Before heading off to SXSW—and playing Audiotree’s St. Paddy’s Day Bash sponsored by yours truly—Yellow Ostrich rocked out at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. Two days after the release of Strange Land, former Midwest-based Alex Schaaf fronted the stage as the expanded addition of Yellow Ostrich with drummer Michael Tapper and multi-instrumentalist Jon Natchez. For the band’s first headlining show in Chicago, the Bottle was impressively close to sold out. Dangling Christmas lights illuminated the stage surrounded by a field of indie-pop dancing.
The trio opened the night with “WHALE” off its 2011 release The Mistress. After an ambient reverb and thudding, sporadic drum beat shook the venue for a few minutes, Schaaf’s nearly impeccable vocals took over. Their crisp sound was perfectly suited for Empty Bottle. Straightforward guitar licks and minimal layers complemented Schaaf’s falsetto. Songs of lost hope and heartbreak seemed so near and dear to fans’ hearts. It was a niche crowd that night, and they danced every chance they got.
Swiftly transitioning from song to song, Yellow Ostrich packed its hour-long set with as many songs as possible, leaving little room for communication with the crowd. Band members maintained a steady vibe throughout the night with their low-key emo indie-pop. Playing a collection of horns, bass and keys, newest member Natchez added texture and depth to the set of new and old tunes. Keeping the crowd happy, the group played pop-infused songs such as “Elephant King” and “Hold On.”
Before hopping off stage for just about a minute, Yellow Ostrich played its most uptempo tune: “The Shakedown” from Strangeland. A driving guitar riff led the punk-tinged melodies with ease. It became even more apparent that these fans had been eagerly waiting for this show. After admitting to not being used to encores, Schaaf and crew played one last song from their 2011 break-out release. “Mary” is a blend of fuzzed, looped vocals and sincere lyricism. Dreamy harmonies and a steady drum beat slowly wound the night down to a relaxing pace. The trio exited the stage for the final time with a brief wave and an endearing, “Good night.”