A caravan of four stellar bands rolled through Chicago last night, stopping at the Cobra Lounge long enough to provide a sold-out crowd the opportunity to blow some steam out of its collective ears. pronoun, Oso Oso, Angel Du$t and Citizen have been on the road together for a month; the Chicago gig was the second to last in a run of 28 shows in 33 days. Somewhere during that month each band found its groove–the sets were ritualistic in a way that only a band who has played every night for a month can be. They were different enough musically that it was difficult to overshadow or be overshadowed, as each act had its card to play.
pronoun is the project of Alyse Vellturo, a Brooklyn-based artist and label boss. As pronoun she makes music in a driving yet understated style, with instrumentation that snarls beneath her calm vocals. The band is still touring off the strength of its debut EP, There’s No One New Around You, released in 2016, but is prepping an album that Vellturo says is 75 percent done.
The room was already nearly full when pronoun took the stage. It was early, only 6:15, but the dungeon-like feel at the Cobra Lounge made it seem much later. The crowd was surrounded by stone walls and covered by a wooden ceiling, from which a dozen ancient-looking chandeliers hanged. Red light bathed the crowd, the bar and the stage. The Cobra Lounge is part of the All Rise Brewing Company, whose name took on a Luciferian quality in that room of red light and black t-shirts.
But of all the bands on the bill, pronoun would instill the least fear in parents monitoring their child’s music. Vellturo has the talent of an alt-rock star, easily seen by the acclaim generated by its small discography. Her songs, mourning yet resilient, rallied the room with the strength of a headliner.
Oso Oso brought its brand of the emo revival to the stage next.
Rock is cyclical. There is little not much left to innovate with a guitar, bass and drums. But there are plenty of waves that have already hit the shore to revisit.
Increasingly, as the children of the 2000s enter their mid-twenties, Emo is the genre being brought back around. For as much as it was maligned for the associated style (skintight jeans, swooping bangs), a huge swath of people, particularly teenagers, have an emotional connection with that style of music. “That made me feel good!” cried a crowd member in a quiet moment between songs, a comment that made singer Jade Lilitri pause with appreciation. While the first two bands played solid, entertaining rock music, there was nothing particularly surprising about them. The shock would come next, with Angel Du$t, whose full-throated gut punch brand of hardcore caused the middle to fall out of the crowd.
To the uninitiated outsider, the mosh pit is a fearful place, where the individual is most vulnerable to the brute with flying elbows, cracking ribs and blacking eyes. But inside that mass of bodies there is a collective will, an implied consent between those who remain beyond the first thrashings, that making it out of the pit alive is as important as burning frustrations within it. Whenever there was the risk of someone being overpowered, knocked over or dropped, a flurry of hands was there to help.
The driving power of the two guitars and bass, the frenetic drumming and the menacing cool of frontman Justice Tripp, his gold tooth glinting when the light hit it just right, provided the all ages crowd with a charge that seemed to enter right into its bloodstream. Enough invaders hit the stage, their eyes searching for the right landing spot, that there was no attempt to prevent them from diving. Limbs flailed, feet stomped, unwashed hair flung about wildly. There was a dazed moment that followed Angel Du$t’s set, a brutal fever dream over much too soon.
The room had felt at capacity all evening, but after the last tarp was dropped to reveal Citizen’s name behind the stage, the crowd hemmed in closer. The energy had been present all night, but in its anticipation the crowd made clear that Citizen was the one it had been waiting for. Citizen has put out four LPs that fall closer to the lighter side of rock, but in person the band is a powerful force. It took the stage and played a set of its brand of subtly artful hard rock. It is hard to imagine a group more together than Citizen was, the guitarists, bassist and drummer impossibly syncopathic. Frontman Mat Kerekes grinned away, maybe at his luck at fronting such a band, maybe at the fierce fandom the crowd displayed, before howling into the mic in a way that cut a line right through the room.
pronoun will be back in town for Riot Fest. The rest of the bands aren’t scheduled to come back through town, but any music fan would be advised to keep an eye out.