one hell of a show. It was my third time within six days that this author went to Subterranean to feed an incessant hunger for live music, and Friday night the venue feasted on rhythm and rhymes, sensual guitar riffs, and resonating keyboard chords.
My buddies and myself ran up the dark stairs upon entering the bar and made our way to my favorite spot – the front left corner. I particularly like this spot at Subterranean because it offers the best view of the spiral staircase at the back of the stage. Here you can watch bands set up and tear down their set, listen to them tune their instruments and do sound checks, and overhear their off-microphones banters. Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes were doing just that when I arrived.
They started off the night with ‘Bleeding Tongue,’ which like so many of their songs surprises you with twists and turns that flow together to create a delightful sound. While Daniel (keys, etc.) was front and center, my attention was drawn to band members Joel (drums), Marshall (bass) and Timon (guitar) as they performed with infectious energy and excitement. The sound these guys create, by combining their various Midwest backgrounds (Daniel, Minneapolis MN; Timon, Youngstown OH; Marshall, Columbus OH; and Joel, Wichita KS), is a pleasing blend of pop/folk/indie rock/and an elusive something else.
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes’ Shoe Fits
If you pay attention to Amazon’s Top 100 of 2011 lists, you may already be familiar with ‘Shoe Fits,’ which was ranked #7 on The Best Songs of 2011 (their album made The Top Albums of 2011). This upbeat and catchy song features a carnivalesque whirly keyboard (something about it reminded me of sounds from Fun and Jukebox the Ghost). And it is accompanied by a dance: stomp clap, clap stomp-stomp; a routine that may be easy enough, but some of us with fuzzy coordination (impaired by alcohol, chemicals or recreation and overly-stimulated neural activity) found ourselves messing up the otherwise simple step. By the end of the song, the crowd was stomping and clapping, bopping and swaying to our own patterns and rhythms – quintessential to the overall message of the song. Make sure you download a free copy of the song and check out the music video on their website and treat yourself to their entire album, Civilized Man, while you’re there.
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes better be back to Chicago soon. If not, I’ll be making my way down to Nashville to catch another of their shows at my earliest convenience.
Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes set-list (1/13/2012):
1. Bleeding Tongue
2. Take Your Time
3. Shoe Fits
5. Follow Me Home
6. Front Line
7. Wolf Is Me
Next up was the greatly anticipated Filligar. Brothers Johnny (guitar), Teddy (bass), and Pete (drums) and friend Casey (keys) grew up in Chicago and have been playing and touring together for years. Here in their hometown, they were greeted by a crowd of fans who were thrilled to see them on stage. Friends from the crowd shouted “Happy Birthday, Casey” as the keyboard was set up over the pastel-colored rug that had been laid out. They jumped right into their first tune ‘Guilty Good Intentions,’ immediately electrifying the crowd with zeal and intensity that only grew as they wove through their rock-and-roll music.
Fililigar’s Guilty Good Intentions
Most of their set came from their eighth album (yes, these guys have released eight albums), The Nerve. Two songs played Friday night have not yet been recorded and gave us a taste of what we can expect from Filligar in the future. Keep a lookout for their upcoming album (early 2012) – this author will be counting down the days until its release. You can grab two tracks for free from their website now (and read about their touring van, Ruby).
As the final notes of their last song for the night faded, the crowd cheered even louder. The guys made their way up the spiral staircase, but within a few minutes their feet reappeared at the top and they wound their way back down to the stage for an encore. It may be risky for some bands to cover a masterpiece like that of The Rolling Stone’s ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ but Filligar nailed it (in fact, the only thing I scribbled in my little pad of paper regarding the encore is ‘wow, nailed it’ with a giant smiley face).
1. Guilty Good Intentions
2. Robbery (Shocking Love)
3. Gray Area
4. The Thrill
5. Knock Yourself Out
6. Not Gonna Settle
7. Untitled (unrecorded, working title: Riding High)
8. Untitled (unrecorded, working title: Dark Horse)
10. Sympathy for the Devil (Rolling Stone cover)
It’s been thirty-six hours since I left Subterranean, but the songs have been stuck in my head. I’ve found myself humming and toe-tapping and shoulder swaying to various songs by Daniel Ellsworth & The Great Lakes and Filligar waiting in line at Trader Joes, while riding the L, and during conversations at a party on a later night. Do yourself a favor and listen to their albums, and then check out their tour dates for a show near you.
Written by Molly Hermiller