Saturday, January 20th, my friends and I trekked to Schubas, a Chicago music staple. Its neon light gleamed like a lighthouse in the snow and slush-covered streets. From January 17 to the 21st, Lincoln Hall and Schubas combine to throw their annual chilly music festival, titled “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Starting in 2005, the festival has displayed local Chicago artists and big names, coming through to brave the gnarliest moments of Chicago weather. This year, the bands ranged from Rahill to Girl K and Paw Paw Rod. After all of us stomped the snow off our boots and freed our necks from our tied-up scarves, we got to catch the electro-indie, grunge, Atlanta-created band, Lowertown.
We started our night surrounding one of the many booths, all of us taking unspoken turns standing and leaning on the table, with the photobooth flashing intermittently behind us. Schubas always attracts the usual Chicago music scene. I always see familiar faces and bands, catching up with each other–feeling like an eccentric family reunion. We scurried to the back of the venue, where the bouncer looked up from his crossword puzzle to let us in. The show was pretty packed, with groups of friends flocking together in their respective spots with winter jackets laid over their purses.
Lowertown came on stage followed by a roar of the crowd as they set up their respective instruments, sending feedback, and slight strums. Lowertown’s guitarist, Avshalom “Avsha” Weinberg, was talking to the front row as he tuned his guitar, buying some time for the band to unleash into the Schubas crowd. A light purple haze covered the stage, casting a ghoulish hue onto the band, where lead singer Olivia Osby, seemed to feel right at home in. The band looked like they stepped out of the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Their goofy, playful, and sincere relationship echoed through their music and splattered onto the crowd as I watched my friends and others put their arms around each other, sway, and jump together.
Lowertown has a lofi indie sound with elements of punk and bedroom pop. Their tracks often speak on 20-something feelings of loneliness, relationships, and watching the world spin around you. As said in one of the best songs of the night, “Debris,” “Maybe because I’m lazy or just don’t know how/Spelled it all out there for me to see/A leaky faucet of suppressed memories.” Throughout their setlist, they veered from slow songs and Breeders-like bangers. Ashby’s shrill screams were filled with passion, and care, while she thrashed and jumped around the stage. Lowertown expressed their gratitude often for being in Chicago. This was their first time headlining a show here. The giddy excitement was all over their faces, but especially Ashby’s, who would take a second to smile and breathe after a belt or scream.
Although Lowertown kept their energy, they often would build and build through songs, allowing the volcano of emotion to erupt and go back to homeostasis again. I found myself wanting a track where they were completely unleashed, no breath in between. Yet, one of my favorite moments of the night was Weinberg asking the crowd to tap into their Southern imaginary roots with a little heel-toe action. Watching a room of Chicagoans try their hardest to put a little beat in their steps was one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a while. It was like watching a group of toddlers take their first steps. The crowd definitely felt more at home moshing and head bobbing (although I could always use some heel-toe in my life). Lowertown ended their set with their track “Best Person You Know.” This song's lyrics have a cerebral feel to it overall–questioning morals, God, and a person that you used to admire. For this song, Weinberg, Ashby, Eva Smittle (bassist), and Joseph Clemnti (drummer) came together as one Lowertown body, unleashing and leaving every inch they had for the Chicago crowd. Ashby parted the seas of Schubas as the crowd smothered together in a mosh pit that smelled of cigarettes and spilled beer with the sound of her voice growling, “Do you believe in God or anything at all." Rain, snow, or shine, a Schubas start to the night is guaranteed to be good.