Last weekend Chicago’s Union Park hosted one of the Midwest’s stacked festivals of the year and various venues around the area hosted official after party shows. By weekend’s end, around 20 sets were taken in between the official showcases and one of the day 1 after shows. The latter of which featured the first sets I was able to see throughout the weekend (shortly after arriving at The Bottom Lounge- who were putting on the after show, Perfect Pussy’s Meredith Graves stole me off for drinks at the festival grounds and we were able to hear Beck float through an impressive-sounding set in the background). After running back to the Bottom Lounge there was a short amount of time and the night’s first act, Pink Frost, had their set off and running. The Chicago-based quartet have been a fixture of the local scene for years and now, with the release of Traitors becoming increasingly imminent (it’s due out in September), they’re operating at a higher level than ever. Mixing shoegaze, psych, and punk elements into something impressive and towering on record, they’re even more formidable as a live act. All of the years they’ve spent playing together has resulted in an extraordinarily tight dynamic where each tiny detail is woven into an arresting sonic tapestry full of complementary threads. Their allotted time may have been understandably brief but it wound up feeling like one of the more complete sets of the year.
Perfect Pussy were next to take the stage and, despite sounding near-perfect in the soundcheck, wound up running into some apparent mixing problems. Not that it mattered, though. The band’s made a habit out of turning even the worst situations into something unforgettable. So, while Shaun Sutkus’ synths were pushed so far up that they were overwhelming just about everything else, the band played with their trademark fervor. That passion for performing is one of the biggest reasons this band’s celebrated so frequently here and, to her credit, Graves gave the absolutely packed crowd her all, even while being more inaudible than usual- to the point of leaving some of her blood on the floor (and earning several scratches on her hands). All thing considered, it stood as another display of breathtaking fierceness from a band that refuses to quit, no matter the circumstance.
Deafheaven were the headliners for the evening and their set leaned heavily on the monumental Sunbather, one of the only records to draw as much criticism from genre elitists as Perfect Pussy’s Say Yes to Love, making comfortable bedfellows out of an otherwise curiously unusual pairing. They didn’t waste their time- or position- as headliners, they filled their set with as much material as possible. At least one new song was played that seemed to advance the transition Sunbather represented for them. Vocalist George Clarke, clad in all black, commanded attention with ease, frequently going in and out of the crowd- occasionally crowdsurfing in a corpse-like position (and it’s worth noting that every move felt organic rather than rehearsed). “Dream House” was one of several assured high points by virtue of being a moment that featured atmospheric crescendos hitting a note near the euphoric. By the time they were loading their equipment off-stage, they’d given the audience just about everything they could, bringing the first night in Chicago to a successful close.
Photographs of the evening can be seen below.