By Catie Moore
21 Oct, 2019
The bottom floor of Subterranean set the small, red-lit stage for tonight’s performances. Without any smoke or lights, the artists were reliant on their own musicality to put on a good show for the night. Fortunately, the atmosphere was easygoing and chill, more akin to a house show or casual coffee house than any arena concert performance. The performers were obviously comfortable, if not familiar, with the crowd — a medley of artsy, bespectacled 20- and 30-somethings — pausing between songs to talk about all manner of things: life, the Chicago teacher strike, Cher’s tweets, etc. Tonight’s performers consisted of three Chicago-based musicians and one touring band based out of Philadelphia.
Emily Jane Powers
The first set was performed by Chicago-based musician Emily Jane Powers, an indie-pop vocalist with a mellow upbeat sound punctuated by the occasional overdriven guitar solo. In the words of my friend, she was as “if Lucy Rose met The Strokes.” Powers’ guitar playing took center stage, from dreamy pedal effects on one song to battling dual solos with her supporting guitarist on others. Most songs she performed tonight were from her recent album Restless, but her repertoire as an artist dates all the way back to 2002, demonstrating her musical longevity. It was clear by the small crowd’s engagement during the set that many had come to see her specifically. Powers herself was to credit for organizing the show itself, bringing together the rest of the performers for the night.
Joey Nebulous was the next band to take the stage. A self-described queer band formed in 2016, the first-time trio of Joey Nebulous put on a solid show despite the absence of their fourth member. Frontman Joseph Farago’s high falsetto vocals were accompanied by punchy, eighties-inspired keys, taking lo-fi bedroom pop and adding a sense of humor. They performed a song about Cher’s tweets (aptly named “Cher”), as well as what Farago declared to be their own version of a “Halloween song,” lamenting how few Halloween songs existed. The sound was a little unbalanced during their performance, the synth on the keyboards coming off as borderline abrasive at times, but then again, the artist shouldn’t be blamed for the faults of the sound technician.
Powerhouse performers Lizdelise were probably the best surprise of the night. Frontwoman Elizabeth DeLise has been vocal about her status as a woman in the alt-rock music scene, opening up during interviews about her struggles with anxiety as a performer and her feeling “like I need to represent all of us perfectly.” However, you wouldn’t know anything about her stage fright from the band’s stellar performance tonight. Influenced by St. Vincent, Lizdelise’s sound is punctuated by synth and catchy guitar hooks. The standout song from their set was “boy,” off their newest album Holy Matrimony, which I’ve had playing on repeat ever since. DeLise used a looper pedal to record and sing over her own vocals, creating a really unique experience and sound that was as fun to see live as it was to listen to.
Last but certainly not least of the night was Perfect Posture, the brainchild of Patrick Budde, a Northwestern alum and also the founder of the band’s label, Preserve Records. The influence of bands like Beach House can be heard through the artist’s sound: bedroom pop with heavy keyboard synth. In live performance, however, Budde’s guitar playing took more of a lead than in his recordings, bringing a new dimension to the music. The band (consisting also of a supporting bassist, drummer, and keyboardist) played mostly songs from his EP Window — including my personal favorite song “Trippin’” — which pairs catchy textured synth with introspective and somewhat somber lyrics. Budde also performed a Karen O cover, demonstrating his musical variability.