Back at my seemingly second home of Lincoln Hall, I awaited a sold-out show from The Beths, New Zealand-based band who have garnered a ton of acclaim and led by Elizabeth Stokes, were on their fourth Chicago appearance. The band’s songs discuss self-deprecation, heartbreak, and more with catchy hooks, timely harmonies, and a helluva lot of guitar.
I caught opener Bad Bad Hats first; a Minnesota-based band with that Midwestern hospitality ingrained in their persona. They played a full set for the packed house. I had seen this band during their first Chicago appearance in 2015, and it was surreal to see them back in this same venue once more. However, in the span of four years, lead singer Kerry Alexander had become even more enigmatic, treating the crowd like an audience for a comedy set. Topics included the Buffalo Bills, making Chicago a gold-pin destination (they’ve played here 10 times now!) and eating the delicacy of pizza rolls from Super America. Their set was as lengthy as the headlining set, and no less revered.
They moved through songs off their 2018 album Lightning Round, then gave the fans the oldies they craved, like supercharged “Shame” and the syrupy sweet bop “Super America.” These fans included me, an under-the-radar superfan, mouthing along to every song, the girl with bangs in the front row who looked like she was having the time of her life, and a couple from Minnesota who travel to nearby cities to watch Bad Bad Hats because they love them that much. I’m telling ya, this is a band to watch, and a band to love as they unpretentiously showcase their talent and charm.
Next up, The Beths! The main event. With a debut album that spans 38 minutes, I wondered how long the set would be, The last show they played was a garage show that cost $5; now, they’re selling out Lincoln Hall. While I felt like at times Stokes seemed to feel uncomfortable on stage, they eased into the set and showcased a confident emerging rock group. The set opened with “Whatever,” as Stokes noted “Baby, you’re breaking my heart / Why do you make it so hard?”
Amp volume reached maximum levels throughout the set as they rocked out and gave the crowd standout performances for crescendoing “Less Than Thou,” pop-rock perfection “Future Me Hates Me,” and a standout cover of “Uptown Girl.” I don’t know when The Beths will be back in this part of the states, but the crowd made it clear they’d prefer it to be soon.