the Bottom Lounge – Chicago
Summertime in Chicago is known to be merciless. This summer has pushed the temperatures high enough that comparisons have been drawn to the summer of 1995, where the heat killed 525 people in a week. That said, you’d think that AC units would be kept filled with fresh Freon, especially in places where hundreds of people are converging. But as I found out this weekend, the owners of the doomed Bottom Lounge have given up on cooling their club. As opening acts IQU and Kill Me Tomorrow wrapped up, the venue had filled to capacity, and the air was completely hazy and smoky. Venturing into the half of the club that contained the stage, fans were greeted with temps usually reserved for saunas. As Pretty Girls Make Graves started up, the bulk of the club’s population crammed themselves into the room, compacting the already large crowd and intensifying the stifling heat.
Possibly weighed down by the heat, the crowd remained relatively still as the band launched into their first song. PGMG have a style that is incredibly earnest, cobbling together pieces of punk, pop, and 90’s rock into a unique mix. In an era when most everything is drenched in a solid coat of irony, they come across as honest and not at all self-conscious. Live, their songs are fleshed out and given room to breathe. What is tight and punchy on the album plays out as relaxed and almost messy.
Throughout the set, PGMG played new songs from the album they just finished recording. These tracks had a different feel than the songs of their previous albums; they showed movement into a moodier style, with less focus on the punk elements. One of the new numbers had an accordion as the dominant instrument. Older numbers, like “This is Our Emergency” off 2003’s The New Romance, got the crowd moving more than the unfamiliar new songs did. The heat had worn everyone down to the point that the bassist, Derek Fudesco, took the time to comment on it.
When PGMG they announced that they only had three songs left, I felt a definite sense of relief. Despite being very excited for the show, the unrelenting murk of the club had left me eager to find someplace cooler. It seems the band felt the same relief, and they charged into the last of their set with increased energy.
They played “The Getaway” from Good Health, a wonderful new song featuring the guitarist on sax, and a powerful rendition of “All Medicated Geniuses”. Finally, there came a point when the energy in the club overpowered the heat and exhaustion I had been feeling. The music was distracting and consuming in a way that it hadn’t been all evening.
After a short break, the band returned for an encore. A good third of the crowd left the moment it looked like the show was over, which thankfully made the room more bearable. As PGMG closed the evening with the favorite “Speakers Push the Air”, the crowd became crazy, dancing and shoving around the floor. The band gave it their all, and the crowd recognized this. With that final song, the music transcended the heat of the evening, and all that was missing from the miserable summer night was found again.
Previously published at Loose Record