Review: Bad Bad Hats Bring Indie Magic to Tomorrow Never Knows at Schuba’s

Bad Bad Hats, courtesy of the band

Tomorrow Never Knows brought the festival vibes to a bitter January night at Schuba‘s, sporting a mostly midwestern line-up (retro synth outfit Video Age joined from Louisiana) for an evening of jaunty indie pop headlined by Minneapolis’ Bad Bad Hats.

Pool Holograph, a local side project for designer/painter Wyatt Grant, kicked off the night, delivering dirty guitar rockers to the youngish crowd trickling into Schuba’s intimate room. The band’s garage-built sound conjured an early Strokes-vibe, and lead singer Grant’s scrappy energy accompanied a jaunty set that warmed up the Wednesday night audience.

Songwriter Con Davison, equipped with a bright red gibson, followed Pool Holograph’s set with a poppier, more reflective tone, continuing to ease the crowd towards the headliner. Davison’s clever wordplay and surprising hooks gave an aura of Elvis Costello and drove some to sing along on tracks like “Talk” and “Subtle Kick.”

Things took a strange retro dive once Video Age, all decked out in dull thrift store threads, took the stage. The New Orleans based band evoked the ’80s with a New Wave meets Prince sound; after a few songs the band’s inherent cheesiness began to show, the incessant keyboard melodies and persistent vibe wearing on the audience as the set dragged on.

But the crowd was noticeably fuller and more attentive by the time Bad Bad Hats took the stage (solo act Con Davison joined, this time as the band’s drummer). The Minnesota-based indie darlings wasted no time heating things up, delivering smart pop confections through lead singer Kerry Alexander’s breezy vocals and delicious phrasing. In a set highlighting songs from their two excellent full length albums, the band proved that their growing fan base is well-deserved; this trio from Minneapolis is the real deal.

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Matthew Nerber

Matthew Nerber is a performer and theater artist in Chicago, and a former literary contributor with the Generation, the University at Buffalo’s longest running alternative newspaper. When not seeing or making theater, Matthew can be found at the Music Box or expanding his classic rock vinyl collection. He is a 2019 Fellow of the National Critics Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.