Managed to catch 3 bands at The Empty Bottle last night, in Chicago. The triple bill featured The Midwest Beat, John Paul Keith & The One Four Fives and headliner Jack Oblivian & The Tennessee Tearjerkers.
First up was The Midwest Beat from Wisconsin. I immediately liked them. Two guitars, bass and drums with singing duties shared by the bassist and one of the guitarists. There was some tight harmony singing supporting the lead vocal, but I feel that they could have used even a bit more to strengthen their sound. The band was very energetic with all tunes in the set very up tempo garage rock-ish songs with a sort of mid 60s vibe to them. Very tuneful and fun without a lot of effects or solos. Stripped down rock with nowhere to hide. Not too much distortion or flashiness. The two guitarists balance each other out very well. They were tight with good sound and a few interesting changes as well. Check out “Get It Started“
Next up was John Paul Keith & The One Four Fives, from Tennessee. They are a 3 piece, straight up, uninteresting, unoriginal and very derivative blues based rock band. Perfect for your local watering hole. They play very well and John Paul Keith knows all the riffs and licks that one would expect from a country/blues guitarist. Their name is very fitting as they are not really a band that one would look to to be doing anything interesting from a harmonic standpoint. Just the basics. I-IV-V. Some songs featured the hackneyed shuffle drumbeat with steady bass dominant to tonic motion with finger picked telecaster through a Fender Twin reverb amp. Exactly the sound one would expect from this kind of band. With each song that was played I feel as though I am totally justified in wondering to myself if it was a cover tune or not. Personally I wish that this kind of blues/roots rock would just go away, never to return. The set was made all the better when he called out from the stage, “Who here is from out of town…for the Pitchfork Festival?” to which I slowly raised my hand (the only one). His reply: “I’m sure you really love this country music”. He’s right, I didn’t like that country music, but it’s not because I don’t have a varied taste, and I’m not the typical hipster. It’s because hist style is boring and hackneyed and standing in direct opposition to pushing an artform forward.
Headliners Jack Oblivian & The Tennessee Tearjerkers were up next. It’s kind of a stretch to say that this was a completely new act as it was simply John Paul Keith and co. plus Jack Oblivian (and it drives me crazy that he chooses to spell it ‘oblivian’. I hope that is really his last name).
I did like this act better than the One Four Fives. Much less of a focus on country and blues based influences and steering directly towards more rock-based music. I feel as though John Paul Keith was equally comfortable playing more straight ahead rock material and his solos were somewhat more aggressive this time out, sharing duties with Oblivian, whose main axe was a nicely weather-beaten Jazzmaster with a much dirtier tone than was present up to that point in the night. The songs worked well, and I do appreciate a little bit of a harder edge, but the songs were still quite derivative. Nothing too unlike things that you would hear at any number of bars in any number of cities at any time of the year. His not funny jokes about worshipping Satan and Lady Gaga didn’t come off as funny, but rather awkward and his repeated proclamations to not knowing what Pitchfork even was did not endear me to him very much. Instead it made him feel even more old and out of touch, playing a music that was slightly….old and out of touch. Neil Young he is not.
All in all I am glad that I got to experience the music of The Midwest Beat. I would say definitely check them out if they come to your town. But, make sure you head for the door if they are followed by groups of old boring dudes.