Last night (July 22nd) the lovely KL Kenzie and I made our way to The Abbey Pub for the (at least according to Rasputina herself) the “6 or 7 thousandth and something something” recital of the red haired performer’s band. The show, opening acts and all, had its ups and downs and over all was very eclectic. In an era where bands are typically very loud, fast and accessible or very mellow, strange and accessible, this live show featured something a bit different. The entire thing felt reminiscent of the acts from the late 70’s post-punk era in that each of the sets were thematically connected, but sonically, they were dramatically different.
The first band to play was the Dead Superheroes Orchestra. Though typically they have more members (their up-coming, August 19th show at Martyr’s is said to feature their full band plus a potential choir), this night they performed as a five piece. To begin, there is something undeniably impressive about a band comprised of two cellists, a violinist, a guitarist and a drummer. Though I am in no way an expert with stringed instruments, I can only imagine the difficulty in keeping them all in tune while going between high-energy dance rock and low-key gothic chamber pop. That said, while the band’s strength is in their concept, I felt they were not quite as tight as I would have liked them to be. But I would in no way write them off for this and definitely look forward to seeing this local Chicago band another time; I think as they mature their sound they can certainly find a strong cohesion within themselves.
The second band, Larkin Grimm, was on an entirely different kick. In contrast to the melancholy feeling of the the D-S-O, Larkin Grimm was cleverly snarky and at times outright bizarre. Their songs bounced from being about cats with slowly decomposing bodies to making one’s way through a cyclone – seemingly figuratively and literally. Their stage set up is deceptively simple: a bassist, a drummer and the lead vocalist/guitarist. Most impressive of all of their exceptionally tight three way harmony. This was definitely something I have not seen done well in quite a while. They were also the brightest of all the acts, featuring a less industrialized/gothic sound and more of a psychedelic, distorted one. They also used some of the neatest guitar and bass filters I’ve heard in a while.
And then there was, of course, Rasputina. I find that there are many bands that are very strong studio bands while not particularly strong performance-wise. Doubly there are many bands that have weak studio work but incredible stage shows, and then there are those rare acts that really can effectively combine the two. I found Rasputina to be on the cusp of the third, but yet, I felt the live show lacked a bit of something. First I list the strengths. All the members of this three piece are undeniably talented. They were exceptionally tight on stage with a well balanced sound. Rasputina herself plays the role of the off-kilter lead perfectly and instead of introducing a song by its title, she instead does so through esoteric stories and riddles. It was quite entertaining indeed.
But yet, after thirty to forty-five minutes I began to find them a bit exhausting. Perhaps I have been conditioned to be more inclined toward high-energy, louder styles of music. I am certainly a fan of Rasputina’s studio recordings and own a fair amount of her singles, but roughly forty minutes into the live act I found myself wanting the show to get livelier. Regardless of my criticism, I would definitely suggest the show to anyone who enjoys her sound. Watching the songs come to life onstage really is something, it can be difficult to grasp how her wall-of-sound music-scapes translate onto a live stage; but above and beyond anything, they most certainly do so well.