Lincoln Hall hosted Chicago’s Sore History and Philadelphia’s Empath and Swearin’ last week. Three-band bills are perfect, especially when there’s a local band you’ve never heard of supporting touring bands, one I haven’t seen yet but have listened to via Spotify’s Discover Weekly, the other I haven’t seen due to their premature breakup.
Local bands usually have either overwhelming or dismal support when opening for touring bands. Sadly the night was on the dismal support side of things. Sore History aren’t bad; they could easily be as big as any Chicago band but the lack of bodies in the crowd doesn’t bode well for the local four piece’s exposure. They embody vibes of Swearin’s first record but significantly faster which makes them the perfect opener for the gig, they rip through a collection of songs from last year’s release 7 songs, short but impressive. I’m tempted to catch them at their October 27th show at Record Breakers.
While checking out merch, people watching, and waiting for Empath to set up, I reminisced about the first song I ever heard by them. “Dark Honey,” a collection of cohesive sounds that showcases singer/guitarist Catherine Elicson’s angelic voice, one of the band’s best songs and possibly their best. The stragglers have made their way past the bar and merch area to check out Empath, filling the room with a few more bodies. There’s a perfect amount of synth during every song as they play tracks off of this year’s releases, Liberating Guilt and Fear and 7” EP, Environments. The set’s everything I hoped for even when it sounds a little too abrasive and chaotic.
I’ve reached a full main floor by the time Swearin’ takes the stage. Before the band’s break up and guitarists/singers Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride’s personal split, Swearin’ was fairly active from 2012-2015. They’ve returned to Lincoln Hall with a lot of enthusiasm and a brand new album, Fall Into the Sun. They lead with the album’s first track, “Big Change,” catchy but bare song with repetitive surf rocky riffs, a jangly tambourine, and Crutchfield’s harmonious voice. It’s a night and day difference compared to the band’s previous material. They’re very quick to change pace when they play “Here To Hear” from their 2012 self-titled album, where Gilbride belts out line after line while he and Crutchfield shred together, followed by “Kenosha.”
The crowd’s been fairly receptive to the whole set but mostly when they hear older, more recognizable songs like, “Dust In The Gold Sack” from their 2013 album, Surfing Strange. There’s the usual abrupt exit and fans feverish cheering that leads the band back with a few encore songs, one with Crutchfield playing alone as a lone white light beams upon her and her acoustic guitar. The other is one of this year’s singles “Grow into a Ghost.” Alison Crutchfield’s voice rings out with the last notes of the night as she sings “I watch you I watch you I watch you grow into a ghost.” The hype for Swearin’ was apparent and known but I’ll always wonder what the hype would be for Swearin’ today if not for their split in 2015.