It was a rainy night when I made the trek to Township, the local food establishment/small-ish rock venue, but I knew it would be worth it. I’d been looking forward to this show for a while and, apparently, so had a lot of other people because I made it there just in time to gain admission before the gig sold out. I was a little surprised it did, especially before the first band had played a single note, but it would prove to be accurate foreshadowing of the excellence to come.
The aforementioned first band was the local shoe-gaze gang CARBONLEAK. The group is still relatively new, having played their first show and released their first cassette tape in 2013, but they have been pretty active since their inception. Their persistence in steady activity paid off as evidenced by a super tight launch into their set. From there started a scarcely relenting wash of dreamy, pop sounds that were still firmly rooted in the punk sensibility these three gentlemen learned coming up. Fuzzy, driving bass lines worked in perfect harmony with steady, down-played drums that would occasionally get wild and throw the listener for a pleasant loop. The guitar, while subdued compared to the rhythm section, provided a layer of texture that perfectly complimented the somber, yet poppy underplayed vocals. CARBONLEAK is one of the best bands doing this style right now and they get extra points for only stopping once during their set.
The metaphorical meat of this show sandwich was Chicago’s own CANADIAN RIFLE. This gritty, dirty, melodic punk band has been at it in the Chicago scene for nearly a decade at this point. This piece of information is relevant to this review because that night’s set was a special one – one that is not typical of the band’s normal activity. They had decided to play only material from their 7” EP releases, the last of which was released in 2010. All of this material was recorded before their current drummer was in the band, so I was curious to see how the songs would translate. The answer quickly became apparent – it was great. These guys didn’t miss a beat; it was as if they had never moved these songs out of their normal rotation. They blasted through an intense set of catchy, excellent punk that I was happy to get to see. Not only did it bring back a bit of nostalgia from seeing the band when they were a new group on the scene, but it also made me appreciate how far their songwriting has come in the interim. CANADIAN RIFLE is truly a Chicago staple.
Finally, the mighty SWEARIN’ took the stage. This group features members of too many bands to list, but one of the primary song-writers is Allison Crutchfield of P.S. Eliot fame. She shares vocal duties this time with a male vocalist and their voices compliment each other perfectly. This band is tough to describe – they are sometimes intense, often subdued, going from punk anthems to almost singer-songwriter territory. The thing that keeps this band from seeming overly eclectic is the quality of the songwriting. The lyrics are literary and earnest, the music is always engaging regardless of its volume level. This translated really well into the band’s live set. They played a good deal of songs from their LP, providing a propulsive soundtrack to the evening’s end and closing out an excellent show. They’re touring machines, so go see them in your town.