The TV Girl audience is a hyped and dedicated one. As I walked into Schubas way too early to sit down and have a drink with my friends, I could already see anxious concert goers eyeing the doors at the back of the bar eagerly awaiting when they could dash over and line up to get in. Once inside I met quite a few fans who had travel quite far just to see this show, already having made up their mind about how good the show was before it even started. TV Girl’s synth pop is infectious and welcoming, drawing in that kind of fandom quite easily and at a sold out Schubas show, it was difficult for everything not to get swallowed whole by it.
That intensity can go either way at a smaller venue and that night the crowd was certainly loud and anxious to see TV Girl, with the majority of them seeming blissfully unaware of the openers, much to my disappointment. I get the headliner is draw, but there should be some respect paid to the starting bands, especially ones as good as Wished Bone and Infinity crush.
Ashley Rhodus under her musical moniker Wished Bone played to a pretty full room that at times felt like they were drowning out her subtle and amazing bedroom pop songs. She powered through the noise and delivered some beautiful tracks like the achingly mysterious “hubbub”, where Wished Bone’s voice soared. “pollinate me” and “seed” with their simple and catchy melodies never felt overdone despite their lyrics literally describing the metaphors quite openly, including sex puns and ideas of growth/potential respectively. There is something utterly mesmerizing about her ability to not come off as corny during these moments, which makes Wished Bone undeniably special
Infinity Crush, usually a duo but this time around a solo set by Caroline White, was the next to tackle the incredibly loud crowd and didn’t have the patience that Wished Bone displayed earlier. Almost immediately after her first song she had to call them out, giving the back half of the room a 2/10 while the front half an 8/10. I won’t pretend that she wasn’t right, half the crowd was screaming instead of talking. Part of me expects this at certain shows and it didn’t really phase me, but it clearly affected White’s demeanor. “I would tell you a funny story but you don’t deserve it” she would say later in the set, a moment that definitely rubbed me the wrong way.
Much like Wished Bone, her music is soft and immensely gorgeous, letting her lyrics breathe as she strums along with her guitar, checking the setlist written on her hand between sets. She played songs off her album warmth equation, with many hitting some of the biggest highlights of the night. However, her distaste for the crowd was painfully apparent, changing the feeling of some the songs and sometimes making them all the more striking. In particular “Flightless Bird”, which details a bad relationship, felt directed to the crowd, essentially chastising them even more for their apathy. She ended her final song so quickly and abruptly, that everyone who was paying attention were barely able to clap for her before she disappeared from the stage. I hope to see her perform in a more attentive room someday where she’s enjoying the set as much as the front section of the crowd was trying to.
After the awkward finish, TV Girl came up and the atmosphere was instantly different. Those who were noisey and disrespectful before turned their entire focus to the stage. The band, led by Brad Petering and featuring Jason Wyman and Wyatt Harmon, held on to this now attentive crowd for the rest of the night, laying out their electronic pop with a stage presence that reflected their dreamy and chill soundscapes. His command of the crowd feels almost effortless. There aren’t big displays of energetic movements, instead Petering and crew stand at their stations in front of a huge TV Girl logo and let their songs do all the heavy lifting.
It makes sense considering just how damn catchy they all are. Revolving around love and all its hardships and joy, TV Girl’s songs tap into young music lover’s need to soundtrack their most primal emotions. TV Girls then turn them into something much prettier but doesn’t back away from their reality.
“Birds Don’t Sing” comes early in the set and displays Petering’s ability to organically combine his composed cadence with his band mates’ bright instrumental and samples. It’s a song that is insanely danceable and you can’t help but sing along. Their new songs off ” feel like ones you’ve heard before and beg to be sung along to, even if you don’t know the lyrics. “7 Days Till Sunday”, an interesting look at the aftermath of an odd one night stand, is an instant classic that feels as comfortable as first album tracks like “Lovers Rock”. Despite such a cohesive sound across all their songs, each breathes a uniqueness and self-awareness that is missing from a lot of artists. “But who’s afraid of a little cliché” sings Petering during “King of Echo Park” and he’s right.
Towards the end Petering went off on a monologue evoking love songs of yesteryear while some samples and instruments played in the background, likely as close as TV Girl will come to performing a medley of covers. He spoke rather than sang about love, quoting John Lennon, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, and more artists lyrics. Captain & Tennille, Joy Division, Huey Lewis, and many more than I’m sure I missed were exalted and praised before they played “It Evaporates”, a gentle throwback to 50s pop that feels timeless even with its modern twists. Much like their last Chicago show at Beat Kitchen, the show ended on “Heaven’s a Bedroom” a song that encompasses so much of TV Girl’s aura: all the hope, salvation, sadness, failure, and regret of modern love and sex backed by one of their most identifiable instrumentals featuring looping cheers and soft keys and percussion. It’s a jam and I honestly can’t think of a better set finale.
All photos by Julian Ramirez