Dark-wave duo She Wants Revenge packed a throng of sweaty new wave post-goth thrill seekers into Double Door the night of May 29, and supplied an at-times eerie and harrowing vibe, but by the end of the night they had redeemed themselves by finding the silver lining hiding deep within their black, cloud-filled sky.
Beginning the evening was a surprise set from Steve Krakow’s instrumental duo Solar Fox with keyboardist Libby Ramer (who also plays with him in Moonrises). Krakow, who many Chicago club regulars know as Plastic Crimewave Sound treated the early arrivals to a few lengthy spacey sonic space explorations with his electric guitar, punctuated by Ramer’s throbbing, rising and falling synth lines. These weren’t so much songs; they might be more fittingly referred to as compositions, and the extent to which they were improvised or had been exactingly written was unclear. What was clear, however, was Solar Fox’s way with sonic experimentation, and their ability to craft a meditative mood with little more than some wicked guitar talent, keyboard accents, and some fitting but minimal lighting. They provided an original sound that was suitable only for complete immersion—when reduced to background noise, it started to sound a little samey after a few too many of their “jams” (a term used very loosely here).
Local trio and soon-to-be House heroes FFM led the crowd through a retro-set that came via the same avenue of Black Kids but with a visual style that was more like Prince meets Hüsker Dü. Although at times one could be forgiven for mistaking them for an ’80s cover band, their enthusiastic and energetic nature easily overcame any deficits in terms of originality. They oozed sexiness but had clearly taken Pat Benatar’s advice in terms of not using sex as a weapon.
Despite She Wants Revenge’s penchant for a bleak outlook on their 2005 debut, the new material just released on Valleyheart, their first record in four years, seems to come from a brighter, more upbeat perspective. True, the roots of all they do lie in Joy Division and to a lesser extent New Order, and this is another recent act for whom the 1990s and grunge never happened (see also: Chromeo, Black Kids, Cold Cave).
Justin Warfield and the other half of SWR, keyboardist/bassist Adam 12 (né Barvin), are joined live by the economical but atmospheric guitar leads of Australian Thomas Froggatt and powerhouse drummer par excellence Scott Ellis to fill out their skeletal sound, and they clicked like a well oiled machine with the occasional accent of maraca or tambourine from their fearless leader.
Warfield came out of his shell as the show progressed and became increasingly demonstrative with his hands as well as with the inflection of his unique voice, a rich but somewhat monotonous baritone that’s been compared to the lead singers of Interpol, The National and The Dears.
To be sure, some of the themes expressed were dark, specifically on a few numbers from their eponymous 2005 debut, such as “I want to fucking tear you apart” on the drumless version of “Tear You Apart “ and the crowd favorite, “These Things,” to wit: “Let’s make a fast plan. Watch it burn to the ground/I try to whisper so no one figures it out/I’m not a bad man, I’m just overwhelmed/It’s cause of these things/It’s cause of these things.”