Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Concert Review: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Schubas, June 24, 2013

It had been a long time for me and Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I first fell in love with the band when they played my college in spring 2006. Their debut album had just been re-released by Polyvinyl and they'd had a song featured on The OC, back when that was still a thing (I'll admit it, I wouldn't mind more Rachel Bilson). That wave of buzz steered me towards Broom, a record whose warmth and intimacy have given it a longevity that other mid-00's flavor-of-the-month bands have lacked (OK, that first Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record holds up alright but when was the last time you played any Tapes N' Tapes?).

Although I've dutifully checked out songs from their following albums, I never quite gave them the honest chance they deserved. You know how it goes, you get busy, your eyes start wandering, life happens. Then I was given an opportunity to interview them a few weeks ago, which gave the excuse to ramble through their catalog with new purpose. I ended up falling in love all over again and when they offered me a spot on the guest list for a show and Schubas, I jumped at the chance.

It was a rough night to be playing Chicago. Not only was it the night of what turned out to be the historic Stanley Cup Game 6, but this was an early show that was preceded by vicious, semi-toppling winds and rain. If ever their were a star-crossed booking, this was it.

So it was with delighted surprise that I greeted the early-arriving crowd in Schubas wonderfully cozy back room. I arrived in the middle of the opening set from Chicago's own Sunjacket. They'd clearly brought a lot of good-natured friends to the show and their home crowd nervousness was apparent in their on-stage demeanor. Fortunately, the music sounded fine, a fine blend of crackly guitars and fuzzy synths that created the perfect blanket of mid-fi guitar racket to smother a Monday's worth of other thoughts and make you happy to be hearing music.

It was scarcely 8pm when SSLYBY took the stage but the rays of sunlight sneaking in through an open door didn't drown out the rock vibe. They opened with my old college mixtape standby "Oregon Girl" and everything was right with the world. Their live sound had a little more of a punchy power-pop feel than I remembered it (which makes sense, given the dynamics of Let It Sway) but that kind of energy was just what the doctor ordered. 

The band's lead singer and vector for contagious enthusiasm Phil Dickey started things off behind the drum kit, which was, like the rest of the set, a fun choice. Sitting behind a drumhead which now reads "SSL BY" (the loss of the direct address feeling fitting, given ol' Boris' 2007 demise), he looked hemmed in by his instruments yet also delighted at the chance to loose his energy on skins and cymbals. After a few more numbers, including another from Broom and a song from their upcoming record, the wonderful summertime escape "Nightwater Girlfriend", Dickey finally moved up to guitar duties and kicked the show into the next gear.

Between his bantering with the audience, jumping off of amps and joking with a manic, slightly-nervous joy, Dickey dared the audience not to love every minute of the show - fortunately, it wasn't a hard sell. During my interview, the band noted that though they didn't have a massive fanbase, they did have an engaged and devoted one which, for a music snob asshole like me, is so much more satisfying. I've always been of the opinion that if you've got a fanbase full of white people that can effectively keep time, you're probably doing something right and by that standard, SSLYBY's devotee's acquitted themselves admirably multiple times.

The set kept things breezy, mixing a few new numbers with the best of the band's released discography in such a way that the announcement that there were only two songs left felt like a ludicrous overestimation of the time elapsed. Songs that I'd not heard in years like "Modern Mystery", "Back In The Saddle", "Let It Sway" revealed themselves to be forgotten favorites as I started mouthing lyrics and the band even threw us a few curveballs. For me the high point might have been the energetic cover of the Hollies "Carrie-Anne", an obvious choice for the band, even though I'd long associated them more with Elliott Smith than lighthearted '60s pop.

After the briefest of pauses, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin emerged from a football-like huddle in the the not-really-hidden Schubas sidestage for an encore. They started with the band's thus-far unrequited love song for their hometown minor league baseball team, "Cardinal Rule" and ended it with oddly-upbeat sounding "I Think I Wanna Die". It was a fitting mixture of passionate exuberance and melodic misanthropy for the Springfield scrappers and, despite the fact that neither are "hits" even by the band's own modest standards, they sent the crowd out smiling.

It's nice to know that there are some things that we can depend on in this life: unpredictable Chicago weather, Congressional ineptitude, your significant other always wanting half of what you ordered for dessert. At some point, SSLYBY became one of those touchstones, always delivering catchy, life-affirming indie rock on an endearing and wonderfully approachable scale. Everyone at Monday's show was able to take a little piece of that feeling home with them that was surely worth more than the price of admission.

Pangea Buy Broom (If you're a vinyl lover, especially make sure to grab a copy, it's gorgeous 180-gram vinyl and has three LP bonus tracks and two more on the download - it's STACKED.)
Cardinal Rules  Buy Let It Sway
Nightwater Girlfriend  Pre-Order Fly By Wire (Their best record since Broom? Do it!)

No comments:

Post a Comment