Wednesday night’s bill at Chicago’s Empty Bottle belonged to openers Total Slacker. The Brooklyn outfit hit the stage with little fanfare or fuss, kicking off their set with a minute of battling feedback and distortion, eliciting confounded looks from the crowd. However, by the end of their six-song set, they had won over everyone over with their manic antics and explosive sound. Frontman Tucker Rountree was reckless and unhinged as he floated above the surprisingly tight band behind him. He dueled with fellow guitarist David Tassy, while their rhythm section, drummer Zoe Brecher and bassist Emily Oppenheimer, set the pace for a number of Slip Away tracks, specifically highlights “Who Killed Kennedy” and “Keep the Ships At Bay”. Their self-described label of “slimegaze” certainly felt rebellious amidst a lineup that also included Bear Hands and Miniature Tigers.
Considering that a third of the venue cleared out following their performance, Bear Hands were arguably the biggest act of the night. And yet despite some technical difficulties and a pocket of dry Bill O’Reilly jokes, they deserved much of the attention. When the New York post-punkers segued into some “new shit”, the crowd cheered them on, proving a loyalty few young acts get to savor. That being said, the assembly of new and old felt scattered, both a strength and weakness. They do too much, leaving incredulous speculation as to what this band’s all about. For example, the only member who didn’t utilize two or more instruments was their drummer. It’s a crowded sound, but it’s not like they don’t know what’s up: guitarist Ted Feldman is technically proficient with a drum pad while singer and lead guitarist Dylan Rau is no doubt savvy around a keyboard. Still, some simplification would do wonders.
Around 11:30 p.m., Miniature Tigers finally headlined their gig, roaring with an energy that scaled from their solid set of indie synth rock. (On first glance, they come off sounding akin to a more rock-centric Starfucker and dress like a cooler version of fun. — no lie.) Bassist Brandon Lee wagged his bass around like he was trying to reel in a strong fish, while frontman Charlie Brand commanded a dark presence despite their material’s upbeat demeanor. Surprisingly, they relied less on synths than expected, which proved to be a pleasant finish to an enjoyable evening. Make no mistake, though, the Slacker ran away with this one.