Liz Phair‘s Riot Fest set a few weeks ago was a triumphant full band return to her hometown. It was preceded by a stripped down set at The Empty Bottle that proved she’s not only conquered her early career stage fright, but was able to add new layers to songs already firmly in place near the top of the indie rock canon.
Years ago I met Phair outside Danny’s (technically Bucktown and not in the Wicker Park “Guyville”). I was in awe of her unconventional guitar playing and choices of musical hooks. Basically I thought (think) Phair was (is) a genius. She captured not only a moment in Chicago, but a universal moment in human development, perfectly.
This year’s Exile In Guyville re-issue was a revelation. Sure, we all had the Girlysound demos (dubbed and dubbed and dubbed and dubbed and full of hiss) but hearing her original vision for so many songs that would become canon in a newly remastered and pristine condition showed you just how clear her voice was. And the original demos also display a captivating internal dialog that feels incredibly vulnerable and bracing.
To say Phair is a legend and visionary feels like she’s not getting enough credit for her accomplishments. She called out boys on their bullshit and gave women a voice they could identify with. I’m not saying that never happened before (obvs) but Phair shed a stark spotlight driven by a verbal and musical economy that cast that back-and-forth in a setting I think it’s safe to say a whole generation found honestly fresh and admirable.
Phair returns to Chicago this weekend to play two shows at The Metro. While Saturday’s concert is sold out, there are still tickets available for the Sunday show. An added bonus for Sunday? Material Re-issue, another Chicago legend, is opening.