Grapetooth is technically made up of just Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni, but its show at Lincoln Hall Saturday night made the act seem much more like a community project.
For one thing, the two members weren’t alone on stage. They were joined by two percussionists, including Frankel’s Twin Peaks bandmate Cadien Lake James, and during the last song, a dozen audience members who helped themselves to some time in the stage lights. The collaborative revelry left no bridge, physical or mental, between the musicians and the audience.
The band’s arrival has been long anticipated by people in Chicago and out. Frankel seems to constantly be on the road with Twin Peaks, winning clusters of fans in every city to which it travels. Bailoni produces as Home-Sick, and while there isn’t necessary quantity out there from that project, there is quality. The two have been making music together since 2015, though with other projects taking up much of their time it has been a long time coming that they headline a prominent show in town. The slow crawl of the band’s emergence has been genuinely painful thanks to the two fantastic singles the group has put out, dropping late last year and early this summer.
So it was no surprise that word of mouth preceded its show at Lincoln Hall. A sold out crowd ushered in to see underground fixture James Swanberg and local rockers Rookie open things up.
Grapetooth took the stage around midnight. With two exceptions, the set was all unreleased music, songs that bounced with ‘80s New Wave vibes mixed skewered with garage rock attitudes. The songs will likely appear on the band’s debut album, set to come out this fall through Polyvinyl. They are tracks best heard live, full with incessant rhythm and endlessly chantable hooks.
Plenty of anticipation had been built by the time Grapetooth took the stage and rang out “Violent” a simmering anthem reminiscent of the Cure. The band ran through songs about red wine, death, and red wine, a common motif for the band—the inspiration for the name and the drink of choice of the members onstage. The songs were punchy and performed with a lighthearted energy which could turn a focused scowl in to a wide grin in a second
It was a short set, little more than 30 minutes, before it was time for the band’s closer. “Trouble” was the group’s first single, a rolling, vibrating catchy tune that seems to be able to adjust to fit any moment. And the moment it fit on Saturday was the high point of rowdiness, comprising crowdsurfing, moshing and bumrushing the stage. Things got a little too hectic for security to allow, and the sound was cut off early.
It was all anyone following Frankel and Bailoni could have hoped for out of the first true showcase of their work as Grapetooth. There are no other Chicago shows scheduled as of now, but the band is headed to New York in September, and its debut album is expected in the late fall.