A night with theatrics is rare to catch at The Empty Bottle in Chicago. Whether it’s stunts, or stage dives, nothing really catches an audience off-guard then a nautical-themed three hours of riffs and laughter, all clustered into a raw talent that was dense enough to sink one’s teeth into.
ONO, Chicago based six piece opened for Cave, and who better to be the opener than this peculiar sextet. ONO managed to captivate the audience and curb the anxious anticipation from the crowd for Cave to play their set. Yet the openers rarely cause more upheaval than the headliners, this night was one of those exceptions to the notion.
Cryptic as it was, the concept lacked focus. Like an undersea matrimony of algae and flowery miasmas, the lead vocalist and his mermaid backup counterpart, swayed towards each other in waveforms. The bassist wore a head flashlight (one usually intended for mining) to add flare or shock value—it was unlikely that the purpose of the headlight was to do anything but entertain the crowd.
Bass drummer hid her drums behind a sculptured conch shell. Think the little mermaid remake by David Lynch. The mermaid seductress sang one song in the same tempo as the lead had all along—a heavy drone, speaking in twisted tongues with gumption. With his long dreadlocks and flowery headdress, he slipped out of his bright pink dress, and slithered down to tan, flesh-tone leggings.
Vulgarity without a concrete concept can usually turn off a crowd. But these guys have been a Chicago favorite since the early ’80s. The lead singer, Travis legally changed his name—so it is now Travis, without a last name.
“You got to have some fun,” Travis said to some kid who complimented him on the fly as he dragged a suitcase full of costumes and instruments out the front entrance. Most bands go out the back, but oh no, ONO do their own thing, and that alone could be one of many factors are attributed to their overall allure.
Hott Lunch of Columbia, Miss., was up next. The drummer had some tribal tattoos, and went topless, bold but not so impressive after sweat from his eyes couldn’t be wiped with his sleeve. The lead singer and guitarist interacted with the crowd, answering every single question. He even said a few jokes between songs to lighten the mood. The band was asked to play by members of Cave, and drove all the way from Missouri just for the 30-minute set. A true gesture of loyalty and commitment to musicianship gave their endearing qualities even more credibility.
Cave finally got up on the stage, there was a synthesizer, drums, bass and guitar: the usual suspects. Although, it was the percussive insistence and driving guitar riffs that blew the crowd away. Throughout their set the drive become so repetitious that it began to induce a rare hypnosis on the crowd. The keyboardist/guitarist switched between his assignments like a truly smooth and well-conditioned multi-instrumentalist. Their ’70s psych-sound was a lot less hard core than many had expected from hearing their albums, or just by word of mouth.
A night full of surprises, costumes and raw talent, yet again at The Empty Bottle.