Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Gizmos, John Krautner, Feelings, Melkbelly, Toupee at the Good Vibes Festival at the Empty Bottle, Chicago, 11-29-14

Despite growing up right outside of Chicago and seeing lots of shows there as well as playing in numerous bands up until the summer of 1979, I never had a chance to play in the city - until now, with the Gizmos!

Being Thanksgiving weekend, I spent some of the time with family in the area and some sight-seeing in Chi-town. Even got to the Art Institute and Chicago Music Exchange before heading to the Empty Bottle on Saturday for sound check and hanging out. The Bottle is a good sized dive bar with a big stage and a great - albeit LOUD - sound system. Nice people all around and sound men who knew what they were doing - amazing!

Starting out the live music for the night (in between was some swingin' sounds by the Absolutely Not DJs) was Toupee, a female fronted goth/thrash group which reminded me of a mix of Siouxie (first album, especially), 45 Grave and death metal. The singer (they seem to go by pseudonyms on their FB page so I won't give away her real identity) came on stage in a cowl, mask and fangs and would alternately sing and growl, and also played bass at times, giving a two guitar attack to the band. Dramatic, creepy and noisy!

Up next was Melkbelly (no idea of the significance of the name), also female fronted, but this femme played guitar as well as singing lead and added plenty of licks and leads along with the other guitarist. The sound was clamorous new/no-wave with lots of effects and thunderously pounding drums. Melanie came up with a Pixies reference, which struck me as accurate, as well. A good mix of their influences. I would have liked to have seen a little more stage presence, as they appeared to be rooted into place, but cool stuff.

Feelings, from Detroit, followed with a grunge-like sound - I heard bits'n'pieces of Nirvana (the singer/guitarist even played a Fender and wore a baggy sweatshirt with long, stringy hair) and Flop (an old fave) - poppy yet edgy/punky/rockin'. Dug their sound, though again, not very visual.

John Krautner played in Detroit's pop-rock combo The Go (Jack White's first - I think - project) and continues with the sound in this solo project. Aided by cool cat Justin Walker on lead guitar/backing vocals and Ben Luckett and Stephen Nawara on bass & drums, John conjures a 70's power-pop sound with lots of harmonies and tasty guitar licks. Perfect, high-energy drums and walking bass lines drive the tunes while the vocals give it all a fun summertime feel - despite being in the 30's outside! Bonus points for a bitchin' cover of "Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'" to round out the set!

The Gizmos had another cool'n'chaotic set of (almost) all of the songs from our first three EPs, along with Ted Niemiec's new tune, "Around", Eddie's Crawlspace number "The Devil Talks in Tongues" and bassist Craig Bell's "Final Solution". The audience reaction was terrific and again we got plenty of people to sing along with "Muff Divin'"! Adding to the madness was promoter Karissa Talanian joining us on drums for "Pumpin' to Playboy" (as drummer Kelsey moved to guitar) and a good time was had by all! Nice ending to the 2014 Gizmos World Tour! Let's see what 2015 brings!

BIG thank you to Karissaand the Empty Bottle for making this happen and for being a swingin' spot for a groovy Good Vibes Festival!