I’d never been to the Green Mill before, which is odd considering I live in the neighborhood and it’s one of Chicago’s most, if not the most, notable jazz venues in the city. Walking in, you can sense the immense history of the space; the legends who performed before; and the stories that live within its walls.
Margaret Glaspy was set for a round of two shows at this revered venue, with Minneapolis trio Bad Bad Hats with an opening set. We cozied into booths and tables lining the walls, perched atop stools at the bar, and even sat on the floor awaiting a magical night of music
I fell in love with the music of Bad Bad Hats nearly three years ago when I saw the group as part of Tomorrow Never Knows. No offense to the other groups there, but it was their set that captivated me the most. They dazzled the audience with songs from It Hurts, their EP from 2013, so I was excited to see them perform both the old material and new from their debut album, Psychic Reader.
In the Green Mill’s confined space, singer Kerry Alexander’s vocals shined. The group performed a set of intimate tunes with lyrics that can stop you in your tracks. They opened with “Fight Song,” a pivotal ballad off of their album. In between songs, Alexander chatted up the audience like we were all close friends, with witty banter that incited chuckles throughout the audience. “This is for all the Josephs out there,” she stated before playing, well, “Joseph.” They performed a mix off hits off both the EP and album, but the most perfect moment of the set occurred during Alexander’s acoustic ballad, “Things We Never Say,” discussing the perils of a relationship.
“You never say you love me/ I never say I love you,” she sang out to the hushed crowd, waiting in reverence. They brought the tempo back up and ended the set with the whimsical, nostalgic tune “It Hurts,” featuring a kazoo-like vocal interlude and an empowering spirit. Alexander, drummer Chris Hoge, and bassist Noah Boswell craft songs with the perfect blend of sweetness and punch, and it was the ideal way to open up the show.
Next up was Margaret. Lauded with acclaim and featured on an NPR Tiny Desk Concert, Glaspy deserves all the attention she’s gaining right now. A voice that’s sweet, yet snarls, emotive lyrics, and a confident stage presence all cement Glaspy as an artist that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Her set featured songs from her debut album, Emotions and Math, opening with the album’s title track. “I was a rolling stone,” Glaspy wailed out with her voice taking on a different caliber, her persona shifting as she became almost possessed by the music she’s created. “No Matter Who” kept the grooves going with smooth vocals and sultry guitar backings.”Are you still in love?” she questioned, her voice rising and falling with ease.
She covered some stellar songs, which delighted the crowd immensely. “Fruits of My Labor,” originally by Lucinda Williams, was slowed down and elongated, while Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” took on a completely different form. Her voice transformed into a raspy growl throughout the song as she made it her own.
Glaspy debuted a new song that is yet to be named, with lyrics discussing a long distance relationship. “Let’s not say I miss you a thousand times/ Let’s just say I love you, goodnight.” She has the ability to create songs that are empowered, raw, and transcendent all at the same time, and showcased her versatile range at the Green Mill with ease. With both acts so in tune with their artistry, their show at the Green Mill was one to be remembered after songs seeped into our memories.