It's commonplace once again to spend your evenings at concert venues, screaming along to your favorite songs, and buying tickets to shows that you were dying to see in 2020. Concerts are back in full swing and any band or artist who hasn't performed this year has more than likely made arrangements to tour in 2022. The energy I've experienced at these “returnal” shows has been nothing short of ecstatic. Just last weekend I lost my voice and missed two days of work after falling ill (tested negative for covid) due to the fact that I was in the middle of a pit, screaming, thrashing, and bumping into strangers on not only Friday, but Saturday and Sunday as well. Going to concerts reminded me of why I moved to Chicago in the first place. To be apart of a larger scene of creators, to be in a city that is always moving. Thusly, did I choose to see local Chicago band, Midcentury Llama, once recovered from a grueling weekend.
The Golden Dagger, a venue in the heart of Chicago’s music scene, walking distance from Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S., and Lincoln Hall, has a cozy bar and a tight stage, perfect for DIY bands to get up there and do it themselves. Midcentury Llama Closed out the night, following behind The Hussle, by way of Park Ridge, and Brass Calf, another Chicago band eager to perform. The atmosphere at a small time show is one to celebrate. The crowd is happy to be there and the performers do what it takes for audience enjoyment. Midcentury Llama opened their set with the Mii Channel theme song, giving everybody a brief moment of poppy nostalgia before going into "Stranger," their albums opening track. Much of their music is a comforting groove while still being in-your-face. Pleasant use of three chord harmonies and a complimenting saxophone give their sound presence and depth, though unfortunately their saxophone player spends much of his time going to law school and was unable to come to the show--as if a career as a lawyer will ever pay the bills, c'mon man get your act together.
The highlight of their set was a new song titled "November," a Thanksgiving song planned to "capitalize financially on the Holiday season." Songs with a clear goal in mind, ones that try to capture a hyper specific feeling or point in time, are always some of my favorite. Give me a song where the artist clearly says "Here's my objective, and here's my attempt." With that in mind, I'm thankful for Midcentury Llama's Thanksgiving song. A few minutes before the first band went on stage I was having a conversation with drummer Eric Gantner and Guitarist Frank O'Meara. O'Meara pointed to a Vulfpeck poster on the wall saying "Look, Vulfpeck played here. There's videos of it on YouTube." I was excited to tell them that Vulfpeck came to mind when I first listened to their album. O'Meara went on to say that as nice as it is to hear somebody say that, I really shouldn't be putting thoughts in his head, especially not moments before going on stage. But its always something that comes to mind when you're at a DIY show, how far will this go? If a band as successful as Vulfpeck can play at The Golden Dagger, and then a few years down the line play at Red Rocks, why can't the same happen to Midcentury Llama? I'm not here to say how far it'll go, I'm just here saying that if you can support a local band with ambition, then there's no reason why you shouldn't. You can listen to their debut album on Spotify right here.