Performance: October 2009 Archives

The night before First Week, and much is stirring

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by Kat Li

The night before classes were to officially start at the University of Chicago, when the rest of the college was tucked in bed and preparing for the onslaught, several fellow students and I found ourselves hours away from our dormitories in a packed venue on the north side of Chicago. It was the second consecutive performance of Grizzly Bear and Beach House at Metro, an intimately worn, two-story concert hall that caters to the independent scene, often featuring acts on the cusp of mainstream acknowledgment.

Like on any Monday night, the city had seemingly gone to sleep, but the concert hall was sold out and alive with young, dancing Chicagoans. The sound was incredible - balanced and substantial. Beach House, known for their quaint, waspy feel on recordings, played that night with a beat and bass that filled and surprised the room. The band sounded off an hour-long set with Gila, a popular single off their second album, Devotion.

beachhouse1.2.jpgBeach House performs with their unique stage set-up. The Sunday night show saw a lot of toppling triangle structures...

As the crowd waited for the headlining band to start, chatting with the friendly show-goers crowded close, overpriced beers in hand, the set was transformed. The color and shapes show given by Beach House was replaced by hanging jar lights and an array of unusual instruments. The members of Grizzly Bear themselves came out to tune their instruments and sound check the microphones. Each time playing a measure of this song or that, giving the crowd a little taste of good things to come.

Finally, wordlessly, the whole of Grizzly Bear came on and began to play. The earthy, peculiar feel of their music rose and rose, along with our hands and the heavy air of warming bodies in from the cold. Every song hit the hall with full recognition and groove, to the pleased surprise of the band members. My friends and I leaned against the balcony railings, overlooking a crowd compelled by rhythm and collective experience.

After the show, the crowd migrated from the venue to the Addison stop on the Red Line. Huddling separately in the cold and hiding our soft grins, we waited as strangers for the El to come and take us to our homes, still basking in the radiation of something seen and shared.


chris taylor.jpg
Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, known to perform bass, woodwinds, electronics and vocals

There's something ineffably worthwhile and genuine about the humility of self-directed musicians, the weathered venues in which they perform, and most of all the appreciative people who appear at their shows regardless of the hours of travel by CTA and especially of the piles of work to come.

Kat Li is a second-year in the College, and a contributor to the Blog that Works