The UnRecorded | Live Music: The Big Pink & A Place to Bury Strangers at Metro
Posted on March 23, 2010 by Greg
The Big Pink
A Place to Bury Strangers
Live at Metro, Chicago, 03/20/2010
The last two days of winter were 65 and 68 degrees and sunny. Saturday, the first day of spring: 32 degrees and 14 hours of snow. Welcome to Chicago. No wonder this city has so many places to stay inside and eat, drink or see a show. One of those places, and a great one, is the mid-sized venue, Metro, a welcome refuge of grit and cool located just north of a squadron of shouty Wrigleyville frat bars. Margaret and I somehow find a great parking spot and trudge through blinding snow to see The Big Pink and friends bring their roadshow to our fair city.
We get there about 25 minutes after start time, and enter to the sounds of Gatekeeper, a gothic, synthy bunch from Chicago. We hoped to get there in time for all 3 bands, but just as we reach the main floor, we hear the last few chords of their set and some pretty enthusiastic applause from the crowd. So sad. I hate missing opening bands, especially local guys.
We get a couple of drinks and wander straight up to the right side of the audience and plant ourselves about ten feet from the stage. I look around the room: kids in leather and fake leather, lots of black clothing. I spot a guy and girl with pink hair near a few older biker dudes with giant graying beards. A couple of well-groomed oddsters next to us keep touching each other and making out. A few times, the guy sticks large, unidentifiable purple pills up her nose and pulls them back out. Weird crowd.
A Place to Bury Strangers
A Place to Bury Strangers comes on mostly in darkness and starts right in on a Bauhaus-style number with metronomic drums and gusts of spacey guitar. Lead singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann has a swirl of blondish hair that covers his face when he looks down, which he does for the entire set… as if the floor was one of those 3-D dot pictures. The band sounds like a witches brew of Bauhaus, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Joy Division and My Bloody Valentine, blasted through the engine of a 747. Very loud, very focused, no audience interplay, just fierce gothic rock played like it was their last show on earth.
A few times, during puffs of fog, laser lights and strobes, Ackermann slashes at his guitar strings, stomps a few distortion pedals and swings himself and his guitar wildly around the tight stage, almost clobbering the drum kit, himself and his bandmates. In the strobes, we see flashes of him: guitar raised/staggering back/limbs flailing/hunched over/on the floor, pounding on the frets. No disasters, but a lot of close calls, and it certainly adds to the danger and excitement of their act. Then right near the end of the show, he suddenly looks up very carefully at the crowd… left to right, scanning the balcony, taking stock of everything. He pauses a few seconds and then rips into another tune and never looks up again, seemingly satisfied with his effect on the crowd. He has every reason to be; the place is floored and cheering madly.
The Big Pink
I have to commend The Big Pink for picking APTBS as their opening act. They are a tough one to follow. Happily for The Big Pink, they do not follow, but chart their own course instead. They have some stylistic overlap with APTBS, but are much more crowd-friendly. They start the show by walking right up on top of the floor amps and waving to the crowd as “I Wanna Get High” by Cypress Hill fills the room. Their set is almost the opposite of APTBS; you can hear all the lyrics, plenty of tuneful melodies and sing-along bits, lots of interplay between band members, people dancing. I thought they were more of a synth band from hearing their debut album, but live they are very guitar-centric, to their advantage. I hear strains of Depeche Mode, New Order and a decent helping of Liquidizer-era Jesus Jones (back when they were punkier).
They do a few “Hello Chicago” bits, which are always well-received, and even morph a later song of theirs into The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Mayonnaise.” The crowd goes crazy for that bit, especially since it suits Big Pink’s sound quite nicely. They admit that they played it as a shout-out to Chicago, pleasing the crowd even more. They end their set with their album’s centerpiece, the soaring chick-conquest ballad, “Dominoes.” I look around at all the girls in the crowd breathlessly singing along: “As soon as I love her it’s been too long/And I really love breaking your heart…these girls fall like dominoes!” And I think to myself, *that’s* why they call them “hooks.” You can get people to swallow some pretty lethal stuff if you use the right bait, which in this case, they do: “Dominoes” is as big an earworm as I’ve heard all year: barbed steel wrapped in pure brown sugar.
As they have only one album, these crowd-pleasing Brits wisely end the evening on that note. No encore, just lights-up and a whole lot of people grinning around the hooks in their mouths.
–Greg at The UnCool
2 Responses to “The UnRecorded | Live Music: The Big Pink & A Place to Bury Strangers at Metro”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.