Night three of Brothers Past‘s four-night Midwest run found them in Chicago, at the Abbey Pub with My Boy Elroy and Alpha Data supporting. With the two previous shows in Kalamazoo, MI and DeKalb, IL behind them, the band found itself primed to put on a stellar showing after flexing their technical prowess and warming up the first half of the weekend. It had been over two years since their last appearance in the Windy City, creating an extra sense of urgency for the local fan base to come out and show devotion and support for the Philadelphia-based outfit. Having only seen Brothers Past previously at the 2005 All Good Music Festival and 2006 Summer Camp Music Festival, I was definitely feeling the urgency to get out to this show. People on the internet have tried to make a comparison between them and The Disco Biscuits but it’s not really a fair one: Brothers Past can actually sing. And their style leans way more on progressive rock than the Biscuits’ does. This is a unique band that stands alone in the improvisational music scene.
Local DJ My Boy Elroy has developed a mixing style that is mostly rooted in deep house and disco but on this night he chose to unveil a new side of his repertoire. Sadly I missed most of his set because I left my apartment without my camera battery and had to head back to my apartment (amateur move, I know), but what I heard was unlike anything I had seen from him before. The tone of this set was rooted in a progressive indie rock sound and showed that he is one of the most versatile DJ’s at the moment in this city. Chicago promoters listen up: START BOOKING ELROY. His set was a fitting warm-up to the progressive electronica stylings that Brothers Past would offer up later in the evening. Alpha Data followed him with a different style altogether, showcasing a glitchy-electro sound that none of the other acts on the bill shared. Hailing from Minneapolis, the first thing I thought seeing him was that he would be a welcome addition to the Pretty Light Music family. His hyphy, glitch-hop brand of electronic music featured plenty of breaks, stop-and-go’s, and sudden tempo changes. His production was top notch and came off very polished. His remixes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers “Snow (Hey Oh)” and Flaming Lips’ “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1″ were also original. He chose to center both tracks on the guitar riffs and add a hard-hitting electro to each. He closed up shop and it was time for the headliners to take the stage…
Set one from this show will be remembered for the hour-long “Dressed Up Worn Down > What’s On Your Mind > Machine” segue that opened the show up. They got down to business quickly and found a groove within the first fifteen minutes of “DUWD” and got off to a scintillating start. Guitarist Tom Hamilton and bassist Clay Parnell traded licks on their synthesizers and worked with Tom McKee to craft some very progressive rock-leaning soundscapes. Drummer Rick Lowenberg’s style laid a nice foundation for the rhythm section as he alternated between his regular snare drum and an e-pad that he used to program beats and loop several times over. Hamilton’s tone alternated between a rhythm guitarist’s jangly chords and a furious unapologetic tone reminiscent of a lead guitar player. Parnell’s funky basslines were looped frequently as he played off of what Hamilton was doing on his synthesizer and guitar. The two of them bounced ideas back and forth all night long. The set came to a close with a scorching rendition of “One Rabbit Race ” that sent the audience into a frenzy and left them salivating for more. Everyone in the band was firing on all cylinders as this track took off higher than any other song during the opening set.
Set two began with a rowdy “Monsters Come Out at Night.” Featuring a lengthy ”Eleanor Rigby” jam, it gave a preview of more covers to come. Another three song segue featuring “I Might Be Wrong > Squeeze > Charity Starts at Home > Squeeze” followed suit and showcased the best of what this band has to offer; nice crisp jams that had direction, precision, and plenty of firepower. The Radiohead cover had a lot of people smiling as the exploratory jam went searching inside the space-funk time continuum and found some of the darkest, most menacing moments of the evening. This morphed into a dub jam inside of “Squeeze” that pulled from several musical styles before bleeding into “Charity Starts at Home” and finally back to “Squeeze.” From a casual Brothers Past listener’s perspective, this was a satisfying show. The band had plenty of chemistry on stage and they were not afraid to take chances and experiment. Their fusion of electronica and progressive rock gives them a unique and accessible sound. Each member in the group pulled their own weight and they worked together to make sure they all remained in the “pocket.” Six years between shows is far too long and I’ll be making it a point to see more shows going forward. For anyone that will be attending Electric Forest this summer, do yourself a favor and check out Brothers Past.