I’ll be honest and say that before this show, I could count on one hand the number of Freelance Whales songs that I’ve heard. I think I listened to the session they did for Daytrotter a couple of times. This is really more to say, wow, I sure am behind on listening to new music than anything else. Anyhow, Freelance Whales’ music fits very neatly into that little niche of hyper-literate indie rock, with creative instrumentation and lyrics reading sometimes more like short stories than any thing else. Freelance Whales have been frequent guests at Schubas, and you could probably easily mistake them for a Chicago or other midwestern-based band, given just how rabid the fans were. With just one album under their belts, they didn’t have a whole lot of material to draw from, and I doubt there were many surprises on the set list, but that didn’t keep the audience from jumping, dancing, and singing along word for word. Their set was unfortunately plagued with sound problems, a first for the four+ years I’ve lived here and have been going to Schubas. By the end of the set, Doris (on bass, harmonium, and others) gave up on her mic for vocals and crouched down, singing into the harmonium’s mic instead. Quick thinking!
For me, though, the main draw was Peter Wolf Crier. These guys are one of those bands which serve as a prime example in favor of making sure you show up in time to see the opening act. I saw them open for Sharon Van Etten and Owen Pallett in January and was pretty blown away, so I was more than glad to see that they’d be making their way back through Chicago. For a two-man group, their sound is incredibly complex, with vocalist/guitarist Peter Pisano using lots of loops and layering on his voice and guitar. While the band formed mostly by accident — drummer/vocalist Brian Moen was brought in to help record a set of songs which were supposed to be Pisano’s solo project, but they quickly realized that two heads are, in fact, often better than one — the duo have an incredible chemistry on stage. The music and performance is gritty and raw, and a pretty poignant contrast to the music of Freelance Whales. While their music consists largely of jangly, glockenspiel-filled pop-rock songs, Peter Wolf Crier offers a dark, sometimes frantic, lo-fi counterpoint. They ran through the songs from their newly re-released album, Inter-Be, the fuzz and distortion of instruments and voice cutting through the often-times sadly unappreciative crowd. After the show, I had the opportunity to talk with Peter for a little while and can say he comes across as a very humble, genuine guy who just loves making music — just the way things should be.
Freelance Whales will be back in Chicago twice in August: once on the 8th for Lollapalooza, and again on the 20th at Metro, supporting Tokyo Police Club. Peter Wolf Crier will be back on July 24th at Bottom Lounge, supporting Heartless Bastards. You should be there.