You know a band is special when you just saw them three months ago and you're already geeked to do it again. This is especially true when they've only officially released ten songs. But it was precisely this feeling that gripped me as I walked up Western Avenue to see Wild Flag this past Sunday night.
I had work the next morning and the doors weren't even until 9:30 pm, which meant that by all rights I should have been at least mildly annoyed. However, I kept thinking back to July when I'd seen this band slay a street festival of thousands. Tonight they were playing The Empty Bottle, an incredible venue with the shaggy ambiance and capacity of an overgrown basement show. The thought of squeezing all that energy into such a small space was giddying.On this evening I was with my friend Matt (a man so devoted to the Chicago live music scene that he managed to take in four shows within twenty-four hours last week) and his friend, a longtime Sleater-Kinney devotee. This was good news to me because all of us were serious about absorbing all we could from this show.
We staked our claim directly in front of the stage before the openers even started setting up and began our wait. The first band was a male/female duo called Yellowfever who I'd never heard before. They had the nebbishy indie rock thing down pat, which initially worried me. Their first few songs were mid-tempo numbers that weren't unpleasant but certainly failed to match the energy or excitement that most of the audience had brought to the show.
As the set wore on, however, they seemed to grow into the moment. I don't know if it was the band itself, the difference in the songs or the crowd's own desire to get amp'd up for the headliners. but each song seemed to pick up a little more momentum from the last. When the lead singer announced that there were two songs left, I realized that I was actually really grooving on this music. Then I realized that Wild Flag was up next and the giddiness returned.
Between sets I remember talking for a while about the Brewers game with someone next to me for a little while but by then I think that time had started to kaleidoscope. Once the house lights dimmed and the ladies from Wild Flag walked onstage, it all became a blur. In that initial rush, I did notice that Matt had managed to wedge his way right against the stage and took the opportunity to whip out a camera which he wielded with skill throughout the show.
Bless his diligence because I spent the next ninety minutes dancing, whipping my head awkwardly to the music and otherwise losing myself in the experience. I've already told what it was like to see this band live and all I'll add here is that they seem to have grown in showmanship since July but not in ego. Janet pounded her kit and added backing vocals with equal skill while Mary and Carrie would shift from demonic guitar-slingers during songs to down-to-earth everywomen between them.
By the end of the show Carrie remarked that she was happy that they'd sold out the tiny Bottle two nights in a row and that we'd all come out late on a Sunday. "It's because you're so good at music!" I quipped and everyone smiled and laughed for a second. Then they kept playing and we kept dancing.
All photos Copyright Matt Conzen, 2011. You can see more here.