Rainbow Kitten Surprise @ The Metro

Sabrina Miresse | April 21, 2018

This concert reassured me of two things: the bassist in a band is always the weirdest member and thankfully there are still musicians making catchy tunes that have personality and are truly original.

Musicians these days often rap to the same beat and are caught trying to create radio hits, resulting in a Coldplay situation that the majority of people eat up. With Rainbow Kitten Surprise, I'm listening to their music, reading who they claim as their inspirations, and I'm not coming up with a simple answer as to who they take after or how they craft their songs. 

I can tell one thing: this genre-less band listens to just as much, if not more, hip-hop as they do pop and rock music. This musical diversity plays a role in the execution of their performances and genuineness of their records. 

The five Boone, North Carolina natives of Rainbow Kitten Surprise were joined by southern rock band CAAMP for the April 21 Chicago show at The Metro.

It was a smart move by The Metro to have ceiling fans blowing on the crowd all night, because the sold-out show had a crowd packed with music lovers trying to dance through the night.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise opened the show with the first two tracks from their latest album, “How to: Friend, Love, Freefall.” Following the two songs, “Pacific Love” and “Mission to Mars," was the popular “Cocaine Jesus” from the band’s 2015 sophomore album “RKS.”

The band was clearly happy to be in Chicago, “We’ve been looking forward to this for a while,” lead Sam Melo said to the crowd.

Melo showcased his hip-hop flare in “Fever Pitch” and his seductive dance moves in “Lady Lie” during the Metro performance.

The very fitting closing song “Goodnight Chicago” wooed the crowd as the performance rolled into 11 p.m.

There’s refreshing originality in this band’s tunes. Over the course of the five years Rainbow Kitten Surprise has been releasing music, their sound has stayed unique and each album is clearly recorded with tremendous emotion and personal care.

Sam Melo playing keys and Charlie Holt on bass. Photo by Kelley Sloot.

Sam Melo playing keys and Charlie Holt on bass. Photo by Kelley Sloot.

Son Lux @ Lincoln Hall

Sabrina Miresse | March 29, 2018

The quietest rock band I’ve ever seen.

The early Son Lux concert started at 7 p.m. with openers Hanna and Sinkane. The three boys of Son Lux—Ryan Lott, Rafiq Bhatia and Ian Chang—hit the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m. with an intro so soft, you could hear the bartenders in the back of Lincoln Hall shaking drinks.

It was silent in the crowd for a couple minutes, and I mean dead silent. There were no voices over the muffled sound wave the band had been sending out into the crowd. Quiet anticipation feels weird—especially at a concert. There was no clapping or woos from the audience, no side conversations able to be heard near me, and all I could make of that is pure anticipation.

Dreamy blue lights radiated around the room making the Lincoln Hall feel like the inside of a fish bowl. An abrupt ambient shift in the opening song startled me a couple minutes in, bringing my attention back towards the stage. 

That ambient shift is what allowed me to recognize the song as “The Fool You Need. A track off the band’s latest album “Brighter Wounds,” which was released this year. Bass drum carried the song all the way through, with additional edited layers, allowing it to be the perfect combination of notable Flume influence with the typical abruptness in sound changes and dreamy vocals of Son Lux.

Following this track was a tune from the band’s 2013 “Lanterns” album. “Easy” is Son Lux’s most commercially successful song. The song was noticeably less impressive live than on the record. During the live performance, it sadly lacked substance and clean shifts.

However, the third song of the night, “Surrounded,” another track from the band’s latest album shows the matured sound and style of the group as a whole. This song had clean, fluid shifts and sudden pauses that kept the crowd's attention. 

At the end of "Surrounded," drummer Ian Chang got a chance to show his skills with a very long drum solo that wooed the crowd.

Even a couple songs in, the crowd was still crazy polite and attentive. “It’s rare to feel like everyone in the room is listening,” said Lott, who noticed the respectful quiet throughout the room.

In Son Lux, each band member brings an equally powerful aspect to the band’s live performance as a whole. These three extremely talented musicians bring completely different elements to stage and make their individual strengths work together through the band's dreamy compositions.

Photo from Chromatic PR

Photo from Chromatic PR

Kweku Collins, Whitney @ Thalia Hall

Sabrina Miresse | February 13, 2018

Concerts are for anyone and everyone. Especially around a holiday like Valentine’s Day. What better way to enjoy the holiday of love (or to spite the drag of a corporate holiday) than with a concert?

I waited, standing lightly in my New Balances, in the very rustic Thalia Hall for Kweku Collins to hit the stage and start the night off. People around me came in groups, with their significant others, and even alone to catch the Valentine’s event.

Lots of love was brought to Thalia Hall during night one of the three-night Whitney Valentine’s Day special. A local rapper, Kweku Collins and a local indie-rock band Whitney carried the night out with passion in the city they call home.

The Evanston-born rapper opened the three-night Valentine’s Day Whitney special on Feb. 13.

The crowd was very calm and despite the venue being sold out, Thalia Hall felt spacious. I overheard whispers of Whitney’s “melancholic music” and how it made people feel something.

Before Whitney brought their melancholic music to the stage, Collins brought his unique indie-rap music to Thalia Hall.

The young rapper, producer, and songwriter released his first album in 2015 just after graduating high school. He’s released an album every year since. The most recent being the 2017 “Grey.”

Collins took the stage at about 8:30 p.m. The rapper seemed excited and honored to be opening for Chicago band Whitney for their three-night special.

Walking on stage, it was hard to get a grasp on his style. Collins was wearing a white tie-dye t-shirt with a black suede flannel and straight black leather pants pulled over a mid-calf wide ankle boot—his outfit was the only criticism I had of the night.

Aside from this minor quirk, he was very charismatic and soulful on the stage, even when doing his awkward stage banter. At one point in the show it included asking the audience for some lip balm—to which the fans replied with multiple Chap Sticks being thrown at the stage.

“I feel like there’s lots of couples and shit,” Collins said to the crowd before playing his love themed songs such as the popular “Lonely Lullabies” off his 2015 debut album “Say It Here, While It’s Safe.”

The quirky and very entertaining performance from Collins was passionate and powerful. The kind of performance that gives you that tickle feeling in your chest and forces you to break a soft smile.

Before leaving the stage and introducing Whitney, Collins told the crowd to have a happy Valentine’s Day.

“Love yourself tomorrow if you love anybody,” Collins hoped for the crowd.

About a half hour later, Whitney hit the stage. The band promptly let the crowd know that the set was going to be a long one. Not only were they ready to play three nights, but the band had an 18-song set prepared for night one. A set so long that the band wrote in a five-minute break after song 10.

Sipping red wine, the band was casual and not overly interactive with the crowd while on stage. The guys opened with some of their most popular tracks: “Dave’s Song,” and “No Matter Where We Go” from their 2016 debut album “Light Upon the Lake.”

A few songs in, I decided that I had hopped on Chicago’s Whitney bandwagon. The hype over Whitney here in Chicago was always something that drew me further away from the band. However, after watching just a few songs of their intimate performance, I started to feel the hype.

Whitney is intricate. In the way that even the casual music listener can tell the band works extremely hard to get every riff and melody completely spot on.  I love the cohesiveness about their band.

Their style is the product of decades of music genres being pulled together to create a genre of indie rock music that differs from the many indie bands out there.

When watching their performance, I can’t help but think, these guys are going places.

The music from all the musicians that night made me carelessly and unknowingly smile. All eyes forward, feet tapping, hips gently moving back and forth, everyone in the concert hall in unity through music. Vibrations from sound and movement moved upwards in my spine, and a complex love for music met with the soulful rapping of Collins and Whitney’s finely tuned set made for a sensational night.

Photo by Bridges / Closed Sessions

Photo by Bridges / Closed Sessions

Vinyl Theatre @ Beat Kitchen Review

Sabrina Miresse | November 29, 2017

Vinyl Theatre’s sound is maturing and Chicago reacted to it with lots of energy. The Milwaukee band played with Portland duo Patternist and Chicago group The Giving Moon at Beat Kitchen on Nov. 29.
 
Vinyl Theatre is an alternative pop trio consisting of lead vocals and guitarist Keegan Calmes, keyboardist Chris Senner, and Nick Cesarz on drums. Mostly known for their electropop sound from their 2014 debut album Electrogram, this band is changing their sound up with the 2017 album, Origami. This nine-track album showcases Vinyl Theatre’s guitar-centric rock sound. 
 
The 85-minute Vinyl Theatre set at Beat Kitchen was opened with new song, “My Fault,” and featured all of the band’s tracks from Origami.
 
Back in 2013, the trio branded their electropop sound with the release of their Gold EP. These songs had high energy tech-pop sounds that still underlie the band’s image.
         
The shift from the EP to their debut album Electrogram in 2014 was a slight marker in what their sound was becoming. The album included songs that came off catchy and absorbable to audiences. Especially with the song “Breaking Up My Bones” that gained popularity quickly.
 
Origami is more intricate, fluid and consistent. This album shows growth and a new rock flare through the more guitar heavy songs. The electropop, Two Door Cinema Club-influenced sound is still there, but a more unique style has been crafted.
 
The echoing creativity that shines in Origami is truly impressive. “We were working full time jobs when we wrote Electrogram, and we didn’t have the time to put everything into music. Origami is just a more well-rounded version of what we want to do as a band,” Calmes said to The Chicago Vibe.
  
The emotion behind the Origami compilation is one that instigates happiness. Calmes explained that the band had more time to draw from their influences with this album, including Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Killers. This was evident in the lyrics and sheer intimacy of the tracks.
 
From seeing Vinyl Theatre live in their earlier years, the one thing that has remained unchanged is the bright attitude and energy the band brings to stage.
 
The crowd at Beat Kitchen was filled with true fans who were dancing, singing and vibing with Calmes’ stage presence. The energetic group of people were the first concert crowd I’ve ever seen start a Conga line.
 
Throughout the show, the production quality showed to be much superior to their earlier music. The sound was more powerful, and the vocal techniques and guitar solos were impressive.
 
The band closed with the popular tune “Breaking Up My Bones” and an intense drum duo between Senner and Calmes.  
 
Electrogram was the infantile sound and Origami is growing from there,” Calmes said to The Chicago Vibe.
 
Origami by Vinyl Theatre is now available on vinyl at shows and online here.