What is an introverted music nerd to do on St. Valentine's Day? I can't by chocolate for my cat, so i am kind of low on options. Fortunately for me, The EARL had my back this year, presenting a lovely show of complex jazzy post-rock.
I arrive at about 8:30, and stood around for ten minutes or so while the first act took the stage. They are called Disappears, and are apparently another Chicago act touring with Tortoise. They are a four-piece, with the average two guitars, bass, and drums lineup.
Disappears in singing action.
Their drummer was noteworthy in that he had a powerful hit. He was pretty talented, but the way he beat those drums was impressive. The end result was that the drumming was loud and complex.
It is notoriously difficult to photgraph drummers, even good ones.
Add to this the fact that the bass was very prominent in the mix, and that the bassist was all over the place. He wasn't just laying down a simple beat, he was maniacally driving the songs along, and the thundering drums and the two guitars and the voice had to struggle to keep up.
Driving basswork defines Disappears.
It was an impressive rhythm heavy set that reminded me of a slightly bluesier, less mathy Liverhearts. The songs all had that same sort of tension and release going on that The Liverhearts did so well, and of course the propulsive rhythm also makes a comparison obvious.
Good stuff. They will be back at The EARL in June, so look out for them if you have the chance.
Guitar in closeup.
Now, Disappears played at the front of the stage -- all four members, including the drum kit, crammed into the narrow space not filled by Tortoise gear. After Disappears were done, they geared out quickly and Tortoise began setting up.
Tortoise filled the stage at The EARL.
This is a very complex process that took over a half hour for 7 people (including EARL sound guy Curt Wells and Tortoise's own touring sound guy) to set up. There was a vibraphone, a marimba, two drum kits, several bass/guitar amps and three stacks of electronics and keyboards. The stage at The EARL was full of gear, and into this space the five members of the band crammed themselves.
It was like a maze -- they had to wend their way through cables and microphones and precariously perched gear to get at their instruments. And they kept changing place too, everyone moving back and forth between the various instruments.
Tortoise in closeup.
Tortoise played a long set from all throughout their career, and i was honestly amazed at how many of the songs i was familiar with as they played them. Not that i can name any of them. Well aside fromTen-Day Interval, which is the best song ever made to involve dueling xylophone/marimba.
I know that they played that, because it is one of the most amazing things to see live -- two people hunched over the instruments pounding away with mallets and yet making this glorious sound.
Everyone got in on the marimba action.
Tortoise played a long set, taking a break around 11 to go and rest and drink some water, and then they came back and played for another half hour. It was about a two hour set, and if you like that sort of jazzy instrumental rock it was great.
Tortoise feature a lot of complex electronics.
In fact, they had a pretty good crowd, and not an all male post-rock crowd as i had suspected. There were women there, and they were dancing. Can you imagine? It seems as if there is a dance following to Tortoise. I would never attempt to dance to their music -- with those angular rhythms i would be afraid of spraining something. Some people are just better at dancing than i am, i guess.
This was my third time seeing Tortoise, and it lived up to every memory i have of seeing them. An excellent band, and if you have the chance, go see them. Dancing shoes are optional.