The UnRecorded | The Soft Pack, Male Bonding & Beaters at Empty Bottle
Posted on April 12, 2010 by Greg
The Soft Pack, Male Bonding and Beaters
Live at The Empty Bottle, April 9, 2010
It’s a busy weekend for The UnCool. We are seeing shows Friday, Saturday and Monday. The first in the string is The Soft Pack, Male Bonding and Beaters at The Empty Bottle in Chicago’s Ukranian Village. For those unfamiliar, The Empty Bottle (“The Bottle” to regulars), is a smaller storefront venue on sprawling, fast-moving Western Avenue. It is a favorite venue of the bike-riding set, with a couple of big sets of bike racks outside that are usually crammed to capacity on a show night. In the front room, there is a small room with an ATM, a pool table and a vintage arcade console. The main floor is a long storefront with a busy bar toward the street, the stage at the back and about 600,000 taped and stapled rock show bills all over the walls. A couple of serve-yourself water coolers with cups sit around the corner from the sound booth/upper viewing area. Favorite drinks are the $2.50 Old Style, Point Pale Ale and Huber Bock bottles. Lots of arty hipsters and thrift store cyclists mill around chatting and knocking back cheap beer here. A non-hipster but year-round bike guy myself, I feel right at home.
Beaters is the first band to take the stage, a little after 10pm. They are a four-piece from San Diego with a MySpace page that looks like it was made for a death metal band. What you get is more of an indie noise band with a very strong rhythm section. The first two songs of the night didn’t really grab me; shouty indiscernible vocals with basic Ramones guitar. But on song three, the drummer took over and from then on, he and the bassist really started to drive things and make for an interesting show. There was a primal energy from the rhythm section that reminded me of The Archie Bronson Outfit’s killer album Derdang Derdang. The vocals never really took shape and the keyboards were mostly providing atmospherics, but the back end really carried them.
Next up was Male Bonding, a three-piece from Dalston, UK. I had noticed a couple of shaggy-haired guys dancing front and center for Beaters, and then a few moments later, they took the stage and started setting up their instruments. Nice to see bands supporting each other like that. They are more melodic than Beaters: still pretty loud but with more of a pop structure underneath. They do have a similarly strong rhythm section, but the vocals and guitar are more at the forefront, and they have some sing-along-ready bits that certainly won’t hurt them at live shows. They had an entertaining but very short set; just over 20 minutes to the 25 that Beaters played. Oh well, no chance of them overstaying their welcome!
The Soft Pack took the stage without too much delay just after midnight. By then, The Bottle was jammed with people… it must have been a sold-out show. This San Diego quartet has only been around for a year and a half and has about two albums worth of material between their current record and their past stuff that was released under their old name, The Muslims. In their brief life they have gotten a ton of great press, a couple of big tours, and a spot in the upcoming Lollapalooza lineup. They have a garage-rock-meets-punk aesthetic with strong songwriting skills, memorable hooks and chant-along choruses.
Onstage, they mostly rock the 80s preppy look, which accentuates their accessibility; they certainly don’t seem too intent on being cool or distant, they just want to play for people and have fun. From what I saw, it was definitely working. They had a huge following in the crowd who danced around, sang along and shouted requests to the band between songs. This was probably the most dancing I have seen at a Bottle show…it’s usually a lot of standing and head-bobbing there.
They played for just under an hour with no encore, which is a little light for a headliner, but in their defense, they finished after 1am, and the club probably has restrictions on how late you can play. They also gave Beaters a longer slot, which was nice.
At the end of their set, lead singer Matt Lamkin dedicated the last song “Pull Out” to Beaters, “a fucking amazing band,” who were leaving the tour after this show. Beaters members joined them onstage for a last jam. When the “Pull Out” vocals were done, Lamkin left the stage and walked into the crowd to watch the rest of the guys play. He stood right behind me, rocking out like a regular fan. It was fun to watch, and just another example of why The Soft Pack has quickly rocketed to success: good music played with an equal love for the stage and the people in the crowd.
The Empty Bottle has a table in the lobby where artists go after a show to sell records and t-shirts and chat with fans. Before the last song, Lamkin said to the crowd, “If you wanna come say hi, we’ll be in the back with beers and vinyl.” The next time I see them, they probably will not get to make that offer; there will be tens of thousands of people rocking out to their set in Grant Park. Couldn’t happen to a better bunch.
–Greg from The UnCool
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