By Charlene Haparimwi
Sometimes, magic can be created by the simple mix of strong vocals, creative instrumentation and an energetic crowd. Magic was definitely created at last night’s Stardeath and White Dwarfs show in the downstairs of The Subterranean.
Seven o’clock rolls around, and the lights go down. The dimly lit room and small crowd are reminiscent of a basement punk show, with the intimate atmosphere and camaraderie between concert-goers being extremely apparent.
The first band to step onto the open stage is a Chicago local called Wellthen. The indie rock group dives into their first few songs, really hyping up the crowd with their layered music and groovy rhythms. One can hear their music pouring out of the Wicker Park venue’s doors, and many passersby stop for a few minutes to listen to the vivacious sounds.
Three songs in and the flannel-wearing lead singer, Aurelio Damiani, already has a light sheen of sweat on his expressive face, as the crowd gets into his melodic vocals. The diverse group of young adults in attendance, strangers huddling together like close friends, eagerly listen to their 25 minute set. The songs that are playing seem to draw some influence by bands like The White Stripes and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The closing number is a crowd pleaser and the band finishes to thunderous applause.
The other opening band, The Symposium, has happily watched Wellthen perform from the sidelines. They help the band move their equipment offstage before they begin to move their own setup, including the bass drum that is emblazoned with Nirvana’s smiley face logo. The members of The Symposium smile and laugh amongst themselves and with the crowd, showcasing their easygoing and charismatic nature. They have been making waves in the Chicago garage rock scene lately, catching the attention of Mario Cuomo of The Orwells via Twitter and Julian Casablancas’ label, Cult Records.
The Strokes-influenced quartet begins playing their first couple of songs, and though their nervousness is apparent, they soon warm up to the enamored crowd and play their hearts out. Charlie Gammill’s Mac Demarco-esque vocals and expert guitar playing is a great asset to the band’s live set. Bassist Benny Goetz’s heavy rhythms really keep the band in sync as is appreciated by all who listen to him. Once Gammill switched to playing keyboard, the band’s sound took a psychedelic turn that was intricate and easy to listen to. The crowd favorite was a slower ballad, which had the feel of a love song dipped in honey. The band members’ sheepish smiles and great interactions with the crowd made them a hit.
Their closing number, “The Cowboy” had a great build up of instrumentation for about 45 seconds before the vocals came in. It had a strong choral structure, and simple riffs with lyrics such as, “Blazing like a locomotive racing down a railroad track/and now you're facing the wrath of a man who wants his lady back.” They close their set and go back to mingling with the concert-goers as the headlining band, Stardeath and White Dwarfs, take some time to set up their elaborate layout.
During setup, the audience can see a smoke machine, a light show coming from a group of poles onstage, and rustic wooden basses and guitar decorate the 8 x 10 foot stage. Around 9 P.M. five gentlemen clad in Doc Martens and battered Converse step onto the stage. The long-haired lead singer is Dennis Coyne, nephew of Flaming Lips singer Wayne Coyne. He is wearing an “End War” T-shirt, a bold statement for a Veteran’s Day show.
Their sound is unique, and it can be described as the slightly delusional child of a progressive rock band, or even the rhythmic section of a grunge band. Stardeath and White Dwarfs have a heavy, full sound with stunning backing vocals and great use of equipment. These are the guys you wish you were in high school, oozing with nonchalant coolness and theatrical versatility in their songs. Watching this Oklahoma City-based band play was like watching basketball players on the court, each team member knowing the other so well that they can predict their moves before they even execute them.
Each member is an entity of life and energy, and this energy is easily transcended to the crowd. At first, their songs are played blaringly loud. The music hits the crowd like a barrage of sound, demanding they pay close attention. The sheer volume of the set and the light show alone made the crowd lose control, inducing a wet dream-like lobotomy of sorts. Once the band adopted a softer sound, their set became even more mesmerizing and electrifying. We moved through each song fluidly until they carried us safely to the shores of their final song.
Each band that played brought their own sense of energy, character, expertise and creativity to this show. And each were unique in their sound and personality, something that was not lost on the appreciative crowd. Wellthen, The Symposium and Stardeath and White Dwarfs brought magic to The Subterranean last night and left the audience in awe of this extraordinary show.
● A livestream of the entire show with all three bands that played on November 11th at The Subterranean can be viewed here: https://gigity.tv/event/109631/
Wellthen (an indie rock band from Chicago):
Aurelio Damiani - Vocals, Guitar, Bass
Andrew Berlien - Guitar, Vocals
Matt Perich - Guitar, Bass, Vocals
Christian Fields - Drums, Keys, Vocals
The Symposium (a garage rock band from Chicago):
Sam Clancy -Guitar
Benny Goetz -Bassist
Stardeath and White Dwarfs (a freak rock band from Oklahoma City):