Concert Review: “The Greatest Show Ever”, Metro, 1/2/10

Four local bands teamed up on Saturday night for something extraordinary: a night of diverse acts, for free, on a bitterly cold night.  From the delicate folk tinged songs of Venna to the blistering rock of Picture Books, there was something for everyone at Metro on Saturday.  And even if the music wasn’t to your liking, well, who wanted to go back out into that horrible cold?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.


Crayolala started the night out on the right foot with their exuberant brand of power pop.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when the group of very young looking men took the stage — for a moment, I was expecting a sort of punk/screamo thing, which, if that’s your deal, more power to you, but it doesn’t do it for me — but I was pleasantly surprised.  Each band seemed to have brought its own crowd for the event, and Crayolala certainly had some exuberant fans.  There were girls skanking in the front, no joke, and there was a mini-pit going on (only it was the happiest, bounciest pit I’ve ever seen).  I felt like it was 1999 all over again.  I mean that in a good way, I promise.  Crayolala can next be seen on Tuesday, January 19th, at Ronny’s (2101 N California).

Venna was up next, and they brought an entirely different mood and feel to the evening.  Where Crayolala’s set riled everyone up, Venna kicked the volume down a couple of notches.  Chill out, the music said, and that’s just what we did.  Well, that’s what some of us did; there were a lot of noisy drunk people in the crowd.  At times it was difficult to hear vocalist Heather Hladish — who reminded me of Zoe Deschanel, both in looks and sound — over the chatty crowd, who would have heard something beautiful if they would have just stopped to listen.  Their closing song, which started with the simple, unaccompanied line of “be thou my vision,” was beautiful.  Venna will be taking a break from doing shows for a little while to focus on other projects.

Picture Books took the stage next, after an introduction that was an homage to Thax Douglas, Chicago’s indie rock poet.  Unfortunately, I think the Thax reference went over the heads of a whole lot of people, because a lot of people just looked confused.  Picture Books started out with some energetic rock music and didn’t let the energy drop for their entire set.  The keyboard player looked like he was having the time of his life during the set, which is something that I always enjoy seeing.  These are all bands who are playing for the sheer joy of it, and that shows in their performance.  Picture Books will be taking a break from doing shows in order to record their first full length album.

Kid, You'll Move Mountains

Headliner Kid, You’ll Move Mountains closed out the show.  Their album Loomings has been getting a lot of attention, including positive reviews from the Chicago Sun-Times’ Jim DeRogatis, being named one of Metromix’s top albums, performances on WGN, and more.  Loomings has a sort of summery pop-rock feel, and there are some songs which reach back to a ’60s pop sort of sound.  But don’t let the album fool you; this band knows how to rock.  And the drummer not only played a maraca (yes, just one) at one point, but he used it as a drumstick, earning the “Most Creative Use of a Maraca” award from me.  The band played most of the songs off of Loomings, but also tossed in at least one new song, so it’s a pretty safe bet that Kid, You’ll Move Mountains won’t be dropping off of anyone’s music radar screen anytime soon.  Catch the band on February 5th at Lincoln Hall (2424 N. Lincoln), opening for  Bishop Allen.

Check out my photos from the show over on Flickr.

Crayolala: MySpace | Facebook
Venna: MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | Shop
Picture Books: MySpace | Facebook | Twitter
Kid, You’ll Move Mountains: MySpace | Facebook | Twitter | Shop