We may not set out to focus on Chicago bands, but cannot help but do so when two of the three bands on a killer lineup happen to be local rising stars. Saturday night at Lincoln Hall confirmed the flourishing music scene in Chicago is not about to fade again when acts like AM Taxi and Company Of Thieves eventually set out for their well deserved headlining tours spanning the globe.
Saturday night was to be another step along the way to greatness for AM Taxi, and it certainly was, but was also prime example of why we always recommend showing up early to concerts. Chicago quartet, Big Science has a sound that is pure post-punk one moment and soaring new wave the next. Their explosive, bass-heavy grooves were the kind you would imagine The Police would have produced if they had started recording in the mid-eighties; having grown up on a steady diet of early Talking Heads. Their jittery rock reminded us of a harder-edged Dogs Die In Hot Cars. Not having heard a single riff going in, the tight half-hour set was the kind that makes you leaving in search of all the music you can find from the band. The songs, like the eerie jangle of “My Career As A Ghost”, are probably a little better than their stage presence at this point, but they are definitely a band worth keeping an eye on as they get more comfortable in the spotlight sure to follow them.
The lone Chicago outsiders on the bill were Nashville’s Royal Bangs. The first song of the set was a new one, which held tight to their ability to fuse art rock with poppy soul. The two-drummer setup of the band worked well to create a powerful thrust for the jangly guitars and flickering synth to ride. At times the angst-ridden, itchy sound felt like TV On The Radio’s take on the soundtrack-happy, mid-eighties Kenny Loggins, but as on album, the band can be a bit hit or miss live. Still, even in the moments where it felt they went a bit too askew with the smashed synth-provided beats and cluttered webs of sound, you could not help but feel there is a great band that has not yet found their footing. The notable lack of Let It Beep’s poppiest offerings, “War Bells” and “Waking Up Weird”, was disappointing, but the empowering “Poison Control” did well enough in their stead.
Started as the side project of Lucky Boys Confusion members Adam Krier and Jason Schultejann, AM Taxi comes with a built-in audience thanks to their other band’s stretch of success in the city. Thankfully, they did not rest on their laurels, building a tight songbook full of anthem-ready rockers that make the band a strong bet to become the new-and-improved version of Fall Out Boy for anyone looking for a new pop-punk obsession. Opening with a bang, "Maps And Medicine" proved that the band is already armed with sing-a-longs aplenty. The dub-kissed guitars of "Charissa" and "Shake, Rattle And Stall", the latter with a little "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" thrown in for good measure, showed that the band retains some of the reggae influences of LBC, without drowning the songs in it. Their tight sound and danceable brand of rock on tracks like "Fed Up" proves their worthiness of their recent addition to Warped Tour, and all but ensures they will come back from the touring festival with loads of new devotees who will soon know the words as well as the feverish crowd Saturday night.
The band took time to acknowledge the blossoming local music scene, with a great performance with singer-songwriter Kevin Andrew Prchal on "Reason To Believe", with just Prchal, Krier, a pair of guitars, and a harmonica. They brought out, Company Of Thieves front woman, Genevieve Schatz for a fantastic duet called "Maydays and Rosaries"; recorded for the album when the two bands happened to cross paths in Texas. The excellent pairing only fuelled desire for the band's debut. The main set closed with, the first single from the June debut, "The Mistake". The night proved that as good as the song is, it is far from the best AM Taxi has to offer. The band returned to the stage for an encore, at the request of Lincoln Hall management, and made the best of the opportunity with a blistering, fresh retelling of Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black". It takes a special band to take such a frequently covered classic and do something unique and worthwhile with it, and AM Taxi nailed it with guitars ablaze.
Krier said the band was excited to finally play the newly opened Lincoln Hall, but if the crowded Saturday night show was any indication, the mid-sized venue will not be able to hold their fan base much longer. Get in while the getting's good.
Edit: Thanks to AM Taxi for clearing up the confusion on the song title of duet with Genevieve!