There were a surprising number of people in Union Park at 1:45pm on a Sunday, but I suppose that’s what happens when quality acts are booked to start the day. Porches kicked things off on the Red stage with what can best be described as dance music for lonely people. Indeed, Aaron Maine and his band used synths, bouncy bass lines and the occasional saxophone assist to settle into a groove, and the modest crowd shuffled around entranced while staring at their feet. Many of them may have been nursing hangovers or were simply tired from the previous two days, but at the very least they were moving. While the songs would undoubtedly have sounded even better under the cover of night, Porches still managed to inspire and help people get motivated for one more full day of music.
Outside of a music festival or a special radio session, have you ever been to an indoor concert with a late afternoon start time? I can’t recall ever attending a show before 7:30pm, and would imagine that spending time at a venue when the sun is out would feel a bit weird. Yet sometimes it’s necessary, I guess, particularly if said venue is double booked for the evening. Apparently Chicago’s own Bottom Lounge does that on occasion, typically on weekends when a majority of people aren’t at work. Saturday, April 9th is one of those occasions, with a triple bill worth not only my money but yours as well.
The first thing you need to know is that it’s going to be an emotional evening, in addition to being an early one. All three artists set to perform have released deeply personal, introspective records in the last year, and received a fair amount of critical acclaim for each. First on the lineup is Your Friend, otherwise known as Taryn Miller. Though her pseudonym can be a challenge to find via traditional search engines, she and her impressive debut album Gumption are worth seeking out. The music she makes could be considered experimental folk, as there’s a fascinating dichotomy between the traditional and non-traditional, the intimate and the expansive, the calm and the chaotic. Strip them down to their bones and you’ve got a single guitar and a voice, but the use of loops, found sounds, electronics, drones and other elements twist and obscure that in beautiful ways while revealing layers of untold depth. The lyrics are reflections on the self, how we present ourselves to the world and the courage it takes to change. Listen to the song “Heathering” below to capture a better idea of Your Friend’s particular aesthetic. It’s definitely worth showing up early to check out her set.
The meat in this musical sandwich is Alex G, the shortened moniker of Alex Giannascoli. The 21-year-old Philadelphia native started to receive a fair amount of attention in 2014 with the release of DSU, his first album that was properly mastered and released on an actual label. Prior to that, he self-recorded and self-released more than a handful of other full lengths and EPs via Bandcamp, very much fitting the definition of a DIY bedroom singer/songwriter. His lo-fi, often hangdog approach has earned him comparisons to Elliott Smith and Pavement in the past, though his sharper experimental leanings on last fall’s Beach Music took things in a much darker and uncommercial direction. It’s an interesting change considering this marked his highest profile release to date and Domino Records debut. Still, there’s plenty to like if you can get past some of the odd choices he makes with vocal modulation. For example a song like “Bug” would probably have been even better if some chipmunk-styled vocals didn’t pop up for no apparent reason. Still, beyond some small missteps on the new album, his past catalog is remarkably solid and worth your exploration. The same could be said about his live performances.
New Yorker Aaron Maine is the man behind the Porches name. It’s a project that’s been around for close to a decade now, but similar to Alex G is just starting to hit it big. Prior to the release of his Domino debut Pool earlier this year, Maine put out at least eight records, though it’s a little tough to put together an official count given that at least a couple seem to have (mostly) vanished from the internet. In many ways it feels as if those previous albums were all in preparation for this new one, which has earned a wealth of critical acclaim and placed Porches on an exclusive list of rising artists. The songs on Pool might best be described as dance tracks for lonely people. You could also use the album title to show the fluidity and spacious grandeur that a majority of the tracks exhibit. Synths and other electronics surge and swirl, while guitars, when present, are often relegated to the background. It’s a bit of a departure for Maine, whose earlier efforts were more entrenched in the world of lo-fi folk. The directional shift is all too purposeful, yet still manages to capture the intimacy and introspection that Porches has been known for across earlier efforts. Take a listen to “Car” and “Be Apart” below to get a better grasp on the magic of Porches.
So there you have it, a rundown of the three dynamic artists set to perform at Bottom Lounge early on a Saturday evening in April. Show up early, see some quality performances, then grab dinner after. Nice and easy. Here are the fine details:
Porches, Alex G & Your Friend
5:30 PM / $15