Review: Tomorrow Never Knows Ignites with Charly Bliss, Active Bird Community and Girl K

A three-bill lineup of explosive energy and raucous fun properly helped usher in the 2019 Tomorrow Never Knows festival Wednesday night at Lincoln Hall.

Few bands can bring the level of untamed, deliciously gleeful charisma to the stage like Brooklyn-based Charly Bliss. The foursome excels at hooks that heat up and crash like lava, and they’ve since graduated from playing Schubas at TNK Fest three years ago. 2017’s Guppy, the debut record, is a series of gritty, playful cuts that come in swinging hard and fast and wrap tightly in a giant hug. Luckily, the bulk of the hits were played like “Westermarck,” “DQ” and “Black Hole,” the only one spunky lead singer Eva Hendricks requested a sing-along to.

New tunes were sprinkled in too, including their so-called first love song “Heaven” (the single released in September, but the new album is still brewing) and opener “Blown to Bits,” which featured the group’s signature sweet, upbeat stamp tinged with a darker undertone: “It’s gonna break my heart to see it blown to bits.”

It may come as a surprise that Guppy—which took four-five years to make and is a big gulp of happy juice—grapples with more melancholy themes like anxiety and depression. The new record reportedly gets personal again and covers some equally heavy issues inspired by recent headlines in the news. “Glitter” closed the set before Charly Bliss returned for an encore with the most satisfying throwback cover of Len’s “Steal My Sunshine.”

Active Bird Community, fellow New Yorkers also signed to Charly Bliss’s label, Barsuk Records, brought back some solid ‘90s nostalgia with their indie vibes and Vans. They’ve been making music together since they were 11 years old and just released a new record in September called Amends. Midway through the set, an impressive musical chairs maneuver took place where frontman/guitarist Tom D’Agustino and drummer Quinn McGovern swapped places (and instruments).

Chicago’s very own Girl K began the evening with positively cheery guitar strumming and head-bopping delight. Frontwoman Kathy Patino’s bashful charm shone through as she confessed it was “a dream” to play TNK Fest after attending it in the past. It was tough to disagree with Patino that “For Now,” the title track off Girl K’s record, was indeed a fun little ditty. “We’re not too cool to dance anymore!”

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Jessica Nikolich

Jessica Nikolich was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. After going to journalism school in Columbia, Missouri, and working at a small-town Michigan newspaper on the banks of Lake Huron, she’s back for good to soak up as much live music, culture and craft beer as humanly possible. Her writing can be found in Chicago magazine and Chicago Innerview Magazine. In the real world, Jessica is a marketing specialist at a law firm and survives her CTA commutes binging podcasts.