by Jake Szafranski.

I go to a lot of concerts. This is probably obvious, as you are currently reading this post about a concert that I attended, but it’s certainly true. It’s the reason I often lack spending money and the reason I wanted to live in Chicagoland. With that said, one of my favorite experiences is going to a show and seeing a band I’ve never heard of before. It’s a thrilling gamble as you watch musicians set up their gear as you wonder how exactly they will sound and how good of a live show they will have. That’s not to say I frequently head to shows of bands I don’t know; what I generally do is avoid doing extraneous research for every group at every show I go to as often as possible. There’s few things as rewarding as being caught completely off guard by a live show, and it has led to many a purchased CD or shirt for a band I walked into a venue knowing nothing about.

Panoramic & True. Photo courtesy of Jake Szafranski.

Panoramic & True. Photo courtesy of Jake Szafranski.

I took this philosophy to heart when I walked through the crowd outside the Hideout on Friday, July 20 to see Art in Round, Reds and Blue, and Panoramic & True. The show was to celebrate the release of Panoramic & True’s latest album, Wanderlust, and when Alyssa (the majordomo/grand poobah of Midwest Action) first mentioned the show, I was intrigued mostly by the opportunity to see unknown (to me) bands play, but also to have an excuse to go to the Hideout again. So I purposefully ignored the links to websites and songs for the performers Alyssa sent, said I’d go, and took in the three bands shows as a pure introduction to their sound. And, as luck (or perhaps skill) would have it, I walked away satisfied, having enjoyed all three shows.

Arc in Round started playing to a mostly empty room, but had a packed space nodding their heads along by the end of their first song. The band is based around the collaboration of Jeff Zeigler and Mikele Edwards, who shared vocal duties as well as constructed as massive wall of atmospheric sound for each song. Leads were traded off between the two effortlessly; it was hard to tell who was playing the leads at most times, but in a good way, if that makes any sense. They almost functioned as one four-armed frontman for the band. This was helped immensely by bassist Josh Meakim and drummer Matt Ricchini’s solid foundation and the Hideout’s very accommodating sound system, which left no note and noise unturned. Their sound is the perfect driving music; a densely layered, slight dark maelstrom of noise with a distinct melody and, well, driving beat throughout. My favorite moments were the times when Meakim and Edwards would play the same bass lines for a song, with Edwards doubling-up Meakim’s parts with a really sick sounding bass synth, creating a glorious, stacked sound. I also greatly enjoyed the myriad of moments when Ricchini would play his parts with a huge grin on his face, clearly loving every second of the show.

Reds and Blue then took the stage. This trio almost seems from a different era, playing tight, near free-form jazz pieces with swirling, complex beats from drummer Areif Sless-Kitain and frontwoman Ellen Bunch’s serpentine vocals and keyboard prowess. The set was great, but not so much for bassist Pete Croke, who had equipment issues throughout. As a fellow musician, I completely felt his pain and frustration as his pedals and amp gave him trouble, but it was evident he was a stellar bassist hampered by some faulty gear, and it took nothing away from their set. As Bunch said during the set, the band plays “winter songs, but played for you in summer”, with effortless time and key changes through a somewhat melancholy but active, powerful sound. I also was oddly attracted to the fact that Bunch kept her purse on her amp throughout the show.

While Panoramic & True were setting up, I stepped out to the bar area of the Hideout to grab a beer and use the restroom. When I came back in, I discovered the seat I had been reading in in-between sets was now taken by a cello case. I figured this was a good sign and joined the crowd to await the show. P&T is a large collective of musicians that play the music of songwriter/guitarist/vocalist John Lennox. The group includes a string quartet made up of A.J. and Amanda Bautista on violin, Randy Mollner on viola, April Savage on cello, and is rounded out by Patrick Pritchett on bass, Jamie Carter on guitar and Daniel Majid on drums.

For such a large group of musicians, their sound was remarkably tight, and each member was very content and willing to let any other bandmate enjoy the spotlight for a cool lead or solo. Their sound is a sort of surf rock with strings, with sunny leads and melodies accenting a pastoral, calming atmosphere. The band wouldn’t be out of place in the speakers of a convertible cruising along Venice Beach or on a battery-powered stereo around a campfire, and the energy and enthusiasm of all eight members of the band onstage is contagious. The band played Wanderlust in full, and it’s a remarkably solid record. Lennox repeats the phrase “It gets a hold on you/it gets a hold on you” in the appropriately named track “A Hold on You”, but the same is true of his infectious songwriting and his band’s mastery of his songs.

Congratulations on a great record release show and a great album. All three bands made a new fan of this previous unaware attendee, and that’s the perfect concert experience in my book.

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