The Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago is perhaps best known for Wrigleyville, home to 2016 World Series Champions The Cubs, but the area’s bar-music venue combos are not to be overlooked. Among those is Chicago Historical Landmark Schubas Tavern, a century-old saloon that often plays host to up-and-coming artists. On a late January evening, fewer than 100 people packed into the intimate performance space to take in a few different variances in modern rock music.
One of the most interesting non-musical aspects of the evening at Schubas was the demographic representation. There was a wide spread of ages: Young women danced all night – regardless of who was on stage – and posted the entire evening to their snapchat, while older men reeking of cigarette smoke took photos to commemorate the show on their point-and-snap cameras.
Starting the set off were The Britanys, an alternative rock band with an Arctic Monkeys feel. The New York-based band is comprised of Lucas Long (vocals), Steele Kratt (drums), Lucas Carpenter (bass), and Jake Williams (guitar). They’re a bit ingenious at marketing, as much of their discovery comes from misspelled Google searches. In reality, they got their name from Long misspelling the name himself, when he went to purchase the IP address for the band’s website.
It didn’t seem like it mattered if there was a crowd of 5 or 50 for The Britanys; they cranked up the volume and brought their A game when it came to stage presence. The small crowd may in fact have worked in their favor, as most of their banter relied on audience interaction. It was refreshing to see an opening band feel so comfortable with their work to be able to leave it up to the (sometimes) unreliability of the audience to make it more personal. They even brought up the topic of sports — being from New York, they’re Rangers fans — and admitted they were nervous to be playing in the city that worships the Blackhawks.
Relevant references didn’t stop there, either. The Britanys referenced our new President as well: “We’re from the broken land…” Williams uttered at one point, immediately followed with Long saying, “Oh, no, apparently…we’re in the broken land.” Subtle Trump references would continue throughout the rest of the evening, as did the “good boy” references. Musical highlight? Recently released single “In Yer Time,” which is from a forthcoming album, due to be self-released in February. The Chicago crowd threw a few gracious head-bops their way, The Britanys wrapped up the set, and the lights re-lit.
Listen: “In Yer Time” – The Britanys
Not long after, East London-based Splashh took the reigns. An interesting note about Splashh: according to their Spotify demographics, most of their listenership is located in Brazil. Maybe it’s because they’re a type of music that’s not easily compared to other groups — kind of an alternative soft punk rock with an electro twist — or perhaps it’s because it seems like the American attention span isn’t all that great, either. Most of their studio recorded music available for streaming is about four minutes or less, (the only exception being the Pure Blue EP [Luv Luv Luv, 2015]) but most of the set was full of longer-form songs that relied on live loops by Jaie Gonzalez. These songs in particular paved the way for a sort of out-of-body experience that you don’t expect to get when you sign on for a rock show, but it was a nice break between the similar rock-feel that the other bands brought to the show.
Another fun thing about Splashh was that each member was clearly their own visual character: Gonzalez sported a beret, Will Russell (drums) had his hair parted perfectly down the middle, and his longer bangs framed his face and moved symmetrically and completely on-beat (as if it was just as responsible for the rhythm as he was), Sasha Frantz Carlson (vocals) wore a ratty T-shirt and looked like so many different people that you couldn’t give him the disservice of comparing him to just one of them, and Taddeo “Toto” Vivian MacDonald (guitar) had a camouflage hat perched atop his head, and hair that looked like it hadn’t seen a brush since the second week of deer camp. But the winner of character of the evening was easily the bass player, Thomas Beal — an older gentlemen who had denim on from head to toe, and a short, grey afro on top. The musical highlight from these guys was easily their latest single, “Waiting a Lifetime,” which featured a looping whistler. Although the Chicagoans didn’t unlock the dance level for Splashh (not even a little bit), the head bops got more gracious and the cheers got a bit louder.
Listen: “Waiting for a Lifetime” – Splashh
The crowd — now about twice the size as it was for The Britanys — was ready for the headline of the night. Public Access T.V. threw another low-key Trump reference in before they got into the whole reason they came to the city. “We’re the Feds from Washington, D.C.” were the first words uttered from the band. The joke only got about ten people to chuckle nervously, but the awkwardness didn’t last long as the band broke back into the “rock” genre that Splashh had twisted for the last 30 minutes.
Another New York band, this four-piece group is comprised of John Eatherly (lead vocals, guitar), Xan Aird (lead guitar, vocals), Max Peebles (bass, vocals) and Pete Star (drums, vocals). Public Access T.V. first started out as just Eatherly playing by himself around New York after dropping out of high school at 16. The band assumed their current lineup after releasing their debut single, “Monaco,” early in 2014. After gaining popularity in the UK later that year, the band performed at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas early in 2015. Much of 2016 was spent finalizing the debut album, more European tours, and major US festivals — all of that time spent in front of audiences around the world really paid off, because Public Access T.V. radiated confidence and a strong stage presence without seeming to have to try too hard.
About halfway through the set, Public Access T.V. played their most-streamed song on Spotify, “End of an Era.” It was around this time that the rockers finally got the crowd to start jumping around and dancing with them. Although the song was released in September 2016, “End of an Era” could had easily been taken as an anti-Trump song, with the chorus repeating,
May be the end of an era
As long as we keep dancing all night babe
We might keep it together
Turn it up, turn it up…
It’s gonna be alright, It’s gonna be alright
Listen: “End of an Era” – Public Access T.V.
A recurring theme throughout the night, (besides the Trump references), was the bands’ calling each other “good boys.” All three groups have been touring with each other for a couple weeks, and it’s likely some inside joke, but thinking about it now, that’s a great way to describe these rockers. A bunch of good boys. Another non-musical highlight of the show was as the performers finished up their sets. They’d grab a beer from the bar, and join the crowd. Towards the end of Public Access T.V.’s set, most of the other bands were standing on the benches on either side of the venue; singing along to the music, doing their best balance/drunk dance, and celebrating the talent that they’ve been traveling with. And one couldn’t help but think: “Yeah, what a bunch of good boys.”
— — — —