Where: Studio Maya
This has got to be one of the strangest shows I've ever been to. Organized by experimental psychedelic shoegaze band So L'il (aka Gracefully), the show was in a well-lit studio space in Prospect Heights that I'd never seen or heard of before.
So L'il took the stage first but joined forces with R&B/hip-hop trio Booboniks for form a new group, Solilian von Boobonika, a.k.a. S.V.B. I wasn't sure if they'd be able to pull it off, but they did and it was awesome. So L'il played their usual layered, ambient psychedelia, and somehow it meshed perfectly with Precious's soulful singing and Booboniks' slick hip-hop beats to form some of the most innovative music I've heard in quite a while.
The only weakness in the performance was the contrast between the two vocal styles - So L'il's Sharon's dreamy, reverbed vocals were too far afield from the forceful R&B pipes on Booboniks' Precious. There were a few moments where it worked, but the jarring difference between the two women's voices was mostly just awkward. Regardless, it's impossible to deny the amount of talent in S.V.B. See for yourself: here's a video from the show.
I've wanted to see Chicago shoegazers Panda Riot for years, but they don't come to town very often. The group's very gazy-gauzy guitars blend with electronica and it's all held together by the dreamy indie-pop vocals of Rebecca Scott (who also plays keys and guitar). Across from her, guitarist/founding member Brian Cook and bassist Justin Cheng stood awkwardly close to each other and while they did seem to spend a lot of time admiring their own feet (as the genre's name would imply), they also moved a lot. Center stage, the more manic Jose Rodriguez supplemented the band's drum machine beats with a snare, tom and cymbal. Although his stage presence was the most energetic, all four pandas seemed to be having a blast.
It's impossible to say what makes this band great. Each element just works: Cook's pitch-bending wall of guitar sound, Cheng's dry, trip-hoppy bass lines, Scott's spacey, melodic singing, the drum machine's slick, trip-hoppy beats and Rodriguez's more earthy drumming. The band played many of my favorite songs of theirs and plenty I didn't recognize, all gorgeous, electrogaze dream-pop numbers played with joy and care. Here's a live video from a different show.
The third band of the night was one Electric Djinn, which featured primarily members of the long inactive band Lumipad. They are an odd odd odd band. The members, who skew considerably older than the other bands, seem genuinely insane. The front person (who was not standing in the front) was a striking woman behind a keyboard who less sang than melodically incanted. Indeed, it felt more like performance or even ritual than simply a concert.
There was one woman dressed in black, seated in a folding chair and facing perpendicular to the audience. She was adjusting a small electronic device throughout the performance (it looked like a wireless router) but seemed entirely disengaged from the band. It was as though she'd been sitting on the chair playing with this device forever and when a band just happened to set itself up around her, they were invisible to her (and her to them). It was cool, but weird.
Musically, the band combined a wealth of obscure influences. There was some free jazz, especially via a trombone, ambient electronica, psychedelia to the point of prog rock (if not in sound, then in attitude) and abstracted krautrock. Reference points could include Art Bears/Henry Cow, Red Crayola, King Crimson, Zappa, Neu!, Brian Eno, John Cage, Albert Ayler....well, if you know those bands, you get the drift. If you don't, just think head(y) avant-garde, psychedelic electronica meets LSD-decimated performance art. In a good way.
I missed the last band cause I weren't feelin well. Sorry Season Finale....