Review: Ohmme & Ganser Treat Thalia Hall with a Stunning Show

Lineups don't get much more in sync as Ganser and Ohmme taking over Thalia Hall. CHIRP really did a number on this as the bands have so much in common. They both deal in loud and expressive art rock that leaves you stunned and released fantastic albums last summer. Ohmme's Fantasize Your Ghost and Ganser's Just Look At That Sky continued each group's ever-evolving greatness and demanded to be heard live, in person. But that whole pandemic really put a hamper on that. Thankfully venues are opening up safely (shout out to Thalia Hall for having a pretty good handle on that) and we finally got to see them perform songs live, just in time for DCASE’s Chicago in Tune! If you're gonna have a noisy night might as well start off with a bang. Ganser took to the stage and dove in playing songs off their stellar Just Look at That Sky. Their sound is so damn immediate: confident and determined vocals traded between Alicia Gaines and Nadia Garofalo (who also handle bass and keys recitative), pulsing with bombastic drumming from Brian Cundiff, and exceptional guitar work from Charlie Landsman. It's so easy to get lost in their sound as it loudly envelops around you and overwhelms the senses. Ganser drips with post punk energy that is often muted in other bands in the genre. Gaines' piercing gaze as she belts out lyrics is as intoxicating as Landsman's erratic movements as he finds his noisy groove. "Lucky" in particular saw the band at their most explosive. Everything just felt in place as the band blasted the track with Garofalo taking the spotlight as she let all her energy exude through her vocals and dance moves. There's no doubt Ganser left the stage with a heaping amount of new fans thanks to that performance. While it wasn't Ohmme's first time back to performing live since COVID closures, it sure felt like it. The energy in the room was palpable and with a stage packed with incredible set design and a huge line up of special guests, how could it not? Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart brought along a string section featuring Lia Kohl, Karlyn Gehring, and Mallory Linehan, supporting vocals from Quinn Tsan & Fran, Ben Cruz of Moontype on guitar, and Spencer Tweedy on drums (holding true to his desire to honor Charlie Watts). It was a star-studded affair that really lived up to the wait. Ohmme have a nice catalog under their belts now and this concert really showed that off. Tracks from their full-length debut Parts shined next fresher tracks that were finally getting the chance to be heard live. "Icon" with its echoing "I want a new icon!" felt right at home next to the original song Ohmme wrote for the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago project Half of Us. There is a beautiful fluidity to all their music, with every new song feeling like an evolution but also familiar to who the band is at their core. Cunningham and Stewart were as poised as ever for this show, donning blazers that at one point were noted as being way too hot and eventually taken off for the encore. It was no surprise as Ohmme's stage presence is always at a 10. It has to be as they crank out tunes like "Grandmother," which starts off gentle and ethereal before delving into rocking guitars and boisterousness. Even "Spell It Out," which maintains a certain kinda tenderness throughout, is so emotionally engaging that it feels as breathtaking as their more animated tracks. Ohmme ended their proper set with "After All," the stunning closer off of Fantasize Your Ghost. Stewart dedicated the track to the crowd and let the angelic tones sweep us off our feet. It feels like such a departure from their immense sound but such a perfect way to usher an album and show away. But of course the night was not over yet. The encore blazed on as Ohmme returned to their more raw sounds. They touched upon their early career with "Fingerprints" before finishing off the night with "Ghost," one of their most damning and infectious songs. It was such an energizing way to end the show, capping a great return to live shows.
This show was a part of DCASE’s Chicago in Tune! This new citywide festival celebrates music in the key of Chicago during the 2021 Year of Chicago Music. This month-long event is meant to bring us all together through the whole spectrum of music events in a variety of venues. Check out all the participating venues and shows over at their website! Ganser will be playing at the Empty Bottle for a Pitchfork Music Festival After Show with Bartees Strange on 9/13. Check the rest of their tour dates here! Ohmme will be playing in Arlington Heights at the Hey Nonny with Deeper on 9/26. Check the rest of their tour dates here!
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Julian Ramirez