When songwriter Trey Gruber walked to the upright piano in the corner of the Hideout’s stage, we stepped back a few decades. His band Parent, one of Chicago’s most promising new bands, plays soft and sad pop songs. They brought the audience back to a time when John Lennon wrote big yet reflective ballads with Harry Nilsson, minus all the bottles of booze and sleepless nights.
In fact, it may have been a matter of time before Gruber broke out singing John Lennon’s “Instant Karma.” (This song, which to my knowledge is currently only available on YouTube, sounds fresh off of Double Fantasy). With a chorus pedal effect brightening his vocals, he sang washed out ’70s piano and guitar-based that sound musically upbeat and yet lyrically morose—”I tried to die,” he begins, “I tried to take my life.”
Most of all, Gruber sings with both conviction and spite.
Parent’s baselines and tenor saxophone melodies echo The Band, the song arrangements feel both melancholic and yet warm, and the squiggly, soulful riffs on the guitar give both tension and relief.
During the week prior to the show, Gruber direct messaged on Instagram after I tagged him in a photo, where he expressed his uncertainty about the set. They hadn’t yet rehearsed since opening for NE-HI at a Pitchfork aftershow several weeks ago. And, to add to his concerns, a few of his members were out of town. But local musicians Paul Cherry and Matt Roberts (of Mild High Club and Paul Cherry’s band) filled in on keys and drums, respectively.
Knowing the night’s limitations and circumstances, Parent’s soulful set in the Hideout’s cabin-like room struck me as only the more impressive.
Later that evening, Kevin Krauter from Hoops played his solo music, which is at once both dreamy and contemplative like Hoops and yet he’s bridging together a wider array of influences. With his quiet and yet colorfully written compositions, Nick Drake springs to mind. He brings bossa nova and Americana arrangements in the same set, which wrapped up a night at the Hideout’s intimate and incandescent-lit venue nicely.
It can be difficult to write about local music without coming off as a total fanboy. But with Bunny’s recent show with The Lemon Twigs, The Walters bursting with energy at Lollapalooza, and local lo-fi psychedelic soul artist wavy i.d. just debuting a record off of Feel Trip Records — to only name a few and only from the indie community — Chicago is one of the most exciting cities for music, and Parent’s one of the city’s most exciting new bands.
You can catch Parent next at Schubas opening for Sam Evian on September 14.