Chicago – Every winter, music lovers across the Windy City refuse to let bone chilling temperatures, icy streets, and snowy sidewalks ruin their fun… especially when it comes to the annual Tomorrow Never Knows Festival! TNK Fest was created by Schubas and Lincoln Hall but expands beyond their doors to include the Metro, Athenaeum Theatre, and The Hideout. The fest runs five days, featuring comedians and over 50 musical acts from a mix of established and up-and-coming national and local bands. This year’s line-up featured Best New Bands alumni Twin Peaks, Bully, PUP, Phox, and Ryley Walker, among others. On Saturday evening, BNB caught Alvvays and Sun Club at Schubas for their highly anticipated 2015 TNK performance.
Canadian rockers Alvvays drew fans from all over. One excited couple drove down from Michigan and arrived early to camp out at the front of the stage to see the indie-pop band. Others arrived later in the evening but managed to squeeze their way up to the front to see singer Molly Rankin belt out dreamy tunes with her angelic voice. Rankin and the rest of the band – keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, guitarist Alec O’Hanley, bassist Brian Murphy, and drummer Phil MacIsaac – walked on stage in matching Converse sneakers, looking cool, calm, and collected. Rankin flashed a wide smile and then broke into “The Agency Group,” off their self-titled debut, released last July in the U.S. on Polyvinyl Records.
Since the release of Alvvays, the five-piece’s delectable tunes, sugared with 60s surf-pop and 80s C86, have grown in popularity across the U.S. and around the globe, making Alvvays ripe for picking in Best New Bands’ Top Winter Tours List. Confession: I bought a copy of Alvvays on tape at Pitchfork Fest and listened to it all summer in my car, so I too was super excited to finally see these ladies and gents perform. And man, their sound was just as crisp in concert. I found it especially wonderful to hear “Archie, Marry Me” live, and by the reactions of the crowd, I can rightfully assume that others felt the same. Fans swayed and sang along to Ben Gibbard’s favorite song of the year. (Click HERE to check out his cover of “Archie, Marry Me.”)
After “Archie, Marry Me,” Rankin quipped, “Winter festivals are so much better than summer festivals because it’s the real people who love music who come out and not the people in fur boots and stuff.” Fans hollered in agreement. Speaking of fans, Alvvays played fan favorites “Adult Diversion” and “Party Police.” They also played the b-side “Underneath Us” and some new material, including the song that ended the night: “Haircut.”
Alvvays was supported by Maryland band Sun Club. Best New Bands recently caught the indie rockers at Nashville’s The End, where they displayed “a breezy effortlessness that flowed in tandem with solid, practiced musicianship.” The laidback Baltimore boys brought that and then some to Schubas! Guitarists Shane Justice McCord, Adam Shane, and Mikey Powers bounced around the stage, while drummer Devin McCord and keyboardist Kory Albert Johnson whipped their hair in every direction. Their energy radiated through the room, spreading smiles and creating a sea of bouncing bodies.
Sun Club started the night off with the new tune “Worm City.” Devin and Kory doubled up on the drums while Mikey screamed, “Too many people in the house!” Which was all too fitting with the show being sold-out and packed tight. Halfway through the song, things slowed down a bit with a sick beat and some funky dance moves. Then Shane chimed in on the xylophone, but it was quickly back to the rowdy raucous. Of course they played “Beauty Meat,” off their EP Dad Claps at the Mom Prom, and the single “Language Juice.” Aside from those two oldies, Sun Club played all new material, including “Tropicoller,” “Carnival Dough,” and “Puppy Gum Gum,” from their soon to be released debut album, tentatively titled The Dongo Dorango. If you’ve not seen Sun Club live, you must! Their sets are fun, wild, and energetic. Between the howls and screeches, you’ll easily find yourself dancing to the infectious beats and humming along to bubbly tunes.
Alvvays proved us right; they are a “must see” when it comes to winter tours. The band will be touring all winter and spring, including an upcoming stint with The Decemberists. Click HERE for tour dates. Alvvays is available for purchase on iTunes.
For more on Sun Club go HERE.
Photos By Sarah Hess
After attending The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Sarah went on to study education at Dominican University, earning a degree in history. When not teaching, writing, or taking in a show, she is most likely to be found with a camera to her eye or hanging out in a darkroom.
You can follow Sarah Hess on twitter at @Sarahhasanh and view her music photography on her website: smhimaging.com.